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News Wrap: Putin denies ties to offshore accounts from ‘Panama Papers’

In our news wrap Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed reports that a close friend channeled $2 billion to his supporters as a U.S.-led plot to discredit his country. Also, Islamic State militants abducted more than 300 workers and contractors from a cement plant near Damascus.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    In the day's other news: Russian President Vladimir Putin is denying he's tied to offshore accounts, as detailed in the Panama Papers leak. In St. Petersburg today, Putin dismissed reports that a close friend channeled $2 billion to his supporters. He said it's part of a U.S.-led plot to discredit Russia.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): More than anything, our opponents are concerned with the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, of the multinational Russian people. Because of that, attempts are made to destabilize the situation from within, to make us more agreeable and to shape us the way they want.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Putin himself is not directly named in any of the leaked documents.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Syria, Islamic State militants abducted more than 300 workers and contractors today. State TV reported it happened at a cement plant about 28 miles from Damascus.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And in Iraq, elite government forces entered the center of a key town held by ISIS. They have been fighting since last month to retake Hit. It sits on a major ISIS supply route from Syria.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani delivered a jab to his country's hard-liners today. In a televised speech, he said that his government favors — quote — "a policy of moderation" and he said Iran must engage with the world now to take advantage of last year's nuclear agreement.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): The opportunity the nuclear deal has created for us is not permanent and eternal. Opportunities pass like passing clouds. If, God forbid, a small group succeed at not letting us take advantage of this opportunity, the opportunity will not return.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rouhani's remarks are a challenge to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and his hard-line allies.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Prosecutors in Belgium have issued a new appeal for help, finding a ref — a fugitive, that is, from the Brussels attacks. They released new security camera video today showing the so-called man in the hat as he left the airport, walked away and finally disappeared. In all, 32 people died in the Brussels attacks. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Obama went back today to where he once taught to press his case for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. At the University of Chicago's law school, he argued the U.S. Senate has to vote on Garland's nomination, or risk sabotaging the system.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We are going to see the kinds of sharp partisan polarization that have come to characterize our electoral politics seeping entirely into the judicial system. And the courts will just be an extension of our legislatures.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Republicans insist that they will wait for the next president to name a nominee. And the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, said today they're committed to that stance.

    SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), Iowa: Our side knows and our side believes that what we're doing is right. And when that's the case, it's not hard to withstand the outrage and the pressure they have manufactured.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Garland met with more Democratic senators today. He's also met with a handful of Republicans.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Wall Street had a tough day, as sluggish growth hurt bank stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 174 points to close below 17542. The Nasdaq fell 72 points, and the S&P 500 slid 24.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And a rare first edition of William Shakespeare's collected plays has turned up in Scotland. The "First Folio" was found at Mount Stuart, a vast estate on the Scottish Isle of Bute. It was printed in 1623, and is one of only 234 known copies in the world. Britain is this year marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in April 1616.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": a crackdown on companies seeking tax havens overseas; refugees' economic impact on a city in Upstate New York; the U.S. role in Yemen's civil war; and much more.

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