Daily Archives: April 9, 2014

‘US uses mercenaries where it wants its hands clean’

http://rt.com/op-edge/mercenaries-us-operate-ukraine-532/

As the US says there is “no confirmation” that American mercenaries are operating in Ukraine, Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner told RT that private US armies have been covertly operating globally wherever there is “dirty work” needs to be done.

RT: Could US contractors indeed be operating in Ukraine?

Michael Prysner: Well, of course they could. There is no law in the world that the Pentagon recognizes or will follow for its own soldiers let alone its dirty little secret with its corporate hitmen it had.

I do know that mercenaries of this type, especially that have gone out of Blackwater, have been illegally operating in countries all around the world. We can assume that wherever there is dirty work to be done, where the US wants its hands clean and be able to say it has no connection to it, we can expect that private mercenaries could be there. Because it is part of a shift in US strategy over the last decade or more towards special operations on one hand and the private military contractors on the other.

RT: If this is the case, why would the Kiev government need to deploy them?

MP: The new government in Ukraine is very unpopular in large parts of the country and the uprisings that we are seeing all over are threatening the new rule of this semi-fascist government that is willing to sell off the entire country to the West.

So the crashing against these popular uprisings is all this new power has to be able to maintain its power. The US and the EU very much want to secure the results of their operation to bring Ukraine into their sphere of influence. Neo-cons like John Kerry and John McCain of course have already been pushing for arming these, largely dominated by right wing forces who have taken control, and of course we know them to be wanting to favor even with direct military intervention.

But direct military intervention creates all types of risks and problems for the administration. So short of a direct military intervention, they’ll be able to exert the military force that they want with just a different type of a situation where they can revoke themselves from the responsibility.

RT: Should the authorities in Kiev and people in Ukraine be worried that a mercenary force is let lose in their country?

MP: Absolutely. First of all it is important to point out – where did these mercenaries come from? It is estimated 150 of these mercenaries are operating in Ukraine. These aren’t 150 regular soldiers, people who served in the US or other foreign militaries, just as rank and file soldiers like myself and then got their contracts end up.

These are soldiers who are coming out of the special operations forces of the US military and other militaries. Those who are highly trained in ambushes, in sabotage, in psychological operations. Really the most unique troops in the world are the once that are recruited up to these very lucrative positions at private sector. And not only do they come from these sectors of the military, but those who are in mercenary forces are known to be a very rare breed of ultra-violent individuals.

Myself, when I was in Iraq in 2003-2004, regular army soldiers hated the mercenaries that were there because they were known to be so reckless, just driving around, shooting people at random and really angering the population against them and everyone else who was there. And the history speaks for itself. Massacres like Nisour Square, situations where they used excessive force in response to an attack, situations where they were straight up sitting there murdering people that were just walking down the street. This is the conduct of the people there. Absolutely anyone who is in their area of operations should be very concerned.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9iIWj96qgo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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​Kiev orders ‘state protection’ of protester-held govt HQ in Donetsk

Ukraine’s coup-imposed president Aleksandr Turchinov has ordered the protester-held local govt HQ in Donetsk to be taken under ‘state protection’ as armed personnel and armored vehicles have been reported moving into the eastern region of Ukraine.

According to a decree signed by Turchinov, the local administration building in Donetsk and surrounding territory is an “important government facility, which is a subject to state protection.”

The decree entered into force upon signature and Turchinov has already given Ukraine’s state security service appropriate directions, Itar-Tass reports.

Ukraine’s acting interior minister Arsen Avakov stated earlier on Wednesday that a “special police task force” had already arrived in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov from western regions of Ukraine and was ready to take them under control within 48 – using force, if needed.

The buildings of power structures in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk remain under control of the protesters. While so far there have been no attempts to recapture the occupied buildings, activists continue building barricades preparing for a possible attack by forces shipped in from other regions of Ukraine.

People are burning bonfires to stay warm in front of the barricades and singing songs to keep up their spirits, with Russian and regional flags waiving in the background. Many women and elderly people are among those on nightwatch in the center of city.

