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US to continue arming PKK/YPG despite Trump’s pledge

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Pentagon says will continue arming PKK/YPG

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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Pentagon says will continue arming PKK/YPG

mikenova shared this story from Yeni Safak.

Despite a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump to his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call on Friday to stop providing weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told reporters on Monday that Washington would continue to support and arm the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The YPG is the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD), and dominates the SDF.

Col. Manning said that the U.S. Defense Department was “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided” to the PKK/YPG.

The pentagon spokesman stated that the measure of halting military support to the group was not implemented.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Monday said that weapons provided by the U.S. to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) must be collected.Following a telephone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Friday, Trump said that Washington would not give weapons to the PKK/PYD terror group anymore.“The call marked a turning point in strained relations between the two countries, but Washington must honor a pledge to end weapons provisions to the terrorists,” Bozdağ said.US pledges to end arming PKK/PYD terroristsThe YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Since the PKK launched its terror campaign in Turkey in 1984, tens of thousands of people have been killed.Bozdağ said the United States would be deceiving the world if it did not halt the weapons supplies to the PKK/YPG.Over 4,000 trucks of ammunition, hundreds of armored vehicles and weapons were sent to the PKK/PYD by the U.S.Erdoğan-Trump discussionThe White House said on Friday that Trump said that he had informed Erdoğan that Washington was “adjusting” military support to partners on the ground in Syria.Before his call with Erdoğan, Trump tweeted about the U.S. presence in the Middle East saying: “What a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!”President Erdoğan shared a photograph taken during the call his on Twitter account. It was seen that the call was conducted in his study of the Presidential Palace complex. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın, Chief of Cabinet Hasan Doğan and Senior Advisor Hamdi Kılıç were photographed.PM Yıldırım: US must end partnership with PKK/PYDUS wants to use Zarrab case to impose sanctions on AnkaraBozdağ said that the U.S. wanted to use the trial in New York of a Turkish gold trader to impose sanctions on Ankara. Bozdağ stated that the U.S. had pressured the trader, Reza Zarrab, to sign off on accusations against Turkey.”They may have told Zarrab, ‘Either you will remain in prison until you die, or you will sign under what we tell you,’ and they threatened him with retributions to sign off on accusations,” Bozdağ said.’The US interfered with Turkish trade relations’

“Weapons provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which include Kurdish elements of the SDF, would be limited, mission specific, and provided incrementally to achieve our objectives,” Col. Manning said.

In a Friday phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump “clearly stated that weapons will not be given to the YPG anymore and said that essentially this nonsense should have been ended before,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday.

While recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, the U.S. has treated the PKK/PYD/YPG as an ally using Daesh as a pretext, despite its PKK ties as documented by Turkey.

Since the PKK launched its terror campaign in Turkey in 1984, tens of thousands of people have been killed.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in clear terms that it was “wrong” to supply weapons to the PKK/YPG, the Turkish prime minister has confirmed.Binali Yıldırım’s comments came during an interview with BBC World.”Mr. Trump understood what is important for Turkey,” Yıldırım said, in reference to Trump’s pledge to Erdoğan in a Friday phone call on ending the supply of arms to the terrorist PKK/PYD and PKK/YPG in Syria.”They [the U.S.] said this [cooperation with YPG or PYD] is not a choice. This is a necessity… Ok. We understand, although we do not accept. It is a temporary relation. Now, it is time to finish because Daesh is already defeated,” the premier said.”So, President Trump said it is wrong to provide weapons. This is clearly mentioned.”Stating that Turkish policy on fighting against Daesh had been quite “clear” since the beginning, Yıldırım said it was important to “choose the right partner” to fight Daesh.”You are not able to fight a terror organization using another terror organization,” he added.The U.S. later said it is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning,” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for Daesh.”We have always been clear with Turkey that the weapons provided to the SDF, to include its Kurdish elements, would be limited, mission-specific and provided incrementally to achieve military objectives,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Anadolu Agency. He said the U.S. would “continue our partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces to complete the military defeat of ISIS”.Pentagon says will continue arming PKK/YPGAt the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said even though a complete defeat of Daesh is in sight, “that doesn’t mean stopping all support of those individual groups”.”Once we started winning the campaign against ISIS, the plan and part of the process is to always wind down support for certain groups,” she said. “Now that we’re continuing to crush the physical caliphate, we’re in a position to stop providing military equipment to certain groups.”No doubt about Gulen’s links to coup bidIn response to a question whether Turkey had submitted evidence to Washington showing Fetullah Gülen, the U.S-based leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), had links to last year’s defeated coup attempt, Yıldırım said the necessary documents had been submitted.”For us, it is obvious. We have no hesitation. We have no doubt about it,” he said, referring to Gulen’s role in the defeated coup bid.FETÖ and Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which martyred 250 people and injured nearly 2,200 others.FETÖ is also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.Yıldırım also answered a question on accusations about the detentions since the defeated coup attempt.”This kind of accusation is there. I accept. But those who are accusing us should think about what happened on July 15,” he said.”Our parliament building [was] bombed. And their bombs killed 250 innocent people and [left] 2,194 heavily injured. What can we do then? We have to find [those] who committed crime. This is the situation in Turkey,” Yıldırım said.”We don’t detain people without evidence. This is for sure,” he said, adding the rule of law prevailed in Turkey.The Turkish premier called on Turkey’s critics to show “empathy” instead.”Did you face this kind of thing? If you face this kind of thing, then we will see what you are going to do,” he said.Yıldırım also dismissed accusations that Erdoğan had been becoming an “authoritarian” leader.”Erdoğan is not deciding who is going to jail or who is going to [be] freed. The court is deciding,” he said, adding there was freedom of the press in Turkey.”We have a free press,” he said. “Even the pro-PKK paper is published.”Video: Turkish PM meets with British foreign secretary

The deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Monday that the U.S. will need Turkey’s backing for staying in Syria after Daesh is defeated in the region.Speaking to journalists in the parliament, Ozturk Yilmaz called on the U.S. to cooperate with Turkey ahead of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva.“The U.S. will need Turkey and Turkey’s backing for staying in Syria after Daesh,” said Yilmaz.He added that this could lead to diffusing of tensions between the two countries.US must collect weapons distributed to PKK/YPG: Deputy PMThirty-six members of Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee will attend the peace talks in Geneva this week.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss Syria, last week.During the meeting, the three leaders agreed to gather a congress of Syrian groups to advance a political solution for the war-torn nation.Ozturk Yilmaz recalled that Iran, the Bashar al-Assad regime and Hezbollah did not want the presence of the U.S. in Syria’s future.Russian air strikes kill over 50 civilians in eastern SyriaHe added that only PKK/PYD/YPG terrorist group wants U.S. presence in Syria “which will not be at the solution table” in Geneva.”For this reason, the U.S. needs a powerful regional partner, which is Turkey,” said Yilmaz.Yilmaz also urged Turkey and the U.S. to take a joint step for the territorial integrity of Syria.The PYD and its military wing YPG are Syrian branches of the PKK terrorist network, which has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years.While recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, the U.S. has treated the PKK/PYD as an ally in its anti-Daesh efforts.Syrian child escapes death after playing with bombSyria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating civil war that began in early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 10 million displaced, according to claims by the UN.

FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets – The Washington Post

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Traffic along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington streaks past the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building Wednesday night, Nov. 1, 2017. Scores of U.S. diplomatic, military and government figures were not told about attempts to hack into their emails even though the FBI knew they were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, The Associated Press has learned. (J. David Ake/Associated Press)


November 27 at 9:21 PM

WASHINGTON — The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, The Associated Press has found.

Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.

“It’s utterly confounding,” said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”

FBI policy calls for notifying victims, whether individuals or groups, to help thwart both ongoing and future hacking attempts. The policy, which was disclosed in a lawsuit filed earlier this year against the FBI by the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, says that notification should be considered “even when it may interfere with another investigation or (intelligence) operation.”

Last week, the FBI declined to discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear’s spying campaign, but did provide a statement that said in part: “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”

Three people familiar with the matter — including a current and a former government official — said the FBI has known for more than a year the details of Fancy Bear’s attempts to break into Gmail inboxes. A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on when it received the target list, but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks.

“It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there,” he said.

In the face of a tidal wave of malicious phishing attempts, the FBI sometimes passes on information about the attacks to service providers and companies, who can then relay information to clients or employees, he added.

The AP, which acquired a list of about 4,700 targeted email accounts, has reported in recent weeks on the global reach of the hacking operation and strategy used to break into emails of the Democratic Party and presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Tens of thousands of those emails were leaked online in advance of the November election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Fancy Bear works for the Russian government and meant to push the election in favor of Donald Trump. The Russian government has denied interfering.

The AP did its own triage, dedicating two months and a small team of reporters to go through a hit list of Fancy Bear targets provided by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks.

Previous AP investigations based on the list have shown how Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with the Kremlin’s interests to steal tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party . The hacking campaign disrupted the 2016 U.S. election and cast a shadow over the presidency of Donald Trump, whom U.S. intelligence agencies say the hackers were trying to help . The Russian government has denied interfering in the American election.

The Secureworks list comprises 19,000 lines of targeting data . Going through it, the AP identified more than 500 U.S.-based people or groups and reached out to more than 190 of them, interviewing nearly 80 about their experiences.

Many were long-retired, but about one-quarter were still in government or held security clearances at the time they were targeted. Only two told the AP they learned of the hacking attempts on their personal Gmail accounts from the FBI. A few more were contacted by the FBI after their emails were published in the torrent of leaks that coursed through last year’s electoral contest. But to this day, some leak victims have not heard from the bureau at all.

Charles Sowell, who previously worked as a senior administrator in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and was targeted by Fancy Bear two years ago, said there was no reason the FBI couldn’t do the same work the AP did.

“It’s absolutely not OK for them to use an excuse that there’s too much data,” Sowell said. “Would that hold water if there were a serial killer investigation, and people were calling in tips left and right, and they were holding up their hands and saying, ‘It’s too much’? That’s ridiculous.”



The AP found few traces of the bureau’s inquiry as it launched its own investigation two months ago.

