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9 things to know about James Comey’s testimony

Former FBI Director Comey’s evidence to the Senate Intelligence Committee confirms that there was no obstruction of justice by the President, either of the Russiagate probe or of the Flynn investigation.

Alexander Mercouris

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Former FBI Director Comey has concluded the open part of his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The quality of the questioning – both by Republicans and Democrats  – struck me as extremely poor.  I found Comey’s written testimony to the Committee published yesterday far more informative than his answers today.

This was largely the result of the Senators’ collective failure to ask pertinent questions or – given the short time for questioning permitted to each Senator – to coordinate their questioning properly with each other.

Here are the main points that came out from Comey’s testimony as I see them:

(1) Comey’s written testimony makes it clear what were the primary topics on the President’s mind in his discussions with Comey.  They were

(a) his desire for a statement by the Justice Department or the FBI that he was not personally under investigation; and

(b) his desire for an investigation of the leaks, which were destabilising his administration.

(2) Comey provided no evidence that the President interfered in or sought to interfere in the conduct of the Russiagate investigation.  On the contrary the details of that investigation do not seem to have been discussed by Comey and the President at all.

At one point in their discussions the President said that if any of the people in his campaign team were guilty of any wrongdoing then the law should take its course.  In light of this the whole obstruction of justice allegation in relation to the Russiagate investigation collapses.  I cannot see how it can be sustained any further.

I would add that Comey in fairness to him was at pains to say both in his verbal and in his written testimony that the FBI’s Russiagate investigation is a counter-espionage investigation into Russia’s alleged role in the US election not a criminal investigation.  I have discussed the relevance of this here.

(3) Comey confirmed that the President is not under under investigation as part of the FBI’s Russiagate probe.

(4) Comey resisted the President’s wish for a public statement saying that the President is not under investigation in the Russiagate probe.  His reasons for doing so were that the President might hypothetically come under investigation in the future, which might require a future statement contradicting any previous statement that he was not under investigation as part of the probe.

That is a totally wrong reason for refusing the President’s request whose logic is totally flawed.  I will discuss this in detail below.

(5) Unfortunately it is impossible to discuss Comey’s response to the President’s requests for an investigation of the leaks because shamefully the Senators showed no interest in this subject.  Comey’s written testimony wrongly downplays the importance of this issue.

Those are the main points to come out of Comey’s testimony.  There are two further points of less importance, though they seem to obsess the media commentators.  I will briefly touch on them.

(6) the President wanted the FBI to end its investigation of General Flynn, provoked by General Flynn’s now notorious telephone conversation with the Russian ambassador.  However the President did not tell or order or threaten Comey to end this investigation, which continued regardless despite the President’s wish, and which does so still.  Comey’s later sacking was wholly unconnected to the President’s wish that the FBI end this investigation.

A point which is completely missed in all discussions of this question – and which none of the Senators brought up in their questioning of Comey today – is that this investigation commenced in December 2016 and relates to a single telephone call between the Russian ambassador and General Flynn.  The only criminal offence anyone has suggested General Flynn may have committed in connection with this call is one under the Logan Act, under which no one has been prosecuted in the two hundred years of its existence.

Notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding that the investigation has been underway for 6 months, there is still no sign of it ending, or of any decision being made whether to prosecute General Flynn or not.  That is a scandal, a much greater one than the fact that the President expressed a wish back in February that this absurd investigation be brought to an end.

(7) the President’s request to Comey for “loyalty” is so ambiguous and so open to differing interpretations – a fact admitted by Comey himself – that I don’t think anything turns on it.

Paul Ryan is almost certainly right in seeing this request as just another example of the President’s inexperience and lack of understanding of the proper etiquette he needs to follow in his interactions with senior officials.  Certainly I do not think this request is evidence of any intention by the President to interfere in the course of the Russiagate investigation, and since we now know from Comey that no such interference ever took place, there is no basis for using this request in any charge against the President for obstruction of justice.

There are two other points of factual interest that came out of Comey’s testimony today.

(8) Comey has admitted that it was he who leaked quotes from his attendance note of his meeting with the President on 14th February 2017, when the subject of the Flynn investigation was discussed.

This is very much Comey’s style.  He likes to give the impression of being an honest and straight talking cop, and this was very much a theme of his testimony today.  In reality he has all the deviousness of a long standing veteran of bureaucratic infighting, selectively quoting from his own attendance note so as heighten the drama of his own testimony, and so as to ensure that the focus during this testimony is on those topics that he wants it to be.

(9) It is now clear that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russiagate investigation was under active consideration two weeks before it was announced.  Comey admits this in his written testimony.

The publication of news of Sessions’s meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak therefore had nothing to do with Sessions’s decision to recuse himself, which had already been taken before the publication of this information took place, and which he was about to announce anyway when the publication of this information took place.  Sessions’s statement announcing his decision to recuse himself all but said as much, and we now know from Comey that what it said was true.

