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MOSCOW, August 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Russia has accused the West of trying to obstruct return of Syrian refugees to their country and blocking the UN assistance for reconstruction efforts.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, that the US refusal to provide assistance for rebuilding Syria after more than seven years of fighting hampers refugee return.

He also accused the West of pressuring the United Nations to ban UN organizations from helping reconstruction efforts in Syria pending political settlement, saying it violates UN principles.

Bassil said that Lebanon fully supports Russian efforts to help Syrian refugees return.

Lavrov also charged that al-Qaida militants located near al-Tanf in southeastern Syria where US military advisers are based have launched raids intended to prevent refugees from coming back from Jordan.

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States imposed sanctions on a Russian port service agency and Chinese firms on Wednesday for aiding North Korean ships and selling alcohol and tobacco to North Korea in breach of US sanctions aimed at pressuring it to end its nuclear programmes.

The US Treasury said in a statement China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co. Ltd and its Singapore-based affiliate SINSMS Pte. Ltd had netted more than $1 billion a year by exporting alcohol and cigarette products to North Korea.

The department also sanctioned Russian-based Profinet Pte Ltd and its director general, Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov, for providing port services on at least six occasions to North Korean-flagged ships.

Kolchanov was personally involved in North Korea-related deals and interacted directly with North Korean representatives in Russia, the department said.

"The tactics that these entities based in China, Singapore, and Russia are using to attempt to evade sanctions are prohibited under US law, and all facets of the shipping industry have a responsibility to abide by them or expose themselves to serious risks," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions mandate that no US citizen can deal with any of those designated in the order, and any of their properties in the United States "must be blocked", Treasury said.

The United States has been pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Liang Ye, legal representative of Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading, said when asked for comment on the US Treasury statement the matter was still unclear and the Chinese company had not received any notice.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the United States needed to back off with the pressure on North Korea if it was serious about wanting lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

"Washington should be reminded that the 'maximum pressure' approach on Pyongyang is not in keeping with the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and it needs to consider easing sanctions," Xinhua said in a commentary.

MOSCOW, August 15, 2018 (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Wednesday preparations were underway for a meeting in Geneva next week between Russian officials and White House national security adviser John Bolton, the first top-level meeting since the Russian and US presidents met in Helsinki.

“Such contacts are indeed planned and being prepared,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. Peskov did not elaborate further.

US President Donald Trump faced criticism at home after he met Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital in July, and refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 US election.

A new round of US sanctions targeting Russia was announced in the wake of that criticism, prompting the Russian rouble to fall sharply.

Last week, Rand Paul, a Republican senator and Trump ally, traveled to the Russian capital, saying his trip aimed to encourage diplomacy amid the tense relations between Moscow and Washington.

Washington had said on Tuesday Bolton would meet Russian officials as a follow-up to the Helsinki summit.

MADRID, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Valencia said on Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with Villarreal to get Russia forward Denis Cheryshev on loan.

The club added that the loan is "pending" and will be valid until the end of the season.

Cheryshev scored four goals at the World Cup, helping Russia reach the quarterfinals.

The 27-year-old player had already been with Valencia on a loan in 2016. He was previously with Real Madrid but had few opportunities with the team's main squad.

Valencia also added forward Kevin Gameiro from Atletico Madrid and striker Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea.

Valencia finished fourth in the Spanish league last season.

MOSCOW, August 13, 2018 (News Wires) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday a four-way Syria summit "is planned in the upcoming future", with the leaders of Russia, France, Turkey and Germany attending.

It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Ankara on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the four-way meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

MOSCOW, August 10, 2018 (MENA) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto will hold a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on August 22 to discuss bilateral relations and global issues, the Kremlin press service said in a statement on Friday.

"On August 22, 2018, Sochi will host a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Finland Sauli Niinisto, who will make a working visit to Russia," TASS news agency reported, citing the statement.

Key aspects of Russian-Finnish cooperation, as well as a number of pressing global and regional issues, are planned to be discussed, it added.

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