Angling for a Summit, Kremlin Avoids Criticizing Trump

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Kremlin officials, from President Vladimir Putin down, wasted no time in condemning the U.S.-led punitive airstrikes on Syria a week ago, warning of dire consequences. But Russian state-run media has focused more efforts on disputing the alleged Syrian government chemical attack, which prompted the Western airstrikes in the first place, than on the U.S.-led retaliation itself.

The distinction might seem minor, but analysts say it reflects a Kremlin decision to try to reduce tension with the U.S. and prevent further escalation. Moscow is still holding out hopes for a summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, they say.

Amid rapidly deteriorating relations between Western countries and Russia, with disputes raging over a range of issues, including Kremlin meddling in the domestic politics of the U.S. and European states and aggressive Russian online disinformation campaigns, Kremlin officials also seemingly are avoiding directly criticizing Trump, in marked contrast to their open disdain for British Prime Minister Theresa May and Britain’s foreign minister, Boris Johnson.

On Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told the RIA Novosti news agency he had faith that Putin and Trump won’t allow any armed confrontation to occur between the U.S. and Russia over Syria.

“Speaking about risks of a military confrontation, I am 100 percent sure that [the] militaries won’t allow this, and of course neither will President Putin or President Trump,” he said.

Lavrov confirmed that Trump had invited Putin to visit Washington during a phone call last month and added that the U.S. president had said he “would be happy to make a reciprocal visit [to Moscow].”The Kremlin is now expecting Trump to issue a formal invitation, say Russian officials. The White House previously announced that Trump had raised the possibility of a summit meeting.

Lavrov said prior to the Western airstrikes, which were carried out in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a rebel-held Damascus suburb that left a reported 70 dead and hundreds injured, Russian and U.S. military leaders discussed behind the scenes what would prompt Russian retaliation and how to avoid it.

The Kremlin’s “red lines” were mainly “geographical” and focused on ensuring no Russian servicemen or personnel would be killed or injured.

Lavrov said, “Anyway … these red lines’ were not crossed” during the Western airstrikes, which targeted three facilities in Syria, where Russia is backing President Assad’s forces in the civil war.

On Thursday, the Bloomberg news service reported the Kremlin had instructed officials to curb anti-U.S. rhetoric. And on Monday Russian lawmakers delayed moving draft legislation aimed at U.S. companies in retaliation for a fresh round of economic sanctions Washington imposed last month on Russia, which the U.S. Treasury Department said was payback for Russia’s “malign activity” in general.

The temporary withdrawal by Russian lawmakers of a draft law that would have impacted a broad range of trade with the U.S. came after Trump officials reassured Russia’s embassy in Washington on Sunday, April 15, that the White House wouldn’t be announcing more sanctions on Russia in the near future — despite an announcement to the contrary by the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

Trump has made no secret of his wish to improve relations with Russia. After congratulating Putin on his re-election in March, Trump tweeted that “getting along with Russia [and others] is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

On the campaign trail, Trump regularly expressed the same sentiment, arguing it would be in the U.S. interest for him to shape a strong personal relationship with Putin. Trump has met Putin twice as president, at the Group of 20 summit in Germany last summer and briefly in Vietnam at the Asia-Pacific economic summit in November.

Problematic summit

But a Trump-Putin summit could prove highly problematic for Trump in terms of domestic U.S. politics. It would likely sharpen divisions in the U.S. over relations with Russia as well as stoke partisan rancor over a special-counsel investigation into allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded in Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump won bipartisan praise last month on Capitol Hill, which is more skeptical of Russia than the U.S. president, for ordering the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, part of a coordinated Western move to punish the Kremlin for a March 4 nerve agent attack in England on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

But the U.S. leader also faced criticism last month for congratulating Putin on his re-election in a phone call in which he failed to raise the issue of the Skripal poisoning.

Trump’s foes fault him for shying away from criticizing Putin personally, arguing it gives credence to claims made by a former British spy, which are part of the special counsel probe, that the Kremlin holds compromising information on the U.S. president.

Domestic U.S. politics aside, any summit between the two leaders would be high risk and might be weighted with too many expectations that can’t be fulfilled.

In an interview with VOA last month, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman warned against thinking in terms of a reset with Russia, saying a sudden breakthrough is unrealistic.

“The resets and the redos of years gone by, both Republicans and Democrats, always end in disaster,” he said. “They heighten expectations to the point of our inability to achieve any of those expectations. Hopes are dashed. Relationships crumble. We’ve seen that over and over again.”

But he added it was important to maintain a dialogue and to look for “natural openings to build trust in small ways.”

He acknowledged the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is complicating U.S.-Russia diplomacy.

“I would be disingenuous if I said it didn’t impact the environment in which all of this plays out. And certainly the impact it has on members of Congress and the American people, who are a big part of fashioning the nature of our bilateral relationship.”

Rewarding aggressive behavior

Some analysts and former officials worry that holding a summit in the near future with relations between the two powers at their worst point since the Cold War would be widely seen as a reward for aggressive Russian behavior.

On Thursday, Prime Minister May accused Russia of trying “to undermine the international system,” pointing to an aggressive Russian internet disinformation campaign “intended to undermine the actual institutions and processes of the rules-based system.”

She said in the weeks after a suspected chemical attack in Syria and the poisoning of a Russian dissident in England, there had been a 4,000 percent increase in activity by Kremlin-linked social media trolls and automated accounts propagating what she called lies.

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Russia: Putin Ready to Meet Trump

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that President Vladimir Putin is willing to accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s invitation to meet in Washington.

In an interview with state-operated RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov said that Putin is “ready for such a meeting.”

