Daily Archives: March 21, 2014

US to hold major war games in Poland – ambassador

Polish pilots stand in front of F-16 fighter jets as Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski (not pictured) visits at the Lask airbase in central Poland March 11, 2014.

The US military are planning large scale war games in Poland, which would involve troops from several eastern European states, the American ambassador to the country, Stephen Mull, said.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) will be participating in drills, together with the Americans, Mull told Radio ZET.

Lask airbase in central Poland has been selected as the venue for the military exercise, the ambassador said, refraining from saying when it was scheduled for.

Mull’s announcement comes just three days after US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the Polish capital of Warsaw.

Biden’s trip was aimed at reassuring that America remains a “steadfast ally” to Poland and the Baltic States after they expressed anxiety over the events in the Crimea, which signed a treaty of accession to the Russian Federation on Tuesday.

The vice president promised an additional 12 F-16 fighter jets for Poland and 10 more US F-15’s, instead of a planned four, to be assigned to NATO operations in the skies over the Baltics.

He also spoke of rotating more American ground and naval forces through the Baltic States for training exercises.

Biden once again stressed that there’ll be no changes to the US missile defense plans in Poland and Romania, with the controversial system to be operational by 2018.

Meanwhile, an unnamed US military official told Reuters that Polish radio has misrepresented the ambassador’s remarks in their report.

Mull was only talking about the discussion between Warsaw and Washington of the “possibility of expanding aviation activities at Lask to potentially include other NATO partners, and then he mentioned those nations.”

A detachment of 10 US airmen opens America’s first permanent military mission in Poland at the air base in Lask, central Poland, on November 9, 2012.

Stephen Mull.(

Poland’s geographical position has made it a strategically important NATO member as the country borders the crisis-torn Ukraine as well as Russia’s western enclave in the Kaliningrad region.

On Friday, the Ukrainian military joined two weeks of multinational military exercises that involve troops from 12 NATO members and partner nations, Reuters reports.

The Saber Guardian war games will be staged at the Novo Selo training facility in eastern Bulgaria and will include some 700 troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and the US, as well as NATO representatives.

On Thursday, the US and NATO also announced that the annual Rapid Trident war games won’t be rescheduled and will take place in Ukraine this summer.

In addition to US and British soldiers, they’ll include units from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

Rapid Trident 2014 is designed to promote regional stability and improve interoperability between NATO and Ukraine, which isn’t a member of the North Atlantic Alliance.

On Friday, the Crimea and Sevastopol, which used to be part of Ukraine, officially joined Russia, with President Putin signing the finalizing decree.

Previously, Russian lawmakers ratified both the amendment and an international treaty with the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which the sides signed in the Kremlin on March 18.

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Missing Malaysia Plane Forces Countries to Weigh Security Secrets



The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 launched an international hunt for any sign of the plane, causing dozens of countries to wrestle with putting aside national security and military secrets to try and find the plane.

After Malaysia admitted that its civilian air radar lost contact with the plane early Saturday morning, attention quickly turned to more advanced methods of detection, including military radar and satellites.

Now, all of the countries involved in the search – numbering at least 25 – are wrestling with how to share helpful information without giving away data that could threaten their safety later.

  • Malaysia was accused of being coy with satellite and radar data in the early days of the investigation, not releasing key radar data showing the plane’s turn-around until four days after the disappearance. The Minister of Foreign Defense said that the country was willing to put its own national security aside to try and find the plane.
  • Thailand waited 10 days after the plane disappeared to mention publicly that its military radar detected a plane that may have been Flight 370. Thai authorities said they didn’t share the information earlier because they weren’t specifically asked for it.  
  • China’s proposal to send four warships to help search for the plane was in jeopardy by India, which said it didn’t want to allow Chinese military access to its strategic Andaman and Nicobar islands, where India has a military base, according to the Times of India.
  • As the search moved from the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean off Australia, Australian authorities would not describe what satellite imagery they used to determine where to search for plane wreckage. Australian and U.S. military have satellites controlled from Australia, but the investigators would not answer questions about the satellites due to proprietary state secrets.
  • The search has also forced countries with tense relationships to work together, including the United States, Pakistan and Iran. As U.S. investigators focused on hijacking as a possible cause for the disappearance, they quickly vetted two Iranian nationals who used fake passports to get on the plane, casting suspicion that Iranian terrorists had hijacked 370.
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Suspected debris of missing Malaysia plane may have sunk – Australia

A photo taken on March 21, 2014, shows a crew member on a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft participating in the Australian Maritime Safety Authority-led search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean.

