The second Oath Keeper defendant charged in the assault on the US Capitol has agreed to plead guilty.
Graydon Young was a member of the "stack formation" that snaked up the steps of the Capitol behind a mob of rioters who assaulted officers with pepper spray, flagpoles and shields, and then entered the building through a breached door, and one of 16 members of the far-right paramilitary organization charged with conspiracy to disrupt Congress.
Young is scheduled to go before US District Court Judge Amit Mehta at 2 p.m. for a plea agreement hearing.
Jon Schaffer, a lifetime member of the Oath Keepers who is the lead singer of the metal band Iced Earth, agreed to plea guilty in April, making him the first member of the group to flip. But Young's plea is significant in that he is one of 16 Oath Keepers members charged with conspiracy and is alleged by the government to have communicated extensively with other members, including Kelly Meggs, who was designated to lead the Florida team.
Russia on Wednesday said it fired warning shots at a British navy destroyer in the Black Sea after it violated the country's territorial waters, but the UK denied the incident had occurred.
Incidents involving Western aircraft and ships are not uncommon at Russia's borders, especially during heightened tensions with Washington, Brussels and London, but rarely result in open fire.
The HMS Defender "was given a preliminary warning that weapons would be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation were violated. It did not react to the warning," the Russian defence ministry said, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
The ministry added that "a border patrol ship fired warning shots" and a Su-24 aircraft dropped four bombs along the destroyer's path. It said that the ship then left Russian waters.
But the UK's defence ministry swiftly denied that the incident had happened at all.
"No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law," the ministry said.
London said it believed Russia was "undertaking a gunnery exercise" and had provided prior warning of its activity.
After announcing that it had fired warning shots at the HMS Defender -- a T45 destroyer -- Russia's defence ministry summoned Britain's military attache, Interfax reported.
According to Moscow, the incident took place off the coast of Cape Fiolent on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, also claiming the peninsula's coastal waters.
The Royal Navy said earlier this month that the HMS Defender had "peeled away" from its strike group conducting NATO operations in the Mediterranean to carry out "her own set of missions" in the Black Sea.
On Wednesday, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that the HMS Defender had been carrying out a "routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea".
- Russia's NATO 'concerns' -
Earlier on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was "concerned" about the NATO build-up near Russian borders.
Addressing an international security conference in Moscow, Putin said the alliance "refuses to constructively consider our proposals to de-escalate tensions and reduce the risk of unpredictable incidents".
The US periodically sends warships to the region in a show of support for Ukraine, often drawing protests from Russia.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday slammed Russia's "aggressive and provocative policy" in the Black Sea region, describing it on Twitter as a "constant threat" to Kiev and its allies.
At the height of tensions over Ukraine this spring after Russia built up troops on its border and in Crimea, Moscow stepped up military exercises in the Black Sea and Washington warned it would send two warships.
Those ships were never dispatched, as Russia pulled back its forces and the tensions eased.
At the time, Russia also threatened to close parts of the Black Sea, which would have affected access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov that is connected to the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait on the eastern tip of Crimea.
Ukraine had been free to navigate the Kerch Strait -- of crucial importance to Kiev for exporting grain and steel -- along with Russia until 2014, when Moscow claimed full control of the waterway after annexing Crimea.
"By international law, of course, the waters off Crimea are not Russian, as the annexation is not recognised," Mark Galeotti, a professor of Russian studies at University College London, tweeted Wednesday.
"Continuing to pass those waters -- without being too provocative -- is a crucial way of reaffirming law over land and sea grab."
The most serious recent tensions over the waters were in November 2018, when Russian forces boarded and took control of three ships as they headed through the Kerch Strait.
Russia captured 24 Ukrainian sailors as part of the seizure, returning them to Ukraine as part of a prisoner swap in September 2019.
© 2021 AFP
GOP-led probe finds no evidence of Michigan election fraud -- and busts Trump allies for 'purposefully defrauding people' with 'ludicrous' claims
A Donald Trump-loving attorney was singled out in a scathing Republican-led investigation that turned up no evidence of widespread fraud in Michigan's presidential election.
A 35-page report issued by Senate Oversight Committee spends much time debunking conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump attorneys Matt DePerno and Patrick Colbeck and recommends the state's attorney general investigate individuals who made false or misleading claims about Michigan's election to raise money for themselves, reported Bridge Michigan.
"There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters," wrote state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), who led the probe.
While the committee did not specify which individuals should be investigated by Democratic attorney general Dana Nessel, the report states that investigators "closely followed Mr. DePerno's efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions," and McBroom said pro-Trump conspiracists were "purposely defrauding people."
"The claims have become so ludicrous when compared to the actual facts," McBroom told Bridge Michigan, "and yet people persist, such as Mr. DePerno."
DePerno, who has been promoted as an election expert by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, has raised more than $321,000 for an "election fraud defense fund," and Colbeck, a former GOP state senator from Canton Township, said he's raised more than $21,000 for his own defense after Dominion Voting Systems threatened to sue him over his election fraud claims.
The report, which is the result of an investigation that began Nov. 7, comes as DePerno, Colbeck and other Trump allies push for a "forensic audit" of Michigan's election, but McBroom said there's "no point" because his own examination found no irregularities or "nefarious" actions.
"Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," McBroom concluded. "The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain."
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