Das boot ist kaputt! Germany has the world's best submarines… but none of them work

Germany is effectively without its entire submarine fleet, and won’t have one vessel operational for months to come. Each one of the navy’s vaunted U-boats is either on maintenance or in desperate need of repairs.

The German navy once boasted that its cutting-edge Type 212A submarines equipped with hydrogen fuel cells allow them to navigate submerged for over two weeks before resurfacing, thus giving them an edge over most diesel submarines that can stay submerged for only a few days. Each such vessel costs the German budget some €400 million ($ 469.9 million), according to the German ARD broadcasting corporation. However, the German military have recently admitted that all of their six precious vessels are out of action.

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Leopard 2 tanks © Fabian Bimmer

Berlin lost the last of its submarines this October when the Type 212A vessel named U-35 suffered serious damage to its rudder after hitting a rock during a diving maneuver off the Norwegian coast. The damage was so severe that the submarine had to be escorted to the German port of Kiel by testing ship the Helmsand. The rest of the submarine fleet, it turned out, was already out of service by that point.

Two of the Type 212A vessels are undergoing scheduled maintenance and will be ready for deployment no sooner than in the second half of 2018, while another two suffered some damage and are in an urgent need of repairs, with no estimated time of completion available. The sixth vessel was commissioned just in October and will become fully operational only after passing all the relevant trials no sooner than in May 2018.

“This a real disaster for the navy,” the German parliament’s Defense Commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels told ARD and another German broadcaster, NDR, in early December, adding that submarine operations were once Germany’s “top capabilities.” He went on to say that “it is the first time in history that none [of the U-boats] would be operational for months.”

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Leopard 2 tanks are seen during a German army © Fabian Bimmer / Reuters

Bartels then blamed major deficiencies in spare parts for the submarines as well as the government’s cuts of the defense budget for this unfortunate turn of events. He explained that after the end of the Cold War the German authorities decided to give up on stockpiling spare parts for the military equipment due to its high costs and instead opted for ordering them upon occurrence.

The commissioner, however, said that this trend “has been reversed” and the government is once again ready to spend money on the military needs. He added though that “it will take years” before one can see the real results of the new policy.

In the meantime, even if Germany manages to put all its submarines back into action, it still will not be able to operate them all at the same time. According to the ARD, the navy now has only three submarine crews while more are still in training.

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US to spend $214mn on Europe air bases on pretext of 'Russian aggression'

Washington has allocated $ 214 million to build airfields, training sites, ranges and other military installations in an unprecedented military buildup in Eastern and Northern Europe aimed at countering “Russian aggression.”

The planned modernization of the air bases, located predominantly in Eastern Europe close to Russian borders, as well as in Iceland and Norway, is a part of the $ 4.6 billion European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) aimed at “reassuring” NATO’s European allies.

The funds will be distributed among a total of nine bases in Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Luxembourg, Iceland and Norway for them to be able to house top-of-the line US warplanes, Air Force Times reports.

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U.S. army soldiers with their Stryker armoured fighting vehicle attend the final day of NATO Saber Strike exercises in Orzysz, Poland, June 16, 2017. © Ints Kalnins

The US reportedly plans to deploy F-22 Raptor and F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jets to some of the bases in the Baltics and Northern Europe to track and deter Russian submarines, the paper reported, while a spokesperson for U.S European Command, Maj. Juan Martinez, refused to give any specifics on the nature or location of the operations.

The Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland is set to undergo a $ 14 million modernization, which will see it adding new hangars to host P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes. The aircraft, dubbed “submarine killer,” is equipped with torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other weaponry.

Part of the investment will be spent on the construction of new runways and fuel storage facilities at the air bases. Some $ 55 million will be poured into the Hungarian Kecskemet Air Base in order “to increase fuel storage capacity, construct a parallel taxiway and upgrade the airfield,” according to Martinez. He noted that large-scale infrastructure upgrades across Europe does not mean that the US troops would be stationed there permanently, but rather stick to rotations as they have in the past.

The anti-Russian agenda championed by the US-led NATO has been getting increasingly costly for the American taxpayer. In 2018, the EDI budget will jump $ 1.2 billion in addition to 2017’s $ 3.4 billion.