An international search has failed to find traces of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean location where two objects were spotted on Sunday. Australia‘s deputy prime minister said the suspected debris may have sunk.

Two objects were spotted on satellite images in the Indian Ocean about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth on Sunday, Australian authorities said on Thursday. There have been no signs of wreckage, but the debris was considered a credible lead and sparked a massive search.

Bad weather hampered search operations on Thursday, but conditions improved on Friday. Despite clear weather and visibility, the search team failed to find the debris.

“Something that was floating on the sea that long ago may no longer be floating,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told journalists in Perth. “It may have slipped to the bottom.”

The search for flight MH370 has so far yielded no results. The plane, traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, around one hour after takeoff. American officials suggested this week that it changed course via the cockpit’s computerized Flight Management System, not by manual control.

The announcement made by Australian authorities on Thursday regarding the possible plane debris raised hopes of a breakthrough.

“Now it could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship. We just don’t know, but we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his visit to Papua New Guinea on Friday.

The search for the longest civil aircraft disappearance in modern history continues. Aircrafts and ships have renewed monitoring in the Andaman Sea between India and Thailand.

Australian, New Zealand, and US rescue forces will be joined by Chinese and Japanese ships and planes over the weekend.

Japan will provide tools to assist with the search, including two P-3 Orions based in Perth, said Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein. He added that China has deployed five ships and three helicopters to assist with the search.

India said it was also deploying two aircrafts – a Poseidon P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and a C-130 Hercules transporter – to join the hunt in the southern Indian Ocean and another P-8I and four warships to search in the Andaman Sea.

A number of merchant vessels have also participated in the search, according to Australia’s deputy prime minister. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted while in Papua New Guinea that “it’s about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it.”

 RT News

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Crimea, Sevastopol officially join Russia as Putin signs final decree

Russia has finalized the legal process of taking Crimea under its sovereignty, as President Putin signed a law amending the Russian constitution to reflect the transition.

Earlier Russian lawmakers ratified both the amendment and an international treaty with Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which was legally required for the incorporation.

Following the signing of the law, Putin thanked lawmakers and everyone involved in the historic change of European borders for their efforts to make it happen.

“I ask lawmakers of both chambers to work actively and do everything we can, to make the transition process not only painless, but also beneficial for all Russia and the people of Crimea,” Putin said.

The treaty and the bill were submitted for the approval of Russian lawmakers on Tuesday by Putin, following last week’s referendum in Crimea, which showed the overwhelming support of the peninsula’s residents for joining Russia.

The actual transition of Crimea to existing under Russian laws and regulations may take until next year. Local rules in the new Russian region will be changed to adopt the ruble, social benefits, tax requirements and other Russian legislation.

As was promised by the Crimean authorities, the treaty includes preferences for the region’s ethnic minorities, particularly Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians. Their languages would be official in Crimea, on par with Russian.

Russia pledged to make the process as smooth as possible by offering funding and recognizing various Ukrainian documents, which were in force in Crimea before it declared its independence last week.

Moscow will retain military ranks and academic levels for Ukrainian troops who choose to serve Russia, give preference to Ukrainian officials who want to keep their positions in Crimea, and expedite the issuance of Russian citizenship to all residents of Crimea who want it. Citizenship would be given automatically to all except those who explicitly opt out of it no later than one month’s time.

The current interim authorities of Crimea will be replaced with new ones after elections, which will be held in September 2015.

Crimea’s rejoining Russia was triggered by an armed coup in Kiev, which ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanokovich from power. The new authorities took some alarming steps, including parliament passing a law revoking the regional status of the Russian language, which caused the predominantly Russian region to defy Kiev.

The public uprising in Crimea culminated in a referendum, in which an overwhelming majority of over 96 percent voted in favor of asking for reunification with Russia. Moscow agreed, citing the will of the people and the historic justice of the move as its motives.

Kiev and Western countries deemed Crimea’s secession and Russia’s acceptance of the peninsula illegal, a notion that Moscow denies. The US and the EU issued sanctions against some Russian officials and businessmen in a bid to put pressure on Russia over its stance on the Ukrainian crisis. Russian authorities mostly mocked the sanctions.

RT News

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China and Russia Threaten to Destroy the Dollar

Russia Threatens to Drop The Dollar and Crash The U.S. Economy if Sanctions Are Imposed – Obama Signs Sanctions Anyway

Is Russia bluffing, or is the world as we know it about to change for ever?

On Tuesday Reuters reported that a Kremlin aid Sergei Glazyev had announced that if the U.S. were to impose sanctions on Russia Moscow may drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks saying that Moscow could recommend that all holders of U.S. treasuries sell them if Washington freezes the U.S. accounts of Russian businesses and individuals.

