Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Murder of Russian journalists snowballing in media – CNC report suggests killers were, surprise, surprise, Russian speakers. Shtepa details Russian recruitment of “info-warriors” for a decade. More on Russian social media and political meddling. Backfill on TsNIIMash arrest. Dr Shevtsova discusses shifting public attitudes toward the West in Russia – it appears that 18 years of vilifying the West has not produced the intended effect. Shelin on the collapse of regime credibility. Another Russian buildup along the Donbass border. A former fellow KGB officer comments on Putin’s hostility toward Ukrainians as a junior officer of the KGB.
In Salisbury, more contamination discovered.
Iran exercises closure of the Hormuz Straits – Sputnik run an interview describing this as “Iran Would Cut Off Its Own Foot”, suggesting Muscovy does not see this as a clever play, and attributing this to domestic politics in Tehran. Russia would profit handsomely from a closure of the Straits that begs the question of why Russia has tried to discourage Iran’s unilateral escalation. DPRK FM to visit Tehran. Protests continue, civic activists in Western media. More on Syria, and Turkey’s campaign to bait POTUS.
They were on the trail of mercenaries with close ties to the Kremlin in a war-torn country full of diamonds and gold.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), an investigation is currently underway into the deaths of a film crew from Russia. On Thursday a Gendarmerie investigative group examined the murder scene and questioned local residents. The details of the attack have also been published in the local media. According to the local online news outlet Corbeau News (CNC), the members of the film crew appear to have understood what their assailants were telling them during the attack. According to CNC, the Russian journalists planned to visit the city of Kaga-Bandoro. The UN mission to the CAR is located in this city, but a significant part of the region is controlled by the Muslim insurgent movement “Séléka”. The journalists had reportedly made contact with “several rebel leaders”. “When they arrived in the town of Sibut last Monday, they met soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) 5 km from the town. Since they were familiar with the terrain, the soldiers advised them not to travel at night, but the journalists phoned one of their compatriots and then said that there was no real danger on the route, and that they could go. Since they insisted, the soldiers let them leave between 23:27 and midnight,” CNC writes. The car, which was being driven by a local, was stopped by an armed group 18 km from the FACA roadblock. The journalists were killed, their driver was wounded but survived. The surviving driver, who was questioned, said that the assailants spoke a language other than French or Sango (the national language of the CAR). “Strangely, the three journalists appeared to understand well what their assailants were saying to them,” the CNC article observes. The author of the CNC article believes that the killing was planned, and was not carried out by local armed groups. “Only God knows the truth of this matter,” the article concludes philosophically. Independent journalist Gaël Grilhot, in collaboration with the French news outlet Le Monde, who arrived in Bangui two weeks ago, said that the roads in the CAR are extremely dangerous to move about on. “Officially the government controls only 20% of the territory, but even if one often encounters FACA patrols and the UN mission in this area, there are lots of bandits everywhere and roadblocks by armed groups of every kind,” he explained. “It was extremely careless to leave the city at night, like our colleagues did,” the journalist believes. “It’s still too early to rule out any of the hypotheses,” he adds.
The killing of three reporters in the Central African Republic pulls a private, pro-Kremlin military company out of the shadows.
The bodies of three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) have arrived in Moscow after being transported on an Air France flight from Paris.
