Did You Know
WASHINGTON: A US grand jury returned an indictment against a Russian woman on Tuesday (Jul 17), and added a charge accusing her of acting as a Russian government agent while developing ties with American citizens and infiltrating political groups.
Maria Butina, who studied at American University in Washington and is a founder of the pro-gun Russian advocacy group Right to Bear Arms, was charged in a criminal complaint on Monday with conspiracy to take actions on behalf of the Russian government.
Tuesday's grand jury indictment added a more serious charge of acting as an agent of the Russian government, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum five-year prison term.
Butina has not been charged with espionage or with being a member of a Russian intelligence service.
She was arrested on Sunday and is scheduled to appear on Wednesday in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department said.
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, said she was not a Russian agent.
Butina is accused of operating at the direction of a high-level official of the Russian Central Bank who was recently sanctioned by the US Treasury, the Justice Department said.
Court records did not name the official.
Butina has appeared in numerous photographs on her Facebook page with Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of Russia's Central Bank who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in April.
A person familiar with the matter has told Reuters that Butina worked for him as an assistant. Other media reported on a business relationship between Butina and Torshin.
Torshin did not reply to a request for comment on Monday and the Russian Central Bank declined to comment.
The Justice Department said in its complaint that Butina worked with two unnamed US citizens and the Russian official to try to influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights organisation.
The complaint did not name the group, however photos on her Facebook page showed that she attended events sponsored by the National Rifle Association. The NRA did not reply to a request for comment.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (Jul 17) there is no hurry to denuclearise North Korea under his accord with Kim Jong Un - a shift in tone from when the US leader said the process would start very soon.
"Discussions are ongoing and they're going very, very well," Trump told reporters. "We have no time limit. We have no speed limit."
Trump said he discussed North Korea with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at their summit in Helsinki.
"President Putin is going to be involved in the sense that he is with us," Trump said.
The Republican president met with Kim on Jun 12 for an unprecedented summit in Singapore during which the North Korean leader repeated a pledge to denuclearize his country.
But the accord did not spell out a timetable for the process or say how it would be carried out. Diplomats are now expected to hammer out the details.
More than a month later, no concrete progress has been reported and North Korea has complained the Americans are making unilateral demands.
Before the Singapore summit, the Trump administration said denuclearisation should start "without delay," and after the meeting, it spoke of the process beginning "very quickly."
A day after the meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the bulk of North Korea's denuclearisation should be completed by the end of Trump's term in 2020.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump moved on Tuesday (Jul 17) to limit the damage from his summit with Vladimir Putin, claiming he misspoke in appearing to accept the Russian leader's denial of election meddling - in a rebuke to US intelligence chiefs.
At their Helsinki meeting a day earlier, Trump failed to challenge Putin over the 2016 presidential election, seeming to accept at face value the strongman's denial that Moscow interfered in a bid to undermine the Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But faced with outrage at home, and even allies demanding he reverse course, Trump - in an extraordinary postscript to the summit - sought to walk back his remarks.
Trump said he accepted the intelligence community's assessment that Russia had meddled in the election, and offered a rambling explanation of his assertion that he could not see "any reason" why Russia would interfere.
"In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't'," Trump said, speaking at the White House ahead of a meeting with Republican lawmakers.
"The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative," he added - repeating the laborious clarification several times.
But while the US leader expressed his "full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies," he insisted that "Russia's actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election."
And he again floated the idea that "other people" could be involved.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer was quick to pounce.
"President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It's 24 hours too late, and in the wrong place," Schumer said.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign has increasingly put pressure on the White House.
The president - who regards the probe as an attack on his legitimacy - has dubbed it a "witch hunt," and again said Tuesday there were "no collusion at all."
But the investigation is progressing, as evidenced by the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents on Friday - timing that was embarrassing ahead of the summit with Putin.
Trump initially sounded a defensive note on Tuesday, insisting his meeting with Putin had been "even better" than his one last week with traditional allies NATO - a testy gathering seen as having badly strained trans-Atlantic ties.
But the US president found precious little support for his decision not to confront the Russian leader - on either side of the political aisle.
Former House speaker and longtime Trump ally Newt Gingrich put it bluntly.
"It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected - immediately," he tweeted as Trump headed home.
