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Ukraine risking another Chernobyl : Russia

Bangladesh Beyond
  • Updated on Sunday, August 7, 2022
  • 96 Impressed

Ukraine risking another Chernobyl : Russia

 

 

Dhaka August 07 2022 :

 

Inside Russia : Outside Russia : News Digest by the Embassy of Russian Federation in Bangladesh on August 07 2022

 

 

INSIDE RUSSIA

Russia calls on parties to Israeli-Palestinian conflict to return to sustainable ceasefire

MOSCOW, August 6. /TASS/. Moscow calls on parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to return to a sustainable ceasefire, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Saturday.

“Moscow is seriously concerned about a new round of armed violence in the zone of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement reads. “We call on all the parties involved to show maximum restraint, prevent an escalation of military activities and immediately return to a sustainable ceasefire,” Zakharova added.

According to her, tensions started rising after the Israeli Air Force had attacked the Gaza Strip on August 5, making Palestinian groups respond with indiscriminate shelling. “According to the latest information, Israeli attacks killed ten Palestinians and left over 80 wounded,” Zakharova added. “We are deeply concerned about these developments, which can lead to a full-scale military confrontation and further aggravate the already deplorable humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” she noted.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman reiterated Russia’s position in support of efforts to find a comprehensive and long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state principle.

“We once again point out that it is only possible to end cycles of violence through a negotiation process that should lead to the implementation of the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to create an independent state within the 1967 borders,” Zakharova emphasized.

The Israel Defense Forces earlier launched Operation Breaking Dawn, hitting the Islamic Jihad group’s targets in the Gaza Strip.

 

Ukrainian nuclear materials may fall into terrorist hands — Russian diplomat

UKRAINE, August 6. /TASS/. The risk is high that Ukrainian nuclear materials will fall into the hands of terrorists but Moscow is making utmost efforts to prevent such developments, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva Andrey Belousov told reporters.

“Given the situation around the Zaporozhye NPP, there is an increasing risk of a nuclear disaster or an emergency situation, which would lead to negative consequences,” he pointed out. “The August 5 artillery shelling of the NPP is another proof of it,” he added.

“As a responsible state realizing how difficult it is to ensure the security of nuclear facilities, Russia is making utmost efforts to make sure that the NPP is safe,” the diplomat noted. “We will employ all possible means to prevent security violations and maintain security at the highest level based on the IAEA’s requirements,” he added.

“As for the risk of nuclear materials from Ukraine falling into the hands of terrorists, it cannot be ruled out that if an emergency situation or a disaster takes place, Ukraine’s nuclear facilities will go out of control,” Belousov stressed. “We are doing our best to prevent such a scenario,” he said.

 

OUTSIDE RUSSIA

Russian diplomat says UN chief should have mentioned in Hiroshima who bombed city

UNITED NATIONS, August 6. /TASS/. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should have mentioned in his speech at Saturday’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony that the United States had carried out that attack, Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the world organization Dmitry Polyansky wrote on Twitter.

In his speech, Guterres emphasized that “Nuclear weapons are nonsense” and called on all the nuclear powers to “take the nuclear option off the table.”

“Dear Secretary General, the world must also never forget that it’s the US who committed this crime being the only country who used Atomic Bomb against civilians. Without any military need. Would be right if you mentioned this in your statements as well!” Polyansky tweeted.

The United States dropped the world’s first nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and three days later, on August 9, they dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The official reason for those bombings was to force the Japanese Empire to surrender in World War Two. The attacks have been the only use of nuclear weapons in human history so far. The United States has not yet taken moral responsibility for the bombings, justifying them by military necessity.

 

US May Use Ukraine Crisis as Pretext to Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Space, Moscow Warns

Ilya Tsukanov, Sputnik News

Russia and China proposed an international treaty aimed at preventing the militarization of outer space in 2008. Washington dismissed the idea as a “diplomatic ploy” which would allow Moscow and Beijing to get the upper hand on the US militarily, effectively killing the proposal.

The United States could use the security crisis in Ukraine as a pretext to deploy weapons, including nuclear weapons, in space, Andrei Belousov, Russia’s deputy representative to the United Nations, has said.

“It is impossible to directly link the risks of the deployment of weapons in space to the [Russian] special military operation on the territory of Ukraine. There is no such direct link. However, the fact remains that the United States and its allies will use the Ukrainian playing card as an additional argument in favor of implementing their military plans not only on land, at sea and in the air, but also in space. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the special military operation will be used as a pretext for the faster practical implementation of these plans,” the diplomat said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on Friday.

Belousov suggested that Washington’s refusal to discuss a legally binding means to prevent an arms race in outer space over the past decade-and-a-half “speaks for itself.”

