Russia demands US release 'spy', calls charges false

Maria Butina. (AP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Russia demands US release 'spy', calls charges false

  • US prosecutors say Maria Butina, 29, exploited her close links with the powerful NRA gun lobby while posing as a visiting graduate student
  • Butina has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unidentified US citizens

MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign minister told his US counterpart on Saturday that a woman arrested in the United States on accusations she was a Russian agent had been detained on “fabricated charges” and should be released.
Sergei Lavrov made the comments about Maria Butina in a phone call to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was aimed at improving bilateral relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement in the wake of the recent summit in Helsinki.
On Wednesday, a US judge ordered Butina jailed until her trial after US prosecutors argued she has ties to Russian intelligence and could flee the United States.
Butina has been accused of working with a high-powered Russian official and two unidentified US citizens, trying to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence the United States’ foreign policy toward Russia.
Lavrov said the actions of the American authorities, who arrested Butina “on the basis of fabricated charges,” were unacceptable and called for her release as soon as possible.
Lavrov and Pompeo also discussed ways to improve bilateral relations on “equal and mutually beneficial grounds” after the leaders of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, met in Helsinki on Monday.
They also talked over possible joint efforts aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in Syria as well as the “challenges” of Korean peninsula de-nuclearization. 


Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 45 min 16 sec ago
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Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

  • The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats

STOCKHOLM: Attempts to form a new Swedish government were back at square one on Monday after the Center Party said it would vote against Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven’s return as prime minister because he had rejected their policy demands.
Sweden has been without a government since a Sept. 9 election delivered a hung parliament which subsequently voted Lofven out as prime minister after four years in office and then also rejected the candidacy of the leader of the four-party center-right Alliance.
The Center and Liberal parties, nominally party of the Alliance, said last month they were willing to support Lofven if he accepted a number of major policy compromises, including lower taxes and more liberal labor laws.
But Center leader Annie Loof said Lofven had been unwilling to back down on several of their key demands.
“We would have need to see considerably more liberal political reforms in order for the Center party to be able to come to an agreement and allow Stefan Lofven four more years,” Loof told reporters.
The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats, a hard-right anti-immigration party that mainstream groups refuse to deal with.
With no signs of compromise, it is unclear what will happen now. If parliament rejects four prime ministerial candidates, then there will automatically be a fresh election.