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Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, has died after a Turkish police officer shot him in an apparent protest at Russia’s involvement in Aleppo.

Several other people were reportedly also injured in the gun attack in Ankara, a day after protests in Turkey over Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The gunman, who was in civilian clothes, opened fire at point blank range as Andrei Karlov made a speech.

He is said to have died in a shootout with police soon afterwards.

According to local reports, Andrei Karlov was rushed to hospital, but his death was later confirmed by the Russian foreign ministry.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone about the attack, the Turkish president’s office said.

Speaking outside the hospital where Andrei Karlov was taken, Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek said the killing was intended to ruin Turkey’s relations with Russia.

The attack was swiftly condemned by other countries.

US state department spokesman John Kirby: “We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Image source AP

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: “Shocked to hear of despicable murder of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey. My thoughts are with his family. I condemn this cowardly attack.”

German Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said his country stood with Turkey in a common fight against terrorism.

France’s President Francois Hollande “strongly” condemned the killing.

Before the attack happened, a meeting of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers had been planned in Moscow for December 20.

According to Russian TV, Ambassador Andrei Karlov had been attending a photo exhibition called “Russia as seen by Turks”.

Video of the event shows him making a speech when gunshots ring out. Eight bullets are said to have been fired.

The camera pulls back to show a smartly dressed gunman, wearing a suit and tie, waving a pistol and shouting in Arabic and Turkish.

The gunman can be heard yelling “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria” and uses the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

Turkish officials later identified him as a member of the Ankara riot police, aged 22.

Andrei Karlov, 62, was a veteran diplomat who had served as Soviet ambassador to North Korea for much of the 1980s.

After the fall of the USSR in 1991, Andrei Karlov had a posting as Russian ambassador to South Korea before returning to North Korea for five years in 2001.

Taking up the Ankara posting in July 2013, Andrei Karlov had to grapple with a major diplomatic crisis last year when a Turkish plane shot down a Russian jet close to the Syrian border.

Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov has been shot and seriously wounded while visiting a photo gallery in Ankara.

Several other people were reportedly also injured in the attack, a day after protests in Turkey over Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

Andrei Karlov was taken to hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Image source Getty Images

Image source Getty Images

According to Russian TV, Ambassador Andrei Karlov had been attending an exhibition called “Russia as seen by Turks”.

According to Turkish media, Andrei Karlov was making a speech when he was shot in the back by a gunman.

A video from the event shows the ambassador speaking when gunshots ring out.

The camera pulls back to show a smartly dressed gunman, wearing a suit and tie, waving a pistol and shouting.

The gunman repeats the Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and also shouts “Don’t forget about Aleppo”.

It is too early to know the motives of the attacker, who has not yet been named.

Some reports say the gunman entered the art gallery using a police ID card.

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Moscow’s NKVD restaurant drew social media protests and the letters on the big sign with its name outside have been removed.

The name of the restaurant is a chilling echo of the Stalin-era communist terror. The NKVD was the forerunner of the Soviet KGB secret police. In the 1930s and 1940s the NKVD arrested millions of people and many were executed.

The restaurant also sports a big portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Stalin’s image also featured on the restaurant’s menus.

Image source Twitter

Image source Twitter

NKVD restaurant is not far from the Kremlin and the old secret police headquarters, on Ostozhenka Street.

The controversy over the “NKVD” name featured in Russian Vesti TV news – one of the main broadcasts on the state-controlled Rossiya 24 channel.

However, some Russians voiced alarm at what appeared to be more whitewashing of history and an insult to Stalin’s many victims.

Public displays of Stalin portraits were taboo in the last decades of the Soviet Union – but they have reappeared during President Vladimir Putin era.

Vladimir Putin has emphasized the sacrifices made by the USSR in World War Two. But he has also acknowledged that Joseph Stalin’s security apparatus committed terrible crimes.

Leonid Gozman, of the Russian civil society organization, Perspektiva Foundation, said “it’s a rehabilitation of our country’s most tragic episodes.

“I can’t imagine a <<Gestapo>> restaurant in Munich or Berlin… A lot of our people consider the NKVD to have been a criminal organization. Many people’s relatives suffered or died [in that period].”

Pro-Moscow candidate Igor Dodon has won the second round of Moldova’s presidential election.

With almost all the ballots counted, Igor Dodon, who wants to restore close ties with Russia, had 52.37% of the vote, while pro-European candidate Maia Sandu, polled 47.63%.

The national vote marks the first direct presidential election in Moldova since 1996.

Since 1996, Moldova’s president has been chosen by parliament.

Image source Publika.md

Image source Publika.md

The election was seen as a battle between those supporting closer ties with Russia and those wanting integration with the EU.

Speaking shortly after the closure of polling stations on November 13, Igor Dodon called on Maia Sandu to preserve public order and abstain from protests.

Igor Dodon, 41, was a deputy prime minister in the Party of Communists government before 2009. He blames widespread corruption in Moldova on the pro-EU parties that have ruled the country since then.

