Tag Archives: Russia

Russia Escalates War on Ukraine

There’s still a war going on in Europe and Russia is being… well… Russia.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

Russian jets fly over the bridge, and a tanker is seen under the huge arch of the bridge. Photo: 25 November 2018Image copyrightPHOTOSHOT
Image captionA tanker under the bridge shut all navigation from and into the Sea of Azov

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

Russia Warns of New Arms Race

Let’s be clear… the only reason it isn’t a race now is because America hasn’t been racing. That hasn’t stopped Russia from running down the track. Russia is now upset because America is lacing up our cleats.

Russia says it will be forced to ‘respond in kind’ if America pulls out of a key nuclear weapons treaty and begins developing new missiles.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke out after Donald Trump threatened to quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty on Saturday, accusing Russia of violating it.

If the US and Russia make good on their threats, it would mark the first nuclear arms race between world superpowers since the end of the Cold War.

Peskov’s comments came as National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Russian security chiefs in Moscow on Monday, ahead of talks with Putin on Tuesday.

Red China Balks at Sanctions Against Moscow

Remember that these are sanctions that the Democrats supported. Will they stand by Trump now?

China has told the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened US sanctions on Moscow introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

China recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

Beijing has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Its forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.

Strange Russian Satellite

Hmmm

But now the U.S. is voicing concerns and claiming that threat is very real — pointing in particular to a Russian satellite’s “very abnormal behavior.”

The satellite, launched in October 2017, has displayed behavior “inconsistent with anything seen before from” the kind of satellite Russia has said it is, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Yleem D.S. Poblete.

Instead, without saying it outright, Poblete implied that the object could be a weapon, but said the U.S. cannot know for sure.

“We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” Poblete said yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Conference on Disarmament. Poblete was speaking before the international body for negotiating arms control to express the U.S.’s “serious concerns” about Russia’s push to launch weapons in space, especially anti-satellite weapons that can target satellites that the U.S. relies on for business, scientific and military purposes.

Russia Appoints Steven Segal

Wait… what?

Washington (CNN)Russia appointed actor Steven Seagal as a “special representative” on US-Russian humanitarian ties, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in statement on its official Facebook page Saturday.

According to the statement, the action star’s role will be to promote US-Russia relations “in the humanitarian sphere,” adding that the role will include collaboration “in the sphere of culture, public and youth exchanges.”

Russian Spy Uncovered

Yikes.

US counter-intelligence investigators discovered a suspected Russian spy had been working undetected in the heart of the American embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, the Guardian has learned.

The Russian national had been hired by the US Secret Service and is understood to have had access to the agency’s intranet and email systems, which gave her a potential window into highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president.

The woman had been working for the Secret Service for years before she came under suspicion in 2016 during a routine security sweep conducted by two investigators from the US Department of State’s Regional Security Office (RSO).

The Guardian has been told the RSO sounded the alarm in January 2017, but the Secret Service did not launch a full-scale inquiry of its own. Instead it decided to let her go quietly months later, possibly to contain any potential embarrassment.

An intelligence source told the Guardian the woman was dismissed last summer after the state department revoked her security clearance. The dismissal came shortly before a round of expulsions of US personnel demanded by the Kremlin after Washington imposed more sanctions on the country.

Trump Swings and Misses

This was not a good day for American foreign policy.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

Of course, we don’t know what was accomplished in private yet, but the public outcome of Trump’s meeting with Putin left a lot to be desired.

Obama Administration Failed to Counter Russian Intrusion Into American Elections

Another Obama failure.

WASHINGTON — The Obama White House’s chief cyber official testified Wednesday that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a “back burner” after he was ordered to “stand down” his efforts in the summer of 2016.

The comments by Michael Daniel, who served as White House “cyber security coordinator” between 2012 and January of last year, provided his first public confirmation of a much-discussed passage in the book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” co-written by this reporter and David Corn, that detailed his thwarted efforts to respond to the Russian attack.

They came during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing into how the Obama administration dealt with Russian cyber and information warfare attacks in 2016, an issue that has become one of the more politically sensitive subjects in the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and any links to the Trump campaign.

The view that the Obama administration failed to adequately piece together intelligence about the Russian campaign and develop a forceful response has clearly gained traction with the intelligence committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the ranking Democrat on the panel, said in an opening statement that “we were caught flat-footed at the outset and our collective response was inadequate to meet Russia’s escalation.”

That conclusion was reinforced Wednesday by another witness, Victoria Nuland, who served as assistant secretary of state for Europe during the Obama administration. She told the panel that she had been briefed as early as December 2015 about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee — long before senior DNC officials were aware of it — and that the intrusion had all the hallmarks of a Russian operation.

