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Russia

‘The murder of our national sport’: Russian athletes forced to compete under neutral flag

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Russian athletes are bitterly disappointment by the collective punishment and the option offered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which banned the Russian national team, while allowing only individual athletes to compete under a neutral flag and anthem.

Related Story : IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics

On Tuesday, the IOC declared Russia guilty of alleged state-sponsored doping, and banned the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) from competing in the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Athletes who can prove they are “clean,” however, will be allowed to compete, but not under the Russian flag.

The despair and bitter disappointment were clearly visible on the faces of Russian Olympic athletes in Davos Tuesday as the IOC announced their decision. Some stared down and others left the room soon after the directives were read out.

Those who can compete are now faced with a difficult choice. On the one hand, they spent years polishing their skills to perform on the world’s premier stage, but on the other hand, their sport spirit dictates they compete as a united national team, under the Russian flag.

Irina Avvakumova, a member of the ski jumping team, does not want to go to South Korea and perform under a neutral flag. “I do not know how other athletes will react, but I did not prepare for so many years to just go and compete without representing my country,” Avvakumova said, adding, that competing as neutral lack the “sports spirit.”

Russian snowboarder Nikolai Olyunin has not yet decided whether or not he is ready to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games under a neutral flag.

“The decision of the IOC did not shock me, it was all leading to this. We were ready,” Olyunin said, adding, that the snowboard federation will now wait and see how the situation develops further. “No one understands how to proceed further. I would like to compete for our flag, but at the same time, I understand that what has happened is a great disrespect to our country. I don’t want to compete under a neutral flag, but I still have to think about it.”

America

US intelligence chiefs say Russia still meddling, threatening 2018 elections

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

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Dan Coats

WASHINGTON — Russia and other adversaries will continue to engage in cyber warfare to “degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances,” the nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that every facet of society is being targeted with cyber intrusions.

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

“There should be no doubt that (Putin) views the past effort as successful,” Coats said.

The national intelligence director’s comments come against the backdrop of continuing congressional and criminal investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Kremlin coordinated their activities with President Trump’s campaign.

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Middle East

Putin vows to continue supporting Syria’s sovereignty in New Year’s telegram to Assad

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Russia will continue its assistance in “upholding its state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and promoting a political settlement and economic recovery,” President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad in a New Year’s message.

The Russian leader expressed hope that “the situation in Syria would continue changing for the better,” emphasizing that “defeating terrorists and rapidly bringing the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic back to normal” would benefit the “interests of the whole world and would improve security in the Middle East.”

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Russia

Lavrov, Tillerson discuss need for urgent North Korea negotiations: Moscow

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Lavrov Tillerson

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the need to start a negotiations process.

“The sides were united in the opinion that nuclear missile projects in North Korea violate the demands of the UN Security Council,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two men spoke by telephone.

Lavrov “once again highlighted that it is unacceptable to exacerbate tensions around the Korean peninsula with Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Pyongyang and increasing military preparations in the region,” it said.

“It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible,” the statement said, adding that it was Tillerson who initiated the call.

The UN Security Council on Friday slapped new sanctions on North Korea that will restrict oil supplies vital for its missile and nuclear programmes, the latest response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States, while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.

Pyongyang has slammed the UN sanctions as an “act of war”.

Moscow has called for talks between North Korea and the United States, warning of a “risk of uncontrolled escalation”. Russia has also criticised Washington’s military drills with South Korea saying it provokes Pyongyang.

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