“We are guided by the fact that the U.S. President, in a telephone conversation – which is a known fact already, there is no secret – extended such an invitation and said he would be happy to see [Putin] in the White House.”

Lavrov added that Trump returned to the subject of the invitation a couple of times during the phone call with Putin and told him he would be happy to make a reciprocal visit to Russia.

Earlier Trump and Putin agreed on a possible summit in Washington.

Trump telephoned Putin on March 20 to congratulate him on winning the Russian presidential election two days earlier.

The White House and the Kremlin said at the time the two presidents discussed the possibility of meeting in person.

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Key Findings in Analysis of Memoir of a Jew Raised Catholic

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The case of Edgardo Mortara has roiled Catholic-Jewish relations ever since the 6-year-old Jewish boy was taken from his home in Bologna by papal police in 1858 and brought to Rome to be raised a Catholic. The move was ordered after church authorities learned he had been secretly baptized. Church law at the time required all Catholics to be raised as Catholics and educated in the faith.

Recently, the case has made headlines again after a U.S. historian, David Kertzer, found discrepancies between the Spanish text of Mortara’s memoirs held in the archives of his religious order, and an Italian translation published in 2005 by Italian journalist Vittorio Messori.

The Associated Press this week located the Spanish text in the Historic Archives of St. Peter in Chains, a Rome church famous for its Michelangelo statue of a horned Moses, and compared it with the Italian translation. Here are the key findings of the AP analysis:

* The 89-page notebook-sized autobiography, El Nino Mortara y Pio Nono (The Mortara Child and Pope Pius) isn’t actually Mortara’s original, hand-written text, which Kertzer says was penned in 1888. Rather, it is a typed up, spiral-bound booklet prepared nearly a century later by the Rev. Juan Oleaga, a Spanish member of Mortara’s religious order who also prepared a typed-up booklet of Mortara’s correspondence in 1994.

* In a brief introduction to the autobiography, Oleaga wrote that he faithfully typed Mortara’s text and that it was “fruit of a spirit that possesses the truth.” He said Mortara died ever grateful to Pope Pius IX, who authorized his removal and took him under his wing, and remained close to his family “even though he never got to see them converted to Catholicism.”

* Oleaga appears to have written a long footnote in the first few pages of the text in which he justifies the taking of Mortara from his parents and recounts a tearful reunion between Mortara and the Inquisition official responsible for it. That footnote — written in the same typeface as Orteaga’s introduction and set off from the Spanish text with an asterisk — is seamlessly integrated into Messori’s version as if Mortara himself had written it.

* Mortara’s anti-Semitic comments contained in the original Spanish were removed in Messori’s version, including reference to Mortara having “always professed an inexpressible horror” toward Jews. Mortara’s original writings that the faith of his family was “false, contradictory, absurd, condemned by history and burdened by the ‘ridiculous’ which the majority of men condemn,” was reduced in Messori’s text to Judaism being merely “contradictory and surpassed by history.”

* Messori’s version removes references to the “neurosis” and psychological problems Mortara suffered later in life and omits a reference to his “violent” removal from his parents and how much he missed his mother. It also said he was “miraculously” cured from the illness that prompted his baptism. The Spanish text makes no reference to a miracle.

* Kertzer points out that even Mortara’s original Spanish contains factual errors, including names and dates that were corrected in Messori’s version. Mortara’s account also includes an anecdote that Kertzer says has no basis in documentary evidence: that Pius, after learning of the baptism but before removing the child, had tried to persuade his parents to accept a compromise to send Edgardo to a Catholic boarding school in Bologna so they could visit him “whenever they wanted.” Kertzer says that based on court testimony from the time, there is no evidence of any such negotiation and that when the police arrived to take Edgardo away, it came as a complete shock to the family.

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Балуха хочуть відправити в карцер СІЗО Сімферополя – правозахисники

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Засудженого в анексованому Росією Криму українського активіста Володимира Балуха, який голодує від 19 березня, мають намір відправити в карцер СІЗО Сімферополя, повідомляє Кримська правозахисна група.

За даними правозахисників, Балуха звинувачують в «порушенні правил внутрішнього розпорядку».

«У карцері українець буде перебувати три доби. Рішення про поміщення людини в карцер ухвалює комісія зі співробітників СІЗО. Ув’язненим, які перебувають у карцері, забороняється листування, побачення, крім побачень з адвокатом, а також придбання продуктів харчування і предметів першої необхідності. Вони не мають права отримувати посилки і передачі, а користуватися спальним місцем можна тільки в спеціально відведені вночі години», – йдеться в повідомленні.

При цьому, за даними правозахисників, Балух у карцер ще не переведений через те, що існує черга на відбування такого покарання, пов’язана з переповненням СІЗО.

Публічних коментарів представників кримського СІЗО з цього приводу немає.

Балух продовжує безстрокове голодування, яке він оголосив 19 березня.

Суд в анексованому Криму визнав Балуха винним в зберіганні боєприпасів і засудив його до трьох років і п’яти місяців позбавлення волі в колонії-поселенні, а також штрафу в розмірі 10 тисяч рублів (близько 4600 гривень).

Інша справа проти активіста порушена через заяви начальника ізолятора тимчасового тримання в селищі Роздольне Валерія Ткаченка, який стверджує, що Балух його побив. При цьому сам активіст і його захист заявляють, що це Ткаченко напав на нього.

19 березня підконтрольний Кремлю Роздольненський районний суд обрав для Володимира Балуха запобіжний захід у цій справі у вигляді утримання під вартою до 19 червня 2018 року.

Міністерство закордонних справ України вимагає негайно звільнити Балуха і допустити до нього українських лікарів.

ФСБ Росії затримала активіста 8 грудня 2016 року. Співробітники ФСБ стверджували, що знайшли на горищі будинку, де живе Володимир Балух, 90 патронів і кілька тротилових шашок.

