‘Fighting in Moscow absolutely does not faze me’ – Ukrainian Usyk on $50m WBSS final

By ethan / July 20, 2018

WBA & WBC Cruiserweight world champion Alexander Usyk says he is unfazed at the prospect of fighting fellow champion Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series final in Moscow this Saturday with $ 50m prize money at stake.

Ukrainian Usyk takes on Russian IBF champ Gassiev in a clash of the world’s best cruiserweights for the undisputed 200 pound championship and the right to own the Muhammad Ali trophy in the WBSS final at the Russian capital’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium.

READ MORE: Alexey Oleynik to face veteran Mark Hunt in main event of UFC’s first Moscow show

The final had been originally scheduled for May in the Saudi capital of Jeddah, but negotiations took place for the final to be held in a more convenient location for the two boxers, with Moscow eventually being settled upon, just one week after the city hosted the 2018 World Cup final. Usyk has underlined that fact is not something he is losing sleep over.

“It absolutely does not faze me that we will fight here in Moscow,” Usyk said at the pre-fight press conference at Moscow City International Business Center. “It’s good that this fight is taking place. It’s normal I think to just go someplace and box there.

“I would like for there to be as many as these fights taking place as possible because the the desire of young people to do boxing would increase,” the 31-year-old added.

The tournament’s climax comes after both boxers earned final berths by coming through quarter final and semi final matchups in a tournament format dubbed “The Champions League of boxing”.

Usyk has been something of a road warrior in his professional career; the southpaw won his first world title by wresting the WBO strap from Pole Krzysztof Głowacki in Poland before beginning his route to the final by defeating German veteran Marco Huck in Berlin and then traveling to Latvia to dethrone WBC champ Mairis Briedis in Riga.

Fighting home favorites in their back yard seems to be the norm for Usyk, whose career of 14 wins from 14 fights, with 11 of them by way of knockout, is still only in its fledgling stages, despite having seen him become ranked as one of the top 10 boxers in the world pound for pound and number one in his weight division.

The 2012 heavyweight Olympic gold medalist is looking to become the first ever winner of the ‘Muhammad Ali trophy’, the tournament’s award named in honor of the iconic three-time world heavyweight champion, which holds personal weight for the fighter. 

“I saw how [Ali] fought. My coach told me ‘you need to be like him, to be light on your feet’. How Muhammad Ali lived, how he sacrificed things, even boxing, for other people is so positive, so it’s very respectable,” Usyk said.

When asked if he has thoughts of emulating his hero Ali and making the jump to heavyweight, Usyk was typically laconic in his confirmation: “Yes I have thoughts,” the enigmatic Ukrainian laughed to the crowd.

Usyk’s preparation for the fight has perhaps not been ideal; it was announced last week that the fighter had parted ways with trainer Anatoly Lomachenko, father of close friend and pound for pound elite star Vasyl Lomachenko.

Usyk was philosophical in his thoughts on the matter. He said: “Anatoly is a very close person to me as a friend and as a father. I always ask him for advice, but always reminds me to make his own final decisions, he tells me I am ‘a big boy’ and must decide myself.”

Opponent’s don’t come much tougher than Abel Sanchez-trained Gassiev for Saturday’s fight. Gassiev is fighting his third fight from his last four in Russia having won his IBF crown by beating Denis Lebedev and the winning his semifinal match against Cuban Yunier Dorticos in Sochi by spectacular 12th-round stoppage in a fight of the year contender.

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Russia set to wean economy off US dollar as Washington ratchets up sanctions

By ethan / July 20, 2018

The Russian finance ministry is working on a broad set of measures to protect the country’s economy amid growing pressure from the United States, Kommersant daily reports.

The main part of the reforms is a plan to reduce the use of the US dollar in foreign trade transactions in favor of national currencies, according to the news outlet. Russia has recently slashed its ownership of US Treasuries to a 11-year low of $ 14.5 billion, falling from the list of top holders of US debt.

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© Peter Gridley

“The sale of the US Treasury bonds has two main reasons. First, the Ministry of Finance dumps the notes because it works on the anti-sanction legislation. The second reason is a decrease in the value of US Treasuries as their yield grows,” Ivan Kapustiansky, leading analyst of Forex Optimum told RT.

