Red faces as Russia’s Kalashnikov monument shows Nazi gun

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Red faces as Russia’s Kalashnikov monument shows Nazi gun

Erroneous drawing on statue was of an StG44 — for Sturmgewehr (Storm Rifle), a name reputedly conferred by Hitler himself

A sketch allegedly featuring the German StG44 rifle at a fragment of the newly unveiled monument to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, in downtown Moscow on September 22, 2017. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

A sketch allegedly featuring the German StG44 rifle at a fragment of the newly unveiled monument to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, in downtown Moscow on September 22, 2017. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

MOSCOW, Russia — Workers in Moscow on Friday erased the illustration of a gun from a freshly inaugurated monument of Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, after it was found that the drawing was of a Nazi weapon.

“We have checked the information about a mistake. It is confirmed. The sculptor, Salavat Shtsherbakoff, has acknowledged his mistake,” the state-supported Russian Military History Society, which backed the monument, told TASS news agency.

The erroneous drawing was of an StG44 — for Sturmgewehr (Storm Rifle), a name reputedly conferred by Hitler himself. It became the Nazis’ frontline weapon on the bloody Eastern Front.

A worker used an angle grinder to obliterate the offending depiction of the StG44, an AFP photographer saw.

A general view of the newly unveiled monument to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, in downtown Moscow on September 22, 2017. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Kalashnikov was elevated to hero status in the Soviet Union for inventing a simple, rugged, reliable and easy-to-manufacture automatic weapon for the Red Army.

It entered service after World War II — the AK-47 comes from the Russian “Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947” — to became a standard weapon for Soviet forces and revolutionary movements around the world. Its image has also become notoriously intertwined with terrorism and massacres.

Acclaim of Kalashnikov continued after the fall of the Soviet Union, culminating with a project to erect a statue in his honor after he died in 2013.

The seven-meter (23-feet) -high statue, located in a central thoroughfare was unveiled to great pomp on Tuesday, with goose-stepping troops and Russian officials in attendance. Orthodox priests sprinkled it with holy water.

A man uses an angle grinder as he removes a sketch allegedly featuring the German StG44 rifle from a fragment of the newly unveiled monument to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, in downtown Moscow on September 22, 2017. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky praised the inventor and called the rifle — which has been reproduced an estimated 100 million times worldwide — a “cultural brand for Russia.”

The statue itself accurately features Kalashnikov clutching his invention. The StG44 was featured in an engineer’s drawing, located on part of the memorial that traces the history of the AK47.

The change to the statue coincided with the public unveiling in Moscow on Friday of a bronze bust of Stalin, fuelling concerns that the authorities are seeking to whitewash the Soviet dictator’s bloody history.

Honor guards march during the unveiling ceremony of a statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian inventor of the fabled AK-47 assault rifle, in downtown Moscow on September 19, 2017. (AFP/Maxim Zmeyev)

Stalin’s bust was one of seven sculptures spanning the history of the Soviet Union from Lenin to Mikhail Gorbachev.

They are the latest addition to a recently-opened “Alley of Rulers” that already features 33 Russian rulers.

The force behind the sculptures is the Russian Military History Society, founded by President Vladimir Putin and whose current president is Medinsky, known for fiercely nationalist views.

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Can The World Survive An Ignorant Ass Total Fool In The Oval Office?

 

I’m just saying, just in case you may feel that we have one of these creatures daring to step foot in ‘Our’ Oval Office, what would you think about it, how would you feel? I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, I am a registered Independent and personally both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make me sick at my stomach to either see a picture of them or to hear their voices. Most all American adults knew and know that Hillary is an habitual liar, but did we not also know this about Donald Trump? In my opinion last November we the people knew that one of them was going to end up being the next President of Our Country. To me that was a disgusting reality that we were going to have to learn to live with, if such a thing is possible.

 

Even though I really can’t stand Hillary or Bill Clinton it is and was my belief that at least Hillary is somewhat intelligent where Donald is, was and will always be, a total scumbag dumb-ass. By his actions pretty much every single day since he has been in Office he has constantly proven me to be correct on this issue. Pretty much every time this Affluenza adult child Tweets or opens his mouth he proves what a low life ignorant horses behind that he is. He likes to say that he knows more about everything than the professionals in the field know. Think about his stupid statements on how he knows more about the issues in the Middle-East than any of the Generals do, when in fact he constantly proves himself to be totally clueless. I believe that Hillary would have been a disaster as President, Donald Trump has proven himself to be the biggest idiot to ever step foot in Our White House.

