Daily: 22/03/2018

US Dismisses Charges Against 11 Erdogan Bodyguards Involved in Washington Brawl  

U.S. prosecutors have quietly dropped charges against 11 of the 15 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail who were criminally indicted in an assault on protesters during a visit by Erdogan to Washington.

Criminal charges related to the incident against four of the bodyguards were dismissed last November while the indictment against the seven others was withdrawn February 14, the day before outgoing Secretary of State Rex TIllerson visited Turkey to meet with Erdogan in a bid to mend ties between the two NATO allies.

The timing has fueled speculation that the decision to dismiss the indictment was made as a goodwill gesture to Erdogan, who saw the charges against his security personnel as an affront and called the indictment “a complete scandal.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the department had no role in the decision.

“That was entirely coming out of the Department of Justice,” Nauert told reporters, dismissing reports that Tillerson had discussed the issue with Erdogan during their meeting in Ankara.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

Problem with evidence

A government official familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision to drop the charges was made for “evidentiary reasons.”

It came after the Turkish government raised questions about the identity of some of the 15 security guards named in the indictment, the official said.

“The [Turkish] government claimed that some of the people were not on the scene, and in some cases they were verified,” the official said. “We have to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, and a decision was made to dismiss the charges for evidentiary reasons.”

WATCH: Anti-Erdogan Protesters Say Bodyguards Attacked Them

Another person close to the case said that during the protest, at least three of the indicted security guards were outside Washington. One was at a mall outside the city, a second on a Turkish air force plane at a nearby airport and a third in Istanbul.

“It would be embarrassing if they charged people who were not there,” the person said, requesting anonymity.

March 2017 incident

The fight broke out after a small group of demonstrators gathered near the Turkish ambassador’s house shortly after Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House on May 16, 2017.

Video of the brawl recorded by a VOA journalist showed security guards in dark suits and combat boots pushing, shoving and kicking the protesters, some of whom were carrying Kurdish flags.

According to prosecutors, the attackers included members of the Turkish diplomatic delegation as well as Erdogan’s supporters, who had warned the police that there would be violence if the protest continued.

“You need to take them; if you don’t, I will,” Erdogan security guard Gokhan Yildirim allegedly told a police officer on the scene. 

WATCH: Turkey’s Erdogan Watched Violent Clash Near Embassy

​A grand jury later indicted 19 people, including 15 of Erdogan’s security guards, on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Most of the security personnel were indicted on additional charges.

Charges against four other security guards are pending. The government official would not say whether prosecutors will seek to dismiss those charges as well.

The security guards were not arrested.

Two Turkish-Americans involved in the melee pleaded guilty to felony assault charges in December and are scheduled to be sentenced April 5. They face one year in prison. Their lawyers did not respond to requests for comments.

Assault charges against two Canadian citizens of Turkish ancestry, who were accused of attacking the protesters, are still pending. They’ve not been arrested, and it remains unclear whether they’ll be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.

VOA’S State Department correspondent Nike Ching and researcher Lynn Davis contributed to this report.

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Генштаб: резерв ЗСУ складає близько 150 тисяч військовослужбовців

Резерв Збройних сил України складає близько 150 тисяч військовослужбовців, заявив начальник головного управління персоналу – заступник начальника Генерального штабу Збройних Сил України генерал-лейтенант Артур Артеменко.

За його словами, оперативний резерв першої черги складає близько 120 тисяч людей, а другої – близько 30 тисяч.

Він зазначив, що у 2018 році вже вдалося підготувати близько трьох тисяч резервістів оперативного резерву першої черги, і близько 400 – другої.

22 березня Артеменко також повідомив, що понад 170 тисяч військових служать за контрактом у Збройних силах України.

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Trump Takes Action on Chinese Imports

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a document Thursday setting the stage for an estimated $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports that could quickly lead to a trade war with Beijing.

The U.S. leader targeted China’s alleged years-long theft of U.S. intellectual property, imposing new restrictions on Chinese investment in the U.S. that mirror regulations that American companies face when they invest in China.

“We have a tremendous intellectual property theft going on,” Trump said.

He said the U.S. wants reciprocal trade and tariff deals with China and other countries.

“If they charge us, we charge them the same thing,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump, throughout his 14-month presidency, often has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping and cited his good relationship with him. But Trump also has often complained about the U.S.’s $375 billion annual trade deficit with China as reason enough to impose new restrictions. Trump said that with the increased tariffs he hopes to cut the trade deficit with China by $100 billion annually.