“We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves,” said Glazyev.
“An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system”

That statement is startling by itself, but the true gravity of this situation is only evident when you consider it in context. China has taken Russia’s side in the Ukraine conflict (they are after all allies) and China holds the lion’s share of U.S. treasuries. If Russia puts out the call to drop the dollar China would have a choice: either hold on to those treasuries while the dollar slides (losing their shirt in the process) or join Russia and dump their holdings as well. It should be pretty obvious which way China would go.

Related: The Extreme Right Emerging as the Dominant Voice in Ukraine

The effects of a coordinated bond sell off by China and Russia would be earth shattering. This would be the financial equivalent of a nuclear bomb being dropped. It is no exaggeration to say that such a move would mark the end of an era.

You would think that this would prompt some serious reflection and that diplomats would be scrambling to resolve this peacefully, but instead today Obama signed a sanction order anyway and revoked the visas of a number of Russian officials. All of this supposedly in response to the violence in Kiev even though we now have leaked phone conversations that indicate that it was in fact the new coalition government in Ukraine that was responsible for the shootings and that the West knows this. Combine this with the fact that several U.S. officials met directly with known Neo-Nazi leaders prior to the coup in Ukraine and these sanctions are even more non-nonsensical.

Related: Ukrainian War: Russian Council Unanimously Approves Military Deployment – Seizes Two Airports

Russia warns the U.S. that they will drop the dollar if sanctions are imposed, and says they will call for others to drop the dollar as well:


In response the U.S. imposes sanctions and visa restrictions on Russian officials: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014……

China and Russia are in Agreement about the situation in Ukraine: http://news.sky.com/story/1219922/rus……

Russia warns it could crash the U.S. economy if sanctions are imposed:


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Up in arms: Poland accelerates missile defense plan amid Ukraine crisis

Amid growing tensions in neighboring Ukraine, Poland’s Defense Ministry has announced the country will speed up its efforts for a missile defense system.

Poland has announced it will boost the pace of its missile defense tender. The Thursday statement comes amid international tensions in and around Ukraine.

The issues related with Poland’s air defense will be accelerated,” Reuters quoted spokesman Jacek Sonta as saying. “Poland plans to choose the best offer for its missile defense in the next few weeks.”

The European NATO member was due to limit the number of existing bidders by June of this year. Yet, despite calls not to exacerbate tensions in the region, Poland decided to quicken the process, citing concerns over Ukraine.

Current bidders for the missile defense system include: France’s Thales with European group MBDA and the Polish state defense group; the Israeli government; American Raytheon; and the Lockheed Martin’s MEADS consortium.

The spokesman clarified that Poland intends to sign the final agreement for the construction of the missile shield this year. The project is projected to be built by the end of 2022.

Military experts estimate that the project will cost up to $13.1 billion.

The shield is planned to be completed in stages. The first phase involves eight sets of mid-range interceptor rockets. The bill to ensure funding for the missile shield has already been passed, according to the spokesman.

The Polish shield is not the same project as the proposed US missile shield to be installed in Poland by 2018.

Poland has been very vocal during the Ukrainian crisis, boosting war fears, with senior US officials such as Vice President Joe Biden paying a visit to the country and reassuring it of NATO’s commitments.

The country has also recently served as a base for the US military. The Pentagon dispatched 12 warplanes and hundreds of troops to Poland following the Crimean referendum.

Before the referendum, NATO also conducted war games in Poland. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said that “events to the east” provided a reason to protect military spending in an age of austerity, though he did not directly mention Crimea in his statement.

Poland is a strategically important member of NATO, as it is a western neighbor of crisis-torn Ukraine.

US Congressman Stephen Lynch spoke out in approval of Poland’s decision. “I think the action in Crimea makes it abundantly clear that NATO needs to do more to upgrade its defenses, not just missile defenses,” he said.

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الذكرى 11 للغزو الأمريكي .. ومأساة العراق

فيما تحل الذكرى الـ 11 للغزو الأمريكي للعراق، تتواصل أعمال العنف هناك حاصدة أرواح المزيد من الضحايا في مختلف المناطق، فقد قُتل عشية هذه الذكرى 32 شخصا بانفجارات وهجمات مسلحة في أرجاء العراق، إضافة إلى مصرع 12 شخصا على الأقل بهجوم انتحاري استهدف أحد المقاهي في بغداد.لا يزال العنف والفوضى وعدم الاستقرار السياسي يلقي بظلال قاتمة على حاضر العراق، منذ الغزو الأمريكي الذي بدأ في 20 /03 / 2003 وتحول إلى احتلال بعد إزاحة صدام حسين ونظامه، مرورا بسنوات طويلة من العنف والتدمير اليومي حتى إنزال العلم الأمريكي في بغداد في 15 / 12/ 2011 تلاه انسحاب آخر جندي أمريكي في 18 / 12 / 2011