“We will be on duty here all night, because the assault could begin at any moment,” one of the activists told Ria Novosti. Thousands more people are ready to stand up against attackers at the first call of those keeping watch around the perimeter. Several times over the last few days activists assembled to train their response to emergency situations.

Activists expect the military operation to take place overnight in Donetsk and Lugansk simultaneously. Local administration in Kharkov was already stormed on Tuesday by armed men without insignia and masked law enforcement officers, after the local police in Kharkov refused to fulfil orders from Kiev.

About a hundred fighters from the newly-formed Ukraine’s National Guard reportedly arrived in the airport of Donetsk, the deputy director of a local group called People’s Militia of Donbas, Sergey Tsyplakov, told Ria Novosti.

“In Donetsk airport about a hundred of people from the National Guard have been housed,” Tsyplakov said. “Around a hundred of Right Sector thugs are also in the city, as well as a hundred employees from a private US military company operating under contract with Kiev junta.”

“Totally around 300 professionals or well-trained and motivated fanatics,” Tsyplakov added. “This is a major force, but we are ready to fight.”

Earlier in the day, pro-federalization activists in Donetsk blocked two busses carrying unbadged armed men in camouflage near the military commissariat. According to Tsyplakov activists believe they were mercenaries but were unable to identify gunmen as they kept silent and refused to answer any questions.

In the meantime, Ukrainian personnel and armored vehicles were spotted moving closer to the city of Donetsk. Amateur videos posted on YouTube show that locals were trying to stop machinery from progressing further.

Protests against the new government in Kiev have been continuing in eastern Ukraine for weeks now. On Monday, popular assemblies in Donetsk and Kharkov, where local administration headquarters were captured by protesters, declared independence from Ukraine and announced the creation of the independent Donetsk People’s Republic and Kharkov People’s Republic.

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Russia prepares to attack the petrodollar

The US dollar’s position as the base currency for global energy trading gives the US a number of unfair advantages. It seems that Moscow is ready to take those advantages away.

The existence of “petrodollars” is one of the pillars of America’s economic might because it creates a significant external demand for American currency, allowing the US to accumulate enormous debts without defaulting. If a Japanese buyer wants to buy a barrel of Saudi oil, he has to pay in dollars even if no American oil company ever touches the said barrel. Dollar has held a dominant position in global trading for such a long time that even Gazprom‘s natural gas contracts for Europe are priced and paid for in US dollars. Until recently, a significant part of EU-China trade had been priced in dollars.

Lately, China has led the BRICS efforts to dislodge the dollar from its position as the main global currency, but the “sanctions war” between Washington and Moscow gave an impetus to the long-awaited scheme to launch the petroruble and switch all Russian energy exports away from the US currency .

The main supporters of this plan are Sergey Glaziev, the economic aide of the Russian President and Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the biggest Russian oil company and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Both have been very vocal in their quest to replace the dollar with the Russian ruble. Now, several top Russian officials are pushing the plan forward.

First, it was the Minister of Economy, Alexei Ulyukaev who told Russia 24 news channel that the Russian energy companies must ditch the dollar. “They must be braver in signing contracts in rubles and the currencies of partner-countries,” he said.

Then, on March 2, Andrei Kostin, the CEO of state-owned VTB bank, told the press that Gazprom, Rosneft and Rosoboronexport, state company specialized in weapon exports, can start trading in rubles. ” I’ve spoken to Gazprom, to Rosneft and Rosoboronexport management and they don’t mind switching their exports to rubles. They only need a mechanism to do that “, Kostin told the attendees of the annual Russian Bank Association meeting.

Judging by the statement made at the same meeting by Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, it is safe to assume that no resources will be spared to create such a mechanism. ” Some ‘hot headed’ decision-makers have already forgotten that the global economic crisis of 2008 – which is still taking its toll on the world – started with a collapse of certain credit institutions in the US, Great Britain and other countries. This is why we believe that any hostile financial actions are a double-edged sword and even the slightest error will send the boomerang back to the aborigines,” she said.

