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Austria’s former Foreign Minister, Karin Kneissl, known for her pro-Russian stance, is relocating to St. Petersburg, Russia, accompanied by her two ponies.

Karin Kneissl had previously been residing in Lebanon but left her government position amid a scandal involving the far-right Austrian party that appointed her.

She explained that her ponies were transported to St. Petersburg via a Russian military transport plane from Syria.

Ms. Kneissl disclosed that her decision to move to Russia was driven by her role in managing a think tank at St. Petersburg University, which she co-founded. She emphasized the dedication required for this work and her inability to carry it out remotely.

When asked about her move to Russia’s second-largest city, she declined to provide further comment. However, on social media, she mentioned that her stay in Lebanon had been temporary “to survive” while she commuted to Russia for teaching.

Ms. Kneissl is renowned for her love of animals and cited sanctions against Syria and the security situation there as the reasons for using a military transport plane to bring her ponies and belongings to Russia.

The Leningrad region’s veterinary department confirmed that the ponies had undergone examinations and were placed in quarantine.

Karin Kneissl served as Austria’s Foreign Minister from 2017 to 2019, appointed as an independent by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which has close ties to Russia.

She gained international attention in 2018 when she invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding in southern Austria, with photographs showing her dancing with him.

Ms. Kneissl announced her move to Russia while attending the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, an annual event aimed at encouraging investment in Russia’s far east. During the forum, she was seen appearing to fall asleep while listening to President Putin’s keynote speech.

Karin Kneissl is a regular commentator on the Russian state-backed news channel RT and served as a board member of the state-owned oil company Rosneft.

She left Austria in 2020, citing death threats and a de facto ban on working in the country.

Her departure followed the collapse of the government coalition between the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party in 2019, triggered by a scandal involving FPÖ leader Heinz Christian Strache, who was filmed allegedly promising government contracts to a woman posing as a niece of a Russian oligarch at a villa in Ibiza.

Currently, the Freedom Party is in opposition but leads in opinion polls, making it a strong contender in upcoming elections. Its new leader, Herbert Kickl, has criticized EU sanctions against Russia, blaming them for the rising cost of living.

Peter Gridling, Austria’s former spymaster from 2008 to 2020, expressed concerns about the Freedom Party’s ties with Russia and warned that the party had not severed its connections with the Kremlin.

Vienna, Austria’s capital, has a longstanding tradition as a hub for espionage, which persists to this day.

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News Trending War

Vladimir Putin has ended his silence concerning the reported demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, approximately 24 hours after the crash of Prigozhin’s private jet associated with the Wagner group.

The Russian president commented that the leader of the mercenary organization was a “gifted individual” who had “made significant errors in his life.” Putin also extended condolences to the families of the presumed 10 individuals on the plane that went down northwest of Moscow on Wednesday evening.

Nonetheless, he refrained from directly confirming Prigozhin’s death. Speculation about the cause of the fatal crash and Prigozhin’s presence on the plane has been rampant since the incident occurred.

During a briefing, a Pentagon spokesperson stated that the United States believed it likely that Prigozhin was killed in the crash. Nearby villagers reported hearing a loud noise before witnessing the aircraft plummet.

One theory under investigation suggests the possibility of a bomb being smuggled aboard, according to reports in Russian media. A US official informed CBS News that an explosion on the plane seemed the most plausible cause.

An alternative theory presented by a Telegram channel linked to Prigozhin suggested that the plane might have been shot down by Russian anti-aircraft forces. However, the Pentagon dismissed this, stating no evidence supported the claim.

Authorities are questioning ground staff at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where the plane took off, and reviewing CCTV footage. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, was once considered a loyalist to Putin but fell out of favor after leading a short-lived rebellion in Russia in June.

The Kremlin initially remained silent after the crash. President Putin even participated in a Brics summit via video link the next morning without mentioning the crash that had attracted global attention.

However, Putin’s stance changed on Thursday evening when he conveyed condolences to the victims’ families and acknowledged initial data suggesting Wagner employees were on the ill-fated flight. He described Prigozhin as a person with a complex life, acknowledging both his achievements and mistakes.

