The Extinction Chronicles

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The Extinction Chronicles

Russia sends fleet of warships into Black Sea as tensions rise with US, Ukraine

By Emily Jacobs

April 20, 2021 | 11:45am | UpdatedShareVideo Player is loading. 



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Russia sent a fleet of over 20 warships to launch multiple cruise missiles in the Black Sea on Tuesday — days after defying President Biden’s demand that the nation drop its military offensive against neighboring Ukraine.

Video released by the TASS news agency, a state-owned wire service known largely as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin, showed the Admiral Essen, a massive Russian naval frigate, launching a series of missiles into the air.

The agency described it as “a joint exercise.”

News of the “exercise” comes amid ramped-up tensions in the region, with Biden declaring a national emergency last Thursday, slapping sanctions on more than three dozen people in Russia and expelling 10 diplomats.

At the same time, he scrapped plans to send two US warships to the Black Sea.

Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian Government in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian government in Moscow on April 13, 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently closed off the Kerch Strait to foreign warships until next fall.

Since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia has supported pro-Russian insurgents in neighboring republics — including shoring up allied breakaway states in Georgia and Moldova.

Late last week, the Kremlin urged the Biden administration to summon the US Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, back to the US for in-person talks on the heightened tensions between the two countries, something the ambassador initially refused.
Late last week, the Kremlin urged the Biden administration to summon the US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, back to the US for in-person talks on the heightened tensions between the two countries.


Putin closes off access to Black Sea after Biden’s about-face on Ukraine

Putin presided over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 without Ukraine’s consent in a rare present-day boundary change by force.

Russian troop deployments are often murky, but Putin’s government is believed to have deployed troops to Crimea to facilitate the 2014 annexation and to have secretly supported a pair of breakaway provinces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The Kremlin has continued to increase its military presence in the region, specifically with its naval ships in the Black Sea.

Over the weekend, it sent two more warships and 15 smaller vessels to join the fleet it already has in that waterway.

The military moves come amid a tit-for-tat between Washington and Moscow over sanctions and other diplomatic rows.

John Sullivan meeting with Vladimir Putin on Feb. 5, 2020.
John Sullivan meeting with Vladimir Putin on Feb. 5, 2020.

After Biden announced a slew of new US sanctions on Russia at the end of last week, Moscow responded by saying it would expel 10 US diplomats in retaliation.

It did not include on that list, however, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, appointed under former President Donald Trump and retained by Biden thus far.

Late last week, the Kremlin urged the Biden administration to summon Sullivan back to the US for in-person talks on the heightened tensions between the two countries, something the ambassador initially refused.

Security staff patrol the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia on April 20, 2021.
Security staff patrol the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on April 20, 2021.

Sullivan caved by Monday, saying in a statement he would come home for a week while vowing to return.

“I believe it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia,” his statement read.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Tuesday he will head home for consultations - a move that comes after the Kremlin prodded him to take a break as Washington and Moscow traded sanctions.
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Tuesday he will head home for consultations — a move that comes after the Kremlin prodded him to take a break as Washington and Moscow traded sanctions.

“Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit,” he continued. “I will return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin.”

U.S. drops plans to send destroyers into the Black Sea due to concerns over Russia

By Natasha Bertrand and Lara Seligman  38 mins ago

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The Pentagon has scrapped a potential Black Sea transit by two Navy destroyers this week due to concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the plans.a large ship in a body of water: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt arrives in Souda Bay, Greece, for a logistics and maintenance period.© U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee/Released The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt arrives in Souda Bay, Greece, for a logistics and maintenance period.

Earlier this month, the Navy notified Turkey, which manages traffic through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits leading to the Black Sea under the 1936 Montreux Convention, that they were tentatively planning a routine transit by the two destroyers, according to a U.S. defense official.

The tentative transit, first reported by CNN, was not unusual or designed to send any particular new signal, as the U.S. Navy typically conducts eight or nine such movements per year, the person said.

But after new fighting erupted in Eastern Europe between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists, officials decided not to undertake the transit to avoid needlessly escalating the situation, the person said.

Naval movements are frequently subject to change due to maintenance or shifting operational plans, the person said. This particular transit was scrapped due to a “myriad” of reasons, including a desire not to provoke Moscow during a delicate time, the person said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with NTV TV that the U.S. had notified Turkey on Wednesday that the ships would not be heading to the Black Sea. Reuters first reported that the movement was called off, quoting diplomatic sources who, like Çavuşoğlu, did not provide a specific reason.

The Pentagon has declined to discuss the possible transit since the reports first surfaced. “We routinely operate and conduct operations in the Black Sea and throughout the European Command [area of operations],” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters last week. “And as you also know, I’m not going to forecast or speak about hypotheticals or about future operations.”

