Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (88)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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The Vozhd’s visit to Austria has seen a deluge of alternate reality statements, many of which appear to be wishful thinking declared to be fact. As always, Russia’s little European proxies chime in as loudly as they can – the wonders of discounted (i.e. dumped) gas in European politics. Poroshenko on Russian subversion techniques.

SECDEF Mattis tells Europeans that combat readiness must be improved. With the Russians building up a significant offensive ground force in Western Russia, unseen since the Soviet Union (and modeled on Soviet formations), this is not just prudent, it is essential lest the Russians succumb to the temptation to pursue the grandeur of imperial expansion – Lebensraum in the West. Nice OpEd by Gov. Kasich.

The most interesting report on the Babchenko sting is Babchenko’s tweet replying to a Russian media invitation to be interviewed: “My interviews are for media, not propaganda. Shove your money up your ass and go to hell. I’ll be at your studio eventually, riding an Abrams [Ed: M1 Main Battle Tank]—and not for an interview.”  Pro-Russian publishers’ hitlist labeled by many as bogus.

In the UK, Wiltshire’s police chief briefs media on progress in the Salisbury investigation.

Interesting commentary by Borovoi on Russia’s backflip over Iran in Syria. More posturing and bluffing by Iran. PM Netanyahu touring Europe to recruit support against Iran. Qatar, UAE and Turkey reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lobbies in Vienna for end to EU sanctions | News | DW | 05.06.2018

EU sanctions including travel restrictions and asset freezes against 150 people and 38 Russian companies are to remain in force until at least September. Austria looks unlikely to break ranks with its European partners.

Putin says lifting sanctions on Moscow will benefit all | The Seattle Times

VIENNA (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Western sanctions against Russia haven’t worked and both Moscow and the West would benefit from lifting them. Putin, speaking on a visit…

Putin Blames Ukraine for MH17 for Failing to Stop Planes Flying Over Conflict Zone

The Russian president was giving an interview to Austrian television.

Russia Respects Principles of International Law – Putin – Sputnik International

Russia, as a country respecting the principles of international law and interests of its partners, will pay serious attention to the state’s representation on the international arena and respect for its own interests, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the China Media Group.

Putin: “I’m not tsar of Russia”

The project is oriented towards the revelation of corrupted officials, organized crime representatives, who are tied to the law enforcement and ruling establishments.

‘Russia Will Either Be a Sovereign State, or It Will Not Exist at All’ – Putin – Sputnik International

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview with the China Media Group, has expressed confidence that common sense would prevail in the policies of the western states and that anti-Russia sanctions would gradually be lifted, leading to the normalization of relations with all partners, including the United States.

Italy’s New Prime Minister Calls For Ending Some EU Sanctions On Russia

New Italian populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said top priorities for his government will be ending illegal immigration and strengthening ties with Russia.

Austria rolls out red carpet for Putin despite Skripal controversy

Austria broke ranks with Britain and its European partners on Tuesday as it rolled out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin three months after the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

‘If you don’t like my answers, then don’t ask the questions’: Here’s what Vladimir Putin told the Austrian media in his latest big ole interview — Meduza

Ahead of his first foreign visit since his re-election in March, Vladimir Putin gave a long interview to Austrian journalist Armin Wolf, who didn’t spare the long-time Russian leader many challenging, tough questions. At times, Putin responded irritably, accusing the reporter of trying to interrupt him. Meduza summarizes the contents of this interview. Read the Kremlin’s official English translation of the interview here.

Russian State TV Uses Nazi Slur to Attack Austrian Journalist Who Challenged Putin

The phrase “lying press,” or Lügenpresse, is a term of abuse used by Nazis decades before Donald Trump convinced himself he invented the insult “fake news.”

Austrian President: It Doesn’t Make Sense for Europe to Shift to US Gas Delivery – Sputnik International

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently paying a working visit to Austria, where he is going to discuss key issues on the bilateral and international agendas.

No need for Europe to buy US gas at triple the price, will continue imports from Russia – Austria — RT Business News

The US is force-feeding Europe its liquefied natural gas, which is three times more expensive that buying it from Russia, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said after signing a gas-supply contract with Moscow until 2040.

TASS: World – Austria’s president says found common language with Putin

Alexander Van der Bellen said he was especially glad that Putin’s first visit after inauguration was to Vienna

Wind of change? Putin’s visit to Austria may show major shift in EU-Russia relations – YouTube

President Putin is to make his first international trip after re-election. He’s expected in Austria later in the day, where he’s due to meet with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. READ MORE:

TASS: Business & Economy – Putin says Russia will continue liberalization of laws in business sphere

Moscow will also proceed with work on reduction of the administrative and tax burden on business, according to Putin

Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump – The New York Times

Russia’s goals of shedding European sanctions and regaining respectability suddenly seem in reach as the U.S. treats its allies as trade rivals.

