Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (152)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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When all else fails, do some saber-rattling – in this case to display some pique to the UK and Japan for not cooperating with Russia’s ridiculous expectations of cowering compliance. This week has without doubt been a repeat of last week’s “epic fail” for the Russian propaganda machine.

The Israeli delegation arrived in Muscovy and briefed the Russians on the loss of the COOT. Russia’s MoD now claims they never supplied IFF equipment to Syria. This does not sound right as the 1L22 Parol series IFF was very widely exported, the notion that a close Soviet client like Syria would be denied access to the 1L22 series is a strong claim requiring strong evidence. More bad taste Russian stunts around the Salisbury CW attack. Much more interesting has been the public reaction in Russia, which appears to be increasingly skeptical of the regime’s extraordinary and so often contradictory claims about Salisbury, well covered by the Beeb in Mission Implausible. An excellent WashPost OpEd by Kara-Murza on the regime’s unraveling public support at home. Meduza on Russia’s extraordinary number of treason and espionage convictions.

In the UK, Bellingcat discloses more background on the two GRU operators charged over the Salisbury CW attack – they were detained in Holland earlier this year, extradited to Switzerland, then released. Israeli media report both were in Tel Aviv in 2016. Police question the couple involved in what increasingly appears to have been a nasty hoax, and the father of the Russian model appears on TV to publicly contradict his daughter’s claims likely in an attempt to defuse the speculation. The unanswered question remains that of what compelled this pair to do something that only Russian propagandists benefit from.

Updates on Syria, Iran, and Yemen.

British and French planes scrambled to shadow Russian jets | Reuters

British and French military jets were scrambled to investigate suspected Russian fighter aircraft flying over the North Sea on Thursday.US

Russian bombers intercepted by British jets after ignoring air traffic control, UK says | Fox News

A pair of Russian nuclear-capable bombers buzzed the British coastline along the North Sea on Thursday while ignoring repeated radio calls, according to the U.K.’s ministry of defense.

UK fighter jets intercept Russian bombers over North Sea – CNN

UK fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers encroaching on its airspace Thursday, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

RAF scrambles fighter jets to intercept Russian Blackjack bombers over the North Sea after they refused to respond to air traffic control

It is believed the Typhoons, assisted by French aircraft, were launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland.

UAWire – Japanese fighter jets intercept Russian warplanes over the Sea of Japan

The Japanese Defense Ministry announced that Japanese fighter jets scrambled to intercept Su-27 multi-role fighters and Su-24 frontline bombers near the western island of Honshu, Ria Novosti reports. It is also reported one more unknown plane flying over that waters of the Sea of Japan that was “allegedly Russian.” In early September, Russian Tu-142 antisubmarine aircraft flew near Japanese borders and were also immediately accompanied by Japanese fighter aircraft. From Spring 2017 to Spring 2018, JSDF aircraft were launched to accompany aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces 390 times, which is 89 times more than the previous year.

UAWire – Syrian air defense that destroyed Russian Il-20 was not equipped with Friend or Foe System

The Syrian S-200 missile system, which destroyed the Il-20 aircraft of the Russian Air Forces over the Mediterranean Sea, was not equipped with the Russian identification friend or foe system (IFF) to distinguish their own from other aircraft, stated the chief spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense Igor Konashenkov, writes TASS. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that media reports that say the plane crash was caused by a malfunction of the IFF system are “amateurish fantasies” and “arguments by pseudo-experts.” The defense department stated that the IFF system is installed only on Russian Air Defense aircraft and systems. It cannot be transferred to other countries. The system is not even installed on military equipment exported from Russia as part of the military and technical cooperation. Russian military reconnaissance aircraft Il-20 was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea by the Syrian Air Defense. There were 15 servicemen on board. All of them were killed. Russia claims that the destruction of the plane was due to the deliberate actions of Israel.

Israel And Russia Wrangle Over Syrian Shootdown | Defense content from Aviation Week

Israel denies Russian claims, blames Syrian forces for indiscriminate anti-aircraft fire.

