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 31 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:45 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.S. 'Peace Cyclist' Killed by Russian Drunk Driver

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 18:11

An American "peace ambassador" traveling around the world on his bicycle was run over and killed by a Russian drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident, officials said Friday.

Ron McGerity, a 60-year-old who had traveled 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) over the past 15 years on his bike visiting 61 countries with a message of peace, died on Thursday on a country road in central Russia.

Police in the Ivanovo region said they have arrested a man who was driving a truck while drunk, and who fled the scene without stopping after killing McGerity.

McGerity, an American who had been living in Geneva, has been a solo cyclist bringing "peaceful and spiritual civic messages" to different corners of the globe since 1998, a mission that started as a charity project, said his website Biker on the Road (http://bikerontheroad.com)

Since the beginning of the year, he traveled through Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, among other countries, but his trips have also taken him as far as Japan and South Korea.

He last posted pictures on his Facebook page on Tuesday, posing on his reclining recumbent bike in front of the Lenin Mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square, and various other landmarks in the capital.

On Wednesday he was in Kostroma, a city on the Volga river about 280 kilometers (174 miles) northeast of Moscow, known for its ancient monasteries. He met with the mayor and other officials, had a tour of the sights and left the next morning, a city spokeswoman said.

"He was travelling completely alone," she told Agence France-Presse.

"Even the short time of our meeting was enough to understand how open, sincere, honest, and joyful this man was," mayor Viktor Yemets said in a statement posted on the city's website.

"We'll remember him as a true enthusiast who had inexhaustible energy and enormous love of life and people," he said.

Earlier this month McGerity went on local radio in the town of Novgorod, where he professed his love for Russia in a mix of Russian, English and French.

He said he had lived in Russia in the early 1990s and had come back to visit the country again, planning his trip on the hoof and relying on the kindness of people he meets. He was looking forward to biking to Astrakhan, a southern city near where the Volga river empties into the Caspian Sea.

"Today everything is booked in advanced. There is nothing unexpected, and the unexpected is very important to me," he said on the show.

"I need no planning, I leave everything open."

 32 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:42 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Pro-Gaza Rally Held in Berlin under Close Police Watch

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 20:07

About 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through Berlin Friday, closely watched by police for any banned anti-Semitic slogans and separated from pro-Israel rallies.

More than 1,000 officers were on guard in the rainy capital for the rally against Israel's Gaza offensive that has killed more than 845 people, most of them Palestinian civilians.

A few hundred counter-protesters waved Israeli flags and while the groups shouted at each other, there were no violent clashes.

"We are keeping the groups apart," a police spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

Jewish groups and German politicians had voiced outrage in recent days that protesters at past pro-Gaza rallies had chanted anti-Jewish slurs and hate speech, in the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.

The main demonstration Friday marked Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) in support of the Palestinians, an event initiated by Iran in 1979 and held annually on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Protesters shouted slogans such as "Israel, child killers" and "Stop killing the innocents" but avoided chants against "Jews."

At rallies in Germany last week, protesters waving Palestinian flags and signs of late leader Yasser Arafat had shouted slogans such as "Death to Israel" and "Zionists are fascists, killing children and civilians."

In the same week, France was rocked by violent pro-Palestinian protests in and near Paris.

Police in Berlin made clear that no anti-Jewish chants or calls to violence would be tolerated, and that burning flags and effigies would also be forbidden.

Anti-Semitic slogans and symbols are illegal in Germany, where atonement for the slaughter of some six million European Jews in the Holocaust is a foundation of the post-war order.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had this week pledged the country's Jewish community her unwavering support, with her spokesman calling such outbursts "an attack on our freedom and tolerance."

The top-selling Bild daily dedicated its front page to appeals against Jewish hatred by dozens of celebrities, politicians and business leaders.

"There is no room in Germany for anti-Semitism. Never again!" the newspaper said in an editorial.

 33 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:40 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Slovak President Hands Over Salary to the Poor, Sick

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 22:13

Slovakia's President Andrej Kiska has given his first month's salary to 10 impoverished families, some coping with serious illness, a spokesman said Friday.

"Eight families will each receive bank transfers of 537.60 euros ($721.92). In the other two cases, the president has sent the same amount by money order for those without bank accounts," spokesman Peter Petrus told local media.

The 51-year old tycoon, who took office in June, made his fortune in the consumer-credit business.

Kiska used his millions to create Slovakia's biggest charity, "Good Angel", helping terminally ill children and their families.

Kiska emerged from nowhere to beat popular Prime Minister Robert Fico, a veteran leftist, in the March presidential poll.

On the campaign trail, Kiska promised to hand over his entire salary -- 5,376 euro per month -- to the needy for his entire five-year term.

The recipients, whose identity will not be made public, were chosen with the help of several charities.

Several are seriously ill, Petrus said without elaborating.

 34 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Russia offers 3.9m roubles for 'research to identify users of Tor'

Analysts say tender for research on service that anonymises browsing sends signal to online community amid crackdown on Russian internet

Alec Luhn in Moscow
theguardian.com, Friday 25 July 2014 19.03 BST      

Russia's interior ministry has offered up to 3.9m roubles (£65,000) for research on identifying the users of the anonymous browsing network Tor, raising questions of online freedom amid a broader crackdown on the Russian internet.

The interior ministry's special technology and communications group published a tender earlier this month on the government procurement website offering the sum for "research work, Tor cipher".

Before changes to the tender were published on Friday, numerous news outlets reported that it originally sought "research work on the possibility to obtain technical information about users (user equipment) of the anonymous network Tor".

According to Andrei Soldatov, an expert on surveillance and security services, the interior ministry might be exploring possible ways to restrict Tor. But the fact that the tender was publicly announced meant that those seeking greater government control of the internet had defined their next target and were sending "yet another signal" to the online community, he argued.

"It's not important if the Russian government is able to block Tor or not," Soldatov said. "The importance is that they're sending signals that they are watching this. People will start to be more cautious."

The interior ministry refused to comment on Friday afternoon.

Originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory as an "onion routing project", Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows users to hide the source and destination of their internet browsing and keeps websites from tracking them. It is often used by whistleblowers and residents of countries where the authorities restrict access to the internet, but has also been known to be used for criminal activity. A famous example was the Tor-based online market Silk Road, which was known as an "eBay for drugs" before the FBI shut it down in 2013.

Although many news outlets reported on the recent tender as a reward for "cracking Tor", internet security experts doubted Tor could be successfully decrypted, let alone for a mere 3.9m roubles.

Of all countries, the fifth largest contingent of Tor users come from Russia, where the network's popularity more than doubled in June, going from about 80,000 directly connecting users to more than 210,000. The growth followed a "bloggers law" – signed by the president, malignant tumor Pig Putin, in May – requiring any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily to register with the government. Media experts argued that the legislation would stifle opposition voices and restrict government criticism on the internet.

The move was part of a wider campaign to regulate the internet which saw the authorities block three major opposition news sites as well as the blog of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny in March. Users located in Russia can now only access the news sites through anonymising services such as Tor.

This week, the malignant tumor Pig Putin signed a law requiring internet companies to store Russian user data in-country, where intelligence services enjoy sweeping access to electronic information through telecoms companies. Critics worry that websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which the opposition used to organise a string of huge rallies in 2011-2013, would be forced to stop operating in Russia when it comes into effect in 2016.

Unlike the Chinese system of internet censorship, which directly blocks websites such as Google, the Russian one is built on intimidation so that users "themselves become more cautious, and internet companies think up ways to block certain sites," Soldatov said.

But blogger, journalist and web entrepreneur Anton Nosik doubted that the Tor research tender would have any effect, arguing that the interior ministry was not a serious player among the various government agencies surveilling the internet but was now "trying to make a name for itself".

