Showing posts with label Russian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russian. Show all posts

February 20, 2017

Russian Ambassador to UN Suddenly Dies, Second Death in 2 Months



NBC Reports that a Russian top diplomat Vitaly Churkin has died. This is the second death within two months of another top security diplomat known as Sergei Krivov was found dying on the early morning of election day on the floor of the Russian embassy on the upper east side of new York City. (http://adamfoxie.blogspot.com/2017/02/on-electionam-russian-secofficer-found.html)
He was a diplomat in charge of the embassy security in New York City and of all security issues in the area.The man was unconscious and unresponsive, with an unidentified head wound — “blunt force trauma,” in cop parlance. By the time emergency responders reached him, he was dead.
Initial reports said the nameless man had plunged to his death from the roof of the consulate. 
"the Consulate General of Russia Sergei Krivov passed away on November 8, 2016,” the consulate told BuzzFeed News. “An American doctor that was admitted to the Consulate General stated without a doubt that the death was by natural reasons. Medical examiners are currently establishing the cause of his death, but it is believed that the man suffered a heart attack.”

[CORKY SIEMASZKO writes]:

Vitaly Churkin, the smooth-talking Russian ambassador to the United Nations, died suddenly Monday, officials said. 
Churkin, who was 64, was at his desk when he died, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed. 


Image: Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, speaks with the press following United Nations Security Council discussions at UN Headquarters in New York on Dec. 30, 2016.


Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, speaks with the press following United Nations Security Council discussions at UN Headquarters in New York on Dec. 30, 2016. Albin Lohr-Jones / Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

"A prominent Russian diplomat has passed away while at work," the Ministry said in a statement on its official website. "We'd like to express our sincere condolences to Vitaly Churkin's family.' 
Born Feb. 21, 1952 in Moscow, Churkin died a day before his 65th birthday. He began his 32-year diplomatic career in 1974 when Russia was still the Soviet Union, according to a United Nations biography. 
Fluent in English and French, Churkin was a child actor who appeared in pair of Communist-era movies about Lenin before he set out to become a diplomat. 
Before arriving in New York City, Churkin was ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation from 2003 to 2006. He was his country's ambassador to Canada from 1998 to 2003, and to Belgium from 1994 to 1998. 
Prior to that, Churkin was deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation from 1992 to 1994. And before that he headed the Information Department at the Foreign Ministry in the Soviet era. 
Churkin made his first mark on the world stage in 1986 when at age 34 he became the first Russian diplomat to testify before a U.S. Congressional committee. He was questioned about the Chernobyl nuclear accident and asked to explain why Moscow waited for days before alerting its neighbors about the disaster. 
It did not go well, as the Chicago Tribune reported in a story headlined "Soviet Envoy Does Dance For Congress." 
"The world is appalled, Mr. Churkin, and they want to know why didn't warn them," Rep. Edward Markey, D- Mass., said. 
"We are certainly well aware of our responsibilities," Churkin replied. "We have been very forthcoming. It is my understanding that no harm was done — real harm — in those countries which are adjacent to the Soviet Union, to the people who live there."

February 18, 2017

On ElectionA/M Russian SecOfficer Found Dead on Floor of Consulate



 NYC Morgue workers come in thru service entrance
 

In NEW YORK — He was found just before 7 a.m. on Election Day, lying on the floor of the Russian Consulate on the Upper East Side.

The man was unconscious and unresponsive, with an unidentified head wound — “blunt force trauma,” in cop parlance. By the time emergency responders reached him, he was dead.
Initial reports said the nameless man had plunged to his death from the roof of the consulate. As journalists rushed to the scene, consular officials quickly changed the narrative. The anonymous man had not fallen dozens of feet from the roof of the consular building, they said, but rather had suffered a heart attack in the security office, and died.

By the time the man’s body left the morgue the next day, Donald J. Trump was president-elect of the United States.

By the time the man’s body left the morgue the next day, Donald J. Trump was president-elect of the United States. It was the culmination of a sensational, bitterly divisive political campaign that US intelligence agencies would later say Russia actively sought to manipulate and skew in Trump’s favor. With the election results, the world had turned upside down, and the death of the man at the consulate quickly faded from view.

Police officers said the death of Sergei Krivov — his name revealed here publicly for the first time — looked natural, and listed the case as closed.
But who was Krivov? And how did he really die? Three months after he was found dead, as tensions between the US and Russia reach a fever pitch, the New York City medical examiner isn’t sure he had a heart attack after all.
 
As far as paper trails go, dying is a messy thing, even under normal circumstances. But in the months since Krivov’s death, it’s proven nearly impossible to find out how he died, who he was, and how, if at all, federal authorities were involved in any investigation.

English-language news reports said Krivov, identified then only as a 63-year-old Russian national and Manhattan resident, was a security officer. But a November report from Sputnik, the English-language Russian media outlet, says he was a consular duty commander.

That position is no ordinary security guard. According to other public Russian-language descriptions of the duty commander position, Krivov would have been in charge of, among other things, “prevention of sabotage” and suppression of “attempts of secret intrusion” into the consulate.
In other words, it was Krivov’s job to make sure US intelligence agencies didn’t have ears in the building.
As far as paper trails go, dying is a messy thing, even under normal circumstances.
The duty commander would also have had access to the consulate’s crypto-card — the top secret codebreaker used to encrypt and decrypt messages transmitted between the consulate and other Russian channels. It was likely Krivov who helped transmit cables in and out of the heavily guarded building.

Despite being described as a Manhattan resident by the NYPD, Krivov is a phantom in public records. No one with his name, or any iteration of it, has lived in Manhattan for years, and the only other two Krivovs listed in New York state didn’t return calls asking if they knew a Sergei (in the NYPD’s files, Krivov’s name is not transliterated as “Sergei” or “Sergey” but as the less common “Cergej”). Neither were listed as related to one. An NYPD officer looking at the case file told BuzzFeed News no family was listed.