By Tuesday afternoon when he faced the cameras, Trump had changed tack.
"We're doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018," the president said.
After his remarks, the White House released a fact sheet on how the US is "standing up to Russia's malign activities" - a clear bid to counter the notion that Trump had been soft on Putin.
Former president Barack Obama appeared to allude to his successor in a speech in South Africa on Tuesday, blasting "strongman politics" - without naming Trump.
While Trump was not entirely without defenders, the bipartisan consensus was broadly hostile to his stance in Helsinki - as the top Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan made clear at a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
"We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russian aggression," Ryan said. "Vladimir Putin does not share our interests, Vladimir Putin does not share our values."
"We just conducted a year-long investigation into Russia's interference in our elections. They did interfere in our elections. It's really clear," he said.
"Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself."
LOS ANGELES: MGM Resorts, owner of the Las Vegas hotel that was the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, has sued victims of the massacre, triggering howls of protest.
The suit does not seek money but rather aims to force around 1,000 people suing MGM over the October shooting rampage that left 58 dead at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, to drop their suits on grounds that MGM Resorts is not liable.
The group filed suit Friday (Jul 13) in Nevada and in federal court in Los Angeles.
In the Oct 1 shooting, a man named Stephen Paddock rained bullets over a country music festival from the 32nd floor of the hotel with powerful rifles. The rampage wounded another 851 people. Paddock, 64, killed himself in the room as police moved in.
Some 2,500 people, some of them survivors of the attack and others relatives of people killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, are suing MGM or have threatened to, MGM says in its filing, seen Tuesday by reporters.
The group wants these suits accusing it of negligence dropped.
MGM's argues that the case must be handled under a post-Sep 11 law called the Safety Act.
This provides incentives for development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies.
MGM asserts that the security firm it contracted for the concert, CSC, was approved by the Department of Homeland Security and is thus released from liability under the law.
MGM says that it and the concert organiser entrusted security to CSC and thus cannot be held liable for the massacre.
A victims support group called Route 91 Strong said MGM is "revictimising" victims, many of whom it said suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, have lost their jobs or are even on suicide watch because of the shooting rampage.
Attorney Robert Eglet, who is representing one of the victims, said that "in my 30 years of practice, this is the most reprehensible behavior I have ever seen a defendant engage in".
He also argued that CSC's release under the Safety Act does not extend to the hotel.
Eglet said CSC did not provide security on the night of the concert or in the days running up to it.
"This is just OUTRAGEOUS & WRONG," tweeted JoAnn Smith, an employee of a security firm in Las Vegas and other of many people who are up in arms with MGM.
LOS ANGELES: A projectile from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii struck a boat carrying people watching lava from the two-month-old eruption, injuring 23, the fire department said on Monday (Jul 16).
Thirteen of them required hospitalisation and the rest were treated at a harbour when the boat engaged in a "lava tour" returned to the Big Island, also known as Hawaii.
Lava flowing into the Pacific is a spectacular sight, producing a foggy haze known in Hawaii as "laze."
One woman was in serious condition with a fractured femur.
The total number of people on the boat was not immediately known, the Hawaii County Fire Department said.
In the early morning incident, a "lava bomb" punctured the roof of the boat and damaged a railing, the department said. It gave no further details.
"It was an explosion, basically," said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for the county mayor, told the Tribune Herald newspaper. "It punctured a hole right through the roof of the boat."
She described the boat as "covered with lava."
The eruption has destroyed hundreds of homes since it began on May 3.
Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanos and one of five on the island.
HELSINKI: To outrage in Washington, President Donald Trump on Monday (Jul 16) lent weight to Russian denials of meddling in US elections at his inaugural summit with Vladimir Putin, where the pair championed a fresh start in relations between the world's leading nuclear powers.
The US and Russian presidents came out of their meeting in Helsinki expressing a desire to talk again on global challenges, after discussing an array of issues from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.
There were indications of an arrangement to work together and with Israel to support a ceasefire in southern Syria, suggesting that the US administration is backing off its demand that Moscow's ally Bashar al-Assad step down.
If that is anathema to many in Washington, Trump's apparent concessions to Putin over the elections controversy drew stinging condemnation from across the political divide.
