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Armenia’s Pashinyan meets Putin: pledges continued Russian-Armenian friendship

New Armenian leader installed following protests reaffirms Armenia’s ties with Russia; calls Russia-Armenia “allies”

Alexander Mercouris

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – the latter recently installed as Armenia’s leader following nationwide protests – had their first bilateral meeting in Sochi on Monday on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union summit.

The summary of the exchanges between the two leaders provided by the Kremlin’s website shows that Putin took the opportunity to remind Pashinyan of Russia’s economic importance to Armenia, whilst Pashinyan for his part thanked Putin for Russia’s neutral position during the protests, and reaffirmed Armenia’s continued friendship with Russia.

Pashinyan specifically reaffirmed Armenia’s continued membership of the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union, and spoke of deepening Armenia’s military ties with Russia.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues,

I would like to welcome you to Russia and to congratulate you once again, this time in person, on your election to the high position of Prime Minister of Armenia.

First of all, I would like to say that we view Armenia, as everyone knows, as our closest partner and ally in the region. I am referring to both economic and security cooperation.

As you know, Russia is a leading trade and economic partner of Armenia. Its share is estimated at over 25 percent. Russia’s investment accounts for approximately 35 percent of all foreign investment in Armenia. Our trade has grown recently, also by some 25 percent. Armenian agricultural deliveries to Russia are growing at a fast pace, or more precisely, by 38 percent over the past few months.

Overall, this is very good progress and I hope that we will not just maintain but also boost it.

I would like to wish you every success on the post of the Prime Minister of Armenia. I hope that our relations will continue to develop consistently, just as they did before, and that we will continue to work together on the international stage as well as at international organisations, starting from the UN, where Armenia and Russia have always supported each other, and ending with regional organisations, both in security and economic development matters.

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Mr President, thank you for your kind words.

It is very gratifying that, just a few days after I was elected Prime Minister of Armenia, I have this opportunity to have a meeting with you, because I think that we have things to discuss.

There is also something that does not need to be discussed: the allied strategic relations between Armenia and Russia. In general, I can assure you that there is consensus on this matter in Armenia, and nobody has ever questioned the strategic importance of Armenian-Russian relations, or ever will.

We are quite set on giving a fresh impetus to our relations – both in the political and trade and economic sense. We hope to develop our relations in the military technical sector as well as in other industries.

Many people from Russia visit Armenia, which is very good. I think Russians like Armenia very much, and Armenians also enjoy having so many tourists in Yerevan.

I would like to say that we highly appreciate the balanced position that Russia held in the course of our domestic political crisis, and I think it was a very constructive position; it is highly appreciated not only by our Government, but also in Armenian society in general.

Once again, please accept my best wishes on Victory Day. It was very interesting to watch the May 9 parade on Red Square. It is popular in Armenia and we are very impressed by the achievements that the Russian defence industry has made.

Thank you once again for this opportunity.

Pashinyan’s pledges of continued friendship to Russia will be judged cynically by many people, including by my colleague in The Duran Frank Sellers, who see them as nothing more than a device by Pashinyan to play for time whilst he sets about cutting back Armenia’s connections to Russia.

Many see hope in the fact that he plans to attend the Eurasian Economic Union summit next month and to meet with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, together with the fact that he admits that Armenia needs Russia as a military ally, but given his life story and participation in the events recorded here, there seems to be little real hope of that.

Is this a Western backed color revolution? It’s actually hard to cast doubt on that fact, given his connections with Soros funded NGOs who have as their purpose the remaking of Armenia into a NATO member state which looks somewhat less than fondly at Russia as the originator of Armenia’s woes.

With a perception that prosperity will surely be the Armenian inheritance of an integration into the Western political and economic bloc, which perception comes from anywhere but reality. It really can’t be doubted that this movement, led by a man with a history of hostility towards Russia and a long history of working in the interests of the US and its NGOs, is something that was hatched in Washington and delivered via the CIA’s vicarious operatives, the Open Society Foundation and its ilk.

The country’s post soviet poverty and Sargsyan’s perceived power grab are the grievances that were immediately capitalized upon in order to carry out this so called ‘velvet revolution’. Pashinyan says that he wants to maintain Armenia’s balancing act between the East and West, preserving ties and agreements with Russia while pursuing the partnership of the West, it should be noted that Saakashvili made a similar such promise upon assuming control of Georgia in a similar such incident.

Of course, he knows that he can’t be so bold as to immediately cut off ties with the Russians this early in the game, as Armenia is simply too dependent on Russia to make any real changes to Armenia’s foreign policy at this time, but that this represents his long term goal remains a matter to be seen.

