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 on: Today at 06:19 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Iraqi forces take Amerli town from Islamic State fighters

US airstrikes and British, French and Australian aid assist the advances against Isis

Martin Chulov   
The Guardian, Sunday 31 August 2014 20.06 BST   

US airstrikes near a Shia Turkoman town north of Baghdad have cleared the way for militiamen and Iraqi troops to rescue 12,000 residents from jihadis who had besieged them for more than two months.

The jihadis from the extremist group Islamic State (Isis) had partially withdrawn from the outskirts of Amerli, around 110 miles north of Baghdad, when paramilitaries and Iraqi forces attacked around dawn on Sunday. The attack came hours after US jets had pushed further south into Iraq than at any time in the last three weeks when they have been attacking insurgent positions in support of the Kurds. Aid was also air dropped to Amerli by British, French and Australian aircraft.

RAF Hercules aircraft dropped 14 tonnes of food and water on Amerli on Saturday night, the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, said as he confirmed that Britain is keeping open the option of joining US air strikes against Isis forces.

The Iraqi forces were heavily backed by Kurdish peshmerga troops and Shia militiamen, who have been at the vanguard of most clashes in central Iraq ever since Isis overran more than one third of the country in mid-June.

The militias have been particularly active in areas of high Shia populations, or where Shia religious sites have come under threat. The residents of Amerli were all Shia Turkomans. They had been unable to escape from the town, which had been cut off from water and electricity supplies. The extremists had vowed to kill them if they did not convert to their puritanical version of Sunni Islam.

The successful rescue of Amerli marks perhaps the only time that Iraqi forces, even with strong support, have won a significant clash against Isis, since it took over Mosul, Tikrit, and most of western Iraq. Peshmerga forces, long considered a more competent fighting force, even without a unified command, also withered under an Isis onslaught when the group swept through the Nineveh plains toward Irbil from 8 August.

The extremists' momentum was stopped by US jets, which have now bombed more than 115 targets in northern Iraq. The air strikes allowed peshmerga and Iraq forces to win back the Mosul Dam, which had been seized by Isis, and led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi sect, who were helped off a mountain range by Kurdish militias that crossed into Iraq from Syria.

Nevertheless, Washington has continued to insist that its air support will not be open-ended. Barack Obama has previously said US strikes are only to support US officials in Irbil. The attacks on Isis near Amerli were the first time he had authorised hits outside northern Iraq.

Baghdad has been demanding similar US support to protect the capital from Isis's attempt to encroach from the western and southern city limits. However, Obama has refused to authorise air missions without an inclusive central government being formed. The new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has only days before a constitutional deadline expires to announce an administration, which he has spent the past three weeks trying to cobble together from competing sects and interests.

The drawn-out negotiations continue to raise questions about the viability of Iraq within its current borders. Of particular concern to Iraqi and regional leaders will be whether the country's Sunnis, who were marginalised when Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, and have remained estranged from the power base for most of the time since, will be re-empowered by a political process.

The Kurds of the semi-autonomous northern region also remain unsure that a new central government will represent their interests. Relations between the Sunnis and Kurds and the former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had been toxic by the time that Isis advanced. The dramatic period since has exposed the feebleness of Iraqi institutions, including the military, and the strength that sect-based militias maintain within the country's fractured body politic.


U.S. and Iran Unlikely Allies in Iraq Battle

AUG. 31, 2014

BAGHDAD — With American bombs raining down from the sky, Shiite militia fighters aligned with Iran battled Sunni extremists over the weekend, punching through their defenses to break the weekslong siege of Amerli, a cluster of farming villages whose Shiite residents faced possible slaughter.

The fight in northern Iraq appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias.

Should such military actions continue, they could signal a dramatic shift for the United States and Iran, which have long vied for control in Iraq. They could also align the interests of the Americans with their longtime sworn enemies in the Shiite militias, whose fighters killed many United States soldiers during the long occupation of Iraq.

The latest expansion of American military operations reflects how seriously Iraq has deteriorated since the withdrawal of American forces in 2011. But any decision to support the Shiite militias, who have proven more adept than the American-trained Iraqi Army, would come with its own set of challenges.

The militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were able to storm into Iraq in recent months in part because Sunnis felt so disenfranchised by the Shiite-led government of former Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. If the United States is seen to be strengthening the hand of militias that terrorized Sunnis during the sectarian war of 2006 and 2007, the minority Sunnis might balk at participating in America’s long-term goal of a unity government.

Or, in a worst-case scenario, more Sunnis could align with ISIS fighters.

David Petraeus, a former top American military commander in Iraq who led the United States troop surge in 2007, months ago warned against such possibilities as the Obama administration, reeling from the fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, weighed military action against ISIS.

“This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias or a Shia-on-Sunni Arab fight,” he said at a security conference in London in June. “It has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists, who do happen to be Sunni Arabs.”

The United States was careful to note on Sunday that it was working on Amerli with its allies: regular Iraqi Army units and Kurdish security forces, which the United States has been supporting with air power since President Obama authorized airstrikes several weeks ago.

“Any coordinating with the Shiite militias was not done by us — it would have been done by the ISF,” a senior administration official said on Sunday, referring to the Iraqi Security Forces. But it is well known that the Shiite militias have been fighting alongside the army in recent months as the threat from ISIS became clear.

A second administration official, meanwhile, said the United States is not working directly with Tehran. “We are working with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish pesh merga in Iraq,” the official said. “That’s it.”

Security officials on Sunday said that Amerli, a town about 105 miles north of Baghdad whose estimated 15,000 residents are mostly Shiite Turkmen considered infidels by ISIS, was not fully liberated but that the combined forces had cleared several villages from the militants.

Last year ISIS exploited the chaos of the Syrian civil war to take control of large expanses of territory there, before sweeping into Iraq, its birthplace, as a greater force and erasing the border between the two countries. Its explosion onto a turbulent region has threatened the breakup of Iraq and forced a reluctant President Obama to re-engage more fully in the Middle East.

