Tag: Russia

Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy following deadly terror attack in the centre of Barcelona

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

The message reads, in part:

“On behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation and on my own behalf, I express my deep condolences over the numerous victims of the terror attack in the centre of Barcelona.

“There can be no justification for this criminal act committed by international terrorists. All those responsible for its preparation and implementation must bear a severe punishment.

“Please convey the words of sincere sympathy and support to the families of the deceased, and wishes of a speedy recovery to all those injured.”


Russia Plans Joint Military Drills With Central Asian Allies, Citing Afghan Conflict

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

The Russian military said it will conduct joint military maneuvers with its allies in Central Asia in response to regional threats arising from the war in Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with Russia’s top military brass in Moscow on August 18 that the conflict between Afghan government forces and the Taliban poses a threat to the Central Asia’s stability.

Shoigu said that Russia will hold joint war games later this year with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Russia has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

He said that as part of efforts to prepare for potential threats, Russia staged joint maneuvers with Tajikistan earlier this year. The drills in July involved launches of the Iskander-M missiles, one of the most advanced weapons in Russian military arsenals.


Canadian Forces Ends Mission in Poland

The Canadian Forces wrapped up a three year-long deployment in Poland under Operation REASSURANCE. The Land Task Force (LTF) ended its mission with a parade in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

OPeration REASSURANCE in Poland. 2014-2017

From May 2014 to August 2017, Canada deployed more than 1,000 soldiers from CFB Edmonton, CFB Petawawa, and CFB Valcartier. Throughout the three-year mission, the Canadian soldiers participated in more than 35 exercises in eight different countries:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Estonia
  3. Germany
  4. Hungary
  5. Latvia
  6. Lithuania
  7. Poland
  8. Romania

According to the National Defence website: “various rotations of troops have served on Canada’s LTF in Poland since May 2014, and have participated in military exercises throughout the region to improve interoperability with Allies and demonstrate NATO’s resolve to protect Alliance territories and partners. Op REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe with the aim of reassuring nations in the region of NATO’s commitment to support their stability and security.”

With the end of the Canadian deployment in Poland, Canada is now leading the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP BG) in Latvia. More than 1,000 soldiers from seven NATO countries are directly working with the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade. The Canadian Forces is contributing more than 450 troops to the eFP BG, including headquarters staff, an infantry company with Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), military police, and logistical and communications support.

Canadian Armed Forces and Italian soldiers cover their arcs of fire during a relief-in-place exercise at the training grouds of Camp Adazi, Latvia, as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup’s training during Operation REASSURANCE on August 2, 2017. Image by MCpl Gerald Cormier.

The Canadian-led eFP BG in Latvia consists of soldiers from the following countries:

  1. Albania
  2. Canada
  3. Italy
  4. Poland
  5. Slovenia
  6. Spain

“Today’s ceremony marks the implementation of one of Canada’s key NATO commitments. Leading NATO efforts to deter and defeat potential aggression is a core mission in Canada’s new Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged. As the leader of an enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup, Canada is committed to ensuring a peaceful and stable Europe. We stand united with our NATO Allies and the people of Latvia,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister.

According to the National Defence, the eFP BG’s mission is to counter Russia’s decision to use military force against its neighbour, and its military buildup in the region. Its mission is to prevent conflict and preserve regional stability.

Russian soldiers conducting training in eastern Russia

That said, Canada’s decision to support its NATO allies is justified. As an alliance members, especially as a founding country, Canada had to show its commitment to its allies. However, justifying such a deployment due to Russian military buildup in the region is clearly unjustified.

Russia has the right to move troops and deploy them as they please in their country. As far as I know, Russia has not been actively readying its troops for a possible invasion of the Baltic States. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be madness to do so more than two years ago.

I do not believe Russia has the intention to do so. Yet, when Crimea voted to rejoin Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted, Canada openly supported Ukraine and started training Ukrainian soldiers. While Canadian Foreign Minister, Christina Freeland has been supporting the Ukrainian government through diplomatic measures, its government has been sending non-lethal equipment to Ukraine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ottawa ink a deal on lethal weaponry in the next few years. Light Armoured Vehicles would be one of the main pieces of equipment in the deal if you ask me, especially since Saudi Arabia has been using them against its own people and that Canada could very well cancel the deal over it.

Canada could very well follow in the United States footsteps and supply lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

The main concern here is that Ukraine is not part of NATO, and I believe that NATO’s move in the Baltic States is solely based on the events in Ukraine. By doing so, NATO is putting themselves in a situation where it’s using their resources to support a non-NATO country under the pretext of a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

The events in Ukraine gave NATO a perfect justification to move more troops to Russia’s border and influence the regional situation — an eastward march.