Both candidates criticized the vote as badly organized, highlighting the shortage of ballot papers for overseas voters.

The final voter turnout was 53.3%.

Moldova, a former Soviet republic with has close historical ties with Moscow, declared independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country also has a breakaway region supported by Russia, Trans-Dniester.

Moldova has moved to forge closer ties with the EU in recent years, a course championed by Maia Sandu.

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Vladimir Putin has decided to cancel a planned visit to France amid a row over Syria.

The Russian president had been due to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande and open a new Orthodox church on October 19.

However, after the French government said talks would be confined to Syria the visit was halted, presidential sources said.

On October 10, Francois Hollande suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.

The French presidency had told the Russians President Hollande would attend only one event with Vladimir Putin during the visit planned for October 19 – a working meeting on Syria, according to the sources.

But after this Russia “let it be known that it wanted to postpone the visit”, they added.Vladimir Putin Panama Papers

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin confirmed the trip had been canceled, adding that the visit would take place when it becomes “comfortable for President Hollande”.

Despite this Francois Hollande has said he will meet Vladimir Putin at “any time” if it would “further peace”.

The development comes a day after President Hollande told French TV that prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes. Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” the French president said.

Neither Russia nor Syria is a member of the ICC.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, and says it targets terrorist groups in Syria.

The besieged east of Aleppo has come under intense aerial bombardment since a cessation of hostilities brokered by the US and Moscow collapsed last month.

The area was hit again on October 11 in some of the heaviest air strikes in days, a monitoring group and activists said.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 8 civilians were killed in strikes on the Bustan al-Qasr and Fardos districts.

Diplomatic efforts to revive the ceasefire have so far come to nothing.

The UN has warned that eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people still live, could face “total destruction” in two months.

Last week Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for an end to the bombing in Aleppo.

The US-led coalition has admitted its airstrikes in eastern Syria killed at least 62 Syrian troops fighting ISIS.

Russia and Syria said the strikes prove the United States and its allies are sympathetic to ISIS.

According to the Russian military, 62 Syrian soldiers were killed near Deir Ezzor Airport. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 83 and said at least 120 soldiers were wounded.

The strike occurred September 17 in an eastern part of Syria that is not a part of a delicate and nearly week-old ceasefire. The US military said it was targeting ISIS militants and if it hit Syrian troops, it was an accident.

Hours after US-led coalition airstrikes, the US and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations chastised each other outside an emergency Security Council meeting.

The US said its planes had halted the attack in Deir al-Zour when informed of the Syrian presence.

Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of Germany acting as a mediator to try to end Syria's 30-month-long civil war

A spokesman for the US administration expressed “regret” for the “unintentional loss of life”.

The attack caused a bitter row between the US and Russia at the United Nations Security Council.

US envoy Samantha Power accused Russia of “pulling a stunt” by calling an emergency meeting of the council.

Samantha Power’s opposite number, Vitaliy Churkin, said he had never seen “such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness” as shown by Power.

The Russians earlier said the current ceasefire in Syria was in danger of collapse and the US would be to blame.

The cessation of hostilities does not include attacks by the US on ISIS or other jihadist groups.

The US Central Command statement said the coalition believed it was attacking positions of so-called Islamic State and the raids were “halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military”.

It said the “Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike”.

It added: “Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit. The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned.”

Russia’s defense ministry earlier said that if the US air strikes did turn out to be an error, it would be because of Washington’s refusal to co-ordinate military action with Moscow.

Only if the current ceasefire – which began on September 12 – holds for seven days, will the US and Russia begin co-ordinated action against the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, which was previously known as the al-Nusra Front, and ISIS.

The Russian defense ministry quoted a statement by Syrian army general command as saying that the four coalition air strikes on Syrian troops had allowed ISIS to advance.

The Russian foreign ministry said the attack had jeopardized the US-Russia agreement on Syria.

The Syrian statement said that the air strikes were “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies supported the jihadist group.

There have been no confirmed cases of US air strikes targeting Syrian troops.

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According to the Pentagon, a Russian SU-27 fighter jet flew within about 10ft of one of its reconnaissance aircraft operating over the Black Sea.

The US described the intercept by the Russian plane on September 7 as “dangerous and unprofessional”.

According to Russian defense ministry, said the US Navy P-8A Poseidon had been approaching Russian territory and the SU-27 pilots had adhered to international rules.

Russia is currently carrying out military exercises in the Black Sea.

Image source YouTube

Image source YouTube

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the US Navy aircraft had been conducting routine operations in international airspace when the Russian fighter made the unsafe maneuver.

“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions, and could result in a miscalculation or accident,” he said.

A US defense official quoted by AFP news agency said the Russian plane had flown within 30ft of the P-8A before closing to just 10ft.

The Russian defense ministry said fighters intercepted the P-8A because it was heading towards Russian territory with its transponder signal – which helps others identify it – switched off.

Its statement said: “After the Russian fighters got close to the spy planes for visual confirmation and to determine their wing numbers, the American aircraft changed course sharply and flew away.

