‘We gave you uranium, you repaid us by bombing Belgrade’: Putin slams US over nuclear treaties

Vladimir Putin has criticized the US for failing to keep their end of the bargain in a host of international disarmament agreements. He says Moscow will not exit any existing treaties, but promised an “instant, symmetrical response” if Washington decides to quit first.

‘US decided to do away with international law’

Speaking during a Q & A session at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, an annual meeting with international journalists and Russia experts, Putin began by recalling the Megatons to Megawatts program, which ran between 1993 and 2013, and saw Russia downblend enriched uranium from the equivalent of about 20,000 of its nuclear warheads into low-enriched uranium to be used as fuel by US power stations.

Putin said that as part of what he called “one of the most effective disarmament efforts in history,” US officials made 170 visits to top secret Russian facilities, and “set up permanent workplaces in them adorned with American flags.”

READ MORE: Putin on Catalonia: EU triggered rise of separatism by supporting Kosovo independence

“From the Russian side unprecedented openness and trust were demonstrated,” said Putin, saying that through the 1990s, about 100 US officials were entitled to carry out surprise inspections of Russian nuclear facilities, as part of Gorbachev and Yeltsin-era agreements.

“What we got in return is well-known – a complete disregard for our national interests, support for separatism in the Caucasus, a circumvention of the UN Security Council, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the invasion of Iraq, and so on. The US must have seen the state of our nuclear weapons and economy and decided to do away with international law.”

‘They have no money for disarmament, but we do?’

Putin said that Washington’s hostile policies “are returning the relationship between the two countries to the 1950s” though noted that at least during the Cold War “there was at least more mutual respect” between the two superpowers.

“We can’t actively participate in several international treaties, because the US is not doing anything itself. We can’t just do it unilaterally,” said Putin, citing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, as an example of the US taking advantage.

Last month, Russia declared that all its chemical weapons stockpiles had been disposed of – news that Western media “decided to stay silent on,” according to Putin – while the US has persistently delayed its own destruction schedule, and now plans to complete the process in 2023 at the earliest.

“We destroyed everything, and then our American partners said – ‘Not yet, we don’t have money.’ So, they have a dollar printing press, yet they don’t have money. But we, on the other hand, do?” said Putin with heavy sarcasm.

‘We will fulfil our obligations’

Putin dated a key point in the breakdown of the post-Soviet world order to the US decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, during George W. Bush’s first term in office, to pave the way for the construction of the missile defense shield, to which the Kremlin continues to object vehemently.

“This treaty was the cornerstone of the entire international security framework in the area of strategic weapons. But despite spending years trying to persuade our colleagues otherwise, we weren’t able to hold our partners inside the agreement,” said Putin.

US President Donald Trump has criticized another treaty between Russia and the US that is still in force – New START. Signed in 2011 through to 2021, it stipulates that both sides are allowed to have up to 1,550 active nuclear warheads. Trump called it out as poor Obama-era deal in his campaign, and reportedly was annoyed with the Russian president for bringing it up in a phone conversation earlier this year.

“We are hearing that the other side is also not pleased with New START,” Putin said. “We are not going to quit it. Maybe we are ourselves dissatisfied with certain aspects of it, but there is always an element of compromise. So, we are going to fulfil our obligations.”

‘Instant and symmetrical response’

The treaty under the biggest threat is the INF, signed in 1987, which bans land-based missiles – both nuclear and conventional – with ranges between 500-5,500 km. The US has said that several of the latest Russian rockets violate the agreement.

Putin bemoaned that by not banning air-based and naval launchers the treaty allowed a loophole beneficial predominantly to NATO states, and said that it represented “another case of Russia making unilateral concessions.”

“Nonetheless, we are going to comply with its terms providing our partners do so,” Putin said. “If they decide to abandon it, however, our response will be instant and symmetrical.”

‘Others talk about nuclear disarmament when they develop newer weapons’

While Putin insisted that Russia “still wants and will pursue” new agreements with the US to achieve nuclear disarmament, these may be harder to negotiate in an era of more diverse weapons systems, being produced more states than ever before.

