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Lavrov claims that Russian agent Butina was tortured in the US
Published: Sat, 15 Dec 2018 16:00:07 GMT
Description:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the Russian spy Maria Butina, who was arrested in the US and later agreed to cooperate with the investigation, was subjected to “special methods of torture,” TASS reports.

“As far as I understand, the whole point of this deal with justice, which is a common practice in the US, is to bargain for an opportunity for freedom and to return home as soon as possible,” he said.

Lavrov said he “understands this woman,” because she “is in the most difficult of circumstances.”

“For many months she has been tortured in different ways. They made her walk in the middle of the night, forcibly interrupting her sleep, they put her in solitary confinement… and so much more,” he said.

In his opinion, this is how American prison personnel act to “break” the accused. However, Russia “will do everything” so that she returns to her homeland.

Earlier, it was reported that Butina pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy with the goal to harm the US interests. Therefore, the woman agreed to a deal with the investigation and gave up the court process.

Russian national Maria Butina, who is accused of conspiring to work as an agent of a foreign government without properly notifying US authorities, was detained on July 15th. 

According to her indictment, she contacted the “famous Russian businessman” who had close ties with the Kremlin. The FBI identified a Russian official from the Central Bank board as the curator of her lobbying activities. Butina had worked before as an assistant to Aleksandr Torshin, the Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of Russia.

Konstantin Nikolayev is co-owner of the Globaltrans railway company. Forbes estimates his worth at $1.2 billion dollars.

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Ukrainian Security Service accuses Russia of attempts to interfere in elections
Published: Sat, 15 Dec 2018 15:36:00 GMT
Description:

Russian special services are trying to use social networks, in particular, Facebook and Twitter to interfere in the election processes in Ukraine, according to a statement published on the website of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU),

 “Russia uses the Internet-Research Agency (closed in 2016) for the above purpose. In the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections, Ukrainians began to receive offers for a temporary access to the so-called advertising office intended for distributing advertisements and promoting commercial interests, “ SBU stated.

According to SBU, the Russian special services intend to use accounts of the Ukrainian users for “intelligence and subversive activities, manipulating the public sentiment, interfering in electoral processes, as well as the dissemination of anti-Ukrainian information”.

The SBU called on Ukrainian users of Facebook and Twitter to inform them if they receive such an offer.

In early October, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia intends to intervene in the election campaign in Ukraine. According to him, this would be done through “systems of disinformation” and hacker attacks.

The presidential elections will be held in Ukraine on March 31, 2019, and parliamentary elections will be held in late October.

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USA and Canada pledge military support to Ukraine
Published: Sat, 15 Dec 2018 14:06:00 GMT
Description:

At a press conference, after the U.S. - Canada 2+2 Ministerial meeting, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan both pledged the joint support for NATO European partners and to Ukraine amid Russia’s recent military escalation in Europe.  

"We are united in NATO, where we uphold trans-Atlantic unity and stand with European allies against the full scope of Russian malign influence, to include Moscow’s recent, brazen contempt of international law in the Kerch Strait and action against the Ukrainian people,” Mattis said.

“Canadian and US trainers in western Ukraine, and our battalions in the Baltics represent our combined efforts to build stability and deter further provocative activity,” Mattis added. Sajjan, in turn, condemned Russia’s destructive behavior in the region. "Canada supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression,” he stated.

Sajjan said, “We have trained more than ten thousand Ukrainian soldiers as part of Operation Unifier, and at any given time we have… over 800 Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on Operation Reassurance, and they are supporting NATO deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe alongside our American allies.”

On Friday, December 14, in Washington, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Canadian Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan took part in a “2+2” format meeting where they discussed bilateral relations and international policy.

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President Poroshenko expects EU sanctions after Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:00:35 GMT
Description:

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, wrote on Facebook that the decision of the EU summit to continue sanctions against the Russian Federation is an important result for Ukraine and creates the basis to develop new measures.

“The next step should be the introduction of an “Azov packet of sanctions.” This decision and the discussion between EU leaders provides a good basis for the development process, so Russia’s aggressive act is justly and strictly punished,” stressed the president.

In addition, he welcomed the EU’s decision to launch a program of social economic support areas in the Azov region.

“I welcome the decision of the EU to start a program of social and economic support for regions near Azov in order to minimize the negative effects of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports,” noted Poroshenko.

On December 13th, the leaders of the EU member states decided to extend the economic sanctions against Russia.

Also, the European Union called on Russia to immediately release the Ukrainian sailors who were detained during the incident in the Kerch Strait.

On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.

Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdyansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.

On November 28, the Kremlin-controlled court of Simferopol placed the Ukrainian sailors under 2 months of arrest – until January 25, 2019.

