Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia: Salisbury CW Attack / Syrian CW Attack (45)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Russia’s self-flagellation campaign continues, it appears there are few boundaries that will not be crossed in this play. More on Russia’s proposed counter-sanctions that appear to be designed to bleed key sectors of Russia’s tech industries dry as quickly as possible. The effort to shut down Telegram produced significant collateral damage. Russia now working on contingency plans for complete economic isolation from the West – Russia is truly its own worst enemy. Borovoy and Solovey suggest that the West needs to target Russian oil, gas and finance to produce changes in regime behaviour.

UNSC briefed on yesterday’s OPCW meeting. Russians self-flagellate yet again in the UNSC. More detail on OPCW meeting, OPCW sinks Russian claims concerning BZ agent. Ofcom inquiry into RT goes viral in media. The Timesagain delves into the Surkov files, looking at the MH17 disinformation campaign. Russian government calls on Russian graduates and graduate students in the UK to return to Russia, offering them placement in Siberian jobs and universities – under the Tsars and Soviets, this was punishment for dissent.

A/SECSTATE Mitchell testifies to House FAC on Syria. POTUS defers additional Russia sanctions, leaving them with uncertainty over what will be sanctioned and when – a far more damaging play than the certainty of sanctions. Germany to lobby US for exemptions on Russia sanctions, so sweet exclusive (i.e. monopoly) deals negotiated by German companies with Russia can be protected. Belgian companies charged over supply of sarin precursors to Syria.

Much on Israel vs Iran in Syria, and many predictions of impending war – one which Iran would lose badly. Major concerns in Israel over Russia’s proposal to supply the S-300PS/PM/PM2 SA-10/20 GRUMBLE/GARGOYLE to Syria. Former Osirak strike pilot discusses the option of striking Iran with air power directly from Israel, something clearly within Israeli capabilities and competencies.


Boss of Russia’s RT cracks joke about British watchdog’s probe

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The editor-in-chief of Russian state broadcaster RT, commenting on a British investigation into how the station covered the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, joked on Wednesday the station was not to blame for the death of Skripal’s cat. In a post on Twitter, RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan described the investigation by the British broadcasting watchdog and added the quip: “I reply immediately: the cat, it wasn’t us.” That appeared to be a reference to Skripal’s cat, which was put down by British authorities after being found in his home in Salisbury, southern England. Simonyan often deploys sardonic humor to bat away allegations from Western governments about her broadcaster’s impartiality. (Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Christian Lowe)

Russia rejects UN resolution for independent Douma investigation | Russia News | Al Jazeera

Russia’s UN ambassador says determining responsibility for chemical attack is futile since West already assigned blame.

Russia slams spy nerve agent case as UK fabrication

Russia on Wednesday once again slammed Britain’s accusing it of poisoning a former spy with nerve agent in the British town of Salisbury as “fabrication” and “poorly disguised anti-Russian provocation accompanied by an unprecedented propaganda campaign”. “We can clearly see all of this on the example of the ‘Skripal case’ fabricated by the British authorities, this poorly disguised anti-Russian provocation accompanied by an unprecedented propaganda campaign, taken up by a group of countries, and the finalized unprecedented expulsion of diplomats under a far-fetched pretext,” said Russia’s permanent representative Alexander Vasilievich Shulgin at a meeting of the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). “Russia will not take at face value any conclusions regarding the ‘Skipal case’ until one simple condition is met: the Russian experts will be provided with access to the victims, as well as to the mentioned materials of the OPCW expert analysis and the entire volume of the real information regarding this incident London has at its disposal,” said Shulgin in his statement. The meeting was called by the UK to discuss the findings of the investigation into the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury. British experts said the nerve agent used was “Novichok”, a military-grade nerve agent, which, according to the UK, has been developed in Soviet times and used by Russia. An OPCW report published on April 12 said its investigation “confirm the findings of the UK relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury”. The report says the toxic chemical is of “high purity”, with “almost complete absence of impurities”, but does not name the substance. The OPCW “supports our finding that a military grade nerve agent of a type known as Novichok was used in Salisbury. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL), our laboratories at Porton Down established the highest concentrations of the agent were found on the handle of Mr Skripal’s front door,” Peter Wilson, UK Permanent Representative to the OPCW, stated at the OPCW meeting on Wednesday. The UK assesses that there is no plausible alternative explanation for what happened in Salisbury than Russian state responsibility, he added. “We believe that only Russia had the technical means, operational experience, and the motive to target the Skripals.” Wilson said Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks, has a proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination and “it is highly likely that the Russian intelligence services view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination”. “We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by GRU (Russian military intelligence) cyber specialists,” said the British diplomat. In his statement, the Russian representative refuted that the UK has entered a slippery path of deception and has to lie again and again. “The claim that the Technical Secretariat (of the OPCW) confirmed that this chemical points to its Russian origin is an outright lie,” said Shulgin. “The report itself does not say a single word about the name ‘Novichok’; the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) simply does not contain such a concept. And in the report by the Technical Secretariat there is also no confirmation of the ‘Russian footprint’ in the chemical substance found in Salisbury.” “Nevertheless, the British authorities immediately disseminated in the world media the fake news that the OPCW supposedly confirmed that the Skripals were poisoned with ‘Novichok’, and that the latter, they say, was developed in the USSR and Russia only, hence Moscow is to blame,” he added. As to the saying that the extermination of traitors abroad is a Russian state policy, Shulgin called it “slander and complete nonsense”. “The United Kingdom will not be able to present a single example of a statement of this kind because nothing similar has ever been said by the Russian leadership.” Shulgin reiterated that in Russia there has never been any research and development or experimental work conducted as part of a programme under the name of “Novichok” while “the ‘Novichok’-type nerve agents were in production in a number of countries”. Shulgin also accused the British authorities of holding the Russian citizen Yulia Skripal hostage and subject her to psychological manipulation. According to the UK representative to the OPCW, Yulia Skripal was discharged from hospital on April 9. “Her medical progress is testimony to the outstanding care she was given by medical staff in Salisbury,” Wilson told the OPCW meeting. The UK announced on Tuesday that decontamination work in Salisbury is starting this week and it will take some months to complete, he added.

Yulia Skripal’s mysterious fiancé ‘hasn’t been in contact with her’ since she was poisoned in nerve agent attack – Mirror Online

Stepan Vikeev, 30, has reportedly made no attempt to contact his fiancé Yulia after she was nearly killed by nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury

Haunting CCTV footage shows Yulia Skripal boarding Moscow jet bound for Britain just days before her poisoning

Russian investigators claim they have traced Yulia’s cab ride from her Moscow home and her movements around the airport

Authorities release airport CCTV footage of poisoned Russian | News OK

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian investigators say they have traced back the steps of a poisoned Russian spy’s daughter from her Moscow home to the airport before she flew to London, and found no traces of poison.Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Britain with a military-grade nerve agent last month. Yulia Skripal lives in Moscow and was visiting her father, which led British investigators to believe that she might have unwittingly carried the substance with her.Britain blames Russia for the attack, which it says was carried out by smearing the Soviet-developed nerve agent on a door handle at Skripal’s house in Salisbury. Moscow denies involvement.