Putin Compares Yevgeny Prigozhin, Accused of U.S. Election Meddling, to George Soros

The oligarch is believed to have directed and funded a notorious Russian troll farm.

Putin says he talks to Trump ‘regularly’

“We regularly talk over the phone,” Putin told an Austrian news outlet. He also addressed the possibility of a U.S.-Russia summit.

List of Intended Victims of Russian Journo’s Murder Masterminds Leaked Online – Sputnik International

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A list of 47 individuals, who allegedly were set to become next victims of the masterminds of the murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, was released on Tuesday by portal.

‘Good friend’ Xi Jingping is only leader who remembered my birthday, said Putin | News | The Times

President Putin has put world leaders on notice of how to win his undying admiration: celebrate his birthday.President Xi of China did just that, sharing a shot of vodka and slices of sausage with the Kremlin leader, and the gesture has proved the basis of a peerless relationship — in part because o

UAWire – Putin signs bill on counter-sanctions against US and sets sights on money from China

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on counter-sanctions against the US and other “hostile foreign countries”, which was …

Whole world is “testing ground” for Russia’s fake news policy – Poroshenko | UNIAN

Asked by El Pais whether he believes Ukraine is a testing ground for Russian fake-news campaigns that the West is now experiencing, Poroshenko said he believes “the whole world is the testing ground for the Russian fake-news policy.” During Poroshenko’s talks with Spanish PM Sanchez, given Russia’s meddling in the independence drive in Catalonia, the heads of state warned that the massive fake-news factories, well known in Ukraine, were far from giving up their goal to destabilize the West. Asked by El Pais whether he believes Ukraine is a testing ground for Russian fake-news campaigns that the West is now experiencing, Poroshenko said he believes “the whole world is the testing ground for the Russian fake-news policy.” “It was the United States during the election campaign, it was United Kingdom during Brexit, it was Catalonia during the Catalan separatist crisis, and of course, during the illegal annexation of Crimea when President Putin said:‘There are no Russians there.’ There were 60,000 Russian troops which penetrated into the sovereign Ukrainian territory!” Poroshenko told El Pais. The president went on to say that “everybody knows that this is fake news which is paid for and distributed by Russia.Russia spent several hundred million dollars on Russia Today and Sputnik, to distribute this campaign of fake news.” He added that “this is a very powerful instrument for Russia to exercise influence on all democratic countries.”

France Rules Out Quick Review Of Russia Sanctions

France’s foreign minister says Paris opposes any quick rethink of European sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression of Ukraine, insisting that their lifting be conditioned on advances in the…

Putin Is Costing Russia an Opportunity in Europe – Bloomberg

Trump’s retrenchment creates a vacuum that could have been filled by the EU’s neighbor to the east.

U.S. pushes NATO to ready more forces to deter Russian threat | Reuters

The United States is pressing its European allies to get more NATO battalions, ships and planes ready for combat, officials say, in a fresh move to shore up NATO’s deterrence against any Russian attack.

Trump Administration Tells NATO Prepare for Russian Attack With Planes, Ships and Troops

Secretary James Mattis is pushing for NATO to establish 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons, and 30 navy ships, including destroyers, to be ready to launch a fight against Russia.

U.S. Pushes NATO Allies to Ready Forces Against Russian Threat

The United States is pressing European allies to ready more NATO battalions, ships and planes for combat, officials say, in a fresh move to shore up NATO’s deterrence against a potential Russian attack. U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis will seek broad agreement for the plan in Brussels on Thursday when alliance defence ministers meet, laying the ground for endorsement by NATO leaders at a summit in July, four U.S. and NATO officials and diplomats told Reuters. The plan would require NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 navy ships such as destroyers ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert, although the proposal does not discuss specific troop numbers or a deadline for setting up the strategy.

US tells Nato allies to be ready for ground assault by Russians –

The United States is pressing European allies to ready more Nato troops, ships and planes for combat in a fresh move to shore up the alliance’s deterrence against a potential Russian attack ….

US Urges Its European NATO Allies to Ready up More Troops in Bid to Deter Russia – Sputnik International

Moscow was accused of seeking ways to “shatter” NATO in the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy. Tensions between Moscow and NATO members, especially in Europe, have intensified since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, which Western countries blame on Russia.

