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Ukrainian volunteer fighters use a Russian tank nicknamed "Bunny" against Russian forces

Earlier this week, Ukrainian forces mocked Russia's annual "Victory Day" celebration by hosting a "parade" of captured Russian tanks. This photograph taken on May 13, 2022, shows a damaged tank on a road near the Vilkhivka village east of Kharkiv, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images Ukrainian fighters used a captured tank nicknamed "Bunny" against its previous owners, the Russians. The T-80 tank has destroyed dozens of Russian vehicles and several tanks in the past several weeks. On May 9, Ukraine mocked Moscow's "Victory Day" with a parade featuring captured Russian tanks. Ukrainian volunteer forces have been using a captured T-80 tank nicknamed "Bunny" against the machine's previous owners — the Russian army.The tank was built two years ago and, up until March of this year, was controlled by Russian forces, according to CNN's Sam Kiley, who met with the volunteer fighters in Ukraine.A Ukrainian soldier identified solely as Alex, a former software engineer who used to live in the country's second-largest city of Kharkiv, said he was on a sniper mission when he discovered the abandoned tank in a field in March — just eight days into the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kiley reported."This is like my personal tank. I am [the] tank commander and tank owner," Alex told Kiley in an interview, adding that the "slightly modernized" tank features an auto-loader and can "shoot more advanced, better rounds," including guided missiles.In March, "Bunny" destroyed two dozen Russian military vehicles and several tanks, Kiley told CNN.Ukrainian and Western officials said earlier this week that Russian forces appear to be withdrawing from the Kharkiv region, The New York Times reported. It was a significant setback for the Russian army since its retreat from Kyiv in early April. UK defense officials cited Russia's "inability to capture key Ukrainian cities" and "heavy losses" as the reason behind the withdrawal.Earlier this week, Ukraine mocked Russia's annual "Victory Day" military celebration in Moscow by hosting their own "parade" featuring captured Russian tanks, "ruining the holiday for the occupiers," the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote in a tweet.Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an address during the Russian "Victory Day" celebration on Monday, calling Ukraine and its leaders "Nazis" but did not mention a declaration of war following warnings from Western officials."The West was preparing for the invasion of Russia. NATO was creating tensions at the borders. They did not want to listen to Russia. They had other plans," Putin said in his Victory Day speech. "You are fighting for the motherland, for its future, so that no one forgets the lessons of World War II, so that there is no place in the world for executioners, punishers, and Nazis."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

Animated map shows how Russia"s attempt to seize Kyiv failed during the first 2 months of war

Russian forces launched a renewed offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region after failing to capture the capital city of Kyiv. A man looks at russian T-72 tank destroyed during Russia's invasion to Uktaine, Ivanivka village, Chernihiv area, Ukraine, on April 20, 2022.Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images An animated map shows Russia's territorial progression and losses after two months of war. At one point, Putin's forces controlled a stretch of territory in Ukraine's north, east, and south.  Ukraine's counteroffensive pushed Russia from the north, as it focuses on the eastern Donbas region. An animated map produced by a pair of military think tanks shows where and when Russia's invasion of the country stalled before President Vladimir Putin's forces pivoted their offensive to the east after failing to capture Kyiv. The 44-second time-lapse — released by the Institute for the Study of War and Critical Threats — details the ebb and flow of Russian advances and Ukrainian counteroffensives from February 24 to April 24. —Brady Africk (@bradyafr) April 24, 2022When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine on February 24, Russian troops initially occupied Crimea, Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, and small pockets of territory along the northern border. Ahead of the February 24 invasion, the Kremlin believed that Russian forces could secure a quick and decisive victory, anticipating that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days, according to Western intelligence officials. By early March, Russia occupied a long stretch of territory along Ukraine's northern border — including around the capital city Kyiv — and went on to control connected border territory in Ukraine's north, east, and south by the end of the month. But Russian forces weren't able to break through to Kyiv, despite bombarding the city and its suburbs. In April, Ukrainian counteroffensives pushed Russian forces away from the country's north after they failed to take Kyiv.At the time, the Pentagon said Putin had not achieved any strategic objectives. "The Ukrainians have won the battle for Kyiv," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday after returning from Kyiv. "We saw mile after mile of Ukrainian countryside — territory that, just a couple of months ago, the Russian government thought that it could seize in a matter of weeks. Today — firmly Ukraine's." At the end of the time-lapse, which shows the war's latest developments as of late April, with significant fighting now focused on Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.NATO and the West had warned that Russia was pivoting to launch a renewed offensive in the Donbas after the failures in the north, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that the war officially entered a new phase. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 26th, 2022

Before and after photos show how Russia"s assault turned Mariupol from an industrial port city into rubble

Before Putin's war, Mariupol was home to over 430,000 people. Months of bombardment has left the southern Ukrainian port city in ruins. Before and after photos show residential buildings in Mariupol.Jasteri/Shutterstock and AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov Ukraine's southern port city of Mariupol was once an industrial hub, home to hundreds of thousands of people. It faced a Russian bombing campaign that killed scores and became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.  Photos show what the city looked like before Russia's deadly assault, and after it was reduced to rubble.  Before: Located along the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is Ukraine's tenth-largest city.Ukraine. Mariupol. View of the coast of the Azov Sea, the village, and the seaport.Liudmila Ermolenko/ShutterstockUkraine's southern port city of Mariupol was home to over 430,000 people before Russia's February 24 invasion of the eastern European country.The city has historically been a major trading and industrial hub — a center for metallurgy, engineering, steel production, and iron production.After: In April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said approximately 100,000 civilians remained in the city as Russian troops attacked.Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 20, 2022.Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesDuring Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing war, Mariupol became the center of a devastating assault by Russian troops who wanted to capture the strategic city to build a land corridor from occupied Crimea to the eastern Donbas region.Russian forces leveled the city with indiscriminate bombardment — targeting a school, maternity hospital, theater, and other civilian structures. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in April that tens of thousands of Ukrainians were likely killed in attacks on Mariupol.Source: Business InsiderBefore: A rail vehicle is seen loaded with coal, a key Ukrainian export along with steel.Mariupol, Ukraine - winter 2022: Powerful diesel locomotive TEM7 pulls wagons loaded with anthracite along a large coal mine station.Zahnoi Alex/ShutterstockAfter: While some residents escaped Mariupol by train, others became trapped — many without food, medical care, water, electricity, and heat.A damaged tram is seen in a depot near the Azovstal plant amid Russian attacks in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 21, 2022.Photo by Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesSource: Business InsiderBefore: Residential buildings in Mariupol before Russian troops bombarded the city.Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, urban landscape with a multi-story residential building.Jasteri/ShutterstockSource: Business InsiderAfter: An analyst told Insider that Russia mismanaged its capture of Mariupol, causing the takeover to run longer than expected.An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, March 11, 2022.Evgeniy Maloletka/AP PhotoSource: Business InsiderBefore: This January 27 photo shows the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater, in the center of Mariupol, prior to the Russian bombing on March 16.Mariupol, Ukraine - Jan 27 2022: The center of Mariupol before the war began. Mariupol Theatre before the bombing.Hakuna77/ShutterstockAfter: An Associated Press investigation found that nearly 600 people were killed in the Mariupol Theatre bombing.Russian Emergencies personnel clear debris in the partially destroyed Mariupol drama theatre in the city of Mariupol on May 10, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.STRINGER/AFP via Getty ImagesInsider previously reported that more than 1,000 civilians had been sheltering at the theater when Russian forces bombed the building.Satellite images taken prior to the bombing showed the word "CHILDREN" had been written in Russian, possibly in an attempt to warn Russian forces that civilians were inside.The Associated Press spoke to nearly two dozen survivors, rescuers and people familiar with the incident, and reported that nearly 600 people likely died in the bombing.City council officials accused Russia of "purposefully and cynically" bombing the theater.Before: Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant supported 10,000 jobs and was responsible for the production of steel, iron, and rolled metal.Mariupol, Ukraine - May 1, 2018: Panorama of the Azovstal metallurgical plant.Oleksandr Popenko/ShutterstockSources: Al Jazeera. Business InsiderAfter: With the final Ukrainian troops surrendering, Russia claimed to have captured Azovstal on Friday, and with it, Mariupol.A view shows the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol on May 10, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty ImagesA Russian defense ministry spokesperson told the state-owned news agency TASS that Azovstal was "completely liberated" on Friday with the surrender of 531 Ukrainian fighters.The capture marked the end of a months-long siege of the southern port city.Moscow-backed separatists hope to turn the city into a resort town after the war, a move that Mariupol city council said was intended to erase the city's history. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMay 23rd, 2022

Russian military hardware getting wrecked in Ukraine could hurt its appeal to some of Moscow"s best customers

Russian forces' poor performance in Ukraine "has caused significant reputational damage to Russian-manufactured military hardware," one expert said. Men next to the turret of a destroyed Russian tank, near Brovary, Ukraine, April 15, 2022.Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images Moscow's defense clients in Southeast Asia may look elsewhere after Russia's poor performance in Ukraine. As the conflict in Ukraine affects Russian supplies, buyers could turn to India — or even to North Korea. Images of wrecked and abandoned vehicles — casualties in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine — are calling into question the quality and reliability of Russian-made military hardware.A recent report by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found that the conflict has damaged the reputation of Russia's defence equipment in Southeast Asia, once a source of considerable revenue for the country.Russia has been the largest exporter of arms to Southeast Asia over the past two decades, but since 2014, the value of its defence sales to the region has plummeted.The Ukraine war will make it difficult for its defence industry to revive sales and is likely to lead to further declines in arms exports to Southeast Asia, according to the report's author, Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute."The Russian armed forces' poor performance on the battlefield has caused significant reputational damage to Russian-manufactured military hardware," Storey said.Buyers eyeing specific pieces are now said to be nursing doubts.On April 7, one of Russia's most advanced fighters, a fourth-generation-plus SU-35, was shot down over Ukraine by an anti-aircraft missile. Vietnam has reportedly been considering purchasing the SU-35, though to what extent this incident will influence its procurement decision now "remains to be seen," Storey said.On April 14, in the Black Sea, Ukrainian armed forces used anti-ship cruise missiles to sink Russia's guided-missile cruiser Moskva, giving it the dubious honour of being the largest naval vessel to be destroyed since the second world war.The equipment reportedly destroyed on the battlefield includes tanks also used by Vietnam and Laos, infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers used by Indonesia and military attack and transport helicopters used by multiple Southeast Asian countries, Storey said.Endemic corruption, flawed assumptionsA crashed Russian Sukhoi jet in Ukraine.Ukraine's Defense MinistryReasons for the poor performance are manifold, and not all are related to production quality. Storey pointed to "endemic corruption within the armed forces, resulting in modernisation funds being misappropriated."The real failure, said Zachary Abuza of the Washington-based National War College, is not Russia's equipment per se, but its tactics, incompetent leadership, unmotivated troops and flawed assumptions behind the decision-making to go to war.Russian equipment has always had a reputation for being fairly cheap but pretty reliable. But now, Abuza said, that is "proving to be less true" as Moscow's advanced anti-armour missiles and well-armed drones are matched against Ukraine's "highly motivated and very capable force."To replenish its heavy losses, Moscow may direct its defence industrial sector "to divert military equipment manufactured for export to recapitalise its own armed forces." This will result in delivery delays and possibly cancellations from clients, further damaging its defence industrial sector's reputation for reliability, Storey said.Negotiations stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic, too, look unlikely to restart.Ukraine's military says it has sunk several Russian warships.AP ImagesCollin Koh, a research fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "Vietnam is the staunchest supporter of Russian arms, but Covid-19 has stalled any discussions, especially [about its] long talked-about plan to purchase more Gepard light frigates."Russia is the world's second largest arms exporter after the US.In Southeast Asia, it ranks No 1. Between 2000 and 2021, the value of Russia's arms exports to the region was US$10.87 billion, followed by the United States (US$8.4 billion), France (US$4.3 billion), Germany (US$2.94 billion) and China (US$2.9 billion).Russia's most important defence customers in Southeast Asia are Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia.Russia has offered for sale to these countries a full range of military equipment — from fighter jets and submarines, to tanks and small arms — at prices that are cheaper than those manufactured in the US and Europe.In addition, Russian defence companies have been willing to accept part payment in commodities, pursue joint production, and, unlike the US and European countries, do not take into consideration a country's human rights record when selling arms.Sanctions on high-tech componentsSu-35S jet fighter of the Russian Air Force taking off, Kubinka, Russia.Artyom Anikeev/Stocktrek Images via Getty ImagesIn addition to lowered perceived value, Russia's defence industry faces other threats.Economic sanctions imposed by the US, European and Asian countries will make it more difficult for Russian defence companies to conduct financial transactions, including receiving payments from foreign customers.Equally vital export controls imposed on Russia will restrict its defence industrial sector's access to advanced technologies critical to the manufacture of modern military hardware, and which Moscow itself does not produce and cannot easily purchase from other countries.These include semiconductors, microelectronics, machine tools and software.This will not only affect the production of military equipment for use by Russia's armed forces and overseas buyers, but also the provision of spare parts, munitions and upgrade packages to existing customers."As a consequence, foreign buyers may decide to switch to more reliable sources of military hardware," Storey said.Potential disruption to Russian spare partsA Russian-made Mi-171 helicopter in service with Vietnam's air force in Ca Mau, March 10, 2014.HOANG DINH NAM/AFP via Getty ImagesGiven the war and sanctions, all Southeast Asian countries that currently rely on Russia for major military equipment will be vulnerable to the potential disruption in spare parts supply, Koh warned.With few exceptions, most buyers of Russian major military equipment heavily depend on Moscow for spare parts as part of after-sales service support.So other than some countries that may have already procured a sufficient stockpile to last for a certain period, he said, "we're talking about the potential disruption in the operability and availability of big-ticket assets such as fighter jets, which means simply disposing of them due to this new problem may not be the desired solution since it may leave significant capability gaps in the absence of a ready, suitable, affordable, and timely replacement."Southeast Asian operators of Russian assets are expected to "do their best" to conserve the existing stocks of spare parts, and "possibly also reduce the operating frequencies of their assets" to reduce wear and tear, so they can keep them longer in service, and reduce the need for heavy servicing work, Koh said."Meanwhile, they're likely to try to seek alternative sources. But even those alternative sources, which rely on Russia, are also likely to prioritise their own needs against disruption."He added that India might become a potential source of parts for Russian equipment, since its own defence industries have in recent years sought to manufacture some of these items under licence."India has already made alternate plans for potential disruption, chiefly by focusing more on 'made in India' components to stave off possible shortages," Koh said, adding that smaller clients such as Indonesia also recently expressed concerns about maintenance, repairs and overhaul of Russian equipment, especially the Su-30s.Koh said spare parts were an important source of revenue for Moscow — especially when taking into consideration the generally higher level of maintenance Russian equipment requires compared to Western equivalents.North Korea: potential arms supplier?A military parade in Pyongyang, January 14, 2021.KCNA via REUTERSNational War College's Abuza said North Korea could potentially try to enter the arms market in Southeast Asia.Overall, its presence in the region has been limited, with likely buyers of its weapons, ammunition and spare parts being the ones that already favour Soviet-era weaponry, he added."I hate to say it, but North Korea could try to stem into the regional market, as they manufacture Soviet-era weapons and ammunition," he said. "There are a host of United Nations Security Council resolutions establishing trade embargoes on North Korea because of its nuclear proliferation. They need to be imposed."With North Korea already selling weapons including missile technology to Myanmar's military junta, he pointed out: "The international community needs to step up monitoring and interdictions, especially to Myanmar."Koh said it was "not wise" to discount the Russians completely, as their military equipment has been generally found by users to be affordable compared to Western equivalents.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 22nd, 2022