The NYPD told BuzzFeed News the responding officers were in contact with “whoever was in charge of the consulate” for information regarding Krivov.
But when BuzzFeed News went to Krivov’s address, listed in the NYPD’s files, at 11 E. 90th St., it wasn’t a residence. It’s a Smithsonian-owned office building for its neighboring Cooper Hewitt design museum. It’s located a block behind the Russian Consulate, which is at 9 E. 91st St. One of the consulate’s public entrances is 11 E. 91st St.

Asked about the discrepancy, the NYPD insisted that 11 E. 90th St. was the address they had been given for Krivov, apparently by Russian consular officials.
“No one is living here — this is where my desk is right now,” a Smithsonian employee at the address said when BuzzFeed News called.

It’s unclear how thoroughly or for how long the NYPD investigated Krivov’s death. Multiple officials declined to offer any details about the investigation. Several officers told BuzzFeed News the case is listed as “closed.”
“The narrative of the story is kind of vague, it’s not saying much,” one officer said, scanning the incident report with BuzzFeed News on the phone. “With all cases like this, it is investigated by the detective squad,” he said. “For some reason it was closed out.”

A separate officer said the case was listed as “no criminology suspected, natural causes.”
The medical examiner’s office, though, says their investigation of Krivov’s death remains open.
“The cause and manner of death are pending further studies,” said Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office. “There are no results to share yet.”

After BuzzFeed News published this story, the Medical Examiner’s office said that, while it did continue investigating the cause of death, the office had determined Krivov died naturally.
“This is a natural death,” Bolcer said. “We are doing advanced studies to characterize the details of the underlying disease.”

Further, the office said it is not unusual for the NYPD to close the case despite the lack of a clear cause of death, since the office had said the death was not suspicious. Toxicology tests were completed, the office continued, and the results were not going to be related to the death.
But others who spoke with BuzzFeed News said his disconnect between the medical examiner’s office and the NYPD is not normal. In standard practice, a death investigation would not be formally closed by police officers until the medical examiner had reached a determination on the death.

“It’s open until you can get a cause of death….there has to be a complete circuit with a case,” said Marq Claxton, a former NYPD investigator. “That case is going to stay open until there’s a final determination, it could be a homicide, it could be something, it could be accidental or whatever.”
A separate medical examiner official said Krivov’s body had been released the day after his death, but declined to say to whom the body was released. That the medical examiner no longer has the body, but testing continues, suggests toxicology screening of tissue or blood samples.

It’s not necessarily uncommon for toxicology tests to take weeks or even months to come back. The medical examiner’s office would not specify the kind of further testing being done.
None of the five major funeral chapels or funeral homes in upper Manhattan knew of any recently deceased person named Krivov. The New York City Health Department declined BuzzFeed News’ request to search for records related to Krivov’s death, saying that by standard practices, any search had to be requested by a family member. The city’s burial desk, which tracks documentation from funeral homes, said it only files paperwork and doesn’t have a searchable database.

The NYPD denied BuzzFeed News’ request for the incident report, saying the request did not contain enough details, including the date, precinct, and location of Krivov’s death, or the incident number. BuzzFeed News’ request in fact included all of that information. A separate denial said the incident report “is not a public record and can only be obtained through due process of law (Court Ordered Subpoena).”
According to experts and former police officers, incident reports are not generally withheld by the NYPD.

“The incident report, after an investigation is closed, typically that is releasable,” said Michael Morisy, the founder of MuckRock, a nonprofit organization dedicated to government transparency and records laws. “It’s really weird that they would categorically state that was rejected…incident reports are not broadly exempt from public records law.”

In a last-ditch effort to find where Krivov’s body may have been taken, BuzzFeed News called Aeroflot airlines, the only major carrier with direct flights between New York and Moscow. Aeroflot would not say whether it had flown a body from New York to Russia in the days following Nov. 8. Information about body transports, it said, was classified and could only be released by a government entity.

As police made their way to the consulate that Election Day morning, Americans’ interest in Moscow had reached a fever pitch of Cold War–era proportions, fueled by a near-constant barrage of reports detailing a wide-ranging Russian intelligence operation that the US intelligence community says was designed to undermine the US election.

It stands to reason that Krivov, who was nearing the upper end of the mortality curve for Russian men, may have died a completely natural death, and that much of the hand-wringing over the incident is due to bureaucratic red tape rather than suspicious circumstances.
But given the unique circumstances — and a backdrop of plummeting US–Russia relations — the lack of information has done little to quell theories. The more questions that were asked about Krivov, the less people wanted to talk.

“No one seems to want to discuss this,” one law enforcement source said, after reaching out to other law enforcement officials to see what they had heard about the case.
In the hours following Krivov’s death, the NYPD had said it would identify him following notification of his family. When BuzzFeed News asked for his identity months later, police immediately said the request would have to go to through the US State Department.

The State Department, after being initially responsive, abruptly told BuzzFeed News it wouldn’t help, and said the information would have to come from the Russian Consulate.
“No one seems to want to discuss this.”
“I’m not sure why they would or would not want to share this,” one State Department official said in a follow-up phone call, referring to the NYPD and the State Department. A New York police officer eventually gave BuzzFeed News Krivov’s name.

The incident — and the lack of information surrounding it — has raised eyebrows in Washington.
Two sources to whom BuzzFeed News spoke, who requested anonymity to discuss the probe, said Krivov appeared to be a heavy drinker, which law enforcement concluded led to his natural death.
“I don’t think there’s anything there,” one US intelligence official said.
The State Department also refused to say whether Krivov was registered as a foreign agent, how long he had been in the US, what his immigration status was, and whether they had any contact with the Russian mission regarding his death.
When asked about the incident, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Are you serious?” She continued: “He had heart problems, he had heart attacks. It’s weird that your outlet is interested in this.”