For overwhelmingly Shiite Iran, the rise of ISIS — and its aim of creating a Sunni caliphate in the region — was alarming because of the possible threat to Iran itself. The militants’ sudden successes also posed a more immediate threat of further destabilizing two countries — Iraq and Syria — that have been close to Tehran and helped it extend its power in the region.

In a reflection of the region’s increasingly tangled politics, the Obama administration is considering taking the fight against ISIS to Syria.

The United States and Iran have opposite goals there: Iran has been an important supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States has sought his ouster by supporting moderate rebels. But any American military action against ISIS in Syria could end up bolstering Mr. Assad — and furthering Iran’s regional agenda.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, at one point went so far as to suggest the United States and Iran might work together to stem the chaos in Iraq, but Iran’s supreme leader seemed unenthusiastic about the idea, and on Saturday, Mr. Rouhani said it would not be possible to cooperate in the fight against regional terror groups. It was unclear if his unexpectedly harsh criticism of the United States on Saturday was a sign of a change in attitude, or a political maneuver to either quiet domestic critics or to give Tehran wiggle room in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

When President Obama first authorized airstrikes in Iraq several weeks ago, the justification was to protect American civilians in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, which was being threatened by ISIS fighters, and to support humanitarian aid drops on Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis, members of an ancient minority sect, had sought refuge from the advancing militants.

More recently, pressure had increased to help the besieged residents of Amerli, as officials worried that ISIS would carry out a mass killing of civilians. Besides the airstrikes, the United States also provided airdrops of food and water to the thousands of besieged civilians there.

The Obama administration has tried to avoid being seen as taking sides in a sectarian war, because the Shiite militias are especially feared by Iraq’s Sunnis.

But for the weekend at least, the realities on the ground appeared to override any concerns of effectively supporting the militias.

ISIS has been rampaging through Iraq, beheading prisoners, carrying out massacres of Shiites and expelling hundreds of thousands of residents. The Shiite militias have been accused of some recent abuses against Sunnis, but so far have avoided large-scale revenge killings.
Continue reading the main story
Interactive Graphic: A Rogue State Along Two Rivers

Among the militias fighting for Amerli are Asaib Ahl al-Haq, considered the most fearsome of Iraq’s Shiite militias, and a group linked to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, one of the Americans’ most unyielding enemies during the occupation. Those groups are supported by Iran.

Asaib, a militia that was a particularly fierce opponent of the United States as it was winding down its military role in Iraq, was said to have taken on the most prominent role in the fighting for Amerli, in Salahuddin Province.

“I would like to thank the jihadists from Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as they are sacrificing their lives to save Amerli,” said Mahdi Taqi, a member of the provincial council in Salahuddin.

Naeem al-Aboudi, the spokesman for Asaib, said, “today is a great happiness and victory for all Iraqis. Iraqi security forces, volunteers and resistance brigades have proved their ability to defeat ISIS.”

He played down the American role and said, “We don’t trust Americans at all. They had already let down the Iraqi Army.” He added, of the Americans, “We don’t need them.”

As night fell Sunday, the fighting was still raging in Qaryat Salam, a village to the north of Amerli. At a makeshift forward base, set up amid half-constructed homes and the hulk of a new soccer stadium, Kurdish pesh merga forces fired a barrage of artillery, mortars and rockets. A line of trucks roared into the area, their headlights smeared with mud to dull the brightness. An assortment of Kurdish fighters, Iraqi Army soldiers and Shiite militia members, who seemed to be working together in a highly coordinated way, passed by.

Several Iranian military advisers were also seen, according to a pesh merga fighter.

“We are cooperating with the pesh merga and other military forces,” said Abd Kadum al-Mousaw, a militia fighter. “From each force there is a commander who is a member of a higher committee that makes decisions.”

Pesh merga commanders said they had cleared about half of the village, but were facing stiff resistance from the militants, “who were fighting like madmen.”

 on: Today at 06:17 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Turkey Detains Dozens of Police in New Swoop against Erdogan Foes

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 September 2014, 11:32

Turkish authorities on Monday detained some two dozen police officers in new nationwide raids over an alleged plot to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Police conducted early morning raids in 16 cities across Turkey, including Istanbul as well as the western province of Izmir, and detained at least 20 police officers, private NTV television reported.

Among those arrested is Yakup Saygili, the former chief of the police anti-fraud unit, it added.

It was the fourth such wave of raids since July as the government cracks down on what Erdogan has described as a "parallel state" within the security forces.

Arrest warrants were issued for at least 34 officers accused of a number of offences including illegally eavesdropping on top officials and attempting to overthrow the government.

Since July, dozens of police officers have been arrested and placed in custody on suspicion of forming a criminal organisation and wire-tapping hundreds of people including Erdogan.

The new arrests appeared to represent a new offensive against the movement of Erdogan's former ally Fethullah Gulen in the wake of a vast corruption scandal that broke late last year implicating Erdogan and his inner circle.

Erdogan has long accused followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen of establishing a "parallel state" by using its sway in Turkey's police and the judiciary and of concocting the vast corruption scandal.

Erdogan on Thursday moved from the office of prime minister to president after his August 10 election victory, with his close ally, former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, taking the post of premier.

Erdogan had said Davutoglu was chosen due to his "determination to fight" the parallel state.

 on: Today at 06:15 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
09/01/2014 12:20 PM

Islamist Influx: Several Radicalized Ex-German Soldiers in Iraq

Germany on Sunday presented the list of weapons it plans to send to the Kurds in northern Iraq. Some of them, though, may end up being used against former German soldiers. SPIEGEL has learned that 20 ex-Bundeswehr troops have joined jihadists in the region.

The German government over the weekend reached a decision on the weapons it plans to ship to the Kurds in northern Iraq to help them combat the advancing militants from the Islamic State (IS). But SPIEGEL has learned that it won't be easy to find a legal path to actually deliver those weapons. Furthermore, some of them may end up being used against former German soldiers.

According to security sources in Berlin, around 20 former members of Germany's Bundeswehr, as its military is known, have traveled to Syria and Iraq, apparently with the intention of joining Islamist extremist groups there. They join an estimated 400 other German jihadists who have already traveled to the region. Most of those, however, had no previous military experience, making the 20 trained Bundeswehr soldiers particularly valuable.

