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Denies Russia

Russia Denies Allegations It Paid Militants To Kill U.S. Troops As ‘Nonsense’ – NPR

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers celebrate a peace deal and victory in March. News reports allege Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops. Russia accuses U.S. intelligence of leaking the story to scuttle the peace process.

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images


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Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers celebrate a peace deal and victory in March. News reports allege Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops. Russia accuses U.S. intelligence of leaking the story to scuttle the peace process.

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images

“Fake.” “Nonsense.” “Lies.”

The Kremlin reacted the same way the White House did to news reports that U.S. intelligence had allegedly found Russia offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the initial story in The New York Times demonstrated the “low intellectual abilities of U.S. intelligence propagandists.” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called subsequent reports “hoaxes” that damage the reputation of the media that publish them.

Russian officials spend a lot of time refuting allegations of malfeasance, from the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England to election interference in the United States. That Russian military intelligence may have paid bounties for killing U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan appears to be just the latest accusation Moscow has categorically denied.

“Of course, they’re going to deny. They’re in the unfortunate position of having cried wolf so often that it becomes hard to know quite what to believe,” said Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “There is a sense of ‘How stupid do you think we are?’ “

Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services, said a bounty program on U.S. soldiers would not only be foolhardy but would constitute a “massive escalation” in Moscow’s testy relations with Washington.

Frants Klintsevich, a member of the Russian upper house’s defense and security committee, called the allegations “complete stupidity.”

“What would we get out of this? Who can give me a clear explanation?” Klintsevich said in an interview. “What do we get if the Taliban kill two or three American soldiers? The Russian intelligence services have neither a political nor an economic nor a military interest in it.”

Klintsevich, a member of the ruling United Russia party, said the reports of the bounties are more about a domestic political struggle in the U.S. where Russia is being used as a “bogeyman” to hurt President Trump’s reelection chances.

Klintsevich served as a captain in the Soviet army’s disastrous nine-year war in Afghanistan and heads an influential veterans’ organization. He recalled how the U.S. financed and armed Afghan guerrillas known as the mujahedeen, who fought successfully against Soviet forces. But Klintsevich said the United States went into Afghanistan in 2001 for the right reason: to fight the Taliban.

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Putin — in his second year as Russia’s president — tried to use a common front against terrorism as a way of deepening relations with the United States.

As President George W. Bush began bombing Afghanistan, Putin said Russia was ready, if necessary, to assist in search and rescue operations of U.S. military personnel. During a presidential summit in November 2001, Putin spoke at Rice University in Texas, saying he agreed with Bush that terrorists needed to be hunted down in Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union’s stinging withdrawal from Afghanistan had taken place a little more than a decade earlier, and Russia still had a lot of expertise to share.

Many Russians Today Take Pride In Afghan War That Foretold Soviet Demise

Lawmaker Klintsevich said he helped organize meetings between Russian veterans and U.S. officials.

“I myself took part and talked about my feelings, experience and knowledge with your specialists,” he said. Klintsevich says he warned the Americans that invaders as far back as Alexander the Great had struggled to dominate Afghanistan.

Even as U.S. and Russian interests converged in Afghanistan, bilateral relations began to deteriorate over disagreements in other parts of the world. Putin was vehemently against Bush’s war in Iraq and the continuing enlargement of NATO, while the U.S. was opposed to Russia’s subsequent military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria.

When it lambasted the reports on bounties on American troops, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that U.S. intelligence may have leaked the story to scuttle efforts by Russian and U.S. diplomats to facilitate the peace process between Taliban fighters and the Afghan government. The ministry also accused U.S. intelligence of drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

Though Russia has banned the Taliban as a terrorist organization, leaders of the group have traveled to Moscow for talks hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Many Russians who fought in Afghanistan consider the Taliban the descendants of the U.S.-backed mujahedeen. But lingering resentment from those times is unlikely to have motivated Russia to pay bounties on U.S. troops, said Galeotti, who authored a book on the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

While Russia is still deeply involved there, he said, paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters carries a political price that’s too high to bear.

Galeotti also discounted the possibility of a rogue element within Russian military intelligence.

“That guy is not going to be able to get signoff on large transfers of money without convincing lots of other people,” he said. “The Russian security apparatus does not just simply hand out money willy-nilly. They’re just like every other government bureaucracy.”

Russian lawmaker Klintsevich said he has no hard feeling toward the Americans.

“It seems to me the U.S. military is doing the right thing by fighting terrorists, and that’s important for the world,” he said. “That’s why I’m on the side of the American soldier who has gone into combat on the orders of his government.”

