Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Junta Minoborony Head Sez Ukrainian Armed Forces at “Extremely Low Readiness” Levels

00 T-64 tanks. Ukrainian Army. 02.02.14


A knowledgeable source told RIA-Novosti that Admiral Igor Tenyukh, the junta’s acting Defence Minister, rated the combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces as “unsatisfactorily low” in a report to junta chieftain Aleksandr Turchinov. According to the report, exercises revealed “the sad state of training of the armed forces, skeletonised units, and a lack of functioning equipment and weapons”. The army nominally has 41,000 troops {wildly differing estimates are out there… one claim is 93,000… is the figure cited only those in frontline units or is the army that depleted?: editor}, but “only has 6,000 combat-ready troops”. Moreover, “the number of armoured combat vehicle crews capable of performing standard military duties doesn’t exceed 20 percent. More than 70 percent of armoured vehicles are obsolescent Soviet-made models; most tanks are T-64s, produced 30 years ago or more”. Armoured combat vehicle equipment and weaponry “doesn’t meet the requirements of modern warfare, and requires replacement or significant modernisation”.

The report pointed up low levels of operational training in the ground troops, noting, “In the last two years, the army allocated no fuel and lubricants to train driver-mechanics, drivers, and crews of combat vehicles. Training took place in combat vehicle parks without training in exercise areas”. In air and naval forces, the situation wasn’t any better, “Of nearly 507 combat aircraft and 121 attack helicopters, only 15 percent are fully operational and capable of flight operations”. Due to “low aircrew training, no more than 10 percent of aircrew are capable of combat missions”. This is due to “a minimal allocation for the last three years of aviation fuel for combat training, the average annual flight time of combat pilots in 2013 was less than 4 hours”. In the Navy, as of 1 March, “only four ships were in combat-ready condition, the frigate Getman Sagaidachny, the corvette Ternopol, the command ship Slavutich, and the large landing ship Konstantin Olshansky. Our ships are unable to pose any threat to the Black Sea Fleet”.

Tenyukh emphasised in his report that Ukrainian air defence units lack the ability to protect its airspace, stating, “As a result of a ban imposed by the Ukrainian authorities in 2001 on live SAM missile launches (in 2001, during exercises, a Ukrainian S-200 SAM shot down a Russian Tu-154 airliner en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk), the number of troops in air defence battalions having the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required doesn’t exceed 10 percent. Moreover, S-300P and S-200V SAM systems are in need of maintenance and require modernisation to prolong their usefulness, or we need to replace them with new systems, now produced only in Russia”. Tenyukh noted, “The only effective measure we have to deter aggression and defeat Crimean militia detachments or unlawful military formations are MRL units armed with Uragan and Smerch systems”. At the same time, he drew attention to a “high probability of missing the target, given extremely low crew training, which could lead to the possible death of many civilians”. In his conclusion, Tenyukh strongly opposed the use of MRL systems, but he noted that we had to strengthen the guard over them, “given the known interest in them from radical Euromaidan elements”.

12 March 2014



Editor’s Note:

On paper, the Ukrainian army has 13 brigades (39,000-52,000 TO&E strength, all obviously undermanned). What the above report means is that the army is a hollow shell, useless for any serious operations. This is why the disbanding of the Berkut was so dangerous. It leaves the field open for Svoboda and Right Sector neofascist thugs. What’s more, there’s no money for operations, as the junta stole it all. Could you imagine what would happen if the Svoboda pigs got their hands on a single Smerch MRL? It’s surreal… it’s absolutely fucking surreal… you couldn’t pass this off as fiction, as no one would believe that a state would be so feckless and corrupt. This occurred over the entire independence of the Ukraine… it’s NOT Yanukovich’s fault. You wonder where the money for the mansions of Timoshenko, Turchinov, Avakov, and Yatsenyuk came from? It came from open theft of funds meant for national defence and social welfare. The more one learns, the crazier it gets. God do help us all…


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Saturday, 22 September 2012

This is Why Israel Isn’t Going to Attack Iran Any Time Soon (Or, Any Time Later): In Israel, Time Change Unleashes Culture Clash

