Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria - The National

Northwest Russia - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 12:47

The National

Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria
The National
The Syrian state news agency SANA said government forces advancing from desert areas northwest of Mayadeen had moved to within five kilometres of the town. In Deir Ezzor province, ISIL still controls Mayadeen, eastern neighbourhoods of the city of Deir ...
Russian 'revenge' strike 'critically injures' leader of former al-Qaeda affiliate in SyriaThe New Arab

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Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria: monitor - DunyaNews Pakistan

Northwest Russia - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 12:38

DunyaNews Pakistan

Russian strikes kill 14 civilians in eastern Syria: monitor
DunyaNews Pakistan
The state news agency SANA said government forces advancing from desert areas northwest of Mayadeen had moved to within five kilometres (three miles) of the town. In Deir Ezzor province, IS still controls Mayadeen, eastern neighbourhoods of the city of ...
Syria fighting worst since Aleppo, air strikes deadly: aid agenciesReuters

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Russia’s New ‘Useful Idiots’?

StopFake.org - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:38

There are echoes of Soviet times in the way Russia has been courting far-right activists in the West. A new book looks at how and why it does it.

By Bradley Jardine, for Codastory

Remember Richard Spencer, the U.S. white supremacist whose “alt-right” followers celebrated Donald Trump’s presidential election victory with a show of Nazi salutes?

Back in 2011, Spencer was appearing in another guise, as an expert on Libya, on Russia’s English-language propaganda channel RT. Deriding the West’s strategy, he accused NATO of siding with the “thugs” who killed the Libyan dictator — and erstwhile Western ally — Muammar Gaddafi.

Given the chaos in Libya since, Spencer’s argument hardly looks controversial now. But that’s not why RT and other Russian state-controlled outlets have been so keen to book him and other Western far-right activists as guests.

For the Kremlin’s information machine, these activists serve a bigger purpose, to help promote the narrative of the West in chaos — and thereby also boost the idea of Russia as the alternative global power.

In effect, they are a new version of the “useful idiots” — the term coined for Western supporters of the early communist regime, whom Lenin, and then later Stalin, happily exploited.

But is Russia’s reach-out to the far right actually effective? And how has the Kremlin cultivated the relationship? “Tango Noir: Russia and the Western Far Right,” a new book by Anton Shekhovtsov, who is a specialist on extremist networks, provides some of the answers.

Swastikas on Synagogues

The dance begins between the two world wars, when the Bolsheviks tried and failed to exploit unrest in Germany, then hobbled by reparations demands. But it was with the onset of the Cold War that Moscow really stepped up efforts to use far-right elements abroad — with the nascent West Germany as its initial target.

The KGB ordered its agents to paint swastikas on synagogues. And it worked, according to Shekhovtsov, as West German officials began to question the country’s membership of NATO, in fear of a Nazi resurgence. There was an added bonus. International attitudes towards Soviet-backed East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) improved.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 was an international public relations disaster. Putin cried conspiracy. “The West has a powerful propaganda machine” he complained

The reality was more complex. Germany’s leaders had been taking a more lenient approach to former Nazis at the time, or so people thought. Many had been given state jobs. But the KGB saw the opportunity, looking for institutional weaknesses and apparent policy contradictions to exploit — much as its successor, the FSB, does today.

This early history of Russia’s dalliance with the Western far right is fascinating, but Shekhovtsov’s main interest is rightly in how it has played out under Vladimir Putin.

Information War Watershed

And in his chronology, 2008 was the watershed moment — when the Kremlin decided to adopt a full-scale information war strategy towards the West.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia that year was an international public relations disaster. Moscow may have won militarily, but it lost the battle for global hearts and minds. Condemnation was so severe that Putin cried conspiracy. “The West has a powerful propaganda machine” he complained.

