Russian Plane Crash: Reports Suggest Bomb May Have Downed Airliner

russian crashOfficials from United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) say intelligence reports suggest that the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, may have been brought down by a bomb.

They, however, said that they were yet to reach a formal conclusion.

Britain earlier suspended flights to and from the resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, from where the flight had departed.

Egypt had dismissed claims by militants linked to Islamic State (IS) that they brought down the plane, as Russian experts said that it was too early to say.

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say the cockpit voice recorder of the Metrojet Airbus 321 was badly damaged in the crash.

However, they managed to extract information from the flight data recorder which is ready to be analysed by investigators.

Russia Backs Syrian Forces In Major Assault On Insurgents

syriaSyrian troops and militia backed by Russian warplanes mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assault on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of its new military reach.

The combined operation hit towns close to the main north-south highway that runs through major cities in the mainly government-held west of Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group which tracks the conflict via a network of sources within the country.

Ground attacks by Syrian government forces and their militia allies using heavy surface-to-surface missile bombardments hit at least four insurgent positions and there were heavy clashes, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdulrahman, said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia took part in the fight, according to a regional source who is familiar with the military situation in Syria.

Abdulrahman said later there was no sign that Syrian troops and their allies had made any tangible advances on the ground.

They briefly entered one town, but were forced to pull back, he said, and around 15 of their tanks or armored vehicles had been either destroyed or disabled.

Islamic State militants have seized much from Syria since civil war grew out of anti-government protests in 2011, but the areas targeted in Wednesday’s combined assault are held by other rebels, some U.S.-backed, fueling accusations by Russia’s critics that its real aim is to help the government.

Moscow says it shares the West’s aim of preventing the spread of Islamic State, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting that four Russian warships in the Caspian Sea had launched 26 missiles at Islamic State in Syria earlier in the day.

The missiles would have passed over Iran and Iraq to reach their targets, covering what Shoigu described as a distance of almost 1,500 km (900 miles), the latest display of Russian military power at a time when relations with the West are at a post-Cold War low over Ukraine.

The terrain-hugging Kalibr cruise missiles, known by NATO by the codename Sizzler, fly at an altitude of 50 meters and are accurate to within three meters, the Russian defense ministry said.

The air campaign in Syria has caught Washington and its allies on the back foot and alarmed Syria’s northern neighbor Turkey, which says its air space has been repeatedly violated by Russian jets.

Ankara summoned Russia’s ambassador for the third time in four days over the reported violations, which NATO has said appeared to be deliberate and were “extremely dangerous”.

Ukraine Crisis: Russia ‘Open To Dialogue’ With New Leader

Petro-PoroshenkoAs initial results tipped Petro Poroshenko to win Ukraine’s election, Russia said that it was “open to dialogue” with the new president of the crisis-torn country.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that military action must end against separatists in the east.

Mr Poroshenko said that he would meet Russian leaders soon but vowed to take a tough line on any armed separatists.

Unrest continues in the east, with pro-Russia militiamen halting flights at Donetsk airport.

Meanwhile election observers said Sunday’s vote was a genuine one that largely met international standards.

The mission from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) also said it gave the new President “legitimacy” to open a dialogue with separatists in the East.

Petro Poroshenko is a confectionery tycoon who backed the pro-European street protests that ousted Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich from Presidency.

He was the only Ukrainian strongman to swiftly throw his weight behind the popular uprising that started late 2013, devoting his ‘5th Channel’ TV station to the coverage of the protests.

A seasoned politician who served as Foreign Minister and Economy Minister in previous administrations, Poroshenko’s chain of confectionery shops has put the billionaire on Ukraine’s top 10 rich list, earning him the nick-name “Chocolate King”.

Poroshenko, whose chocolate manufacturer, Roshen is one of the world’s top 20 confectionery firms, backs Ukraine’s integration with the west and his firm has been targeted in Russia.

U.S. Cyber Leaker Snowden Sits Tight In Moscow Transit

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was believed to still be at a Moscow airport on Thursday and officials said he had not booked a flight out despite pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave.

Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong this month after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew to Moscow on Sunday. He had been expected to fly on to Havana on Monday but did not board the aircraft.

The 30-year-old American, who faces espionage charges in the United States and has asked Ecuador for political asylum, has not been seen since his arrival. Russian officials said he remained in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport.

A source at Russian airline Aeroflot said that neither Snowden nor his travelling companion Sarah Harrison, a researcher for the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, had booked a seat on Thursday’s flight to Havana.

An Aeroflot representative said earlier that Snowden had not booked a flight departing in the coming days.

An immigration official said Snowden had not applied for a visa to enter Russia and that he could remain in the transit area “as long as he wants” without applying for a transit visa.

Putin has rejected U.S. calls to expel Snowden to the United States and said on Tuesday that he should choose his destination and leave the Moscow airport as soon as possible. Ecuador has said it could take weeks to decide on his asylum request.

Barcelona pushing for David Luiz

Chelsea and Brazilian defender David Luiz has attracted Spanish giants; Barcelona and they are ready to test Stamford Bridge’s decision on the Brazilian as Chelsea has made it known that David is not going to be sold as the player just joined Chelsea in January of 2011 so there no immediate plans to sell him to any club and this is coming a week before the transfer window closes officially.

With his present value around £30million by the London club, there’s been a speculation that Barcelona has strong interest in Luiz who has been touted as not a guaranteed starter.