“The Russia pilots acted in strict accordance with international rules for flights.”

Relations between Russia and the West have been strained since the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

In April 2016, the US complained that Russian jets had confronted one of its reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner”.

In that incident, Russia also said that the US Navy plane had turned off its transponder signal.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and rival Hillary Clinton took pointed questions from military veterans.

Donald Trump told the forum Vladimir Putin “has been a leader far more than our president [Barack Obama] has been”.

It came on the same day the chief of the Pentagon accused Russia of sowing the seeds of global instability.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, defended her judgment despite her email scandal.

The White House candidates appeared back to back on stage in half-hour segments at the Intrepid Air and Sea Museum in New York on September 7.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Quizzed by NBC host Matt Lauer on his previous complimentary remarks about Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump responded: “He does have an 82% approval rating.”

“I think when he calls me brilliant I’ll take the compliment, ok?” added the Republican.

Donald Trump said Vladimir Putin had “great control over his country”.

He also predicted that if elected in November: “I think that I’ll be able to get along with him.”

Donald Trump recently drew sharp criticism when he urged Russia to dig up the emails that Hillary Clinton deleted from her email server.

It is not the first time Donald Trump has made admiring comments about the Russian leader.

Last December he said it was “a great honor” when Vladimir Putin called him “a talented person”.

Donald Trump’s latest remarks came hours after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia “has clear ambition to erode the principled international order”.

In a speech at Oxford University, Ash Carter also appeared to allude to suspected Russian involvement in hacking of Democratic National Committee computers in the US.

On September 6, Donald Trump also courted controversy over s** abuse in the military.

He stood by a comment he made three years ago when he appeared to blame such assaults on the decision to allow women in the forces.

Hillary Clinton, who appeared first on stage by virtue of a coin toss, found herself once again on the defensive over her private email server.

A US naval flight officer told Hillary Clinton he would have been jailed if he had handled classified information as she had done.

Hillary Clinton replied: “I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will.”

She vowed to defeat ISIS, though she emphasized: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again.”

Hillary Clinton also said her 2002 Senate vote in favor of the Iraq War was “a mistake”.

But she said it meant she was in “the best possible position” to ensure it never happened again.

Hillary Clinton also pointed out that Donald Trump had once supported the invasion.

However, in his comments Donald Trump said: “I was totally against the war in Iraq.”

Matt Lauer came in for intense criticism after the debate for not pressing Donald Trump on the statement.

Unusually for a US presidential candidate, Donald Trump made unflattering remarks about America’s military leaders.

He said the generals had been “reduced to rubble” during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s forum offered a preview of the questions they will face in their three forthcoming presidential debates.

The first debate will be at Hofstra University near New York on September 26.

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Oil price has climbed by about 3% after Russia and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to look for ways to stabilize the oil market.

The announcement was made by energy ministers Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih.

The price of Brent crude oil rose by $1.28 on the news to $48.11 a barrel.

A statement said the plan was to support the “stability of the oil market… ensuring a stable level of investment in the long term.”

The start of 2016 saw the price of oil fell to its lowest level in nearly 13 years due to a production glut and is still far below the $110 a barrel price recorded just two years ago.Oil prices fall below 28

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said the agreement, which might include attempts to limit oil output, was a “historical moment” between members of OPEC, which is the traditional oil producers’ cartel, and non-members, of which Russia is one.

He said that Russia was willing to join an oil output “freeze”.

His Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih told Al Arabiya TV: “Freezing [production levels] is one of the preferred possibilities but it’s not necessary today.

“The market is getting better and we have noticed that prices reflect this [improvement].”

Strategies to keep prices high by limiting production are usually the preserve of OPEC and are often not successful.

However, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two largest oil producers.

Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih will meet again later this month and again in October and November.

The outline agreement, to set up a joint task force, was publicized at a news conference at the G20 summit taking place in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The agreement to talk about a deal, despite the lack of detail, was welcomed by two other oil producers.

Kuwait’s acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh: “This dialogue confirms that the main oil producers are watching the oil market… to help achieve stability.”

UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui tweeted: “UAE, as an active and responsible member of OPEC will always support any joint efforts which will benefit market stability.”

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Russia has announced the delivery of new air defense missiles to Crimea, in a move scheduled before the latest tension with Ukraine.

The S-400 Triumph missile systems were earmarked for troops in Crimea last month, Russian media said at the time.

In a statement on August 12, the Russian military said that once the systems were set up, they would be used in exercises.

Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, said this week it had foiled a Ukraine sabotage mission.

The Kremlin accused Kiev of trying to send saboteurs into Crimea and reported the deaths of a soldier and a secret police officer in an operation to foil the alleged plot.

Denying the accusations, Ukraine placed its troops on alert along its de facto border with Crimea, and along its front line with Russian-backed rebels holding parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east.Crimea annexation 2014

A statement by Russia’s Southern Military District, which incorporates Crimea, said the missiles had been received by an air defense regiment in Crimea.