“The employee of the Consulate General of Russia Sergei Krivov passed away on November 8, 2016,” the consulate told BuzzFeed News. “An American doctor that was admitted to the Consulate General stated without a doubt that the death was by natural reasons. Medical examiners are currently establishing the cause of his death, but it is believed that the man suffered a heart attack.”
The FBI said it was not involved in investigating Krivov’s death. It declined to comment further and deferred to the NYPD.

The NYPD did not give BuzzFeed News an official comment on the investigation. BuzzFeed News spoke with the NYPD several times for this story, including with the precinct involved in the incident and the NYPD’s public affairs office.

Krivov’s place of employment — a palatial stone compound in Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side — has long been one of the premiere spy hotspots in the decades-old espionage war between the US and Moscow. Where many aficionados would understandably expect Washington, DC, to be prime real estate for cloak-and-dagger theater, New York City is oft-trodden territory, not least for its hosting of the United Nations.

It is unknown whether Krivov worked with Russian or US intelligence agencies. His work may not have even put him near any intelligence operations that were being run out of the consulate.
According to FBI court documents from 2015, the foreign arm of the Russian intelligence service, the SVR, likely keeps a secure office space inside the Manhattan consulate where Krivov worked.
In criminal documents filed against Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobny — three undercover Russian foreign intelligence agents working in New York City — the bureau described “a secure office in Manhattan used by SVR agents to send and receive intelligence reports and assignments from Moscow (the ‘SVR NY Office’).”

The criminal complaint does not say specifically that the “SVR NY Office” is in the Manhattan consulate, but the document does say it is “located within an office maintained by the Russian Federation in New York, New York.”
It’s an open secret, US intelligence officials say, that the consulate is a staging ground for Russian intelligence operations. It’s also a coveted target for US agents. And its importance, officials say, has been underscored as US intelligence agencies try to get their arms around the Russians’ sweeping operation to manipulate the US election.

“That’s always a target,” the US intelligence official said of the Manhattan consulate.
In an unprecedented report issued in early January, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, the intelligence community writ large detailed the concerted Russian effort to manipulate and undermine the US election. Key to the intelligence community assessment were a multitude of intelligence channels, including signals intelligence — or SIGINT — like intercepted electronic communications or IP addresses. The specifics of where that SIGINT came from, and what it consisted of, remain secret.

BuzzFeed News has filed a FOIA request with the NYPD for the police report on Krivov’s death, and any related paperwork. That request was received, but a determination has not yet been made as to whether the department will provide them.
Maybe those documents will provide insight into a death that, for now, remains a mystery. Nov. 8 began with his death, and ended with one of the most contentious political upsets in history. After that, Sergei Krivov simply vanished. ●


Ali Watkins is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
Contact Ali Watkins at  ali.watkins@buzzfeed.com.

November 4, 2016

Russian Ghost Soldiers Dying for Real in Syria






The start of this year proved deadly for one unit of about 100 Russian fighters supporting President Bashar al-Assad's troops in northern Syria.

On Feb. 3, 38-year-old Maxim Kolganov was killed in a firefight with rebels near Aleppo when a bullet pierced his body armor and heart. Then, on March 9, the same unit came under shell-fire near Palmyra, and Sergei Morozov, also 38, was hit and died on the way to hospital.

Back in southern Russia, medals were delivered to their families: the order of bravery, with certificates signed by President Vladimir Putin. The medals, seen by Reuters, were intended to honor the sacrifice they had made for their country.

Except Kolganov and Morozov were not employed by the Russian state. They were in Syria as private contractors, a small part of an army of such people who are being deployed secretly by the Kremlin in Syria.

The deaths of Kolganov and Morozov, and others like them, have not been made public. Families say they were given little information and told not discuss the cases. In at least one case that Reuters uncovered, the family of a fighter killed in Syria received a payout of around $100,000 in compensation.

Officially, Russia is participating only in an air war over Syria with a small number of special forces on the ground. Moscow denies that its troops are involved in regular ground combat operations.

However, in interviews with more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of these deployments, Reuters has established that Russian fighters are playing a more substantial role in ground combat than that the role the Kremlin says is being played by the regular Russian military.

The sources described the Russian fighters as contractors or mercenaries, hired by a private company, rather than regular troops. But despite their unofficial status, according to these accounts, they operate in coordination with the Russian military and are given privileges back home normally available only to serving soldiers.

They fly to Syria on board Russian military aircraft which land at Russian bases. When they are injured, they are treated in hospitals reserved for the Russian military and get state medals, people interviewed by Reuters said.

Reuters was not able to determine the precise number of such Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria, nor the total number of casualties they have sustained, but three people familiar with the deployments said there were many units of a similar size to the one that included Kolganov and Morozov.

Neither the Kremlin nor the defense ministry responded to questions from Reuters. Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Syrian officials on the question of Russian mercenaries.

Reuters was not able to identify the company or companies that hired the fighters, or the source of any payments to the fighters or their families.

 

THE KREMLIN'S BIDDING

Under Russian law, it is illegal to work as a private military contractor in another country. However, Russian citizens have participated in wars across the former Soviet Union throughout the 25 years since it broke up in 1991.

In 2014, large numbers of Russians fought openly on behalf of pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine. Western countries say those rebel units were organized, paid and armed by Moscow; the Kremlin says any Russians there were independent volunteers.

Last year, Russia joined the war in Syria, its first conflict outside the borders of the former Soviet Union since the Cold War. Word got out among veterans of the Ukraine conflict that mercenaries were needed.

According to three people who knew Morozov and Kolganov, both had fought in Ukraine as part of the same unit that would eventually take them to Syria. It was led by a man who goes by the nomme de guerre "Vagner", who has become a leader of Russian mercenary forces in Syria, one of the sources said.

