U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Russia not to interfere in U.S. elections during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who rejected any speculations about Russian interference in U.S. domestic politics.
"President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections," the White House said in a statement regarding Trump's meeting with Lavrov.
The top Russian diplomat, however, rejected any U.S. accusations on Russian meddling in U.S. domestic politics.
"We have highlighted once again that all speculations about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless; there are no facts that would support that," Lavrov said in a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.
The two top diplomats discussed a wide range of issues on Tuesday, but little concrete achievement has been made given the overall frosty bilateral ties.
Ignoring Lavrov's offer to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Moscow and Washington, Pompeo insisted during the joint press conference that a broader arms control dialogue should be conducted, which put the New START's fate at risk.
Signed in 2010 between the United States and Russia, the New START requires both countries to cut nuke warhead numbers down to 1,550 by Feb. 5, 2018, and reduce the number of delivery vehicles, including missiles and bombers, to 700-800 for each side.
The treaty is set to expire in February 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Russia is ready to extend the treaty by the end of this year with no preconditions.
For Hong Kong spectators mentally and physically drained from six months of pro-democracy protests that have convulsed the city, a rousing performance of "Les Miserables" proved almost too much to bear.
Audience members wept, dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs, big tears rolling down their cheeks, as a Hong Kong theater troupe aiming to both comfort and re-energize emotionally battered spectators belted out the rousing musical based on Victor Hugo's classic tale of rebellion in 19th century France.
Audience members said images from the protests flashed through their minds as they soaked up the free outdoor performance on Tuesday night.
The crowd several hundred strong joined with the troupe in singing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" — the stirring lyrics eloquently putting to words what many Hong Kong protesters feel.
"It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!" they sang. "Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?"
The amateur troupe, dressed in black, which has become the color of protest in Hong Kong, is made up of volunteers who responded to an online appeal for singers and musicians.
Singer Harriet Chung said their aim is to tour the show to all 18 of Hong Kong's districts. Tuesday's performance was the troupe's third, staged in a park in Tai Po in the New Territories that are north of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and which butt up against mainland China.
"It is a very powerful work that everyone needs in such a time in Hong Kong," Chung said. "There's a lot of violence. There's a lot of injustice around. But this piece is about love and power and what you can do for love, for your ideals, for your ideas, so that is why we want to pass this message to everyone in Hong Kong."
With no costumes and minimalist lighting, the show lacks the big-ticket stagecraft of Hollywood, Broadway and London West End cousins but packs a powerful emotional punch in the febrile atmosphere of anti-government protest in Hong Kong.
Wiping away tears that welled behind his glasses, red-eyed spectator Herman Tang said the song "Bring Him Home" made him think of protesters who were trapped by a police siege of a university campus last month.
"Very moved," he said. "Some of the words in the song echo the current situation in Hong Kong."
Organizers made booklets of the lyrics, in Chinese and English, for spectators to download onto their cellphones, so they could sing along. Audience members waved lit phones in the air during songs, creating a tapestry of lights. At the end, the troupe and the audience, accompanied by the orchestra, joined in a hair-raising rendition of "Glory to Hong Kong," an anonymously penned anthem that has become the protest movement's signature song.
Chung, the singer who works as a writer in her day job, said she's long been a fan of "Les Miserables," but that it strikes an especially deep chord now.
"It's like pictures after pictures of happenings in Hong Kong passing through my mind when I sing the lyrics. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's heartwarming," she said. "There are pictures of protests, police violence, and the life we have lost, the brothers and sisters we lost in this movement, so it is a very emotional journey and I can feel that from the audience, too."
Spectators who came to the show worried that the protest movement is flagging as it enters a seventh month went away feeling energized and sounding recommitted to a long-haul struggle. The movement is pushing five key demands, including full elections for Hong Kong's legislature and leader and a probe of the city's police force, which has fired 26,000 tear-gas and rubber-baton rounds at protesters and arrested more than 6,000 people.
"When people unite together, there is power," said audience member Yan Chan. "We have energy and power to make Hong Kong better."