It seems that Moscow has decided who will be in charge of the “boomerang”. Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, has been nominated to chair the board of directors of Saint-Petersburg Commodity Exchange, a specialized commodity exchange. In October 2013, speaking at the World Energy Congress in Korea, Sechin called for a “global mechanism to trade natural gas” and went on suggesting that ” it was advisable to create an international exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with the use of regional currencies “. Now, one of the most influential leaders of the global energy trading community has the perfect instrument to make this plan a reality. A Russian commodity exchange where reference prices for Russian oil and natural gas will be set in rubles instead of dollars will be a strong blow to the petrodollar.

Rosneft has recently signed a series of big contracts for oil exports to China and is close to signing a “jumbo deal” with Indian companies. In both deals, there are no US dollars involved. Reuters reports, that Russia is close to entering a goods-for-oil swap transaction with Iran that will give Rosneft around 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day to sell in the global market. The White House and the russophobes in the Senate are livid and are trying to block the transaction because it opens up some very serious and nasty scenarios for the petrodollar. If Sechin decides to sell this Iranian oil for rubles, through a Russian exchange, such move will boost the chances of the “petroruble” and will hurt the petrodollar.

It can be said that the US sanctions have opened a Pandora’s box of troubles for the American currency. The Russian retaliation will surely be unpleasant for Washington, but what happens if other oil producers and consumers decide to follow the example set by Russia? During the last month, China opened two centers to process yuan-denominated trade flows, one in London and one in Frankfurt. Are the Chinese preparing a similar move against the greenback? We’ll soon find out.

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NATO to triple Baltic air patrol from next month

A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter is seen as it escorts a Lithuania's Air Force C-27J plane during a joint NATO military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014.

A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter is seen as it escorts a Lithuania’s Air Force C-27J plane during a joint NATO military exercise in Siauliai April 1, 2014.

(Reuters) – NATO will triple its usual number of fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics next month to beef up its eastern European defenses due to tension with Russia over Ukraine, a NATO military official said on Tuesday.

Four NATO fighters are usually based in the Baltics but the United States, which currently has responsibility for patrolling the skies there, increased that to 10 F-15s to reassure those states following Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The number of fighters assigned to the Baltic “air policing” mission is now set to increase further to 12, three times the normal complement, when the next four-month period starts in May, the NATO military official said.

The strengthening of air patrols over the Baltics is part of a plan of air, land and sea reinforcements for central and eastern European allies that NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, is drawing up by April 15.

Since the three ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics joined NATO in 2004, other NATO members have taken turns sending fighter aircraft to protect their airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lack fighters of their own.

The jets are on call to respond to any violations of Baltic airspace. Lithuania said last week the number of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to around one a week.

Poland takes over responsibility for providing Baltic air policing from May 1, offering four MiG 29s.

SECOND BASE

Britain will contribute four Typhoons and Denmark has offered four F-16s as well as another two F-16s that will be on standby in Denmark, the NATO military official said.

Until now, the Baltic air policing mission has operated from an air base in Lithuania but Estonia has now offered Amari as a second base that the four Danish planes are expected to use.

France has also offered four fighters, either Rafales or Mirages, for the May to August period.

“We are still finalizing the details of French participation. What is likely is that they will fly out of Poland,” the official said.

The French aircraft would probably not be directly involved in Baltic air policing but may carry out training flights over Poland, he said. Poland has been asking for a greater NATO presence on its territory.

Germany has offered six Eurofighters for the Baltic mission but NATO will probably ask Berlin to delay its participation until the following four-month period from September to December when Portugal takes over responsibility for the mission.

In addition to the Baltic reinforcements, France has offered an AWACS reconnaissance plane to join NATO AWACS aircraft that have been flying over Poland and Romania since last month to monitor the situation in Ukraine.

The French plane made its first flight on April 1, the official said.

The United States and the Netherlands have provided refueling planes for the AWACS flights and Turkey has also offered a tanker aircraft that is expected to join the operation soon.

