Ukraine opens fire across entire Donbass front, targets Donetsk water system

From Fort Russ

February 23, 2017

Novorossiya – translated by J. Arnoldski –
Since the early morning of February 23rd, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been particularly active across the entire Donbass front. Grassroots sources such as “Updates from the Novorossiya Militia,” “Burning Hearts of Donbass”, and the “GO Alert Group of Novorossiya” have been reporting the situation on social media. 
War correspondents have reported: “Since 06:35, the Dzerzhinsky front has been active, and the enemy has been unusually active on the Svetlodarsk front.”
According to the Donbass militia and local residents, UAF shells have hit the village of Zaytsevo north of Gorlovka. “Gorlovka is loud in the north and northeast. There are reports of incoming shells hitting the Zaytsevo area,” a report reads.
The Donetsk front is also restless. In the Petrovka district firefights broke out this morning and the UAF fired off small arms, mortars, and artillery.
Local residents have confirmed incoming reports.
It has also been reported that this morning Ukrainian troops shelled the Donetsk filtration station. As a result, the Donbass Water Company has confirmed, the water filters have been damaged.
In addition, the UAF has opened fire on the Mayorsk checkpoint near Gorlovka. Fortunately, no shells hit the checkpoint directly.
War correspondents have urged civilians not to lose vigilance. 
At 10:00 this morning, the Ukrainian troop activity was also recorded by the Lugansk People’s Republic. Citizen reports have warned people to be careful and stay away from the Bakhmutka highway. 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova briefing, February 15 — Obama, U.S. use of depleted uranium in Syria, ‘Russian hackers’, Ukraine’s information campaign

From Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 15, 2017

Excerpts:

The situation in Syria

 

The ceasefire regime in Syria introduced December 30, 2016, is being observed. Its zone continues to expand with units of the Southern Front armed opposition joining the ceasefire. The ceasefire is guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with Jordan making a substantial contribution to it.

The fight continues against ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorists. The Syrian Army and militia units, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, are methodically pushing terrorist elements out of the country. About 1,400 square kilometres of territory have been liberated since January 1, 2017. It became possible to force ISIS terrorists out of a fortified outpost in the village of Tadef near the city of al-Bab, to establish a bridgehead near the city and to gain control of the Raqqa−al-Bab motorway. Over 650 terrorists were eliminated in Tadef, and a route for supplying ISIS with reinforcements, equipment and financial assistance was cut off.

Government forces continue to advance on Palmyra. The Russian Defence Ministry has published drone footage showing the barbaric destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites by ISIS militants in this city. Unfortunately, it is already clear that little remains of these ancient architectural and cultural landmarks. The terrorists have razed the façade of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, as well as Tetrapylon columns, to the ground. They are also highly likely to blow up the remnants of the historical architectural complex and nearby residential areas. The jihadists have shelled the Homs refinery with mortars, and they also set fire to natural gas fields while retreating.

As you know, Astana will host the second international meeting on Syria over the next few days. The Russian delegation that has already arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan will hold working consultations today. We hope that the upcoming meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan will provide an additional boost to the inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue under UN auspices in Geneva. Hopefully, it will become possible to resume this dialogue on February 20.

Against this backdrop, we note the attempts to aggravate the intra-Syrian conflict still further and to exacerbate contradictions between the warring parties. This is the only way to interpret the media leaks by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Atlantic Council of the United States, via CNN, about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in Aleppo, mass executions at Sednaya military prison near Damascus, and the methodical destruction of Syrian socioeconomic infrastructure by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The evidence backing up these so-called “sensations” leaves a lot to be desired, but, as we can see, their authors don’t seem to care. Their purpose is to torpedo any chance for launching a political peace settlement that has appeared largely through Russian efforts and to thwart emerging prospects for broad, equitable and mutually respectful international cooperation in the interests of eradicating a terrorist hotbed in the Middle East and stabilising the region.