Protesters in Tel Aviv against ultra-religious imposition of early shift to Winter Time in Israel


The forecast for Israel on Sunday: balmy late-summer temperatures, uncomfortable humidity along the Mediterranean coast and … darkness at 18.00? Israel moves its clocks back by an hour overnight, putting the country on its winter clock more than a month ahead of Europe and the USA, adding to the rising anger that many mainstream Israelis feel toward the ultra-Orthodox minority. Many Israelis believe the time change, meant to make it easier to fast on the upcoming Yom Kippur holy day, unnecessarily disrupts life, and it costs the economy millions of dollars. They say the early onset of darkness raises electricity costs, causes more car accidents, and gives children less time to play after school.

Whilst the custom has long bred resentment, the premature arrival of winter hours comes at an especially sensitive time, given the rising backlash against what is widely seen as religious coercion by ultra-Orthodox leaders. Raanan Lidji, a 34-year-old high-tech worker from Tel Aviv, said, “Its ridiculous. It’s just a power play by the ultra-Orthodox to show who’s in charge. There is no reason for it being this early”. The move to winter time ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and holiest date on the Jewish calendar, has been standard practice for decades and enshrined in law since 2005. Yom Kippur, which begins on Tuesday evening, is marked by a sundown-to-sundown fast. Orthodox religious parties, which have always held key swing votes in Israel’s political system, are behind the time change, wanting to decrease the number of waking hours for those fasting.

Although the length of the fast doesn’t change, the sun sets an hour earlier with the winter clock, shortening the more difficult end of the fast. In a similar custom, neighbouring Muslim countries sometimes adjust their clocks, even in the middle of summer, during Ramadan to make the month-long fasting period easier to manage. However, the clocks return to summer time after Ramadan ends. In Israel, the seemingly premature clock change elicits complaints every year from secular and Modern Orthodox Israelis, who make up some 90 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. Nevertheless, this year, a variety of factors heightened the anger. Yom Kippur, which falls on a different date each year based on the Jewish calendar, arrives relatively early this year, making the change all the more noticeable.

It also comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between the secular masses and the politically-powerful ultra-Orthodox minority. Much of the anger is directed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ultra-Orthodox Shas Party played a key role in shaping the law. Yishai resisted repeated calls to push back the change. In 2010, when it came even earlier in September, nearly 400,000 people signed a petition urging him to change the system. Following the outcry, Yishai appointed a committee to study the matter. However, he never implemented its recommendation that the summer clock remain in effect until early October.

Nehemia Shtrasler, an economics affairs columnist at Haaretz wrote, “He simply wants to build up the special form of régime to be found in Israel… a religious ‘minocracy’. It’s not a democracy that represents the majority and takes the minority into account, rather, it’s a minority that controls the majority and doesn’t care a damn about it”. A spokesman from the Shas party didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also had no immediate comment.

Ultra-Orthodox parties such as Shas, whilst representing less than 10 percent of the general population, have long served as kingmakers in Israel’s fragmented political system. With this power, rabbinical authorities control the rules for marriages, divorces, and burials, and ultra-Orthodox males have long received exemptions from compulsory military service in order to pursue religious studies. Ultra-Orthodox men often continue their studies well into adulthood, living off welfare subsidies as their secular counterparts work and pay taxes. The draft exemptions and study subsidies have become a central issue in Israeli politics. Early this year, the Supreme Court ruled the exemptions illegal and ordered the government to change the law.

However, attempts in parliament to reform the nation’s draft law deadlocked; it caused one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners to quit, and the government missed a deadline to draw up new legislation. With religious leaders saying that they’ll resist any change to the old arrangement, Defence Minister Ehud Barak is currently struggling to figure out a new draft system. Adding to the tensions, in recent months, extremist sects within the ultra-Orthodox community came under fire for attempts to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, sidewalks, and other public spaces. In Jerusalem, because of fears that extremists will vandalise them, advertisements depicting women are gone from billboards and buses.

