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FILE - The U.S. Treasury Building in Washington. VOA

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Chechen group and five people, including at least three Russians, over allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and the torture of LGBTI people.

The sanctions against the Terek Special Rapid Response Team in the Chechen Republic and the five were announced by the U.S. Treasury under the Magnitsky Act. They included suspects in the deaths of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky and Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.


The 2012 Magnitsky Act is named after the 37-year-old Russian auditor and imposes visa bans and asset freezes on officials linked to his death in prison 2009.

Those targeted on Thursday included Elena Anatolievna Trikulya and Gennady Vyacheslavovich Karlov, members of the Russian state’s Investigative Committee, who the U.S. said “participated in efforts to conceal the legal liability for the detention, abuse or death” of Magnitsky.


United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Chechen group and five people ver allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and the torture of LGBTI people. Pixabay

Abuzayed Vismuradov, commander of the Terek Special Rapid Response Team in Chechnya, was accused of “being responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” against those seeking to expose illegal activity by Russian government officials.

Detention, torture

The U.S. Treasury said Vismuradov was in charge of an operation that “illegally detained and tortured individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived LGBTI status.”

LGBTI is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.

The Treasury named Sergey Leonidovich Kossiev as being responsible for extrajudicial killings and torture as head of a penal colony in the Republic of Karelia. The fifth person, Ruslan Geremeyev, was accused of acting on behalf of the head of Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, in a matter relating to extrajudicial killings and torture.

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The Treasury statement said Russian investigators had twice tried to bring charges against Geremeyev as the possible organizer of the 2015 slaying of Nemtsov, but were blocked by the head of the Investigative Committee.

Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, was shot and killed near the Kremlin in 2015.

In 2017, a court sentenced a man to 20 years in jail for his murder, but Nemtsov’s allies called the investigation a cover-up and said those who ordered the assassination remained at large.

The Russian Embassy in Washington said in a statement that U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act “are at odds with the international law.” It said Russia would respond with “reciprocal measures.”


Vismuradov was in charge of an operation that “illegally detained and tortured individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived LGBTI status.”. Pixabay

The Magnitsky sanctions have been a point of tension between Moscow and Washington, which are far apart on a wide range of global issues and U.S. allegations of Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Pompeo visit

The latest U.S. move followed a frosty visit to Russia this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Washington would brook no interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and wanted Moscow to take action to show there would be no repeat of its 2016 meddling.

Magnitsky was arrested and died after discovering a $230 million tax fraud scheme, according to U.S. authorities. His supporters say the Russian state killed him by denying him adequate medical care after he was imprisoned on tax evasion charges. The Kremlin denies the allegation.

The Treasury statement said officials in Chechnya had launched a series of purges of people they believed to be LGBTI and several were believed to have died as a result.

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“They have rounded up dozens of people on these grounds, some of whom have disappeared, with others returned to their families barely alive from beatings and with their captors outing them to families and encouraging the families to carry out so-called honor killings,” the statement said. (VOA)


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission.

The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.

The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case.

The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.

"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar.

The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study.

"We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.

The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance.

Kepler's original mission came to an unexpected end in 2013 when a mechanical failure left the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been observing for years.

But astronomers repurposed the telescope for a new mission known as K2, whose objective is to identify exoplanets near distant stars. Data from K2 is helping scientists understand how stars' location in the galaxy influences what kind of planets are able to form around them. (IANS/JB)

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In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.

They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.

In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).

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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.

While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.

Similarly, the government that has started the space sector reforms seems to be replicating the atomic energy model, several officials told IANS.

"The Central government's moves in the space sector seems to replicate the atomic energy model," an official told IANS.

Currently, the Department of Space (DOS) is at the top and below that, comes the private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with various R&D-cum-production (rockets, satellites and others) units.

The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.

Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.

As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.

"Ultimately there will be only one sectoral regulator. There cannot be two regulators - one for the private sector and other for the public sector. Who will be the regulator if there is a company that is floated in public-private partnership," an official asked.

"It is good that there is a separate sectoral regulator outside of the DOS and the ISRO," an official said.

The recently-formed PSU NewSpace India has been mandated to build, own satellites, rockets and also provide space based services and transfer ISRO-developed technologies to others.

ISRO Chairman and Secretary DOS K.Sivan has been saying that ISRO will focus on high end research.

As a result, the positions of Secretary, DOS and Chairman, ISRO may not be held by the same person.

"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.

"But there is one issue in this proposition. For ISRO, the production centres are also its R&D centre. Both production and R&D are interwoven. One has to see how both will be separated to be housed under ISRO and NewSpace India."

Meanwhile, the minds of ISRO officials are filled with uncertainty and confusion about their future which is linked to that of their organization.

ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod had told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".

"The ISRO top management that includes the Chairman and the Heads of various centres should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," an official added.

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The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour

Twitter has announced to ban sharing of private media, such as photos and videos, without permission from the individuals that are shown in those images.

The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour under its policies, the expansion of the policy will allow the platform to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it's posted without the consent of the person depicted.

Follow NewsGram on Instagram to keep yourself updated.

"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.

Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.

This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivising others to do so.

"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.

When Twitter is notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, it removes it.

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