Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Intercepted Phone Calls Show Russia Directing Separatists to Seize MH17’s Black Boxes

The Ukrainian government has released recordings of alleged phone calls between pro-Russian separatists discussing the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17’s black boxes.

Ukrainian security officials released the tapes on Sunday, claiming that they proved Russia had directed the separatists to find and hide the black boxes.

The call is between Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the Vostok (East) battalion of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and one of his men (“Oleksiy”) at the crash site. You can listen to the conversations below:

In the first of the recordings, Khodakovsky urges Oleksiy to find MH17’s black boxes, saying,

“Do it really quick, urgently. Moscow is asking where the boxes are… [they] must be under our control”.

In a second call less than an hour later, Khodakovsky talks to another man at the crash site (“Andriy”), telling him,

“I have a request for you. It is not my request. Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow.”

He also tells Andriy to,

“Try to take everything that you find so that it doesn’t get into somebody else’s hands.”

Around the time that the recordings were released, Reuters released footage of what appears to be the black boxes being removed from the crash site by the separatists:

Earlier this morning, the news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatists in Ukraine had handed over the black boxes to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee.

Andrei Purgin is the self-proclaimed deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist government in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Purgin told Interfax:

“Of course, we most likely will give them [the black boxes] to the Interstate Aviation Committee, to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there.”

So it seems that the black boxes are on their way to Moscow, if they’re not there already. This will definitely raise a lot more suspicion about Russia’s involvement in the MH17 tragedy.

But, for the sake of objectivity, it is definitely worth noting that these tapes have not been independently verified yet, and are being released by the Ukrainian government, who has every reason in the world to want Russia to be responsible for the tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I believe the tapes are fabricated- it’s just a reminder to tread carefully when trying to make sense of such a complex issue.

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The Russian Government Just Edited the Wikipedia Page for the Plane Shot Down In Ukraine

On Thursday, Malaysian flight MH17,  headed to Amsterdam from Kuala Lampur, was shot down by a surface to air missile over Ukraine. All 298 of the passengers were killed.

As information started to come out, it became apparent that the missile that took the plane down came from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

People walk through the debris of MH17 near the village of Grabovo (Photo: AP)

These pro-Russian groups refused to recognize the new government in Kiev after the Ukrainian revolution and have established strongholds in a number of cities on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

Although the separatists have denied responsibility, much of the evidence points to them. Also, the fact that they are denying investigators access to the crash site while looters steal cash, credit cards and jewelry from the victims doesn’t seem to support their cries of innocence.

It is no secret that the separatist groups have the support of Russia, and many people think Russia holds some of the responsibility for the disaster. The main reason for this is that the missile used, an SA-11, requires a very complex weapons system operated by highly-trained personnel.

Some info about the missile system most likely responsible for taking down MH17. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby weighed in:

“It strains credulity to think that they could do this without some measure of Russian support and assistance. It is a sophisticated system.”

Then, yesterday evening, a Twitter bot added another piece to the story.

The bot, @RuGovEdits is basically a Russian version of @CongressEdits– it informs people any time a Wikipedia page has been edited by a Russian government IP address.

The Russian Twitter bot announced yesterday that the Wikipedia page for flight MH17 had been edited by the Russian government. What was changed?

Well, the original submission stated the plane was shot down by,

“…by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The new edited version says that,

“…the plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia has maintained that they were not involved in the tragedy and that the flight was brought down by Ukrainian forces, but this new revelation definitely raises questions about the truth of that statement.

(h/t Gizmodo)

Thought We Were Just “Helping” Ukraine? Their New President Has Been On U.S. Payroll Since 2006

Petro Poroshenko is Ukraine’s new president, elected after a popular uprising that overthrew the former president Viktor Yanukovych and his regime.

The uprising was a reaction to Yanukovych’s decision to turn down offers to join the EU in favor of closer economic ties with Russia. The United States, close allies with the EU, enthusiastically supported the overthrow of Yanukovych and the election of Poroshenko, a pro-EU candidate.

Ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych at a news conference in Russia (Photo: AP)

But the more time goes on, the more it seems that the U.S. government may have played a bigger role in the Ukrainian uprising and aftermath than they would have us think.

Classified cables posted to the website wikileaks.org reveal that Poroshenko was on the payroll of the U.S. State Department as early as April of 2006. Poroshenko was one of the leaders of Our Ukraine or OU, a major political party in the country- the wikileaks cables refer to him as the U.S.’s “Our Ukraine insider”.

Another cable, from May 2006, reveals that the U.S. government knew Poroshenko to be corrupt:

“Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations, but wielded significant influence within OU; Poroshenko’s price had to be paid.”

Some of the most interesting communications between the U.S. and Poroshenko came in 2009, when Poroshenko told then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that he was very in favor of,

“the opening of a U.S. diplomatic presence in Crimea… He emphasized the importance of Crimea, and said that having U.S. representation there would be useful for Ukraine.”

New Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a press confernce with Hillary Clinton last month (Photo: Reuters)

Crimea, as you know, is the disputed peninsula in the Black Sea which Russia occupied early on during the Ukrainian revolution.

