Top Intelligence Officials Set to Brief Congress on Alleged Russian Bounties

Top U.S. intelligence officials are set to brief key members of Congress Thursday on what is known — and what is not known — about an alleged Russian plot to pay militants for attacks on American and coalition forces in Afghanistan.The White House confirmed CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone will meet with members of the so-called Gang of Eight.The meeting will be the first chance for lawmakers to hear directly from veteran intelligence officials about reports that Russia was offering Taliban-linked militants bounties to target and kill U.S. and allied troops.Until now, briefings on the allegations have been led by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. representative who was sworn in just over a month ago, along with national security adviser Robert O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, both of whom have served in their roles less than a year.The three have repeatedly told lawmakers that information on the alleged Russian bounty program could not be confirmed, defending the decision not to bring the intelligence to the attention of President Donald Trump.”The person who decided early on whether the president should be briefed on this in the Oval, in the Oval intelligence briefing, was a senior career civil servant,” O’Brien told White House reporters earlier on Wednesday. “And she made that decision because she didn’t have confidence in the intelligence that came out.”O’Brien also said the White House was working on potential responses to Russia should additional intelligence lend credibility to the initial reports.”These are important allegations that, if they’re verified, I can guarantee you the president will take strong action” he said. “We’ve been working for several months on options.”But other officials, when pressed, refused to elaborate on what might come next.”I won’t get ahead of the president on action. I also won’t get ahead of the intelligence,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a White House briefing, saying the intelligence remained unverified.And Trump himself on Wednesday continued to dismiss the alleged Russian plot as a hoax, first on Twitter and later during an interview with Fox Business News.“No corroborating evidence to back reports.” Department of Defense. Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – American soldiers wait on the tarmac in Logar province, Afghanistan.Credible reports
New media reports, however, are challenging that assertion.The Reuters news agency, citing four U.S. and European government sources, reported Wednesday that the U.S. had acquired fresh intelligence in recent weeks that lent credibility to the claims Russia was offering Taliban-linked militants bounties to attack U.S. and coalition troops.Current and former Taliban officials have also come forward, claiming that the bounty program was real.“Individual commanders have been receiving money and weapons from Russian intelligence,” Moulani Baghdadi, a Taliban commander from Ghazni, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, July 1, 2020, in Washington.Pompeo downplays concerns
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday tried to downplay concerns.“The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new,” he said. “The Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years. We have objected to it.”“When we see credible information that suggests that the Russians are putting American lives at risk, we’re responding in a way that is serious,” he added.Still, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday continued to express dissatisfaction and frustration with the Trump administration’s handling of the intelligence.“If true, these reports detail an astounding escalation by an already aggressive adversary and the President’s dereliction of his most sacred responsibility to protect the lives of the American people,” Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, July 1, 2020.Not taken lightly
Despite the lack of agreement on the intelligence about the alleged Russian plot to pay Taliban-linked fighters to attack and kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. officials insist the threat was not taken lightly, and that precautions were put in place. And White House officials said there is no evidence any U.S. troops were harmed.”We always act in the best interest of our troops,” McEnany told reporters late Wednesday.“The Defense Department has said they do not know of any Americans that have been killed in relation to this unverified intelligence that’s currently being assessed,” she added.VOA’s Katherine Gypson and Steve Herman contributed to this story. 

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British Judge Denies Venezuela Access to Gold in Bank Vault

A British judge on Thursday refused to give Venezuela control of over $1 billion in gold sitting in a Bank of England vault, ruling that it is unlawful to give it to the President Nicolás Maduro since Britain does not recognize him as the president.
Maduro has demanded the gold to help his cash-starved nation fight the coronavirus pandemic.
But the central bank for the United Kingdom, whose government recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as his country’s legitimate leader, had refused to hand it over to Maduro’s socialist administration.
Guaidó has sought to preserve the gold stash at the Bank of England to keep it out of the hands of the Maduro government.
Banco Central de Venezuela sought to release the gold, which it wants to sell for food and medical equipment that is desperately needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lawyer representing Maduro’s side promised to appeal.
Sarosh Zaiwalla said in a statement that the judgment “entirely ignores the reality of the situation on the ground” in Venezuela.
“Mr Maduro’s government is in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions, and only it can ensure the distribution of the humanitarian relief and medical supplies needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “This outcome will now delay matters further, to the detriment of the Venezuelan people whose lives are at risk.” 

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КСУ почав розглядати справу про конституційність карантину

Конституційний суд України 2 липня почав розгляд справи за конституційним поданням Верховного суду щодо конституційності окремих положень урядової постанови про встановлення карантину для боротьби з COVID-19.

Зважаючи на те, що справу розглядають у формі письмового провадження, після виступу судді-доповідача КСУ перейшов до закритої частини слухання для ухвалення рішення. Його мають оприлюднити на сайті суду.