MAD, the German military's intelligence service, sees Islamism as a growing problem within Germany's military. Just recently, a former Bundeswehr sergeant, who had previously been decommissioned because of his Islamist leanings, was prevented from traveling to the crisis region.

Over the weekend, Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Office of the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence agency, voiced concerns that the flow of Islamists from Germany to Syria and Iraq will continue. He said that some younger radicalized Muslims are attracted to IS in particular because of the group's brutality. "The Islamic State is, so to speak, the 'in' thing within the scene," Maassen said. It is "much more attractive than Jabhat al-Nusrah, the al-Qaida offshoot in Syria. What attracts people is its high degree of brutality, the radicalism and the rigor."

Germany Worried about a Kurdish State

That same brutality is what led Germany to depart from its decades-old policy of not sending weapons into war zones. After reaching an agreement on sending weapons in mid-August, the German government over the weekend announced what weapons it intends to send. The list included 16,000 assault rifles, 40 machine guns and 240 anti-tank weapons along with 500 anti-tank rockets. Some 10,000 hand grenades and 8,000 pistols are to be sent.

How exactly the arms will get to the Kurds remains unclear. According to German laws governing the export of weapons, any such deal must be approved by the German economics minister who, in turn, needs written assent from the government of the receiving country. But the new government in Baghdad has not yet taken office. Sources have told SPIEGEL that officials in Berlin are currently trying to find a workaround.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen presented the weapons list on Sunday evening in Berlin, saying the arms shipment should be enough to equip 4,000 Kurdish soldiers. Steinmeier acknowledged that it was a difficult decision, citing the possibility that the weapons may ultimately be used by the Kurds to fight for their own independent state. He told the Hanover daily Hannoverschen Allgemeinen Zeitung that the volume of the shipment was calibrated so that "no arms caches could be established that might later be used in other conflicts."

Steinmeier reiterated his concerns about the founding of a Kurdish state saying that he is worried "that an independent Kurdistan would result in additional Iraqi regions splitting off, for example in the south and surrounding Basra." The result, he continued, would be "new fights over new borders and state territories." That would "result in entire regions becoming ungovernable."

Still, the German foreign minister said, the advance of the Islamists "isn't just a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions but also an existential threat for the region of northern Iraq and for the weak Iraqi state as a whole."


 on: Today at 06:14 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Bosnia Arrests 13 Serbs over War Crimes

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 September 2014, 14:13

Thirteen Bosnian Serbs, including former top police officials, were arrested on Monday on charges of involvement in the killing of Croats and Muslims at the start of the country's 1992-95 war.

The men were arrested in the northern towns of Doboj and Teslic where the killings allegedly took place, the state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

They are also suspected of having persecuted, forcibly displaced and detained hundreds of people in the area at the start of the war in 1992.

The case was forwarded to the prosecutor's office by the U.N. court set up to investigate war crimes during the conflict.

The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handles cases involving top war crimes suspects while local courts handle other cases.

Some 100,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war.

 on: Today at 06:10 AM 
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Germany Steps Up Its Response to Global Security Crises

AUG. 31, 2014

BERLIN — In an indication of Germany’s growing role on the world stage, the country’s top politicians on Sunday approved the delivery of thousands of machine guns and hand grenades, as well as hundreds of antitank missiles, to Kurdish forces battling Islamic militants in Iraq.

Scarred by its militarism and two resounding defeats in the 20th century, Germany once shied away from conflict zones and limited its involvement to deliveries of humanitarian aid. But, although Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to articulate a clear policy on intervention, she and her top ministers have dominated efforts to ease the Ukraine crisis. And on Sunday, they moved to approve the weapons for the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

A solid majority in Parliament backs sending weapons, while opinion polls indicate that up to two-thirds of Germans — weaned on decades of pacifism — oppose the move.

Ms. Merkel, fresh from a European summit meeting in Brussels at which Russia was given a week to pull back in Ukraine or face more sanctions, met senior ministers from both parties in her grand coalition government, and consulted with the leader of the Bavarian sister party to her Christian Democrats about sending the weapons to Iraq.

Parliament is to debate and vote on the weapons deliveries on Monday, but officials said the government had the authority to act in this case without the parliamentary authorization that is required to deploy German troops outside NATO borders.

The weapons are expected to go straight to Kurdish security forces, and delivery will occur only with the approval of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, according to German officials.

The move was the latest sign that Germany, long an economic powerhouse, is playing an increasing role in global security crises.

It has acted strongly before, under Ms. Merkel’s predecessors, most notably deploying German forces as peacekeepers in the Balkans in the 1990s, and backing NATO’s bombing campaign to drive Serbian forces from Kosovo in 1999. Germany has also been part of the international forces in Afghanistan deployed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

But in 2011, under Ms. Merkel, it stayed out of the campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, even abstaining on a key United Nations vote. Germany has also remained one of the NATO members whose military spending is well below the 2 percent of gross domestic product sought by the alliance.

But in January, President Joachim Gauck delivered a speech calling on Germans to step out of the shadows of their Nazi and Communist pasts and act more decisively, with military force if necessary.

Mr. Gauck, whose office carries moral authority but no actual political power, received swift backing from the foreign and defense ministers. Often reluctant to weigh in decisively in crucial debates, Ms. Merkel has so far declined — and did so again just last week — to define her exact position.

She has not, however, hesitated to plunge into diplomacy over Ukraine, conducting dozens of phone calls with President malignant tumor Pig Putin of Russia and repeatedly ruling out a military solution to the crisis.

She conceded on Saturday in Brussels that sanctions had so far failed to defuse the conflict, which has claimed well over 2,000 lives. Over the past week, she said, “the situation has escalated greatly,” as it became “quite clear that Russian weapons and also Russian troops are active in Ukraine.”

“If this situation continues or continues to sharpen, there will be discussion of new sanctions,” she said.

In the coming week, NATO leaders will gather in Wales and are expected to agree on new moves to curb the perceived threat from Russia — particularly to neighboring, ex-Soviet bloc countries now in the Atlantic alliance.

