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Putin warns IS plans to destabilize southern Russia and Central Asia

Putin also said that clandestine terrorist groups were active in the SCO member states, which was proved during the investigation into the terror attack in St. Petersburg.

ASTANA. The Islamic State terror group (IS, outlawed in Russia) plans to destabilize the situation in southern Russia and Central Asia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting between the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states.

"We have information that the IS has been making new plans to destabilize Central Asia and southern Russia," he said. This is why, in Putin’s words, "there is a need to strengthen coordination between the SCO member states’ special services, particularly through the regional counterterrorism agency."

Putin also said that clandestine IS groups were active in the SCO member states, which was proved during the investigation into the metro terrorist attack in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. "Besides, terrorists based in Afghanistan have been seeking to enter our countries which cause much concern," the Russian president added.

On April 3, a blast occurred in a metro car between Tekhnologichesky Institut and Sennaya Ploshchad stations of the St. Petersburg metro. The attack killed 15 people, while more than 50 were injured. The Russian Investigative Committee said that the blast had been carried out by
Akbardzon Dzhalilov, a native of Kyrgyzstan who had obtained Russian citizenship.

A global threat
Only fair and meaningful cooperation between the states may help defeat terrorism, the Russian president has added.

"In order to defeat this scourge [terrorism], all countries should join their efforts for fair and meaningful cooperation based on international law."

Putin added that the fight against terrorists should be uncompromising. According to him, there is also a need to remove social and economic reasons for terrorism and combat the spread of extremist ideas. In this connection, the Russian president stressed that the role of the SCO’s counterterrorism agency was increasing, besides, the Convention on combating terrorism, planned to be signed at the current SCO summit, would also be very important.

Russia protests: 'Hundreds detained' at opposition rallies

Hundreds of people have been detained at anti-corruption rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg, an NGO says.

Riot police in central Moscow were picking protesters out of the crowd at random, a BBC correspondent at the demonstration has said.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at his home ahead of the protests, according to his wife.

Thousands of supporters have heeded his call to take to the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities.

OVD-Info, an NGO, told Russian media that more than 400 had been detained at the Moscow protest. More than 300 people were detained at the rally in St Petersburg, the news website reported.

Riot police have mostly cleared protesters from Moscow's main street, Tverskaya, which runs up to the Kremlin, but not yet from Pushkin Square, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford.

Many of those detained were young people, apparently teenagers, our correspondent at the scene says.

The crowd was shouting "Russia without Putin", and "Down with the tsar," says the BBC's Steve Rosenberg, who is also reporting from the demonstration in Moscow.

"Alexei [Navalny] has been arrested in the entrance to our block of flats," Yuliya Navalnaya wrote on Twitter, ahead of the demonstration.

Mr Navalny, who intends to stand for the Russian presidency next year, had been due to attend the unauthorised rally in central Moscow.

In a live broadcast by the Russian liberal TV channel, Dozhd, protesters in St Petersburg could be heard shouting "shame" as they were detained by police. Among those arrested was Maxim Reznik, the city's legislative assembly deputy.

Prominent activist Daniil Ken said he was arrested as he left his home in St Petersburg. He urged people to join the rally at the city's Champ de Mars square. "Go for me, please!" he tweeted. He has since been released.

Police had earlier detained several people at demonstrations in the cities of Vladivostok, Blagoveshchensk and Kazan.

At the scene - by Sarah Rainsford, central Moscow

It is a national holiday in Russia so Tverskaya Street was already filled with families when protesters began to turn up.

Thousands poured into central Moscow, mingling with those people who had been taking part in the festivities for Russia Day

A lot of the protesters were deliberately wrapped in the Russia flag. They say they are here as Russians and as patriots, but also as people who are unhappy with the authorities.

The police have been making loudspeaker announcements every few seconds saying that this is an illegal protest and people should disperse, but there is still a huge crowd of people in central Moscow.

Mr Navalny was earlier granted permission to hold a rally at Sakharova Avenue but changed the location - without permission - on the eve of the demonstration to Tverskaya Street, near the Kremlin.

One of the groups participating in the Moscow rally, which is over government plans to demolish Soviet-era apartment blocks in the city, said it would hold its protest on Sakharova Avenue as planned.

Permission was granted for demonstrations in 169 locations across the country, some of which are being broadcast live on the Navalny Live YouTube channel.

The protests coincide with a series of official events - including festivals, concerts and military enactments - due to take place across the country to mark Russia Day, the national holiday dedicated to the 1990 declaration of sovereignty.

Similar rallies led by Mr Navalny in March led to hundreds of arrests.

Those protests were the largest since 2012, drawing thousands of people - including many teenagers - to rallies nationwide, angered by a report published by Mr Navalny that accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption.

Vladimir Putin denies he has compromising material on Donald Trump
The Guardian

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied he had any compromising material about US President Donald Trump.

“Well, this is just another load of nonsense,” Putin said on NBC News’ Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, when asked whether he had any damaging information on the Republican president.

The remarks were the latest in a series of denials from Moscow that have had little impact so far on a political crisis in the United States over potential links between Russia and Trump’s inner circle.

The issue will be front and centre this week in Washington, where former FBI director James Comey is due to testify on whether Trump tried to get him to back off an investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s election campaign and Moscow.

Comey, who was leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election, was fired by Trump last month, four years into his 10-year term.

Putin also told NBC he had no relationship with Trump and had never met him, regardless of Trump’s previous travel to Russia as a businessman. Putin noted that executives from perhaps 100 American companies were currently in Russia.

“Do you think we’re gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something?” Putin asked, before saying: “Have you all lost your senses?”

Trump has offered contradictory accounts of his relationship with Putin over time but has also said the two never met. He has called an FBI investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia a “witch hunt” designed to undermine the legitimacy of his 2016 election win.

Trump has also disparaged a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations that purported to show Russian intelligence operatives had compromising information about him, but which he has described as a “hoax.”

US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Moscow tried to tilt the election campaign in Trump’s favour, including by hacking into the emails of senior Democrats, a charge the Kremlin denies.

“They have been misled,” Putin told NBC, in an interview NBC said was recorded on Friday. “And they aren’t analysing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.”

Trump has denied any collusion but the FBI and congressional probes into the Russia matter have dogged the early months of his presidency.

Former CIA director John Brennan said last month he had noticed contacts between Trump’s campaign associates and Russia during the 2016 election and grew concerned Moscow had sought to lure Americans down “a treasonous path.”

After Comey’s dismissal, news reports emerged that Trump asked Comey to end the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn during a February meeting in the Oval Office, the day after Flynn was fired for misrepresenting his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.

Flynn has declined to testify to the US Senate Intelligence Committee about his Russian ties, invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

Putin downplayed Flynn’s appearance with him at a December 2015 gala dinner in honor of the Russian television network Russia Today (RT), which US officials consider a state-run propaganda outlet.

“I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’,” Putin said.

“That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him. That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn,” he added.

Reuters has reported that Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies.

Putin said he was unaware of any such discussion and criticized NBC for asking about contacts between the ambassador and the Trump administration.

“You created a sensation out of nothing. And out of this sensation, you turned it into a weapon of war against the current president,” Putin said.
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