"The only significance [of the tender] is the money being paid and the PR surrounding it, showing that the ministry of interior is seriously working on issues of anonymising technology, so that everybody's talking about it. And everybody is talking about it," Nosik said.

More worrying, Nosik said, was leading communications provider Rostelecom's investment in Deep Packet Inspection technology that would filter web traffic based on its content rather than its source. This would severely reduce users' anonymity on the web, although Tor should be able to somewhat limit DPI capabilities, Nosik said.

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Russia censors media by blocking websites and popular blog

Media watchdog adds Alexei Navalny blog and opposition news sites to banned list amid ongoing Ukraine crisis

Agence France-Presse
theguardian.com, Friday 14 March 2014 13.31 GMT   

Russia has blocked three major opposition news websites as well as the popular blog of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in a media crackdown that comes amid Vladimir Putin's standoff with the west over Ukraine.

The government's media watchdog said late on Thursday it was enforcing an order by prosecutors to add three popular opposition news websites to its banned list, along with Navalny's Live Journal blog. A law came into force in February allowing the blocking of internet sites on the order of prosecutors without a court decision.

The pulling of the sites openly critical of the Kremlin came as state media is waging a full-on propaganda war in support of intervention in the Ukrainian crisis and the Kremlin's incursion into Crimea.

"There is an absolutely direct link with the events in Ukraine," said Alexander Podrabinek, a former dissident and a columnist for two of the newly banned websites, EJ.ru and Grani.ru.

The ban comes just two days after the chief editor of one of Russia's oldest and most popular news websites, Lenta.ru, was summarily dismissed on Wednesday over its Ukraine coverage.

Russian internet providers were on Friday blocking access to the blacklisted websites, although they were still accessible through internet providers outside Russia. Tips on how to get around the ban were circulating on social media.

"We will try to find out what we are being accused of and if we can restore the site's operations," said EJ.ru, which runs liberal opinion pieces.

The Roskomnadzor media watchdog said the sites were banned for "making calls for unlawful activity and participation in mass events held with breaches of public order," it said, apparently referring to opposition rallies.

 35 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:32 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Russians in London: 'It's official policy now to hate us'

Those living in capital have noticed backlash since the downing of flight MH17, and feel UK media is blaming all Russians

Caroline Davies   
The Guardian, Friday 25 July 2014 18.26 BST   

Outside Kalinka, a Russian delicatessen and grocers on London's bustling Queensway, customers were uneasy . "I am shocked," says one, an electrician, who came to London 12 years ago to work on building sites. He remembers the stereotyping of his fellow Russians back then. "It was Russians are rude. And they are drinking beer. And they are drinking vodka. But it was funny. It was soft humour.

"Now, the newspapers are definitely trying to mix the opinions of people against Russian culture and people. Now it is Russians are killers."

He is far from alone among Russians living in London to have noticed a backlash since the downing of flight MH17. Like most, he too, speaks only on condition of anonymity.

"There are pictures of the malignant tumor Pig Putin. The word "killer" on the front pages," said Anna, a Russian-born pharmaceutical consultant. "Then page after page, until page 12 or something, when it's Gaza. Russians are killers. How do you think it affects us?"

"Do you believe in collective punishment? Do you want to bomb people for their nationality?" she asks. "It's actually official policy now to hate Russians."

Of course, she said, she has no idea of the exact circumstances that led to shooting of the plane and loss of 298 lives. "But the British culture is to find a culprit. Bully them. Bully those around them. Don't bother to investigate. Judge on very superficial grounds. Let's bully his daughter. Let's find someone who played judo with this man and bully them too.

"Surround him with hate so the Russians will throw him out. But the Russians won't throw him out," she added. "Everyone is suffering. Collective punishment is not the answer."

Among his friends, Sasha, a retired Russian army officer who has lived in London for more than 20 years, now finds "a great deal of sadness, and fear, fear that the lunacy will escalate.

"It is easy to resurrect antagonism towards Russia because people remember the cold war, and when something goes wrong in Russia it's magnified," he said. Sanctions would hit the middle and lower income Russians "the tourists, the students who fill the universities" and not "the big people, who don't care".

Across London in the City, fears are also for business. One director of a reinsurance broker, whose company works in 20 different countries, many from the former Soviet Union, said his concern about media coverage was "that there is no presumption of innocence in this case.

"It looked as if the story was ready for the mass media before the aircraft came down.

"All this blaming Russians, I am Russian English. I have been living here for 25 years. I don't quite like Putin's politics. But, unfortunately, all this has really pushed me over to the Russian side, which I haven't been since the events started in the Ukraine."

He fears a break "in connections which have been set up over the last 20 to 25 years, based on information that has not been verified".

Others fear a trade slump will lead to job losses. "If there is no business with Russia, it inevitably will affect our employability because we sell our language skills," said one insurance worker.

Now living in London, she was born in Russia before moving to Ukraine, where her parents still live. She was visiting them when the plane was shot down.

"My parents have both Ukrainian and Russian channels. And the story was so contradictory if you switched from Russian TV to Ukrainian TV. It is actually scary how the same event can be shown from a different perspective and you just didn't know what to believe," she said. "They are trading accusations, and both seem equally credible. My advice would be not to listen to either."

She has found British media "more or less objective" but is concerned how comments translate into Russian.

"I can hear what David Cameron says in English and it's sort of all right. Once it is translated into Russian it sounds really harsh. That really is an issue. When it's taken out of context, and translated, it can sound almost opposite to what was said," she said.

 36 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:29 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Russia Steps Up Help for Rebels in Ukraine War

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and PETER BAKER
JULY 25, 2014
IHT

KIEV, Ukraine — Rather than backing down after last week’s downing of a civilian passenger jet, Russia appears to be intervening more aggressively in the war in eastern Ukraine in what American and Ukrainian officials call a dangerous escalation that will almost certainly force more robust retaliation from the United States and Europe.

Russia has increased its direct involvement in fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents, moving more of its own troops to the border and preparing to arm the rebels with ever more potent weapons, including high-powered Tornado rocket launchers, American and Ukrainian officials said on Friday.

The officials, citing satellite images and other military intelligence, said that Russia had positioned heavy weapons, including tanks and other combat vehicles, at several points along the border where there has been intense fighting. On Thursday, Russia unleashed artillery attacks on eastern Ukraine from Russian territory, officials in Washington and Kiev said. While Russia flatly denied accelerating its intervention on Friday, American and Ukrainian officials said Moscow appeared anxious to stem gains by government forces that have succeeded in retaking some rebel-held territory.

The reported Russian moves raised the prospect of a new and more perilous chapter opening in a conflict that has already inflamed the region and, with the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with 298 aboard, stunned the world. American officials blamed a Russian-provided surface-to-air missile for the explosion and hoped the shock of the episode would prompt the Kremlin to rethink its approach, but they are increasingly convinced it has not.

Obama administration officials said Russia’s rising involvement had stiffened the resolve of European leaders who have been reluctant to confront Moscow for fear of damaging their own economies. But there was no appetite for a direct military response, and it remained unclear whether the West could or would take action that may change the calculus of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as Moscow seems to devote more firepower to the fight.

American and Ukrainian officials said Russia has moved beyond simply helping separatists and is now engaging directly in the war. Multiple Ukrainian military planes have been brought down in recent days by missiles fired from Russian territory, and now artillery batteries are firing from across the border into Ukraine, the officials said.

“We have detected that firing and that does represent an escalation in this conflict,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “It only underscores the concerns that the United States and the international community has about Russian behavior and the need for the Putin regime to change their strategy.”

