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Wednesday, 21 February 2018 03:30

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Afrasianet - The Russian Foreign Ministry has called upon the US to stop supporting radical nationalists in Ukraine. It said recent attacks on the Russian Cultural Center in Kiev were inspired by US seizures of diplomatic property.

The comment was published on the Facebook page of the Russian embassy in Washington soon after a group of radical Ukrainian nationalists attacked and vandalized the building in Kiev housing the Russian Cultural Center, which is no longer guarded by Ukrainian police. The attacks took place for two days in a row. According to the Russian delegate to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Aleksandr Lukashevich, only the presence of monitors from this group prevented the Ukrainian attackers from setting the building on fire.

“This latest crime was not the first case in which radicals attacked the Russian diplomatic offices in Ukraine. These attacks have been happening for several years already. And so far we have not heard a due appraisal or denunciation of these actions from the American authorities,” the comment reads.

“We cannot exclude that the radicals are guided by Washington’s own example in the form of seizing of Russian diplomatic property,” the embassy added.

The comment went on to criticize the general aggressive nationalistic course of the Kiev regime, which actively fosters among the population the image of Russia as the main external enemy. It has also approved of attacks on Russian citizens and property and repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian language and culture. It added that various repressions against the freedom of press, including direct attacks on journalists and bloggers have become commonplace in Ukraine.

“We expect Washington officials to stop their practices of supporting ‘caveman nationalism’, not only in Ukraine, but also in other Eastern European countries. The events in Kiev demonstrate that this can result in pogroms and an escalation of xenophobia and extremism,” the statement said.

On Sunday, the head of the Russian upper house Committee for International Affairs, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, expressed indignation over the behavior of Ukrainian radical nationalists as well as lack of action on the part of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies. He noted that Russian cultural centers needed guarantees from Kiev to continue their operations in Ukraine. He added, though, that he personally doubted that such guarantees would ever be given, “because there is no doubt that the nationalists are committing their outrage with the silent approval of the Ukrainian authorities.”









Afrasianet - Berlin has launched a new satellite program for its intelligence service (BND) in an attempt to escape US influence in spying matters, Die Zeit daily reports. The project has already proven to be costlier than planned.

Germany plans to spend €400 million ($465 million) on two of the “latest-generation satellites” for its foreign intelligence service. The budget committee of the German parliament (Bundestag) already approved the financing of the costly project back in early November 2017.

The two reconnaissance satellites, which are now being constructed by the Bremen-based aerospace company OHB, are expected to be able to identify and capture images of objects as small as an A4 paper sheet. They are scheduled to be launched into orbit in 2022, where they will be able to keep an eye on “any place on Earth” within 24 hours, according to a “top secret” intelligence document obtained by Die Zeit.

The ambitious project is apparently aimed at making Berlin less dependent on Washington, as the German security services are said to rely heavily on satellite data provided by their US partners.

“The BND must be capable of obtaining information quickly and on autonomously in order to be able to provide independent up-to-date situation assessments,” Bruno Kahl, the head of the foreign intelligence service, told Die Zeit, justifying the need for the new satellites.

“It is sometimes not enough to receive information while depending on third parties, to buy visual imagery at a commercial market or to request it from international partners,” Kahl added.

The German daily claims that the 2013 NSA surveillance scandal could have played a role in Berlin’s policy shift. The fact that a US intelligence agency spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone could be one of the factors that allegedly prompted her to choose a more independent political course in the field of intelligence.

Since 2013, the BND has reportedly received a total of €1 billion in additional funding, aside from its regular budget. In 2016, the foreign intelligence was also asked to present its proposals for big investment projects in the field of intelligence. Some of the proposals involved developing new software for internet surveillance, but the Chancellor’s Office eventually opted for a new satellite program.

However, the project, called ‘Georg’ (a German acronym for the Secret Electro-optical Reconnaissance System Germany), has already turned out to be more expensive than initially planned. The BND reportedly said that the construction of the satellites alone would cost about €100 million more than the entire sum allocated for the project so far.