 

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Kyiv raises the issue at OSCE Council about Russian military buildup near Ukrainian border
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 19:00:00 GMT
Description:

During the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday, December 13 in Vienna, Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to International Organizations in Vienna drew attention to hundreds of Russian tanks which are amassed at the border with Ukraine, Ukrinform reports.

"While Russia, as the aggressor-state, continues to push Ukraine, bring groundless allegations and carry out unsuccessful falsifications, recent satellite images show hundreds of battle tanks deployed by Russia near the border with Ukraine, less than 20 kilometers away. They have been there for two weeks,” Prokopchuk stated.

He noted that this and the Russian military presence in the region, including in the annexed territories, "emphasized the unpredictability of Russia’s further behavior.”

The Ukrainian diplomat urged OSCE member countries not to let Russia divert the world's attention "from its illegal actions and further aggressive actions that are based on the powerful military opportunities of the aggressor-state and political will at the highest level for their implementation.”

Google Earth satellite images taken in late November showed the suburbs of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region with hundreds of Russian tanks near the border with Ukraine. Т-64 and Т-62М tanks and several thousand military trucks could be identified in the photos.

In late November, Russia deployed fighter aircraft and other military equipment at the open parking fields of Belbek aerodrome near Sevastopol.

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The USA calls on Hungary to support Ukraine
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:00:30 GMT
Description:

The United States urged Hungary to restore relations with Ukraine and not to try to block cooperation between Kyiv and NATO, stating “if Ukraine fails, Hungary will be at the front line of Russian aggression,” the Voice of America reported.

US Ambassador in Budapest David Kornstein told the Parliament Committee that Hungary can do more for “establishing priority alliances” while Russia again poses a threat to Ukraine and Europe. “Now more than ever, Russia is testing the West,” Kornstein noted in a statement published by the US Embassy. ”We are convinced that for the NATO allies, the best way to promote reforms in Ukraine is to do that through dialogue with Ukraine, not blocking cooperation between Ukraine and NATO.”

Kornstein stated that Hungary, who relies heavily on Russian oil and nuclear energy resources, is playing with fire by “flirting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We should remember the whole picture,” he said. “Putin is not interested in national sovereignty. He has neo-imperialist views. If Ukraine fails, Hungary will be at the front-line of Russian aggression.”

Levente Magyar, Hungarian Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs told Hungarian Parliamentary Committee that the differences between the USA and Hungary are not strategic and that he expressed hope that the dialogue will help to solve them, the state information agency MTI reports.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban supported western sanctions against Russia for annexing the Crimean peninsula and supporting Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine, but Orban also criticized these sanctions.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia worsened in 2017 when the Verkhovna Rada adopted the law on education that Hungarians saw it as an attempt to restrict the rights of the Hungarian diaspora in the Zakarpattia region. Because of that, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry started to block Ukraine’s participation in NATO activities.

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Military expert: Russian Kalibr and Oniks missiles will not help in fight against NATO ships
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:00:00 GMT
Description:

Russia’s Navy has its hopes set on anti-ship missiles, but these hopes are baseless, says military expert Maxim Klimov in an article titled “Submarines to the slaughter” on the Military-Industrial Courier (VPK) website.

The specialist believes that, when it comes to implementing modern sonar concepts, the Russian fleet lags critically far behind western forces. As examples of this, he mentions the project 20380 corvette and the project 22350 frigate, which lack multi-position radar.

“Taking into account the status of matters of stealth, sonar and the overall operational situation, in the majority of tactical situations, the fight will start with a surprise attack on us. Due to a significant lag in torpedo matters, we have developed an unsubstantiated hope in the anti-ship missile (including Kalibr and Oniks missiles). However, the moment the first anti-ship missile is launched, our vessel will effectively lose stealth, after which the powerful opponent will raid it with aircraft,” Klimov believes.

The specialist acknowledges that in the present day, stealth torpedo attacks are technically possible due to the limited range of anti-submarine defense, but “this is implemented in western weapons, not Russian”.

“We have a severe problem with the noisiness of the torpedoes used. The question is effectively: is it realistic, taking into account the capabilities of our industry, to meet the prospective demands for the low-noise levels of 53 cm caliber torpedoes or do we need to transition to a larger caliber?” the expert observes.

In his opinion, creating Russian fifth-generation Husky-class submarines is pointless unless the matter of low-noise torpedoes is also dealt with. “The appearance and effectiveness of a weapon are the determining parameters of prospective submarines. We, however, without having satisfactory answers concerning the weapons or the stealth, are already getting hold of budget funds to design 5th generation submarines,” he concludes.

In December Klimov said that the Russian Navy does not possess modern equipment to detect low-noise American submarines.