American officials said Russia has moved 15,000 troops near the border. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Russia had made “imminent” plans to deliver heavier rockets to the separatists. Instead of the malignant tumor Pig Putin de-escalating the conflict after the Malaysia Airlines tragedy, “he’s actually taken a decision to escalate,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a security forum in Aspen, Colo.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine to express solidarity and pledge to coordinate with allies “about imposing further costs on Russia for its deeply destabilizing and irresponsible actions in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

While the United States has been hesitant to make its intelligence public, Ukrainian officials have provided a daily, running list of Russian incursions, including flights into Ukrainian air space by fighter jets and unmanned surveillance drones, as well as mortar and rocket attacks.

“We have facts of shelling of Ukrainian positions from the territory of Russian Federation,” Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev on Friday. “We have facts on the violation of air border between Ukraine and Russia.”

Mr. Lysenko said there were active-duty Russian soldiers who had surrendered, as well as volunteer Russian fighters who had been captured. “We have information about weapons and mercenaries who have respective skills for warfare, who have been passing over from the territory of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Lysenko said.

Russia pointedly denied the American allegations on Friday. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of engaging in a “smear campaign.”

“All of this is accompanied by references to some ‘evidence’ allegedly available to the United States,” the ministry said. “Not one of these ‘evidences,’ however, has been shown, which is not surprising. Facts and specifics to support false allegations simply do not exist.”

On Friday, the European Union took another step toward imposing additional economic penalties focused on the financial, energy and military sectors of the Russian economy, but a letter to European leaders from Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, made clear that officials were still struggling to find a balance.

Mr. Lysenko, the military spokesman, said that Ukrainian troops were coming under increased fire from the Russian side of the border, and that the Ukrainian military had recently shot down three Russian surveillance drones. One was used to target a Ukrainian base near the town of Amvrosiivka, which then quickly came under heavy rocket attack, he said.

Ukrainian officials say their forces have recaptured at least 10 towns, shrinking the amount of territory under rebel control in the embattled regions of Luhansk and Donetsk and gaining substantial advantage, including over some of the main highways in the region.

The recent gains by Ukrainian forces included the recapture of the city of Lysychansk after days of fighting. The city of more than 100,000 had been a rebel stronghold, and it posed a strategic obstacle to government troops pressing through the Luhansk region from the north and west. Ukrainian ground troops needed air support to expel the rebels, but were able to push them south and out of the city.

Officials have said they believed that they could defeat the rebels within three weeks if there were no further intervention by Russia.

By placing forces close to the border, the Russians can provide fire support to the separatists, prevent Ukrainian troops from establishing control over the border and facilitate the delivery of Russian arms to the separatists. The Ukrainian military has expressed frustration that at least two sections of the border remain porous. One goal of the Russian attacks on targets, an American official said, is to keep Ukrainian forces away from the border, making it easier for Russia to transport weapons and cooperate with the insurgents.

“The quantity and sophistication of weaponry being sent by Russia across the border is increasing,” one Western official said on Friday, adding that Russian artillery units have been firing into Ukraine from Russian territory “in direct support of separatists.” Like other officials with access to classified intelligence assessments, he spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Correction: July 26, 2014

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Ukrainian accounts of Russian interventions. Ukrainian officials said Russian fighter jets and drones have flown into Ukrainian air space, not Russian.

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EU expands Russian oligarch sanctions blacklist in wake of MH17 crash

Measures against Moscow looking likely after shooting down of plane, though deep divisions remain among 28 member states

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Friday 25 July 2014 19.42 BST     

The European Union has expanded its blacklist of Russians subject to sanctions and broad economic measures against Moscow are looking increasingly likely following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 despite deep divisions among the 28 EU member states.

Such measures would represent a rift between Russia and the rest of Europe of a depth not seen for over 20 years. While analysts balk at describing the looming standoff as a new cold war, pointing out Russia is a much less formidable power than the Soviet Union, they say the new east-west tensions could intensify and prove very hard to reverse.

So far, with no sign of an end to Russian military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and reports of direct artillery fire from inside Russia against Ukrainian positions, Malignant tumor Pig Putin appears to be responding to the threat of more sanctions by raising the stakes on the battlefield.

"Malignant tumor Pig Putin has dug himself into a hole," said John Lough, an associate fellow at the Chatham House thinktank's Russia and Eurasia programme. "He has revved up public opinion with grotesque use of propaganda, and it is not clear what he can do with the national mood he has released. What is it going to focus on? This could transform the relationship extremely negatively to one of long-term mutual alienation."

However, Lough added: "We are a long way off from a new cold war. Russia is a very different country from the Soviet Union, with no unifying ideology. This is a collision of interests rather than of ideologies. Inadvertently the EU finds itself in competition with Russia on its periphery."

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) said the direct challenge posed by Putin could unravel the post-cold war order in which the eastward spread of liberal European ideas once seemed inevitable.

"By annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine, Russia has raised fundamental questions about the principles of the European order," the ECFR said in an assessment of 10 global consequences of the Ukraine crisis. "Russia wants to both restore and re-legitimise spheres of influence as an organising principle of European order. This is a direct challenge to Europe and the west as a whole: although some countries might be willing to accept implicitly Russia's view of European order, none can afford to do so explicitly."

The EU has found it hard to find a cohesive position towards Russia but the downing of the Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people, of whom more than 200 were EU nationals, has made an escalation in European sanctions all but certain.

The new EU sanctions list adds 15 individuals and 18 entities, bringing the totals of those affected to 87 people and 20 organisations, all deemed to be directly linked to the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. Among the new names were the chief of Russia's FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and Mikhail Fradkov, a former prime minister who now heads the foreign intelligence service.

European ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Thursday also agreed to widen targeted sanctions to include the malignant tumor called Pig Putin's close circle of supporters, but the final decision on a list of affected "cronies" will not be discussed until Monday.

The EU is also due to decide next week on the first significant financial sanctions to be imposed if Russian-backed separatists continue to obstruct an investigation into the airliner crash and Russia fails to stop the flow of arms to the rebels. Those conditions appear unlikely to be met.

European commission officials have drawn up options including banning Russian banks with more than 50% state ownership from raising capital on European markets, a potentially powerful blow. Last year, almost half the bonds issued by Russian public financial institutions, worth €7.5bn (£6bn), were sold on European markets.

Such measures have long been portrayed as particularly damaging to London, but research by the Open Europe thinktank suggests the impact has been exaggerated, partly because of the high profile of some London-based oligarchs. In 2012, the latest year for which full statistics are available, the stock of Russian assets in the UK was worth £27bn, only half of one per cent of total European assets invested in the UK.

"While the Londongrad narrative is attractive, the data suggests it doesn't quite hold," said Raoul Ruparel, the head of economic research at Open Europe. "Given that London is a global financial centre, Russian business is only a small slice of a very large pie. The stage three sanctions being considered should therefore be manageable from the City's perspective."

The limited stakes involved help explain the UK's vocal backing of tough measures in Brussels, but progress in agreeing a package of EU measures has been slowed by the principle of burden sharing, in which all member states with an economic stake in the outcome have to be seen to be making equal sacrifices.

In that respect, European officials have drawn up a draft arms embargo covering the entire defence sector, but left it to the politicians to hammer out whether and how it should affect contracts already signed. France has sold two Mistral helicopter carrier vessels to Russia worth a combined €1.2bn, but President François Hollande has hinted at a compromise, by which one ship would be delivered and another held back, even at the cost of penalties and forgone income.

"This is a huge problem for Hollande," said Bruno Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris. "The question of reputation as a supplier is as important at least as the money. If it was just about a billion euros, it would be different story."

The choices facing Europe are complicated by different degrees of dependence on Russian gas for energy supplies. However, the correlation between gas pipelines and political positions is not linear. Bulgaria is completely dependent and is the European state most opposed to sanctions. But Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also receive all their gas from Russia but are fervent advocates of punitive measures.

The most decisive split over sanctions in Europe may not be between governments but inside the most powerful government on the continent, in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a much tougher advocate of sanctions than the foreign ministry under Frank-Walter Steinmeier. How those differences are resolved could determine which way Europe jumps next week.