UAWire – Former Estonian President: Russia may lose several cities if it attacks NATO

For 27 years, Russia has been conducting an information campaign against Estonia, and now it is trying to use the same methods to discredit Ukraine too, stated former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Ilves believes that despite its campaign to discredit Estonia, Russia does not threaten the country in a military sense, because it knows it could take significant losses. In this context, the former president pointed out that Estonia is a NATO member, and according to one of the Alliance’s rules, an attack on one of the member-states is considered an attack on all the states simultaneously. “Of course, Russia could attack Estonia – but before long it could lose even Omsk and Tomsk, not to mention St. Petersburg. They will remember this,” Ilves remarked. However, Ilves noted that in the West, many people become influenced by Russian propagandist narratives. “The campaign to discredit my country, which has gone on for 27 years already, hasn’t gone anywhere. And in Ukraine, too, they no doubt understand what I mean, because you have exactly the same problem from Russia with stories about ‘Nazis’ and ‘junta’. And this threat is really dangerous,” the former president of Estonia observed. However, he believes that Russia could be changed, so that the threats emanating from it disappear.

Russia starts large-scale military drills in occupied Crimea | UNIAN

Russian military exercises launched in the occupied Crimea, involving over a hundred helicopters and warplanes. Among other measures, the command will test the performance of air defense systems against cruise missile strikes from sea.

A Distracted U.S. Struggles To Shift Its Global Focus

Regional hotspots like Iran and North Korea have pulled Washington away from its main concerns: China and Russia.

John R. Kasich | Time for action on Russia’s conflict with the West – The Boston Globe

We need to make it clear to Moscow that neither we nor our allies will tolerate such threatening behavior any longer.

Babchenko Responds To Russian Offer – To Inform is to Influence

Babchenko responds: Babchenko, on a $50K offer from Russian TV1: “My interviews are for media, not propaganda. Shove your money up your ass and go to hell. I’ll be at your studio eventually, riding an Abrams—and not for an interview.” Gee, I wonder how Russian propaganda is going to spin him standing there saluting with…

Russian FSB Is Reading Your Facebook Messenger – To Inform is to Influence

We know the FSB absorbed former SIGINT assets from FAPSI. We know the FSB allegedly monitors Telegram, Russia’s FSB Reveals Secret Chats in Telegram Used By Terrorists. We know that the FSB wants complete control over Google, Facebook, and Telegram within Russia. We also know that Facebook Messenger encryption must be turned on by the user, Are…

Ukraine’s president defends faked murder of Russian journalist | World news | The Guardian

Staged death of Arkady Babchenko prompts questions about alleged ‘hit-list’

How That Journalist’s Faked Murder Exposed Russia’s Gangsters and Spies

There are still questions about whether the sting operation that ‘killed’ Arkady Babchenko really helped catch criminals. But it attracted attention to a dangerous mob connection.

Ukraine authorities claim to have Russia’s hit list of 47 Ukrainian journalists, bloggers | KyivPost

After the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, revealed that the fake murder of journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko was a sting operation to capture a man planning a series of Kremlin-ordered murders, they claimed Babchenko was just the first one on the list of potential victims. The SBU revealed on May 30 it obtained a list of 30 people in Ukraine allegedly targeted for assassination. The next day, the list was said to actually have 47 names. Babchenko said it was the existence of this list and the threat to other people’s lives that persuaded him to cooperate with special services to fake his murder. He specified in a Facebook comment that the list was “a menu” from which the targets were to be chosen. The SBU refused to publish the list, saying it would hinder the investigation. In recent days, however, part of the SBU’s list was leaked to the press as people revealed that the SBU contacted them. “They are mainly well-known Ukrainian and ex-Russian journalists,” Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko wrote on Facebook on June 1. “Today they are being notified of the danger and receiving protection.” Over a dozen journalists and bloggers were invited to SBU for a closed meeting on June 1. According to testimonies of some of them, they were told they were on the hit list the SBU obtained from the organizers of Babchenko’s murder attempt. They were offered to apply for state security. They also signed a non-disclosure agreement, although it isn’t clear if it banned them from talking about the meeting itself or the investigation. Among those who confirmed they were on the alleged hit list are former Russian TV journalists now working in Ukraine, Yevgeny Kiselyov and Matvey Ganapolsky, TV host Tetiana Danylenko of ZIK TV, journalist Kateryna Sergatskova of, blogger and political expert Olesya Yakhno-Belkovskaya, journalist Bogdan Butkevych of Espresso TV, journalist Ayder Muzhdabaev of ATR TV station, activist Oleksandra Dvoretska, media critic Otar Dovzhenko and children’s author Larysa Nitsoi.