 

Do you remember when during the elections one of the ‘propaganda slogans’ that Mr. Trump floated to the gullible was “lock her up?” Just like the propaganda about building “the wall” that he said over and over again that ‘Mexico was going to pay for?” One of the many things that used to bother me about George H.W. Bush when he was President was that every thing he did or said had to have a ‘slogan’ attached to it. Personally I believe that we the people need to start a new slogan and throw it at Mr. Trump every where he goes or whenever he opens his mouth. Well, actually two slogans, three if you count the “Affluenza adult child”, fitting for him is “Donald Fake News Trump” and finally, “Lock Him Up.” I do have one prediction and it is that before the 2018 elections ever get here, Mike Pence will be the President. I believe that Mr. Mueller is going to have plenty of evidence to not just have Donald Trump impeached, but imprisoned, along with several members of his family. The only real question may well be is if Mr. Trump gets impeached before he gets us involved in a war with North Korea and China and possibly even with Russia and Iran. The man is a moron who only cares about himself and no one else. Would he start a war hoping that the Country would rally around him and forget about his other treasonous acts? As an old and very good friend used to say “we shall see what we shall see.” In the mean time the people of the world need to pray that God will have mercy on us all, at least as long as this idiot is in Our Oval Office!

Cory Lewandowski Thinks If Paul Manafort Colluded With Russia He Should Go To Jail For Life

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWS)

Lewandowski: Manafort should go to jail for the rest of his life if he colluded

President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this week that, if anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, they should “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate – through collusion, coordination or cooperation – I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said at George Washington University on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It’s very simple. Our election process is too serious, our democracy is too important to allow people to try and try and have influence from the outside for their own gain,” he added.

Lewandowski’s comments came after CNN reported Tuesday that investigators had wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, before and after the 2016 election.

According to the CNN report, the government obtained a warrant to wiretap Manafort in 2014. That warrant expired in 2016, but the FBI obtained a new one that ended in early 2017, during a period when Manafort was in contact with Trump.

Investigators were reportedly concerned that the intelligence included communications that Manafort may have encouraged the Russians to help influence the 2016 election, though two unnamed sources familiar with the matter cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

Manafort has emerged as a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mueller’s team has taken a series of aggressive actions against Manafort in recent months. In July, for example, the FBI conducted an early-morning raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home. Mueller has also subpoenaed the former campaign chairman’s personal spokesman and former attorney.

Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian officials, and has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Lewandowski reportedly defended Trump during his appearance at GWU on Tuesday, saying that, while he was on the real estate mogul’s campaign, he never witnessed anything that would suggest coordination with the Russians.

“Never ever ever ever did I hear him say, utter, insinuate anything to do with Russia,” Lewandowski said, according to the Examiner. “He never instructed me or anybody in my immediate presence to ever be involved with Russia, never mentioned Russia collusion, coordination, cooperation, or anything of that nature ever.”

Russian Helicopters May Have Fired on Bystanders at Zapad Military Drills

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOSCOW TIMES)

 

Russian Helicopters May Have Fired on Bystanders at Zapad Military Drills

Sep 19, 2017 — 11:47
— Update: 15:18

Ivan Sekretarev / AP / TASS

Two people were hospitalized with serious injuries after a helicopter accidentally fired on bystanders at the Zapad 2017 military exercises, the online news portal 66.ru cited a source as saying on Tuesday.

The week-long drills in Western Russia and neighboring Belarus kicked off last week, with around 13,000 troops, hundreds of tanks, aircraft, warships and other military hardware participating.

The incident reportedly took place at the Luzhsky range near St. Petersburg either on Monday or Sunday. President Vladimir Putin visited the range on Monday.

The unnamed source told 66.ru that there appeared to have been a technical glitch on board “and the missiles blasted off on their own.”

“At least two cars burned down, two people were seriously injured, they are now hospitalized,” the source said. “The victims were most likely journalists.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said two attack helicopters simulated aerial reconnaissance and close air support missions on Monday as part of Zapad 2017.

Video footage accompanying the news report appears to show one of the helicopters misfiring in the direction of camera crews.