Little is known of his real identity. Two of Vagner's comrades say he had already traveled to Syria as a mercenary in 2013, before commanding his group of Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine. He then headed back to Syria, where Russia began its intervention in Sept. 2015.

A Russian-language website, Fontanka, has published what it says is the only known photo of him, a picture of a bald man in military fatigues striding near a helicopter. The website said his name was Dmitry Utkin. Reuters could not verify the image or the name.

One Ukrainian rebel commander who was close to the Vagner group in eastern Ukraine said many of the fighters there were tempted to fight in Syria because they had found it difficult to return to civilian life.

"I meet them now and see how much they have changed. I simply have nothing to discuss with them. They can't imagine any other life but war. That's why they go fight in Syria."

Morozov, the fighter who was killed near Palmyra, had returned from Ukraine to his home in southern Russia and dabbled in local politics.

He served as an aide to a member of parliament originally from his native city of Samara, Mikhail Degtyaryov. Degtyaryov told Reuters Morozov was a friend and confirmed that he had died in combat during the battle for Palmyra.

"Kapa", a former Russian officer and volunteer in the Ukraine conflict who asked to be identified only by a nomme de guerre, was friends with Morozov and also knew Kolganov and several other Russians who fought in Ukraine and went on to fight in Syria with the Vagner group. He is still in contact with some of them.

He said Morozov became frustrated when he attended a meeting of the far-right LDPR party, and no one listened to him. Morozov gave up lucrative business ventures to rejoin his Vagner comrades in Syria, Kapa said.

According to Kapa, Russian veterans of the Ukraine fighting were recruited for ground combat in Syria when it became clear that Syrians would not be able to hold ground without help, despite Russian air support.

"The Arabs are not warriors by nature, but are thrown together and told to storm high ground. They don't know how to storm it let alone conquer their instincts and move towards the bullets. How can you make them do it? Only by setting yourself as an example," Kapa said. "That's why our guys reinforced their units."

Asked if fighters in the group coordinated with the Russian defense ministry, Kapa said: "Of course".

According to two people who knew different fighters, they arrive in Syria via ships that land in the port of Tartous, leased by the Russian navy, or in military aircraft that land at Russia's Hmeymim air base in western Syria.

A doctor at a Russian military hospital told Reuters the wounded are evacuated to Russia on board military cargo planes and then treated in military hospitals.

The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared losing his job, said he had personally treated contractors injured in Syria, whose role there was clear from their conversations.

His hospital is officially meant to admit only serving military personnel, their family members or veterans who have served long careers in the military, a category his patients were too young to fit, the doctor said. 

When Morozov and Kolganov were killed, their bodies were flown to Russia aboard military aircraft and delivered to a morgue used by the military in the southern city of Rostov, according to relatives and Morozov's friend Kapa.

A Reuters reporter saw the Order of Courage which was given posthumously to Kolganov. It was delivered to his family home in Togliatti, a city on the Volga river, by someone in civilian clothes who did not identify himself, according to relatives. Reuters has also seen a photograph of Morozov's Order of Courage, dated Sept. 7, 2016.

 

SECRECY

Kolganov never told his relatives where he was deployed, but pictures he sent contained clues. One of them, in which he posed under an orange tree, is now on the wall of his parents' house.

The family got proof he was in Syria only after his death, when they saw his passport with a Syrian stamp in it.

The people who informed the family by phone of his death, and the people who turned over the body in the Rostov morgue, did not explain where he was killed or who he had been working for, the relatives said. The people they interacted with did not identify themselves and told the family not to talk to reporters, the relatives said.

In another case, a 55-year-old Russian woman said her husband was killed this year while working as a military contractor in Syria. She did not want her name, or her husband's, to be published because she feared reprisals.

"They only told me about it after his death. A young man ... phoned and told me. And he also threatened me, so I would never tell anyone about it," she said. "They are scary people."

By contrast, Russian authorities do acknowledge some combat deaths among serving military personnel, though often with a delay and without keeping an official tally.

Reuters was unable to determine how many Russians have died in Syria. According to Kapa, the small unit that included Kolganov and Morozov has lost four fighters since the start of the Russian campaign in Syria, including its commander, killed in the same firefight as Morozov. Dozens have been wounded.

Reuters earlier reported that Russian major Sergei Chupov was killed in Syria on Feb. 8 He also belonged to the Vagner group, a person who knew him told Reuters.

The doctor at the military hospital who spoke to Reuters said that the surgical department where he works had treated six or seven Russian fighters back from Syria with combat injuries who were not serving Russian servicemen.

The overall number of wounded contractors treated at his hospital could be a few times higher, the doctor said. He also says he knows of at least two more hospitals in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg where contractors are treated.

 Maria Tsvetkova and Anton Zverev | TOGLIATTI, RUSSIA

October 28, 2016

Putin’s Top Aide Gets Hack-Payback is Sweet

Payback is a bitch!

Putin instructs Vladislav Surkov, his top aide
Is Wiki leaks going to run out of new material?
A Ukrainian group calling itself Cyber Hunta has released more than a gigabyte of emails and other material from the office of one of Vladimir Putin's top aides, Vladislav Surkov, that show Russia's fingerprints all over the separatist movement in the Ukraine. 
While the Kremlin has denied the relationship between Moscow and the separatists, the emails show in great detail how Russia controlled virtually every detail of the separatist effort in the Russian-speaking regions of the Ukraine, which has torn Ukraine apart and led to a Russian takeover of Crimea. 
And unlike the reported Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee, the Ukrainian hack reached deep into the office of the Russian president. 
"This is a serious hack," said Maks Czuperski, head of the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council (DFRL), which has searched through the email dump and placed selected emails on-line.  A senior U.S. intelligence official said the U.S. "had no role" in the hack. 
Surkov has been a close aide to Putin for more than a decade, serving as both deputy prime minister and Putin's deputy chief of staff. The hacked emails date from 2014, a period during which Surkov was called the "gray cardinal" of the Kremlin, Putin's behind-the-scenes aide responsible for managing Russia's most crucial operations. He guided separatists not just in Ukraine, but in breakaway "republics" in Georgia as well. 
It's as if the Russians were able to hack the email of Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security director and close aide to President Obama. 
Specifically, the anonymous Ukrainian hackers were able to download the Outlook email accounts of Surkov's assistants, including a "Masha" and an "Yevgenia," according to the DFRL. Surkov himself apparently doesn't use email. The files included "the inbox, outbox, drafts, deleted email, spam, etc.," said Czuperski, noting 2,337 messages in total were dumped.  