It is not clear yet what will become an alternative to the dollar, he added. “Most likely it will become a currency of a country that Russia seeks to boost trade and build long-term friendly relations with,” Kapustiansky added.

The second part of the finance ministry’s plan is to promote companies sanctioned by the US on the local market. The ministry also seeks to reduce imports from unfriendly countries; it has not yet been specified whether it will be tariffs, quotas or import bans. Procurements of state-owned companies will be made confidential to protect them from sanctions.

Kapustiansky says dumping the dollar will only be a first step in the hard work of protecting the Russian economy from sanctions. “To a large extent, avoiding the dollar will not save Russia from further sanctions pressure and its consequences. The main issue is not the currency or the gold reserves, but the pressure on the partners of Russia. When Washington begins imposing sanctions on Russian partners, they face the question whether to sacrifice their partnership with Russia or risk losing the large US market,” he said.

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Flip-flopping Trump vows to be Putin’s ‘worst enemy’ if US-Russia relationship doesn’t pan out

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Amid a puzzling week of flip-flopping on Russian meddling, Donald Trump has promised to be Vladimir Putin’s arch nemesis if re-engagement with Moscow is a dud – while underscoring that getting along with Russia is desirable.

Speaking with CNBC on Thursday, the US president said that he would become Putin’s “worst enemy” if his dealings with Russia failed to produce results.

“Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia, is positive, not a negative,” Trump noted, adding that if US-Russia relations are a flop, “I’ll be the worst enemy [Putin’s] ever had.”

In the same interview, Trump took a swipe at his predecessor, claiming that Barack Obama was a “total patsy” for Russia. In contrast, Trump said that he has been “far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years – maybe ever.”

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Donald Trump speaks about his meeting with Russian President Putin. © Leah Millis / Reuters

“Look at the diplomats I threw out,” Trump added, referring to the 60 diplomats expelled from the US in March after the alleged poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. Challenging the narrative that he’s been soft on Russia, Trump also noted that he has slapped Moscow with fresh sanctions. “Look at all the things that I have done,” the president said.

Trump’s comments come at the end of a week of headline-grabbing utterances and clarifications about the president’s position on Russia.

During a joint press conference with Putin after their meeting in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would meddle, adding that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” He also insisted that “there was no collusion at all” between his campaign and Russian officials. But after returning to Washington, Trump walked back these statements, telling reporters that he had misspoke. Trump explained that when he said he saw no reason why Russia “would” interfere, he meant to say he saw no reason why it “would not” be Russia who interfered in the US elections. In a similar incident, Trump offered a simple “no” after being asked by a reporter if Russia was “still targeting” the United States. The White House later clarified that the president was saying “no” to answering more questions.

“He does believe that they [Russia] would target US elections again. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure this does not happen,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

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First 50 families of farmers from South Africa may soon resettle in Russia

By ethan / July 20, 2018

The first families of Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, could soon be moving to Russia to escape rising violence against farmers. Some 15,000 Boers want to leave South Africa and become farmers in Russia.

The Schlebusch family from South Africa’s Bloemfontein is going to be among first 50 Boer families to settle in Russia’s southwest. Like many other Boers, they are seeking political asylum in Russia. They say they are facing violent attacks and death threats at home stemming from government plans to expropriate their land.

Earlier this month, farmer Adi Schlebusch visited Russia’s farmbelt Stavropol Region. Schlebusch, whose grandfather was murdered at his farm, told RT that the land in South Africa “was never taken by whites from blacks with violence or in an unjust manner.” He explained that when Boers moved to South Africa in the 19th century, they tried to act in a way that was fair, to negotiate officially and to avoid conflict.

Everything changed after Cyril Ramaphosa’s government came in. South Africa’s new president has pledged to return the lands owned by white farmers since the 1600s to the black citizens of the country. The government said it is planning to put an end to what it calls the legacy of apartheid, where most of South Africa’s land is still in the hands of its minority white population.