The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, citing a confidential document and unnamed German officials, said Sunday that Germany would contribute some 150 troops to new planning and strategy offices to be established in Poland, Romania and the three Baltic nations.

Like other European officials, Germany’s chiefs of intelligence and senior ministers have also sounded an increasingly uncompromising tone toward ISIS, clearly alarmed by its fast-rising influence. Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, noted Sunday that the very brutality of ISIS was drawing young German Muslim recruits.

“The Islamic States is, so to say, the ‘in’ thing — much more attractive than the Nusra Front,” the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Mr. Maassen told Deutschlandfunk public radio. “What attracts people is the intense brutality, the radicalism and rigor. That suggests to them that this is a more authentic organization.”

“Al Qaeda fades beside the Islamic State when it comes to brutality,” he said, estimating that at least five recruits from Germany had carried out suicide attacks in Iraq or Syria. His agency estimates that more than 400 people have traveled from Germany to join ISIS.


NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack

AUG. 31, 2014

BRUSSELS — When President Obama meets with other NATO leaders later this week, they are expected to ratify what seems, at first glance, a far-reaching change in the organization’s mission of collective defense: For the first time, a cyberattack on any of the 28 NATO nations could be declared an attack on all of them, much like a ground invasion or an airborne bombing.

The most obvious target of the new policy is Russia, which was believed behind computer attacks that disrupted financial and telecommunications systems in Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008, and is believed to have used them in the early days of the Ukraine crisis as well.

But in interviews, NATO officials concede that so far their cyberskills are limited at best.

While NATO has built a gleaming new computer security center, and now routinely runs computer exercises, it possesses no cyberweapons of its own — and, apparently, no strategy for how it might use the weapons of member states to strike back in a computer conflict. In fact, its most powerful members, led by the United States and Britain, have spent billions of dollars on secret computer offensive programs — but they have declined so far to tell NATO leaders what kind of weapons they might contribute in a NATO-led computer conflict.

“Our mandate is pure cyberdefense,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the departing NATO secretary general, said during a visit to Washington over the summer. “Our declaration is a start,” he said, “but I cannot tell you it is a complete strategy.”

NATO’s tentative steps into the realm of computer conflict, at a moment when Russian, Chinese and Iranian “patriotic hackers” have run increasingly sophisticated campaigns, show the alliance’s troubles in innovating to keep up with modern warfare, at a moment when it is also facing one of its greatest political challenges since the end of the Cold War.

The change in NATO’s definition of an “armed attack” will leave deliberately unclear what would constitute a cyberattack so large that the alliance might declare that the action against one of its members could lead to response by the entire alliance under Article V of its charter. “The judgment will lay with the impact,” said Douglas E. Lute, the American ambassador to NATO, when he spoke in late July at the Aspen Security Forum. “Does it look like it will rise to the level of an armed attack?”

Deterrence is all about ambiguity, and the implicit threat that NATO would enter a computer conflict in defense of one of its members is full of those ambiguities. “They fail to get to the heart of the quintessential question about NATO’s cybersecurity obligations,” Julianne Smith, a former Pentagon official, now at the Center for a New American Security, wrote earlier this year for Chatham House, the British foreign policy center. “What constitutes an ‘attack’ and what capabilities might be provided to a member experiencing an attack?”

Here at NATO headquarters, where top officials who were focusing on computer issues for the summit meeting are now preoccupied by Russia’s next moves, the mere declaration itself is considered significant progress. It was only after the Estonia attacks that the alliance paid real attention to the threat. Today Estonia, which President Obama will visit starting Tuesday night, has become the crown jewel in NATO’s computer defense efforts, the place where cyberstrategy is developed and the site of annual NATO computer security exercises, called “Locked Shields.”

In interviews, officials said that the declaration that would be ratified this week — it was already embraced by NATO defense ministers in June — marks a long-delayed recognition that a NATO nation could be crippled without a shot being fired. In 2010 the NATO council rejected the proposal that a computer attack on a nation’s electric grid or its financial systems might prove so damaging it should be considered the equivalent of a conventional, armed attack. (NATO has only invoked Article V — the declaration that it would come to the aid of a member state — one time, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and the Bush administration largely waved away the offer of help.)

“They just weren’t ready to think about cyberattacks in 2010,” recalled Ivo H. Daalder, the American ambassador to NATO during Mr. Obama’s first term and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “It’s a measure of how far we’ve come on this issue that there’s now a consensus that a cyberattack could be as devastating as any other kind of attack, maybe even more so.”

But Mr. Daalder noted that NATO’s own ability to defend against computer attacks is “still pretty basic,” and it has no ability to execute a “forward defense” that involves going into an adversary’s computer systems and shutting down an attack.

“They could leave that to member states,” he said, but would handle it under a NATO chain of command. Yet the NATO members themselves, he noted, may have little understanding of what the United States, Britain or other larger computer powers were able to do.

In fact, NATO officials say they have never been briefed on the abilities of the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command, or those of The Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, its British equivalent. Both countries have routinely placed sensors into computers, switching centers and undersea cables for years, as the documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, make clear.

The idea is to see an attack massing, and, if the president so ordered, to be able to take out a foreign computer server, or network, to halt an attack. But NATO officials ended up reading press accounts and the Snowden documents in search of an understanding of how the United States conducted computer operations against Iran, or how it monitors hacking units of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

“If conventional war or nuclear war were to break out,” one senior NATO official said in an interview here, “there are detailed plans about how we would respond, and what capabilities are at the disposal of the NATO military structure. We don’t have that in the cyberrealm,” he said, in large part because the United States, Britain and Germany do not want many of the other NATO members to understand what kind of abilities they have.

Correction: September 1, 2014

An earlier version of this article misidentified the organization for which Julianne Smith works. She is at the Center for a New American Security, not the New America Foundation.

 on: Today at 06:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Japan's annual dolphin slaughter begins at Taiji cove

Bad weather could delay killing on first day of controversial six-month dolphin hunting season, official says

AFP, Monday 1 September 2014 09.55 BST   

The controversial six-month dolphin hunting season began on Monday in the infamous town of Taiji, but bad weather would delay any killing, a local official told AFP.

