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Saakashvili supporters don their Maidan apparel in Kiev

Disgraced former Georgian President and sacked former Ukrainian politician, Mikheil Saakashvili has organised his own Maidan rally in hopes of toppling the regime he once worked for.

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If the current Ukrainian regime was not engaging in a war of ethnic cleansing, using chemical weapons on civilians, sitting on top of nuclear reactors that could fail at any moment and impoverishing a large population, it would be something of a circus, rather than the ominous horror show that it is.

But under this dark cloud is a silver lining, one best explained through the infamous words of Ataturk, that state: “They go as they come”.

If one attains power through peace and popularity, it is, according to Ataturk’s maxim, likely that one can resign peacefully and while still popular. Inversely, if one comes to power through violence, greed and corruption, one might fall to the very same forces.

Even before the disgraced former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Ukraine after Kiev’s leader Petro Poroshenko stripped him of his newly acquired Ukrainian citizenship, many violent protests in Kiev, including break-ins during parliamentary sessions, have marred a regime whose lack of compassion is only matched by a lack of dignity.

This is what makes the fall, and pseudo-rise of Mikheil Saakashvili all the more interesting. It is a story that ought to be called emblematic of the ‘Ukrainian dream’, whereby no matter how disgraced one is, no matter how much corruption one engages in, no matter how cynical ones’s so-called politics are, even such a person can have a shot at power and since this concerns Ukraine, there is a chance that a volley of gunshots, could indeed pave the way for whomever is next in power.

As I recently wrote about the return of Saakashvili to Ukraine, a return which saw himself and his fans running past a police barricade,

“While the key element of Poroshenko’s decision to deprive Saakashvili of statehood was the proximate timing to Poroshenko’s visit to Georgia where the former leader is sought on corruption and fraud charges, Poroshenko didn’t need one more headache from a potential rival, unpopular though Saakashvili was at the time.

While Saakashvili’s ‘great escape entry’, did have a comical element to it, there is, by Ukrainian standards, a serious side.

Saakashvili is keen to paint himself as a heroic freedom fighter, perhaps even a ‘democracy activist’ who has been on the receiving end of an unjust and possibly illegal deal by a corrupt regime (that part is objectively true) which has made an individual stateless through a wanton action (something which many experts claim is illegal).

Beyond this, the arch-opportunist and former Kiev Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has endeared herself to Saakashvili’s cause. Tymoshenko is widely perceived, even among her comrades on the extreme-right, as someone who will say and do anything to get closer to power. The fact that she has thus far played no role in the Poroshenko regime, has made her feel shafted and she’s now betting on Saakashvili helping to whisk her back to the limelight which she so clearly craves.

With police in western Ukraine now claiming that they have opened criminal proceedings against Saakashvili for his border stunt, it is becoming ever more likely that a man who was largely forgotten and ignored, might be an unlikely candidate to shed light on the corrupt and habitually duplicitous nature of the Kiev regime, even though Saakashvili’s differences with Kiev are largely cosmetic and personal. In terms of policy, both Poroshenko and Saakashvili have a history of committing war-crimes, destroying economic relations with Russia, overseeing largely ineffective regimes whose popularity wanes rapidly and stealing state-treasure for personal gain. That being said, if one was forced to choose, it must be said that between Poroshenko and Saakashvili, the latter is more of a smooth political operator than the former. That being said, the bar has been set incredibly low.

In this sense, Poroshenko in depriving Saakashvili of citizenship, has created a headache for himself”.

The inept Kiev regime turns shamed Saakashvili into self-made political martyr

With all this in mind, it is both amusing and somewhat bemusing to see Saakashvili take to the Kiev Maidan calling for regime change while his supporters, complete with riot shields (likely stolen from police as they were during the 2014 Maidan), projectiles and angry rhetoric stand beside him.

As is typical during such protest in Kiev, injuries were reported and arrests were made. One man even tried to block the entrance to Kiev’s Rada (parliament).

While Saakashvili used to be  a long-shot in respect of becoming the leader of a new Kiev regime, Poroshenko’s misfortunes mean that it is entirely possible that the same coalition of neo-Nazis, corrupt oligarchic soft power, paid protesters and semi-political to apolitical gangs and street  thugs, could now rally around Saakashvili as a figure who could give some ‘legitimacy’ (by Ukrainian standards) to their cause which they believe is still unfulfilled by the paralytic and openly corrupt Poroshenko regime.

Furthermore, while the US and EU actors helped to foment the coup which brought the Poroshenko regime to power, because Saakashvili is equally pro-western and has even more contacts in Europe and the US than Poroshenko ever did, many in Brussels, Washington and Berlin may look the other-way and somehow call a Saakashvili led Maidan 2.0, a ‘marvel of democracy’. In other words, because the western powers know that so far as they are concerned, a Saakashvili regime would be little different than the current one in respect of its alignment with the west, Poroshenko’s ‘supporters’ could realistically be exposed as fair weathered friends.

Saakashvili still has many obstacles to overcome. His legal status in Ukraine is still technically that of persona non-grata, but that’s nothing a nice bribe or barring that, a soft or hard coup couldn’t fix. Likewise, he’s also an outsider, but if anything this may give him some credibility among a radical political clique that is prone to savaging its own.

The Maidan putschers were always looking for a ‘European’ saviour and as a self-styled European with property, money and friends in the United States, Saakashvili may be just that man. Furthermore, as Poroshenko apparently has poor relations with the Trump administration, the White House might actually prefer working with Saakashvili, a man who has had more years to refine the process of ingratiating himself to the US deep state, than the largely inept  Poroshenko.

If such events were taking place in any place other than Ukraine, the same epithets I just used to describe Poroshenko, would be aptly applied to Saakashvili. The problem is that the state of politics in Kiev is so abysmal, that Saakashvili almost looks competent by comparison, in spite of his often accidentally clownish demeanour.

With Russia failing to come to the military aid of the Donbass republics and with the west growing increasingly lethargic about Kiev, Saakashvili could become the international symbol of the Kiev stalemate, a foreigner in a strange land who finds his fortune by virtue of being the last man standing.

This will do little good for ordinary people who are struggling to economically survive, but it will demonstrate that the Ukrainian regime is as corrupt as that of any easily mocked banana republic, because that is what Kiev has become.

 

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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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