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Denies Trump

Trump denies being briefed on Russian bounty intelligence – CNN

(CNN)President Donald Trump on Sunday denied receiving a briefing about intelligence that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill US troops, as The New York Times first reported and CNN has confirmed.

Trump tweeted that “there have not been many attacks” on US troops by Taliban fighters as his evidence that the reported intelligence may be “phony.” Trump’s tweet went a step further than a Saturday statement from the White House.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed “on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to a European intelligence official. US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks, the Times said in its report.
Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.
The European intelligence official was unclear in comments to CNN as to the precise Russian motivation for the attempted bribes, but said the incentives had, in their assessment, led to coalition casualties. The official did not specify as to the date of the casualties, their number or nationality, or whether these were fatalities or injuries.
In addition to McEnany, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also said in a statement on Saturday that he had “confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”
He added: “The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”
According to the Times, the Trump administration held expanded briefings about the intelligence assessment last week and shared information about it with the British government, whose forces were also believed to have been targeted.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, on Friday denounced the Times report as “baseless allegations” that have led to death threats against Russian diplomats in Washington and London. The Taliban also rejected the report.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.

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Denies Gibson

Mel Gibson Denies Winona Ryder’s Claims of Anti-Semitism, Homophobia – Variety

Mel Gibson is hitting back at explosive claims by Winona Ryder that the Oscar-winning actor and director made anti-Semitic and bigoted remarks and accusing the “Stranger Things” star of lying about their interactions.

“This is 100% untrue,” a representative for Gibson said in a statement to Variety. “She lied about it over a decade ago, when she talked to the press, and she’s lying about it now.”

Ryder accused Gibson of making anti-Semitic and anti-gay comments in a recent interview with the Sunday Times. She has told similar stories in the past, including in a 2010 GQ profile.

“We were at a crowded party with one of my good friends,” she told the reporter from the Telegraph. “And Mel Gibson was smoking a cigar, and we’re all talking and he said to my friend, who’s gay, ‘Oh wait, am I gonna get AIDS?’ And then something came up about Jews, and he said, ‘You’re not an oven dodger, are you?’”

Ryder went on to say that Gibson later “tried” to apologize to her about his comments. Gibson’s spokesperson says that isn’t true.

“She lied about him trying to apologize to her back then,” the representative said. ‘He did reach out to her, many years ago, to confront her about her lies and she refused to address it with him.”

Gibson’s once red-hot career froze over in 2006 when he was arrested for a DUI and told police that “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!” He also used racial slurs in audio recordings of a fight with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, which was published in 2010 by RadarOnline. Despite falling off the A-list, Gibson’s professional life has recovered. He was nominated for an Oscar for directing the 2016 war film “Hacksaw Ridge” and appeared in the hit “Daddy’s Home 2.”

A spokeswoman for Ryder did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Denies judge

Judge denies ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli’s ‘delusional’ request to leave prison to fight coronavirus – The Washington Post

A judge this weekend denied convicted pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli’s request to leave prison so he could research a treatment for the novel coronavirus, after officials dismissed his rationale as the type of “delusional self-aggrandizing behavior” that got him locked up.

Prisoners nationwide have sought release during the coronavirus pandemic, as correctional centers turn into hot spots for the virus. But Shkreli’s request was unusual: Last month, his attorney asked federal authorities to release him to his fiancee’s New York City apartment so he could perform lab work.

In a separate research proposal posted online, Shkreli, 37, said that the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to create a treatment for covid-19 are “inadequate” and that he is “one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development.”

In their review of Shkreli’s request for a three-month release under “strict supervision,” the probation department overseeing his case marveled at Shkreli’s claim that he could find a covid-19 cure that has “so far eluded the best medical and scientific minds in the world working around the clock.”

It’s that type of thinking that landed him in prison, the department said, according to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto’s nine-page ruling issued Saturday. The disgraced executive has repeatedly flouted authorities and seemed to revel in even a critical national spotlight; he famously smirked at a congressional hearing on drug price-gouging and live-streamed to supporters the day after his first arrest.

In her denial of the furlough request, Matsumoto wrote that Shkreli was “healthy,” that he had no “recent history of preexisting medical conditions that place him at higher risk” and that no cases of the virus have been reported at the prison.

“Defendant requests to be released into, among other places, an apartment in New York City, the epicenter of the covid-19 pandemic,” Matsumoto wrote.

