intelligence Russia

U.S. intelligence says Russia seeking to boost Trump’s re-election bid – CBS News

U.S. intelligence says Russia seeking to boost Trump’s re-election bid – CBS News
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Coronavirus Russia

Coronavirus: Russia plans mass vaccination campaign in October – BBC News

A scientist prepares samples during development of a vaccine against the coronavirus at a laboratory of Biocad in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2src2src

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More than 100 possible coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the world

Russian health authorities are preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against coronavirus in October, the health minister has said.

Russian media quoted Mikhail Murashko as saying that doctors and teachers would be the first to receive the vaccine.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, said Russia’s first potential vaccine would be approved by regulators this month.

However, some experts are concerned at Russia’s fast-track approach.

On Friday, the leading infectious disease expert in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he hoped that Russia – and China – were “actually testing the vaccine” before administering them to anyone.

Dr Fauci has said that the US should have a “safe and effective” vaccine by the end of this year.

“I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines,” he told US lawmakers.

Scores of possible coronavirus vaccines are being developed around the world and more than 20 are currently in clinical trials.

Mr Murashko, quoted by Interfax news agency, said that the Gamaleya Institute, a research facility in Moscow, had finished clinical trials of a vaccine and that paperwork was being prepared to register it.

“We plan wider vaccinations for October,” he said, adding that teachers and doctors would be the first to receive it.

Last month, Russian scientists said that early-stage trials of an adenovirus-based vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute had been completed and that the results were a success.

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On 15 July Russian scientists announced that early-stage trials of a vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute had been completed

Last month the UK, US and Canada security services said a Russian hacking group had targeted various organisations involved in Covid-19 vaccine development, with the likely intention of stealing information.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was more than 95% certain that the group called APT29 – also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear – was part of Russian intelligence services.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, rejected the accusation, telling the BBC that there was “no sense in it”.

In the UK, trials of a vaccine developed by Oxford University have shown that it can trigger an immune response and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in Britain alone.

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Media captionCoronavirus vaccine: How close are we and who will get it?

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report Russia

Russia report: UK considers tougher security laws after criticism by MPs – BBC News

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Media captionKeir Starmer questions Boris Johnson on the Russia report in parliament

Ministers are considering strengthening security laws after a report by MPs accused them of underestimating the threat of Russian interference.

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said foreign agents could be required to register in the UK in future.

He told MPs that this and other “new offences and powers” for dealing with foreign spies were being looked at.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of complacency and leaving a “serious gap in our defences”.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said the government had “delayed” legislation to help counter Russian interference, despite acknowledging 18 months ago that existing powers were insufficient.

“The PM sat on this report for 10 months and failed to plug a gap in our law in national security,” he said.

“How is the PM going to address that gap and meet the threat with the joined-up, robust response it deserves?”

Boris Johnson said there was no other country in the Western world that was more “vigilant” about Russian interference, pointing to recent sanctions against Russian officials involved in human rights abuses and proposed laws to protect critical infrastructure and intellectual property.

“Let us be in no doubt about what this is all about,” he said.

“It is about pressure from the Islingtonian remainers who have seized on this report to try and give the impression that Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit.

“The people of this country did not vote to leave the EU because of pressure from Russia.”

The Intelligence and Security Committee report claimed the government made no effort to investigate claims of Russian interference in the EU referendum and criticised intelligence agencies for not prioritising the issue.

The government has said an inquiry is not necessary as it has “seen no evidence of successful interference”.

‘Additional powers’

But ministers are listening to calls from all parties to do more to counter Russian espionage and subversion after the UK was described the main target after the US and Nato.

Plans to make foreign agents register were mentioned in the government’s legislative agenda last December, and were previously announced by former home secretary Sajid Javid in May last year.

In response to an urgent question from Labour in the House of Commons, Mr Brokenshire said the UK would consider strengthening the Official Secrets Act and tightening rules on investment visas.

“Let there be no doubt, we are unafraid to act where necessary to protect the UK and our allies.”

