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“Israel has the right to defend itself” — so does Syria

The relentless media campaign against Syria is intended to conceal the fact that Syria is defending itself against a war of aggression waged against by or with the complicity of the Western powers. The contrast between the way the West reacts to Israeli actions purportedly in self-defence, and the way it condemns far more justified actions in self-defence made by Syria, exposes the truth about Western aggression against Syria.

Rick Sterling

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There is a hypocritical disconnect in Western and especially U.S. foreign policy. When it comes to Israel, the US is quick to claim “Israel has a right to defend itself”.  For Syria, that same right does not seem to exist.   

Is Israel Defending Itself or Defending Occupation/Apartheid?

When Israel executed intense bombing campaigns against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 the US justified the attacks. At the United Nations on 18 July 2014, US Ambassador Samantha Power said ,

“President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself…. Hamas’ attacks are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to any member state of the United Nations. Israel has the right to defend its citizens and prevent these attacks.”

Israel claims it is simply responding defensively. The human rights group BtSelem reports that over the decade between June 2004 and July 2015, Palestinians launched over 8700 rockets and 5000 mortars from Gaza into Israel. However, the total number of civilians killed over 10 years was 28 for an average of fewer than three persons per year.  Using this as a justification, Israel has attacked by air and invaded every few years with extreme discrepancy in casualty rates.  For example, Israeli attacks on Gaza in Summer 2014 resulted in over 2900 deaths ….. 97% of them Palestinian.

With so few deaths and little damage caused by the rockets from Gaza, it seems Palestinians have launched these as almost symbolic protests against Israeli repression. The Gazan economy is hugely restricted, the borders are closed, and even the sky and ocean are off limits.

Many people would say that Israel is keeping the entire population of Gaza in prison-like circumstances.

In addition, many residents of Gaza are descendants of refugees from nearby Israeli towns and cities. Under the Geneva Conventions and UN Resolution 194, they have the right to return but have been deprived of this in addition to most other rights. 

In summary, Palestinians have launched rockets and mortars to protest Israeli occupation and apartheid policies.   

The Palestinians are not seeking overthrow of the Israeli state so much as recognition of their rights and an end to the Occupation. Casualties have been few.

In response, the West has given Israel a virtual free pass to attack Palestinians in Gaza and unleash horrific bombing in densely populated urban areas where there are huge civilian casualties. The Israeli government is not defending itself; it is imposing punishment on a captive and defenceless population.   

The Syrian State is Under Real Attack

The situation in Syria is dramatically different.

The armed opposition in Syria has inflicted a huge number of deaths and damage in the 5 year campaign to overthrow the government.  Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights show the following number of casualties since March 2011:  Pro Government forces (army and militias) – 105,000 ;  Anti Government forces – 101,000;   Civilians – 86,000. 

These numbers show the intensity of violence. They also indicate how wrong it is for critics to blame Assad and the Syrian government for all the deaths. As shown, soldiers and militias defending the state make up the largest number of casualties. 

It is frequently claimed that protests only became violent after peaceful protests were brutally crushed. This is untrue. There were seven police killed in the first protests in Deraa. That was soon followed by dozens of soldiers being massacred in Deraa and Banyas at the end of March and in April 2011. 

The conflict in Aleppo is currently in the news.  This was the largest city in Syria and the country’s industrial and financial engine.

The largest and most effective opposition force in Aleppo is the Al Qaeda associated Nusra.  Nusra is recognized to be ‘terrorist’ even by the USA and were never part of the ‘cessation of hostilities’. 

There are other factions and fighting groups, but they are all seeking to destroy the Syrian state. Most of the groups are explicitly Wahhabi sectarian and are hostile to secularism, Christianity and moderate Islamic faiths.

The opposition in Syria is heavily armed with weapons, ammunition and explosives. Daily they launch hell cannon missiles into western Aleppo, killing randomly.  Car bombs have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers. Tunnel bombs have killed thousands more.

Aleppo was relatively quiet until the summer of 2012 when thousands of armed fighters invaded and occupied neighbourhoods in the eastern part of the city.