The Defense Ministry’s press service denied that the incident took place on Monday, saying “all social media messages about ‘rounds on a crowd of journalists,’ ‘a large number of seriously wounded’ are either a deliberate provocation or someone’s personal stupidity.”

“[Video footage] recorded an event that occurred at another time, when army aviation helicopter crews practiced ground attacks as part of a tactical exercise.”

The press service said one of the helicopters engaged a wrong target, adding that one truck was damaged and no people were hurt from a self-propelled rocket hit.

Trump’s Personal Attorney Reached Out To The Kremlin For Help During The Campaign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

President Donald Trump’s attorney reached out to the Kremlin for assistance in building a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the business mogul’s presidential campaign, he said Monday, adding that he discussed the project with Trump three times.

The attorney, Michael Cohen, denied that the project was related “in any way” to Trump’s campaign, though the developments appear to contradict Trump’s vehement denials of any such business connections to Russia in the past.
Previous reports have indicated that efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were underway during the presidential campaign in 2015, but it had not been reported that those efforts continued into 2016.
“The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected,” Cohen said in a written statement.
“In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition,” he added. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more.”
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Cohen’s own attorney provided documents to the House intelligence committee that included a reference to the Moscow project. In a second, separate statement Monday, Cohen said the proposal “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. Both I and the Trump Organization were evaluating this proposal and many others from solely a business standpoint, and rejected going forward on that basis.”
Cohen told CNN he reached out to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, describing the message as “an email that went unanswered that was solely regarding a real estate deal and nothing more.” In the second statement, Cohen said he contacted Peskov after it was suggested that the proposal would require approval by the Russian government, but that it was never provided.
Trump and Cohen discussed the proposal three times, though Cohen said he “never considered asking Mr. Trump to travel to Russia in connection with this proposal” and did not brief on him on his decision to terminate the development.
Cohen told CNN that the conversations were “short.” The first was to inform him about negotiations happening for a possible deal. Second time was to sign a letter of intent. The third time was letting him know that the deal was off after he decided himself to terminate it.
Cohen said the proposal was under consideration from September 2015 until the end of January 2016 and progressed to soliciting building designs and negotiations over financing.
The Washington Post, citing several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers, first reported the project, which involved Russian-born developer Felix Sater.
The Post said that Sater “urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say ‘great things’ about Trump.” Cohen said he determined that the proposal was “not feasible.”
According to the Post, in a November 2015 email to Cohen, who at the time was executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Sater also said that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating the real estate project and Trump’s election.
In a statement Monday, Cohen said Sater has “sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship.'”
The Trump Organization has signed similar letters in the past, pursuing deals in Russia and elsewhere only to see those efforts fall through in the initial stages.
Cohen has been a central focus for investigators on the House intelligence committee who are digging into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia — he is one of only two people to have been subpoenaed by the committee so far; the other is former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s involvement and awareness of the negotiations remains unclear and there is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016. Trump denied having any business interests in Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” He then reiterated that point again at a news conference the following day, telling reporters “I have nothing to do with Russia.”
However, Trump has spoken out in news interviews and in sworn depositions about his previous efforts to develop properties in Russia, which date back decades, praising the market there as ripe for investment. Messages left with the White House were not returned Monday.
Sater confirmed to CNN that he put together a real estate proposal for the development of “the world’s tallest building in Moscow” in the latter half of 2015, and presented the development to Cohen, which resulted in a signed Letter of Intent for the project. Cohen was the only member of the Trump Organization he communicated with on the project, Sater said, and added that he would not have been compensated by the Trump Organization if the project had been successful.
“During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” he said. “Ultimately, in January 2016, Michael informed me that the Trump Organization decided not to move forward with the project.”
But his interest in developing a project in Russia has been well documented, and Trump himself said he wanted to build a Trump property in Moscow at the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.
Cohen said he worked with a Moscow-based development company, I.C. Expert Investment Company, through Sater. The Trump Organization would license the Trump name for the building. Other reports have detailed similar efforts between Trump and Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch close to Putin.
Agalarov is also tied to the June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. attended on the premise that he would receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin — the publicist for Agalarov’s son first proposed the meeting to Trump Jr. in an email made public last month.
New details about Trump’s business deals also come as federal investigators have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, people familiar with the investigation told CNN earlier this month.