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Soviet state president Mikhail Gorbachev and German chancellor Helmut Kohl talk in Soviet Union on 15 July 1990 © Global Look Press

A part of this is $ 500 million in “defense lethal assistance” promised by Washington to Ukraine and hailed by its president, Petro Poroshenko, who has long been seeking US arms to suppress the popular unrest in the self-proclaimed Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in the country’s east, which, according to the official Ukrainian and American narrative, are backed by Russia. The disbursement of funds is conditional to reforms of the Ukrainian military, that will have to be attested by the US.

By aggressively bolstering its military presence at Russia’s doorstep, NATO is endangering regional stability as well as global security, Moscow has been maintaining.

The ongoing beef-up of NATO in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, and the deployment of new parts of the US missile defense, “clearly indicate blatant unwillingness of our Western partners to stop pushing an anti-Russian agenda,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said.

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Battles fought over Christmas in 2017

While ostensibly a season of celebration and gift-giving, Christmas has found itself embroiled in number of controversies over its Christian character involving college campuses, figurines and the US president himself.

Though its roots can be traced back to midwinter festivities of pagan and Roman Europe, Christmas has been celebrated by Christians worldwide on December 25 (or January 7 if you are Orthodox) as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Recent decades, however, have seen the religious aspects of this holiday chipped away both by secularism and rampant consumerism, and some conservative commentators have declared there is a “War on Christmas.”

As yuletide draws nearer, RT looks back on a few of the Chrimbo controversies that have erupted over the past few weeks.

No Christmas on campus!

Santa Claus, Christmas trees, wrapping gifts and jingle bells are all regular fixtures of the season, but not, apparently, at the University of Minnesota, where a newsletter from the Dean this week informed students that “specific religious iconography” is “not appropriate for gatherings and displays at this time of year” and advised students to “consider neutral-themed parties such as a ‘winter celebration’” instead. Jewish symbols of Hanukkah such as dreidels were also listed as undesirable.

The handout also encouraged students to report any dissident decorating to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. However, university spokeswoman Emma Bauer told Fox News that the letter was a “conversation piece to facilitate dialogue at a voluntary, internal college event on respecting religious diversity in the workplace,” and not official college policy.

Happy Holidays?

Among the self-proclaimed defenders of the Christmas tradition is US President Donald Trump, who has decried the role “political correctness” has had in dampening the festive spirit, and has made a point of saying “Merry Christmas” instead of the more neutral expression, “Happy Holidays,” favored by the Obamas.

“They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct,” he said in a speech in October. “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

True to his word, the Trump family’s Christmas card this year read “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” and is signed by Melania Trump, her son Barron and the POTUS himself.

But there might be some discord in the First Family’s household as daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted “Happy Holidays!” on Tuesday, inadvertently inviting a wave of sarcasm. Ivanka is married to Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, and herself converted to Judaism in 2009.

While over half of Americans don’t mind whether they are greeted with a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holidays,” according to a recent Pew survey, the latter can be deeply offensive to conservative Christians who consider it an attack on their beliefs.

Nativité? Non, merci

Across on the other side of the Atlantic, France’s fiercely secular tradition of “laïcité” forbids the expression or proselytizing of religion in many public places, leading to court rulings against local authorities putting up nativity scenes in their town halls. But earlier in December Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and contender for the leadership of the right-wing Republicans party, found a way to get around the ban by claiming his nativity set-up was in fact a celebration of the work done by local artisans.

“Judges have banned us from displaying a nativity scene in the town hall and other public buildings,” Wauquiez said. “And so this year, we have organized an exhibit about the art of making santons [nativity figures].The aim is to put forward this extraordinary savoir-faire, and for people to find out more about how the traditional figurines are made.”

M Wauquiez’s “exhibit” was criticized by local left-wingers, who accused him of acting “like a child.”

No Christmas in the classroom!

Parents, officials and politicians alike complained to the Gribskolen primary school in Graested, Denmark, earlier this week after it chose to cancel the traditional Christmas service, in an effort not to exclude pupils from different religious backgrounds.

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© Global Look Press

“We took the decision because we have children who are not Protestant,” Marianne Vederso Schmidt, the head of the school, wrote in an intranet posting earlier this month, adding that “it must be left to the individual families whether they want to privately attend a service.”

A group of 10 parents were the first to criticize the decision, which was quickly picked up by the national media.
“I don’t see why our tradition has to be taken away from us, just because someone else at the school believes in something else,” Mette Brüel-Holler, the mother of two enrolled daughters, told TV2. “I come from a small community, where the church is important, and these traditions are beautiful. I remember enjoying them myself as a child, and they are a fundamental part of Christmas.”

