Watch: Thai cave boys recount the moment two divers found them underground as they speak publicly for first time since rescue

Trapped in the recesses of a flooded cave in northern Thailand, the 12 boys and their soccer coach were trying to dig their way out when they heard voices in the darkness. Their coach quickly told everyone to be quiet.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"We weren't sure if it was for real," said 14-year-old Adul Samon. "So we stopped and listened. And it turned out to be true. I was shocked."

That stunning moment when two British divers found the missing soccer team was recounted by the boys overnight at their first news conference since the rescue that riveted the world.

The group, looking healthy after recuperating at a hospital, entered to applause from reporters and classmates and put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills on a miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they met journalists from around the world.

The boys - dressed in green and white uniforms with a red wild boar, their team's nickname - then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit that helped rescue them. Others who helped them during their ordeal, which ended after more than two weeks when they were brought out of the cave last week, were also there.

In one poignant and emotional moment, a portrait was displayed of Saman Gunan, the former Thai navy SEAL diver who died in the rescue attempt, and the team members showed their gratitude and respect for him. One of the boys, Chanin Vibulrungruang, covered his eyes as if wiping away a tear.

The boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach answered questions submitted by the media, including about the lessons they learned during their experience.

"I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance," said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam.

Adul said, "This experience teaches me not to live life carelessly."

Several said they want to become professional soccer players, while four said they want to emulate the heroes who saved them.

"I want to be a navy SEAL because I want to help others," said one.

All said they want to apologise to their parents, most of whom they had not informed in advance about the trek to the cave after soccer practice.

"I know my mom is going to punish me and I am in big trouble with my mother," one of the boys said when asked what he expected to happen when he got home.

The Space-X founder has called a British diver a “pedo”, allegations that are without basis. Source: 1 NEWS

Doctors said the 13 were healthy in body and mind. They said the boys gained around 3 kilograms on average since they were rescued from the cave. They were said to have lost an average of 4 kilograms during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave.

The news conference was the first opportunity the members of the team had to speak directly to the media, though video of them in the hospital was released previously. Officials reviewed questions in advance to make certain none might cause damaging psychological effects.

The Wild Boars teammates had entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 for what was to be a quick, relaxing excursion after soccer practice. But rain began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.

The British divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave on July 2, hungry but generally healthy. An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys and their coach through the tight, flooded passageways in three separate missions last week.

Some of the boys were treated for minor infections during their hospital stay, but all 13 have been described as recovering well.

Following the news conference, about 30 relatives gathered at 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep's house to welcome him home, clapping their hands and cheering.

Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised Duangpetch, was teary-eyed as he hugged his nephew.

Earlier, Banphot said he would have a renovated bedroom and gifts awaiting him.

"We'll do whatever he wants," he said. "If he wants anything, we'll buy it for him as a present, as we promised that when he gets out, whatever he wants, we'll do it for him."

The boys and their football coach were trapped for more than two weeks underground before being rescued. Source: Breakfast


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Suspected Kremlin agent arrested in US used sex to forge influential connections, according to court papers

A 29-year-old gun-rights activist suspected of being a covert Russian agent was likely in contact with Kremlin operatives while living in the United States, prosecutors said today in court papers that also accused her of using sex and deception to forge influential connections.

The woman, Maria Butina, was observed by the FBI dining privately with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence operative in the weeks before the envoy's departure from the US last March, prosecutors say. She also had contact information for people who investigators believe were employees of Russia's Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB.

The allegations, made in court filings aimed at persuading a judge to keep Butina in custody, add to the portrait of a Russian woman who the Justice Department says worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate US political organisations, including the National Rifle Association, and gather intelligence for a senior Russian official.

Butina awaits trial on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. A judge will hear arguments Wednesday on whether to keep Butina in jail as the court case moves forward.

Citing her intelligence ties, the government is arguing that Butina poses an "extreme" risk of fleeing the US, where she has been living on a student visa. In seeking her detention, prosecutors said Butina's "legal status in the United States is predicated on deception."

Her lawyer has called the allegations overblown and has denied that Butina is a Russian agent.

Butina was arrested over the weekend amid signs that she planned to leave the country.

Her lease on an apartment ends later this month and her belongings were packed at the time of her arrest, prosecutors said. Her personal ties, "save for those US persons she attempted to exploit and influence," are to Russia, according to the government court filing.

"The concern that Butina poses a risk of flight is only heightened due to her connection to suspected Russian intelligence operatives," prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors also said Butina was regarded as a covert agent by a Russian official with whom she was in touch, with text messages discovered by the FBI showing how the official likened her to Anna Chapman, a Russian woman who was arrested in 2010 and then deported as part of a prisoner swap.

In March 2017, following news coverage of Butina, the Russian official wrote, "Are your admirers asking for your autographs yet? You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones," according to the court filing.

Butina and the official messaged each other directly on Twitter, prosecutors said. One such exchange occurred a month before the USpresidential election when Butina said she understood that "everything has to be quiet and careful."

They also spoke on January 20, 2017 when Butina sent the official a photo of her near the USCapitol on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. According to court papers, the Russian official responded, "You're a daredevil girl! What can I say!()" Butina responded, "Good teachers!"

Authorities have not named the Russian official, but details in the court papers match the description of Alexander Torshin, a former legislator who is now a senior official in the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.

Torshin, who became an NRA life member in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted in April by Treasury Department sanctions for their associations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and their roles in "advancing Russia's malign activities."

Prosecutors say the official directed Butina to use her contacts with the NRA and other conservative causes to gather intelligence on American officials and political organizations. She is also accused of trying to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin.

The NRA, which has previously been connected to Butina, has not commented on the charges. Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, has called the allegations "overblown" and denied his client was a Russian agent.

Driscoll said she was just a student, attending American University in the nation's capital, who "at most" was seeking to promote a better relationship between the US and Russia.

But in court papers, prosecutors said Butina's university enrolment was a cover for her covert duties and that she suggested, falsely, on her visa application that she was no longer employed by the Russian official at the time she applied for a student visa.

Prosecutors also alleged that she used a personal relationship with an unnamed American political operative, with whom she was living, "as simply a necessary aspect" of her covert activities on behalf of Russia.

Authorities say the relationship with the operative, identified as "US Person 1" in court papers, shouldn't be seen as a "strong tie" to the US, noting she "offered an individual other than US Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organisation."

Court papers do not name the individual or the special interest group.

Russian woman Maria Butina allegedly developed close ties with the US Republican Party. Source: 1 NEWS

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Woman loses bid to be declared victim of violent crime over real estate agent handshake

A woman who said she was injured when a real-estate agent squeezed her hand after a Sydney property auction has lost her bid to be declared a victim of violent crime.

The ruling came from a civil tribunal yesterday.

"I do not find that the agent committed a crime by shaking the applicant's hand firmly or in some other physically hard or aggressive manner," concluded a senior member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The woman, who cannot be named, unsuccessfully challenged a decision by the Commissioner of Victims Rights who found she was not the victim of any act of violence which could have entitled her to counselling or financial grants.

Business women shake hands.


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