Kremlin prepares for total economic isolation

The Russian presidential administration and government are preparing for a further tightening of the anti-Russian sanctions as was the case with Venezuela, Iran and North Korea, with a ban on investing in state debt, the blacklisting of state banks, making it impossible to conduct transactions in dollars, and the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT interbank transfer system, RBC news agency reports with reference to two federal officials familiar with the discussion process, and a source close to the Kremlin. According to one of the sources, the Russian government envisions two possible sanction options for investors in Russian state bonds, markets which are one third controlled by foreign actors who own $41 billion in Federal Loan Bonds (OFZs) and $15 billion in eurobonds. The first is mild, and was already implemented in Venezuela: Washington will ban American legal and physical entities from holding and transacting Russian state bonds with a maturity of more than 30 days. This brought down the national currency – the bolivar – and boosted inflation to 2600% per annum (according to the IMF). However, the approach is likely to be stricter, with exterritorial restrictions. Although the US government cannot directly prohibit European investors from purchasing Russian OFZs and eurobonds, they can create secondary sanctions. Such an approach is already being used against Russian defense enterprises. As a protective measure, the Russian government is considering the possibility of creating a special bank for the purchasing of Russian state debt, which will take steps to cover up the buyers’ names, a federal official said. In addition, there are plans to actively encourage the local population to purchase OFZs: in January this year, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave an order to increase the state bonds to citizens by 100 billion rubles. Disconnection from SWIFT – as happened to Iran and North Korea – will be more difficult to overcome, the sources admitted. The Kremlin fears that it may bring down the Russian banking system and halt external payments, especially for gas. For this scenario, Moscow is investigating the possibility of carrying out external payments through so-called bridge companies, the officials noted. So far only two countries have been cut off from SWIFT. Iranian banks were cut off in 2012, and North Korean banks in 2017. However, in both cases the countries were under sanctions from the UN, and the decision to disconnect Iran from SWIFT was made by the EU. Another cause for concern is the possible tightening of sanctions against the major Russian banks, especially Sberbank and VTB, a source close to the presidential administration told RBC. Both banks are currently under sectoral sanctions, and since 2014 their access to international borrowed capital markets has been restricted. However, a ban on correspondent accounts in the US, or inclusion in the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list would be far more severe, and would make international operations virtually impossible. The US has already placed several Russian banks on the SDN list, the most notable of them being AB Rossiya, but there have not yet been any public banks among them. The situation with Rusal has demonstrated what happens when public companies are placed on the SDN list: the share price plummets, foreign investors sell off securities, and counterparties abroad (not only in the US) terminate operations with the company. The bill on sanctions against Russian state debt and state banks was put forward in US Congress two weeks ago. The Donald Trump Administration has drafted its bill to tighten the sanction regime, but has postponed its implementation, The Washington Post reports.

Russia Tried to Shut Down Telegram. Websites Were Collateral Damage. – The New York Times

Attempts by the country’s internet watchdog to impose a ban on the popular messaging app were opposed by, among others, Edward J. Snowden and a member of Pussy Riot.

Amid Bid To Block Telegram, Russian Regulator Warns Facebook

The chief of Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, says his agency may seek to block Facebook if an inspection this year reveals it is not complying with a law requiring social networks to store …

‘It’s simple negligence’: Russian business owners talk about becoming collateral damage in the federal censor’s war on Telegram — Meduza

On April 16 and 17, as part of its ongoing efforts to cut off access to the instant messenger Telegram, Russia’s federal censor blocked millions of IP addresses belonging to cloud services operated by Google and Amazon, inadvertently disrupting a variety of Russian businesses, from online schools to courier delivery services. The owners of several affected websites spoke to Meduza about becoming collateral damage in Russia’s war on a chat app.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: FSB Efforts to Block Telegram Far More Consequential for Freedom than for Security, Shaburov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, April 18 – FSB efforts to shut down the Telegram messenger service – and there can be no doubt that the security services are the proximate author of this effort – are going to have far more consequences and negative ones at that for the freedom of Russians than positive ones for security, according to Yekaterinburg commentator Aleksey Shaburov. “The blocking of the popular messenger service already has become one of the main political events of the year” in Russia, Shaburov says, with the authorities insisting that it has to take this step in order to be able to combat terrorists who have used Telegram on occasion (politsovet.ru/58711-politicheskie-prichiny-i-posledstviya-blokirovki-telegram.html). And “one must say,” he continues, “that at first glance this argument is quite strong. Before us is the classical contradiction of security and freedom.” Moreover, “the argument works.” Most people “do not want to live in fear for their lives … But if one thinks a little more, then we begin to see that security is in its own way a kind of fiction.” Of course, “if we are asked to choose between a world full of dangers and a situation of absolute security, then we will choose the second. But absolute security is a myth, a utopia which will not be achieved; and what is more, it cannot be achieved by means of the complete surrender of freedom.” Not only “will an unfree individual by definition by subjected to dangers,” Shaburov says, but “in fact, while the rejection of freedom may allow for the avoidance of one kind of danger – non-governmental terrorism – it increases the risk of another danger – state terrorism.” And the latter has claimed far more lives than the former. The effort to block Telegram, he continues, “is nothing other than the latest example of the classical conflict between security and freedom which in fact will have more consequences for freedom than for security,” increasing the power of the state while limiting the freedom of the population. Another aspect of this situation, Shaburov says, is “the clash of the state and the Internet or more precisely the state and social networks.” This isn’t the first such clash in Russia, and such clashes are hardly limited to Russia alone because states prefer vertical channels of the dissemination of information while social networks are horizontal ones. Thus, “the larger social networks become, the more the state fears for its own power.” And with good reason: the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as US president show how social networks can in fact “destroy” the pre-existing political system by undermining the state’s ability to regulate the flow of news from a relatively small number of outlets. “Social networks changed everything,” Shaburov says. “they created a mechanism of disseminating information which could completely escape the control of the state. And this is a genuinely serious challenge” to the powers that be because it promoted radical populism and anti-government and anti-elite attitudes. Thus, it is “completely understandable why the state began to attack social networks by the most varied means, legislative and through the use of force,” with targets including not only Pavel Durov in Russia but Mark Zuckerberg in the United States. But “this is not simply a personal conflict between politicians and businessmen,” Shaburov says. “The governments are struggling in order to continue to exist in their current form.” There are thus long-term consequences arising from this conflict: “Now, we observe how a significant number of people are seeking ways to get around the blocking,” an example of “how people massively are learning to resist state power at the everyday level.” Those who are doing so are engaging in “their own small revolt.” “This micro-revolt,” he says, “while remaining the person affair of each is turning out to be sufficiently massive. It is not creating any political movement but inevitably it is changing the attitude of people toward the authorities and their tactics of behaving in relationship to the government.” According to Shaburov, “if the first attempt at resistance proves successful, then the individual with a high degree of probability will repeat it again and again. Sooner or later, this will create a threat for the political regime. But one must stress that one is talking about a specific regime but not about the governmental mechanism as a whole.” Optimists say that technology can’t be stopped and that “’the Internet will defeat the state,” the commentator observes. “But more likely, there is no given direction, and the defeat of the state in a fight with the Internet is hardly guaranteed.” The state retains enormous resources, and it may be able to learn how to control and use the Internet to its advantage. If that should prove to be the case, Shaburov argues, then the Internet will only further strengthen the power of the government. “It is completely possible that this will be the case” here. But it is also possible that the social networks will give birth to “a new form of state power.” Indeed, “it is no accident” that some are already suggesting that Telegram’s Pavel Durov should run for president of Russia.”