“Countries’ readiness to talk about getting rid of nuclear weapons is in direct proportion to their advances in other weapons systems,” said Putin, noting that both conventional and high-tech weapons delivered with modern targeting systems “offer almost as much damage, with far superior accuracy.”

“We are carefully monitoring what is happening around the world, just as our own country is acquiring these non-nuclear weapons system,” Putin said.

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'I thought that was sacred’: White House chief of staff rips media over coverage of Gold Star call

White House chief of staff John Kelly took another turn at the press podium to deliver a scathing critique of the lawmaker who listened in on President Donald Trump’s condolence call to a fallen soldier’s wife and the media treatment of it.

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and broken-hearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly told the White House press corps on Thursday.

He was referring to the war of words involving Trump and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), who told the press about eavesdropping on the president’s call to the family of La David Johnson, an Army Special Forces sergeant recently killed in Niger.

According to Wilson, who listened to the conversation on the speakerphone, Trump told Johnson’s pregnant wife that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Media reports on Wednesday condemned the remark as disrespectful.

“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened to that conversation,” Kelly said. “And I thought, at least that was sacred.”

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Frederica Wilson (L), Donald Trump (R) © Wikipedia / Reuters

A retired US Marine Corps general, who lost a son in Afghanistan in 2010, Kelly told reporters about the process of bringing back dead soldiers to the US for burial and the White House process of expressing condolences. Kelly said he personally advised Trump against making the condolence calls, as it is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Upon hearing that Kelly did not receive a condolence call from President Barack Obama, however, Trump made up his mind and asked for advice how to proceed.

Kelly shared the message he was given, by his friend Joseph Dunford ‒ now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ‒ about how his son Robert was “doing exactly what he wanted to do” and “knew what he was getting into.”

That was the message Trump communicated to Sergeant Johnson’s widow, Kelly said.

After seeing media reports about the phone call, Kelly said he spent an hour and a half visiting the finest people he knew – among the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery, “some of whom I put there, for they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.”

Many things that he considered sacred growing up are not respected any more, the retired general said. “The selfless devotion that brings a man or a woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that might be sacred.”

Kelly then brought up a 2015 dedication of a FBI building in Miami, Florida, when the same lawmaker spoke “in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise.”

He answered only a few questions from the press corps afterward, limiting them to reporters who were either related to, or knew someone who had died in military service.

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‘Giving up territories is a sin’: Putin refers to Torah when asked about values

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin referred to the Jewish holy book the Torah, stating that technologies and science cannot completely replace basic traditional values.

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© Grigoriy Sisoev

Vladimir Putin made the comment while responding to a question about whether modern technologies and science can replace values, such as territories and people.

“All that you’ve mentioned remain the eternal main values. It’s not a coincidence that the Torah says that giving up the territories is a great sin,” Putin said at the Valdai Forum in Sochi on Thursday.

“The territories, the natural treasures and the people remain the most important factors.”

The importance of technology, which supplements basic values, however, is great and increasing, Putin said.

“But changes are coming at such a pace… that it’s obvious: the science and technology factor becomes decisive in the military and foreign policy spheres. And these changes have an irreversible nature,” the president said.

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California wildfires cost state over $1bn – insurance commissioner

Wildfires in California, which have killed at least 41 people and left hundreds missing, have caused over $ 1 billion in losses, the state insurance commissioner has announced.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told reporters Thursday that more losses will be announced, in addition to the $ 1 billion in losses the state has suffered due to a multitude of wildfires.

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© HER TELDEN

The 17 wildfires in Northern California have scorched over 200,000 acres and destroyed or damaged more than 5,500 homes, displacing approximately 100,000 people.

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Smart move: UAE appoints 27yo as its first-ever Artificial Intelligence minister

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) appears to be spearheading new trends in government reshuffles, now saying it has introduced its first Minister for Artificial Intelligence.

After establishing a post of the Minister of Happiness last year, the Gulf Kingdom has taken another unorthodox step. The introduction of the new futuristic position was announced by Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Thursday.