“It means that they did not plan to take on any additional obligations from the very start which would set limits on their military space plans. We may well assume that these plans include the possibility of the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” the Russian official stressed.

Russian ‘Red Lines’, NATO Recklessness

Belousov spoke at the NPT review conference on Friday, on the eve of Saturday’s 77th anniversary of the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. During his address, the diplomat reiterated Russia’s commitment “to freeing the world from the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons,” and pointed out that Russia has reduced its strategic nuclear arsenal by 85 percent since the mid-1980s.

Belousov recalled that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (or New START) was extended for five years in February 2021 at Moscow’s initiative, and that Russia and the US had agreed on an expanded dialogue on strategic stability. “Its ultimate goal, as we saw it, was to develop a new ‘security equation’ that would take into account all factors of strategic stability and encompass both offensive and defensive nuclear and non-nuclear weapons capable of meeting strategic challenges,” he said.

“However, the positive achievements have not been implemented due to the US policy of achieving military superiority while completely ignoring Russia’s ‘red lines’ in the field of security. Washington used Russia’s rebuff to the attempts to put us in a vulnerable position as a pretext to ‘freeze’ the strategic dialogue. However, in the absence of cooperation, strategic stability challenges and contradictions only accumulate and intensify,” Belousov warned.

“We hope that the understanding of the objective need to avoid total chaos in strategic affairs and to prevent the development of events in the worst-case scenario will sooner or later prevailed,” he stressed.

Belousov accused NATO of acting “irresponsibly” by admitting the possibility of the deployment of American nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, and pointed to Russia’s concerns about the fledgling AUKUS alliance between Australia, the UK and the US and its implications for strategic stability.

The diplomat also reiterated Russia’s position that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and emphasized that “in the current circumstances, it is more critical than ever that the nuclear powers behave with restraint and responsibility.”

Star(t) Wars

Russia and China proposed a treaty aimed at preventing the militarization of outer space in 2008, with the proposal including space-based armaments, anti-satellite weapons, and other military systems. The United States dismissed the draft document as a “diplomatic ploy,” and no progress has been made under successive US administrations.

Russian officials have continue to tout the proposed treaty in the years to come, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying as recently as 2021 that there was still a chance to work out “generally accepted, legally binding measures which can prevent a military confrontation in outer space” using the Russian-Chinese draft treaty as a first step.

The United States has rejected the proposed treaty, and a series of United Nations resolutions proposed in 2020 on outer space security. In 2019, the Trump administration established a new branch of the military called Space Force. The Biden administration has expressed “full support” for the new fighting force, and claimed that its goals will include “combating climate change” under the Democrat president. Space Force now has a budget of $18.2 billion (and a requested 2023 budget of $24.4 billion), 8,400 personnel and 77 spacecraft, including the US Global Positioning System constellation, military communications satellites, the US missile early warning system, and the Boeing X-37B spaceplane.

 

SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION IN UKRAINE

IAEA ‘alarmed’ over shelling at Europe’s largest nuclear plant

A potential nuclear disaster at the nuclear power plant in Zaporozhye could threaten public health in Ukraine and beyond, the IAEA has said

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Saturday it was “extremely concerned” by the shelling on Friday of the Zaporozhskaya Nuclear Power Plant. The risk of a potential nuclear disaster at what is Europe’s largest nuclear power station is “very real,” it warned, adding that not only would Ukraine be affected but other nations as well.

“Military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs,” the UN nuclear watchdog’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in a statement. Targeting the facility with any “military firepower” would amount to “playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” he added.

The IAEA also suggested sending a delegation to the site to “provide technical support for nuclear safety and security” and to “help prevent the situation from spiraling even more out of control.” Grossi said he was ready to lead such a delegation personally.

The mission would “conduct essential verification activities at the plant” and deliver nuclear safety and security equipment, the agency’s statement said. Yet, for this to happen, the IAEA would require UN support, as well as “cooperation, understanding and facilitation” from both Moscow and Kiev, the statement added. “We must all set aside our differences and act, now,” the agency said, adding that “we cannot afford to lose any more time.”

Neither Moscow nor Kiev has reacted to the IAEA proposal so far.

On Friday, Russia accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the nuclear plant, which is in Ukraine’s southern Zaporozhye Region. Moscow urged the UN and IAEA to compel Ukraine stop the shelling.

Igor Vishnevetsky, a senior non-proliferation and arms control official at the Russian Foreign Ministry, warned that the shelling of the plant risks triggering an event similar to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Kiev, meanwhile, blamed Russian troops for shelling of the plant, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of using the plant as a “shield” for its soldiers.  

The plant was seized by Russian forces in late February when Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine. The facility continues to operate with Ukrainian staff under Russian control.

