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RUSSIAN ASTRONOMER DETAINED IN AZERBAIJAN

The Azeri Times

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A researcher at the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dmitry Chulkov, who came to Azerbaijan as a tourist, disappeared after visiting the border zone, his mother, Olga Chulkova, told RIA Novosti.

According to her, on January 3 her son flew a direct flight from Moscow to Gandja. Two days later he decided to visit Lake Goygol, 50 kilometers to the south of Gandja, which is near the front line (the northern sector of contact of Armenian and Azerbaijani troops), after which he ceased to communicate. On January 10, he was supposed to fly back to Moscow, but this did not happen.

“According to unofficial sources, he was detained by the border services,” Olga Chulkova said.

“He went into the restricted area, where he was caught,” said the host of the hotel in Gandja, where Chulkov lived. He specified that he was contacted by members of the State Security Service who arrived at the hotel, asked about the guest and seized all the things of the young man.

They said that Chulkov specifically climbed over the fence of the restricted area and did not obey the requirements of the guards.

Later, Olga Chulkova reported that Dmitry had contacted her. He told her he was given food and promised to be released and sent to Moscow. “He repeated several times that they did not beat him,” she said. According to Chulkova, she was also contacted from the Russian Embassy and assured that the young man is not threatened with anything.

The Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan was informed by local authorities about the detention of a Russian citizen, and measures are being taken to return him to his homeland as soon as possible, the Embassy”s press officer Denis Apashkin told RIA Novosti on Saturday.

In the State Security Service of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they did not comment on Chulkov”s detention for the Turan news agency.

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Russia

PUTIN THANKS TRUMP FOR A CIA TIP

The Azeri Times

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Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump Sunday to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin said.

During the call, the two leaders’ second in three days, Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it allowed Russia’s top domestic security agency to track down a group of suspects that planned to bomb Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites this weekend.

“The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects,” the Kremlin said.

It added that Putin asked Trump to convey gratitude to the CIA and assured him that “if the Russian intelligence agencies receive information about potential terror threats against the United States and its citizens, they will immediately hand it over to their U.S. counterparts via their communications channels.”

The CIA’s tip to Russia comes even as Russia-U.S. ties have plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War era — first over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, more recently over allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump.

While Russian officials have said the two countries were continuing to exchange a terror-related intelligence, Sunday’s statement from the Kremlin was Russia’s first public assertion that information from the United States helped prevent an attack.

The conversation was the second between the Russian and U.S. presidents since Thursday, when Trump thanked Putin for his remarks “acknowledging America’s strong economic performance,” according to the White House.

During the first call, they also discussed during ways to work together to address North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons program, the White House said.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced Friday that seven suspected followers of the Islamic State group had been arrested for allegedly planning to carry out terror attacks in St. Petersburg this weekend.

The agency said the suspects were plotting a suicide bombing in a church and a series of other explosions in the city’s busiest areas this coming weekend on IS orders. It said a search of a St. Petersburg apartment found explosives, automatic weapons and extremist literature.

Russian news reports said that Kazan Cathedral, a landmark 19th century Russian Orthodox church on St. Petersburg’s central Nevsky Prospect, was the prime target.

If the suspects succeeded in bombing the cathedral, it would have been the first major attack on a Russian Orthodox Church by Islamic terrorists, who have blown up apartment buildings, passenger planes and transport facilities in Russia.

In April, a suicide bombing in the St. Petersburg’s subway left 16 dead and wounded more than 50.

Russian TV stations have aired footage daily since Friday of the suspects in the foiled attacks being apprehended and questioned. One segment showed FSB operatives outside a St. Petersburg apartment building detaining a suspect, who appeared later saying he was told to prepare homemade bombs rigged with shrapnel.

“My job was to make explosives, put it in bottles and attach pieces of shrapnel,” the suspect, identified by Russian media as 18-year old Yevgeny Yefimov, said in the footage released by the FSB.

Several other suspects came from mostly Muslim regions in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus, and one man was from the ex-Soviet nation of Tajikistan that borders Afghanistan.

The TV reports included footage of a metal container, which the suspects used as a laboratory for making explosives, according to the FSB. Another video showed operatives breaking the doors and raiding an apartment used by other suspects.

Last week, the FSB said it also arrested several IS-linked suspects in Moscow, where they allegedly were plotting a series of suicide bombings to coincide with New Year’s celebrations.

The latest calls between Putin and Trump came after the Russian leader praised his U.S. counterpart during a marathon news conference on Thursday.

Putin hailed Trump’s achievements, saying that global markets have demonstrated investors’ confidence in Trump’s economic policies. He said he hoped the U.S. president would be able to follow through on his campaign promises to improve ties with Russia despite pressure from his political foes at home.

During the news conference, Putin also reaffirmed his multiple denials of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and argued that the U.S. is only hurting itself with investigations of alleged collusion between Trump and Russia. The allegations were “invented” by Trump’s foes to undermine his legitimacy, Putin said.

Alexei Chepa, a deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, hailed the CIA tip as a “step toward cooperation.”

“The more such actions we have, the better it will be for both our countries,” Chepa told the state RIA Novosti news agency.

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Russia

2,642 RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN DIED IN 2012-2016

The Azeri Times

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An insurance procurement order for Russia’s Defense Ministry has shed light on the number of Russian servicemen that have died between 2012 and 2016, The Moscow Times reports.

The Defense Ministry stopped reporting Russian military fatalities in 2010, but figures have occasionally leaked to the public.

According to the procurement order, 2,642 Russian servicemen died in the time period — 626 in 2015, 790 in 2014, 596 in 2013 and 630 in 2012 — the Vedomosti business daily reported on Monday.

The procurement order that revealed the figures was won by the SOGAZ insurance company. Supplementary documentation to the order listed the number of “insurance incidents” — deaths of Russian servicemen — in previous years.

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Russia

Trump may lift sanctions against Russia if…

The Azeri Times

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US President-elect Donald Trump suggested on Friday that he may end sanctions against Russia if it helps Washington’s fight against terror.

In an hour long interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he will keep sanctions “at least for a period of time,” but may overturn them eventually.

Meanwhile, a committee of US senators will investigate alleged links between Trump’s political team and the Russian government.

US intelligence agencies say the email accounts of Hillary Clinton’s aides were targeted during the presidential campaign.

TRT World ‘s Patrice Howard has more from Los Angeles.

Source:
TRTWorld

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