Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (184)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Shlosberg comments on the Vozhd’s ever more frequent propensity to muse publicly on the possibility of full-scale nuclear war, suggesting that he is now considering such conflict as a real possibility – one might equally so argue this a play at the “madman strategy”, to convince Western leaders that the Vozhd is capable of starting a nuclear exchange to get what he wants. The comments on Russians going to heaven would fit the latter interpretation. Having played repeatedly zero-sum winner-takes-all games in foreign policy, most of which have crashed and burned, cumulative setbacks become an existential threat to a regime that has made grandstanding, and as Shevtsova put it, bluffing, its trademark. No less disturbing are the comments by State Duma Defense Committee chair Shamanov who proposed that US aircraft in Syria should be shot down if Russia determines they are controlling RPVs attacking Russian assets – an imagined attack as justification to start a shooting war. Russia analysts now suggesting that the Archangelsk suicide bombing by a Russian teenager may be a return to the anarchist movements of the late Tsarist era and associated urban terrorism, and the arrest in Moscow overnight of another teenager may support that proposition. Russian propagandists claim another “smear campaign” over Salisbury. The Hollywood “Hunter-Killer” movie banned in Russian for obvious but otherwise bizarre reasons. Multiple reports on GRU and KGB.

In the UK, Russian Twitter trolls discovered to have been inciting anti-Muslim hatred. UK media visit closed town in Russia where CW were developed.

Updates on Iran, Turkey, Syria and Saudis.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Comments about Nuclear War No Laughing Matter, Shlosberg Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 1 – In recent days, Vladimir Putin has made casual references to the possibility of nuclear war and massive deaths in Russia and elsewhere, Lev Shlosberg says, comments that must be taken seriously as “a symptom of his poor political health” and as evidence that he has passed “the psychological barrier” against entering into such a conflict. The Pskov Yabloko commentator argues that every jest or joke contains within it some element of truth; and with respect to such important things as war, they are no laughing matter but rather must be the subject of intense attention as an indication of the habits of mind of the teller ( And Putin’s comments on nuclear war are especially disturbing as “it is simply impossible to imagine such talk between the leaders of the USSR and the US in the worst days of the cold war and the era of nuclear parity.” But today, thanks to Putin, such observations “are not simply possible but have become part of the image of Russia in the world” and in Russia itself. Putin is exploiting a demographic development, Shlosberg suggests. “The generation of those who remember the last global war has almost left the scene, and the generation of those who remember the times of the cold war and a permanent nuclear threat has ceased to be the majority.” In their place, tens of millions of people without any understanding of the horrors of war are forming under Putin’s tutelage a vision of a future one, the Yabloko commentator says. “Russian society is being taught to think constantly about war and correspondingly about death. Not only the death of others (enemies) but their own.” “Because there won’t be death on only one side of the front.” Such a focus, Slosberg says, “is not simply dangerous; it is mortally dangerous for the entire society” because it suggests that everyone is facing Armageddon and therefore the future is irrelevant and not something anyone should be thinking about or planning for. Putin’s own words suggest he is not thinking about the future and that he doesn’t want others to think about it either given that soon there will be the end of everything. Instead, he is forming a society “which has no thought about the future” because he is incapable of offering any future except an apocalypse. That may suit Putin’s needs, but it ensures that a society which share his vision is condemned even before the conflict he talks about all too often, Shlosberg concludes.

UAWire – Russian politician proposes shooting down US planes over Syria

The Russian military may shoot down more than just US-guided drones if there is another assault on its air base in Syria, warned Vladimir Shamanov, head of the State Duma Defense Committee. Russia may even target the American aircraft from which the drones are believed to be controlled. Shamanov stresses that Moscow’s accusations that Washington attacked the Khmeimim Air Base using drones controlled from a US Poseidon 8 aircraft are based on “reliably gathered information”. “Next time, this gives us the moral right to attack this aircraft and shoot it down,” Interfax cites the Russian MP as saying. “This is even, to use professional language, an inadmissible thing, because any malfunction of the guidance system could lead to unpredictable consequences, and this is unethical and is a violation with respect to the law,” Shamanov adds. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, since the start of the year, the Khmeimim Air Base has been attacked by drones on several occasions. 13 drones attacked the Khmeimim base and the Naval logistics point in Tartus on the night of January 5. The Russian military department claims that seven of them were shot down and the rest were captured by specialists in the electronic warfare divisions. On October 25, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin blamed the US for the drone attacks. “13 drones came in a single military order, controlled by one team. At the time, the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane had been patrolling the waters of the Mediterranean Sea for eight hours,” Fomin observed. He claims that when the drones crossed into the Russian electronic warfare curtain, they withdrew a certain distance, received commands, and then were “guided from space, and received prompts about holes, which they began to penetrate”.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Attack on FSB HQ in Arkhangelsk a ‘Black Swan’ Threat to Putin Regime, Commentators Say