In Ukraine, Prominent Journalists Targeted By ‘Russian Hit List’ Question Its Authenticity

Ukrainian authorities claimed to have uncovered a “hit list” during the controversial operation they say was necessary to foil a real plot to assassinate Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. But like that operation, some believe it to be a fake.

SBU reaction proves that list of 47 potential victims is authentic, – chief editor –

SBU reaction proves that list of 47 potential victims is authentic, – chief editor

Babchenko’s case: court to consider appeal against suspect’s arrest on June 11, – Babchenko’s case: court to consider appeal against suspect’s arrest on June 11 –

Babchenko’s case: court to consider appeal against suspect’s arrest on June 11

OSCE Media Envoy Warns Ukraine Over Official’s Internet Post

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s media-freedom representative has expressed concern over an Internet post in which he said a Ukrainian official accused several journalists and other public figures of being traitors. “The publishing of a list, including names of journalists, accusing them of being traitors is unacceptable and dangerous,” an OSCE statement on June 5 quoted media-freedom envoy Harlem Desir as saying in a letter to the Ukrainian authorities. “This can have serious repercussions for the safety of journalists,” Desir wrote. “I strongly encourage the authorities to intervene and suspend such practices, especially those undertaken by government officials, given the sensitive and difficult environment in Ukraine at the moment.” The rebuke referred to a Facebook post in which Larysa Sarhan, a spokeswoman for Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, listed about 25 people and included remarks that in some cases contained criticism of the state regarding journalists’ safety and alleged impunity for crimes against media.

‘Day will come’ for answers on Skripal poisoning, police chief says

Wiltshire’s top police chief tells Sky News progress is being made into who attacked the Russian spy and his daughter.

‘Day will come’ for answers on Skripal poisoning, police chief says – Manx Radio

Three months after the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal, a senior police officer has said the day will come when suspects are identified and the nerve agent attack in Salisbury is better understood.

Skripal attack: police close in on time poison was used | UK news | The Guardian

Investigators believe nerve agent Novichok was smeared on door handle of former spy’s Salisbury home no more than 24 hours before he was taken ill

Investigators determine approximate time of poison application to Skripals’ front door

The nerve agent had been applied no more than a day until they lost consciousness.

Police identify 2,500 people in probe into Skripal poisoning | London Evening Standard

Detectives investigating the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter have identified 2,500 people and 14,000 cars in Salisbury at the time. The scale of the investigation was revealed today as Scotland Yard said their inquiries remained focused on the home of Mr Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who sought refuge in the UK after a spy swap. Mr Skripal, 66, and Yulia Skripal, 33, who arrived from Moscow to visit her father the day before, were found collapsed on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre on March 4.

Konstantin Borovoi | Opinion Putin realized that he was in danger: what are they afraid of in the Kremlin | Apostrophe

Russian politician on withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria and Putin’s fears. Konstantin Borovoi , Russian opposition politician, especially for the “Apostrophe” Monday, June 4, 2018, 16:18 Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, as reported by the media, decided to withdraw troops from the south of Syria, at the border with Israel. Official Tehran denies this information. Earlier, Moscow stressed that all non-Syrian forces that are on the Syrian side of the border must leave these territories. It is easy to guess that there were just Iranian and Lebanese military men. The significance of such events and how they show the fear of Russian President Vladimir Putin about the survival of the Kremlin regime was told by Russian opposition politician Konstantin Borovoi to Apostrophe. Proceeding from tactical considerations and as a result of the real state of things, when Iranian weapons and bases are simply being destroyed in Syria, Iran’s decision to withdraw its troops is forced. Iran, of course, competes with other forces for world domination, but this has ceased to be possible. And I think that Iran, which always called the United States “great Satan,” and Russia – “small Satan,” was convinced that Russia is not ready to sacrifice for its hegemonic aspirations. Hence a reasonable decision to remove from Syria its tentacles, because they are effectively cut off. Iran, in connection with its aggressive policy, support of terrorist groups, has already become dangerous for Russia. Therefore, Iran is considered to be real, and Russia in this case is also assuming reality, because supporting Iran means a conflict with Israel, with the US and with the West in general. In a situation where the United States plans to resume the embargo, cooperation with Iran becomes simply dangerous for Russia. Russia is engaged in obvious political and military provocations in Syria, but their level is constrained by the very consistent position of the US and the West in general. That is, for Putin to continue supporting Iran – this is no longer a way to increase sanctions, but to embargo. I think he understands this and is afraid of such a development of events. Because at the time when agreements on embargoes against Russia begin to operate, no propaganda campaigns, no bribes to European and American officials will help: we will have to get out of Syria and, indeed, from world politics. I think that flirting with Iran Putin considers dangerous for himself, for the survival of the current Kremlin regime. Putin is not ready to refuse to cooperate with [Syrian President Bashar] Asad, but this, I think, is a temporary situation, and Putin quickly realizes that it is necessary to stop supporting this regime. The likelihood that Iran will moderate its imperial ambitions in Syria is very high. At a time when Russia’s assistance stops, when missile and air defense systems are not delivered to Iran, it will have nothing to do in Syria. It seems that this decision Iran wants to save face and maintain the ayatollah regime. Konstantin Borovoi , Russian opposition politician, especially for Apostrophe on Twitter: “Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken. #Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen. 7/31/91 #GreatReturnMarch”