The annual catch, in which people from the southwestern town corral hundreds of dolphins into a secluded bay and butcher them, was thrust into the global spotlight in 2009 when it became the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.

“The dolphin hunting season started today and will last until the end of February,” said an official of the Taiji fisheries association, adding the season for hunting pilot whales, which also begins today, will last until April.

But bad weather on Monday meant there would be no hunting on the day, he said.

Environmental campaigners are already in situ to watch the hunt, the official said.

Last season, activists from international environmental group Sea Shepherd, who call themselves “Cove Guardians”, streamed live footage of the dolphin capture.

Earlier this year, the slaughter sparked renewed global criticism after US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted her concern at the “inhumaneness” of the hunt.

Defenders say it is a tradition and point out that the animals it targets are not endangered, a position echoed by the Japanese government.

They say Western objections are hypocritical and ignore the vastly larger number of cows, pigs and sheep butchered to satisfy demand elsewhere.

But critics of the practice say there is insufficient demand for the animals’ meat, which in any case contains dangerous levels of mercury.

They say the hunt is only profitable because of the high prices live dolphins can fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows.

On Sunday around 30 people marched in Tokyo to protest the hunt, which they say sullies Japan’s reputation abroad.


Protest at controversial dolphin hunt leads to arrest of animal rights activists

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, August 31, 2014 10:45 EDT

Fourteen animal rights activists have been detained on the Faroe island of Sandoy in the North Atlantic while trying to stop a controversial dolphin hunt, their organisation said Sunday.

The activists were detained Saturday when attempting to save a pod of 33 pilot whales, members of the dolphin family, as the mammals were driven to shore to be killed by waiting hunting parties, according to environmental group Sea Shepherd.

“The 14 have been under arrest since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, told AFP.

Large numbers of pilot whales are slaughtered each year on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark.

The method involves the mammals being forced into a bay by flotillas of small boats before being hacked to death with hooks and knives.

While many locals defend the hunt as a cultural right, animal rights campaigners have denounced it as a “brutal and archaic mass slaughter”.

The group detained on Saturday included six Sea Shepherd members on shore on Sandoy, and eight who were on three small boats near the island.
Sea Shepherd said a ship from the Danish Navy ordered the environmental organisation’s three boats to stand off and later seized the vessels.

A spokesman for the Danish Armed Forces’ Arctic Command, which is responsible for the Faroe Islands, said it was standard procedure for the Danish Navy to assist the Faroese police in its work. Faroese police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Those arrested were eight French citizens, two South Africans, two Spaniards, one Italian and one Australian, according to Essemlali.

After their arrest, the hunt went ahead and all 33 pilot whales were killed, according to Sea Shepherd.

- ‘Atrocity’ -

One of the boats seized on Saturday, B.S. Sheen, is sponsored by American actor Charlie Sheen, who said he was proud his vessel had taken part in trying to stop the “atrocity.”

“The Faroese whalers brutally slaughtered an entire pod of 33 pilot whales today — several generations taken from the sea — and Denmark is complicit in the killing,” Sheen said in a statement.

The demonstrators were taking part in an ongoing campaign in which hundreds of activists have pledged to patrol the waters around the Faroe Islands to block the killing of pilot whales.

The killings — known locally as “grinds” — have emerged as a prominent celebrity cause, with renowned ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem and former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson among the backers of Sea Shepherd’s campaign.
Since records began, more than 265,000 small cetaceans have been killed in the Faroe Islands, mainly between the months of June and October, according to Sea Shepherd.

It says that 267 pilot whales were killed in one grind last year near the Faroese town of Fuglafjorour.

Whaling in the Faroes stretches back to the earliest Norse settlements more than 1,000 years ago, and community-organised hunts date to at least the 16th century.

 on: Today at 06:04 AM 
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Russian foreign minister calls for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

Lavrov says talks should focus on a truce and Ukraine forces must retreat from positions where they can harm civilians

Shaun Walker in Mariupol, Dan Roberts in Washington and agencies, Monday 1 September 2014 10.23 BST      

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said negotiations taking place in Minsk to resolve the crisis in eastern Ukraine should seek an immediate ceasefire.

Lavrov added that Ukrainian forces must pull back from positions from which they can hit civilians.

"They must leave positions from which they can harm the civilian population," Lavrov told students in Moscow on Monday. "I very much count on today's negotiations being devoted above all to the task of agreeing an immediate ceasefire, without conditions."

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, accused Moscow of "direct and open" aggression against his country, as forces battled a Russian tank battalion for a vital airport in Luhansk on Monday, and in Ilovaysk, near the east's main city of Donetsk, several hundred Ukrainian forces remained trapped within an encirclement by Russia-backed separatists.

In Mariupol, two Ukrainian seamen were reported missing after an attack by separatist rebel artillery on a patrol boat in the Asov Sea. Eight seamen had been rescued, a Ukrainian border guard official said on Monday.

The talks in the Belarusian capital will bring together representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) security forum and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The malignant tumor Pig Putin has called on Kiev to enter discussions on "statehood" for the south-east regions of Ukraine a day after the EU gave Russia a week to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine or face further sanctions.

In excerpts of an interview with state television broadcast on Sunday evening, the Russian president said talks between Ukrainian authorities and separatist leaders in the east should begin immediately and be about "not just technical issues but on the political organisation of society and statehood in south-eastern Ukraine".

His spokesperson later said malignant tumor Pig Putin had not meant the region should gain independence, but that dialogue should begin. Western leaders have accused Russia of fanning the flames of the insurgency in east Ukraine, and in recent weeks of providing direct military assistance, as the armed rebels suffered a number of losses to the Ukrainian army and appeared on the brink of defeat.

The EU said late on Saturday that if Russia did not reverse course in Ukraine within a week, a further round of sanctions would be imposed, but there is disagreement within the 28-member block about the effectiveness of sanctions and a fear that more serious measures would also harm European economies.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the sanctions would build on existing measures against Russia. Senior diplomats confirmed the punitive measures were not so much new as a tightening of the restrictions imposed in July on Russian financial, energy and defence sectors. "It's about closing loopholes," said a diplomat. They warned, however, that it could be weeks before any new sanctions were applied, perhaps as late as October.