Rights groups said the initiative incites violence. There were 74 farm murders and 638 attacks, primarily against white farmers, in 2016-17 in South Africa, according to data by minority rights group AfriForum. 

The government doesn’t dispute the figures, but officials say farmers are victims of crime like just other citizens of the country gripped by violence and that they are not targeted because they are white. They say black farmers are also facing attacks.

Schlebusch confirmed to RT that roughly 15,000 Boers are ready to leave their country and begin a new life in Russia.

“The reason I’m considering immigration is honestly because I see dark clouds hanging over our future. The reality is that we do fear for our lives. And the reality is that a white farmer is attacked every day in South Africa. My grandfather was murdered on this farm. The government is certainly responsible for creating that climate of antagonism towards white farmers.” 

The farmer said he visited Russia with his family to explore the possibilities of resettling in the area. “I know the growth of agricultural production is immense in Russia. So, I think it’s the right time to buy in into agriculture in Russia. And I think there’s a lot of potential.”

Stavropol is ready to settle up to 50 Boer families, according to the region’s Deputy Commissioner for human rights Vladimir Poluboyarenko. He told RT exclusively there is already a plan for settlement of roughly 500 families with their own cattle near Stavropol. The official also said that out of the four million Boers, representing eight percent of South Africa’s population, fifteen thousand Boers want to move to Russia.

A Russian delegation is due to come to South Africa to work out a more detailed resettlement plan with the Boer community.

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From ‘say again’ to ‘war criminal’: Bizarre pearls of anti-Putin frenzy sparked by Trump’s invite

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Breaking news that President Vladimir Putin may come to the US this fall came out of the blue for many Trump haters and Russia bashers. Here are some of the mad rants from the full-throttle frenzy engulfing America’s elite.

A carefully-worded White House statement that confirmed Putin is likely to visit Washington on the invitation of Donald Trump has triggered an avalanche of fiery attacks on both leaders.

Director of National Intelligence Dat Coats provided the most ‘measured’ of those responses. News that Trump and Putin are likely to meet in Washington simply caught him off-guard while he was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday.

“Say that again?” Coats offered, after the moderator told him of the announcement. “OK. That’s going to be special,” he added with a grimace. Coats had uttered just a few words to show he was shell-shocked with the prospect of Trump meeting Putin again. Other bigwigs in the US establishment were far more articulate.  

“Trump wants to invite Putin – the individual responsible for spearheading the attack on our democracy – to the White House on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections,” Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, tweeted. Going on, she lambasted the Republicans, claiming they refuse to protect “our election systems.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, member of the House Intelligence Committee, urged followers to “stay loud” and make sure Putin and Trump “are not alone” when they meet at the White House.

While politicians – at least the ones with the status of Coats or Pelosi – do stick to some degree of civility, some media figures do not.

Stephen Colbert had made a toast to the “beautiful and friendly” Russian people and sarcastically announced a 2020 presidential bid on the ‘Evening Urgant’ talk show aired on state Channel 1 last year. 

READ MORE: Putin-Trump summit: Not Munich, Pearl Harbor or Yalta, just Helsinki

The moment that shocked the ‘Late Night’ host was when former Democrat presidential nominee Bernie Sanders tweeted that an upcoming “second meeting” with the Russian president is now being discussed with Moscow. “Second meeting?!” the comedian shouted in disbelief. “Where would he even meet with a universally-condemned war criminal strongman who personally ordered the attack on our election?”

Later in the day, Colbert launched a series of rants, asking in one if “the Fall of 2018” will mark Putin’s visit, or “the Fall of Democracy.”

Other public figures also declined to mince their words. Here are some of more prominent outbursts.  

While the rants may sound familiar in some quarters, the scale of the anger vented by notable US pundits suggests something may have got out of hand in the American system.

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Kadyrov blasts US charges against Russian gun activist as groundless

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, has expressed his bewilderment over the US’ charges against Russian gun activist Maria Butina, who, he says, has done nothing illegal, yet finds herself in an American jail.

