Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Tag: Russia

Russian Atrocities

No matter how civilized we think we have become, humans always return to barbarism. It is one of the many reasons that I vehemently defend the 2nd Amendment.

The BBC’s Yogita Limaye is on the ground reporting on new evidence of atrocities emerging in areas around Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, after Russian forces pulled out.

She took the photo below of a shallow grave in the village of Motyzhyn, where four people allegedly shot dead by Russian forces were left. We have blurred parts of the picture.

Three of the bodies have been identified as members of one family, including the head of the village, Olha Sohnenko. The fourth body has not been identified.

Yogita is on her way to Bucha – a town where the discovery of many dead civilians has shocked the world, and seen Russia accused of war crimes.

 

Radiated Russian Soldiers Withdraw

Yikes. One can empathize for the soldiers while still condemning their nation.

Several hundred Russian soldiers were forced to hastily withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after suffering “acute radiation sickness” from contaminated soil, according to Ukrainian officials.

 

The troops, who dug trenches in a contaminated Red Forest near the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, are now reportedly being treated in a special medical facility in Gomel, Belarus. The forest is so named because thousands of pine trees turned red during the 1986 nuclear disaster. The area is considered so highly toxic that not even highly specialized Chernobyl workers are allowed to enter the zone.

 

Energoatom, the Ukrainian agency in charge of the country’s nuclear power stations, said the Russian soldiers had panicked and fled.

 

“It has been confirmed that the occupiers who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the Exclusion Zone set off in two columns towards Ukraine’s border with Belarus. The occupiers announced their intentions to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power plant this morning to the Ukrainian personnel of the station,” the agency said in a statement on Telegram, adding that a small number of Russians still remained at the facility.

Nokia Helped Russia Spy on Enemies

If you think that the big tech companies in the U.S. aren’t doing the same work for the American government, you aren’t paying attention.

Nokia said this month that it would stop its sales in Russia and denounced the invasion of Ukraine. But the Finnish company didn’t mention what it was leaving behind: equipment and software connecting the government’s most powerful tool for digital surveillance to the nation’s largest telecommunications network.

 

The tool was used to track supporters of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Investigators said it had intercepted the phone calls of a Kremlin foe who was later assassinated. Called the System for Operative Investigative Activities, or SORM, it is also most likely being employed at this moment as President Vladimir Putin culls and silences anti-war voices inside Russia.

 

For more than five years, Nokia provided equipment and services to link SORM to Russia’s largest telecom service provider, MTS, according to company documents obtained by The New York Times. While Nokia does not make the tech that intercepts communications, the documents lay out how it worked with state-linked Russian companies to plan, streamline and troubleshoot the SORM system’s connection to the MTS network. Russia’s main intelligence service, the FSB, uses SORM to listen in on phone conversations, intercept emails and text messages, and track other internet communications.

U.S. Inflation Rate Only Half of Russia’s

We’re closing in fast.

On Wednesday, Russia’s economic ministry said annual inflation had jumped 14.5% in the week ending 18 March – the highest rate since late 2015.

The Federal State Statistics Service said the cost of sugar rose by as much as 37.1% in certain regions of the country and increased by an average 14%.

 

Sugar, which is commonly used to preserve food or make liquor, was the biggest gainer in the week, the government agency found.

The price of onions was the second biggest riser over the week, up 13.7% nationwide and 40.4% in some areas. Meanwhile, nappies were 4.4% more expensivePrices for black tea rose 4% and toilet paper increased by 3%.

Front Line Generals

I wondered why the Russian Generals were in the line of fire.

Russia is believed to be sending its generals to the front line of its war in Ukraine in a bid to bolster low morale among troops.

 

According to Western officials, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has “largely stalled on all fronts”, with Russia making “minimal progress” and suffering heavy losses.

 

The Russian President is said to be frustrated at the lack of progress, which has seen his troops fail to seize any major cities despite heavy bombardment of them.

 

On Thursday Ukrainian officials claimed a fourth Russian general has been killed during fighting in the city of Mariupol.

Russians Threaten to Maroon Astronaut

Remember that it was Obama who abandoned the United States’ manned space program and wanted to rely on Russia.

Russia’s space program has apparently threatened to leave an American astronaut aboard the International Space Station as it comes crashing down to Earth in a video shared by Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti.