I take the diametrically opposite view.  I believe that whatever Pashinyan may have said in the past his pledges of continued friendship with Russia and of Armenia’s adhesion to the Eurasian Economic Union are genuine.

After all, as Pashinyan himself said over the course of his meeting with Putin,

…….there is consensus on this matter in Armenia, and nobody has ever questioned the strategic importance of Armenian-Russian relations, or ever will…..

Given Armenia’s economic and geographic realities, and the rapid military build up in Azerbaijan, Armenia has no real choice, even if the Armenian people wanted such a choice, of which there is no real sign that they do.

Armenia’s relations with Russia were not an issue in the recent protests, which at no point took on an anti-Russian character.

As I have pointed out previously, that is in total contrast to the Maidan protests in Ukraine of 2013 and 2014, in which passionate hostility to Russia was the main driving factor.  That in itself is a major point of difference between the two sets of protests: the recent protests in Armenia and the Maidan protests in Ukraine.

I remain of the view that the Armenian protests were a strictly internal affair, provoked by the actions of the previous Sargsyan government, and have no geopolitical significance.

Moreover the very fact that – as Pashinyan says – there is “consensus” within Armenia about the importance of Armenia’s relations with Russia in itself places limits on what Pashinyan can do, even if he genuinely does seek to sever Armenia’s relations with Russia, which of course he denies.

Last but not least, there is the fact that even Western oriented commercially minded Armenians – and all Armenians, at least in their own estimation, are commercially minded – can see for themselves the huge commercial and economic benefits to them personally and for Armenia of Armenia retaining access to the vast Russian market through its membership of the Eurasian Economic Union.

By contrast it is impossible to see a good economic future for Armenia – or indeed (given the geopolitical realities) any real future for Armenia – if it severs its links to Russia.

For all these reasons, unlike Frank Sellers, I believe that when Pashinyan says he wants to maintain or even enhance Armenia’s relations with Russia, he means what he says.

He would be a fool if he didn’t, and whatever else he is, Pashinyan doesn’t seem to me to be a fool.

Time will show which of us – Frank Sellers or myself – is right.

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Maria Butina, her crime: A love of the NRA and being Russian (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has communicated to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Russian national Maria Butina must be set free and allowed to return to Russia, after she was arrested by US officials on dubious spy charges.

Lavrov said that the US should immediately release the Russian gun activist, who is being held in the US on espionage charges, after a phone conversation with his US counterpart.

Lavrov called the charges levied against Butina “fabricated.”

In his conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, “Lavrov stressed that the actions of the US authorities that arrested Russian citizen Butina on fabricated charges are unacceptable.”

In an official statement the Russian Foreign Ministry called for her “immediate release.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the oddly timed, out of the blue arrest of Maria Butina, who is being held by US authorities for what they claim to be a violation of the FARA act.

In reality Maria Butina’s crime is much more troubling than simply failing to register as a foreign agent.

Maria made the double mistake of being in the United States of America as a Russian citizens who loves guns, at a time when racism and bigotry against Russians and NRA supporters is surpassing McCarthyite levels.

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Via RT

The Foreign minister raised the issue during phone conversations that were made at the request of the US and aimed at “further normalization of the US-Russian relations” following the summit between the US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Lavrov and Pompeo also discussed the process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, as well as the situation in Syria.

The 29-year-old Russian student and a gun activist was arrested in the US about a week ago and charged with acting as a foreign agent without registering her activities with the authorities. Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On July 16, a DC Federal Court rejected Butina’s bail plea and ordered her to be placed in custody pending trial over fears that she could flee or contact Russian intelligence officials. Her lawyer says the trial is being politicized and Russian embassy staff were only allowed to visit her in jail on Thursday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Butina’s arrest politically motivated, adding that it could have been aimed at disrupting the Helsinki summit between Putin and Trump. On Thursday, the ministry also launched a campaign hashtagged #FreeMariaButina on Twitter to raise awareness of her case.

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Ugly breakup at FBI: Lisa Page throws ex-lover, Peter Strzok, under the bus (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 60.

Alex Christoforou

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While Peter Strzok’s testimony put a face on the deceptive and secretive Deep State, GOP lawmakers who were present at Lisa Page’s closed-door deposition said they learned a lot of new information from the ex-FBI lawyer, and ex-lover of Peter Strzok.

Lisa Page confirmed to GOP lawmakers that the text messages sent between her and her lover Strzok “meant exactly what they said,” contrary to Strzok’s testimony.

According to The Gateway Pundit, one damning text message in particular sent from Strzok on May 19th, 2017, just two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel, intrigued investigators and the public alike.

“There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted.

According to investigative reporter, John Solomon, Lisa Page confirmed that text from Peter Strzok did indeed refer to the Trump-Russia case.