Canada, in this particular scenario, has been openly talking tough to Russia and has been committed its largest number of troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. By training Ukrainian soldiers and stationing troops in Latvia, Canada is sending a message to Russia that it will stand with its allies. However, Canada’s decision to train Ukrainian troops is only fuelling the tension in the region as Ukraine is quickly becoming a new proxy war between NATO and Russia.

A Joint Task Force – Ukraine instructor provides guidance and safety support to a Ukrainian soldier during section attack practice, part of small team training, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on March 3, 2017. Photo : Joint Task Force – Ukraine

Unfortunately, all possible outcomes through diplomatic solutions have been failing and will most likely never succeed due to the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.

With Canada leading an eFP BG in Latvia, it is taking a key leadership role in NATO’s mission to deter Russia in the region. Meanwhile, Canada has cut its diplomatic talks with Russia and keeps its interaction with the Russian Embassy in Ottawa to a bare minimum.

Honestly, I believe NATO actions in eastern Europe justify a massive military hardware modernization program and reviving the Cold War-era fear of Russian invasion of neighbour countries is a perfect justification to do so.

Canada should lead in diplomatic talks, not with troops on the ground.




Russia readies troops for Zapad war games with Belarus

Russia and Belarus are set to stage the Zapad 2017 war games, and the operation’s size is causing concern among Western observers. Moscow’s heavy troop presence has some worrying whether Minsk’s sovereignty is at risk.

Russian troops have been gathering in Belarus since Monday. The Zapad 2017 (West 2017) war games are slated to begin in September, with roughly 12,700 Russian soldiers officially participating, according to Moscow. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg thanked Russian officials for providing them with troop information, but said the games will nonetheless be closely monitored.

Read more: What are Russia’s Zapad war games?

War games exceeding 13,000 troops require the presence of external observers, as stipulated by the Vienna Document, a security agreement among the participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Russia. Western observers fear Russia will break the agreed limit on troop participation. Opposition voices in Belarus, a Russian ally, worry that Russian troops will remain in the country following the exercises to de facto occupy the country.

Regional concern grows

Russia’s military build up to its West is worrying Belarus’ neighbors – Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states – which were all under Moscow’s control during the Soviet era. Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said there are 100,000 Russian troops that President Vladimir Putin wants to use to “put NATO to the test.”

The Zapad military exercises were previously held in 2013 and 2009

That number may refer to Russia’s total troop presence in the larger region for the exercises, Margarete Klein of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) told DW. The military exercises are taking place both in Russia and Belarus, she said, however a lot of speculation surrounds the operation.

“We just have to wait to see what happens,” Klein said. “It’s difficult to talk in advance about what the numbers may mean.”

Doubting the numbers

Russian military expert Alexander Golz pointed out that the Zapad war games extend beyond Belarus, as the Belarusian military announced they are to stretch from Russia’s Kola Peninsula near Finland to the western exclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltic region. Thus troops are being amassed not just in Belarus, but in Russia as well, he said, adding that Moscow has a history of playing fast and loose with troop numbers.

“Russia had a curious interpretation of the Vienna Document during the conflict in the Donbass,” Golz told DW, explaining that Moscow’s troop deployment to the country’s border with eastern Ukraine was said to be part of a military exercise so that the Kremlin could claim its soldiers’ presence did not exceed the Vienna Document’s limit.

Lukashenko, Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu coordinated for Zapad 2013

Everything above board?

Russia’s Defense Ministry has ordered about 4,000 rail cars, according to media reports, for troop transports to Belarus – more than previous exercises, including 1,000 more than for Zapad 2013, Alexander Alessin, a Belarusian military expert, told DW. Zapad 2017 would remain within the permissible limits, he said, calculating for up to 30 tons of equipment per soldier.

Prospects for Belarusian sovereignty

A post-operation occupation of Belarus is unlikely, Alessin said, because “occupying [Russia’s] only ally would undermine faith in the Kremlin, including with its potential partners.” It would also undermine Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s credibility – at home and abroad, which is in neither side’s interest. Alessin cited Belarus’ denial of Russia’s 2013 request to maintain airbases there.

Lukashenko is unlikely to allow Russian troops to remain in the country following the September maneuvers, Alexander Golz said. For 20 years, Lukashenko has been receiving money from Russia, he said, and therefore has always underscored Belarus’ strategic importance to Russia as an outpost. “As far as Russian military bases in Belarus go,” Golz added, “Lukashenko turned 180 degrees. Interestingly, Putin had to swallow that.”