If you do not seek, you do not find.

Whether deliberate or deficient, the Intelligence and Security Committee’s very long-awaited report outlines gaping holes in the UK’s handling of the threat from Russia.

For years, it seems a lack of priority, and a lack of curiosity, allowed the risks to go unmonitored, if not to go unchecked.

The UK government has now stiffened its attitude to Putin’s Russia.

Read Laura’s full blog

But shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the “conscious” decision not to consider whether they was any attempt to manipulate the Brexit vote spoke volumes.

Urging ministers to treat the issue with the “seriousness it deserves”, he added: “I thank the security services for the work they do but they need help. This report makes clear they have not received the strategic support, legislative tools or resources necessary to defend our interests.”

In its 50-page report, the ISC said the UK was “clearly a target” for disinformation campaigns around its elections, but that the issue was described as a “hot potato”, with no one organisation taking a lead to tackle it.

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Russia has dismissed the report as Russophobia

The committee suggested a new Espionage Act could help prevent individuals acting on behalf of a foreign power from concealing their links with that country.

It said an obligation similar to that in the US – where agents are required to register with the Justice department – would “clearly be valuable in countering Russian influence in the UK”.

ISC member Kevan Jones said he was concerned that the Law Commission, which was asked last year to look at the legal issues regarding such a move, had yet to release its findings.

“Can I urge the minister to make sure we actually gets this legislation in place because it is needed,” he said. “Let’s hope it is not just some spin to get the headlines.”

Downing Street was accused of holding back the ISC report ahead of December’s UK election and for delaying its nominations to set up the new committee – both claims it has denied.

Its chair Julian Lewis, who was stripped of the Conservative whip after defying No 10 by standing for its leadership, sought reassurances that Downing Street special advisers would not be able to interfere with its work

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Ignored Russia

U.K. Ignored Russia’s Interference in Democratic System, Report Finds – The New York Times

Russian efforts to interfere in the British political system were widely ignored by successive governments, according to a long-awaited report by Parliament.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Mark LandlerStephen Castle

LONDON — Russia has mounted a prolonged, sophisticated campaign to undermine Britain’s democracy and corrupt its politics, while successive British governments have looked the other way, according to a long-delayed report released on Tuesday by a British parliamentary committee.

From meddling in elections and spreading disinformation to funneling dirty money and employing members of the House of Lords, the Russians have tried to co-opt politicians and corrode institutions, often with little resistance from law enforcement or intelligence agencies that ignored years of warning signs.

The report, in many ways harder on British officials than the Russians, did not answer the question of whether Russia swayed one of the most consequential votes in modern British history: the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. But it was unforgiving about who is protecting British democracy.

“No one is,” the report’s authors said.

“The outrage isn’t if there is interference,” said Kevan Jones, a Labour Party member of Parliament who served on the intelligence committee that released the report. “The outrage is no one wanted to know if there was interference.”


Credit…Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The report also landed in the heat of an American presidential election, shadowed by questions about ties between President Trump and Russia, as well as fears of renewed foreign tampering, not just by Russia, but also by China and Iran.

The committee’s account characterized Russia as a reckless country bent on recapturing its status as a “great power,” primarily by destabilizing those in the West. “The security threat posed by Russia is difficult for the West to manage as, in our view and that of many others, it appears fundamentally nihilistic,” the authors said.

Experts said the report showed parallels between Britain and the United States in the failure to pick up warning signs, but also important differences. The F.B.I. and other American agencies, they said, had investigated election interference more aggressively than their British counterparts, while the British were ahead of the United States in scrutinizing how Russian money had corrupted politics.

“This is one of the pieces that is not really well understood in the U.S.,” said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian disinformation efforts in the United States. “Whether there is dirty Russian money that has flowed into our political system.”

The report described how British politicians had welcomed oligarchs to London, allowing them to launder their illicit money through what it called the London “laundromat.” A growth industry of “enablers” — lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, and public relations consultants — sprang up to serve their needs.


Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

These people, the report said, “played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, in the extension of Russian influence which is often linked to promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state.”

Several members of the House of Lords, the report said, had business interests linked to Russia or worked for companies with Russian ties. It urged an investigation of them, though it did not name any names. That information, as well as the names of politicians who received donations, was redacted from the public report, along with other sensitive intelligence.

“The most disturbing thing is the recognition of what the Russian government has gotten away, under our eyes,” said William F. Browder, an American-born British financier who has worked extensively in Russia and provided evidence to the committee. “The government, and particularly law enforcement, has been toothless.”

The report painted a picture of years of Russian interference through disinformation spread by traditional media outlets, like the cable-TV channel RT, and by the use of internet bots and trolls. This activity dated back to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, but it was never confronted by the country’s political establishment or by an intelligence community with other priorities.


Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Focused more on clandestine operations, the spy agencies were anxious to keep their distance from political campaigns, regarding them as a “hot potato,” the report said. Nor was it clear who in the government was in charge of countering the Russian threat to destabilize Britain’s political process. “It has been surprisingly difficult to establish who has responsibility for what,” the report said.

Despite pressing questions, the report said the government had shown little interest in investigating whether the Brexit referendum was targeted by Russia. The government responded that it had “seen no evidence of successful interference in the E.U. referendum” and dismissed the need for further investigation.

But the committee suggested that the reason no evidence had been uncovered was because nobody had looked for it.

“In response to our request for written evidence at the outset of the inquiry, MI5 initially provided just six lines of text,” the committee said. Had the intelligence agencies conducted a threat assessment before the vote, it added, it was “inconceivable” that they would not have concluded there was a Russian threat.

Among the report’s most politically salient conclusions might be about a Russian influence campaign during the Scottish independence referendum. Nationalist sentiment is surging again in Scotland, partly because many voters consider the Scottish authorities to have handled the coronavirus pandemic better than the government in England. Based on its previous behavior, some experts said, Russia would try again to encourage the fracturing of the United Kingdom.

“That obviously has implications for next year’s Scottish elections, and the polling on referendums,” said Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, a research institute in London. “All this is very, very relevant.”

Concerns about Russian meddling and aggression stretch back more than a decade to the death in 2006 of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer and critic of the Kremlin, who was killed in London using a radioactive poison, polonium-210, believed to have been administered in a cup of tea. An inquiry concluded that his killing “was probably approved” by President Vladimir V. Putin.

In 2018, another former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found seriously ill on a bench in Salisbury, after a poisoning attack that left them hospitalized for weeks. Britain accused two Russians of using a rare nerve agent to try to kill Mr. Skripal, and expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.


Credit…Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Although the report was approved by Downing Street in 2019, its release was held up before the election that gave Mr. Johnson his decisive parliamentary majority. Critics said he had been compromised by donations to his party from wealthy Russians living in Britain and they argued that the report was delayed unnecessarily.

After the election, there was a second delay while Downing Street agreed on the membership of a new Intelligence and Security Committee.

While the publicly available part of the report unearthed little new material, one expert said that it underscored the need to widen the focus and improve the coordination of Britain’s intelligence apparatus.

“We did know most of this,” said Martin Innes, director of the Crime and Security Research Institute at Cardiff University, “but people were not joining the dots and seeing that quite a serious situation was developing.”

“What Russia wants is to be able to play great power politics,” Professor Innes said. “And one of the ways of doing that is by destabilizing the U.K. and some of its close allies to create that space to maneuver.”

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Russia Trying

Russia Is Trying to Beat the West to a Covid-19 Vaccine – Bloomberg

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chief Russia

NASA chief says Russia ties ‘solid’ as Moscow’s space chief rejects U.S.-led moon program – Reuters

FILE PHOTO: NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to the media during a prelaunch briefing before the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 booster rocket from Pad39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday he still expected support from Russia’s space corporation in its Artemis moon program despite Moscow’s space chief slamming the U.S.-led lunar effort.

