Putin: Claims of Russian meddling in US vote ‘fantasies’

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Putin: Claims of Russian meddling in US vote ‘fantasies’

DANANG: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said accusations that Moscow meddled in US elections, particularly through contacts with Donald Trump’s campaign team, are “fantasies” and attempts to undermine the US presidency.
The Trump administration has been roiled by claims that Moscow helped the billionaire into the White House, with key former aides under a US investigation for alleged collaboration with the Kremlin.
“Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of continuing domestic political struggle,” Putin told journalists at the Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.
“Of course I’m aware,” he said when asked if he follows the mounting probe concerning contacts between Trump’s team members and Russians, including a woman who claimed to be Putin’s niece.
“Regarding some sort of connections of my relatives with members of the administration or some officials, I only found out about that yesterday from (spokesman Dmitry) Peskov,” he said.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “I think these are some sort of fantasies.”
He added that US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Russia connections could be explained by his business interests. “I think he did business before... he signed contracts, perhaps with Russian companies too,” Putin said. “That has nothing to do with politics.”
The contacts of Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also harmless, according to Putin, who said he was only a “head of a PR agency.”
“This is empty chatter and wish to use any pretext to undermine the current president,” Putin resumed.
Meanwhile, Trump said Saturday that Putin again denied interfering in the US elections. But Trump declined to say whether he believed the Russian leader.
“He says he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on the trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. “Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it.”
Trump and Putin did not have a formal meeting while they were in Vietnam for an economic summit, but the two spoke informally several times and reached agreement on a number of principles for the future of war-torn Syria. But Trump made clear that the issue of Russian meddling in the election hovers over the leaders’ relationship — Putin is “insulted” by the accusation, Trump said. In a blistering partisan attack, Trump accused Democrats of using the election issue to create a barrier between the US and Russia as the nations work on crises in Syria and Ukraine.
“Having a good relationship with Russia’s a great, great thing. And this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” Trump told reporters, once again casting doubt on the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did try to interfere in the election. “People will die because of it.”
Trump’s suggestion that he may believe Putin over his own nation’s intelligence community is certain to re-ignite the firestorm over the election meddling. Meanwhile, a special counsel investigation of potential collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides so far has resulted in two indictments for financial and other crimes unrelated to the campaign, as well as a guilty plea.


More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

Updated 19 October 2018
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More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

  • The country’s potential migration has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018
  • Study shows those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US

TIRANA: More than half of Albania’s population would like to move to richer countries with better schooling, a study showed on Friday.
The study, led by Russell King of the University of Sussex and Albanian researcher Ilir Gedeshi, found that the country’s potential migration had grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
Since Albania toppled communism in 1991, more than 1.4 million Albanians, nearly half the current population of the Balkan country, have emigrated mostly to neighboring Italy and Greece and less to the Britain, Germany and the United States.
The study showed economic motives were still the main factor, but less so, and that those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US.
Some 65,000 Albanians applied for asylum in Germany in 2015-16, with most of them rejected as it began welcoming Syrians fleeing war at home. Germany has since begun welcoming doctors and nurses, almost all new graduates.
As the global and economic crisis since 2008 hit the economies of Italy and Greece, home to about one million Albanians, remittances to Albania, key to alleviating poverty, shrunk by one third and 133,544 migrants came back home.
“The unemployed, unskilled and uneducated were potential migrants earlier. Now the skilled, the educated with a job and good economic standing want to migrate,” Gedeshi told Reuters.
“We also found out economic reasons mattered less because people now want to migrate for better education. A group also wants to leave because they see no future in Albania,” he added.
Given the rising educational profile of potential migrants, the study recommended Albania sought agreements on “managed skilled migration, always bearing in mind the dangers of brain and skills drain.”
“Efforts should also be made to improve and broaden the structure of employment and business opportunities in Albania so that fewer people are pessimistic about their future in Albania and see migration as the ‘only way out’,” it added.