There is no doubt that the sanctions on the table in Brussels could inflict serious economic damage on Russia. Whether that can influence the malignant tumor's actions, however, is another question.

"A lot depends on how much the elite that matters, the elite behind Pig Putin, are up for a confrontation," said Sophia Pugsley, an ECFR analyst. "Which way they will go is anyone's guess."

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Russia Says New EU Sanctions Risk Ending Security Cooperation

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 July 2014, 09:48

Russia said Saturday that new European Union sanctions targeting Russian intelligence chiefs over its role in Ukraine risked ending all joint cooperation on security.

The European Union "has practically speaking put at risk international cooperation in the area of security," the Russian foreign ministry said in an angry response.

The EU on Saturday announced it had broadened its list of Russian officials facing targeted sanctions to include the head of the FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov.

It also included the head of Russia's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev who is a former head of the FSB.

"The additional sanctions list is a direct testimony that European Union countries have chosen a course towards fully rolling back cooperation with Russia in matters of international and regional security," Moscow said.

It cited the worsening situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.

Russia called the fresh sanctions "irresponsible", adding that the effect of the penalties "will be enthusiastically welcomed by international terrorism".

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Disturbed Items at Flight 17 Site Add to Growing Reports of Tampering

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
JULY 25, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — European monitors on Friday indicated for the first time that credit and debit cards belonging to people who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine had been moved inappropriately, though it was unclear whether anybody had tried to use them.

Debris from Flight 17 spilled over dozens of square miles, extending across sunflower fields, forests and villages. The huge site is almost wholly unguarded, though pro-Russian militants who control it have denied that looting has been allowed.

The movement of credit cards was the latest sign of tampering with the wreckage in ways large and small. The United States and Ukraine say that the airliner was shot down by a missile, likely supplied by Russia, from territory occupied by the same separatists who now control the debris field.

The monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visits the debris site daily, though it has no control over it. On Friday, the group found cards and passports at two locations where they had not been seen before.

The cards and documents looked fresh, as if they had not been exposed to the elements for a week, for reasons that were entirely unclear to the monitors.

“There’s nothing to explain how it landed there,” Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the organization, said of the strange discovery. “But it was there.”

Reports of looting have swirled for a week. Dutch officials say they are monitoring bank accounts of the dead passengers. As recently as Thursday, Mr. Bociurkiw said his agency had not seen any sign of looting. Malaysian investigators said they saw valuables in the fields untouched, including unopened backpacks, a watch and jewelry.

Monitors said on July 22 that they had seen uniformed men cutting into the cockpit section of the fuselage with a power tool. Since then, the cockpit has been further dismantled, Mr. Bociurkiw said. If the earlier work might have been justified by a search for bodies after the plane was shot down on July 17, he said, it was unclear why metal-cutting tools were still being used. “The cockpit slammed into the ground and pancaked and now it’s opened up,” he said. “It was quite stunning.”

Monitors also said they saw body fragments elsewhere in the debris field on Friday.

Ukraine has ceded control of the inquiry into the downing of Flight 17 to the Netherlands, the nation with the largest number of citizens on board, and the Dutch government has pressed to secure the site as well as the safety of an investigative team still waiting in Kiev for access. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said his government intended to send 40 unarmed border police officers. The Australian government is also pressing to deploy the police to protect the site.

On Friday, the militia at the site apparently rejected this suggestion. Mr. Bociurkiw said the armed men controlling the area wanted no more than 35 investigators.

The separatists also indicated that they intended to gather the debris and ship it out of the war zone by train, Mr. Bociurkiw said during a nightly briefing in Donetsk, and that they could begin doing so within days. He added that the militia leadership argued that the wreckage cannot be secured against looting as it was, scattered in and around villages. The separatists suggested sending the pieces to Kharkiv, a city in Ukrainian-controlled territory that also became the destination for a trainload of victims’ bodies, as a transfer site for onward shipment to the Netherlands.

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MH17 Victims Lie Abandoned as Australia, Netherlands Ready Mission

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 21:07

A strip of white bandage on a stick in a sunflower field marked the spot where the remains of one of the 298 victims of downed Malaysian flight MH17 lay in the sun on Friday more than a week after the crash.

Combine harvesters cut down the wheat in surrounding fields in a semblance of normality at the gruesome scene -- some of them skirting pieces of the wreckage.

The remains were among several seen in recent days as dozens of the victims are still unaccounted for and Australia and the Netherlands prepare to deploy police and troops to secure the sprawling site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Australian and Dutch officials accompanied a team of monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to examine the wreckage and get ready for the deployment by mapping the territory.

"They're doing GPS coordinates," Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE's special monitoring mission to Ukraine, said next to the scorched earth at the main crash scene near the village of Grabove.

Artillery booming in the distance echoed across the rolling hills -- a stark reminder of the fighting raging just a few dozen kilometers away outside the ceasefire zone declared by both Ukraine's army and separatists around the crash site.

As negotiations continued over how Australian and Dutch officers could be deployed, villagers said they welcomed the prospect of foreign police and inspectors coming to carry out a proper investigation.

"They can come and live here if they want!" said Galyna Nemenko, a 51-year-old housewife in the tumbledown village of Petropavlivka, as the inspectors swept past in their muddy white Land Cruisers.

Nemenko was in a huddle of local residents discussing the incredible incident in a normally peaceful slice of countryside with potholed roads and illegal coal mines.

"As long as the inspectors are here, there'll be no fighting!" one woman said.

On a swing outside her cottage, 16-year-old Tetyana Grybova also welcomed the prospect.

"I think they should guard the site," she said.

Debris from the crash that flew into people's gardens had been left by the side of the road around her -- including clothes, oxygen masks and bits of fuselage.

At the one-room library, another group gathered as the OSCE monitors drove past.

"Our land, our roads are open to everyone," said the director Svetlana Korotysh, 53.

"We're not bothered about all the foreigners coming here. We also need to know the truth," she said.

The experts on Friday were seen examining the wreckage at three main sites in and around the villages of Grabove, Petropavlivka and Rozsypne, appearing to show particular interest in parts of the wreckage that had shrapnel-like lacerations.

The circumstances are as yet unexplained but the plane appears to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile, which the United States has accused Russia of providing to the rebels.

Dutch authorities said some 227 bodies have been accounted for, suggesting that those of 71 victims have not been recovered.

With no recovery efforts seen at the site on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement urging "the need to act quickly and follow proper procedures in searching for, collecting, managing and identifying the remains of those who died."

The OSCE monitors said they had also noticed personal objects of passengers including credit cards and passports that were not there before suddenly reappear.

A group of rebels in uniforms from the now-disbanded Ukrainian interior ministry special forces unit Berkut, accompanied the monitors in a symbolic show of force as the site is normally not under guard.

All the gunmen were wielding Kalashnikovs and one of them carried a surface-to-air missile slung across his shoulder -- a shoulder-fired model not like the one allegedly used to down the plane.

Asked about the possible arrival of foreign officers, one local man fixing his motorbike reacted with disbelief: "What? Australia and Holland? Really? Why do they need to come here? What is there to guard?"

*******************

Yes, of course...............

Russia Accuses U.S. of 'Smear Campaign' over Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 18:40

Russia on Friday called the latest U.S. accusations of Moscow's involvement in the Ukrainian conflict a baseless "smear campaign" and said Washington bears responsibility for the bloodshed.

"Due to the smear campaign against us that the U.S. Administration has begun... we reject the unfounded public insinuations that U.S. deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is spreading on a daily basis," a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said.

Harf on Thursday said that latest evidence suggests that Russian troops are firing artillery from within Russia on Ukrainian military across the border, while defense officials suggested that Moscow is supplying the pro-Russian rebels with equipment like rocket launchers.