تبقى مضاعفات حقبة الغزو الأمريكي وتأثيراتها السلبية واضحة للعيان من خلال أوضاع العراق الأمنية والسياسية والاقتصادية المتردية، إذ تسبب هذا الغزو الذي شارك فيه ما يزيد عن 300 ألف جندي أغلبهم من الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا، بسقوط مئات الآلاف من الضحايا، بل تؤكد بعض التقديرات أنهم يتجاوزون المليون، إضافة إلى ما نتج عن الغزو من تفكيك للنسيج الاجتماعي، وتدمير للبنية التحتية، وصولا إلى انتشار العنف الأعمى والطائفي وظهور التنظيمات المتطرفة بما فيها المرتبطة بالقاعدة. وبعد أن تساقطت الذرائع والحجج التي سيقت لتبرير غزو العراق مع الفشل في العثور على أية أسلحة نووية أو ما شابهها، اكتفى الساسة الأمريكيون آنذاك بالزهو من التخلص من دكتاتور، وبمهمة نشر الديموقراطية التي هي الأخرى لا تزال بعيدة المنال

فشل الأمريكيون، قبيل الغزو، في إقناع المجتمع الدولي بما كانوا يصفونها بالحجج القاطعة على امتلاك العراق لأسلحة دمار شامل، ومع ذلك شنوا حربهم لاحقا، ونشروا الخراب في العراق، متجاوزين بذلك الشرعية الدولية، متمثلة بمجلس الأمن، ومبادئ القانون الدولي التي يحلو لواشنطن التغني بها حين يتعلق الأمر بخصومها. بعد 11 عاما من الغزو الأمريكي، يكبل العنف العراق وتجتاحه الفوضى مانعة إياه من استعادة عافيته والتقاط أنفاسه، وتحقيق الاستقرار، واستعادة الأمن واللحمة الوطنية، وتوطيد السلم الاجتماعي، وإعادة البناء الاقتصادي. غايات كثيرة غائبة عن عراق اليوم، ويبقى الوصول إليها، رغم ما يُبذل من جهود، أمرا في غاية الصعوبة نتيجة تركة الغزو الثقيلة، ومرجل العنف الذي يزداد اتقادا

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MH370 search at site of ‘best lead’ off coast of Australia kicks off again in the morning light

In this undated handout picture made available by hoegh.com via NTB Scanpix on Thursday, March 20, 2014, of autoliner “Hoegh St. Petersburg” which is expected to reach an area south west of Australia where possible debris of missing airliner MH370 has been spotted.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A freighter used searchlights early Friday to scan rough seas in one of the remotest places on Earth after satellite images detected possible pieces from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

In what officials called the “best lead” of the nearly two-week-old aviation mystery, a satellite detected two objects floating about 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia and halfway to the desolate islands of the Antarctic.

The development raised new hope of finding the vanished jet and sent another emotional jolt to the families of the 239 people aboard.

One of the objects on the satellite image was 24 meters long and the other was 5 meters. There could be other objects in the area, a four-hour flight from southwestern Australia, said John Young, manager of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s emergency response division.

“This is a lead, it’s probably the best lead we have right now,” Young said. He cautioned that the objects could be seaborne debris along a shipping route where containers can fall off cargo vessels, although the larger object is longer than a container.

Four military planes searched the area Thursday without success but will resume later Friday morning, Australian officials said.

The Norwegian cargo vessel Hoegh St. Petersburg, with a Filipino crew of 20, arrived in the area and used searchlights after dark to look for debris. It will continue the search Friday, said Ingar Skiaker of Hoegh Autoliners, speaking to reporters in Oslo.

The Norwegian ship, which transports cars, was on its way from South Africa to Australia, he said. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said another commercial ship and an Australian navy vessel were also en route to the search area.

Satellite imagery experts said the lead is worth investigating.

“It would be very nice if you could see a whole wing floating there, then you could say, `OK that’s an airplane.’ When you’re looking at something like this you can’t tell what it is,” said Sean O’Connor, an imagery analyst with IHS Janes.