 

Media response to the United States using depleted uranium in Syria
Given how many sensationalistic stories are planted in the media, as I mentioned earlier, it’s fun to watch world media juggernauts and institutions dealing with freedom of speech get busy with creating websites to oppose the spread of “fake news,” which has become a widespread practice. On the one hand, they say it’s imperative to not just counter it, but to do all it takes to prevent the spread of “fake news,” while they themselves engage in spreading precisely such news.

Against the background of this data, the information provided by the United States Central Command, whose operational responsibility includes, primarily, the Middle East, to the effect that the US Air Force used munitions with depleted uranium in air strikes on ISIS positions in Syria, came as a shock to many who did not believe us when we said so. As you may be aware, such a statement was made by an official representative on Tuesday when he spoke about the US air operations with the use of toxic substances which cause cancer and birth defects.

As you may recall, Russia has stated this more than once. Back in October 2016, citing independent experts, we presented such information and called on the public to pay attention to it. At that time, our American partners denied all the accusations against them. A couple of months later, these accusations were not merely confirmed, but confirmed by the United States itself. The only difference is that we provided this information a few months ago, when the previous team led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was at the helm. Clearly, he was the one to give the go-ahead to using these weapons − any other scenario is unlikely, since such things must be approved at the highest level. I would like to say that the goal pursued by US officials was noble, that is to fight terrorists. But the point is that the traces of these weapons will remain in Syria forever. You can find out more about it if you read some professional literature. The number of missiles that were used is simply devastating. I would like to quote the same US official, who said that out of 1,790 missiles fired on November 16, 2016, 1,490 contained toxic materials, and 3,775 missiles of 4,530 fired on November 22, 2016 contained toxic materials. Thus, there were five rounds with depleted uranium for every conventional missile. Each operation involved four A-10 jet aircraft. You can look up these numbers.

I would like to remind you that earlier the United States, particularly the Pentagon, claimed that the United States has never used ammo with depleted uranium during the international anti-terrorist operation in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, in 2003, these munitions were used during the US invasion of Iraq. I reiterate, it is better to read up on this subject in specialised literature, make inquiries, perhaps, even with independent expert institutes, and ask the experts specialising in this area to provide their opinion. They will tell you what the use of weapons with depleted uranium is all about, and what its implications are for the lives and livelihoods of the local people.

I mentioned this with regard to fake news and the role of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s team in resolving international conflicts. Incidentally, people live in Syria. The scary thing is that the focus was on isolated cases which were clearly propaganda shams where individual Syrian citizens, unfortunately, were propelled to the status of international stars, and the information campaign regarding these people was used as a front to cover up what was really happening in that country.

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February 18, Putin signs Executive Order recognizing DPR/LPR documents, visa-free travel to Russia

From the Kremlin
February 18, 2017

Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order On Recognition in the Russian Federation of Documents and Vehicle Registration Plates Issued to Ukrainian Citizens and Stateless Persons Permanently Residing in Certain Districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

Being guided by universally recognised principles and standards of the international humanitarian law and in order to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, the President has resolved that temporarily, during the political settlement period of the crisis in certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions pursuant to the Minsk Agreements, personal identification documents, education and (or) qualification certificates, birth certificates, marriage, divorce, name change and death certificates, vehicle registration certificates, and vehicle registration plates issued by the corresponding authorities (organisations), valid in the specified district, will be recognised in the Russian Federation as valid for Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in those areas.

Pursuant to the Executive Order, Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions can enter and leave the Russian Federation without applying for visas upon showing identification documents (birth certificates for children under the age of 16), issued by the corresponding authorities which are valid in the said districts.

The Government of the Russian Federation has been instructed to take the necessary measures to implement this Executive Order.

The Executive Order will come into effect upon its signing.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53895

Damascus demands UN action against illegal Turkish incursions, reveals location of main Turkish base inside Syria

From Fort Russ

February 18th, 2017 – Fort Russ News
– Al Binaa – translated by Samer Hussein –

Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has renewed calls to the UN Security Council for an immediate end of the violations of The Syrian sovereignty by the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Ministry also published a list of all violations that occurred since last December.