The ships, the USS Donald Cook and the USS Roosevelt, are in the Mediterranean Sea conducting maritime security operations, the person said. They were still a few days from the Black Sea when the decision was made to scrap the transit, so they were not forced to abruptly reverse course.

But some in Kyiv were disappointed that the destroyers would not be traveling to the Black Sea after all, said a former senior Ukrainian official. The show of force from the U.S. in the region would have been welcomed as Russia continues to amass thousands of troops at the eastern Ukrainian border, this person said.

Ukrainian officials are also tracking Russian movements suggesting a buildup along the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea. The strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, and officials are wary of Russia moving to block access to the Black Sea and link its mainland to Crimea.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that Russia announced it would be closing part of the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait for foreign warships until October, under the pretense of conducting military exercises. A spokesperson said Russia’s actions violate international law and reiterated that Ukraine “has the right to regulate shipping in these waters of the Black Sea.”

U.S. officials note that President Joe Biden has repeatedly reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and recently approved an additional $125 million worth of lethal aid to help the country defend its borders, including two armed patrol boats and counter-artillery radar.

And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday during a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the organization has increased its military presence in the Black Sea region, including with additional air policing and naval presence.

“We are committed to assisting Ukraine with its self-defense needs,” he said.

Still, the situation is escalating quickly: Russia has sent more than 85,000 troops to the border in recent weeks, and at least seven Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since late last month amid a spike in violence in the Donbass region. Ukrainian government forces have been battling Russia-backed separatists there since 2014.

The G-7 foreign ministers — representing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union — condemned Russia’s buildup on Ukraine’s borders in a Monday statement, saying they were “deeply concerned” by the move.

“These large-scale troop movements, without prior notification, represent threatening and destabilising activities,” they wrote. “We call on Russia to cease its provocations and to immediately de-escalate tensions in line with its international obligations.”

Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders have been eyeing the Russian military buildup along the border with Ukraine as well as increased Russian activity at sea and in the air.

The commander of U.S. forces in Europe on Thursday predicted there is a “low to medium” likelihood that Russia will invade Ukraine over the next several weeks.

Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, gave the terse assessment during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on military posture on the continent.

“It is of great concern and our vigilance is high,” the four-star general testified, noting sizable upticks in Russian ground, air and maritime forces.

Pressed on whether the threat of a Russian invasion would increase or decrease outside of the coming few weeks, however, Wolters suggested the threat of an incident could subside given the trends his command observes.

“It depends … on the disposition of the forces,” Wolters said. “My sense is, with the trend that I see right now, the likelihood of an occurrence will start to wane.”

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

US ‘heading into troubled waters’ with China, Russia and Iran

1 day ago

Wall Street Journal article says China’s message to America is that they’re ‘equal’

By Joshua Q. Nelson | Fox News

The U.S. warns against ‘increasingly aggressive’ China

Michael Pillsbury, Director for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, joined ‘America’s Newsroom’ to weigh in on China ‘aggressive’ impact, calling it a ‘dangerous situation that the Biden team is very much aware of.’

The threat the United States faces from China is “troubling,” The Hudson Institute’s Michael Pillsbury told “America’s Newsroom,” warning about Russia and Iran acting in concert with Beijing.  

“The Chinese, in their comments on the Biden administration, say that there are two factions, there’s kind of a continuity with President Trump group that wants to be tough or even tougher on China. But there’s also a softer group that wants to cooperate, work together on climate change,” said the author of “Hundred Year Marathon.”

Pillsbury explained further that China notices the “split” within the Biden administration, adding that he’s worried about China’s “saber-rattling about Taiwan.” 


Pillsbury reacted to a piece by the Wall Street Journal detailing China’s message toward the United States that they are “equal.” The piece titled, “China’s Message to America: We’re An Equal Now” goes in-depth on China’s plans to challenge the United States as the “global leader.” 

“As Biden administration officials expected in their first meeting with Chinese counterparts, Yang Jiechi, Mr. Xi’s top foreign-policy aide, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked them to roll back Trump-era policies targeting China. Beijing wanted to restore the kind of recurring “dialogue” Washington sees as a waste of time, say U.S. and Chinese officials briefed on the Alaska meeting,” the piece says.

The piece went on to say, “Mr. Yang also delivered a surprise: a 16-minute lecture about America’s racial problems and democratic failings. The objective, say Chinese officials, was to make clear that Beijing sees itself as an equal of the U.S. He also warned Washington against challenging China over a mission Beijing views as sacred—the eventual reunification with Taiwan.”


Pillsbury said that though a “global world order” was set up by the United States in 1945, the Russians and Chinese want to challenge that world order.

“This is a strange challenge coming from these two powers. And when they bring in Iran, I mean, Iran is the source of their oil and gas. It’s got a lot of money to buy weapons. They see it as the main way to tie down the Americans in the Middle East.”

