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Trump administration postpones sanctions on Russian oligarch

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The United States on Friday said it was postponing the enforcement of sanctions on Russian companies EN+, Rusal and Gaz PAO for nearly four weeks as their top shareholder works on a plan to cut his stakes.

The U.S. Treasury Department had given Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska until Dec. 12 to reduce his holdings in the three companies but said in a statement that the deadline had been moved to Jan. 7, 2019.

“EN+, RUSAL, and GAZ are proposing substantial corporate governance changes that could potentially result in significant changes in control of these sanctioned entities,” Treasury said in a statement explaining why the deadline was postponed.

Rusal, En+ and GAZ declined to comment.

The U.S. Treasury imposed the sanctions in April on Deripaska and several companies in which he is a large shareholder, citing “malign activities” by Russia, as well as allegations of past crimes by Deripaska himself.

The sanctions, the toughest since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, have been postponed several times as the U.S. considers plans by Deripaska to divest shares in the companies so that he no longer controls them, among other moves.

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Rusal and its parent En+ Group have recruited directors and management not linked to Deripaska in recent months as part of talks with Washington over easing U.S. sanctions.

Rusal named Evgenii Nikitin, who has been acting chief executive since May and previously headed its aluminum division, as its CEO last Friday. En+ also appointed a new CEO.

Friday’s move extends licenses relating to the sanctioned firms to authorize activities needed to wind down operations or contracts, according to a statement on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website. It also extends licenses to authorize transactions needed to divest debt, equity and other holdings.

Concerns over the impact of sanctions on Rusal have roiled aluminum markets. Rusal is the world’s second-biggest producer after China’s Hongqiao. Japan’s top aluminum rolling company, UACJ Corp, said on Nov. 1 that it was removing Rusal from its 2019 suppliers list due to uncertainty over the sanctions.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Susan Heavey in Washington, Nathan Layne in New York and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Susan Thomas

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Sailing among the stars: Here’s how photons could revolutionize space flight

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A few days from now, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off from Florida, carrying a satellite the size of a loaf of bread with nothing to power it but a huge polyester "solar sail."

It's been the stuff of scientists' dreams for decades but has only very recently become a reality.

The idea might sounds crazy: propelling a craft through the vacuum of space with no engine, no fuel, and no solar panels, but instead harnessing the momentum of packets of light energy known as photons -- in this case from our Sun.

The spacecraft to be launched on Monday, called LightSail 2, was developed by the Planetary Society, a US organization that promotes space exploration which was co-founded by the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980.

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Russians to prod Putin on poverty and his personal life as his ratings tank

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Russians are set to ask President Vladimir Putin about growing poverty at home and tensions abroad during an annual televised phone-in Thursday, which comes following a fall in his approval ratings.

The leader is also likely to face a degree of grilling on his personal life, according to questions submitted by the public online ahead of the live show.

Set to be held for the 17th time since Putin came to power in 1999, the show starts at 0900 GMT and usually lasts several hours.

Ahead of the carefully choreographed show, more than one million questions had been submitted, organisers told Russian news agencies.

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Trump could turn on Hope Hicks just like Michael Cohen: Trump family biographer warns

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Trump family biographer Emily Jane Fox explained that she didn't think that the president would turn on long-time aide Hope Hicks, but then again, it was the same thought about Michael Cohen as well.

In a panel discussion about Hicks' testimony during MSNBC's Brian Williams' Wednesday show, Fox recalled that Micahel Cohen once said that he would take a bullet for the president. Once it appeared that Trump would throw him under the bus, Cohen began looking for a way out.

The same scenario seems to be happening with Hicks now.

"She works at new Fox, which is a company run by a Murdoch son," Fox said. "It's a company that's brand new. She's the head of communications there. And there are shareholders who would take issue with the fact that a senior member of this company is being put in this situation and being thrust on the world stage."

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