Posts tagged Russia
A ruinous heap
“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1
Israel has warned Damascus that if President Assad chooses to hit back at Israel for any further Israeli military strikes, Israel will bring down his regime.
An Israeli official confirmed Wednesday night that a dramatic and unprecedented message to this effect had been conveyed to Damascus, Channel 2 news reported.
The report said that Israel’s position to this effect also came up during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency meeting in Russia on Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin, during which Netanyahu also told Putin of Israel’s profound opposition to Russia’s sale of sophisticated S-300 missile defense batteries to Assad.
The warning came hours after mortar shells hit the Mount Hermon areafor the first time in the two-year Syrian civil war, and as Arabic newspapers reported talk of Hezbollah opening “a new front” against Israel on the Golan Heights.
Syria vowed last week to respond “immediately and harshly” to any further Israeli airstrikes, after Israel carried out two early morning attacks earlier this month on weapons consignments being stored in and around Damascus en route from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The shipments contained highly sophisticated Fateh-110 missiles.
Confirmation of Israel’s warning to Assad came soon after the New York Times quoted an Israeli official issuing the same threat. The New York Times said Israel was “considering further military strikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants,” and that an unnamed Israeli official had contacted the paper to warn: “Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region. If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
“Israel will continue its policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hezbollah, but will not intercede in the Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel.”
The New York Times report speculated that Israel “could be trying to restrain Syria’s behavior without undertaking further military action, or alerting the international community to another strike. That would ratchet up the tension in an already fraught situation in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than two years.”
Channel 2 on Wednesday night showed satellite images of what it said was a surgical strike, reportedly carried out by Israel at Damascus airport to target the Iranian missile consignments. It showed before and after pictures of specific buildings that had been blown up, while neighboring buildings remained intact. Israel has not formally confirmed either of this month’s attacks.
Channel 2 said Netanyahu had made clear to Putin — as he also had in recent conversations with US President Barack Obama and the Chinese leadership — that Israel would hold to its “red lines” as related to Syria, which included preventing the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and other rogue organizations. source – Times Of Israel
What was it?
A series of explosions in the skies of Russia’s Urals region, reportedly caused by a meteor shower, has sparked panic in three major cities. Witnesses said that houses shuddered, windows were blown out and cellphones stopped working.
Atmospheric phenomena have been registered in the cities of Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg and Tyumen.
In Chelyabinsk, witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it resembled an earthquake and thunder at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth.
Police in the Chelyabinsk region are reportedly on high alert, and have enacted the ‘Fortress’ plan in order to protect vital infrastructure.
Office buildings in downtown Chelyabinsk are being evacuated. Injuries were reported at one of the city’s secondary schools, supposedly from smashed windows. No other injuries have been reported so far.
An emergency message published on the website of the Chelyabinsk regional authority urged residents to pick up their children from school and remain at home if possible. The regional Emergency Ministry said the phenomenon was a meteorite shower, but locals have speculated that it was a military fighter jet crash or a missile explosion.
“According to preliminary data, the flashes seen over the Urals were caused by [a] meteorite shower,” the Emergency Ministry told Itar-Tass news agency.
The Emergency Ministry reported that no civil aircraft were damaged by the meteorite shower, and that “all flights proceed according to schedule.” No local power stations were damaged, either.
Residents of the town of Emanzhilinsk, some 50 kilometers from Chelyabinsk, said they witnessed a flying object that suddenly burst into flames, broke apart and fell to earth. A black cloud was reported hanging above the town.
Witnesses in Chelyabinsk said the city’s air smells like gunpowder. Many locals reported that the explosion rattled their houses and smashed windows.
“This explosion, my ears popped, windows were smashed… phone doesn’t work,” Evgeniya Gabun wrote on Twitter.
“My window smashed, I am all shaking! Everybody says, that a plane crashed,” Twitter user Katya Grechannikova reported.
Many speculated on what caused the powerful explosion – some claimed it was a crashed plane, while others said it could have been a UFO. “My windows were not smashed, but I first thought that my house is being dismantled, then I thought it was a UFO, and my eventual thought was an earthquake,” Bukreeva Olga wrote on Twitter. source – RT
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia hopes to establish its first naval base abroad since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and is looking at Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles as possible locations, state-run RIA news agency quoted the navy chief as saying on Friday.
“It’s true that we are continuing work on providing the navy with basing outside the Russian Federation,” RIA quoted Vice AdmiralViktor Chirkov as saying in an interview.