Some speculated that the move was made to avoid offending the sensibilities of Muslim students, and right-leaning politicians too weighed in on the argument. “We are a Christian country with our own traditions,” Marie Krarup of the Danish People’s Party wrote on her Facebook. “We should not sacrifice this in the name of multiculturalism.”

However, the chairman of the School Leaders Association, Claus Hjortdal, has said that there is no rule saying that there must be a Christmas service at the end of term, and pointed out that many schools do not have one at all.

Christmas banned for real

In the past, Christmas celebrations have been banned by Puritan Christians in both England and America, as well as by communist regimes such as Cuba and Albania. These days an actual ban on festivities is only observed in a handful of mostly Muslim countries.

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© Erich Gemeiner

In 2015, Somali officials declared that public celebrations on Christmas have no place in a Muslim society, and may provoke an attack by militant group al-Shabaab. The few Christians remaining in the country, mostly foreigners, are allowed to practice their beliefs in private. Around the same time the sultanate of Brunei in Southeast Asia also outlawed Christmas, and anyone caught wearing a Santa hat there could face five years in jail.

The same year, the majority-Muslim but officially secular ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan passed laws banning Christmas trees, gift-giving, dinners, fundraising and fireworks, having already banned Father Frost, the Russian version of Santa Claus, from TV screens in 2013. The measures apply to both Christmas time and New Year’s, and are intended to guard Tajikistan’s cultural traditions from foreign influences.

Christmas is banned in communist North Korea, where the nation’s Christians are forced to practice their beliefs in secret. In 2014, Pyongyang threatened to hit a Christmas tree erected on the South Korean border with an artillery strike.

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80,000 protest Trump’s Jerusalem recognition in Indonesia (VIDEO)

Around 80,000 people took to the streets in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Sunday to again decry US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The protest, which was organized by Indonesia’s senior Muslim clergy, began in front of Jakarta’s central mosque. The people, many of whom arrived from outside the capital, then marched towards the US embassy.

The event was peaceful as 20,000 police officers were deployed to provide security. The demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and banners condemning Trump for his move. Many in the crowd were wearing Muslim robes and jointly held prayers, Al Jazeera reported.

During the protests, Anwar Abbas, the General-Secretary of Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, the Ulema Council, called upon the protestors to boycott American and Israeli products if the US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital isn’t reversed.

It was the fourth and largest protests in the country since Trump’s announcement last Wednesday. Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world with 225 million, has been a longtime supporter of Palestinian independence and critic of Israeli occupation.

READ MORE: Muslims may lose Mecca if they fail to hold on to Jerusalem – Erdogan

The US move led to days of violent clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, which resulted in several fatalities and over 1,000 injured. Thousands also took to the streets to protest and burn US flags in Jordan, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere across the Muslim world.

The US initiative to recognize Jerusalem faced widespread international condemnation. The leaders of France, Germany and other European nations have all agreed that the US move was dangerous and harmful to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Earlier this week, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an emergency summit, during which the 57 member countries acknowledged East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

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Saudi prince who led anti-corruption purge revealed as owner of ‘world’s most expensive home’

The Saudi crown prince who led a recent royal crackdown on corruption and lavish spending has reportedly been revealed as the buyer of “the world’s most expensive home.”

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was identified as the owner of the 50,000sq ft (4,645 sq m) Chateau Louis XIV following a report by the New York Times Saturday. The paper found that the heir to the Saudi throne bought the $ 300 million property in 2015 – one of a number of symbols of the royal’s largesse along with a $ 500 million yacht and a $ 450 million painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci.

READ MORE: As Yemen burns, Time readers vote Saudi Crown Prince person of the year

The prince was said to have acquired the palace through a number of shell companies in France and Luxembourg that are all owned by Eight Investment Company, a Saudi firm run by his own personal foundation. The claims in the report were based on information from the Paradise Papers, a trove of more than 13 million documents relating to offshore investments that were leaked to an alliance of news media.

The revelations seem particularly ironic in Mohammad bin Salman’s case, as he has been leading a campaign promoting austerity and railing against self-enrichment in the oil-rich state in recent times. The effort has resulted in the arrest of more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen and their imprisonment in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.