Пленум Верховного суду України 29 травня звернувся до Конституційного суду з поданням щодо конституційності встановлення обмежень на час карантину, передбачених положеннями окремих нормативно-правових актів, ухвалених Кабінетом міністрів України і Верховною Радою України.

 

Як мовиться в повідомленні, Верховний суд із розумінням ставиться до ситуації в державі, що склалася у зв’язку з поширенням на території України COVID-19, і в цілому підтримує заходи, спрямовані на подолання зовнішніх і внутрішніх загроз безпеці і захист здоров’я громадян, які не суперечать Основному законові України.

Водночас, мовиться в повідомленні, результати аналізу окремих положень низки законодавчих і підзаконних актів, ухвалених у зв’язку з коронавірусною епідемією, «дають змогу зробити висновок, що їхня сутність і практична реалізація, на переконання пленуму Верховного суду, не відповідають Конституції України».

Через загрозу коронавірусного захворювання COVID-19 Кабінет міністрів України з 12 березня і в подальшому своїми постановами і розпорядженнями запровадив низку обмежувальних заходів, також у квітні був ухвалений закон про зміни до держбюджету через боротьбу з коронавірусом.

 

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Чеська фірма прибрала магазин у Донецьку з офіційного переліку на сайті

Компанія HANÁK NÁBYTEK заперечує причетність до меблевого магазину під своїм брендом в окупованому підтримуваними Росією силами Донецьку. Про це центральний офіс чеської фірми повідомив посольству України в Чехії. 

Також у відповіді на звернення посольства в HANÁK NÁBYTEK зазначили, що не знають, хто є власником меблевого салону в Донецьку і яким чином туди потрапляють меблі компанії, повідомили у посольстві у відповіді на запит телепроєкту Радіо Свобода «Донбас Реалії».

«За нашою інформацією, такі ж самі пояснення компанія надала чеським контролюючим органам, які ведуть відповідну перевірку в цій справі. Вся наявна в посольства інформація була направлена до відповідних органів України для перевірки йухвалення можливих рішень», – зазначили в посольстві України.

 

Водночас, за інформацією «Донбас Реалії», меблевий салон під відомим чеським брендом продовжує працювати в Донецьку.

Раніше на своєму веб-сайті компанія HANÁK NÁBYTEK офіційно перераховувала магазин у Донецьку як один із її торгових пунктів у світі. Але станом на зараз відповідна інформація з сайту зникла.

Про роботу магазину, що продає меблі компанії HANÁK NÁBYTEK, в окупованому Донецьку стало відомо після інтерв’ю чеських бойовиків угруповання «ДНР» у приміщенні салону. Аналітик чеського Інституту політики та суспільства Роман Маца припустив, що саме бойовики могли організувати продаж продукції відомого у світі бренду на непідконтрольній Україні території.

 

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Долар стрибнув на 40 копійок після заяви Смолія про відставку – дані НБУ

Долар стрибнув на 40 копійок після заяви голови Національного банку України Якова Смолія про відставку, свідчать дані на сайті НБУ.

Довідкове значення курсу гривні до долара на 12:00 встановлене на рівні 27 гривень 17 копійок.

Ввечері 1 липня голова Національного банку Яків Смолій написав заяву про звільнення за власним бажанням через «систематичний політичний тиск». В Офісі президента запевнили, що Нацбанк залишатиметься незалежним органом.

Яків Смолій працює на посаді голови НБУ з березня 2018 року. Питання про його відставку має розглянути парламент.

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Україна скасувала угоду про випуск 12-річних єврооблігацій після відставки Смолія – Мінфін

Україна скасувала угоду про випуск нових 12-річних єврооблігацій після на 1,75 мільярда доларів із можливістю викупу на 750 мільйонів єврооблігацій із погашенням у 2021-2022 роках, повідомило Міністерство фінансів у коментарі агентству «Інтерфакс-Україна».

Операцію розпочали 1 липня. Орієнтир прибутковості впав з 7,875% до 7,3-7,4%.

Ввечері 1 липня голова Національного банку Яків Смолій написав заяву про звільнення за власним бажанням через «систематичний політичний тиск». В Офісі президента запевнили, що Нацбанк залишатиметься незалежним органом.

Яків Смолій працює на посаді голови НБУ з березня 2018 року. Питання про його відставку має розглянути парламент.