To fight back, the Russian leadership decided it needed a new approach —- to undermine the West’s faith in its own political system. The spearhead was Russia Today. Created in 2005, the channel’s name was shortened to RT in 2009 as its controllers aimed for a global audience. And the disruptive message of the Western far-right was a perfect fit for the narrative it wanted to propagate.

Shekhovtsov identifies three main elements in the Russian disinformation strategy that has evolved. The first is “nudge propaganda,” using fringe activists from the far-right and other groups to promote Russian interests.

‘Narrative Laundering’

The second is “narrative laundering,” in effect creating and spreading fake news, with the original source obscured. When it works, conspiracy theories are “laundered” into mainstream discourse.

The third main tactic is selective sourcing. RT’s coverage of riots that broke out in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, in 2013, were a case in point. Its reports focused on the story of a man wielding a machete who was not of Swedish origin, which the country’s far right turned into a signature cause. And more than half the people RT interviewed for a segment entitled “They Don’t Want to Integrate” turned out to have far-right links.

Far right groups have also helped give a veneer of legitimacy to Russia’s annexation of Crimea by sending observer missions to monitor elections there. And Shekhkovtsov shows how these missions have helped build deeper ties between far-right activists and the Kremlin officials of today.

It is surprising though that the author does not consider Brexit and the claims of shadowy Russian involvement with the ultra-nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP), which led the campaign to take Britain out of the European Union. And he seems to have published too soon to consider the allegations of widespread Russian interference in the US presidential election, including linkages with America’s “alt-right.”

Putin’s Power Marketplace

But what the author does do is shed more light on the inner workings of Putin’s power structure and how Russia’s disinformation offensive has developed from that. He argues that it is a conglomerate of clans competing for attention and resources from the center — Putin — in a complex marketplace. With this constantly shifting flow of ideas, perhaps this explains why the Russian leader is often seen as a better tactician than strategist.

Beneath Putin’s inner court Shekhovtsov describes six interconnecting nodes he calls “operators.” These include foreign individuals and groups sympathetic to Russia, as well as local far right activists who network with like-minded counterparts in Europe. Then there are think tanks which promote a Russian perspective on international affairs, loyalist oligarchs, Russia’s diplomatic missions in the West and key players in the ruling United Russia party. And the author shows how these “operators” have worked together to try to influence politics in Austria, Italy and France.

They are a new version of the “useful idiots” — the term coined for Western supporter soft he early communist regime, whom Lenin, and then later Stalin, happily exploited.

Yet he concludes that the Kremlin has not got much to show for all this effort. Its interventions in the French elections, including assisting and meeting with the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, backfired spectacularly when Emmanuel Macron stormed through to victory.

Moscow may have had some success though more recently in its old hunting ground of Germany — where evidence emerged of concerted Russian intervention behind the scenes — after recent elections there gave the far right a huge boost.

But Putin is stuck with the same problems. Russia still places near the bottom in global favorability indexes. Western sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine remain in place, with the economy stuck in decline. And hopes that Trump’s election would lead to better relations with the US have faded.

But as Shekhovtsov makes clear in this valuable, if not complete book, Russian tactics are constantly evolving, always with one eye on the future. Looking ahead, one concern he highlights is emerging evidence of Russian paramilitary groups giving assistance to the European far-right, encouraging them to take a more violent road. It could turn out to be an even more potent weapon in the Kremlin’s arsenal of disruption.

By Bradley Jardine, for Codastory

Illustration by Alessandra Cugno.

Bradley Jardine is a journalist based in Moscow covering the post-Soviet region and China.
Categories: World News

Nord Stream 2 completes 2 months of public consultations in Russia - The Baltic Course

Nord Stream - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 06:35

The Baltic Course

Nord Stream 2 completes 2 months of public consultations in Russia
The Baltic Course
Nord Stream 2 AG, the developer of a new pipeline to supply Russian natural gas through the Baltic Sea to the EU market, has completed the 60-day public consultation process on the draft EIA report for the project in Russia. During public consultations ...

