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Pelosi suggests Putin has financial influence over Trump

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has some sort of financial influence over former President Trump.

In an interview with MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki,” Pelosi said Putin is the “richest person in the world” and has “stiff competition” to being named the most evil person in the world.

Pelosi asked “what does he have on Donald Trump that he’d have to constantly be catering to Putin?”

Her comments came just after Trump doubled down on his criticism of NATO and said he would encourage Russia to attack U.S. allies who fail to reach the alliance’s defense spending goals. Trump has also declined to criticize Putin for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison last week.

Pelosi noted that Trump’s comments on NATO come near the two-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine.

Psaki asked Pelosi what she thinks Putin has on Trump to make him refuse to criticize the Russian leader.

“I’m not sure what he has on him, but I think it’s probably financial,” Pelosi said in comments highlighted by Mediaite.

Pelosi warned that Trump’s actions after Navalny was found dead show he is a “person without values.”

In the interview, the former Speaker was highly critical of Trump’s delayed comments about Navalny’s death and said his remarks were “beneath the dignity of a human being.” Trump compared the Putin critic’s death to his own legal circumstances.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Speaking on Presidents Day, Pelosi said Trump has brought “disgrace to the White House” and to former presidents such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. She reiterated that “we must be sure that he does not step one foot into the White House” again.

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X says it will update spam filters after mistakenly suspending Navalny's widow

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, said Tuesday it will update spam filters after it mistakenly suspended a new account created by Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“Our platform’s defense mechanism against manipulation and spam mistakenly flagged @yulia_navalnaya  as violating our rules,” X’s Safety account wrote in a post Tuesday. “We unsuspended the account as soon as we became aware of the error, and will be updating the defense.”

Navalnaya’s account was suspended a day after she vowed to carry on with her husband’s work against corruption in Russia.

“By killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and my soul. But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up,” Navalnaya said, according to a Google translation of the Russian transcript.

“I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny. Continue to fight for our country. And I invite you to stand next to me. To share not only the grief and endless pain that envelops us and does not let go. I ask you to share my rage. Rage and anger towards those who dared to kill our future.”

According to independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, Navalyana’s account was restored about 30 minutes after its suspension.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was started by Navalny, questioned Navalnaya’s suspension Tuesday morning.

“Hey @elonmusk! Please explain exactly which rules were violated by @yulia_navalnaya,” the post read.

Russia’s Federal Prison Service said Friday that the opposition leader, who was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism, was not feeling well following a walk and lost consciousness.

President Biden blamed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for Navalny’s death in remarks from the White House Friday.

“Reports of his death, if they’re true, and I have no reasons to believe they’re not — Russian authorities are going to tell their own story,” Biden said.

“But make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled,” he continued.

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Russian defector killed in Spain, Ukraine says

Russian defector Maksim Kuzminov, who flew a military helicopter to Ukraine and detailed his escape, has been found dead, Ukraine’s intelligence service said.

Kuzminov’s body was found at the entrance to a residential complex in Villajoyosa, a town in Spain, Ukrainian spokesperson Andriy Yusov confirmed to The Washington Post.

His body was found with multiple bullet wounds and run over by a car. Witnesses told local media that gunmen shot him many times and ran him over in an escape car, the Post reported.

Kuzminov was a 28-year-old Russian military pilot who defected to Ukraine last year. He detailed his dramatic escape in a helicopter and urged others to follow his path.

In a video released last September, he said he first reached out to HUR, Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency, in 2022, and agreed on a plan to escape by flying his Mi-8 helicopter into a safe corridor to reach Ukraine. He said he flew the helicopter at an “extremely low altitude in radio silence mode” to avoid detection leaving the Russian air base.

Kuzminov escaped on Aug. 9, and marked the first time a Russian pilot defected since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Kuzminov’s death marks a potential turning point for Europe, being the latest example of Russian officials carrying out a killing internationally, the Post noted.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told the outlet that the assassination could embolden Russians to continue international killings.

In the video, Kuzminov said he was a Russian military transport pilot, moving troops and equipment, chose to leave Russia because he was opposed to the war with Ukraine. He said he wrote to HUR via Telegram when the war began to come up with an escape plan, because he did not want to contribute to war crimes.