Захист Балуха і правозахисники стверджують, що він став жертвою репресій за свою проукраїнську позицію – через прапор України на подвір’ї його будинку.

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«Газпром» направив у Стокгольм документи для розторгнення контрактів із «Нафтогазом»

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Російський «Газпром» повідомив, що направив до Стокгольмського арбітражу документи для розторгнення контрактів з компанією «Нафтогаз України» на постачання газу і його транзит через територію України.

«Переговори з «Нафтогазом України» до результату не призвели», – повідомила прес-служба «Газпрому».

У компанії також цитують голову «Газпрому» Олексія Міллера, який заявив, що російський газовий монополіст готовий вести переговори з «Нафтогазом» про транзит газу після 2019 року.

«Однак Україна повинна обґрунтувати економічну доцільність транзиту через свою територію», – сказав Міллер.

Українська сторона наразі заяву «Газпрому» не коментувала.

28 лютого Стокгольмський арбітраж задовольнив вимоги «Нафтогазу» щодо компенсації за недопоставлені «Газпромом» обсяги газу для транзиту: за рішенням арбітражу, «Нафтогаз» домігся компенсації у сумі 4,63 мільярда доларів США за недопоставку «Газпромом» погоджених обсягів газу для транзиту.

За результатами попереднього арбітражного провадження у Стокгольмі, щодо поставок газу, яке визнало 22 грудня 2017 року борг української сторони перед російською на суму 2,018 мільярда доларів, «Газпром» має сплатити 2,56 мільярда доларів США на користь «Нафтогазу».

У «Газпромі» заявили, що не згодні з рішенням Стокгольмського арбітражу в суперечці з компанією «Нафтогаз України» і вказали, що «за підсумками такого вердикту виник дисбаланс у відносинах з «Нафтогазом» щодо постачання і транзиту газу.

5 березня «Газпром» розповів, що направив компанії «Нафтогаз України» повідомлення про початок процедури розторгнення контрактів на постачання й транзит газу.

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Reports: $1B Fine for Wells Fargo for Illegal Sales

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U.S. news reports say Wells Fargo will be fined as much as $1 billion for illegally selling customers car insurance policies they did not want or need, and for charging unnecessary fees in connection with mortgages.

This would be the largest fine ever imposed by federal bank regulators and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The fine is part of a settlement regulators negotiated with the bank.

Wells Fargo and federal officials have not commented on the reports.

The San Francisco-based lender admitted selling the unwanted insurance policies to hundreds of thousands of car loan customers. In many cases, the borrowers could not afford both the insurance and car payments and their cars were repossessed.

Many U.S. banks have enjoyed looser federal regulations under President Donald Trump’s pro-business administration.

But Trump denied reports that Wells Fargo would not be punished, tweeting in December that fines and penalties against the bank would, if anything, be substantially increased.

“I will cut regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating,” he wrote.

Wells Fargo previously paid a $185 million fine for opening bank and credit card accounts in its customers’ names without telling them.

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Switzerland or Swaziland? Be Confused No More

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Breathe easy, Switzerland: The tiny African kingdom of Swaziland is changing its name.

King Mswati III announced it during celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence and his 50th birthday. It appears to be as easy as that, as the king is an absolute monarch.

Many African countries upon independence “reverted to their ancient, native names,” he said. “We no longer shall be called Swaziland from today forward.”

The kingdom will be known by its historic name of eSwatini. The king has used that name in the past at openings of Parliament and other events.

Some Swiss have responded with relief as the countries often are confused on online forms.

It is not immediately clear how much it will cost the landlocked African country to make the name change.

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Turkey’s Weak Opposition Scrambles to Challenge Erdogan

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One party leader is in jail. Another doesn’t have a candidate. A third might face eligibility issues for her party. Turkey’s weak opposition is scrambling to mount a meaningful challenge against strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with just nine weeks to prepare for snap elections.

Erdogan set the presidential and parliamentary elections for June 24, in a move that will usher in a new system cementing the president’s grip on power more than a year ahead of schedule. Turkey is switching from a parliamentary system to an executive presidential system after a narrowly approved referendum last year, in the wake of a failed 2016 coup attempt. The changes take effect with the next election, which had originally been set for November 2019.

The snap elections caught Turkey off guard and come as the opposition is in disarray. Recent changes to the electoral law pushed through by Erdogan’s governing AKP party with the help of the nationalist party make the playing field even more uneven for the opposition, analysts say.

Still, the opposition parties sounded upbeat with the main opposition party’s leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, promising that the June elections would bring “democracy” and “calm,” and Meral Aksener, seen as the strongest candidate against Erdogan, vowing to send him home to rest after 15 years in power.

Observers say the early elections were called to capitalize on nationalist sentiment running high following a successful military campaign in Syria that ousted Syrian Kurdish militia from a border region, in a decision fueled by fears of an economic downturn ahead.

“The fact that President Erdogan called early elections, which is the first time he had voluntarily done so since he assumed office … is an indication of panic and worry,” said Fadi Hakura, of the Chatham House think tank.

The changes, which include ballot boxes being supervised by government-appointed civil servants and being relocated at will on security grounds, “make it improbable for the opposition to win any general election in Turkey,” Hakura said. “These really serious changes to the election law will, I think, make any serious challenge by the opposition highly improbable.”

The call for an early vote also follows the sale of Turkey’s largest media group, Dogan Holding, to a group close to Erdogan, further strengthening his grip on the country’s media.