The Senate foreign relations committee chair and Obama administration loyalist, Robert Menendez, called for the US to arm the Ukrainian military.

Speaking in Kiev, he said: "This is a watershed moment. Thousands of Russian troops are here and are directly engaged in what is clearly an invasion. We should be providing the Ukrainians with the types of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression."

Kiev has said it will not negotiate with the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, which it lists as terrorists. But in an apparent victory for Moscow, the separatists said they would be taking part in talks in Minsk this week with a delegation from Kiev.

Analysts have speculated that malignant tumor Pig Putin does not want a Crimea-style annexation, which would be expensive and militarily difficult, but instead wants to create a "frozen conflict" that would give Moscow permanent leverage in Ukraine.

Since talks between malignant tumor Pig Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk last Tuesday, the situation on the ground has changed, with rebel forces taking control of Novoazovsk in the far south-east of the country, which they are believed to have taken with help from Russian army soldiers and equipment. But the promised assault on the key port city of Mariupol has not materialised.

Many residents have been digging trenches on the outskirts of the city and preparing to defend it. Mariupol was under rebel control at the beginning of the uprising but was taken back by Kiev's forces in June and most of its residents have little appetite for further violence, although many remain sceptical about the Ukrainian government.

Kiev has said it will defend Mariupol from any rebel assault, though there is little sign of serious reinforcements with which to repel any attack. The majority of the forces appear to be from volunteer battalions.

Vadim, a commander in the Azov battalion, known for its far-right leanings, said on Sunday that it was imperative to defend the city because of its strategic importance. "If we lose Mariupol we will lose the war," said the 34-year-old, as he headed to a factory to transport concrete blocks to reinforce checkpoints.

Ukrainian forces said two coastguard vessels came under fire off the coast of Mariupol. Videos from the scene showed a plume of smoke rising from an object several miles offshore. It was unclear how the boats were attacked. People in the vicinity said they heard loud explosions but did not see or hear any aircraft, suggesting they may have been hit by missiles fired from land.

Russia has denied all accusations that its soldiers are active in eastern Ukraine, stating that a group of paratroopers captured inside the country had got lost and crossed "by accident", and all other Russians fighting in the region were volunteers or serving soldiers "on holiday".

The paratroopers were handed back to Russia over the weekend after what a Russian general, Alexei Ragozin, described as "very difficult" negotiations. He said it was unacceptable that the Ukrainians had detained the men, and noted that Russia had returned Ukrainian soldiers who had strayed over the border previously. The Ukrainian soldiers generally crossed the border to escape fighting, whereas Kiev accuses the Russians of coming to Ukraine to wage war.

The latest such group, comprising 63 fighters, was sent back to Ukraine in exchange for the captured paratroopers.

In interviews, the Russian paratroopers claimed they had not realised they were inside Ukraine until they came under fire. The claims that they crossed the border accidentally have been mocked by Kiev, and during the capture of Novoazovsk earlier in the week there were numerous sightings of "green men" – well-equipped soldiers wearing no insignia but immediately distinguishable from the irregular rebels. Nato said it believed at least 1,000 Russian soldiers were operating inside Ukraine.

The malignant tumor Pig Putin, however, has insisted that the conflict is an "internal Ukrainian" matter. His rhetoric in recent days has been bullish, comparing the Ukrainian army offensive in the east to the Nazi siege of Leningrad and reminding the west that Russia is a nuclear power and "it's better not to mess with us".

Oksana Grytsenko contributed to reporting


'Up to 15,000 Russian Soldiers' Sent to Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 September 2014, 13:49

Up to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been sent to Ukraine over the past two months, and at least several hundred have apparently died in combat there, rights groups exposing army abuses told AFP on Monday.

Moscow denies that it has deployed regular troops to Ukraine to prop up separatists battling Kiev forces, but multiple indications have emerged over the past weeks that Russian soldiers are on the ground in Ukraine.

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, the top organization representing the families of military servicemen, said that some 7,000-8,000 Russian troops are believed to be in Ukraine at present.

Citing her own estimates, she added that between 10,000 and 15,000 troops had been deployed to Ukraine over the past two months.

"Unfortunately, I am convinced I am right," she told AFP, saying her estimates are based on information from families whose husbands and sons have been sent on drills but then have gone incommunicado.

"Military commanders are conducting a secret special operation," said Melnikova, who is a member of the defense ministry's public council.

Rights groups say Russian authorities have imposed a virtual blackout on any information about the deployment of servicemen.

The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers and Citizen and Army, another rights group representing servicemen, said they don't have any officially confirmed casualty lists so far.

But the rights campaigners, citing information from relatives and servicemen, said that at least 200 servicemen might have died in Ukraine.

Sergei Krivenko, head of Citizen and the Army, and Ella Polyakova, head of Soldiers' Mothers in Saint Petersburg, said that some 100 soldiers from the 18th infantry brigade based in Chechnya are believed to have died in Ukraine.

"Authorities should say why soldiers are dying on the territory of another state and why they are keeping silent," said Polyakova, who is also a member of President malignant tumor Pig Putin's advisory council on human rights.

Separately, a Russian opposition lawmaker, Lev Shlosberg, probing Russian soldiers' presence in Ukraine, told AFP on Saturday that some 100 paratroopers based in the northwestern town of Pskov had died in the ex-Soviet country.

Lyudmila Bogatenkova, head of the Soldiers' Mothers group in the southern Stavropol region, added: "A large number of people are dying."

She said a hospital in the town of Rostov, close to the Ukrainian border, was overflowing with the wounded.

NATO has said that "over 1,000 Russian troops" are in Ukraine.


PM: Australia to Match EU on Russia Sanctions

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 September 2014, 08:47

Australia will toughen its sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine so they match those of the European Union, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday.

Australia already has some sanctions against Russia, but Abbott said these would be tightened as a result of Moscow's persistent and deliberate violation of its neighbor's sovereignty.

"Australia will lift its sanctions against Russia to the level of the European Union," Abbott told parliament in Canberra.