 

Mark Vande Hei, a married 55-year-old father of two from Texas, is scheduled to return to Kazakhstan from the International Space Station (ISS) with two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30 after spending nearly a year on board.

 

But amid United States’ sanctions against Russia for the human rights violations it is committing in its siege of Ukraine, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has threatened to leave him in space.

Echoes of Crimea

Eight years ago this week, Putin was invading and taking over Crimea. I wrote a column about it. Here’s a part:

“Hagel proposes downsizing Army to smallest size in decades.” – Associated Press 2/24/14
“Hagel: Dominance of US military ‘can no longer be taken for granted’” – The Daily Caller 2/24/14
“In Crimean capital Simferopol, pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings.” – BBC 2/27/14
“Obama to Russia: Stay out of Ukraine.” – Politico 2/28/14
“Ukraine erupts as Russian troops take over Crimea.” – New York Post 3/1/14
As American President Obama scolds, Russian President Putin acts. Putin acts without fear of American might because President Obama has proven time and time again that his words have nothing behind them.
[…]
Putin is engaging in realpolitik as America and the rest of the west issues stern warnings and threatens to pull out of the upcoming G8 conference. I’m sure Putin is shaking in his boots at the thought of another gravely-delivered content-free oration from President Obama.
Events do happen in the world that have nothing to do with America or our foreign policy, but this is not one of them. The fact is that Obama’s foreign policy has been an utter failure. He came into office apologetic of America’s might and influence on the world stage. In five years of his administration, we have seen a steady decline in our ability or willingness to influence events around the world.
And now we see the fruit of our president’s intentional neutering of American power in the world. Russia will almost certainly succeed in taking over Ukraine – one way or another. America will stand by and watch with crossed brows and impotent arms. And the downsizing of our military will continue based on fantastical world visions of unicorns and rainbows and glitter emanating from the White House.
When the Eagle sleeps, the Bear rises.
It’s no mystery that as Biden has returned us to Obama’s policies – weaken the military; high oil prices; lead from behind – Putin has returned to conquering his neighbors.

Belarus and Russia Prepare for Western Push

Putin is a prototypical expansionist tyrant of the kind that the world has known since time began. He will keep expanding until he can’t. He is gathering his few allies to prepare for the next step.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he expects to discuss the possible deployment of Iskander and S-400 defense systems to Belarus with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the coming days.

 

“[Thursday or Friday] we will talk with the President of Russia about how to strengthen ourselves here in the western direction,” Lukashenko told state news agency Belta Thursday.

 

“Today we consulted with the military, and we see that it would be desirable to put Iskanders [missile systems] there and place a battalion or two with S-400s somewhere so that we can actually monitor the situation all the way to Berlin,” Lukashenko said.

That is not an argument for direct U.S. military action. Russia is still much weaker than it was during the Soviet days. There is a decent chance that they blow their wad in Ukraine if the Ukrainians put up a fight. I’m not confident of that. The next layer is for Western European nations to defend themselves. I don’t think Putin is crazy enough to attack a NATO country yet, but if he has an easy time in Ukraine, he might.

The biggest worry for Americans is the acceleration of Russian cyberwarfare against America’s economy. They are stepping up that effort. This is not WWII. There are more battlefronts.

Biden Goes to the Mat to Keep Russia Out of Ukraine

Hmmm… why is Biden so hellbent on defending Ukraine? What is our strategic interest? Why is recklessly exposing our spy capabilities to the world?

But now, with growing fears that Moscow is preparing for a full-scale invasion, the Biden administration has abandoned the U.S.’s normally tight-lipped attitude toward releasing intelligence information and is pursuing a strategic — and according to former officials, unprecedented — declassification campaign aimed at exposing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

 

In recent days, U.S. officials have called out a number of Russian “false flag” operations that they say are designed to provide a pretext to invade Ukraine. These have included allegations of a potential Russian-authored chemical assault designed to look like Ukrainian aggression, and even a plot to create a detailed yet fake movie showing the lethal aftermath of a Ukrainian attack. Officials have also publicly named Russian military intelligence as responsible for a disruptive cyber operation that targeted Ukraine’s defense ministry and banks earlier this week.