The Kingdom’s deficit reached $ 79 billion last year. To cut the deficit, Riyadh has tried to implement fiscal measures, including spending cuts, raising taxes, bond sales and even raised the prospect of a floating a part of its oil monopoly Armco on the stock exchange.

READ MORE: Saudi prince freed from Ritz-Carlton ‘prison’ after $ 1bn settlement with authorities

Salman’s 620-acre palace was built in 2009 in Louveciennes, west of Paris, after developer Emad Khashoggi, the nephew of a billionaire arms dealer, bulldozed a 19th-century castle to make way for his vision of a Versaille-style palace. The home, which features a wine cellar, movie theatre and a moat with transparent underwater chamber, is entirely modern, with fountains, lights and air conditioning all remotely controlled via iPhone.

There are also 10 bedroom suites in the house, indoor and outdoor pools, a squash court, two ballrooms and a nightclub. Fortune magazine described the property as “the world’s most expensive” in a feature piece in December 2015.

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‘The king of bling’: Macron’s birthday celebration in lavish palace draws ire in France

Emmanuel Macron, who has been already dubbed “the President of the Rich” for his lavish high-class lifestyle, once again angered his critics in France who this time slammed his royal birthday celebration.

France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon is to turn 40 on December 21. Macron decided to celebrate his birthday this weekend in the Renaissance style Château de Chambord in France’s Loire Valley, once the stomping ground of French royalty. The immense chateau, which boasts a nearly 500-hectare estate, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction, located some 150 kilometers southwest of Paris.

The posh gala dinner, which included some of 15 Macron’s relatives and friends, took place in one of the palace’s 440 rooms on Friday evening.

Macron, his wife Brigitte and her children and grandchildren spent the weekend in one of the four-star cottages, some 200 meters from the best-known Renaissance chateau. Such cottages can be rented for €800 to €1,000 per weekend, according to French media.

However, the Elysees Palace emphasized that the president wasn’t spending French taxpayers’ money for his luxurious party, but used private funds, L’Obs newspaper reported, citing the Elysees statement.

Yet the choice of the venue, which was commissioned by Francis I of France for his royal hunts in the 16th century, was harshly criticized by the opposition.

Macron’s presidential rival and most trenchant critic Jean-Luc Mélenchon immediately reacted to the lavish birthday party in a series of tweets and comments. “Happy birthday, M. Macron,” the La France Insoumise left-wing political party leader wrote bitterly. “He celebrates [his birthday] in Chambord, that gives him a monarchical image that suits him a lot.”

“Fuss in Chambord: paper plates, candy and cotillion dance,” Adrien Quatennens‏ from Melenchon’s party added.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who also repeatedly exchanges barbs with the president, reminded the president that while he celebrates his birthday, the whole country “suffers from taxes, insecurity and immigration.”

“Eras go by, but the oligarchy remains cut off from the people,” he said.

Green Party politician Esther Benbassa pointed out that Macron arrived at the chateau on the same day the French government ruled out any increase in the national minimum wage, while Lionnel Luca from the center-right Union for a Popular Movement jokingly wrote: “Who is the king?” in an apparent reference to Macron’s much-discussed lifestyle. 

Gilbert Collard‏ from the National Front even made a collage, putting Macron’s and his wife’s faces onto the bodies of a French king and queen (or mistress). “The king has fun,” he wrote, apparently referring to Victor Hugo’s play about lavish balls at royal palaces.

His collage inspired other people on Twitter, who imagined the “Jupiter” in another royal “emploi.”

With speculation rife that Macron, who has been in office some 200 days, considers himself a king rather than a president, the Twitterati tried to get him back to the real thing. “Macron wasn’t elected by God. Yet he thinks that he is the king of France,” one person wrote.

“Macron is a king of bling bling,” another person noted, using a slang term for elaborate and flashy jewellery.

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UN Security Council to vote on outlawing Trump's Jerusalem decision

The UN Security Council is expected to vote Monday on a resolution confirming the international status of Jerusalem and outlawing any changes to it – which implies the recent US move to recognize it as the capital of Israel.

The text of the document, drafted by Egypt, which was seen by Reuters, says that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

It does not specifically mention the US or its recent decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, but it implies a call on Washington to withdraw it. The text also mentions “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong Jerusalem March 29, 2016. Ronen Zvulun

The one-page resolution that was circulated to the members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Saturday also urges all countries to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem in yet another apparent message to US President Donald Trump. After he took office, the new president’s administration signaled that it could move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but had not fulfilled this promise to date.

