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Russia’s National Guard – Reasons and Consequences

The formation of Russia’s National Guard simultaneously addresses a range of political and organisational problems.

Gordon Hahn

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On April 5th Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of presidential decrees “transforming” the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) into a new “Federal Service of the Troops of the National Guard” (Federal’naya sluzhba Voisk Natsional’noi Gvardii or FSVNG) and transferring the MVD’s 187,571 Internal Troops to the FSVNG and renaming them the National Guard or NG (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648 andhttp://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/). Putin appointed his long-time associate Viktor Vasilievich Zolotov as FSVNG director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51646). He appointed Zolotov to head the MVD’s Internal Troops in October 2014. Although the formal transfer of these troops to the new FSVNG will not be completed until the beginning of 2018, the transfer is de facto already taking place with the formation of the new federal service and the requirement that the MVD coordinate with Zolotov as the transition proceeds and Zolotov now reporting directly to the president rather than through MVD chief.

In making this reorganization, Putin has addressed several problems facing him this year. I emphasize ‘several’ problems, since many analysts tend to focus on one cause to explain events, falling into a bias trap formed by their area of specialization  of study or political or interpretative prejudices or both. In particular, Putin has acquired some robust insurance against political threats both from above and from below.

Putin’s move accomplishes at least six tasks.

First, Putin both consolidated and thus strengthened the troops responsible for ensuring domestic law and order. This reduces the potential for inter-departmental tension, violent conflict, and armed clashes possible in conditions of potential greater instability.

Second, Putin has garnered more capacity to suppress any possible unrest or ‘color revolution’ being hatched around the September Duma elections. He now has more direct control for operations that might be necessary to contain public protests. Opposition forces might attempt to repeat the protests of winter 2011 against the results of the December 2011 Duma election results and spark a ‘color revolution.’ The West’s ‘dual-use’ technology of democracy-promotion aims to create critical masses within non-democratic societies capable of engineering regime change. Whether regime change occurs by way of reform ‘from above’, negotiated ‘transition’, or revolution is of secondary to no concern. Therefore, the color revolution threat in Russia is real. One can expect that in times of near catastrophic U.S.-Russian relations, the desire of many in Washington and Brussles for a color revolution in Russia is even greater. Putin knows this and is preparing to act accordingly. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Kremlin would be faced by a genuinely indigenous revolt not tied to Western patrons or models.

Third, in the FSVNG and NG Putin also has an instrument to protect himself and his loyalists from a less likely, albeit, palace coup. The pressures on the Russian economy, real and perceived foreign policy threats requiring high defense and security expenditures, massive corruption, and the resulting, slightly growing potential for a decline in Putin’s authority inside the regime could split the regime. The guard is added insurance against a regime split, palace coup, or other elite machinations.

Fourth, Putin’s reorganization wrested all siloviki located in Chechnya from the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s hands. Putin likely conditioned his renewal of support for Kadyrov’s re-election was probably conditioned on the latter’s willingness to surrender to Moscow full control over all MVD, now NG troops and Chechen presidential guard units. Although the MVD transitioned mostly federal control with Putin’s formation of federal districts in 2004 and to full federal control with Medvedev’s reforms, the reality is that in Chechnya and to perhaps some extent in some other powerful Russian regions the local authorities retained considerable control over the MVD branches in their regions. In Chechnya, Kadyrov appeared to have nearly full control over the MVD bodies there. The Kremlin had little choice to at least contain Kadyrov’s ambitions in this way, if it cannot risk attempting to remove him, given Kadyrov’s audacity, volatility, unpredictability, likely crimes, and yet stabilizing role not only in Chechnya but in many ways across much of the North Caucasus. Instability in Chechnya would likely to destabilize other regions of the North Caucasus, especially if the instability in question is jihadist or otherwise religious or supra-ethnic.

Ironically, one upshot of Putin’s move is that it might reduce stability in Chechnya. The reform could entail a purge of former Chechen militants who were brought into the MVD’s Internal Troops in Chechnya, including those brought in when the Chechen MVD incorporated into its internal troops in Chechnya some of the battalions consisting of former militants organized by Kadyrov and ostensibly subordinated to the MVD. Will some of these return to militant or criminal activity, destabilizing the region? Will Kadyrov’s removal from full control over the deployment of internal troops in Chechnya and the need to communicate with Moscow slow down deployment in an emergency counter-terrorism operation? Will Kadyrov’s weakened position allow Moscow to arrest the suspected organizer of Boris Nemtsov’s murder – Ruslan Geremeev, the head of the ‘Sever’ (North) Battalion, formerly subordinated to Kadyrov through the Chechen MVD? If so, how will local Chechens, including Kadyrov, react?

Another irony is that with the NG’s formation and MVD’s reorganization, Putin has acquired a loyal presidential guard not unlike that Kadyrov has possessed.