“For several days in a row I see and hear the name Maria Butina everywhere. They write that she has been detained in the USA and charged with lobbying Russia’s interests. But she has done nothing illegal, she never stole any classified data from the Pentagon and she never tried to find a job at the CIA,” Kadyrov tweeted on Friday along with a photo of Butina.

The 29-year-old Russian citizen was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. On Sunday, the DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials.

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Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov speaks at an event devoted to Peace Day, at the State Theater and Concert Hall in Grozny © Said Tzarnaev

Butina has pleaded not guilty of the charges. In a Facebook post, the Russian Embassy in Washington announced that its diplomats had contacted the woman in prison and confirmed the not-guilty plea. The embassy press service also said that an official letter demanding an explanation of the arrest was sent to the US authorities.

This is not the first time Kadyrov has commented via social media on the justice system and human rights in the US. He recently commented on a US State Department report containing allegations of human rights violations in Chechnya on Telegram, saying: “As far as fundamental human rights are concerned, the situation in Chechnya is significantly better than the one in the United States of America.”

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Suspect in stabbing death of Olympic figure skater Denis Ten detained, admits guilt – prosecutor

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Authorities in Kazakhstan have announced that one of the suspects in the murder of Denis Ten, an Olympic figure skating bronze medalist, has admitted his guilt, as police continue the hunt for the second perpetrator.

The detained suspect was identified as Nuraly Kiyasov, a native of the country’s south, bordering Kyrgyzstan, Almaty’s city prosecutor has said in a statement.

“He has confessed to the crime,” the prosecutor said. There are few details available about the suspect apart from his name and year of birth – 1994.

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© Alexander Vilf

Kiyasov has been arrested and placed into custody. In the meantime, police have yet to catch his accomplice, the second perpetrator, who is still on the run.

Ten died on Thursday after being fatally stabbed during an altercation with two men, as they attempted to steal rear-view mirrors from his car in broad daylight in downtown Almaty. The renowned figure skater lost three liters of blood before he was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. The doctors failed to resuscitate Ten, who was already in a clinical coma when he was admitted.

Condolences have been pouring in to Ten’s family and Kazakhstan, where hundreds of people staged a vigil to honor the slain 25-year-old sports star.

Many fellow famous figure skaters have paid tributes to Ten, including Russian Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova, Evgeni Plushenko and Alexei Yagudin.

The International Skating Union (ISU) and President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach have also extended their condolences.

“Denis Ten was a great athlete and a great ambassador for his sport. A warm personality and a charming man. Such a tragedy to lose him at such a young age,” Bach said.

Ten’s greatest career achievement was winning the individual bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He was also a two-time World Championship medalist and a five-time national champion

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At least 8 killed, many missing after tourist boat capsizes on Missouri lake

By ethan / July 20, 2018

At least eight people were killed and several still remain unaccounted for after a tourist boat sank on a Missouri lake on Thursday, the local sheriff has said.

The boat capsized and sank into the Table Rock Lake near Branson at about 8:00 pm ET, during strong 60mph winds caused by thunderstorms. It was carrying 31 people, including children. Apart from the deceased, seven people were rescued and hospitalized, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said, as cited by local outlet Springfield News-Leader. A search operation is ongoing for the rest.

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FILE PHOTO: © Helmut Meyer zur Capellen

The capsizing was initially reported as a “mass casualty incident,” and the first fatality count was only announced some two hours later.

Rescue efforts are continuing into the night with divers working on the scene.

The sunken vessel is a “duck boat” – a bus-like enclosed amphibious vehicle, used worldwide in sightseeing “duck tours.” The one involved in Thursday’s incident was operated by Ride The Ducks, a company based in Branson.

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Here's what it costs to count all the cats in Washington, DC

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Activists want to count every cat, both stray and domestic, in Washington – a task that seems harder than finding a needle in a haystack (while also counting the stalks) and is certainly more expensive, at a cost of $ 1.5 million.

The Sisyphean-sounding undertaking was announced in Washington, DC this week. It brought together several animal advocacy groups, concerned about the lack of any statistics on the overall size and migration within the DC feline population. The activists hope that the data they gather by June 2021 will not only help researches understand how well-off and low-life felines interact with each other, but also provide “scientifically sound tools and protocols” that could be used in the future to manage the cat population.