Bridenstine said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday “the relationship between NASA and Roscosmos is solid” and emphasized that international partners will play a key role in NASA’s plan to land humans on the lunar surface by 2024 and construct a space station orbiting the moon.

“I’ve got a good relationship with Dmitri Rogozin, so I’m hopeful that there are opportunities for us to continue to collaborate,” Bridenstine said, referring to the general director of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos. But Rogozin called the moon program in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda on Monday a “political project” and likened it to NATO, the Western military alliance Russia has long shunned.

“With the lunar project, we are witnessing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that have developed with the ISS,” Rogozin said. “Frankly speaking, we are not interested in participating in such a project.”The Trump administration in May unveiled an international pact called the Artemis Accords, aiming to leverage its existing relationships on the International Space Station and welcoming agreements with “like-minded” countries to help build a long-term presence on the moon under current international space law.

NASA expects Russia to deliver its offer of an airlock for the Lunar Gateway, a planned outpost in lunar orbit to be built by a mix of private companies and countries and a key piece to the Artemis program.

For two decades the U.S. space relationship with Russia has been largely insulated from geopolitics on Earth, party due to NASA’s reliance on Soyuz launch vehicles for trips to the space station. NASA is now preparing to fly its astronauts on new space capsules from SpaceX and Boeing Co.

Reporting by Joey Roulette; editing by Bill Tarrant and Gerry Doyle

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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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Referendum Russia

Referendum In Russia Passes, Allowing Putin To Remain President Until 2036 – NPR

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of an election commission as he arrives to take part in voting at a polling station in Moscow on Wednesday.

Alexei Druzhinin/AP

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Alexei Druzhinin/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of an election commission as he arrives to take part in voting at a polling station in Moscow on Wednesday.

Alexei Druzhinin/AP

Russian voters have overwhelmingly backed a referendum on constitutional changes that include a provision allowing President Vladimir Putin — who has already served for some two decades — to remain in power until 2036.

With nearly all of the ballots counted, the tally for the voting that has taken place over a full week, showed a 78% “yes” vote, according to Russia’s Central Election Commission. The commission estimated the turnout was 65% of eligible voters.

The opposition accused the government of rigging the vote.

Russia’s constitution had required Putin to step down after his current six-year term expires in 2024.

The amendments to the constitution up for the referendum vote had been passed weeks ago by Russia’s parliament, but Putin had insisted that they be approved by voters to give the changes legitimacy.

The referendum had originally been scheduled for April 22, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is among the countries hardest-hit by the virus.

In addition to a reset of presidential terms allowing him to run twice more, the referendum includes some 200 other amendments, including guaranteed minimum pensions, a ban on same-sex marriage and an affirmation of the Russian people’s belief in God.

It also includes changes designed to strengthen the country’s State Council and a provision banning the relinquishing of any Russian territory — a move aimed at solidifying Moscow’s hold on Crimea, which had been under Ukraine’s control until it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Putin was photographed voting at the Royal Academy of Sciences, where he was handed a ballot by a poll worker clad in mask and gloves as an apparent precaution against coronavirus infection. Putin himself was not wearing any protective gear.

In January, Putin’s Cabinet, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, abruptly resigned, in a move aimed at easing the constitutional changes.

Russia's Government Resigns As Putin Moves To Change The Constitution

Putin, who is currently 67, could serve well into his 80s.

The Russian leader previously sidestepped the two-term limit by becoming prime minister for a term, while Medvedev stepped into the presidency. Even so, Putin was widely seen as maintaining near complete control over the presidency during his brief absence from the post.

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China Russia

Russia, China build case at U.N. to protect Iran from U.S. sanctions threat – Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Russia and China have started making the case at the United Nations against Washington’s claim that it can trigger a return of all sanctions on Iran at the Security Council, with Moscow invoking a 50-year-old international legal opinion to argue against the move.