Paul Goble Staunton, November 1 – At first glance, the attack on the FSB building in Arkhangelsk appears to be but one of a series of similar terrorist acts in the Russian Federation, Natalya Gulevskaya says; but a closer examination of the personality of the criminal, his motives, and his modus operandi show that it is something far more serious. Indeed, the Russian commentator suggests, it is “a black swan” event of the kind that suggests the Putin regime has no passed “the point of no return” because the powers that be have created a situation which has “given birth to the first terrorist attack with political motives against the anti-constitutional actions of the authorities” ( Russia has a rich history of revolutionaries and political terrorists, Gulevskaya points out; but “never before has there been a political terrorist act carried out not in the struggle for power or against the anachronistic norms of the Basic law of the state but against the actions of officials who have violated the rights and freedoms of the individual.” “This is a very concerning sign both for the ruling powers that be and for the entire population,” she says. “The Putin regime has not been able to create an ideology which could justify not only the seizure and usurpation of power but also the appropriation of the financial potential of the state.” Thus, this action marks “the beginning of the end of the construction of the Chekist state and already in the near future we can expect a conceptual shake up or the latest wave of the collapse of the empire.” Three other commentators also suggest that the Arkhangelsk bombing involves more than meets the eye. Israeli analyst Avraam Shmulyevich on the After Empire portal says that it represents the shift from “Muslim terrorism to “Russian political terrorism” and from attacks on civilians to attacks on the state ( The Arkhangelsk bombing, he observes, has its predecessors: “the Primorsky partisans, the blowing up of monuments, the burning of official buildings of the FSB and United Russia,and the periodic shooting of policemen.” Now, clearly, it is the turn of “the Russian North, ‘which never knew serfdom.’” Shmulyevich says it is especially noteworthy that “the terrorist did not put forward any specific demands. That makes this action typical political terrorism or even a civil war, no longer just terrorism but a war with the system as such.” Igor Eidman, a sociologist who works as a commentator for Deutsche Welle, suggests that what happened in Arkhangelsk is the rebirth of the Narodnaya volya or SR movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. All the conditions are in place for this both in society and the state, for new revolutionaries and for new secret police spies like Azef ( And commentator Mikhail Pozharsky says that the Putin regime has brought this on itself. “If you ban legal politics and persecute people for peaceful action, this will lead to radicalism. If you create ‘terrorists’ out of innocent people with the help of torture, then sooner or later it will come into someone’s head to carry out a real terrorist act” (

Moscow police arrest a teen suspected of plotting another anarchist bombing — Meduza

Law enforcement reportedly detained a 16-year-old boy in Moscow on Friday on charges of making a bomb. The news agency TASS says police found an explosive device and other bomb components at the suspect’s home during a search.

Russia arrests another treason suspect, this time an expert on private military companies — Meduza

On November 2, a Moscow court reportedly locked up a military expert named Vladimir Neelov on treason charges. According to the news agency TASS, he works at the Center for Strategic Trend Studies, focusing on private military companies. Neelov has provided comments to the Federal News Agency and other pro-Kremlin media outlets, and he apparently lives in St. Petersburg, according to his Facebook page. A source familiar with Neelov’s interrogation told Interfax that he maintains his innocence and expressed confusion about why he is being charged with treason.

TASS: World – New ‘Novichok’ smear campaign timed for upcoming OPCW talks, says Foreign Ministry

«The ongoing attempts by Western nations to erode the integrity of the CWC and the unity within OPCW must be stopped,» Moscow said.

Novichok poisoning plot left us in a nightmare, says Skripal cousin who fears she is now on GRU hitlist – Mirror Online

Viktoria Skripal invites the Mirror into her apartment and says: ‘This has been an absolute horror story’

NATO hunts Russian submarines in the Arctic – CNN

In a far-flung corner of Iceland’s main international airport, a once-raging strand of the Cold War is being rekindled — NATO’s hunting of Russian submarines.

