Persons in News
Andrei Lugovoy, one of two Russians named by a judge led-British inquiry as the killers of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, said the accusations against him were absurd. The inquiry into the 2006 killing in London concluded that President Vladimir Putin probably approved a Russian intelligence operation to murder ex-KGB agent Litvinenko. It said his poisoners were former KGB bodyguard turned lawmaker Mr Lugovoy and fellow Russian Dmitry Kovtun.
Mr Lugovoy, who represents the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the Russian Parliament, called the British inquiry “a pathetic attempt by London to use a skeleton in the closet for the sake of its political ambitions”. He said the findings of the inquiry continued Britain’s ‘anti-Russian hysteria’ which he said began after ‘the events in Ukraine in 2014’.
Alexander Litvinenko, aged 43 at death, an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia six years before his murder, died after drinking green tea laced with the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 at a London hotel.
A center-right candidate has recorded an emphatic victory in Portugal’s Presidential Election, collecting more than half of the vote against nine rivals as voters picked a counterweight to Portugal’s center-left Socialist government.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a veteran politician and law professor, won 52.4 per cent to capture the mostly ceremonial post. His nearest rival had less than half of that and his opponents conceded quickly. Rebelo de Sousa will succeed Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms.
President Thein Sein hailed the “triumph” of Myanmar’s transition of power, addressing a military-dominated parliament for the final time before a handover to Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy movement.
The Southeast Asian nation, choked for decades under junta rule, is on the cusp of a remarkable political transition after Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) thundered to victory in November elections.
Myanmar’s people are hoping her government can reboot a country eviscerated by half a century of army rule that battered the economy and repressed dissent. “Even though there were difficulties and challenges, we were able to bring a democratic transformation eventually,” Thein Sein said addressing the military-stacked legislature for the last time. “As everyone knows, for over five decades we were far away from a multi-party democratic system,” he said.
Thein Sein, who under drawn-out handover rules retains his post until the end of March, has been a key player in Myanmar’s astonishing reform process so far. He was among a host of military figures who shed their uniforms to form a government in 2011. Initially that government was viewed with suspicion as a civilian front for the army’s continued domination of the country from behind the scenes. While the army retains major clout, sweeping political and economic reforms since 2011 have surprised the international community, encouraging a flood of foreign investment. They culminated in November’s polls which passed peacefully and fairly and saw Ms Suu Kyi’s party scoop nearly 80 percent of elected seats in the national parliament. Thein Sein‘s party was all but annihilated in the legislature. Both he and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing have pledged to support the transition towards democracy in the face of Ms Suu Kyi’s popular mandate.
A senior U.S. Treasury official has directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption. The U.S. government imposed sanctions against a number of Kremlin insiders in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, but did not accuse Mr Putin of direct involvement in corruption.
However, during a Panorama investigation into Mr Putin’s “secret riches”, Adam Szubin, the acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury in a BBC programme that said Mr Putin was a “picture of corruption”.
“We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalising those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets,” Mr Szubin, who oversees U.S. Treasury sanctions, told the Panorama programme, in an unusually strong statement from the government on Mr Putin’s personal finances.
“Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption. The U.S. government has known about this for “many, many years,” he added.
The programme cited a secret CIA report from 2007 stating that Mr Putin’s wealth stood at around U.S.$40 billion. “He supposedly draws a state salary of something like U.S.$1,10,000 a year,” said Mr Szubin. “That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has long-time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth.”
The programme also featured an interview with Dimitry Skarga, who used to run state shipping company Sovcomflot. He alleged he managed the transfer of a U.S.$35-million yacht to Mr Putin from Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, whose lawyers dismissed the claims as speculation.
Mr Putin’s spokesman said that “none of these questions or issues needs to be answered, as they are pure fiction”. The Russian president earned about 3.7 million rubles (U.S.$1,04,000) and owns three Russian-made cars, a 77-square-metre flat, a garage and a plot of land, according to a declaration of assets published on the Kremlin’s website in 2014.
Mr Putin’s modest declared earnings are by far the lowest among Kremlin officials, and below most ministers, many of whom boast fleets of luxury vehicles and multiple houses in European countries.
Mr Putin, a former KGB agent, has previously scoffed at claims he was Europe’s richest man, saying: “It’s simply rubbish. They just picked all of it out of someone’s nose and smeared it across their little papers.”
Malaysia’s Attorney-General (AG) cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of any wrongdoing with regard to RM2.6 billion (U.S.$607 million) worth of donations that were channelled into his bank accounts.
The AG had received investigation papers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) on December 31, 2015, on the controversy surrounding the donation into Mr Najib’s accounts and also in relation to SRC International, a former subsidiary of the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The MACC had earlier said the funds were a political donation from an unidentified Middle Eastern benefactor. “The documents submitted to me by the MACC show that the sum of U.S.$681 million transferred into the account of the PM between March 22, 2013 and April 4, 2013 is a personal donation from the Saudi royal family which was given to him without any consideration,” the AG said.
Mr Najib, who has weathered months of calls from opposition leaders and establishment figures to resign, has denied any wrongdoing all along and said he did not take any money for personal gain.
The past fund transfers were revealed last July just as the PM was battling separate allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were missing from deals involving 1MDB. Shortly after the fund movements were revealed, Mr Najib provoked fierce criticism by sacking Malaysia’s previous Attorney-General - who was investigating the matter - and installing the current AG, who has ties to the ruling party.
Taiwan has elected its first female president in a landmark election that could unsettle relations with Beijing.
Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won the presidency with 56.1% of the vote, eight years under the government of the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party.
The election also marked the first time the KMT has lost control of the island’s legislature. The DPP took 68 of the 113 seats in Taiwan’s parliament compared to the KMT’s 35.
At a post-election news conference, Ms Tsai underscored Taiwan’s commitment to democracy, calling it a value “deeply engrained in the Taiwanese people. Our democratic way of life is forever the resolve of Taiwan’s 23 million people,” she said. But she also acknowledged the tenuous relationship with Beijing, saying both sides “have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact ... and ensure no provocation and no surprises.”