Russia deploys its "Terminator" armored fighting vehicles designed for urban combat as it prepares to assault a Donbas city

The Russian army has a small number of the vehicle, modified from a T-72 tank chassis and specialized to support close engagements in urban areas. The "Terminator" tank-support fighting vehicle during the Victory Day military parade in Red Square on June 24, 2020, in Moscow.Iliya Pitalev - Host Photo Agency via Getty Images Russia has deployed its "Terminator" armored fighting vehicle to the Donbas. Photos and videos on social media show the vehicles, daubed with the letter V, near a Donbas town. The vehicles are made for engagements in urban settings, but Russia is believed to have only nine. Russia has deployed its "Terminator" tank-support vehicles in Ukraine as the Russian military campaign seeks to encircle Ukrainian defenders in the eastern Donbas region.A Russian military source told the Russian state news agency RIA a platoon had been deployed in Ukraine.Russia is believed to have about nine of the armored vehicles, which are built on the chassis of the T-72 tank. The Terminator, which has the official designation BMPT, is heavily armored and armed, designed to defend tanks from ambushes and attacks at close range in urban settings.Justin Crump, a former British-army tank commander, told Sky News that the deployment of the Terminator around Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk region of the Donbas, showed the "determination to assault that city" by Russian armed forces.Crump said the vehicle was a "signature Russian piece of equipment.""It's nicknamed the Terminator — it's a tank-support vehicle," he said. "It's designed to do the work of infantry in support of tanks. So it's a tank with a turret designed to suppress enemy infantry."Terminators have four anti-tank missile launchers, two 30 mm autocannons, two grenade launchers, a machine gun, and a top speed of 36 mph, The Times of London reported.Russian armored vehicles are suffering a heavy toll in Ukraine. Researchers have counted 671 lost tanks and 365 lost infantry-fighting vehicles in nearly three months of war. In addition to the proliferation of accurate anti-tank missiles, Russian tank operators have made errors that exposed them to artillery fire, and Russian commanders have deployed them without infantry or air support, decisions so faulty they are contributing to a reassessment of the military's effectiveness.Even if properly used, Russia's inventory of BMPT is too slight to defend most of its tanks.The Russian state media outlet TASS reported in 2017 the vehicle had been designed following the experience of Russian armed forces in Afghanistan. A senior executive at the Russian tank manufacturer UVZ told TASS: "The tank support combat vehicle is protected no worse than any other tank. Its multiple weapon systems have a far greater firepower and are capable of hitting several targets in different directions simultaneously."Terminators have previously been used in Russian combat operations in Syria, RIA reported.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 19th, 2022

Russia could strike back at the West by calling on its network of white-supremacist groups to commit terror attacks there, analysts warn

Experts increasingly fear that as Russia's invasion stalls, the Kremlin could choose to retaliate against Western nations by inciting violence there. Russian ultra-nationalists wave Russian Empire's black-yellow-white flags in Moscow in 2012.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images As Russia's Ukraine invasion stalls, the Kremlin could call on militant groups to foment violence in the West, experts warn.  A former US intelligence official warned of a likely bid by Russia to stir "political violence."  Two Russian groups currently fighting in Ukraine have ties to far-right groups in the US and Western Europe.  A steady supply of Western weapons has enabled Ukraine's outnumbered military to hold back Russian forces and inflict thousands of casualties during the ongoing war.But experts are increasingly concerned that as Russia's invasion stalls, the Kremlin could choose to retaliate against the West not just through economic and diplomatic means, but also by inciting violent attacks at the heart of the NATO alliance.The tool it could seek to exploit is a network of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Russia, Western Europe, and the US with which it has cultivated ties for decades. "They've done that before in much of Europe and I would not be surprised if they are doing that today — trying to get their intelligence services at the right moment to get these groups agitated," Chris Chivvis, who served as the National Security Council's intelligence officer for Europe from 2018 to 2021, told Insider.He warned of a likely effort to stir "political unrest, political violence" and "get these groups agitated to achieve political effects in countries in Europe, and possibly the United States."Russia's embassies in London and Washington, DC, did not reply to Insider's request for comment. Insider was unable to contact the groups mentioned in this story due to the secretive nature of their operations.Neo-Nazi militants fight alongside Russian forces in UkraineThe Kremlin has sought to portray its Ukraine invasion as a bid to "denazify" the country. But analysts say its forces are fighting alongside groups who openly espouse neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology — exposing the hollowness of Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda. The groups have extensive ties to far-right extremists across the West, as well as deep connections with Russia's military and intelligence services, experts told Insider.They could offer the Kremlin a potential route for inflicting violence and chaos in the Western nations providing key diplomatic and military support to Ukraine, while maintaining plausible deniability, experts say.I don't think anything's beyond the pale for Putin. Colin ClarkeOne such threat is the Wagner Group, a mercenary force that has previously been deployed as a Kremlin proxy in conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Mali.Its fighters have been linked to a string of atrocities in Ukraine, with German intelligence saying they were involved in the massacre of civilians in Bucha during the Russian occupation of the Kyiv suburb in March.A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia.Pierre Crom/Getty ImagesThe group makes no secret of its espousal of Nazi ideology, with its leader, Dmitry Utkin, having been photographed with Nazi insignia tattoos, and its fighters decorating their vehicles with neo-Nazi runic symbols, according to a report by the Italian think tank ResPublica.The Rusich, a Wagner affiliate deployed in Ukraine, also openly flaunts its ties with neo-Nazism, using a Slavic version of the Nazi Swastika, the Kolovrat, as its symbol.  Colin Clarke, the director of research at the Soufan Group, told Insider that the Kremlin could deploy fighters from Wagner to commit terror attacks in the West or commission fighters to encourage contacts in the West to commit violence on its behalf."The Russians send their own guys into Europe to whack people," he said, referencing assassinations and attempted assassinations in countries including the UK and Germany that Western officials have linked to Russian security services. "I don't think anything's beyond the pale for Putin. It's just a matter of: Does this make sense tactically? And if you think about how much terrorism resonates, the psychological impact if that stuff starts happening, I think it's a whole other dimension to this conflict," he said of the possible effects of a Russia-instigated terror attack in the West.But Jason Blatzakis, an expert of terrorism at the Middlesbury Institute, was skeptical that Russia would deploy fighters to commit direct attacks, saying it would mark a serious escalation in Russia's confrontation with NATO allies.A picture taken on February 28, 2015 shows a member of the Russian Imperial Movement, a nationalist group in Russia, walking close to a banner reading "God.Tsar.Nation.We are Russians, God with us" at a training base in Saint Petersburg.OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty ImagesInstead, he said, it was likely Russia would seek to stir chaos through "direct relations" between extremists in Russia and their counterparts in the West. Many Western far-right and white supremacists revere Putin's Russia, regarding it as a bastion of white identity. They see the Ukraine conflict as a civilizational battle between liberalism and Russia's traditional, hierarchical system. "I think what people need to be mindful of is that actually Russia is providing support that meets the legal definition of support to terrorism," Blatkazis said of the ties between Russia and white supremacist groups. Links to the West, including the USThe Wagner Group and its affiliates do not pose the only threat, with a rival organization having brokered alliances with violent right-wing extremists across the West. Aleksei Milchakov and Yan Petrovsky — the founders of the Wagner-affiliated Rusich group — reportedly met at a training camp for the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), a white supremacist group dedicated to restoring the Russian empire.The RIM has drawn dedicated extremists from across Europe and the US to its paramilitary training camp near Saint Petersburg as it aggressively cultivated international connections, security analysts say.Like the Wagner Group, it is believed to have deployed fighters to Ukraine, with the group's banner displayed by fighters in east Ukraine in a picture posted in the group's Telegram channel reviewed by Insider. Members of neo-nazi organization Nordic Resistance Movement hold their banners during a demonstration on October 27, 2018 in Fredrikstad, some 90 km south of Oslo.ORN E. BORGEN/NTB scanpix/AFP via Getty ImagesSwedish officials said in a 2017 lawsuit that the group trained extremists from the far-right Nordic Resistance, who committed attacks on refugee centers in 2016, and has been linked to violent far-right plots in Germany and Spain. Also in 2016, RIM leaders traveled to the US, where they met US white nationalist figure Matthew Heimbach, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism said in a 2020 report.The State Department in 2017 designated the RIM a terrorist group, the first time it had given the designation to a white-supremacist organization. Despite the sanctions, Stanislav Vorobyev, the group's leader, said in a recent interview on the "Verified" podcast that he remains in contact with far-right extremists in the US but gave no specific details.Clarke said that a key concern was the potential Russian contact with groups such as Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi terror group with cells in the UK and US, linked to a string of violent plots, and neo-Nazi groups in Nordic nations. "The ultimate end game is they maintain these relationships because one day they might have to cash in their chips," he said, describing the potential of a pro-Russian terror attack committed by an American as "our worst case scenario realized." He raised the prospect of the psychological impact that could be caused by "a neo-Nazi guy in Virginia launching an attack at the behest of the Russians and was maybe paid to do it or trained by them.""That's a big deal," he said. "That's a really big deal."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 14th, 2022

Russian soldiers stuffed a Ukrainian man"s body in his car trunk with a weight-sensitive mine that detonated when Ukrainian soldiers moved it, Politico reports

Lyudmyla Kyrpach, the Ukrainian man's widow, told Politico that she and her late husband Oleksandr "did everything together." People seen digging graves in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 5, 2022.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra Russian soldiers booby-trapped a Ukrainian man's dead body in his own car trunk, according to Politico. His wife discovered his body and later brought Ukrainian troops to help move him, fearing a trap. When they tried to pull him from the trunk with a rope, the car "exploded in a ball of flames." Russian soldiers killed a Ukrainian army volunteer on the outskirts of Kyiv and left his dead body in his car trunk fitted with a mine that later exploded when Ukrainian forces attempted to move him, according to Politico.Lyudmyla Kyrpach, the soldier's widow, told Politico that she and her husband Oleksandr "did everything together."Kyrpach told the outlet that the day after the invasion began in late February, Oleksandr, a mechanic, organized volunteer fighters in his village of Kalynivka, near Kyiv.By March 1, days after Russian troops had encroached on their village, Oleksandr's friends set out driving to see if they could source more intel about Russian troop movements up close. She told Politico's Christopher Miller that after they failed to return, he set out to find them."He said he would be right back," Lyudmyla told Politico. Oleksandr never returned, and unable to sleep, Lyudmyla set out the following day with her friends to find him. She noticed his sedan on the road, with the keys in the ignition but no passengers in the car, she told Politico.Lyudmyla's friend noticed that the trunk was riddled with bullets, per the report, and they opened the trunk to find Oleksandr's dead body. Her friend pulled her away from the car in fear that the trunk could be booby-trapped, she explained to the outlet.By March 4 they returned to the scene with Ukrainian soldiers.According to the report, the soldiers tied ropes to his limbs and moved far from the car to pull slowly and see if the car was rigged. As soon as they pulled, the "car exploded in a ball of flames." Russian soldiers had placed weight-triggered mine under Oleksandr, Lyudmyla told Politico."Lyudmyla picked up the pieces of the man she had spent decades with and placed them in a box," Politico reported. Later, she buried him in the garden where they used to plant vegetables together.In April, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had stated that Russia's attacks on civilians extended beyond artillery attacks, with officials saying they uncovered booby traps scattered throughout cities including Kyiv and Mariupol. "The Russian Federation is in war not only with the Ukrainian Armed Forces but also fights against the civilian population of Ukraine, grossly violating the Law of war," the statement said."While retreating Russia's military personnel is massively setting up booby-traps, banned by the international law, even on food facilities, private housing, and human corpses."Last month, Ukrainian authorities unearthed a mass grave in Bucha, near Kyiv, claiming that Russian soldiers killed and buried at least 360 Ukrainians in a 45-foot-long trench. Journalists who visited Bucha after Russian troops pulled out also reported bodies of civilians in their homes, on the street, and in the suburb's glass factory.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMay 9th, 2022

The Pope says the Russians are learning that "their tanks are useless" in Ukraine

In an interview with an Italian newspaper published Tuesday, Pope Francis condemned the brutality of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Pope Francis holds his homily during the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 16, 2022 in Vatican City, Vatican.Franco Origlia/Getty Images Pope Francis said the Russians "have just found out their tanks are useless," in an interview with Italian newspaper Corrierre Della Sera.  Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainian forces have been successfully destroying hundreds of Russian tanks.  The pope has asked for a meeting with the Kremlin, but President Vladimir Putin has yet to respond to his request.  While condemning the brutality of the war in Ukraine, Pope Francis said Russians are discovering that their "tanks are useless," in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, published Tuesday."The Russians have just found out that tanks are useless and they might be developing new weapons. Wars are fought for this reason too: to test your arsenals," he said in the article. "The production and the sale of armaments is a disgrace, but few are bold enough to stand up against it."Ukrainian fighters have been mauling Russian tanks with Western imports like Javelins, and Ukrainian-made Stugna-Ps, as well as other anti-tank weapons throughout the war; researchers currently estimate 600 Russian tanks have been destroyed or lost. Experts have said that Russian tanks have a design flaw that makes them susceptible to decapitation that will kill their crew, known as "jack-in-the-box effect," CNN reported. The United States and other NATO allies are continuing to arm Ukraine with anti-tank weaponry as well as heavy artillery.During the interview, Francis seemed to partially blame the war's outbreak on NATO, who he said was "barking at Russia's gate.""I have no way of telling whether his rage has been provoked," Francis said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West's attitude."In expressing his concerns about the war, Pope Francis mentioned the Spanish Civil War, which became a testing ground for Soviet and Nazi weapons, such as the Messerschmitt 109 fighter and new artillery that would be used in World War II.Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine, but has yet to outwardly criticize Putin as the Catholic leader tries to mend historic breaches with the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader is close to Putin. About 20 days after the war began, he requested to meet Russian president, but has yet to hear back. "We received no answer whatsoever, but we keep pressing them on this issue," Francis said in the interview. "I fear, however, that Putin cannot, or does not want to agree to our meeting at the moment."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 3rd, 2022