The ‘rebels’ were disliked by the majority of the population from the start. This was documented even by western journalists such as James Foley and Stephen Sotloff who went there inclined to be sympathetic to the opposition.

Martin Chulov of the Guardian described East Aleppo in 2015 and estimated its population at just 40K.  In sharp contrast, there is a large population of about 1.5 million Syrians living in the rest of the city.  This is reflective of the reality: the vast majority of Syrians support the government and hate the terrorists. This includes many who are critical of the Baath Party and who want reforms but not violence and destruction.

This important fact is generally ignored by western media. The current situation in Western Aleppo is described by journalist Eva Bartlett.

In contrast with the Israeli situation, the Syrian government is truly fighting to defend itself against an armed opposition that is violent, sectarian and unpopular with the large majority of Syrians.

The Foreign Factor

Adding to the legitimacy of the Syrian government’s right to defend itself, the armed opposition in Syria has been heavily supported by foreign governments.

Western states and their Gulf allies have supplied weapons, training, logistical support and salaries for many thousands of fighters.  Qatar’s Al Jazeera has broadcast misinformation, fabricated stories and heavily biased reporting from the start.

The same governments have been complicit in the recruitment and travel to Syria by thousands of foreigners from all parts of the globe.

European, North American and Australian governments “looked the other way” as their citizens were recruited and then traveled to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS or Nusra.

According to one study, over 12,000 foreigners including 3,000 from Europe and North America traveled to Syria in the first three years of the conflict. That was before ISIS peaked. Only in the last year, following terrorist actions in the West, have Western governments started arresting or detaining recruits and recruiters.

Violating International Law

The situation in Syria is more extreme but has similarities to the situation in Nicaragua in the 1980s. On 27 June 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled:

“the United States of America, by training, arming, equiping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State”. 

The court also decided the US should make reparations to Nicaragua for injury caused by the violations.

The US ignored the ruling and later withdrew from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

The former Nicaragua Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has written

“What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

(personal correspondence quoted with permission)

Soft Power aligned with Hard Violent Power

Some foreign governments seeking overthrow of Damascus have poured huge amounts of money into ‘smart’ or ‘soft power’.

They have funded an array of organisations with nice sounding names to control the narrative and influence public opinion.

There is the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre, initiated by Secretary Clinton, to prepare for victor’s justice. 

There is the Syrian Network for Human Rights which largely ignores the deaths of Syrian soldiers and seeks US/NATO intervention.

There is the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the White Helmets. This organisation is a support group for Al Qaeda/Nusra but most importantly is a political lobbying tool actively campaigning for US/NATO intervention.

All of these organisations, and many more, are said to be “Syrian”. They all claim to be “independent”. However they were all created after the conflict began, and they are all funded by the foreign governments that seek to overthrow the Syrian government.

These and other organisations support the opposition in various ways, demonise the Syrian government, and romanticise the opposition. 

They are ‘soft power’ acting in concert with hard and violent power.

For example the White Helmets was originally called the Syrian Civil Defence and began with a military contractor training some Syrians in Turkey.

This group was then rebranded as the “White Helmets” by a New York marketing company called “The Syria Campaign”.

Since then, the “feel good” White Helmets brand has been heavily promoted. As a measure of marketing success, the White Helmets recently won the Right Livelihood Award for 2016, and are even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Ironically, there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defense working since 1953, and a REAL White Helmets/CascosBlancos from Argentina, which have received little recognition alongside the slick new “White Helmets” created and promoted by the shadowy PR firm.    

Soft power distorts the reality in the conflict. Thus we are not told that the Syrian government is defending against terrorists but we are told that the “Assad regime” is ‘”targeting hospitals and civilian markets”.

Are the claims true? My investigation of the claims regarding the Doctors Without Borders / MSF supported ‘Al Quds Hospital’ in April 2016 revealed that the accusations were full of contradictions, inconsistencies and unverified accusations.

The “hospital” was an unmarked building; the damage was unclear; the number of deaths varied wildly and could not be verified. The photographic evidence, supplied by the ubiquitous White Helmets, was dubious.