Standing alongside the Kremlin boss at a joint news conference, Trump acknowledged that his intelligence chiefs believe Russia hacked and leaked Democrats' emails containing politically damaging information about his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But, insisting he had won the race fair and square, the wealthy property tycoon said: "I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."
Friday's US indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents exploded with embarrassing timing for Trump as he prepared to meet Putin. On Monday, officials said another Russian agent had been arrested for seeking to influence US politics.
But the US leader insisted that his counterpart had delivered a "powerful" denial of any Russian manipulation, and that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller was proving a "disaster" for the United States.
Trump again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, while Putin insisted: "The Russian state has never interfered and is not planning to interfere in the USA's internal affairs."
In fact, Trump welcomed a surprise offer by Putin to help in the investigation.
As criticism mounted, Trump tweeted from Air Force One on his way home from Finland that he had "GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people".
"However, I also recognise that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past - as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along."
The tweet came after Trump's seeming disavowal of his own FBI and intelligence agencies had immediately provoked a firestorm back home, even in his own party.
Senior Republican Senator John McCain said the press conference was "disgraceful" and a "low point" for the US presidency.
"Coming close on the heels of President Trump's bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today's press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American presidency," he said.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats distanced himself from his boss in the White House, issuing a statement saying the US intelligence community's judgement that Russia interfered in the 2016 election was "clear".
And the top Democrat in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Trump was "putting himself over our country" by siding with Putin instead of his own officials.
"Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behaviour is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump," he tweeted.
Putin, however, denied the notion that Russian spy bosses may hold compromising information on Trump, who in his previous business career oversaw the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.
"Please get this rubbish out of your heads," the Russian leader said.
The two leaders appeared relaxed at the news conference, smiling on occasion, in contrast to their sombre demeanour at the start of the day.
Putin presented Trump with a World Cup football, a day after attending the final of the much-praised tournament in Moscow. Trump said he was happy to pass the ball on to his 12-year-old son Barron.
Trump, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite the election allegations, went into the summit blaming the "stupidity" of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.
His manner towards Putin was also a contrast to the anger Trump flashed at NATO allies at a combative summit of the alliance in Brussels last week, which critics said would only hearten Putin.
'ONLY THE BEGINNING'
But over breakfast with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, Trump declared that NATO "has never been stronger" and "never been more together" thanks to his insistence on all allies paying their fair share.
A post-NATO trip to Britain, supposedly America's partner in a "special relationship", was riddled with controversy as well.
In Helsinki, however, Trump was determined to accentuate the positive, as was Putin.
"Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that," Trump said, vowing the summit was "only the beginning".
Putin said: "It is obvious to everyone that bilateral ties are going through a difficult period. However there are no objective reasons for these difficulties, the current tense atmosphere."
Praising a "frank and business-like atmosphere," the Russian leader said he considered the talks "very successful and useful".
The two leaders met one-on-one for more than two hours, with just their interpreters present, before they were joined by their national security teams.
Many in Washington were agog at Trump's decision to sit alone with Putin, worried about what he might give away to the former KGB spymaster, after previously cosying up to the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea.
But Trump, convinced his unique brand of diplomacy can win over Putin, pressed ahead and looked forward to "having an extraordinary relationship" as the pair sat down to discuss global hotspots.
'FOOLISHNESS AND STUPIDITY'
Trump began the day by firing a Twitter broadside at his domestic opponents, blaming the diplomatic chill on the election investigation.
"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" Trump tweeted.
Russia's foreign ministry tweeted in response: "We agree."
In a weekend interview with CBS News, Trump admitted that Russia remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.
Yet after the bad-tempered NATO summit and Trump's trip to Britain, anxious European leaders will have been relieved if not much came out of the Helsinki meeting.
Those leaders are already fuming over Trump's imposition of trade tariffs on various countries, including Russia.
European Union President Donald Tusk said Trump was guilty of "spreading fake news" with his remark about foes, and warned that the trade tensions could spiral into violent "conflict and chaos".
"Europe and China, America and Russia, today in Beijing and in Helsinki, are jointly responsible for improving the world order, not for destroying it," he tweeted.
"I hope this message reaches Helsinki."
TOKYO: The European Union's top officials arrive in Japan Tuesday (Jul 17) to sign the single market's biggest trade deal ever and present a united front as Washington upends the international trade order.