A senior U.S. official, asked if the material was authentic, told NBC News that there was "nothing to indicate otherwise." 
Hidden in the one gigabyte file are a variety of materials that provided evidence of Russian involvement at the highest levels in the war in the eastern Ukraine, which has taken the lives of 10,000 people, including the 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Flight 17, shot down by a separatist missile in July 2014 over Ukraine. 
There is a list of casualties in the Donbass region of Ukraine sent from a high-ranking separatist official, and a list of candidates for office in a sham election. One email notes that the individuals with asterisks next to their name were "checked by us" and are "especially recommended." Days later, those same names were announced as having been "elected." 
There are expense reports and a proposal for a government press office in Donetsk, scene of some of the fiercest fighting -- a three-person operation for separatist propaganda , with an editor, reporter and webmaster. 
One U.S. official told NBC News that the material confirms much of what the U.S. believed was going on at the time, that the Kremlin was running the separatists at a micro-level. In fact, the official noted that Surkov's name was the first on a list of Russians and Ukrainians placed under executive sanctions by President Obama in March 2014, citing his role in the separatist movement. The action froze his U.S. assets in the United States and banned him from entering the country. Similar sanctions were imposed by the European Union.  
Czuperski said he believed that since Russian authorities realized they were dealing with a violation of international law, they wanted to keep the details in their emails close-hold. He said that while he believes there is likely more hacked material, and that it may prove politically sensitive, he doesn't know that for sure, or whether "Cyber Hunta," like WikiLeaks, will continually dump material. 
“It's all time and probability -- how much effort you put in and how much effort the adversary puts in," he said.

 

October 19, 2016

Russian Arrested by Czechs’ for U.S.Hacking


 Russian hacker arrested by Czech police



Czech Republic officials have arrested a Russian citizen suspected of hacking targets in the United States.

The arrest, announced Tuesday, was the result of collaboration with the FBI and was based on a so-called Interpol red notice. It came just 12 hours after Czech police received information about the suspect, police said.
Story Continued Below

The suspect was arrested at a hotel in central Prague and the alleged hacker didn’t resist, Czech police said. Authorities told various news outlets that the suspect was arrested on Oct. 5 but the announcement was delayed for “tactical" reasons.

The Obama administration announced Friday that it believes Russia is behind a series of hacks intended to influence the U.S. election. Russia, however, has denied the charges, with a spokesman for the Russian Embassy calling the accusation “another piece of nonsense!”

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman have all been hacked this year.
Czech police said the suspect was traveling in the Czech Republic with his girlfriend and had a luxury car. Upon arrest, the man collapsed and was hospitalized, officials said. Extradition proceedings in Czech courts could see the suspect turned over to face possible charges in the United States.
Authorities haven’t released the suspect's name.

The release of internal DNC emails resulted in the resignation of then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which came ahead of Clinton’s nominating convention in July. Clinton’s campaign has also blamed Russia for a series of leaked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal email account.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, encouraged espionage earlier this year, inviting Russia in July to hack Clinton’s email. “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said during a news conference in Florida on July 27. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

 and BENJAMIN CUNNINGHAM

In London, the Ecuador Embassy has taken away the internet connection from Hacker Assange for trying to influence another nation’s political system.

October 3, 2016

US Suspends Diplomatic Relations with Russia Over Syria


 Syrians in Aleppo try to evacuate child as the city is bombed by Assad’s/Russians Forces


In a sharp deterioration of relations, the U.S. on Monday suspended diplomatic contacts with Russia over Syria, while Moscow halted cooperation on a joint program for disposal of weapons-grade plutonium.

The U.S. move followed a threat last week from Secretary of State John Kerry after new Russian and Syrian attacks on the city of Aleppo. The State Department said Russia had not lived up to the terms of an agreement last month to restore the cease-fire and ensure sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged cities.

"This is not a decision that was taken lightly," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments ... and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed."
"Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the Cessation of Hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need, including through the September 19 attack on a humanitarian aid convoy," he said.

An airstrike last month hit a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy, killing 20 people. The United States has accused Russia of hitting the convoy, but both Russia and Syria deny it.

 U.S. deal on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, in a move that also underscored rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Putin's decree cited Washington's "unfriendly actions" and the United States' inability to fulfill its obligations under the 2000 deal as reasons for the move. Under the agreement, which was expanded in 2006 and 2010, Russia and the U.S. each were to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, enough material for about 17,000 nuclear warheads.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said patience had run out with Russia.

"What is clear is that there is nothing more for the United States and Russia to talk about with regard to stopping the ongoing violence in Syria and that is unfortunate," he told reporters.

He said the U.S. would withdraw personnel that it had dispatched to take part in the creation of a joint U.S.-Russia center that was to have coordinated military cooperation and intelligence had the cease-fire taken hold. The suspension will not affect communications between the two countries aimed at de-conflicting counter-terrorism operations in Syria.

Last week, amid the deteriorating conditions, Kerry threatened to suspend contacts with Russia unless "immediate" action was taken to ease the situation. Despite no improvements, however, he did not order the suspension until Monday.



photo:adamfoxie* file

November 18, 2015

Confirmation a Bomb brought down Russian Airliner: Putting Besides Himself (Furious)



                                                                           



Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport for questioning in connection with the downing of the Russian jet, two security officials and an airport employee said on Tuesday
Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensify air strikes against Islamists in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224 people.

