PUTIN CAVES: RUSSIAN LEADER MEETS WITH TILLERSON IN ‘TENSE’ EXCHANGE DESPITE EARLIER REFUSAL

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today in an apparent about face.

Putin, who had earlier in the week refused to meet with Tillerson amid tensions over the American strike on Syria, spoke with Tillerson in Moscow for nearly two hours, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson has confirmed.

The meeting comes after harsh words by president Trump toward Russia, who he claims assisted Syria in a deadly chemical strike on Syrian civilians that killed dozens of people.

“If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal (Syrian president Bashar al-Assad), you wouldn’t have a problem right now,” said Trump.

Sources with close knowledge of the meeting said that Tillerson pushed Putin to cooperate with the United States in helping to bring Syria under control. Despite a long standing friendship between Tillerson and Putin, the meeting was described as “tense”.

During the 24 hour period leading up to Tillerson’s landing in Moscow, the White House accused the Russian government of hiding evidence that proved al-Assad was responsible the gassing of his own people, launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.

In a statement, an angry Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused President Trump, who American media claimed had collaborated with Putin to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 election, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.

“This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when U.S. representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq,” said Putin, referring to intelligence that Mr. Trump has also cited in recent months. “The exact same thing is happening now,” he argued.

Sean Spicer, when asked about to expect in regard to the meeting between Tillerson and Putin on Wednesday, said Tillerson was expected to focus on the mutual interests of the United States and Russia but that Tillerson would also put Putin on notice that the U.S. will not tolerate further acts of aggression by Russia or their Syrian ally.

“I think there is a shared interest in defeating ISIS in the region that we have a national security concern that should align with their national security concern,” he said. “Russia right now is an island. It’s Russia, North Korea and Iran … Russia is among that group the only non-failed state.”

Russia is only “isolating” itself by standing by Assad, he added.

The Kremlin had said earlier in the week that Putin would not meet with Mr. Tillerson upon his arrival, but on Wednesday the Russian leader’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Putin would “consider” meeting with Tillerson at some point “depending on how Tillerson’s other talks” went.

As a matter of protocol, Russian leaders have greeted virtually all new secretaries of state since the end of World War II, and the initial refusal was considered to be a major snub to U.S. Russian relations and was cited by many political experts as a an effort by Mr. Putin to show Tillerson that just who was in control.

Before heading back behind closed doors, Putin and Tillerson shared a stiff handshake and made no eye contact.

Russia has said that despite U.S. concerns, they will continue to back their Syrian ally and will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that al-Assad has the military backing necessary to thwart off another U.S. attack.

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MAD DOG TO SYRIA: DON’T RATTLE OUR CHAIN; MATTIS WARNS SYRIA ON ‘CONSEQUENCES’ OF FUTURE ACTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis warned the Syrian government on Tuesday that it will pay a “very, very stiff price” for future chemical attacks.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Army Gen. Joseph Votel at the Pentagon, Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was behind last week’s gas attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians.

“Last Tuesday, on the 4th of April, the Syrian regime attacked its own people using chemical weapons,” Mattis said. “I have personally reviewed the intelligence and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself.

“In response to the attack, our government began a deliberate process led by the National Security Council to recommend diplomatic and military options to the president,” Mattis said. “We met over several days and I spoke with some of our allies. The National Security Council considered the near century-old international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.”

Referencing the air attack upon a Syrian airbase last week at the order of president Trump, Mattis said the United States is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that such atrocities do not occur again.

“The Syrian regime’s repeated violation of that international law and inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed, we determined that a measured military response could best deter the regime from doing this again,” he said.

“This military action demonstrates that the United States will not passively stand by while Assad blithely ignores international law and employs chemical weapons he had declared destroyed,” said Mattis. “The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.”

When asked about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s angry response over the airstrike, said the United States was deliberate in their maneuver and “took appropriate actions to ensure no Russians were injured in the attack.” When pressed by a reporter who asked more specifically what, if any, involvement Russia may have had in helping it’s ally in planning the chemical assault, Mattis was evasive.

“We have gone back through and looked at all the evidence we can and it’s very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack and who conducted this attack itself.” he said. “The Assad regime planned it, orchestrated it and executed it. And beyond that, we can’t say right now. We know what I just told you. We don’t know anything beyond that.”

Mattis said that, despite Russia’s insistence that there is no proof that Assad ordered the chemical strike upon his own people, the strike ordered by Trump was necessary to “stop the cycle of violence into an area”.

“Even in World War II chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. Even in the Korean War, they were not used on battlefields,” he said.

How much advanced knowledge Russia had of the chemical attack in Syria remains a subject of debate. On Monday, the Associated Press quoted a senior U.S. official who asserted that Russia knew of the chemical attack before it occurred (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria). However, during a daily press briefing from the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said there is no evidence to back up the official’s claim.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, brief the media at the Pentagon

REPORT: U.S. PLANNING PREEMPTIVE STRIKE ON NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR FACILITY; KIM JONG- UN “READY FOR WAR”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bid to take out North Korea before it can attack the United States, U.S. officials are planning a preemptive strike upon the rogue nation’s main nuclear reactor, according to a leading expert.

Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korean military expert at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, told the Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2017/04/103_227326.html) that Pyongyang is likely planning a 6th nuclear test that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants carried out before April 25th. The urgency is reportedly in response to the escalating war of words between Jong-un and American president Donald Trump, who has vowed to stop the dictator before he can launch a nuclear strike against the United States.