The foreign ministry said that Harf has used "a basketful of these anti-Russian cliches" to sway public opinion against Russia.

"There are no facts or specifics about these falsehoods," the statement said, accusing Washington of essentially trying to "shield their Kiev wards and themselves" by obscuring the "real reasons for events in Ukraine."

Moscow has denounced the protests in Kiev which led to former president Viktor Yanukovych's ouster as a U.S.-sponsored regime change and alleged that the current leadership wants to eliminate the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine's army has been fighting an insurgency since April.

The foreign ministry accused the United States of supporting the "coup" in Ukraine and "pushing" it toward "cruel reprisals against the Russian-speaking population."

"Washington fully shares the responsibility for the bloodshed. The U.S. Administration should not lay the blame on somebody else. It would be more honest and responsible to keep quiet if recognizing the truth is difficult."

****************

Confusion after Ukraine's PM Quits

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 18:05

Ukraine's political circus made an unwelcome return to center stage as bickering lawmakers struggled Friday to avert a crisis of their own making after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned in a huff.

As the country battles a bloody pro-Russian insurgency in the east amid international attention over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, analysts said the last thing Ukraine needed was a bout of political limbo.

But that's exactly what the politicians seem to have landed themselves in after Yatsenyuk dramatically quit Thursday in protest at the collapse of the ruling European Choice coalition, a move that paved the way for long-awaited parliamentary polls to be announced.

"It is wrong in a situation of war to do such a thing," political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told Interfax Ukraine news agency. "Any crack in our unity will be exploited by Russia."

President Petro Poroshenko on Friday asked lawmakers to pass a vote of confidence in the government.

"I hope that the strong emotions will calm down and be trumped by cold reason and a sense of responsibility and that the entire Ukrainian cabinet will continue its work," Poroshenko said.

But lawmakers were left scratching their heads over the way ahead as speaker Oleksandr Turchynov said a confidence vote was illegal and parliament broke up without discussing the issue.

In the meantime, some insisted that Yatsenyuk was still in charge, while Ukraine's cabinet elevated deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman -- who has been coordinating Kiev's response to the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 in east Ukraine -- to the post of acting premier.

Pro-Western Yatsenyuk -- who helped steer the country through the biggest upheaval since its independence in 1991 -- lashed out at the decision to pull the plug on the coalition as Kiev is struggling to end a bloody pro-Russian insurrection tearing apart the east.

His unexpected decision to step down sparked a slanging match between the former coalition partners -- with the Fatherland party of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko describing the possible fall of the government as a "punch in the back of all patriots" that would be welcomed by the Kremlin.

"Between peace and chaos, Ukraine unfortunately is choosing political chaos," the party said.

Meanwhile the parties that triggered the crisis by withdrawing from the coalition -- the UDAR (Punch) faction of former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and nationalist bloc Svoboda -- said that they would vote against accepting Yatsenyuk's resignation.

The mud-slinging caused anger among ordinary Ukrainians, many of whom hoped the protests that toppled pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February spelt the end of point scoring among the discredited political class.

"In the beginning they were with the people but now they got what they want and they're just fighting with each other," said Masha Zakreskaya, 24, at a kitchen tent serving the remnants of the protest camp on Kiev's Independence Square.

"We are disappointed. We thought it would change but it remained the same. Soon we will have to kick them out too."

The break up of the parliamentary majority gives Poroshenko -- who was elected in May -- the right over the next month to announce a fresh parliamentary election, which has been on the cards since Yanukovych's toppling.

The president, a billionaire tycoon,  had pledged that the possibility of upcoming elections would not paralyze the government as the country teeters perilously on the brink of both economic collapse and territorial disintegration.

The polls -- expected later this year -- have taken on added significance since changes in the constitution handed a raft of key powers from the president to parliament and current maneuvering could mark the start of the election campaign.

Analysts said the latest political jostling only goes to show that a new set of lawmakers is imperative to get the country out of the crisis.

"The people there now are not ready to introduce real reforms or decisively fight separatism," said Oleksiy Garan, a political scientist at the Kiev Mogyla School of Political Analysis.

"This all shows that an overhaul of parliament is extremely important now."

 37 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russia Steps Up Help for Rebels in Ukraine War

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and PETER BAKER
JULY 25, 2014
IHT

KIEV, Ukraine — Rather than backing down after last week’s downing of a civilian passenger jet, Russia appears to be intervening more aggressively in the war in eastern Ukraine in what American and Ukrainian officials call a dangerous escalation that will almost certainly force more robust retaliation from the United States and Europe.

Russia has increased its direct involvement in fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents, moving more of its own troops to the border and preparing to arm the rebels with ever more potent weapons, including high-powered Tornado rocket launchers, American and Ukrainian officials said on Friday.

The officials, citing satellite images and other military intelligence, said that Russia had positioned heavy weapons, including tanks and other combat vehicles, at several points along the border where there has been intense fighting. On Thursday, Russia unleashed artillery attacks on eastern Ukraine from Russian territory, officials in Washington and Kiev said. While Russia flatly denied accelerating its intervention on Friday, American and Ukrainian officials said Moscow appeared anxious to stem gains by government forces that have succeeded in retaking some rebel-held territory.

The reported Russian moves raised the prospect of a new and more perilous chapter opening in a conflict that has already inflamed the region and, with the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with 298 aboard, stunned the world. American officials blamed a Russian-provided surface-to-air missile for the explosion and hoped the shock of the episode would prompt the Kremlin to rethink its approach, but they are increasingly convinced it has not.

Obama administration officials said Russia’s rising involvement had stiffened the resolve of European leaders who have been reluctant to confront Moscow for fear of damaging their own economies. But there was no appetite for a direct military response, and it remained unclear whether the West could or would take action that may change the calculus of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as Moscow seems to devote more firepower to the fight.

American and Ukrainian officials said Russia has moved beyond simply helping separatists and is now engaging directly in the war. Multiple Ukrainian military planes have been brought down in recent days by missiles fired from Russian territory, and now artillery batteries are firing from across the border into Ukraine, the officials said.

“We have detected that firing and that does represent an escalation in this conflict,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “It only underscores the concerns that the United States and the international community has about Russian behavior and the need for the Putin regime to change their strategy.”

American officials said Russia has moved 15,000 troops near the border. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Russia had made “imminent” plans to deliver heavier rockets to the separatists. Instead of the malignant tumor Pig Putin de-escalating the conflict after the Malaysia Airlines tragedy, “he’s actually taken a decision to escalate,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a security forum in Aspen, Colo.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine to express solidarity and pledge to coordinate with allies “about imposing further costs on Russia for its deeply destabilizing and irresponsible actions in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

While the United States has been hesitant to make its intelligence public, Ukrainian officials have provided a daily, running list of Russian incursions, including flights into Ukrainian air space by fighter jets and unmanned surveillance drones, as well as mortar and rocket attacks.

“We have facts of shelling of Ukrainian positions from the territory of Russian Federation,” Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev on Friday. “We have facts on the violation of air border between Ukraine and Russia.”

Mr. Lysenko said there were active-duty Russian soldiers who had surrendered, as well as volunteer Russian fighters who had been captured. “We have information about weapons and mercenaries who have respective skills for warfare, who have been passing over from the territory of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Lysenko said.

Russia pointedly denied the American allegations on Friday. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of engaging in a “smear campaign.”

“All of this is accompanied by references to some ‘evidence’ allegedly available to the United States,” the ministry said. “Not one of these ‘evidences,’ however, has been shown, which is not surprising. Facts and specifics to support false allegations simply do not exist.”

On Friday, the European Union took another step toward imposing additional economic penalties focused on the financial, energy and military sectors of the Russian economy, but a letter to European leaders from Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, made clear that officials were still struggling to find a balance.