In the meantime, Berlin has rejected an idea of merging the expansive BND satellite program with a similar project from the German Army (Bundeswehr), which is now in the process of modernizing its own satellite arsenal, called the Synthetic Aperture Radar Altitude High or ‘SARah.’ The first new German military satellite is expected to be launched into space this year by US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket.

Sources justify the need for there being two separate projects by the BND and the army, which have “different interests” and different tasks. The BND satellites are still expected to be operated from a facility run by the German army.

Currently, the BND relies on data from the Bundeswehr, while further intelligence comes from purchasing data from foreign partner agencies. This notably included the joint project “Hiro” with the US. The project, which collapsed in 2010, envisioned launching three satellites 500 kilometers into space. The high-resolution images from the satellites were to be used for commercial interests and disaster prevention, as well as offering extra surveillance capabilities to the BND.









Afrasianet - An engine malfunction has forced a US F-16 pilot to drop his fighter jet’s external fuel tanks over Lake Ogawara in Aomori Prefecture in order to safely return to Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, according to local media.

The engine of the F-16 fighter jet caught fire almost immediately after taking off from Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture at around 8:40 am on Tuesday morning, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera announced at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting, Reuters reports.

Prior to returning to the air base just three minutes after takeoff, the aircraft reportedly dumped two external auxiliary fuel tanks in Lake Ogawara, which is located near the base. According to a local fisherman who spoke with Kyodo news, there were four to five vessels in the vicinity of the 15-meter splash in Lake Ogawara, where one of the objects fell.

Japanese authorities contacted the US military to seek an explanation. The Misawa Defense Office said no injuries or damage have yet been confirmed in the wake of the incident, according to local media reports.

‘US military crazy, out of control’: Japanese governor furious after chopper near-misses

The incident is just another in a long series of mishaps involving American aircraft and US forces based in Japan. A recent survey conducted by the Japanese Defense Ministry found that 25 American helicopters and fixed-wing military aircraft suffered some sort of technical failure that forced them to conduct emergency landings in 2017. The US aircraft did not get to a good start in 2018 either. In January alone, two US military helicopters were forced to make emergency landings in Japan's Okinawa islands in a matter of just three days. The incidents continue to inflame local opposition to the large US military presence in Japan.










Afrasianet - The Russian men’s hockey team, which is competing under a neutral flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, delivered a crushing 4-0 defeat to Team USA.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia took the lead in the middle of the opening period at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, with Nikolay Prokhorkin beating US goalie Ryan Zapolski. Prokhorkin then struck again to make it 2-0 for the Red Machine early in the second 20 minutes.

Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk dashed any American hopes for a comeback, netting his team’s third goal in the last second of the period. And it was Kovalchuk who settled the final 4-0 score less than 30 seconds into the third period.

The win allowed the Russian team to climb to first place in Group B of the tournament, and guarantees a spot in the playoffs. Oleg Znarok’s men have 6 points with one game remaining in the group stages, while Slovenia, the US, and Slovakia are all tied with 4 points.

The American side played rough on the night, and there were a lot of scuffles during the match. “There were moments when we tried to calm the guys down,” Russian coach Oleg Znarok said. “We didn’t fall for provocations. Our opponents were, probably, tasked with attacking our leaders when they hit [Pavel] Datsyuk and Kovalchuk.”

All eyes were on Saturday’s encounter on the South Korean ice due to the current tensions in Russian-American relations.Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was in possession of information that the US was pressuring the International Olympic Committee (IOC) through its sponsors to see Russia excluded from the Pyeongchang Games. “We aren’t simply guessing about this, we know about it,” Putin said.

The Americans were among the most vocal critics of Russia as soon as allegations of a state-sponsored doping program emerged. The US also currently harbors World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) informant Grigory Rodchenkov, who is the key witness in the case against Russia.