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Nord Stream 2 completes 2 months of public consultations in Russia ... - The Baltic Course

Google News: --- Baltic Environmental - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 06:35

The Baltic Course

Nord Stream 2 completes 2 months of public consultations in Russia ...
The Baltic Course
Nord Stream 2 AG, the developer of a new pipeline to supply Russian natural gas through the Baltic Sea to the EU market, has completed the 60-day public ...

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Fact-checking myths about Nord Stream 2 :: The Baltic Course ... - The Baltic Course

Nord Stream - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 06:32

The Baltic Course

Fact-checking myths about Nord Stream 2 :: The Baltic Course ...
The Baltic Course
Nord Stream 2 is a complex project that involves discussion of many issues, including energy security, environmental protection, international relations and ...

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Oil markets cautious as another tropical storm heads for Gulf of Mexico - Reuters

Northwest Russia - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 03:41

Reuters

Oil markets cautious as another tropical storm heads for Gulf of Mexico
Reuters
Nate is currently off the coast of Nicaragua and heading northwest into a region of the Gulf of Mexico populated by offshore oil platforms which pump more than 1.6 million barrels of crude per day (bpd), about 17 percent of U.S. output, according to ...

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Getting Kicked Off Premium YouTube Won’t Hurt Revenues, Says RT Editor

StopFake.org - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 00:11

By The Moscow Times

The Kremlin-backed RT television channel’s removal from YouTube’s premium advertising service is unacceptable, but will not affect the broadcaster’s profits, RT said on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. told Bloomberg news this week that it removed RT from YouTube’s ad package that charges premium rates. The move comes after RT’s editor-in-chief said the channel might have to leave the U.S. market over demands to register the outlet as a foreign agent.

Its deputy editor-in-chief Kirill Karnovich-Valua said on Thursday that RT’s removal from YouTube’s premium package was unacceptable. He criticized a lack of prior notice and an apparent leak of “internal info” to Bloomberg.

“This speaks to the unprecedented political pressure increasingly applied to all RT partners and relationships in a concerted effort to push our channel out of the U.S. market entirely,” he said.

However, the state-run outlet with 2.2 million YouTube subscribers will not be seriously hampered in distribution and monetization on the platform, Karnovich-Valua added.

U.S. lawmakers invited Google to testify on Nov. 1 as part of an ongoing multi-pronged investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The internet giant faces increased scrutiny alongside Facebook and Twitter over claims that it may have been used as a staging ground for Russian influence during the U.S. campaign.

RT and RT America are among 20 of YouTube’s “Google Preferred News Lineup,” billed as a list that provides a “broad picture of breaking news.”

By The Moscow Times

Categories: World News

Report: Hackers Stole NSA Cybertools In Another Breach Via Another Contractor - Northwest Public Radio

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 23:52

Northwest Public Radio

Report: Hackers Stole NSA Cybertools In Another Breach Via Another Contractor
Northwest Public Radio
Russian hackers stole top secret cybertools from a National Security Agency contractor in yet another embarrassing compromise for U.S. spy agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The NSA contractor is believed to have taken highly ...
Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on US Cyber DefenseWall Street Journal
Russian government hackers used antivirus software to steal US cyber capabilitiesWashington Post
We aggressively protect our users and we're proud of it. | Nota Bene: Eugene Kaspersky's Official BlogEugene Kaspersky - Kaspersky Lab

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Fake: Ukraine’s Health Ministry Allows Ukrainians to be sold for Organs

StopFake.org - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 21:00

Ukraine’s Health Ministry plans to introduce a pilot kidney donor transplant program in 2018. The program has yet to be approved by parliament but it is already being hailed by Russian media as one that “will turn Ukraine into a supplier of organs from corpses”. Russian newspaper Moskovskyi Komsomolets predicts that the transplant program will “not only destroy public health, but turn Ukraine into a black market transplant center”.