Israel to improve coordination with Moscow over Syria after plane crash | Reuters

– Israel said on Thursday it would not halt strikes on Syria but would do more to “deconflict” them with Russian forces, after Moscow accused it of “irresponsible and unfriendly actions” that led to Syrian ground fire mistakenly downing a Russian plane.US

UAWire – In a letter to Putin Assad blames Israel for Il-20 crash

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin a telegram expressing his condolences in connection with the downing of the Russian Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea and the death of its crew. The letter was published in an article by the Syrian Arab News Agency. “On my own behalf and on behalf of the Syrian nation, I express to you and to the friendly Russian nation my deepest sympathy concerning the incident of the crashing of the Russian Il-20 military plane into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, which led to the martyrdom of the heroic Russian soldiers who were carrying out their noble duties with their comrades in the Russian military forces in the fight against terrorism in Syria,” the telegram reads. “This regrettable incident,” the Syrian President’s message continues, “is the result of the usual Israeli impudence and rowdiness, who always use the filthiest means to achieve their unsavory goals and enact their hostility in our region.” “We have the utmost confidence that such a tragic incident will not deter you or us from continuing the fight against terrorism, in which the blood of our and your heroic soldiers is mixed, the latest of them being the martyrs of the Il-20 aircraft,” Assad’s telegram concludes. Assad’s telegram was sent after Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Syrian leader had not phoned Putin after the incident. According to Peskov, the Russian President is guided in his appraisal of the situation first and foremost by the information he receives from the Russian Defense Ministry. According to the Russian military department, the Russian surveillance aircraft was shot down on the evening of 17 September over the Mediterranean Sea during an Israeli airstrike against Syria. The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 anti-air defense system operated by the Syrian military. All 15 of the Il-20’s flight crew members were killed. Moscow initially blamed Israel for the catastrophe, claiming that the attacking Israeli pilots put the Russian plane in the line of fire and created a dangerous situation. The Israel Defense Force responded that indiscriminate firing by the Syrian anti-air defense systems was to blame. The Russian plane was shot down while returning to Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase. The crew was attempting to identify the location where Syrian rebels had been amassing and storing drones.

Russian company plans to trademark Novichok suspects’ names ‘so they can sell perfumes and chemicals’ – Mirror Online

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are accused of using a specially-made bottle disguised as Nina Ricci’s Premier Jour perfume to carry out the attack

Sick Russian perfume company plans to ‘reward’ Russian novichok ‘assassins’ by launching new scent in their name and handing them all the profits

The murder suspects accused of unleashing a chemical weapon attack in Britain are alleged to be rewarded with their own trademark

Mission implausible: Russians mock improbable spy duo – BBC News

Even Russians are mocking their own spies over the TV interview with two “architecture enthusiasts”.

Putin aims to CRANK UP armed forces with FUTURISTIC weapons to rival US Donald Trump arms | World | News |

Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to ramp up his country’s armed forces by developing futuristic weapons that incorporate “modern” military trends so Russian arms can outclass those of rival troops.

Putin channels Kim Jong Un with bizarre propaganda claim he got three incredible ‘kill shots’ out of five while testing new Kalashnikov gun

The president showed himself the ultimate bureaucrat by shooting in his suit and tie while sitting at a desk at a Patriot Park firing range in Moscow region

100 convictions and just one acquittal. A new study looks at the past 20 years of Russia’s treason and espionage cases. — Meduza

The human rights group Team 29 has released a new report about every known treason and espionage case in Russia’s criminal justice system over the past 20 years. An association of human rights lawyers and journalists, Team 29 has also provided legal assistance to several suspects in these trials. Meduza summarizes the report’s main findings.

Vladimir Kara-Murza | Anyone but Putin: Russians are starting to look for an alternative – The Washington Post

It’s hard to lose an election when you control ballot access, the government bureaucracy, the courts, the media, and the votes of vast swathes of the population dependent on state support – and when you are personally endorsed by the supposedly admired national leader. Yet Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party still managed to come out on the wrong end of last week’s gubernatorial election in Primorye region, Russia’s far eastern territory. With 98 percent of the ballots counted, the Kremlin-appointed incumbent was trailing the Communist Party candidate by 47 percent of the vote to 50 percent. The only trick left to the authorities was old-fashioned ballot-stuffing: the incumbent, Acting Gov. Andrei Tarasenko, was declared the winner after several dozen precincts gave him 100 percent of the vote on a 100-percent turnout in the final two hours of counting. The real winner, a 37-year-old construction executive and regional legislator by the name of Andrei Ishchenko, has no major political achievements, no charisma and no proposals worthy of note. His personality, his politics, and his party affiliation did not matter. He had only one advantage in the eyes of voters: He was running against the candidate Putin endorsed.

Sergey Radchenko | In Russia’s Far East, a Clumsy Attempt to Steal an Election Backfires | The Diplomat

Blatant electoral fraud in the Primorsky Krai gubernatorial election spells trouble for Putin.