Strzok knew it was a nothing-burger yet he forged ahead.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou, RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle, and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Peter Strzok’s testimony has undoubtedly contradicted Lisa Page’s cooperative deposition, as the ex-FBI lawyer is preparing to save herself, while throwing her ex-lover under the bus.

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Via The Epoch Times

Representatives John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert of Texas recently shared their observations of the closed-door testimony of former high-ranking FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which concluded on July 16.

One of the major questions regarding the testimony was whether it would match the one given by FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.

But while Ratcliffe said he found a mismatch, Gohmert wouldn’t go so far.

Page and Strzok played major roles in the investigations on both 2016 presidential candidates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. During the same period, Page and Strzok had an affair and exchanged thousands of text messages expressing a strong bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.

“When I questioned Lisa Page on Friday about the anti-Trump text messages that were sent between herself and Peter Strzok, there were significant differences in her testimony and Strzok’s as it relates to what she thought some of these text messages meant,” Ratcliffe said in a July 16 tweet, shortly before the second round of questioning.

“Page gave us new information that Strzok either wouldn’t or couldn’t, confirming some of the concerns we had about these investigations and the people involved in running them,” he wrote.

On July 17, Ratcliffe expanded on his further statements about Page’s testimony. Radcliffe told Fox News…

“There are differences in their testimony.”

“In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative.”

Via The Epoch Times

In one of the texts, Strzok vowed to “stop” Trump from becoming president. In another, the two discussed having an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump would win the election.

Strzok, who gave a closed-door testimony on June 27 and a public one on July 12, said the first message meant he and the American people would stop Trump. The second, he said previously, meant he wanted to pursue the Russia investigation aggressively, in case Trump won.

GOP lawmakers were furious with Strzok’s attitude and unwillingness to answer questions. In a scathing monologue, Gohmert even linked Strzok’s credibility to the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife.

President Donald Trump repeatedly called Strzok’s testimony a “disgrace.”

The lawmakers said Page was comparatively more cooperative.

“There were times the FBI lawyers would be reaching to the button to mute her comment, and she would answer before they could mute her comment,” Gohmert told Fox News.

He said Page didn’t contradict Strzok “so much,” but “has given us insights into who was involved in what.”

“I think she’ll be a good witness,” he said.

Page ditched her first testimony appointment on July 11, prompting GOP lawmakers to threaten her with contempt of Congress. She then agreed to appear on July 13, which gave her the opportunity to review Strzok’s public testimony before giving hers.

The lawmakers are probing the FBI’s and Justice Department’s decisions before the election, suspecting they were influenced by political considerations.

Texts between Strzok and Page suggest that the FBI initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

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Russia makes MASSIVE progress on its ‘super-weapons’

Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle moves into serial production, nuclear-engine powered cruise missile tests continue, and more as Russia continues to outdo all Western military tech

Seraphim Hanisch

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On July 19th and 20th, The Russian Defense Ministry announced several milestones of progress in its advanced weapons systems programs. These programs were revealed to the world in March of this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the State of the Russian Federation speech.

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While at first the Western onlookers did not believe the amazing announcements of hypersonic weapons and nuclear-powered cruise missiles with unlimited range, subsequent releases and concurrent observation by the American military experts has shown these developments to be as real as Mr. Putin claimed they are.

TASS, the Russian News Agency, released information on these weapons systems in separate reports:

Kinzhal

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile:

Squadrons of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles should enter combat duty in the Black Sea region and at other Russian fleets and flotillas, said Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine.

Besides, a squadron (between 12 and 16 aircraft) of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles entered combat duty in the Caspian Sea region in April.

“I think at least one squadron of those complexes should be deployed at any fleet, in other words – at all regions where we have fleets and flotillas. We need to deploy them in the regions of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Northern Fleet. The Pacific region also should not be forgotten,” Murakhovsky said.

He said that such systems can become a “good instrument” against not only vessels equipped with high-precision weapons, but also for countering carrier attack groups.

“We know how expensive a carrier attack group can be. By employing this asymmetric method, which is unbelievably cheap in comparison with building a carrier attack group, we can neutralize this threat almost completely,” the expert said.

Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile trials:

The Burevestnik is an entirely new cruise missile, powered by a nuclear engine. This gives the missile unlimited range. In theory, such a missile could be launched at a target and spend days or weeks in hidden flight using advanced guidance systems, and then close on its target at the optimal time to assure destruction of that target with maximum surprise. The TASS piece goes on to say:

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia was preparing to test upgraded test prototypes of the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile with an unlimited range.

According to the expert, it is highly likely that the prototype of the missile “has already made a flight.”