This Jamestown Eurasia Daily Monitor report is downright concerning. Private Military Companies, PMCs, are currently technically illegal in Russia, but this report lists where they have been used extensively. Now there is a demand that PMCs be made legal and “– Any form of prosecution/pressure against PMC members and their families by state structures and agencies or non-state organizations has to be stopped.” The Wagner PMC is well known and has operated as ordinary mercenaries. The Patriot PMC is relatively new, this report appears to not remember their disclosure over one month ago. Media: New Russian private military company operates in Syria. It is interesting, however, that Patriot PMC members receive almost triple the salary of Wagner. They appear to be many GRU Spetsnaz and the assignments are short term. We’ve seen more and more Russian PMCs deployed, but in Wagner’s case, with heavy casualties. It gives Russia plausible deniability, more flexibility in this grey legal area, and allows highly tailored packages to be delivered quickly. It is worrisome, however. Russia is deploying them widely. It is de facto increasing military deployments without accountability. Again, this is not illegal but it is immoral, unethical, and does not rise above our current threshold to respond. A new Grey Zone tool. This needs to be shut down quickly. </end editorial>
Russian their military units and specialists in the Central African Republic are there “on a perfectly legal basis at the request of the country’ …
Paul Goble Staunton, August 3 – In the wake of the Helsinki summit, Moscow’s state information service Russia Today baldly declared that “Russia has defeated the US in the information war” (ria.ru/analytics/20180719/1524912539.html), arguing that this had happened because Russia with its centralized approach was a true empire while the US was not. But that claim and even more that argument as intended, Vadim Shtepa says, conceals more than it reveals and distracts attention from the Kremlin’s development of what he calls “information spetsnaz” techniques over the last 15 years, techniques that earlier articles were quite open about (kaitsen.ee/news/rossijskij-vektor-kak-sozdavalis-i-dejstvuyut-inst). In an article for the Tallinn Center for Information on Security and Defense, an institution that is becoming ever more important for the analysis of Russian behavior in this sector, the Estonia-based Russian regionalist who edits the After Empire portal points to some of the most important of these earlier articles. Many of these articles were ignored when they appeared, both as a result of the nature of the very nature of the information war Moscow has been conducting against the West and the West’s failure to monitor what Russian sources were saying. As a result, the West was not prepared for what Moscow was doing. It must not fail again. Shtepa divides his essay into three parts. In the first, which he calls “’Information Spetsnaz’ (the Panarin-Gerasimov Doctrine),” he calls particular attention to two articles: One by Igor Panarin of the Russian Diplomatic Academy in 2008, and the second by Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff in 2013. Writing just after the Russian invasion of Georgia, Panarin argues that Russia in one sense lost that war because it had not put in place the kind of information system that could have convinced the West that Moscow was entirely justified in doing what it did (vpk-news.ru/articles/3672). Russia must revive the foreign policy propaganda system it lost in the 1990s but in a new way, one that would not seek to defend what Moscow was doing but rather to go over to the offensive and “actively destroy ‘hostile’ societies” by means of what he called “’information spetsnaz.’” Such campaigns, he suggested, would seek to undermine the information systems of opponents by creating multiple realities so that people in those countries would become unsure of what was actually the case. He pointed to the creation of Russia Today in 2006 as an important means to that end. If Panarin’s essay was largely ignored a decade ago, Gerasimov’s five years later attracted more attention (vpk-news.ru/articles/14632). He developed many of the Diplomatic Academy expert’s ideas to insist that Russia can only win if it stops trying to copy other countries and instead develops its own approach to conflict. That approach, the general said, requires the use of information as the key tool in military operations to confuse and disorder opponents rather than simply countering whatever they are saying, again stressing, as Shtepa says, that Russia must take the offensive in this area and never give it up, lest these techniques be played back against Moscow. In the second section of his essay, the Tallinn author focuses