Pillsbury concluded, “So we’re heading into troubled waters.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said Sunday on Fox News that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are the “new axis of evil” and that the communist regime in Beijing is “testing the Biden administration.” 

Russia warns U.S. to stay away for its “own good” as Ukraine standoff intensifies


APRIL 14, 2021 / 11:07 AM / CBS NEWS

Moscow — Russia warned the United States on Tuesday against sending warships to the Black Sea, urging American forces to stay away from the annexed Crimean peninsula “for their own good” as the situation along Ukraine’s border caused increasing concern in the West. The U.S. Secretary of State, meeting with Ukrainian and NATO officials in Brussels, made it clear that the Biden administration, along with its allies in Europe, has Ukraine’s back and considers Russia’s ongoing military buildup in the region “very provocative.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Washington had informed Ankara that two U.S. warships would pass through Turkish waters this week to be deployed in the Black Sea. The deployment would come amid a significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine’s forces, which have U.S. and European support.

Hostilities first flared in 2014 when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea — a peninsula that sticks out into the Black Sea and is home to a Russian navy base — away from Ukraine, drawing condemnation from the Western world and a series of sanctions. 

Ukraine map after Crimean crisis 2014

Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as calling the deployment of U.S. warships in the Black Sea a provocation designed to test Russia’s nerves.

“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Ryabkov said, warning there was a very high risk of unspecified incidents if U.S. military hardware were to be positioned in the Black Sea.

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying. “It will be for their own good.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined during a regular press briefing on Friday to confirm the Turkish government’s statement that U.S. warships were being sent to the Black Sea. He noted that the U.S. “routinely” operates in the Black Sea, but said he wouldn’t “speak to operations.”

Ukrainian servicemen hold a position on the frontline with Russia backed separatists near small city of Marinka, Donetsk region on April 12, 2021.STR/AFP/GETTY

The current escalation has added strain to already tense U.S.-Russian relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia against aggressive actions in an interview aired over the weekend, saying any aggression in Ukraine would have consequences.

Ukraine in Turmoil 

Ryabkov responded on Tuesday, accusing the Russian “adversary” of trying to undermine Russia’s position on the international stage. He reiterated Russia’s readiness to defend the interests of its citizens, and ethnic Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was preparing itself in the event any new sanctions should be imposed on Moscow by the U.S. or its global partners.

Shmel-class gunboat of the Russian Navy's Caspian Flotilla sails along the Don River in Rostov-on-Don
A Shmel-class gunboat of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla sails past a cruise ship on the Don River during the inter-fleet move from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, April 13, 2021.SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS

Meanwhile, Russia has continued to move forces into both Crimea and the region along its border with Ukraine. The Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that 15 warships and vessels of the Caspian Flotilla had been sent to the Black Sea as part of previously announced military exercises.

Ukraine said earlier this week that Russia had already massed more than 40,000 troops along its border, and at least 40,000 more in Crimea. Russia says the troop buildup is part of exercises, and has stressed that its forces will go where they want, when they want on Russian territory.WATCH MOREWill Mitt Romney challenge Trumpfor president?SKIP AD

“Very provocative action”

Top U.S. officials are in Europe this week, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Blinken. Austin announced during a stop in Germany on Tuesday that the U.S. was going to deploy an additional 500 troops to that country. 

When asked if the move was meant as a message to Russia, he said it was “a sign to NATO” of the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic alliance, and of the firm commitment to Germany. Under President Donald Trump, Washington said it would withdraw thousands of the American forces who’ve been stationed in Germany for decades. That decision was suspended by the Biden administration, and now the force is set to grow.

Blinken, meanwhile, was in Brussels, meeting NATO partners, and he met separately with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the standoff with Russia.

“The United States stands firmly behind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and I’m her to reaffirm that with the foreign minister today,” Blinken said. “That’s particularly important in a time when we’re seeing, unfortunately, Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine. We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border since 2014. That is a big concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States and indeed to many of our allies and partners.”   

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (L) in Brussels on April 13, 2021.JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP/GETTY

Sitting across from him, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russian buildup was “taking place not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of the democratic world. For thousands of kilometers to the north and to the east of our border with Russia, there is no democracy. So, this is the struggle that is taking place between democracies and authoritarianism, and in this struggle the support of the United States is absolutely crucial, and deeply appreciated.”

Kuleba thanked NATO, also, and said that warnings already conveyed to Moscow through diplomatic channels, “will be supported by actions that make it very clear for Russia that the price of further aggression against Ukraine will be too heavy for it to bear.”

He said the Ukrainian and U.S. delegations in Brussels, and more broadly the NATO allies at large, would continue discussing ways to ensure stability along his country’s tense border with Russia.

