Thousands of Russian private contractors fighting in Syria

Visitors and Russian military police officers walk toward the Citadel, Aleppo’s famed fortress. Russian news outlets say thousands of Russians have been deployed in Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor since 2015. When President Vladimir Putin announced Monday Dec. 11, 2017, that Russia’s campaign in Syria was drawing to a close, he did not mention this secret force.

 

MOSCOW (AP) — Before he was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, Ivan Slyshkin wrote a poignant message on social media to his fiancee: “We will see each other soon — and I will hold you as tight as I possibly can.”

But Slyshkin’s name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists. That’s because the young man who left his hometown of Ozyorsk in the Ural mountains was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.

Slyshkin’s gravestone depicts him holding a machine gun, according to a local news website Znak.com that sent a reporter to his March 2 funeral in Ozyorsk, where friends said he joined Wagner to earn money to pay for his wedding. Continue reading

Gorbachev issues new warning of nuclear war over Ukraine

Michail Gorbatschow ehemaliger sowjetischer Staatspräsident in Berlin 7.11.2014

 

In an interview with the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, 83-year-old former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the crisis in Ukraine could lead to large-scale war in Europe or even a nuclear war. “We won’t survive if someone loses their nerves in the current tension.”

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate decried the “loss of trust” between Russia and the West as “catastrophic,” and said ties must be “defrosted.”

Gorbachev accused the West and NATO of destroying the structure of European security by expanding its alliance. “No head of the Kremlin can ignore such a thing,” he said, adding that the US was unfortunately starting to establish a “mega empire.”

The man seen as a key player in the reunification of former East and West Germany in 1990 also accused Germany of interfering in Ukraine’s crisis, saying, “The new Germany wants its hands in every pie. There seems to be a lot of people who want to be involved in a new division of Europe.

Germany has already tried to expand its influence of power towards the East – in World War II. Does it really need another lesson?Continue reading

Modernize Russia

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – The derogatory German campaign against Russia and its President Vladimir Putin has persisted even after the Olympic Games have opened. The campaign is not only aimed at mobilizing German public opinion; it seeks to also further incite the emerging Russian middle strata against their government. These middle strata are gaining in strength and are seen as a potential leverage for Western influence in Moscow since the 2011 and 2012 mass demonstrations against the current President Vladimir Putin. German government advisors are proposing that Berlin establish new channels of influence through contacts to oppositional milieus of these middle strata. The German government is not only exploiting liberal but also national chauvinist circles of the opposition – just as it does in the Ukraine, where it also relies on the fascist milieu’s potential for protest. A Russian opposition leader, who is popular in Berlin, refers to natives of the Caucasus as “cockroaches” and recommends the pistol as the means for dealing with them. He is praised as an “anti-corruption expert” in German media reports on the Sochi Olympic Games. Continue reading

Stalin’s Shadow over the Post-Reset Meeting Between Putin and Obama

The Group of Eight (G8) summits have traditionally been seen more for their vanity than substance, and the one that opens today (June 17) in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, will not be an exception. The members of this privileged club—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia—see no particular need to overcome their differences in managing the world’s slow-burning crises, from the economic slowdown to Syria. Besides the photo-ops, the main content of these tightly scripted get-togethers is supposed to be generated in the back rooms, and the most private of those is this time reserved for the meeting between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which should have happened a year ago, had Putin not opted to skip the May 2012 G8 summit in Camp David. The key figures in the Obama administration have far outdone their Russian counterparts in preparing an agenda for this tete-a-tete but succeeded only in downplaying the criticism of Putin’s persecution of political dissent, while no breakthrough in arms control is in the making (Kommersant-FM, June 14). Expectations that Russia could show some flexibility on Syria are arrested by the long-postponed announcement in Washington on providing military aid to the rebels. And what little understanding there was on issues looming over the wider Middle East is shattered by Putin’s statement that he has “no doubt that Iran is compliant with the rules” in executing its nuclear program (Gazeta.ru, Moscow echo, June 14; Forbes.ru, June 12). Continue reading