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker land in Japan after talks in Beijing, where they urged global trade cooperation and warned against trade wars.
"It is the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russia, not to destroy (the global trade order) but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history," Tusk said Monday in Beijing.
"There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos."
The "landmark" EU-Japan deal creates a massive economic zone and stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump's "America First" protectionism.
The deal, agreed last December, is "the biggest ever negotiated by the European Union", according to Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
"This agreement will create an open trade zone covering nearly a third of the world's GDP," he said.
The EU - the world's biggest single market with 28 countries and 500 million people - is trying to boost alliances in the face of Trump's protectionist administration.
The EU-Japan deal will send a "strong signal to the world" against US protectionism, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said recently.
Trump's administration has angered traditional allies like the EU and Japan by imposing trade tariffs, while rattling international markets by threatening a trade war with China.
On Sunday, the US president fuelled rising rancour by labelling the EU, along with Russia and China, "a foe" of the United States, and repeating his assertion that the EU has "really taken advantage of us on trade".
The EU officials and Japan will also look to present a united front against US tariffs on steel and aluminium, which Tokyo has called "deplorable".
Under the trade agreement, the EU will open its market to Japan's auto industry, with Tokyo in return scrapping barriers to EU farming products, especially dairy.
The EU is seeking access to one of the world's richest markets, while Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been scheduled to sign the deal in Brussels last week, but cancelled his trip after devastating floods that killed more than 220 people.
HELSINKI: Donald Trump was fired up. When the US president set off for Europe one week ago he was bent on knocking heads with Washington's allies and finding friendship with Russia.
As he flew homewards after Monday's summit with President Vladimir Putin, the final repercussions of his diplomatic rampage were not yet clear.
"Trump's trip to Europe is the single most chaotic and destructive by an American president," diplomat turned professor Nicholas Burns lamented.
"American credibility has been diminished," he warned.
After his activity in Brussels through London to Helsinki, only the weeks and months to come will tell whether Trump only strained or permanently sabotaged trans-Atlantic ties.
But there is one immediate conclusion to be drawn. No-one, not even Trump's most senior advisers and cabinet members, carries much weight with the commander in chief.
Trump's approach to any foreign policy challenge will be guided by his longstanding views or his perception of what his nationalist base most desires.
The carnage began with a simple Brussels breakfast.
On the schedule of the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump's breakfast with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did not seem like much of a minefield.
These events are usually photo opportunities, with perhaps brief remarks to celebrate the enduring trans-Atlantic ties of the world's most powerful military alliance.
But Trump was determined to set the agenda - of the summit and of the news coverage - from the opening minutes.
Member states were braced for Trump to be irascible about defense spending, but not the vitriol with which he launched into them before a visibly uncomfortable Stoltenberg.
As Trump's advisers averted their gaze, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Germany was declared to be "captive to Russia" because of her increasing reliance on gas supplies.
Stoltenberg stuttered a conciliatory response, celebrating the value of unity, but Trump ploughed on.
Later, when he flipped the script and started boasting instead of his "very good relationship" with Merkel, the damage was done.
ALLIES AT WAR
As the second day of the summit dawned, Trump didn't even have to speak to drain the oxygen from the room; rumors were circulating that he would threaten to quit NATO.
Trump, the self-declared "very stable genius", stepped in to clear the air, after a fashion, in a wide-ranging news conference.
He took questions from all-comers for almost an hour, boasting - incorrectly it later turned out - that the allies had agreed to increase spending more quickly.
"And now we're very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago," he said.
European leaders later explained that they had only reaffirmed their existing vow to spend 2 per cent of their respective GDPs on defense by 2024.
This had not been enough for Trump the day before, but he left declaring there was only "love" in the room.
"I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me," Trump told reporters before he arrived in London.
"She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way," he said of the prime minister's approach to Brexit.
Even some supporters of Trump's no-nonsense approach to US allies were surprised that he kicked off a visit to Britain by attacking May.
The interview was published just as coffee was being served after a dinner hosted by May for Trump at war-time premier Winston Churchill's home in Blenheim Palace, and it left a bitter taste for the entire visit.
May put a brave face on the snub, and later revealed that he had urged her to sue the European Union, a quixotic way to seek a trade deal.