Russia: our response to U.S. sanctions will be precise and painful

Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament, said on Wednesday that Moscow’s response to U.S. sanctions will be targeted and painful, Russian news agencies reported.

The Fight With the West Is Isolating Russia. But That Isn’t Stopping Putin. – The New York Times

Sanctions are increasingly isolating Russia and damaging its economy, but President Vladimir V. Putin and his supporters are confident things are going well.

Sanctions Fight Inspires Russia to Hurt Russians – Bloomberg

The U.S. and Russia have put off decisions on economic sanctions against each other, but the logic of their downward-spiraling relationship suggests that further restrictions are inevitable. It’s difficult to predict where the U.S. will land on the issue, and who might end up suffering the consequences. The Kremlin’s response is all but certain: It will intentionally target Russians more than Americans. Whoever came up with the idea of making it impossible for UC Rusal, the aluminum company of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, to operate in the U.S. probably didn’t consider its unintended effects. For example: What would it do to the global aluminum industry’s supply chain? Or Australian-British Rio Tinto, which used to sell raw materials to Rusal? Or the workers at the Rusal alumina refinery near Limerick in Ireland? That’s just collateral damage. On the other hand, potential Russian countersanctions, described in a bill sponsored by most of the Russian legislators from the speaker on down, include measures that can hurt millions of its own people. The legislators knowingly disregard it. The bill — which requires a presidential order to take effect — is designed to “hit Americans in the solar plexus,” as one of the numerous sponsors, Mikhail Yemelyanov, put it. The measures include:

Russia sanctions could trigger the next ‘big sell-off’ for the ruble, currency expert says

More sanctions on Russia are likely to trigger a further sell-off in the ruble, according to one currency expert.

Trump has no reason to fear a Russian bear; in trade with U.S., Russia is more like a gnat – MarketWatch

President Trump on Monday complained about Russia using currency manipulation to gain an unfair advantage over the U.S., but it’s like an elephant worrying about a gnat.

Russia demands compensation for US steel tariffs

Moscow has joined other nations in seeking rebates from Washington via the World Trade Organization.

Edward Snowden Slams ‘Totalitarian’ Kremlin Over Telegram App Ban

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has backed a prominent critic of the Kremlin in a tense standoff between Russian authorities and a private messaging app used by millions. The National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, who fled to Russia from the U.S. in 2013, risked the wrath of the Kremlin when he

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Sanctions Won’t Deter Putin But Other Steps Can, Borovoy and Solovey Say

Paul Goble Staunton, April 18 – The West has put its faith in sanctions as a means to force Vladimir Putin to change course or be forced from office, but to date the Kremlin leader has effectively exploited those actions to strengthen his position within the Russian elite and among the Russian people. Ever more Russian commentators have reached the conclusion that sanctions, however attractive they may be to Western leaders as an expression of their opposition to Putin’s policies, are not going to have the impact in Moscow that their authors expect and have begun to ask whether there are other steps the West might take to compel Putin to change or go. Two in particular, opposition politician and commentator Konstantin Borovoy and MGIMO historian Valery Solovey, are currently focusing on the question of what might force Putin’s hand (apostrophe.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2018-04-18/est-lish-tri-instrumenta-kotoryie-ostanovyat-putina/17975 and rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/04/18/1697494.html). Borovoy says that the sanctions imposed up to now “are not capable of changing the behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” If the West is to force the Kremlin to change course from its current “aggressive foreign policy, “three other radical instruments” will need to be employed. The experience of the Cold War is instructive. “The West was able to stop the Soviet Union by more serious actions: an embargo on oil, an embargo on contemporary dual use technologies, and the fall of oil prices – these three instruments are the real sanctions capable of stopping the Kremlin,” he argues. “Everything else is symbolism,” that may make the West feel good but that won’t change the Kremlin’s direction in the way the West wants. But “unfortunately,” Borovoy says, “there is no readiness for such actions in the West;” and consequently none of these is likely to employed with the result that Putin will continue on his present course, threatening ever more countries in the ways he has been doing up to now – by invasion, by cyber-attack and by intervention in the domestic politics of the West. Solovey agrees and like Borovoy looks to the history of the end of the Soviet system for ideas. According to him, “an analysis of the relations between the USSR and the West has shown that of the three Western strategies toward the USSR – détente, mutually assured destruction and Star Wars – the most effective turned out to be the last.” The Soviet Union was drawn into an arms race which it could not afford and could not win, and that set the country on the path to its defeat and disintegration. “Consequently,” Solovey says, there is no need to go looking for some new strategy: the West can use the most effective one from the past. That is especially true, the MGIMO historian says, because “the potential of Russia is immeasurably less than that of the USSR.” Moreover, Putin has shown his willingness to take part in an arms race given his statements on March 1, and that should provide guidance to the West on the steps it needs to take to contain and ultimately defeat him. The West must impose a ban on purchases of Russian sovereign and state corporation bonds, an oil embargo, and “an embargo on the transfer of dual-use technologies.” He does not say but implies exactly what Borovoy days: doing anything less will be symbolic but almost certainly ineffective.

US admiral warns against sanctioning India over Russia defence purchase – Moneycontrol.com

A top US admiral has warned Congress against imposing any sanctions on countries like India and Indonesia for purchasing defence equipment from Russia, saying any such move would pose a concern for America’s defence ties in the Indo-Pacific and increase its partners’ dependence on Moscow.