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© Ruptly

“Today we announce the appointment of a minister for artificial intelligence. The next global wave is artificial intelligence and we want the UAE to be more prepared for it,” the Sheikh tweeted.

The new position will be assumed by 27-year-old Omar Sultan Al-Ulama, who has been the Deputy Director of the Future Department. He also held a position on the Executive Committee of the World Government Summit (WGS) since 2014. WGS is an UAE-based international organization, designed for sharing government-building experiences and innovations among different nations.

The Gulf state has also introduced the post of Minister for Advanced Sciences. Thirty-year-old Sara Al Amiri will assume the office, she has already held leading roles in the UAE Council of Scientists and the UAE’s Mars Mission team. In April this year, the Gulf state started “a 100-year national program” that includes plans to set up a scientific base on Mars.

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‘Paving the way for tyranny’: Tory MP slams own party for universal credit abstention

Andrea Leadsom, the Tory leader of the House of Commons, has been accused by a fellow Conservative MP of paving the way for “tyranny,” after the government pushed its MPs to abstain on a Labour motion on universal credit.

Veteran MP Sir Edward Leigh told MPs in the House of Commons: “Frankly, the road to tyranny is paved by executives ignoring parliaments.”

The controversy was sparked on Wednesday evening, after the government imposed a ‘three-line whip’ on its MPs, obligating them to abstain in Labour’s motion calling for a pause in the rollout of universal credit.

Labour’s opposition day motion was passed 299 votes to 0, after all but one Tory MP, Totnes representative Sarah Wollaston, abstained. Earlier in the day, it was reported that several dozen Conservative MPs were thinking of voting with the opposition.

In an impassioned Commons speech that proved popular among Labour MPs, Leigh said: “Parliament does matter, because if we as Conservatives live by the sword now, our Conservative values in the future might die by the sword.”

“It may be in the future that there is a minority Labour government. They may produce policies which we think are deeply contrary to our personal liberties. We may muster a majority in Parliament against it,” he added.

“What happens then if a future Labour government says, ‘I’m sorry; you set the precedent. This is only an expression of opinion. We are going to ignore Parliament’?”

While being heckled with cries of “disgrace,” house leader Leadsom defended the decision to impose the abstention, noting that the government was not bound by the vote.

Shadow leader of the Commons Valerie Vaz said the abstention was “disrespectful to the House.”

“This is where we make the law. This is not a school debating chamber.”

On the universal credit resolution, Vaz said: “I know the government didn’t want to hear about people in rent arrears struggling to feed their families when they’re in work, but that’s the reality when government policy is failing.”

Tory MP and staunch Brexiteer Peter Bone echoed the sentiments.

“We cannot ignore the will of the House,” he said, arguing that ministers should be compelled to deliver a statement to Parliament within 12 weeks of a resolution similar to Wednesday’s.

While it is rare for governments not to vote down opposition day motions, the minority Tory administration has done so on a number of occasions since June’s election, avoiding any potential rebellions that could threaten the May government.

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Secret Service catches 'Pikachu' trying to jump White House fence

A man dressed as the Pokemon character Pikachu was arrested after trying to get onto the White House grounds, the US Secret Service has said.

Curtis Combs, 36, of Somerset, Kentucky, jumped over the concrete barrier on the southern side of the president’s residence while wearing a Pikachu costume Tuesday morning. He was quickly arrested by uniformed Secret Service officers.

According to a police report released Wednesday night, Combs told officers that he was unarmed, then attempted to climb the fence. He is said to have ignored multiple orders to stop.

Combs, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of unlawful entry and has a court date set for November 9, told the Secret Service that he hoped to become famous by posting footage of the stunt on YouTube.

Unfortunately for the viral hit wannabe, the officers’ quick response meant he could not complete the recording. His backpack, which he dropped before jumping the barrier, was later investigated and cleared by bomb disposal officers.

Earlier this month, CNN claimed that Russia allegedly used the popular augmented-reality game Pokemon Go to inflame racial tensions among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election.

The report claimed that a Tumblr page “linked” to a supposed Russian hacking group promoted a contest encouraging people involved in the Black Lives Matter movement to play Pokemon Go at sites known for being scenes of police brutality.