While no NATO deployments have been confirmed, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed the alliance was planning to position 40,000 more troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory. He didn’t elaborate, but said that “in response to the military activity of the alliance that threatens Russia, we have taken appropriate measures.” 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier on Tuesday that he was “seriously concerned” by Russia’s deployment of additional forces to the Ukrainian border.

“Russia is now trying to reestablish some kind of sphere of influence where they try to decide what neighbors can do,” Stoltenberg said.’s Tucker Reals contributed to this report.

China v Russia v America: is 2021 the year Orwell’s 1984 comes true?

How Putin or Xi Could Blow It All Up for Biden (

Simon Tisdall  11 hrs ago

Blinken warns China, Russia about military actionNearly “catastrophic” wastewater leak could devastate marine life

It may just be coincidence that Russia was piling military pressure on Ukraine last week at the same time as China noisily rattled sabres around Taiwan. Spring, to mangle Tennyson, is when a young man’s fancy turns to war – and that twisted maxim may even apply to ageing thugs such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.a person walking down a dirt road: Photograph: AFP/Getty Images© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Russia and China are moving into ever closer alliance. While there is no evidence of direct collusion over Ukraine and Taiwan, presidents Putin and Xi are doubtless fully aware of each other’s actions, which have an identical, mutually reinforcing effect: putting the wind up Joe Biden’s untested US administration.

What’s now unfolding could be portrayed as the ultimate fulfilment of George Orwell’s nightmarish vision, in his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, of a world divided geographically, politically and militarily into three rival super-states: Oceania (North America plus Britain), Eurasia (Russia and Europe), and Eastasia (China).

Publication of Orwell’s book in 1949 coincided with the formation of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) and the emergence of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union as a nuclear-armed power. It also saw the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong. Yet these were early days.

Orwell’s prediction of an endless, three-way global confrontation proved premature. China needed time to develop. The Soviet Union eventually imploded. The US, declaring a unipolar moment, claimed victory. Yet today, by some measures, Orwell’s tripartite world is finally coming into being. 2021 is the new 1984.

If China and Russia are presently ganging up on the US and its satraps, that’s par for the course in a world where no one superpower is allowed to dominate the other two. In 1972, Richard Nixon sought China’s help against the Soviets. Maybe the US and Russia will one day combine against Beijing. As Meat Loaf sings it, two out of three ain’t bad.a person riding a bike down a dirt road: A Ukrainian serviceman on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists, near Zolote, Ukraine.© Photograph: AFP/Getty Images A Ukrainian serviceman on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists, near Zolote, Ukraine.

This is where truly global danger lies – in the hazy gap between words and deeds in the intensifying trilateral struggle between superpowers

Advocates of a multipolar world will say this is too simplistic, and that the strategic balance is more subtle and complex. Tell that to people in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and occupied Crimea, who face a deeply unsubtle Russian military build-up along the “line of contact”.

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The consensus among analysts is that Putin is not about to invade. So what is he up to? Apologists suggest he was provoked by a Ukrainian decree last month declaring the re-taking of Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014, to be an official government objective – and by renewed talk of Ukraine joining Nato.

A more banal explanation is that Moscow is pressurising Kiev to break the stalemate in the so-called Minsk peace process – after the latest Donbas ceasefire collapsed. Putin enjoyed a big, but fleeting, ratings boost after Crimea’s annexation. Last month, he used a lavish televised rally marking its seventh anniversary to recapture lost popularity.

It seems he failed. Russians are preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic (and the incompetent official response), falling incomes, and a worsening socio-economic outlook. More than ever, Putin’s Soviet empire restoration project appears irrelevant, especially to younger people.

Putin is under fire at home from supporters of the much-persecuted opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, and over corruption allegations. Only 32% of Russians trust their president, according to a recent Levada Center poll. Seen this way, the Ukraine build-up looks like a calculated distraction for domestic political purposes.

Yet Putin may also be deliberately testing US and European resolve. He will not have forgotten how George W Bush pledged undying support to Georgia’s newly democratic government in 2005, then ducked out when war erupted with Russia in 2008.

As analyst Ted Galen Carpenter noted last week, Biden’s White House has likewise affirmed “unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea”. This looks, at best, like a hostage to fortune, and at worst, a cruel deception.

“The parallels between Washington’s excessive encouragement of Ukraine and Bush’s blunder with respect to Georgia are eerie and alarming,” Carpenter wrote. The US and Nato would no more go to war with Russia over eastern Ukraine than they would to save South Ossetia, he suggested. And if they did, well, that’s world war three right there.

This is where truly global danger lies – in the hazy gap between words and deeds in the intensifying trilateral struggle between superpowers. Will Putin, goaded by Biden’s “killer” insult and numerous intractable disputes, call the US president’s bluff? On the other side of the world, will Xi?