Constant ISIS terror attacks are challenging the Taliban"s tenuous grip on power in Afghanistan

Months after the Afghan government collapsed and US forces left, the Islamic State's Afghanistan affiliate wants to sabotage the Taliban's legitimacy. A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022REUTERS/Stringer A recent string of deadly terror attacks across Afghanistan has left the country reeling.  ISIS-K, a rival of the Taliban, is responsible for most — if not all — of the attacks, experts say. The attacks appear to be part of an effort by ISIS-K to undermine the Taliban's fragile grip on power.  A recent string of deadly terror attacks across Afghanistan has left the country reeling, challenging the Taliban's already strained governance just eight months after the US withdrawal. An explosion at a mosque on Friday in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul killed at least 10 people and left 20 others injured, according to multiple reports. It's the latest in a series of attacks this month that have targeted mosques, schools, and buses — leaving dozens dead and hundreds more injured.  And the attacks have not been limited to Kabul — people have also died in the northern cities of Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz. Some of the carnage has been officially claimed by ISIS-K, also known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, and is the terror group's Afghanistan affiliate.But Michael Kugelman, an expert on the region at the Wilson Center, a DC-based think tank, told Insider he believes most — if not all — of the attacks were carried out by ISIS-K. The reasoning behind this surge in violence? ISIS-K — a rival of the Taliban — is essentially looking for ways to make the Taliban look bad and undermine its legitimacy. Kugelman said ISIS-K also wants to "push back" against the Taliban's narrative that it restored peace and stability across the country in the wake of the US departure. "If Afghans are seeing things blown up left and right, obviously that flies in the face of that Taliban narrative," Kugelman said. Who is ISIS-K — the Taliban's enemy? ISIS-K made its presence known in the region in 2015, and has fought against the Taliban for years now.According to a 2018 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, ISIS-K has also clashed with US, Afghan, and Pakistani security forces. In the months leading up to the Afghan government's collapse last year, ISIS-K launched dozens of attacks — more than it did in 2020 — according to the Wilson Center.  But it wasn't until late August, just days before the last US troops left Afghanistan, that ISIS-K attracted the most attention.An ISIS-K suicide bombing killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul as civilians frantically tried to flee the country. President Joe Biden vowed revenge."We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," he said at the time. "These ISIS terrorists will not win."The US State Department said in November it was "committed" to using counterterrorism methods to fight ISIS-K, "as part of our relentless efforts to ensure Afghanistan cannot again become a platform for international terrorism."Kugelman told Insider that ISIS-K has been strengthened by both the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the US withdrawal — including the release of thousands of ISIS-K prisoners after the Afghan government fell last August. Challenging Taliban legitimacyThe collapse of the Afghan military and the departure of NATO forces also meant weapons were abandoned and ready to be claimed, Kugelman said — leaving ISIS-K fighters without having to worry about airstrikes as a counterterrorism method.Afghanistan's crippling economic and humanitarian crisis has also provided an environment for radicalized individuals to be recruited by ISIS-K, Kugelman said. ISIS-K has several goals in Afghanistan, Kugelman said, including stoking sectarian tensions, sowing chaos and instilling a general sense of unease. The group, he added, wants to "terrorize as many people as they can," with no limits as to who might be targeted. But as the Taliban struggles to govern Afghanistan for in its second tenure, it has less capacity to stamp out the threat posed by ISIS-K, Kugelman said, adding that the militant group is in over its head with — an unable to contain — the threat posed by ISIS-K."Unfortunately, I think that in a moment when Afghanistan is suffering incredibly from this terrible economic crisis, that the terrorism problem is going to continue to get worse," Kugelman said. "And obviously, it's the Afghan people that suffer the most from all of this."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 29th, 2022

