A Russian jet has been shot down by Turkish warplanes this morning, near the border with Syria.
Russia’s defence ministry claims the aircraft at no point strayed into Turkish airspace, with authorities insisting it remained in Syria “at all times”, according to Interfax.
However, a Turkish military official told Reuters that the Nato member country’s F-16s had fired on the then-unidentified aircraft only after warning it was violating Turkey’s airspace.
‘We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act’
MOSCOW – The Kremlin said for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance.”
Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.
But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.
“We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”
— Vladimir Putin
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance,” said Bortnikov. Read the rest of this entry »
PARIS — The terrorist assault on Paris on Friday night was carried out by three teams of coordinated attackers, including one who traveled to Europe on a Syrian passport along with the flow of migrants, officials said Saturday.
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France. It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”
— French President Francois Hollande
At a news conference on Saturday night, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said the attackers were all armed with heavy weaponry and suicide vests. Their assault began, he said, when two of them blew themselves up outside the gates of the soccer stadium on the northern outskirts of Paris.
A French security official said separately that one of the attackers had been linked to a Syrian passport. A Greek official had said earlier that the person carrying the passport had passed through Greece last month along the migrant trail into Europe.
The possibility that one of the attackers was a migrant or had posed as one is sure to further complicate the already vexing problem for Europe of how to handle the unceasing flow of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Details of the assault came after President François Hollande blamed the Islamic State for the terrorist attacks. Officials said Saturday night that the death toll had reached 129 victims, with 352 others injured, 99 of them seriously. Mr. Hollande declared three days of national mourning, and said that military troops would patrol the capital. France remained under a nationwide state of emergency. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] BAD OPTICS: Obama on ‘Good Morning America’, Earlier Today: ISIS Is Not Getting ‘Stronger,’ We Have ‘Contained’ ThemPosted: November 13, 2015
Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” President Barack Obama seemingly downplayed the threat of ISIS in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired on Friday’s broadcast of “Good Morning America.”
“I don’t think they’re gaining strength. What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain.”
Stephanopoulos asked Obama if ISIS was gaining in strength, to which Obama denied they were.
“I don’t think they’re gaining strength,” Obama responded. “What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain.”…(read more)
Palace Intrigue: Putin’s Aide Mikhail Lesin Found Dead in Hotel ‘Murdered for Being an FBI informant’ – or ‘Could Even Still Be Alive’Posted: November 12, 2015
Will Stewart reports: The death from a ‘heart attack’ of a longtime close ally of Vladimir Putin in a Washington hotel has led to a swirl of speculation that he was murdered on Moscow’s orders after offering to help the FBI.
“Nicknamed the ‘Bulldozer’, Lesin was one of the key props of the Putin presidency, personally masterminding a wide-ranging media crackdown which has left the vast majority of Russian TV stations and newspapers obedient to the Kremlin.”
Mikhail Lesin, 57, was announced last weekend to have been found dead in the US capital. He was a Svengali figure for Putin, who was alleged to have menaced the Russian media into idolizing the strongman president.
“He also set up Russia Today, now RT, seen by critics as a ‘propaganda’ channel aimed at the West.”
The shock death has created an eave of speculation in Moscow that it is related to previous reports that he was helping the FBI – and could be murder.
There are even separate allegations that Lesin may still be alive, with his demise faked by the US authorities.
According to this version, he is being kept safe as part of a witness protection scheme, while spilling to the FBI all he knows on Putin’s Russia.
Daily Mail Online can reveal that only weeks before his death was announced, he fathered a child with glamorous model and flight attendant Victoria Rakhimbayeva.
Murdered? Mikhail Lesin and his new love Victoria Rakhimbayeva, who were photographed when she was pregnant. He was found dead last Friday in a Washington DC hotel – and now speculation is mounting about him
Claim: Lesin was reported by the TV station he set up – RT, known to be pro-Kremlin – to have died from a longstanding illness while staying at the Dupont Circle Hotel (pictured)
World traveler: Victoria Rakhimbayeva, believed to be 29, posted photographs from around the world and said that she and Lesin were planning to live in New York, although she preferred Los Angeles
“There are unsubstantiated claims in Moscow that when he died he was in debt to billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, one of Putin’s closest big business friends.”
She is believed to be aged 29, with whom he had enjoyed a close relationship since at least mid-2014.
She has not commented on his death other than to thank friends on social media for their commiserations, but before the tragedy she made clear that they intended to set up home permanently in New York.
Despite Russian reports of a heart attack, police in DC have said no cause of death has been determined while also indicating there was no obvious sign of foul play.
‘A ruling on the cause and manner of death is pending further investigation,’ said a Saturday statement.
Nicknamed the ‘Bulldozer’, Lesin was one of the key props of the Putin presidency, personally masterminding a wide-ranging media crackdown which has left the vast majority of Russian TV stations and newspapers obedient to the Kremlin.
He also set up Russia Today, now RT, seen by critics as a ‘propaganda’ channel aimed at the West.