U.S. Air Force fighter jets arrive in Estonia – Defence Blog

U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa has announced that F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, England, and KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, arrived at Amari Air Base, Estonia on 1 November. “While at Amari, the fighter aircraft will test the airfield’s BAK-14 cable arresting system and are scheduled to conduct close air support training with Estonian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. The KC-135s are providing refueling support to the F-15Es,” the US Air Force said in a release on Thursday. The BAK-14 cable arresting system is used to safely bring fighter aircraft to a stop in the event of an emergency. The system was paid for with FY16 European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) funding. Activities funded through EDI increase the capability and readiness of U.S. forces allowing for a faster response in the event of any aggression by a regional adversary against the sovereign territory of a NATO ally. Estonia is a key NATO ally in Europe and a strong U.S. partner in fostering regional security and prosperity. Continual interaction between the U.S. and Estonia enables us to strengthen overall coordination during times of crisis or security threats.

In Russia, Putin Whistling Past The Graveyard

For the World Bank, Russia ranks behind Kazakhstan. The market is down 50%. What’s to love?

How Strong Is Putin’s Hold on Russian Politics? – Pacific Standard

If domestic order is upended, there’s no telling where Russian foreign policy may go in the years ahead.

Putin is winning, and he knows it (opinion) – CNN

In her presidential weekly briefing, Samantha Vinograd writes that Putin likely views his invitation to visit Washington next year as a homecoming — after a long and calculated campaign to undermine US democracy.

UAWire – Kremlin: Russia will need huge military expenses if Georgia joins NATO

The accession of Georgia to NATO, which is expected to take place in 2021, will require “huge” expenses from Russia, stated Andrey Kelin, Director of the Department of European Cooperation of the Russian Foreign Ministry. According to Kelin, Georgia’s decision to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance is viewed by Moscow as a problem and to resolve it Russia would require additional investments in defense. “We will have to form a defense zone near Sochi,” Kelin said, adding that “it is inevitable’ and it will require ‘huge resources”. It is necessary to “prevent any possible actions by the potential opponent”, the politician explained. Russia will have to face the same problem if Ukraine joins NATO. The border with Ukraine “Is not equipped at all”, he said. It is necessary to build defensive echelons and transfer defensive structures to the south, Kelin said. He said that he hopes that neither Kyiv nor Tbilisi will become members of the Alliance in the near future. NATO “fully supports” the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Tbilisi, and “Georgia will become a member of NATO,” said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a visit to the country in July. The organization is impressed with the progress of the country on the path of reforms, Stoltenberg said. The organization’s Secretary General also thanked Tbilisi for the contribution that the country makes to the stability of the Black Sea region. At the end of May, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili expressed hope that the country would join NATO in 2021.

A Russian Pivot to Asia? | The National Interest

Can Moscow balance the search for new partners in Asia while maintaining its existing relationship with the West?

The Week In Russia: The Great Terror, The Admiral Kuznetsov, And An Attack On The FSB

President Vladimir Putin was a no-show at ceremonies honoring the victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s Terror, while rights activists accused his government of abuses of its own, and Russia’s …

Hollywood Thriller ‘Hunter Killer’ Facing Troubles In Russia, Ukraine

The Russian and Ukrainian release of a Hollywood action film in which U.S. soldiers rescue a Russian president during a coup attempt has been postponed, and some reports suggest it could be banned …

‘Hunter Killer’ premiere canceled in Russia, Ukraine – media | UNIAN

The Russia release of a Hollywood thriller where U.S. troops are sent in to rescue a Russian president during a coup attempt has been canceled on the eve of its debut in the country.  The movie in Ukraine was due for an October 25 release.

Putin Praises GRU Spy Agency Blamed For Attacks In West

President Vladimir Putin on November 2 praised the Russian military spy agency that the West this year has blamed for a series of blatant attacks.

Putin showers Russia’s military spy agency in praise, celebrates its ‘unique capabilities’ on 100th anniversary — Meduza

Vladimir Putin gave a speech on Friday at an event honoring the 100th anniversary of Russia’s “legendary Main Intelligence Directorate” — the same organization that has humiliated Moscow internationally over the past several months, as evidence accumulates that this spy agency is responsible for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, and numerous hacking efforts targeting Western institutions. Russian news organizations drew attention to the president’s promise to restore the directorate’s old name and initialism (GRU), but Putin’s very attendance and words of support are likely even more significant. “As supreme commander-in-chief, I certainly know your […] unique capabilities,” Putin said, celebrating the GRU’s “special operations” and “high-quality intelligence and analysis.”