The letter, which was addressed to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN Security Council, mentions illegal incursions into Syrian territory, building a wall within the so-called Turkish buffer zones (which exist on the sovereign Syrian territory), destruction of the property belonging to the Syrian citizens such as uprooting of hundreds of olive trees in order to build roads for the tanks of the Turkish army (as recently seen in the village of Qljabreen in the Azaz area of Aleppo province) and illegal backing of the terrorist groups which are loyal to the regime in Ankara.
The letter further states that the Turkish authorities recently established a military base inside Syrian territory, more precisely in the village of Jtrar, North of the town of Tal Rifaat, located in the province of Aleppo. The base includes the headquarters for the Turkish army personnel and their allies who are stationed on the Syrian soil and are allegedly involved in the so-called “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Ammunition depots are also being mentioned.

The letter reads: “The Syrian Government renews calls to the UN Security Council to hold to its responsibilities and act in accordance with the International Law and to pressure Turkey in order to stop the violations of the Syrian Arab Republic’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. ”

Syria: ISIS attempts to flood eastern Aleppo; Russian bombers strike ISIS with cruise missiles in Raqqa, Syria

From Fort Russ

February 18th, 2017 – Fort Russ News
– Al Mayadeen – translated by Samer Hussein –

In a statement published on Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry announced that the bombers “Tu-95 MS” delivered directed blows against ISIS positions in Raqqa province, after taking off from the Russian territory and flying over Iran and Iraq. The bombers destroyed the training grounds and camps belonging to the terrorist group ISIS. According to the statement, all targets were successfully destroyed.

The mission was supported by Su-30 SM” and “Su-35 S”, the two Russian fighter jets stationed at Humaimam base. The jets provided the aerial coverage.
After their mission was successfully accomplished in Syria, the bombers returned to their bases.

In the meantime, the Syrian Army was able to successfully expand its operations in the Eastern side of the Homs province. According to the military source provided to SANA, the army also restored the security to the village of Al Kilabiyah.

The Syrian Army and its allies also made advancements towards Palmyra as they have moved closer for about 2km.

Earlier on Saturday, ISIS began to pump large quantities of water from Euphrates river through Al Babira station located in the eastern part of Aleppo province in order to cause flooding in the villages and destroy utility stations and agricultural areas in the countryside of the Aleppo province’s eastern regions. The Aleppian municipal authorities have already sent out a team of experts who will work on redirecting the flooding waters.

In Aleppo province the Turkish armed forces are continuing their incursions. The latest Turkish shelling in the eastern parts of Aleppo city resulted in 4 civilian deaths, bringing the death toll to about 50 in the past 4 days of the Turkish operations.

Since September 2015, the Russian armed forces are successfully destroying ISIS targets in Syria. The Russian counter-terrorist activities are coordinated with the government of Syria.

Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Federal Security Service, February 16, 2017

From the Kremlin
February 16, 2017

Vladimir Putin took part in an annual expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board to discuss the FSB’s results for 2016 and the priority tasks for ensuring Russia’s national security.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

These annual FSB Board meetings give us a chance to meet and not only thoroughly analyse and review the results of the agency’s work over the period, but also to discuss at length all important national security issues in general and outline the priorities for the immediate future and the longer-term.

The FSB plays a key part in protecting our constitutional order and our country’s sovereignty, and in protecting our people from threats at home and abroad.

Let me say from the start that last year’s results were positive and show good development. This concerns your work to counter terrorism and extremism, a series of successful counterintelligence operations, your efforts to combat economic crime, and other areas.

You ensured a high standard of security for major public events, including the State Duma election and regional and local elections.

I would like to thank both the executives and staff for their conscientious attitude towards their work and their timely and efficient performance of their duties.

At the same time, demands on the quality and results of your work grow constantly. The global situation has not become any more stable or better over the past year. On the contrary, many existing threats and challenges have only become more acute.