A day after the snap election was called, the pro-Erdogan press seemed confident of the vote’s outcome. “Checkmate” headlined the pro-Erdogan newspaper Yeni Safak on Thursday, suggesting an early victory for Erdogan.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag compared the opposition to people “caught in a downpour in August, without an umbrella.” Marhir Unal, a senior member of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the latest opinion polls give Erdogan 55.6 percent support – which would allow him to win the presidential election in the first round. But Unal didn’t provide further details about the polls.

The main opposition party, the pro-secular Republican People’s Party has yet to announce its candidate. Its leader, Kilicdaroglu, on Thursday didn’t rule out an alliance with parties “that support democracy and oppose a one-man regime.”

The party denied it has been caught by surprise, saying it has several strong candidates and will nominate one in the next two weeks.

But the person considered the most serious contender against Erdogan so far is Aksener, a popular former interior minister who defected from Turkey’s main nationalists and formed her own party.

She has already announced her candidacy for the presidential race. However, questions surround the eligibility of her newly-founded Iyi (Good) Party for the parliamentary vote, as the party is legally required to have completed its general congress six months before the elections – something made impossible by Erdogan calling the elections for June.

“No one is strong enough to keep us out of the elections,” Aksener said during a rally in the southern Turkish town of Fethiye on Thursday.

The party in the most precarious situation is the country’s pro-Kurdish party, whose 45-year-old popular and charismatic former leader, Selahattin Demirtas, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels. He faces a 142-year sentence on charges of leading a terror organization, engaging in terror propaganda and other crimes.

Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, stepped down as co-chair of his People’s Democratic Party, or HDP. He ran against Erdogan in Turkey’s first direct presidential election in 2014 and led his party to parliament in two general elections in 2015. The party’s current co-chairs, Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, lack his popular appeal.

The elections would be held under a state of emergency declared following the failed coup. Parliament on Wednesday extended it for a seventh time despite calls for its end. Critics say the government has used the emergency powers to close down media outlets and jail critics.

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Ancient Coins, Bracelets Looted From Romania Return Home

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Coins and bracelets from the 1st century that were looted from western Romania years ago and smuggled out of the country were put on display Thursday after a joint investigation with Austria brought them back home.

The treasure trove of gold and silver artifacts, stolen between 2000 and 2001, was presented at Romania’s National History Museum. The items were found in Austria in 2015 and returned following a cross-border investigation.

The artifacts — 473 coins and 18 bracelets — were taken from archaeological sites in the Orastie Mountains that had been inhabited by Dacians, who fought against the Romans in the early 2nd century.

General Prosecutor Augustin Lazar said 21 people have been convicted in the thefts.

Museum curator Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said it was “one of the finest recoveries of Dacian treasure in last 200 years” and called their return “a moment of joy, hope and … pride.”

He said the artifacts may have been an offering that a Dacian family made to the gods, which now was valued at “tens of millions of euros [dollars].”

Lazar urged Romanians to be vigilant in guarding their national heritage, and praised a local shepherd who called police after he saw someone entering an archaeological site with a metal detector.

He said intermediaries had taken the artifacts to auction houses and antique shops claiming “they are from my late grandparent’s collection.”

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US-China Trade Row Threatens Global Confidence: IMF’s Lagarde

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The biggest danger from the U.S.-China trade dispute is the threat to global confidence and investment, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Thursday.

The IMF chief said the tariffs threatened by the world’s two largest economies would have a modest direct impact on the global economy but could produce uncertainty that choked off investment, one of the key drivers of rising global growth.

“The actual impact on growth is not very substantial, when you measure in terms of GDP,” Lagarde said of the tariffs, adding that the “erosion of confidence” would be worse.

“When investors do not know under what terms they will be trading, when they don’t know how to organize their supply chain, they are reluctant to invest,” she told a news conference in Washington where world financial leaders gathered for the start of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

In its World Economic Outlook released on Tuesday, the IMF cited 2016 research showing that tariffs or other barriers leading to a 10 percent increase in import prices in all countries would lower global output by about 1.75 percent after five years and by close to 2 percent in the long term.

In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry warned that the Trump administration’s tariff threats and other measures to try to force trade concessions from Beijing was a “miscalculated step” and would have little effect on Chinese industries.

In the latest escalations in the trade row, Washington said this week that it had banned U.S. companies from selling parts to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE for seven years, while China on Tuesday announced hefty anti-dumping tariffs on imports of U.S. sorghum and measures on synthetic rubber imports from the United States, European Union and Singapore.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office also is planning to soon release a second list of Chinese imports targeted for an additional $100 billion of U.S. tariffs, tripling the amount of Chinese goods under a tariff threat.

Lagarde said the trade tensions would be a major topic of discussion among finance ministers and central bank governors at the IMF and World Bank meetings.

“My suspicion is that there will be many bilateral discussions to be had between the various parties involved,” Lagarde said, adding that the issue would also be discussed in larger sessions involving the Fund’s 189 member countries.

“Investment and trade are two key engines that are finally picking up. We don’t want to damage that,” Lagarde said.

If the tariffs go into effect, the hit to business confidence would be worldwide because supply chains are globally interconnected, she added.

 

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Unsold Aluminum Piling Up at Russian Sanctions-Hit Rusal Factory

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Russian aluminum giant Rusal is stockpiling large quantities of aluminum at one of its plants in Siberia because U.S. sanctions imposed this month have prevented it from selling the metal to customers, five sources close to the company said.

With the firm’s own storage space filling up with unsold aluminum, Rusal executives in Sayanogorsk, in southern Siberia, have had to rent out additional space to accommodate the surplus stock, one of the sources told Reuters.

“Aluminum sales have broken down. And now the surplus aluminum is being warehoused in production areas of the factory itself,” said someone who works on the grounds of one of Rusal’s two plants in Sayanogorsk.