“The U.S. could also throw a precision strike at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center to prevent North Korea’s further advancement of nuclear capability,” said Seong-chang.

The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, located 90km north of Pyongyang, is North Korea’s main nuclear facility and has long been the concern of U.S. military officials.

“If the U.S. attacks the Yongbyon facility, it will open the curtains to the worst-case scenario — nuclear war — as North Korea could attack South Korea’s nuclear plants or Seoul using nuclear weapons,” said said Seong-chang. “China would certainly disagree with the U.S. attacking North Korea. China would withhold its engagement in the military conflict as long as the Kim Jong-un regime does not collapse so that it does not have to clash with the U.S. Japan will support the U.S. in attacking North Korea because it needs American support as it tries to beef up its imperial military force.”

On Tuesday, North Korea warned U.S. officials that they are prepared to launch a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group barreled toward the Korean peninsula on the orders of president Donald Trump.

“Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theater but also in the U.S. mainland,” read a statement from Jong-un in the nation’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

Also on Tuesday, Trump, who met late last week with China’s president Xi Jinping, tweeted that if North Korea was “looking for trouble” the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help. North Korea has long been known as one of China’s strongest and most loyal allies.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent well wishes to North Korea in recognition of Kim Il Sung’s birthday and said the two countries were “conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.

Trump, during his summit with Jinping, ordered a military strike upon a Syrian airbase following a gas attack on Syrian civilians that intelligence indicated was done on the order of Assad.

In a separate release by the North Korean government on Tuesday, a KCNA statement read: “We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions. The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”

North Korea’s foreign ministry said of the approaching U.S. Navy strike group that the order to enter the Korean peninsula showcased Washington’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.

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ON THE BRINK: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA MOUNT AS U.S. DISCOVERS PUTIN HAD ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE OF CHEMICAL ATTACK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions between the United States and Russia reached a peak on Monday after U.S. officials discovered that Russia may have had advance knowledge of a deadly gas attack upon Syrian civilians which killed more than 80 people, 27 of which were children.

According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria), Russia not only knew of Syria’s chemical weapons attack in advance, but bombed a Syrian hospital as the injured were obtaining treatment in an effort to cover up their ally’s use of chemical weapons.

The official said a drone operated by Russians was captured on surveillance footage flying over the hospital as doctors fought to save the victims’ lives. Hours after the drone left, he said, a Russian jet began dropping bombs on the facility.

The official says it remains unclear as to whether a Russian pilot or Syrian pilot was flying the bomber, but that the bombing came from a Russian jet proves that the Russian government was complicit in the attack. Until Monday U.S. officials said it remained unclear what, if any, knowledge Russia had of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s apparent plan to gas his own people.

The allegation strikes another devastating blow to the already crumbling relations between the United States and Russia, who publicly slammed president Donald Trump’s decision to launch a military strike against Syria in response to the gassing.

Last week, after Trump ordered military jets to bomb a Syrian airbase, Russian president Vladimir Putin angrily withdrew from a joint agreement with the U.S. that was designed to ensure military peace.

So far, there has been no Syrian retaliation for the airstrike, which destroyed more than 20 Syria air force planes, but Russia said in a statement over the weekend that it will do whatever is takes to ensure that their ally has the military capacity necessary to protect itself from future American strikes.

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PUTIN UNHINGED: FURIOUS RUSSIAN LEADER ORDERS MILITARY RESPONSE TO TRUMP’S ‘ACT OF AGGRESSION’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an angry response on Friday to president Donald Trump’s military strike against Syria.

Calling Trump’s order to strike an airbase facility in Syrian on Thursday evening an “act of aggression”, Putin pulled the plug on a longstanding agreement of military cooperation with the United States, calling the military strike on Syria “a disgraceful act”.

Following the announcement of Russia’s withdraw from the agreement, a Russian warship entered the eastern Mediterranean, navigating itself directly toward the area where two U.S. Navy destroyers launched the missile strikes. Upon obtaining intelligence of the ship’s entry, one of the American destroyers that launched the missiles into Syria was ordered back to an undisclosed location to rearm.

According to a military spokesperson, the warship is engaged in a high rate of speed and it’s intentions are unknown.

In further response to the attack, Putin said his military would work to bolster Syria’s air defense systems in an effort to provide military aide to it’s ally.

“In order to protect the most sensitive objects of the Syrian infrastructure, a system of measures to bolster and increase the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces’ air defense systems will be implemented,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on Friday.

Trump’s strike against Syria came in response to a chemical weapons attack against civilians on Tuesday that killed at least 70 people and sickened hundreds more. Intelligence reports suggest that the Syrian government was, itself, behind the attack, an allegation that it’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, denies.

After being briefed on the gas attack, President Trump said he was “horrified” and “sickened” at the images of dead children who were casualties of the attack.

“No child of god should ever suffer such horror,” President Trump said on Thursday after ordering the strike. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

In a separate statement, a spokesperson from the Kremlin called the attacks against Syria unwarranted and cited a UN report that declared Syria free of chemical weapons.

“Vladimir Putin believes that complete disregard for factual information about the use by terrorists of chemical weapons drastically aggravates the situation,” said the spokesperson. “This move by Washington has dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state.”

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