These revelations, though not damning, are certainly suspicious at the very least. It’s very hard to imagine that Poroshenko won the Ukrainian presidency without any help from the U.S. after seeing that he has been providing the U.S. with insider information on Ukraine since 2006.

Some argue that Poroshenko’s work for the U.S. was an act of treason, since it’s extremely likely that some of the information provided by him was used to help oust Yanukovych back in February.

Combine these revelations with that the fact that Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, was selected to the board of Burisma Holdings (Ukraine’s largest private gas producer) in May, just a month before Poroshenko was inaugurated into office, and things start to get really fishy.

Joe Biden and his son Hunter

Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest natural gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, and the country’s pipelines are a major gas route between eastern and western Europe. It makes sense that the U.S. and the EU would do everything they could to hold onto it.

Click to enlarge

Read the original story from SGC News here.

Russia Has A Troll Army That Is Trying to Mold Public Opinion On Internet News Sites

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the country has an image problem. Since the events surrounding Ukraine’s revolution and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, public sentiment on Russia has been becoming increasingly more negative across the globe.

Apparently, the Putin administration believes that a big part of this is the way in which media outlets in America have portrayed the situation. So he decided to deploy a million-dollar army of internet trolls to help mold public opinion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with troops in Crimea (Photo: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters)

Svetlana Boiko, one of the team members for the project, said this:

“Foreign media are currently actively forming a negative image of the Russian Federation in the eyes of the global community. Additionally, the discussions formed by comments to those articles are also negative in tone.”

Boiko continued by elaborating on the importance of maintaining the Russian “brand”:

“Like any brand formed by popular opinion, Russia has its supporters (‘brand advocates’) and its opponents. The main problem is that in the foreign internet community, the ratio of supporters and opponents of Russia is about 20/80 respectively.”

The project specifically targeted  Fox News, Huffington Post, The Blaze, Politico, and WorldNetDaily. E-mails obtained by the enigmatic Russian hacking collective Anonymous Internet detailed exactly how these blogger-trolls would carry out their job.

The trolls were expected to make around 50 comments on news articles every day. In addition, they were expected to maintain 6 Facebook pages,  posting 3 times daily about the news and discussing new developments in groups on Facebook twice daily.

On top of that, the bloggers were expected to have 500 subscribers by the end of the first month. On Twitter, they were expected to maintain 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers each, tweeting at least 50 times daily.

E-mails hacked from the project’s leader, Igor Osadchy, reveal that the program is run by the firm Internet Research Agency. Starting in April, the firm began paying people to disseminate pro-Putin and pro-Russian content all across the web.

The Internet Research Agency leak is the first time that specific comments have been traced back to the campaign. These comments were made by Katarina Aistova, a 21-year-old former hotel receptionist on a WorldNetDaily article:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Though the Kremlin is denying the accusations and Internet Research Agency is refusing to comment, many feel that the evidence is overwhelming.

“What, you think crazy Russians all learned English en masse and went off to comment on articles?”,

said media executive  and Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky, who also added rather hilariously that,

“If it looks like Kremlin shit, smells like Kremlin shit, and tastes like Kremlin shit too — then it’s Kremlin shit.”

Internet Research Agency is on pace to spend $10 million dollars this year, and half of that budget has been earmarked to be paid out in cash.

The reports have also been substantiated by two local Russian media outlets. Last week, the business paper Vedomosti claimed that the campaign was directly orchestrated by the government, citing sources close to Putin’s administration.

Then earlier this week, the Novaya Gazeta claimed that the project is being orchestrated by restauranteur Yevgeny Prigozhin, who catered Putin’s re-inauguration in 2012 and has reportedly helped run several other similar campaigns for the Kremlin over the years.

Putin dining at Le Chaval Blanc, a famous restaurant located just outside Moscow and owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s company (Photo: AP)

The hacked e-mails also include numerous exchanges with an accountant at the Internet Research Agency approving payments to Concord, the holding company for Mr. Prigozhin’s catering business.

The hacking group Anonymous Internet is not affiliated with the well-known American hacking group Anonymous. In an e-mail exchange with BuzzFeed, who broke the story, the hacking collective distanced themselves from your every day code-breaker:

“[We are] not hackers in the classical sense. We are trying to change reality. Reality has indeed begun to change as a result of the appearance of our information in public.”

To date, none of their leaks have been proven false.

Read the full story from BuzzFeed here.

Russia’s Attempt to Annex Crimea Gets Them Kicked Out of G8 (Video)

Today (March 24) President Obama along with other world leaders have aligned in suspending Russia’s membership in the G8.

According to The White House…

President Barack Obama and other world leaders have decided to end Russia’s role in the group of leading industrialized nations (G8) “

This move to suspend Russia as a member of the G8 is the latest direct response from major countries allied against Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The G8 is made up of  the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy. Russia was added to their group in 1998 – transforming the group from the G7 to the G8.

According to Obama and other G8 members, Russia’s recent activities in Crimea are against international law and Europe and the U.S. stand against Russia on the issue.