Several people connected to Rusal said that Oleg Deripaska, the company’s main shareholder who along with the company was included on a U.S. sanctions blacklist, visited Sayanogorsk this week for a closed-door meeting with staff.

Asked if the firm was stockpiling aluminum in Sayanogorsk, a Rusal spokeswoman declined to comment.

Rusal and Deripaska were included on a U.S. sanctions blacklist this month, scaring off many of its customers, suppliers and creditors who fear they too could be hit by sanctions through association with the company.

A number of traders and customers of Rusal’s aluminum have stopped buying the firm’s products, citing the sanctions risk, and Rusal has stopped shipping some of its products for export, according to a logistics firm and a railway operator that used to carry much of its aluminum.

While shipments have stalled, Rusal cannot readily reduce its production of aluminum because the electrolysis pots that are at the heart of the manufacturing process can be irreparably damaged if they are shut down.

At Rusal’s two plants in Sayanogorsk — which together accounted last year for about a quarter of the firm’s production — aluminum is now stacking up in ad hoc stockpiles dotted around the factory grounds, the sources said.

An employee with a Rusal subsidiary described how the unsold aluminum ingots were being stored in garages in the plant. He said his company had just agreed to rent out space to Rusal so it could store more of the ingots.

A contractor at the Sayanogorsk plants said the stockpiled ingots, stacked on pallets, were building up fast. He said two days’ worth of production would fill up a five-car train, but already a week had gone by with aluminum piling up.

“Can you imagine a week?” he said. “There’s a hell of a lot there, a hell of a lot. It’s being stockpiled, it’s not being shipped.”

An electrician working for Rusal said the ingots were being squeezed into all available space.

“The storage is not quite full,” said the electrician, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal company affairs. “Something is still being loaded all the same, some stuff is being shipped.”

Deripaska, who started his metals industry career in Sayanogorsk in the 1990s, visited the town this week and held a closed-door meeting with staff, according to several people with links to Rusal.

Deripaska himself was included on the U.S. sanctions blacklist, along with Rusal and other businesses where he has a controlling stake.

Washington said it took the measure against Deripaska and others because, it said, they were profiting from a Russian state engaged in “malign activities” around the world.

Since the sanctions were imposed on April 6, Rusal’s share price has slumped, the value of its bonds has plummeted and partners around the world have distanced themselves from Deripaska and his business empire.

U.S. customers cannot do business with Rusal any more under the sanctions, while major Japanese trading houses asked Rusal to stop shipping refined aluminum and other products and are scrambling to secure metal elsewhere, industry sources said.

Rusal is encountering problems at the other end of its production cycle too, with the sanctions affecting the overseas operations that supply it with the raw materials it uses to produce metal.

Rio Tinto, which supplies bauxite to some of Rusal’s refineries and buys refined alumina, said it will declare force majeure on some contracts.

Further besieging Rusal, creditors and bond-holders are trying to offload the firm’s liabilities because many financial market players believe that to handle Rusal debt could leave them too susceptible to U.S. sanctions.

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Україна отримає 9 мільйонів євро від Німеччини для переселенців – Кабмін

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Україна отримає дев’ять мільйонів євро від уряду Німеччини на створення соціального житла для внутрішньо переміщених осіб та розвиток інфраструктури в містах, які приймають переселенців, повідомила прес-служба Кабінету міністрів України.

В уряді заявили, що відповідну фінансову та проектну угоду 19 квітня підписали міністр соціальної політики України Андрій Рева, керівник міського та інфраструктурного підрозділу німецького державного Банку Розвитку KfW Маріон Кнееш та виконавчий директор Українського фонду соціальних інвестицій Андрій Лактіонов.

У Кабміні зазначили, що проект допоможе створити соціальне житло для близько 1000 внутрішньо переміщених осіб.

«Безповоротна фінансова допомога надається Міністерством економічної співпраці та розвитку Німеччини (BMZ) через німецький державний Банк Розвитку KfW. Проект «Сприяння розвитку соціальної інфраструктури. УФСІ VI» триватиме чотири роки. Грантові кошти спрямовуються у Дніпропетровську, Запорізьку, Харківську області та підконтрольні уряду України райони Донецької і Луганської областей», – заявили в Кабінеті міністрів.

Згідно з повідомленням, угода від 19 квітня «є логічним продовженням проекту, який завдяки попередньому гранту уряду Німеччини Український фонд соціальних інвестицій реалізує зараз». Завдяки цьому проекту вже відкрили три соціальні гуртожитки у Мелітополі Запорізької області. До кінця року ще близько 700 внутрішньо переміщених осіб отримають квартири або кімнати в гуртожитках у 14 відремонтованих об’єктах.

За даними Міністерства соціальної політики, в Україні зареєстровано 1,5 мільйона переселенців.

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Russia Demands Compensation for US Tariffs on Aluminum, Steel

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Russia demanded compensation from the U.S. for its worldwide tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel Thursday, becoming the third influential member of the World Trade Organization to do so.

China, the European Union and India have also objected, arguing the tariffs are a “safeguard” measure to protect U.S. domestic products from imports, which require compensation for major exporting countries.

The Trump administration has rejected that argument and says the tariffs are for national security reasons and are therefore allowed under international law.

The U.S. has agreed to negotiate with China and has informed the EU and India it is willing to discuss any other issue, while maintaining their compensation claims are unwarranted.

It is unclear what Moscow’s demand means in practice because it did not challenge the tariffs through a WTO appeals mechanism through which the organization’s 164 members can negotiate solutions to trade disputes.

China is the only country that has pursued that course and India has asked to be present at negotiations with the U.S. on the issue.

U.S. allies Australia, Canada, the EU, Mexico and South Korea have received temporary exemptions from the tariffs, pending negotiations with the U.S.