UAWire – Kremlin bans Russia’s state-owned corporations Roskosmos and Rosatom from entering US market

Without waiting for the results of the State Duma’s discussion of a package of counter-sanctions, the Russian government has banned the State Corporation for Space Activities, Roskosmos, and the state nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, from making contracts with companies from countries that uphold anti-Russian sanctions. The newspaper Kommersant reported with reference to a source in parliament and to the directors of the state corporations that the decision was intended as a response to the “US’s confrontational politics” and will “strengthen the government’s control”. The order to restrict contact with the outside world was signed last week by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Several days later, Rogozin condemned the suggestion to terminate space collaboration with the US, calling it “shooting ourselves in the foot”. Nevertheless, according to his instruction, from now on contracts with Rosatom and Roskosmos can only be made “in the event of political resolution”, a federal official told Kommersant. The order is targeted in nature, aiming to prevent Russian technologies from being passed on to the US in the context of the Deep Space Gateway international near-moon station. Roskosmos and Boeing were planning to sign an agreement on the development of the airlock and life-support modules in the next few months. The value of the deal was estimated at $15 million, but it was ultimately not signed “due to technological security considerations”. Soon the session of the Export Commission will take place, during which the ruling to prohibit the transfer of said technologies to the US will be issued officially. A similar ban is being put in place for Rosatom, which supplies the US with enriched uranium for nuclear power stations, Kommersant’s sources claim. The US imports as much as 95% of the uranium it needs, and roughly half may come from Russia and Kazakhstan. Contracts already in effect will continue, but new contracts will only be possible with special authorization. A similar regime has been envisaged for Roskosmos: the agreements signed to sell the US Russian RD-180/181 rocket engines, to take American astronauts to the International Space Station and to supply Soyuz-ST carrier rockets will remain in force. However, the contracts may be broken off by a package of counter-sanctions that was proposed last week by the State Duma. A bill was put forward by spokesman Vyacheslav Volodin and the leaders of all four parties, demanding that all collaboration in the space and aviation sectors come to an end. However, its hearing has been postponed until May 15. Amendments will be made to the bill over the next two weeks, Federation Council Spokeswoman Valentina Matvienko announced.

Soyuz later! Russia might exit satellite launch business • The Register

Russia has dropped a broad hint that it might leave the space launch business to private operators. Space launches have become a relative commodity: SpaceX publishes a price list offering a Falcon 9 trip to geosynchronous transfer orbit for $62m, or $90m for Falcon Heavy. Russia’s official newsagency TASS carried a report suggesting the country might let the new generation of private launch vehicles have the business to themselves rather than try to build a platform that can compete with SpaceX. TASS reports Deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose role puts him at the top of the country’s defence industry, said in a television interview: “The share of launch vehicles is as small as 4 per cent of the overall market of space services”.

Russia to stop outsourcing An-124 cargo aircraft to NATO

The Russian cargo aviation company Volga-Dnepr will stop providing An-124 heavyweight cargo aircraft to NATO by the end of the year, the French publication Challenges reports. According to the publication, Russia made the decision in response to recently tightened sanctions by the US. In 2006, a joint enterprise between the Ukrainian company Antonov Airlines and the Russian air cargo company Volga-Dnepr was established as a part of SALIS (Strategic Airlift International Solution) project. The enterprise provided cargo transportation services for NATO using 17 An-24 (Ruslan) cargo planes. The An-24 boasts the most powerful weight-lifting capacity in the world, and from 1982 to 1988, it was also the largest cargo aircraft. It has the ability to lift up to 120 tons of cargo and carry it with a maximum speed of up to 865 kilometres per hour. According to Challenges, the decision of Volga-Dnepr to terminate services would be a tangible blow to the French Army, as it remains dependent on An-24 aircrafts for the transportation of helicopters and tanks, despite using Airbus A400M aircraft.

Volga-Dnepr Leaving NATO Salis Airlift Program | AWIN_Defense content from Aviation Week

Russian cargo airline group Volga-Dnepr is withdrawing from NATO’s Strategic Air Lift International Solution (Salis) at the end of 2018.

Antonov An-124 Operators

Antonov An-124 Production List

As Security Council Hotly Debates New Report on Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack, Some Members Call for Action to Identify, Apprehend Perpetrators | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases

A technical team deployed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the United Kingdom had identified toxic agents consistent with that Government’s initial investigation, said the United Nations top disarmament official in a briefing to the Security Council today. Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, summarized new information about the 4 March incident in the city of Salisbury, which she had received from OPCW. Blood samples taken from the victims — including the Russian nationals Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia — and environmental samples from the site had confirmed the United Kingdom’s findings regarding the identity of the toxic chemicals. Adding that they had been found to be of “high purity”, she said the OPCW team’s blood sample tests, as well as its on-site sampling, had been conducted under full chain of custody. Council members speaking after the short briefing universally condemned the use of chemical agents in targeted attacks. However, opinions diverged widely on the implications of the OPCW report with regard to the identity of the Salisbury incident’s perpetrators. Several delegates said the “high purity” finding meant that only a State-sponsored laboratory could have produced it, with some pointing to the Russian Federation as likely being involved. Others emphasized that OPCW had assigned no responsibility for the incident and cautioned against casting blame without concrete evidence. The representative of the United Kingdom said the report had supported her Government’s own findings that a nerve agent had been identified, with the highest concentration located on the front door of Mr. Skripal’s home. While the United Kingdom had used the term “Novichok” to describe the nerve agent — which differed from the term used by the Russian Federation and OPCW — it was clear they were all talking about the same substance. The report had not identified the country nor the laboratory of origin, but only the Russian Federation had the means, technical experience and the motive to target the Skripals, she said. Rejecting those allegations as “completely baseless”, the Russian Federation’s delegate emphasized that the OPCW report revealed that the toxic substances could have been produced in the Russian Federation, United States or a host of other countries. The United Kingdom had continued to use such words as “suspected”, “possible” and “may have” in all its statements about the Salisbury incident, he said, outlining various inconsistencies in its position. Describing today’s findings as a “red herring”, he said: “We will not step away from this.” Joining other speakers in welcoming the transparent handling of the Salisbury incident, Sweden’s representative echoed the assessment that the Russian Federation was likely responsible for the attack. Expressing full confidence in the OPCW findings, he called on the Russian Federation to urgently answer all relevant questions the United Kingdom had posed.

Chemical watchdog confirms UK findings on Salisbury nerve agent | UN News

A technical team sent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the United Kingdom has identified toxic agents consistent with the UK’s initial investigation, the top United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council on Wednesday.