 

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‘Heartbleed’ encryption bug jeopardizes global Internet security

OpenSSL, a technology used to provide added encryption of an estimated 66% of all servers on the public Internet, has seen a significant glitch, which puts nearly all the web protection at risk. Never used online banking service? This is surely not the right moment to set about it.

Tumblr, which is owned by Yahoo, made public on Tuesday that it had been hit by the so-called “Heartbleed Bug” and recommended that clients change not just the password for its site but for all others as well. Among those unaffected happened to be Apple, Google, Microsoft, and major e-banking services.

“The scope of this is immense,” said Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence for Venafi, a Salt Lake City cybersecurity company. “And the consequences are still scary. I’ve talked about this like a ‘Mad Max‘ moment. It’s a bit of anarchy right now. Because we don’t know right now who has the keys and certificates on the Internet right now.”

Though the word OpenSSL seems to be the jargon that the general public is unaware of, everyone would perhaps recognize the green padlock icon in the address bar of their browser, followed by “https” – this is exactly the thing that ensures additional security in whatever sensitive operations that we perform online.

The technical vulnerability was first spotted by Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google, and a team of security engineers at Codenomicon, a security website that has since created a website with information about Heartbleed.

“Heartbleed is like finding a faulty car part used in nearly every make and model, but you can’t recall the Internet and all the data you put out on it,” comments Jonathan Sander, vice president of research and technology for Stealthbits Technologies, a cybersecurity firm. What happened to be just a programming mistake travelled fast to all other computers as the OpenSSL was updated on them, open up plenty of opportunities for those tech-savvy to hack for any personal data using just simple tools available online.

To tackle the problem, an updated version of OpenSSL has been issued, and sites can use that to fix the bug. In addition to updating OpenSSL, sites will need to refresh many pieces of their security protocols notably keys and certificates.

Whatever the updates and technical solutions, users are still strongly advised to stand on guard of their own web security and think twice before carrying out any operation online, just to allow time to make sure the service is unaffected.
Do not login to Yahoo! The OpenSSL bug #heartbleed allows extraction of usernames and plain passwords!

Change Your Passwords: A Massive Bug Has Put Your Details at Risk

A massive bug affecting much of the web’s encryption technology is uncovered, with sites from Yahoo to Tumblr affected

A newly discovered bug in software supposed to provide extra protection for thousands of the world’s most popular websites has exposed highly sensitive information such as credit card numbers, usernames, and passwords, security researchers said.

The discovery of the bug, known as Heartbleed, has caused several websites to advise their users to change their passwords.

“This might be a good day to call in sick and take some time to change your passwords everywhere — especially your high-security services like email, file storage, and banking, which may have been compromised by this bug,” Tumblr wrote in a note to its many users.

“The little lock icon (HTTPS) we all trusted to keep our passwords, personal emails, and credit cards safe, was actually making all that private information accessible to anyone who knew about the exploit.”

Yahoo, the owner of Tumblr, confirms that its users’ passwords have been compromised.

The bug was discovered late last week in the OpenSSL technology that runs encryption for two-thirds of the Internet. The researchers who discovered it said that most Internet users “are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly.”

It was found simultaneously by a Google security researcher and a small security firm named Codenomicon and disclosed Monday night.

Experts are now scrambling to asses the extent of the security breach, because the bug remained undiscovered for two years. Hackers may have exploited it without leaving footprints.

“We have tested some of our own services from attacker’s perspective. We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving a trace,” Codenomicon wrote on their newly created website about the bug.

According to several security experts, it is one of the most serious security flaws uncovered in many years.

“Heartbleed is like finding a faulty car part used in nearly every make and model, but you can’t recall the Internet and all the data you put out on it,” Jonathan Sander, vice president of research and technology for Stealthbits Technologies, a cybersecurity firm, told the Los Angeles Times.

The U.S. government’s Department of Homeland Security has advised all businesses using the vulnerable versions of the software to review their servers.

Change Your Passwords: A Massive Bug Has Put Your Details at Risk | TIME.com.

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Two more “pings” detected in search for MH370

An Australian ship detected two new “ping signals” Tuesday, while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

An Australian ship detected two new “ping signals” Tuesday, while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Two new “ping” signals have been detected in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, reviving confidence in the month-old hunt, Australian officials said on Wednesday.