Flash – Putin backs spy agency accused over Skripal poisoning – France 24

Skripal poisoning suspect’s colleague from GRU found in Latvia – media | UNIAN

Information published in the media about Russian officers who studied at the GRU Academy together with the infamous Russian military intelligence officer Anatoliy Chepiga, accused of a military grade nerve agent attack on British soil against a turncoat spy Yuriy Skripal, helped identify another Russian intelligence operative, Roman Tatarka. The man has been working in the Russian Embassy in Riga since 2011, the investigation says.

On a Tiny Finnish Island, a Helipad, 9 Piers — and the Russian Military? – To Inform is to Influence

The New York Times does not publish conspiracy theories.  I am relatively convinced that this is a Russian operation. </end editorial> By Andrew Higgins Oct. 31, 2018 SAKKILUOTO, Finland — Retired to a tiny island in an archipelago between Finland and Sweden, Leo Gastgivar awoke early one morning to visit the outhouse in his bathrobe, only…

KGB Training Manuals Revealed

Last year and earlier this year, Michael Weiss, The Interpreter’s founding editor, published a series of four articles (here and here) in the Daily Beast on hitherto secret KGB training manuals. While some Western intelligence agencies or government specialists may have had some of the manuals in the past, they were not made available to the general public until now. The still-classified manuals expose the devious methods of the Soviet Union’s secret police not only to surveil but suborn their own citizens and foreigners in a vast project to extend the Kremlin’s power around the world. These internal documents from the 1970s and 1980s were used in an era before the Internet and mass electronic surveillance. Yet what is most intriguing about them is that these same methods are still used today — and now amplified with new technology. The Interpreter obtained a total of eight KGB manuals, four of which were used in Weiss’ series. Now we are making all these manuals available to be downloaded in the Russian original, and also providing some translations of the table of contents and notes and summary translations of the contents for four of the manuals not previously covered.

Revealed: The Secret KGB Manual for Recruiting Spies

The document is from the Cold War. But the material it teaches is still being used today by Vladimir Putin’s clandestine cadres.

From Russia’s Secret Espionage Archives: The Art of the Dangle

An old KGB training manual shows how Western double agents tried to dupe the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This classic tradecraft can tell us some things about recent events.

The KGB Playbook for Infiltrating the Middle East

In 1988, the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, looked at its mistakes in the Middle East, where the CIA often had the upper hand. Putin has worked to change that.

The KGB Playbook for Turning Russians Worldwide Into Agents

A KGB manual showed how valuable—and how treacherous—Russian émigrés could be. Did KGB veteran Vladimir Putin learn those lessons?

Russian Twitter trolls stirred division over Islam in UK: Demos study

Twitter accounts linked to what has been called a Russian “troll farm” engaged in influence operations to stir division over Islam in the U.K., a study has found.

Russian trolls stir up anti-Muslim hatred in Britain using fake social media accounts

An analysis of nine million tweets posted by a troll factory in St Petersburg found that tweets about Islam far outnumbered those about Brexit

Novichok poisonings: Inside the secret town where Russians made deadly nerve agent used in Salisbury attack – Mirror Online

EXCLUSIVE: Mirrorman Andy Lines visits the sinister town 540 miles south-east of Moscow where foreigners are banned

Salisbury poisoning: Sinister ‘Town of Chemists’ where Russia made novichok | World | News |

THE disturbing true nature of the secret ‘closed’ town in Russia where the killer novichok poison used in the Salisbury attacks was manufactured can now be revealed.

Sergei Skripal: How MI6 turned Russian operative into UK spy

SERGEI Skripal and his daughter Yulia were enjoying a rare and peaceful Sunday spent together, completely unaware they had been poisoned with the deadly nerve agent Novichok. Hours later both were found slumped on a park bench close to death. After their attempted murders on British soil, Russia was publicly accused by the West of carrying out the attack, marking a new low for international relations between the two since the end of the Cold War. The new book The Skripal Files is the definitive account of how Skripal’s story fits into the wider context of the new spy war between Russia and the West. The Skripal Files explores the time Skripal spent as a spy in the Russian Military Intelligence, how he was turned to work as an agent by MI6, his imprisonment in Russia and his eventual release as part of a spy-swap that would bring him to Salisbury, where on that fateful day he and his daughter found themselves fighting for their lives. Extracted below is the first chapter of the book.

Israel’s Netanyahu warns Europe of possible attacks by Iran – ABC News

Get breaking national and world news, broadcast video coverage, and exclusive interviews. Find the top news online at ABC news.