Sebjoern Dahl, Hoegh Autoliners, left, Sturla Henriksen, managing director of the Norwegian Shipowners Association, centre, and Ingar Skiaker, CEO of Hoegh Autoliners brief the press in Oslo Thursday March 20, 2014 on the movements of the ship “Hoegh St. Petersburg”. The ship is engaged in searching for possible debris from missing Malaysian Air flight MH370 plane in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Australia

But another analyst said the debris is most likely not pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There have been several false leads since the Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 above the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“The chances of it being debris from the airplane are probably small, and the chances of it being debris from other shipping are probably large,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The development marked a new phase for the anguished relatives of the passengers, who have been critical of Malaysian officials for not releasing timely information about the plane. While they still hope their loved ones will somehow be found, they acknowledged that news of the satellite images could mean the plane fell into the sea.

“If it turns out that it is truly MH370, then we will accept that fate,” said Selamat Bin Omar, the father of a Malaysian passenger. The jet carried mostly Chinese and Malaysian nationals.

But he cautioned that relatives still “do not yet know for sure whether this is indeed MH370 or something else. Therefore, we are still waiting for further notice from the Australian government.”

Malaysian officials met with the relatives Thursday night in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but journalists were kept away. After the meeting, groups of people left looking distraught.

Hamid Amran, who had a child on Flight 370, said questions asked at the meeting made it “apparent that Malaysia’s military is incapable of protecting its own airspace.”

He said he “believes that my child and all the other passengers are still alive. I will not give up hope.”

A man who would only give his surname, Lau, said he was there to support a Chinese couple who had lost their only son.

“It appears some families are slowly accepting the worst outcome,” he said.

Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the relatives in Kuala Lumpur were being given updates by high-level officials “two or three times a day.”

“We do take care of the next of kin, and assuming it is confirmed, that the aircraft is located somewhere close to Australian, we will obviously make arrangements to fly the next of kin there,” he said.

A group of Malaysian government and airline officials flew Thursday night to Beijing to meet families there.

Young said the ocean in the search area is thousands of meters (feet) deep.

DigitalGlobe, a Longmont, Colo.-based company, said it provided the images to Australian officials. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority released two images of the whitish objects. They were taken March 16, but Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said it took time to analyze them.

“The task of analyzing imagery is quite difficult, it requires drawing down frames and going through frame by frame,” he said.

The hunt has encountered other false leads. Oil slicks that were seen did not contain jet fuel. A yellow object thought to be from the plane turned out to be sea trash. Chinese satellite images showed possible debris, but nothing was found.

But this is the first time that possible objects have been spotted since the search area was massively expanded into two corridors, one stretching from northern Thailand into Central Asia and the other from the Strait of Malacca to the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear Thursday that although international search efforts are continuing both on land and in sea in the northern and southern hemispheres, the effort is mostly concentrated south of the equator over the vast Indian Ocean

Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.

Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.

via MH370 search at site of ‘best lead’ off coast of Australia kicks off again in the morning light | National Post.

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Turkey blocks Twitter after PM threatens to wipe it out


Turkey has blocked Twitter hours after embattled Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to close it down ahead of a key election. It comes after audio recordings purportedly demonstrating corruption among his associates were posted on the site.

Just before midnight, access to Twitter was blocked, Hurriyet Daily reports.

“We now have a court order. We will wipe out Twitter,” the Islamist-leaning leader told a crowd of adulating supporters during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Bursa on Thursday, AFP reported.

“I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the Turkish republic‘s strength,” Erdogan added.

According to the Press Advisory of the Prime Ministry, Twitter officials are currently ignoring court rulings demanding they remove some links.

[In Erdogan’s speech] it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might be no remedy but to block access in order to relief our citizens,” the statement says, as quoted by Hurriyet.

Last month, Turkey passed a controversial law tightening control over the internet, raising major concerns about free speech. It enabled authorities to block access to web pages within hours without a prior court order.

The Communication Technologies Institution (BTK) lists four court rulings on its website as the reasons for the latest block.

Twitter Inc says it is looking into reports that it has been banned in Turkey, Reuters says.

Multiple recordings have recently emerged not just on Twitter, but also on Facebook and YouTube, purportedly showing Erdogan – whose AK Party dominates the parliament – illegally meddling in political, legal, business, and media affairs.

In one recording, he instructs his son to hide tens of millions of euros worth of cash in the house. In another, he tells off an editor of a major newspaper for producing negative coverage. Erdogan has dismissed most of the recordings as “vile fakes” and accused a “robot lobby” of targeting his government through Twitter.

The leader also threatened to shut down YouTube and Facebook – which is used by 35 million Turks – last month.

The run-up to the local elections on March 30 – which will be followed by parliamentary and presidential polls – has been marked by constant rancour, with allegations of fraud adding to the protests over corruption and the suppression of political and civil freedoms from the opposition.

But the AK Party, which has been in power since 2002, is set to maintain its supremacy, if polls are to be believed.

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