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© Natalia Seliverstova

This is not a trivial task, as, according to the 2016 survey on the damage done by “invasive predators” to global biodiversity, the purring creatures have been responsible for the extinction of 63 species.

In order to achieve this far-reaching goal, the researches plan to install “state-of-the-art” camera traps in the streets, which will allow them to capture the movements of even the most cautious and elusive felines. Simultaneously, a survey will be carried out to determine how many cats are living as pets and how much time they typically spend their time outdoors. Cats in animal shelters won’t be overlooked either, as researches plan to count intake and outflow rates.

For the count of the homeless cats to be more precise, the researches will double-check the data obtained by the camera traps by going out into the field and then comparing the two numbers.

This is about more than just counting cats – it’s science, researcher John Boone assured the Washington Post.

“We’re investigating — scientifically — the underlying dynamics of this system. We’re not just counting the number of cats but trying to understand how they get there,” Boone said.

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The cryptocurrency ethereum conceptualized as physical currency. © Jaap Arriens

It is expected that comprehensive statistics, a would-be end result of three years of tedious work, will help the researches to better understand and cater to the needs of the meowing population.

“The biggest concern is that we don’t know how many cats or what percentage of the population we’re helping, or what the true need is out there,” Lauren Lipsey, vice president of community programs for the Humane Rescue Alliance, one of the four collaborators of the project, has said.

Three other groups that have committed themselves to the effort are PetSmart Charities, The Humane Society of The United States and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The project is funded through contributions from animal advocacy groups, including those involved in the project. It will take $ 1.5 million to complete the project.

All the data obtained will be handed over to Tyler Flockhart, conservation biologist and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, for a thorough analysis.

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US establishment rallies around martyr figure of ex-ambassador McFaul

By ethan / July 20, 2018

Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was touched that the Senate voted to protect him from being hauled off to a Russian dungeon – or at least that’s what the establishment crowd made it look like.

McFaul was the US envoy to Russia from February 2012 to February 2014, leaving Moscow just days after the US-backed coup in the neighboring Ukraine. His name was mentioned by Russian officials in the context of a proposal made by President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit to arrange for mutual questioning of individuals suspected of wrongdoing, under a 1999 treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

On Wednesday, the White House said only it was “discussing” the proposal internally, but had not made any commitments. This was enough for Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), to accuse Trump of pursuing “Putin’s agenda,” with the Senate Democrats putting forth a resolution against any US officials ever being questioned by Russia.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday, shortly before the Senate vote.

“Bipartisanship is not dead yet,” McFaul, who believes Putin has made him his personal enemy, proclaimed, thanking the Senate for having his back with 98 votes in favor and none opposed.

The non-binding resolution was quickly hailed as a victory of the #Resistance over the “traitor” Trump and his “puppet-master” Putin, although obviously nothing short of impeachment will do.

Former President Barack Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen might have been waxing hyperbolic, but McFaul did get elevated into an almost-martyr by the establishment, with outspoken California Democrat Eric Swalwell tweeting #ProtectMcFaul and threatening to “make [Trump] an ex-president” if he ever turns the ambassador over to Russia.

Former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton also chimed in, coming to McFaul’s defense.

A couple of voices did point out that Clinton literally failed to defend US ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, back in 2012, but to no avail. The #Resistance was determined to stop McFaul from being delivered to Moscow in irons.

Except that no one had ever asked for it. There’s no extradition treaty between the US and Russia, and even if there was, McFaul is neither a Russian citizen, nor is he facing any formal charges in Russia for Moscow to lay any claim to actually detaining him.

Instead, Putin’s proposal would have enabled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators to actually interview – almost certainly in Russia – the alleged Russian spies they had just accused of hacking Democrat’s computers in 2016, in exchange for McFaul and others answering questions – almost certainly in the US – about their possible role in financial misdeeds of Bill Browder, a man who renounced his US citizenship in 1998.

Instead, the Senate chose to declare US government officials above the law and derail an agreement that could have helped clear up at least some of the vitriol between Moscow and Washington.

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