According to the statement, quoted by Russian news agencies, the missiles were successfully tested on the Kapustin Yar test range in southern Russia.

Russia’s Interfax news agency says t

The missiles are designed to hit airborne targets at a range of up to 249 miles and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 38 miles, flying at speeds of up to 3 miles per second.

The missiles are being installed in Crimea to protect Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria among other things, it adds.

In November 2015, Russia deployed S-400s at Hmeimim, after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 bomber.

Ukraine’s envoy to the UN asked Russia on August 11 to prove its allegations, and said some 40,000 Russian troops were massed on the Crimea-Ukraine border.

His Russian counterpart told the UN Security Council of Moscow’s “concern and outrage” at the alleged incursions.

Russian state TV broadcast an apparent confession by a man named as Yevhen Panov, saying he was part of a Ukrainian defense ministry force sent into Crimea “to carry out acts of sabotage”.

Yevhen Panov said the group also included officers of Ukraine’s military intelligence.

Reports in Ukraine say Yevhen Panov is a former volunteer fighter who has more recently been associated with a charitable organization called Heroes of Ukraine.

Crimea was annexed by Russia after a majority of its mostly ethnic Russian population voted to secede in an unrecognized referendum on self-determination.

The annexation of Crimea was relatively bloodless, in sharp contrast to the ferocious fighting which followed in Donetsk and Luhansk.

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President Vladimir Putin has unexpectedly dismissed his chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin has announced.

Sergei Ivanov, 63, has been part of the Russian president’s trusted inner circle for many years.

He has now been made a special representative for environmental and transport issues.

A statement from the Kremlin said that President Putin had “decreed to relieve Ivanov of his duties as head of the Russian presidential administration”, but gave no reason.

Photo Russian Government

Photo Russian Government

Sergei Ivanov’s deputy since 2012, Anton Vaino, has been appointed as his successor.

Anton Vaino, 44, is a former diplomat. Born in the Estonian capital Tallinn in 1972, he graduated from the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and served in the Tokyo embassy. Later he managed presidential protocol and government staff, the Kremlin website says.

On being appointed, Anton Vaino told Vladimir Putin: “Thank you for your trust. I think the administration’s most important task is to support your activity as head of state in terms of drafting laws and control over how your instructions are implemented.”

President Putin told a Russian TV station on August 12 that Sergei Ivanov had asked to leave the post, and recommended that Anton Vaino should replace him.

In remarks to Vladimir Putin, quoted on the Kremlin website, Sergei Ivanov said: “It’s true that in early 2012 I asked you, in a conversation, to entrust me with this very complicated post, even – you could say – troublesome post, for four years.

“Well, it turns out that I’ve been presidential chief of staff for four years and eight months.”

Sergei Ivanov took up the post in December 2011. He served previously as a deputy prime minister and defense minister.

He is a member of the Russian Security Council and a former member of the KGB state security service, like Vladimir Putin.

In the late 1990s, when Vladimir Putin was head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which replaced the KGB, Sergei Ivanov was appointed as his deputy. When Vladimir Putin came to power, he named Sergei Ivanov as one of the five people he trusted most.

It was once thought that Sergei Ivanov might become president of Russia after Vladimir Putin’s second term, as a third term for Putin would have been unconstitutional.

However, that post was taken by another close Putin ally, Dmitry Medvedev.

Vladimir Putin became prime minister, before returning to the presidency just three-and-a-half years later.

A Russian military helicopter has been shot down by rebels in Idlib, northern Syria, killing five people on board, Russia has said.

The Mi-8 chopper was carrying three crew and two officers, Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The aircraft was returning from delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Aleppo, the statement added.

It is not clear which group brought the helicopter down.

An alliance of rebel groups, including hardline jihadist factions, is the dominant power in Idlib.

Russia has previously, though seldom, lost aircraft since it launched operations in support of the Syrian government at the end of September 2015.

Photo Flickr

Photo Flickr

In July 2016, two Russian pilots were killed when their helicopter was shot down east of Palmyra by ISIS.

In November 2015, the pilot of a Russian Su-24 fighter plane was killed when the aircraft was shot down by Turkey on its border with Syria.

A Russian marine sent on a mission to rescue the pilot was also killed when his helicopter was shot down.

Pictures on social media purportedly of the latest Russian helicopter downing showed burning wreckage and bodies, with armed men milling around.

Footage showed at least one body being dragged away.

Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is supporting pro-government forces with air strikes on rebels.

Government forces cut off rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo last month.

Russia and Syria announced the opening of what they called humanitarian corridors for civilians and rebels wanting to surrender, but few people are reported to have used them, fearing they would be targeted.

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Two US diplomats have been expelled from Moscow, after the White House said it had ordered two Russian embassy staff to leave Washington.

On July 8, the US State Department said their move came after a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

That US diplomat has now been expelled from Moscow, along with one other embassy worker.

The Kremlin accused the men of being CIA agents.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said both US embassy staff were expelled for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status”.