The investigation resulted in a open letter to MSF. So far they have failed to corroborate or document their accusations and claims.

Doctors Without Borders / MSF continues to issue politically biased messages. Their recent 2nd October 2016 tweet about a “bloodbath in East Aleppo” led to false accusations that two teenagers were killed by Syrian government bombing when they were actually killed by terrorist bombing.

Currently the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), funded by France and other countries, has been at the forefront of accusing Syria and Russia of intentionally bombing an underground hospital.

Is the story real or fabricated propaganda? The Russians and Syrians are trying to fight the terrorists; why would they waste resources and generate negative publicity by attacking a hospital?

The reports seem to be based on phone or Skype conversations with sources of unknown reliability.

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian government is an unpopular dictatorship dominated by the Alawte religious group.  Is that true?  On the contrary, key ministries including Defence and Foreign Affairs are held by Sunni leaders. The majority of the Syrian Arab Army are Sunni. Visitors to Syria readily meet mothers who are proud of their sons who died defending their country against foreign backed terrorism. 

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian uprising was largely progressive, secular, and seeking democracy.

This myth makes for a good rationalisation for effectively supporting the ‘regime change’ war against Syria, but it is contradicted by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. In a classified report from August 2012 they analysed the conflict as follows:

“THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.”

“Soft power” in Syria has involved the creation and funding of Syrian groups who convey a message supportive of the regime change goals.

For example there is a group in the town of Kafranbel which produces an English language banner each week.  They are provided with the message by a foreign source and the group holds the banner to be photographed and displayed on social media in the West.  Most of the locals probably have no clue what it says.

Then there is the Aleppo Media Center which creates videos targeting Western audience, and the White Helmets previously discussed. 

These Western created groups are the examples of the “Syrian Revolution” by those who promote this narrative. What kind of “revolution” is on contract with the US State Department?

The Current Situation and Coming Crisis

The Syrian government, with the support of the majority of the Syrian people, is doing its best to defend itself against an onslaught financed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries on earth.

The Syrian Army and popular militias have suffered huge losses but are advancing. In the last year, Russia has provided crucial air support. Unlike the invasion of Syrian land and air space by the USA, the Russian intervention is in compliance with international law. 

Currently the Syrian government and allies are seeking to crush or expel Nusra and other terrorist groups in eastern Aleppo. If that is successful, they could then focus on ISIS in Raqqa and on remaining terrorists in other parts of the country.

Unlike densely populated Gaza, the opposition held areas of Aleppo have very few civilians. Although civilian casualties happen in all wars, it makes no sense that the Syrian military would target civilians.  On the contrary they have opened corridors to facilitate civilians and fighters to leave Aleppo.

Largely unreported in the West,  the Syrian government has an active reconciliation program which allows former gunmen to move to a different area or return to society. This has been successfully used to clear the last remnant of terrorists from Al Waer near Homs and from Darraya near Damascus.  Many thousands of Syrian fighters who were coerced or bribed into joining the opposition have laid down their arms, signed an agreement, and rejoined society.

In contrast with the frenzy and alarm in Western media and political circles, there is a growing optimism and hope among the vast majority of people in Aleppo. Syrian journalist Edward Dark recently tweeted

“Aleppo soon will be freed from the jihadis that invaded & destroyed it. After 4 years of hell its people will finally know peace.”

They are looking forward to the final defeat or expulsion of the terrorists who invaded the city in 2012.

What will the foreign enemies of Syria do to prevent this?  Will they continue or escalate their campaign to destroy Syria as they destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?  Are they prepared to risk potential World War III with Russia?

In the last month Turkey sent troops into northern Syria and the USA attacked the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing over 62 soldiers. The U.S. claims this was an accident, but many believe it was intentional. 

Since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities, ‘soft power’ propaganda has escalated. Accusations that the Syrians and Russians are targeting hospitals are linked to new social media campaigns to “Save Aleppo”.  Two things are clear:

* The public should be wary of media stories based on the claims of biased actors and not supported by solid evidence

* The Syrian government has the right to defend itself against foreign funded violent extremists seeking to destroy it.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syrian Solidarity Movement.

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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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