Assad invites friendly nations to rebuild Syria

America used to be the nation to re-build a country after a war. Now Syria invites ‘friendly’ nations to re-build its towns, cities and infrastructure, with Russia and Iran poised to be the countries to invest in the reconstruction programme – with the United States nowhere to be seen.

In a sign of President Assad’s growing confidence that he has snatched back control of Syria, the first international trade fair in five years opens today in the capital, Damascus.

There has been little to draw visitors to the huge purpose-built fairground on the airport highway since the civil war broke out in 2011. The strategic road, running southeast of the city, has often been the focus of fierce battles, with the rebels coming close to capturing the airport itself in 2012.

More recently Israeli airstrikes have hit targets close to it, while last month it was struck by a double car bombing. Dignitaries from 42 “friendly countries” will arrive today, however, to pitch for investment and reconstruction contracts worth billions.

For the first time since the fair began in 1954, foreign companies will be allowed to sell the products they are exhibiting, bypassing Syria’s strict import rules.

Last week Imad Khamis, Syria’s prime minister, signalled that priority would be given to “friendly and brotherly countries that stood by Syria in its war against terrorism”.

Iran and Russia, Assad’s two staunchest allies, are already cashing in on their policies in Syria. This year Russia has won a series of oil and construction contracts in the war-ravaged country, while a free trade agreement signed last November opens the way for Syria to export its agricultural products.

Iran, which is hosting a photo exhibition at the fair documenting the years of warm relations between Tehran and Damascus, has also swelled its economic interests there. It has been granted a licence to operate a mobile phone network, as well as pumping credit into the country to keep its economy afloat.

Iranian individuals and companies have been buying huge tracts of land as well as businesses and residential properties across regime-held areas of the country.

Other countries have quietly continued their relations with Assad and are now winning contracts to help to rebuild the country. In 2014 India secured a $1 billion contract to rebuild and re-equip Syrian hospitals, while this year the regime discussed investment deals in the energy, pharmaceutical, telecommunications and construction sectors with China.

Japan suspended its grants to the country in 2011, but resumed them in 2013 with aid projects focusing on rebuilding infrastructure. Belarus, a country with close ties to Russia, is in talks to set up a carmaking factory inside Syria.

A number of European Union member states are also still trading with Syria, despite the bloc’s condemnation of Assad’s violent crackdown and sanctions on various regime figures.

The Czech Republic has maintained diplomatic relations with Damascus and has proposed a number of reconstruction projects.

Cyprus, which has historically hosted a high number of Syrian migrant workers, also maintains a warm relationship with Assad’s government although trade between the two has been halted.


At least 20 ships take part in Baltic Fleet military drills

Vitaliy Nevar/TASS

About 20 combat and supply ships and one thousand officers and men are participating in the ongoing military exercise of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, the fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.

“About 20 combat ships, boats and logistics ships and 50 pieces of military and special equipment, as well as one thousand men are involved in command staff training of the Baltic Fleet,” he said.

Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov is in charge of the exercises. The main task is to enhance officers’ skills and competence and cooperation by command centers, as well as to practice coordination with other units.

The exercise is being held in accordance with the Baltic Fleet’s combat training schedule for 2017.



German foreign minister warns New START and INF Treaties termination will affect Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

The termination of the Treaties on missile armament cuts and liquidation will affect Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.

Germany’s top diplomat made this statement after a meeting with experts of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Weapons Cuts from Russia, the United States and Germany.

“The possible termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the non-prolongation of the New START Treaty [the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] are what will eventually threaten Europe, in the first place,” Gabriel said.

The German foreign minister also said he shared the experts’ opinion that “the worst Cold War mistakes are repeated” and the world is at the stage of “Cold War 2.0.”

According to him, European countries should become active participants in the disarmament discussion.

“Germany should speak more actively with the United States, with Russia about this within the NATO framework,” the foreign minister said.

At the same time, Social Democrat Gabriel again lashed at the Conservatives in the German government who advocated a sharp increase in defense spending.

“In this regard, it is more important to double the efficiency of expenditures rather than their volume,” he said.

“I expect that the political leadership in [the Christian Democratic/Christian Social] Union won’t yield to the militarist logic [of US President Donald Trump] and this is what exactly is taking place now,” the German foreign minister said, noting that such policy could become a problem for Berlin.





Russia reveals Il-22PP special mission aircraft

The Ilyushin Il-22PP Porubshchik special mission aircraft was revealed in public for the first time on 12 August. It was photographed over Kubina on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the Russian Air Force. Source: Piotr Butowski

Russia has shown for the first time its new Ilyushin Il-22PP Porubshchik special mission aircraft. The ‘escort jammer’ aircraft made its public debut on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the Russian air force over Kubinka on 12 August.