Israel Tests Meme-Diplomacy With ‘Mean Girls’ Tweet to Iranian Account | Observer

On Sunday, @khamenei_ir, a Twitter account that posts updates and quotes from Ali Khamenei, the Grand Ayatollah or Supreme Leader of Iran, reiterated his regime’s desire to “eradicate” Israel, and on Monday morning Israel responded, with a gif from Mean Girls.

Obama administration allegedly gave Iran access to US financial system | Fox News

The Obama administration granted a license letting Iran access the United States financial system despite officials’ pledges that they would prohibit it, according to a draft report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

U.S. warns allies against financial dealings with Iran

A U.S. Treasury official on Tuesday warned governments and the private sector to crack down on what it described as Iranian efforts to exploit them.

Iran seeks to push nuclear deal to limits, increase uranium capacity – Axios

Iran insists it is still complying with the deal.

Iran ramps up nuclear production capabilities as nuclear deal falls apart

Official site of The Week Magazine, offering commentary and analysis of the day’s breaking news and current events as well as arts, entertainment, people and gossip, and political cartoons.

Netanyahu to Macron: Nuclear deal will die, need to tackle Iran’s ‘aggression’ | Reuters

Israel’s leader urged France on Tuesday to turn its attention to tackling Iran’s “regional aggression”, saying he no longer needed to convince Paris to quit world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran as economic pressure would kill it anyway.

🇫🇷 🇮🇱 Netanyahu seeks anti-Iran front on Europe tour | Al Jazeera English – YouTube

Al Jazeera English Published on Jun 6, 2018 Israel’s prime minister is touring Europe to drum up support against Iran. After visiting Germany, Benjamin Netanyahu flew to France in an attempt to get European countries to join the United States in withdrawing from the landmark nuclear deal. His visit coincides with Tehran’s announcement that it is increasing its capacity to enrich uranium. But French President Emmanuel Macron was not convinced. Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler reports from Paris.

Analysis: What does Netanyahu hope to achieve on his European trip? – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Netanyahu wants to convince the Europeans not to walk out of the deal, but rather to accept the new reality: that the US has withdrawn, and that as a result, the playing field has shifted.

Netanyahu meets European resistance to Iran nuclear stance | Fox News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting opposition in European capitals to his aggressive stance against Iran.

Netanyahu starts European tour to persuade leaders to quit Iran deal – CNN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off a three-day trip to persuade the leaders of Germany, France and the UK to quit the Iran nuclear deal on Monday.

Exclusive: In Syria, a Russian move causes friction with Iran-backed forces – officials | Reuters

A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said.

UAWire – French automaker PSA Group preparing to leave Iran because of U.S. sanctions

The French automaker PSA Group is preparing to withdraw from Iran due to the threat of U.S. sanctions, reported France-Presse, citing a …

‘UK’s Had Israel’s Back’ for Long Time – Academic Amid Netanyahu’s Visit – Sputnik International

The bilateral relations between Britain and Israel have seen their ups and downs, triggered by a number of recent and ongoing events. Sputnik spoke to Dr. Neve Gordon, Professor of International Law at Queen Mary University of London to discuss the key items on the Israeli and British agendas.

The raw truth about the UK’s special relationship with Israel | Middle East Eye

Israel is seen as an ally against Syria and Iran – Britain’s two main enemies in the region – and the Palestinians are the expendable unpeople

Qatar Won the Saudi Blockade – Foreign Policy

A Saudi-led coalition wanted to permanently ostracize its rival. One year later, Qatar has more influence in the West than ever.

U.S. warns United Arab Emirates against assault on Yemeni port Hodeidah | Reuters

The United States has warned its close ally the United Arab Emirates not to launch an assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, which United Nations experts fear could precipitate a new humanitarian crisis, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Why Turkey’s military is not what it used to be | Military | Al Jazeera

After several corrective measures after the 2016 failed coup, the military is enjoying better ties with the government.