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Russia to put Avangard hypersonic missiles into active service
Published: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 17:00:22 GMT

The first UR-100N UTTKh intercontinental missiles with an Avangard nuclear glide vehicle will be put into active service in the next few weeks, TASS reports ,citing a source in Russia’s defense industry.

“At the end of November or start of December, two UR-100N UTTKh missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles from the first generation of Avangard systems will enter into trial combat duty in the Dombarovsky division of the Strategic Missile Forces,” the news agency cites the source as saying.

The source noted that both missiles are currently being prepared and loaded into silos.

An Avangard missile was successfully tested at the end of 2018. The weapon hit a practice target at the Kura Test Range in Kamchatka Krai. The tests were observed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia claims that the Avangard warhead can fly intercontinental distances through dense layers of atmosphere at speeds in excess of Mach 20, and that its gliding capabilities enable it to bypass anti-air defense systems.

US troops occupy several oil fields in Syria
Published: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 16:00:12 GMT

The US military entered Syrian territory through a checkpoint on the border with Iraq and deployed in the oil fields in the northeast of the country, reports Al Ekhbariya TV channel.

The convoy included 22 army vehicles and two trucks moving under air cover.

About 90 percent of Syrian oil production is concentrated on the Eastern Bank of the Euphrates River. In October, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Northern Syria , but shortly after that said that part of the military will remain in the country.

According to Trump, the US goal is to "protect oil" from Islamic State terrorists  since oil production in the area used to be their primary source of income. The US President noted that "maybe the time has come for the Kurds to move into this oil region" because "they need money."

Russian Gazprom cancels eurobond placement due to Ukraine's lawsuit
Published: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 15:00:30 GMT

The Kremlin’s gas strategy in the last few years, designed to deprive Ukraine of revenue from gas transit to Europe by replacing the Ukrainian gas transport system with the Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream pipelines, appears to be backfiring on Gazprom.

Already faced with a legislative ban on utilizing more than half of Nord Stream 2’s capacity, and having lost one third of Nord Stream 1’s capacity due to a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the Russian gas company has now sustained another blow, losing the ability to borrow money on the European debt market.

Citing an informed source, the Interfax news agency reported that Gazprom has canceled its placement of Swiss franc-denominated eurobonds that was scheduled for this week. The placement is part of the foreign borrowing program through which the company plans to raise $11 billion.

The placement was called off as a matter of urgency. On Monday, Gazprom sent potential investors a prospectus, hoping to conclude the deal by the end of the week, but by Wednesday all of the plans had been canceled.

The risk arose that the funds raised by Gazprom would be immediately frozen in connection with a lawsuit in which the Stockholm Arbitration Institute awarded Naftogaz $2.6 billion for a gas transit shortfall. This was the conclusion reached by the legal experts who were organizing the deal, the source told Interfax.

Gazprom was forced to suspend its foreign borrowing program last year too, when Naftogaz filed claims to enforce the collection of its dues.

In order to gain time, Gazprom appealed the courts’ jurisdiction, claiming that European governments are not authorized to seize assets on the basis of the Swedish Arbitration Institute’s ruling. While its appeals were being considered, Gazprom was able to sell €1 billion in eurobonds in November 2018 and another $1.25 billion in February 2019.

However, in June, Gazprom’s appeals were dismissed by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal and a Luxembourg district court. The latter ruling was particularly painful to Gazprom, since its subsidiary Gaz Capital SA, which it used to place foreign currency bonds, is registered in Luxembourg.

In response, Gazprom decided to transfer its eurobond program to the UK, because in May the High Court of England and Wales suspended the enforced collection of funds from Gazprom for Naftogaz.

However, Gazprom did not manage to hide in England’s jurisdiction either. Legal experts could not guarantee that the raised funds would be safe from seizure, the source told Interfax.

As a result, Gazprom’s foreign borrowing program, which was drastically enlarged from $4.64 to $11.3 billion in autumn, is now in jeopardy.

Gazprom finds itself with a cash gap as a result of decreased gas prices and exports to Europe. At the end of the second quarter, its capital construction costs exceeded its operational revenue by roughly $857 million.

The Russian gas monopoly will be forced to live with this budget gap at least until 2021, predicts Sberbank CIB. For the year, the company has planned around $20.66 billion in capital investments. With an operating cash flow in the region of $16 billion, it will not be able to cover the needed amount.

The experts at Sberbank CIB predict that Gazprom will not receive enough for its investment programs in 2020 and 2021, which require $16.59 and $19.49 billion respectively.

Apart from borrowing, Gazprom does have non-debt sources it can tap to cover the budget deficit, notes Sberbank CIB analyst Alexey Bulgakov. The company has a “cash pillow” of 1.05 trillion rubles, worth about $16.41 billion, in bank accounts and deposits, and it could also sell treasury stocks.