In October, two AP journalists visited <a href=”http://THCServers.com” rel=”nofollow”>THCServers.com</a> , a brightly lit, family-run internet company on the former grounds of a communist-era chicken farm outside the Romanian city of Craiova. That’s where someone registered <a href=”http://DCLeaks.com” rel=”nofollow”>DCLeaks.com</a>, the first of three websites to publish caches of emails belonging to Democrats and other U.S. officials in mid-2016.

DCLeaks was clearly linked to Fancy Bear. Previous AP reporting found that all but one of the site’s victims had been targeted by the hacking group before their emails were dumped online.

Yet THC founder Catalin Florica said he was never approached by law enforcement.

“It’s curious,” Florica said. “You are the first ones that contact us.”

THC merely registered the site, a simple process that typically takes only a few minutes. But the reaction was similar at the Kuala Lumpur offices of the Malaysian web company Shinjiru Technology , which hosted DCLeaks’ stolen files for the duration of the electoral campaign.

The company’s chief executive, Terence Choong, said he had never heard of DCLeaks until the AP contacted him.

“What is the issue with it?” he asked.

Questions over the FBI’s handling of Fancy Bear’s broad hacking sweep date to March 2016, when agents arrived unannounced at Hillary Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn to warn her campaign about a surge of rogue, password-stealing emails.

The agents offered little more than generic security tips the campaign had already put into practice and refused to say who they thought was behind the attempted intrusions, according to a person who was there and spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was meant to be confidential.

Questions emerged again after it was revealed that the FBI never took custody of the Democratic National Committee’s computer server after it was penetrated by Fancy Bear in April 2016. Former FBI Director James Comey testified this year that the FBI worked off a copy of the server, which he described as an “appropriate substitute.”



Retired Maj. James Phillips was one of the first people to have the contents of his inbox published by DCLeaks when the website made its June 2016 debut.

But the Army veteran said he didn’t realize his personal emails were “flapping in the breeze” until a journalist phoned him two months later.

“The fact that a reporter told me about DCLeaks kind of makes me sad,” he said. “I wish it had been a government source.”

Phillips’ story would be repeated again and again as the AP spoke to officials from the National Defense University in Washington to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.

Among them: a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes; a former head of Air Force Intelligence, retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula; a former defense undersecretary, Eric Edelman; and a former director of cybersecurity for the Air Force, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Schissler.

Retired Maj. Gen. Brian Keller, a former director of military support at the Geospatial Intelligence Agency, was not informed, even after DCLeaks posted his emails to the internet. In a telephone call with AP, Keller said he still wasn’t clear on what had happened, who had hacked him or whether his data was still at risk.

“Should I be worried or alarmed or anything?” asked Keller, who left the spy satellite agency in 2010 and now works in private industry.

Not all the interviewees felt the FBI had a responsibility to alert them.

“Perhaps optimistically, I have to conclude that a risk analysis was done and I was not considered a high enough risk to justify making contact,” said a former Air Force chief of staff, retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, who was targeted by Fancy Bear in 2015.

Others argued that the FBI may have wanted to avoid tipping the hackers off or that there were too many people to notify.

“The expectation that the government is going to protect everyone and go back to everyone is false,” said Nicholas Eftimiades, a retired senior technical officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who teaches homeland security at Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg and was himself among the targets.

But the government is supposed to try, said Michael Daniel, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House cybersecurity coordinator.

Daniel wouldn’t comment directly on why so many Fancy Bear targets weren’t warned in this case, but he said the issue of how and when to notify people “frankly still needs more work.”



In the absence of any official warning, some of those contacted by AP brushed off the idea that they were taken in by a foreign power’s intelligence service.

“I don’t open anything I don’t recognize,” said Joseph Barnard, who headed the personnel recovery branch of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command.

That may well be true of Barnard; Secureworks’ data suggests he never clicked the malicious link sent to him in June 2015. But it isn’t true of everyone.

An AP analysis of the data suggests that out of 312 U.S. military and government figures targeted by Fancy Bear, 131 clicked the links sent to them. That could mean that as many as 2 in 5 came perilously close to handing over their passwords.

It’s not clear how many gave up their credentials in the end or what the hackers may have acquired.

Some of those accounts hold emails that go back years, when even many of the retired officials still occupied sensitive posts.

Overwhelmingly, interviewees told AP they kept classified material out of their Gmail inboxes, but intelligence experts said Russian spies could use personal correspondence as a springboard for further hacking, recruitment or even blackmail.

“You start to have information you might be able to leverage against that person,” said Sina Beaghley, a researcher at the RAND Corp. who served on the NSC until 2014.

In the few cases where the FBI did warn targets, they were sometimes left little wiser about what was going on or what to do.

Rob “Butch” Bracknell, a 20-year military veteran who now works in Norfolk, Virginia, said an FBI agent visited him about a year ago to examine his emails and warn him that a “foreign actor” was trying to break into his account.

“He was real cloak-and-dagger about it,” Bracknell said. “He came here to my work, wrote in his little notebook and away he went.”

Left to fend for themselves, some targets have been improvising their cybersecurity.

Retired Gen. Roger A. Brady, who was responsible for American nuclear weapons in Europe as part of his past role as commander of the U.S. Air Force there, turned to Apple support this year when he noticed something suspicious on his computer. Hughes, a former DIA head, said he had his hard drive replaced by the “Geek Squad” at a Best Buy in Florida after his machine began behaving strangely. Keller, the former senior spy satellite official, said it was his son who told him his emails had been posted to the web after getting a Google alert in June 2016.

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who like many others was repeatedly targeted by Fancy Bear but has yet to receive any warning from the FBI, said the lackluster response risked something worse than last year’s parade of leaks.

“Our government needs to be taking greater responsibility to defend its citizens in both the physical and cyber worlds, now, before a cyberattack produces an even more catastrophic outcome than we have already experienced,” McFaul said.


Donn reported from Plymouth, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Vadim Ghirda in Carcea, Romania, Chad Day in Washington, Frank Bajak in Houston, Justin Myers in Chicago and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.


Satter, Donn and Butler can be reached at:

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EDITOR’S NOTE — Raphael Satter’s father, David Satter, is an author and Russia specialist who has been critical of the Kremlin. His emails were published last year by hackers and his account is on Secureworks’ list of Fancy Bear targets. He was not notified by the FBI.

EDITOR’S NOTE _ One in a series of stories on the findings of an Associated Press investigation of the Russian hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election in 2016

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Russian Intelligence services – Google News: FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers’ US targets – Washington Post

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Washington Post
FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers’ US targets
Washington Post
Tens of thousands of those emails were leaked online in advance of the November election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Fancy Bear works for the Russian government and meant to push the election in favor of Donald Trump. TheRussian …
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 Russian Intelligence services – Google News

1:21 PM 11/27/2017 Flynn could implicate any number of Trump officials and Trump himself Washington Post

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Michael Flynn’s lawyer meets with members of special counsel’s team, raising specter of plea deal
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Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Egyptian security forces targeted militants in the Sinai peninsula after an attack on a mosque in a local village killed 305 people, the New York Times reported. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged to get vengeance against a group of 25-30 armed men that Egyptian authorities said carried an Islamic State flag during their massacre at the mosque in Bir al-Abed. According to Egyptian security officials, warplanes struck vehicles associated with the fighters. The attack is the latest escalation in the long-brewing conflict in Sinai, where the Egyptian military has struggled to contain an insurgency that took hold after the 2013 coup in which President Sisi took power.

Pakistans justice minister will step down after accusations of blasphemy against him sparked protests and violence from Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Times reported. After Zahid Hamid, the law minister, attempted to change religious language in an oath that Pakistani lawmakers take upon entering parliament, protests erupted that have paralyzed Islamabad, Pakistans capital, for weeks. Following military-led negotiations, Hamid agreed to step down, and a hard-line Islamic party promised not to issue an edict of blasphemy against him, an accusation that has led to killings in the past.

Pope Francis met the head of Myanmars military during an official visit, as the pontiff faces pressure to address the violence against the Rohingya Muslim population, Reuters reported. The pope discussed religious freedom and the countrys transition to democracy with General Min Aung Hlaing. Advisers have warned the pope against even using the word Rohingya, as Myanmars government says they are not a separate ethnic group. The pope will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmars civilian leader, on Tuesday.

Michael Flynns lawyers told President Donald Trumps legal team they were halting their correspondence about the special counsels investigation, according to the Times. Flynns lawyers cancelled an agreement concluded between Trump and Flynns legal teams to share information about the investigation and their responses. Trumps lawyers said this development suggested Flynn was working on a deal with the special counsel. Special Counsel Robert Muellers team is looking into Flynns work on a Turkish documentary film, the Wall Street Journal reported. Flynn paid consultants to create a currently unfinished film attacking exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. The FBI is probing Flynns business connections to the Turkish government in connection with the film. Separately, Congressional officials referred allegations about Flynns role in a scheme to provide nuclear power to Middle East countries to the special counsels investigation, the Washington Post reported. Rep. Trey Gowdy sent a letter to Mueller referring congressional democrats concerns about Flynns sponsorship of a plan to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East while he was in office.

The U.S. will cease arming Kurdish fighters in Syria, CBS News reported. President Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the U.S. would stop its arms shipments to the YPG, a Kurdish group that forms an integral part of the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey has called the YPG a terrorist organization because of its connections to rebel groups in Turkeys eastern mountains. The White House did not explicitly confirm the change in policy, but Turkish officials called on the U.S. to uphold its pledge, according to Reuters.

Aid shipments entered Yemen for the first time in the weeks since the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels blockaded major ports, the Times reported. A shipment of flour reached the seaport at Al Hudaydah and aid planes landed at Sanaa, Yemens capital. The U.N. said the Saudi coalition must continue to allow supplies to arrive as Yemen faces a devastating famine and health crisis. A cholera epidemic has threatened vulnerable members of Yemens population  as over 17 million people lack reliable access to food.