2 German volunteers went to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Confusion, chaos, and then COVID-19, defeated them instead.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on foreign fighters to help defend against Russian attacks. Many weren't what the Ministry of Defense had in mind. Lukas and Tobias, two German volunteers, arrive in the western city of Lviv, just over a week after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.Alan Chin for Insider To help defend against Russian attacks, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on foreign fighters.  Volunteers poured in, but many were perhaps not what the Ministry of Defense had in mind. On March 2, two German volunteers arrived in Lviv, ready to become war heroes. Chaos ensued. The two Germans burst into the hostel in Lviv, Ukraine, at 2 a.m., bumping into the door frame and shouting questions about where the beds were and how to find the bathroom. It was March 2, a week into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the hostel was mostly filled with shell-shocked women and children escaping war to the east. The Germans were starkly out of place. Marie and Etterem, the Ukrainian-Turkish couple who ran the place, had been sleeping on the kitchen floor down in the basement—now doubling as an air raid bunker—to leave more room for guests. They got up to prepare tea for the newcomers, giving the men a chance to explain themselves."We are volunteer soldiers for the International Legion of the Ukrainian military," Lukas, the younger of the two men, said. His companion, Tobias, twitched with excitement as he interrupted with, "We're here to fight the Russians."Marie and Etterem thanked the men for their bravery and headed back to bed. The Germans stepped out onto the balcony for a smoke, inviting me—a jet-lagged journalist who had been staying at the hostel since the war began—to join their late-night conversation. Sharply dressed in pristine blue-and-white tennis shoes, with a nose piercing and studded ears, Lukas, 33, had been living in Montenegro for the last six months while working at his father's IT company. He had come with a small backpack containing little that might come in handy for a soldier, and just enough money to pay for a few nights at a hostel.As he would tell me later, Lukas was bored with his tech job and was looking for something "real." Ukraine seemed as real as it could get. When he told his family and his girlfriend that he planned to join the International Legion, they tried to hide his passport. He slipped out in the middle of the night. "It was my decision and no one could stop me," Lukas said.Tobias—a decade older, at 44—was a luxury watchmaker by trade and spent weekends DJ-ing at techno clubs. Tall and lanky, with gauged earlobes and an uneven buzz cut, he carried only a small, overstuffed suitcase on two wheels, a well-worn black backpack, and a khaki shoulder bag that he seemed unwilling to part with. A simple black watch hung on his wrist. Tobias had been watching the news from his home in Fulda, outside Frankfurt, and was moved by a striking image of a Ukrainian girl carrying a Kaloshnikov in Kyiv. She looked to be around the same age as his daughter, Luna. "What if that were my Luna?" he remembers thinking. "How could I let her do this fight alone?"  Over the last year, Tobias had fallen out with his father and sister, lost ownership of the business he'd spent years building, and relapsed into binge drinking and drugs. He hadn't seen either of his two kids in more than six months. "My family is everything, and I don't have them anymore," he said. So, why not go to Ukraine, he figured."Were we supposed to just stand by and watch?" Tobias asked, digging into his pocket for his lighter. "We are from Germany," he said, halting his incessant fidgeting to emphasize his words and allude to his country's WWII history. "Not again."Neither man had any military experience or combat training, or even a connection to Ukraine. Lukas, smoking a joint, pulled his jacket more tightly around himself. He had brought rolling papers, but not a scarf or gloves. It was just 26 degrees that night in Lviv, and snowing.'Please come, we will give you weapons'On February 26—two days after the start of the Russian bombardment—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited foreign nationals who considered themselves friends of Ukraine to join the fight, saying, "Please come. We will give you weapons."A day after that, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense provided more details: "Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals." Practically unprecedented in modern times, it brought to mind the call for anti-fascist volunteers to Spain in the 1930s, when over 60,000 volunteers from 50 countries (George Orwell among them) rushed to the Republicans' side in the Spanish civil war.These foreign fighters would be incorporated into the military under a voluntary contract with the same rights and responsibilities as the 100,000 or more Ukrainian militiamen already organized within 25 Territorial Defense Force brigades around the country.The International Legion added to Ukraine's 200,000-plus active-duty troops and 900,000 reservists—Europe's second largest military force, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Only Russia oversees a bigger military in the region, dwarfing the forces of its neighbors, with over 900,000 active-duty soldiers and two million reservists.Formed at breakneck speed, many of the recruits were perhaps not who the Ministry of Defense had hoped to attract or was prepared to train. And, although legislation already existed to recruit foreigners, the military infrastructure that is needed to prepare inexperienced volunteers for war was still developing.On March 2, Ukraine updated its guidelines, and specified that recruits must sign up at the nearest Ukrainian embassy, complete a background check, and pass a health screening before presenting for service. (By March 7, Ukraine said 20,000 foreign recruits from 52 countries had applied to join the International Legion. Some estimates suggest the number has grown to 40,000.)But by that time, Tobias and Lukas were already in Ukraine—heading to training in their sneakers and jeans. The Georgian LegionTobias and Lukas had met at the train station in Przemysl, a small town on the Polish-Ukrainian border, during the long wait for the next train to Lviv—40 miles to the east. Tobias had overheard Lukas chatting with another man in German and, happy to hear his mother tongue, introduced himself. Lukas had been telling people that he was heading to Ukraine as a humanitarian volunteer. But when Tobias mentioned that he already had a military contact inside Ukraine, Lukas came clean. Tobias (left) and Lukas at the train station in Lviv.Alan Chin for InsiderA few days earlier, back in Germany, Tobias had reached out to the Ukrainian embassy in Frankfurt and learned that Ukraine's borders were open for volunteer fighters from anywhere in the world. No visa was required, so travel wouldn't be a problem. Tobias went on Facebook in search of a contact for the International Legion. He discovered instead the Georgian Legion—a battalion of volunteer soldiers mostly from the ex-Soviet country, many of whom carried anger towards Russia from when President Putin attacked their country in 2008. Tobias was given an email address and instructed to reach out once he crossed into Ukraine. While Tobias might have thought he had nothing to lose, his family saw things differently. "It was like a rollercoaster," Tobias' daughter, Luna, told me when I reached her by phone. "Always waiting for messages to know if he was okay."Lukas had done even less research, jumping on a train without any plans, instructions, or contacts. Once in Ukraine, he figured, it wouldn't be difficult to connect with a recruiter for the Legion. And then, he met Tobias, who seemed to have all the information Lukas needed. The Germans decided to continue the journey together. On that first frigid night in Lviv, they arrived too late to meet their Georgian contact. Instead, they were told they should find a place to sleep, and a car would come for them the next morning to take them to the training center.  The hostel was the only place their taxi driver could find with two open beds in the packed city, which had become a transit hub for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the bombardments of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities.  Lukas (left) helps Tobias repack his bags as they prepare to meet their Georgian Legion escort at the hostel in Lviv, Ukraine.Katie Livingstone for InsiderThe next morning, after just a few hours of sleep, the Germans showered and repacked their bags. Lukas finished first and watched as Tobias struggled to stuff all his things into his two bags. After a while, Lukas gamely plopped onto Tobias' suitcase so that his companion could more easily zip it up.Sure enough, later that morning a dark blue skoda with two armed soldiers pulled up in front of the hostel. The car was unmarked, but the soldiers wore the telltale yellow armband meant to differentiate Ukrainian troops from Russian soldiers. Making their way to the car, the Germans promised me they would stay in touch. (Over the next three weeks, I would hear from them almost daily, and meet them for several more interviews. They asked that Insider use only their first names.)  Tobias and Lukas climbed into the back seat and off they sped to some unknown location to begin their service to Ukraine. 'Katastrophe'In a hushed phone call that first night, Tobias explained that he and Lukas had been taken to the Georgian Legion's barracks, just outside Lviv. The place was barren and disorganized. They had expected to receive gear and start training right away. Instead, they spent most of that day and night drinking and smoking with their new brothers-in-arms while trying to communicate in whatever lingua-franca passed for the moment. (Most of the soldiers were Georgian, and about a third were from other places.) "Katastrophe," Tobias repeated over and over again. "There's no organization, no organized training. Everyone just wants to kill the Russians." Lukas and Tobias depart the Lviv hostel for training with the Georgian Legion.Katie Livingstone for InsiderThe next morning, Tobias and Lukas were told the Georgians were evacuating the base after getting a report that Russians were heading their way. They should take a train to Kyiv, they were told.But the details were foggy. Still without any military gear, they told me they were instructed to pose as Red Cross volunteers and prepare reports on any suspicious activity that they observed en route. "They want us to spy on the people on the train," Tobias said. Once in the capital, they would meet up with another squadron at a safe-house. After that, they'd go to the front, they were told.When asked why the Legion would make such a request of two foreigners with no experience in the country who couldn't speak the local languages, Lukas said simply: "They asked, so we are going." Out of Lukas' earshot, Tobias offered another explanation. "The Georgian officer asked Lukas to stop smoking in the room twice last night. And he didn't want to. He's not thinking. Then, the officer asked us to go to Kyiv, and Lukas agreed. Katastrophe," Tobias lamented. He had agreed to accompany Lukas because he didn't want the younger man to go alone, he said.Fissures in the brotherhood were already becoming apparent.Meanwhile, since the war began, no Russian troops have been reported in Lviv by any media outlets. Instead, across Lviv, paranoia about Russian saboteurs was palpable. At the hostel where Tobias and Lukas stayed, Marie and Etterem said they received almost nightly calls from an intelligence officer asking if any of their guests seemed dubious. One night, prior to the Germans' arrival, police had burst into the small lodge and interrogated all of the male foreigners staying there, and then left without another word. Hundreds of check-points have gone up around greater Lviv and residents are told to call a hotline to report anything suspicious."I remember two crazy Germans," Mamuka Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion, told me when I reached him over Skype. I showed him a picture of Tobias and Lukas, just to be sure, and Mamulashvili burst out laughing, explaining that he tries to personally interview every recruit. "That's them.""My officers told me there were these two guys trying to party in the barracks, and they had to go. They were gone the next day," Mamulashvili said. Mamulashvili said the Georgian Legion is a Special Forces battalion made up of combat-ready fighters, and that it has been repeatedly confused with Ukraine's newly-organized International Legion, which has training capacity for less experienced soldiers."I don't know anything about the 'spy story,' though," he added with a smirk, after I summarized what the Germans had told me.'Ukraine must know its heroes'Unlike the packed trains carrying mostly women and children toward the Polish border, the trains heading east had plenty of seats. Tobias and Lukas' trip to Kyiv was uneventful, even as their excitement grew. "We have gone past some blown-up buildings, and I think I saw an unexploded missile in a field," Tobias texted from the train."This isn't what I signed up for," Lukas admitted in an audio message, adding, "But we are ready." Tobias and Lukas arrived at Kyiv's central train station that evening, still wearing their civilian clothes. As instructed, they called their Georgian commander back in Lviv. The phone rang and rang. No one answered. Now at the war's doorstep, they had no plan and no idea where they would spend the night.By this point in the war—ten days after Kyiv was first hit—Russian missile assaults had driven over a million people to the west and into neighboring countries. That day, Russian troops had occupied the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, stirring up decades-old fears of nuclear war. Incessant bombing had started in Mariupol, southeast from Kyiv—the start of one of the worst civilian disasters in Ukraine since the war began.Tobias on the train from Lviv to Kyiv, where he and Lukas hoped to finally reach the front line.TobiasBut Ukrainian forces had stalled the 40-mile-long line of Russian troops heading into the capital from Belarus, repelling forces from the capital through a stunningly successful combination of air defense tactics and street combat. Zelenkskyy continued to speak to the Ukrainian people from Kyiv's iconic city squares, proving to the world that the capital was still in Ukrainian hands. Still, shelling was heard nightly and many residents of the capital took refuge in the city's subway stations, which had been built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. Without a better idea, Tobias and Lukas began approaching uniformed soldiers to ask if they could join their squads. They eventually found two friendly Ukrainian reservists in fatigues and, with the help of a translation app on their phones, introduced themselves. The reservists said their squadron had not yet been mobilized. They invited the Germans back to their makeshift barracks, in the back of a storefront, to sleep for the night. "Only civilians are protecting the train station! There's a ring of Russians around Kyiv! We don't know how to get out!" Tobias exclaimed on the phone that night. I checked the news and, in fact, trains were still leaving daily to the east. With their Georgian commander still not picking up their calls, the Germans passed the hours drinking the reservists' alcohol and smoking the last of the marijuana Lukas had brought—bonding over their united mission against Russia. Tobias (second from left) and Lukas (right) hang out with the Ukrainian reservists they met at the Kyiv train station. The Ukrainians invited them to stay at their makeshift barracks.TobiasThe next morning, the reservists drove Tobias and Lukas around Kyiv to search for a new group to join, the Germans told me. But no one would have them. "They told us to leave because the war is lost and it is too dangerous," Tobias said later. (In fact, the steadfast resolve of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike has been well documented. Insider was unable to speak to the reservists by phone to confirm details of the visit.)Their best bet was to return to Lviv and try to reconnect with the International Legion there, Tobias and Lukas decided.  Back at Kyiv's train station, they found, for the first time, they were heading in the same direction as throngs of other people. Children still in their pajamas from hasty escapes, elderly people with blank stares and almost no luggage. When a Lviv-bound train pulled up at the platform, the scene was chaotic, as hundreds of people tried to push their way onto the already crowded train. The Germans noticed a shell-shocked woman standing nearby, who seemed unable to jostle her things onto the train. They sprung into action, securing the woman a seat on the next train out and, as her escorts, finding just enough space to squeeze themselves into the train's corridor. The woman, named Yulia, was 38 and had fled the besieged northeastern city of Kharkiv. She carried just one small suitcase and said she wasn't sure if her apartment had been bombed. She said she thought it had.  On the long ride west, Tobias and Lukas hatched a plan to escort Yulia to Germany. "It's too dangerous for a woman to travel on her own," Tobias told me later that night, with conviction and satisfaction in his voice. But the next morning, after another night spent in the bunk-beds of the Lviv hostel, they changed their minds about leaving Ukraine so quickly. They accompanied Yulia to the bus station, and waved as she headed towards Poland, where she had family waiting for her."I am very grateful to these guys who literally dragged me onto the train to Lviv," she later posted on Facebook. (She also confirmed the details of Tobias and Lukas' story to Insider.) "I can't tell you how I felt at that moment, only tears of joy and gratitude. Ukraine must know its heroes—Sláva Ukrayíni! (Glory to Ukraine!)"Reinvigorated by their brief visit to Kyiv, Tobias and Lukas finally gave up on the Georgians and decided to focus on the International Legion. But it still wasn't clear how they would do that. So, once again, they began approaching men in uniform.Soon, a friendly man in fatigues was leading them to a small building that had just been repurposed into a military post for the International Legion. Inside, they were led past the long line of Ukrainian men presenting for service with the Territorial Defense Forces, to the much shorter line reserved for foreigners.Tobias and Lukas were asked a few questions and then heard the words they had been waiting for: The International Legion of the Ukrainian armed forces would welcome them at its training center. The Yavoriv training center was located at a former NATO base, 15 miles from the Polish border. Tobias and Lukas would spend the night at a way-station in Novoyavorivsk, not far from the base. Finally, it seemed, Tobias and Lukas were on the right course.'Drive as fast as the rockets!'The first day at the Yavoriv training center of the International Legion was a blur of activity. There were recruits from the US, Canada, Israel, and several other countries. Taking pictures at the base was forbidden and the recruits were told to switch their phones to airplane mode to avoid detection.As Tobias and Lukas would later tell me, Ukrainian soldiers took their passport details and had them sign documents, which they said they couldn't understand because they were written in Ukrainian. No copies were provided. Every recruit was given pants with a digital camouflage pattern (too thin for the winter, they said), several button-down shirts, some undershirts and underwear (several sizes too big, they said), boots, and a duffle bag. They were offered a Kalashnikov, but no ammunition since foreign recruits were not allowed to carry loaded weapons on the base.Days on the base started every day at 6 a.m. with breakfast in the mess hall, followed by marches in formation and combat exercises. They were taught about Russian weaponry and field tactics via PowerPoint presentations. Recruits sat shoulder to shoulder in packed rooms, often without enough chairs.Tobias in uniform during training at Yavoriv.LukasTo verify what the men were telling me, I went to one of the International Legion's offices in Lviv and interviewed Col. Anton Myronovych, a public affairs officer for the Ukrainian military.He told me the contracts he's seen are translated into English—it's the same contract as Ukrainian volunteers for the Territorial Defense Forces—and trainees receive copies of everything they sign. Foreign fighters are also entitled to the same pay and benefits as Ukrainians. "There's no difference between Ukrainians and foreigners in this situation," he said. Col. Myronovych said that troops in the International Legion are initially trained in separate groups according to their skill level, and later put into squadrons with skilled soldiers. When international battalions are sent to the front, he said, they are paired with Ukrainian battalions already on the battlefield to face the enemy as a united force. At Yavoriv, Lukas had grown tight-lipped. He said he couldn't talk while on the base. But Tobias was in high spirits. "They're crazy happy I have a license to drive trucks," Tobias said in a WhatsApp message after the first day of training. He imagined they might assign him to transport goods to the front since there were so few available drivers. "But this is also very dangerous," he said. "So I'll have to drive as fast as the rockets!"'Someone watching your back'One of the first people Tobias and Lukas met in Novoyavorivsk was Kevin, a sturdy, 58-year-old Irishman with bright white hair. Unlike most of the other recruits, Kevin had arrived in Ukraine with a bullet-proof vest and a helmet, and seemed well versed in modern weaponry and tactics. As a young man, he had served in the Irish special forces, and had later worked as a security contractor in some of the world's hotspots. (Kevin would later show me dog-eared pictures of from his military days, which he'd brought with him to Ukraine.) With high blood pressure and persistent pain from, he said, a crushed vertebra from a parachuting accident years ago, he was no longer in top form, but he thought he could still be useful in a fight.Like the Germans, Kevin had hoped to join a small squadron and get out to the front line as soon as possible. "When you see the suffering, the killing of women and children and the elderly, it's pretty hard to just sit back and watch it happen," Kevin told me later. Kevin displays two photographs from his younger days as a soldier.Katie Livingstone for InsiderWhen Kevin contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Ireland, they only insisted on recruits having some military experience, according to an email reviewed by Insider. After Kevin crossed the border, he found a military representative, who directed him to the training center at Yavoriv. In Tobias and Lukas, Kevin saw men with "good hearts." "We all agreed that we would help and look out for each other," Kevin told me when I first interviewed him. "In situations like this, it is essential to have someone watching your back and vice versa." Meanwhile, three other recruits had also joined the Germans' unofficial crew. There was William, a moody, 25-year-old Frenchman, who cited his hundreds of hours playing Call of Duty when asked about his military experience; Misha, 42 and Czech, who admitted he didn't know how to handle a gun but said he could survive off the land for months at a time if needed; and Erik, a 20-year-old medic from Germany, had brought along a well-stocked first aid kit and flak jacket from his time training (but not fighting) with the military back home.'I came to fight for Ukraine, not to die for Ukraine'Within about three days, doubt once again had set in. There wasn't any time for questions, or enough equipment for hands-on practice. Many of the recruits weren't taking the training seriously, and were smoking cigarettes during drills. Then, there was the constant clamor of air raid sirens—day and night—and the furious rush to take cover in case they signaled a true threat. And all over the base, the men noticed that fellow recruits were getting sick. On around the third day of training, Tobias started feeling unwell. A high fever kept him up at night. Kevin wouldn't admit it, but others noticed something wrong in him, too. William fainted twice during their morning exercises. The three men started skipping training to rest—which was fine, since no one required them to attend. There was no COVID-19 testing available on the base, but all three suspected they'd come down with the virus. With a hint of hyperbole, the men said that half of the recruits appeared to be sick, and some were giving up on training entirely and leaving the camp. (Col. Myronovych denied any large-scale Covid outbreak, or shortage of medical care.) "I am wondering if I made the right decision to come," Tobias wrote in a WhatsApp message.  "But it is too late to turn back now." At around the same time, Neumann, a German field medic who was helping to lead some of their drills, started showing signs of mounting stress, the men said. He had begun shouting during their lessons, they said, losing his patience more often with both the recruits and the Ukrainian officers. That afternoon, Neumann pulled Tobias, Kevin and a few others aside. He whispered urgently that he had overheard some of the Ukrainian officers talking. Behind their backs, officers were referring to recruits like them—those without combat training but with a will to fight—as "cannon fodder" and "mine meat." They'd be used to open up the battlefield and test their enemy's capabilities before risking more valuable, better-trained troops, he said. With tears streaming down his face, he urged the men to leave. Insider was unable to reach Neumann, and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine did not respond to requests for comments on these accusations. When I asked Col. Myronovych about this, he said he didn't recognize the name Neumann, and denied that such an attitude existed.Foreign recruits have access to the same training resources and safety measures as Ukrainian members of the Territorial Defense Forces, Col. Myronovych said, adding that the Legion was doing the best they could to quickly and effectively train these rookie troops alongside veteran soldiers. "They cannot only fight and die in the first day. They have to survive. They have to stay safe. It's one of our goals—they have to come back alive." Back at Yavoriv, Neumann's warning terrified Tobias, Lukas, and the others. Erik's tactical first aid vest, which he brought with him from Germany.Used with permission"I came to fight for Ukraine, not to die for Ukraine," Erik told me later. "Being in these legions is like holding a loaded gun to your head and pulling the trigger." The six men decided it was time to leave, and went to their commanding officer to report their decision. After that, things moved quickly. They were immediately separated from the other troops, and forbidden from reentering the barracks or other communal areas unaccompanied. They were ushered back into the registration area to sign more forms and then into the storerooms to return their gear. Within a couple hours of their announcement, they were waiting for a taxi back to Novoyavorivsk, hoping to make it back to Lviv before the 10 p.m. curfew. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation on Booking.com, they ended up lucking out and finding an apartment in downtown Lviv that could house all six of them for the next week. It only had 2 double beds, but seemed warm and safe. At around midnight, the six soldiers arrived at the apartment, and promptly fell asleep on couches, floors, and beds. Close callThe next morning, at about 5:50 am — as the six men slept in their rented apartment in Lviv — 30 high-precision missiles hit the Yavoriv training center.Initial estimates said that 35 people had been killed and another 134 were wounded, making it one of the most devastating attacks on a military facility since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. A Russian spokesman later said that the strike had targeted "foreign mercenaries" and a large shipment of weapons from the west. The six men, safe in Lviv, only learned of the bombing when they awoke hours later. They had slept through the sirens that had blared across the region to announce the danger. Groggy and still incredulous from the many false alarms they had endured in the last week, they pulled up shaky videos of the base on social media. They saw smoke rising from courtyards they recognized, strewn with debris, and heard victims crying for help in the background. They tried calling a few of the fellow trainees, who's numbers they'd collected. For hours, no one picked up. It seemed that the horrible reality of war had finally started to sink in, and they didn't yet seem to have the words to describe the mix of relief and guilt they were feeling at having narrowly escaped the carnage."If I was there, I could have at least tied a tourniquet," Erik said later. The men spent the rest of the day arguing about what to do next. The three youngest – Lukas, William, and Erik – talked about going to the front to join the unofficial squadrons they'd heard about. But at this point, Tobias and Kevin had been paying everyone's way, and they announced they were tired of it. The next day, Kevin told Lukas, William, and Erik they had to go. "Wake up. This isn't a game and we're not your parents," Kevin told them as his parting words, handing them bus money and a spare iPhone since Erik's had disappeared at the base.  From left to right, Kevin, William, and Eric at the apartment in Lviv.Katie Livingstone for InsiderEleven days after arriving in Ukraine with Tobias, Lukas left without saying goodbye. He was out of the war zone by later that afternoon. "I am dead," Lukas told me later over WhatsApp.Back in Montenegro, Lukas vowed to return to Ukraine soon, better prepared, to finish his mission. Maybe he hadn't understood how easily it would be to die in a war that had already claimed thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives. William ultimately stayed in Ukraine for a few more weeks to volunteer with the Cross of Malta, and has since returned to his IT job in France. Erik is gone too. Back home, he told me he was having nightmares about the people he didn't help. Misha was the next to left Ukraine. Only Tobias and Kevin remained.They had come to "kill some Russians," as they often said, and still weren't ready to give up on that. They went to the train station to volunteer, but were turned away because, they were told, each group already had enough help. Tobias thought about trying to link up with the reservists in Kyiv, who had been mobilized since their first meeting. In truth, Tobias was too sick to do much of anything. On top of the fever, headaches and racing hearts, Kevin had also run out of his blood pressure medicine, and Tobias was out of the pills he took to manage his anxiety.On Wednesday, March 16, both men tested positive for COVID-19.Tobias' positive COVID-19 test.Tobias On Friday, Tobias sat outside their apartment under the glare of a full moon, whispering because it was after curfew and he didn't want the neighbors to call the police. "I don't want my kids to grow up without a father," he said emotionally, finally realizing he didn't want to die in this war."I am too sick to fight. I am useless, I must go home," Tobias said. He left Ukraine on March 21.A week later, while trying out tricks on a bike he had bought for his son, Tobias fell—breaking his shoulder. He sent me a picture, displaying his wounded body. "Unbelievable," Tobias texted. "Back from Ukraine and totally injured in Germany." Kevin made the same concession and returned to Ireland—though he, like Lukas, plans to return to Ukraine soon. Less than three weeks after valiantly trekking across Europe to join a fight more visceral and complicated than any of them had imagined, Tobias, Lukas, and the others had returned home without ever meeting a Russian soldier. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 29th, 2022