Chinese officials lashed out at the U.S. on Wednesday over recent legislation passed by Congress criticizing Beijing for its policies in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region in western China, as well as ongoing trade disputes.
They marked the latest salvos in an ongoing campaign of vilification over what Beijing considers hostile acts aimed at restraining its development as a world power.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu did not mention the U.S. by name, but it was clear what nation he was referring to Wednesday when he said a "certain individual country vigorously starts trade wars and constantly introduces so-called human rights and democracy bills to openly interfere in the internal affairs of other countries."
Chinese diplomats have derided the legislation as "stupid" and "malicious" and sought to rally friendly foreign governments, politicians and academics to condemn it.
Ma also accused the U.S. of spreading conflicts and humanitarian crises elsewhere "under the banner of human rights," reflecting complaints that American interventions and the promotion of democracy have destabilized countries from Syria to Venezuela.
China has accused the U.S. of fomenting mass anti-Beijing demonstrations in Hong Kong that are in their seventh month, refusing to recognize protesters' demands for expanded democracy through direct elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's leader and members of its legislature.
The U.S. legislation condemns the mass detentions of an estimated more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others. It also raises possible sanctions against Chinese government officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China claims that the vast system of detention camps is merely part of a program to provide job skills and fight poverty and religious radicalization.
Ma also attacked U.S. trade policy, saying — again without mentioning Washington by name — that the country referred to "wielded sanctions batons," and engaged in economic blockades, the decoupling of science and technology and financial sanctions against target nations, the main one presumably being China.
"These acts not only hinder the development of the world economy, but also violate the human rights of the people of the affected countries. They must be firmly opposed and resisted," Ma told participants at a forum on human rights in Beijing.
Also addressing the forum, Chinese minister of propaganda Huang Kunming reiterated China's rejection of the notion of a universal human rights standard. China insists it is up to each nation to choose its own path when it comes to human rights, and dismisses Western concepts of free speech, liberal democracy and civil rights in favor of tough authoritarian control aimed at growing the economy and raising living standards.
"There is no universal human rights path and model in the world," Huang said. "The development of the cause of human rights must and can only be promoted in accordance with the national conditions of each country and the needs of the people."
According to Chinese state media, officials and scholars from more than 70 Asian, African and Latin American developing countries, as well as the United Nations, attended the two-day 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum, hosted by the Cabinet's information office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his third wife have reached a settlement in a yearslong court battle that exposed details about their luxurious lifestyle, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Giuliani, 75, and his wife, Judith, put an end to their differences and "intend to remain friends in the years to come," Judith Giuliani's divorce attorney, Bernard E. Clair, told the newspaper.
An email and phone call left for Clair was not returned. It was not immediately clear who represented Rudy Giuliani.
The settlement comes more than year after Judith Giuliani filed divorce papers against her now former husband, the personal attorney to President Donald Trump.
The couple was married for 15 years. Their divorce settlement will remain confidential, the Times said.
Throughout the divorce, details about the couple's $230,000 monthly budget became public, including six houses, 11 country club memberships and $12,000 on Rudy Giuliani's cigars.
Giuliani previously was married for 20 years to Donna Hanover. Before that, he was married for 14 years to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi. That marriage was later annulled.
Giulianí's legal woes might not be over. Two of his close associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested in October at Dulles International Airport outside Washington while trying to board a flight to Europe with one-way tickets. They were indicted on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records.
A powerful suicide bombing targeted an under-construction medical facility on Wednesday near Bagram Air Base, the main American base north of the Afghan capital, the U.S. military said.
The attacker struck the facility that is being built to help the Afghan people who live in the area, the U.S. military said. There were no coalition casualties and the base remains secure, the statement said.
Earlier reports suggested a U.S. military convoy might have been the target of the attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group stage near-daily attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Dr. Sangin, a physician, said that the hospital near the perimeter of the base was on fire. It wasn't immediately clear if any foreigners were inside the hospital.
Gen. Mahfooz Walizada, police commander of northern Parwan province, confirmed the attack but offered no details on casualties.
Sangin, who is the head of the provincial hospital, said that they have received five injured, all Afghans.