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White House Sending Top Intelligence Officials to Brief Congress on Alleged Russian Bounties

Top U.S. intelligence officials are set to brief key members of Congress Thursday on what is known — and what is not known — about an alleged Russian plot to pay militants for attacks on American and coalition forces in Afghanistan.The White House confirmed CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone will meet with members of the so-called Gang of Eight.The meeting will be the first chance for lawmakers to hear directly from veteran intelligence officials about reports that Russia was offering Taliban-linked militants bounties to target and kill U.S. and allied troops.Until now, briefings on the allegations have been led by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. representative who was sworn in just over a month ago, along with national security adviser Robert O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, both of whom have served in their roles less than a year.The three have repeatedly told lawmakers that information on the alleged Russian bounty program could not be confirmed, defending the decision not to bring the intelligence to the attention of President Donald Trump.”The person who decided early on whether the president should be briefed on this in the Oval, in the Oval intelligence briefing, was a senior career civil servant,” O’Brien told White House reporters earlier on Wednesday. “And she made that decision because she didn’t have confidence in the intelligence that came out.”O’Brien also said the White House was working on potential responses to Russia should additional intelligence lend credibility to the initial reports.”These are important allegations that, if they’re verified, I can guarantee you the president will take strong action” he said. “We’ve been working for several months on options.”But other officials, when pressed, refused to elaborate on what might come next.”I won’t get ahead of the president on action. I also won’t get ahead of the intelligence,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a White House briefing, saying the intelligence remained unverified.And Trump himself on Wednesday continued to dismiss the alleged Russian plot as a hoax, first on Twitter and later during an interview with Fox Business News.“No corroborating evidence to back reports.” Department of Defense. Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020″We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of that level,” the president said.”The intelligence people, many of them didn’t believe it happened at all,” he added. “I think it’s a hoax based on the newspapers and the Democrats.”New media reports, however, are challenging that assertion.The Reuters news agency, citing four U.S. and European government sources, reported Wednesday that the U.S. had acquired fresh intelligence in recent weeks that lent credibility to the claims Russia was offering Taliban-linked militants bounties to attack U.S. and coalition troops.Current and former Taliban officials have also come forward, claiming that the bounty program was real.“Individual commanders have been receiving money and weapons from Russian intelligence,” Moulani Baghdadi, a Taliban commander from Ghazni, told Business Insider when asked about the bounties. “These are criminal groups that work alongside the mujahedeen and give us a bad reputation.”Mullah Manan Niazi, a onetime spokesman for former Taliban leader Mullah Omar, told The Daily Beast such a program would not be unusual.“The Taliban have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on U.S. forces — and on ISIS forces ù in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present,” he said.U.S. defense and intelligence officials have long been concerned about Russian interference in Afghanistan, complaining repeatedly that Moscow has been providing the Taliban with weapons and training.A new Pentagon report released Wednesday, while making no mention of the alleged bounties, warned Russian involvement is growing.“Russia has politically supported the Taliban to cultivate influence with the group, limit the Western military presence, and encourage counter ISIS [Islamic State terror group] operations, although Russia publicly denies their involvement,” the report said.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday tried to downplay concerns.“The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new,” he said. “The Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years. We have objected to it.”“When we see credible information that suggests that the Russians are putting American lives at risk, we’re responding in a way that is serious,” he added.Still, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday continued to express dissatisfaction and frustration with the Trump administration’s handling of the intelligence.“If true, these reports detail an astounding escalation by an already aggressive adversary and the President’s dereliction of his most sacred responsibility to protect the lives of the American people,” Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote in a letter demanding Pompeo testify before Congress.Other Democrats were even more critical.“If this does not count as treason, I don’t know what does,” Democratic Representative Seth Moulton said during a call with reporters Wednesday. “If the most junior officer in the United States military ignores an intelligence report delivered to him or her, as we know this intelligence report was delivered to the commander in chief, then that junior officer would absolutely be in prison.”Despite the lack of agreement on the intelligence about the alleged Russian plot to pay Taliban-linked fighters to attack and kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. officials insist the threat was not taken lightly, and that precautions were put in place. And White House officials said there is no evidence any U.S. troops were harmed.”We always act in the best interest of our troops,” McEnany told reporters late Wednesday.“The Defense Department has said they do not know of any Americans that have been killed in relation to this unverified intelligence that’s currently being assessed,” she added.VOA’s Katherine Gypson and Steve Herman contributed to this story. 

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Russian Voters Clear Path for Putin to Remain in President Until 2036

Voters in Russia have approved a package of constitutional reforms that includes opening the possibility that President Vladimir Putin can remain president until 2036.Opposition officials and independent election observers cast doubts on the legitimacy of the voting, which ended Wednesday, noting among other concerns that turnout seemed artificially high in some areas.“We’ll never recognize this result,” opposition politician Alexei Navalny said.Election officials said the voting was carried out with integrity.The 67-year-old Putin has led Russia either as president or prime minister for more than two decades, and the reforms allow him to run for two more six-year terms after his current term runs out in 2024.With most of the votes counted, election officials said voters had approved the package 78 percent to 21 percent.Putin has said he will decide closer to 2024 as to whether he would run for another term.Also included in the constitutional reforms are protections for pensions and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages.The voting took place over the course of a week so that polling places could minimize crowds due to coronavirus concerns. 

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