"We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them," Putin said at a sombre Kremlin meeting broadcast on Tuesday. The FSB security service swiftly announced a $50 million bounty on the bombers. Until now, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the Oct. 31 crash was the work of terrorists, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course. But four days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed at least 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB, told a late night meeting that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers' personal belongings.


"According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance," said Bortnikov at the meeting in footage released by the Kremlin. "We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act," he said.

Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport for questioning in connection with the downing of the Russian jet, two security officials and an airport employee said on Tuesday. "Seventeen people are being held, two of them are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane at Sharm al-Sheikh airport," said one of the security officials who both declined to be named.

The Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, had been returning Russian holiday makers from Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt to St Petersburg when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board. A group affiliated with Islamic State claimed responsibility, but until Tuesday Russia had said terrorism was just one possible scenario.

RETRIBUTION

Putin, wearing a dark suit, presided over a minute of silence in memory of the victims at the Kremlin meeting, before telling security and military chiefs the incident was one of the bloodiest crimes in modern Russian history and ordering the air force to intensify its air strikes in Syria in response.

"Our air force's military work in Syria must not simply be continued," he said. "It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable."
Putin said he expected military chiefs to present him with specific proposals on how Russia could ramp up its campaign. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Putin was expected to visit the defence ministry later on Tuesday.

A senior French government source said Russia had already launched air strikes against the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, a sign, the source said, that Russia was becoming more concerned about the threat posed by IS.Russia began air strikes in Syria at the end of September. It has always said its main target is Islamic State, but most of its bombs in the past hit territory held by other groups opposed to its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin, in language reminiscent of how he talked about Chechen militants during a war when he came to power 15 years ago, ordered the secret services to hunt down those responsible.

"We must do this without any statute of limitations and we must find out all their names," he said, invoking Russia's right to self defence under the United Nations charter. “Anyone who tries to help the criminals should know that the consequences for trying to shelter them will lie completely on their shoulders." 

Source DNA India

November 7, 2015

Moscow Believes Flight 9268 had No Tech.Problems/ All Flights Suspended


                                                                         
   
                                                                            

President Vladi­mir Putin suspended all Russian flights to Egypt on Friday, pending the outcome of probes into last week’s deadly plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula as Moscow investigates whether a bomb is to blame.

The decision came at the suggestion of Russian intelligence chief Alexander Bortnikov, who said Russia should ground all flights to Egypt “until we know the true causes of the incident” that killed all 224 people aboard the Russian Metrojet airline flight on Saturday.

The move marks another huge blow to Egypt’s vital tourism industry amid a chaotic mass evacuation of Britons from the southern Sinai, and follows assertions by the United States and Britain that a bomb may have torn apart the Airbus 321 bound for St. Petersburg.

The suspicions were strengthened by French officials, cited anonymously by the magazine Le Point and France 2 television, who were quoted as saying the flight recorders carry the sound of an apparent explosion that is not believed linked to a malfunction or crew error. The investigation includes experts from France, where Airbus is based.

While the United States is not involved directly in the investigation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on Friday announced new security enhancements for flights from certain airports in the region. They include expanded screening of items on aircraft, airport assessments and assistance to certain foreign airports.


At a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, Russian officials also said they had collected samples of the airplane body, luggage and soil from the crash site to test for any explosives residue.
The statements are the strongest sign yet that Russia is considering terrorism as a primary possible explanation in Russia’s deadliest aviation incident. It also appears to go further than some other nations, which have suspended flights only to the resort city of Sharm el-Sheik after the crash.

Russian officials had earlier rejected statements by President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron that a bomb may have caused the accident, and urged foreign officials to abstain from “speculation.”


“It means that they’re taking information about a possible attack very, very seriously,” Alexei Makarkin, vice president of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, said of the decision to suspend flights.

If a plot is involved, it could severely alter the public perception of the military campaign in Syria — which some believe could open Russia to increasing risks of retaliatory attacks from groups such as the Islamic State.

“It would be like going from a computer game into a terrifying reality,” Makarkin said.

But Makarkin predicted such as scenario would not hurt Putin’s soaring popularity. Instead, it could fuel calls for stepped up offensives in Syria, similar to the demands to strike back hard in Chechnya in the past decade after Islamist militants launched deadly raids in Moscow and elsewhere.
As part of the flight suspensions, Russia also said it would take steps to bring home Russians currently in Egypt.

Meanwhile, confusion reigned at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh as Britain struggled to evacuate thousands of its citizens under emergency security rules.

Despite repeated assurances from British officials that the airlift would go ahead as planned, the low-cost carrier EasyJet announced Friday that “rescue plans that were put in place yesterday have been suspended by the Egyptian authorities.”

EasyJet later said two flights managed to leave Sharm el-Sheikh, but that eight had been suspended. Several other airlines, including Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson, said their flights also had been cancelled due to over-capacity at the airport. Passengers trying to reach Britain were advised wait for confirmation of a new flight — a process that could take days.

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said that just eight of the 29 planned Britain-bound flights would depart from Sharm al-Sheikh Airport on Friday. It blamed the snags on limited runway and luggage storage capacities at the airport in the Red Sea resort even though many airlines canceled service after last week’s crash.


Passengers must leave their checked luggage behind for security reasons. As many as 20,000 Britons are believed to be in and around the resort, a popular destination for Europeans and an important link in Egypt’s tourism networks.

In London, a government statement stressed the “logistical complexities” of flying out thousands of people and predicted it would take significant time without giving specifics.
At the airport, passengers who had waited in long security lines to board their flights received text messages saying their returns to Britain had been placed on hold.

When the British ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, showed up, he was heckled by passengers. “What is the problem and when can we go home?” several shouted, according to the Guardian newspaper.

