Reports: Russian Interior Ministry Official Shot Dead

The head of the Russian Interior Ministry‘s construction department has reportedly been shot dead in Moscow.

The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified law-enforcement official as saying that Nikolai Volkov was killed on March 27.

Volkov was the head of the Interior Ministry’s Renovation and Construction Department.

The Interfax report said police believe the motive was robbery, suggesting that the killing was not directly related to Volkov’s job.

Source: rferl.org


[VIDEO] Russian SU-24 Jet Shot down by Turkish F-16 Warplanes Over Syria

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.

“It was downed in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement after violating Ankara‘s airspace,” the wire reports. President Tayyip Erdogan has been briefed.

A statement issued by Turkish military added that the plane had been warned “10 times in five minutes” Read the rest of this entry »


Cyberwar Ignites a New Arms Race 

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Dozens of countries amass cyberweapons, reconfigure militaries to meet threat.

Damian Paletta, Danny Yadron and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries report: Countries toiled for years and spent billions of dollars to build elaborate facilities that would allow them to join the exclusive club of nations that possessed nuclear weapons.

“The acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy. Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”

–Matthijs Veenendaal, a researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a research group in Estonia. “

Getting into the cyberweapon club is easier, cheaper and available to almost anyone with cash and a computer.

A series of successful computer attacks carried out by the U.S. and others has kicked off a frantic and destabilizing digital arms race, with dozens of countries amassing stockpiles of malicious code. The programs range from the most elementary, such as typo-ridden emails asking for a password, to software that takes orders from a rotating list of Twitter handles.

The proliferation of these weapons has spread so widely that the U.S. and China—longtime cyber adversaries—brokered a limited agreement last month not to conduct certain types of cyberattacks against each other, such as intrusions that steal corporate information and then pass it along to domestic companies. Cyberattacks that steal government secrets, however, remain fair game.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

This comes after other countries have begun to amass cyberweaponry on an unprecedented scale. Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed rivals, regularly hack each other’s companies and governments, security researchers said. Estonia and Belarus are racing to build defensive shields to counter Russia. Denmark and the Netherlands have begun programs to develop offensive computer weapons, as have Argentina and France.

[Also see – Cybersecurity Expert Confirms Pundit Planet’s Full-Scale Non-Stop Global Panic Warnings]

In total, at least 29 countries have formal military or intelligence units dedicated to offensive hacking efforts, according to a Wall Street Journal compilation of government records and interviews with U.S. and foreign officials. Some 50 countries have bought off-the-shelf hacking software that can be used for domestic and international surveillance. The U.S. has among the most-advanced operations.

In the nuclear arms race, “the acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy,” said Matthijs Veenendaal, a researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a research group in Estonia. “Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”

Governments have used computer attacks to mine and steal information, erase computers, disable bank networks and—in one extreme case—destroy nuclear centrifuges.

Nation states have also looked into using cyberweapons to knock out electrical grids, disable domestic airline networks, jam Internet connectivity, erase money from bank accounts and confuse radar systems, experts believe.

Large conventional militaries and nuclear forces are ill-suited to this new kind of warfare, which evens the playing field between big and small countries. Cyberattacks are hard to stop and sometimes impossible to trace. The West, as a result, has been forced to start reconfiguring its militaries to better meet the threat.

Adm. Michael Rogers, center, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, confers with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work ahead of testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September.

Adm. Michael Rogers, center, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, confers with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work ahead of testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

“With some countries, we’re comfortable with knowing what their capabilities are, but with other countries we’re still lost. We don’t have the visibility into their toolset.”

— Andre McGregor, a former cyber special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and now the director of security at Tanium Inc.

Access to cyberweapons, according to U.S. and foreign officials and security researchers, is far more widespread than access to nuclear weapons was at the height of the nuclear arms race, a result of inexpensive technology and the power of distributed computing.

“It’s not like developing an air force…You don’t need to have your own cyberforce to have a very robust and very scary offensive capability.”

— Michael Schmitt, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and part of an international group studying how international law relates to cyberwarfare.