"There will be no new arms exports, there will be no new access by Russian state-owned banks to the Australian capital market, there will be no new exports for use in the oil and gas industry, there will be no new trade or investment in the Crimea.

"And there will be further targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against specific individuals."

The European Union and the United States in March slapped tough sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis, including Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

On Sunday the EU gave Moscow one week to curb its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine or face a fresh wave of penalties as it warned the escalating crisis was putting all of Europe at risk.

Australia has taken a particular interest in the conflict after 38 of its citizens and nationals died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.

Abbott said Russia had been running a proxy campaign to destabilize Ukraine in "clear breach and defiance of international law" for months and was openly violating Ukraine's sovereignty.

The prime minister said NATO had reported that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers were operating openly inside Ukraine where the conflict has so far cost the lives of some 2,500 people.

"Let's be clear about what's happening here -- Russia started it and Russia must take responsibility for this loss of life," Abbott said.

"And now... Russia quite brazenly is trying to break the eastern Ukraine away from Ukraine itself.

"If Russian troops remain in Ukraine, if Russia persists in its attempt to break up a neighboring country that has done it no harm, it risks becoming an international pariah."

In a statement, Abbott said the tightened sanctions were being coordinated with partners in the United States, Canada and the EU and the government would not rule out further action in the future.


Top U.S. Senator Urges Weapons for Ukraine to Fight 'Invasion'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
31 August 2014, 22:49

The head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee called Sunday for supplying Ukraine with weapons to fight what he called a "direct invasion" of the country by Russia.

"We should provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon the malignant tumor Pig Putin for further aggression," Robert Menendez told CNN's "State of the Union" talk show.

"This is no longer the question of some rebel separatists, this is a direct invasion by Russia. We must recognize it as that."

His comments came as Putin raised the stakes in the months-long Ukraine conflict by calling for the first time for statehood to be discussed for the restive east of the former Soviet state.

Kiev has warned it was on the brink of "full-scale war" with Moscow, which Europe fears would put the continent at risk of more widespread conflict.

In particular, the Ukrainian government has said the invigorated rebel push of the past days has included substantial numbers of Russian regular army contingents who are now concentrating forces in big towns across the region.

"I think the European Union, NATO, as well as the United States has to consider this is dramatically different and we have to give the Ukrainians the fighting chance to defend themselves," Menendez, a Democrat, said from Kiev.

Senator John McCain, a Republican who has been very vocal in criticizing Russia, backed Menendez's call, telling CBS's "Face the Nation" that Ukrainians should be given "the weapons they need."

"For God's sake, can't we help these people defend themselves? This is not an incursion. This is an invasion," said McCain, who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Early Sunday, EU leaders gave Russia a week to reverse course in Ukraine or face a new round of sanctions in a move welcomed by Washington.

President Barack Obama -- who last week held back from calling Russia's recent actions an "invasion" -- is due to host his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the White House on September 18.


Ukrainian Woman, Held Up to Public Abuse, Is Released

AUG. 31, 2014

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — A woman whose public abuse by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine roused anger over her treatment and concern for her fate has been freed from detention and allowed to leave rebel-controlled territory.

The woman, Irina Dovgan, 53, was accused by separatists of assisting the Ukrainian Army by acting as an artillery spotter. Separatist soldiers had wrapped her in a Ukrainian flag and forced her to stand on a sidewalk holding a sign saying “She kills our children,” while passers-by slapped and kicked her and spit on her.

A photograph of her mistreatment published by The New York Times stirred widespread outrage in Ukraine, prompted a social media effort to identify Ms. Dovgan and drew the attention of United Nations human rights monitors. The mounting attention precipitated her release.

On Thursday, Mark Franchetti, a reporter for the British newspaper The Sunday Times, and Dmitry Beliakov, a Russian freelance photographer, raised her case in a meeting with a senior rebel military commander, Aleksandr Khodakovsky, the leader of the Vostok Battalion, who ordered her release late Thursday evening in Donetsk, the capital of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. Mr. Khodakovsky said those responsible would be disciplined.

“It doesn’t matter what she did,” Mr. Khodakovsky said in an interview. “She should not have been treated that way.”

Still in the clothes and flip-flops she wore when she was arrested five days earlier, her face puffy with bruises, Ms. Dovgan arrived at a hotel lobby minutes after her release in a dazed state and said, “I was prepared to die.”

On Mr. Khodakovsky’s orders, rebel soldiers allowed Ms. Dovgan to retrieve her dog and three cats from her house, which had been looted during her detention, and escorted her to the last separatist checkpoint outside Donetsk.

From there, Ms. Dovgan crossed to the Ukrainian lines and rejoined her family — her husband, Roman Taibov; her 16-year-old daughter, Tatyana; her 32-year-old son, Aleksei; and her 1-year-old granddaughter, Sofia — in a town near the Ukrainian-controlled city of Mariupol, where they had fled earlier.

Ms. Dovgan first gained wide recognition in Ukraine as an anonymous, terrified victim, whose face was smeared with hurled tomatoes and spit. But details of her life soon emerged: She studied economics in college and owned a beauty salon in her hometown, Yasinovataya, which was taken by rebels in April.

She was arrested after posting pro-Ukrainian views on social networking sites and giving food and clean clothes to Ukrainian soldiers when they approached the outskirts of her town. Rebels who searched her house found binoculars, she said.

Ms. Dovgan denied that she was a spotter aiding Ukrainian artillery units, and said the separatists never had any evidence that she was. She said she had been forced to stand on the sidewalk while passers-by beat her and spit on her because she refused to incriminate herself after a nightlong beating.

“I just wanted to die,” she said of the ordeal. “I lost myself. I thought: ‘This is my fate. God wants this for me. This is how it should be. Somebody should endure this.’ ” Rebel soldiers fired pistols beside her head in mock executions and beat her severely, leaving bruises on her arms and legs.

A report by the United Nations released last week that documents the conflict’s toll on civilians drew attention to indiscriminate shelling of residential areas by the Ukrainian Army and a wide range of abuses by pro-Russian separatists, including “killings, abductions, physical and psychological torture.” The report did not provide a definitive figure for the number of people held prisoner by separatists, but as of mid-August at least 498 people were believed to have been detained, often under harrowing conditions.