Trump spoke positively of Putin

While Cohen was working on the Trump Tower deal, Trump was speaking positively about working with Putin and also minimizing Russia’s aggressive military moves around the world. His openness to Putin, and his willingness to accept narratives favored by the Kremlin, contrasted strongly with not only his Republican opponents but also with the Obama administration.
“I would talk to him, I would get along with him,” Trump said about Putin at a Republican primary debate in September 2015. “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
At that debate, moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump went on to suggest that the US stand back as Russia fought ISIS in Syria. But Obama administration officials at the time were saying that Russia wasn’t going after ISIS but instead was targeting other Syrian rebel groups, some of whom were trained and armed by the US government.
Two months later, Trump quickly pivoted when asked on the debate stage what he would do about Russia’s aggressive moves in both Syria and Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimean peninsula and has supported a separatist insurgency since 2014.
“First of all, it’s not only Russia,” he said. “We have problems with North Korea, where they actually have nuclear weapons.”
This friendly posture toward Russia continued after the Trump Tower deal was terminated. During a March 2016 debate, Trump lavished the Russian leader, who has been criticized for rigging elections, killing his enemies and crippling free speech.
“As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia,” Trump said. “I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia. That doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Putin.”

Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

‘Rohingya’. Creative commons image by Flickr user Rockefeller.

Over the past few weeks, Russia’s North Caucasus republics and the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia have seen an explosion of interest in the plight of Myanmar’s besieged Rohingya minority, who share the Islamic faith dominant across the region.

According to the United Nations over 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh amid a campaign of government-backed violence sparked in part by a standoff with militants during the last two weeks. Al Jazeera and aid agencies estimate almost a million members of the stateless minority have fled Myanmar since the late 1970s.

Several large, seemingly Whatsapp-fuelled rallies against the violence have already taken place in Moscow and Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. The rallies went ahead in spite of Russia’s seeming official position on Myanmar, that saw it block a UN Security Council resolution regarding state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya earlier this year. In ex-Soviet Central Asia, while no-one took to the streets, a football match featuring Myanmar’s international team was cancelled over security fears and Facebook posts, petitions and even poetry in support of the Rohingya flooded timelines.

A strongman takes a stand

The Moscow rallies that took place on September 3 and 4 were unsanctioned in a country where the right to protest is strictly controlled. The first Moscow rally didn’t result in any arrests, despite heavy police presence, but 17 people were briefly detained on Monday at a follow-up rally. According to reports in the Russian media, WhatsApp groups served as a the main hub for organizing the protests.

Chechnya’s controversial leader Ramzan Kadyrov has played a leading role in organising the response to a sudden surge of violence and state-driven persecution in the Southeast Asian country. Kadyrov, famed for gay-bashing and fiery tirades in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has used social media to strike out against world leaders for their inaction. On September 4 he staged a rally attended by tens of thousands — the official claim was a million people, or almost 80 percent of the republic’s total population — in the Chechen capital Grozny. On Thursday, three days after the Grozny rally, Kadyrov made another statement on Instagram, saying that no further protests will be necessary as enough awareness had been raised.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. Russian government photo. Creative commons.

By that point Kadyrov had already hinted that Moscow should step up pressure on Myanmar, while claiming he would launch a nuclear strike against the Rohingya’s oppressors if he was able to.

He later said the comments — which analysts called alarming for his superiors in the Kremlin — had been taken out of context by his enemies. Russia’s foreign ministry warned against putting pressure on Myanmar on June 8.

Given Kadyrov’s uncompromising stance on Myanmar, it is no surprise that social media users from Chechnya have been among the loudest voices backing the Rohingya on Russian social media. Users from neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia have also been vocal even as citizens in Russia’s other majority Muslim federal republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, largely ignored the issue.

This North Caucasus bias was reflected in Yandex, Russia’s largest national search engine, reporting a sharp increase in searches about Myanmar (Мьянма in Cyrillic) coming from the region.

Support for the Rohingya cause across the region has a pop-up feel. Many long-standing Islamic-themed Vkontakte pages have transformed themselves into 24/7 pro-Rohingya advocacy channels overnight. Most are explicitly run by and aimed at residents of Chechnya.