The FBI failed to inform dozens of current and former U.S. officials that the Russian hacking operation Fancy Bear had targeted their email accounts, the AP reported. Of more than 80 officials whose emails the Russian group aimed to compromise, the FBI notified only two of the potential threat. Many former intelligence and military officials learned about the attempted hacking only when journalists contacted them about the matter.

The head of the European Parliament asked the Polish government to take steps to ensure the security of Polish parliamentarians after far-right groups staged mock hangings of the politicians, Reuters reported. Extremists hanged the portraits of Polish representatives to Brussels who backed a resolution condemning a Polish far-right march in early November as fascist. The head of the European Parliament asked the Polish government to condemn the attacks on the politicians.

The Pentagon is likely to admit that there are over 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Syria, revising upwards its previously estimate of 500 troops on the ground, according to Reuters. The Department of Defense is expected to announce the revised number to reflect a more accurate accounting of troops present in Syria and not to announce an increase in troop commitments.


ICYMI: This holiday weekend on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the Mother May I Launch a Missile edition of Rational Security.

Orin Kerr argued that the Fourth Amendment does not guarantee a general right to be secure against government surveillance.

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Arkady Ostrovsky on Russias far east.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Kim Cragin argued that foreign fighters who are transferred to third countries that are not their homes are a major security risk.


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Russia Is Returning to Growth. (Just in Time for an Election.)

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Figures discussed on Friday at Mr. Putin’s meeting with government and central bank officials showed strong consumer demand, a main driver of the growth. Retail sales for the month increased 3 percent compared with a year before, according to the state statistics service. The Finance Ministry projects the overall economy to grow 2.1 percent for the year. That would be Russia’s first full year of economic growth since a recession began in 2014.

Other economic indicators have been trending in the same direction. Inflation is expected to be about 4 percent for 2017, low by recent Russian standards. As recently as 2015, official figures showed consumer prices were rising more than 15 percent, and ordinary Russians were feeling the pinch. The cost of Russian staples was rising: The price of bread, an important product because of its mythologized status in the Soviet period as a symbol of well being, increased about 11 percent a year during the recession, according to the state statistics agency.

But as the price of oil, a major export commodity, has recovered from multiyear lows in 2014, Russia’s central bank has resumed purchases of hard currency. It has been replenishing the reserves its uses to maintain the long-term stability of the ruble.

“It’s a broad recovery, and it will continue,” said Vladimir Osakovsky, chief Russia economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “There is strong fundamental support.”

The country certainly faces challenges, Mr. Osakovsky and other analysts say. It remains vulnerable to swings in the price of oil and natural gas, for example. The two commodities account for about 60 percent of export revenue and 50 percent of the federal government’s tax base, and a sudden drop in prices could expose wider issues with the economy.

Experts also worry that Russia’s banking system is vulnerable. The central bank had to nationalize two midsize private lenders this year, and several banks lost money betting against the ruble in recent years, according to Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist at BCS Global Markets, an investment bank.

“So far, the central bank has managed to keep the banking system working,” Mr. Tikhomirov said. But, he added, “the cost of saving these banks is growing.”

Still, positive news has been trickling in.

In September, Fitch, the credit rating agency, revised its outlook for Russian sovereign debt to positive from stable. Through the year, foreign investors have piled into Russian government bonds, raising the share of Russian debt held by foreigners to more than 30 percent, up from 5 percent.

Also helping the recovery was government spending on major infrastructure projects, including a bridge across the Kerch Strait to Crimea, a major gas pipeline to China called the Power of Siberia, and soccer stadiums for the World Cup, which Russia will host next year.

That has helped the country overcome Western sanctions imposed during the Ukraine crisis and over meddling by Moscow in the 2016 election in the United States. These “smart sanctions” were in any case narrowly targeting companies and businessmen aligned with Mr. Putin, meant to affect Kremlin insiders and not to slow the overall economy or hasten political change.

Mr. Putin now finds himself in a more favorable economic environment before next year’s election. And even though Russians have taken a considerable hit to their pocketbooks in recent years — real income, or wages adjusted for inflation, declined through the recession — he remains the overwhelming favorite. In an October survey conducted by the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, two-thirds of likely voters said they would cast their ballots for Mr. Putin.

Spurring growth beyond the 2 percent region forecast by the government will not be easy, though.

The country will very likely have to agree a series of major economic overhauls in order to bolster its long-term growth potential. The retirement age — currently 55 years for women and 60 years for men — will have to be raised, economists say. Without such changes, expansion will remain capped at its current levels, Russia’s central bank chairwoman, Elvira S. Nabiullina, warned this month.

“Without reform,” Mr. Tikhomirov said, “the future for Russia will be fairly bleak.”

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Russia in Syria: ‘Victory’ in war but can Moscow win the peace?

mikenova shared this story from BBC News – Home.

Russia has emerged from the Syrian crisis with its military and diplomatic reputation significantly enhanced. But this has been achieved amid huge controversy over the means used and amid much international criticism.

It has ensured the survival of the Assad regime at the same time expanding its own small military footprint in the country. But the diplomatic ramifications too have been considerable.

It, not the United States, is the “go to” player. Russia is marshalling a loose alliance of Iran and Turkey to try to plot Syria’s future. Even the Saudis have had to beat a path to Moscow’s door.

Russia drew its own lessons from a series of Western military interventions over the past two decades. It watched with alarm as the US and its allies hailed the upheavals of the Arab Spring as the dawn of a new era of democracy in the Middle East.

Russia’s conclusions were more pragmatic and more pessimistic. And it subsequently applied those lessons in Syria.

Russia did not see the popular rebellion there as the positive harbinger of a new democratic order. Rather it was seen as part of a wider tide of instability rising across the region that threatened to lap over Russia’s own borders.

Crucially, it made a pragmatic assessment of the situation. It chose to stick with its long-time ally, Mr Assad. It defined its strategic goals quite narrowly and, crucially, it deployed sufficient military force to carry them out. In short, it saw an opportunity and acted.

Russian air power, special forces and equipment gave a military backbone to President Assad’s crumbling forces, with Iran’s allies like Hezbollah and various other Shia militias providing badly needed foot soldiers.

Together they allowed President Assad to defeat both rebel forces and so-called Islamic State across a significant part of the country. Syrian government forces and their allies have taken back all of Syria’s major population centres.

The opposition is not totally destroyed but it is largely demoralised.

As Prof Joshua Landis, a Syrian expert at the University of Oklahoma, told me: “There remain a number of militias that have not given up and continue to win foreign backing, but they are almost uniquely arranged along the border with Turkey.

“They will continue to give Assad a hard time, until he crushes them or comes to terms with Turkey about their disposition.

“Otherwise,” he argues, “the opposition has been largely dismantled. It is possible that secret cells will try to carry on with strikes on government buildings and explosions in crowded markets, but the Assad government demonstrated considerable skill and ruthlessness in rolling up such terror organisations before the uprising broke out.”

Russia has achieved this “victory” – if you want to call it that – by the simple exercise of realpolitik with little concern about what its many critics would call the morality of its actions.

Russia sided with a regime that many people believe was not just turning its guns on its own people but was carrying out war crimes. It has shielded the Syrian government from pressure over strongly based allegations that it has used banned sarin gas and other chemical weapons.

The Russian air campaign obeyed its own rules and typically used large numbers of “dumb” or unguided bombs and missiles.

The US and its allies have tended to use largely precision-guided weapons in their operations over Iraq and Syria. (These, of course, still kill innocent civilians, often far more than the military spokesmen are prepared to admit.)

But the fact remains that Western air power, mindful, not least, of public opinion at home, does go to great lengths to minimise civilian casualties as far as possible. Russia’s leaders have no such constraints.

And to the extent that Russian domestic opinion is a factor, Mr Putin has achieved success in Syria with relatively few Russian casualties and with a relatively limited military deployment.

So is it all over for the Syrian opposition? Prof Landis says that “it will be very hard for those that live in exile to maintain a serious military option in the future so long as Syria’s neighbours are unwilling to sponsor them and provide them safe havens as they were in the past.

“Of course,” he notes, “millions of Syrian opposition members now living as refugees or outside the country revile Putin and Russia and continue to look to Western governments to destroy the Syrian regime and return them to their country.

“Like the White Russians of 100 years ago, (the exiled conservative opponents of the Bolshevik Revolution) they are likely to be disappointed.”

Russia has secured a military victory but can it win the “peace”? Well it emerges from this crisis with its diplomatic hand strengthened. In many ways it outplayed the Obama administration – Washington’s efforts to build and arm a coherent Syrian opposition collapsed a number of times – and it has run rings round President Trump’s team.

Some of Washington’s allies like Turkey, who had long called for President Assad’s removal, ultimately decided that they needed to secure their own strategic interests. For Ankara this is the prevention of the emergence of any autonomous Kurdish entity and thus they have thrown in their lot with Moscow and Tehran.

The Trump administration is yet to elaborate a coherent policy towards Syria or indeed for its broader goal of containing Iran’s rising regional influence. It has few levers to pull. The only successful element of US strategy has been its support for and arming of Kurdish fighters.

If the US maintains its support for the Kurds then Joshua Landis says Washington “will be able to beggar the Syrian government and maintain leverage in the region. The US has helped the Kurds take control of most of Syria’s oil and gas fields. This means that Syria will have a much harder time rebuilding.

“The US effort to keep Damascus weak and poor”, he says, “will also limit the victory of both Russia and Iran in the region. But strategically, by choosing to side with the Kurds, Washington will continue to alienate Turkey, Syria and Iraq.”

But Mr Trump’s stance towards the Kurds seems clouded in uncertainty with reports emerging that he has assured the Turks that arms supplies to Kurdish fighters will now be halted in the wake of IS’s defeat. As so often with this presidency the news seems to have caught other members of the administration off balance. Such a stance may help to pacify Ankara but it will be seen as a betrayal by the Kurds and may weaken them if the Syrian government decides to go onto the offensive.

Russia too may face diplomatic problems ahead. Moscow, Damascus, Ankara and Tehran may be united for now, but their medium-term strategic goals may differ.

Russia is under pressure from the Israelis to curb Iran’s influence in Syria. Israel may not be able to bring much diplomatic pressure to bear on Moscow but it clearly has the military power to seek to influence developments in Syria if it feels threatened. And will Turkey, Russia and Iran continue to see eye-to-eye ?