State department spokesman John Kirby said the two Russian officials, who have not been named, were told to leave on June 17.

John Kirby said that earlier that month, a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

“The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee,” he said.

“The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue.”

Russia said earlier this week that the US official was a CIA agent who had refused to provide his identification papers and hit the policeman in the face.

In June, US officials said harassment against US diplomats by Russian security and intelligence services was on the rise.

According to the Washington Post, that included breaking into the homes of embassy staff, rearranging furniture and even killing a family pet.

Russia has denied the allegation that security staff mistreated the US diplomat. It said the diplomat worked for the CIA and had refused to show ID papers.

Russian media have also released a footage showing what they say was the scuffle between the US diplomat and the Russian policeman.

In response to seeing its two diplomats ordered to leave Washington, the Kremlin announced its move on July 9.

“After their unfriendly step two employees of the United States embassy had to leave Moscow,” Sergei Ryabkov said.

“They were declared persona non grata for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.”

No official response has been made by Russia to the allegations of harassment of US diplomats. A statement to the Washington Post said there had been US provocation against Russian diplomats.

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Relatives of victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are suing Russia and its President Vladimir Putin in the European Court of Human Rights.

Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board.

The West and Ukraine say Russian-backed rebels were responsible while Russia accuses Ukrainian forces.

The claim is based on the violation of a passenger’s right to life, News.com.au reported.

Photo PA

Photo PA

It is for 10 million Australian dollars ($7.2 million) for each victim, and the lawsuit names both the Russian state and Vladimir Putin as respondents.

Jerry Skinner, a US-based aviation lawyer leading the case, told News.com.au it was difficult for the families to live with, knowing it was “a crime”.

He said: “The Russians don’t have any facts for blaming Ukraine, We have facts, photographs, memorandums, tons of stuff.”

They were waiting to hear from the ECHR whether the case had been accepted, Jerry Skinner said.

The Kremlin said it was unaware of the claim, the Interfax news agency reported, but a senator with Vladimir Putin’s party is quoted in state media as saying it was “legally nonsensical and has no chance”.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there are 33 next-of-kin named in the application – eight from Australia, one from New Zealand with the rest from Malaysia.

Sydney-based law firm LHD Lawyers is filing the case on behalf of the victims’ families.

Flight MH17 crashed at the height of the conflict between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

According to a Dutch report released in 2015, the plane was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile, but did not say who fired it.

Most of the victims were Dutch and a separate criminal investigation is still under way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has surprisingly ordered his troops to start withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria from March 15.

Vladimir Putin said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its objectives.

The comments come amid fresh peace talks in Geneva aimed at resolving the five-year Syrian conflict.

Russia is a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad and his office said in a statement he had agreed to the move.

The pullout was “in accordance with the situation on the ground”, the statement said.

Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria in September 15, tipping the balance in favor of the Syrian government and allowing it to recapture territory from rebels.Vladimir Putin orders Russian troops withdrawal from Syria

“I consider the mission set for the defense ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished,” Vladimir Putin said in a meeting at the Kremlin.

“I am therefore ordering the defense ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow.”

Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Latakia province and its Mediterranean naval base at Tartus would continue to operate as normal. He said both must be protected “from land, air and sea”.

Syria’s opposition cautiously welcomed the Russian announcement.

“If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the [peace] talks a positive push,” said Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee.

The US also gave a guarded response.

“We will have to see exactly what Russia’s intentions are,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Separately, US officials quoted by Reuters said Washington had received no advance warning of Vladimir Putin’s statement.

Speaking in October 2015, Vladimir Putin said Russia aimed to “stabilize the legitimate authority” of President Bashar al-Assad by intervening and “create conditions for a political compromise”.

Russia has long insisted its bombing campaign only targets terrorist groups but Western powers have complained the raids hit political opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

A Syrian truce has come into effect after five years of civil war.

The “cessation of hostilities” began at midnight on February 27 with early reports saying front lines were silent.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said fighting had “calmed down” but one breach was being investigated.

In the run-up to the deadline, President Barack Obama warned the Syrian government and its ally Russia “the world will be watching”.

The truce involves government and rebel forces, but not ISIS or the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed in Syria’s civil war and millions more have been forced from their homes.

A few hours after the deadline passed, a car bomb killed two people outside the government-held town of Salamiyeh, near Hama, Syrian state media reported. It is not clear who carried out the attack.

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said while some gunfire was heard in the northern city of Aleppo as the deadline passed, elsewhere it was quiet.Syria truce 2016

Staffan de Mistura has said that peace talks will resume on 7 March if the truce “largely holds”, adding that he had no doubt there would be “no shortage of attempts to undermine this process”.

Russia said it would continue to bomb militant targets. Russian jets were reported to have intensified attacks on Syrian rebel positions on February 26.

In the run-up to the truce, heavy attacks around Damascus and Aleppo were blamed on Russian airstrikes, but denied by Moscow.

The cessation was brokered by the US and Russia, and is backed by a UN resolution. Previous talks in Geneva collapsed in early February after making no progress.