“Clearly, it was something like the pop-up trials of Sarmat – a launch without the nuclear-powered engine, in other words, with an ordinary missile booster, conducted in order to assess the possibility of a launch, aerodynamics and the operability of the entire system in general,” [Murakhovsky] said.

Further reporting from TASS had this to add about the Burevestnik program:

Russia is getting ready for flight tests of the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, an official at the Defense Ministry told reporters on Thursday.

“The missile’s component makeup is being improved based on clarified requirements, while ground tests continue and preparations are being made for experimental flight tests of the improved missile,” the official said.

According to the Defense Ministry, “work on an unlimited-range missile is going according to plan.”

“In the meantime, launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon – a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear powered missile,” the ministry official noted.

[The head] of the 12th Central Research Institute at Russia’s Defense Ministry Sergey Pertsev, in turn, said that the tests of the new cruise missile equipped with a small nuclear power unit had confirmed the accuracy of the technical decisions that Russian researchers, engineers and designers had made. In addition, the tests enabled the researchers “to receive valuable experimental data necessary for specifying a number of requirements.”

“A low-flying and low-observable cruise missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with an almost unlimited range, an unpredictable trajectory and capability to bypass interception lines is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems,” the Russian Defense Ministry stressed.

A further use of the nuclear engine technology is also expected in the Poseidon underwater drone, Mr. Murakhovsky stated that separate systems for the craft have been successfully tested. He further noted that the next task is to design the entire layout, build a test model and begin testing the whole platform.

The Avangard Hypersonic Missile

While the Kinzhal is a Mach-10 capable hypersonic system that can be launched from a fighter, the Avangard is a Mach-20 capable system that has intercontinental reach. There is almost no footage of this system released to the public, but the concept videos show how the system works. TASS reports this status:

Russia’s Strategic Missile Force is preparing a position area for accepting the Avangard hypersonic missile system for service as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s military security, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Russian defense industry has completed developing the Avangard missile system with the principally new armament – the gliding cruise warhead. Industrial enterprises have switched to its serial production,” the Defense Ministry said.

“A set of organizational and technical measures is underway in the position area of the Dombarovsky large unit of the Strategic Missile Force to accept the Avangard missile system for operation,” it added.

The development of new strategic weapon systems “is aimed at increasing Russia’s defense capability and preventing any aggression against our country and its allies,” the Defense Ministry stressed.

The infrastructural facilities of the large unit’s position area have already been prepared for the missile system’s operation, the ministry said.

“The position area has been prepared in geodesic and engineering terms to accommodate the missile system. Work is underway to build new and reconstruct old facilities to provide for the operation and the combat use of the system. Technical and utility supply lines are being modernized and electric power, communications and command and control cables are being laid. Work has been arranged to train personnel and prepare armament, military and special hardware,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Deputy Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force for Armament Sergei Poroskun has said that the Avangard hypersonic missile system features combat capabilities that “make it possible to reliably breach any anti-missile defenses.”

The Okhotnik attack drone

The Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone is now being viewed as a prototype for Russia’s “sixth-generation” fighter plane. TASS describes this in more detail:

According to [a defense industry] official, although the sixth generation fighter jet project “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

TASS was unable to officially confirm the information at the time of the publication.

Another defense industry source earlier told TASS that the prototype of Okhotnik (Hunter) was ready and would start test flights this year.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour.

Peresvet laser weapons systems

TASS reported that the Russian military forces are now training for the use of the Peresvet combat laser system:

Russian Aerospace Force has accepted for service the laser complexes Peresvet and the military are now taking drills that involve the novel combat technologies, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The Peresvet laser complexes have been placed at sites of permanent deployment,” the report said. “Active efforts to make them fully operational are underway.”

“To ensure their proper functioning, the necessary infrastructures and specialized facilities for housing the complexes and duty crews have been built,” the ministry said.

The crews assigned to the Peresvets have taken upgrader courses at the Alexander Mozhaisky Military-Space Academy in St Petersburg.

The Russian military strategy of “asymmetric response.”

The overall defense strategy is termed an “asymmetric response”, and Mr. Murakhovsky explained the principle in this way:

“This is an asymmetric response, in which new classes of weapons are created, instead of new types within the framework of the existing systems. Other states are not expected to have anything of this kind [in the near future],” he said.

The expert described this response as “quite an efficient one, all the more so because it requires no additional investment – all the works are being carried out within the framework of the state procurement program.”

He added that unlike the Soviet Union, Russia avoids being dragged into a direct arms race and searches for cutting-edge solutions instead of simply increasing the number of weapons.

“The development of counter-weapons to those arms [may be possible] in distant future, but it does not mean that they can be created at all,” Murakhovsky added.

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