Ecuador to hand over Assange to UK ‘in coming weeks or days,’ own sources tell RT's editor-in chief

Ecuador is ready to hand over the WikiLeaks founder to the UK in “coming weeks or even days,” RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said citing her own sources, as prospects of his eviction from the embassy are back in the media.

“My sources tell [Julian] Assange will be handed over to Britain in the coming weeks or even days,” Simonyan wrote in a recent tweet which was reposted by WikiLeaks. “Like never before, I wish my sources were wrong,” she continued.

Simonyan’s message comes, as speculations Ecuador is in talks with the UK over the future of Assange are back again in British press. Earlier this week, the Times reported Britain is locked in top-tier discussions with the Ecuadorians in a bid to remove Assange from their London embassy.

Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office minister, is said to be spearheading the diplomatic effort. Sources close to Assange said he himself was not aware of the talks but believed that America was putting “significant pressure” on Ecuador, including threatening to block a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if he continues to stay at the embassy. 

The Times report comes just weeks before a visit to the UK by the newly-elected Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno, who has labeled Assange a “hacker”, an “inherited problem” and a “stone in the shoe.”

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There have been other worrying signs indicating Assange is steadily becoming a troublemaker for Ecuador. In late March this year, the Ecuadorian government has suspended Assange’s communication privileges with the outside world, cutting off his Internet connection at the embassy.

The move was sparked by Assange’s alleged breach of an agreement to refrain from interfering in other states’ affairs. Previously, he blasted the Spanish government for cracking down on the Catalan independence movement. 

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 when he asked the Latin American state for asylum. The 47-year-old was wanted by Sweden on sexual assault allegations, but feared the extradition would lead to him being transferred to the US and prosecuted without a fair trial.

The US has been saying that Assange was “engaged in terrorism,” with Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, last year calling his arrest a “priority.” Over the years, WikiLeaks has published hundreds of thousands of classified US files, including the cables on the Iraq War, leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010.

Despite the Swedish investigation against him being closed in May last year, the Australian journalist was still unable to leave the embassy because of an outstanding British warrant for allegedly breaching bail conditions and no guarantees of him not being sent to the US.

Over the years, the whistleblower has been supported by activists and human rights groups, who demanded he be freed. A UN panel also found that Assange’s stay in the embassy amounted to “arbitrary detention,” but it wasn’t enough to change his fate.

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‘Fighting in Moscow absolutely does not faze me’ – Ukrainian Usyk on $50m WBSS final

WBA & WBC Cruiserweight world champion Alexander Usyk says he is unfazed at the prospect of fighting fellow champion Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series final in Moscow this Saturday with $ 50m prize money at stake.

Ukrainian Usyk takes on Russian IBF champ Gassiev in a clash of the world’s best cruiserweights for the undisputed 200 pound championship and the right to own the Muhammad Ali trophy in the WBSS final at the Russian capital’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium.

READ MORE: Alexey Oleynik to face veteran Mark Hunt in main event of UFC’s first Moscow show

The final had been originally scheduled for May in the Saudi capital of Jeddah, but negotiations took place for the final to be held in a more convenient location for the two boxers, with Moscow eventually being settled upon, just one week after the city hosted the 2018 World Cup final. Usyk has underlined that fact is not something he is losing sleep over.

“It absolutely does not faze me that we will fight here in Moscow,” Usyk said at the pre-fight press conference at Moscow City International Business Center. “It’s good that this fight is taking place. It’s normal I think to just go someplace and box there.

“I would like for there to be as many as these fights taking place as possible because the the desire of young people to do boxing would increase,” the 31-year-old added.

The tournament’s climax comes after both boxers earned final berths by coming through quarter final and semi final matchups in a tournament format dubbed “The Champions League of boxing”.

Usyk has been something of a road warrior in his professional career; the southpaw won his first world title by wresting the WBO strap from Pole Krzysztof Głowacki in Poland before beginning his route to the final by defeating German veteran Marco Huck in Berlin and then traveling to Latvia to dethrone WBC champ Mairis Briedis in Riga.

Fighting home favorites in their back yard seems to be the norm for Usyk, whose career of 14 wins from 14 fights, with 11 of them by way of knockout, is still only in its fledgling stages, despite having seen him become ranked as one of the top 10 boxers in the world pound for pound and number one in his weight division.

The 2012 heavyweight Olympic gold medalist is looking to become the first ever winner of the ‘Muhammad Ali trophy’, the tournament’s award named in honor of the iconic three-time world heavyweight champion, which holds personal weight for the fighter. 

“I saw how [Ali] fought. My coach told me ‘you need to be like him, to be light on your feet’. How Muhammad Ali lived, how he sacrificed things, even boxing, for other people is so positive, so it’s very respectable,” Usyk said.