The Soviet Union had a large naval base in Communist ally Vietnam but post-Soviet Russia opted to vacate the Cam Ranh base in 2002, during President Vladimir Putin’s first Kremlin term, because rent payments were a burden on state coffers.
The fate of Russia’s only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union, a maintenance and supply facility in the Syrian port of Tartous, is uncertain because of the conflict in Syria.
Chirkov said Russia was “working out the issue of creating sites for material and technical support on the territory of Cuba, the Seychelles and Vietnam,” RIA reported.
Chirkov’s wording suggested facilities in those countries might be less extensive than full-scale naval bases. Navy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, who was in Russia and was to meet Putin on Friday, was quoted as telling a Russian radio station that Vietnam has “no intention of cooperating with any country with the aim of military use of the port of Cam Ranh”.
However, Sang was quoted as telling Voice of Russia radio that a maintenance and service facility at the port would be open to ships from all nations and that, in the interest of furthering a “strategic partnership” with Moscow, Vietnam “will provide Russia with advantages in Cam Ranh, including with aim of developing military cooperation”. source – Yahoo News
Russian, Western and Arab forces were piling up on Syrian borders Wednesday, July 25, bringing closer a war confrontation which could spur the Assad regime into making good on its threat to use chemical weapons against “external aggression.”
Based on this reading, Moscow added its voice Tuesday to that of US President Obama and warned Bashar Assad against using chemical weapons in view of “its commitments under the international convention it ratified prohibiting the use of poisonous gases as a method of warfare.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources: With operational intelligence deployment and electronic stations positioned inside Syria, the Russians are better placed than any other outsiders to know what is happening on Syria’s battlefields. Their warning must therefore be tied to solid information confirming Washington’s assessment that Assad is dangerously close to deciding to use his chemical and biological weapons in a way that would precipitate a regional conflict.
Israel, Turkey and Jordan would be the first targets on Assad’s list
The immediacy of the peril, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, has speeded the arrival of Russian warships to Syria to counter a potential Western, Arab or Israeli assault on the embattled country.
The Russian Ministry of Defense, which rarely discloses Russian military movements outside its borders, announced early Wednesday morning, July 25 that a fleet of Russian warships had passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean.
The fleet is headed by the anti-submarine and anti-aircraft Admiral Chabanenko warship and consists of another three vessels carrying a large number of Russian marines. This fleet will rendezvous with a Russian flotilla standing by in the Mediterranean since July 21, detached from Russian Black Fleet and composed of the Smetlivy figate and two large landing craft loaded with Russian marines. This group awaited the main force before approaching Syria.
The fact that Russia is massing large numbers of marines off the Syrian coast looks as though a landing on Syrian soil is on Moscow’s cards. The Russian marine contingent, DEBKAfile’s sources say, will stand ready – either to come to the aid of the Assad regime or to serve as a bargaining chip for a last-minute deal between Moscow and Washington for ending the war by establishing a transitional military regime in Damascus whose makeup would be agreed between them and Assad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted at this possibility on Tuesday, July 24, when she said: “We do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition.”
But Clinton also hinted, in a more threatening tone, that a situation is developing for the creation of safe zones in rebel-controlled areas of Syria. “More and more territory is being taken and it will, eventually, result in a safe haven inside Syria which will then provide a base for further actions by the opposition,” she said.
Clinton didn’t name the potential protectors of those havens. However, since the Syrian rebels are short of manpower, Western, Muslim or Arab defenders would have to be called in.
Wednesday, British military sources in London said the moment is rushing forward for British forces to get involved in what is happening in Syria. Iran and Turkey are not indifferent either.
Deputy Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, warned on Tuesday, July 24, that Tehran would not permit regime change in Damascus and if Syria’s enemies intervened, Iran would hit them hard. The Iranian commander pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia and Qatar, adding that the US and Israel are at the forefront of the comprehensive campaign against Syria but are being beaten back.
This was the first time Tehran had explicitly threatened military intervention in Syria. Wednesday, Turkey shut its border crossings to Syria. Military sources in Ankara confirmed that massive Turkish military strength had been on the move toward the Syrian border. source – DEBKA
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was losing control of his country and urged Russia and the international community to get behind a political transition plan to avert sectarian civil war.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin – Assad’s main international supporter – after a Damascus bomb blast killed Syria’s defense minister and Assad’s brother-in-law, throwing the 16-month old rebellion onto an unpredictable new path.