Pro-Rohingya meme widely shared on Russian social media

One such online community, [V]Chechnye ([In]Chechnya), has posted at least 43 messages relating to the Rohingya crisis since September 1. Messages include video appeals informing Muslims of the atrocities against the Rohingya, calls to sign a Change.org petition, and allegations that anti-Muslim violence in traditionally Buddhist regions of Russia such as Kalmykia goes unpunished (incidents reported in the Russian media, such as a prayer room in Elista, Kalmykia’s capital, being torched by unidentified assailants, and a pig’s head thrown into a village mosque, were mentioned).

Some have gone as far as recruiting volunteers online to join a “holy jihad” to save their brethren in Myanmar.

One page, Overheard in Chechnyapublished a post bringing attention to the September 4 rally, adding bullet-pointed instructions on how to keep the online campaign alive.

They are experiencing what we cannot even imagine!
#Rohingyawearewithyou
ALLAHU AKBAR
Tomorrow (04.09), a rally near Grozny’s central mosque!!
Don’t be indifferent!!!!
Max repost!!

Let’s all hold a rally on social media!!! All! All of you! Everyone who opposes the genocide in Myanmar!!! Your faith, denomination or nationality don’t matter!!!
Replace your Instagram, What’s App [sic], Vkontakte etc profile picture with the following image (share both the text and the image)
DON’T LIKE IMAGES AND VIDEOS NOT RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN! So that the genocide stays on top of most discussed posts!!! So that everyone knows!!!
DISSEMINATE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RALLY AMONG EVERYONE YOU KNOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA! Let the whole world know that we won’t just let the story go!!! We are prepared to go any length to save innocent people!!!
USE THE HASHTAG #ROHINGYAWEAREWITHYOU

Even My Private Aul, an anonymous online community for gay persons from Northern Caucasus — arguably one of the most marginalized and persecuted groups in Russia — posted an appeal to sign a petition addressed to Russia’s UN envoy.

The petition, which at the time of writing has over 160 thousand signatures, urges the the Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzya to support a UN Security Council resolution on violence in Myanmar, rather than vetoing it with China, as happened earlier this year.

Political football and poems of woe

Over on the other side of the Caspian Sea in the Central Asian states once part of the Soviet Union there has also been a strong reaction to violence in Myanmar. This was most apparent in Kyrgyzstan, where the government cancelled a scheduled Asia Cup football qualifying fixture with Myanmar, amid concerns over a potential terror threat and fan clashes with Burmese players.

Many Kyrgyz social media users thought this was an overreaction. But officials were clearly nervous in the build-up to the game, as social media users called variously for a boycott of the match, a peaceful protest outside the stadium and a minute’s silence in respect of the Rohingya victims prior to kick off.

The football federation, whose Facebook page was overwhelmed by criticisms of Myanmar and support for the Rohingya, posted a plea for order before the country’s Prime Minister eventually moved to cancel the game:

We position ourselves as a friendly and hospitable nation!!! Like all we condemn and mourn what is happening to Muslims in Myanmar! Nevertheless…let’s show on September 5 that we don’t give in to provocations. Let’s support our guys in a friendly fashion!

Not all Kyrgyz have been impressed by online pro-Rohingya messaging. One post in the group We are for a Democratic and Secular Kyrgyzstan (In Russian Мы за СВЕТСКИЙ, ДЕМОКРАТИЧЕСКИЙ КЫРГЫЗСТАН!) hinted at frustrations over pan-Islamic sympathies and posts written “stupidly for likes and comments”.

In this post a Facebook user criticizes another user for writing posts “stupidly for likes and comments”. The original post calls on Muslims to pray for the Rohingya and for God to punish their persecutors “in the harshest possible way.”

The violence in Myanmar also inspired a number of lyrical tributes. Here citizens of Tajikistan came into their own. One website focused on the country counted at least five Tajik poems on social media, themed on the unfolding tragedy in Myanmar.

A woman poet Shoira Rahimjon wrote:

I’ll go to Myanmar!
To tell Burma not to take hopes from
My poor pregnant sister,
Not to burn my nation,
Not to take my soul,

I’ll go right now!
To take Burma to the house of justice,
And to the home of forgiveness

Although the Grozny and Moscow protests may have played a role in drawing Central Asians towards the Rohingya cause, it is worth considering that the opportunity for solidarity presented to them by the conflict in Myanmar is also an opportunity for self defence.

