U.S. Money-Laundering Probe Draws in Putin’s Inner Circle

Vladimir Putin

(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors have launched a money-laundering investigation into a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Russian Strategic Bombers Conduct More European Flights

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, an F/A-18 Hornet from aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, escorts a Russian Tupolev 95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft on Feb. 9, 2008

Russian nuclear-capable bombers conducted a third day of military runs along Europe’s coasts on Friday as part of heightened strategic activities by Moscow, the NATO alliance said.

“On Friday, Russian planes carried out more flights over Europe,” said NATO spokesman Maj. Rob Phillips. “NATO tracked these flights over the Baltics, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.”

Russian Government Pushes to Eliminate Civil Society Groups

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to eliminate one of the country’s oldest human rights organizations is the latest indication that the authoritarian leader has revived many Soviet-era practices to crush civil society and tighten his grip on power, including persecuting dissidents and disseminating anti-Western propaganda.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine

Russian "rebels" fire conduct peaceful mortar fire to celebrate the success of the Russian-brokered ceasefire. (AP)

At least 331 people have died since the signing of a “truce” between Ukraine and the Russian-backed militants waging war in the eastern part of the country. The United Nations says fighting has continued “on an almost daily basis.” The airport in Donetsk, a crucial transportation hub, has been flattened by shelling. According to the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, at least 3,000 Russian troops remain in the country.