on an even earlier article, a 2003 study by Anna Polyanskaya, Andrey Krivov and Ivan Lomko on how to create what they called “’a web brigade’” to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet provides for disordering other societies (vestnik.com/issues/2003/0430/win/polyanskaya_krivov_lomko.htm). Their article anticipated the ways in which Russian trolls interfered in elections in Western countries by using the system of “astro-turfing” that Moscow had developed against its own domestic opponents against other countries by creating a false image of the number of supporters Moscow’s preferred positions have. Inside Russia, that approach has been deployed against opponents for more than a decade, Shtepa says; now, it is being used internationally. He points to a 2011 story in The Guardian for details (theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/feb/23/need-to-protect-internet-from-astroturfing). According to Shtepa, “Putin’s Russia is a country of absolutely victorious astro-turfing, of the total creation of ‘an artificial reality.’ There, a multitude of parties formally exist but it is impossible to register a real opposition … In this illusion of universal unity around the irreplaceable tsar, those who do not share his views are not citizens with their own positions but enemies against whom information war must be carried out.” And in the third section of his article, Shtepa points out that there has long existed a completely public site providing Russians who want to engage in such information war with guidance on what higher educational institutions they should apply to. That site is at postupi.online/professiya/specialist-po-informacionnoj-borbe/vuzi/. Among them are the Diplomatic Academy, the Russian Academy of State Service, Moscow State University, the Higher School of Economics and the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, he notes. But there are others as well. According to a 2015 article (riafan.ru/489853-kak-rossiya-srazhaetsya-v-informacionnoj-vojne-ili-pochemu-u-gosdepa-kishka-tonka), there exists “a closed information-analystic bulletin, ‘The Russian Vector,’” which is sent around to senior officials and those who “make decisions.” This bulletin is prepared by the Russian Institute for Strategic Research (RISI), a group directly subordinate to Putin that Reuters in 2017 identified as the organizer of Russian interference in the American elections (reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-election-exclusive-idUSKBN17L2N3).
A Rockefeller heir, an Eisenhower, an array of Republican lawmakers — the accused Russian agent sought powerful connections outside the gun-rights group.
J.D. Gordon reportedly invited the Russian national to a Styx concert and his birthday party.
At least three groups that Facebook banned this week for spreading disinformation shared similar names and traits with Twitter accounts that had been linked publicly to Russia six weeks earlier, underscoring the challenges of swiftly shutting down malicious influence campaigns even once strong hints emerge of who is behind it.
Creators of fake accounts and news pages on Facebook are learning from their past mistakes and making themselves harder to track.
Viktor Kudryavtsev, a leading researcher with TsNIIMash (Russian rocket and spacecraft scientific center), was arrested on a charge of high treason. He is suspected of passing secret data to a foreign scientific organization, the Belgian von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, as reported by RBC news agency with reference to Kudryavtsev’s lawyer Yevgeny Smirnov. “The case is not about a country but about an organization TsNIIMash collaborated with – the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. There was an agreement between them, which was approved at the level of the Russian government,” Smirnov said. The agency notes that a few months ago, FSB officers questioned Vladimir Lapygin, scientist and the boss of Kudryavtsev, who is now serving his sentence in a high treason case. Formally, the cases of Kudryavtsev and Lapygin are not related. The fact that the former chief of Kudryavtsev communicated with FSB officers was featured in the security report of the special security service which was also given to the defense of Kudryavtse. This report is the only document the investigators used to justify the need for Kudryavtsev’s arrest, said the lawyer. “It follows from this report that a total of several dozen people were questioned. Apparently, everybody who has ever worked with Kudryavtsev. The youngest of them was born in 1943,” said the lawyer.
RAF bosses have warned aircrew about ‘online social engineering’ after a female airwoman discovered her Tinder profile had been hacked and used to contact fellow RAF personnel.