While all five countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) have majority-Muslim populations, they also share aggressively secular authoritarian governments, who fear growing religious adherence is undermining their authority.

Tajik migrants gather on a Moscow street for Eid al-Fitr prayers. Praying on the street is banned in Tajikistan. Photo by David Trilling for Eurasianet.org. Used with permission.

Last week Tajikistan moved to ban the Islamic hijab covering from schools completely while mobile service providers mobbed citizens with SMS messages stressing the need to wear non-religious “national” clothes. Neighbours Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are routinely recognised by the US state department as “countries of particular concern” in regards to religious freedom. Kazakhstan is seemingly movingin a similar direction.

For citizens in these countries then, the plight of a geographically distant community whose religion they share has offered a chance to amplify concerns about injustices committed against Muslims the world over, without too much fear at the consequences of speaking out.

For Ramzan Kadyrov over in Chechnya, the Rohingya tragedy perhaps represents something even greater: a bid for power and influence across the Muslim world.

Netanyahu says Israel will not tolerate Iranians on northern border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In New York, Netanyahu says Israel will not tolerate Iranians on northern border

Prime minister indicates main message of upcoming UN speech will focus on Tehran’s efforts to establish base in Syria

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a presser with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (out of frame), at the Los Pinos Residence in Mexico City, on September 14, 2017. (AFP/ Alfredo ESTRELLA)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a presser with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (out of frame), at the Los Pinos Residence in Mexico City, on September 14, 2017. (AFP/ Alfredo ESTRELLA)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the main message of his upcoming speech at the United Nations for the annual gathering of world leaders at the 72nd session of the General Assembly would be that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian presence on its northern border with Syria, now in its seventh year of a brutal civil war.

Speaking to reporters from his hotel in New York on Friday, after wrapping up a historic trip to Latin America, Netanyahu said that the central message will be that “Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on our northern borders. An [Iranian] military presence endangers not just us, but also our Arab neighbors.”

He added that Israel was “obligated to act against this.” These days, he added — in an apparent reference to previous Israeli military intervention in Syria and Lebanon — “Israel, and what it says, is taken seriously. That’s how it should be.”

Netanyahu hosted Shabbat dinner at the hotel.

He is due to address the UN on September 19 and meet with US President Donald Trump a day earlier.

The meeting will be the two leaders’ fourth together since Trump assumed office. The two met once in February when the Israeli premier visited the White House, and twice in May when the American president traveled to the region, which included a two-day stop in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Trump too is slated to address UNGA on September 19.

Netanyahu’s remarks on Iran came a day after a senior Israeli official denied reports that Russia rebuffed Jerusalem’s demand to ensure that Iranian forces and Iran-backed Shiite militants not be allowed to operate within 60-80 kilometers of the Syrian frontier with Israel in the Golan Heights.

The demand was initially raised by Israel in July, when negotiations were underway for a ceasefire deal in southern Syria between President Bashar Assad and Syrian rebels, under the auspices of Washington and Moscow.

Last month, Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss the entrenchment of Iran and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and to present Israel’s position.

“Israel is satisfied with the talks in Sochi,” the official said Thursday, insisting on anonymity.

According to reports Thursday on Israel’s Channel 2 television and the Haaretz newspaper, Russia rejected Netanyahu’s plea. Instead, the reports claimed, Moscow committed only to keeping Iranian forces five kilometers from the Golan Heights frontier.

Israel had wanted a buffer zone of between 60 and 80 kilometers from the border on the Golan Heights, and has been repeatedly warning against Iran’s military ambitions in the area, Tehran’s bid to establish a territorial “corridor” all the way to the Mediterranean, and an increased Iranian presence on Israel’s northern border, according to the reports.

Netanyahu opposed the ceasefire deal, putting him publicly at odds with US President Donald Trump, since it did not sufficiently address Israel’s security needs.

Israeli intelligence expects the Iranians to try to establish a military and intelligence presence closer to the border to allow for the opening of a second front against Israel in the event of another conflagration between the Jewish state and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon, Haaretz said.

It said Iran plows around $800 million per year into Hezbollah and additional hundreds of millions into the Assad regime in Syria, Shi’ite militias fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Shi’ite Houthi insurgents in Yemen. (It also supports the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations in the Gaza Strip to the tune of $70 million annually.)