Though Putin spoke in the past tense about Prigozhin and expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, he didn’t definitively confirm Prigozhin’s death. When Prigozhin and his armed group rebelled, Putin denounced their actions as betrayal and vowed retribution.

A subsequent arrangement allowed Wagner fighters a choice between joining the Russian army or relocating to Belarus with no penalties. This development puzzled experts and the public, given Prigozhin’s apparent freedom of movement.

Russian forensic specialists have initiated victim identification, while Putin noted that DNA tests would require time. Among those on the plane were Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin and the group’s financial manager, Valeriy Chekalov. All 10 individuals on the plane, including passengers and crew, are presumed deceased.

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News Trending War

Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was reportedly among the passengers aboard a Russian jet that crashed, resulting in the deaths of all 10 individuals on board. The crash occurred in the Tver region, northwest of Moscow. Social media linked to the Wagner mercenary group have suggested that Prigozhin’s private plane was shot down by Russian air defenses. The Grey Zone Telegram channel stated that Prigozhin died due to actions by traitors to Russia.

Prigozhin had previously led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June, though some experts believe the mutiny was staged, and he abandoned his “justice march” on Moscow after direct orders from President Vladimir Putin. The crash coincided with reports of the removal of senior Russian general Sergei Surovikin, who was known to have a connection with Prigozhin. The crashed aircraft, an Embraer-135, was en route from Moscow to St Petersburg with seven passengers and three crew members.

An investigation has been initiated into the crash, and all 10 bodies have been recovered. The Wagner mercenary group, which Prigozhin was associated with, has been involved in various conflicts including those in Ukraine, Syria, and West Africa, and is known for its brutality. Prigozhin’s mutiny had created tensions with Russian military commanders and President Putin.

President Putin’s initial response to Prigozhin’s challenge to Russia’s defense establishment was strongly negative. The circumstances surrounding Prigozhin’s death, if confirmed, have raised speculation, with some eyebrows being raised about the possibility of deliberate targeting. US President Joe Biden expressed that he was “not surprised” by the news of Prigozhin’s potential death.

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Arkady Volozh, a co-founder of Yandex and a prominent figure in Russia’s tech industry, has criticized Moscow’s complete military intervention in Ukraine, referring to it as “savage.”

In an official statement, Volozh expressed his distress over the daily bombing of Ukrainian homes and conveyed his opposition to the conflict. Although he resides in Israel and had been criticized for his silence on the matter, he acknowledged his responsibility for his home country’s actions.

Volozh stepped down as Yandex’s CEO in 2022, a move that coincided with personal sanctions imposed by the European Union. The EU cited his role in supporting actions undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. Yandex, often likened to “Russia’s Google,” is the largest Russian-language internet search engine. Volozh’s condemnation of the invasion stands out among Russia-linked business figures who have openly criticized President Vladimir Putin’s decision to initiate the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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Moscow authorities have introduced a new educational textbook aimed at rationalizing the war in Ukraine and attributing blame to Western nations for Russia’s predicament. As per extracts disclosed by Russian media, the school material asserts that humanity’s survival was at stake if Vladimir Putin hadn’t initiated his “special military operation” against Ukraine. The textbook, titled “Russian History, 1945 – early 21st century,” was co-written by Vladimir Medinsky, a former Russian culture minister and current presidential adviser.

Notably, this marks the first officially sanctioned history book in Russian schools covering events as recent as the complete invasion of Ukraine, which commenced in February 2022. Beginning September, it will be taught in the final year of Russian secondary education, attended by 17 to 18-year-old students.

The textbook argues that Western powers are dedicated to destabilizing Russia and disseminating “unconcealed Russophobia.” It contends that the West is deliberately dragging Russia into conflicts, with the ultimate goal of dismantling the nation and gaining control over its mineral resources. The book also relies on familiar Kremlin narratives, depicting Ukraine as an aggressive state led by nationalist extremists manipulated by the West to act against Russia.