Russia’s real plans for Syria’s future are unclear. It has assiduously worked with some opposition groups to bring them into local ceasefire arrangements. But this is essentially short-term. Will these hold?

Will the Syrian regime have the manpower to maintain its control over the areas it has recaptured? Will the Shia militias and Hezbollah remain in the country? And whose interests will they be serving, Syria’s or Iran’s?

Russia’s “victory” – if you want to call it that – is far from complete. If Moscow really has a plan for Syria, few details have been provided so far.

Russia certainly has a whip hand over the developing peace process, but its goals remain opaque. Will President Assad himself remain a fixture or merely the regime that he represents?

For now though, Mr Putin has many achievements that he can bank. Russia has been shown to be a reliable ally. Its military forces have shown their ability to mount a complex expeditionary operation. Syria has provided a “shop-window” for many of Russia’s most modern weapons systems.

Russia is again a significant diplomatic player in the Middle East in a way that it has not been since the early 1970s. Indeed then it was probably already a waning force. Today it is a rising one facing a US diplomatic effort that is largely incoherent.

Russia is back on the world stage. And if you set aside the misery and suffering in Syria to which all of the external actors have contributed, that ranks as an achievement in Mr Putin’s playbook.

Flipping Michael Flynn: The real and imagined damage of a Mueller deal | TheHill

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Flipping Michael Flynn: The real and imagined damage of a Mueller deal
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News that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is talking to special counsel Robert Mueller has Trump critics virtually hyperventilating with excitement. Indeed, the prospect of flipping Flynn has led some to all but declare the end of the Trump administration as we know it.

Former Obama administration ethics chief Norman Eisen declared on Twitter, “BAD NEWS FOR TRUMP. Flynn may or may not have dirt on the Prez, but he surely will roll over on Kush, who will flip like a pancake on daddy-in-law’s [obstruction]. They are gonna have to start frisking Jared for a wire in the Oval.” He ominously noted about Mueller, “When I was at State & he was at FBI we worked together on an investigation, & he loves surprises. Kushner, Donnie Jr. and the rest of the Trump crime family better keep their overnight bags handy. Pack shoes with no laces guys.”

While this case may be endlessly entertaining for some and Mueller may “love surprises,” these people, including Trump himself, are not props in some progressive fantasy production. Before Mueller has some major delicious “surprise,” he will need a crime other than those committed by Flynn himself. The effort to flip Flynn is the most predictable development in this investigation. First, he has clear allegations of criminal conduct in his work as a foreign agent. Second, his crimes are the type that prosecutors would have few qualms in trading away for good testimony. Third, he was in a high position that could allow him to produce “deliverables” on higher ranking individuals.Finally, and most importantly, he has a kid in the mix: Michael Flynn Jr., who served as chief of staff to the Flynn Intel Group. As I previously discussed with regards to Trump himself, there is a danger in enlisting family in political work, and this is one of them. It makes you profoundly vulnerable when investigators come knocking. Mueller’s people have been circling “junior” and this withdrawal may indicate that he is the one price that Flynn is not willing to pay. Flynn’s son could now be the subject of a “third-party credit” in exchange for his father turning government witness.

It is important not to make any assumptions about the status of Flynn. Withdrawal is necessary even at the start of negotiations due to the conflict presented with other potential defendants. Any such deal could fall apart. Flynn is not some low hanging fruit. He is a major player and would be a trophy defendant for Mueller to add to his current indictment of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. He has to produce something more valuable than himself for any real deal.

Nevertheless, Flynn could have counted on a potential presidential pardon if he remained loyal. Trump’s controversial pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio showed everyone that the president is willing to use this power despite overwhelming criticism. Becoming a cooperating witness could close off this avenue, and Flynn would have to believe that what Mueller is threatening is more significant than what Trump might offer.

Flynn could be facing serious claims of false statements to investigators under the U.S. Code and other laws. He is accused of misrepresenting meetings, including one with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that Flynn is accused of misrepresenting to Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePreet Bharara: Helping Mueller probe might be only ‘sane’ move for FlynnMueller grand jury to question Flynn associate: report White House military personnel reassigned after ‘incident’ on Trump’s Asia trip: report MORE and others. He also failed to register as a foreign agent. While only a handful of such cases have ever been prosecuted, Mueller charged Manafort under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, including allegations that he gave false information and sought to hide money derived from his work.

Flynn faces analogous alleged violations, including the cycling of payments through a Dutch firm, Inovo, that is owned by Ekim Alptekin, chairman of the Turkish American Business Council and close ally of President Erdoğan. Some of Flynn’s contacts with the Russians may have been captured by U.S. intelligence agencies, and he reportedly sought to gain access to damaging hacked emails on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSusan Sarandon: ‘It wouldn’t be much smoother’ with Hillary Clinton as president GOP chief: Voters will be ‘judge and jury’ in Alabama Senate race Dem on Flynn: ‘Karma can be very difficult’ MORE. Flynn could shed light on a June 2016 meeting with Russians to obtain disparaging information about Clinton as well as the influence of people like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page in establishing Russian ties.

Flynn also faces some more sensational claims, including alleged discussion of the effective kidnapping and delivery of Erdoğan critic Fethullah Gülen to Turkey for presumed torture and execution. At a meeting at the 21 Club in New York, Flynn was reportedly offered $15 million to arrange for Gülen to be taken on a private plane to a Turkish prison island. Flynn was also allegedly involved in a virtual propaganda film meant to discredit Gülen. The timing of these meetings is important because some communications occurred in December, when Flynn was assuming the role of acting national security adviser. If Flynn continued to be paid for such work in January, bribery charges could be alleged.

The most serious threat of flipping Flynn might be to Manafort, former CIA director James Woolsey, or Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Woolsey reportedly participated in the meeting on the kidnapping or “rendition” of Gulen and has been named as involved in some of these lucrative arrangements with foreign entities. Of course, there is always the possibility of damaging testimony involving President Trump. Such testimony would have heightened value to Mueller given Trump’s own statements. By trying to pressure Comey to “let Flynn go,” the president created his own damning narrative. With James Comey ready to testify that Trump’s overtures made him feel uncomfortable, leading to his famous memos, a witness on the other side could box in the president.

None of this means a perp walk down the White House driveway anytime soon. There is still no evidence of criminal conduct by Trump nor Kushner revealed in public court papers. Flynn is clearly a live torpedo in the water. However, while he has the range, it is not clear if he has the load to do serious damage to anyone in the White House. Rather, the concern should be that he and Mueller may be seeking a target of mutual interest, and if he hits, there will be nothing speculative or subtle about it.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

Ex-Russian minister says he thought bag with $2 million cash was gift of alcohol

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Former Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev, accused of extorting a bribe, told a court on Monday he thought a bag holding $2 million in cash which he took from Rosneft (ROSN.MM) chief executive Igor Sechin held a gift of expensive alcohol.

Ulyukayev faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of accepting the $2 million cash from Sechin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Prosecutors said the bribe was given last year on Nov. 14 in exchange for Ulyukayev approving the sale of a state-controlled oil company Bashneft (BANE.MM) to Rosneft.

Police detained Ulyukayev inside Rosneft headquarters shortly after Sechin handed him the cash inside a lockable brown bag and “a little basket with sausage” as a gift, prosecutors said. . The next day Putin fired Ulyukayev.

Ulyukayev, speaking to the court, said he had believed the package contained a gift but that a trap had been set for him. “All this was an action directed against me, planned in advance, a provocation organized in advance,” he said.

Ulyukayev’s lawyers are trying to explain to the court why he accepted the bag from Sechin given that – according to transcripts of their conversations – neither man had discussed what was inside.

Ulyukayev said when he had been economy minister, Sechin had visited his ministry two or three times and usually had come to the office “with a bulky bag,” containing presents.

During that period, Sechin personally presented Ulyukayev with a watch and a model of an oil-derrick, and he sent a food hamper on occasions such as birthdays, Ulyukayev said.

Ulyukayev had also received alcoholic drinks from Sechin as gifts, a prosecutor said.

“That was a norm of etiquette,” from Sechin’s point of view, Ulyukayev told the court.

The ex-minister said the bag which Sechin gave him last year at Rosneft headquarters in a law enforcement sting operation weighed about 15 kg (33 lbs) and he thought there had been expensive wine or spirits inside.

Ulyukayev said that a month before, Sechin promised to present him with a wine he “had never tried before in his life” to mark the successful closing of the Bashneft privatization deal.

For that reason it came as a surprise that the bag contained money, Ulyukayev said.

Sechin has been issued with four summonses to testify in the trial, but has failed to show up, despite being a key witness. His lawyer said in a letter to the court that Sechin had been away on business trips.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Christian Lowe and Richard Balmforth

McCain: Trump doesnt have any principles and beliefs | TheHill

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McCain: Trump doesnt have any principles and beliefs
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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump touts ‘big week for tax cuts’ as Senate GOP nears critical voteFive health-care fights facing Congress in December State Department wracked by departures under Trump: report MORE(R-Ariz.) ripped President Trump in an interview, saying he doesn’t think the president has “principles and beliefs.”

“I don’t agree with the way he’s conducting his presidency, obviously,” McCain said during an interview with Esquire.

“He’s an individual that unfortunately is not anchored by a set of principles. I think he’s a person who takes advantage of situations.”

McCain said Trump was “successful” as a builder and an entrepreneur.

“But I don’t think he has the fundamental underpinnings of principles and beliefs,” he said.

He added: “I don’t think there was any doubt about his views toward me. But I’m a loyal Republican.”

McCain has criticized Trump in the past. Last month, McCain during an event blasted the “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in the United States.

In response to McCain’s comments, Trump warned: “At some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

McCain later shot back, saying: “I’ve faced far greater challenges than this.”

Trump also attacked the Arizona Republican after he voted against a GOP bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

McCain’s dramatic vote killed the bill and left ObamaCare the law of the land.

Trump later said McCain “let down” his party and the people of Arizona by opposing the measure.