Following several investigations by WADA and the IOC, a number of Russian athletes were disqualified and deprived of their medals. The “clean” athletes, who were allowed to take part in the 2018 Olympics as neutral competitors, are forbidden from displaying the Russian flag and other national symbols at the Olympics.









Afrasianet - US President Trump has accused the FBI of being too obsessed with Russian interference to see the clues that could have prevented the recent mass shooting in a Florida school. Seventeen people died in Wednesday’s massacre.

US President Donald Trump tweeted that it’s “very sad” the FBI failed to notice all of the signs the Florida shooter exhibited before the tragedy. Instead, the Bureau was hunting for ways to prove Trump had Russian help in his 2016 presidential election victory.

On Wednesday, a teenager armed with an AR-15 arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and proceeded to kill 17 people and injure over a dozen more. Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was apprehended shortly after the shooting, has confessed to the killings.

It now appears Cruz was never really secretive about his plans. From comments on YouTube about wanting to become a “professional school shooter,” to Snapchat posts about buying a gun, images of self-harm and racial and religious slurs, the tell-tale signs were there. His purported Instagram accounts featured guns, knives, and animal cruelty.

After the shooting, his former classmates and teachers told local media outlets they were not surprised, having seen him threaten people on campus. “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this,” one student told the Miami Herald.

It seems that those who could have prevented the massacre never saw it coming. Even after being tipped off about Cruz’s disturbing online posts, the FBI failed to act. In a statement, the Bureau admitted that the “established protocols,” by which the clues “should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” were not followed.

Even before that, in 2016, Cruz exhibited disturbing signs, the local Sun Sentinel reports. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” a Department of Children & Family Services report, obtained by the paper, reads. Still, the risk was assessed as “low,” because Cruz lived with his mother, went to school, and had counseling. The following year, his mother died and he was expelled from school. He also bought his AR-15.

The school massacre has sparked a massive wave of protests against current US gun laws, the Republicans that support them, and Trump in particular. These protests have perhaps drowned out the voices calling out the FBI for their failure to prevent the mass shooting.

Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign. Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik accused the FBI of “wasting resources” instead of acting on information about crimes in the making. Now the president is accusing the Bureau of chasing after the wrong targets.

Still, as Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel put it: “Make no mistake, America: The only one to blame for this incident is the killer himself.”








Afrasianet - Former US Vice President Joseph Biden delivered an impassioned speech which alternated between attacking Russia and praising the US-led world order, while omitting the essence of the ongoing Cold War redux.

Biden, a former senator and America’s second-highest official for two terms, took to the podium at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Friday evening to deliver a moving speech about the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the “liberal world order.” He said NATO members must oppose these “malign activities” and stick to their values, even though the US did not do this under the administration he was part of.

Russia-bashing is a popular game for Western politicians nowadays. Biden was not the first speaker at the MSC to focus on the menace of the East, although unlike Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, he didn’t address his anti-Kremlin rally cry to a nearly deserted hall. On the contrary, it was packed full, including by some former Obama officials like John “you don’t invade a country on phony pretext” Kerry, the ex-Secretary of State.

And the audience heard a lot about how the Kremlin is so weak that it threatens the very core of the world order (don’t ask, just take his word for it).

Russia is a “nation in a serious decline,” Biden said, and it suffers from the stranglehold oil and gas have on the economy (Russian energy exports were 11.78 percent of GDP in 2016, amid the oil price crisis, compared to 20.32 in 2000). Russia maintains a “network of partnerships solely through coercion,” said the former vice president of a nation which has over 1,000 military bases throughout the world. Russia’s population is “aging and shrinking” (Russia’s demographic situation is typical among countries in which women can make careers, birth control is not frowned upon, and people are not forced to rely on their children in old age, although it is enduring a birth gap stemming from three generations ago, when the Soviet Union lost an estimated 26 million people in World War II).

