Russia’s famed Mariinsky Orchestra hosts 1st ever concert in Saudi Arabia (VIDEO)

Renowned conductor Valery Gergiev took his famed Mariinsky Orchestra to Saudi Arabia to show the best of Russian classical music and pave the way for cross-cultural exchange between Russia and the conservative kingdom.

The St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Orchestra was invited for an inaugural performance at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra). The center, located in the eastern city of Dhahran, is poised to become a cultural hub for the Saudi Kingdom, which is opening up to the world.

READ MORE: Healing music: Palmyra to see Russian orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev

The Mariinsky Orchestra could be heard playing the works of Prokofiev, Grieg, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and others. This is the first time the famed orchestra has ever performed in the kingdom, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and oil giant Saudi Aramco, which helped organize the concert.

“The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra’s concert at the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture opens the gate for the best of Russian culture to be introduced to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the RDIF. He added that the fund is proud that “Saudi Arabia’s most modern theatre will open with a performance by Russia’s oldest orchestra.” 

The performance, which coincided with Eid celebrations, signals the start “of a new cultural era for visitors who make their way to Ithra,” Ali Al Mutairi, the center’s director, said.

The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra is the oldest orchestra in Russia, dating back over 200 years to the first St. Petersburg Imperial Orchestra. Gergiev, one of the best-known and most sought-after conductors in the world, has led the orchestra since 1978.

Valery Gergiev made headlines in 2016 when he staged a concert in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra to support the restoration of the UNESCO site and pay tribute to those killed in the war.

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Interest in football soars across Russia after national team’s record victory – survey

Interest in football amongst Russians has soared after the national team beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the first game of the 2018 World Cup, new research has shown.

Russian state-run public opinion research center VTSOM reported on Monday that the share of Russians planning to watch games at the tournament increased from 52 percent before last week’s big kick-off to 64 percent.

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Vitaliy Belousov

About 35 percent of respondents told researchers that they intended to watch only the games with the Russian national team but 29 percent said that they planned to regularly watch all games in the World Cup.

On Thursday last week Russia secured the biggest victory in the opening match of a World Cup since 1934 by beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 – despite pessimism before the game from many quarters in Russia.

The first goal arrived after 12 minutes from a neat header by unheralded 28-year-old Yuri Gazinsky, following a pinpoint cross from Golovin, the CSKA Moscow midfielder who has been linked with a host of top English Premier League clubs.

Having come into the game with no wins in seven matches, Russia will now face Egypt on Tuesday and Uruguay next Monday, without undue worries about goal difference.

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Deaths 'unexplained' as three killed in south London train incident

Three people have been killed after being struck by a train in south London. British Transport Police (BTP) have described the deaths at Loughborough Junction as “unexplained.” An investigation into the incident is underway.

A statement by a BTP spokesperson said: “My team are now working hard to understand what happened and how these three people came to lose their life on the railway,” the statement read.

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of these three people.

“At this time, we are treating their death as unexplained as we make a number of immediate enquiries.

“I would ask anyone who was near to Loughborough Junction this morning, and saw something which they think might be relevant, please contact us as soon as possible.”

Police were called at Loughborough Junction shortly after 7:30 am this morning.

Trains will now be delayed as the investigation takes place. The BTP advises the public to check with National Rail Enquiries for updates.


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Fake news: Russia dog execution image actually shot in Pakistan (PHOTO)

A picture circulating online of an alleged dog cull in Russia actually depicts Pakistan, during an attempt to reduce the number of stray animals on the streets of Karachi in 2016.

Ahead of the World Cup there were fears that Russia would try to exterminate stray dogs in time for the arrival of fans. However, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said that the animals would be captured and placed in shelters.

A Twitter user has now posted an image that purports to show scores of dogs lying dead in a street somewhere in Russia. But while the picture does show more than 50 dead dogs, it was actually taken two years ago in Pakistan.

Another Twitter user by the name of Fabio also hit out at use of the Pakistan picture which was used in a Reuters article in 2016. The story in question revealed how more than 700 dogs in Karachi had been tracked and poisoned over the course of a few days.

“The picture you used is indeed the illustration of a crime in my honest opinion, but it is not from Russia,” they said.

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Israeli jets strike 9 targets in Gaza in response to ‘explosive kites & balloons’ (VIDEO)

Israeli Air Force jets have carried out a series of strikes on Gaza, reportedly destroying several Hamas military targets in retaliation to alleged arson attempts and “explosive kites and balloons” being launched at Israel.