China’s surly leader looks like a man prone to brooding. He has suffered many slights at the hands of the west, including accusations of genocide in Xinjiang, brutality in Hong Kong, and aggression in the seas around China. What drives him now as his forces besiege Taiwan?

Related: US increasingly concerned by Russian military threat to Ukraine

One answer is that Xi may also hope to divert attention from domestic problems. Maybe he faces unseen challenges within China’s communist party. More probably, he would like to mark July’s centenary of the founding of the CCP by finally conquering what was the last redoubt of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists.

Taiwan reunification would seal Xi’s legacy. Ever closer personal, strategic and military ties with Putin’s Russia mean that he would face no pushback from that quarter, and some applause. The Taiwanese vow to fight, but cannot prevail alone. Only the Americans really stand in his way.

Is Xi simply trolling the Washington proles? Or will he defy them and make a move on Taiwan soon? The Orwellian nightmare for Biden and the west would be a simultaneous Russian invasion of Ukraine and a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Oceania’s choice: a war on two fronts, or humiliation all round. Welcome to Winston’s world.

Satellite images show huge Russian military buildup in the Arctic

 of Nagurskoye on March 16, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

By Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

Updated 6:42 AM ET, Mon April 5, 2021

(CNN)Russia is amassing unprecedented military might in the Arctic and testing its newest weapons in a region freshly ice-free due to the climate emergency, in a bid to secure its northern coast and open up a key shipping route from Asia to Europe.Weapons experts and Western officials have expressed particular concern about one Russian ‘super-weapon,’ the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo. Development of the torpedo is moving fast with Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting an update on a “key stage” of the tests in February from his defense minister Sergei Shoigu, with further tests planned this year, according to multiple reports in state media.