Russia replaces commander of forces in Syria
Published: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 14:00:05 GMT

The commander of the Russian troops in Syria has been replaced. Instead of Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov, who has commanded the Russian forces in the country since April, the position will now be held by Deputy Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Alexander Chayko, Vedomosti reports, citing a source close to Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Chayko also featured in photographs published by the Moskovskij Komsomolets on November 11 following a visit by members of the Defense Ministry Public Council to Syria. “The public council members met with the commanders and fighters of the Russian military bases, gave them gifts, and organized a concert,” the article notes.

According to Vedomosti’s source, the change of commander in Syria actually took place in September, although no official announcement was made. General Andrey Serdyuk was replaced because his assignment period in the Middle East came to an end.

This is not Alexander Chayko’s first trip to Syria. In 2017, his name was mentioned among other chiefs of staff in the country during an address by Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov to the College of the Defense Ministry. Since 2014, Chayko has been the commander of the 20th Combined Arms Army of Russia’s Western Military District. In 2017, he was appointed chief of staff of the Eastern Military District, and later also acting commander of the district. He has been awarded the Order of Military Merit.

Colonel-General Andrey Serdyuk, the previous commander of Russia’s forces in Syria, has held the position since April. He acquired combat experience in Chechnya, and commanded the Airborne Forces before his appointment in Syria.

Ukrainian President Zelensky has three main steps planned for ‘de-occupation’ of Crimea
Published: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 13:02:00 GMT

Anton Korynevych, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s permanent representative to Crimea, named three primary steps that will be taken towards the restoration of the annexed peninsula to Ukraine, reports UNIAN news agency. In particular, there are laws that are important to Crimeans which need to be drafted.

“We are really trying to become the organ that drafts the bills that are necessary for Crimea and Crimeans. Some initial work has already been done. We look forward to distributing it,” Korynevych said at a press conference.

According to him, the bills being developed by the president’s representatives to Crimea will concern the protection of Crimeans’ rights and will exclude discriminatory provisions.

Korynevych stressed the priority of this aspect. The second step to be taken by Zelensky’s team will involve information policy and communication with Crimeans.

“It’s important to raise the topic of Crimea both in our national media and to influence and be accessible in the temporarily occupied territory,” he remarked.

He explained that children are growing up in Crimea without any ties to Ukraine due to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, and this necessitates cultural and educational initiatives.

The third priority set by the president’s team is the protection of human rights.

“This could be assistance in obtaining a passport or temporary accommodation and other things,” he explained.

The construction of the Chonhar and Kalanchak border checkpoints on the administrative border between mainland Ukraine and annexed Crimea is currently being finalized.

In February 2014, armed people in uniforms without insignias appeared in Crimea and captured the Supreme Council of Crimea, the Simferopol Airport, the Kerch ferry crossing and other strategic objects, and prevented the Ukrainian army from taking action. Initially, the Russian government refused to acknowledge that these armed people were Russian soldiers, but President Vladimir Putin later admitted it.

On 16 March 2014, a referendum on the status of Crimea was held in Crimea and Sevastopol, in which the inhabitants supposedly voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia. The outcome of the so-called referendum is not recognized by Ukraine, the EU or the US. On 18 March, Putin announced the “annexation” of Crimea to Russia.

International organizations have declared the annexation illegal and condemned Russia’s actions. Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in connection with the annexation. Russia claims to have “restored historical justice”. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, declared 20 February 2014 the start of Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

Kyiv: War with Russia will end after reparation has been paid and Crimea returned
Published: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 20:00:00 GMT

The Russian-Ukrainian war will end once the aggressor-state returns all of the occupied territories, including Crimea, and pays reparation, said Dmitry Kuleba, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, as cited by RBC-Ukraine.

The vice prime minister said that the full extent of the damage caused by Russia’s invasion of the Donbas has not yet been determined.

“Factories there have been ripped apart and taken away, mines there have been flooded, and if there is an ecological catastrophe – all of these figures need to be calculated,” he observed.

He added that he supports the idea of normalizing relations with Russia, but only after the aggressor-state “pays the price” of its actions.

“I am in favor of the war with Russia ending. I am in favor of, in the long-term, somehow normalizing our relations, but it won’t be according to the principle ‘took and forgot’… The end of the war will be money paid for the aggression, and the return of Crimea, no matter how long it takes,” Kuleba emphasized.

According to him, the global community has adopted the “Baltic model” with respect to Crimea, just like with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were captured by the Soviet Union. The West did not recognize these countries as part of the Soviet Union, but it continued to cooperate with the Red Empire in other areas.

“The war started with Crimea, the war will end with Crimea. And in this war we will fight for Crimea. By fight, I mean primarily through political and economic means,” the vice premier said.