Military-political and economic rivalry between global and regional policy makers and between individual countries has increased. We see bloody conflicts continue in a number of countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. International terrorist groups, essentially terrorist armies, receiving tacit and sometimes even open support from some countries, take active part in these conflicts.

At the NATO summit last July in Warsaw, Russia was declared the main threat to the alliance for the first time since 1989, and NATO officially proclaimed containing Russia its new mission. It is with this aim that NATO continues its expansion. This expansion was already underway earlier, but now they believe they have more serious reasons for doing so. They have stepped up the deployment of strategic and conventional arms beyond the national borders of the principal NATO member states.

They are provoking us constantly and are trying to draw us into confrontation. We see continued attempts to interfere in our internal affairs in a bid to destabilise the social and political situation in Russia itself.

We also see the recent serious flare-up in southeast Ukraine. This escalation pursues the clear aim of preventing the Minsk Agreements from going ahead. The current Ukrainian authorities are obviously not seeking a peaceful solution to this very complex problem and have decided to opt for the use of force instead. What is more, they speak openly about organising sabotage and terrorism, particularly in Russia. Obviously, this is a matter of great concern.

The events and circumstances I have mentioned require our security and intelligence services, especially the Federal Security Service, to concentrate their utmost attention and effort on the paramount task of fighting terrorism.

We have already seen that our intelligence services dealt some serious blows to terrorists and their accomplices. Last year’s results confirm this: the number of terrorism related crimes has decreased.

Preventive work has also brought results. The FSB and other security agencies, with the National Antiterrorist Committee acting as coordinator, prevented 45 terrorism related crimes, including 16 planned terrorist attacks. You deserve special gratitude for this.

You need to continue your active efforts to identify and block terrorist groups’ activity, eliminate their financial base, prevent the activities of their emissaries from abroad and their dangerous activity on the internet, and take into account in this work Russian and international experience in this area.

The murder of our ambassador to Turkey was a terrible crime that particularly highlighted the need to protect our citizens and missions abroad. I ask you to work together with the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service to take additional measures to ensure their safety.

You must also work to take our counterterrorism cooperation with partners abroad to a new level, despite the difficulties that we see in various areas of international life. It is a priority, of course, to intensify work with our partners in organisations such as the UN, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

It is in our common interests to restore dialogue with the US intelligence services and with other NATO member countries. It is not our fault that these ties were broken off and are not developing. It is very clear that all responsible countries and international groups should work together on counterterrorism, because even simply exchanging information on terrorists’ financing channels and sources and on people involved in or suspected of links with terrorism can substantially improve the results of our common efforts.

Our priorities include firmly suppressing extremism. Security methods must go hand-in-hand with constant prevention work. It is essential to prevent extremism from drawing young people into its criminal networks, and to form an overall firm rejection of nationalism, xenophobia, and aggressive radicalism. In this context, of great importance is open dialogue with civil society institutions and representatives of Russia’s traditional religions.

Counterintelligence services also face greater demands today. Operational data show that foreign intelligence services’ activity in Russia has not decreased. Last year, our counterintelligence services put a stop to the work of 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents.

It is important to neutralise foreign intelligence services’ efforts to gain access to confidential information, particularly information concerning our military-technical capabilities.

This makes it a priority to improve our system for protecting classified information comprising state secrets, particularly with agencies going over to an electronic document circulation system.

I would like to note that the number of cyberattacks on official information resources tripled in 2016 compared to 2015. In this context, each agency must develop its segment of the state system for detecting and preventing cyberattacks on information resources and eliminating their consequences.

The public expects greater results in such key areas as economic security and the fight against corruption. I ask you to be particularly thorough in monitoring the funds allocated for state defence procurement (a subject I have spoken about before), major infrastructure projects, preparation of big international events, and implementing federal targeted and socially important programmes. Regrettably, we still see many cases of state funds being embezzled or misappropriated.