Putin and United Russia Have Some Very Liberal Moscow Neighbors

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Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin might maintain a strong grip on Russia, but since a Sept. 10 election, the ancient fortress on the Moscow River is surrounded by the opposition.

Anti-Putin liberals have filled local councils in the Russian capital’s historic and commercial core as well as a few upmarket residential areas—attaining majorities in 17 of the city’s 125 municipal districts. In some others, the opposition has sizable minorities. While these councils have only the slightest power to effect change, on par with a New York City community board at best, the symbolism is what really seems to matter to the election’s victors.
In one of Russia’s political paradoxes, it’s often easier for the Kremlin to control the rest of the country than its own capital. It was home to the giant rallies of the late 1980s and the defense of the Russian parliament during the hardliners’ coup of 1991, which precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow has continued to be a hotbed of opposition during Putin’s tenure, even as the federal government pours billions of dollars into urban improvement and new transportation infrastructure.
“The authorities understand that a voter in Moscow requires a more sophisticated approach—straightforward suppression of the opposition doesn’t really work,” said Abbas Gallyamov, a political consultant who used to work for the government supervising regional election campaigns.
This envelopment of the Kremlin by political enemies may serve Putin’s purposes by keeping activists focused on broken elevators and potholes instead of publicizing corruption or seeking higher office. However, Gallyamov said, the local victories coincide with the rise of protest activity across the country, fueled in part by the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, and his long-shot presidential campaign. (It’s unlikely Putin will even allow him to register as a candidate for the March 2018 vote.)
Dmitry Orlov, a political strategist who sits on the Supreme Council of Putin’s party, United Russia, said the authorities understand the problem posed by the emergence of what he calls “a ring of hostile municipalities” around the Kremlin, and they do their best to neutralize it—sometimes through cooperation, sometimes by trying to split the opposition. It’s not that the locals have any real power in the face of an authoritarian central government: “The main threat is that the municipalities might transform into centers of protest activity in the run up to the presidential election,” Orlov said. But suppression is not the answer, he added, since “it will lead to a more aggressive protest movement consolidated around politicians of the Navalny type.”

So for now, while party strategists ponder how to deal with this new reality, the liberals are gaining experience doing something they probably thought impossible under Putin—governing, if just a little bit.

Yelena Rusakova presides over a meeting of the district council in Gagarinsky.

Photographer: Misha Friedman for Bloomberg

The central administrative area of Moscow includes 10 districts, of which five have majority-opposition councils, four are evenly split, and one is controlled by pro-Kremlin deputies. The historic area centered on the Kremlin, known as Kitay-gorod, is part of the Tverskoy district, where the opposition holds 10 of 12 seats.

Moscow, like St. Petersburg to the northwest, has federal status, so its mayor functions as a regional governor. Sergey Sobianin defeated Navalny in 2013 to become Moscow’s mayor in an election the opposition protested as tainted. From his office in the middle of the city, Sobianin presides over Moscow’s City Council (which is controlled by Putin allies) and appoints the heads of district council executive boards, or upravas. The upravas oversee the activities of liberal councils like the one in Gagarinsky.

The district (population: 79,000) is a showcase of Soviet urban planning. An area of wide avenues and fortress-like apartment blocks encasing tree-filled courtyards, Gagarinsky incorporates a long belt of landscaped parks running along a bend in the Moscow River. Home to scientific institutions and a Moscow University skyscraper, the district has a large number of children and relatives of scientists who moved there in the 1950s. Ever since it elected famous dissident Andrei Sakharov to the Soviet parliament in 1989, Gagarinsky, which sits southwest of the Kremlin, has had a reputation as one of the most liberal-leaning districts in the entire country.
The gateway to Gagarinsky is a vast square, where the statue of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin faces the Russian Academy of Sciences, itself topped with a shiny, golden metal installation that’s earned the building its nickname: the brains. On Sept. 10, Putin arrived there to cast his vote in the Moscow municipal election. All 12 of the deputies who won were nominated by the opposition liberal party Yabloko. United Russia came up empty, though in races for offices representing the district at the national level, Putin’s party won handily.

A board for public notices outside the Gagarinsky District Council.

Photographer: Misha Friedman for Bloomberg

Putin, 65, is widely expected to seek a fourth term next year, and win. This would extend his presidency to 2024, completing almost a quarter-century in power as the longest-serving Russian ruler since Josef Stalin. Liberal candidates for national and regional offices have repeatedly come under pressure by the government during his tenure.
But none of this stops Yelena Rusakova, who before the September election was the only liberal deputy on the Gagarinsky council. It’s not that the opposition had lost the previous election—she was just the only one running back then. Other members of the council before this year’s liberal sweep were largely nominated by United Russia and the Moscow mayor’s office. Pro-government council slates were often made up of school teachers, military pensioners, and retired public sector employees, and they traditionally didn’t challenge the mayor or the uprava.
Rusakova, 55, a social psychologist, has been an activist since before the Berlin Wall fell. In 1988, she joined the Memorial, an organization that researches state-sponsored violence under the former Communist regime (and which has been targeted by Putin’s campaign against “foreign” agents). These days, she’s affiliated with the liberal Yabloko party and chairs the Gagarinsky council with an absolute majority of fellow activists. Before the election, they had worked to block several construction projects, including a proposed rebuilding of Leninsky Avenue, a central Moscow thoroughfare that bisects Gagarinsky. Almost all of the council’s new members are middle-aged professionals and academics.

On a Friday evening late last month, the new deputies of the Gagarinsky council took their seats in a cramped room on the ground floor of a Universitetsky Avenue tower. Activists and ordinary residents filled the rest of the room, often interrupting deputies with questions and long-winded addresses. (Apart from Rusakova, the deputies generally don’t get paid.)
Sitting quietly was the newly appointed head of the district’s uprava, Yevgeny Veshnyakov. He oversees the council in Gagarinsky with three deputies and a staff of a few dozen. The uprava functions as the local arm of the mayor’s office, which approves all decisions regarding construction, transport, urban improvement and trade regulation. The council, meanwhile, can allocate funds only for lower-grade projects such as renovating courtyards and organizing public celebrations. They can question the actions of the uprava and make their own proposals about bigger projects, but they cannot enforce their will.
The previous head of the uprava was fired by Moscow Mayor Sobianin following the United Russia party’s total defeat in the council elections. After Rusakova introduced Veshnyakov, the session moved on to issues the deputies do have the authority to decide—in this case, the reconstruction of playgrounds and parking lots.
In an interview, Rusakova said she had low expectations about cooperating with the uprava. “These people are sent here to wage a war against us, not to cooperate,” she said. Veshnyakov declined to comment.

Neighbors fill in a cable trench, dug by a developer, that runs from a power station through Gagarinsky to an unfinished apartment building in another district.

Photographer: Misha Friedman for Bloomberg

Local residents seemed cautiously optimistic about their new representatives. Yelena Vorobyeva, a mathematician in her fifties, has spent years lobbying for replacement of a potentially unsafe swing at the children’s playground, but old deputies said there was no money. After the election, things started moving. “These guys hear us,” she said, adding that she admires the new deputies’ business-like approach. Aleksandr Bunin, an aviation engineer, has been bogged down in prolonged litigation with the district council over the installation of traffic barriers outside his home. He thinks he’ll be able to resolve his issue with new deputies. “They are, of course, very inexperienced, but at least they are normal people.”

The issues handled by the council may be minuscule, but Rusakova believes this is exactly where the opposition to Putin needs to start. “The state should be rebuilt again from ground zero,” she said, hitting on the key question about her strategy: The ruling party seems content to leave liberals to their devices at the lowest level of governing, but the liberals see their small victories as the beginning of a long road back. Who is right?

One Saturday, Rusakova led a visitor to a local patch of greenery known as Molodyozhnaya ulitsa. “Look at this park,” she said. The council has had to fight repeatedly to prevent development, pushed by private investors, that would eradicate the little oasis among the grim apartment blocks. “This is a favorite place for locals—but for government officials, it’s a potential construction site.”

“Moscow is a trendsetter. It’s always a step ahead—but the rest of the country eventually catches up”

Before the latest election, the Kremlin had full control of all 125 municipalities in the capital, with only a few opposition deputies on a handful of councils. Now, with 17 opposition-run districts and some 13 councils evenly split, the tide at the lowest level of government may be turning. The belt of opposition-controlled councils stretches from the southwest of Moscow across the city center to the north. Dozens of other districts with their first opposition members are concentrated in the leafier, western neighborhoods favored by the middle class. Districts in the grittier, working-class east are solidly pro-Putin.

Government supporters, meanwhile, aren’t sitting idly by as this tiny rebellion brews. Members of Facebook groups tied to the Gagarinsky district and Rusakova began to attract sponsored posts linking to a story by the government-funded RAPSI news agency. In it, Rusakova and her allies were accused of “destabilizing the situation” by protesting construction projects, some of which they fear will damage the area’s verdant character.
Gagarinsky is filled with trees dating back to the 1950s. Every Saturday, Rusakova and her fellow council members put on rubber boots and grab shovels for their weekend routine—filling in a trench dug out by a developer. It was cut to run six kilometers of cable from a power station to an apartment block in another district. The construction was frozen, but the trench remains, leaving roots exposed as the ice-cold Moscow winter approaches, threatening the trees planted by the grandparents of current residents.
“People need really good self-organization to oppose this system and eventually, to change it,” Rusakova said. “Where we see hotbeds of self-organization, we can also see instances when the government backs off.” This is what happened with the trench. When people first gathered to fill it, the uprava sent in the police. But when more people came the following Saturday, it sent shovels and few janitors to give a hand.

Ilya Yashin heads the Krasnoselsky District Council.