UN Security Council debates on new ex-Russian spy attack report

The United Nations (UN) Security Council Wednesday heatedly debated a new report on the alleged nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, with some members asking to identify and apprehend the perpetrators and others urging restraint. OPCW CONFIRMS BRITISH FINDINGS Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for Disarmament Affairs, summarized the new information about the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British town of Salisbury on March 4. The information was from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). An OPCW team deployed to the site of the attack has identified toxic agents consistent with the British government’s initial investigation findings, Nakamitsu said in a briefing to the Security Council. Blood samples taken from the two victims as well as environmental samples from the site verified Britain’s findings regarding the identity of the toxic chemicals, she said, adding that they were found to be of “high purity”. Skripal is a former Russian intelligence officer convicted of spying for Britain in 2006, which likely made him “a target of the Russian Federation”, with evidence showing that the Skripals had been under Russian surveillance for some time, she said. DIVERGENCE OF VIEWS Speaking after the briefing, council members condemned the use of chemical agents in the targeted attack. However, opinions diverged widely on the implications of the OPCW report regarding the identity of the perpetrators. Several delegates said the “high purity” finding meant only a state-sponsored laboratory could have produced it, with some pointing to Russia as likely being involved. Others emphasized that the OPCW had assigned no responsibility for the incident and cautioned against casting blame without concrete evidence. Bolivia’s Juan Marcelo Zambrana Torrelio said that as a multilateral instrument, the OPCW must maintain its integrity and independence.

UN Security Council: Only Russia has resources to produce Novichok – 112.international

At a meeting of the UN Security Council, Britain’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as Karen Pierce reported on the latest updates in the investigation into the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Britain and Russia have traded barbs in the UN Security Council over last month’s Skripal poisoning. Russia accused London of “lies and conjecture” and concealing information in its investigation, while Britain accused Moscow of being disingenuous. “Russia continues to be asked to be involved in the UK’s independent investigation….. As I said before, this is an arsonist-turned-firefighter trying to investigate his own fire,” said the UK Ambassador to the United Nations Karen Pierce. The Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vasiliy Nebenzia said the claims against his country were pure fairytales. “When I listen to some of my colleagues, I am under the impression that this is no longer “Alice in Wonderland”. This is “Alice beyond the looking glass”. The truth doesn’t interest our western partner.”

Haley Addresses UN Security Council After Report on UK Nerve Agent Attack is Released

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday spoke to theU.N. Security Council following the release of a report on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, United Kingdom, calling on members to condemn the use of a Russian nerve agent on British soil.

Trudeau and key allies condemn Russia’s role in cyberattacks, poisoning – The Globe and Mail

Trudeau and the Prime Ministers of Britain, Australia and New Zealand lashed out at Russia on Wednesday, saying it had been ‘using cyberwarfare as part of a wider effort to attack and undermine the international system’

Russia: India joins UK in slamming Russia for attack on ex-spy | India News – Times of India

India News: NEW DELHI: India agreed to a condemnation of the Russian nerve agent attack in Salisbury in a joint statement with the UK, in a sign that New Delhi is.

OPCW OPENING STATEMENT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL TO THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AT ITS FIFTY-NINTH MEETING

CONCLUDING REMARKS Mr Chairperson, The Technical Assistance mission carried out by the Secretariat is over. However based on the outcome of this mission in relation to the identity of the toxic chemical used in Salisbury, the Organisation will need to consider some follow up actions. I would like to inform the Council that I will soon seek the advice of the Scientific Advisory Board on the issue under discussion here today. Based on the SAB’s recommendations we may consider other steps. Meanwhile the Secretariat will also propose the inclusion of the toxic chemical identified in the TAV report in the OCAD. As it was clearly shown in the detailed and technical presentation, we should not have an iota of doubt on the reliability of the system of the OPCW Designated Laboratories. The Labs were able to confirm the identity of the chemical by applying existing, well-established procedures. There was no other chemical that was identified by the Labs. The precursor of BZ that is referred to in the public statements, commonly known as 3Q, was contained in the control sample prepared by the OPCW Lab in accordance with the existing quality control procedures. Otherwise it has nothing to do with the samples collected by the OPCW Team in Salisbury. This chemical was reported back to the OPCW by the two designated labs and the findings are duly reflected in the report. I should like to mention here that in accordance with the established practice the Secretariat does not share the full reports of the analysis of the samples that it receives from the designated Labs with the States Parties. This practice is aimed at protecting the identity of the labs which conduct off-site analysis of samples. As it has been explained to you, the current system is tried-and-true and we must continue to put our faith in it. I would like to take this moment to invite States Parties to support the project to upgrade the OPCW Laboratory, which will further augment our capabilities in this field. Thank you for your attention.

OPCW Head Rejects Russian Claim About Presence Of Second Nerve Agent In Salisbury

The head of the global chemical-weapons watchdog has rejected Russian claims that traces of a second nerve agent were discovered in the English city where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned last month.

OPCW denied BZ substance use in Skripal’s case – 112.international

The organization informed that the tests did not show any traces of BZ substance in the samples gathered in Salisbury.

OPCW Chief Rejects Russia Claim of 2nd Salisbury Nerve Agent | World News | US News

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The head of the global chemical watchdog agency has rejected Russian claims that traces of a second nerve agent were discovered in the English city where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned.

UK attacks Russia’s ‘changing fantasies’ on Skripal nerve agent attack at chemical summit

The UK ambassador to the OPCW accuses Russia of lying about the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Britain accuses ‘reckless Russia’ of breaking chemical arms ban

Britain accused Russia on Wednesday of breaking the two-decade international ban on chemical weapons, at emergency talks into last month’s poisoning with a nerve agent of a former Russian spy. The accusations came as diplomats from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons met behind

UPDATE ON THE RT SERVICE – NEW BROADCASTING INVESTIGATIONS AND APPROACH TO FIT & PROPER

We have today opened seven new investigations into the due impartiality of RT news and current affairs programmes. In accordance with our normal procedures, we will make the outcome of these investigations public as soon as possible. Until recently, TV Novosti’s overall compliance record had not been materially out of line with other broadcasters. However, since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that we consider warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. In relation to our fit and proper duty, we will consider all relevant new evidence, including the outcome of these investigations and the future conduct of the licensee. Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied, as the independent UK broadcasting regulator, that broadcast licensees remain fit and proper to hold their licences.

U.K. Opens Probe Into Possible Bias at Russia-Backed Broadcaster – WSJ

British regulators have launched an investigation into whether Russian state-backed news channel RT breached broadcasting standards in its coverage of the poisoning of a former spy.

RT faces seven new investigations into Salisbury poisoning coverage – To Inform is to Influence

Huffington post has the following illustion showing the actual programs under investigation. “The following programmes are under investigation: ” Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/ofcom-investigations-russia-rt-news-salisbury-attack_uk_5ad72458e4b029ebe01f8ac9 </end editorial> UK’s Ofcom is examining instances where Kremlin-backed news channel potentially breached UK broadcast laws on impartiality RT, the Kremlin-backed news channel that broadcasts in the UK, is facing seven new investigations into its…

U.K. Agency Probes Russian News Channel After Poisoning – Bloomberg

The U.K.’s media watchdog is investigating whether the Kremlin-backed RT news channel was biased in its coverage after the poisoning of a former spy in the British city of Salisbury.