The United Nations Headquarters is pictured as it will be temporarily closed for tours due to the spread of coronavirus in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, both wrote to the 15-member council and U.N. chief Antonio Guterres as the United States threatens to spark a so-called sanctions snapback under the Iran nuclear deal, even though Washington quit the accord in 2018.

Lavrov wrote in the May 27 letter, made public this week, that the United States was being “ridiculous and irresponsible.”

“This is absolutely unacceptable and serves only to recall the famous English proverb about having one’s cake and eating it,” Lavrov wrote.

Washington has threatened to trigger a return of U.N. sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not extend an arms embargo due to expire in October under Tehran’s deal with world powers to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft said last week that a draft resolution on the embargo would be circulated soon.

Council veto-powers Russia and China have already signaled they are against reimposing an arms embargo on Iran. If they block the U.S.-drafted resolution, then Washington will have to follow through on its sanctions snapback threat.

“The United States, no longer a participant to the JCPOA (nuclear deal) after walking away from it, has no right to demand the Security Council invoke a snapback,” Wang wrote in his June 7 letter.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, enshrined in a U.N. resolution, allows for return of sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, if Iran violates the deal. U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018, branding the accord from Barack Obama’s presidency as “the worst deal ever.”

Lavrov cited a 1971 International Court of Justice opinion, which found that a fundamental principle governing international relationships was that “a party which disowns or does not fulfill its own obligations cannot be recognized as retaining the rights which it claims to derive from the relationship.”

Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

The United States argues it can still trigger the sanctions snapback because the 2015 U.N. resolution still names it as a participant. Diplomats say Washington would likely face a tough, messy battle.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis

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Russia spill

Russia oil spill into Arctic river spurs Putin to declare state of emergency after 20,000 tons leak – Fox News

A state of emergency was declared in Russia after tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel leaked into a river in the Arctic Circle.

The fuel spilled Friday from a tank at a power plant storage facility in an outlying section of Norilsk, about 1,800 miles northeast of Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday slammed the head of the Norilsk Nickel subsidiary that runs the NTEK power plant, and NTEK chief Sergie Lipin, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy there?” Putin asked Lipin on Wednesday.


Booms were laid in the Ambarnaya River to block the 20,000 tons of diesel fuel that spilled, but it still spread.

A helicopter view of Norilsk's Combined Heat and Power Plant No 3 of the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, part of Nornickel, where a diesel fuel spill happened last week and leaked into a nearby river.

A helicopter view of Norilsk’s Combined Heat and Power Plant No 3 of the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, part of Nornickel, where a diesel fuel spill happened last week and leaked into a nearby river.
(Photo by EmercomTASS via Getty Images)

Long stretches of the river now are a crimson red.

The river feeds a lake, from which there is another river that leads to the environmentally delicate Arctic Ocean.

Putin on Wednesday ordered officials to minimize the consequences of the spill, but Alexei Knizhnikov of the World Wildlife Fund’s Russia operation told The Associated Press the damage to fish and other resources could exceed 1 billion rubles ($13 million).

The plant is operated by a division of Norilsk Nickel, whose factories in the area have made Norilsk one of the most heavily polluted places on Earth.


No cause for the accident was determined, but a company statement said it was concerned about facilities constructed on sinking soil above permafrost.

A car driven outside the storage depot caught fire after making contact with the leaked fuel, the Siberian Times reported.

The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence, after the reported delay in informing the Moscow authorities about the spill, according to the BBC.

An investigator interrogates Vyacheslav Starostin (L), foreman of a power plant, who was arrested as part of the investigation into the May 29 fuel storage tank collapse that resulted in the massive spill.

An investigator interrogates Vyacheslav Starostin (L), foreman of a power plant, who was arrested as part of the investigation into the May 29 fuel storage tank collapse that resulted in the massive spill.
(Photo by Russian Investigative CommitteeTASS via Getty Images)

The power plant manager, Vyacheslav Starostin, has since been detained by authorities.


The accident is believed to be the second largest oil spill in modern Russian history in terms of volume.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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