Mr. Lysenko, the military spokesman, said that Ukrainian troops were coming under increased fire from the Russian side of the border, and that the Ukrainian military had recently shot down three Russian surveillance drones. One was used to target a Ukrainian base near the town of Amvrosiivka, which then quickly came under heavy rocket attack, he said.

Ukrainian officials say their forces have recaptured at least 10 towns, shrinking the amount of territory under rebel control in the embattled regions of Luhansk and Donetsk and gaining substantial advantage, including over some of the main highways in the region.

The recent gains by Ukrainian forces included the recapture of the city of Lysychansk after days of fighting. The city of more than 100,000 had been a rebel stronghold, and it posed a strategic obstacle to government troops pressing through the Luhansk region from the north and west. Ukrainian ground troops needed air support to expel the rebels, but were able to push them south and out of the city.

Officials have said they believed that they could defeat the rebels within three weeks if there were no further intervention by Russia.

By placing forces close to the border, the Russians can provide fire support to the separatists, prevent Ukrainian troops from establishing control over the border and facilitate the delivery of Russian arms to the separatists. The Ukrainian military has expressed frustration that at least two sections of the border remain porous. One goal of the Russian attacks on targets, an American official said, is to keep Ukrainian forces away from the border, making it easier for Russia to transport weapons and cooperate with the insurgents.

“The quantity and sophistication of weaponry being sent by Russia across the border is increasing,” one Western official said on Friday, adding that Russian artillery units have been firing into Ukraine from Russian territory “in direct support of separatists.” Like other officials with access to classified intelligence assessments, he spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Correction: July 26, 2014

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Ukrainian accounts of Russian interventions. Ukrainian officials said Russian fighter jets and drones have flown into Ukrainian air space, not Russian.

*****************

EU expands Russian oligarch sanctions blacklist in wake of MH17 crash

Measures against Moscow looking likely after shooting down of plane, though deep divisions remain among 28 member states

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Friday 25 July 2014 19.42 BST    

The European Union has expanded its blacklist of Russians subject to sanctions and broad economic measures against Moscow are looking increasingly likely following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 despite deep divisions among the 28 EU member states.

Such measures would represent a rift between Russia and the rest of Europe of a depth not seen for over 20 years. While analysts balk at describing the looming standoff as a new cold war, pointing out Russia is a much less formidable power than the Soviet Union, they say the new east-west tensions could intensify and prove very hard to reverse.

So far, with no sign of an end to Russian military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and reports of direct artillery fire from inside Russia against Ukrainian positions, Malignant tumor Pig Putin appears to be responding to the threat of more sanctions by raising the stakes on the battlefield.

"Malignant tumor Pig Putin has dug himself into a hole," said John Lough, an associate fellow at the Chatham House thinktank's Russia and Eurasia programme. "He has revved up public opinion with grotesque use of propaganda, and it is not clear what he can do with the national mood he has released. What is it going to focus on? This could transform the relationship extremely negatively to one of long-term mutual alienation."

However, Lough added: "We are a long way off from a new cold war. Russia is a very different country from the Soviet Union, with no unifying ideology. This is a collision of interests rather than of ideologies. Inadvertently the EU finds itself in competition with Russia on its periphery."

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) said the direct challenge posed by Putin could unravel the post-cold war order in which the eastward spread of liberal European ideas once seemed inevitable.

"By annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine, Russia has raised fundamental questions about the principles of the European order," the ECFR said in an assessment of 10 global consequences of the Ukraine crisis. "Russia wants to both restore and re-legitimise spheres of influence as an organising principle of European order. This is a direct challenge to Europe and the west as a whole: although some countries might be willing to accept implicitly Russia's view of European order, none can afford to do so explicitly."

The EU has found it hard to find a cohesive position towards Russia but the downing of the Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people, of whom more than 200 were EU nationals, has made an escalation in European sanctions all but certain.

The new EU sanctions list adds 15 individuals and 18 entities, bringing the totals of those affected to 87 people and 20 organisations, all deemed to be directly linked to the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. Among the new names were the chief of Russia's FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and Mikhail Fradkov, a former prime minister who now heads the foreign intelligence service.

European ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Thursday also agreed to widen targeted sanctions to include the malignant tumor called Pig Putin's close circle of supporters, but the final decision on a list of affected "cronies" will not be discussed until Monday.

The EU is also due to decide next week on the first significant financial sanctions to be imposed if Russian-backed separatists continue to obstruct an investigation into the airliner crash and Russia fails to stop the flow of arms to the rebels. Those conditions appear unlikely to be met.

European commission officials have drawn up options including banning Russian banks with more than 50% state ownership from raising capital on European markets, a potentially powerful blow. Last year, almost half the bonds issued by Russian public financial institutions, worth €7.5bn (£6bn), were sold on European markets.

Such measures have long been portrayed as particularly damaging to London, but research by the Open Europe thinktank suggests the impact has been exaggerated, partly because of the high profile of some London-based oligarchs. In 2012, the latest year for which full statistics are available, the stock of Russian assets in the UK was worth £27bn, only half of one per cent of total European assets invested in the UK.

"While the Londongrad narrative is attractive, the data suggests it doesn't quite hold," said Raoul Ruparel, the head of economic research at Open Europe. "Given that London is a global financial centre, Russian business is only a small slice of a very large pie. The stage three sanctions being considered should therefore be manageable from the City's perspective."

The limited stakes involved help explain the UK's vocal backing of tough measures in Brussels, but progress in agreeing a package of EU measures has been slowed by the principle of burden sharing, in which all member states with an economic stake in the outcome have to be seen to be making equal sacrifices.

In that respect, European officials have drawn up a draft arms embargo covering the entire defence sector, but left it to the politicians to hammer out whether and how it should affect contracts already signed. France has sold two Mistral helicopter carrier vessels to Russia worth a combined €1.2bn, but President François Hollande has hinted at a compromise, by which one ship would be delivered and another held back, even at the cost of penalties and forgone income.

"This is a huge problem for Hollande," said Bruno Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris. "The question of reputation as a supplier is as important at least as the money. If it was just about a billion euros, it would be different story."

The choices facing Europe are complicated by different degrees of dependence on Russian gas for energy supplies. However, the correlation between gas pipelines and political positions is not linear. Bulgaria is completely dependent and is the European state most opposed to sanctions. But Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also receive all their gas from Russia but are fervent advocates of punitive measures.

The most decisive split over sanctions in Europe may not be between governments but inside the most powerful government on the continent, in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a much tougher advocate of sanctions than the foreign ministry under Frank-Walter Steinmeier. How those differences are resolved could determine which way Europe jumps next week.

There is no doubt that the sanctions on the table in Brussels could inflict serious economic damage on Russia. Whether that can influence the malignant tumor's actions, however, is another question.

"A lot depends on how much the elite that matters, the elite behind Pig Putin, are up for a confrontation," said Sophia Pugsley, an ECFR analyst. "Which way they will go is anyone's guess."

*************

Russia Says New EU Sanctions Risk Ending Security Cooperation

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 July 2014, 09:48

Russia said Saturday that new European Union sanctions targeting Russian intelligence chiefs over its role in Ukraine risked ending all joint cooperation on security.

The European Union "has practically speaking put at risk international cooperation in the area of security," the Russian foreign ministry said in an angry response.

The EU on Saturday announced it had broadened its list of Russian officials facing targeted sanctions to include the head of the FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov.

It also included the head of Russia's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev who is a former head of the FSB.

"The additional sanctions list is a direct testimony that European Union countries have chosen a course towards fully rolling back cooperation with Russia in matters of international and regional security," Moscow said.

It cited the worsening situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.

Russia called the fresh sanctions "irresponsible", adding that the effect of the penalties "will be enthusiastically welcomed by international terrorism".

