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Crimea under siege: Revisiting the Crimean referendum

The recent Crimean incident highlights the extent to which Ukraine is unable to control its own military whilst re-emphasising Crimea’s historical connection to Russia which the West chooses to ignore.

Haneul Na'avi

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The 7 August skirmish on the Crimean peninsula has ratcheted tensions between Ukraine and Russia, calling into question Kyiv’s legitimacy and claims to the territory. Currently, both nations are on high alert as they boost their military defences following a terrorist plot sanctioned by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).

RT reports.

“[The] FSB received a warning from Armyansk locals, who had reported on some suspicious people in military uniforms in their town,” and “detected some 20 people in the area, who were loading explosives and weapons from their hideout. Once the suspects noticed the Russian security forces, they immediately opened fire, shooting to kill.”

Acting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s immediate, scripted reaction was to deny involvement.  UNIAN reports him saying.

“Russian accusations that Ukraine has launched terror attacks in occupied Crimea are as cynical and insane as its claims that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. These fantasies have only one goal: a pretext for more military threats against Ukraine.”

Nevertheless, Poroshenko’s statements are at cross purposes with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who chauvinistically asserted the opposite just months before.  Press TV reports him saying

“We have nothing. We need a new army, a new National Guard, a new police force. This is what the government of Ukraine is working on right now. We must restore all of this, and then, with enough will, Crimea will be ours.”

According to Press TV Avakov continued

“Kiev is currently training a separate special force within the Ukrainian National Guard”.

These contradictions show that Kyiv’s authorities are simply losing control of their defence forces. The UAF—a loose confederation of over 50 volunteer batallions—simply lack the skills and coordination to best the Russian FSB and infiltrate the Crimean peninsula. This became evident on 8 Sept. 2014, at the onset of hostilities, after Amnesty International released a scathing report documenting the lawlessness of the Aidar Battalion and other Ukrainian paramilitary groups’, as they committed increasingly brutal human rights violations in the Russian speaking Donbas region in a manner which compared to those of the Islamic State.

“Our findings indicate that, while formally operating under the command of the Ukrainian security forces combined headquarters in the region members of the Aidar battalion act with virtually no oversight or control, and local police are either unwilling or unable to address the abuses.”

Ironically, Marcin Mamon of The Intercept wrote a ground breaking series of articles on how the Kyiv government began overlooking Ukrainian collaborations with Islamic State.

“Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia.”

Due to a long list of violations, Russian-Ukrainian relations remains in utter disarray and have come to a volatile showdown as the UAF advances southward to the Isthmus of Perekop, violating the Minsk agreements along with the self-determination of Crimean citizens.  Ukrainian relations with Crimeans, on the other hand, have been irrevocably changed forever.

Underneath the empty propaganda of Western media and the discourse of Russian-based pundits hides the uncomfortable truth: Crimea was been a gift to Ukraine and historically sanctioned within strict guidelines.

The 1954 “Meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” speech explicitly states the terms of the agreement to transfer Crimea to the Ukraine.  The agreement was Nikita Khrushchev’s bid to promote fraternity between the Russian Socialist Federative of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), as part of his “de-Stalinisation” policy, which included reconciling former General Secretary Joseph Stalin’s process of dekulakisation (1930-1937), the Ukrainian Great Famine (1932-33), and the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars, Russians, Greeks and Germans during World War II (1942-43).

The following passage, spoken by Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union Kliment Voroshilov, speaks almost prophetically and explains the terms in detail:

“[Voroshilov]: Under capitalism this would have been impossible. In history there could not be and cannot be such relations between republics [where] under capitalism, desires for territorial seizure and the desire of strong countries to feast on the territories of weak countries formed the very basis of relations between countries. Only in the conditions of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was such a just solution of all territorial issues between union republics possible based on administrative and economic advisability with complete mutual friendship and the fraternal cooperation of their peoples.