Spanish police initially believed the “bullet riddled” body belonged to a Ukrainian by a different name, but now say further investigation is necessary, the Post reported. Spain’s Interior Ministry would not confirm the identity of the body found at the time the Post published its article.

Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, said Kuzminov was dead the moment he began planning his escape. He also called Kuzminov a traitor and criminal, according to the Post.

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White House: ‘Major’ sanctions package against Russia after Navalny's death coming Friday

The White House announced that a major sanctions package against Russia will come Friday after the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The package will aim to “hold Russia accountable for what happened to Mr. Navalny,” White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

Kirby said that the new sanctions are designed to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for the war in Ukraine and are “specifically supplemented with additional sanction regarding Mr. Navalny’s death.”

President Biden has blamed Putin for Navalny’s shocking death in a prison in Russia. He told reporters last week the White House is “looking at a whole number of options right now” as to how to respond.

The president had warned in June 2021 of “devastating” consequences for Russia if Navalny died in prison.

The Biden administration has rolled out numerous sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the start of the war, and the U.S. has provided aid to give military equipment to the Ukrainian military.

The Senate passed a new aid package for Ukraine, as well as Israel, last week, but Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has rejected bringing it up on the House floor. The White House has used the House recess as a political weapon to batter Republicans for going on vacation without passing the funding for Ukraine.

Biden has also pointed to the lack of action from Congress as one reason Putin is growing more confident with the U.S. receding from Ukraine and Europe. Russia earned a significant victory in the battle for Ukraine by taking the city of Avdiivka, which was Russia’s first meaningful battleground victory over Ukraine in nearly a year.

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FBI, other agencies disrupt ransomware syndicate behind attacks worldwide

The FBI and other agencies have disrupted a ransomware syndicate, known as LockBit, that was behind a series of global cyberattacks that extracted at least $120 million, according to the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

“Today, after infiltrating the group’s network, the NCA has taken control of LockBit’s services, compromising their entire criminal enterprise,” according to an NCA press release, adding that the syndicate’s attacks have “targeted thousands of victims around the world, including in the UK, and caused losses of billions of pounds, dollars and euros, both in ransom payments and in the costs of recovery.”

The law enforcement agencies also took two people into custody — one from Poland and the other from Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The Justice Department unsealed indictments against two others, per the AP, which were both Russian nationals. 

The group provided ransomware to a global network of hackers and “affiliates” by supplying the tool and infrastructure needed to carry out such cyberattacks, according to the release.

“When a victim’s network was infected by LockBit’s malicious software, their data was stolen and their systems encrypted,” according to the release. “A ransom would be demanded in cryptocurrency for the victim to decrypt their files and prevent their data from being published.”

NCA Director General Graeme Biggar called the agency’s investigation with other international partners “a ground-breaking disruption of the world’s most harmful cyber crime group.”

“Through our close collaboration, we have hacked the hackers; taken control of their infrastructure, seized their source code, and obtained keys that will help victims decrypt their systems,” Biggar said in the release. 

“As of today, LockBit are locked out,” he continued. “We have damaged the capability and most notably, the credibility of a group that depended on secrecy and anonymity.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also said that law enforcement from the U.S. and the U.K. “are taking away the keys to their criminal operation.”

“And we are going a step further — we have also obtained keys from the seized LockBit infrastructure to help victims decrypt their captured systems and regain access to their data,” Garland said, according to the release. “LockBit is not the first ransomware variant the U.S. Justice Department and its international partners have dismantled. It will not be the last.”

The front page of LockBit’s site was replaced — hours before the announcement was made — with “this site is now under control of law enforcement,” alongside the flags of the U.K., the U.S. and other nations, AP reported.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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US vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to implement ceasefire

The United States on Tuesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by Algeria that called on Israel to implement a ceasefire against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, criticizing the measure as “wishful” and “irresponsible.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. is circulating an alternative text that calls for a temporary ceasefire and the release of more than 100 Israeli hostages held by Hamas. 

“For weeks we have made it incredibly clear that the resolution before the council would not achieve the goal of a sustainable peace and may in fact run counter to it,” Thomas-Greenfield said, explaining her veto of the resolution.

“Proceeding with a vote today was wishful and irresponsible. And so while we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share, a text that can and should be adopted by the council so that we can have a temporary ceasefire as soon as practical, based on the formula of all hostages being released,” she said.