Photographer: Misha Friedman for Bloomberg

North of the Kremlin, a man who spent years trying to stage a peaceful anti-Putin revolution now occupies a key office in the local government of Krasnoselsky (population 48,500), a district centered around three major railway stations. Like Rusakova in Gagarinsky, Ilya Yashin, a close ally of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, now heads a council of like-minded deputies.
After moving into his office, Yashin, 34, took down Putin’s portrait and replaced it with a vintage 1989 election poster for Solidarity, the Polish anti-Communist movement, featuring John Wayne as “the new sheriff in town.” A bookcase is still filled with United Russia literature left by his predecessors.
After almost two decades of street protests aimed at bringing about a Ukraine-style revolution, Yashin is now focusing on the same small-bore issues as Rusakova—repairing old apartment buildings, neighborhood beautification, and opposing unpopular construction projects.
Yashin’s new duties verge on the ironic, given that he helped write reports critical of Russia’s wars in Ukraine and Chechnya: He  heads the local military draft commission and supervises the work of district police, whose chief must report to him on his achievements. “I have been delivered into his police department in handcuffs several times,” Yashin said, adding that the police chief has already asked him for help finding apartments for his officers.
Yashin’s new job is indeed a reversal from his old life of street protests. But the example of neighboring Ukraine, which saw two revolutions in the span of a decade, makes him wonder why successful revolutionaries aren’t as good at conducting crucial reforms. “It is easy to gather a group of passionate people and oust a dictator, but life doesn’t stop there, and you need to manage the country in a different way,”, he said. In Yashin’s view, what he’s doing now might be more important than getting rid of Putin. “If there is no functional self-government, then—soon after revolution—you’ll need to make another revolution,” Yashin said.
“I want to show that even at this low level, we can achieve results,” he said.

Moscow State University, in the Gagarinsky district.

Photographer: Misha Friedman for Bloomberg

As optimistic as these local politicians may be, the rest of the country is a different story. Moscow’s moderate political climate contrasts with more conservative, pro-Putin sentiment elsewhere. Gallyamov, the expert on Russian politics, said Putin tolerates his Moscow opponents in the same way China tolerates dissent in Hong Kong. The thinking is that, out in the suburbs and beyond, the Kremlin doesn’t really have anything to worry about.

Yashin disagrees. “Moscow is a trendsetter. It’s always a step ahead,” he said. “But the rest of the country eventually catches up.”

LGBT hate crimes double in Russia after ban on ‘gay propaganda’

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MOSCOW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia have doubled in five years, researchers said on Tuesday, in the wake of a law banning “gay propaganda”.

Murders accounted for almost 200 out of 250 crimes analyzed, the Center for Independent Social Research said, attributing the surge to Russia’s 2013 ban on the spreading of “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations” to minors.

“(Offenders) have become more aggressive and less fearful,” said Svetlana Zakharova, a board member with Russian LGBT Network, the country’s most prominent gay rights campaign group, which has noted the same trend.

“It seems to them that, to some extent, the government supports their actions. Many perpetrators openly talk about their crimes as noble deeds.”

The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The number of sentences for crimes against LGBT people increased to 65 in 2015 from 18 in 2010, the St. Petersburg-based researchers said, drawing on court records and data from judicial watchdog RosPravosudie. Most victims were gay men.

Homosexuality in Russia, where the influence of the socially conservative Orthodox Church has grown in recent years, was a criminal offence until 1993 and classed as a mental illness until 1999.

Researchers said the figures are an underestimate as many hate crimes are not reported, investigated or prosecuted.

The ‘gay propaganda’ law, which has been used to stop gay pride marches and to detain gay rights activists, is seen by many as a move by President Vladimir Putin to crack down on dissent and draw closer to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russia was ranked Europe’s second least LGBT-friendly nation in 2016 by ILGA-Europe, a network of European LGBT groups.

Reporting by Daria Litvinova. Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

: Технологии и медиа :: РБК

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Владимир Путин поручил Минприроды навести порядок в сфере утилизации отходов. Бывают ситуации, когда на неподготовленные площадки «в совершенно не контролируемом масштабе» начинают свозить мусор, добавил он

Фото: Антон Ваганов / «Коммерсантъ»

Президент России Владимир Путин поручил главе Минприроды Сергею Донскому разобраться в ситуации с утилизацией отходов вокруг больших городов. Об этом он заявил во время встречи с министром, говорится в сообщении на сайте Кремля.

Путин призвал к «плотной работе с регионами». «Нельзя поощрять ситуацию, когда в одном месте полигон закрывают, а в другое место в совершенно не контролируемом масштабе начинают свозить, на неподготовленные площадки, опять рядом с жильем и так далее», — заявил президент. Такие действия вызывают негативную реакцию людей, что абсолютно законно с их стороны, добавил президент.

«Надо просто наводить порядок», — сказал Путин, добавив, что важны принцип утилизации и расчеты в этой системе. Проблема ликвидации отходов наиболее актуальна для крупных городов, в том числе для Москвы и Московской области. «Я вас прошу еще раз с коллегами к этому вернуться», — заключил президент.

Ранее спецпредставитель президента по вопросам природоохранной деятельности, экологии и транспорта Сергей Иванов заявил, что масштаб проблемы незаконных свалок велик и на их ликвидацию потребуются огромные деньги. Так он прокомментировал информацию, что Общероссийский народный фронт нашел в России 15 тыс. незаконных свалок. По словам Иванова, ликвидация только одной свалки у Шереметьево обошлась в 1,5 млрд руб.

Полигон «Кучино» в Балашихе, который принимал 650 тыс. отходов в год, был закрытгубернатором Подмосковья Андреем Воробьевым, после того как жители города пожаловались на свалку во время прямой линии с Путиным. «Вот послушайте меня, и чтобы Воробьев меня услышал: в течение месяца закрыть эту свалку. Не знаю, за какое время самое короткое можно сделать, но через месяц я спрошу что сделано и с вас, и с Воробьева», — говорил тогда Путин.

Тогда власти опасались, что крупнейший в области полигон «Тимихово» не сможет принять весь мусор после закрытия «Кучино», что привело бы к вывозу отходов в те места, где их накопление не разрешено.

Вместо закрытого полигона власти решили построить 13 мусороперерабатывающих комплексов с вводом в 2018–2019 годах и еще четыре — с вводом в 2021–2022 годах. Но эту инициативу жители области восприняли негативно, и из-за протестов власти отложили введение объектов на более поздний срок.

Под предлогом инкассации из банка в центре Москвы вынесли 5 миллионов долларов

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27 ноября 201715:13

Под предлогом инкассации из банка в центре Москвы вынесли 5 миллионов долларов

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В самом центре Москвы псевдоинкассаторы ограбили банк “Европейский стандарт”. Как сообщил РИА Новости источник в правоохранительных органах, пропажу обнаружили утром 24 ноября, хотя прессе о ней известно стало только 27 ноября.

Источник отметил, что было вскрыто хранилище, где находилось не менее 5 миллионов долларов США.

При этом каких-либо повреждений хранилища полицейскими обнаружено не было. По словам источника, следствие выяснило, что похитили деньги и скрылись неизвестные из числа сотрудников банка.

В полицейском главке столицы при этом сам факт пропажи денег в одной из кредитно-финансовых организаций в Москве подтвердили. Однако там утверждают, что подтверждена пропажа не пяти миллионов долларов США, а одного миллиона рублей.

Ведется розыск подозреваемых в ограблении банка. Возбуждено уголовное дело по статье о мошенничестве в особо крупном размере.

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Под предлогом инкассации из банка в центре Москвы вынесли 5 миллионов долларов

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В Москве эвакуировали Центральный детский магазин :: Общество :: РБК

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Мосгорсуд смягчил условия домашнего ареста директору Российского академического молодежного театра (РАМТ) Софье Апфельбаум. Об этом сообщает Российское агентство правовой и судебной информации (РАПСИ).

«Суд разрешил обвиняемой ежедневные прогулки с 12 до 14 часов. В остальном постановление суда первой инстанции оставлено без изменений», — рассказали агентству в суде.

Директора РАМТ Софью Апфельбаум задержали по делу «Седьмой студии» 26 октября. Басманный суд Москвы 27 октября отправил ее под домашний арест до 26 декабря. Защита попросила отпустить ее под залог в размере 1 млн руб., но решение суда изменено не было. Дело касается хищения 68 млн руб., выделенных на проект «Платформа», созданный режиссером и основателем «Седьмой студии», а также худруком «Гоголь-центра» Кириллом Серебренниковым.

Следствие указало, что подписи Апфельбаум стоят на соглашениях о субсидиях для «Седьмой студии». Следственный комитет (СК) считает, что руководители «Седьмой студии» с помощью фирм-однодневок выводили средства, Серебренников распределял деньги между участниками преступной схемы, а Апфельбаум согласовывала отчетность.

Созданный Серебренниковым проект «Платформа» получил от Минкультуры с 2011 по 2014 год на популяризацию современного искусства 214 млн руб. Дело о хищении госсредств через «Седьмую студию» было возбуждено в 2015 году. Обстоятельства дела стали известны в мае 2017 года, после обысков в «Гоголь-центре» и в квартире Серебренникова. Тогда режиссер был привлечен к делу в качестве свидетеля, а экс-гендиректор «Седьмой студии» Юрий Итин, который сейчас возглавляет Театр им. Федора Волкова в Ярославле, бывший главный бухгалтер Нина Масляева, экс-директор «Гоголь-центра» Алексей Малобродский были задержаны, а затем арестованы. 22 августа в Санкт-Петербурге на съемках фильма о певце Викторе Цое был задержан сам Серебренников. Ему предъявили обвинение в хищении 68 млн руб. Басманный суд 23 августа поместил его под домашний арест.

Улюкаев обвинил Сечина в лжесвидетельстве

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27 ноября 201715:22

Улюкаев обвинил Сечина в лжесвидетельстве

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Экс-министр экономического развития РФ Алексей Улюкаев обвинил в ходе заседания Замоскворецкого суда главу “Роснефти” Игоря Сечина в лжесвидетельстве, передает ТАСС. В суде слушается дело Улюкаева, которого обвиняют в вымогательстве взятки.

“Сечин лжесвидетельствует, а я говорю правду. У меня нет этому объяснений”, — заявил Улюкаев. Так он ответил на вопрос судьи о причин6ах противоречий его показаний заявлению Сечина.

Ранее Улюкаев заявил, что вину свою отрицает, а в полученной от Сечина сумке он ожидал найти вино, а не деньги. В офис “Роснефти”, по словам Улюкаева, Сечин его заманил обманом.