“The window is closing, we need to take action in a unified way to help bring about the transition that the Syrian people so deserve,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news conference.
The White House said Obama discussed the deteriorating Syrian situation with Putin, whose government has repeatedly blocked efforts to rally the U.N. Security Council behind tough measures against Damascus.
But while the two leaders agreed on the need to stop the violence, both Russian and U.S. officials said they ended the call divided over the best way forward.
“They noted the differences our governments have had on Syria, but agreed to have their teams continue to work toward a solution,” the White House said in a statement.
With Russia adamantly opposed to what it sees as a Western-led attempt to dictate the outcome of Syria’s crisis, the U.N. Security Council delayed until Thursday a proposed vote on a U.S.-backed resolution that threatens Damascus with sanctions if it does not stop using heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns and cities.
Russia has indicated it will likely veto the measure if it comes to a vote.
The Alaed’s previous attempt to convey the Mi-25 gunships to the regime of of President Bashar al-Assad under a Curaçao flag caused anger in London and Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the aircraft would be used to kill innocent civilians.
The ship’s new destination is unclear but maritime data show it was travelling south off Norway on Thursday and is due in Baltiysk on the Baltic coast of Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave between Poland and Lithuania, on July 17.
A spokesman for Femco, the Russian company which owns the cargo vessel, said on Friday that it would arrive in St Petersburg two days later and may then head to the Russian Far East.
Moscow has insisted it will deliver the Mi-25 helicopters in the teeth of western disapproval and it appears likely the ship’s real or eventual target is Syria.
The Alaed turned back 50 miles off Scotland on June 18 and returned to its home port of Murmansk after its British insurer found out it had weapons bound for Syria on board and cancelled its policy rather than violate a EU arms embargo.
Its new departure under a Russian flag will provoke fresh tensions because the Kremlin sent a flotilla of naval ships headed by a destroyer, the Admiral Chabanenko, to the Mediterranean earlier this week. The flotilla is a short way ahead of the Alaed and is destined to call at Tartus, the Syrian port where Russia has a naval base.
On Wednesday, a senior Russian defence official said its navy could be dispatched to ensure the passage of merchant shipping to Syria.
“The fleet will be sent on task to guarantee the safety of our ships, to prevent anyone interfering with them in the event of a blockade,” Vyacheslav Dzirkaln said. “I remind you, there are no limits.”
Rosoboron export, Russia’s state arms agency, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the overhauled helicopters were on board the Alaed. It did not mention the number, but originally there were three, which are thought to be the first deliveries of a larger batch.
Moscow has insisted that it is breaking no laws in delivering the aircraft, which already belonged to Syria but had been serviced in Russia under a contract signed in 2008. It says the helicopters are in parts and would take three months to assemble.
Russia also accuses the west of hypocrisy, pointing to reports that the CIA is coordinating arms supplies to Syrian rebels via Arab intermediaries.
Members of the Syrian National Council, a coalition of groups opposing Mr al-Assad, said this week during a visit to Moscow they were concerned the presence of Russian naval ships off Syria could encourage the president to use more violence against civilians.
Helicopter gunships reportedly fired on villagers in Ham province on Thursday, killing as many as 200 people. source – Telegraph UK
Russia despatched a flotilla of warships to its naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus on Tuesday in an apparent show of support for President Bashar al-Assad.
Two destroyers and three amphibious landing vessels carrying marines set sail from Russian bases in the Arctic and the Black Sea, according to Russian military sources.
Russia’s defence ministry insisted that the mission was part of a previously scheduled exercise in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea and at least one of the vessels in the flotilla has patrolled waters off Syria earlier this year.
But Western diplomats say the purpose of the mission is to show tangible support for Mr Assad, to warn the West against military intervention in Syria and to prepare for the possible evacuation of Russian nationals from the country.
Russia renewed naval patrols in the Mediterranean in 2007 – after a 15-year hiatus – with a wider aim of expressing the country’s military resurgence.
It was unclear whether the ships were carrying weapons supplies or large numbers of marines.
Despite the demonstration of military strength, speculation has been mounting that Russia is subtly realigning its once unquestioned support for Mr Assad, although its public position is unlikely to change. This week, Moscow announced that it would halt the delivery of new weapons to the Syrian armed forces, while some of Mr Assad’s leading opponents have been invited to the Kremlin for talks. source – Telegraph UK