Website screenshot МК

Ukraine’s  Deputy Health Minister Oleksander Lynchevskyi  told StopFake that such claims are part and parcel of a larger Russian disinformation narrative, that Ukraine is establishing an organ transplant black market.

Linchevsky points out that according to proposed Ukrainian legislation, individuals can donate their organs after death. That information will be registered in a central donor data base. If there is no record of a deceased individual’s agreement in that data base and if his or her immediate relatives have not given their consent, it is illegal to remove organs for transplant from such a person.

The legislation also calls for the establishment of ethics committees to record the needs of the recipients and monitor the medical community to ensure transparency and good will. The bill also establishes much tougher criminal liability for violation of organ transplant protocols.

Oleksander Linchevsky says that a black market in illegal organ transplant is technically impossible in Ukraine as both the donor and the recipient must undergo extensive tests to find the proper match. Such tests are recorded and leave a trail. Without this data organ transplants are impossible to carry out.

Moskovskyi Komsomolets also claims that rich foreigners will come to Ukraine in search of organs. The new organ transplant bill stipulates that if a recipient is not found in Ukraine, information about the available organ or tissue is forwarded to relevant institutions in other countries, but only those with whom Ukraine has signed appropriate agreements on organ and tissue transplants.

Ukraine’s Health Ministry points out that in countries where transplantation of organs is well developed and regulated, there are some 14-39 deceased donors per million people, whereas in Ukraine, it is less than 0.2 percent. Last year Ukrainian doctors carried out 126 organ transplant operations, 119 of those were kidney transplants, 5 liver and one lung transplant.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Ratings group, support for organ and tissue transplants is growing Ukrainian society. 63% of Ukrainian believe that people have the right to donate their organs to save another person’s life.

 

Categories: World News

Most EU Countries in Favor of Negotiations on Nord Stream-2 - Georgia Today

Nord Stream - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 16:12

Georgia Today

Most EU Countries in Favor of Negotiations on Nord Stream-2
Georgia Today
Most EU countries support the granting of a mandate to the European Commission to negotiate with Moscow on the creation of a special legal framework for the operation of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel ...
[Premium] Maintenance Hits Nord Stream FlowNatural Gas World

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Putin Welcomes Saudi Arabia Into His Middle East Sphere of Influence - TIME

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 13:26

TIME

Putin Welcomes Saudi Arabia Into His Middle East Sphere of Influence
TIME
Saudi Arabia's King Salman arrived in Moscow on Wednesday in the first-ever official visit by a Saudi monarch to Russia, in a mission that signals an expanding Russian role in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East as the Syrian civil war ...

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[Premium] Maintenance Hits Nord Stream Flow - Natural Gas World

Nord Stream - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 11:44

[Premium] Maintenance Hits Nord Stream Flow
Natural Gas World
Russia's 55bn m³ Nord Stream 1 gas line underwent annual maintenance between September 11 and 22. During this period, the direct flows from Russia to the EU dropped from an average of 160mn m³/d to 20mn m³/d as disclosed by Gazprom, cutting 1bn ...

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Innovative container KOTTA intended for application at MSCC Bronka underwent successful testing - PortNews IAA

Google News: --- Baltic Environmental - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 09:59

PortNews IAA

Innovative container KOTTA intended for application at MSCC Bronka underwent successful testing
PortNews IAA
As part of the project on development and introduction of a new technology for transshipment of loose cargo at MSCC Bronka (Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex Bronka, Big Port St. Petersburg), Tulachermet PJSC (part of Industrial Metallurgical Holding) ...

