WADA has 100 ‘strong’ Russian doping cases in Moscow data

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — More than 100 "strong cases" of suspected Russian doping are being prepared using data retrieved from the Moscow testing laboratory.

World Anti-Doping Agency president Craig Reedie said Wednesday it is "packaging evidence" for sports governing bodies to prosecute the highest priority cases.

Only data for "suspicious cases" is being provided, Reedie said, adding he expects more than 100 files in the "first wave of strong cases against those we suspect of cheating.Read more on

Amid trade war, China’s Xi talks up economy, heads to Moscow

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is talking up the Chinese economy's resilience as he heads to Moscow for a state visit affirming increasingly close ties between the former Cold War rivals.

In interviews published Wednesday, Xi told Russian journalists Chinese consumer demand is driving growth despite the trade war with the United States.

"Looking into the future, a number of factors will support the steady, healthy and sustainable growth of China's economy, including abundant human resources, strong internal driving forces, growing development dynamism and mobilization capability," Xi said.

"Therefore, China has all the necessary conditions, capability and confidence to deal with any risks and challenges," he said without referring directly to the United States and the dispute with Washington over Chinese trade and technology policies.

The trip to Moscow highlights Beijing's efforts to drum up support both at home and abroad as the President Donald Trump's administration pushes China to do more to redress a huge perennial trade surplus and end policies that U.S. and other foreign companies and governments say violate Beijing's market-opening commitments.

While Russia has relatively little heft in global trade, Xi can be assured of a friendly audience when he defends China's position in the dispute.

Elsewhere, China's diplomats abroad have been meeting with reporters, academics and government officials to press China's argument that it is being bullied by the U.S. and that Washington's dialing-up of trade tensions spells trouble for the world economy as a whole.

On Sunday, the Commerce Ministry issued a lengthy report defending China's position and stating that Beijing won't back down on "major issues of principle.Read more on

Putin calls annexation of Crimea an historic landmark

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has used his New Year’s speech to hail his country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula as an achievement that will “forever remain a landmark in the national history.”

Putin’s comment in his pre-recorded annual address on Wednesday already has been broadcast in Russia’s far eastern regions, where the holiday was celebrated hours ahead of Moscow, given the time difference.

The Kremlin also published several dozen New Year’s messages that Putin has sent to heads of state and international organizations, including one to President Barack Obama.

Putin reminded Obama of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II, and said that should serve as a reminder of “the responsibility that Russia and the United States bear for maintaining peace and international stability.” Moscow is anxious for those bilateral relations to advance, but only as long as there is “equality and mutual respect.”

After Ukraine’s former Russia-friendly president was driven from power in February, Moscow sent troops to overtake Crimea, home to a Russian naval base. Those forces blocked Ukrainian military garrisons and set the stage for a hastily called referendum on Crimea joining Russia, which Ukraine and the West rejected as illegal.

The West has imposed crippling sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where the fighting between the government troops and the rebels has killed more than 4,700 since April.

Under the combined blow of the sanctions and slumping oil prices, the Russian ruble has lost about half its value this year and the national economy has drifted into recession. Putin has promised that the economy will rebound in two years, but he has failed to offer a specific plan for easing Russia’s heavy dependence on oil and gas revenues.

In his speech, Putin praised Crimea’s “return home,” a view widely backed by many Russians who saw Ukraine’s control over the Black Sea region a historic injustice. Crimea only became part of Ukraine when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to his native land in 1954. That mattered little until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and Crimea ended up in an independent Ukraine.

Experts have warned that Putin’s popularity, which soared after the annexation of Crimea, could fizzle quickly amid his nation’s economic downturn. But the Russian leader refrained from directly referring to Russia’s economic woes in his New Year address, praising his citizens for their readiness to stay united “both in days of triumphs and at a time of trials” and to maintain their “unity and solidarity.”

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report

Ukraine abandons nonaligned status in possible step towards NATO membership, Russia not happy

KYIV, Ukraine — The vote by Ukraine’s parliament to drop its nonaligned status, which could pave the way for a bid to join NATO, challenges the Kremlin’s ardent desire to keep NATO from taking a giant step toward the Russian heartland.

The move is likely to add difficulties to Wednesday’s round of talks aimed at resolving the Ukrainian crisis.

Five NATO countries — Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — now share relatively short borders on Russia’s western outskirts, totalling about 1,300 kilometres. Adding Ukraine’s 1,500-kilometre border with Russia to that would move the alliance’s eastward flank substantially, and put it roughly on the same longitude as Moscow.

Supporters of the Tuesday move, which passed by a 303-9 vote, said it was justified by Russian aggression toward Ukraine, including the annexation of its Crimean Peninsula in March and Russian support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where some 4,700 people have been killed since the spring.

But opponents said it will only increase tensions, and Moscow echoed that view.

“This is counterproductive, it only heats up the confrontation, creating the illusion that accepting such a law is the road to regulating the deep internal crisis in Ukraine,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russia routinely characterizes the Ukrainian crisis as an internal matter and rejects claims from Ukraine and the West that it has sent troops and equipment to rebels in eastern Ukraine and shelled government positions from Russian border areas.

Although Ukraine had pursued NATO membership several years ago, it declared itself a nonbloc country after Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych became president in 2010. Yanukovych fled the country in February after months of street protests that exploded into violence, and was replaced by Western-leaning Petro Poroshenko in May.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support for the separatist insurgency appear partly rooted in fears that the Western military alliance could expand its presence on the Russian border.

The vote does not mean that Ukraine will apply to join NATO. But “in the conditions of the current aggression against Ukraine, this law opens for us new mechanisms,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the parliament.

However, Ukraine’s prospects for NATO membership in the near term appear dim. With its long-underfunded military suffering from the war with the separatists and the country’s economy in peril, Ukraine has much to overcome to achieve the stability that the alliance seeks in members.

An alliance official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with NATO practice, told The Associated Press “our door is open and Ukraine will become a member of NATO if it so requests and fulfils the standards and adheres to the necessary principles.”

Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the eastern rebels are to meet Wednesday in the Belarusian capital Minsk for another round of talks on resolving the Ukraine crisis.

Since a cease-fire agreement was reached in Minsk on Sept. 5, fighting has diminished. But both sides report frequent cease-fire violations and there is incomplete progress on the stipulation for each side to pull back its heavy weaponry to create a buffer zone.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Alexander Grushko, told the Interfax news agency that the Ukrainian vote creates “serious complications in the search for a way to end the violence and change the situation into a political process.”
Another meeting of the so-called “contact group” in Minsk has been set for Friday, indicating no significant decisions are expected at the Wednesday session.

Heidi Tagliavini of Switzerland, the OSCE’s lead figure at the talks, said the participants would discuss how to solidify the cease-fire, the pullback of heavy weaponry, a complete exchange of prisoners taken by both sides in the conflict and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The volatile issue of determining a final status for the separatist regions is far from resolved. The rebels had sought absorption into Russia, but Moscow has fended off that request, instead calling for a federalization of Ukraine that would give the country’s regions more autonomy from the central government.