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Улюкаев обвинил Сечина в лжесвидетельстве

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Chechen leader, amid reshuffles, says ready to die for Putin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia’s Chechnya, said he was ready to die for Vladimir Putin and stand down, if ordered, ahead of a federal presidential election next year which has triggered personnel reshuffles that have put some politicians on edge.

Kadyrov, 41, spoke during an interview broadcast on state TV late on Sunday that showcased what the unpredictable former warlord regards as his main achievements and, to a stirring soundtrack, showed him boxing, riding a horse, and giving his views on everything from polygamy to gay marriage.

His comments looked like a tactic, one he has used before, to secure the Kremlin’s public approval, something he didn’t have to wait long for.

“Kadyrov has repeatedly said that he is, speaking figuratively, quite a consistent and committed member of Putin’s circle of adherents and intends to continue working where and how the president of the country orders him,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on Monday.

“He didn’t say anything different and that’s what we’re going on. Ramzan continues to remain the current head of the republic.”

Who rules the majority Muslim region is important for the Kremlin as Chechnya fought two wars against Moscow after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but now, in return for generous subsidies and a wide degree of autonomy, pledges absolute loyalty.

Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya for the past decade during which rights groups have accused him of abuses, is seen by Moscow as the guarantor of that pact and was groomed by the Kremlin for his role after his father’s 2004 murder.


His comments about possibly quitting came when asked by his state TV interviewer what he made of the prospect of having to leave office “at some point.”

Kadyrov said it was “his dream” to one day step down from what he described as a very difficult job. He said that, if asked, he could propose several candidates to take over.

“Once there was a need for people like me to fight, to put things in order. Now we have order and prosperity … and the time has come for changes,” said Kadyrov.

Kadyrov, who calls himself “Putin’s foot soldier,” has made similar statements before which have come to nothing.

Nor is his position under threat. He was re-elected last year for a five-year term after Putin gave his personal blessing for him to carry in on the job, while warning him that Russian law must be strictly enforced in Chechnya.

Kadyrov’s statement, like those before it, looked instead like a symbolic show of loyalty to curry favor with Putin who the Chechen leader said in the same interview he saw “rarely” and only when summoned.

Putin, 65, is widely expected to run for a fourth term and has started clearing out the old Russian political elite to bring in younger people, a process that has seen some regional leaders pressured to stand down.

That has caused unease in some political circles and Kadyrov has found himself in the headlines in the West this year after rights groups accused him of presiding over a campaign of torture and murder of gay men.

Kadyrov, in the same interview, said the allegations had been “made up” by rights group to attract funding grants and that he and his forces could not have persecuted gay men in Chechnya because there weren’t any.

He described Putin as his idol.

“I am ready to die for him, to fulfill any order,” he said.

Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Mark Heinrich

ANALYSIS: The ball is rolling in Syria, against Iran

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Developments over Syria following recent collaborations between leaders of the United States and Russia have gained significant momentum. This also signals a decreasing Iranian role and a prelude to further setbacks for Tehran.

An hour long phone call last Tuesday between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin followed the latter’s meeting with Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

After allocating billions on its Levant campaign, Iran is witnessing its hegemony fading as measures aimed at bringing the Syria war to a close gain momentum.

Political flexibility

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed last week to facilitate a full-scale political process in Syria and to sponsor a conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to end the war.

While some may consider this a victory for Iran, jumping to early conclusions blinds us from understanding how Tehran sought full hegemony in Syria. Today, circumstances account to major setbacks.

Putin’s hosting of talks on Syria inclines that Moscow calls the shots. This leaves Tehran deeply concerned, especially following its six-year long campaign to maintain Assad in power. The mere fact that Iran is sitting at the table with Russia, also in talks with the US over different issues, and Turkey, a Syrian opposition supporter, leaves no doubt Tehran will need to display political flexibility.

After allocating billions on its Levant campaign, Iran is witnessing its hegemony fading as measures aimed at bringing the Syria war to a close gain momentum. (Reuters)

Many would argue a pact between Washington and Moscow will define the blueprint of finalizing Syria’s crisis. Did the Sochi talks place Tehran and Ankara in line with Moscow and Washington? Doubts remain in this regard and Iran understands clearly how a post-ISIS Syria will come at a heavy price.

And with Russia significantly scaling down its military presence on the ground in Syria, Iran’s dreams of a Shiite crescent are endangered, to say the least. Moreover, the mere fact that China is considering a role in reconstructing post-war Syria means more players in the future of this country, and a declining part for Iran.

Seeking to safeguard its interests in Syria, Iran’s terrorist-designated Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) is also eyeing a share in Syria’s reconstruction. This should sound alarm bells, especially since such a role would provide a front for Iran’s efforts to maintain a foothold in the Levant.

Higher global interests

Certain is the fact that Russia’s reservations are not limited to Syria. On the international stage Moscow and Washington enjoy a certain stature. This said, it is quite obvious Moscow will not sacrifice its higher global interests for Syria.

The phone call between Trump and Putin is a sign of coordination between their two countries in Syria. With Washington playing an observer role in the Astana talks weighing Syria, one can conclude their role in the Levant is not eliminated.

Far from it, in fact. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said recently how the US is in Syria to stay. “US troops, in Syria to fight Islamic State, won’t be packing their bags now the jihadist group is essentially beaten. They’re staying on,” Bloomberg reported. This comes as the Pentagon is also likely to announce the presence of around 2,000 US troops in Syria, according to Reuters.

Iran understands fully that US presence in Syria is a source of dilemma for any future plans in the region. Considering the drastic consequences of Obama’s premature departure from Iraq, there are doubts Trump will allow such a repeat in Syria.

Riyadh’s reservations

Considering the relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, one can conclude that Moscow will also be taking Riyadh’s reservations over Syria into consideration. Knowing the Arab world’s support is crucial, Putin will strive to obtain Riyadh’s consent.

In his latest meeting with United Nations special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized how his government worked with Saudi Arabia to unify the Syrian opposition, also indicating UN’s blessing for this latest push.

Unlike Iran, Assad remaining in power is not a red line for Russia. And Moscow will seek Riyadh’s cooperation to have the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional states jump on the train to bring a final end to the Syria crisis.

This spells into a more significant role for Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Middle East archrival, whose Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has in a recent New York Times interview described Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “the new Hitler of the Middle East.”

Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2017. (Reuters)

The shadow

Fueling more concerns for Iran is the fact that the Sochi talks focused on establishing peace and stability in Syria based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. This platform was even described by Iranian state media as an “American and Zionist conspiracy.”

The shadow of UN-backed solutions for Syria will continue to haunt Tehran. Putin also emphasized changes in the process of Syria’s political agreement will render based on the Geneva agreement framework.

To add insult to injury, the Syrian opposition meeting Thursday in Riyadh agreed to dispatch a single bloc for next weeks’ UN-backed peace talks. Nasr Hariri, a known Syrian opposition figure selected as the new chief negotiator, is heading to Geneva for the talks set to begin tomorrow. The opposition is ready to discuss “everything on the negotiating table,” according to Hariri.

Tehran would have been delighted to continue fragmenting the Syrian opposition, as witnessed throughout the 6½ year war.

Iran’s dilemma

An opportunity is available to end Syria’s fighting, with a high possibility that a final political solution will materialize in the Geneva talks.

Iran, however, thrives on increasing violence across the region. Any decrease in such tensions is against Tehran’s interests as it allows the international community to place its crosshairs on Iran’s belligerence, including a controversial nuclear programdeveloping ballistic missiles, as senior Revolutionary Guards commanders recently threatened, spreading its influence across the Middle East through supporting terrorism and proxy groups across the board, and human rights violations.

In his abovementioned interview, the Saudi Crown Prince reiterated how the world has “learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work.” As the international community seeks to bring an end to the war in Syria, appeasing Iran through this delicate process must be strictly prohibited.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the viewpoint of Al Arabiya English.

SHOW MORELast Update: Monday, 27 November 2017 KSA 09:48 – GMT 06:48

Turkey says Trump must keep pledge on not arming YPG militia

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November 27, 2017 / 2:37 AM / Updated 3 hours ago

ANKARA (Reuters) – A telephone call on Friday between U.S. and Turkish leaders marked a turning point in strained relations between the two countries, but Washington must honor a pledge to end weapons provisions to Syrian Kurdish fighters, Turkey said on Monday.

“The ‘We will not give weapons’ remarks from a U.S. president for the first time is important, but it will lose value if it is not implemented. It would be deceiving the world,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.

The White House said on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump informed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington was adjusting the military support to partners on the ground in Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State with the help of a U.S.-led coalition.

A spokesperson for the coalition said on Sunday that it was looking at “adjustments” to the support it provides to the SDF, ranging from the number of advisers to training and artillery.

Weapons provided to Syrian YPG have been limited and mission specific, the spokesperson added.

Ankara has been infuriated by Washington’s support for the YPG militia, seen by Turkey as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans

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Prime Minister Kvirikashvili Meets Prime Minister of Ukraine

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Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, meets with Volodymyr Groysman, Prime Minister of Ukraine today, while on an official visit to Georgia. After the two Prime Ministers meeting to be held at the government administration, an extended meeting is planned between Georgian and Ukrainian government representatives.

During his visit to Georgia, Prime Minister of Ukraine is to participate in the Tbilisi Belt and Road Forum, delivering a speech at the opening ceremony together with Georgia’s PM, and will take part in the discussion session of the forum: High Level Dialogue on Belt and Road Connectivity for Stability. Tbilisi Belt and Road Forum starts tomorrow on November 28.

During his visit to Georgia, Volodymyr Groysman is expected to visit the Ministry of Defence’s rehabilitation center in Tserovani, and lay a wreath at the Heroes Memorial.

By Nino Gugunshvili

27 November 2017 11:28

Putins proposal for Ukraine another trap for Trump – WP

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Moscow’s plan is to legitimize its invasion and control over parts of two eastern regions of Ukraine by drawing President Trump into another bad deal, says the op-ed published by WP.