Israel sees attempts by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to improve the latter’s missile accuracy as a major threat.

A week ago, Israeli warplanes allegedly struck the Syrian military’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility near Masyaf, in the northwestern Hama province, damaging several buildings and killing two Syrian soldiers.

Western officials have long associated the CERS facility with the production of precision missiles, as well as chemical weapons.

Satellite image of a CERS facility near Masyaf reportedly hit by an Israeli airstrike overnight Wednesday, September 7, 2017 (screen capture: Google Earth)

Over the past five years, Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes within Syria, hitting convoys of weapons bound for Hezbollah, as well as weapons storage facilities.

It rarely acknowledges specific attacks. Last week’s operation was reported by foreign media.

On his trip to Latin America, Netanyahu has stressed the dangers posed by Iran through its quest for nuclear weapons, its involvement in conflicts across the region, and support for terrorism.

The Iranians “have a terror machine that encompasses the entire world, operating terror cells in many continents,” he said in Argentina on Tuesday. “In the case of Iran, it’s not only merely terror but the quest for nuclear weapons that concerns us and should concern the entire international community. We understand the danger of a rogue nation having atomic bombs.”

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FBI Special Council Mueller Gets Important Warrant: Trump And Family Federal Prison Bound?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

  • Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant for records of “inauthentic” Facebook accounts
  • It’s bad news for Russian election interference “deniers”
  • Mueller may be looking to charge specific foreign entities with a crime

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

The warrant was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on Friday night and the news was later confirmed by CNN.

Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump’s campaign team.

“This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers,'” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent.

Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, explained that to obtain a search warrant a prosecutor needs to prove to a judge that there is reason to believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor then has to show that the information being sought will provide evidence of that crime.

Mueller would not have sought a warrant targeting Facebook as a company, Rangappa noted. Rather, he would have been interested in learning more about specific accounts.

“The key here, though, is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” she said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”

It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia’s election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint — rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, now a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP, said that the revelation Mueller obtained a search warrant for Facebook content “may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid.”

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in late July. The bureau is reportedly investigating Manafort’s financial history and overseas business dealings as part of its probe into possible collusion between the campaign and Moscow.

jared kushnerWhite House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump answer questions regarding the ongoing situation in North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Facebook warrant “means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a ‘contribution’ in connection with an election,” Mariotti wrote on Saturday.

“It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things: first, that there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. Second, that evidence of the crime existed on Facebook.”

That has implications for Trump and his associates, too, Mariotti said.

“It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed. That’s aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller’s search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged.”

Congressional intelligence committees are homing in on the campaign’s data operation as a potential trove of incriminating information.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC earlier this month that he wants to know how sophisticated the Russian-bought ads were — in terms of their content and targets — to determine whether they had any help from the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee also wants to interview the digital director for Trump’s campaign, Brad Parscale, who worked closely with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner was put in charge of the campaign’s entire data operation and is  now being scrutinized by the FBI over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank in December.

Facebook said in its initial statement that about 25% of the ads purchased by Russians during the election “were geographically targeted,” and many analysts have found it difficult to believe that foreign entities would have had the kind of granular knowledge of American politics necessary to target specific demographics and voting precincts.

In a post-election interview, Kushner told Forbes that he had been keenly interested in Facebook’s “micro-targeting” capabilities from early on.

“I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner said.

“We brought in Cambridge Analytica,” he continued. “I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley who were some of the best digital marketers in the world, a nd I asked them how to scale this stuff . . . We basically had to build a $400 million operation with 1,500 people operating in 50 states, in five months to then be taken apart. We started really from scratch.”

