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NATO vs Russia: Dangerous games




It seems that the Black Sea has recently become more and more an arena of confrontation between NATO and Russia. Another confirmation of this was the large-scale military exercises Sea Breeze 2021, which were recently completed in the region, which Ukraine hosted, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

The Sea Breeze — 2021 exercises are the most representative in the entire history of their holding. They were attended by 32 countries, about 5,000 military personnel, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, 18 groups of ground and sea special forces from Ukraine, as well as NATO member and partner countries, including the United States.

The main venue for the exercises was Ukraine, which, for obvious reasons, considers this event as a military and partly political support for its sovereignty, primarily in view of the loss of Crimea and the military—political impasse in the Donbas. In addition, Kiev hopes that hosting such a large-scale event will contribute to the speedy integration of Ukraine into the Alliance.


A few years ago, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation was a regular participant in this series of maneuvers. Then they worked out mainly humanitarian tasks, as well as interaction between the fleets of different states.

In recent years, the scenario of the exercises has changed significantly. Russian ships are no longer invited to them, and the development of actions to ensure air and anti — submarine defense and amphibious landings-typical naval combat operations-has come to the fore.

The scenario announced this year includes a large-scale coastal component and simulates a multinational mission to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and confront illegal armed groups supported by a neighboring state, no one particularly hides that Russia is meant by it.

For obvious reasons, the Russian Armed Forces followed these exercises very closely. And as it turned out, not in vain! The sea was patrolled by Russian warships, and Russian fighter jets were constantly in the sky.

As expected in Moscow, the NATO ships made several attempts to arrange provocations. Two warships-HNLMS Evertsen from Dutch Navy and the British HMS Defender tried to violate the territorial waters of Russia near the Crimea, referring to the fact that this is the territory of Ukraine. As you know, the West does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Precisely, under this pretext, these dangerous maneuvers were carried out.

Russia reacted harshly. Under the threat of opening fire, foreign vessels had to leave the territorial waters of Russia. However, neither London nor Amsterdam admitted that this was a provocation.

According to the special representative of the NATO Secretary General for the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, the North Atlantic Alliance will remain in the Black Sea region to support its allies and partners.

"NATO has a clear position when it comes to freedom of navigation and the fact that Crimea is Ukraine, not Russia. During the incident with HMS Defender, NATO allies showed firmness in defending these principles, " Appathurai said.

In turn, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said that British warships "will continue to enter the territorial waters of Ukraine." He called the route followed by the intruder destroyer the shortest international route from Odessa to Georgian Batumi.

"We have every right to freely pass through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international standards. We will continue to do so, " the high-ranking official stressed.

Moscow said that it would not allow such incidents in the future, and if necessary, it is ready to apply the "toughest and most extreme measures" to violators, although such a scenario is presented by Kremlin as "extremely undesirable" for Russia.

Many experts both in Russia and in the West immediately started talking about the potential threat of the 3rd World War, which in fact can flare up because of Ukraine. It is obvious that such forecasts are not beneficial to anyone: neither NATO nor Russia. Nevertheless, a belligerent and resolute attitude remains on both sides, which cannot but cause fear and concern among ordinary people.

Even after the end of Sea Breeze 2021, NATO continues to declare that they will not leave the Black Sea anywhere. This is already confirmed by the sending of new ships to the region.

Nevertheless, the question remains open: is the North Atlantic Alliance ready to take extreme measures against Russia under the pretext of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is still persistently denied admission to NATO?


Russia can be a democracy



“The EU's strategy towards Russia needs to combine two major objectives: stop the Kremlin’s external aggression and internal repression and, at the same time, engage with the Russians and assist them in building a democratic future,” said Andrius Kubilius MEP, author of a European Parliament Report on the future of political relations with Russia, which will be voted on today (15 July) in the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

The report calls on the EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell to prepare a comprehensive strategy for its relations with Russia, consistent with the EU’s fundamental values and principles.

“The EU and its Institutions have to change their mind-set and work on the assumption that Russia can be a democracy. We need more courage to take a strong stance vis-à-vis the Kremlin regime on defending human rights and democratic principles. It is about ending domestic repressions, supporting free and independent media, freeing all political prisoners and strengthening the neighbouring Eastern Partnership countries. Having a stable and democratic Russia, instead of an aggressive and expansionist Kremlin will be a benefit to everyone,” added Kubilius.


As Chair of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, which groups together six countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), Kubilius points in particular to the importance of the legislative elections in Russia foreseen for September. “If the opposition candidates are not allowed to run, the EU must be prepared to not recognise the parliament of Russia and to consider asking for Russia’s suspension from international parliamentary assemblies,” he concluded.

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Moscow begins booster vaccine campaign as Russia's COVID-19 cases surge




A medic of the regional hospital receives Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine shot against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tver, Russia October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

Health clinics in Moscow began offering booster vaccine shots against COVID-19 on Thursday (1 July), the city's mayor said, as Russian officials scramble to contain a surge in cases blamed on the highly infectious Delta variant, write Alexander Marrow, Polina Ivanova and Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Reuters.