China will retaliate

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, China vowed that it would retaliate.

“China will not sit idly to see its legitimate rights damaged and must take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its legitimate rights,” the Commerce Ministry in Beijing said in a statement.

The prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies rattled stock markets in the U.S., with the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 key stocks falling more than 1.5 percent.

 The U.S. trade actions come partly in response to what U.S. officials say is the theft and improper transfer of American technology to Chinese companies.

The Chinese commerce ministry said ahead of the meeting that China opposes unilateral U.S. trade actions and hopes the two countries can find a mutually beneficial solution through dialogue.

U.S. officials spoke to reporters Wednesday about their months-long investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 of Beijing’s trade practices.

China has long been considered by many in the international community to have contravened fundamental principles of global trade, despite joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

There have been a “number of specific failings by China to live up to its WTO obligations,” a U.S. Trade Representative official said in a background briefing for reporters.

WATCH: What is a tariff?

 

Section 301 trade tool

The last time the Section 301 trade tool was wielded was two decades ago by the administration of President Bill Clinton against Japan to pry open that country’s automotive sector.

China has been “ripping off” the United States, Trump has emphasized numerous times in public remarks during which he has harshly criticized his predecessors for not doing anything about it.

Trump in January hit the Chinese-dominated solar panel and cell industry with tariffs. Earlier this month, he launched global tariffs on steel and aluminum (from which Canada and Mexico were quickly given indefinite exemptions), a move China’s commerce ministry said it “strongly opposed.”

Bracing for an anticipated harsh reaction from China against Trump’s announcement, one U.S. official said, “We recognize the potential gravity of the situation here.”

Depending on the severity of the measures taken by Trump, stock markets in Asia and elsewhere could be roiled, according to market analysts.

Trade groups representing American retail giants, such as Walmart, and tech companies, including Apple, warn that sweeping tariffs would raise prices for consumers in the United States and might not do much to reduce the trade deficit.

Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report

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У ЗСУ за контрактом служать понад 170 тисяч військових – Генштаб

Понад 170 тисяч військових служать за контрактом у Збройних силах України, повідомив начальник головного управління персоналу – заступник начальника Генерального штабу ЗСУ Артур Артеменко.

«У 2017 році прийнято на військову службу за контрактом понад 36,7 тисячі осіб, у тому числі понад 2,4 тисячі офіцерів. За два з половиною місяці поточного року прийнято понад 6,7 тисячі осіб, у тому числі 400 офіцерів. Загалом кількість військовослужбовців за контрактом у Збройних силах України становить понад 170 тисяч осіб, у тому числі близько 50 тисяч офіцерів», – сказав Артеменко.

У 2016 році контракт зі Збройними силами України уклали понад 69 тисяч військовослужбовців, повідомляв керівник Генштабу Віктор Муженко.

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У Раді розглядають подання щодо згоди на затримання і арешт Надії Савченко (трансляція)

Регламентний комітет Верховної Ради вранці четверга розпочав засідання із розгляду подання щодо згоди на притягнення до кримінальної відповідальності, затримання та арешт депутата Надії Савченко. Комітет попередньо вирішив зібратися перед початком засідання парламенту, у порядку денному якого на сьогодні «питання Савченко» стоїть для розгляду четвертим. 

Участь у засіданні комітету бере генпрокурор Юрій Луценко.

У разі згоди комітету ці подання має розглянути весь склад Верховної Ради. 

Генпрокуратура звернулася до парламенту з такими поданнями 15 березня. 

Генеральний прокурор Юрій Луценко 15 березня направив до парламенту подання про притягнення до кримінальної відповідальності, затримання та арешт народного депутата Савченко.

Згідно з оприлюдненими поданнями ГПУ, Надія Савченко не пізніше 20 листопада 2017 року вступила у змову з волонтером Володимиром Рубаном, ватажком бойовиків угруповання «ДНР» Олександром Захарченком та іншими особами для повалення конституційного ладу і захоплення державної влади в Україні. ГПУ підозрює Савченко в плануванні теракту в парламенті України. Сама Савченко пізніше заявила, що не планувала теракту, а лише «політичну провокацію».

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Прокремлівські байкери дісталися боснійського регіону Республіки Сербської

Майже два десятки членів прокремлівського байкерського руху «Нічні вовки» відвідали 21 березня Баня-Луку, адміністративний центр Республіки Сербської, регіону Боснії з переважно сербським населенням в рамках туру, який вони назвали «Російськими Балканами».

