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Russian authorities have designated an investigative media outlet and several journalists as “foreign agents.”By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 23, 2021, 5:57 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Russian authorities designated an investigative media outlet and several journalists as “foreign agents” Friday, raising pressure on the country’s independent media ahead of a September parliamentary election.The Justice Ministry said it added the online news site The Insider and five journalists to the list of “foreign agents,” a label that envisages additional government scrutiny and carries a strong pejorative connotation that could discredit the recipients.The Insider, which is registered in Latvia, has published investigations into alleged corruption and abuses by Russian officials, purported Russian covert action in Ukraine and Syria, and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.Navalny, the most ardent political foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — an accusation Russian officials reject.Commenting on the Russian Justice Ministry’s decision, the site said it would continue working as usual, operating in conformity with Latvian law.The Justice Ministry acted under a law that is used to designate as “foreign agents” non-governmental organizations and individuals who receive foreign funding and engage in activities loosely described as political.Another law is used to outlaw groups deemed “undesirable” and makes membership in them a criminal offense. It has been used to ban 41 groups, including opposition groups, foreign NGOs and most recently, the publisher of Proekt, an online investigative media outlet.The Justice Ministry on Friday also designated two Proekt journalists and three other reporters as foreign agents.Two other popular independent outlets, Meduza and VTimes, previously were named foreign agents. VTimes subsequently shut down, while Meduza launched a crowd-funding campaign.Russia also used the law to levy heavy fines on U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for failing to identify its material as produced by foreign agents. The broadcaster has asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene.Russian authorities have raised the heat on the opposition and independent media ahead of the September election, which is widely seen as important to Putin’s ability to cement his rule ahead of a the country’s 2024 presidential election.Last month, a Moscow court outlawed organizations founded by opposition leader Navalny by labeling them extremist. The court ruling barred people associated with Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his sprawling regional network from seeking public office. Many of Navalny’s allies had hoped to run for parliament seats in the Sept. 19 election.
Russia has successfully launched a long-delayed lab module for the International Space StationBy VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 21, 2021, 10:15 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Russia on Wednesday successfully launched a long-delayed lab module for the International Space Station that is intended to provide more room for scientific experiments and space for the crew.A Proton-M booster rocket carrying the Nauka module lifted off as scheduled at 7:58 pm local time (14:58 GMT) from the Russian space launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The navigational antennas and solar arrays deployed properly after a flawless launch that set the module on an eight-day journey to the orbiting outpost.After a series of maneuvers, the 20-metric-ton (22-ton) module is set to dock at the International Space Station in automatic mode on July 29.The launch of Nauka, also called the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, had been repeatedly delayed because of technical problems. It was initially scheduled to go up in 2007.In 2013, experts found contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement. Other Nauka systems also underwent modernization or repairs.A launch previously set for July 15 was postponed until Wednesday due to the need to fix unspecified flaws.Before Nauka docks at the station, one of the older Russian modules, the Pirs spacewalking compartment, will need to be removed and scrapped to free up room for the new module. Russian space controllers plan to perform the maneuver Friday after they check and confirm that Nauka’s systems operate properly and the module is ready for docking.Russian crewmembers on the station have done two spacewalks to connect cables in preparation for Nauka’s arrival. Once Nauka docks at the station, it will require a long series of manuevers, including up to 11 spacewalks beginning in early September, to prepare it for operation.The International Space Station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first module, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big module, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.