Russia Launches Counterattack

From their keyboards.

(Reuters) – The United States and Britain on Monday accused Russia of launching cyber attacks on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators around the globe.

Washington and London issued a joint alert saying the campaign by Russian government-backed hackers was intended to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other “malicious” activities and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

It followed a series of warnings by Western governments that Moscow is behind a string of cyber attacks. The United States, Britain and other nations in February accused Russia of releasing the “NotPetya” virus, which in 2017 crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers across the globe, costing companies billions of dollars.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Russia’s embassy in London issued a statement citing British accusations of cyber threats from Moscow as “striking examples of a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia.”

Putin Wins

Shocking, I know.

It was the victory rally he never doubted he’d join. Two hours after the last polling stations in western Russia closed, Vladimir Putin strode on stage beneath the Kremlin walls to declare his re-election.

With a broad smile, he thanked the country for what he called “a vote of confidence” and promised to work for the future of a great nation. He then led the crowd of loyal, flag waving fans braving the freezing cold in a chant of “Russia! Russia!”

This was an election with eight candidates but one clear winner from the very start.

Russia’s most popular opposition politician Alexei Navalny had been excluded and a communist candidate was vilified by state-run media.

The society-girl-turned-activist Ksenia Sobchak ran her entire campaign on the basis she would lose.

The Bear Strikes Again

It appears that Putin is just sending out assassins to murder people all over the world.

An exiled critic of Vladimir Putin died from ‘compression to the neck’ at his London home, Scotland Yard announced today, as detectives revealed they are treating his death as murder.

Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was found dead by his daughter, Natalia, at his suburban home in New Malden, south London on Monday night – just eight days after the nerve agent attack on spy Sergei Skripal.

Mr Glushkov was one of the last surviving members of an ill-fated circle of Russian exiles – led by Putin’s enemy Boris Berezovsky – who have died in suspicious circumstances.

The announcement of the murder probe comes amid mounting tensions between the Whitehall and the Kremlin over the shocking chemical weapons attack in Salisbury.

Russians Charged with Interfering in U.S. Election

I doubt that this activity actually moved any votes, but I’m glad that we are taking actions to punish foreigners who committed crimes while trying to interfere with an American election.

It says a group of Russians:

  • Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name
  • Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising
  • Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation
  • Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States
  • Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens
  • Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton
  • Received money from clients to post on US social media sites
  • Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram
  • Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)
  • Financed the building of a cage large enough to hold an actress portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform

The indictment says those involved systematically measured how well their internet posts were doing and adjusted their strategies to maximise effectiveness.

DC Renames Street in Front of Russian Embassy

That’s some good trolling there.

Washington DC has renamed the street the Russian embassy sits on after a murdered Russian opposition politician.

The city council voted to rename the street outside Russia’s embassy complex after Boris Nemtsov, who was shot outside the Kremlin in 2015.

A statement from the council said the decision to honour the “slain democracy activist” passed unanimously.

Audio Dead Hand

Curious.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

[…]

There’s no shortage of theories to explain what the Buzzer might be for – ranging from keeping in touch with submarines to communing with aliens. One such idea is that it’s acting as a “Dead Hand” signal; in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.

Russians Step Up Activity Around Undersea Cables

These cables have been tapped and monitored for decades. The only way to secure the information that traverses them is to encrypt the data itself.

Russian submarines have dramatically stepped up activity around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic.

US Navy Admiral Andrew Lennon, the commander of NATO’s submarine forces, said Russian activity has reached a level unprecedented in modern times.

Fears have been raised Russia could covertly deploy submarines to sever communications cables spanning the world.

‘We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,’ said Admiral Lennon.

The legacy of Russian influence

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Harry Hopkins was an energetic and tireless social worker who helped shape much of the world as we know it today. His work in New York in the early 1930s attracted the attention, and then the friendship, of New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

When Roosevelt moved to the White House, he called upon Hopkins to be one of the principal architects of the New Deal. Throughout the decade, Hopkins grew to become one of Roosevelt’s closest advisors and was probably the most influential person throughout Roosevelt’s administration except for Mrs. Roosevelt.

When World War II began, Roosevelt called upon Hopkins again to be Roosevelt’s personal emissary in high-level diplomatic discussions with Britain and the Soviet Union. Hopkins was appointed to administer the famed LendLease program and was a permanent fixture in the White House throughout the war.