The Kremlin is dealing with its weakness by undermining the West in general and “democratic ideals” on its borders in particular, the former VP believes, because “any alternative that can attract support jeopardizes the wealth, power and privilege of those oligarchs in charge.” For instance, Ukraine – which could be called Biden’s pet project – supposedly chose those “democratic ideals” in 2014, when armed mobs kicked out its democratically-elected president who already submitted to the demands of the opposition leaders. And then, the new Kiev went after Ukrainian people in the east who didn’t share such ideals, sending tanks against unarmed civilians and later shelling cities engulfed by rebellion.










Afrasianet - Students who survived the shooting rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School are urging children and parents to join them in a massive new protest. They will march on Washington, DC, to call for more gun control.

A group of five senior and junior students at the Parkland, Florida school, led by Cameron Kasky, appeared on several major TV networks over the weekend to drum up support for a “March for Our Lives” rally, scheduled to take place on March 24 in Washington, DC.

In an interview on Sunday, Kasky told CNN that they plan to send a message to the government: “You’re either with us or against us.”

In their mission’s statement, the group disputes the notion that it's still too early to talk about such a highly divisive political issue immediately after the shooting.

 “In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now,” the activists said, adding that the focus of their efforts will be “to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”

In the rallies and interviews that followed Wednesday’s deadly shooting, the students launched a scathing attack on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President Donald Trump, blaming them for a lack of gun control legislation that could have prevented the incident.

The plea that has gained most traction was delivered by Emma Gonzalez  in a speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, in which she criticized Trump for receiving $30 million in donations from the NRA, while arguing that 19-year-old shooter Nikolas Cruz “would not have harmed that many students with a knife.”

The FBI has also come under fire for turning a blind eye to a tip they received about Cruz after he wrote a  YouTube comment that said he wanted to carry out a school shooting, as well as a call where a person who knew Cruz told the FBI he had a potential to commit a school shooting. The FBI later admitted it failed to follow its own protocol while investigating the allegations, which caused Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) to call for FBI Director Christopher Wray's resignation.

In the run-up to the march, several other protests have been planned, including two school walkouts. The Women’s March Youth Empower group is organizing one such protests, which is set to be held exactly one month after the tragedy on March 14, and take 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims.

A petition has been launched for a national high school walkout “for anti-gun violence” on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine shooting. “Walk out of school, wear orange and protest online and in your communities,” the petition, which has already gained over 50,000 signatures and 118,000 retweets, reads.

Seventeen people were killed and over a dozen were injured after the gunman, armed with an AR-15 rifle, opened fire at the Marjory High Douglas School in Parkland on Wednesday. In the wake of the attack, it was reported that the shooter was a troubled teenager, whose obsession with guns was far from a secret. Cruz also had a record of mental health issues and received treatment in a mental health facility at least once. However, he was still able to obtain an assault weapon legally.









  • Russian diplomats accuse Washington of inspiring attacks on Kiev cultural center

  • Germany seeks new spy satellites to get intel ‘independently from US’ – report

  • Engine fire forces US F-16 to dump fuel tanks over Japanese lake – reports

  • Indonesia volcano erupts, airlines warned from flying over area

  • Three Egyptian troops killed in anti-militant operation in Sinai

  • Lebanon army chief: Will confront Israeli aggression no matter the cost

  • Russian men’s hockey squad trounces US 4-0 in Pyeongchang

  • FBI too busy hunting Russians to prevent Florida school massacre – Trump

  • Sanctions & NATO pressure will make Russians look out of ‘deep black hole,’ Biden thinks

  • Children’s crusade: Teen survivors of Florida shooting plan anti-gun march on DC

Afrasianet - Gunmen fatally shot the mayor of Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, late on Sunday, ambushing his car inside the city, security officials said.

The North African oil producer has been in chaos since the 2011 uprising that unseated Muammar Gaddafi, but Misrata, Libya’s biggest port, had been relative peaceful until now.

Gunmen chased the car of Mayor Mohamed Eshtewi after he left Misrata airport following his arrival on a plane from Turkey, a security official said, adding it was unclear who was behind it.

In October, a bomb exploded at the city’s court, killing about four people and wounding 40 others in an attack claimed by ISIS.