Через погані погодні умови замість того, щоб проїхатися на мотоциклах, група рушила на автомобілях у Баня-Луку, де планується будівництво нового російсько-сербського центру. Потім байкери відвідали церкву Христа Спасителя в центрі міста і запалили свічки. Їх зустріли кілька десятків громадян перед тим, як вони також поклали квіти до пам’ятника останньому російському імператору Миколі II.

Група не зустрілася з президентом Республіки Сербської Милорадом Додиком, як очікувалося, хоча Додик, як і члени «Нічних вовків», є прихильниками президента Росії Володимира Путіна.

27 березня «Нічні вовки» планують повернутися до Белграда.

Раніше стало відомо, що лідерам «Нічних вовків» заборонили в’їзд в Боснію і Герцеговину, Їхній лідер Олександр Залдостанов на пірзвисько «Хірург» участі в турі не бере.

Проти «Нічних вовків» і Залдостанова діють санкції Заходу за їхню підтримку проросійських бойовиків на сході України.

Дії учасників клубу, які регулярно намагаються здійснювати мотопробіги по Європі, сприймаються як провокаційні і політично мотивовані.

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Russian Liberals in Disarray Following Putin’s Re-election

Amid acrimonious public recriminations, Russia’s liberals have turned on each other following Russia’s presidential election, blaming not only ballot-rigging for Vladimir Putin’s landslide win, but each other. VOA’s Jamie Dettmer has more from Moscow.

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США: поліція ідентифікувала підозрюваного у вибухах в Остіні через залишене у телефоні «зізнання»

Підозрюваний в серії вибухів в американському Остіні чоловік є 23-річним Марком Кондіттом. Поліція 21 березня повідомила, що чоловік, який підірвався, коли до нього наблизилися правоохоронці, залишив у своєму мобільному телефоні «відеозізнання» у вибухах.

В поліції охарактеризували відео як «протест молодої людини з дуже серйозними проблемами», зазначивши, що у ролику не було ознак, які б вказували на тероризм. Повідомляється, що чоловік був безробітним.

Від 2 березня в Остіні вибухнули чотири пакунки, внаслідок чого загинули щонайменше дві людини, ще четверо були поранені. П’ята посилка вибухнула на складі фірми вантажоперевезень FedEx поблизу Сан-Антоніо в Техасі 20 березня. У пошуках підозрюваного брали участь сотні поліцейських і агентів ФБР.

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Analysts Outline Goals for All Sides in Proposed US-North Korea Summit

A proposed U.S.-North Korea summit is, for now, just that: a proposal. On this week’s edition of VOA’s “Plugged In With Greta Van Susteren,” analysts say that while the logistics and timing of talks are up in the air, so is the definition of real progress for all sides involved. VOA’s Robert Raffaele has more.

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У Конгресі США погодили на наступні півроку бюджет, яким збільшені видатки на допомогу Україні

Лідери республіканців і демократів у Конгресі США погодили проект бюджету до закінчення фінансового року – 30 вересня 2018 року, у якому збільшені видатки на допомогу Україні. Перед набранням чинності консолідований закон про бюджетні асигнування на 2018 рік має бути схвалений Сенатом і Палатою представників та підписаний президентом США.

«Загальний обсяг допомоги Україні визначено в обсязі 620 мільйонів 700 тисяч доларів, що перевищує відповідний минулорічний кошторис. Так, згідно із законопроектом Пентагону виділяється 200 мільйонів доларів для надання військово-технічної допомоги Україні, що на 50 мільйонів більше за асигнування 2017 року. Дані кошти спрямовуватимуться на фінансування конкретних проектів американської підтримки ЗСУ», – йдеться в повідомленні посольства України у США.

У посольстві додали, що кошторис допомоги Україні по лінії Держдепартаменту США та причетних агентств визначено у сумі 420 мільйонів 700 тисяч доларів, що також на 10 мільйонів перевищує відповідні видатки минулого року.

У грудні 2017 року президент Сполучених Штатів Дональд Трамп підписав оборонний бюджет США на 2018 рік з виділенням 350 мільйонів доларів на військову допомогу Україні.

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US Elections Face Continued Cyberthreats

U.S. officials conceded more work needs to be done to protect elections in America from continuing Russian cyberthreats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Capitol Hill, where current and former Homeland Security secretaries testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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Fed Signals at Least Three More Rate Hikes in 2018

U.S. Federal Reserve officials voted to raise the central bank’s benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percent this week, signaling perhaps three or more rate hikes this year as economic conditions improve. But as Mil Arcega reports, rising rates mean higher borrowing costs for consumers, many who have yet to see a significant increase in wages.