Russia has presented a prototype of a new fighter jet that features stealth capabilities and other advanced characteristics and will be offered to foreign customersBy VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 20, 2021, 5:22 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Russian aircraft makers on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of a new fighter jet that features stealth capabilities and other advanced characteristics and will be offered to foreign buyers.Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the prospective warplane displayed with much fanfare at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon, which opened Tuesday in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow.Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi developed the new fighter under the LTS program, a Russian acronym for the Light Tactical Aircraft.Its makers said the prototype is set to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026. They said the new design could be converted to an unpiloted version and a two-seat model.The prospective warplane, marketed under the project name Checkmate, has one engine and is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, also built by Sukhoi. It can fly at a speed of 1.8-2 times the speed of sound, has a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) and a payload of 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds), the jet’s makers said.Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov voiced hope that the new fighter could be sold to India, Vietnam and African nations, adding that foreign customers are expected to order at least 300 such aircraft. Borisov noted that one foreign customer he didn’t name has already expressed a strong interest in the new jet.The sales of warplanes have accounted for the bulk of Russian weapons exports, but the two-engine Su-30 and Su-35 fighters have faced growing competition in global markets.Industries and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the prospective fighter was being developed to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter that entered service in 2015, a new Chinese fighter, and other designs. “We must join other nations that sell such aircraft,” he said.Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec state corporation that includes Sukhoi and other aircraft makers, said the new plane is expected to cost $25-30 million. He said that the Russian air force is also expected to place an order for the new fighter.Russia’s Sukhoi and MiG aircraft makers only have produced two-engine fighters since the 1980s. Some experts observed that it has placed Russia at disadvantage in some foreign markets where customers preferred cheaper one-engine aircraft.Rostec said the new warplane belongs to the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets, a definition that assumes stealth characteristics and a capability to cruise at supersonic speed, among other advanced features.The corporation noted that the new design includes artificial intelligence features to assist the pilot and other innovative technologies. It said the jet was designed to reduce service costs and to be easily adapted to varying customer needs.Manturov noted that the new design would incorporate some components from the previous fighters to help reduce price.Rostec ran an aggressive advertising campaign in the days before the air show, publishing a picture of the new fighter hidden under a black tarpaulin with “Wanna see me naked?” written under it. It also posted a video featuring adulatory customers from India, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Vietnam and other countries, reflecting export hopes.Plane spotters flocked to Zhukovsky last week to take pictures of the new plane as it was being taxied to a parking spot across the giant airfield which has served as the country’s top military aircraft test facility since Cold War times.The Kremlin has made modernization of the country’s arsenals a key priority amid tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.It also has strongly encouraged the development of new passenger jets to compete with planes built by American aircraft maker Boeing and Europe’s Airbus that currently account for the bulk of Russian carriers’ fleets.Russia’s airliner programs have encountered delays amid Western sanctions that hampered imports of Western engines and other key components. But the country managed to produce a new engine for the new MS-21 passenger plane, which also was displayed at the show in Zhukovsky.“What we saw in Zhukovsky today demonstrates that the Russian aviation has a big potential for development and our aircraft making industries continue to create new competitive aircraft designs,” Putin said in a speech at the show’s opening.
Russian aircraft makers say they will present a prospective new fighter jet at a Moscow air show that opens next weekBy VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 17, 2021, 10:39 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Russian aircraft makers say they will present a prospective new fighter jet at a Moscow air show that opens next week.The new warplane hidden under tarpaulin was photographed being towed to a parking spot across an airfield in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, where the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon opens Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit the show’s opening.Russian media reports said that the new jet has been built by the Sukhoi aircraft maker in a program of development of a light tactical fighter.Unlike Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, the new aircraft is smaller and has one engine.The new warplane’s name is unknown, and there is no information about its capability and deployment prospects.The Su-57 has been built to match the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but unlike the American aicraft that has been in service since 2005 its serial production is just starting and a new engine intended to give it the capability to cruise at supersonic speed is still under development.The new Russian warplane appears intended to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter, which entered service in 2015. Russia hopes to eventually offer the new aircraft to foreign customers.Rostec, the state corporation that includes Russian aircraft makers, said the “fundamentally new military aircraft” will be unveiled Tuesday at the show. In an apparent bid to raise public interest before the presentation, Rostec published a picture of the new plane covered by tarpaulin with “wanna see me naked?” written under it. It also posted a brief video featuring excited foreign customers and the jet’s vague shadow over the water.Following the Rostec announcement, Russian plane spotters rushed to Zhukovsky to take pictures of the new plane — an eerie parallel with Cold War times when Western spies tried to get a glimpse of the latest Soviet warplanes at the tightly-guarded airfield that served as the country’s top military aircraft test facility.“Russia is one of the few countries in the world with full-cycle capacities for producing advanced aircraft systems, as well as a recognized trendsetter in the creation of combat aircraft,” Rostec said.The Kremlin has made modernization of the country’s armed forces a top priority amid a bitter strain in relations with the West, which have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Russian interference in elections, hacking attacks and other irritants.