The textbook distorts historical facts. For instance, it frames Russia’s initial involvement in Ukraine in 2014 as a response to a popular uprising in eastern Donbas, without mentioning Russia’s military involvement in the region. The book cites the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO as a key reason for the full-scale invasion in 2022, suggesting that such an event would have prompted Russia to wage war against the entire NATO alliance, potentially leading to catastrophic consequences.

The textbook also inaccurately claims that Ukraine planned to turn Sevastopol into a NATO base and pursue nuclear weapons. Additionally, it misrepresents the linguistic demographics of Ukraine’s population, asserting that 80% spoke Russian as their mother tongue before 2014, when the actual figure was much lower.

In the context of mounting evidence linking Russian forces to atrocities in Ukraine, the textbook warns students about the proliferation of staged media content and fake imagery. The book critiques Western sanctions against Russia following the invasion, depicting them as efforts to undermine Russia’s economy and wrongly asserting that they violate international law.

Furthermore, the exodus of Western businesses from Russia post-invasion is depicted in a positive light, being characterized as a “fantastic opportunity” for Russian entrepreneurs.

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Entertainment News Trending

Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko is taking legal action against the Metropolitan Opera in New York City after they dropped her from future performances following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The renowned soprano is seeking $360,000 in damages, alleging defamation, breach of contract, and other violations. The Met has responded, stating that the lawsuit is without merit.

Despite having previously expressed support for President Vladimir Putin and making donations to a theater in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Netrebko faced pressure to condemn the invasion of Ukraine. While she eventually did criticize the conflict, she stopped short of denouncing Putin, leading to her dismissal from future performances with the Met.

Netrebko’s lawsuit claims that the Met’s actions caused her emotional distress and negatively impacted her professional relationships, leading to lost contracts with Russian theater companies. The Met, however, insists that the lawsuit is baseless.

Earlier, Netrebko had filed a separate complaint through the American Guild of Musical Artists, which ruled in her favor and awarded her over $200,000 in compensation for the canceled performances.

Despite the fallout with the Met, Netrebko has continued performing in other venues around the world, including in Italy, and has upcoming performances scheduled in Buenos Aires, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, and Paris. However, her planned concert in Prague faced scrutiny, with a city official urging the event’s cancellation due to her appearance on Ukraine’s sanctions list. Nonetheless, the producer organizing the concert defended Netrebko, stating that she had condemned the war, and the event was nearly sold out.

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News Trending War

A Russian tanker carrying 11 crew members was hit in a Ukrainian attack in the Black Sea, according to Russian officials. The incident occurred in the Kerch Strait, with the vessel’s engine room suffering damage in the overnight strike. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. Ukraine has not officially commented, but a Ukrainian security service source indicated that a sea drone was used in the attack.

This is the second consecutive day of such attacks involving naval drones. However, Russia has not acknowledged any damage from the previous day’s attack. The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, from Russia’s Taman peninsula.

The Ukrainian security service source stated that the operation was carried out jointly with the Ukrainian navy and involved the use of a sea drone carrying 450kg of TNT explosive. The targeted tanker was loaded with fuel, making the impact visible from a distance.

Russia’s maritime transport agency confirmed that the tanker, named Sig, had sustained damage in the area of the engine room near the waterline, likely from an attack by a sea drone. However, the ship remained afloat.

Tensions in the region have escalated, with recent clashes and attacks, including the Russian naval base in Novorossiysk, further southeast of the Kerch Strait. Both sides seem to be engaging in aggressive actions, leading to concerns about the war spilling beyond its borders.

In response to the escalating situation, Ukraine designated six Russian Black Sea ports as “war risk” areas, signaling a possible preparation for further attacks on Russian territory. Talks on ending the war in Ukraine have also begun in Saudi Arabia, with invitations sent to around 40 countries, excluding Russia. China has agreed to send its special representative for Eurasian affairs to the meeting. The conflict stems from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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News Trending War

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to renew the grain export deal with Ukraine during a summit hosted by Russia.

Al-Sisi emphasized the importance of reviving the deal and finding a swift solution to supply the poorest African countries with grain. Russia had withdrawn from the agreement and subsequently bombed Ukrainian Black Sea ports. In response, Putin blamed the West for failing to fulfill its obligations under the deal and offered to provide Russian grain for free to six African countries.

