Moscow Cops Release Armed Men For Cash Moments Before Robbery

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Svetlana Kholyavchuk / Interpress / TASS

Police officers outside Moscow have been charged with abuse of power after accepting cash from a group of armed men that later went on to rob a grocery store.

The two officers discovered two handguns, gloves and masks after searching a car with four men in a northeastern Moscow suburb of Korolyov in November 2017, investigators said in an online statement Monday.

“Understanding that these items were prepared to commit criminal acts, they did not detain and bring in [the suspects], and did not inform the dispatch center,” the statement said.

The policemen demanded a bribe of 100,000 rubles ($1,800) and two mobiles phones in exchange for the suspects’ documents and car keys but agreed to release them after receiving half of the payment.

“The four men proceeded to the town of Balashikha, where they robbed the ‘Produkty’ grocery store,” the investigative committee said.

The two officers have been detained while the investigation continues.

 

Source :  The Moscow Times

Exiled Russian Oligarch Accused of Corruption Pays $200,000 To Get U.S. Visa

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Andrei Borodin

Andrei Borodin

Sergei Kulikov / TASS

A former Bank of Moscow chief accused of corruption has reportedly paid $200,000 to a Washington lobbying firm to help him get an American visa.

Andrei Borodin was granted asylum in the UK in 2013 after fleeing corruption accusations in Russia. Russian prosecutors indicted Borodin and a co-defendant in 2017 with embezzling 150 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) as part of a loan deal to the wife of then-Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

The exiled Russian oligarch has hired BGR Group, a top Washington lobbying firm to “help solve his visa issues,” The Hill news website reported Wednesday.

The lobbyist firm filed a form disclosing the payment but declined to comment on why Borodin is seeking to come to the US.

Borodin denies the embezzlement allegations and says he is being “persecuted” by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, The Hill reported.

Russian prosecutors plan to try Borodin in absentia and relay the court decision to the U.K.

Last year, Borodin was granted access to his personal Swiss bank accounts totalling 354 mln Swiss francs ($378 million), the Vedomosti business daily reported in August.

 

Source :  The Moscow Times

A Russian Oligarch Walks Away From His $8 Billion Empire

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Though he had been cutting his stake in the chain in recent years, the market was surprised to see Sergei Galitsky bail

Sergei Galitskiy

Sergei Galitskiy

Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — In 1998, Sergei Galitsky opened a small grocery in his hometown of Krasnodar, 1300 kilometers south of Moscow.

Over the next two decades he expanded that modest operation into an empire with almost $20 billion in sales and 16,000 stores across Russia, amassing a fortune valued at some $5 billion in the process. On Friday, he walked away.

Galitsky will quit as chief executive officer of  Magnit PJSC after selling 138 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) of shares — 29 percent of the company — to the state-controlled VTB Group, Magnit said in a regulatory filing. Though he had been cutting his stake in the chain in small increments in recent years, the market was surprised to see him bail almost entirely — selling his shares at 3.9 percent below Thursday’s closing price. After Friday’s deal, Galitsky owns about 3 percent of Magnit.

The disposal comes after Magnit had struggled to manage its rapid expansion and fend off competitors, especially X5 Retail Group NV, controlled by rival billionaire Mikhail Fridman. With its sales growth slowing, Magnit in 2016 ceded the title of Russia’s largest retailer to X5, and its shares have fallen by more than half in the past 12 months. Magnit dropped as much as 7 percent in Moscow trading on Friday, to the lowest since 2012.

Galitsky said he decided to sell because his views on running Magnit clashed with those of other shareholders, as the market demanded fast growth and he preferred to focus on profitability, Interfax reported.

“It was a difficult decision since I founded this company,” he said at a signing ceremony in Sochi, clearly emotional, in a broadcast shown on RBC television. “But nothing is forever. I shouldn’t oppose this process. If investors want changes, they should get them.”

The haste with which the deal was put together, the relatively low price, and the fact that the buyer was a state-controlled bank indicate that Galitsky made “an emotional rather than a rational decision,” said Alexei Krivoshapko, director at Prosperity Capital who helps manage $4.2 billion in assets, including Magnit shares.

Crowds gathered outside Magnit’s headquarters on Friday to say goodbye to Galitsky and chanting “thank you!”

But there have been underlying problems that must be addressed, Krivoshapko said, and the company might well benefit from new leadership.

“Magnit has been underperforming for the last two years,” Krivoshapko said. “Management has been missing sales targets and pushing an unrealistic plan to improve margins by producing its own food.”

Magnit’s customer base in the regions was hard hit by soaring inflation and a two-year economic recession. Consumer demand is now slowly recovering, supported by lower inflation and a strengthening of the ruble.

Sandwich Takeover

With investor concern growing over high-profile takeovers of oil and banking assets by state-controlled entities in the past 18 months, VTB was quick to defend the acquisition as just another investment. VTB owns 3 percent of another Russian retailer, Lenta Ltd, as well as 27.5 percent of wireless carrier Tele2 Russia.

