On March 18th, 2018, incumbent Vladimir Putin won is reelection campaign as the President of Russia. He won with 77% of the popular vote, beating out Pavel Grudinin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Ksenia Sobchak, Grigory Yavlinsky, and Boris Titov. Events, deaths, and arrests leading up to the election have provoked suspicion that this election was not entirely democratic. China was, reportedly, the first country to react to the election news, sending its congratulations to Putin. This message was followed by similar congratulatory phone calls from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Egypt, Cuba, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and—finally—the United States.
News sources report that both President Trump and select aids were “furious” after the leak of sensitive notes for briefing the president before a call with Vladimir Putin. The leak was designed to embarrass Trump for congratulating, rather than confronting, Putin—he went against the note’s recommendation. Public knowledge of this story means that someone leaked the president’s briefing papers, and offense which is, according to a White House official, “likely illegal.”
According to a fact-checking resource, former U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Putin on his 2012 win. According to an official summary, “President Obama called Russian President-elect and Prime Minister Putin to congratulate hi on his recent victory in the Russian Presidential election.” International observers raised doubts about the legitimacy of Putin’s 2012 win; Obama’s State Department noted concerns about the conditions under which the campaign was conducted. Previously, in 2008, President George W. Bush called Dmitry Medvedev following his successful presidential bid.
Commentators are pushing back on the notion that Trump’s outreach is akin to that of his predecessors, noting Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. The countries are experiencing strained diplomatic relations, and the recent nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom (allegedly by Russian operatives) has put further pressure on the already weakened ties.
On the early morning of Wednesday, March 21st, Mark Anthony Conditt—the primary suspect in the wave of bombings terrorizing Austin, Texas—killed himself. Police at the scene described his death as occurring from an explosion inside Conditt’s car, mildly injuring at least one officer. This bomb was detonated just before dawn on the side of Interstate 35 in Round Rock, Texas, just north of Austin.
Police believe that Mark Anthony Conditt was responsible for five explosions, killing two people and injuring another five in and around Austin, Texas beginning on March 2nd. Austin police and the FBI tracked Conditt to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock; they found him inside his vehicle, but wanted to wait for tactical units to arrive before engaging the suspect. Conditt began to drive away, eventually stopping on the side of Interstate 35. As Austin SWAT officers approached, he detonated a bomb within the care, killing himself and knocking one officer backward.
Shortly after this explosion, a SWAT officer fired at the suspect, who died inside the vehicle. Currently, it is unclear whether the suspect died from explosion or gunfire; Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that the suspect sustained “significant” injuries in the blast. Conditt was identified using receipts, internet searches, witness sketches, and surveillance video of an area FedEx store.
Though Conditt’s death may assuage the fears of many Austin residents, there is no information regarding how the suspect spent his last 24 hours. Police do not yet understand the suspect’s motivations for the bombings, though an investigation is still underway. Additional bombs may exist throughout the Austin metropolitan area, and it is advised that all residents remain on high-alert. If you see a suspicious package, please contact the authorities.