But earlier this year, after the break-up of his marriage, and in a new relationship with his Siberian lover who he may have wed – she referred to him as her ‘husband’ – he suddenly quit the latest of several high profile positions, as head of Gazprom Media, a major state owned media conglomerate. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Rosie Gray reports: A Russian media mogul who helped found the Kremlin-run news channel RT was found dead in his hotel in Washington, D.C., according to reports.
“The Embassy does not have any further comment on the demise of Mr. Lesin out of respect to his privacy. Please refer to the family members or the law enforcement officials.”
— Russian Embassy spokesperson Yury Melnik told BuzzFeed News.
“Our consular officials had an opportunity to confirm that the Russian national who passed away in DC is indeed Mikhail Lesin. Out of respect to the privacy and sensitivity of the matter we are not at liberty to disclose any other information, and would ask you to refer all further requests to his family and the law enforcement officials.”
— Russian embassy spokesperson, to Sputnik, a Russian state media outlet.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Officer Sean Hickman told BuzzFeed News that there had been a death Thursday on the 1500 block of New Hampshire Avenue, where the Dupont Circle Hotel is located. An ABC News article on Lesin’s death reported that the location had been the “Hotel Dupont,” though a hotel by that exact name doesn’t exist in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] President Obama Ranks Third in Forbes ‘Most Powerful’ List, First Time Sitting U.S. President Drops Out of Top TwoPosted: November 4, 2015
David Rutz reports: President Obama ranked third in the Forbes “World’s Most Powerful People” list released Wednesday, the first time the sitting U.S. president has ever not ranked No. 1 or 2 in the annual survey.
For the third straight year, Russian president Vladimir Putin was listed at No. 1, but German chancellor Angela Merkel came in at No. 2. CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King expressed surprise at Obama’s standing while the show’s panel interviewed Forbes‘ Luisa Kroll about how the magazine came up with its list.
“That’s the first time since we’ve been doing the list that any U.S. president falls out of the top two spots,” Kroll said. “Again, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that this is going to be hist last year in office. He’s a little bit more hamstrung, both domestically and internationally, and it’s just a nod to his decreasing power at this time.”
On Obama, Forbes wrote:
“There’s no doubt that the United States remains the world’s greatest economic, cultural, diplomatic, technological and military power. But as Obama enters the final year of his presidency, it’s clear his influence is shrinking, and it’s a bigger struggle than ever to get things done. At home, his approval ratings are perpetually stuck under 50%; abroad, he’s outshined by Angela Merkel in Europe, and outmaneuvered by Putin in the Middle East.”
“I was stunned by that, because the U.S. economy is five times larger than the Russian economy,” co-host Norah O’Donnell said. “We spend 10 times more on the military than the Russians do, so how do you define power for this issue?”
“It’s money, it’s the use of power, it’s the spheres of influence, and it’s the number of people,” Kroll said. “Obviously, it’s also a subjective list … It’s not that we’re saying the U.S. isn’t powerful. It is definitely still the most powerful country.” Read the rest of this entry »
The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Nicolas Miletitch reports: Three portraits of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are on display in the centre of Donetsk, the rebel capital of eastern Ukraine, as the separatist authorities fuel a mood of Soviet nostalgia.
“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services.”
The portraits, adorning a main square, seem to go down well with one young woman walking past.
“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed,” said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.
The previously taboo display comes as the rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule — while glossing over Stalin’s atrocities.
“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed.”
The Stalin portraits feature a quote from the wartime leader: “Our cause is just. The enemy will be routed. We will claim victory.”
The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.
The Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told AFP how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.
“Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.”
“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,” said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear.
“Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”
New cult of Stalin
Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.
The Donetsk rebels’ deputy defence minister Eduard Basurin wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.
This new cult of Stalin revives the memories in Donetsk, a coal-mining city that was formerly known as Stalino.
It was renamed in the early 1960s after Nikita Khrushchev, who emerged as Soviet leader in the power struggle that followed Stalin’s death, condemned his predecessor’s cult of personality. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian President Vladimir Putin defends decision to send warplanes as aimed at political solution.
MOSCOW— Thomas Grove reports: Russia stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria over the weekend, more than doubling the rate of strikes seen at the beginning of the operation.
“The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday its jet fighters had carried out 55 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Raqqa. The daily number had been around two dozen last week.
“U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.”
Russian warplanes are backing an offensive launched last week by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian military said Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 fighters hit Islamic State field headquarters, training camps and weapons arsenals in the latest bombing runs.
“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise. We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”
— Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.
The Russian government depicts Islamic State as a direct threat to its citizens. On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service told the state news agency Interfax that law-enforcement officials had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on public transportation in Moscow—and that some of the individuals arrested in the case had trained at Islamic State camps in Syria.
In an interview aired Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to send warplanes to Syria, saying the air war was aimed at spurring a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
NOVOSINKOVO, RUSSIA—Staring directly into the drooping eyes of the woozy, flushed henchman sitting across from him in the back room of a dimly lit tavern, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly downed another vodka shot Sunday night as the last of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security detail passed out beside him. “Nostrovia!” said Kerry as he slammed down the upturned shot glass next to dozens of others…(read more)
In the former example, Russian soldiers didn’t wear uniforms, a thinly-veiled move meant to create the impression the fighters were merely Ukrainian “separatists.”