On Wednesday, Britain announced that it would suspend all flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh due to concerns about security at the airport. Several other European nations followed suit, and carriers including Dubai-based Emirates said it would shift flight paths from Sinai airspace.

The BBC reported Friday that the British decision to suspend flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh had been sparked by intelligence suggesting the Russian plane, an A320 series, was downed by a bomb that had been placed in the luggage compartment. The BBC said that intelligence was “based on intercepted communications between militants in the Sinai Peninsula.”

The BBC did not cite specific sources for the report, and British officials declined to comment.

The British prime minister Cameron, citing intelligence reports, said Thursday that a bomb “more likely than not” was the cause of the crash.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said Cameron and Putin had not discussed British evidence that last week's plane crash was an act of terror.

Cameron "did not share that with us," Peskov told journalists, discussing a phone call on Thursday between the two leaders. "We do not know which data our British colleagues are using."


On Thursday, Obama and other senior Western officials had said that a bomb may have caused the Russian passenger jet to crash in Egypt last weekend, redoubling speculation about a terrorist attack despite heated protests from the governments of both Russia and Egypt.
In a radio interview with ­Seattle-based KIRO Radio, Obama said, “I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board and we’re taking that very seriously.”

“We’re going to spend a lot of time just making sure our own investigators and own intelligence community find out what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements. But it’s certainly possible that there was a bomb on board,” he said.

U.S. intelligence officials and key legislators echoed the president’s remarks but cautioned that while a bomb may have brought down the Russian plane, that cause has not been confirmed.

“There are certainly indications that it may have been an explosion, may have been a terrorist bomb on the aircraft, but it remains a possibility that it was a structural failure in the aircraft,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, speaking on MSNBC on Thursday. “And the intelligence community is not really at a point where it can confirm either hypothesis.” 

Schiff also described as “very forward-leaning” remarks by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond that a bomb is a “significant possibility.”

“I can only tell you our perspective here in the United States, which is we aren’t ready to confirm anything,” Schiff said.

Still, the United States has stepped up security on flights from the region.

Johnson, the homeland security secretary, on Friday issued a statement saying he and Transportation Security Administrator Peter Neffenger, “out of an abundance of caution,” had identified a series of precautionary security enhancements, designed to provide an additional layer of security for passengers on U.S. bound planes from certain airports in the region.


Russia and Egypt have called for patience while an official investigation that also includes Germany, France and Ireland reviews the crash over the next several months.

Egypt is battling an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, and a bombing would undercut President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s claims that the situation is under control. Sissi was in London on Thursday for talks with Cameron.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt has repeatedly asserted responsibility for the crash, which it called revenge for Russia’s intervention in the war in Syria.

Witte reported from London. Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib in Cairo, Karla Adam in London and Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report. Word Press Picture
   

Washington Post
Andrew Roth is a reporter in The Post’s Moscow bureau.

Griff Witte is The Post’s London bureau chief



US Enhances Airport Security
 The United States will boost security checks overseas for U.S.-bound flights as a precaution following the recent Russian passenger jet crash in Egypt, including asking foreign airports to tighten screening of items before they are brought on board aircraft, U.S. officials said on Friday.
Jeh Johnson, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, said in a statement that he and the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), "out of an abundance of caution, have identified a series of interim, precautionary enhancements to aviation security with respect to commercial flights bound for the United States from certain foreign airports in the region."
Johnson's statement said security improvements would include "expanded screening" for items on aircraft, additional assessments of security at foreign airports in partnership with foreign authorities, and unspecificed "offers of other assistance to certain foreign airports" related to aviation and airport security.
The statement said that the enhancements were intended "only for certain foreign airports in the region." It did not specify which airports would be involved. A U.S. official familiar with the matter said that all the airports affected were in the Middle East.
The official said security enhancements by the U.S. would be put in place by local airport authorities and operators in conjunction with U.S. government representatives.
The official said that because the airport at Sharm El Sheikh, from which the Russian aircraft that crashed departed, is not served by any direct flights to the U.S., it would not be affected by the new U.S. security moves.
While airlines of multiple European countries served Sharm el Sheikh before last weekend's flights, U.S. officials said American-flag carriers had not flown directly in or out of that airport for some time.
"All of our members who had flown in or over that region have stopped doing so and are rerouting flights out of an abundance of caution," added Melanie Hinton, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, a trade association for U.S. airlines.
U.S. officials would not say whether the decisions by U.S. airlines to avoid Sharm el Sheik were based on official guidance from any U.S. government agency.
One U.S. official said that within the last two years, TSA had assessed security at foreign airports, and that Sharm el Sheikh had a reputation inside the U.S. government for poor security. Another official noted that TSA has never made such assessments public. (Reuters) 

November 6, 2015

Pres.Obama Believes a Bomb Destroyed the Russian Passenger Jet



                                                                     

— President Obama said last night (Thursday eve.) that there was “a possibility” that a terrorist bomb was responsible for the destruction of a Russian passenger plane that broke apart last Saturday over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. 

Mr. Obama said in a radio interview that there may have been a bomb on the plane, but he did not go as far as his counterparts in Britain, who have suggested that the destruction of the plane, and the death of all on board, was most likely the result of a terrorist explosion.

“I don’t think we know yet,” Mr. Obama told the Seattle radio station KIRO during an interview broadcast on Thursday afternoon. “Whenever you’ve got a plane crash, first of all you’ve got the tragedy, you’ve got making sure there’s an investigation on site. I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we are taking that very seriously.” 

Russian emergency services personnel at the site of the Metrojet crash in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.Britain, Concerned About Russian Crash, Halts Sinai FlightsNOV. 4, 2015
Russian crews collected the personal belongings of passengers on the Metrojet flight on Tuesday on the Sinai Peninsula in EgyptFlash Was Detected as Russian Jet Broke Apart, U.S. Military Officials SayNOV. 3, 2015

A tourist watched the sun set over the Red Sea in the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, in June.Sinai Plane Crash Threatens a Bright Spot for Egyptian TourismNOV. 2, 2015
“We are going to spend a lot of time making sure our own investigators and our own intelligence community figures out exactly what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements,” Mr. Obama added. “But it is certainly possible that there was a bomb on board.”