With new operations on opposite sides of the world, Chinese military aircraft are showing off growing reach

China's air force is getting "more confident in its ability to operate farther" from its shores with newer aircraft, an expert told Insider. China's J-20, a fifth-generation fighter jet.Reuters China is rapidly developing combat and transport aircraft to support longer-range military operations. A flight to Europe by China's Y-20 airlifter and regular patrols by J-20 fighters are milestones for those jets, officials say. The new capabilities worry China's neighbors, but China's troops and hardware are largely untested in combat. China's military has rapidly built one of the world's largest aviation forces, developing increasingly capable aircraft that the US Defense Department has warned are "gradually eroding" the US military's advantage in the air.In recent weeks, China's premier fighter jets and strategically valuable airlifters have reached milestones that underscore Beijing's increasing focus on and investment in military aviation.In early April, six Y-20 cargo planes arrived in Belgrade to deliver what were believed to be Chinese-made HQ-22 surface-to-air missiles to Serbia's military. The roughly 5,000-mile flight by what Chinese state media called "a record-breaking number" of Y-20s was seen as a demonstration of Beijing's ambitions for global power projection.Days later, a top official with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the state-owned firm developing the J-20 fighter jet, said that J-20s are now conducting regular patrols over the East and South China seas, a sign of the advanced jet's increasing reliability.The developments are indications that China's air force "is growing more confident in its ability to operate farther and farther from Chinese shores with newer and newer aircraft," Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation think tank, told Insider.China has struggled to develop new engines for the J-20.ReutersThe AVIC official said the J-20s were routinely conducting alert patrols, which are mainly for surveillance, over the South China and combat patrols, which require a higher level of readiness, over the East China Sea. The official said that had been made possible by the switch to a "Chinese heart" for the jets, a reference to domestically developed engines.The J-20 was originally fitted with less powerful Russian-made engines. Some of the several dozen J-20s in service are now fitted with WS-10C engines, an upgraded version of an older Chinese-made engine, but China has struggled to develop the WS-15 engine specifically designed for fifth-generation aircraft like the J-20. The lack of engine power is expected to prevent the J-20 from adopting advanced weaponry and high-end operations.Chinese military officials have said the WS-15 would be finished by 2023 and would put the jet on par with the US's F-22, but Heath said the upgrade shouldn't be overstated, calling the WS-15 "at least a generation behind" the F-22's engine.The WS-15 "has the usual Chinese problems of short maintenance schedules, or just a short lifespan due to maintenance issues, and quality-control issues and general underperformance," Heath told Insider.Despite its shortcomings, the J-20 has left an impression on US commanders, who have noted that Chinese pilots are flying the J-20 "pretty well," Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the head of US Pacific Air Forces, said in March.It is "still too early" to tell whether the J-20 will be used as a multi-role fighter like the F-35 or be focused on air-superiority like the F-22, but China is showing it can employ the jet effectively, Wilsbach said, referring to a recent encounter in which "we got relatively close to the J-20s with our F-35s in the East China Sea and were relatively impressed with command-and-control that was associated with the J-20s."Logistics and heavy liftA Chinese military Y-20 transport aircraft at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, November 7, 2018.AP Photo/Kin CheungLike the J-20, the Y-20 has been operational for about a decade, and China has focused on developing the Y-20 fleet to support longer-range military operations.Prior to the flight to Serbia, two Y-20s delivered more than 30 tons of supplies to Tonga after that country was devastated by a volcanic eruption and tsunami. The 6,000-mile flight was the longest known overseas mission for the Y-20, a former Chinese military instructor told the South China Morning Post.In November, an aerial-refueling variant of the Y-20 took part in a military flight near Taiwan for the first time, demonstrating a capability considered essential to support longer-range and longer-duration flights by China's fighters and bombers.The expanding reach of Chinese military aircraft has been noticed across the Pacific, including in Australia, which US and Australian officials say faces a renewed threat of attack from Beijing."If you look at those distances and how that's been transported, it's really captured the attention of folks in Canberra," Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific Security chair at Hudson Institute think tank, said of the flight to Serbia.Y-20s delivering medical workers and medical supplies to Wuhan in February 2020.TPG/Getty Images"This is exactly the kind of logistics and heavy lift that China's building [and] that could use some of these facilities and access points that they're putting money into," Cronin said on a recent podcast, pointing a security deal recently signed by China and the Solomon Islands.Long-distant flights to unfamiliar areas have training value but Chinese pilots already have experience conducting such operations in the older Russian-made Il-76 and Il-78 cargo planes that China's military, the People's Liberation Army, has used for decades, Heath said."The difference is they're using the Y-20 more than the Il-76s and 78s, but it's not a dramatic change," Heath told Insider, adding that those missions "are really not designed to replicate" combat, with which most of China's military does not have experience."I'm still not sure that the Chinese themselves know if they can deploy combat forces into a hostile country that is armed with the latest equipment, like surface-to-air missiles," Heath said. "That's a type of situation I just don't see the PLA being well prepared to carry out at this point."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 28th, 2022

Biden asks Congress for $33 billion in more Ukraine aid, the biggest request for assistance against Russia"s invasion yet

Over $20 billion will reportedly go to military assistance, while more funding will go toward Ukraine's economy and humanitarian aid. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during an event for the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year in the White House on April 27, 2022 in Washington, DC.Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images President Joe Biden says he is asking US Congress for $33 billion in aid for Ukraine. Over $20 billion is for military assistance; the rest is for Ukraine's economy and humanitarian aid. It's Biden's biggest request for assistance since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced he's asking Congress for $33 billion in aid for Ukraine — his biggest request for assistance since Russia invaded Ukraine in February."Basically, we're out of money," Biden said in remarks at the White House on Thursday. "That's why today, in order to sustain Ukraine as it continues to fight, I'm sending Congress a supplemental budget request that's going to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption to the brave Ukrainian fighters.""The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen," the president said, calling on Congress to quickly approve the request.Over $20 billion of the funding will go to military assistance, $8.5 billion will go to Ukraine's economy, and another $3 billion will go to humanitarian aid, per the Associated Press.The US has already provided Ukraine with billions in assistance, including lethal aid like Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Last month, Congress approved roughly $14 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine.Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned of a "lightning fast" response to any countries that intervene in Ukraine. "If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast," Putin said.—CSPAN (@cspan) April 28, 2022 Moscow on Thursday also warned NATO not to test its patience. "In the West, they are openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia including with the use of weapons received from NATO countries," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said to reporters in Moscow, Reuters reported."I don't advise you to test our patience further," Zakharova added.This came after James Heappey, the UK armed forces minister, on Tuesday said it's "completely legitimate" for Ukraine to attack Russian territory."In war, Ukraine needs to strike into its opponents' depth to attack its logistics lines, its fuel supplies, its ammunition depots, and that's part of it," Heappey told Times Radio"It is completely legitimate for Ukraine to be targeting in Russia's depth in order to disrupt the logistics, that if they weren't disrupted would directly contribute to death and carnage on Ukrainian soil," he added.In his remarks on Thursday, Biden said, "We're not attacking Russia. We're helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.""Russia is the aggressor. No ifs ands or buts about it," Biden added. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 28th, 2022

"Al Qaeda Is On Our Side": How Obama/Biden Team Empowered Terrorist Networks In Syria