 

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Парубій підписав звернення до Вселенського патріарха про автокефалію української церкви

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«Молимося Богу, щоб вона дала результат і щоб ми дочекалися давньої мрії українців про єдину українську православну церкву» – спікер парламенту

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СБУ відмовилася повідомити, чи фігурує російський військовий Дубинський у розслідуванні щодо MH17

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Служба безпеки України у відповіді на запит Радіо Свобода відмовилася повідомити, чи фігурує в розслідуванні справи про збиття літака рейсу MH17 над Донбасом влітку 2014 року відставний російський військовослужбовець, колишній керівник «розвідки» угруповання «ДНР» Сергій Дубинський.

У СБУ також не повідомили, за якими статтями обвинувачують Дубинського. Нещодавно з’явилася інформація про завершення досудового розслідування СБУ проти російського військового.

У відповіді на запит Радіо Свобода щодо того, за якими статтями обвинувачують Дубинського, чи є в матеріалах досудового розслідування дані, що вказують на його причетність до атаки на MH17 і чи розслідує взагалі СБУ участь Дубинського в атаці на «Боїнг», у СБУ повідомили, що здійснюють досудове розслідування у кримінальному провадженні за фактом збиття літака за статтею «теракт».

«7 серпня 2014 року Генеральною прокуратурою України було підписано угоду про створення міжнародної спільної слідчої групи з розслідування даного злочину Україною, Нідерландами, Бельгією, Малайзією й Австралією. Що стосується надання даних щодо розслідування даної трагедії, то, відповідно до положень зазначеної угоди, жодна інформація не може бути поширеною сторонами в пресі чи через інші засоби публічного розповсюдження без отримання на це згоди інших сторін», – відповіли в СБУ.

В офіційній урядовій газеті «Урядовий кур’єр» 12 квітня була опублікована повістка з вимогою до Дубинського та його адвоката з’явитися до СБУ в Києві для вручення письмового повідомлення про зміну підозри і для надання доступу й ознайомлення з матеріалами кримінального провадження. Також підозрюваному мали вручити копію обвинувального акту. Це свідчить про те, що СБУ завершила розслідування щодо відставного російського військовослужбовця.

У грудні минулого року суд дозволив СБУ спеціальне (заочне) розслідування щодо Дубинського у справі щодо створення терористичної організації.

Журналісти і міжнародні дослідницькі організації ідентифікували Дубинського (відомого за прізвиськом «Хмурий») через аудіозаписи, оприлюднені СБУ, з перехопленням розмов фігурантів справи про збиття в небі над Донбасом малайзійського «Боїнга» рейсу MH17 влітку 2014 року.

До війни Дубинський жив в одному з сіл Донбасу. Зараз в Україні у нього залишилися близькі родичі. Журналісти проекту Радіо Свобода Донбас.Реалії поспілкувалися з рідним братом російського полковника, Романом Дубинським. Зокрема, він заявив, що його брат дійсно був російським військовим і воював на боці бойовиків у 2014 році. Роман Дубинський також підтвердив, що його брат Сергій Дубинський поїхав з Донбасу на початку 2015 року і осів на хуторі Великий Лог Ростовської області Росії. Донбас.Реалії вирушили туди, щоб розпитати самого фігуранта аудіозаписів про атаку на малайзійський «Боїнг», але він відмовився розмовляти з журналістами.

Ексклюзивні подробиці з біографії полковника і докази його ймовірної причетності до збиття MH17 надав і колишній товариш по службі.

Офіційно міжнародна Спільна слідча група і українські правоохоронні органи поки що не називають імен людей, причетних до катастрофи літака, внаслідок якої загинули 298 людей.

Наприкінці вересня 2016 року міжнародна Спільна слідча група під керівництвом прокуратури Нідерландів оголосила перші попередні офіційні підсумки розслідування. У доповіді йдеться про те, що зенітно-ракетна установка «Бук», із якої збили «Боїнг», була доставлена на територію України з Росії. Місце пуску ракети – селище Первомайське, яке перебувало під контролем бойовиків, контрольованих Росією. До числа підозрюваних, згідно з доповіддю, входять близько 100 осіб.

У Кремлі заявили, що доповідь не можна вважати «остаточною правдою», а висновки слідчих у Москві назвали «попередніми». У МЗС Росії назвали доповідь «упередженою».

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Macedonia ‘Back on Track’ Toward EU Membership  

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Macedonia is “back on track” toward European Union membership, the EU foreign policy chief says, urging Macedonia to keep carrying out recommended EU reforms.

The EU’s Federica Mogherini congratulated Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev during a visit to Skopje Wednesday.

“You’ve gone a long way and, yes, the good news is … that you’re back,” Mogherini said. “I think this is a major achievement you have to be proud of. You can celebrate.”

But the EU official urged Zaev to deepen and maintain the recommended economic reforms needed to meet EU standards.

She also said she believes it is “definitely possible” for Macedonia and Greece to resolve the long-standing name dispute before the next scheduled EU summit in June.

Greece has been holding up EU and NATO membership for Macedonia because of their feud over the name Macedonia — used by both the former Yugoslav republic and the ancient region of northern Greece. 

Many Greeks say allowing the neighboring country to use the name Macedonia insults Greek history and implies a claim on Greek territory.

Macedonians say changing their country’s name or even modifying it in a deal with Greece would be like committing treason.

Greek and Macedonian leaders have opened talks on a settlement after years of unsuccessful efforts by the United Nations.

Among the proposals is calling the country New, Upper, or North Macedonia.

Macedonia has already changed the name of the main airport from Alexander the Great Airport — for the ancient Greek hero — to Skopje International Airport.