“This temporary ceasefire is critical to getting aid into the hands of Palestinian civilians who desperately, desperately need it,” the ambassador continued.

The U.S. was the only permanent member of the Security Council to use its veto power to kill the resolution proposed by Algeria. The United Kingdom, another permanent member, abstained for the vote.

Thirteen members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.

“A vote in favor of this draft resolution is a support to the Palestinians right to life,” said Algeria’s representative to the UN, Amar Bendjama.

“Conversely, voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon them.”  

The U.S. is increasingly isolated among the international community in its refusal to call on Israel to implement a ceasefire in its war against Hamas. The Biden administration says it is working to get Hamas to accept a proposal that includes a six-week truce in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages, a scale-up of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and the likely release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The U.S. has so far backed Israel’s rejection of Hamas’s response to the truce proposal, saying that Hamas’s response included “non starters” for Israel.

But Qatar, one of the mediators of the negotiations for the truce, is accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of obstructing the talks.

Alarm is growing over an expected Israeli offensive on the Gazan city of Rafah, an area sheltering more than 1 million Palestinians who have fled fighting elsewhere in the enclave.

Israel has threatened to launch an invasion of Rafah at the start of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, raising fears of civilians being pushed across the border into Egypt, and of mass casualties that could further inflame conflicts in the region.

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Assange's wife says 'the world is watching' extradition appeal hearing

Stella Assange, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s wife, said the “world is watching” her husband’s extradition appeal hearing Tuesday.

“We have two big days ahead. We don’t know what to expect, but you’re here because the world is watching. They have to know they can’t get away with this,” Stella Assange said at a protest outside of the Royal Courts of Justice in London, in a clip highlighted by Mediaite.

“Julian needs his freedom, and we all need the truth,” she continued.

Julian Assange has been attempting to avoid extradition to the U.S. for more than a decade, where he has been indicted on 17 charges including espionage and computer misuse.

He assisted U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing diplomatic cables and military files, which would later be published on WikiLeaks, American prosecutors allege.

Assange has spent the last five years in Belmarsh Prison, on the outskirts of London. Before that, he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

“He is being prosecuted for engaging in ordinary journalistic practice of obtaining and publishing classified information, information that is both true and of obvious and important public interest,” Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, said in court, per The Associated Press.

Assange’s fate could be decided at the end of the two-day hearing Wednesday, but it’s more likely that it could take weeks for the judges to decide on his conviction, the AP reported.

“Assange and WikiLeaks were responsible for the exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale,” Fitzgerald said in written submissions, according to the AP.

The WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers have also said that, if convicted, he risks facing up to 175 years in prison, but American authorities have disagreed and said his sentence will probably be shorter.

The Associated Press contributed.

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Navalny's wife's X account temporarily suspended

The X account of Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was suspended Tuesday — one day after she pledged to continue her late husband’s fight against corruption in Russia.

“X suspends accounts which violate the X Rules,” a message on Navalnaya’s profile on the platform formerly known as Twitter reads.

About 30 minutes later, according to independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, the account was restored.

While no immediate explanation was given for the account’s suspension, X still faced fierce blowback in the short duration of the suspension.

In a post Tuesday morning, Anti-Corruption Foundation, started by Navalny, called on X owner Elon Musk to explain the suspension.

“Hey @elonmusk! Please explain exactly which rules were violated by @yulia_navalnaya,” the post read.

“Elon @elonmusk, please restore Yulia Navalny’s account @yulia_navalnaya,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of the foundation also posted on the social media platform.

Others placed the responsibility on Musk, as well.

“[Navalnaya], widow of alexei navalny, account is suspended,” wrote Ian Bremmer, political scientist and founder of the Eurasia Group. “[Elon] owns the platform. elon decides the rules.”

On Monday, Navalnaya pledged to continue her husband’s lifelong work and asked his followers to join her in taking up his fight and honoring his legacy.

“By killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and my soul,” she said in the video, according a translation of the Russian transcript via Google. “But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up.”

“I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny. Continue to fight for our country. And I invite you to stand next to me,” she continued. “To share not only the grief and endless pain that envelops us and does not let go. I ask you to share my rage. Rage and anger towards those who dared to kill our future.”

The appeal follows her husband’s death, announced Friday by the Russian Federal Prison Service and confirmed over the weekend by his family.