British Media Regulator Probes RT’s Impartiality After Salisbury Poisoning

Britain’s media watchdog is investigating whether Russian news channel RT broke impartiality rules in its programs after a former Russian double-agent and his daughter were poisoned in the English …

Russia’s state propaganda station RT faces SEVEN new probes for breaching TV code after Salisbury poisoning

Media regulator Ofcom said it had today opened several investigations into the impartiality of news and current affairs programmes on the channel

To ban or not to ban: Britain’s headache over Russian propaganda | HeraldScotland

RT is propaganda. The Kremlin owned, funded and managed channel does not really pretend otherwise.

Alex Salmond urged to cut ties with Kremlin-backed TV channel RT | Scotland | The Times

Alex Salmond is under renewed pressure to terminate his contract with RT after the broadcasting regulator revealed that it had opened seven new investigations into the Kremlin-backed news channel. Ofcom said that the inquiries into RT’s impartiality had been established after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury last month. The regulator also reported provisional findings that audience tweets read out on The Alex Salmond Show in November were not from real viewers. The Ofcom findings brought widespread condemnation of the former first minister. Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described Mr Salmond as a “stooge” of the Russian government.

Russian leaks reveal spin on MH17 disaster | News | The Times

Kremlin leaks have revealed Russian use of disinformation over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014. Emails hacked by a coalition of Ukrainian activists called Cyberhunta from accounts linked to senior Kremlin officials contained a briefing document that set out eight separate messaging “lines to take” over the crash, which killed 298 people, including ten Britons. The eight narratives sought to blame Ukraine for the disaster, although the Boeing airliner was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile. The briefing note was dated July 20-27, 2014, the week after the crash. One of the narratives encouraged officials to compare the crash to the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand before the First World War and accuse Kiev of provoking a new world conflict. The briefing note was found among more than 4,165 leaked documents. British officials believe that Russia has spread disinformation after the chemical weapons attack in Douma, in Syria, and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. A Whitehall source said that a total of 31 different false or distorted narratives had been pushed out by Russian officials and through state-backed media channels. They included claims that there was no gas attack in Douma, that the UK staged the attack and that Britain’s intelligence services carried out the attempted assassination of the Skripals in order to justify an increase in defence spending.

Russia tells students & graduates living in UK to work in Siberia | World | News | Express.co.uk

RUSSIAN students and graduates living in Britain should go home immediately, so they can be sent to study or work in Siberia, says a new official initiative.

In Salisbury Fall-Out, US Speaks from DC, UK on 1984, Nebenzia Through The Looking Glass

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, Photo UNITED NATIONS, April 18 – Back on March 14 after UK Prime Minster Theresa wrote a “Dear Antonio” letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres about the poisoning in Salisbury of Sergey Skripal and his daughter, also injuring a policeman, a UN Security Council meeting was set for 3 pm, see below. On April 18 another meeting was held, at which Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (photo here; Nikki Haley here) referred to Alice, Through the Looking Glass, while the UK’s Karen Pierce cited Orwell’s 1984. Afterward the US State Department issued this: “Today, the UN Security Council and the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) met to discuss the OPCW’s recent findings related to the March 4 use of a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury, UK. The OPCW’s independent report, released last week, confirms the UK lab analysis regarding the identity of the chemical used in Salisbury. We applaud the OPCW’s expeditious support and technical efforts to uncover the facts. We fully support the UK and the need for today’s special meetings of the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury and the OPCW’s detailed independent analysis. As we have made clear, the United States agrees with the UK’s assessment that Russia is responsible for this use of chemical weapons on UK soil– either through deliberate use or through its failure to declare and secure its stocks of this nerve agent. Only the Government of Russia has the motive, means, and record to conduct such an attack. Russia developed the type of military-grade nerve agent used in Salisbury and has a record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations. Rather than changing its harmful and destructive behavior, the Russian government offers only denials and counteraccusations to deflect attention from its culpability.

Testimony for Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on “U.S. Policy Toward a Turbulent Middle East” April 18, 2018

Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. It is an honor to represent the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in this hearing. In my comments today, I will focus on the strategic dimension of the conflict in Syria as it relates to the work of our Bureau, and specifically, to the part played by the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation. America’s goals in Syria have been: to defeat ISIS; to see a Syria that is unified and stable emerge from the conflict; and above all to prevent Iran, that aids and abets Hezbollah and that seeks the destruction of the state of Israel, from extending its malign influence in the region. Let us assess Turkey and Russia as they relate to these goals. Let us turn to Russia. It is hard to see how Russia shares any of America’s strategic goals in Syria. Moscow professes a wish to defeat ISIS but directs its bombs at fighters and even civilians who oppose the regime. It professes to want a stable Syria but subverts the Geneva process with separate tracks like the Astana process, where it dictates the agenda. And it actively facilitates the spread of Iranian influence in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Moscow’s primary aims in Syria are not really about the Syrian people or the stability of the region. Moscow wants to retain its presence in Syria as an entry point through which to influence future events in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean. It also wants to inflict a globally visible defeat on the United States: to create a negative “demonstration effect” of thwarting our aims here to dishearten our friends abroad and to drive wedges between us and our allies. Moscow is willing to accept and impose catastrophic human costs to achieve these goals. Russia has supported the Assad regime’s indiscriminate attacks and siege tactics on civilian neighborhoods, which have killed, wounded, and starved thousands of innocent civilians. As we have seen in Aleppo and now in east Ghouta, the Russian government not only supports, but goes great lengths to protect an Assad regime that uses weaponized chemicals – horrid killers like sarin and chlorine – to slaughter innocent men, women and children, including even toddlers and infants. Let us remember that. It has been clear for years now that the only viable path to a safe and secure Syria is through a political transition. This solution can only be achieved through a UN-led Geneva process to fully implement UNSCR 2254. We are pushing Russia to be a constructive participant in this process and to bring Assad to the negotiating table. So far, Russia has ignored these calls and instead been a spoiler to Geneva. Worse, its reckless intervention in Syria and support for the Assad regime has raised the risk of confrontation with the West. The failed attack on U.S. forces by Russian mercenaries recently in Syria was one sobering example of this behavior; Moscow’s aggressive rhetoric in the period leading up to and after the recent U.S.-led strikes is another. America has done its part to avoid these escalatory spirals. We have brokered and maintain de-confliction channels to avoid collisions in an increasingly congested and complex battlespace. Communication between the Coalition and the Russians ensures the safety of our collective aircrews and assets. These efforts help minimize the risk of miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accidental engagement. We do not seek a confrontation. But our forces will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend themselves as they are in engaged in operations to defeat ISIS and degrade al-Qa’ida. Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime is intolerable for America and all civilized nations.