Images show build up of Russia's military presence in the Arctic

Images show build up of Russia’s military presence in the Arctic 04:15This unmanned stealth torpedo is powered by a nuclear reactor and intended by Russian designers to sneak past coastal defenses — like those of the US — on the sea floor.The device is intended to deliver a warhead of multiple megatons, according to Russian officials, causing radioactive waves that would render swathes of the target coastline uninhabitable for decades.In November, Christopher A Ford, then assistant secretary of state for International Security and Non-Proliferation, said the Poseidon is designed to “inundate U.S. coastal cities with radioactive tsunamis.”An “onyx” anti-ship cruise missile launched by the Northern Fleet in Alexandra Land, near an Arctic “trefoil” base. Credit: Russian Ministry of DefenseExperts agree that the weapon is “very real” and already coming to fruition. The head of Norwegian intelligence, Vice Admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes, told CNN that his agency has assessed the Poseidon as “part of the new type of nuclear deterrent weapons. And it is in a testing phase. But it’s a strategic system and it’s aimed at targets … and has an influence far beyond the region in which they test it currently.” Stensønes declined to give details on the torpedo’s testing progress so far.Satellite images provided to CNN by space technology company Maxar detail a stark and continuous build-up of Russian military bases and hardware on the country’s Arctic coastline, together with underground storage facilities likely for the Poseidon and other new high-tech weapons. The Russian hardware in the High North area includes bombers and MiG31BM jets, and new radar systems close to the coast of Alaska.The Russian build-up has been matched by NATO and US troop and equipment movements. American B-1 Lancer bombers stationed in Norway’s Ørland air base have recently completed missions in the eastern Barents Sea, for example. The US military’s stealth Seawolf submarine was acknowledged by US officials in August as being in the area.A senior State Department official told CNN: “There’s clearly a military challenge from the Russians in the Arctic,” including their refitting of old Cold War bases and build-up of new facilities on the Kola Peninsula near the city of Murmansk. “That has implications for the United States and its allies, not least because it creates the capacity to project power up to the North Atlantic,” the official said.Correction: A previous version of this graphic displayed an image from 2016 instead of 2020. This has been fixed.
Source: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Graphic: Henrik Pettersson, CNNThe satellite images show the slow and methodical strengthening of airfields and “trefoil” bases — with a shamrock-like design, daubed in the red, white and blue of the Russian flag — at several locations along Russia’s Arctic coast over the past five years. The bases are inside Russian territory and part of a legitimate defense of its borders and coastline. US officials have voiced concern, however, that the forces might be used to establish de facto control over areas of the Arctic that are further afield, and soon to be ice-free.”Russia is refurbishing Soviet-era airfields and radar installations, constructing new ports and search-and-rescue centers, and building up its fleet of nuclear- and conventionally-powered icebreakers,” Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, told CNN.The 50 Let Pobedy (50 years of victory) icebreaker moving through the Arctic ice, said to be in January this year, in a first transit of the eastern seas in deep winter. Credit: Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation”It is also expanding its network of air and coastal defense missile systems, thus strengthening its anti-access and area-denial capabilities over key portions of the Arctic,” he added.Campbell also noted the recent creation of a Quick Reaction Alert force at two Arctic airfields — Rogachevo and Anadyr — and the trial of one at Nagurskoye airfield last year. Satellite imagery from March 16 shows probable MiG31BMs at Nagurskoye for what is thought to be the first time, bringing a new capability of Russian stealth air power to the far north.High-tech weapons are also being regularly tested in the Arctic area, according to Russian officials quoted in state media and Western officials.Campbell added that in November, Russia claimed the successful test of the ‘Tsirkon’ anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile.A Russian army demonstration video of its new ski sled for the Arctic. Credit: Russian Ministry of DefenseThe Tsirkon and the Poseidon are part of a new generation of weapons pledged by Putin in 2018 as strategic game changers in a fast-changing world.At the time US officials scorned the new weapons as technically far-fetched and improbable, yet they appear to be nearing fruition. The Norwegian intelligence chief Stensønes told CNN the Tsirkon as a “new technology, with hypersonic speeds, which makes it hard to defend against.”On Thursday, Russian state news agency TASS cited a source in the military industrial complex as saying there had been another successful test of the Tsirkon from the Admiral Gorshkov warship, saying all four test rockets had hit their target, and that another more advanced level of tests would begin in May or June.The climate emergency has removed many of Russia’s natural defenses to its north, such as walls of sheet ice, at an unanticipated rate. “The melt is moving faster than scientists predicted or thought possible several years ago,” said the senior State Department official. “It’s going to be a dramatic transformation in the decades ahead in terms of physical access.”Source: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Graphic: Henrik Pettersson, CNNUS officials also expressed concern at Moscow’s apparent bid to influence the “Northern Sea Route” — a shipping lane that runs from between Norway and Alaska, along Russia’s northern coast, across to the North Atlantic. The ‘NSR’ potentially halves the time it currently takes shipping containers to reach Europe from Asia via the Suez Canal.Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear company released elaborately produced drone video this February of the ‘Christophe de Margerie’ tanker completing an eastern route across the Arctic in winter for the first time, accompanied by the ’50 Let Pobedy’ nuclear icebreaker for its journey in three of the six Arctic seas.Campbell said Russia sought to exploit the NSR as a “major international shipping lane,” yet voiced concern at the rules Moscow was seeking to impose on vessels using the route. “Russian laws governing NSR transits exceed Russia’s authority under international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said.”They require any vessel transiting the NSR through international waters to have a Russian pilot onboard to guide the vessel. Russia is also attempting to require foreign vessels to obtain permission before entering the NSR.”The senior State Department official added: “The Russian assertions about the Northern Sea Route is most certainly an effort to lay down some rules of the road, get some de facto acquiescence on the part of the international community, and then claim this is the way things are supposed to work.”Elizabeth Buchanan, lecturer of Strategic Studies at Deakin University, Australia, said that “basic geography affords Russia the NSR which is increasingly seeing thinner ice for more of the year making it commercially viable to use as a transport artery. This might yet transform global shipping, and with it the movements of 90+% of all goods globally.”The State Department official believes the Russians are mostly interested in exporting hydrocarbons — essential to the country’s economy — along the route, but also in the resources being uncovered by the fast melt. The flexing of their military muscles in the north — key to Moscow’s nuclear defense strategy, and also mostly on Russian coastal territory — could be a bid to impose their writ on the wider area, the official said.”When the Russians are testing weapons, jamming GPS signals, closing off airspace or sea space for exercises, or flying bombers over the Arctic along the airspace of allies and partners, they are always trying to send a message,” the official added.