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This is what earns Emmys in Russia

StopFake.org - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:56

Actors walk the red carpet at Russia’s annual TEFI awards ceremony in Moscow, October 3, 2017
Mladen Antonov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

By Kevin Rothrock, for Meduza

The Russian Academy of Television announced the winners of its “TEFI” awards this Tuesday, October 3, in a ceremony that resembles the Emmys in the United States. Unlike the Emmys, where winners get statuettes depicting a winged woman holding an atom, taking home a TEFI means pocketing a certificate and a statuette showing Greek mythology’s Orpheus kneeling and tearing at his chest in agony. That sentiment captured a lot of people’s feelings when they heard about this year’s TEFI winners — especially the trophy for “best educational program” that went to Igor Prokopenko, who hosts a TV show that just last week spent 45 minutes exploring the “Flat-Earth Theory.” Writing for the website The Insider, Anna Krasnoperova pointed out that the TEFI winners for “best evening news program” and “best analytical review program” also have a lot to answer for. Meduza summarizes Krasnoperova’s report here.

If you don’t watch Russian television, perhaps you’ve never heard of Pervyi Kanal’s evening news broadcast “Vremya” or Rossiya-1’s weekend review show “Vesti Nedeli,” but they’re two of the most watched and influential news programs in the country. This year, the Russian Academy of Sciences awarded TEFIs to both these largely pro-government TV shows, which air on state-owned networks. As a kind of retrospective, Anna Krasnoperova at The Insider reviewed five of the most notorious fake stories these programs reported in recent years.

1: Alexey Navalny works for the CIA

In April 2016, Dmitry Kiselyov’s “Vesti Nedeli” show aired a report accusing oppositionist and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny of cooperating with British and American intelligence agencies. The report was littered with oddities that raise serious questions about its credibility: supposed intelligence agents wrote in poor, bizarre English; an audiotape didn’t match Navalny’s real voice; and, on two occasions, Navalny apparently time traveled, based on the timestamps found on “secret correspondence.”

The report also featured comments by three notoriously unreliable figures: Pavel Karpov, the police investigator who opened the criminal case that was ultimately used to arrest Sergey Magnitsky; Oleg Lurye, a journalist previously imprisoned for blackmailing the wife of a senator; and Alexander Mercouris, a disgraced, disbarred British lawyer who frequently appears in pro-Kremlin media, sometimes identified as a “Greek political analyst” or an “international affairs expert.”

2: The “rape” of Little Lisa

On January 11, 2016, Pervyi Kanal reported a fake story that would later be used in case studies of “Russian disinformation.” When a 13-year-old Russian-German girl named Lisa F. reappeared in Berlin after going missing for three days, she initially claimed that she’d been kidnapped and raped by three Arab migrants. Further investigation debunked this story, however, and Lisa later admitted that she went hiding voluntarily and wasn’t raped.

Even after police refuted the rumors about Lisa’s case, Pervyi Kanal continued airing news segments about her supposed rape. Apparently reacting to the coverage on Russian television, some Russian Germans even staged demonstrations in several parts of Germany to protest what Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov called the German authorities’ tendency “to paint over reality in a politically correct manner for domestic reasons.”

A magazine run by NATO later called the Russian media’s coverage of the “Lisa case” a “wake up call for German political elites.”

3: Germany’s Syrian refugee welfare king

Pervyi Kanal was one of many media outlets to report the fake story of a Syrian refugee named “Ghazia A.” living in Germany with his four wives and 23 kids, supposedly pulling down almost half a million bucks in welfare checks. In this same news report, Pervyi Kanal also recycled phony claims (later deleted from its website) that Austria’s Supreme Court acquitted an Iraqi refugee for raping a 10-year-old boy. (In fact, the man was sentenced to several years in prison.)

The report about Ghazia A., which first appeared in the German newspaper Rhein-Zeitung, was based on mostly false information. No German government official ever verified that a Syrian refugee was collecting so much money in benefits, and the “360,000 euros” figure actually comes from a financial expert named Hubert Königsstein, who merely speculated that a man in Ghazia A.’s situation could claim such benefits.

A municipality spokesperson told the German news service Deutsche Welle, however, that this isn’t how benefits work in Germany, where polygamy is prohibited, meaning that the Syrian refugee would have had to select one wife and claim her respective children for any social assistance.