Trump alternated denials and defiance, and it was not clear whether he really had meant to weaken May and promote others more amenable to him like recently departed foreign minister Boris Johnson.
But it was clear that he had not impressed his hosts, and that if the vaunted special relationship continues it is no thanks to any alliance management by the president.
THE BUNGLE ON THE BALTIC
Trump had boasted that his first summit with Russia's president would be the easiest stage of his trip, despite Washington and Moscow's historic enmity and current tensions.
In the event, by popular consent, he bungled his joint news conference with Putin and left even reliable cheerleaders on Fox News in Congress sputtering that he had taken the Kremlin chief's side over US intelligence.
Perhaps at this, late stage his unique approach to diplomacy finally failed Trump, when his inability to accept that Moscow may have intervened illicitly to promote his 2016 election cost him dear.
HELSINKI: After months of exchanging long-distance compliments, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sit down on Monday for their first ever summit, a potential political minefield at home for the US president but a geopolitical win for his Russian counterpart.
Neither side expects major breakthroughs from the talks in the Finnish capital beyond warm words, an agreement to begin repairing battered US-Russia relations, and maybe a deal to start talks on issues such as nuclear arms control and Syria.
The two men, who have praised each other's leadership qualities from afar, could also agree to start restocking their respective embassies and returning confiscated diplomatic property after a wave of expulsions and retaliatory action prompted by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
Ahead of the summit, both sides talked down the event, however, with Trump telling CBS he was going in with "low expectations" and John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, saying on ABC's This Week that the United States was not looking for "deliverables" and that the meeting would be "unstructured".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's RT TV station that he also had low expectations. He would regard the summit as a success if there was an agreement to merely reopen severed lines of communications across the board, he said.
For Putin, the fact that the summit is even happening despite Russia's semi-pariah status among some Americans and US allies is a geopolitical win because, in Russian eyes, it shows that Washington recognises Moscow as a great power whose interests must be taken into account.
For Russia, it is also a powerful sign that Western efforts to isolate Moscow have failed.
But for Trump, whose White House victory was actively supported by 12 Russian military intelligence agents, according to a recent US indictment, and whose entourage is still being investigated for possible collusion with Moscow, the meeting is freighted with domestic political risk.
"We can say confidently that Putin's political risks are lower than those of President Trump," said Andrey Kortunov, head of RIAC, a Moscow think-tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"Putin has less to lose and more to gain because he does not have a domestic opposition, a potentially hostile legislature, and is not begin investigated like Trump. But if you look at the US media they mostly focus on potential risks. Nobody there really believes that any good can come out of this summit."
A probe over allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election has clouded Trump's presidency. Trump has denied any collusion with the Russians by his campaign and Russia denies it meddled.
The Helsinki summit is the capstone to a nearly week-long trip for Trump during which he has sown doubts about his commitment to the NATO military alliance, Washington's so-called special relationship with Britain, and US relations with the European Union that he called "a foe" in trade terms.
Against that backdrop and swirling uncertainty about what Trump might do or say next, his summit with Putin, which will include a one-on-one session with the Russian leader with only interpreters present, has both US allies and US politicians worried lest he make hasty and sweeping concessions.
Some politicians in the West believe the summit is happening at one of the most crucial junctures for the West since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Certain NATO allies fear Putin might seek a grand deal that would undermine the US-led transatlantic alliance.
Trump has said that he will raise the alleged Russian election meddling with Putin but does not expect to get anywhere, has spoken vaguely about the possibility of halting NATO war games in the Baltic region, and has said repeatedly that it would be good if he could get along with Russia.
When asked last month if he would recognise Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, he replied: "We're going to have to see."
On Friday, 12 Russians were indicted on charges of interfering in the U.S. 2016 election, a development that prompted some Democratic leaders to call on Trump to cancel the Putin meeting, a demand he quickly dismissed.
On the summit's eve, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a political opponent of Trump, said he had told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the Helsinki meeting was a mistake.
"First, I don't believe the meeting should take place but if it is going to happen, President Trump must press Putin hard on the issue of election interference. He can't simply raise it, accept Putin's denial and then let him off the hook," Schumer said in a statement.