Vladimir Putin’s pattern is familiar. He uses his military to escalate fighting on the ground and then approaches the West with a proposal sold as de-escalation. Appealing to European and U.S. desires for peace without Western intervention, the Russian president puts forward an alleged compromise. But in the details, Putin’s proposals are really designed to divide his adversaries and cement his gains.

Such was the case in September, when Putin introduced a proposal for “peacekeepers” inside eastern Ukraine, where Russia continues to fuel a violent separatist uprising that has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths and displaced more than 1.5 million people since 2014. Ukraine, European powers and the United States all decided to engage Moscow on the idea.

Read alsoRussia must not be among UN peacekeepers in Donbas – Ukraine defense ministerBut as Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said at the recent Halifax International Security Forum, Putin’s plan really isn’t for “peacekeepers” at all, Josh Rogin wrote. “He is proposing that international troops deploy only to protect the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s special monitoring mission members in eastern Ukraine,” said the author.

“The idea of a peacekeeping mission is a serious one,” Klimkin said. “But the Russian proposal of a protection mission doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Read alsoKuchma: Russia suggests redrawing Ukraine border in eastFor one thing, the original Russian proposal was to deploy these forces along the line of contact between the Ukraine military and separatist forces. As the Ukrainian government sees it, that is simply Putin’s way of fortifying the reality that Russia created on the ground.

Nevertheless, Ukraine’s international supporters are taking the proposal seriously. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Putin in September and persuaded him to yield on one point; Putin agreed the international force could be deployed not just along the contact line. That gave Western governments confidence a genuine negotiation with Moscow was possible.

Read alsoGermany’s top diplomat says West, Russia’s views on peacekeeping mission in Donbas differSecretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke about the idea with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko on Nov. 4. Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s part-time special envoy for Ukraine, met with his Russian counterpart Vladislav Surkov on Nov. 13 and proposed a counterplan.

Moscow rejected 26 out of 29 of the paragraphs in Volker’s proposal. But Volker said he intends to keep negotiating. He said the peacekeeping plan represents the best hope to return to Minsk II, a peace agreement that both Ukraine and Russia pledged to follow.

Read alsoVolker names two options for Russia’s moves on DonbasThat process is stalled primarily because Russia won’t honor provisions mandating a cease-fire, the removal of its heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine and access to the border. Russia still won’t even acknowledge that it has forces on the ground in eastern Ukraine, much less remove them.

But the U.S. strategy is based on the assumption that Putin is looking for — or at least considering — a way out of his financial and military commitments in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has responsibilities under Minsk as well, including holding local elections in eastern Ukraine, giving the region special status and granting amnesty for the separatists. That can happen only if Putin holds up his end.

Read alsoWhat Russian “peacekeepers” want

But if Putin’s goal is to stay in Ukraine and keep the country destabilized, prevent it from joining European institutions and maintain control over a buffer zone, he will never agree to a peacekeeping mission that meets Ukraine or Western conditions.

Most likely Putin intends to buy time to consolidate battlefield gains he has no intention of giving up. Trump — and before him, President Barack Obama — went along with it, ensuring that the next phase of the conflict plays out on Russia’s terms.

Trump and Putin spoke Nov. 21 and “discussed how to implement a lasting peace in Ukraine,” according to the White House. Trump should pursue that peace, but not on Putin’s terms.

Ynetnews News – Russian strikes reportedly kill 53 civilians in Syria

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At least 53 civilians, including 21 children, perished early Sunday morning when Russian air strikes hit “residential buildings” in a village held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria, a monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit the village of Al-Shafah in Deir Ezzor province, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The monitor had initially given a death toll of 34 civilians but the number spiked after more bodies were recovered.

“The toll increased after removing the debris in a long day of rescue operation,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP, adding the strikes hit “residential buildings.” At least 18 people were also wounded in the air raids, he added.

Russian fighter jets (Photo: Reuters)Russian fighter jets(Photo: Reuters)

The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

Russia is a close ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and in September 2015 began a military intervention in support of his government that has gradually helped Damascus regain territory.

 (Photo: Reuters)(Photo: Reuters)

Syria’s Deir Ezzor is one of the last places Islamic State jihadists hold territory in the country, after being driven from their major strongholds including their one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqa city. The oil-rich eastern province that borders Iraq was once almost completely under Islamic State control, but the jihadists now hold just nine percent of Deir Ezzor, according to the Observatory.

 (Photo: Reuters)(Photo: Reuters)

They have faced two separate offensives there, one led by the regime with Russian backing and the other by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab rebel fighters.However, recent reports claim that the US has agreed to Turkey’s request to stop supporting the Kurdish Democratic Forces (SDF). Despite this, a senior official among the rebels refuted this, and told the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that they consider the US a true partner that would not go back on its promise.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.As part of a round of talks that Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted with world leaders last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with him on the phone on Tuesday for half an hour. The Prime Minister’s Office said that the phone conversation dealt with Syria and Iran’s attempts to establish itself in Syrian territory, with the PMO stating that “Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted on Israel’s security principles.”

Netanyahu has long since accused Iran of trying to gain a foothold in Syria, in an effort to position itself along the Israel-Syria border—something that Netanyahu has vowed to prevent.

Putin (L) and Netanyahu (Photo: AFP)Putin (L) and Netanyahu (Photo: AFP)

Earlier on Tuesday, the White House announced that US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart talked for an hour on the phone, discussing events in Syria, Ukraine, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. Putin also spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The latest strikes come as the United Nations tries to revitalise its flagging efforts to end a six-year civil war that has left Syria devastated and huge swathes of its population refugees.

Assad arriving at Putin's residence in SochiAssad arriving at Putin’s residence in Sochi

On Tuesday, the eighth round of UN-brokered talks will kick off. They have achieved little so far, but may be bolstered by the opposition’s decision to bring a unified delegation to Geneva for the first time. For progress to happen rival sides will need to overcome the hurdle that has derailed past discussions: the fate of Syrian President Assad.He retains Moscow’s support and had even dropped by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea resort in Sochi, where the two were photographed embracing one another.

Within Syria, however, Assad but is loathed by much of the rebel opposition, who want him gone.

Backed by Russia’s decisive military support, Assad’s government has regained control of 55 percent of the country, including major cities Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama, and around two-thirds of the population lives in regime-held areas. The rest is carved up between rebel factions, jihadists and Kurdish forces. Some experts believe that Russia has clearly put itself in the driver’s seat in recent months, especially as US President Donald Trump’s administration has pulled back from Syrian diplomatic front.Russia, fellow regime ally Iran and rebel-backer Turkey have hosted negotiations in the Kazakh capital Astana that led to the creation of four “de-escalation zones” which produced a drop in violence, though deadly air strikes and battles continue in some areas.

L to R: Rouhani, Putin and Erdoğan (Photo: Reuters)L to R: Rouhani, Putin and Erdoğan (Photo: Reuters)

Last week, Putin called for a “congress” of Syrian regime and opposition figures, a move backed by Ankara and Tehran during Putin’s summit meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Putin told Ruohani and Erdoğan that ISIS’s occupation of Syria had been thwarted by Iran and Turkey, noting that thanks to their three countries, “Syria’s collapse was prevented.”

Following the Putin-Ruohani-Erdoğan summit leaders’ meeting, Putin announced that 98 percent of Syrian territory has returned to Assad’s control.

At the end of the month, all in the Syrian conflict are set to meet in Geneva to begin a series of talks that will determine Syria’s future: these include consolidating its territory, rebuilding its ruins after six years of civil war and policing its affairs in the near future.

Following Missile Deal, NATO Forced to Shrug Off Turkeys Closer Ties with Russia | World

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HALIFAX. Nova Scotia – A top NATO official says the alliance has no choice but to accept for now Turkey’s decision to purchase a highly advanced missile defense system from Russia, a move that puts additional strain on an already damaged relationship with its allies.

“We have to see the situation in a very pragmatic way,” Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, the top military officer for NATO policy and strategy at its Brussels headquarters, told U.S. News on the sidelines of a security conference here earlier this month. “What’s the alternative? Are we going to alienate Turkey because of some issues, when at the same time we know Turkey is willing to discuss these issues? It would be very unwise.”

Following a failed military coup in Turkey last year and a subsequent crackdown on civil liberties by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, analysts fear that Ankara is moving away from Western partnerships and more toward hard-line governments in Russian and Iran.

The sale of the missile system, which Turkey acknowledged earlier this month, is causing headaches for members of the Western alliance for two reasons: Militarily, Turkey will now rely on new heavy weaponry that does not comport with NATO countries’ common arsenals. And politically, it will be doing hundreds of millions of dollars in business with Russia, violating new sanctions that Congress and the Trump administration have put into place.

NATO awaits a formal announcement from Turkey that it has purchased the S-400 long-range missile shield from Russia – as Ankara has already announced it will – and will then begin an assessment of the implications.

Pavel cites the importance of Turkey as a NATO ally, not only by its geography at the borders of Iraq, Syria and Iran, but also the resources it provides as the alliance’s second-largest military. Turkey is also the only predominantly Muslim nation that belongs to the 29-country alliance.

He says he spoke with the head of the Turkish Ministry of Defense shortly after the news of the deal was published.

“There is common will on the Turkish side as well as our side to discuss all issues that may come up. I believe that, up to now, there was always enough good will to resolve these issues successfully. We will also find a solution for this situation,” Pavel says.

Some observers believe the provocative missile deal is the latest move by Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine the NATO alliance, a relic of the Cold War that found new relevance after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere. Russian propaganda routinely claims the alliance is poised to launch pre-emptive strikes on Russian territory, and it is used to threaten former Soviet nations that have since joined the NATO with claims that Brussels won’t come to their aid if they are attacked.

The missile deal follows other overtures Turkey has extended to Russia, as well as Iran, on the situation in neighboring Syria, including talks that excluded U.S. direct participation in Astana, Kazakhstan, on a plan for the political future of the war-torn nation.

“Russia is trying in any way, even perceived, to fracture the alliance, to build in dividing the alliance,” Pavel says. “Turkey in Astana, I believe, is very pragmatic. They want to address the issues, understand the best way to include all important actors.”

ВЗГЛЯД / Улюкаев пожаловался на несоблюдение прав после задержания

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