READ MORE: ‘Idea that interfering with Pokemon Go could change US presidential vote result is hilarious’

A yellow rodent with a lightning-shaped tail, Pikachu is the most visible face of Pokemon, a Japanese franchise extending to movies and animation shows, comic books, video and trading-card games.

This is not the first time Pikachu has had a brush with White House security. In September 2014, a man named Jeffrey Grossman was stopped on the North Lawn after jumping the White House fence while wearing a Pokemon hat and holding a yellow Pikachu doll.  

Grossman’s mother, Cathy, said her son had gone to an out-of-state hospital to admit himself for mental health treatment, but he was unable to do so based on his healthcare coverage. After asking why he could not get help, he was told that he should complain to the president.

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US uses Iran nuclear deal as leverage – fmr Pentagon official

The US is using Iran nuclear agreement as a stepping stone to get more cooperation from the Europeans, and Washington’s UN ambassador is trying to leverage US position against Iran for that purpose, says former Pentagon official Michael Maloof.

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley lashed out at Iran during the latest Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

“As a Council, we’ve adopted a dangerously short-sighted approach. Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat. Iran must be judged in the totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish,” she claimed.

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced he would decertify the nuclear agreement with Iran. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the international community to make a stand against the White House moves.

RT: What do you make of Nikki Haley calling Iran’s behavior the main reason for all the unrest in the Middle East?

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. © Stephanie Keith

Michael Maloof: It is an overblown statement as usual. Iran is not the main culprit here. What she is trying to do is leverage the US position against Iran in order to get more cooperation, if you will, from the Europeans in a variety of areas… And they are using the nuclear agreement as a stepping stone for that purpose. The president, even though he announced the decertification, he really didn’t decertify, he bucked it to Congress, Congress may or may not act. And if the Congress doesn’t act, the president has the option of either terminating the US role, or he can just say what is going to be in the national interest, US security interest to continue on and still try to undertake the issues that are has, the myriad of issues. US policy toward Iran really mirrors what the Israelis are saying. Nikki Haley only speaks from the talking point she is handed by the State Department. She had no prior experience in international affairs. I think what has happened here is that Trump is trying to leverage. If you read his The Art of the Deal Chapter two: The elements of the deal, this is precisely the way he operates. He goes for bombastic ways and then he tries to leverage the opposition of the opponent. And this is precisely how he is operating in international affairs. And it can be very dangerous. And I think more and more people are understanding this, as are the Europeans.

RT: Washington’s UN ambassador even compared Iran to North Korea. “The list of Iran’s dangerous and destructive behavior that I just outlined does not even include the regime’s most threatening act: Its repeated ballistic missile launches, including the launch this summer of an ICBM-enabling missile. That should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations. When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands. If it is wrong for North Korea to do this, why doesn’t that same mentality apply to Iran?” she said. To what extent is that a fair comparison?

MM: Again, it is one in which she is trying to use the agreement to gain other concessions and try to get the UN to act on other UN resolutions that have to do with limiting Iran’s missiles. There is nothing in that agreement per se that addresses the missile issue. Leveraging – they use that agreement to get the UN to act in other areas such as limiting the missile capabilities of Iran. I think what Trump is trying to do also is to get the UN and the Europeans particularly to tighten up on the financial side, to stop alleged shipments of arms that might be going from here to there, to stop support of Hezbollah which the US has deemed to be a terrorist group. A lot of other countries do not regard it as such…

RT: Nikki Haley has called for the international community to stand up to Iran, while Iran has called on Europe to oppose US actions. Whose side will they come down on?

MM: The US at the end is not going to get what it wants. It is not going to get this kind of action, in fact, they may get a retrenchment on the part of the Europeans who have all agreed to this agreement. They are looking at the agreement, they have already opened up trade, they have opened up other avenues of rapprochement with the Iranians which is economically beneficial, but they also don’t want to have a fight with the Iranians ultimately…The whole idea of Obama and going along with this agreement was that during the tenure period it would be a time in which we could lessen tensions with Iran and open up further avenues of cooperation. Instead, under Trump we are doing just the opposite.