The Il-22P is a signals intelligence (SIGINT) and stand-off-jamming platform that has been built around a converted Il-22 ‘Coot-B’ airframe, which is itself a theatre-level airborne command post and radio relay aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-18D turboprop airliner.

While the Il-22PP retains the airframe and power plant of the Il-22, it has four large fairings located symmetrically on both sides of the fuselage. These contain antennas of the L-415 electronic countermeasures (ECM) system made by the KNIRTI institute of Kaluga.

Another antenna is fitted to the tail, while a further antenna is located under the fuselage. A fixed pod beneath the fuselage contains 16 32-round 26 mm UV-26M chaff/flare launchers for self defence; two more 14-round 50 mm (2-inch) launchers are built into the under-fuselage. The aircraft has a livery resembling that of the civilian Aeroflot airline, although it carried the inscription ‘Russia Air Force’ and the red star marking. It also has the inscription ‘Il-18’ on the nose.

According to the Myasishchev design bureau, which is responsible for the conversion, “the airplane is intended for detection and suppression of state-of-the-art secretive and jam-proof systems of combat control of various functions”. These are “radars, guidance channels of surface-to-air missile systems, mid-course flight path correction channels of cruise missiles, as well as tactical data exchange networks such as Link 16.


Russia, UK to update agreement on prevention of incidents at sea

HMS Dragon (foreground) with the Russian aircraft Carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ (background)

The Russian government approved a draft protocol to the agreement between the USSR and the UK signed on July 15, 1986.

The Russian government approved a draft protocol to the agreement between the USSR and the UK signed on July 15, 1986

The draft protocol was prepared by the Defense Ministry and was discussed with the UK side, the portal reads. The Defense Ministry jointly with the Foreign Ministry will have negotiations with the UK to sign the agreement on behalf of the Russian government.

The draft protocol contains changes, which update with 1986 agreement, including in the list of actions, the countries’ ships should not undertake against each other.

For example, the agreement’s provision, which reads “Ships of the Parties shall not simulate attacks by aiming guns, missile launchers, torpedo tubes and other weapons in the direction of passing ships of the other Party” is now amended by a ban for using lasers in a manner, which may hinder health or equipment.

Similarly to this, additional regulations are applied to the actions of aircraft as they approach ships of aircraft of the other party.







Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland says that Estonia has no reason to fear Russia

Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012

There is no reason for Estonia to panically fear Russia, Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012, told Eesti Paevaleht daily in an interview.

“You are in the European Union, NATO, and you use the euro. In this manner you are not only in a safe house, but have become an independent mature country,” Halonen said. “That is why we say to you sometimes that calm down now and there is no reason to panic. Which does not mean, however, that we say that there’s no reason to be worried looking at Russia,” she added.

In the words of Halonen, Finns know Russians better than Americans do.

“Rule of law, human rights and democracy, they haven’t had very much of them ever and therefore it is difficult to build them up too. They are attempting to achieve it somehow, but it’s difficult work,” Halonen said.

“It was difficult even in Germany when East and West Germany were brought together, but it was only for 50 years that East Germany had been out of the system. Just like Estonia,” she added.

“You forget it easily that we had our one hundred years under the Russian tsar too, we had the Winter War and the Continuation War. We lost a large portion of our country and had to resettle a large number of residents. We paid the Soviets a big amount of money in damages of war. But what I always say is that we were on the easier side,” Halonen said.

“You had your very difficult time – the occupation. That is difficult for us to understand too. So, yes, in my opinion we should be tolerant in the criticism that we level against each other. Our mutual relations have a strong base and we criticize each other not for being there, but just certain things,” the former president of Finland added.

Halonen took part in the festival of opinion culture held in the central Estonian regional capital Paide on Friday and Saturday, where she read the keynote of a discussion titled “How to stand against populism and extremism?”



Russia to start training female military pilots

KUBINKA /Moscow region/, August 12. /TASS/. Women will be admitted to the Krasnodar aviation school for pilot training this year for the first time in Russia’s modern history, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told reporters on Saturday.

“There are quite a few girls who would like to become military pilots. We’ve received hundreds of letters, hence the decision to enroll the first group of girls in the Krasnodar military aviation school this year”, the minister said.

“They will be few in number, 15 all in all. However, considering the number of applications received by the Russian Aerospace Forces we cannot ignore these requests, so on October 1, the first group of girls will start training to become military pilots”, he added.

Shoigu who visited the celebrations to mark Aerospace Forces Day earlier in the day expressed the hope that the school’s female graduates will make such holidays more spectacular thanks to their skills five years later.

In 2009, the Krasnodar aviation school enrolled female cadets but not for pilot training.