“The IDF attacked nine terror targets in two military compounds and a weapons manufacturing facility belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the northern Gaza Strip in response to the firing of kites and explosives and incendiary attacks on Israeli territory,” the army said in a statement. The IDF said that it treats the incident as terrorist acts and will continue to retaliate against such threats from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

The IDF has reiterated that it holds Hamas responsible for “everything in and out of the Gaza Strip” and that the organization “will bear the consequences” of its actions or inactions.

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FILE PHOTO. A construction of a housing project in the Israeli settlement of Na'ale, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. © Gil Cohen-Magen

Throughout the Great March of Return protests, which erupted along the Gaza-Israeli border in late March, Palestinians used balloons and kites to send homemade explosive devices into Israel, resulting in a number of fires across southern Israel. Most of them targeted farmlands close to the Gaza border.

In order to put a halt to these activities, Israel has limited the amount of helium gas that can be brought into Gaza, restricting it to medical treatment only. Tel Aviv has also threatened to cut off the gas supply unless the kite attacks cease.

A similar incident occurred on Sunday, when the Israeli Air Force fired shots near a group of Palestinians for “launching arson balloons” in southern Gaza. There were at least two such attacks, the IDF tweeted.

The Israeli military also attacked Palestinians who were allegedly launching “arson balloons” and jets targeted the site from which the group had been operating and their vehicle.

Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during the protests along the border with Gaza. The UN General Assembly condemned Israel’s “excessive use of force” against Palestinian demonstrators, adopting a nonbinding resolution last week. US envoy Nikki Haley wanted the final document to have an amendment condemning Hamas, but the proposal failed to draw enough support.

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Deadly quake interrupts traffic, wrecks houses & causes blackout in Japan’s Osaka area (VIDEOS)

As well as killing at least three people and injuring hundreds, a powerful earthquake in the Osaka region has briefly brought chaos to local transportation systems and caused substantial damage to housing and infrastructure.

The earthquake, measuring a magnitude 6.1, left a trail of destruction in its wake after striking the northern part of Osaka Prefecture during a Monday morning rush hour. At least three victims were crushed to death, including a nine-year-old girl, who died after being struck by a collapsing wall. Another man, 85, died from a falling bookshelf, while another 80-year-old passed away after being struck by part of a wall.

READ MORE: At least 3 killed, 200+ injured after 6.1 quake strikes Osaka, Japan

The jolts shattered windows, knocked over walls, and resulted in several residential building fires. The fury of nature also cracked roads and broke water pipes, flooding streets and leaving homes without water.

Gas supply to 108,000 households was cut off by Osaka Gas following the quake which also brought a halt to train traffic in the area, before operations slowly resumed hours later.

The emergency also left about 170,800 buildings without power for several hours. Production at the Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co. factories in Osaka and Kyoto prefectures was also halted as a result of the quake. Scattered goods were seen on shop floors.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed the government agencies to “swiftly collect information on damage, make utmost efforts in rescuing and saving lives… (and) provide timely and appropriate information to the public.”

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1 killed, 2 injured after armed carjacker meets armed driver at Walmart parking lot

Two people have been wounded and one killed in a shootout outside a Walmart in Washington state, after an armed gunman attempted –but failed– to hijack a car, whose driver also happened to be armed.

The incident, which culminated in a car park at a Walmart in the city of Tumwater, began unfolding at around 5pm local time, when police responded to a call about an alleged drunk driver. While police searched for the suspect, calls began pouring in about shots being fired at a nearby intersection. Additional calls indicated a hijacking had been attempted.

Police said that a 16-year-old girl was injured when the suspect tried to hijack her car. After he failed in the attempt, the suspect, whose name has not been released, headed to a Walmart parking lot where he made another attempt to steal yet another vehicle.

However, confronted by the car owner who was in possession of his own weapon, the culprit engaged in a gunfight. Seconds later and after multiple shots were fired, the would-be hijacker lay dead, while the driver suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is in critical condition, Laura Wohl, spokeswoman for the Tumwater Police Department, told reporters.

While police said the shooting happened outside the Walmart, witnesses reported they could hear the shots from inside the store, which caused chaos and panic inside the retail outlet. The police investigation continues. The motive of the culprit remains unknown.

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‘Good police work’? High-speed chase after illegal immigrants leaves 5 dead in Texas

A hot pursuit by US Border Control and a Texas county sheriff has resulted in five deaths, after an SUV carrying illegal migrants flipped over, sending passengers up in the air and flying out of the vehicle.

