‘Important player’ Russia needed in G8 if world crises are to be solved – Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte argues that Russia has to be allowed to join the G7 (to become G8), stating that some problems are currently unsolvable because President Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a seat at the table.

“You have to move to get to a G8 with Putin sitting at the table, to be able to deal with problems that we are currently unable to solve because we are not all sitting around the table,” Conte said during a Monday press conference. 

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with US President Donald Trump, July 30, 2018. © Carlos Barria

Russia is an “important player for all international crises,” which is precisely why dialogue with Moscow is extremely necessary.

Conte also weighed in on the issue of sanctions against Moscow, believing they’re not the answer to solving problems. Rome does not want them to harm Russian civil society or businesses, he argued. The official still admitted that Rome consented to having restrictions renewed, as he understands they are linked to the Minsk agreement protocol.

It’s not the first time that the Italian leader has expressed a similar desire to have Russia back in the G8. It has been the Group of Seven (G7) ever since other members opted to suspend Moscow over the reunification of Crimea with Russia, which they call an “annexation.”

In June, Conte said it was “difficult, if not impossible” to find “realistic and long-lasting” solutions to world crises without Russia being part of that discussion. 

US President Donald Trump agrees, also saying in June that Russia should be admitted back into the group. “Whether you like it or not, it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run… they should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.” 

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Donald Trump speaks to the press aboard Air Force One, June 29, 2018

Meanwhile, German MPs have also rallied for Moscow to be allowed back at the table, with the head of the parliamentary faction of the Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, telling the DPA news agency in April that peace in Europe and the Middle East is only possible if the West cooperates with Russia. 

As for Russia’s take on it all, President Putin said during the G7 gathering in Canada, in June, that the leaders of the member countries should end their “creative babbling” and get to work on real issues. That comment came after the group’s members, except the US, endorsed a statement which expressed solidarity on Russia’s so-called “destabilizing behavior.” 

Kremlin has made it clear that if other states are willing to work together once again, Moscow is willing to do the same. “As for Russia’s return to ‘the seven,’ ‘the eight’ [G7, G8] – we have not left it. Our colleagues once refused [in 2014] to come to Russia due to well-known reasons. Please, we will be happy to see everyone in Moscow,” Putin stated in June.

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Autocross buggy smashes into sideline officials in Belarus (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

A disturbing car crash has marred an autocross competition in Belarus after a buggy pilot crashed into a group of judges standing near the racing track.

READ MORE: Superbike rider gets run over by rival, amazingly emerges unscathed (VIDEO)

The incident took place on Sunday, during the autocross race in Tulovo. The driver, who apparently lost control of his car, hit two race officials who didn’t have enough time to avoid the collision, at full speed.

The two men, injured as the result of the crash, were immediately removed from the scene and taken to hospital to undergo medical observation.

According to reports in the local media, the incident left the two judges injured with one of them suffering a spinal fracture. The driver is believed to have avoided any injuries in the crash.

Local authorities have been investigating the incident including checking safety measures undertaken during the competition.

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Sanctioned Russian assets attracting investment from biggest US pension funds

Mounting political tensions between Moscow and Washington along with endless US threats to impose more and more sanctions haven’t prevented America’s biggest pension funds from investing in Russia.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), managing retirement savings of nearly two million Americans, has $ 1.1 billion dollars invested in Russian assets, including state-issued bonds and shares of companies hit by US sanctions, reports Russian business daily RBK.

Apart from Russia’s state debt, the fund that controls pensions of California’s firefighters and police officers, reportedly holds $ 872 million in share depositary receipts of Russian firms – $ 658 billion of which are from companies subject to US sanctions.

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© Reuters / Max Whittake

Calpers has invested in Russian energy companies Rosneft, Gazprom, Novatek and Surgutneftegas. The Californian pension fund has added state-lender Sberbank shares, worth $ 238 million traded in the US, and VTB depositary receipts worth $ 12.5 million traded in Europe.

US sectoral sanctions do not ban American investors from trading previously issued papers. However, the Defending American Security From Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKAA) – the legislation lobbied by senators Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez, demands that the assets belonging to Russian lenders such as Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank and Promsvyazbank, should be frozen and isolated from dollar transactions.

The amount of investment made by the Calpers in Russian bonds has hardly changed in the last five years. In 2012, the share of Russian assets in its portfolio was hovering around $ 1.4 billion against $ 1.3 billion in current holdings.

Calpers is not the only institution investing in Russia. The second largest pension fund in the US, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or Calstrs, held about $ 9.5 million in Russian bonds and nearly $ 164 million in Lukoil receipts as of the end of 2017,according to media reports.

Meanwhile, the country’s fourth biggest fund Florida Retirement Systems (FRS) held Russian investments worth $ 354 million as of June 30 this year. The holdings reportedly include shares of Novatek, Rosneft, VTB, Sberbank, Gazprom, Gazprom-neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Transneft.