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It’s Spring, but Wintry Weather Strikes in US, Europe

Instead of spring flowers, winter has returned to parts of the United States and Europe. Storm Toby, the fourth nor’easter this month, spans from the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia to southern Maine, and reached into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. Heavy snow covered wide swaths of the US on Wednesday and is expected to continue through Thursday in some states. As VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports, the snow also returned to parts of Europe.

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Trump Expected to Turn Up the Heat on China in Looming Trade War

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected at any time to fire a salvo directly at China in what could escalate into a full-scale trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trade actions against China, partly in response to the theft and improper transfer of American technology to Chinese companies, are expected to be announced by Trump as soon as Thursday. His schedule includes a midday signing of a memorandum “targeting China’s economic aggression.”

On the anticipated eve of the measures, U.S. officials spoke to reporters about their monthslong investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 of Beijing’s trade practices.

China has long been considered by many in the international community to have contravened fundamental principles of global trade, despite joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.  

There have been a “number of specific failings by China to live up to its WTO obligations,” said an official of the U.S. Trade Representative in a Wednesday background briefing for reporters.  

The briefing and other comments not for attribution by officials are seen as clear signals the administration, in response to an Aug. 14 memo by Trump, intends to use the Section 301 trade tool.

The last time it was wielded was by the Clinton administration against Japan to pry open that country’s automotive sector.

‘Ripping off’

China has been “ripping off” the United States, Trump has emphasized numerous times in public remarks during which he has harshly criticized his predecessors for not doing anything about it.  

According to published reports, Trump is expected to impose tariffs, valued at tens of billions of dollars, on a number of Chinese products. Sources say that in addition to tariffs, restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States are likely as a response to Beijing using state funds and enterprises under the government’s control to purchase intellectual property here.

Trump in January hit the Chinese-dominated solar panel and cell industry with tariffs. Earlier this month, he launched global tariffs on steel and aluminum (from which Canada and Mexico were quickly given indefinite exemptions), a move China’s commerce ministry said it “strongly opposed.”   

U.S. Trade Representative officials on Wednesday declined to specify what new actions will be taken, but they did not disagree that an announcement is expected as soon as Thursday.

“We’re getting very close,” said a USTR official speaking to reporters on condition of not being named. “The president will have the final say.”

 

Bracing for an anticipated harsh reaction from China, the official noted, “We recognize the potential gravity of the situation here.”

Depending on the severity of the measures taken by Trump, stock markets in Asia and elsewhere could be roiled, according to market analysts.

Trade groups representing American retail giants, such as Walmart, and tech companies, including Apple, warn that sweeping tariffs would raise prices for consumers in the United States and might not do much to reduce the trade deficit.

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US Congress Races to Pass $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill

U.S. congressional leaders have reached a deal on a $1.3 trillion spending bill as a budget deadline looms.

Lawmakers now have until midnight Friday to approve it and prevent the year’s third government shutdown. Passage of the massive bipartisan effort seems certain.

The bill, which will keep the government funded until the end of September, has President Donald Trump’s support, the White House said in a statement released Wednesday.

“The president had a discussion with (House) Speaker (Paul) Ryan and (Senate) Leader (Mitch) McConnell, where they talked about their shared priorities secured in the omnibus spending bill,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Deadline late Friday

The bill will give Trump a huge budget increase for the military, including a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel.

It also will include a measure strengthening the federal background check system for gun purchases.

WATCH: Federal Budget Explainer

The “Fix NICS” measure would provide funding for states to comply with the existing National Instant Criminal Background Check system and penalize federal agencies that don’t comply.

It also will include money to improve school safety, including money for training school officials and law enforcement officers on how to identify signs of potential violence and intervene early, installing metal detectors and other steps to “harden” schools to prevent violence.

GOP aides said that Trump will win $1.6 billion for a wall and physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. But Trump would be denied a far larger $25 billion request for multiyear funding for the project.

To the Democrats’ disappointment, the bill makes no mention of protections for so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

No insurer subsidies

It also won’t provide subsidies to health care insurers who cut costs for low-earning customers. And it won’t have federal payments for carriers to help them afford to cover their costliest clients.

Both parties touted the $4.6 billion in total funding to fight the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic and a record $3 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.

The House is expected to vote on the bill by Thursday, followed quickly by the Senate, to meet Friday’s midnight deadline.

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