US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine

US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine
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In this photo taken of July 22, 2008, then TNK-BP executive director German Khan signs papers as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez watch during a ceremony in Meiendorf Castle outside Moscow. (AP/File)
US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine
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Russian President Vladimir Putin applauds then Alfa Bank head Petr Aven after awarding him with the Order of Merit to the Fatherland during a ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 25, 2005. (AP/Pool photo/File)
US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine
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Mikhail Fridman, co-founder of Alfa-Group, attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2019. AP photo/ Pool, File)
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Updated 12 August 2023
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US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine

US sanctions Russians on Alfa Group board in response to war in Ukraine
  • All four people were already sanctioned by Australia, Canada, EU, New Zealand and UK
  • Alfa Group is one of Russia’s largest conglomerates with interests in oil, natural gas and banking

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department on Friday imposed financial sanctions against four Russians on the board of Alfa Group, one of Russia’s largest conglomerates with interests in oil, natural gas and banking.
The sanctions are part of continuing efforts to place restrictions on the economy of Russia and its wealthiest powerbrokers, a response to its invasion last year of Ukraine and the ensuing war.

Sanctioned by Treasury are Petr Olegovich Aven, Mikhail Maratovich Fridman, German Borisovich Khan and Alexey Viktorovich Kuzmichev.
“Wealthy Russian elites should disabuse themselves of the notion that they can operate business as usual while the Kremlin wages war against the Ukrainian people,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. “Our international coalition will continue to hold accountable those enabling the unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
Also sanctioned is the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. The group is involved in the technology sector and has helped Russia counteract other sanctions stemming from the war, the Treasury Department said.
All four people were already sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Fridman is a founder of Alfa Group and ranked as one of Russia’s wealthiest tycoons. The group’s Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest nonstate bank, was sanctioned by the EU in March 2022 and Fridman left the board thereafter to try to help the bank skirt sanctions. Aven headed Alfa-Bank until March 2022, but like Fridman left the board after EU sanctions.
The sanctions against the individuals would block access to their US properties and financial interests.
 


France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

Updated 9 sec ago
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France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
  • The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists
  • “The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told AP

ZOETERMEER, Netherlands: The Dutch national intelligence agency said Tuesday that threats targeting the Netherlands are increasingly connected to worldwide turmoil, including the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
Although the number of terror attacks across Europe has been down in recent years, the General Intelligence and Security Service in its annual report said the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists.
“The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told The Associated Press.
Akerboom said he is particularly concerned about big events, noting that the agency is working closely with French authorities to prevent incidents during the Paris Olympics this summer.
In December, the Dutch counterterrorism agency increased the country’s threat alert to its second-highest level because of concerns about the Daesh group’s Khorasan affiliates, Akerboom said. IS-K, a Central Asian affiliate, was responsible for the attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people in March.
According to the new report, “global jihadism has been the greatest terrorist threat for years in the Netherlands.” Incidents such as the one last April, when an anti-Islam activist tore pages from the Qur’an in front of the Dutch parliament building, put the Netherlands on the map of targets.
About a dozen terror attacks were thwarted by authorities in Europe last year and in four cases, suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, the report said. None of those attacks was focused on the Netherlands, according to Akerboom.
The Dutch also see threats from China, in particular cyberattacks, as a major concern. Akerboom said China is producing more hackers to break into Dutch systems than the Dutch can produce to defend them. The security service has cited China as the biggest threat to the country’s economic security.
Russia also continues to pose a risk to the Netherlands amid Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So-called peace protests in Amsterdam which call for the Dutch to stop sending arms to Ukraine have included demonstrators paid by Russian sources to attend and given prefabricated slogans, the security service has asserted.
The Netherlands is of particular interest to Moscow in part because of the international institutions housed here, including the International Criminal Court. The Hague-based court is investigating crimes in Ukraine and has issued arrest warrants for President Vladimir Putin and other Russians.


Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
  • “In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters
  • The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance

WARSAW: Britain will raise defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 in a “most dangerous” world, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Tuesday during a visit to Poland.
The commitment came as NATO countries face pressure to raise defense spending in the face of global threats, particularly from Russia.
“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters in Warsaw, where he held a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance after the United States, the British government said.
It means the UK is expected to spend £87 billion on defense in 2030-31, an increase of £23 billion over current levels.
“I believe we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values,” Sunak said, announcing “the biggest strengthening of national defense for a generation.”
Western nations are under pressure to boost defense funding following Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine as well as the threat of escalation in the Middle East.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen recently called for a “European awakening on defense and security.”
Brussels is set to come up with more proposals for financing the defense push by a summit of EU leaders in June.
Sunak has also faced calls from his Conservative Party to boost defense spending, with some calling for a level of three percent of GDP.
On Tuesday, Sunak also announced £500 million additional funding for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.


