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Did the CIA stop a bloodbath in Saint Petersburg?

Relations between the USA and Russia have been so bad that some tangible sign of mental sanity and good-will could make things way better than they are now

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(The Saker) – (Here is the original report, for my evaluation, please see below – The Saker)

RT reports:

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump for help in preventing a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. Data provided by the CIA enabled Russian security services to find and detain terrorists

The Russian leader expressed his gratitude in a telephone call, adding that the Russian security services would also always share information with their US colleagues, were they to obtain data on any planned attacks on US soil.

Putin also asked Trump to convey his compliments to the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, as well as to the operatives that gathered the information about the terrorists. He said that the data provided by the US was enough to track down and detain the members of the extremist cell.

The White House later said in a statement: “President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives.” The White House also confirmed that US intelligence agencies provided Russia with information “concerning a major terror plot in St. Petersburg.”

Earlier, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested the members of a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. The extremists were planning a series of attacks on public places, including a suicide bombing and an explosion in Kazan’s Cathedral in the center of the city.

During the raid, conducted overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, the FSB seized a large amount of explosives, weapons and ammunition and dismantled a bomb-making workshop. The members of the cell that coordinated their plans with IS masterminds abroad were plotting an attack on the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg – one of the most iconic landmarks of the city.

Earlier this week, FSB head Aleksandr Bortnikov reported foiling a terrorist plot which would have involved bombings during the New Year celebrations and the upcoming presidential election campaign. The schemes also involved a cell with links to IS.
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Evaluation:

First, some skeptics might, for good reasons, suspect whether this is true or some  kind of smokescreen.  Let me assure you that this is for real.  Here is why: to put it gently, the USA and, even more so, the CIA are not exactly popular in Russia, especially amongst former KGB foreign intelligence (PGU KGB SSSR) service officers like Putin.  They are even *more* unpopular amongst the power base of President Putin.  So, if anything, by publicly thanking not just the USA, but the CIA specifically Putin, is most definitely not doing just something politically advantageous to him.  Second, Putin could have just thanked Trump without mentioning the CIA by name.  Next, there is the visibility given to that event: an official telephone call, following by an official announcement on the Kremlin’s website.  Finally, this news item makes it to the first item on the most popular Sunday evening news show.  So, yes, this is for real, you can take that to the bank.

Apparently, the terrorist attack was also rather vicious: a major cathedral in Saint Petersburg was supposed to be targeted on a religious holiday (Sunday and the commemoration of Saint Barbara).  It could have been a carnage.

Finally, there are no indications that the Russian security services saw this one coming or had the suspects on their radars.

So, amazing as this might seen to some of us, in this case it appears that the US CIA really did prevent a bloodbath in Russia.

Frankly, I will admit that am personally very surprised by that.

There are still many questions to be answered: who were the (already arrested) terrorists? why did the CIA know about his?  what could be the motive of the CIA in actually warning the Russians?

At this point, your guess is as good as mine.  As I often say, I am neither a clairvoyant nor a prophet.  All I can offer at this point are guesses.  My first one would be that the bombers were somehow connected to the USA or to some branch of the US government and that the CIA decided to warn the Russians to spoil an operation by another branch of the US government.  Maybe the risk of having some US agency clearly involved was too big.  Other option: the US CIA and/or the Trump Administration really want the Russian to cooperate with them on something important, and preventing a terrorist attack in Russia’s “northern capital” was a way to show that the US and the CIA have some potentially very real benefits to offer to Russia.  After all, the relations between the USA and Russia have been so insanely bad (all by the USA’s fault) that some tangible sign of mental sanity and actual good-will could make things way better than they are now.  It is also possible that somebody in the White House has finally realized that the US has truly painted itself into a corner and that a country like Russia could be very, very, important to fix the utter disasters of US foreign policies (or lack thereof) in the Middle-East as East Asia. It is also entirely possible that, as the RT article indicates, the Russians recently helped foil a major terrorist attack in the USA and that the Americans decided to reciprocate.  Finally, as remote as this might seem to some, there is always the possibility of a key person in the Administration taking the decision to simply do what is right.  I know that many will call me naive for even considering such an apparently most unlikely possibility, but I strongly believe that there are decent people in some very corrupt places and that sometimes very corrupt people sometimes want to do what is right at least once.

Whatever may be the case, I welcome this development.  Lives were saved, some dangerous maniacs are behind bars and two nuclear nuclear superpowers did something together and did it right.  I am not holding my breath for the future, but any positive development deserves some recognition, especially in our otherwise very depressing times.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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