 

Experts say the revelations have been aimed at throwing Russia off balance by exposing their plans before they’re brought to fruition — and showing that the U.S. has the capability to surveil many of Russia’s actions.

 

By the end of the Trump administration, U.S. spy agencies had developed a “much better understanding of what the Russians are doing in a strategic sense,” said a former senior CIA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive capabilities. “There were some extraordinary sources, obviously those are really fragile, so I’m not sure if those accesses are still in place, but I have to imagine they are.”

It’s also worth noting that last cited paragraph… the Trump Administration had made great strides toward spying on Russia. Once again, the whole “Trump is a puppet of Putin” narrative is a load of whoey.

Biden and Putin Cross Swords

Do you have confidence in President Biden to deal with Russia? I don’t.

Don’t you wonder if the Russians have leverage on Biden given Hunter’s and Joe’s history of selling influence? I do.

Kremlin officials said President Putin warned Joe Biden that new sanctions would lead to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries, during a 50-minute phone call to discuss the crisis over Ukraine on Thursday.

 

Both sides have accused the other of provocations while tens of thousands of Russian troops have been moved close to the Ukrainian border.

 

And both sides used the call to warn of dire consequences if the current impasse over Ukraine is not resolved.

 

[…]

 

For its part, the White House stressed that Biden urged his Russian counterpart to deescalate tensions, hours after it emerged that the U.S. Air Force had flown a second spy plane over the region.

 

‘He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,’ said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

 

A senior administration official added: ‘The tone of the conversation between the two presidents was serious and substantive.’

 

Russia has alarmed the West by moving more than 85,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border but officials deny they are planning to invade.

Russia Lays Claim to Champagne

Not the region (yet). The word.

 

The law has sparked controversy and the renowned winemaker Moet-Hennessy said Monday it was suspending champagne shipments to Russia. The law that was adopted on Friday allows the term to used only for “Russian champagne.”

Biden Freezes Defense Aid to Ukraine on Eve of Russian Summit

The world is getting more dangerous.

In an interview prior to the Biden-Putin summit announcement, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper told the Washington Examiner that the Pentagon was providing a wide range of military assistance to Ukraine.

 

“We are working to ensure Ukraine, in particular, has the resilience it needs to defend itself against acts of Russian aggression, and here we have a very comprehensive training and equipment program,” Cooper said.

 

At the time, the Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia official described assistance including Javelin anti-tank missiles, counter-artillery radars, grenade launchers, and Humvees.

 

Asked if the Russian troop buildup prompted additional military assistance, Cooper said security assistance conversations were ongoing.

 

“We always talk about Ukraine’s requirements, and we’re always evaluating what they need and what the threat environment is,” she said. “It’s a very active and dynamic conversation and continues as such.”

 

Kuleba said talk needs to turn into actual military assistance, something Biden reportedly rescinded ahead of the Putin summit.

 

“Talking is important. However, talking becomes irrelevant when it’s not followed by actions,” the foreign minister said.

Biden Sets Back Russia Policy With Multiple Blunders

Ouch. When senior administration officials are walking back the President’s statements within minutes, it’s bad.

The White House clarified Sunday that President Joe Biden isn’t doing any ‘swaps’ of cyber criminals with Moscow – after Biden appeared to take at face value a proposal floated by Vladimir Putin to extradite any U.S. ransom hackers to Russia in exchange for sending any Russian hackers to the U.S.

 

Biden entertained an idea Putin floated in a TV interview that aired Sunday about extraditing ‘criminals’ who engaged in ransom hacking against either the U.S. or Russia when he was asked about it at a press conference.

 

[…]

 

Biden said he had been briefed on the idea in flight, and called it a potential sign of ‘progress’ – only to have his security advisor later note the U.S. already holds hackers to account.

 

[…]

The quick walk back was an illustration of the type of situation the White House may be trying to avoid by keeping Biden out of a joint press conference with Putin where the Russian former KGB officer might try to steer the event to his advantage.

 

Biden at the presser explained why he did not want to hold a side-by-side presser with the Russian strongman.

 

‘This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other,’ Biden said at the end of the G7 summit.

 

‘It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship with Russia. We are not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms,’ he said.

Biden To Meet With Putin

I suppose he needed some private time to pay homage.