At the same time, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest in the country, reportedly has $ 82.7 million worth of Russian investments in its portfolio – $ 59.3 million of which are companies on the sanctions list.

Investing in Russian state-issued obligations has been highly profitable over the last decade. The Central Bank of Russia is offering a yield up to 9 percent depending on the maturity of the bonds, while US Treasury bonds are luring investors with a maximum of 3.35 percent with a 30 year maturity.

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Cold shoulder! Sergio Ramos unleashes attack on youth player after flying shoulder in nose (VIDEO)

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was again the center of a storm involving a shoulder when Los Blancos academy product Sergio Reguilón crashed his shoulder into the veteran defender’s nose during a team handball training session.

Real were preparing for their Champions League Group G against Czech side Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday when a team handball match went awry as soon as Spain’s 160-cap skipper caught the ball. 

In a last ditch block attempt, Reguilón dived through the air in front of the center back, accidentally catching him on the nose with a stray shoulder, much to the chagrin of Ramos, who appeared to immediately hold his damaged conk.

Then in a flash of anger, Ramos fired a kick at the 21-year-old left back, but the ball went flying high and wide of the young player.

Not content with his outburst, and as the squad were making their way off the pitch, Ramos, holding his nose and wagging his finger at the youngster, again fired the ball at a bemused-looking Reguilón. 

READ MORE: Messi injury woe: Barcelona star to miss El Clasico after fracturing arm

Not surprisingly, the internet was quick to come crashing down on one of the most love-to-hate villains in world football, some hinting that frustration’s at Real’s disappointing start to the season could be the real reason for Ramos’ eruption.

Ramos was blamed by many football fans for injuring Liverpool’s Mo Salah after the latter dislocated his shoulder in a tussle with the defender during the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev in May

All seemed to thaw out between the pair on Twitter; Ramos tweeted a group photo including himself and Reguilón with the caption: “Although it does not seem, [these] are quite common situations, but no excuse, my reaction should not be that. We always go to full, don’t we, Regui? At the end of the team victory together. Shelve and for tomorrow’s game.”

Reguilón accepted the apology, tweeting in response: “Always with my team and my captain, for the victory tomorrow!”

The Spanish side and defending European champions go into the match at Santiago Bernabeu having lost their previous match 1-0 against CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital. They currently sit 7th in La Liga after nine games played.

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China set to open world’s longest sea bridge to Hong Kong & Macau

A $ 20 billion sea-crossing bridge, connecting mainland China to Hong Kong and Macau is to finally open on Tuesday. The six-lane bridge has been constructed in just nine years.

The 55-kilometer long bridge (34 miles) will cut travel time from Hong Kong to Zhuhai (in China’s southern Guangdong province) from three hours to 30 minutes. It is a key element of Beijing’s plan for a Greater Bay Area covering 56,500 square kilometers across southern China. The long-awaited bridge will encompass 11 cities that are home to a combined 68 million people.

Hong Kong’s transport secretary Frank Chan said: “With the bridge, the travel time between Hong Kong and the Western Pearl River Delta region will be shortened significantly, thereby bringing the Western Pearl River Delta region within three hours’ drive from Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge was built to withstand magnitude 8 earthquakes, a super typhoon and strikes by super-sized cargo vessels. It incorporates 400,000 tons of steel which is 4.5 times more than in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The bridge includes a 6.7-kilometer submerged tunnel to help it avoid the busy shipping paths over the Pearl River Delta. The tunnel runs between two artificial islands, each measuring 100,000 square meters.

Although the bridge is opening to traffic this week, private cars will need a special permit to be allowed to drive on the bridge. Most drivers will have to park at the Hong Kong port, switching to shuttle bus or special hire cars. A single trip on shuttle buses will cost $ 8-$ 10, depending on the time of day.

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Legalize it? Tough-on-drugs ex-Met Police chief calls for review of UK cannabis laws

A former Met Police chief, who enforced tough anti-drug laws, is the latest voice in the UK establishment to call for a review into cannabis legislation, urging the Home Office to look at Canada and the US for inspiration.

Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe, who was made a life peer last week after 40-years in the police, told Channel 4: “If I was home secretary, I would have an urgent commission of experts to look at the evidence about what’s happening about cannabis in North America.”

READ MORE: ‘Potentially thousands’ of child slaves forced to work on illegal London cannabis farms

His call comes as the UK Government will now make medicinal cannabis available on prescription. Home Secretary Sajid Javid broke with decades of anti-cannabis policies, bowing to public pressure to legalise the drug for medical purposes following several high profile cases.

Lord Hogan-Howe argued that there was evidence that medicinal use “slides into recreational” use, and that “Surely it’s better that we get ready for that potential change.