When asked if he has thoughts of emulating his hero Ali and making the jump to heavyweight, Usyk was typically laconic in his confirmation: “Yes I have thoughts,” the enigmatic Ukrainian laughed to the crowd.

Usyk’s preparation for the fight has perhaps not been ideal; it was announced last week that the fighter had parted ways with trainer Anatoly Lomachenko, father of close friend and pound for pound elite star Vasyl Lomachenko.

Usyk was philosophical in his thoughts on the matter. He said: “Anatoly is a very close person to me as a friend and as a father. I always ask him for advice, but always reminds me to make his own final decisions, he tells me I am ‘a big boy’ and must decide myself.”

Opponent’s don’t come much tougher than Abel Sanchez-trained Gassiev for Saturday’s fight. Gassiev is fighting his third fight from his last four in Russia having won his IBF crown by beating Denis Lebedev and the winning his semifinal match against Cuban Yunier Dorticos in Sochi by spectacular 12th-round stoppage in a fight of the year contender.

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Russia set to wean economy off US dollar as Washington ratchets up sanctions

The Russian finance ministry is working on a broad set of measures to protect the country’s economy amid growing pressure from the United States, Kommersant daily reports.

The main part of the reforms is a plan to reduce the use of the US dollar in foreign trade transactions in favor of national currencies, according to the news outlet. Russia has recently slashed its ownership of US Treasuries to a 11-year low of $ 14.5 billion, falling from the list of top holders of US debt.

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© Peter Gridley

“The sale of the US Treasury bonds has two main reasons. First, the Ministry of Finance dumps the notes because it works on the anti-sanction legislation. The second reason is a decrease in the value of US Treasuries as their yield grows,” Ivan Kapustiansky, leading analyst of Forex Optimum told RT.

It is not clear yet what will become an alternative to the dollar, he added. “Most likely it will become a currency of a country that Russia seeks to boost trade and build long-term friendly relations with,” Kapustiansky added.

The second part of the finance ministry’s plan is to promote companies sanctioned by the US on the local market. The ministry also seeks to reduce imports from unfriendly countries; it has not yet been specified whether it will be tariffs, quotas or import bans. Procurements of state-owned companies will be made confidential to protect them from sanctions.

Kapustiansky says dumping the dollar will only be a first step in the hard work of protecting the Russian economy from sanctions. “To a large extent, avoiding the dollar will not save Russia from further sanctions pressure and its consequences. The main issue is not the currency or the gold reserves, but the pressure on the partners of Russia. When Washington begins imposing sanctions on Russian partners, they face the question whether to sacrifice their partnership with Russia or risk losing the large US market,” he said.

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International manhunt launched for Brit who shot fellow national in the head in Amsterdam

An international manhunt for a suspected British hitman believed to have shot a fellow Briton in the head outside a café in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has kicked off.

The alleged hitman is suspected of shooting a 55-year-old man, from Sale, Greater Manchester, before fleeing on a bike taxi in the Dutch capital on May 19. The victim remains in hospital in a stable condition. Dutch Police believe he was targeted due to a gang feud.

The witness was seen heading towards the crime scene in Amsterdam’s Stromarkt before pulling out a gun and firing. He then took the bike taxi towards Dam, the city’s main square.

READ MORE: Brutal 1 punch knockout caught on CCTV sparks manhunt (VIDEO)

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is now collaborating with Dutch authorities after they launched a large search for the suspect but failed to trace him down.

Jayne Lloyd, NCA North West branch commander, said: “The attack took place in a public area. This man is clearly very dangerous which is why we need to identify him quickly and make sure he cannot harm anyone else.

“Someone knows who this is and anyone with information about this man or his whereabouts should contact the NCA on 0370 496 7622 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Please do not approach this man as he is dangerous and call 999 in an emergency.”

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Flip-flopping Trump vows to be Putin’s ‘worst enemy’ if US-Russia relationship doesn’t pan out

Amid a puzzling week of flip-flopping on Russian meddling, Donald Trump has promised to be Vladimir Putin’s arch nemesis if re-engagement with Moscow is a dud – while underscoring that getting along with Russia is desirable.

Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, the US president said that he would become Putin’s “worst enemy” if his dealings with Russia failed to produce results.

“Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia, is positive, not a negative,” Trump noted, adding that if US-Russia relations are a flop, “I’ll be the worst enemy [Putin’s] ever had.”

In the same interview, Trump took a swipe at his predecessor, claiming that Barack Obama was a “total patsy” for Russia. In contrast, Trump said that he has been “far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years – maybe ever.”

