Trump aides in back-door Ukraine peace plan: NYT

Agence France Presse
Mon, 2017-02-20

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has given him a peace plan for Ukraine drawn up by non-diplomats, and which has outraged officials in Kiev, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
The report comes after the Times reported senior Trump aides were in regular contact with Russian intelligence during the US presidential campaign. US intelligence say Russia meddled in the US campaign at least partly to support Trump.
The attorney, Michael Cohen, is seen as someone Trump turns to with tough problems, and not a diplomat; Cohen however is married to a Ukrainian, the report said.
Meanwhile, Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, “claims to have evidence — ‘names of companies, wire transfers’ — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr.Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr.Putin,” the report said.
While Artemenko was described as seeing “in Mr.Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine,” Kiev was having nothing of it.
Ukrainian ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind.
“It is a gross violation of the Constitution,” The Times quoted him as saying in written responses to its questions.
“Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”
Cohen, who lives in a Trump building in Manhattan, has been with the Trump Organization as special counsel since 2007.

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Ex-cop says Duterte paid him and others to kill crime suspects, bomb mosques

Mon, 2017-02-20

MANILA, Philippines: A retired Philippine police officer said Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte, when he was a mayor, ordered and paid him and other members of a so-called liquidation squad to kill criminals and opponents, including a kidnapping suspect, his family and a critical radio commentator.
Human rights lawyers who presented Arthur Lascanas at a news conference said his allegations could be grounds for impeaching Duterte. There was no immediate comment from Duterte or his office.
Duterte has denied his administration backs unlawful killings of suspects under his deadly crackdown against illegal drugs that is feared to have killed more than 7,000 mostly drug users and petty drug pushers since he took office in June.
The killings under the crackdown, an expansion of his anti-drug campaign when he was a longtime mayor of southern Davao city, have alarmed the United States, other Western governments and the UN rights officials.
In many public speeches Duterte has told policemen to defend themselves if drug suspects fight back and has openly threatened drug lords and dealers with death.
Lascanas’s comments came after he denied to a Senate hearing last year that he had been involved in any extra-judicial killings in Davao. He testified at the inquiry last October after he was implicated by another witness, Edgar Matobato, a former militiaman who said Duterte ordered him and others to kill criminals in gangland-style assaults that left hundreds of people dead.
Breaking into tears at one point, Lascanas said Monday he was speaking up because he was bothered by his conscience, including his role in the deaths of his two brothers, whom he ordered killed because they were drug users.
“I had my own two brothers killed. Even if I end up dead, I’m content because I’ve fulfilled my promise to the lord to make a public confession,” he said.
Lascanas narrated several killings that he said Duterte had ordered, permitted or financed as mayor of Davao, including the 1993 bombing of mosques as retaliation after Muslim rebels were blamed for the bombing a Roman Catholic cathedral.
Lascanas said he and his group shot dead a kidnapping suspect along with the man’s pregnant wife, young son, father-in-law and two others with the consent of Duterte.
After his group informed Duterte about the capture of the suspected mastermind of a kidnapping in Davao, Lascanas quoted the mayor as saying: “All right, make it clean.”
Another target was radio commentator Jun Pala, who was critical of Duterte. He was killed in 2003 by gunmen, who then got financial rewards from the then mayor, Lascanas said.

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Washington prepares to bring North Koreans to US for talks -report

Mon, 2017-02-20

WASHINGTON: Preparations are under way to bring senior North Korean officials to the United States for talks with former US officials, the first such meeting in more than five years, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The talks would be the clearest indication yet that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to communicate with the new Trump administration.
Planning for the “Track 1.5 talks” is still in a preparatory stage, the Post reported, citing multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements.
That name, reflecting planned contact between former US officials and current North Korean ones, is a reference to what are known as “Track 2” talks involving former officials on both sides.
The US State Department has not yet approved the North Koreans’ visas for the talks, the newspaper said.
A State Department spokesman commented to Reuters only that Track 2 meetings “routinely” take place on a variety of topics around the world and occur independent of the US government.
A White House official commented that the US government had no plans to meet with North Korea.
North Korea’s testing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile drew international condemnation last week. President Donald Trump told a news conference after the test: Obviously North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”

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