U.S. Assistant Secretary: Russian mercenaries in Syria attempted to attack U.S. forces but failed | UNIAN

U.S. Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell says that Russian mercenaries in Syria have attempted to attack U.S. forces but failed. The only viable path to a safe and secure Syria is through a political transition. U.S. Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell says that Russian mercenaries in Syria have attempted to attack U.S. forces but failed. “Worse, [Russia’s] reckless intervention in Syria and support for the Assad regime has raised the risk of confrontation with the West. The failed attack on U.S. forces by Russian mercenaries recently in Syria was one sobering example of this behavior; Moscow’s aggressive rhetoric in the period leading up to and after the recent U.S.-led strikes is another,” Mitchell said in a written testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on “U.S. Policy Toward a Turbulent Middle East” on April 18, 2018. In his words, the United States tries to avoid the escalation. “America has done its part to avoid these escalatory spirals. We have brokered and maintain de-confliction channels to avoid collisions in an increasingly congested and complex battlespace. Communication between the Coalition and the Russians ensures the safety of our collective aircrews and assets. These efforts help minimize the risk of miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accidental engagement,” he said. “We do not seek a confrontation. But our forces will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend themselves,” he said. In his words, the only viable path to a safe and secure Syria is through a political transition. This solution can only be achieved through a UN-led Geneva process to fully implement UNSCR 2254, he said. “We are pushing Russia to be a constructive participant in this process and to bring Assad to the negotiating table,” he said. “So far, Russia has ignored these calls and instead been a spoiler to Geneva.”

US and Russia Want to Avoid Syrian Escalation, But Are They in Control?

Plenty of hazards are ahead that could draw the big powers, as well as neighboring countries, deeper into the Syria quagmire, warn analysts

Shooting, Blast Delay OPCW Visit To Syria’s Douma

The chief of the global chemical-weapons watchdog says it remains unclear when a team of international experts can visit the Syrian town of Douma to investigate an alleged deadly chemical attack th…

UN Says Negotiating With Syria, Russia On Visit To Syria Site

A team from the United Nations is discussing security arrangements with Syrian and Russian authorities in Syria to allow experts access to the town of Douma to investigate an alleged chemical weapo…

Trump Says He’ll Sanction Russia As Soon As They Deserve It | Time

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that nobody has been tougher on Russia than him and that he’ll hit Moscow with new sanctions “as&hellip;

Trump: New Russia Sanctions To Come Soon As They ‘Deserve It’

U.S. President Donald Trump has reiterated his claim that nobody has been tougher on Russia than him and that he will impose new sanctions on Moscow “as soon as they very much deserve it.”

Russia: White House Says No New Sanctions For Now : The Two-Way : NPR

Russian official media quotes the foreign ministry as confirming that the White House informed the Russian embassy. It follows days of confusion over the matter.

Trump leaves door open to Russia sanctions – POLITICO

The president said he would impose new economic penalties ‘as soon as they very much deserve it.’

Germany to Push for Exemptions From U.S. Sanctions on Russia – WSJ

German industry has lobbied Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to urge the U.S. to soften its stance on Russia sanctions or come up with arrangements to ensure German companies don’t fall victim to deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow. By Andrea Thomas and William Boston April 18, 2018 6:23 a.m. ET BERLIN—German leaders want the Trump administration to exempt their country’s companies from tough new U.S. sanctions on Russia. During a visit to Washington this week, Germany’s finance minister will push for special treatment and Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to raise the issue with President Donald Trump when the two meet later this month, German officials said. In…

Germany to ask U.S. not to execute anti-Russian sanctions – 112.international

German industrial giants such as Siemens, Daimler and Volkswagen are working with legal entities related to Russian citizens on the sanctions. Germany is to address the Administration of Donald Trump, the U.S. President, to release Germany’s companies from obligating the new anti-Russian sanctions, as The Wall Street Journal reported referring to German’s civil servants. As the news agency informs, the question is to be discussed during the visit of the German Finance Minister to Washington this week. Besides, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, will raise the question on the special approach to Germany’s companies at the meeting with Trump. German industrial giants such as Siemens, Daimler and Volkswagen are working with legal entities related to Russian citizens on the sanctions.

We’re in new chapter of Cold War with Russia: Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

The U.S. has it make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there are lines that the U.S. will not allow Russia to cross, says Leon Panetta.

Use Iran Sanctions to Stop Assad – WSJ

Allied cooperation in Syria offers a way to overcome differences over the nuclear deal.

Russia Sanctions, Syria Add Fuel to Commodities – WSJ

Rising global tensions, including U.S. sanctions against Russia and the continuing conflict in Syria, have sparked a rally in commodities, sending materials from aluminum to oil to fresh multiyear highs.

bellingcat – Belgium Illegally Shipped 96 Tonnes of Sarin Precursor to Syria – bellingcat

Knack and Syrian Archive reveal today that Belgian companies have violated EU sanctions against Syria, according to the summons of an upcoming lawsuit. Based on information found through the UN Comtrade database, freedom of information requests, and confirmed by the Belgian Customs, we can reveal that a criminal case regarding exports of chemicals to Syria has been opened in Antwerp Criminal Court. This case is brought by the Belgian Customs against three Flemish companies, one managing director and one manager, according to court press judge Roland Cassiers citing the summons.

Belgium firms prosecuted over exporting Sarin precursor to Syria – BBC News

The three firms say they did not know their exports of a Sarin-linked chemical to Syria might be illegal.

Russia Sanctions Throw Global Aluminum Industry Into Chaos – Bloomberg

The U.S. sanctions on United Co. Rusal that have sent aluminum prices surging should be great news for rival producers like Rio Tinto Group.

UAWire – Ukrainian Security Service publishes list of Wagner mercenaries transported to Syria by Russian Navy

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has released a list of mercenaries from the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) who were transported to Syria by the Russian Navy, as announced in a statement by SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak, the department’s press service reports. “Despite the statements by the Russian Defense Ministry concerning the supposed ‘unsuitability’ of the Varyag cruiser for transporting personnel and equipment, the SBU is disclosing a list of Wagner PMC mercenaries who were secretly shipped from Vladivostok to Syria on precisely this ship of the Russian Navy (Residents of Primorsky Krai, the Amur province and the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia),” the statement reads. “I draw attention to the fact that for at least two mercenaries from this list (A. Krokhun and P. Solomonov), their voyage on board the Varyag was a one-way trip,” Hrytsak added. “If the Russian Defense Ministry has ‘difficulties’ establishing the specific passport information and residential addresses of the aforementioned Russian citizens from the Wagner ikhtamnetov (‘they-are-not-theres’) in order to hold them criminally accountable for mercenary activities, the SBU is prepared to disclose this information in order to bring the truth to Russian citizens and eradicate the ‘ignorance’ of the senior officers of the Russian Defense Ministry,” the SBU head emphasized. According to Hrytsak, SBU staff have questioned witnesses of the transportation of Wagner mercenaries by Russian naval forces. A former Russian soldier revealed that during his contract service between 2015 and 2017 on board the Varyag missile cruiser, he was repeatedly involved in the transportation of Wagner fighters and their heavy weaponry and ammunition to Syria.

Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman Reiterates: We Will Not Permit Iranian Entrenchment in Syria | Jewish & Israel News Algemeiner.com

Israel will do what is necessary to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a pre-Independence Day Walla interview that was published on Monday. Lieberman declined to confirm or deny Israel’s involvement in an air strike last week on an air base in Syria’s Homs region — an incident in which seven Iranian military personnel were reportedly killed. “We don’t interfere in Syria’s internal affairs and we’re not coming to fix the world,” Lieberman told Walla. “We’re dealing only with Israel’s security, and the Russians understand this well.” Regarding Israel’s freedom of action in Syria — where the Russian military has been operating for the past two and a half years on behalf of President Bashar Assad’s regime — Lieberman said, “We won’t accept any limitations when it comes to Israel’s security interests. We’ve managed to prevent direct friction with the Russians and we talk to them all the time. We have a steady line of communications that has proven itself.”

New Russian Weapons Alarm Israel, May Trigger Next Syrian Crisis – Bloomberg

Angered by last week’s U.S. attack on Syria, Russia warned that there would be consequences. Only one of them was spelled out: The Kremlin said it may supply its Syrian ally with state-of-the-art air defenses.

Former Israeli general says war with Iran is unavoidable – Middle East Monitor

Former Israeli Major General Yaakov Amidror has said that war with Iran is unavoidable if the latter continues to build up its military infrastructure in Syria, Arab48.com reported on Tuesday. Amidror served as the National Security Adviser and was also the head of the Research Department of Israeli military intelligence. He disclosed Israel’s concerns that Iran might develop its power in Syria, just as it has in Lebanon, a direct reference to Iran-backed Hezbollah. “The confrontation with Iran is unavoidable,” Amidror told Yedioth Ahronoth. He stressed that Israel would never allow Iran to develop its power in Syria but a war would be “complex” and there would be many losses on both sides.

Israel on High Alert for Direct Iranian Attack

As Israelis here prepare to celebrate the countries 70th anniversary starting at sundown tonight, the Israel Defense Forces is on high alert for…

Israel Fully Capable of Striking Iran, Top IAF Pilot Says

Israel is “fully capable” of striking Iran, a former IDF pilot who was part of the team that destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 said. “If the decision is taken by the political echelon, the air force pilots and planes are capable of doing it,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Nachumi said. “The attack against the Syrian reactor [in Deir al-Zor in 2007] is just one proof of that.” Nachumi said that past operations in Iraq and Syria, carried out by F-15s and F-16s, were proof of Israel’s long-range mission capabilities with fighter jets able to carry out the attacks with “no aerial refueling.” The pilot led one of two formations of four aircraft each that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in the 1980s. advertisement However, Nachumi acknowledged that the distance between Israel and Iran “makes it more complicated” than the strikes on Iraq and Syria. He added that there are various other obstacles to attacking nuclear facilities on Iranian soil. Nonetheless, “Even though Syria is closer to us distance-wise, the complications are no less than what we are expecting if we go to Iran,” he said. He added that it is “sure that the air force of today – which is by far more developed and advanced with technology that we did not have in 1981 – is capable of doing it.”

Iran Warns of New ‘War’ As It Boosts Ties With Syria, Iraq and Lebanon

Iran is sending officials to Lebanon, Iraq and Syria as tensions mount with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

Bracing for Iranian counterstrike, Israel exposes Iran’s air defenses in Syria

Iran’s Tansim news agency said seven Iranian military personnel had been killed in the attack, which contributed to a sharp escalation of tensions between the West and Russian Federation. Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani this week issued a direct threat to Israel from Damascus after arriving for a briefing on the T-4 air strike, which an Israeli official told The New York Times this week was indeed was carried out by Israel’s Air Force. That statement was denied by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. According to information from the Russian Ministry of Defense, two Israeli F-15 jet fighters attacked Syria’s T-4 air base on April 9. He also speculated that Saturday’s attack was ruse by the U.S. “to create a rift among Iran, Russia and Turkey” and thereby wreck ongoing talks on Syria’s political future sponsored by the three countries. According to sources in the IDF, the attack was performed against an alleged deployment of Iranian forces on Syrian soil that could attack Israel directly.

Israel sees an Iranian ‘air force’ assembling in Syria — and looks ready to deal it a knockout blow | Business Insider

Israel is letting on that it sees an Iranian “air force” forming in Syria and that it may destroy it if it seeks to harm Israel. Russia, Syria, and Iran have accused Israel of killing Iranian troops in an airstrike on a Syrian air base earlier this month. Iran has announced plans to retaliate. But experts say Iran’s forces in Syria are exposed to Israel’s air force and are being warned that they could get knocked out if they cross a line.

Target of T4 base attack: Iranian air-defense system | JerusalemOnline

Last week’s attack on the T4 airbase in Syria was designed to destroy an advanced Iranian air-defense system that threatened the Israeli Air Force’s superiority in the region, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The American newspaper added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed US President Donald Trump of the attack before it was carried out.

A Strong Message to Assad, Iran & Russia – Jewish Voice

Both Israel and the United States struck into Syria last week. Israel hit an Iranian airbase and we bombed what appeared to be chemical weapons storage and research facilities. Although pundits on the Left warned that both Russia and Iran would retaliate, no military responses have yet to be recorded. Threats from Iranian Mullahs and angry rhetoric from Russians, yes, but no military reaction. That’s because our own military avoided hitting Russian forces. It was a perfectly executed strike. And throw into the brilliance of the attacks that we were joined by Britain and France in the execution of the raids. And that unity, of allies working together, in itself, should give the bad guys in that area cause to rethink the use of poisonous gas again on either civilians or military personnel. So where do we go from here in Syria, now but a hollow shell of what it once was as a nation? We did not actually intervene in the Syrian civil war. This was, for the time being, a “one time shot.” But Trump has indicated his desire to remove ground troops from Syria, possibly within 6 months. What would the scenario be if he follows through? Undoubtedly the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians from traditional weaponry would continue.

IDF Distances Itself From Claim In NYT That Israel Carried Out Airstrikes In Syria

The IDF on Monday distanced itself from an unnamed senior official who admitted to the New York Times that Israel was behind an airstrike on…

What Iran Really Wants | The National Interest

A primary rationale for much U.S. policy in the Middle East has been to curb Iranian “influence.” But that is too generic a concept to be a basis for sound policy.

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