Joe Biden will meet Vladimir Putin next month in Geneva, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.

 

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a statement: “President Biden will meet with President Putin in Geneva on 16 June. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship.”

The summit will take place shortly after Biden travels to the UK for the G7 summit in Cornwall. It will be his first in-person meeting with Putin since taking office.

 

Biden proposed a summit in a call with Putin in April, as his administration prepared to levy sanctions against Russian officials for the second time in three months.

Russian Hit Men Linked to Arms Depot Explosion… Allegedly

The KGB Cold Warrior continues his old ways. But the war is getting hotter.

Two Russian men suspected of carrying out the 2018 Salisbury poisonings are being linked to an explosion at an arms depot in the Czech Republic.

Evidence links the 2014 explosion, and an attempted poisoning in Bulgaria, to a unit of Russian military intelligence – the GRU – the BBC has learnt.

 

European intelligence agencies believe the GRU’s Unit 29155 is tasked with sabotage, subversion and assassination.

 

The Russian government said the claims were unfounded and absurd.

Czech authorities say they are expelling 18 Russian diplomats believed to be intelligence operatives in retaliation for the explosion, which killed two people.

Biden Escalates Relations with Russia

What’s the end game here? Is this a foreign policy stratagem (perhaps not a bad one) or just bumbling? Where is Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken?

Russia has recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in a dramatic escalation in the fraught relations between the two powers – after President Joe Biden referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a ‘killer.’

 

The moves comes after the White House has spent weeks telegraphing a tougher posture toward Russia under a Biden administration – and Moscow has once again bristled at accusations that it serves as a ‘malign’ influence in global affairs.

 

Fueling the rising tensions is a startling new assessment by U.S. intelligence that lays out Russia’s campaign to influence the 2020 elections – on the heels of the Treasury Department slapping sanctions on officials as retaliation for the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny with a chemical agent. Among those hit with sanctions was the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the FSB.

 

The extraordinary move by Moscow – undertaken by nations wishing to send a serious diplomatic signal – came after Biden not only ripped into Putin but vowed the Russian strongman would ‘pay a price.’

Russia Underreported COVID Deaths

I know. I’m shocked too. Next thing you know we’ll find out that China is giving fake statistics too.

Russian officials acknowledged on Monday that the nation’s COVID-19 death toll is in fact more than three times what had been previously reported, after months of President Vladimir Putin holding up the supposedly low fatality rate as a marker of the country’s success in battling the pandemic.

 

As The Guardian reported, the state-run statistics agency Rosstat said the total number of deaths between January and November from all causes had jumped by 229,700 when compared with the previous year.

 

“More than 81 percent of this increase in mortality over this period is due to COVID,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, which would indicated a death toll of more than 186,000 Russians, The Guardian reported. The update means Russia has the third-highest number of fatalities in the world, surpassed only by the U.S. and Brazil.

 

Russian officials have so far confirmed more than 3 million cases and only 55,265 deaths, The Guardian noted, a number far lower than other large impacted countries.

Russia Threatens U.S. Spy Satellite

One wonders how often this happens.

A top Space Force official has lashed out at Russia for trailing a US spy satellite with two spacecraft.

Gen John Raymond, the chief of space operations for America’s newly-minted Space Force, said the two Russian satellites began pursuing the multi-billion dollar US satellite in November and have at times flown within 100 miles it.

‘This is unusual and disturbing behavior and has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space,’ Raymond said in a statement to Business Insider.

‘The United States finds these recent activities to be concerning and do not reflect the behavior of a responsible spacefaring nation.’

The US has raised concerns about the matter to Moscow through diplomatic channels, Raymond told Time magazine, which first reported the stalking on Monday.

The confrontation marks the first time the US military has publicly identified a direct threat to a specific American satellite by an adversary.

Putin Thanks Trump

This is curious.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has thanked US counterpart Donald Trump for intelligence that helped foil “acts of terrorism” on Russian soil, according to a Kremlin statement.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday, it said.

The Kremlin said the information came via intelligence services, but it provided no further details.

Russian media is reporting the discovery of a plot to attack St Petersburg over the New Year period.

Tass news agency says two Russian nationals have been arrested and plans to attack a mass gathering were seized, according to a spokesperson from the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.

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”.

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