His death occurred while the Putin critic was serving out his 19-year sentence in Russia’s highest security level prison near the Arctic Circle. The service said it happened after Navalny was out on a walk and then suddenly lost consciousness, and the Kremlin has pushed back on suggestions of foul play.

The news, however, sparked a global outcry, as many blamed the death on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was already accused of ordering an assassination attempt in 2020 on Navalny. Putin also denied involvement in that incident, in which Navalny was poisoned.

Earlier Tuesday, Navalnaya called on Russian officials to return her husband’s body.

“I don’t care how the killer’s press secretary comments on my words. Give back Alexei’s body and let him be buried with dignity, don’t stop people from saying goodbye to him,” she wrote. “And I really ask all journalists who may still ask questions: don’t ask about me, ask about Alexey.”

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Navalny's mother demands immediate release of son's body

The mother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is demanding that his body be released immediately and returned to the family after they were told Russian officials would hold him for at least two weeks, allegedly while his cause of death in prison is investigated.

In a video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Let me finally see my son. Hand over Alexei’s body so I can give him a proper burial,” Navalnaya said in Russian.

Russian officials announced Friday that Navalny, 47, died in the country’s highest-security prison near the Arctic Circle.

An aide for Navalny said Monday that his mother and lawyers were notified by investigators that they would not give them the body.

“The body will be under some sort of ‘chemical examination’ for another 14 days,” Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said.

Officials said Navalny felt unwell after taking a walk and lost consciousness. They said an ambulance and its crew attempted to rehabilitate him but efforts were unsuccessful.

Navalny rose to prominence for his campaign against corruption and Putin. The director of his Anti-Corruption Foundation said that Russian officials told them that he had died from “sudden death syndrome,” a general term used to describe various cardiac syndromes that can prompt cardiac arrest.

Lyudmila said she has not been able to see her son and does not know where his body is. She visited the penal colony where he died on Saturday and received a death note that said his time of death was 2:17 p.m. local time Friday.

U.S. officials, including President Biden, have directly blamed Putin for the death.

“Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled,” Biden said Friday.

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1 in 6 children malnourished in northern Gaza: UN

A growing number of children in Gaza are “acutely malnourished” and isolated in the northern part of the territory as Israel pushes forward with expanding its military operations in the region, according to a study by UNICEF.

The report, published this week by the Global Nutrition Cluster — an aid partnership led by UNICEF — found 1 in 6 children younger than 2 years old in northern Gaza are malnourished, with an estimated 3 percent of this group experiencing a severe form of wasting, or being underweight for their age and height.

The nutrition situation of women and children is worsening across the territory, but especially in northern Gaza, which has been largely devastated by the more than four-month war between Israel and Hamas, the report found.

The nutrition conditions are also notably worsening in the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city of Rafah, where over half of the enclave’s population have sought shelter amid fighting elsewhere. Israel has pledged to expand its operations into Rafah to ensure the complete defeat of Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Rafah is the only place in Gaza where humanitarian aid is consistently entering the enclave, with U.N. humanitarian leaders warning of the dire consequences of expanded military operations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he ordered his military to draft an evacuation plan for civilians ahead of the invasion to address concerns. Some of the evacuations were ordered Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Hamas launched a surprise assault in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and kidnapping an estimated 250 others, prompting Israel to embark on a bombardment of Gaza by ground and air. More than 29,000 Palestinians have been found dead or displaced in more than 80 percent of the territory’s population, the AP reported.

The report also found 90 percent of children younger than 2 — and pregnant and breastfeeding women — in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups a day, which is known as severe food poverty. The food they can access is also of the “lowest nutritional value,” per the report.

At least 90 percent of children younger than 5 are also impacted by one or more infectious diseases and 70 percent have had diarrhea in the past two weeks, with analysts calling it an “unprecedented increase” in disease.

More than 80 percent of households are also without safe and clean water, with the average household having access to less than one liter per person per day, the study found.

Analysts said the nutrition conditions will continue to quickly deteriorate, especially in areas where humanitarian assistance is limited.

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations, said in a statement.

The Biden administration has been working with negotiators in Qatar and Egypt in recent weeks to broker such a long-term peace plan that would see a pause in fighting, the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution and said last week such a plan would only be a “huge reward” for Hamas following their initial attack.