At the end of the segment, Pervyi Kanal’s reporter even intentionally mispronounced Ghazia A.’s name to make a joke.

4: Refugees terrorize the Swedish city of Malmö

On February 19, Pervyi Kanal aired a report from Malmö, describing Sweden’s third biggest city as a “remote corner” of the country transformed into a dystopian hellhole by a “criminal wave” of Arab migrants. The report claimed incorrectly that Muslim immigrants make up 43 percent of the city’s population (in fact, only 32 percent of the city’s residents were born abroad, and far from all of them are Muslim).

Pervyi Kanal also presented Fridhem, a neighborhood in Malmö, as a particularly dangerous area, though local sources told The Insider that it’s actually a generally peaceful place. According to the crowd-sourced global database Numbeo, Malmö’s overall level of crime is “moderate,” scoring it significantly higher than American metropolises like Baltimore and Chicago.

Crime in Baltimore, MD, versus Malmö, Sweden Numbeo.com

As it happens, a day before Pervyi Kanal‘s report on Malmö, U.S. President Donald Trump made headlines by alluding to a nonexistent terrorist attack in Sweden. “Sweden, who would believe this?” Trump asked a crowd of supporters in Florida.

Did Trump make up a terrorist attack in Sweden? USA TODAY

The president later explained that he was referring to a segment aired on Fox News, where filmmaker Ami Horowitz claimed that migrants in Sweden are responsible for a new crime wave. Two Swedish police officers interviewed in Horowitz’s documentary later told reporters that their comments were edited selectively and taken out of context.

5: Creative dubbing in France

On May 15, “Vesti Nedeli” aired a segment about “the political situation in Europe,” focusing on the “growing Euroskeptic movement in France.” The show’s correspondent interviewed several activists who demonstrated against a new labor law, but the Russian dubbing completely changed their comments, rewriting what they said from start to finish as a rant against immigrants.

Needless to say, French television ridiculed the news report, and even tracked down the protesters interviewed by “Vesti Nedeli,” who were horrified to learn how their comments had been mistranslated for Russian viewers.

By Kevin Rothrock, for Meduza

Categories: World News

Russian Direct Investment Fund, Saudi PIF to invest in over 25 projects - TASS

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 05:11

Russian Direct Investment Fund, Saudi PIF to invest in over 25 projects
TASS
"As of today this partnership has already yielded good results as investments in various sectors of the Russian economy have been approved, including a big project to develop the territory of the former Tushino airfield in the northwest of Moscow ...

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Russia threatens US forces, calls America an obstacle to defeating ISIS in Syria - Military Times

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 05:10

Military Times

Russia threatens US forces, calls America an obstacle to defeating ISIS in Syria
Military Times
“The tragedy that we witnessed, the death of a Russian commander, is the price paid in blood for this double dealing in the US' policy [in the war on terror],” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told TASS about the Russian general's death.

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Feds: No threatened species listing for walrus - Worcester Telegram

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 03:10

Worcester Telegram

Feds: No threatened species listing for walrus
Worcester Telegram
The Fish and Wildlife Service used climate models showing the Chukchi Sea between northwest Alaska and Russia could be ice-free in the summer by 2060, Lemons said. But he said information predicting the walruses' fate is uncertain beyond then, so the ...
Federal government: No threatened species listing for walrusThe Daily Herald

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Senate Intelligence Committee Gives Update On Russian Interference Investigation - Northwest Public Radio

Northwest Russia - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 01:02

Fox News

Senate Intelligence Committee Gives Update On Russian Interference Investigation
Northwest Public Radio
And sticking with the Senate for another moment - today the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee provided an update on their investigation into Russian interference in last year's election. NPR's Ryan Lucas was on Capitol Hill and has more on ...
Gregg Jarrett: The Trump-Russia 'collusion' and other great hoaxesFox News

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