Authorities in Moscow have canceled their order that restaurants only admit customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus or have had a recent negative testBy VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 16, 2021, 4:31 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Authorities in Moscow on Friday canceled their order that restaurants only admit customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus or have had a recent negative test.The softening of restrictions in the Russian capital reflects their devastating impact on restaurant owners, who pleaded with city officials for weeks to rescind them. The decision comes even as Moscow is still experiencing a surge in infections and Russia overall registered a new daily record of coronavirus deaths Friday.The move announced by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin takes effect Monday. It retracts the measure that has been in place since late June. Customers have been required to visit a Russian government website and get a QR code — a digital pattern designed to be read by a scanner — as proof of their health status.The restrictions were loudly criticized by restaurant owners, who were still struggling to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic. Some desperate owners started closing their restaurants and cafes as the number of customers dropped sharply. Outdoor terraces were allowed to operate without restrictions, but many restaurants and cafes didn’t have room to set them up on Moscow’s narrow sidewalks.Sobyanin said the city reversed the decision because the pace of contagion has slowed. Starting Monday, Moscow restaurants and clubs will be able to open at night and hold parties and concerts.He noted, however, that “we must understand that we are still in the risk zone, the contagion is continuing and we need to observe sanitary demands and conduct mass vaccination.”Some Russian media speculated the decision to abruptly lift the restrictions in Moscow reflected authorities’ concerns that the tough measures could fuel discontent and further erode support for the main Kremlin party, United Russia, in September’s parliamentary election.Sobyanin’s statement came as Russia registered a fourth straight day of record-high daily COVID-19 deaths, with the authorities reporting 799 fatalities, including 105 in Moscow. Daily new infections in Russia have soared from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 now and daily fatalities have been topping 700 since last week.On Friday, officials reported 25,704 new coronavirus cases, including 5,382 in Moscow.Officials blamed the surge on Russians’ lax attitudes toward taking precautions, the growing prevalence of the more contagious delta variant and widespread vaccination hesitancy. The pace of vaccination has remained lower than in many Western countries. Only 28.6 million Russians — or just 19.5% of the country’s 146 million people — have received at least one shot of a vaccine.To speed vaccine uptake, authorities in nearly 30 Russian regions have made vaccinations mandatory for certain groups of people, including those employed in health care, education, retail, public transport, government offices and the services sector.Sobyanin said 3.8 million of Moscow’s 12.6 million residents have received at least one vaccine shot.Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported 146,868 confirmed deaths in the pandemic, the highest toll in Europe. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher numbers.———Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
Russian authorities have declared the publisher of an investigative media outlet an “undesirable” organization and listed its journalists as “foreign agents.”By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 4:06 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMOSCOW — Russian authorities on Thursday outlawed the publisher of an investigative media outlet and listed its journalists as “foreign agents,” the latest move in a series of steps to raise pressure on independent media.The Proekt online outlet has published investigative reports exposing alleged corruption and abuses by top officials and tycoons close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.The Prosecutor General’s office outlawed Project Media Inc. the U.S.-based publisher of Proekt, as an “undesirable” organization, charging that it “poses a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.”Russian authorities also designated Proekt’s chief editor Roman Badanin and several of his journalists “foreign agents.”The government already has outlawed more than 30 groups under a 2015 law that made membership in “undesirable” organizations a criminal offense.Another law obliges non-governmental organizations and some individuals who receive foreign funding and engage in activities loosely described as political to register as “foreign agents.” The designation comes with additional government scrutiny and has a strong pejorative connotation that could discredit those that receive it.Last month, police searched the apartments of Proekt’s chief editor Roman Badanin and several of its journalists just as the outlet was preparing to release an investigation into Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his alleged wealth. Proekt published it immediately after the raids.Authorities said the searches were conducted under a defamation case over a 2017 documentary about a St. Petersburg businessman with alleged ties to organized crime.In recent months, Russian authorities have increased pressure on independent news media, designating two popular independent outlets, Meduza and VTimes, as “foreign agents.” VTimes has shut down after that, while Meduza has launched a crowd-funding campaign.Russia also has used the law on “foreign agents” to levy heavy fines on