One of the key aims of the cessation is to allow desperately needed aid to reach people trapped in besieged areas.

The UN resolution names about 30 areas in dire need of aid, including eastern and western rural Aleppo and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which is under siege by ISIS jihadists.

Almost 100 rebel factions have agreed to respect the truce, Syrian opposition umbrella group the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said.

However, the HNC warned the Syrian government and its allies not to use the “proposed text to continue the hostile operations against the opposition factions under the excuse of fighting terrorism”.

President Vladimir Putin says the Russian forces are targeting ISIS, Nusra Front and other extremist groups designated as legitimate targets by the UN Security Council.

However, Russia is widely accused of also attacking more moderate rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of the Kremlin.

Russia and the US have agreed on a Syrian ceasefire scheduled to come into effect at midnight on February 27, a draft of the plan reveals.

The timing follows US-Russian talks at the weekend.

On February 12, Russia and the US had agreed a truce to come into effect within a week, but that deadline passed and skepticism remains over the new plan.

Violence has continued unabated in Syria, with 140 killed in bombings in Homs and Damascus on February 21.

More than 250,000 Syrians have died in the conflict which began in March 2011.Syria ceasefire 2016

Some 11 million others have been forced from their homes, of whom 4 million have fled abroad – including growing numbers who are making the dangerous journey to Europe.

Reuters quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying the ceasefire would not include ISIS or the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

US officials said the plan required government forces and the other armed opposition groups to signal their agreement to the truce by February 26.

An official announcement is expected after President Barack Obama speaks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by phone on February 22.

The deal also sets up a communications hotline and calls for a working group to monitor ceasefire violations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on February 21 he and Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, had reached a provisional agreement on the terms for the truce. The two powers back opposing sides in the war, with Russia being President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest ally.

On February 20, President Bashar al-Assad had said he would be ready for a ceasefire, if what he termed “terrorists” did not take advantage of the lull in the fighting.

Government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have been making advances against rebels around the northern city of Aleppo.

Analysts say there will be huge skepticism about the possibility of an effective ceasefire, given the current fighting and failure of the first deadline.

Even if the partial truce holds, Russia is likely to continue its air strikes, which the US coalition says are mainly targeting anti-Assad forces and are hitting civilians.

It is also unclear whether Kurdish forces, which have been making ground in the north, sparking artillery fire from Turkey, will abide by any truce.

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Russian soccer player Dmitri Tarasov taunted Turkish fans by pulling off his shirt to reveal a picture of President Vladimir Putin after a match in Istanbul.

Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Dmitri Tarasov’s vest showed Vladimir Putin in a navy cap along with the words “the most polite president”.

The politically-charged Europa League match was the biggest sporting encounter between the nations since Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November.

Turkish side Fenerbahce won 2-0.

Lokomotiv Moscow is now likely to face punishment because European soccer’s governing body UEFA does not allow political statements during matches.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Dmitri Tarasov later defended his behavior.

“It’s my president. I respect him and decided to show that I’m always with him and prepared to give my support,” he told Russian news agency R-Sport.

“What was written on that shirt was everything that I wanted to say,” he added.

Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak described the gesture as “a Putin provocation”.

Relations have been tense since Turkey downed a Russian fighter that it said was in its airspace.

The incident sparked a continuing war of words between Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the conflict in Syria.

Before the match in Istanbul, bottles were thrown at the Lokomotiv team bus as it made its way to the stadium. Turkish police said they made three arrests.

However, UEFA rejected calls to separate Russian and Turkish clubs in European competitions and will also not separate the two nations in the draw for this summer’s European Championship.

Russia has firmly rejected accusations of war crimes over the bombing of hospitals in Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “those who make such statements are not capable of backing them up with proof”.

Up to 50 people were killed in missile attacks on at least four hospitals and two schools in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on February 15.

The UN said the “deliberate” targeting of such facilities “could amount to war crimes”, according to Reuters.

Russia has been accused, by Turkey among others, of being responsible for the attacks.

Meanwhile, a Turkish official on February 16 said Turkey would back a ground operation in Syria but only “with our international allies”.

Yesterday’s strikes hit two hospitals and two schools in Azaz, near the border with Turkey, and at least two hospitals in Maarat al-Numan, further south.

One of the hospitals in Maarat al-Numan was run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which called the attack a “deliberate” strike.

Mego Terzian, president of MSF France, told Reuters “either the [Syrian] government or Russia” was responsible.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

The Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riad Haddad, previously said the US was to blame, a claim the Pentagon dismissed as “patently false”.

The strikes came days after world powers – including Russia – agreed to work towards a selective truce in Syria, due to begin later this week.

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on February 16, and was planning to meet him again later in the day.

They were due to discuss among other things one of the key priorities of the truce – “unhindered humanitarian access to all besieged areas”. There is no word yet on when aid convoys might reach those areas.

Earlier, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cast doubt over the “cessation of hostilities” plan, saying it did not mean all the parties would put down their weapons.