Meanwhile, a photograph of David Luiz on private plane was posted by him on twitter saying that he was preparing to fly to Barcelona, but the club responded saying he was on his way to attend a Nike event in Barcelona with the permission of Manager Di Matteo.

Luiz, before the EPL clash between Chelsea and Reading which ended in favour of Chelsea declared himself injured and that he will be missing the match on Wednesday night via twitter.

The player has had a divided opinion at the club since he joined from Benfica for a deal worth around £25m. An unorthodox defender who has been prone to the occasional mistake had his taken by Tim Cahill on Wednesday night against Reading, the England international scored Chelsea’s second goal in a performance that question the defence of the team in terms of discipline.

Chelsea would looking to sign up a right-back rather than a centre-back as Branislav Ivanovic told Di Matteo that he wants to be considered as a centre-back and not as a right-back, where he has found himself playing for much of last season.

There’s already a likely replacement for the Brazilian in the event of leaving Chelsea as Marseille right-back Cesar Azpilicueta is one candidate regarded as a suitable option which the Blues’ have signed on.

 

Russian government dash out cars to Olympic medalists

Besides fame and glory, this year’s Russian Olympic medalists are getting a handsome cash prize and a new luxury car.

The Russian Olympians Foundation, financed by 15 of the nation’s wealthiest businesspeople, presented the Audi sedans to the medalists on Wednesday.

After a closed ceremony in the Kremlin hosted by President Vladimir Putin, the athletes ventured onto the Red Square where 129 black Audis, accompanied by 129 hired drivers were waiting on the cobblestone slope behind St. Basil’s Cathedral.

The Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko mingled with the athletes and their trainers.

Then the cordon was opened and the athletes percolated through the lot, each claiming a car.
Gold medal winners received Audi A8s, which sells for $120,000. Silver medalists got A7s ($75,000), and bronze medalists got A6s ($50,000).

The foundation’s executive director, Alexander Katushev, said the cars were acquired at a ”Significant discount”
He added that elite athletes deserve elite cars.

“A fine athlete in a crappy car is like a beautiful girl who cusses. The exterior doesn’t match the interior, and this won’t do,” he added.

In addition to the cars, the fund is giving cash prizes to the medalists: 4 million rubles ($125,000) for gold, 2.5 million rubles for silver, and 1.7 million rubles for bronze.

According to some of the athletes, getting cars and cash prizes didn’t motivate them to win.

Volleyball player Alexei Obmochayev rifled through his car’s glove compartment. He took out the manual to look up the car’s horsepower.

His teammate, Alexander Volkov, carefully folded his towering, 210-centimeter frame into the back seat of one car. “Plenty of room here,” he said, hunching forward awkwardly.

One by one, the athletes were driven away by the hired drivers, with the exception of several wrestlers, who insisted on getting behind the wheel.

Gymnast Alina Makarenko, 17, will only be sitting shotgun for the foreseeable future — she doesn’t have a driver’s license. Makarenko said her mother would drive the A8 until she received one.

“I think if they had been Russian cars, nobody would have shown up,” said pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who won bronze after taking home gold in the last two Olympics.

The Russian Olympians Foundation includes Russia’s richest man, Alisher Usmanov, as well as tycoons Roman Abramovich, Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska.

The nation finished fourth in the total medals count, with 82, including 24 golds, 26 silvers and 32 bronzes.

Capello close to sealing Russia coaching job

Inching closer to becoming the new head coach of the Russian national team, Fabio Capello and the RFU crossed another hurdle after agreeing to the terms of personal contract.

Capello is currently jobless, after leaving the English national team because of the country’s Football Association action against John Terry who was stripped of the captain’s arm band against his wishes.

The Russian Football Union’s acting president, Nikita Simonyan confirmed the progress saying ‘The personal contract has been agreed and what is remaining for the contract to be sealed finally is the signature of the parties’.

Russia chose Capello from the list of 13 local and foreign coaches, which was revealed earlier this month and included the likes of Pep Guardiola, Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benitez.

As hopes are high on the contract, the media in the country are so optimistic that the deal will be totally sealed and announced officially to the footballing world by Friday, a deal that will keep Fabio Capello in Russia for the next two years as agreed, making the Italian the highest paid coach in the world, with an annual salary of $12 million.

While in some quarters, the information making the round is that the 66-year-old Italian will only get $6 million annually which is less than what Dick Advocaat, his predecessor.

Capello has won five Serie A titles with AC Milan and Roma as well as two Spanish crowns and the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid.

Russian Embassy in Libya Stormed by Protesters after Veto

Protesters in their dozens came out to protest the support given to Syria’s number one man, Bashar Al-Assad as Russia and China vetoed a U.N.reolution on Syria.

Russian Embassy in Libya Stormed by Protesters after Veto

There has been widespread international criticism of Russia’s support for Assad whose crackdown on protest areas has left thousands dead.

A demonstration was held outside the Russian Embassy in Tripoli,Libya yesterday with some storming the premises, forcing the Russian officials to fire in the air.

Protesters climbed on the roof of the building as gunfire could be heard around the embassy.

Others waved Syrian revolution flags, and chanted slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian government says it is cracking down on ‘armed gangs’.

The veto came a day after activists said Syrian forces bombarded the city of Homs, killing more than 200 people in the worst night of bloodshed of the 11-month uprising.

Russia said the resolution was biased and would have meant taking sides in a civil war. Syria is Moscow’s rare ally in the Middle East, home to a Russian naval base and a customer for its arms.

China’s veto was widely seen as following Russia’s lead.