U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for failing to identify its material as produced by “foreign agents.” The broadcaster has asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene.Russian authorities have raised the heat on the opposition and independent media ahead of September’s parliamentary election, widely seen as an important part of Putin’s efforts to cement his rule ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The 68-year-old Russian president, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.Last month, a Moscow court outlawed organizations founded by imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by labeling them extremist. The ruling barred people associated with Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his sprawling regional network from seeking public office. Many of Navalny’s allies had hoped to run for parliamentary seats in the Sept. 19 election.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” and argued that Ukraine can only be stable and successful if it maintains friendly ties with Russia.He also charged in an article published on Monday that Ukraine has no intention of honoring a 2015 peace deal to end a conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east.“I am convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia,” the article posted on the Kremlin’s website states. “Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties have formed for centuries and have been rooted in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories.”In televised remarks on Tuesday night, Putin said he had pondered the article for several months, but now was the time to release it.“It looks like active work on the project ‘anti-Russia’ has begun, and this, of course, elicits certain concerns,” he said.Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from commenting Tuesday when asked if Russia could move to incorporate rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Donbas.“I would leave that question unanswered,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter tug-of-war since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula following the ouster of a Russia-leaning president in Ukraine. Russia has supported the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine during the conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people in seven years.In his article published in both Russian and Ukrainian, Putin also accused the West of working methodically to rupture historic links between the two neighbors and to turn Ukraine into a key bulwark to contain Russia.“The Western authors of the anti-Russia project set up the Ukrainian political system in such a way that presidents, members of parliament and ministers would change but the attitude of separation from and enmity with Russia would remain,” Putin wrote. “Today, the ‘right’ patriot of Ukraine is only the one who hates Russia. Moreover, the entire Ukrainian statehood, as we understand it, is proposed to be further built exclusively on this idea.”Putin charged that Ukraine has failed to fulfill its obligations under a 2015 peace deal to grant broad autonomy to Donbas and would likely refrain from honoring the deal.The 2015 agreement that was brokered by France and Germany envisioned that Ukraine could reclaim control of its border with Russia in the rebel-controlled regions after it grants them broad autonomy and they elect local leaders and legislatures. Those provisions were resented by many Ukrainians as a betrayal of national interests, and the peaceful settlement has stalled.“I have become increasingly convinced that Kyiv simply doesn’t need Donbas,” Putin wrote in the article. “Because, firstly, the residents of these regions will never accept the rules they tried and are still trying to impose by force, blockade and threats.”The Russian leader noted that Ukraine acquired broad territories in the country’s southeast and elsewhere during the period when it was part of the Soviet Union and criticized the Soviet leaders for sacrificing Russian interests for the benefit of Ukraine and other republics.Putin further charged that Ukraine and other former Soviet republics unfairly retained after gaining independence through the Soviet Union’s collapse the historic Russian lands given to them by Communist rulers.Asked to comment about Putin’s article, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that he would analyze and comment on it in detail later. He said that despite Putin’s mention of “brotherly” populations, Russia’s action has been anything but brotherly.“It looks more like Cain and Abel,” said Zelenskyy, who has pushed for months for a meeting with Putin.The Ukrainian leader also expressed hope that U.S. President Joe Biden’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week would help safeguard Ukraine’s interests and ensure its energy security for the next 10-15 years.Washington has long argued that the prospective Nord Stream 2 pipeline, designed to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, endangers Europe’s energy security and harms Ukraine, which currently profits from transit fees for Russian gas.The United States recently waived sanctions against German companies involved in the project, raising hopes in Berlin that an agreement acceptable to all sides would be reached.“Energy security isn’t mere words for us,” Zelenskyy said on Tuesday. “We are earning $2 billion a year in transit fees. It’s a lot of money. We spend some of that money on our infrastructure and on our military.”In his Tuesday night comments, Putin said Russia would fulfill its obligations on natural gas transit to Europe through Ukraine, outlined in a five-year contract signed in 2019, regardless of “today’s various difficulties.”———Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine contributed to this report.