“So far they say they want a ceasefire within a week,” Bashar al-Assad said in his first comments of February 12 agreement.

“Who is capable of gathering all these conditions and requirements within a week?”

Syrian government forces – backed by Russian air power – are reportedly continuing to make advances around the northern city of Aleppo, capturing the villages of Ahras and Misqan on February 16.

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Turkey is accusing Russia of again violating its airspace and warned it would “face consequences” if such infringements continue.

The Turkish foreign ministry said a Russian jet flew into its airspace on the border with Syria on January 29. Moscow described the claim as “baseless propaganda”.

Tensions between Turkey and Russia have been high since November, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria since September.

It has been targeting forces fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its ally.Russia violates Turkey airspace

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said a Russian SU-34 jet crossed into Turkish airspace at 11:46 local time on January 29, ignoring several warnings made in Russian and English.

It said the ministry had summoned the Russian ambassador in Ankara to “strongly protest at and condemn” the incident.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on January 30 that Russia would “have to face consequences if it keeps up such violations”.

“Such irresponsible steps do not benefit either the Russian Federation, or Russia-NATO relations, or regional and global peace,” he told reporters.

Recep Tyyip Erdogan said he had asked repeatedly for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, without success.

On January 30, NATO – of which Turkey is a member – urged Russia “to act responsibility and to fully respect NATO airspace” and “take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again”.

Relations between Russia and Turkey, a vocal opponent of Bashar al-Assad, plummeted after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24 on November 24.

Turkey said the plane intruded into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings to leave.

Russia insisted the jet had never crossed over from Syrian territory and did not receive any warnings.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin embarked on a war of words and Russia introduced a raft of sanctions designed to damage Turkey’s economy.

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Vladimir Putin has used crude language at the 11th annual news conference to launch a furious new attack on Turkey over the downing of a Russian combat jet last month.

The incident on the Syria-Turkey border was a “hostile act” but Russia was “not the country” to run away, the Russian president said.

“The Turks had decided to lick the Americans in a certain place,” he said.

There was, he said, a “creeping Islamization of Turkey that would have Ataturk rolling in his grave”.

The remark appeared to be aimed at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AKP party, with its Islamist roots, has been accused of seeking to dismantle the secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk.

Vladimir Putin is now into his third term as president since 2000, battling an economic crisis. Critics say civil liberties have been steadily eroded under his rule.

He remains one of the world’s most recognizable politicians, and has topped the list of The World’s Most Powerful People compiled by Forbes magazine for the third year running.

Russia deployed its air force to Syria in September in support of President Bashar al-Assad and has been carrying out air strikes on his opponents.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Its intervention has been heavily criticized by Turkey, the US and Gulf Arab states.

Vladimir Putin said he saw “no prospect” of ties improving with Turkey, which Russia has put under sanctions, under its current leaders.

He said Turkish officials should have picked up the phone to talk to Russia about their concerns that air strikes in Syria were hitting Turkmen rebels.

Turkey, Vladimir Putin said, had achieved nothing by shooting down the jet while Russia had bolstered its presence in Syria by deploying anti-aircraft missiles.

On America, he said Russia wanted to develop relations “irrespective” of who would become its next president.

Vladimir Putin said his country’s economic crisis had peaked.

While oil prices had fallen sharply, he said, manufacturing had shown slight growth and there was a healthy trade balance in agriculture.

“Our economy depends on oil and gas prices, we expected Brent to be worth $100 dollars per barrel, but then it was 50, but this was an optimistic prediction too, our forecasts have to be amended again,” he said.

“GDP is falling, inflation is 12.3%, incomes, investment are falling too but the peak of the economic crisis is over.”

Vladimir Putin is known for his marathon performances at his news conferences, where he frequently uses hard-hitting, colorful language.

In an interview with state TV on December 16, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was a target in a “big information war [which] has been waged for a long time”.

In 2014, Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes, while the record was set in 2008 at 4 hours 40 minutes.

On other issues raised at the news conference, President Vladimir Putin:

  • Praised Sepp Blatter and suggested the suspended head of FIFA should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Said Russia was against doping as it “destroyed the principle of competitive sport”, and anyone found guilty should be punished
  • Denied Russian regular troops were deployed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine but said there could be “people there who were carrying out certain tasks including in the military sphere”
  • Praised his daughters, saying they lived in Russia and were “not involved in politics or business”
  • Predicted economic growth in Russia the new year of 0.7%, rising to 1.9% in 2017 and 2.4% in 2018, based on oil at $50 a barrel

A fire at a mental health clinic in the Voronezh region, western Russia, has killed at least 21 people, the emergency ministry says.

Another two people are still reportedly missing after the blaze.

More than 20 people are being treated in hospital, and there are fears the death toll will rise further.Voronezh mental health clinic fire

The building was completely destroyed by the fire that began late on December 12, reports say. The cause of the blaze is being investigated.

A number of fires at state institutions across Russia in recent years have resulted in heavy losses of life.