Paul Goble Staunton, August 4 — According to a new Levada Center poll, 68 percent of Russians do not want to live in “’a besieged fortress’ and fight with the West but instead want to a rapprochement with the West, a change in attitudes with more far-reaching consequences than the declining popular ratings of Vladimir Putin and his regime, Liliya Shevtsova says. Ratings can be played with and “protests neutralized” as long as the Russian people are prepared to live “in a military camp. But if the majority of the population doesn’t want to go there and are tired of militarism,” then the threat to the regime is much greater, the Russian political analyst says (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2252528-echo/). Judging by everything, she continues, “Russians understand that the confrontation of Russia with the West is a means of distracting them from their internal problems and the inability of the [current] powers that be to solve them.” But what is especially striking, Shevtsova says, is that “Russians are talking about seeking normal relations with the West despite Western sanctions,” something that underscores that “these sanctions have not consolidated the people around the Kremlin as many had expected.” Instead, Russians can see that these sanctions are targeted not at them but at their leaders. In the eyes of the Russian people, the Kremlin has suffered failure on several fronts at once. Its foreign policy has backfired in that Russians can see that they are the losers from a policy proclaimed as necessary to their well-being. And its efforts to convince Russians that the West is their enemy have not been successful either. This must be cause for concern in the Kremlin, and what is the most disturbing aspect of that is that “our system cannot reform itself, it cannot turn away from its own favored means of survival, that is, from the search for a foreign enemy who creates internal ones. Autocracy does not have any other notion.” And this means that Putin and his regime “will seek a way to return the population to the state of aggressiveness and hostility to the liberal world.” The Kremlin will have to do this quickly lest the Russian people finally turn on the regime, and it will thus put out more “mythical threats” that require Russians to put up with opposing that which they don’t want to oppose. This “attempt to return Russia to an anti-Western place will be a new test for the people, a test of its good sense and ability to recognize political games,” Shevtsova concludes. “Let us mot underestimate the [Russian] people.”
Paul Goble Staunton, August 4 – The Russian government’s plans to raise the age at which people can take a pension has only accelerated a broader change in the relationship between the population and the regime, Sergey Shelin says. Russians are ever less willing to accept government propaganda and are “losing interest in the triumphs of the leadership.” According to the latest bulletin of the Bank of Russia, Russians now believe that inflation is more than three times what the government says, that unemployment is higher and that the regime is not doing anything to prevent further increases in the price of gas and other basic goods (cbr.ru/Collection/Collection/File/7394/bulletin_18-05.pdf). That is evidence of more than a spillover in Russian anger about pensions onto other issues, the Rosbalt commentator says; it is an indication that the unquestioning popular support the Putin regime has been counting on has slipped away and most likely will not return anytime soon (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/07/31/1721214.html). Perhaps even more significant for the future, Shelin continues, is that while Russians still believe that Vladimir Putin won a victory over Donald Trump at the Helsinki Summit, they have not given Putin the kind of boost in ratings that such assessments would have led them to in the past. Russians are “filtering events in a new way,” he says. “Ever actions which they completely back – the World Cup or this summit – today already are doing nothing to reduce popular skepticism about immediate issues of everyday life. This is a big disappointment for the bosses which since Crimea has been accustomed to a different response.” The bosses are likely to be even more disappointed in how the population is responding to its declarations and promises. In contrast to a year or two ago, now 30 to 40 percent of Russians are critical of these thing or express pessimism about the possibility that what the leaders are saying is true or possible. Young people are especially critical. And all these things mean, Shelin says, that “the very picture of life which the bosses draw passes by the consciousness of their subjects” without the latter accepting it. Instead, they have formed their own view on what reality now is – and that view is increasingly pessimistic and critical. This doesn’t mean that there is going to be an upsurge in protests anytime soon. No one knows. But the relationship between the powers that be and the people has changed. “The people are not simply angry: anger can weaken. They are looking up with different eyes; and this will be very difficult [for those on top] to change.”