The health ministry issued new regulations for the national inoculation programme on Wednesday, recommending clinics begin administering booster doses to people vaccinated six months ago or more, making Russia one of the first countries globally to begin re-vaccination.


The health ministry said campaign was an emergency measure as coronavirus cases in Russia rise sharply and vaccination rates remain low.

Russia reported 672 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, the highest official death toll in a single day since the pandemic began. read more

Russia has inoculated just 16% of its population since launching its vaccination programme in January, in part driven by widespread distrust even as the country developed its own vaccines.

The health ministry said it would be pursuing "emergency" vaccination and recommending booster doses for vaccinated people every six months until at least 60% of the adult population is vaccinated.

Initially the authorities had planned to reach this target by autumn, but on Tuesday the Kremlin said it would not be met.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said revaccination was available with any of Russia's four registered vaccines, but that the flagship Sputnik V and the one-component Sputnik-Light would initially be used at eight clinics across the city.

Scientists behind the Sputnik V shot have previously said that protection generated by the shot lasts much longer than six months, maintained by memory cells that stand ready to rapidly generate antibodies when encountering the virus.

However, scientists have recommended booster doses to keep the number of protective antibodies in the body at a high level considering the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

"We need to keep an eye on the strain, keeping antibody levels high through more frequent re-vaccination," said Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute which developed the vaccine.

"This is because memory cells are late to get to work ... they start to build up the right level of antibodies around the third or fourth day," he was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency last week.

The government coronavirus task force confirmed 23,543 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the most since Jan. 17, including 7,597 in Moscow. That pushed the national case total to 5,538,142 since the start of the outbreak.

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Hunting Russians: How the CIA is alleged to have tried to lure 33 Russians to Libya



The security company PMC Wagner is increasingly in the spotlight. The situation in Belarus in 2020, when 33 Russian citizens were detained, has become a cause for active discussions in international media. Bellingcat investigators have already repeatedly made a high-profile statement and promised to release their documentary exposing PMCs and revealing details of some SBU "special operation", but it has been delayed now for several months, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

But now there are important details about the conflict in Belarus from the direct participants of the events - maybe this is a more reliable source of information than free interpretations of the events by Bellingcat? 

33 Russian citizens, dressed in military uniform and not resting in the sanatorium, aroused the suspicion of the Belarusian KGB, so finally these men were detained. shows now important information, citing sources - direct participants of the events. The President of the Foundation Maxim Shugaley alleges that in case of Belarus the whole CIA operation was planned. He claims that this was due to the failure of the information campaign in Libya in March-April 2020, during which the U.S. military command was unable to prove the presence of Wagner on the territory of the country. After that, they decided to develop a special operation together with the Ukrainian SBU.


The alleged plan by the US and the SBU envisaged that Russian citizens aged between 20 and 50 were to be transferred to the territory of Mitiga airport (Tripoli), disguised in military uniforms and then shot. According to the plan, dead bodies of those killed would be transported to in Tarhuna, south-east of Tripoli, and then medias had to make scandalous statement about the bodies of Wagner PMC participants found in Libya. Thus, the U.S. wanted to kill two birds with one stone: to "prove" the presence of PMCs in an artificial way and to discredit Russia as the main geopolitical opponent.

The sources of the foundation also allege that CIA selected 180 people from Russia, divided into five groups - employees of military and security companies. For this purpose, they prepared fake documents stating that the Libyan Government of National Unity was inviting Russian citizens to guard the oil fields. However, the idea did not last long as most of the invitees, who felt that a provocation was being prepared, so they refused to go to Libya. It is not surprising during a widespread anti-Russian campaign about the alleged presence of Russian military in Libya. Then the CIA came up with a new idea: they offered Russian citizens jobs in Venezuela as security guards at oil facilities.

Further, a detailed plan for the implementation of the provocation was thought out: the group was to be taken on a charter flight in order to land the plane in Tripoli during an "emergency landing" and to be shot there. U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials also expected the charter to come from Turkish territory - but the plan went wrong as they failed to reach an agreement with Ankara.

The Russian participants in the events were then sent to Belarus. According to the plan, they were to be sent to Turkey by a regular flight, and from Istanbul they were to be sent by charter to Venezuela. The plan included the same emergency landing in Tripoli.

But this plan was also thwarted: the Turkish authorities were dragging their feet about organising the flight so as not to take responsibility for a possible failure, and also not to expose themselves to danger. During this pause, a group of invitees was taken by bus to the sanatorium "Belorusochka" in order to buy time to negotiate with Turkey.

But only the pause dragged on, and events in Belarus took their course: 33 Russian citizens, dressed in military uniform and not resting in the sanatorium, aroused the suspicion of the Belarusian KGB, so finally these men were detained.

That is why now the CIA and their information tools, such as Bellingcat, find it difficult to interpret the events and do not know how to explain the failure of the CIA and SBU operation.

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