He added that the peninsula will be returned to Ukraine once Russia has been utterly weakened, at which point Crimea will “simply slip out of its weakened hands”.

American F-35 fighter jets turned out to be 'invisible' for Russian S-400 missile systems
Published: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 19:00:00 GMT

Despite the fact that it was previously reported that the Russian S-400 missile systems can detect American F-35 fighters at a distance of 200-250 kilometers, it turned out that these systems which are deployed in Syria were unable to do so, reports Al-Masdar News.

Al-Masdar notes that the emergence of the latest Russian S-500 missile systems is due to the inability of the S-400 systems to counter the "invisible" American fighter jets.

"It is expected that the Russian S-500 Prometheus missile system will be Moscow's response to the American F-35 stealth fighter, which already is in operation," Al-Masdar writes.

Despite the regular flights of American, British and Israeli F-35 fighter jets in the areas covered by S-400 air defense systems, no evidence has been demonstrated that these systems are capable of detecting stealth fighters at a distance of 200-300 kilometers, which causes a lot of controversy among Russian experts.

Russia urges Ukraine to extend Donbas special status law
Published: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 14:00:00 GMT

The Russian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) has urged Kyiv to enter into direct negotiations with the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics about enshrining the special status of the Donbas in Ukraine’s Constitution, said Russian representative to the TCG Boris Gryzlov, as cited by Interfax-Ukraine.

The Russians are concerned that the Ukrainian law on the special status of the Donbas expires on December 31.

“The Russian delegation urged Kyiv to ensure that this law is extended, and also to start dialog with representatives of the Donbas in a political subgroup on the amendments to this law that are necessary for implementing the Steinmeier Formula. And in future, to coordinate these amendments within the Contact Group,” said Gryzlov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently that before a Normandy Format summit can take place, agreement must be reached on a number of issues. He mentioned the special status of the Donbas and amnesty for separatists.

Libyan Interior Ministry: Russian Pantsir missile system belonging to Khalifa Haftar army has been destroyed
Published: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 18:00:01 GMT

The Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said that one of the Russian-manufactured Pantsir air defense systems had been destroyed in Libya, reports defense-arabic.com news outlet. According to Bashagha, the system was installed on a German-made chassis which was allegedly made for the UAE's order, which points that the missile system was brought from that country.

Earlier, it was reported that the troops of the Libyan National Army, headed by Khalifa Haftar, have one Russian-made Pantsir anti-aircraft missile and gun system. It is assumed that the missile system was delivered to Libya from the United Arab Emirates.

Over the past few days, Bashagha has repeatedly brought up the Russian involvement in the Libyan war. Recently, he said that Moscow was "adding fuel to the fire" of the Libyan conflict by sending mercenaries and weapons to the country.

Libya still does not have a single government. The internationally recognized government is located in Tripoli. It controls Libya's capital and some other territories.

The second government is in the city of Tobruk. It is header by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar who launched an unsuccessful attempt to take over Tripoli in April. Russia is in close contact with Haftar, and some Arabian monarchies also tacitly support him.

Also, several tribal and militant groups, including ISIS, are active in Libya in several territories. They control certain areas of the country and do not obey any of the governments, 

Russian-Serbian ‘Slavic Shield’ aerial defense exercise to be held annually
Published: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 17:00:17 GMT

The Slavic Shield joint exercise for anti-air divisions from Russia and Serbia will become an annual event, Russian anti-air commander Yuri Grekhov told Echo of Moscow radio station in an interview.

The commander noted that the countries are currently considering numerous options for joint exercises. One such option would be to conduct exercises annually, but alternating the host country, i.e. one year in Russia, the next in Serbia. However, other formats are also possible.

“Next year we are planning to conduct an exercise not only with anti-air automatics against ground targets, but also with anti-air guided missiles against real targets, which we will bring with us and launch,” Grekhov explained.

This year, the Russian-Serbian Slavic Shield anti-air exercise was conducted for the first time, and was done in two stages. In the first, which was held at the Ashuluk Training Ground in Russia, troops from both countries took tests on independently operating S-400 and Pantsir-S anti-air missile systems. Serbian air force and anti-air officers underwent intensive training on training systems in Gatchina.

The second stage took place at the Serbian Batajnica Air Base on the outskirts of Belgrade, to which Russia brought an S-400 and a Pantsir-S anti-air missile system. Soldiers from both countries practiced defending military and civilian facilities against enemy air raids. The Pantsir-S was used with live ammunition, but only electronic launches were done with the S-400.

The appearance of an S-400 virtually in the center of Europe drew NATO’s attention to the exercise. Alliance aircraft spent several days circling the Serbian border in order to keep an eye on the drills.


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