Russia insists motives are peaceful and economic

Russia’s foreign ministry declined to comment, yet Moscow has long maintained its goals in the Arctic are economic and peaceful.A March 2020 document by Kremlin policymakers presented Russia’s key goals in an area behind 20% of its exports and 10% of its GDP. The strategy focuses on ensuring Russia’s territorial integrity and regional peace. It also expresses the need to guarantee high living standards and economic growth in the region, as well as developing a resource base and the NSR as “a globally competitive national transport corridor.”Putin regularly extols the importance of Russia’s technological superiority in the Arctic. In November, during the unveiling of a new icebreaker in St. Petersburg, the Russian President said: “It is well-known that we have a unique icebreaker fleet that holds a leading position in the development and study of Arctic territories. We must reaffirm this superiority constantly, every day.”Putin said of a submarine exercise last week in which three submarines surfaced at the same time in the polar ice: “The Arctic expedition … has no analogues in the Soviet and the modern history of Russia.”Among these new weapons is the Poseidon 2M39. The plans for this torpedo were initially revealed in an apparently purposeful brandishing of a document discussing its capabilities by a Russian general in 2015.It was subsequently partially dismissed by analysts as a ‘paper tiger’ weapon, meant to terrify with its apocalyptic destructive powers that appear to slip around current treaty requirements, but not to be successfully deployed.A Russian Delta IV submarine photographed on top of ice near Alexandra Island on March 27, during an exercise, with a likely hole blown in the ice to its left from underwater demolition.A Russian Delta IV submarine photographed on top of ice near Alexandra Island on March 27, during an exercise, with a likely hole blown in the ice to its left from underwater demolition.Yet a series of developments in the Arctic — including, according to Russian media reports, the testing of up to three Russian submarines designed to carry the stealth weapon, which has been suggested to be 20 meters long — have now led analysts to consider the project real and active.Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti, cited a “source” on Monday saying that tests for the Belgorod submarine, especially developed to be armed with the Poseidon torpedo, would be completed in September.Manash Pratim Boruah, a submarine expert at Jane’s Fighting Ships, said: “The reality of the weapon is clear. You can absolutely see development around the torpedo, which is happening. There is a very good probability that the Poseidon will be tested, and then there is a danger of it polluting a lot. Even without a warhead, but definitely with just a nuclear reactor inside.”Boruah said some of the specifications for the torpedo leaked by the Russians were optimistic and doubted it could reach a speed of 100 knots (around 115 miles per hour) with a 100MW nuclear reactor. He added that at such a speed, it would probably be detected quite easily as it would create a large acoustic signature.”Even if you tone it down from the speculation, it is still quite dangerous,” he said.Source: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Graphic: Henrik Pettersson, CNNBoruah added that the construction of storage bays for the Poseidon, probably around Olenya Guba on the Kola Peninsula, were meant to be complete next year. He also expressed concerns about the Tsirkon hyper-sonic missile that Russia says it has tested twice already, which at speeds of 6 to 7 Mach would “definitely cause a lot of damage without a particularly having big warhead itself.”Katarzyna Zysk, professor of international relations at the state-run Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, said the Poseidon was “getting quite real,” given the level of infrastructure development and testing of submarines to carry the torpedo.”It is absolutely a project that will be used to scare, as a negotiation card in the future, perhaps in arms control talks,” Zysk said. “But in order to do so, it has to be credible. This seems to be real.”Stensønes also raised the concern that testing such nuclear weapons could have serious environmental consequences. “We are ecologically worried. This is not only a theoretical thing: in fact, we have seen serious accidents in the last few years,” he said, referring to the testing of the Burevestnik missile which was reported to have caused a fatal nuclear accident in 2019. “The potential of a nuclear contamination is absolutely there.”

Putin signs law allowing him to remain president through 2036

BY JOSEPH CHOI – 04/05/21 12:26 PM EDT

Putin signs law allowing him to remain president through 2036

© Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law that will allow him to run for two more terms once his current one ends in 2024.

As reported by The Guardian, the law could potentially allow Putin, 68, to remain in office until 2036. He has been the de facto political leader of Russia since 2000.

The Guardian notes that should Putin stay in power until 2036, he would be the longest running leader of Russia since the Russian Empire, surpassing the tenure of dictator Joseph Stalin, who remained in power over the Soviet Union for 29 years. 

Putin would be 84 years old when he left office should he decide to run for the two additional terms he is now allowed.

Putin is currently on his fourth term as president of Russia, being elected to office in 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2018, with a stint as Russian prime minister between 2008 and 2012 due to term limits at the time.

The law limits Russian citizens to two terms as president in their lifetime, though the legislation essentially serves as “reset” and does not apply to Putin’s four previous terms.

The Guardian reports that signing this legislation may not be an indication of the Russian leader’s desire to stay in power and may instead be a move to avoid a lame-duck presidency and a power struggle in his last term in office.

The new law also provides Putin and former President Dmitry Medvedev with lifetime immunity from prosecution.

Fears of AI human-to-human transmission in Russia

Mar 24, 2021

The Russian Union of Poultry Producers (NUPP) has issued a statement ensuring customers that poultry products on the grocery shelves are safe for consumers despite the rising avian influenza (AI) fears.

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In late February, Russia reported the first case of bird flu (H5N8) being passed from birds to humans. 7 workers at a poultry farm in Russia’s south were infected with the H5N8 strain in an outbreak dating back to December 2020. This incident is believed to the first confirmed case of H5N8 poultry-to-human transmission in the world.Transmission of Avian influenza is on the minds of consumers, but test after test prove that meat is safe. Photo: Bert JansenTransmission of Avian influenza is on the minds of consumers, but test after test prove that meat is safe. Photo: Bert Jansen

On 12 March, Anna Popova, head of consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, raised concerns that the new AI strain could mutate further, leading to a possible human-to-human transmission. “The prediction that this could happen is deemed highly probable,” Popova said, adding that there is still time to prepare for the new threat and to develop new tests and a vaccine. “We want to be prepared for it and warn the entire global community that the danger exists,” she said.