Ben Brafman, Shkreli’s attorney, said in a statement Sunday that they were “disappointed” by the decision but that it was “not unexpected.”

Derek Hawkins contributed to this report.

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Denies Trump

Trump denies ties to Americans linked to Venezuela ‘coup plot’ – Al Jazeera English

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the United States government had nothing to do with an alleged incursion into Venezuela that landed two US citizens behind bars in the crisis-stricken South American country.

Trump said he had just learned of the detention of the pair, accused by Venezuela of being mercenaries. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said they were part of an operation to kill him that was backed by neighbouring Colombia and the US.

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“Whatever it is, we’ll let you know,” Trump told reporters in Washington, DC, before departing from the White House to Arizona. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”

Maduro said: “The United States government is fully and completely involved in this defeated raid” and praised members of a fishing village for cornering one group and netting the “professional American mercenaries”.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper echoed Trump’s comments later on Tuesday, saying “The United States government had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days.”

Authorities in Venezuela identified the two detained men as Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both former US special forces soldiers associated with the Florida-based private security firm Silvercorp USA.

A third US ex-Green Beret and Silvercorp founder, Jordan Goudreau, claimed responsibility for leading “Operation Gideon”, which was launched with an attempted beach landing before dawn on Sunday that left eight suspected attackers dead.

The two former US soldiers were detained on Monday dozens of kilometres from the first attempted beach landing in a fishing village. Authorities say they confiscated equipment and detained dozens of others.

‘Shoestring budget’

Goudreau said the operation was designed to capture – and not kill Maduro. He said he carried it out on a “shoestring budget” after signing an agreement with US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who Goudreau accuses of failing to pay him. Guaido denies having any relationship with Goudreau.

Venezuela is gripped by a deepening social, politico and economic crises under Maduro’s rule that has led nearly five million residents to flee crumbling social services, such as unreliable water, electricity and broken hospitals.

Americans

Personal documents allegedly owned by what Venezuela termed as ‘terrorist mercenaries’ from Colombia were presented by authorities on Monday [Miraflores Palace via Reuters]

The US is among nearly 60 countries that back Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Guaido invoked the constitution more than a year ago and declared himself interim president. Maduro, who maintains the backing of China, Russia and most of Venezuela’s state institutions, including the military, accused Guaido and the US as staging a coup at the time.

Venezuela and the US broke diplomatic ties a year ago, so there is no US embassy operating in Venezuela’s capital of Caracas.

“It shocks me how insane they were,” said Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “They walked right into a coiled rattlesnake without even having minimally studied the capacity of the Venezuelan armed forces. There’s no way the US government would’ve supported an operation like this.”

Guaido – often derided by Maduro as a US puppet – has cast doubt on the government’s version of Sunday’s events.

“They’re trying to create a state of apparent confusion, an effort to hide what’s happening in Venezuela,” Guaido said in a virtual session of Congress on Tuesday, citing gasoline shortages, a deadly prison riot and a violent gang battle in Caracas. The Venezuelan government is also struggling to cope with the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Denies Musk's

EPA Denies Elon Musk’s Claims About Faulty Range Test Of Tesla Model S – InsideEVs

So, is the 391-mile range rating correct or should it be 400 miles? The EPA is willing to discuss any technical issues with Tesla.

Elon Musk said during Tesla‘s earnings call that the Model S Long Range Plus – currently rated by EPA at 391 miles (513 km) of range – actually might be able to go 400 miles (644 km), as the test was kind of faulty.

The main issue is that the EPA allegedly left the car door open and the keys inside, which resulted in 2% battery drain overnight (during the test procedure, we guess).

“…the real Model S range is 400 miles, but when we did the last EPA test, unfortunately, [EPA] left the car door open and the keys in the car, so the car – and it did this overnight.

And so the car actually went into waiting for driver mode and lost 2% of its range. And as a result, it had a 391 test. As soon as the EPA reopens for testing, we will redo the test, and we’re actually confident that we will achieve a 400-mile-or-greater range with the Model S. But to be clear, the Model S, for the past two months — the true range of the Model S for the past two months has been 400 miles.”

Elon Musk intends to repeat the test, but such a serious accusation forced the EPA to take a position. The EPA’s spokesperson denied the allegations in a statement to The Verge:

“We can confirm that EPA tested the vehicle properly, the door was closed, and we are happy to discuss any technical issues with Tesla, as we do routinely with all automakers,”

Well, it would be great if the EPA and Tesla would discuss the topic and repeat the test if that’s required.

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