Misrata, almost 200 km east of Tripoli, is the gateway for food and other imports into Libya and the country’s only tax-free zone. It is one of the few places still frequented by foreign business people fearing poor security elsewhere.









Afrasianet - A rocket was launched from the northern Gaza Strip early Sunday morning, according to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The rocket “exploded mid-air,” according to the IDF announcement posted on Twitter.

No one was injured in the alleged attack, the Israeli military said, without immediately providing any further details.

The alleged projectile was reportedly headed to the Ahskelon coastal region in southern Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

No rocket alert signal was activated as the explosion happened “relatively early” in its flight, Israeli media reported citing officials.

The incident comes amid escalating tensions in the region, with Israel beefing up its military presence in the West Bank.

At least three Israelis were killed and one other injured in a stabbing attack by a 20-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank settlement of Halamish Friday night.

Israel upped its security alert level and dispatched thousands of additional troops to the area following the deadly knife assault, local media reported citing an IDF official.

Late Friday, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the PA was freezing all contacts with Israel over the Jerusalem holy site dispute and the violence over the past days.

Clashes have been raging for several days following Tel Aviv’s decision to install metal detectors at the Temple Mount (referred to by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif ) in the Old City in Jerusalem. The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, with Abbas having called for the removal of unilaterally installed barriers for people to be able to “pray with dignity.”










Afrasianet - The convoy of the Minister of Education of the National Unity Government, Osman Abdel Jalil, was subjected to heavy gunfire at "Gate 17" at the southern entrance to the city of Sabha on Monday while he was on his way to the city of Marzak.

The Ministry of Education said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page that "the group forced the minister's convoy to stop using arms and assaulted the minister and his companions with his hands, but the security team managed to remove the minister and the undersecretary from the danger zone, while the gunmen detained the rest of the team and forced them With the force of arms to stay in the place of detention for approximately one hour ".

The ministry, which did not specify the identity of the gunmen and did not publish pictures of the site of the attack, said that "the group was detained after the intervention of tribes Altabu who responded firmly to the militants and were able to secure the convoy of the minister and accompany him the rest of the trip."

The city of Sabha and the adjacent areas of southern Libya are characterized by a security breach resulting in repeated incidents of theft, assault and murder. They are controlled by armed groups, most of which are active in smuggling, especially smuggling of illegal immigrants and fuel.











Afrasianet - Riyadh - Saudi Arabia and its allies from the Gulf Arab states said on Monday that the deadline for the Qatari government to respond to its 13 demands, which ended Sunday night, was extended 48 hours at the request of Kuwait's emir, who is mediating the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said in a joint statement issued by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that "in response to a request by Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to extend the special deadline for the government of Qatar for 48 hours since the end of the 10-day deadline, The four states' response will be sent after examining the Qatari government's response and evaluating its response to the full list of demands. "

The four countries said in a statement that they agreed to extend the deadline "because of the Qatari government's assertion that it will send its official response to the list of claims addressed to it on Monday."

The extension came after Qatar implicitly rejected the demands of its neighbors to restore ties with it just hours before the 10-day deadline set for it to respond to its 13 demands.

Earlier this morning, the Emir of Kuwait will receive Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, who will deliver a written message from Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The letter contains the response earlier prepared by Qatar on the list of collective claims submitted by Kuwait late last month.










Afrasianet - Eight people were wounded Monday morning in a shooting outside the Mercy Mosque in the southern French city of Avignon.

Two masked men, carrying a pistol and a gun, approached the mosque in a car before opening fire on worshipers as they left the building at about 10:30 am local time (2130 GMT).

According to the local media, four people were injured outside the mosque, in addition to four people from a family, including a seven-year-old girl, with shrapnel inside their house, about 50 meters from the site of the attack.

Two of the wounded were taken to the hospital, and the Public Prosecutor's Office suggested that the incident was the result of a dispute between the youths and not a terrorist act.

France is in a state of security alert after an attack on police in April and other bloody attacks in the months before.










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