"Second, the President must demand that the 12 Russians named in the indictment be sent to the US to stand trial. And third, President Trump should not agree to weaken, lift, or curtail any of the sanctions on Russia."
Any Trump request for Russia to extradite hacking suspects is likely to fall on deaf ears, however, as the Kremlin, citing the Russian constitution, has a policy of not handing over suspects wanted by other countries.
Many Western politicians remain angry over Russia's annexation of Crimea, its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, and its support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Other accusations, denied by Moscow, include that it meddled in European politics, supplied the weapon that shot down a passenger plane in 2014 over Ukraine, and was behind the poisoning of the former Russian spy in Britain.
Moscow would love to have US sanctions - initially imposed over the Crimea annexation - eased and eventually lifted. But most in Russia do not expect the summit to produce such an outcome.
MOSCOW: Victorious France were set to return to a heroes' welcome on Monday (Jul 16) after winning the World Cup for the second time with a rollercoaster 4-2 victory over Croatia which set off chaotic celebrations at home.
Teenager Kylian Mbappe applied the coup de grace in Moscow as France, aided by an own goal and the video assistant referee, overcame determined opponents in one of the most compelling finals of the modern era.
Mbappe, just 19, scored France's sizzling fourth goal and was voted the best young player of a tournament in which he has shown he is a superstar in the making.
The triumph also put Didier Deschamps, who captained the side to victory on home soil in 1998, alongside Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer as only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who cheered every goal in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, was drenched by torrential rain during the trophy presentation and attempted to "dab" with the players in the changing room.
On Monday, Macron will welcome the team back to Paris and the players will make a bus parade up the Champs-Elysees avenue, where they are expected to be feted by hundreds of thousands of people.
Fans in France celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolour flag while the Eiffel Tower was lit up in blue, white and red. However, youths also looted a Champs-Elysees store and police fired tear gas as celebrations got out of control.
'THERE IS NOTHING BETTER'
Deschamps, who was soaked by champagne by his overjoyed players in a chaotic press conference, said the win was "just as big and just as beautiful" as the 1998 triumph.
"There are two things that matter - one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions," he said.
"To be champions of the world as professional footballers, there is nothing better."
The breathless victory under stormy skies meant his side - a balance of youthful vitality and big-tournament experience - have buried the pain of their defeat in the Euro 2016 final in Paris.
"We did something incredible, we made history and we are going to enjoy it," said Antoine Griezmann, who scored France's second goal from the spot.
"We're going to see our families and we're going to party. Tomorrow in France will be the same, we're going to party with the French people."
For Croatia, a country of just four million people, the loss was bitter but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation's history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semi-final victory against England.
Croatia playmaker Luka Modric was voted player of the tournament, Belgium's Thibaut Courtois was named the best goalkeeper and Harry Kane of England won the Golden Boot as top-scorer with six goals.
US President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations to France for their "extraordinary soccer" and also praised Russia's President Vladimir Putin for his hosting of the tournament, which he described as "one of the best ever".
Putin said Russia could be "proud" of its organisation of the event, adding that foreign visitors holding World Cup fan ID cards could have visa-free entry for the rest of 2018.
France scored first when Mario Mandzukic headed into his own net following a Griezmann free-kick in the 18th minute -- the first own goal in World Cup final history.
Ivan Perisic's venomous strike levelled the scores but then, in a major turning point, referee Nestor Pitana awarded France a hotly debated penalty for a Perisic handball after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR).
As thunder rolled around the stadium, Griezmann held his nerve to stroke his spot-kick into the net as goalkeeper Danijel Subasic went the wrong way.
Croatia were unbowed as they ran the game from midfield, with Modric and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings as roars of "Croatia" rang out.
But Paul Pogba and then Mbappe both struck from outside the area to make it 4-1, before Mandzukic forced a humiliating mistake from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to raise faint hopes of a late comeback.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said his side's luck had run out after the VAR penalty.
"I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty," said Dalic, whose team had to battle through extra-time in all three of their knockout games before the final.
But he added: "You should never give up, never stop believing. At 4-1 down I was not defeated. Overall, Croatia played a great tournament and showed its strength and quality."
Disappointed but proud Croatian fans in Zagreb cheered their team to the very end, lighting flares and firecrackers in the capital's packed main square at the final whistle.