Reliable protection of our state borders plays a big part in ensuring our country’s comprehensive security. The priority here is to close off channels through which members of international terrorist and extremist groups enter Russia, and put a firm stop to all forms of smuggling, from weapons to drugs and various bio-resources.

Of course, we must continue the work to develop border infrastructure where it is not yet sufficiently developed, particularly in the Far East and in the Arctic.

Colleagues, let me stress that we will continue to bolster the FSB’s central and regional branches and ensure you have the most advanced arms and equipment. We will also continue to give attention to social provisions for FSB personnel and their family members.

I wish you success in protecting our national interests and the security of our country and our people. I am confident that you will continue working towards your targets with dignity.

Thank you for your attention.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53883

The real meaning behind Putin’s “Ukrainian terrorism” speech

“…We also see the recent serious flare-up in southeast Ukraine. This escalation pursues the clear aim of preventing the Minsk Agreements from going ahead. The current Ukrainian authorities are obviously not seeking a peaceful solution to this very complex problem and have decided to opt for the use of force instead. What is more, they speak openly about organising sabotage and terrorism, particularly in Russia. Obviously, this is a matter of great concern…”

Vladimir Putin’s speech at meeting of Federal Security Service Board, February 16, 2017
http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53883

From Fort Russ

February 18, 2017 – Fort Russ –
Rostislav Ishchenko, RIA Analytics – translated by J. Arnoldski –
February 16, 2017

On Thursday, February 16th, at the annual meeting of the Collegium of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Vladimir Putin drew particular attention to the situation in South-East Ukraine. According to the president, Ukrainian authorities are deliberately aggravating the situation in the conflict zone in Donbass in order to disrupt the Minsk Agreements and are betting on a military solution to the problem.
The head of state also emphasized that the Kiev authorities “are openly speaking of the organization of sabotage and terroristic, subversive work, including in Russia.”
A signal to the West
It is clear that anti-terrorist and counter-intelligence work lies at the heart of the FSB’s operations. But it is also clear that such statements by the president, by being made public, were aimed primarily at an external audience.
After all, the FSB leadership can be instructed in secret. Moreover, no one doubts that since the very beginning of the civil war in Ukraine, the FSB has followed attempts to spill the war over into Russian territory. Since 2014, the press has periodically been given information on the arrest of both Ukrainian and Russian citizens caught trying to conduct intelligence reconnaissance on the territory of Russia in the interests of Kiev, as well as prepare terrorist attacks.
Thus, the president’s statement was intended not for a Russian, but for a foreign audience. But this audience is not Ukrainian. If there was a desire to appeal to the Ukrainian government, then this would be done through diplomatic channels. And this statement is also not a threat of military response to Ukrainian provocations. Otherwise it would have been made at the collegium of the Ministry of Defense of Security Council.
The choice of place and format for this statement clearly indicates that it is a signal sent to our Western partners. 
 
The FSB has great capacity for conducting counter-terrorist operations. It should be noted that preventative actions against terrorists and their masterminds are one of the main work components of the FSB not necessarily limited to Russian territory.
Sure, their operations on the territory of another state are limited by stringent conditions. In order for preventative counter-terrorism measures on a foreign territory to be justified from the point of view of international law, the concerned state must either be in a state of war or have suffered an unprovoked attack. 
There is yet another scenario which is enshrined at the level of the UN Security Council: the loss by an acting government of control over territory from which terrorist activities are being conducted. This scenario is not relevant in this case, however, insofar as the international community does not consider the Kiev government to be incapable of controlling the situation on the territory of Ukraine.
Yet to this day Kiev has explained away all sorts of provocations against Russia, including bloody ones (in Crimea) as the independent initiatives of individuals and refused to recognize their belonging to Ukraine’s security agencies. Russia’s reaction, however, has been limited to diplomatic protests, documenting the facts of provocations, collecting evidence on the involvement of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), SBU, and General Staff in them, and presenting these reports to relevant international organizations.
State Terrorism
Apparently, a critical mass of facts has been collected and a second aspect – international law – is now going to be activated.