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The net is closing around the people responsible for the downing of flight MH17. Former Russian soldier Sergej Doebinski was identified on audio recordings as the person who arranged the transport of the BUK missile that shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, RTL Nieuws reports.

Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta spoke to the person who identified Doebinski. Doebinski is an old acquaintance of the man and he recognized his voice. At the time of the MH17 disaster, Doebinski was fighting with separatists against the Ukrainian army.

Doebinski's voice was recognized in a recorded telephone conversation in which someone can be heard describing the "beauty" of the BUK missile. Swedish researchers compared that recording with a recent telephone conversation with Doebinski and concluded that it is the same voice.

The person who initially identified the former Russian soldier also told the Novaya Gazeta about a meeting with Doebinski after the MH17 disaster. "'You are  guilty of downing MH17' I said. He waved his arms and said: 'You must not think I did this. It were those freaks from Moscow'." nltimes.nl
The United States will not lift sanctions on Russia until President Vladimir Putin hands Crimea back to Ukraine, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said late Sunday.

During a phone call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Tillerson said the sanctions—which have crippled Russia’s economy and pushed down the value of the ruble—will “ remain in place until Russia returns control of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine.”

He also said that Moscow must honor the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that was outlined in the Minsk agreements, according to a State Department official.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s position on whether he will lift the sanctions on Russia has been unclear since his election last year. The U.S. imposed sanctions on a wide swath of Russian businesses and wealthy individuals following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean region by force in 2014. newsweek.com
A senior Russian politician responded aggressively Monday to comments by the U.K.'s defense minister suggesting pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against Russia is an option for London, claiming the U.K. would be completely annihilated by Russia's nukes in response. 

Russia's Frants Klintsevich, who heads the defense and security committee in Moscow's upper house of parliament, said the U.K. would be "literally wiped off the face of the Earth by a counter strike." Earlier that day, U.K. Defense Minister Michael Fallon said during a radio show that the U.K. could consider a preemptive nuclear attack amid recent political tensions between Russia and Western governments, according to The Moscow Times. Fallon said the U.K.'s military would only make combat use of its Trident nuclear program in extenuating circumstances, but refused to say exactly what those conditions would be.

"In the most extreme circumstances, we've made it very clear that you can't rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike," Fallon told BBC Radio 4's Today program, according to The Independent.

"The whole point about the deterrent is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anybody who might be thinking of using weapons against this country," he added after being asked to specify what circumstances warranted the use of such warheads. newsweek.com
Established in August 2016 InterManagement company received the contracts of Gazprom for 7.85 billion rubles ($139.6m). All of them concern the construction of The Power of Siberia export trunk gas pipeline to China. The company, which employs no more than 5 people, should provide for the arrangement of temporary technological driveways, technological sites, software sites, overhead power lines for the helicopter landing site, and also build a linear liner house.

According to the data of SPARK-Interfax, the whole company won 34 contracts, the amount of each of which is not more than 400 million rubles ($7.1m). It is interesting that in competitions, where InterManagement was not the only bidder, the competitor was only one company, TEKSvyazinzhiniring LLC.

At the moment, the only owner and CEO of the company is Sergey Samarin. Previously, he was a co-owner of Severstroy Engineering LLC from Nizhnevartovsk (now liquidated), as well as a former director of the Nizhnevartovsk municipal institution Pensions Delivery. crimerussia.com
The head of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said on Monday he was "not refuting" reports that Russia was providing support, including weapons, to the Taliban.

For some time, American officials have complained of what Nicholson once called "malign influence" by Russia in Afghanistan, but Monday's comments are among the strongest suggestions yet that Moscow is providing arms to the Taliban.

Asked about reports that Russia was providing a range of help, including weapons, to the Taliban, who control large areas of Afghanistan, Nicholson replied: "Oh no, I am not refuting that."

Moscow has been critical of the United States over its handling of the war in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union fought a bloody and disastrous war of its own in the 1980s. Russia has previously denied providing any material or financial aid to the insurgent group, but has said it maintains ties with Taliban officials in order to push for peace negotiations.

A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that intelligence showed that Russia was providing monetary and weapons support to the Taliban, specifically weapons such as machine guns. reuters.com
Gay men in Russia's Chechen Republic are being illegally detained in at least six secret prisons across the region. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper has reported hundreds of men were being detained, tortured and even killed in a government-backed crackdown on the LGBT community. The claims centered on two jails in the Chechen villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt.

Now Novaya Gazeta has claimed that at least four more prisons are illegally holding gay men due to their sexual orientation. The men, who face physical beatings and electric shocks, are only released after their families offer large bribes to the police, the outlet wrote.

The newspaper also claimed that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov knew about the crackdown, despite his repeated denials that such jails did not exist. In a meeting with Putin, Kadyrov named one of the men which had allegedly been killed due to his sexual orientation, Novaya Gazeta reported. 

The man's identity was known to journalists, but had not been published by the press. The outlet also reported that Magomed Daudov  —  the speaker of the Chechen parliament and a member of Kadyrov's inner circle — had visited one of the prisons where gay men were being held. themoscowtimes.com
The British Government says it is “alarmed” by Russia’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses and has launched an appeal for Vladimir Putin to uphold religious freedom. The Jehovah’s Witnesses plan to appeal Thursday’s ruling, which came after six days of hearings attended by hundreds of supporters.

Baroness Anelay said a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court “effectively criminalises the peaceful worship of 175,000 Russian citizens" and contravenes rights enshrined in the country’s own constitution.

“I am alarmed by the decision of Russia’s Supreme Court to recognise the Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘extremists’,” the Foreign Office minister added. “The UK calls on the Russian government to uphold its international commitment to freedom of religion.”

The case could be taken to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled a previous attempted ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia unlawful in 2010.

The Supreme Court was deciding on a claim lodged by the Russian ministry of justice to liquidate the group’s administrative centre near St Petersburg and 395 local organisations. Its decision will come into effect within 30 days unless an appeal is lodged, when it will be delayed until the resolution of the case. independent.co.uk