Struggling to cope, Iranians fear more misery from U.S. sanctions | Reuters

Iranians fear an even more painful squeeze on living costs after additional U.S. sanctions take effect on Monday, from businesses struggling to buy raw materials to the sick and elderly unable to afford life-saving medicines.

Trump Says U.S. Open to New Iran Deal as Sanctions Set to Return – Bloomberg

President Donald Trump said the U.S. remains open to reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that blocks its nuclear weapons program, just days before sanctions on the country’s energy and shipping sectors kick back in.

Trump administration to reinstate all Iran sanctions – BBC News

The White House describes it as “the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed on Iran”.

Iran Ally Hezbollah Pays Syrian Rebels to Switch Sides – WSJ

Iran’s ally Hezbollah is paying former U.S.-backed rebels to join its force in southern Syria, deepening its presence near Israel’s border after appearing to withdraw to avoid Israeli airstrikes.

Russia Watches as Iran Allies Help U.S. Partners in Syria and Turkey Bombs Them

Russia warned of a “rapidly deteriorating” situation in eastern Syria where U.S.-backed Kurds are struggling to defeat ISIS.

White House Hints At Easing Of Iran Sanctions For ‘Friends And Allies’

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says the White House wants sanctions on Iran’s oil sector to put a strain on Iran’s economy, but it does not want to harm “friends and allies” that depend…

US is reportedly granting 8 countries Iran sanctions waivers

The U.S. government has agreed to let eight countries keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on Tehran next week, Bloomberg cited a U.S. official as saying.

U.S. allows eight jurisdictions to keep buying Iran oil for now | Reuters

The United States said on Friday it will temporarily spare eight jurisdictions from U.S. Iran-related sanctions, allowing them to keep importing Iranian oil after U.S. economic penalties come back into effect on Monday.

The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise

From around 2009 to 2013, the U.S. intelligence community experienced crippling intelligence failures related to its secret internet-based communications system, a key means for remote messaging between CIA officers and their sources.

Iranian intelligence reportedly used Google to crack a CIA communications system, leading to ‘dozens’ of deaths | Business Insider

Former intelligence officials have revealed a previously unreported breach of a CIA communications system by Iran.

Dozens of US spies killed after Iran and China uncovered CIA messaging service using Google

Dozens of American spies were killed in Iran and China after a flawed communications service that allowed foreign foes to see what the agents were up to using Google, official sources have claimed.

Turkish president Erdogan pens op-ed to demand Saudis answer questions over Khashoggi killing

Turkish president Erdogan wants to know who ordered the killing of Khashoggi. He also publicly called for Saudi Arabia to reveal location of the writer’s remains.

Turkey-U.S. start joint Syria patrols but Turkey strikes at Kurds | Reuters

Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in northern Syria on Thursday aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington’s Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds.

Benjamin Netanyahu Oman trip boosts Donald Trump Middle East strategy – Washington Times

President Trump’s grand Middle East strategy to unite Israel with the Saudis and other Gulf Arab powers against Iran and lay the groundwork for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is making unexpected progress away from the limelight.

Saudi Prince Starts to Pay Political Price for Khashoggi Murder – Bloomberg

The kingdom is feeling the pressure abroad while Mohammed bin Salman keeps control at home for now.

Khashoggi murder: Body ‘dissolved in acid’ – BBC News

A senior Turkish official says this is the only logical conclusion as to the body’s whereabouts.

Saudi-UAE alliance attack airbase, missile sites in Yemen capital | News | Al Jazeera

More than 20 raids target the al-Dulaimi airbase in Sanaa after the US demands warring parties enter into peace talks.

Two days after U.S. call for cease-fire, Saudi-led coalition launches new attacks in Yemen – The Washington Post

The U.S.-backed coalition struck the Yemeni capital and attacked a strategic port city.

Maulana Sami Ul-Haq, ‘Father Of The Taliban,’ Stabbed To Death

Officials and relatives say that Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a prominent cleric known as the “father of the Taliban” for having taught some of the militant movement’s leaders, has been killed in an appare…

‘Father of Taliban’ Mullah Sami ul-Haq killed in Pakistan: deputy | Reuters

Muslim cleric Sami ul-Haq, known as the “Father of the Taliban” for having taught some of the Afghan Islamist movement’s leaders, was found killed on Friday in Pakistan, a relative and his deputy said.

Muslim cleric known as ‘Father of the Taliban’ killed in Pakistan

Maulana Samiul Haq, a prominent cleric who is believed to have trained thousands of Taliban members, was murdered in Pakistan, family members told NBC News.