'Al Qaeda Is On Our Side': How Obama/Biden Team Empowered Terrorist Networks In Syria Authored by Aaron Maté via RealClear Investigations, Hours after the Feb. 3 U.S. military raid in northern Syria that left the leader of ISIS and multiple family members dead, President Biden delivered a triumphant White House address.  The late-night Special Forces operation in Syria's Idlib province, Biden proclaimed, was a "testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they hide around the world." Unmentioned by the president, and virtually all media accounts of the assassination, was the critical role that top members of his administration played during the Obama years in creating the Al Qaeda-controlled hideout where ISIS head Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi, as well as his slain predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, found their final refuge. In waging a multi-billion dollar covert war in support of the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, top Obama officials who now serve under Biden made it American policy to enable and arm terrorist groups that attracted jihadi fighters from across the globe. This regime change campaign, undertaken one decade after Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11, helped a sworn U.S. enemy establish the Idlib safe haven that it still controls today.  A concise articulation came from Jake Sullivan to his then-State Department boss Hillary Clinton in a February 2012 email: "AQ [Al Qaeda] is on our side in Syria."  Sullivan, the current national security adviser, is one of many officials who oversaw the Syria proxy war under Obama to now occupy a senior post under Biden. This group includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, climate envoy John Kerry, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, NSC Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, and State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.  Their efforts to remake the Middle East via regime change, not just in Syria but earlier in Libya, led to the deaths of Americans – including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials in Benghazi in 2012; the slaughter of countless civilians; the creation of millions of refugees; and ultimately, Russia's entry into the Syrian battlefield.  Contacted through their current U.S. government agencies, none of the Obama-Biden principals offered comment on their policy of supporting an Al Qaeda-dominated insurgency in Syria. The Obama-Biden team's record in Syria resonates today as many of its members handle the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. As in Syria, the U.S. is flooding a chaotic war zone with weapons in a dangerous proxy conflict with Russia, with long-term ramifications that are impossible to foresee. "I deeply worry that what’s going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria," Democratic Senator Chris Coons told CBS News on April 17. Based on declassified documents, news reports, and scattered admissions of U.S. officials, this overlooked history of how the Obama-Biden team's effort to oust the Assad regime – in concert with allies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – details the series of discrete decisions that ultimately led the U.S. to empower terror networks bent on its destruction.  Seizing Momentum – and Munitions – From Libya to Pursue Regime Change in Syria Fresh off the ouster of Libya's Gaddafi in 2011, the Obama administration trained its sights on Syria's Assad. (c-span) The road to Al Qaeda's control of the Syrian province of Idlib actually started hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean in Libya. In March 2011, after heavy lobbying from senior officials including Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Obama authorized a bombing campaign in support of the jihadist insurgency fighting the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Backed by NATO firepower, the rebels toppled Gaddafi and gruesomely murdered him in October.  Buoyed by their quick success in Libya, the Obama administration set their sights on Damascus, by then a top regime change target in Washington. According to former NATO commander Wesley Clark, the Assad regime – a key ally of U.S. foes Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – was marked for overthrow alongside Iraq in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A leaked 2006 U.S. Embassy in Damascus cable assessed that Assad's "vulnerabilities" included "the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists," and detailed how the U.S. could "improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising." The outbreak of the Syrian insurgency in March 2011, coupled with the fall of Gaddafi, offered the U.S. a historic opportunity to exploit Syria's vulnerabilities. While the Arab Spring sparked peaceful Syrian protests against the ruling Ba'ath party's cronyism and repression, it also triggered a largely Sunni, rural-based revolt that took a sectarian and violent turn. The U.S. and its allies, namely Qatar and Turkey, capitalized by tapping the massive arsenal of the newly ousted Libyan government. "During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the [Gaddafi] regime in October 2011," the Defense Intelligence Agency reported the following year, "…weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya, to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria." The redacted DIA document, obtained by the group Judicial Watch, does not specify whether the U.S. was directly involved in these shipments. But it contains significant clues. With remarkable specificity, it detailed the size and contents of one such shipment in August 2012: 500 sniper rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 300 rounds, and 400 howitzer missiles. Most tellingly, the document noted that the weapons shipments were halted "in early September 2012." This was a clear reference to the killing by militants that month of four Americans – Ambassador Christopher Stevens, another State Department official, and two CIA contractors – in Benghazi, the port city where the weapons to Syria were coming from. The Benghazi annex "was at its heart a CIA operation," U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal. At least two dozen CIA employees worked in Benghazi under diplomatic cover. Although top intelligence officials obscured the Benghazi operation in sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, a Senate investigation eventually confirmed a direct CIA role in the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria. A classified version of a 2014 Senate report, not publicly released, documented an agreement between President Obama and Turkey to funnel weapons from Libya to insurgents in Syria. The operation, established in early 2012, was run by then-CIA Director David Petraeus. "The [Benghazi] consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms" to Syria, a former U.S. intelligence official told journalist Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books. "It had no real political role." The Death of a U.S. Ambassador Ambassador Stevens allegedly facilitated arms transfers from the Benghazi compound where he died. AP  Under diplomatic cover, Stevens appears to have been a significant figure in the CIA program. More than one year before he became ambassador in June 2012, Stevens was appointed the U.S. liaison to the Libyan opposition. In this role, he worked with the Al Qaeda-tied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and its leader, Abdelhakim Belhadj, a warlord who fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. After Gaddafi's ouster, Belhadj was named head of the Tripoli Military Council, which controlled security in the country's capital. Belhadj's portfolio was not limited to post-coup Libya. In November 2011, the Al Qaeda ally traveled to Turkey to meet with leaders of the Free Syrian Army, the CIA-backed opposition military coalition. Belhadj's trip came as part of the new Libyan government's effort to provide "money and weapons to the growing insurgency against Bashar al-Assad," the London Telegraph reported at the time. On September 14, 2012 – just three days after Stevens and his American colleagues were killed – the London Times revealed that a Libyan vessel "carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began," had recently docked in the Turkish port of Iskenderun. Once unloaded, "most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines." The known details of Stevens' last hours on September 11 suggest that shipping weapons was at the top of his agenda.  Although based in Tripoli and facing violent threats, he nonetheless made the dangerous trek to Benghazi around the fraught anniversary of 9/11. According to a 2016 report from the House Intelligence Committee, one of Stevens' last scheduled meetings was with the head of al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services Company, a Libyan firm involved in ferrying weapons to Syria. His final meeting of the day was with Consul General Ali Sait Akin of Turkey, where the weapons were shipped. Fox News later reported that "Stevens was in Benghazi to negotiate a weapons transfer." With the Libyan channel shut down by Stevens' murder, the U.S. and its allies turned to other sources. One was Croatia, where Saudi Arabia financed a major weapons purchase in late 2012 that was arranged by the CIA. The CIA's use of the Saudi kingdom's vast coffers continued an arrangement from prior covert proxy wars, including the arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan and of the Contras in Nicaragua. Although the Obama administration claimed that the weapons funneled to Syria were intended for "moderate rebels," they ultimately ended up in the hands of a jihadi-dominated insurgency. Just one month after the Benghazi attack, the New York Times reported that "hard-line Islamic jihadists," including groups "with ties or affiliations with Al Qaeda," have received "the lion’s share of the arms shipped to the Syrian opposition." Covertly Arming An Al Qaeda-Dominated Insurgency The Obama administration did not need media accounts to learn that jihadists dominated the Syrian insurgency on the receiving end of a CIA supply chain. One month before the Benghazi attack, Pentagon intelligence analysts gave the White House a blunt appraisal. An August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, disseminated widely among U.S. officials, noted that "Salafi[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency." Al Qaeda, the report stressed, "supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning." Their aim was to create a "Salafist principality in eastern Syria" – an early warning of the ISIS caliphate that would be established two years later. General Michael Flynn, who headed the DIA at the time, later recalled that his staff "got enormous pushback" from the Obama White House. "I felt that they did not want to hear the truth," Flynn said. In 2015, one year after Flynn was forced out, dozens of Pentagon intelligence analysts signed on to a complaint alleging that top Pentagon intelligence officials were "cooking the books" to paint a rosier picture of the jihadi presence in Syria. (The Pentagon later cleared CENTCOM commanders of wrongdoing.) The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main CIA-backed insurgent force, also informed Obama officials of the jihadi dominance in their ranks. "From the reports we get from the doctors," FSA officials told the State Department in November 2012, "most of the injured and dead FSA are Jabhat al-Nusra, due to their courage and [the fact they are] always at the front line." Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) is Al Qaeda's franchise in Syria. It emerged as a splinter group of Al Qaeda in Iraq after a falling out between AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his then-deputy, Mohammed al-Jolani. In 2013, Baghdadi relaunched his organization under the name of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Jolani led his Syria-based Al Qaeda faction under the black flag of al-Nusra. "[W]hile rarely acknowledged explicitly in public," Charles Lister, a Gulf state-funded analyst in close contact with Syrian insurgent groups wrote in March 2015, "the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield."  As one Free Syrian Army leader told the New York Times: "No FSA faction in the north can operate without al-Nusra’s approval." According to David McCloskey, a former CIA analyst who covered Syria in the war's early years, U.S. officials knew that "al-Qaeda affiliated groups and Salafi jihadist groups were the primary engine of the insurgency." This, McCloskey says, was "a tremendously problematic aspect of the conflict." In his memoir, senior Obama aide Ben Rhodes acknowledged that al-Nusra "was probably the strongest fighting force within the opposition." It was also clear, he wrote, that U.S.-backed insurgent groups were "fighting side by side with al-Nusra." For this reason, Rhodes recalled, he argued against the State Department's December 2012 designation of al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization. This move "would alienate the same people we want to help." (Asked about wanting to help an Al Qaeda-dominated insurgency, Rhodes did not respond). In fact, designating al-Nusra as a terror organization allowed the Obama administration to publicly claim that it opposed Al Qaeda's Syria branch while continuing to covertly arm the insurgency that it dominated. Three months after adding al-Nusra to the terrorism list, the U.S. and its allies "dramatically stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels" to help "rebels to try and seize Damascus," the Associated Press reported in March 2013. 'There Was No Moderate Middle' Harvard 2014: Biden goes off-script, revealing the truth of U.S. support for jihadists in Syria. Despite being privately aware of Nusra's dominance, Obama administration officials continued to publicly insist that the U.S. was only supporting Syria's "moderate opposition," as then-Deputy National Security Adviser Antony Blinken described it in September 2014. But speaking to a Harvard audience days later, then-Vice President Biden blurted out the concealed reality. In the Syrian insurgency, "there was no moderate middle," Biden admitted. Instead, U.S. "allies" in Syria "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad." Those weapons were supplied, Biden said, to "al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world." Biden quickly apologized for his comments, which appeared to fit the classic definition of the Kinsley gaffe: a politician inadvertently telling the truth. Biden's only error was omitting his administration's critical role in helping its allies arm the jihadis. Rather than shut down a CIA program that was aiding the Al Qaeda-dominated insurgency, Obama expanded it. In April 2013, the president signed an order that amended the CIA's covert war, codenamed Timber Sycamore, to allow direct U.S. arming and training. After tapping Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar to fund its arms pipeline for insurgents inside Syria, Obama's order allowed the CIA to directly furnish U.S.-made weapons. Just as with the regime change campaign in Libya, a key architect of this operation was Hillary Clinton. Obama's upgraded proxy war in Syria proved to be "one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A.," the New York Times reported in 2017. Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a budget of nearly $1 billion per year, or around $1 of every $15 in CIA spending. The CIA armed and trained nearly 10,000 insurgents, spending "roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program," U.S. officials told the Washington Post in 2015. Two years later, one U.S. official estimated that CIA-funded militias "may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years." But these militias were not just killing pro-Syrian government forces. As the New York Times reported in April 2017, US-backed insurgents carried out "sectarian mass murder." One such act of mass murder came in August 2013, when the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army joined an al-Nusra and ISIS offensive on Alawite areas of Latakia. A Human Rights Investigation found that the insurgents engaged in "the systematic killing of entire families," slaughtering a documented 190 civilians, including 57 women, 18 children, and 14 elderly men. In a video from the field, former Syrian army general Salim Idriss, head of the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC), bragged that "we are cooperating to a great extent in this operation." The Latakia massacres came four months after the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, hailed Idriss and his fighters as "the moderate and responsible elements of the armed opposition." The role of Idriss's forces in the slaughter did not cancel the administration's endorsement. In October, the Washington Post revealed that the "CIA is expanding a clandestine effort … aimed at shoring up the fighting power of units aligned with the Supreme Military Council, an umbrella organization led by [Idriss] that is the main recipient of U.S. support." Officially, the upgraded CIA program barred direct support to al-Nusra or its allies in Syria. But once U.S. weapons arrived in Syria, the Obama administration recognized that it had no way of controlling their use – an apparent motive for waging the program covertly. "We needed plausible deniability in case the arms got into the hands of al-Nusra," a former senior administration official told the New York Times in 2013. One area where U.S. arms got into al-Nusra's hands was the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. Al Qaeda leaders would ultimately control and – though the group disputes it – provide ISIS leaders sanctuary there.   'Al-Qaeda's Largest Safe Haven Since 9/11' Al-Nusra helped capture the Syrian province of Idlib in 2015 with de facto U.S. support. Al-Nusra Front social media account via AP, File In May 2015, an array of insurgent groups, dubbed the Jaish al-Fatah ("Army of Conquest") coalition, captured Idlib province from the Syrian government. The fight was led by al-Nusra, and showcased what Charles Lister, the D.C.-based analyst with contacts to insurgents in Syria, dubbed "a far improved level of coordination" between rival militants, including the U.S.-backed FSA and multiple "jihadist factions." For Lister, the conquest of Idlib also revealed that the U.S. and its allies "changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists." Citing multiple battlefield commanders, Lister reported that "the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey," which coordinated support to U.S.-backed insurgent groups, "was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation" led by al-Nusra. While the insurgents' U.S.-led command had previously opposed "any direct coordination" with jihadist groups, the Idlib offensive "demonstrated something different," Lister concluded: To capture the province, U.S. officials "specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations." The U.S.-approved battlefield cooperation in Idlib allowed al-Nusra fighters to directly benefit from U.S. weapons. Despite occasional flare-ups between them, al-Nusra was able to use U.S.-backed insurgent groups "as force multipliers," the Institute for the Study of War, a prominent D.C. think tank, observed when the battle began. Insurgent military gains, Foreign Policy reported in April 2015, were achieved "thanks in large part to suicide bombers and American anti-tank TOW missiles." The jihadist-led victory in Idlib quickly subjected its residents to sectarian terror. In June 2015, al-Nusra fighters massacred at least 20 members of the Druze faith. Hundreds of villagers spared in the attack were forced to convert to Sunni Islam. Facing the same threats, nearly all of Idlib's remaining 1,200 Christians fled the province, leaving a Christian population that reportedly totals just three people today. In a 2017 post-mortem on the Obama administration's covert war in Syria, the New York Times described the insurgents' conquest of Idlib as among the CIA program's "periods of success." This was certainly the case for Al Qaeda. "Idlib Province," Brett McGurk, the anti-ISIS envoy under Obama and Trump, and now Biden's top White House official for the Middle East, said in 2017, "is the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11." U.S. Allows ISIS Takeover ISIS got a backdoor assist from Washington in the takeover of its first Syrian stronghold in Raqqa. AP Photo/Militant Website Al Qaeda is not the only sectarian death squad that managed to establish a safe haven in the chaos of the Syria proxy war. Starting in 2013, al-Nusra's sister-turned-rival group, ISIS, seized considerable territory of its own. As with Al Qaeda, ISIS' land-grab in Syria received a significant backdoor assist from Washington. Before Al Qaeda captured Idlib, the first ISIS stronghold in Syria, Raqqa, grew out of a similar alliance between U.S.-backed "moderate rebels" and jihadis. After this coalition seized the city from the Syrian government in March 2013, ISIS took full control in November. When ISIS declared its caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014, the U.S. launched an air campaign against the group's strongholds. But the Obama administration's anti-ISIS offensive contained a significant exception. In key areas where ISIS’s advance could threaten the Assad regime, the U.S. watched it happen. In April 2015, just as al-Nusra was conquering Idlib, ISIS seized major parts of the Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, marking what the New York Times called the group's "greatest inroads yet" into the Syrian capital. In the ancient city of Palmyra, the U.S. allowed an outright ISIS takeover. "[A]s Islamic State closed in on Palmyra, the U.S.-led aerial coalition that has been pummeling Islamic State in Syria for the past 18 months took no action to prevent the extremists’ advance toward the historic town – which, until then, had remained in the hands of the sorely overstretched Syrian security forces," the Los Angeles Times reported in March 2016. In a leaked conversation with Syrian opposition activists months later, then-Secretary of State John Kerry explained the U.S. rationale for letting ISIS advance. "Daesh [ISIS] was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth," Kerry explained. "And we know that this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, that Assad would then negotiate" his way out of power. In short, the U.S. was leveraging ISIS's growth to impose regime change on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. strategy of "watching" ISIS's advance in Syria, Kerry also admitted, directly caused Russia's 2015 entry into the conflict. The threat of an ISIS takeover, Kerry said, is "why Russia went in. Because they didn’t want a Daesh government." Russia's military intervention in Syria prevented the ISIS government in Damascus that Kerry and fellow Obama administration principals had been willing to risk. Pulverizing Russian airstrikes also dealt a fatal blow to the Al Qaeda-dominated insurgency that the Obama team had spent billions of dollars to support. From U.S. Enemy to 'Asset' in Syria With U.S.-backed fighters vanquished and one of their main champions, Hillary Clinton, defeated in the November 2016 election, the CIA operation in Syria met what the New York Times called a "sudden death." After criticizing the proxy war in Syria on the campaign trail, President Trump shut down the Timber Sycamore program for good in July 2017. "It turns out it’s – a lot of al-Qaeda we’re giving these weapons to," Trump told the Wall Street Journal that month. With the exit of the Obama-Biden team, the U.S. was no longer fighting on Al Qaeda's side. But that did not mean that the U.S. was prepared to confront the enemy that it had helped install in Idlib. While Trump put an end to the CIA proxy war, his efforts to further extricate the U.S. from Syria by withdrawing troops were thwarted by senior officials who shared the preceding administration's regime change goals. "When President Trump said 'I want everybody out of Syria,' the top brass at Pentagon and State had aneurysms," Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense during Trump's last months in office, recalls. Jim Jeffrey, Trump's envoy for Syria, admitted to deceiving the president in order to keep in place "a lot more than" the 200 U.S. troops that Trump had reluctantly agreed to. "We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there," Jeffrey told Defense One. Those "shell games" have put U.S. soldiers in harm's way, including four servicemembers recently wounded in a rocket attack on their base in northeastern Syria. While thwarting a full U.S. troop withdrawal, Jeffrey and other senior officials have also preserved the U.S. government's tacit alliance with Idlib's Al-Qaeda rulers. Officially, al-Nusra remains on the U.S. terrorism list. Despite several name changes, the State Department has dismissed its rebranding efforts as a "vehicle to advance its position in the Syrian uprising and to further its own goals as an al-Qa’ida affiliate." But in practice, as Jeffrey explained last year, the U.S. has treated Al-Nusra as "an asset" to U.S. strategy in Syria. "They are the least bad option of the various options on Idlib, and Idlib is one of the most important places in Syria, which is one of the most important places right now in the Middle East," he said. Jeffrey also revealed that he had communicated with al-Nusra leader Mohammed al-Jolani via "indirect channels." Jeffrey's comments underscore a profound shift in the U.S. government's Middle East strategy as a result of the Syria proxy war: The Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, the terror group that attacked the U.S. on 9/11, and which then became the target of a global war on terror aimed at destroying it, is no longer seen by powerful officials in Washington as an enemy, but an "asset." Since retaking office under Biden, the Obama veterans who targeted Syria with one of the most expensive covert wars in history have deprioritized the war-torn nation. While pledging to maintain crippling sanctions and keep U.S. troops at multiple bases, as well as announcing sporadic airstrikes, the White House has otherwise said little publicly about its Syria policy. The U.S. military raid that ended ISIS leader al-Qurayshi’s life in February prompted the only Syria-focused speech of Biden's presidency. While Biden trumpeted the lethal operation, the fact that it occurred in Idlib underscores a contradiction that his administration has yet to address. By taking out an ISIS leader in Al Qaeda's Syria stronghold, the president and his top officials are now confronting threats from a terror safe haven that they helped create. Tyler Durden Thu, 04/21/2022 - 21:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 21st, 2022

Ukraine claims Ramzan Kadyrov"s troops killed 3 Russian troops who no longer wanted to fight

A Ukrainian official said Chechen troops controlled by Putin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov quelled riots among Russian soldiers over low pay, killing three. Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.Yelena Afonina/TASS via Getty Images A Ukrainian military official said Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov's troops killed three Russian soldiers who rioted. Kadyrov's militia has a reputation for brutality and is reported to be fighting in Ukraine. Insider was unable to verify the claim, though it is one of numerous similar reports on low Russian morale. A Ukrainian official said that troops working for Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen Republic leader and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, killed three Russian soldiers who did not want to fight in the Ukraine war.A number of Russian soldiers had rioted over a lack of promised pay in Polohy, a district in the southeastern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, according to an official statement attributed to regional military spokesperson Col. Ivan Arefyev.The statement, posted to Telegram on Wednesday, said that Ukrainian intelligence found that the soldiers in question "were ready to surrender their weapons and go home." But fighters answering to Kadyrov "brutally killed" three of the Russian soldiers, Arefyev's statement said.Insider has been unable to verify the incident, and did not immediately receive a response to enquiries to the Russian embassy in London and Chechnya's parliament.Kadyrov is a Putin loyalist who runs the quasi-autonomous region of Chechnya with an iron fist. His private militia — "Kadyrovites" as per the statement — are widely reported to have been fighting in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Arefyev's report, if verified, would give a rare insight into the relationship between Kadyrov's forces and the Russian rank and file in this conflict.Kadyrov's troops have a reputation for ferocity that is frequently leveraged in Kremlin propaganda, according to the New Lines Institute think tank. Arefyev's statement follows a string of reports that a proportion of Russian soldiers are suffering low morale and reluctant to carry out Putin's military objectives in Ukraine. Some such reports originate with Ukrainian officials and are amplified as part of the country's war effort, and not all have been independently verified. Ukraine's Security Service on Wednesday tweeted audio purporting to be intercepted telephone conversations between frustrated Russian soldiers. In the audio, the voices suggest shooting a former colonel. They said they were left in a precarious situation with no weapons or supplies, and that they had been ordered to fire on civilians."We were like what the fuck, you know?" says one voice. "Fucking bastards … shoot that wanker first, right now, motherfucker," said another, in apparent reference to the colonel. The other can be heard agreeing, saying he would write "a massive report" when he got home. As with the report from Arefyev, Insider was unable to verify the authenticity of the recording.But others have emerged from independent sources.On March 23, the Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsymbaliuk reported that frustrated members of a Russian battalion ran over their colonel's legs in a tank, hospitalizing them. A senior Western official later told The Washington Post that they believed the colonel had been killed "as a consequence of the scale of the losses taken by his own brigade."In early April, lawyer Mikhail Benyash told the Financial Times that more than 1,000 Russian service members had contacted him after he agreed to represent three Russian national guardsmen who refused to fight in Ukraine. The Russian newspaper Pskovskaya Gubernia also reported on April 7 that 60 Russian paratroopers had refused to join the invasion. The paper has a reputation for independence within Russia's repressive media environment. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytApr 21st, 2022