President Putin Offered A Plan For Full And Immediate Normalization Ties With The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Russia offered a plan to the United States for a full and immediate move toward normalization — or a restoration of diplomatic ties — in the opening weeks of President Donald Trump’s administration, the Kremlin confirmed Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that “of course” Russia floated proposals such as this one to the US.
“Moscow systematically advocated for a resumption of the dialogue, for an exchange of opinion and for attempts at finding joint solutions,” Peskov said. “But, unfortunately, it saw no reciprocity.”
Peskov said Russia’s proposals had come through in parts and a summary of the offer went through diplomatic channels.
News of the plan first came to light in a BuzzFeed News report after the outlet obtained a document which outlined the proposal a top Russian diplomat made directly to the US State Department.
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Asked about the report, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would neither confirm nor deny its accuracy. Nauert said in general terms that the US and Russia share the goal of improving diplomatic relations between the countries.
A Russian official confirmed to CNN that the document was authentic.
“We are sorry to hear that documents keep leaking from the (Trump) administration, though it shows that Russia keeps doing its best to normalize relations‎,” the official said.
Earlier Tuesday, Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon met with his Russian counterpart in Finland. The meeting was their third of the year to discuss so-called “irritants” in the relationship. Nauert said the meeting provided an opportunity to “raise questions or concerns,” but did not say if the two had resolved anything.
The proposal, BuzzFeed wrote, called for the US to restore all channels — diplomatic, military and intelligence — that had been cut following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and intervention in Syria.
In the coming months, the proposal called for Russia and the US to collaborate on information security, Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, North Korea and eventually a full face-to-face meeting between the top national security officials of the two nations.
Relations between the United States and Russia have soured considerably since the opening of the Trump administration, when many expected Trump might bring the nations closer together as he said repeatedly was his goal during the campaign.
Russian military involvement in Ukraine and Syria, as well as the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an attempt to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, has cast a shadow on the US side over the potential rapprochement.
The US under then-President Barack Obama increased sanctions on Russia following the country’s alleged election interference, and moved to shutter some of the Kremlin’s facilities in the US.
Trump met with Putin face-to-face in a scheduled meeting at the G20 summit in July then spoke again during an unannounced conversation at a dinner for world leaders during the summit. Trump went on to propose a joint US-Russia cyber effort, then after sustained criticism of the proposal, Trump said he knew “it can’t” happen.
Russia responded in kind to the US’ sanctions after several months delay and ordered large cutsin the US diplomatic staff in Russia. Around the same time, Trump signed a bill putting more sanctions on Russia and restricting his ability to lift them.
He also thanked Putin for forcing the US to reduce its diplomatic staff in a comment the White House later described as sarcastic. Before Moscow’s deadline for the US to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia, the US ordered the closure of three Russian facilities in the US.

Russian politician: US spies slept while Russia elected Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Russian politician: US spies slept while Russia elected Trump

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian parliament, made the snarky comment
  • Nikonov’s tone suggests that the remarks were made in jest

Washington (CNN)A Russian politician appeared to mock the US intelligence community in a recent television appearance, saying American spies “slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, made the snarky reference to Russian interference in the 2016 US election on Sunday during a weekly political show called “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.”
“(To achieve world dominance) the US overextended themselves,” Nikonov said. “Because the most recent tendencies, economical, military, even tendencies in the intelligence (services) which slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”
“It’s just ridiculous, what kind of intelligence in the USA one can even talk about?” he added. “The US sagged in all these aspects for the past two decades. This superpower is losing its ability to define the world.”
The comments were first noticed by Julia Davis, who runs a website that is largely critical of Russian media called “Russia Lies.”
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While Nikonov’s tone suggests that the remarks were made in jest for the purpose of arguing the point that American power in the world was declining, his jab at US intelligence services comes amid several ongoing investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, including a probe into alleged collusion with members of the Trump campaign.
The US government publicly announced in October that it was “confident” Russia orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the lead-up to the election.
And in January, days before President Donald Trump took office, the US intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Trump’s rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has branded the investigation the “single greatest witch hunt” in political history and consistently questioned the intelligence community’s findings well into his presidency.
Since the election, Trump has appeared to view suggestions of Russian meddling as a Democratic effort to de-legitimize his election win, even though the intelligence community did not conclude that Russian efforts made a difference in the election result.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in any attempts to influence last year’s US Presidential election.
When asked directly whether Russia interfered in the election, Putin said in March: “Read my lips: No.” He also described the allegations as “fictional, illusory, provocations and lies.”
At a June economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin compared accusations of Russian meddling in the US election to anti-Semitism and labeled the reports of then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s meetings with Trump associates as “hysteria,” saying the envoy was simply doing what he’s paid to do.
In March, CNN reported that Kislyak is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, citing senior US government officials. Russia’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the allegations.
Kislyak downplayed his contact with members of the Trump campaign in an exclusive interview with CNN last month, calling allegations that he worked as a spymaster and tried to recruit people within Trump’s orbit “nonsense.”