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Stoltenberg: NATO to expand cooperation with Georgia
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:00:25 GMT
Description:

 Georgia Online reports that the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg, at a meeting of the NATO-Georgia commission, said that the Alliance plans to expand cooperation with Georgia because of Russian aggression in the Black Sea.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, NATO is concerned due to aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea.

“The Alliance is concerned about Russia’s aggressive actions against both Russia and Ukraine. The Allies expressed readiness to deepen cooperation with Georgia in the direction of strengthening the security in the Black Sea,” noted the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

In addition, according to the NATO Secretary General, Georgia has made impressive progress in the “implementing of comprehensive reforms” and is a “prime example of democratic development.”

Earlier it was reported that the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg during his joint press conference with the Ukrainian President in Brussels, stated that the North Atlantic Alliance would help improve the military and naval forces of Ukraine.

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Head of Ukraine’s foreign intelligence: No Russian offensive foreseen at present
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:00:00 GMT
Description:

At present, Russia is not planning to take large-scale military action against Ukraine, said General Mykola Malomuzh, former head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service between 2005 and 2010, in a comment to InfoResist.

In his opinion, Russian troops are being brought close to the Ukrainian border primarily for the psychological effect.

“First and foremost, I can say that lately Russia has been constantly expanding its contingents on the western borders for two reasons. The first reason is that they are receiving information that we are trying to conduct an offensive operation to liberate the territory. For this reason, they are already clearly not only giving signals that they will bring in troops if we attack, they are also moving new contingents of tank, armored, missile, rapid response and similar army corps there, a whole army. And so this first component is a possible response to our offensive operation.”

“The second component is that they are operating in the context of an overall idea, reinforcing the western borders in terms of possible resistance of NATO. Not yet in a combat format, but in the format of so-called deterrence, as they say. That is, this is a game of such military muscles, the deployment of new corps, brigades and regiments in order to show NATO that forces are being formed in the western region which were not previously present. This is more of a psychological factor,” Malomuzh observed.

Malomuzh said he does not believe that Russia is planning an attack.

“Concerning the real threat of an attack, at present we are very focused on the situation in this way. I just got back from Washington, I spoke to colleagues from the German, British, US and French intelligence. According to them and according to us, there is information that Russia is not planning any offensive operations in the next few months or weeks. Because it would cause the military system problems, victims, and even a collapse. Attacks by them today are not very realistic. If there is nothing more active on our part, those large contingents will not be used. Perhaps only partially, in individual sectors. But these would not be the scales that would create a real global threat to Ukraine today, and in future it may even switch to NATO,” he added.

He thus views the Russian system as a deterrent to offensive action by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“The pressure on us is psychological, when a new contingent is deployed, or forces are deployed, ready for a possible attack. But according to all our information, no real action is being planned to prepare for large-scale offensive operations today,” Malomuzh resumed.

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UN General Assembly to consider a resolution on the situation in the Crimea and the Sea of Azov
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:00:00 GMT
Description:

The militarization of the annexed Crimea, as well as part of the Black and Azov seas will be discussed at the UN level. On December 17, the UN General Assembly will vote on the draft resolution, stated Oleh Nikolenko, the official representative of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN, in an exclusive interview with LB.ua.

“On December 17, the UN General Assembly will vote on the draft resolution “The problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol (Ukraine), as well as parts of the Black and Azov seas’”, he said.

He added that the draft resolution was initiated by Ukraine and submitted to the General Assembly on behalf of a large group of like-minded countries, which indicates the relevance of the problem for the international community and points to the high political significance of the document. As of today, the resolution has a total of 39 co-authors.

Nikolenko noted that the situation in the Russian-annexed Crimea is not a new fact for the UN member states. He recalled that the General Assembly passed three resolutions in 2014-2017. Two of these resolutions were aimed at the protection of human rights from gross violations by the occupying state. The General Assembly is expected to pass another updated resolution on human rights in late December.

According to him, The resolution on militarization opens up a new direction for “countering Russian aggression in the Crimea and the waters of the Black and Azov Seas”. The document contains tough provisions, including demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Crimea and the immediate termination of temporary occupation by the Russian Federation. It is noted that Russia grossly violated its obligations under the Budapest Memorandum by occupying the Crimea.

In addition, the resolution condemns Russia’s actions of actively militarizing the Crimean peninsula and parts of the Black and Azov seas, which threatens the security of Ukraine and disrupts stability in the region, as well as the illegal construction and opening of the Kerch Bridge.

The document will urge the Russian Federation to immediately release the ships of the Ukrainian Navy together with their crews.   

On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.

Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdyansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.

On November 28, the Kremlin-controlled court of Simferopol placed the Ukrainian sailors under 2 months of arrest – until January 25, 2019.

 

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