Just before noon, about 50 miles from the Mexico border, US Border Patrol initiated a pursuit of a Chevrolet Suburban suspected of being in a “smuggling event” near Carrizo Springs, Texas. Dimmit County Sheriff office took up the chase, trying to halt the car, which was going over 100mph. Refusing to bow to police commands, the driver of the black SUV, carrying undocumented immigrants, continued to press the pedal to the metal, until the vehicle flipped off a highway in Big Wells, about 130 miles southwest of San Antonio.

“The vehicle ran off the road and caught gravel and then tried to re-correct and then caused the vehicle to turn over several times,” Sheriff Marion Boyd told reporters. Images from the scene showed the SUV badly wrecked in the middle of the road.

Out of 14 people in the car, four were killed on the spot while a fifth person died at the hospital in San Antonio, the Dimmit County Sheriff said. Another nine, including the driver, who is believed to be a United States citizen, were taken to nearby hospitals. The names and nationalities of the victims have not been released.

In addition to the driver, one of the passengers, who is also believed to be American, was placed in custody. They are likely to face state and federal charges, Boyd said.

Despite the tragic outcome of the incident, the Sherriff commended what he called the “good police work” by the Border Agents who initiated the chase. At the same time, Boyd emphasized that the officers did nothing wrong and that high-speed chases around the state of Texas are a common occurrence.

“We’ve seen this many, many times, in not only this county but other counties along the border,” Boyd said. “It’s a problem. … This is, I think, a perfect example of why our borders need to be secure.”

To reinforce the border, the Sherriff suggested installing high-tech security features in addition to the wall that President Donald Trump has vowed to build. “If [the border wall with Mexico] can be built, then I think it should be built, but along with that, I think there needs to be cameras,” Boyd said. “There needs to be censors, there needs to be other things integrated to be able to protect our borders.”

READ MORE: 1 killed, 2 injured after armed carjacker meets armed driver at Walmart parking lot

Meanwhile, the US Customs and Border Patrol Agency issued a statement expressing “deepest sympathies” to the families of those who died in the crash. The Agency added that the incident is now being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the US Border Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety, Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office, and Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

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9yo girl, elderly man killed as 6.1 quake strikes Japan

At least three people have been confirmed killed and more casualties are feared, after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit north of Osaka Prefecture in western Japan, local media report.

An 80-year-old man and a young 9yo girl were killed in Japan, crushed by collapsing walls, public broadcaster NHK reported. Several others are reported in a state of “cardiopulmonary arrest,” a condition usually used by Japanese authorities until a formal examination has been conducted to confirm death.

At least 51 people were injured, mainly across the northern Osaka and neighboring prefectures, the broadcaster reports, citing data from local police and fire departments.

Some 170,000 households remain without power in Osaka, as well as neighboring Hyogo prefecture, according to local electricity operator Kansai.

Besides electricity outages, at least one house caught fire and several major water pipes burst following the quake, according to footage shown by local TV. The jolt struck during the Monday morning rush hour, and forced a halt to some rail services. As a precaution, flights were also delayed in Osaka airport.

While there were no reports of widespread damage, Japanese authorities are still assessing the impact, with PM Shinzo Abe emphasizing that the safety of residents is the government’s top priority at the moment.


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Russian embassy beats Uruguay at opening match of 'DC World Cup' in Washington (VIDEOS)

The international ‘DC World Cup’ football tournament has kicked off in Washington DC, with the Russian team beating their Uruguayan diplomat colleagues 4-3 in an intense inaugural game while Russia hosts the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Dozens of amateur football players and supporters gathered to watch the first ever DC Embassy World Cup match, where Team Russia clashed with their Uruguayan counterparts on a warm sunny day in Washington.

Wearing red jerseys, the diplomatic staff of the Russian embassy took to the pitch determined to win. Following an intense but rather friendly clash, the Russian envoys came out victorious, beating the Uruguayans 4-3 at the final whistle. Following the pleasant game, the teams posed for a diplomatic photoshoot.

“We are celebrating the multinational and multicultural spirit of DC, united with the excitement of the FIFA World Cup,” one Latin American team supporter told videographer Ford Fischer. “We’re doing this with the highest standard of sportsmanship and following the spirit of fair play.”

Co-sponsored by FIFA 2018 World Cup, the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, the 16-team tournament will run through July 14. In addition to the South American representatives, Russia will face Mexico on June 26, followed by Germany on June 30, as part of Group A match-ups. 

Group B will see England, Belgium, Colombia and Panama battle to make it to the playoffs. Australia, Denmark, Peru and France will battle in Group C, while Group D will witness matches between Argentina, Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland. The tournament has been organized to coincide with and to celebrate the FIFA 2018 World Championship being played in Russia.

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