VTB’s First Deputy CEO Yury Solovyev said the purchase of Magnit was “purely an investment decision.” Speaking to reporters at an investment conference in Sochi, Solovyev pointed to his bank’s 2012 purchase of 47 percent of fast-food chain Burger King’s Russian franchise operation as an example of its experience in the retail and consumer sector.

“When we bought a stake in the Burger King franchise,” he said, “did you worry about a state takeover of sandwiches?”

Chief Financial Officer Khachatur Pombukhchan has been appointed Magnit’s new CEO. Though Pombukhchan told investors last month that the company wouldn’t pay a dividend this year, Magnit on Friday said that a dividend is now planned for the second half. Magnit also said it is considering a share buyback, part of which would be used for a management incentive plan.

After Magnit’s sharp drop on Friday,  Vadim Bit-Avragim, a money manager at Kapital Asset Management LLC in Moscow, suggested investors should brace for further declines. He said Galitsky’s business strategy of rapid growth didn’t suit the current market in Russia, spurring him to look for an exit.

“I’m guessing he’s been mulling a sale for a while now,” Bit-Avragim said. “And he just couldn’t find a good foreign buyer.”

 

Source :  The Moscow Times

Lavrov says anti-Russian issues to dominate in US until midterms

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Moscow is prepared in all cases to cooperate with a president and a government that is elected by the people in any country, diplomat said

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Predominant anti-Russian tendencies in Washington’s policies will scarcely subside before the midterms scheduled for November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Euronews channel on Friday.

“I do hope the predominant tendencies we’re witnessing in Washington now will fade away these somehow,” he said. “It’s clear though this shouldn’t be expected before the midterms in November because the struggle for seats in the US Congress and gubernatorial positions is already in full swing.”

Lavrov pointed out the numerous speculations afloat in the US claiming that Russia had put stakes on Trump and had lost the game.

In reality, “Moscow is prepared in all cases to cooperate with a president and a government that is elected by the people in any country.”

 “There’s much talk about state interference in the electoral process but I haven’t seen a single fact to date,” Lavrov said.

“A US assistant secretary of homeland security supervising cybersecurity said unambiguously a few days ago they didn’t have any evidence of Russia’s interference with the last presidential race,” he said.

“The situation where no facts have leaked the public sphere over almost half-a-year that the investigation is in progress is simply impossible for the U.S.,” Lavrov said. “If there were at least some smoldering, smoke would be seen at once.”

“I think they’ve cornered themselves by declarations about precise data on Russian meddling and now they are trying to at least some retroactive justifications but still they are floundering,” he said.

Source : TASS

Russia demands OSCE respond to threats to Russian cultural center in Kiev

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According to Alexander Lukashevich, “Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s provocative remarks at the Munich conference to ban the Russian flag might have become a signal for radicals’ action”

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich

© Ilya Pitalev/TASS

VIENNA, February 17. /TASS/. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) should respond and issue a report assessing nationalists’ attack on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said on Saturday.

“In connection with these provocations and threats, we have asked the OSCE SMM to respond to a blatant manifestation of aggressive nationalism and to publish an emergency report assessing the attack so that all OSCE members can learn about this barbarism,” Lukashevich said in a commentary received by TASS.

“In addition, it is important to avert future assaults on the Russian Center for Science and Culture,” he said.

Russia demands from Ukraine that an official statement condemning the attack by radical activists on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev should follow, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE said on Saturday.

 “We insist Ukraine’s government should officially condemn radicals’ actions. Connivance to rampant nationalism has gone way overboard,” Lukashevich said in a commentary received by by TASS.

“The next week the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is kicking off. We are hoping that the lawmakers will have their say on the issue. Moreover, their fellow worker – Andrey Lozovoi, a Verkhovna Rada deputy of the Radical Party – led the riot.”.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s provocative remarks at the Munich Security Conference, urging to ban the Russian flag, might have been a signal to radical activists for an attack on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev,  Lukashevich said on Saturday.

“We are outraged by ongoing riots staged by nationalists in Ukraine. On February 17, members of the Ukrainian nationalist organization S14 (Sich) attacked the building of the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev,” Lukashevich said in a commentary received by TASS.

“Thirty radical activists led by Andrey Lugovoi, a member of Verkhovna Rada [parliament] from the Radical Party, stormed into the building hosting around 50 children and 50 adults,” he said. “The Nazi-style youngsters ransacked the exhibition dedicated to [Russian] singer Feodor Chaliapin [the most legendary operatic bass of all time – TASS], daubed extremist graffiti on the walls, insulted Russian diplomats and vandalized Russia’s national flag.”

According to Lukashevich, “Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s provocative remarks at the Munich conference to ban the Russian flag might have become a signal for radicals’ action.”

“Due to the inaction of police that arrived at the scene, thuggish actions lasted for about half an hour,” the diplomat said. “The perpetrators were not scared of following punishment and did not hid their faces. They uploaded photos taken at the assault scene on Facebook social networking website.”.