According to CNN…

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in the day that being kicked out of G8 would be no big deal. G8 is an informal organization that does not give out any membership cards and, by its definition, cannot remove anyone. All the economic and financial questions are decided in G20, and G8 has the purpose of existence as the forum of dialogue between the leading Western countries and Russia.”

Western powers have imposed other sanctions and penalties to Russia and specifically to individuals close to President Vladimir Putin.

According to CNN…

Obama and other leaders agreed that further steps to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin could include sanctions on energy, banking and defense sectors — all areas where Europe is deeply engaged economically with Russia.”

The United States have publicly stated that we do not wish to get our military involved and that we are looking at the situation from a diplomatic and economical stand point. The U.S. does not wish to escalate the situation and for the time being is hoping Russia will change its course of action.

Below is a video of Secretary of State John Kerry speaking on the issue.

Check Out the full story from CNN here!

Russia Annexes Crimea and Gets Kicked Out of G8; Ukraine Preparing for War

Here’s a quick timeline of the most recent events in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

On Sunday (March 16), residents of Crimea voted on a referendum of whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia- the measure passed by upwards of 90%. It is important to note, however, that all signs point to a pretty illegitimate vote.

For one, the ballot didn’t even include an option to stay with Ukraine- the two options were to leave Ukraine and join Russia, or leave Ukraine and become independent.

Secondly, it’s obvious that there was plenty of intimidation involved- Russian soldiers and armed “unmarked militia” (that pretty much everyone agrees are pro-Russian forces) patrol the streets of Crimea. This blog from Jon Lee Anderson at The New Yorker describes some of the intimidation tactics he saw employed by the “thugs” in the streets of Crimea.

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye

Lastly, some of the actual results are simply ridiculous. For example, 123% of the major Crimean city of Sevastapool cast votes on the referendum. Mykhaylo Malyshev, chair of the committee overseeing the vote, announced on the evening of the 16th that 1,250,426 people had voted, but said that figure did include Sevastopol’s electorate. Including that city, he said, 1,724,563 total people voted.

The difference between these numbers (474,137) should be the number of votes cast in Sevastapool, right? Well, last year’s census put the voting-age population of Sevastapool at 385,462…very suspicious to say the least.

The next day (March 17), Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh responded to the results of the referendum by saying,

“Crimea was, is, and will be our territory.”

Ihor Tenyuhk (Photo: Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)
Ihor Tenyuhk (Photo: Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)

When asked if Ukrainian troops would fight to defend Crimea, he replied carefully, saying,

“The armed forces will execute their tasks… Ukrainian forces will stay [in Crimea] until all their tasks have been completed.”

While Tenyukh said that Ukraine would “do everything possible to prevent war”, he noted,

“the threat of war is real…We are strengthening our defense capacity. Ukraine is ready to defend its territory.”

Then earlier today (March 18), Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a treaty which effectively annexed Crimea, making it a part of Russia.

Putin speaking in front of Russian parliament earlier today (Photo: BBC)
Putin speaking in front of Russian parliament earlier today (Photo: BBC)

Putin said the moves corrected a “historical injustice”, as well as saying that Crimea has “always been a part of Russia”.

Naturally, the Ukrainian foreign ministry responded, saying,

 “We do not recognise and never will recognise the so-called independence or the so-called agreement on Crimea joining the Russian Federation.”

A few hours later, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in an interview with Europe-1 radio that the other members of the G8 (a forum for the 8 leading industrialized countries) had decided to suspend Russia’s membership.

Fabius did, however, say,

“We are continuing dialogue with the Russians, despite the fact that we do not agree with them.”

BONUS: After the US announced (relatively inconsequential) sanctions against some Russian officials including the freezing of their American visas, Putin’s top aide said:

“The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Props for being a Tupac fan at least!

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Ukraine Latest: Crimea Votes to Join Russia, Russia Sinks Their Own Ship

Earlier today (3/6/2014), the parliament of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea at the center of the current situation with Russia, voted to secede from Ukraine to become part of Russia.

The issue will be put to a referendum in 10 days, when the citizens of Crimea will decide whether or not to approve their parliament’s decision.

Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, immediately denounced the move as having no legal basis in Ukrainian law, saying,

“Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of Ukraine.”

Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov- AP)

While European Union leaders echoed this sentiment, calling the move unconstitutional, there doesn’t seem to be anything they can do about it without provoking violence, as Crimea is currently occupied by the Russian military.

On Wednesday, Russian sailors pulled an old anti-submarine vessel out of a junkyard and sank it in the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Donuzlav Lake, preventing Ukrainian ships docked nearby from being able to go to sea.

Russia’s scuttled vessel (Photo: AP)

While the European Union has presented plenty of tough rhetoric, they are hesitant to actually do anything.

Why? Well, because Russia is one of their biggest trading partners, and also provides a substantial portion of the EU’s gas and oil- putting economic sanctions on them would hurt the EU indirectly.

So despite that President Barack Obama called Russia’s intervention a “violation of international law,” and said that,

“the resolve of the United States and our allies and the international community will remain firm,”

it seems that he might actually be on his own with this one.

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