The document also “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions.” Back in December 2016, the UNSC adopted a resolution that explicitly said the international community “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

The new resolution would need at least nine votes in favor out of 15 and no vetoes by any of the UNSC permanent members to be passed – which means it will likely be blocked by Washington. The US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, earlier hailed the US decision on Jerusalem as “the just and right thing to do.”

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Arab League foreign ministers hold an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt December 9, 2017 © Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The draft resolution has already drawn fire from Tel Aviv. “No vote or debate will change the clear reality” that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said on Saturday, as cited by Reuters.
The US initiative to recognize Jerusalem faced widespread international condemnation. The leaders of France, Germany and other European nations have all agreed that the US move was dangerous and harmful to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Arab League also rejected the American decision, saying that it essentially amounted to the recognition of the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem by Israel.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the Security Council to annul Trump’s decision. He also added that if the UNSC fails to act on the issue, Turkey would “approach relevant authorities within a legal framework.”
Speaking at an award ceremony in Istanbul, the Turkish leader also warned that if Muslims lose Jerusalem they might also lose the holy cities of Mecca and Medina someday. Earlier, China expressed its support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with a capital in East Jerusalem.

The leaders of Islamic countries who gathered for an emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in mid-December also called for East Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Palestine in response to the US move. They said that Washington’s decision de facto deprived the US of the status of mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

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Victor over Roy Moore says US should ‘move on’ from Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones believes allegations of sexual misconduct made against US President Donald Trump should not lead to his resignation.

The newly-elected Democratic senator, who previously hit out at Senate election rival Roy Moore over historic sexual assault allegations made against him by multiple women, said people should “get on with the real issues.”

Sexual assault allegations have been levelled at US President Donald Trump by a number of women, including a former Miss Finland winner. The allegations, which Trump has branded “wild and false,”have led to calls for the 45th US president to step down.

READ MORE: ‘Grab them by the p***y’: Leaked audio of Trump causes GOP backlash

However, in a statement that appeared to be at odds with his reaction to Senate rival Roy Moore, Jones backed the president to continue in his role. It came after Jones was asked on CNN’s State of the Union if he agreed with Democratic Senator Cory Booker’s call for Trump to go.

“Those allegations were made before the [presidential] election and so people had an opportunity to judge before that election. I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues. Let’s get on with the real issues facing people of this country right now and I don’t think the president ought to resign at this point,” Jones said on CNN’s State of the Union.

READ MORE: Trump’s support for Roy Moore, Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct, slammed by Republicans

In an open letter published in November, Moore labelled the allegations by his accusers as false and defamatory. Jones later denounced the former judge for “inconsistencies” in his denials.

“It is crystal clear that these women are telling the truth and Roy Moore is not,” Jones said prior to the December 12 Alabama election.

READ MORE: Former Miss Finland accuses Trump of sexual assault, bringing number of accusers to 12

Jones later claimed victory over the former Supreme Court judge by a margin of just over 20,000 votes.

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Trump to Putin: US was glad to save many lives in Russia by helping foil major terrorist attack

The White House says US intelligence services were pleased to have helped thwart a terrorist plot in Russia that “could have killed large numbers of people.”

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Kazan cathedral, Saint Petersburg © Getty Images

“President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called President Donald J. Trump today to thank him for the advanced warning the United States intelligence agencies provided to Russia concerning a major terror plot in Saint Petersburg, Russia,” read the statement from the White House. “Based on the information the United States provided, Russian authorities were able to capture the terrorists just prior to an attack that could have killed large numbers of people.  No Russian lives were lost and the terrorist attackers were caught and are now incarcerated.”

The statement also noted that the Russian president even extended his gratitude to CIA chief Mike Pompeo, which Trump promptly passed on to the agency. The two leaders agreed that this operation against terrorism “serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together.

In a series of overnight raids on Wednesday and Thursday, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested members of a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, seizing a large amount of explosives, weapons and ammunition and dismantling a bomb-making workshop. The extremists were planning a series of attacks on public places, including a suicide bombing and an explosion in the Kazan Cathedral in the center of the city.

Putin thanked Trump for CIA tip-off which helped Russia prevent terror attack

During his phone call with President Trump, Vladimir Putin said that Russian intelligence agencies would also pass on any intelligence about attacks being planned against the United States to their American counterparts.

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