A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says
Updated 23 April 2024
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A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says
  • Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years
  • “Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a Russian missile strike that smashed a prominent skyline television tower in Kharkiv was part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate Ukraine’s second-largest city, which in recent weeks has come under increasingly frequent attack.
The strike sought to “make the terror visible to the whole city and to try to limit Kharkiv’s connection and access to information,” Zelensky said in a Monday evening address.
The northeastern Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The front line has changed little during a war of attrition, focused mostly on artillery, drones and trenches.
Since late March, Russia has stepped up the pressure on Kharkiv, apparently aiming to exploit Ukraine’s shortage of air defense systems. It has pounded the local power grid and hit apartment blocks.
On Monday, a Russian Kh-59 missile struck Kharkiv’s 250-meter (820-foot) -high TV tower, breaking it roughly in half and halting transmissions.
A Washington think tank said Russia may be eyeing a ground assault on Kharkiv.
“The Kremlin is conducting a concerted air and information operation to destroy Kharkiv City, convince Ukrainians to flee, and internally displace millions of Ukrainians ahead of a possible future Russian offensive operation against the city or elsewhere in Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment.
The expected arrival in Ukraine in coming weeks of new military aid from its Western partners possibly has prompted Russia to escalate its attacks before the help arrives, the ISW said, adding that trying to capture Kharkiv would be “a significant challenge” for the Kremlin’s forces.
Instead, the Russian military command “may attempt to destroy Kharkiv City with air, missile, and drone strikes and prompt a large-scale internal displacement of Ukrainian civilians,” it said.
The US Senate was returning to Washington on Tuesday to vote on $61 billion in war aid to Ukraine after months of delays. Zelensky said US President Joe Biden assured him the aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.
“Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said.
Also Tuesday, Britain pledged 500 million pounds ($620 million, 580 million euros) in new military supplies for Ukraine, including 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition.
The shipment will also include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of about 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proven effective at hitting Russian targets, the British government said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke with Zelensky on Tuesday morning to confirm the new assistance. He was due to announce the aid later Tuesday during a visit to Warsaw where he was meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Less cheering news came from the European Union, however. EU countries that have Patriot air defense systems gave no clear sign Monday that they might be willing to send them to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries.
Ukraine’s army is also heavily outnumbered in the fight, and expanding the country’s mobilization has been a delicate issue.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday signaled that authorities plan to clamp down on young men of conscription age who have moved abroad, with details of the specific measures to be made public soon.
“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland,” Kuleba said on the social media platform X.
Meanwhile, Russia launched 16 Shahed drones and two Iskander-M ballistic missiles over Ukraine’s southern and central regions, the Ukrainian air force said Tuesday morning. It said all but one of the drones were intercepted.
In Odesa, an overnight attack injured nine people, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said. Among those injured were two infants and two children aged nine and 12, Kiper said. City mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said 58 apartments in 22 buildings were damaged.
In other developments:
A Russian missile strike near Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, injured four people who were admitted to hospital, regional Gov. Serhii Lysak said.
Russian forces dropped a guided aerial bomb in Kostiantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, injuring five people who were riding in a car, police said. Two of them were in critical conditions.


Trump to meet with senior Japanese official after court session Tuesday in hush money trial

Trump to meet with senior Japanese official after court session Tuesday in hush money trial
Updated 23 April 2024
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Trump to meet with senior Japanese official after court session Tuesday in hush money trial

Trump to meet with senior Japanese official after court session Tuesday in hush money trial
  • “Leaders from around the world know that with President Trump we had a safer, more peaceful world,” said Trump spokesperson Brian Hughes
  • Trump met last week with Polish President Andrzej Duda at Trump Tower and also met recently with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump is meeting with another foreign leader while he’s in New York for his criminal hush money trial.
The presumptive GOP nominee will host former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at Trump Tower Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been formally announced.
Aso is just the latest foreign leader to spend time with Trump in recent weeks as US allies prepare for the possibility that he could win back the White House this November.
“Leaders from around the world know that with President Trump we had a safer, more peaceful world,” said Trump spokesperson Brian Hughes in a statement. “Meetings and calls from world leaders reflect the recognition of what we already know here at home. Joe Biden is weak, and when President Trump is sworn in as the 47th President of the United States, the world will be more secure and America will be more prosperous.”
Trump met last week with Polish President Andrzej Duda at Trump Tower and also met recently with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Trump was close with Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister who was assassinated in 2022. Aso is vice president of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and also served as deputy prime minister and finance minister under Abe.
Trump has threatened to impose broad new tariffs if he wins a second term.
Early Tuesday morning, he complained about the US dollar reaching a new high against the Japanese yen, calling it “a total disaster for the United States.”
“When I was President, I spent a good deal of time telling Japan and China, in particular, you can’t do that,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform. “It sounds good to stupid people, but it is a disaster for our manufacturers and others.”
The US dollar is trading at above 150 yen recently, up from 130-yen mark a year ago, which has made it more costly for Japan to import goods but has boosted exports.
President Joe Biden hosted current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House for talks and a state dinner earlier this month. During the visit, the leaders announced plans to upgrade US-Japan military relations, with both sides looking to tighten cooperation amid concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s increasing military assertiveness in the Pacific.