In September 2013, 37 people died in a fire that swept through a psychiatric hospital in the north-western Novgorod region.

Several months earlier, a blaze at another psychiatric hospital near Moscow killed 38 people.

In 2009, 23 people died at an old people’s home in the north-west Komi region, while in 2007, 63 were killed at a home in Krasnodar, southern Russia.

In 2006, a fire at a Moscow drug rehabilitation clinic killed 45 women.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed Russian claims he is benefiting from the oil trade with ISIS as “slander”.

Russia claims that Turkey is the biggest buyer of oil smuggled from ISIS-held territory, accusing Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of direct involvement.

However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would resign if such allegations were proved.

Russia and Turkey are locked in an angry spat over the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish forces.

Responding to the allegations, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “no one has a right to engage in slander against Turkey by saying that Turkey is buying oil from Daesh [ISIS]”.

Earlier, Russia’s defense ministry displayed satellite images it said showed columns of trucks loaded with oil crossing from ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria into Turkey.Recep Tayyip Erdogan ISIS oil

“According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told the briefing in Moscow.

Russia said it was producing only “part of the evidence” for now and did not provide direct proof of their claim that Recep Tayyip Erdogan and family were involved.

The US has also rejected the allegations.

“We just don’t believe that to be true in any way, shape or form,” a State Department spokesman said.

President Vladimir Putin has already accused Ankara of downing the plane on its Syrian border to protect oil supply lines.

Turkey said the Russian SU-24 fighter plane intruded into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings to leave.

Russia and Turkey have important economic ties, and in the wake of the incident Moscow imposed visa requirements for Turkish visitors, and placed restrictions on trade with Ankara.

On December 2, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Russia’s response “disproportional” and said Turkey would take their “own measures” if they continued, without specifying what they would be.

Despite the tensions Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he is prepared to meet Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at a security conference in Serbia this week.

It would be the first time the officials have met since the downing of the Russian fighter jet.

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President Barack Obama has urged Turkey and Russia to end their dispute, a week after Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane.

After talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris, Barack Obama reaffirmed US support for “Turkey’s right to defend itself and its airspace”.

However, the US president stressed that Russia and Turkey should “de-escalate” their dispute.

“We all have a common enemy,” Barack Obama said, referring to ISIS.Barack Obama on Russian warplane downing

“I want to make sure that we focus on that threat,” he said.

“Turkey is a NATO ally,” Barack Obama added.

“And we’re very much committed to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty. We discussed how Turkey and Russia can work together to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic path to resolve this issue.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke to reporters after December 1 meeting. He said his government wanted to reduce tensions and was “determined to keep up the fight” against ISIS.

Barack Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among 150 leaders attending climate change talks in Paris.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his criticism of Russian air strikes against Turkmen rebels in north-western Syria, complaining that the area is being “continuously bombed”.

Moscow says Turkey shot down its SU-24 warplane inside Syria on November 24.

Turkey says the fighter jet entered its airspace and was repeatedly warned to leave before it was downed.

Russia has insisted its warplane did not cross the border and that it gave advance notice of the flight path to the US.

One Russian pilot was killed and the other rescued. A Russian marine was killed during the rescue operation.

Russia is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes have targeted rebel groups, including ISIS.

Turkey strongly opposes Bashar al-Assad and has been accused of turning a blind eye to jihadist fighters crossing from its territory into Syria.

Moscow has announced a package of economic sanctions against Turkey over the Russian warplane downing on the Syrian border on November 24.

The decree signed by President Vladimir Putin covers imports from Turkey, the work of Turkish companies in Russia and any Turkish nationals working for Russian companies.

It also calls for an end to charter flights between Russia and Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to apologize to Russia.

On November 27, Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Moscow of “playing with fire” in its Syria operations. However, on November 28, the Turkish said he was “saddened” by the downing of the Russian fighter jet.Russia economic sanctions Turkey

Turkey and Russia have important economic links. Russia is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, while more than three million Russian tourists visited Turkey in 2014.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 28 that there were close to 90,000 Turkish nationals working in Russia. Taking family members into account, that figure rises to 200,000, he said.

The decree also urges Russian tour operators to refrain from selling packages to Turkey, while Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has warned its citizens against non-essential travel to Russia “until the situation becomes clear”.

On November 27, Russia suspended its visa-free arrangement with Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked for a meeting with Vladimir Putin, who wants an apology from Turkey before he will agree to talks.

Turkey says the Russian plane had intruded into its airspace and ignored warnings to leave.

Moscow maintains that its SU-24 fighter jet was downed by a missile fired from a Turkish jet inside Syria.

Vladimir Putin has also firmly rejected any suggestion Turkey did not recognize the plane as Russian. He said it was easily identifiable and its co-ordinates had been passed on to Turkey’s ally, the US.

Russia has sent troops and aircraft to Syria to back up the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.

Turkey, which is a member of NATO and of a US-led coalition in the region, insists Bashar al-Assad must step down before any political solution to the Syrian conflict is found.