Paul Goble Staunton, August 4 – Moscow is replacing the commanders of interior troops in the regions bordering Ukraine with more experienced generals in the hopes of blocking the influx of criminal elements and contraband, including weapons, from the Moscow-backed DNR and LNR, siloviki sources tell Russia’s Znak news agency. Of course, the replacement of such commander could also be a first step to a new Russian offensive against Ukraine, and the Russian agency says that “in the Kremlin they do not exclude a new sharpening of the situation in the Donbass this fall” (znak.com/2018-08-03/istochnik_granichachie_s_ukrainoy_regiony_rossii_ukrepyat_proverennymi_generalami). Znak gives details on the biographies of both those who are being replaced and those who are replacing them. It also features a comment by Moscow military expert Pavel Luzin who says that it would be a mistake to speak about the establishment of some kind of “buffer zone around Ukraine.” Instead, he suggests, what Moscow is doing is working to ensure that it can stop the flow of arms, drugs and other goods from the DNR and LNR. “Don’t forget,” he says, “that the DNR and LNR now are strongly criminalized. Yes, they are formally loyal to Russia and to a certain extent controlled by it. But criminals aren’t part of the vertical.” These two self-proclaimed republics, Luzin continues, “are full of petty bosses and field commanders who are ready to do almost anything for a few thousand dollars. There is a mass of weaponry, there are shadowy financial flows, and all this cannot remain beyond control. Therefore now Moscow is strengthening the local siloviki” with experienced commanders
Paul Goble Staunton, August 4 – A “new GULAG” is emerging in Russia “right before our eyes,” opposition politician Gennady Gudkov says. For the moment it is “still small” but if will grow and metasticize if the Russian people do not speak out but assume that such institutions, very much wanted by the powers that be, only involve other people. In case after case, the powers bring trumped up charges against innocent people and confine them to prison, he continues. Dozens if not hundreds of people are involved in such travesties of justice; and with each such crime, it becomes easier for the powers that be to expand their net (echo.msk.ru/blog/gudkov/2249520-echo/). “In the 1930s, ‘on the conveyor belt’ were put arrests, tortures, beatings, shootings and forced labor. And always there were HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE READY TO CARRY OUT ORDERS, struggling to overfulfill the plans for arrests, shootings and suppressions,” the contemporary political critic points out. How did such people “justify the death and suffering of millions of innocent people? By claiming to be serving the motherland and the party, by faith in a glorious future or simply and more banally by a readiness to take harsh actions lest they become their victims?” Gudkov asks rhetorically. “The GULAG [then] did not appear all at once: for long years before the start of mass repressions, the situation in the USSR deteriorated gradually, step by step. Many n the party and the country understood this, saw what was happening and recognized it – and did nothing in the hope that everything would sort itself out.” The result of such calculations is well-known: “the bloody genocide of the Soviet people, the destruction of millions of lives. Do we want to repeat this? Just now the country is beginning to prepare a new wave of repression against [the innocent], against bloggers who retreat an innocent picture or some citation.” Because those in power think they can get away with anything, they are beginning to punish others for everything: “for conversations, anecdotes, for catching virtual Pokemons in church and for criticizing any of their actions,” Gudkov says. “The executors for the new GULAG are already also prepared: without morality, principles or sympathy. They are ready to fulfill any order of the leader and his henchmen.” In this situation, those who hear about what is happening to others need to remember the poet’s injunction: Do not ask for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.”
Paul Goble Staunton, August 4 – When Vladimir Putin was serving as a KGB officer in East Germany, he had the reputation among his fellow Soviet intelligence officers of being especially hostile to Ukrainians, Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Vasily Bohdan tells Marina Yevtushok of the Apostrophe news agency. Bohdan, author of a new book on Putin’s responsibility for the Russian Anschluss of Crimea and the war in the Donbass, says he was in the service at that time and heard others say this and other negative things about the future Kremlin leader (apostrophe.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2018-08-04/putin-esche-vo-vremya-slujbyi-v-razvedke-ploho-otnosilsya-k-ukraintsam-i-zakladyival-kolleg/19662). Anti-Ukrainian attitudes were hardly unknown among Russians in the KGB and otherwise 30 and 40 years ago. Many memoirs report similar attitudes among others. Consequently, this account is eirely plausible and perhaps even likely. But it is obviously indirect evidence at best and thus should be treated with caution.