That means that the publication of the information about Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador was leaked so as to put Sessions’s announcement in a false light, and so as to create an impression that there was something sinister about Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador, when this was not the case.

That is my summary of what we have learnt from Comey today.  Has Comey’s testimony taken us any further forward?

Firstly, though we can expect the usual lurid headlines, I cannot see anything which remotely amounts to a convincing case for obstruction of justice in anything that Comey said during his testimony today.  Even allowing for the fact that impeachment is a political rather than a legal process, I cannot see how in the absence of any case for obstruction of justice impeachment proceedings can get off the ground, and I expect those claims to fizzle out over the next few weeks.

Secondly, it should be said clearly that the President’s requests to Comey that there be a public statement confirming that he was not personally under investigation were perfectly proper and legitimate, even though the President was wrong to address them to Comey personally, and should have done so through the Department of Justice.

The President was perfectly right to say that the constant insinuations in the media that he might be under investigation for colluding with the Russians was putting his Presidency under “a cloud” and was interfering with his ability to conduct foreign policy, and given that he was not under investigation the President was fully justified in wanting to have the fact that he was not under investigation made public.

As for Comey’s resort to hypothetical scenarios in order to deny the President’s request, it should be said clearly that this was wholly inappropriate, and the fact that Comey during his testimony hid behind the alleged opinions of one of his investigators in order to justify his refusal shows that he knows it.

As to the reason Comey gave for refusing the President’s request, that an announcement that the President was not under investigation might have to be publicly contradicted if the President ever were to come under investigation in the future, it should be said clearly that the reasoning here is fundamentally flawed, for reasons which are not difficult to explain.

Obviously should the President ever come under investigation then the FBI and the Justice Department must make the fact public, and it would be wholly wrong if they did not.  That should happen irrespective of whether or not there had been a previous announcement that the President was not under investigation.   The one should in no sense be dependent on the other.

Comey’s implication that there would only have to be a public announcement of an investigation of the President if a previous announcement had been made that the President was not under investigation – so that this previous statement would have to be ‘corrected’ – is not only completely wrong.  It is actually utter nonsense and Comey knows it.  It is astounding – and lamentable – that it seems that none of the Senators do.

Comey is an enigma is in the Russiagate case.  There is some evidence that initially he resisted the hysteria which is driving it.  For example he refused to sign Clapper’s notorious October 2016 statement accusing the Russians of meddling in the US election.

At some point however Comey seems to have let himself become swept along by the hysteria, possibly because he was unnerved by the criticisms of his decision to drop the case against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server, and wanted to make up with the Democrats – who he probably thought would win the election – by taking their Russiagate claims seriously.

The result is a series of bad decisions which have been central in driving the Russiagate case, and which show that despite Comey’s tortuous denials by the time of the election he had clearly become totally committed to the Russiagate case, and was conducting it in a grossly partisan way.

Firstly, there was the truly bizarre decision to accept the opinion of a private company – CrowdStrike – that Russia was behind the hacking of John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers, rather than have the FBI investigate the fact for itself.

Secondly is the credence shown to the ludicrous Trump Dossier, which Comey is now known to have been instrumental in adding as an appendix to the classified ODNI report shown to Trump in January, and which has been an essential part of the Russiagate investigation ever since.

Thirdly there was the truly bizarre decision to accede to Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s paranoid demands for a criminal investigation under the Logan Act of General Flynn’s telephone conversation with Russian ambassador Kislyak.

That Comey’s relations with the President subsequently collapsed in acrimony in light of all this is hardly surprising.  Moreover it is clear that Comey could see what was coming, and that within days of the inauguration he was busy preparing his defence for the inevitable falling out with the President he must have known was bound to come.

I do not believe Comey’s claim that it is not his usual practice to make attendance notes of his meetings with senior officials.  On the contrary, both as a state official and a lawyer, I am sure Comey makes such attendance notes as a matter of course.

However it is clear that in this case he prepared his attendance notes and circulated them amongst his colleagues in a particular way in order to use them in the battle with the President which he knew was coming.  The fact that he selectively leaked quotes from the attendance notes in order to bolster his case before he gave his testimony confirms as much.

In the event, though the President acted extremely unwisely in his interactions with Comey, Comey ultimately has nothing to show.

The worst that can be said about the President is that his personal loyalty to General Flynn – and possibly his feelings of guilt about the way he dismissed him – led him to speak very indiscreetly about Flynn’s case to Comey.  However since he did not tell Comey to drop the case against Flynn or in any way pressure Comey to do so, and since the case continues anyway despite being totally absurd, I cannot see how a scandal – let alone grounds of impeachment – can be conjured up out of this.

In all other respects Comey’s evidence today was a damp squib, revealing nothing truly sinister or new.  Once the hysteria dies down more and more people will start to see that.  Already the President’s legal team are making that very point.

Once again, because of his own mishandling of Comey, the President faces some difficult headlines over the few days.  If he handles them sensibly, and leaves it to his legal team to respond to them, he has nothing however to worry about.

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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Massacre in Crimea kills dozens, many in critical condition

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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