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The Kremlin is accusing the US of "kidnapping" alleged Russian hacker Roman Valerevich Seleznev after the Secret Service arrested the 30-year-old for allegedly installing malicious software to steal credit numbers, the International Business Times reported. Russia is calling the US arrest of Seleznev "yet another unfriendly gesture" of the United States. Prosecutors say Seleznev, who's scheduled for a July 22 hearing, programmed malicious software to steal credit numbers, using computer servers all over the world. He is charged with bank fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer, possessing stolen credit cards and identity theft. According to Russian media, Seleznev is the son of Russian MP Valery Seleznev. The Russian Parliament member reportedly told the Itar-Tass news agency he was unable to speak with his son but called the allegations a "monstrous lie and a provocative act." "We consider this as the latest unfriendly move from Washington. This is not the first time the US side, ignoring a bilateral treaty ... on mutual assistance in criminal matters, has gone ahead with what amounts to the kidnapping of a Russian citizen," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website. Seleznev was arrested July 5 by the US Secret Service in an airport in the Maldives. He was taken to Guam where he appeared in court on Monday, according to the International Business Times. Seleznev faces up to 30 years in jail if found guilty of the charges, which include bank fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and aggravated identity theft. Meanwhile Seleznev Sr., the lawmaker, called for "retaliation" against the Maldives that assisted US authorities in the arrest.
A nationalist lawmaker has found elements of pornography on a Russian 100-ruble bill, asking that an image of Greek God Apollo be struck from the banknote in accordance with a law protecting children from potentially damaging information, a news report said. In his letter to the Central Bank, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Roman Khudyakov said the statue of Apollo from the Bolshoi Theater portico showed "intimate parts of the body" and that the banknote should come with an "18+" rating, such as films deemed too explicit for minors, Izvestia reported Tuesday. Given the likelihood of children setting eyes upon the 100-ruble bill, which is worth about $2.90, Ivchenko argued the banknote should feature something more child-friendly -- such as a picture of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March, Izvestia reported. "As bills of that denomination often get into the hands of children as pocket money, I strongly request your help in changing the design of the banknote or otherwise bringing it into accordance with current legislative regulations," Khudyakov was quoted as saying in his letter, which Izvestia said it had obtained. The statue of Apollo at the Bolshoi was -- to some controversy -- covered with a prudish fig leaf when the theater was renovated a few years ago, and Khudyakov noted in his letter that the image on the bill no longer matched its original, the report said. Lawyers concurred that based on Russia's current legal definitions and codes, the lawmaker may be technically right, Izvestia reported.
The American CNN TV channel has revealed a shocking lack of geographical knowledge. A CNN report about self-defense fighters' pullout from the towns of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in southeastern Ukraine carried a map locating Slavyansk in the western part of Crimea. Covering Ukrainian troops' seizure of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, both situating in Ukraine's southeast Donetsk region, the CNN mislocated Slavyansk, "moving" it to Crimea. Similar blunders echo the latest remark by Stephen Colbert, the host of the popular Colbert Report satirical show, who said, citing a Washington Post poll, that barely one in six Americans could locate Ukraine on a map of the world correctly.
Ukrainian security forces cleared pro-Russian separatists out of two eastern cities Saturday -- significant developments, though hardly conclusive, in the effort to bring unity and stability to the European nation. The Ukrainian flag was raised Saturday over Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, a pair of flashpoint cities that have been strongholds of groups advocating independence from the Kiev-based national government for months. President Petro Poroshenko's officed announced Saturday that separatists had left Slovyansk. Clearing this key city was very difficult, since militants hid inside residential buildings and other facilities where civilians are, according to Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said most of the militants had left. "They are running. This morning intelligence suggests that (separatist militant leader Igor) Girkin and a significant number of fighters have fled Slovyansk. ... Some remain. Rest going to Gorlovka," he wrote.
Violence in Ukraine escalated sharply Tuesday, as artillery shells and airstrikes pierced the relative calm of a 10-day cease-fire hours after President Petro Poroshenko allowed it to expire. Both sides appeared to be readying for a protracted battle after days in which the fighting diminished but did not disappear. It remained unclear whether the Ukrainian military, which has battled pro-Russian separatists since mid-April, would be able strike a decisive blow against the rebels, who have seized territory in eastern Ukraine. The longer a conflict drags on, the greater the risk of further civilian casualties and the harder it will be for Ukraine's new government to stitch the society back together. Ukraine's economy presented a formidable challenge even without a growing insurgency in the country's industrial heartland.