One aspect about Hopkins’ work during the war had sought explanation from historians. He was energetic and consistent about advocating for the Soviet Union even to the detriment of the U.S and other allies. Hopkins greatly directed Lend-Lease resources to the Soviets, strongly pushed Stalin’s demands for a second front, dismissed the fact that the Soviets massacred 22,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest, and generally tilted every scale he could put his finger on in favor of the Soviet Union.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the release of many of the Soviet archives has begun to offer some explanation for Hopkins’ behavior. He was almost certainly a Soviet agent. The only real remaining question is to what extent. The first indication came when Oleg Gordievsky, a senior KGB defector, recalled a lecture in which another KGB office bragged that Hopkins was the Soviet’s most important agent during the war.

The confirmation came when New York Senator Daniel Moynihan forced the release of The Verona Papers — a trove of decades’ worth of coded messages from Soviet agents in the U.S. to Moscow. Those documents revealed a message from Agent 19 to Moscow about a highlevel conversation between the Western Allies. Scholars have deduced that Hopkins was the only person in a position to share the details of that conversation. The evidence points to the fact that Hopkins was not just a zealous friend of the Soviet Union, he was an active agent for their interests.

We do not want to think that there was a traitor so close to the central nervous system of American power — especially during war. We do not want to think that Joseph Stalin’s hand was at work shaping American policy. But facts are facts whether we want to believe them or not.

It took half a century for the facts about Hopkins’ treachery to come to light. Evidence of another high-level treachery is coming to light much sooner for former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Here are a few facts that have been reported by The Hill and others:

 Former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 in 2010 by a bank controlled by the Russian government for a 90-minute speech to Renaissance Capital in Russia and then had a meeting with Vladimir Putin. This happened right after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been in Russia and was actively working on a variety of follow up items for Russia after those meetings.

 One of the issues Hillary Clinton worked on was her department’s approval of a deal whereby a Russian nuclear company purchased a Canadian uranium company to control 20 percent of America’s strategic uranium reserves.

 Around the same time, a Canadian uranium magnet involved in the deal donated about $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, whose main purpose has been to support the Clinton’s lavish lifestyle rather than any meaningful charitable purpose.

 Another issue was for another Russian company that used to sell recycled uranium to the U.S., but needed a new market as their deal was ending.

 A third issue was to arrange for a group of venture capitalists from Silicon Valley to travel to Russia to look for ways to create a Silicon Valley in Russia.

 Also in 2010, the FBI broke a Russian spy ring that had been trying to get access to the State Department for a decade. They had recently gained access to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through a Democratic donor before the FBI arrested them.

 Since 2009, the FBI had also been investigating a huge bribery and kickback program inside a Russian nuclear energy company with a division in America. As part of that investigation, the informant overheard numerous conversations from Russians about their efforts to influence the Clintons.

A kind, if naïve, reading of these facts might excuse them away as independent and unrelated events that were each conducted with the utmost propriety. After all, we do not want to believe that there could have been someone working for the benefit of the Russian government at the highest level of our national government. But at some point, the accumulation of facts point to only one reasonable conclusion whether we want to believe it or not.

Russians Stoked BLM Discord?

Are the BLM folks all just Russian puppets?

The Black Lives Matter ad appeared on Facebook at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, the sources said. The sources said it appears the ad was meant to appear both as supporting Black Lives Matter but also could be seen as portraying the group as threatening to some residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.

Related: Russian-bought Facebook ads sought to amplify political divisions

New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another. Facebook’s review of Russian efforts on its platform focused on a timeframe from June 2015 to May 2017.

Opposition Arrested in Russia

Meanwhile, the Tsar is locking up the opposition.

A Moscow court has ruled that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny should be jailed for 30 days for staging an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

The anti-corruption rallies called for by Navalny were held in more than 100 Russian towns and cities on Monday. In Moscow, thousands of angry protesters held an unsanctioned rally on Tverskaya, the capital’s main street. More than 1,000 people have been arrested across Russia.

The judge at the Simonovsky district court ruled after midnight Monday that Navalny should be jailed for repeated violations of the law on public gatherings.

Trump Denies Sanction Waiver to Exxon to Drill in Russia

Well, that’s going to make cabinet meetings awkward.

“The Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement Friday. Mnuchin said he consulted with President Trump on the decision.

Exxon had applied for a waiver from sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in a bid to resume its lucrative joint venture with Russian state oil giant PAO Rosneft.

In a statement, Exxon said “we understand” the decision by the Treasury Department. Exxon explained that its application for a license was aimed at meeting the company’s “contractual obligations” in Russia, where competitors are allowed to drill under European sanctions.

Russia Slams UK for Canceled Meeting

Ouch.

Russia has criticised Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap a planned trip to Moscow after discussions with the US.

The move showed the UK has no “real influence” over world events, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Mr Johnson said events in Syria had “changed the situation fundamentally” and he would go to G7 talks instead.