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Donald Trump speaks about his meeting with Russian President Putin. © Leah Millis / Reuters

“Look at the diplomats I threw out,” Trump added, referring to the 60 diplomats expelled from the US in March after the alleged poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. Challenging the narrative that he’s been soft on Russia, Trump also noted that he has slapped Moscow with fresh sanctions. “Look at all the things that I have done,” the president said.

Trump’s comments come at the end of a week of headline-grabbing utterances and clarifications about the president’s position on Russia.

During a joint press conference with Putin after their meeting in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would meddle, adding that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” He also insisted that “there was no collusion at all” between his campaign and Russian officials. But after returning to Washington, Trump walked back these statements, telling reporters that he had misspoke. Trump explained that when he said he saw no reason why Russia “would” interfere, he meant to say he saw no reason why it “would not” be Russia who interfered in the US elections. In a similar incident, Trump offered a simple “no” after being asked by a reporter if Russia was “still targeting” the United States. The White House later clarified that the president was saying “no” to answering more questions.

“He does believe that they [Russia] would target US elections again. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure this does not happen,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

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Rogue camel causes chaos on Moscow highway (VIDEO)

A runaway camel caused havoc on a Moscow motorway after it appeared out of nowhere and ran across multiple lanes of traffic, causing cars to swerve to avoid hitting it.

The Bactrian camel was spotted running across the lanes of traffic on Wednesday, shocking motorists who weren’t expecting to come across a camel on their commute.

While the mystery of what the camel was doing there remains unsolved, local media report the animal may have escaped from a circus.

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First 50 families of farmers from South Africa may soon resettle in Russia

The first families of Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, could soon be moving to Russia to escape rising violence against farmers. Some 15,000 Boers want to leave South Africa and become farmers in Russia.

The Schlebusch family from South Africa’s Bloemfontein is going to be among first 50 Boer families to settle in Russia’s southwest. Like many other Boers, they are seeking political asylum in Russia. They say they are facing violent attacks and death threats at home stemming from government plans to expropriate their land.

Earlier this month, farmer Adi Schlebusch visited Russia’s farmbelt Stavropol Region. Schlebusch, whose grandfather was murdered at his farm, told RT that the land in South Africa “was never taken by whites from blacks with violence or in an unjust manner.” He explained that when Boers moved to South Africa in the 19th century, they tried to act in a way that was fair, to negotiate officially and to avoid conflict.

Everything changed after Cyril Ramaphosa’s government came in. South Africa’s new president has pledged to return the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to the black citizens of the country. The government said it is planning to put an end to what it calls the legacy of apartheid, where most of South Africa’s land is still in the hands of its minority white population.

Rights groups said the initiative incites violence. There were 74 farm murders and 638 attacks, primarily against white farmers, in 2016-17 in South Africa, according to data by minority rights group AfriForum. 

The government doesn’t dispute the figures, but officials say farmers are victims of crime like just other citizens of the country gripped by violence and that they are not targeted because they are white. They say black farmers are also facing attacks.

Schlebusch confirmed to RT that roughly 15,000 Boers are ready to leave their country and begin a new life in Russia.

“The reason I’m considering immigration is honestly because I see dark clouds hanging over our future. The reality is that we do fear for our lives. And the reality is that a white farmer is attacked every day in South Africa. My grandfather was murdered on this farm. The government is certainly responsible for creating that climate of antagonism towards white farmers.” 

The farmer said he visited Russia with his family to explore the possibilities of resettling in the area. “I know the growth of agricultural production is immense in Russia. So, I think it’s the right time to buy in into agriculture in Russia. And I think there’s a lot of potential.”

Stavropol is ready to settle up to 50 Boer families, according to the region’s Deputy Commissioner for human rights Vladimir Poluboyarenko. He told RT exclusively there is already a plan for settlement of roughly 500 families with their own cattle near Stavropol. The official also said that out of the four million Boers, representing eight percent of South Africa’s population, fifteen thousand Boers want to move to Russia.

A Russian delegation is due to come to South Africa to work out a more detailed resettlement plan with the Boer community.

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Kadyrov blasts US charges against Russian gun activist as groundless

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, has expressed his bewilderment over the US’ charges against Russian gun activist Maria Butina, who, he says, has done nothing illegal, yet finds herself in an American jail.

“For several days in a row I see and hear the name Maria Butina everywhere. They write that she has been detained in the USA and charged with lobbying Russia’s interests. But she has done nothing illegal, she never stole any classified data from the Pentagon and she never tried to find a job at the CIA,” Kadyrov tweeted on Friday along with a photo of Butina.

The 29-year-old Russian citizen was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. On Sunday, the DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials.