These attempts at coercion fuelled a brewing cultural clash between two Israels. On one hand, the country continues to be a high-tech powerhouse with liberal values, turning Tel Aviv into a gay mecca. On the other hand, the ultra-Orthodox, with their high birth-rates, have grown increasingly outspoken and assertive. With Netanyahu expected to call early parliamentary elections in the coming months, the country’s opposition is likely to use the controversies over the draft and religious coercion against him. Ronit Tirosh, a lawmaker from the opposition Kadima Party, said, “Israel’s proving, once again, that it’s living in the dark”.

22 September 2012

Associated Press

As quoted in Wenatchee (WA) World


Editor’s Note:

By the way, the coalition partner that left Bibi the Bobo over his coddling of the ultra-religious was Kadima, which is an offshoot of the Likud. You see, they woke up and saw reason… they’re unwilling to bend over and suck up to the ultra-religious. Bibi’s in the deep doo-doo… his talk is just that… big talk, no action. Israel isn’t united behind him. That sounds like the Republicans in the USA, sucking up to the loudest and most unrepresentative “religious” voices in the country. That’s why President Obama’s going to win… most Americans don’t want a theocracy run by a set of unsmiling ignorant yahoos. Well, it shows that the rightwingers in both Israel and the USA coddle pietistic draft-dodgers… and kiss up to loudmouthed “religious authorities”. Do you want polygamous Mormons and hardshell Southern Baptists dictating to the rest of us? Vote Republican, then… the rest of us can vote against that (the Prez has an almost-certain lock on re-election, thank God). That’s why all the talk of Israel or the USA attacking Iran is hot air and arrant bullshit. It’s “bollocks on stilts”, as the English say. The whole megillah’s just a political Kabuki play, with no relation to the real world. In short, much ado about nothing…

As for me, I have much sympathy for Modern Orthodox Judaism… I find that my attitude to the Church is quite similar. I utterly reject the Über-Orthodox and konvertsy paths… just as some of my Modern Orthodox Jewish friends reject the Haredi path. Both are dangerous and godless perversions of Holy Tradition. We should have the courage of our convictions and speak up… after all, the nutters make a loud racket, don’t they? Don’t let them monopolise the online discussion… join in… you’re NOT alone!


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Monophysite Patriarch Says “Outsiders” Responsible for Unrest… Arab League Wants to Send New Mission… Russia Wants “Careful Deliberation” Before Any UN Action

Motorcade of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (1950- ) in Damascus  (Damascus GovernorateSYRIA


The BBC reported that Saudi Arabia’s circulating a new resolution on Syria at the UN, a week after Russia and China vetoed a similar measure. The draft resolution “fully supports” an Arab League plan calling on President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his deputy. It also lays the blame for the violence squarely on the Syrian authorities, and calls for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to ensure a peaceful solution to the 11-month-old unrest. The Saudi draft is similar to the one vetoed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council on 4 February. Russia said the Security Council was too “hasty” in bringing the resolution to a vote and described Western condemnation of Moscow’s veto as “hysterical”. Russia is one of Syria’s largest arms suppliers and has a naval base there.

During a visit to Damascus last week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said President Assad was ready for dialogue with all political forces. In a short televised speech on Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah criticised Russia’s support for Assad and described its veto as “absolutely regrettable”. On Monday, the UN General Assembly’s due to discuss the crisis in Syria. Iranian Press TV cited diplomatic sources saying the Assembly wouldn’t put the Saudi draft to a vote on Monday, but that there could be a vote later next week. However, General Assembly resolutions aren’t binding, unlike those of the Security Council.