***************

Disturbed Items at Flight 17 Site Add to Growing Reports of Tampering

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
JULY 25, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — European monitors on Friday indicated for the first time that credit and debit cards belonging to people who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine had been moved inappropriately, though it was unclear whether anybody had tried to use them.

Debris from Flight 17 spilled over dozens of square miles, extending across sunflower fields, forests and villages. The huge site is almost wholly unguarded, though pro-Russian militants who control it have denied that looting has been allowed.

The movement of credit cards was the latest sign of tampering with the wreckage in ways large and small. The United States and Ukraine say that the airliner was shot down by a missile, likely supplied by Russia, from territory occupied by the same separatists who now control the debris field.

The monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visits the debris site daily, though it has no control over it. On Friday, the group found cards and passports at two locations where they had not been seen before.

The cards and documents looked fresh, as if they had not been exposed to the elements for a week, for reasons that were entirely unclear to the monitors.

“There’s nothing to explain how it landed there,” Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the organization, said of the strange discovery. “But it was there.”

Reports of looting have swirled for a week. Dutch officials say they are monitoring bank accounts of the dead passengers. As recently as Thursday, Mr. Bociurkiw said his agency had not seen any sign of looting. Malaysian investigators said they saw valuables in the fields untouched, including unopened backpacks, a watch and jewelry.

Monitors said on July 22 that they had seen uniformed men cutting into the cockpit section of the fuselage with a power tool. Since then, the cockpit has been further dismantled, Mr. Bociurkiw said. If the earlier work might have been justified by a search for bodies after the plane was shot down on July 17, he said, it was unclear why metal-cutting tools were still being used. “The cockpit slammed into the ground and pancaked and now it’s opened up,” he said. “It was quite stunning.”

Monitors also said they saw body fragments elsewhere in the debris field on Friday.

Ukraine has ceded control of the inquiry into the downing of Flight 17 to the Netherlands, the nation with the largest number of citizens on board, and the Dutch government has pressed to secure the site as well as the safety of an investigative team still waiting in Kiev for access. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said his government intended to send 40 unarmed border police officers. The Australian government is also pressing to deploy the police to protect the site.

On Friday, the militia at the site apparently rejected this suggestion. Mr. Bociurkiw said the armed men controlling the area wanted no more than 35 investigators.

The separatists also indicated that they intended to gather the debris and ship it out of the war zone by train, Mr. Bociurkiw said during a nightly briefing in Donetsk, and that they could begin doing so within days. He added that the militia leadership argued that the wreckage cannot be secured against looting as it was, scattered in and around villages. The separatists suggested sending the pieces to Kharkiv, a city in Ukrainian-controlled territory that also became the destination for a trainload of victims’ bodies, as a transfer site for onward shipment to the Netherlands.

************

MH17 Victims Lie Abandoned as Australia, Netherlands Ready Mission

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 21:07

A strip of white bandage on a stick in a sunflower field marked the spot where the remains of one of the 298 victims of downed Malaysian flight MH17 lay in the sun on Friday more than a week after the crash.

Combine harvesters cut down the wheat in surrounding fields in a semblance of normality at the gruesome scene -- some of them skirting pieces of the wreckage.

The remains were among several seen in recent days as dozens of the victims are still unaccounted for and Australia and the Netherlands prepare to deploy police and troops to secure the sprawling site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Australian and Dutch officials accompanied a team of monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to examine the wreckage and get ready for the deployment by mapping the territory.

"They're doing GPS coordinates," Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE's special monitoring mission to Ukraine, said next to the scorched earth at the main crash scene near the village of Grabove.

Artillery booming in the distance echoed across the rolling hills -- a stark reminder of the fighting raging just a few dozen kilometers away outside the ceasefire zone declared by both Ukraine's army and separatists around the crash site.

As negotiations continued over how Australian and Dutch officers could be deployed, villagers said they welcomed the prospect of foreign police and inspectors coming to carry out a proper investigation.

"They can come and live here if they want!" said Galyna Nemenko, a 51-year-old housewife in the tumbledown village of Petropavlivka, as the inspectors swept past in their muddy white Land Cruisers.

Nemenko was in a huddle of local residents discussing the incredible incident in a normally peaceful slice of countryside with potholed roads and illegal coal mines.

"As long as the inspectors are here, there'll be no fighting!" one woman said.

On a swing outside her cottage, 16-year-old Tetyana Grybova also welcomed the prospect.

"I think they should guard the site," she said.

Debris from the crash that flew into people's gardens had been left by the side of the road around her -- including clothes, oxygen masks and bits of fuselage.

At the one-room library, another group gathered as the OSCE monitors drove past.

"Our land, our roads are open to everyone," said the director Svetlana Korotysh, 53.

"We're not bothered about all the foreigners coming here. We also need to know the truth," she said.

The experts on Friday were seen examining the wreckage at three main sites in and around the villages of Grabove, Petropavlivka and Rozsypne, appearing to show particular interest in parts of the wreckage that had shrapnel-like lacerations.

The circumstances are as yet unexplained but the plane appears to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile, which the United States has accused Russia of providing to the rebels.

Dutch authorities said some 227 bodies have been accounted for, suggesting that those of 71 victims have not been recovered.

With no recovery efforts seen at the site on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement urging "the need to act quickly and follow proper procedures in searching for, collecting, managing and identifying the remains of those who died."

The OSCE monitors said they had also noticed personal objects of passengers including credit cards and passports that were not there before suddenly reappear.

A group of rebels in uniforms from the now-disbanded Ukrainian interior ministry special forces unit Berkut, accompanied the monitors in a symbolic show of force as the site is normally not under guard.

All the gunmen were wielding Kalashnikovs and one of them carried a surface-to-air missile slung across his shoulder -- a shoulder-fired model not like the one allegedly used to down the plane.

Asked about the possible arrival of foreign officers, one local man fixing his motorbike reacted with disbelief: "What? Australia and Holland? Really? Why do they need to come here? What is there to guard?"

*******************

Yes, of course...............

Russia Accuses U.S. of 'Smear Campaign' over Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 18:40

Russia on Friday called the latest U.S. accusations of Moscow's involvement in the Ukrainian conflict a baseless "smear campaign" and said Washington bears responsibility for the bloodshed.

"Due to the smear campaign against us that the U.S. Administration has begun... we reject the unfounded public insinuations that U.S. deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is spreading on a daily basis," a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said.

Harf on Thursday said that latest evidence suggests that Russian troops are firing artillery from within Russia on Ukrainian military across the border, while defense officials suggested that Moscow is supplying the pro-Russian rebels with equipment like rocket launchers.

The foreign ministry said that Harf has used "a basketful of these anti-Russian cliches" to sway public opinion against Russia.

"There are no facts or specifics about these falsehoods," the statement said, accusing Washington of essentially trying to "shield their Kiev wards and themselves" by obscuring the "real reasons for events in Ukraine."

Moscow has denounced the protests in Kiev which led to former president Viktor Yanukovych's ouster as a U.S.-sponsored regime change and alleged that the current leadership wants to eliminate the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine's army has been fighting an insurgency since April.

The foreign ministry accused the United States of supporting the "coup" in Ukraine and "pushing" it toward "cruel reprisals against the Russian-speaking population."

"Washington fully shares the responsibility for the bloodshed. The U.S. Administration should not lay the blame on somebody else. It would be more honest and responsible to keep quiet if recognizing the truth is difficult."

 38 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:02 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm Of July 2012

AFP
July 25, 2014 9:07 am

"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

Dr. Tony Phillips, Science@NASA

If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.

Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn't mention it. The "impactor" was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.

