Trump says he will quickly free US journalist but Russia denies contacts

Trump says he will quickly free US journalist but Russia denies contacts
US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, gestures inside a defendants’ cage after a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, at the The first court of appeal in Moscow on April 23, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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Trump says he will quickly free US journalist but Russia denies contacts

Trump says he will quickly free US journalist but Russia denies contacts

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump boasted Thursday he would quickly free jailed US journalist Evan Gershkovich from Russia if he wins the presidential election, but Moscow denied discussing the case with the Republican candidate.

Trump, who has frequently voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and has voiced skepticism over US support for Ukraine, said the Moscow strongman “will do that for me, but not for anyone else.”

“Evan Gershkovich, the Reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who is being held by Russia, will be released almost immediately after the Election, but definitely before I assume Office,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

“He will be HOME, SAFE, AND WITH HIS FAMILY.”

Trump said that the United States “WILL BE PAYING NOTHING” — a likely jab at President Joe Biden’s deal last year to free Americans from Iran that included the transfer of Iranian oil revenue that had been frozen by South Korea.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about the remarks, said, “There aren’t any contacts with Donald Trump.”

“Regarding (US-Russian) contacts on the matter of incarcerated and convicted individuals, we can say that these contacts must be carried out in total secrecy. This is the only way they can be effective,” he said.

Gershkovich, 32, has been held in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison for more than a year after he was arrested while on a reporting trip to Russia.

He is the first Western journalist since the Soviet era to be arrested by Moscow on spying charges — accusations that he, his employer and the US government reject.

The US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich in prison on Thursday.

He “maintains a positive attitude, awaiting the start of the court process for a case about a crime that he did not commit,” the US embassy said in a statement on platform Telegram.

“We once more urge the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich.”

The Biden administration said in late 2023 that it made a “significant proposal” to Russia to free Gershkovich, likely as part of a prisoner swap, but that Moscow rejected it.

US intelligence concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump in his upset defeat of Hillary Clinton, including through social media postings.

Trump angrily denied his victory was the work of Russia and, at a famous news conference with Putin, appeared to accept the Russian leader’s denial of interference.

Putin in the latest election cycle has said he prefers Biden, comments met with skepticism by many Russia watchers who believe Putin’s intention may be to use his notoriety to boost Trump.


Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
Updated 21 sec ago
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Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
  • Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate

WASHINGTON: Usha Chilukuri Vance, Yale law graduate and trial lawyer, was thrust into the spotlight this week after her husband, JD Vance, was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election.
Chilukuri Vance, 38, was raised in San Diego, by Indian immigrants. Her mother is a biologist and provost at the University of California at San Diego; her father is an engineer, according to JD Vance’s campaign. She received an undergraduate degree at Yale University and a master of philosophy at the University of Cambridge through the Gates Cambridge scholarship.
After Cambridge, she met her husband back at Yale, where the two studied law. In his 2016 memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” JD Vance said the two got to know each other through a class assignment, where he soon “fell hard” for his writing partner.
“In a place that always seemed a little foreign, Usha’s presence made me feel at home,” he wrote.
They graduated in 2013 and wed the following year.
After law school, Chilukuri Vance spent a year clerking for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he served as an appeals court judge in Washington, followed by a year as a law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts.
She has since become a trial lawyer for the Munger, Tolles and Olson law firm at its San Francisco and D.C. offices. Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate.
“Usha has informed us she has decided to leave the firm,” Munger, Tolles & Olson said in a statement. “Usha has been an excellent lawyer and colleague, and we thank her for her years of work and wish her the best in her future career.”
Chilukuri Vance was not available Tuesday for comment, according to a spokeswoman for JD Vance’s campaign.
In his memoir, Vance credited part of his success and happiness to his wife.
“Even at my best, I’m a delayed explosion— I can be defused, but only with skill and precision,” Vance wrote. “It’s not just that I’ve learned to control myself but that Usha has learned how to manage me.”
Voter records show that as of 2022, Chilukuri Vance was a registered Republican in Ohio, and voted in the Republican primary that year — the same election that her husband was running in the Republican senate primary.
JD and Usha Vance live in Cincinnati, and have three children: Ewan, Vivek and Mirabel. Outside of work, she served on the Cincinnati Symphony Board of Directors from September 2020 to July 2023.


Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP

Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP
Updated 30 sec ago
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Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP

Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP
  • Kyiv was rocked last week by a Russian missile barrage that devastated a renowned children’s hospital

KYIV, Ukraine: Explosions rang out over the Ukrainian capital Kyiv late Wednesday and air raid sirens sounded, as officials urged residents to take shelter over the threat of a Russian aerial attack.
AFP journalists in central Kyiv reported hearing loud blasts echo over the city while Mayor Vitali Klitschko said air defense systems had opened fire.
He said emergency services were working on the scene where debris from a Russian drone had been shot down.
Ukrainian officials have been appealing to the country’s Western allies for more air defense systems to thwart a spate of fatal Russian drone and missile attacks.
Kyiv was rocked last week by a Russian missile barrage that devastated a renowned children’s hospital and sparked a wave of international condemnation.
The Kremlin said the damage to the facility in the center of the capital had been caused by Ukrainian air defense systems.


Biden says could quit race if ‘medical condition’ emerged

Biden says could quit race if ‘medical condition’ emerged
Updated 45 min 57 sec ago
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Biden says could quit race if ‘medical condition’ emerged

Biden says could quit race if ‘medical condition’ emerged
  • Biden’s comments were the first time he has even slightly opened the door to abandoning the White House race
  • Adam Schiff became the first Democrat to call for him to step aside since the assassination attempt against Trump

LAS VEGAS: US President Joe Biden said he could drop his reelection bid if doctors found he had a medical condition, as a top Democrat on Wednesday urged the 81-year-old to step aside.
Biden’s comments were the first time he has even slightly opened the door to abandoning the White House race, and came as Representative Adam Schiff, a key ally from California, urged Biden to “pass the torch.”
“If I had some medical condition that emerged, if somebody, if the doctors came and said ‘you’ve got this problem, that problem,’” Biden told the Black media outlet BET in an interview taped Tuesday, when asked what could make him rethink.
Biden however defended his decision to stay on for a rematch with Republican Donald Trump in November, and explained why he had not handed over to a younger generation after one term.
“I said I was going to be a transitional candidate, and I thought I’d be able to move on from this, pass it on to someone else,” he said. “But I didn’t anticipate things getting so, so, so divided.”
Biden has been fighting for political survival since a disastrous debate against Trump nearly three weeks ago, in which his tired and confused appearance sparked concerns about his age.
Schiff became the first Democrat to call for him to step aside since the assassination attempt against Trump on Saturday, which had briefly silenced the growing chorus against Biden.
“A second Trump presidency will undermine the very foundation of our democracy, and I have serious concerns about whether the President can defeat Donald Trump in November,” Schiff said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
Schiff, who is expected to win a Senate seat this November, is a key White House ally in the legislature and shot to nationwide prominence as lead prosecutor during then-president Trump’s first impeachment trial.
Biden was set to make a fresh attempt to prop up his candidacy in a speech to crucial Latino voters in the battleground state of Nevada later Wednesday.
Around 20 House Democrats and one senator have now called on Biden to leave the White House race but Biden has refused, insisting he is best placed to beat Trump.
Most polls show Biden trailing in a tight race, with Trump pulling ahead in key swing states but no dramatic movement since the debate debacle or shooting.
Biden said his mental acuity was “pretty damn good” in an NBC interview on Monday, one of a series of unscripted outings aimed at showing he has what it takes.
With pressure on Biden mounting, Democrats said on Wednesday they plan a virtual nomination for the president in the first week of August, ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on August 19.
Some Democrats have slammed the scheme, accusing the party of trying to ram through Biden’s candidacy and avoid a full discussion of alternative choices.
Party chiefs say they need to carry out the virtual roll-call by August 7, which is the deadline set by the Republican-led state of Ohio for the submission of nominations.
Biden otherwise risks not being on the ballot in Ohio, the home state of Trump’s new running mate J.D. Vance.
While Ohio’s governor has signed a law giving Biden more time, the DNC said it feared further legal challenges.
“None of this will be rushed,” the heads of the DNC’s rules committee said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by AFP. “No matter what may be reported, our goal is not to fast-track.”
But several lawmakers are planning to sign a letter against the virtual nomination plan and others have criticized it, according to US media.
Biden insists that Democratic voters support him, but a poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said Wednesday that nearly two-thirds want him to step aside.