Decades of leaning on Russia forces Germany into a perilous decision: continue to buy Russian oil or risk economic catastrophe

Russia supplied 30% of Germany's energy needs last year. Germany needs to keep the lights on, but doing so directly funds the invasion of Ukraine. An employee prepares a train loaded with gasoline at the Petrolchemie und Kraftstoffe oil refinery in Schwedt/Oder on October 20, 2014.Axel Schmidt/Reuters Germany has relied on Russian oil and gas for decades. Now the nation faces a perilous choice. German purchases help fund the Ukraine war, but banning Russian energy risks economic disaster. As the war continues, Germany is under growing pressure to take a side. Germany faces escalating pressure to wean itself off Russian energy, but decades of economic and political decisions make a fast decoupling practically impossible.The US, the UK, and the European Union all moved in tandem last month to sanction Russia's massive energy industry. The punitive measures varied dramatically. The US fully banned Russian oil, natural gas, and coal, while the UK rolled out a plan to stop importing Russian oil by the end of the year. The EU announced a ban only on Russian coal this month and is still mulling whether to target Russia's oil or gas trades.Germany is one of the biggest holdouts."Over the past decades, our dependence on oil, coal, and gas from Russia has been increasing," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a March 23 speech to Germany's lower house of parliament, Bloomberg reported. "We will end this dependence as quickly as possible."The country is heavily reliant on Russian energy, particularly the natural gas that's shipped directly from Russia through the Nord Stream pipeline network. Removing Russian gas from the German economy would immediately slam its manufacturing industry, sharply lift prices for basic commodities, and likely force the country into rationing schemes as the government scrambles to find new suppliers. With millions of dollars flowing from Germany to the Kremlin every day, the pressure is on Scholz to engineer an unprecedented energy pivot.The alternative is similarly bleak. As Russia's invasion drags on, the West's sanctions don't seem to be working. The ruble has quickly recovered most of the value it lost after the sanctions' announcement, largely padded by steady income from Russia's energy sector. Russia is projected to earn more from its energy exports in 2022 than it did last year."We will not persuade anyone to buy our oil and gas," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on March 10, just days after the West unveiled sanctions targeting the country's energy sector. "If they want to replace it with something, they are welcome. We will have supply markets. We already have them."Germany is likely to play a major role in fueling a windfall for Russia. Russia supplied nearly one-third of Germany's total energy needs — as well as a solid majority of its natural gas supply — in 2021, according to the German think tank Agora Energiewende. Its purchases of Russian energy commodities are estimated to add roughly $220 million to Russia's balance sheet every day, The New York Times reported on April 6.A mounting pile of evidence of atrocities in Ukraine has prompted more calls for a full embargo on Russian energy and left Germany with a serious dilemma. Escalating sanctions could starve the Kremlin of the cash needed to continue its invasion but would almost certainly plunge Germany into an economic crisis.  But continuing to fund Russia's military grows less accepted by the day."All of a sudden the discussion in Germany about whether our economy would grow by 6 percent or just 3 percent in the event of an energy embargo seems petty and insignificant. We resemble a hostage to the Kremlin," Handelsblatt, a German financial newspaper, said.Germany's energy dilemma began in the 1960sGermany's reliance on Russian energy was intentional, and it all began with an oil pipeline. The abundance of Russian oil and gas became apparent in the 1960s, and a partnership between the two countries quickly formed as the then divided Germany manufactured pipeline infrastructure and the then-Soviet Union opened its huge energy trade to Eastern Europe.The first oil pipeline between the USSR and West Germany, nicknamed the "Friendship Pipeline," began operations in the mid-'60s. The first natural-gas pipeline between the two followed in 1973, the same year the Soviet Union started pumping gas to East Germany."This will change our very being," Leonid Brezhnev, then the general secretary of the Soviet Union's governing Communist Party, said in February 1971. "They will change our possibilities, our relationship with all of Europe — and not only with the socialist countries, where we are able to ship gas and oil, but with France, the FRG, Italy."The friendship was tested during the Cold War. Despite extreme tensions between West Germany and the Soviet Union, pipelines between the two allowed Soviet energy commodities to reach the West and even make their way to the US. As The New York Times reported in October 1973, the energy trade between West Germany and the USSR was "a simpler arrangement" than American companies' proposals to develop gas resources in Siberia.By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Soviet Union had cemented itself as a critical supplier of energy commodities for Germany, the EU, and the West.Germany's commitment to phase out nuclear energy intensified its dependence on Russia. The German government voted overwhelmingly in 2011 — soon after the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns — to shut down eight nuclear-power plants immediately and phase out the remaining nine plants by 2022.The Russia-Germany energy partnership was still growing just months before the war in Ukraine began. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was set to double the network's total capacity, was completed in September. Germany froze the certification of the pipeline just before the invasion began in February, but the infrastructure serves as a symbol of just how quickly relations between the two countries have changed.Natural gas remains the sticking point in sanctioning RussiaGermany has made some major strides toward energy independence since the war began. Efforts to find oil supply elsewhere have cut down the share of Russian oil used by Germany to 25% from 35%, Robert Habeck, Germany's economy minister, said on March 25. The country also halved its imports of Russian coal, and German power plants should be able to fully transition off such coal as early as fall, Habeck added.But weaning the country off Russia's natural gas remains a tall order. The share of Russian gas imports is expected to drop by 24% by the summer, but fully removing Russia from Germany's gas trade could take until summer 2024, the economy minister said.German Finance Minister Christian Lindner echoed that forecast on April 4, telling reporters ahead of EU talks in Brussels that Russian natural gas "cannot be substituted in the short term.""We would inflict more damage on ourselves than on them," he added.Lindner later rejected an EU embargo on Russian natural gas, instead proposing to ban oil, coal, and gas on separate timelines as the bloc looks for new suppliers.Germany still hopes to cut Russia out of its energy supply chain, Scholz said on April 8, according to Reuters. Just don't expect a speedy turnaround."We are actively working to get independent from the necessity of importing gas from Russia," Scholz said. "This is, as you may imagine, not that easy because it needs infrastructure that has to be built first."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytApr 17th, 2022

Russia"s losses in Ukraine include many elite troops that take years and millions of dollars to train, BBC investigation finds

Russia has lost numerous elite and high-ranking soldiers in Ukraine, at a potential cost of millions of dollars, according to a BBC investigation. Russian soldiers on a tank in Donetsk, Ukraine on March 26, 2022.Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A BBC investigation found that the Russian army has lost numerous elite troops in Ukraine. Some officers lost take over a decade, and between thousands and millions of dollars to train. Estimates of Russian troop losses vary. Around 20% of those identified by the BBC were officers.  Russia has lost some of its most specialized and costly troops in its invasion of Ukraine, according to a BBC investigation. Of the 1,083 Russian fighters identified by the BBC 's Russian-language operation, around a fifth — 217 — were officers ranking from junior lieutenant to general, the network said.The BBC said that among those troops were some of Russia's most expensive and difficult to replace.The higher-ranking losses include 10 colonels, 20 lieutenant colonels, 31 majors and 155 junior officers, the BBC reported. To illustrate the cost to Russia, it said:An infantry lieutenant costs $10,000 to train, over a five-year period.Other officers can cost up to $60,000 each to train.A top fighter pilot can cost up to $14 million to train over a period of 14 years.Figures like these suggest that even Russia's best troops are being killed in Ukraine, not just low-ranking soldiers who are easier to muster.The BBC can track only a minority of troops killed in Russia. The network previously reported that Russia is suppressing news of casualties in the country, and defense officials give only sporadic updates. Western intelligence sources have said the true loses are much higher.Members of elite units have also been killed, the BBC investigation found: 15 men from the special forces of the GRU intelligence agency and 10 special-forces troops of Rosgvardia, the Russian national guard.It also noted that three of those killed had earned maroon berets marking them out as Russia's most elite troops.The BBC said that officers and elite fighters may be over-represented in its sample because their elevated status means their bodies are retrieved more urgently and their lives celebrated more widely.Ukraine has accused Russia of abandoning the bodies of its killed soldiers, refusing to accept them back even when prompted.Eyewitnesses also told Radio Free Europe in mid-March that corpses and injured soldiers were being transported via Russian ally Belarus in an effort to disguise the death toll.As of early April, 18 commanders and generals have been reported killed in action, as Insider's Alia Shoaib reported. The Kremlin has only officially confirmed the death of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, in what was considered a major blow to troop morale.As Insider's Chris Woody reported on March 21, senior Russian officers tend to be more directly involved in combat than their US or NATO counterparts, exposing them to more danger.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 12th, 2022

The Su-25, a Soviet-made tank-busting aircraft used by Russia and Ukraine, is taking a beating over Ukraine

In a contested air environment, ground-attack aircraft like the Su-25 or the A-10 will suffer losses that may quickly become unacceptable. Russian Su-25s arrive at Iraq's al-Muthanna military airbase, in Baghdad, July 1, 2014.REUTERS/Stringer Among the best-known jets used by both Russia and Ukraine is the Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. The Su-25 is a rough contemporary of the US's A-10, and they perform similar missions. Heavy losses of both Russian and Ukrainian Su-25s indicate jets like it and the A-10 have a limited future. In the Russia-Ukraine War both sides are using so much Soviet-era equipment that the Russians have had visually distinguished their own vehicles with the now-famous "Z."Among the best-known aircraft to operate on both sides of the fight has been the Su-25 "Frogfoot" jet attack aircraft.The Frogfoot is a rough contemporary of the storied American A-10 "Warthog," and as such we can begin to draw some tentative conclusions about the future of the Warthog from the experience of the Frogfoot.Su-25 – the Soviets have a tank killerRussian Su-25s during an air show, August 21, 2021.Erik RomanenkobackslashTASS via Getty ImagesThe Frogfoot began production in the USSR 1978, a few years after Congress forced the Air Force to follow through on its plans to develop and adopt its own tank-busting ground attack aircraft.The Frogfoot and the Warthog are hardly the same aircraft, even as they perform very similar missions. The Frogfoot is smaller, lighter, and faster than the Warthog, although it has many of the same "flying tank" characteristics and was designed for essentially the same mission.The Frogfoot uses different munitions and has a smaller gun, but like the Warthog it is designed to attack concentrations of vehicles and infantry, concentrations that have become extremely commonplace during the Russia-Ukraine War.Russian Su-25 Frogfoot jets in the Aviadarts military aviation competition near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015.Maxim Shemetov/REUTERSLike its American counterpart, the Su-25 carries a bewildering amount of ordnance, ordnance which has been upgraded substantially over the decades of the jet's service.Su-25s flew during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, flew in a variety of conflicts in Africa, flew in the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, flew during Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008, flew in the 2014 war between Russian and Ukraine, and have flown on both sides of the war that began with Russia's invasion in February.Unlike the A-10, the Frogfoot ended up in the air forces of a great many countries around the world. In part this was because the Soviet Union designed the plane for export and in part because when the USSR disintegrated Frogfoots ended up in many different air forces, some of which subsequently exported them to their final destinations.This means that we have a substantial body of evidence regarding its performance in conflicts around the world.LossesRussian Defense MinistryThere's no question that the Frogfoot can be used to devastating effect, under certain conditions. This is why both the Russians and Ukrainians have used them extensively during this conflict. But throughout its history the Frogfoot has suffered losses considerably higher than its faster, higher flying cousins.During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, numerous Frogfoots conducting low-altitude attack runs were lost to shoulder-launched SAMs. Russia lost several Frogfoots in its invasion of Georgia in 2008.In 2014, Ukraine lost a number of Frogfoots to the air-defense systems that Russia supplied to separatists in the Donbas region (systems that were sometimes operated by Russians themselves).In the current war, Frogfoots currently lead total confirmed fixed-wing losses for BOTH Russia and Ukraine.What it means for the A-10A-10C Thunderbolt II at the Yuma Air Show at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, March 9, 2019.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Betty R. ChevalierAs most readers are aware, while the A-10 has performed effectively in numerous conflicts since its development in the early 1970s it has never been a favorite of the US Air Force. Early complaints about the A-10 revolved around doctrinal and inter-service disputes between the Air Force and the Army over the importance of close air support (CAS).More recently, the Air Force has argued that Congress should allow the retirement of the A-10 because the Warthog cannot survive in environments contested by enemy SAMs and enemy fighters.It cannot be denied that these losses tend to support the Air Force's narrative that aircraft like the A-10 and Su-25 cannot contribute in a high-intensity war without suffering excessive losses. There's no doubt that the A-10 could have a devastating impact on a modern battlefield if unleashed; experience from 1991 and from the Wars on Terror is clear in this regard.However, the losses that the Su-25 has suffered over Ukraine and in other conflicts suggests that the Air Force may be more or less correct about the future of the A-10.A US Air Force A-10 over Afghanistan after aerial refueling, March 12, 2018.DVIDSIn a contested air environment, even one that is imperfectly contested as is the case with Ukraine, ground-attack aircraft like the Warthog or the Frogfoot will suffer a degree of attrition that may quickly become unacceptable.This does not mean that the aircraft are useless (again, Russia and Ukraine both persist in deploying the jets despite losses) but it does suggest that air forces will need to take extraordinary care to ensure that their close-air-support planes can perform in relatively safe conditions.Perhaps more importantly, it suggests that UAVs such as the Turkish TB2 represent an important wedge into the long-standing debate over the importance and effectiveness of close air support.Now a 1945 contributing editor, Dr. Robert Farley is a senior lecturer at the Patterson School at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Farley is the author of "Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force" (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the "Battleship Book" (Wildside, 2016), and "Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology" (University of Chicago, 2020).Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 11th, 2022