Australian ship Ocean Shield detected one ping that lasted for over five minutes on Tuesday afternoon, while a second one was detected on Tuesday night and lasted for about seven minutes, Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, said.

“Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions, late yesterday afternoon and later last night,” Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center said.

“I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370,” Houston added.

The U.S. Navy “ping locater” detected two signals that were consistent with black box beacons. The first lasted for more than two hours while the second was only for about 13 minutes.

Flights’ black boxes record cockpit data, and could provide information on the fate of the plane, but the batteries in the beacons have already exceeded their 30-day life expectancy.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. Its signal disappeared after it flew thousands of kilometers into the Indian Ocean towards Beijing, its destination.

Satellite data analysts and investigators centered the search to an approximate area of 2,261 kilometers northwest Australia’s Perth, in a remote area where they concluded the Boeing 777 could be.

The new signals may allow searchers to narrow the area even more.

“Now hopefully with lots of transmissions we’ll have a tight, small area and hopefully in a matter of days we will be able to find something on the bottom,” Houston said.

While authorities did not rule out the possibility of mechanical problems leading to the disappearance of the plane, they said evidence suggests the plane was deliberately diverted by someone familiar with the aircraft.

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Second US Navy destroyer heads to Black Sea

Another US military ship is set to be deployed in the Black Sea amid the Ukrainian crisis. The US Navy destroyer Donald Cook will join the USS Truxtun, whose stay in waters bordering Russia was extended to ‘conduct drills’ with Romania and Bulgaria.

“We’ll also send another ship to the Black Sea within a week,” Derek Chollet, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs told the House Armed Services Committee, as he said the Department of Defense sanctioned to prolong USS Truxtun’s stay in the Black Sea “to conduct exercises with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces,” after it left the region on March 21.

Chollet highlighted the main pillars of the Department of Defense response to the crisis in Ukraine and how they fit within the overall policy of US response towards Russia, saying that Moscow’s move to accept Crimea’s choice to join Russia “challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.”

The Pentagon maintains senior-level defense dialogue with Ukrainian officials since the outbreak of the crisis, Chollet said.

“We have led efforts at NATO to offer Ukraine greater access to NATO exercises, invited Ukraine to participate in the development of military capabilities and provided capacity-building programs to the Ukrainian military,” he said.

On Monday the Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren also stated that a second US ship will soon arrive to the Black Sea. No details have been provided, but DoD official told AFP that USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer, has been deployed.

On Tuesday, headlines in Bulgaria circulated reports emerging from the Bulgarian Defense ministry, that a missile cruiser USS Donald Cook is soon to arrive to the Black Sea to join the war games.

Donald Cook is capable of firing SM-3 missiles, which allows the ship to function as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. It is deployed in Spain as part of the US missile shield program in Europe. The vessel is expected to dock into a number of ports along Romanian and Bulgarian coast, and bring some additional 175 US marines to the Romanian coast.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response force in Spain will be reinforced with 175 marines.

“We’re increasing the number from 500 to 675,” Warren said, claiming that the move had been planned last year.

While the additional marines will officially be part of the Spain-based force, Warren said they are to be based in Romania where they will join nearly 300 marines already in the country.

Warren insisted that the purpose of additional deployment of another ship is done “primarily to reassure our allies and partners in the region that we’re committed to the region,” he said. “We’re still planning the details of our operations in the Black Sea but we expect port calls and exercises with other Black Sea nations.”

This is the fourth US warship to visit the Black Sea since February, a trend Moscow heavily criticized in the past.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Washington as violated the Montreux Convention which regulates the number ships that can enter the Black Sea.

“There exists the Montreux Convention, which gives extremely clear criteria limiting the deployment of warships not belonging to the Black Sea governments in regard to tonnage and length of stay,” Lavrov said.

“We have noticed that US warships have extended their deployment beyond the set terms a couple of times lately, and at times they did not always comply with the regulations that are set within the Montreux Convention.”

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