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Britain Spy Case: Watchdog Rejects Russia Nerve Agent Claim

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The head of the global chemical watchdog agency on Wednesday rejected Russian claims that traces of a second nerve agent were discovered in the English city where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned.

 

Britain blames Russia for the attack, which it says was carried out by smearing a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok on a door handle at Sergei Skripal’s house in Salisbury. Moscow denies involvement.

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow received confidential information from the laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland, that analyzed samples from the site of the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury.

 

He said the analysis – done at the request of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – indicated that samples contained BZ nerve agent and its precursor. He said BZ was part of the chemical arsenals of the U.S., Britain and other NATO countries, while the Soviet Union and Russia never developed the agent.

 

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu told a meeting Wednesday of the organization’s Executive Council that a BZ precursor known as 3Q “was contained in the control sample prepared by the OPCW Lab in accordance with the existing quality control procedures.”

He added “it has nothing to do with the samples collected by the OPCW team in Salisbury.”

 

Britain’s representative to the OPCW, Ambassador Peter Wilson, slammed the Russian foreign minister’s comments as a breach of the treaty outlawing chemical weapons.

“The thing for me that was particularly alarming about Lavrov’s statement is, first of all, the OPCW goes to enormous lengths to make sure that the identity of laboratories is confidential and, second of all, either the Russians are hacking the laboratories or they are making stuff up,” he said. “Either way, that is a violation of the confidentiality of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

 

In a summary of its report last week, the OPCW didn’t name Novichok as the nerve agent used but it confirmed “the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury.”

 

Wilson told reporters that the OPCW “confirmed that they found what we found, and that is a Novichok.”

Russia’s representative to the OPCW, Ambassador Alexander Shulgin, repeated Moscow’s denials and accused Britain of a string of lies.

 

“For now, I will only say one thing: the claim that the Technical Secretariat confirmed that this chemical points to its Russian origin is an outright lie,” he said in a statement posted on his embassy’s website. “The report itself does not say a single word about the name ‘Novichok;’ the CWC simply does not contain such a concept.”

 

Shulgin at a later news conference accused Britain of trying to turn the executive council meeting into “a kangaroo court” and suggested that Britain could have arranged the attack on the Skripals to counter domestic tensions over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

 

“Perhaps the government of Theresa May, weakened by the troubles associated with Brexit, needs society to rally around this government,” he said.

 

Shulgin also said Russia wouldn’t accept the results of any report on the matter unless it gets full access to investigation details, consular access to the Skripals, and participation in the probe by Russian experts.

 

The envoy also spent several minutes of digression on Britain’s alleged “very impressive experience” of using poison abroad, including involvement in the 1916 poisoning of Rasputin, a self-styled mystic who held great influence with Czar Nicholas II’s wife.

The Skripals were hospitalized for weeks in critical condition. Yulia Skripal was discharged last week from Salisbury District Hospital, where her father continues to be treated.

 

Wilson told the meeting that London continues to believe evidence points to Russian involvement in the attempted assassination.

 

“We believe that only Russia had the technical means, operational experience and motive to target the Skripals,” Wilson said.

 

Wilson warned the Chemical Weapons Convention was being undermined by a growing use of nerve agents and other poisons, mentioning the 2017 assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother, in addition to the Salisbury attack and the use of poison gas in Syria and Iraq.

“It is being continually violated,” Wilson told reporters.

 

He said the convention would be strengthened if all nations fully declared any stockpiles they still have. Member states are supposed to declare all their chemical weapons stocks upon joining the OPCW and destroy them.

The OPCW and Russia last year celebrated the destruction of the country’s final declared stocks.

 

 “Russia clearly has chemical weapons they are not declaring and they need to do that,” Wilson said.

 

The antagonism between Britain and Russia played out again in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday afternoon after U.N. disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu briefed members on the OPCW findings.

 

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Karen Pierce, said Russian responsibility for the attack was the only “plausible explanation.” She dismissed several Russian allegations that others were responsible, including one accusing Britain for drugging Yulia Skripal. She said the claim was “more than fanciful – this is outlandish.”

 

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the council heard “the same lies” and “mendacious, baseless and slanderous” allegations that the U.K. has been putting forward since the attack. He said the OPCW report only confirmed that the substance could be produced in a well-equipped lab, stressing that such labs exist in the U.K., U.S. and a host of other countries.

 

Nebenzia said Russia agreed with Britain on one point: “There will be no impunity and the perpetrators will be held responsible.”

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SunPower Buys US Rival SolarWorld to Head Off Trump Tariffs

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SunPower Corp. on Wednesday said it would buy U.S. solar panel maker SolarWorld Americas, expanding its domestic manufacturing as it seeks to stem the impact of Trump administration tariffs on panel imports.

The White House cheered the deal, saying it was proof that Trump’s trade policies were stimulating U.S. investment.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The news sent SunPower’s shares up 12 percent on the Nasdaq to their highest level since before President Donald Trump imposed 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels in January.

“The time is right for SunPower to invest in U.S. manufacturing,” chief executive Tom Werner said in a statement.

SunPower is based in San Jose, California, but most of its manufacturing is in the Philippines and Mexico. The company had lobbied heavily against the solar trade case brought last year by U.S. manufacturers, including SolarWorld, which said they could not compete with a flood of cheap imports.

‘This is great news’

The deal is a win for the Trump administration’s efforts to revive U.S. solar manufacturing through the tariffs. SunPower will manufacture its cheaper “P-series” panels, which more directly compete with Chinese products, at the SolarWorld factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, it said. It will also make SolarWorld’s legacy products.

“This is great news for the hundreds of Americans working at SolarWorld’s factory in Oregon and is further proof that the president’s trade policies are bringing investment back to the United States,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in an emailed statement.