“In the vast majority of the world, power (or the perception of power) is what matters. In America, President Obama’s brand of metrosexual coolness works well.”
Likewise, Wednesday’s bombings ostensibly targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil); in fact, the strikes were aimed at moderate rebels and civilians – part of a plan to take out any opposition to their client, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
This all comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s drawing of a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons, only to back down when the Assad regime – by most accounts – used them.
This past week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest strained credulity when he said Mr Obama doesn’t regret drawing that red line.
“For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.”
Weakness invites provocation, and – never one to miss an opportunity to outmanoeuvre Mr Obama – Mr Putin provided a self-serving opportunity that would also allow the president to save face: Moscow would push Syria to put their chemical weapons under international control.
It’s also important to note that in the wake of the red line being trampled, Russia invaded Crimea. President Obama’s legacy may be mixed, but one thing is for sure: Vladimir Putin is much more powerful and provocative than he was before Mr Obama took office, and Russia has only expanded its sphere of influence.
The Syria bombings also come almost immediately after Mr Putin met with Mr Obama at the UN where they agreed to “deconflict” military operations – a very Obama-esque line that Mr Putin immediately crossed.
And prior to bombing our friends in Syria, the Russians also had the audacity to issue a “démarche” for the US to clear air space over northern Syria. As if that weren’t enough, this came just as reports that the Russians attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server.
For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.
The suggestion that America could leave a vacuum that wouldn’t be filled by our adversaries – the idea that the “international community” (whatever that means) would respect us more if we were to retreat from the world – was always a farce.
Read the rest of this entry »
What did he know and when did he know it? The immortal question about Richard Nixon and Watergate should be posed to Barack Obama about Syria. What and when did he know about Vladimir Putin’s axis-of-evil coalition?
Michael Goodwin writes: The significance is not limited to Syria. The question goes to the heart of the Iran nuclear deal, especially the timing of the congressional votes.
Imagine Obama trying to sell the Iran deal now. With Russia, Iran and Iraq working together to muscle the United States aside and defend Bashar al-Assad, the president couldn’t possibly argue that the nuke deal would help stabilize the Middle East. Nor could he argue that Russia could be trusted to help enforce restrictions on Iran.
The strong likelihood that Obama would have lost the Iran vote if Congress knew then what the world knows now suggests the possibility the president concealed the Russian plan until the Iran deal was done. That view fits with his single-minded determination to get a deal at any price, including making key concessions and downplaying Iranian threats to Israel and the United States.
After all that, what’s another lie?
That view is also supported by the chronology, which reveals strong evidence the president hid the truth.
For much of September, reports of Russia moving soldiers and military equipment into Syria invariably said the Pentagon was “puzzled” or the White House was “unclear” about Putin’s intent. Obama declared on Sept. 11 that whatever the dictator’s plan, it was “doomed to fail.”
The claims of fuzziness about Syria allowed Obama to keep the focus on his push to sell the Iran pact to Congress. He touted Russia’s support, vowed to impose “snapback” sanctions if Iran cheated and said he would work to stop the mullahs’ regional aggressions.
His arguments and arm-twisting kept 42 Senate Democrats in line, enough to save the deal. Yet soon after opponents lost their final vote, on Sept. 17, Russia revealed that it would lead a coalition of Iran and Iraq to intervene militarily to save the Assad regime. Read the rest of this entry »
Syria Reveals the Chaos of a World Without American Leadership.
A friend of ours quipped amid the Iraq debate of 2003 that the only thing Europeans dislike more than U.S. leadership is a world without it. Well, we are now living in such a world, and the result is the disorder and rising tide of war in the Middle East that even the Obama Administration can no longer dismiss. How do you like it?
“The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus.”
The epicenter of the chaos is the Syrian civil war now into its fifth year. President Obama justified his decision to steer clear of the conflict by pointing to a parade of horribles if the U.S. assisted the opposition to Bashar Assad. Every one of those horribles—and more—has come to pass in the wake of his retreat.
Syria has become a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” as former General David Petraeus recently put it. It was the breeding ground for Islamic State and is a new sanctuary for terrorism. It has nurtured a growing regional conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, while unleashing the worst refugee crisis on Europe since World War II. And now it has become an arena for potential major power conflict as Vladimir Putin forms an alliance with Iran to make Russia the new Middle East power broker.
“The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.”
Mr. Putin unveiled his strategy this week with a disdain for a U.S. President unseen in a Russian leader since Nikita Khrushchev “beat the hell out of” John Kennedy, as JFK put it, at the Vienna summit in 1961. Mr. Putin coaxed Mr. Obama to grant him a private meeting, then told the world to rally behind his alternative coalition to fight Islamic State and prop up the Assad regime. It’s as if he set up Mr. Obama for humiliation.
Now Russian planes are bombing in Syria—but not Islamic State targets. They are bombing the anti-Assad forces that the U.S. has haltingly supported. The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.
The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus. Read the rest of this entry »