On Sunday, at a meeting with Russian political experts visiting Syria, His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, said foreigners are instigating the present Syrian unrest. He told the Russian experts at his residence in Damascus, “The tumult’s being instigated by external forces, not by Syrians”. He also ruled out the possibility of any repressions against Christians living in Syria, saying, “There are no security guards in the Patriarch’s Office, the situation’s calm. Christians in Syria stand secure, in contrast to those in Egypt and Iraq. There isn’t any anti-Christian spirit in Syrian society”. The Syrian state news agency SANA organised the meeting with the patriarch. Today, five churches use the title of Patriarch of Antioch and all the East:


On Sunday, Egyptian television said that the Arab League’s considering a proposal to send a new mission to conflict-torn Syria, including UN monitors. The League also wants to ask the world community to tighten its sanctions on Damascus. The discussion came a week after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. On Sunday, an Arab League ministerial meeting began in Cairo behind closed doors. The agenda of the meeting centred on the need to settle the Syrian uprising. The Arab League was at the forefront of regional efforts to end violence in Syria. The group put forward a plan that Assad agreed to in December, and, then, sent monitors to Syria. The League withdrew its monitoring mission from Syria in January because the régime failed to stop the continuing bloodshed.


On Sunday, Al Arabiya television reported that Syria rejected an Arab League resolution calling for a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force in the country and tightened economic sanctions on Damascus. In a brief headline, the channel reported that Syria rejected the Arab League proposal “completely”. It didn’t give further details.


On Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that an international peacekeeping mission to Syria requires approval from Damascus and an end to the present violence. The Arab League ended its observer mission in Syria and asked the UN Security Council on Sunday to send a peacekeeping force to the country. It also called on Arab nations to break diplomatic relations with Damascus to pressure it to put an end to the violence. Lavrov said, “The host country has first to approve a peacekeeping mission. First of all, a peacekeeping mission should have a peace that it’ll then keep”. He also said Moscow was waiting for explanation of the Arab League’s initiative.


The Syrian National Council (SNC), the driving force behind the Syrian opposition, stated that Russia should have a second chance to change its current stance on Syria during voting in the UN Security Council. On Monday, Najib al-Ghadban, a member of the SNC, said in an interview with the newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “We need to give Russia a second chance, so that it can change its approach to the situation in Syria during voting in the UN Security Council. If Russia uses its veto again in a Security Council resolution on Syria, then, support that can be developed outside the Security Council, which would leave Moscow out of international efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria”. Another SNC member, Haytham al-Malih, believed that “Russia realised that it’s in a difficult situation” after the decision taken by the ministerial meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, saying, “Moscow needs to hold urgent consultation with all parties involved to confirm their involvement in the resolution of the Syrian crisis. We expect that Russia’s position on the Syrian issue will undergo significant changes soon”.


On Monday, Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that most observers expect that EU foreign ministers shall approve a new set of sanctions against Syria at a meeting on 27 February. Earlier reports said that the projected sanctions include a freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Syria in EU countries, as well as a ban on exports and imports of phosphates, precious metals, and gems.


On Monday, Mikhail Bogdanov, the Presidential Middle East Ambassador, said that Russia doesn’t rule out participation in a potential UN peacekeeping mission to Syria. He told Ekho Moskvy FM radio, “As for such a mission, we need an agreement with the Syrian government. There’d be a question about its members, mandate, and disposition. If we agreed to the terms of the mission’s presence in the country, if it fulfilled the principles of the UN Charter, there’d be no problem”. Also on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) said it suspended operations at the Russian Embassy School in Damascus, saying, “We took this decision for the safety of the children studying there”. The MID added that the Russian embassy itself would continue normal operations.


On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that the UN Security Council must approve the mandate of any international mission in Syria. The last meeting of the Arab League proposed that the UN send peacekeeping forces to Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was studying the suggestions of the Arab League. Later, Presidential Middle East Ambassador Mikhail Bogdanov added that Russia didn’t rule out participation in a potential UN peacekeeping mission to Syria. Gatilov said, “Such a mandate would require very careful deliberation, as we’ve already seen what happened in Libya. Our Western partners later interpreted the approved mandate in their own fashion; in fact, their activity went beyond this mandate. We’re ready to consider such an option, but we should know exactly what kind of mission we’re talking about. At the moment, we’ve heard conflicting versions; it isn’t clear whether some want a military mission or a peacekeeping force”. During consultations with Israel, Gatilov discussed issues related to cooperation at the UN and the problems surrounding the reform process in the UN.

 11-14 February 2012











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