Russian authorities invalidate local election for first time in 16 years after last-minute ballot stuffing

Election officials in Russia’s Far-East nullified results of a runoff mayoral election on Thursday, following reports of mass rigging in favor of a candidate backed by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian election to be re-run after Vladimir Putin’s man wins at last gasp | World | The Times

Russian officials have ordered a re-run of an election in the country’s far east after protesters took to the streets over massive vote-rigging to ensure an unlikely victory for a candidate from President Putin’s ruling party.The unprecedented decision to annul the vote came after Andrei Ishchenko,

bellingcat – Skripal Suspects Confirmed as GRU Operatives: Prior European Operations Disclosed – bellingcat

September 20, 2018 By Bellingcat Investigation Team In the previous part of a joint investigation, Bellingcat and The Insider – Russia established that: Alexander Petrov – a fake cover persona for a yet unidentified Russian individual – is not a civilian but linked to one of Russia’s security services. This assessment was based on an exhaustive analysis of “Petrov” passport dossier as obtained from the Russian central passport database. Petrov and Boshirov made last-minute travel plans to fly to the United Kingdom, which – coupled with the double-booking of return flights on two consecutive dates – makes the “tourism” explanation implausible. Petrov and Boshirov travelled on international passports that differed by 3 consecutive digits, making it implausible that they were civilians who obtained their passports through the regular, entropic passport application process available to Russian citizens. Since the publication of the first part of this investigation, other media have followed suit with obtaining access to, and disclosing the passport file of “Ruslan Boshirov” – the second suspect in the Skripals poisoning. The leaked passport file extracts similarly displayed characteristics atypical of a civilian person’ passport. Bellingcat can confirm the authenticity of the leaked passport file of “Boshirov”, and that it contains all three markings that helped identify “Petrov” as a security-service asset: “Top Secret” annotations, a blank biographical page referring to a secret attached letter, a “do not provide information” stamp, and issuing authority unit 777001, exclusively used for state VIPs and intelligence officers. In addition, “Boshirov” also has no recorded history prior to the issuance of his domestic ID passport in 2010 (2009 in “Petrov”’s case)

Bellingcat Says Data ‘Confirms’ Skripal Suspects Had Links To Russian Military Intelligence

The independent Bellingcat research organization claims to have more information that the two men suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have links to Russian military inte…

Sergei Skripal ‘hitmen’ linked to GRU officer’s plot to assassinate Montenegrin Prime Minister

The Russian hitmen accused of poisoning Sergei Skripal have been linked to the plot to assassinate the Montenegrin Prime Minister.

Russians Accused of Skripal Poisoning Previously Detained in The Netherlands — Bellingcat

A joint investigation by Bellingcat and The Insider media outlet claims that the two Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei Skripal were previously detained in The Netherlands. British prosecutors have identified two Russians they said were operating under aliases — Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — whom they accused of trying to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in England. Two men who identified themselves as Petrov and Boshirov told Russia’s state-funded RT television station last week that they had traveled to Salisbury for tourism purposes. In its report published on Thursday evening, Bellingcat cited an unnamed source in a Western European law-enforcement agency as saying that Petrov and Boshirov — which are presumably not the men’s real names — were previously detained in the Netherlands. In its Russian-language report, the Insider cited unnamed sources in Dutch law enforcement as saying the arrests had taken place early this year. They were then handed over to Swiss authorities, the report added.

Salisbury poisoning suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were held in Netherlands

Investigators say the men suspected of poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter with novichok were questioned but released.

Report: Russian spy suspects detained this year by Dutch | CTV News

British investigative group Bellingcat says two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy were briefly detained in the Netherlands earlier this year.

Salisbury Novichok suspects ‘were detained in Netherlands earlier this year’ | Irish Examiner

Headline Salisbury Novichok suspects ‘were detained in Netherlands earlier this year’

Russian spy poisoner suspect said to have been in Tel Aviv in 2016 | The Times of Israel

Charged in UK with poisoning Skripals, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov’s passports show them to be GRU agents, investigative website reports

i24NEWS – Suspected Russian Skripal poisoner visited Israel using spy name: report

Novichok suspects were held in Netherlands

Two suspects in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy were briefly detained in the Netherlands earlier this year, according to research by Bellingcat, an investigative group.

Boshirov, Petrov, other GRU officers’ passport numbers almost coincide – The Insider | UNIAN

Passport numbers of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two Russian nationals who were designated as suspects in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, almost coincide with passport numbers of other officers of the Russian military intelligence service – the GRU. Boshirov’s passport data from the unified information system “Russian passport,” as expected, has the same mark as Petrov’s one, that is “top secret.”

Dad of £4,000-a-night escort in Salisbury Novichok scare rubbishes her claims about ‘Putin assassination bid’ – Mirror Online

Alexander Shapiro, 57, said daughter Anna is really named Yana and said she could not be a Kremlin target as she has never been active in politics

Police question couple at centre of Salisbury poisoning scare | UK news | The Guardian

Officers investigating whether the incident involving Alex King and Anna Shapiro was a hoax

British police to investigate if new Salisbury incident a hoax, reports say | Fox News

British detectives are reportedly investigating the possibility of a hoax in the case of a couple who apparently fell ill at an Italian restaurant steps away from where a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were found poisoned.