These countries include Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea, except Somalia, which is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. The summit also saw African leaders urging Putin to consider a peace plan proposed by them to end the war caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The plan calls for recognizing the sovereignty of both Russia and Ukraine, conducting urgent peace talks, and ensuring uninterrupted grain exports. The blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports following the invasion caused a significant amount of grain to be trapped, leading to a surge in world food prices and potential shortages in Middle Eastern and African nations that heavily relied on food imports from Ukraine.

The grain export deal was initially brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022, allowing cargo ships to access a designated corridor in the Black Sea for transportation. Ukraine is a major global supplier of crops such as sunflower oil, barley, maize, and wheat.

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News Trending War

Wheat prices on the global markets have experienced a sharp rise following Russia’s declaration that it would consider ships heading to Ukrainian ports as potential military targets. This decision came after Moscow withdrew from a UN agreement that guaranteed safe passage for grain shipments through the Black Sea. In recent nights, Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine’s grain facilities in cities like Odesa. The White House has accused Russia of planning to attack civilian ships and then falsely blaming Ukraine for it. As a result of these developments, European stock exchange wheat prices surged by 8.2% to €253.75 per tonne, with corn prices also rising by 5.4%. US wheat futures recorded their highest daily increase since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, jumping 8.5%. President Vladimir Putin has expressed willingness to return to the international grain agreement if certain demands, including the lifting of sanctions on Russian grain and fertiliser sales, are met.

Amid these escalating tensions, Russian air strikes continued in Black Sea coastal cities for three consecutive nights, leading to civilian casualties. The attacks have targeted grain export infrastructure and raised concerns about the safety of shipping routes for essential food supplies. Ukraine’s options for exporting grain by rail are limited, with rail capacity smaller than shipping volumes, and some EU countries in Eastern Europe blocking Ukrainian grain to protect their own farmers.

Analysts have warned that Russia’s threatened escalation could disrupt waterborne grain shipments from the Black Sea, impacting both Russian and Ukrainian exports. Some Ukrainian officials have called on the UK, US, France, and Turkey to provide military convoys and air defenses to protect grain ships heading to Odesa.

The situation has raised concerns about potential impacts on global food security and inflation, particularly in developing countries, leading to social instability, food shortages, and increased migration. Critics accuse Russia of using food supplies as a political tool in its conflict with Ukraine.

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Russia has informed the United Nations, Turkey, and Ukraine that it will not extend a crucial grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that the agreements had effectively ended on Monday. The deal permitted cargo ships to pass through the Black Sea from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. However, Russia stated that it would reconsider the agreement if certain conditions were met.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously expressed dissatisfaction with parts of the deal, claiming that the export of Russian food and fertilizers had not been fulfilled. He specifically mentioned that grain had not been supplied to poorer nations, which was a condition of the agreement. Russia also complained about Western sanctions limiting its agricultural exports and repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal.

On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry reiterated these concerns, accusing the West of “open sabotage” and prioritizing commercial interests over humanitarian goals. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his belief that Putin still wanted to continue the agreement and stated that they would discuss its renewal during their upcoming meeting.

The grain deal is significant because Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of sunflower, maize, wheat, and barley. Following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukrainian ports were blockaded, trapping 20 million tonnes of grain and causing a sharp increase in global food prices. The blockade also posed a threat to food supplies in Middle Eastern and African countries heavily reliant on Ukrainian grain.

Nikolay Gorbachev, the president of the Ukrainian Grain Association, mentioned that alternative methods of exporting grain had been identified, including through Danube River ports. However, he acknowledged that these ports would be less efficient, leading to reduced grain exports and increased transportation costs.

Western leaders swiftly criticized Russia’s decision, with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemning it as a “cynical move” and emphasizing the EU’s efforts to ensure food security for vulnerable populations.

Russia’s announcement coincided with Ukraine claiming responsibility for an attack on a bridge in Crimea that resulted in the deaths of two civilians. Peskov stated that Russia’s decision to let the deal expire was unrelated to the attack, as President Putin had already declared the position before the incident.

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