Ukrainian vigilantes may try to seek retribution for Russian war crimes, expert warns

Vigilante groups were active during 2013-2014 protests, a Harvard anthropologist told Insider — and they may return amid the war with Russia. A member of the 127th Territorial Defense Force brigade stands guard as a car approaches after curfew on a road on the outskirts of Kharkiv on April 04, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images Ukrainian vigilante groups may try to seek justice for Russian war crimes, an expert told Insider. Such groups were formed from volunteer brigades during Ukraine's 2013-2014 Maidan revolution. A Harvard anthropologist said similar groups may spring up in response to the Russian invasion. Ukrainian vigilante groups could try to seek revenge or accountability for Russian atrocities and war crimes being committed during the ongoing war, a Harvard anthropologist told Insider. Emily Channell-Justice, the director of Harvard University's Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program, said Ukraine has seen vigilante groups operate in the past. Though there aren't any indications that vigilantes are currently operating, Channell-Justice said, Ukraine's reliance on territorial defense brigades and volunteer fighters suggests some may again choose to take a form of justice into their own hands. During Ukraine's 2013-2014 Maidan Revolution — mass demonstrations sparked by Ukraine's leadership backing out of a European Union trade deal and developing closer ties with Moscow — volunteer brigades took shape to fight against the government and targeted pro-Russian Ukrainians, Channell-Justice said.These volunteer brigades were "self-proclaimed police forces" and acted like "neighborhood watch groups," she told Insider. After months of bloody civil unrest overhauled the Ukrainian government and forced former president Viktor Yanukovych from power, the Ukrainian military then absorbed the volunteer brigades, Channell-Justice said.These brigades were not only active in Kyiv, but also in other cities and regions of Ukraine, she added."Because Ukraine is so reliant right now on territorial defense units and volunteers, I wouldn't be surprised if we started to see some kind of vigilante [groups] ... holding people accountable," she said. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Western leaders have slammed President Vladimir Putin's forces for their brutality and indiscriminate killing of civilians.In the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, hundreds of civilians were found dead after Ukraine liberated the city from Russian forces last week. In the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, the city council claimed Russia is using mobile crematoriums to hide evidence of "crimes." A handful of states — like the US — already accused Russian forces of committing war crimes and atrocities, while organizations like the United Nations and EU have opened investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Despite the international condemnation, it is unclear if Russia — which does not recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court — will ultimately face criminal consequences. A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022.AP Photo/Felipe Dana, FileChannell-Justice says she hasn't seen any "rallying cries" calling for extra-judicial justice yet.She added: "None of the territorial defense that I've seen, none of the Telegram channels that I've been paying attention to — none of them are saying anything like that."However, a recent video verified by the New York Times appears to show Ukrainian soldiers executing Russian captives outside Kyiv last month. A Ukrainian news agency claimed the ambush that led to the alleged slaughter was the work of the "Georgian Legion," a group of volunteers that formed in 2014 to fight for Ukraine after Russia invaded Crimea, The Times reported. Meanwhile, Ukrainians are watching to see how the international community responds to Russia's ongoing assault, Channell-Justice said, like Thursday's UN General Assembly vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council."Moves like that might prevent such vigilante justice from having to seem necessary," she said. "But if Ukraine feels abandoned, I would not be surprised if that is the step that they do take."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 8th, 2022

Canada, Denmark, and Norway are sending a "light and lethal" rocket launcher to help Ukrainians shred Russian armor

The M72 has been in use since the 1960s, and with a formidable shaped charge, it can punch through 12 inches of armor at a range of up to 656 feet. A US Marine fires an M72 Light Anti-Armor Weapon during a drill in Jordan, February 26, 2021.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Benjamin Aulick Canada, Norway, and Denmark are sending nearly 9,000 M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons to Ukraine. The LAW has been around since the early 1960s for use against Soviet light tanks in Europe. The single-use disposable weapon can be used against vehicles and buildings and gets high marks from troops. Thousands of M72 anti-tank launchers ready for action in Ukraine – The M72 light anti-tank weapon (LAW) is seeing the battlefield in high numbers in Ukraine after a donation by the Canadian military.The LAW is nothing new, but it is combat-proven. Canada announced it was sending 4,500 M72 rocket launchers to Ukraine earlier this month. These weapons should be in the hands of Ukrainian fighters by now. Norway (2,000 units) and Denmark (2,700) have also provided the M72 LAW to Ukraine.The M72 LAW has its advantagesThe LAW is similar to the AT4 tank killer. It is a single-use disposable tube-shaped weapon fired from the shoulder. With a range of up to 656 feet, the LAW can punch through 12 inches of armor with a formidable shaped charge.The LAW is a version of the portable, lightweight 66mm rocket launcher from 1956. The improved LAW has a velocity of 650 feet per second.A US Marine prepares to fire an M72 LAW during an exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, January 27, 2020.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert KuehnM72 LAW: history of the weaponThe LAW has been around since the early 1960s for use against Soviet light tanks in Europe. The one-shot, one-kill disposable rocket system was considered innovative.Soldiers and Marines in Vietnam used it to penetrate and destroy enemy bunkers. But this early version was not effective against North Vietnamese Army tanks. Some rockers fizzled out or did not detonate on impact in certain battles.Since then, the LAW has been improved with about a dozen variants beyond the original launcher. It has seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and has garnered better reviews.M72 still highly regarded in the modern eraUsers in Ukraine can deploy the weapon against not only tanks (with the high-explosive anti-tank round) but buildings and lighter-armored vehicles such as Russian armored personnel carriers. American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division gave the trusty old weapon a solid evaluation in an after-action report from 2010."The M72s provided the best balance of weight and bulk to combat effectiveness. It was considered an excellent munition to be used against insurgents firing from close and medium range. It was fast and easy to bring into operation, and it was considered to be both a good suppressive weapon and quite accurate and lethal at the same time," according to the lessons-learned paper.DVIDSM72 is easy to useFiring is straightforward making it perfect for training inexperienced fighters in Ukraine such as members of the reserve territorial defense forces.Just pull out the arming pin, take off the rear cover and sling, grasp the rear cover to extend the tube fully, pull the trigger handle to the armed position, aim and fire. The gas pressure for the 66mm rocket does the rest.The M72 Is light and lethalThe great thing about the M72 LAW is its portability. It only weighs 5.5 pounds. Soldiers can carry it with a sling while also keeping their rifle at the ready. However, there is a danger from the backblast, and operators are trained to look behind the weapon tube to make sure friendlies are not in the caution or danger zone.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for anti-tank munitions, although he would prefer modern guided weapons such as the Javelin fire-and-forget system. But the LAW is cheaper, easier to carry, and simple to train on.As long as soldiers are in range and have adequate line-of-sight, the LAW can be lethal against enemy tanks and armored vehicles. The Kremlin has clearly underestimated what a motivated Ukrainian fighter can do with an anti-tank weapon. The LAW will continue to make the Russians pay for this oversight.Now serving as 1945's defense and national security editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of "Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare." He is an emerging-threats expert and former US Army infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 1st, 2022

Updated Pentagon maps reveal the Chinese military"s growing reach

In 2020, the Chinese military's ground force, naval fleet, and aviation force all continued to grow. Chinese soldiers in a military parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, September 3, 2015.Reuters/Damir Sagolj The US Defense Department's latest report on the Chinese military describes its advances in 2020. During that year, China's ground force, naval fleet, and aviation force all continued to grow. The US Department of Defense's annual report on China's military was released in November, providing new information on the growing strength of the People's Liberation Army during 2020.Among the updates to last year's assessments, which covered developments in 2019, were an increase in the estimated size of China's ground forces, an even larger naval fleet, and the introduction of new weapons.The changes can be tracked on the maps included in the report. Many were unchanged from last year, but those showing the placement of the major units of China's army, air force, and navy do have new details.PLA ground forcesChinese tanks at the Vostok 2018 military exercise held by Russia and China, September 13, 2018.Vadim SavitskybackslashTASS via Getty ImagesThe first map shows the location and positions of the major headquarters and group armies of the PLA's ground forces, identified in the report as the People's Liberation Army Army.The PLAA is still the largest standing army in the world, with 975,000 active-duty personnel — an increase from 915,000 in last year's report. The troops are divided into 78 combined-arms brigades in 13 group armies across five theaters: Northern, Central, Eastern, Southern and Western. There are also two military districts in the Western Theater, based in Xinjiang and Tibet.The brigades, each of which can have up to 5,000 troops, are organized into heavy (tracked armored vehicles), medium (wheeled armored vehicles), and light (high-mobility, mountain, air-assault and motorized) categories.The maps show the rotation or relocation of some of the group armies compared to last year. It also shows the location of the headquarters for China's Airborne Corps and Marine Corps, which are part of China's air force and navy, respectively.A map of the Chinese military's major ground units.US Defense DepartmentThe report says the PLA's major force restructuring program, started in 2016 to streamline to PLA, is complete, but that "significant additional equipment fielding is necessary to complete the transformation of the PLAA into a fully modern force."The Pentagon report notes that although some 40% of the PLAA's main battle tanks are 20 to 40 years old and "significant numbers of infantry brigades employ outdated equipment," the PLAA is receiving new hardware.The PCL-171 120 mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer was mentioned in the report, as was the PCL-181 155 mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer. Both systems increase the PLAA's mobility, a key objective of the PLA as a whole.The report noted that the PLAA conducted extensive combined-arms and joint training with other branches despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with emphasis on high elevations as a result of increased tensions with India. Force projection over the Taiwan Strait was also a major focus.PLA NavyA Chinese Type 055 destroyer.Photo by Artyom IvanovbackslashTASS via Getty ImagesOfficially known as the People's Liberation Army Navy, China's navy is the largest in the world with a total battle force of 355 vessels, including about 145 "major surface combatants."As noted in the report, the PLAN is "speeding up the transition of its tasks from defense on the near seas to protection missions on the far seas."The map of PLAN forces provides an updated count of the types of vessels assigned to each of its three fleets, based in the PLA's Northern, Eastern, and Southern theaters.The PLAN's Eastern Theater Navy saw the most change, adding seven ships, (one frigate, five corvettes, and one amphibious transport dock), while losing 10 (eight missile patrol craft and two medium landing ships), though the report doesn't say whether those ships were decommissioned, reassigned, or removed for some other reason.A map of the Chinese military's major naval units.US Defense DepartmentThe Northern Theater Navy added five ships (one cruiser, two destroyers, and two corvettes) and lost five (two medium landing ships and three missile patrol craft).The Southern Theater Navy added three vessels (two nuclear-powered attack submarines and one amphibious transport dock) and lost 17 (one destroyer, four frigates, three tank landing ships, one medium landing ship, and eight missile patrol craft).Last year, China launched its second Type 075 amphibious assault ship and commissioned its first Type 055 destroyer, which the Pentagon classifies as a cruiser because of its massive armament of 112 missiles. In 2021, China launched its third Type 075 and commissioned two more Type 055s.The PLAN's Marine Corps, made up of about 40,000 marines in eight brigades, graduated its first domestically trained ship-borne aircraft pilots in 2020 and continues to mechanize.China plans on increasing its overall fleet size to 420 vessels by 2025 and 460 by 2030.PLA Air Force and naval aviationChinese aircraft conduct aerial refueling over Beijing during a parade military, October 1, 2019.Li Gang/Xinhua via GettyChina's air force, officially called the People's Liberation Army Air Force, and the PLAN's aircraft make up the largest aviation force in the Indo-Pacific region and the third largest in the world.The report indicates that the PLAAF and PLAN have grown their fleets to more than 2,800, not including drones and trainer aircraft.About 2,250 of those are combat aircraft, at least 1,800 of which are fighters — up from 1,500 in the last report — with more than 800 of them considered fourth-generation jets.The map shows the creation of an additional bomber brigade in the PLA's Central Theater and an additional naval aviation brigade HQ in the Northern Theater.In 2019, China unveiled the H-6N, a version of its H-6 bomber that carries a potentially nuclear-armed air-launched ballistic missile under its fuselage and is capable of air-to-air refueling.A map of the Chinese military's major air force and naval aviation units.US Defense DepartmentNow officially in service, an H-6N was spotted carrying what is believed to be a hypersonic missile in October 2020, raising concerns that China is improving its nascent nuclear triad.The PLAAF continues to expand and upgrade its fleet of J-20 stealth aircraft. China is also testing a second stealth fighter, the FC-31, which is likely to be the PLAN's next carrier-based fighter.The PLAAF's Airborne Corps — an airborne unit similar to US paratrooper units — is made up of six combined-arms brigades, with three classified as light motorized, two as mechanized, and one as air assault.In addition to the ZBD-03 tracked armored vehicle, which can be air-dropped, the Corps has a new wheeled armored vehicle that can also be air-dropped.The increasing sophistication and number of aircraft and weaponry in the PLAAF arsenal led the Pentagon to caution that it "is rapidly catching up to Western air forces," a trend that is "gradually eroding longstanding and significant U.S. military technical advantages."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 31st, 2022

A Ukrainian army lieutenant says Russian soldiers keep "falling into the same traps" as Putin"s commanders force them forward

"The Russians are fighting stupidly," Second Lt. Tatiana Chornovol said during an interview with CBS News. A destroyed Russian tank is seen at a position on March 31, 2022 in Malaya Rohan, Ukraine.Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images A Ukrainian army lieutenant said Russian soldiers are fighting "stupidly" and without strategy. Second Lt. Tatiana Chornovol told CBS News that Putin's army is "falling into the same traps." "It's pure evil what they did," volunteer Ukrainian soldier Andriy Rogalski also said of Russian forces. A Ukrainian army lieutenant said Russian soldiers are fighting "stupidly" and without strategy as President Vladimir Putin's forces continue to make little military progress in their five-week-long war in the eastern European country."The Russians are fighting stupidly," Second Lt. Tatiana Chornovol, a former politician, told CBS News in an interview that aired on Thursday. "They don't have a strategy or tactics — they're falling into the same traps and their commanders are just pushing them to advance."Volunteer Ukrainian soldier Andriy Rogalski criticized Russia's attacks on Ukrainian cities in his own interview with CBS News."It's pure evil what they did," Rogalski, who said he worked as a crane operator and received just two weeks of basic training before heading to war, told CBS News. Russia's defense ministry said earlier this week it would scale down attacks in the northern part of Ukraine, as it planned to withdraw forces from around Kyiv and redirect focus on the eastern Donbas region. The US and Ukraine have expressed skepticism with Russia's claim — which comes amid ongoing peace negotiations — and said troop movement is likely a redeployment rather than a withdrawal. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 31st, 2022