Reported nerve agent possibly a hoax in same UK town where former Russian spy was poisoned – ABC News

The British public may have reportedly been duped after a couple appeared to fall ill Sunday, sparking fears that a town had again been exposed to a deadly nerve agent.

Couple may be sued over Salisbury novichok ‘hoax’ | News | The Times

A restaurant chain has threatened to sue a couple who collapsed in its Salisbury branch if a novichok scare turns out to have been a hoax. Prezzo suffered lost earnings and costs arising from wasted foods as well as reputational damage after Anna Shapiro, 30, and her husband Alex King, 42, appeared

Prezzo vows legal action against ‘poisoning’ couple if incident is proved to be a hoax

A restaurant chain is considering suing a Russian model and her hoaxer husband over their claims they were poisoned during a meal in Salisbury six months after a nerve agent attack in the city.

Salisbury novichok: Was it a hoax for Russian model to extend her visa? | Daily Mail Online

Alarm bells sounded when Alex King, 42, and wife, Anna Shapiro, 30, became violently ill at the Italian restaurant in Salisbury last Sunday. But a source claims it was a ploy to extend Shapiro’s visa. Alex King taken ill along with his 30-year-old lingerie model wife Anna Shapiro Shapiro claimed in an newspaper interview she was the target of an assassination plot. Police have dismissed her claims want to speak to the couple about hoax claims. A source close to the couple said ‘poisoning’ was a ploy to extend Shapiro’s visa. In 2006 King able to evade tight security and gatecrash Prince Charles premiere. In 2004 he admitted three counts of distributing indecent images of children.

President Putin Tried to Kill Me With Rat Poison, and Other Strange Tales From Model Behind UK’s Latest Chemical Weapons Scare

Strange tales from the lingerie model behind the U.K.’s latest chemical weapons scare.

Britain lets Putin move his dark money with impunity. That has to stop | Oliver Bullough | Opinion | The Guardian

The Danske bank money-laundering scandal was only possible thanks to Britain’s opaque corporate laws, says Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland

The Guardian: Britain lets Putin move his dark money with impunity. That has to stop | UNIAN

Vladimir Putin’s global power is inseparable from his mastery of dark money, which he moves secretly to buy assets and influence. Russian crooks can still abuse limited partnerships in exactly the same way they did a decade ago.

Israeli Air Force Chief Holds ‘Open’ Talks In Moscow On Syrian Downing Of Russian Plane

Israel’s air force chief held “professional, open” talks with officials in Moscow in the aftermath of the shoot-down of a Russian warplane by Syria earlier in the week that Russian officials …

Idlib catastrophe can be prevented (opinion) – CNN

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes that the Russia-Turkey deal to stave off the Idlib offensive shows what might be possible when US public and private diplomacy is at work.

Terror Group Puts Plan for Syrian Demilitarized Zone at Risk – WSJ

Terrorist groups operating in the last stronghold of opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are signaling a reluctance to abide by an ambitious pact aimed at protecting millions of civilians.

Iran dismisses U.S. offer of talks, says Washington broke last deal | Reuters

Iran hit back at a U.S. offer of negotiations on Thursday, saying Washington had violated the terms of the last big deal they agreed, the 2015 nuclear accord.US

Iran news: Tehran blasts at Trump ‘you have NO SHAME’ and accuses US of treaty violations | World | News |

This comes as Iran has rejected Washington’s attempts to hold talks since President Trump tore up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers. The Foreign Minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, tweeted: “US calls the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action a personal agreement between two governments claiming its…

Hezbollah to Israel: ‘Precision’ missiles now obtained | News | Al Jazeera

Taunting Israel, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasts about armed group’s upgraded military capabilities.

Hezbollah ‘has precision rockets despite Israeli strikes in Syria’ – BBC News

Lebanese group says Israeli strikes in Syria do not matter as it already has highly accurate weapons.

Germany approves arm sales to Saudi, breaking coalition promise – CNN

The German government approved the delivery of controversial weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, despite a January ban on arms sales to countries embroiled in the bloody conflict in Yemen, a German lawmaker said Thursday.

Top U.S. Diplomat Backed Continuing Support for Saudi War in Yemen Over Objections of Staff – WSJ

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen over objections of staff members after being warned a cutoff could jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales to Gulf allies.

Turkey could be in firing line as U.S. imposes sanctions for Russia collaboration | Ahval