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Dogs on drugs: World’s most famous dog sled race facing doping scandal

Dogs who participated in this year’s Iditarod race, the world’s most famous dog sled event, have tested positive for a banned substance, it has been revealed.

The committee board of directors for the Iditarod Trail dog sled race confirmed on Wednesday that dogs that had mushed at this year’s race had tested positive for the banned opioid pain reliever Tramadol, the Associated Press reports.

The board specified the substance in question after confirming last week that dogs from the same team had returned positive results, following testing at the finish line of the 1,000-mile trek in Alaska in March.

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© imago sportfotodienst / Global Look Press

It is the first time since testing procedures were introduced in 1994 that dogs have returned positive results for banned substances at the event.

Officials have refused to name the musher, reportedly over doubts that they could prove that he deliberately administered the drug.  

Aaron Burmeister, an Iditarod board member and musher, said Wednesday that as long as the participant remained unnamed, everyone would fall under suspicion.

“It’s not a good situation,” he said. “I’m hoping that we can turn a positive light on it and the musher steps forward,” AP reports.

Mushers know that dogs will be subject to random testing during the race as well as at the finish line, and there has been speculation that a fellow competitor may have administered the substance to sabotage a rival’s chances.

Burmeister, however, questioned this theory, saying: “As a musher, why would another musher give their competitor a performance-enhancing drug?”

The Iditarod began in 1973, and takes competitors across arduous Alaskan terrain in sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds. The teams consist of a musher and 16 high-performance sled dogs.

It typically takes between eight and 15 days for competitors to complete the route from Settler’s Bay to Nome on Alaska’s southern Seward Peninsula coast.  

READ MORE: Put microchips in athletes like dogs for stricter doping checks, sports official says

Musher Burmeister, who missed this year’s race, hopes that the scandal will not detract from the respect people have for the event and its participants, canine and human.

“I just hope that people look at the big picture and realize that mushers out there are not doping their dogs,” he said. “This is an isolated incident.”

  

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Pro-Christian lawmaker seeks ban on Halloween celebration in Russian schools

A Russian Lower House MP known for his pro-Christian and anti-gay stance has proposed an official ban on Halloween celebrations in schools and kindergartens. Vitaly Milonov addressed the proposal to the Education Ministry.

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Participants in a Zombi parade ahead of Halloween on Krasny Prospekt in Novosibirsk. (RIA Novosti/Alexandr Kryazhev)

In his letter to Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva,  Milonov wrote that in his view celebrations of Halloween by kids were unacceptable “both from the point of view of studying and upbringing and the position of spirituality and morals.” He also wrote that the necessity to shield children from the “decaying and negative influence of Halloween” was long overdue. He concluded the letter with a call for a nationwide ban on Halloween celebrations in primary schools and kindergartens.

Milonov also noted that in his opinion the ministry should explain to teachers “the real meaning of Halloween and its consequences for children” which he described as “the most powerful psychophysical, emotional and suggestive influence.” 

The Education Ministry’s press service issued a reply to Milonov’s letter in which it said that Halloween is not on the list of holidays and memorial dates officially recommended to schools.

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Young people wearing makeup for Halloween celebration in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

Russian politicians and activists at both regional and federal levels routinely address the topic of Halloween, as its popularity in the country has increased – largely through marketing events.

For example, in 2014 members of the Russian Public Chamber asked the government to issue an official recommendation for businessmen to abstain from Halloween celebrations, saying that horror-themed parties “induce lowly feelings,” and “turn into orgies.”

In 2013 an official representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Vsevolod Chaplin, called Halloween dangerous. “At first, people play with the evil spirit as a joke, but then they begin to play seriously with these things. This leads to serious problems: sickness, sadness, and despair,” Chaplin was quoted as saying by the popular news site Lifenews.

In the same year the Education Ministry in the Omsk region sent letters to local state schools telling them to take measures to curb any events marking Halloween on the grounds it “promotes extremism” and a “death cult” that can harm the moral health of children.

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