Fifth, by removing the Internal Troops so it might concentrate on standard police functions, Putin has taken another step in reforming the MVD first begun during Dmitrii Medvedev’s reforms, which have produced a slight improvement in the conduct of police in relation to citizens. Indeed, according to Novaya gazeta, the currently ongoing recertification of MVD personnel will be completed by 2018, whereupon all remaining personnel will be transferred permanently to the FSVNG (www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/72605.html). Simultaneously, Putin compensates the MVD by abolishing the Federal Migration Service (FMC) and Federal Service for State Control of Narcotics and transferring their functions to the MVD. This also involves a certain streamlining, since the MVD staff managing state control of narcotics will be 30 percent less than that under the abolished department (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51649). Transferring the migration control to the MVD also makes sense since monitoring immigrants and visitiors to Russia has long been a function shared by the MVD and FMS.

Sixth, by promoting Zolotov, one of his most faithful and long-time associates, into the very top ranks of the siloviki organs, Putin further consolidated his control over the siloviki and overall state apparatus. In 1991 Zolotov worked in the personal protection service in the Kremlin under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin and can be seen wearing the dark jacket standing behind and above Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov in the famous photograph of Yeltsin atop a tank declaring national resistance to the August 1991 hardline Soviet coup against USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.

parked-russian-federation-picture-410

Zolotov then served in the body guard service of then St. Petersburg mayor and Putin mentor Anatolii Sobchak before becoming St. Petersburg deputy mayor Putin’s bodyguard. The well-informed editor-inchief of Ekho Moskvy radio, Aleksei Venediktov describes Zolotov as “extremely influential, extremely”—a person who “is not simply a member of his (Putin’s ) team but one who is personally loyal to him,… with whom (Putin) spends his free time, personal time. They played pool and went to meetings about which no one is to know, and answered directly for (Putin’s) safety in particular when he flew to Chechnya” (http://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/).

Putin not only appointed Zolotov to head the new FSVNG and NG, but he also signed a decree making Zolotov a permanent member of Russia’s powerful Security Council (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51647). This was a personal, not an ‘ex officio’ appointment—that is, Zolotov was appointed to the Security Council; the position or officeholder of FSVNG director will not have the automatic status as a Security Council permanent member that several other high-ranking positions have. In addition, the FSVNG and Zolotov will be working closely with MVD and its chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and Zolotov now reports directly to Putin without, even just in theory, having to go through Kolokoltsev. Among the the FSVNG’s functions are the preservation of public order and security and implementing emergency situations. The decree stipulates that these two functions are to be carried out jointly with the MVD. Also, “operational subordination” involving the deployment of the mobile special OMON forces, the rapid response forces, special operations forces and aviation formerly belonging to the MVD will now be “established by the MVD with the agreement of the FSVNG director” (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648). Two years ago there were Moscow rumors and Western analysts predicting that Kolokoltsev, who is considered a moderate reformer, was soon to be fired and replaced by Zolotov. Thus, Putin has moved one of his most loyal clients into the important Security Council and simulataneously into functions where he can keep an eye on MVD chief Kolokoltsev, a functionary who is not from Putin’s Petersburg and siloviki circles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Details from the Decrees on the FSVNG and NG

The presidential decree transfers the Internal Troops from the MVD to the FSVNG. These Internal Troops are now called the National Guard or NG. The FSVNG is part of the executive branch, which is headed by the president of Russia. It is led by a “Director,” and the service’s director is simultaneously the commander of the NG’s troops. The director will have six deputy directors, including a first deputy director who will simultaneously be Chief of Staff of the NG and a “state secretary/deputy director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

The NG comprises just a part of the FSVNG and its troop formations. Also transferred under the FSVNG are the departments of the MVD formerly carrying out the functions now transferred to the FSVNG, including: the rapid reaction forces of the MVD’s territorial sununits; the MVD’s OMON (mobile special forces); the MVD’s Center for special operational response forces and aviation; the MVD administrations and other sub-departments exercising federal oversight over weapons trafficking, personal protection and government personnel security guard service, including the MVD’s Center for Specially Designated Government Personnel Security Protection, and the federal state unitary enterprise ‘Okhrana.’ The rapid reaction forces and special operational forces and aviation remain under the MVD’s operational command, however. The FSVNG’s functions include: preserving public and security and implementing emergency situations jointly with the MVD; counter-terrorism and securing the legal regime counter-terrorist operations; counter-extremism; territorial defense; protection of important state sites and special convoys; assisting the Border Troops of the FSB in protecting the Russia’s borders; monitoring compliance with Russian laws on weapons, private security activity, and extra-departmental protection (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

More information on the new service and Guard should be forthcoming once the Cabinet of Ministers determines the number of national guardsmen and drafts a statute as it has been instructed to do in Putin’s decree (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

Submitted by Russian and Eurasian Politics Gordon M. Hahn
https://gordonhahn.com/2016/04/14/putins-golden-ticket-the-new-national-guard/

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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