Both in the distant and not-so-distant past enemies repeatedly tried to take the Crimean Peninsula from Russia and use it to pillage and ravage Russian lands, and to create a military base there to attack Russia and Ukraine. But more than once in joint battle the Russian and Ukrainian peoples severely beat the insolent invaders and threw them out of Ukraine and Crimea […]”.

(Bold italics added)

First, the transfer is based on trust between two communist governments—guaranteed under a socialist political economy. Now that both are independent capitalist republics, the terms and conditions no longer apply.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it took years of painful negotiations between then-Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin and US Presidents George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton to reshape the pacts under the “Treaty of friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine”, which was enacted on 31 May 1997.

However, it was a fool’s errand for Yeltsin to believe that these new conditions would hold under the current global order.

Furthermore, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych inflamed these tensions after opportunistically weighing his options between the Eurasian Union (EAEU) and the European Union (EEUU), violating Article 13 (coordination of strategies to implement economic reform and deepen economic integration) of the 1997 Treaty of Friendship.

According to EU Commissioner Stefan Fuele, Yanukovych could not agree to the deal because it would

“……cost Kiev $500 billion in trade with Russia over the coming years, while implementing demands for Ukraine to adopt EU legal and other standards would cost another $104 billion.”

By the time he had rescinded Europe’s offer, he had already besmirched Ukraine’s national sovereignty as the Euromaidan coup was already underway as a contingency.

Furthermore, Yanukovych invited disaster by negotiating the 2013 Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which exposed Ukraine to deregulated foreign privatisation.  As highlighted by an article in the Oriental Review

“Within two to three years, as the relevant provisions of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU go into effect, Monsanto’s lobbying efforts will transform the Ukrainian market into an oligopoly consisting of American corporations.”

Putin keenly observed this and following the coup, simply rescinded the 1954 transfer, noting specific violations in the Friendship Treaty to validate the Crimean referendum.

With Yanukovich gone and a hostile, puppet government on its doorstep, Russia reclaimed its historical territory.

Violations of the 1997 Friendship Treaty entailed Article 6 (no agreements with countries directed against the other party), Article 11 (violence against citizens based on national, racial, ethnic, or religious intolerance), and Article 12 (right to safeguard ethnic, religious, linguistic, or cultural histories without assimilation).

Following the US-backed Euromaidan coup, then-interim President Oleksandr Turchynov provoked Russian authorities further by temporary repealing a 2012 law protecting minority languages.  Reports of persecuted ethnic minorities finally compelled Putin to act by first speaking to US President Barack Obama and later contacting UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon.

With little support from the international ‘community’, Vladimir Putin worked with Crimean authorities to establish the referendum, then signed Executive Order no. 268 shortly afterwards.

The goal was to rehabilitate national ethnicities in an inclusive democracy and invest in their development, starting with the Kerch Strait Bridge, as is made clear by the Kremlin’s summary:

“The purpose of Executive Order No. 268 is to restore historical justice and remedy the consequences of the unlawful deportation of the Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German peoples from the Crimean ASSR and the violations of their rights that occurred.”

Whilst there certainly were material concerns in Simferopol and relating to the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol which explain the Russian actions, the primary motivation was that, under Putin’s watch, he would never to allow Crimeans to fall under fascism again.  The referendum was as ideological as it was material.

Rather than explaining this history to its audiences, international media outlets have chosen to lose face through the banal, deceptive mantra of “Russian aggression” and “annexation”. However, both the illicit Kyiv government and its Western supporters brush this aside and choose to ignore Russia’s valid concerns.

Unfortunately, in doing so, the ludicrous accusations against Vladimir Putin as a power-hungry dictator have only reinforced and increased support for his actions around the world.

The reintegration, not annexation, of Crimea is one such case study.

Western propagandists and its followers should look in the mirror and then study history. Russians never forget their own; something that continues to bewilder the misinformed to this very day

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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