The European Council on Friday said it would give Moscow three days to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, or it will impose new sanctions against Russia, according to a statement published Friday. The European Council also set conditions for the de-escalation. "The European Council expects that by Monday 30 June the following steps will be taken: Agreement on a verification mechanism, monitored by the OSCE, for the ceasefire and for the effective control of the border; return to the Ukrainian authorities of the three border checkpoints (Izvarino, Dolzhanskiy, Krasnopartizansk); release of hostages including all of the OSCE observers; launch of substantial negotiations on the implementation of President [Petro] Poroshenko's peace plan," the statement reads. The European Council said it regrets that the ceasefire, "while being respected by the Ukrainian authorities," has not led to the full cessation of military hostilities and called upon the sides to "genuinely commit to the implementation of the peace plan and to cement the cessation of the military activities." The EU has adopted and repeatedly expanded the sanctions list to people they believe played a role in "violating Ukraine's territorial integrity." A total of 61 Russian and Ukrainian nationals have been hit with EU travel bans and asset freezes over the crisis. Several Crimean enterprises have also been targeted by the EU sanctions. Moscow has repeatedly stated that the language of sanctions is "inappropriate and counterproductive" and warned its western partners about the "boomerang effect" sanctions would have.
Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the European Union signed association agreements that foresee the creation of a free-trade zone with the EU during a summit in Brussels Friday. Kiev has only signed the economic part of its association agreement. Following the political upheaval in Ukraine, the EU's heads of state and governments decided to split the association agreement into two parts. The political part of the agreement was signed on March 21. The economic section of the agreement stipulates the free-trade zone is to go into effect in the fall, after it is ratified by the Ukrainian parliament. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry hopes the legislature will approve the EU association agreement in July. Russia has free-trade agreements with Ukraine and Moldova in the CIS framework while Georgia, which is not a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, is still party to several CIS trade agreements.
With the milestone agreement to create a Eurasian economic union clinched in Kazakhstan on Thursday, Russia put cheap energy resources at the head of its drive to pull former Soviet states away from European integration and into its orbit. The Eurasian Economic Union agreement, signed by the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the Kazakh capital of Astana, will come into force on Jan. 1, 2015. It envisages the gradual integration of the three former Soviet countries' economies, establishing free trade, unbarred financial interaction and unhindered labor migration. The pact combines the previous agreements reached between the three countries under the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space, which were formed in 2010 and 2011 and have been generally considered a success. At the signing ceremony, President Vladimir Putin said "Today we are creating a powerful center of gravity for economic development, a large regional market that unites more than 170 million people," according to an official transcript. He also stressed that the union's combined territory is a hydrocarbon treasury, possessing a fifth of all global natural gas resources and 15 percent of all oil reserves. Russia's gain in entering the Eurasian union is more political than economic -- particularly as Russia is still smarting from the recent failure of its attempts to draw Ukraine into the Customs Union. As for Kazakhstan and Belarus, they are pursuing their own economic interests rather than any dream of forming super-state between Europe and Asia, both their leaders and analysts said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Friday that the United States planned to receive competitive advantages in trade and economic ties with Europe by insisting on sanctions against Russia. "Insisting on imposing sanctions against Russia, I have the suspicion that maybe our American friends, and they're pretty sophisticated guys, they, perhaps, even want to get certain competitive advantages in their trade and economic ties in Europe? I simply just don't see, don't understand any other incentive motives that are that serious or deep, but I hope that common sense prevails," Putin said. The US and EU have imposed sanctions against Russia in connection to its policy in Ukraine and the reunification of Crimea. The sanctions have so far remained targeted and consist of government-approved lists of individuals and companies facing visa bans and asset freezes.
Russia says it is "open to dialogue" with the new president of Ukraine, as initial results suggested Petro Poroshenko would win its election. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said military action must end against separatists in the east. Mr Poroshenko said he would meet Russian leaders soon but vowed to take a tough line on any armed separatists. Unrest continues in the east, with pro-Russia militiamen halting flights at Donetsk airport.