Russia’s Lavrov welcomes Vance stance on Ukraine amid European concern

Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, holds a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters
Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, holds a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters
Updated 17 July 2024
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Russia’s Lavrov welcomes Vance stance on Ukraine amid European concern

Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, holds a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters
  • Vance, chosen this week by Donald Trump as his running mate, wants to cut American military support for Ukraine in its war with Russia
  • America’s European allies are widely concerned about Vance’s selection as Trump’s vice presidential candidate in the Nov. 5 election

UNITED NATIONS: Russia is ready to work with any US leader willing to engage in “equitable, mutually respectful dialogue,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, while welcoming the stance on Ukraine of Republican vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance.
Vance, chosen this week by Donald Trump as his running mate, wants to cut American military support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and has said Kyiv has no chance of regaining all the territory Russia has taken since it launched its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022.
“He’s in favor of peace, he’s in favor of ending the assistance that’s being provided and we can only welcome that because that’s what we need — to stop pumping Ukraine full of weapons and then the war will end,” Lavrov told reporters.
America’s European allies are widely concerned about Vance’s selection as Trump’s vice presidential candidate in the Nov. 5 election. Trump had expressed unease about the latest congressional aid package for Ukraine, which was passed in April. But, unlike Vance, did not explicitly oppose it.
Trump also said late last month that he does not accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s terms for ending the war. Putin has said Russia would end the war if Kyiv handed over the four regions in the country’s east and south claimed by Moscow.
Trump — who was president from 2017 until 2021 — and US President Joe Biden are locked in a close election rematch, according to most opinion polls.
“We will work with any American leader, we will remain ready to work with any US leader, who the US people elect,” Lavrov said, if the leader is “willing to engage in equitable, mutually respectful dialogue.
“Under Trump there were more and more sanctions that were imposed, economic sanctions, diplomatic sanctions were imposed, however, at that time ... dialogue was underway between us and Washington at the highest levels,” Lavrov said.
“Right now there is no such dialogue,” he said of the Biden administration, adding that since Russia’s war in Ukraine began in 2022, high level contacts between Washington and Moscow had dried up.
An assessment published this month by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Russia “remains the primary threat to our elections” and unidentified “Russian influence actors” secretly plan to “sway public opinion” in swing states and “diminish US support for Ukraine.”
“We do not interfere in other states domestic affairs. This includes the United States,” Lavrov said.
He was in New York to chair two United Nations Security Council meetings during Russia’s July presidency of the body.


Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
  • Cyprus has in recent months been staging ground for collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to Gaza
  • Aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened

NICOSIA: Cyprus’ defense minister said Wednesday that plans are in motion to build a major naval base on the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast capable of hosting large ships from European Union countries and other nations to carry out a variety of missions including humanitarian aid deliveries to the tumultuous Middle East region.
Vasilis Palmas told reporters that Cyprus’ recently elevated geopolitical role as the European Union’s closest member to the Middle East warrants the building of infrastructure that can support policies geared toward the region.
Cyprus has in recent months been the staging ground for the collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Gaza. The aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened. Last year, Cyprus served as a waystation for third-country nationals evacuated from Sudan.
Palmas said the construction of the base would “contribute decisively” to policy implementation in the region.
He said Greece is contributing technical know-how to the project, while actual construction will be guided by the findings of an expert study that will be completed in the next few days.
The naval base will be built on an existing naval installation some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the coastal town of Limassol, which in 2011 was the site of a huge explosion of 480 tons of seized Iranian gunpowder that killed 13 people, knocked out Cyprus’ main power station and stirred up a political crisis.