The announcement comes as SunPower is seeking an exemption from tariffs on its higher-priced, more efficient panels manufactured overseas. It has argued to the U.S. trade representative, which will make a decision on exemptions in the coming weeks, that those products should be excluded because there is no U.S. competitor that makes a similar product.

In a note to clients, Baird analyst Ben Kallo said the SolarWorld deal would enable the company to compete against Chinese imports should SunPower’s products not receive an exemption. But he added that skeptics “may question the company’s ability to generate profits with U.S. manufacturing.”

Capital injection

The deal will inject much-needed capital into SolarWorld’s long-suffering manufacturing plant and give it the support of a major market player. SunPower is one of the largest solar companies in the world and is majority owned by France’s deep-pocketed oil giant Total SA.

The U.S. arm of Germany’s SolarWorld AG opened the Hillsboro factory in 2008 as it sought to capitalize on surging solar demand in the United States. But its start coincided with a dramatic increase in the production of cheaper solar products in Asia, and SolarWorld struggled to compete.

Twice, in 2012 and 2014, trade cases brought by SolarWorld prompted the U.S. Commerce Department to slap import duties on solar products from China and Taiwan. Yet prices on solar panels continued their free fall, and in 2017, the company joined rival Suniva in asking for new tariffs.

SolarWorld called the outcome “ideal” for its hundreds of employees in Hillsboro.

Suniva’s future in doubt

During the trade case and after the tariffs were announced, the solar  industry’s trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, argued that the tariffs would not be enough to keep SolarWorld and Suniva afloat.

Indeed, Suniva’s future remains uncertain after a U.S. bankruptcy court judge this week granted a request by its biggest creditor that will allow it to sell a portion of the company’s solar manufacturing equipment through a public

auction.

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US Manufacturers Seek Relief From Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

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President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminum and steel are disrupting business for hundreds of American companies that buy those metals, and many are pressing for relief.

Nearly 2,200 companies are asking the Commerce Department to exempt them from the 25 percent steel tariff, and more than 200 other companies are asking to be spared the 10 percent aluminum tariff.

Other companies are weighing their options. Jody Fledderman, chief executive of Batesville Tool & Die in Indiana, said American steelmakers have already raised their prices since Trump’s tariffs were announced last month. Fledderman said he might have to shift production to a plant in Mexico, where he can buy cheaper steel.

A group of small- and medium-size manufacturers are gathering in Washington to announce a coalition to fight the steel tariff.

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МВС: за два місяці 2018 року зафіксоване зниження кількості ДТП

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За два місяці 2018 року в Україні зафіксоване зниження кількості дорожньо-транспортних пригод, заявила заступник міністра внутрішніх справ України Тетяна Ковальчук.

«З початку року у поліції з’явився обережний оптимізм – за два місяці 2018 було зафіксовано зниження кількості дорожньо-транспортних пригод та смертності на дорогах на 7%, порівняно з аналогічним періодом минулого року», – сказала Ковальчук.

За її словами, «щоб ця тенденція не була зруйнована такими страшними аваріями, як у Кривому Розі», парламенту варто терміново розглянути урядовий законопроект «Про посилення відповідальності за окремі правопорушення у сфері безпеки дорожнього руху».

Читайте також: Дорожня трагедія в Кривому Розі: хто винен?

10 листопада 2017 року Кабінет міністрів схвалив проект закону про посилення відповідальності за окремі правопорушення у сфері безпеки дорожнього руху.

Автори документа пропонують внести зміни до статті 286 Кримінального кодексу України («порушення правил безпеки дорожнього руху або експлуатації транспорту особами, які керують транспортними засобами»), зокрема збільшити розміри покарань за передбачені статтею склади злочинів, а також додатково передбачити кримінальну відповідальність за порушення ПДР, вчинене в стані алкогольного чи іншого сп’яніння, що спричинило нанесення тілесних ушкоджень середньої тяжкості, тяжких тілесниних ушкоджень або загибель людини.

Крім того, у випадку ухвалення закону за перевищення швидкості та втечу з місця ДТП доведеться заплатити штраф в майже 3,5 тисячі гривень. Для водіїв, які продовжують їздити за кермом після позбавлення посвідчення водія, штраф підіймуть до 10 тисяч гривень. 

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Суд планує допитати Мосійчука в справі Єфремова

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Влада, Новини, Україна

Старобільский районний суд Луганської області планує допитати 19 квітня народного депутата, члена фракції «Радикальна партія Олега Ляшка» Ігоря Мосійчука в справі екс-лідера парламентської фракції Партії регіонів Олександра Єфремова, повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

18 квітня суд допитав народного депутата Олега Ляшка. Він заявив, що колишній голова Служби безпеки України Валентин Наливайченко та голова Верховної Ради Андрій Парубій не погодилися штурмувати будівлю СБУ в Луганську, яку бойовики захопили у квітні 2014 року. Ляшко додав, що «якби Єфремов не підігрував сепаратистам, Луганськ був би українським».

Єфремова затримали 30 липня 2016 року в аеропорту «Бориспіль», звідки він, за даними ГПУ, намагався вилетіти до Відня. 13 січня 2017 року Єфремова з Києва конвоювали до Старобільська, де він і нині перебуває під арештом.

4 січня 2017 року Генеральна прокуратура України направила до суду обвинувальний акт стосовно Єфремова. Йому інкримінують організацію захоплення будівлі Луганської ОДА; пособництво в захопленні Управління СБУ в Луганській області; вчинення умисних дій з метою зміни меж території та державного кордону України; організаційне сприяння створенню й діяльності угруповання «ЛНР»; державну зраду.

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