More than two dozen countries have accumulated advanced cyberweapons in the past decade. Some Defense Department officials compare the current moment to the lull between the World Wars when militaries realized the potential of armed planes. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Malaysia Airlines Passenger Plane Crashes Near Ukraine Russia Border

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A MALAYSIAN Airlines passenger plane with 295 people has crashed in Ukraine

Daily Express‘s Dion Dassanayake reports: A second Malaysia Airlines plane has crashed today, this time near Russia.

UPDATE: Ukrainian Officials Reports that it was BROUGHT DOWN BY RUSSIAN SURFACE TO AIR MISSILE… developing…

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The Boeing 777 went down near the Russian border according to an aviation industry source.

[Also see – Live Updates: Passenger Jet ‘Crashes In Ukraine’, Buk SAS Missile Attack Suspected]

It is not clear what caused the flight MH17 to crash or if there have been any fatalities.

UPDATE: KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian official said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east of the country, and Malaysian Airlines tweeted that it lost contact with one of its flights over Ukrainian airspace.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday. The Buk missile system can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it “has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.”

The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days…(read more)

According to Interfax the plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Found Guilty of Moscow Journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s 2006 Killing

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Anna Politkovskaya (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow court has convicted five men of involvement in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, three of whom were acquitted in a previous trial.A-memorial-to-Russian-jou-002

[Also see: Film tribute to Politkovskaya]

Tuesday’s jury verdict found that Rustam Makhmudov was the gunman who shot Politkovskaya in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in 2006 and that four others — his two brothers, their uncle and a former policeman — were accomplices.

Both brothers and the policeman had been acquitted in a 2009 trial, but the Supreme Court ordered a new trial. A judge is expected to sentence the five men Wednesday; all could face up to life in prison. Read the rest of this entry »


Russia Invades: Gunmen Seize Crimean Airport

Ukraine-crimea-Reuters

MARY CHASTAIN reports:  Gunmen seized the Crimea airport, less than 24 hours after gunmen seized government buildings in Simferopol.

Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag. 

The report said the men with “Russian Navy ensigns” first surrounded the Simferopol Airport’s domestic flights terminal.

crimea-airport-militia

Crimea retaliated after Ukraine ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich on February 22. The majority of residents are ethnic Russians and they made it known their loyalties lie with Russia. After Yanukovich left, Crimea kicked out their Kiev-appointed mayor and elected a Russian mayor.

Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Volgograd Trolley Bus Blast

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RIA Novosti

At least 15 people have been killed in a trolley bus blast in Volgograd, emergency services report, only a day after a suicide bombing ripped through the city’s railway station, killing 17.

Monday, December 30

05:47 GMT:

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05:43 GMT: The death toll from the blast has risen to 15 people, with a further 23 receiving injuries, the Volgograd Region‘s vice-governor Vasiliy Galushin told Interfax.

“The emergency services have reacted very swiftly. All those injured have been taken to hospitals, as their identities are being determined,” he said.

05:41 GMT:

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05:37 GMT: According to witness reports to ITAR-TASS, there were many students on the bus.
“There was a loud ‘pop’, then a flash, everything was enveloped in smoke,” one female witness said, describing the sudden realization.

05:34 GMT: The Investigative Committee now puts the number of injured at 15.

05:30 GMT: In describing the character of the blast, ITAR-TASS law enforcement sources have said that it appears to be a suicide attack, “judging from the body fragments characteristic of such a bombing.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Russia sends warship with ‘special cargo’ to Syria

A Russian warship is moored in the Cypriot port of Limassol, on May 17, 2013 (AFP/File, Yiannis Kourtoglou)

(AFP/File, Yiannis Kourtoglou)

MOSCOW — A Russian warship carrying “special cargo” will be dispatched toward Syria, a navy source said on Friday, as the Kremlin beefs up its presence in the region ahead of possible US strikes against the Damascus regime.

The large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov will on Friday leave the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, from where it will head to Syria’s coast, the Interfax news agency quoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying. Read the rest of this entry »