Russia and Ukraine trade prisoners, each fly 35 to freedom

Russia and Ukraine conducted a major prisoner exchange that freed 35 people detained in each country and flew them to the other, a deal that could help advance Russia-Ukraine relations and end five years of fighting in Ukraine’s east. The trade involved some of the highest-profile prisoners caught up in a bitter standoff between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy greeted the freed prisoners as they stepped down from the airplane that had brought them from Moscow to Kyiv’s Boryspil airport.


Sentences of 3 Blackwater guards reduced from 2007 massacre

A federal judge on Thursday greatly reduced the sentences of three former Blackwater security contractors, in the latest development from a complex case dating back to the 2007 shootings of unarmed civilians in Baghdad. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Paul Slough to 15 years in prison, Evan Liberty to 14 years and Dustin Heard to 12 years and seven months. All three had received 30-year terms in a 2015 trial — a mandatory sentence for the commission of a felony while using a military firearm.


Erdogan to ‘Soon’ Unveil Review of Turkey Executive Presidency

(Bloomberg) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will “soon” announce the results of a review of Turkey’s new political system, which he dominates, according to a top official.Erdogan ordered a study of the executive presidency at the height of opposition criticism that the set-up was inefficient and put too much power in a single office.Vice President Fuat Oktay said in an interview on Friday that the review found some “issues” in how Turkey implemented its switch from a parliamentary system.Turkey watchers will be on the look-out for any signs of a cabinet reshuffle to accompany what’s likely to be limited revisions to the political framework.Oktay didn’t elaborate on when Erdogan would announce the findings.“We did a thorough study of what works and what doesn’t,” Oktay said on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy. Most problems identified are due to issues with implementation, he said.–With assistance from Francine Lacqua.To contact the reporters on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at oant@bloomberg.net;Cagan Koc in Istanbul at ckoc2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


HK bookseller held in China raises $100,000 to open Taiwan store

A Hong Kong bookseller who disappeared into Chinese custody for half a year raised nearly $100,000 in less than a day on Friday as he tries to open a new store in Taiwan. Lam Wing-kee fled to Taiwan in April after Hong Kong announced plans to allow extraditions to China, a move which sparked months of massive street protests in the financial hub. The 64-year-old was one of five publishers selling gossip-filled tomes on China’s leaders who vanished at the end of 2015, resurfacing in mainland custody and making televised confessions.


Trump cancels peace talks with Afghan and Taliban leaders after bomb attack in Kabul

Donald Trump has said he called off a planned Camp David meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders after a Taliban suicide car bomb attack in Kabul killed 12 people. “Unbeknownst to almost everyone,” the president tweeted, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders were headed to the US for what would have been historic talks. But “in order to build false leverage,” Mr Trump’s said, the Taliban admitted to a car bomb that exploded and killed an American solider and 11 others in a busy diplomatic area in Kabul. “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” he wrote. The Defense Department confirmed Sgt. 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, became the fourth US solider to be killed in action in the past two weeks in Afghanistan. Mr Trump added that if the Taliban could not hold to a cease-fire during the negotiations, “they probably don’t have the power” to negotiate a peace deal. ….an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019 On Saturday night in Washington DC, the president’s account of events could not be immediately verified. And it was also unclear whether talks were just paused or entirely over. Under the proposed accord reached “in principle” by the US and the Taliban, roughly 5,000 U.S. troops would withdraw from the country 135 days after the deal is signed. The State Department and the White House declined to respond to requests for clarification. The US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, abruptly returned to Qatar late last week for unexpected talks with the insurgents on the deal that he had described as complete just days earlier. Mr Khalilzad said last Monday that the agreement “in principle” to begin a US troop withdrawal was very near completion and would only needed Mr Trump’s approval. But since Mr Khalilzad’s announcement, two horrific Taliban car bombings in the Afghan capital – including the latest – and internal US skepticism had put the president under pressure. The Taliban explained the surge in deadly attacks were necessary to give them greater negotiating leverage. That stance has appalled Afghans and others as scores of civilians have been killed. On Friday, Mr Khalilzad met with Taliban lead negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar among other senior officials from the US and Qatar in meetings described as “positive”.