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has always harborded prejudice toward the Ukrainians, that’s according to a security expert, foreign intelligence veteran, Lieutenant-General Vasyl Bohdan. The expert recalled a showing moment in Putin’s biography associated with Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin always differed in his prejudiced attitude towards the Ukrainians. This was told in an interview with Apostrof by an expert on security issues, a veteran of foreign intelligence, Lieutenant-General Vasily Bogdan.
COUNTER-terror cops are probing the theory that hit squads smuggled the nerve agent’s components into the UK and mixed it here. Forensic teams have discovered low-level contamination in toilets in Salisbury’s Queen Elizabeth Gardens.
Any serious Iranian attempt to shut down both passages simultaneously could be a nightmare scenario for international commerce, or worse.
Chances of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani actually shutting down the Strait of Hormuz are slim, considering the move would also prevent Iran from shipping oil to its partners, Mark Sleboda, an international affairs and security analyst, told Sputnik.
Mystery still surrounds Iran’s surprise naval exercises in the strategic Strait of Hormuz this week, but no one here is ignoring it.
Iran has launched major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf just days before the United States is due to start reimposing sanctions on Tehran, according to media reports citing U.S. officials.
North Korea’s foreign minister is scheduled to visit Iran on August 7, as both countries deal with stepped up political and financial pressure from the United States over their nuclear programs.
The Trump administration on Monday is set to re-impose the first batch of Iran sanctions since the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal.
The president adds: ""Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!"
Sporadic protests broke out in several cities in Iran for a fifth night on Saturday, a day after demonstrators attacked a Shi’ite seminary, according to Iranian news agencies and social media, as Iranians brace for a return of U.S. sanctions.
Demonstrations ignited by anger over economic hardships continued for the fifth day in northern Iran on August 4, a day after media reported on the first protester death and an attack on a Shi’it…
Amateur videos sent to RFE/RL and shared on social media appear to show dozens of protesters on the streets of Iranian cities on August 3. It is believed the cities in question are Karaj, Qazvin, and the capital, Tehran, but this could not be independently confirmed. Protesters were filmed chanting “Death to Khamenei” — a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — as well as “Death to the Basij,” a pro-government paramilitary militia. Angered by high inflation and increasing economic hardship caused in part by the dramatic decline of the national currency, the rial, Iranians have been protesting across the country for several days.
Iran plans to implement a new financial rescue package on Monday to try and halt the rial’s decline, coinciding with the re-imposition of severe U.S. sanctions on the oil-rich state’s economy after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.
CBS Evening News Published on Aug 4, 2018
The “luxury” wedding of an ambassador’s son and other perceived excesses draw fire on social media, with most Iranians fearing tougher days ahead amid a currency crisis and with U.S. sanctions looming.
Iran has received five new commercial aircraft just before the United States starts reimplementing sanctions that had been lifted under the nuclear accord with world powers.
At one point, his defeat seemed imminent. Now he presides over a ruined country. How did this happen?
As the Assad regime completes its conquest of southwestern Syria, attention is shifting to the country’s northwest and in particular to the province of
The proposal illustrates how Russia, having helped turn the tide of the war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is now pressing Washington and…
Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed on Saturday that it had proposed cooperating with the United States on Syrian refugees and de-mining in a letter sent to the top U.S. general in July.
European Union condemns attacks on civilians after dozens killed and calls on combatants to commit to negotiations.
Inflation data for July then helps the emerging market currency to recover ground.
Turkey’s President ordered the freezing of assets of two US officials, state media reported Saturday, days after the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers.
The dispute pitting the U.S. against NATO ally Turkey over the fate of an American pastor escalated, with Turkey’s President Erdogan vowing to retaliate against U.S. sanctions.
Steps taken by the United States about pastor Andrew Brunson were not suitable for a strategic partner and were disrespectful to Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
“Under the pillow.’’ That’s where Turks can find the weapons to fight back against American sanctions, according to their president.
The imprisonment of Andrew Brunson prompted sanctions from the Trump administration. But the Turkish foreign minister said harsh tactics would not work.
CBS News Published on Aug 3, 2018