“I’ve not seen clear evidence to say change the law now. But I have seen clear evidence to say let’s review it, but in a time-limited way, not a kicking-into-the-long-grass way.

“I think we need to get on with it, now the government has made it easier to get medical cannabis on prescription.

“We’re lucky – we’re not the pioneers and we can learn from others’ mistakes. The evidence is out there and it shouldn’t be ignored.”

The Home Office insists that the despite the recent change in the law, there is no path “towards legalising cannabis for recreational use.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola in ‘serious talks’ about branching into cannabis beverage market – report

Ahead of his time as Met Commissioner in 2007, Hogan-Howe called for cannabis to be upgraded from a C class to a B class substance. The government duly made the change a year later, despite much political and public opposition. Possession of cannabis in the UK could lead to up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

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WATCH Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jets nearly hit landing strip in ultra-low flying stunt

A video circulating online captured the dramatic moment a pair of Su-25 warplanes almost touched the ground as they buzzed over an airfield in Ukraine, while flying at a dangerously low altitude.

Several people can be seen running away from the landing strip right before the pilots in their Su-25MS1 jets execute the daring move, while a number of large transport planes and a helicopter are parked across the airfield.

It is not clear when the video was made. David Cenciotti, who writes for an aviation-themed blog, The Aviationist, suggested that the risky stunt may have been filmed at Melitopol airbase, in southeastern Ukraine, which houses the 25th Transport Aviation Brigade.

Ukrainian pilots have been spotted performing similar stunts in the past. A clip, reportedly filmed in 2014 and posted by the Aviationist earlier this year, shows an Su-24 attack plane performing a low pass at one of Ukraine’s air bases.

In June 2018, Ukrainian Su-25 did a flyby near a coastal beach in southeastern Zaporizhia region, flying just 10 meters above the sea. The military officials confirmed back then that the incident was part of a routine aviation drill.

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Whopping stash of WADA banned pills found in Norwegian hospital

A huge stash of anabolic steroids has been found at a local university hospital in Norway, a country which has long been criticized for manipulating the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) process to achieve sporting success.

READ MORE: German journalist questions Norway’s Olympic success over possible ‘asthma meds abuse’

More than 2,000 banned pills and 78 glass bulbs with prohibited substances were found in a local hospital in the Norwegian city of Tromso, TASS reported citing Norwegian outlet ITromso.

A 43-year-old employee reportedly kept the illicit stash in the hospital’s locker room for the purpose of selling the drugs to recipients who have not yet been identified. Anabolic steroids, including testosterone, boldenone, trenbolone, masteron and nandrolone were among those found in the hospital.

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FILE PHOTO © Sergei Karpukhin

In the summer of 2017, several months before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the man reportedly received a huge amount of banned drugs from a second suspect – a 31-year-old Oslo resident. Both alleged drug dealers have been accused of distributing prohibited medicine.The case is scheduled to be heard in a Norwegian district court on January 17, 2019.

Norway finished first in unofficial Olympic medal standings, winning 14 gold medals and 39 awards in total. Just prior to the PyeongChang Games, it was revealed that the Norwegian delegation brought around 6,000 doses of asthma medication to treat national team members diagnosed with the chronic respiratory disease.

READ MORE: Norwegian Olympians found with alarming stash of asthma drugs in PyeongChang

Asthma medicines have been the subject of years-long controversy, with Norway being constantly under fire amid claims from other countries that it falsifies the medical data of its athletes to enhance their performances.

Norway, however, insists that that the usage of asthma-drugs is legal as it is approved by the World Anti-Doping Committee (WADA) under the TUE program.

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Putin signs decree allowing Russian counter-sanctions against Ukraine – Kremlin website

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree allowing Russia to target Ukrainian companies and individuals with sanctions in response to Ukrainian sanctions against Russia, the Kremlin website reported on Monday.

The decree was issued as “a response to unfriendly actions of Ukraine” related to the introduction of sanctions against citizens and legal entities of Russia, as well as “in order to protect national interests,” according to the website.

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© Reuters / Gleb Garanich

The Russian government was ordered to “determine the lists of individuals and legal entities in respect of which special economic measures are applied”, and “identify special economic measures applicable to individuals and legal entities.”

Since February 2014, Ukraine has imposed sanctions against 1,228 Russian individuals and 468 legal entities. They include Russian officials, politicians, business leaders and journalists. Kiev has also banned several Russian media outlets and TV channels.

In 2017, Ukraine also imposed sanctions on Russian internet and media companies including Mail.ru Group, Yandex, VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, as well as antivirus software manufacturers Kaspersky Lab and Doctor Web.

Kiev first imposed sanctions against Moscow four years ago over Russia’s reunification with the Crimea. Ukraine also accused Russia of supporting an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine following the Maidan protests that led to the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich. The Kremlin has denied involvement in the conflict.

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