[ Watch: ScienceCasts: Carrington-Class CME Narrowly Misses Earth ]

"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

Baker, along with colleagues from NASA and other universities, published a seminal study of the storm in the December 2013 issue of the journal Space Weather. Their paper, entitled "A major solar eruptive event in July 2012," describes how a powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) tore through Earth orbit on July 23, 2012. Fortunately Earth wasn't there. Instead, the storm cloud hit the STEREO-A spacecraft.


"I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did," says Baker. "If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.

Extreme solar storms pose a threat to all forms of high-technology. They begin with an explosion -- a "solar flare" -- in the magnetic canopy of a sunspot. X-rays and extreme UV radiation reach Earth at light speed, ionizing the upper layers of our atmosphere; side-effects of this "solar EMP" include radio blackouts and GPS navigation errors. Minutes to hours later, the energetic particles arrive. Moving only slightly slower than light itself, electrons and protons accelerated by the blast can electrify satellites and damage their electronics. Then come the CMEs, billion-ton clouds of magnetized plasma that take a day or more to cross the Sun-Earth divide. Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

Before July 2012, when researchers talked about extreme solar storms their touchstone was the iconic Carrington Event of Sept. 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who actually saw the instigating flare with his own eyes. In the days that followed his observation, a series of powerful CMEs hit Earth head-on with a potency not felt before or since. Intense geomagnetic storms ignited Northern Lights as far south as Cuba and caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices and thus disabling the 'Victorian Internet."

A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effects. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

"In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says Baker. "The only difference is, it missed."

In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. published a paper in Space Weather entitled "On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events." In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years. By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.

The answer: 12%.

"Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct," says Riley. "It is a sobering figure."

In his study, Riley looked carefully at a parameter called Dst, short for "disturbance – storm time." This is a number calculated from magnetometer readings around the equator. Essentially, it measures how hard Earth's magnetic field shakes when a CME hits. The more negative Dst becomes, the worse the storm. Ordinary geomagnetic storms, which produce Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle, but otherwise do no harm, register Dst=-50 nT (nanoTesla). The worst geomagnetic storm of the Space Age, which knocked out power across Quebec in March 1989, registered Dst=-600 nT. Modern estimates of Dst for the Carrington Event itself range from -800 nT to a staggering -1750 nT.

In their Dec. 2013 paper, Baker et al. estimated Dst for the July 2012 storm. "If that CME had hit Earth, the resulting geomagnetic storm would have registered a Dst of -1200, comparable to the Carrington Event and twice as bad as the March 1989 Quebec blackout."

The reason researchers know so much about the July 2012 storm is because, out of all the spacecraft in the solar system it could have hit, it did hit a solar observatory. STEREO-A is almost ideally equipped to measure the parameters of such an event.

"The rich data set obtained by STEREO far exceeded the relatively meagre observations that Carrington was able to make in the 19th century," notes Riley. "Thanks to STEREO-A we know a lot of about the magnetic structure of the CME, the kind of shock waves and energetic particles it produced, and perhaps most importantly of all, the number of CMEs that preceded it."

It turns out that the active region responsible for producing the July 2012 storm didn't launch just one CME into space, but many. Some of those CMEs "plowed the road" for the superstorm.

A paper in the March 2014 edition of Nature Communications by UC Berkeley space physicist Janet G. Luhmann and former postdoc Ying D. Liu describes the process: The July 23rd CME was actually two CMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes. This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier. As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.

"It's likely that the Carrington event was also associated with multiple eruptions, and this may turn out to be a key requirement for extreme events," notes Riley. "In fact, it seems that extreme events may require an ideal combination of a number of key features to produce the 'perfect solar storm.'"

"Pre-conditioning by multiple CMEs appears to be very important," agrees Baker.

A common question about this event is, how did the STEREO-A probe survive? After all, Carrington-class storms are supposed to be mortally dangerous to spacecraft and satellites. Yet STEREO-A not only rode out the storm, but also continued taking high-quality data throughout.

"Spacecraft such as the STEREO twins and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (a joint ESA/NASA mission) were designed to operate in the environment outside the Earth's magnetosphere, and that includes even quite intense, CME-related shocks," says Joe Gurman, the STEREO project scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "To my knowledge, nothing serious happened to the spacecraft."

The story might have been different, he says, if STEREO-A were orbiting Earth instead of traveling through interplanetary space.

"Inside Earth's magnetosphere, strong electric currents can be generated by a CME strike," he explains. "Out in interplanetary space, however, the ambient magnetic field is much weaker and so those dangerous currents are missing." In short, STEREO-A was in a good place to ride out the storm.

"Without the kind of coverage afforded by the STEREO mission, we as a society might have been blissfully ignorant of this remarkable solar storm," notes Baker. "How many others of this scale have just happened to miss Earth and our space detection systems? This is a pressing question that needs answers."

If Riley's work holds true, there is a 12% chance we will learn a lot more about extreme solar storms in the next 10 years—when one actually strikes Earth.

Says Baker, "we need to be prepared."

 39 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 06:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, July 26, 2014 3:16 EDT

Giant anteaters in Brazil have killed two hunters in separate incidents, raising concerns about the animals’ loss of habitat and the growing risk of dangerous encounters with people, researchers said.

The long-nosed, hairy mammals are not typically aggressive toward people and are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), largely due to deforestation and human settlements that encroach on their territory.

However, they have poor vision and if frightened, they may defend themselves with front claws that are as long as pocketknives.

The case studies of two fatal attacks by giant anteaters were described in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, which released the paper online this month, ahead of its publication in the December print issue.

“Both were farmers, were hunting and were attacked by wounded or cornered animals,” lead author Vidal Haddad of the Botucatu School of Medicine at Sao Paulo State University told AFP.

In the first case, a 47-year-old man was hunting with his two sons and his dogs when they came upon a giant anteater in northern Brazil. The hunter did not shoot at the animal, but he approached it with his knife drawn.

The anteater stood on its hind legs and grabbed the man with its forelimbs, causing deep puncture wounds in his thighs and upper arms.

The hunter bled to death at the scene, said the report, which noted that the encounter happened on August 1, 2012 but had not been described in scientific literature until now.

The other case involved a 75-year-old man who died in 2010 when an anteater used its long front claws — which typically help it dig into anthills — to puncture his femoral arteries, located in the groin and thigh.

“These injuries are very serious and we have no way of knowing whether it is a defense behavior acquired by the animals,” said Haddad.

He stressed that such attacks are rare, but said they are important because they show the need for people to give wild animals plenty of space.

- Easily startled -

Giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) are believed to be extinct in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay. Some 5,000 exist in the wild and can be found in parts of Central and South America.

Overall their numbers have declined about 30 percent in the past decade due to habitat loss, roadkills, hunting, wildfires and burning of sugar cane plantations, according to the IUCN.

They range in length from four to seven feet (1.2-2 meters), and may weigh as much as 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

Giant anteaters eat mainly insects but they also enjoy citrus and avocados, according to zookeeper Rebecca Lohse who works with them in captivity at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona.

“They are animals that can startle quickly — planes going overheard, chainsaws, leaf blowers can startle them,” she said.

“The way they defend themselves is by standing up on their rear legs and swinging their front legs in from the side,” she explained.

“They have incredibly muscular forearms and those claws are several inches long.”

Zookeepers generally avoid being in the same space as the animals, coaxing them into separate fenced-off areas when they approach their living quarters for cleaning, she added.

Anteater expert Flavia Miranda, who works with the animals in Brazil, said she was concerned that the journal article could cause more woes for a creature that already faces plenty of threats to its livelihood.

“We have a lot of problems with this species because people believe that (they) bring bad luck and kill the animal on purpose,” she told AFP in an email.

“But I understand the importance of the article because recently I also had an accident with a giant anteater that almost cost me my life.”

 40 
 on: Jul 26, 2014, 03:18 AM 
Started by Wei - Last post by Wei
Thank you Rad!

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