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Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov speaks at an event devoted to Peace Day, at the State Theater and Concert Hall in Grozny © Said Tzarnaev

Butina has pleaded not guilty of the charges. In a Facebook post, the Russian Embassy in Washington announced that its diplomats had contacted the woman in prison and confirmed the not-guilty plea. The embassy press service also said that an official letter demanding an explanation of the arrest was sent to the US authorities.

This is not the first time Kadyrov has commented via social media on the justice system and human rights in the US. He recently commented on a US State Department report containing allegations of human rights violations in Chechnya on Telegram, saying: “As far as fundamental human rights are concerned, the situation in Chechnya is significantly better than the one in the United States of America.”

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Prince Charles claims he didn’t know bishop was a pedophile, defends friendship with abuser

Prince Charles has told a public inquiry he was unaware that a bishop he was friends with for over 20 years was a pedophile, because he didn’t understand the clergyman’s caution for gross indecency included an admission of guilt.

The prince has revealed that he formed a close friendship with Peter Ball for more than 20 years, until 2015, when the bishop was convicted for sexually abusing over a dozen victims. In 1993, Ball had to resign his ministry following a police investigation into his abuse of boys and young men that led to him accepting a caution.

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© Silas Stein/ Global Look Press

The Prince of Wales has made a written statement, described as a draft, to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which will be made public next week. The prince, who gave the statement voluntarily, said he had “decades of correspondence” with Ball and occasionally sent him “small gifts of money, as I do for many people in need,” the Times reports.

Ball’s history with the royals shows he has been at the center of many of their lives’ landmarks. In 2006, he conducted the funeral of Bruce Shand, the Duchess of Cornwall’s father. The bishop was also invited to give Communion at the prince’s home of Highgrove and set up home in a Duchy of Cornwall property between 1997 and 2011.

Ball’s connections to influential establishment figures and the question of whether they interfered with the criminal justice process will be put under the microscope at the inquiry next week. The IICSA published a timetable for five days of hearings on Thursday, disclosing that the prince’s statement would be read but he would not be summoned to answer questions.

The prince said the bishop told him that he had been caught up in an “indiscretion” and that an individual with a personal grudge had been “persecuting” him.

The prince added: “I was certainly not aware at the time of the significance or impact of the caution… Whilst I note that Peter Ball mentioned the word in a letter to me in October 2009, I was not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt.”

He expressed “deep personal regret” that he had been duped by Ball.

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US establishment rallies around martyr figure of ex-ambassador McFaul

Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was touched that the Senate voted to protect him from being hauled off to a Russian dungeon – or at least that’s what the establishment crowd made it look like.

McFaul was the US envoy to Russia from February 2012 to February 2014, leaving Moscow just days after the US-backed coup in the neighboring Ukraine. His name was mentioned by Russian officials in the context of a proposal made by President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit to arrange for mutual questioning of individuals suspected of wrongdoing, under a 1999 treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

On Wednesday, the White House said only it was “discussing” the proposal internally, but had not made any commitments. This was enough for Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), to accuse Trump of pursuing “Putin’s agenda,” with the Senate Democrats putting forth a resolution against any US officials ever being questioned by Russia.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday, shortly before the Senate vote.

“Bipartisanship is not dead yet,” McFaul, who believes Putin has made him his personal enemy, proclaimed, thanking the Senate for having his back with 98 votes in favor and none opposed.

The non-binding resolution was quickly hailed as a victory of the #Resistance over the “traitor” Trump and his “puppet-master” Putin, although obviously nothing short of impeachment will do.

Former President Barack Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen might have been waxing hyperbolic, but McFaul did get elevated into an almost-martyr by the establishment, with outspoken California Democrat Eric Swalwell tweeting #ProtectMcFaul and threatening to “make [Trump] an ex-president” if he ever turns the ambassador over to Russia.

Former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton also chimed in, coming to McFaul’s defense.

A couple of voices did point out that Clinton literally failed to defend US ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, back in 2012, but to no avail. The #Resistance was determined to stop McFaul from being delivered to Moscow in irons.

Except that no one had ever asked for it. There’s no extradition treaty between the US and Russia, and even if there was, McFaul is neither a Russian citizen, nor is he facing any formal charges in Russia for Moscow to lay any claim to actually detaining him.

Instead, Putin’s proposal would have enabled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators to actually interview – almost certainly in Russia – the alleged Russian spies they had just accused of hacking Democrat’s computers in 2016, in exchange for McFaul and others answering questions – almost certainly in the US – about their possible role in financial misdeeds of Bill Browder, a man who renounced his US citizenship in 1998.

Instead, the Senate chose to declare US government officials above the law and derail an agreement that could have helped clear up at least some of the vitriol between Moscow and Washington.

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