Concerns could impact consumption in Russia

Russian poultry farmers warned that concerns regarding the AI infection could impact poultry consumption in the country. In the statement, the NUPP ensured that, with all sanitary measures in place, the virus would not make it into the supply chain. Broiler meat and other poultry products are safe to eat when properly prepared. “No infected birds made it into the food chain, and consumers can remain confident in the safety of poultry meat. Safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of customers,” the NUPP said.

Russia reports first human infection of H5N8 bird flu
Russia has registered and reported the world’s first transfer of the H5N8 bird flu strain from birds to humans to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The workers at the farm where the AI outbreak was confirmed in December of 2020 likely got infected due to lack of compliance with sanitary regulations. “In the case of a recorded contamination of several employees of a small enterprise in February [when the poultry-to-human transmission was official confirmed], the theory is that safety measures were breached and the farm was non-compliant with veterinary and sanitary requirements by employees,” the NUPP said. Sergei Lakhtyukhov, chairman of NUPP, called AI in Russia “accidental and self-limiting”, adding that both market regulators and business unions are constantly monitoring the presence of AI to ensure the safety of customers.

World Health Organisation issue update on H5N8 bird flu after human-to-human spread


Stephanie Nebehay


Published: 26/02/2021Updated: Saturday, 27 February 2021 8:33 am AEDT

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The risk of human-to-human spread of the H5N8 strain of bird flu appears low after it was identified for the first time worldwide in farm workers in Russia, the World Health Organisation says.

A separate bird flu strain, H1N1, that spread rapidly worldwide among humans led the WHO to declare an influenza pandemic in 2009-2010.

The outbreak turned out to be mild among humans although deadly among poultry.

Russia registered the first case of a strain of bird flu virus named influenza A(H5N8) being passed to humans from birds and has reported the matter to the WHO, Anna Popova, head of consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said on Saturday.

Seven people in Russia were found to be infected with H5N8 but all were asymptomatic following an outbreak on a poultry farm in the southern oblast (region) of Astrakhan, a WHO statement said.

Bird flu sign in Denmark
Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain were reported last year in poultry or wild birds in many countries. Credit: EPA

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The death of 101,000 of the farm’s 900,000 egg-laying hens in December had sparked the investigation, it said.

“All close contacts of these cases were clinically monitored, and no one showed signs of clinical illness,” it said.

“Based on currently available information, the risk of human-to-human transmission remains low.”

The WHO advised against any special traveller screening at points of entry or restrictions on travel and or trade with Russia.

Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain were reported last year in poultry or wild birds in the UK, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Russia, according to WHO.

The WHO statement said that developing zoonotic influenza candidate vaccine viruses for potential use in human vaccines remains an essential part of WHO strategy for influenza pandemic preparedness.

Raining Dead Crows in Russian City Sparks Doomsday Fear [VIDEO]

The recent incident has made many people believe that something disastrous is going to happen very soon

Several doomsday mongers believe that humanity is currently going through the end times, and recent world events are indicating the possibility of an imminent apocalypse. Adding up the heat to this already existing panic on online spaces, a mass die-off of crows above a secretive nuclear Russian city has made many speculate that conspiracy theories surrounding doomsday are turning true.

The incident took place in the city of Balakovo, and the authorities are now investigating the event. Some experts are trying to connect it with avian flu. However, a section of other people has suggested that this mass death event could be connected to the nuclear plant in the city.

Mysterious Event in Russia

bird death
Dead birds in a Russian road YouTube: THEREALGSNEWS

The local Saratov Veterinary Department has apparently started an investigation, and they have collected samples of biomaterials to test for bird flu.

However, doomsday mongers claim that this mass death could be related to something dangerous that is going to happen in the coming days. Several social media users claim that similar bird deaths had happened days before the Chernobyl disaster. They also urge authorities from Moscow to investigate the event.

Mysterious Bird Deaths in US

A few days back, a similar incident happened in areas of Colorado and New Mexico where thousands of birds dropped dead. Even though the reason behind this mass death event is unknown, several experts believe that a sudden plunge in temperature and heavy snowfall might have resulted in the death of these birds.

“It appears to be an unprecedented and a very large number. I’ve never seen anything like this in New Mexico in recent times,” said Martha Desmond, a professor at New Mexico State University’s department of fish, wildlife, and conservation ecology. Scientists are also investigating whether the recent wildfires in the US have a role behind these mass deaths, as smoke plumes loaded with poison could have inhaled by these birds.