At the White House earlier in the day, administration officials said that the United States had not yet made a determination about the cause of the crash near the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el Sheikh, but added that the government had not excluded the possibility of a bomb.

“We can’t rule anything out, including the possibility of terrorism,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters in Washington.

In London on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that “more likely than not a terrorist bomb” had brought down the plane as he announced plans to bring British citizens back from Sharm el Sheikh.

Mr. Obama’s comments were the first direct indication by the president that the downing of the Russian airliner might have been something other than a technical malfunction. American officials have repeatedly cautioned that the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Officials have noted that no American airlines fly to or from the airport in Egypt where the Russian plane began its flight. And they said before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration had already issued guidance to airlines to fly higher above the region.

Mr. Obama’s comments came during a series of short interviews with five radio stations across the country in which the president urged people to sign up for health insurance at HealthCare.gov during the current open enrollment period. During one of the interviews, Mr. Obama was asked about the Russian plane.

In recent days, administration officials have noted the differences between the crash of the Russian plane and other airline disasters. Unlike the case last year of the missing Malaysian jetliner, the United States does not have F.B.I. agents working directly on the crash.

“Right now there are not,” Mr. Earnest said Wednesday afternoon. “Right now this is an Egyptian investigation. The Russians are involved in it.”
Officials have said American investigators were “in touch” with their counterparts in other countries who are looking into the crash. But without an American known to be on the flight — a presence that often gives officials a reason to participate in the investigation of a crash — there has been no reason for direct United States involvement, they said.

The Russians and the Egyptians have also not asked for help from the United States in the investigation, officials said.

Mr. Cameron made his remarks about the crash in an appearance at No. 10 Downing Street with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

New York Times

Could ISIS  have bombed Flight 92668?

When an Islamic State affiliate in Egypt claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airliner on Saturday, analysts were initially sceptical about the group's ability to bring down a passenger jet.
Speculation focused on an assumption that the group, which calls itself Sinai Province, was claiming to have fired a missile at the plane - almost certainly beyond its technical means.
But five days on from the crash, which killed all 224 people on board shortly after take-off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the UK has grounded flights at the resort and David Cameron has said it is “more likely than not" that a bomb brought down the plane.

UK military officials are now on their way to Egypt and security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport is under intense scrutiny. Julian Bray, an aviation security analyst, says it is "highly probable" that even a relatively unsophisticated terror group could get a bomb on a jet leaving the resort.
"It is unlikely a passenger would be able to stow it on board the aircraft, but it is quite likely it could have been taken into somewhere like the cargo shed and then into a container in the plane," he says.
“All passenger aircraft nowadays carry cargo as well, which often comes as a complete sealed unit, and the concern is that at airports like Sharm security is lax around cargo.

"A lot of the airports in the Far East and Middle East are running on a shoestring and they have to turn round aircraft and cargo as fast as possible.
"That leads to skimping on security procedures."

Egypt has criticized suggestions that a bomb was involved in the crash. Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said the country's airports all comply with international security standards.
Investigators are yet to reveal any information from the aircraft’s black box recorders and there is no concrete evidence of a bomb attack.

US media reported on Tuesday that a military satellite detected a "heat flash" over Sinai at the time of the crash, suggesting an explosion, but officials said they have not ruled out a technical malfunction.
On Wednesday, Sinai Province, which emerged in 2011, reiterated its claim of responsibility in an audio recording circulated on social media, but refused to give any details about the method used.
"We brought it down by God's help, but we are under no obligation to reveal the mechanism we used," the statement said. "So search the wreckage of the plane, and find your black box and analyse it."
Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media captionDid bomb cause Sinai plane crash?
The data retrieved from the black boxes may reveal whether a bomb was involved. If Sinai Province’s claim is corroborated, it will be the first IS attack against a passenger aircraft - a grisly milestone for the terror organization.

Spectacular attacks against civilian targets - especially planes - have so far been the preserve of IS's much older rival, al-Qaeda, which was behind 9/11.
AQAP, al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, claimed responsibility for two bombs discovered unexploded on cargo planes in 2010 - one in London and one in Dubai. The 300-400g devices - large enough to bring down a plane - were hidden in printer cartridges aboard cargo flights from Yemen.
Both packages were destined for Chicago and timed using mobile phones to detonate over the US mainland.

And in 2010, the CIA said it had foiled a plot by AQAP to smuggle a technically advanced bomb on board an airliner bound for the United States.
By contrast, IS has so far focused on taking land and hostages, and inspiring lone wolf attacks in other parts of the world rather than planning its own sophisticated operations.


Debris from the plane was spread over a wide area, indicating it broke up in mid-air
Many analysts have been waiting for a high-profile terror attack by IS, according to Dr HA Hellyer, a Middle East expert with the Royal United Services Institute. But the scale of the Metrojet attack would nonetheless be a surprise, he says.
“I don't think anybody expected an attack on a plane, maybe on a hotel or a kidnapping ... but nobody expected something this large.

"I don't think it will surprise anyone such a radical and extremist group has targeted civilians, but certainly the nature of this attack is very dramatic," he says.
If the attack is confirmed it would be a significant propaganda coup for IS, says Dr Hellyer. “It would mean that they've taken out a huge number of civilians at once, and struck a blow against two of their enemies at once, Russia and Egypt."

And it will remain a success of sorts for IS even if investigators rule that the plane was brought down by a technical fault, he says.
"If it turns out that they didn't do it, that is still a victory in a sense. We are having this conversation now. They have managed to dominate the discussion, and that in itself is a communications victory."

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