The neo-Nazi group Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists are plotting to set on fire the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev on Sunday, February 18, Russian diplomat said.

“According to available information, tomorrow, on February 18, another neo-Nazi group Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists is planning to set on fire the building of the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev. It is inadmissible,” Lukashevich said in a commentary following nationalists’ attack on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in the Ukrainian capital earlier in the day.

Source : TASS

Russia urges Ukraine to lambast attack on Russian cultural center in Kiev – diplomat

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Radical nationalism had been raised to a level of national politics in Ukraine, Lukashevich said

VIENNA, February 17. /TASS/. Russia demands from Ukraine that an official statement condemning the attack by radical activists on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev should follow, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said on Saturday, following nationalists’ assault on the Russian Center for Science and Culture in the Ukrainian capital.

“We insist Ukraine’s government should officially condemn radicals’ actions. Connivance to rampant nationalism has gone way overboard,” Lukashevich said in a commentary received by TASS.

“The next week the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is kicking off. We are hoping that the lawmakers will have their say on the issue. Moreover, their fellow worker – Andrey Lozovoi, a Verkhovna Rada deputy of the Radical Party – led the riot.”

The Russian diplomat underlined that radical nationalism had been raised to a level of national politics.

 “In conditions of acute domestic antagonism, political turbulence and social discontent, the Kiev authorities are actively propagating an image of an adversary personified as Russia,” Lukashevich said.

“Offences against Russian property and Russian citizens in Ukraine are encouraged. At the legislative level, the authorities encourage persecution of the Canonical Orthodox Church, the Russian language and culture. The freedom of expression is clamped down on. Attacks on the media, journalists and bloggers is, unfortunately, a matter of fact.”

“Until radical nationalist are rampaging in Ukraine, there will be no peace in that country. We insist that manifestations of xenophobia, nationalism and extremism in Ukraine be considered in detail at OSCE,” the Russian envoy said.

Earlier on Saturday, about 30 members of the S14 (Sich) nationalist group attacked the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev. The center’s spokesperson told TASS that the Right Sector group (banned in Russia) joined the Sich nationalists in the attack. The nationalists posted information about their action on Facebook. The video footage shows how they are splashing black and red paint on the walls and writing insulting slogans and words. They also torn down and desecrated the Russian flag.

The attack on the Russian center was not the first. In August 2016, nationalists hurled smoke grenades into the building and spray-painted graffiti with their symbols on its walls. In July 2017, about 30 members of Svoboda movement headed by a member of the Kiev Council Igor Miroshnichenko stormed the center’s building and occupied the second floor to disrupt the presentation of a book on Russian history.

Source : TASS

Russian embassy calls UK Foreign Office’s accusations an attempt to demonize Russia

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On Thursday, British Foreign Office Minister for Cyber Security Tariq Ahmad had attributed the NotPetya cyber attack to the Russian government

Russian Embassy in London

Russian Embassy in London

©  EPA/ANDY RAIN

LONDON, February 16 /TASS/. The Russian Embassy in London on Thursday described UK Foreign Office’s attempts to blame Moscow for a major cyberattack last year as part of a campaign to demonize Russia.

“The statement of Foreign Office Minister Lord [Tariq] Ahmad regarding Russia’s alleged responsibility for the NotPetya cyber-attack is, like many other similar accusations, not backed by any evidence,” the embassy said in a statement on its website. “It is another example of irresponsible and hostile rhetoric of British officials towards Russia.”

“The Embassy considers it as a part of the continuing campaign aimed at the stigmatisation of our country, that we have witnessed in the UK over the recent months,” the statement reads.

On Thursday, British Foreign Office Minister for Cyber Security Tariq Ahmad had attributed the NotPetya cyber attack to the Russian government, saying that it “disrupted organizations across Europe costing hundreds of millions of pounds.” Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov strongly rejected the claims as “groundless,” adding that they were part of the “similarly groundless campaign based on hatred against Russia.”

 The Russian embassy pointed out that London was reluctant to engage in expert-level consultations with Moscow on the issue of cybersecurity.

“If the British side had had concrete evidence backing its accusations, it would have reacted positively to Russia’s proposal of bilateral expert consultations on cybersecurity made by Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov to Foreign Secretary [Boris] Johnson on 22 December 2017 in Moscow,” the embassy said. “For the time being, no such reply has been received.”

“Russia at the UN has been promoting a number of specific constructive proposals helping the world address threats in the digital sphere,” the statement reads. “Ironically, it is our Western partners including the UK who refuse to support this proposal.”

On June 27, 2017, a ransomware blocking access to data and demanding money for unblocking it attacked dozens of energy, telecom and financial companies in Russia and Ukraine, spreading across the world afterwards. Experts from the Group-IB computer security company said the Petya encrypting ransomware was behind the massive cyber attack. The malware prevented operating systems from loading, blocked computers and demanded a ransom of the Bitcoin equivalent of $300. Kaspersky Lab later came to the conclusion that the world had faced a new ransomware, naming it NotPetya.

Source : TASS