Separatists, who have introduced the death penalty for some offenses, have paraded prisoners of war in Donetsk and in Luhansk and compelled detainees to stand in public wearing signs hanging from string around their necks that listed their supposed crimes, much as Ms. Dovgan was forced to do.

Artillery barrages by unseen Ukrainian gunners that kill and wound dozens of residents of eastern Ukrainian towns daily have stirred rage. In Donetsk, as in other towns shelled in the conflict, that rage has been channeled into a hunt for artillery spotters.

After her release, Ms. Dovgan met Mauricio Lima, whose photograph drew wide attention to her plight after its publication in The New York Times last Tuesday.

“Thank you,” she said, and then she hugged him.

 on: Today at 05:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Poland uneasy with Russian aggression on 75th anniversary of outbreak of WWII

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 1, 2014 7:18 EDT

Poland marks the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II Monday with one eye on Russia, which invaded it during the war and is now throwing its weight around in neighbouring Ukraine.

From the very first German shells fired at a Polish fort in Gdansk in the early hours of September 1, 1939, to the final days in 1945, Poland suffered some of the worst horrors of the war, chief among them the extermination of most of its Jewish population by the Nazis.

Nearly six million Poles, or about 17 percent of the population — including around three million Jews — died in the conflict.

Memories of the era have been bubbling to the surface since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March, and a fierce conflict began in the country’s east.

“To use military force against one’s neighbours, to annex their territory, to prevent them from freely choosing their place in the world — this provides a worrying reminder of the dark chapters of Europe’s 20th-century history,” Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said in a newspaper opinion piece ahead of the anniversary.

Polish historian Andrzej Friszke meanwhile recalled the infamous Munich agreement that Britain and France signed with Nazi Germany in 1938, allowing it to annex swathes of Czechoslovakia in a failed bid to avert war.

“There is an attempt again to sacrifice some (people) to buy an illusion of peace for the rest,” he told AFP.

- Poland carved up -

On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union secretly agreed to carve up eastern Europe between them by signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Just over a week later, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish fort of Westerplatte, near the northern city of Gdansk (then called Danzig).

It is at Westerplatte that Poland will hold official ceremonies on the September 1 anniversary, with Komorowski and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck in attendance.

One of the first cities bombed by the Nazis was Wielun, near the former German-Polish border. It was destroyed in the very first minutes of the war, with 1,200 of its residents killed in the initial attack.

“It was a foretaste of how the war would turn out: the bloodiest, most terrifying of all of history’s conflicts,” said Jan Szkudlinski, a historian at the new Museum of World War II in Gdansk.

“A conflict that, in contrast to the war of 1914-18, claimed many more civilian victims than military lives,” he told AFP.

Hitler’s attack on Poland led Britain and France to declare war on Nazi Germany.

On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union in turn invaded Poland and the Red Army executed thousands of Polish army officers in 1940 in the notorious Katyn massacre.

In 1941, the Nazis tore up the pact with Moscow and invaded Soviet-occupied eastern Poland.

Two alliances then battled it out until the end: the Axis powers led by Germany, Italy and Japan and the ultimately victorious Allied forces led by Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.

- ‘Shivers up my spine’ -

Barbara Rybeczko-Tarnowiecka was nine years old and living with her parents in Warsaw in 1939.

“I still remember the sound of the bombs and the frightening din of the windows all shattering at once,” she told AFP.

“And I retain the sight of the column of German troops passing before our house and singing at the top of their lungs.”

She peered at them through the bars of the front gate to her building along with other neighbourhood children. Fast-forward 75 years and Rybeczko-Tarnowiecka is again apprehensive.

“I am very concerned by what is going on between Russia and Ukraine,” she said. “To be honest, I’ve been avoiding the news, because it sends shivers up my spine.”

 on: Today at 05:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Up to 15,000 Russian Soldiers' Sent to Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 September 2014, 13:49

Up to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been sent to Ukraine over the past two months, and at least several hundred have apparently died in combat there, rights groups exposing army abuses told AFP on Monday.

Moscow denies that it has deployed regular troops to Ukraine to prop up separatists battling Kiev forces, but multiple indications have emerged over the past weeks that Russian soldiers are on the ground in Ukraine.

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, the top organization representing the families of military servicemen, said that some 7,000-8,000 Russian troops are believed to be in Ukraine at present.

Citing her own estimates, she added that between 10,000 and 15,000 troops had been deployed to Ukraine over the past two months.

"Unfortunately, I am convinced I am right," she told AFP, saying her estimates are based on information from families whose husbands and sons have been sent on drills but then have gone incommunicado.

"Military commanders are conducting a secret special operation," said Melnikova, who is a member of the defense ministry's public council.

Rights groups say Russian authorities have imposed a virtual blackout on any information about the deployment of servicemen.

The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers and Citizen and Army, another rights group representing servicemen, said they don't have any officially confirmed casualty lists so far.

But the rights campaigners, citing information from relatives and servicemen, said that at least 200 servicemen might have died in Ukraine.

Sergei Krivenko, head of Citizen and the Army, and Ella Polyakova, head of Soldiers' Mothers in Saint Petersburg, said that some 100 soldiers from the 18th infantry brigade based in Chechnya are believed to have died in Ukraine.

"Authorities should say why soldiers are dying on the territory of another state and why they are keeping silent," said Polyakova, who is also a member of President malignant tumor Pig Putin's advisory council on human rights.

Separately, a Russian opposition lawmaker, Lev Shlosberg, probing Russian soldiers' presence in Ukraine, told AFP on Saturday that some 100 paratroopers based in the northwestern town of Pskov had died in the ex-Soviet country.

Lyudmila Bogatenkova, head of the Soldiers' Mothers group in the southern Stavropol region, added: "A large number of people are dying."

She said a hospital in the town of Rostov, close to the Ukrainian border, was overflowing with the wounded.

NATO has said that "over 1,000 Russian troops" are in Ukraine.

 on: Today at 05:34 AM 
Started by TempuraNostril - Last post by Rad
It holds no specific meaning of itself.

God Bless, Rad

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