Ukraine risking another Chernobyl – Russia

Russia has urged the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to make Ukraine stop the “shelling” of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Moscow accused Ukrainian troops of firing artillery shells at the Zaporozhskaya Nuclear Power Plant in the country’s southern Zaporozhye Region on Friday.

The plant was seized by Russian forces in late February, when Moscow launched its military campaign in the neighboring country. The facility continues to operate with Ukrainian staff under Russian control.

Igor Vishnevetsky, a senior non-proliferation and arms control official at the Russian Foreign Ministry, warned that the shelling of the plant risks triggering an event similar to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

We would like to appeal to international organizations, especially to the UN and the IAEA, as well as to the countries that have influence on the Kiev regime, so they would take action in order to make the shelling of the nuclear power plant stop immediately.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, “parts of the equipment” at the plant are out of power due to the shelling, and a fire broke out at the facility and was quickly put out. The ministry claimed that “by sheer luck,” the Ukrainian shells did not cause a bigger fire and “a possible nuclear disaster.”

The ministry said that Ukrainian troops also shelled the adjacent city of Energodar, causing power outages and disruptions of water supply.

The ministry called on the international community to condemn Ukraine for “the acts of nuclear terrorism.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that the shelling of the plant came from Russian troops. “It is not only yet another reason why Russia should be recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism, but also a reason to impose tough sanctions on all of Russia’s nuclear power industry,” Zelensky said on Friday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian officials earlier accused Russia of using the plant as a “shield” for its soldiers.

“Russia is now using the plant as a military base to fire at Ukrainians, knowing that they can’t and won’t shoot back because they might accidentally strike a reactor or highly radioactive waste in storage,” Blinken said on Monday at a UN nuclear non-proliferation conference in New York.

The Russian delegation to the conference released a statement rejecting Blinken’s claim. “The actions of our Armed Forces don’t damage Ukraine’s nuclear safety in any way and cause no obstacles to the plant’s operation.”

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told AP on Tuesday that the plant needs to be inspected for repairs and “to prevent a nuclear accident from happening.”

“The situation is very fragile. Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated one way or the other and we cannot allow that to continue,” Grossi said later at an event in New York.

 

Russia eliminates dozens of foreign fighters in Ukraine

More than 80 mercenaries from Zelensky’s International Legion and 470 Ukrainian personnel have been taken out, Moscow said

Dozens of foreign fighters from Ukraine’s ‘International Legion’ have been killed by an airstrike in southeastern Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

Providing a daily update on the progress of the military operation, Konashenkov revealed that “a high-precision strike” was conducted by the Russian Air Force on a stronghold of the International Legion in the village of Vyvodovo in Dnepropetrovsk Region. As a result, “more than 80 foreign mercenaries and 11 units of special equipment were destroyed,” the military spokesman said.

Kiev’s international military unit was created in late February at the request of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, and is officially known as the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

While its members consider themselves “servicemen in the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Konashenkov earlier stated that the best thing the foreign mercenaries could expect was a “long term in prison.” He also revealed that while hundreds of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine had been killed by Russian long-range precision weapons “shortly after their arrival,” most of the foreign fighters were eliminated “due to a low level of training and a lack of real combat experience.”

In April, the Russian military estimated the number of foreign fighters at around 7,000, but a recent update suggests that less than 3,000 remain in Ukraine.

Apart from the International Legion members, over the past day, Russian forces have eliminated more than 400 nationalist fighters from the 46th airmobile brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces near the village of Belogorka in Kherson Region, according to Konashenkov. Over 70 fighters have been destroyed in three other Kherson Region villages, with about 150 personnel left injured, he added.

Regarding its own casualties, Moscow has not updated the numbers since March, when it reported 1,351 military personnel killed and 3,825 wounded.

Zelensky has conceded that his nation’s armed forces are sustaining heavy losses. In July, he said that Kiev was losing around 30 personnel in combat per day, which was significantly less than in May and June, when the death toll was around 100-200 troops per day.

 

Ukrainian army preparing false-flag operation near Slavyansk — top brass

MOSCOW, August 6. /TASS/. The Ukrainian Armed Forces prepare another false-flag operation entailing civilian casualties outside Slavyansk in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) to pin the blame for indiscriminate strikes on Russian troops, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said on Saturday.

“It is reliably known that the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, through the 72nd center for information and psychological operation, are staging another large-scale provocation involving civilian fatalities as a result of alleged indiscriminate strikes by the Russian Armed Forces,” said Mizintsev, who heads the Russian Joint Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

“For its implementation, mortar crews have been deployed outside Slavyansk, the Donetsk People’s Republic, which are planned to shell the locations where the local population and refugees live (Geologicheskaya Street) on August 7, 2022 when humanitarian aid is handed out,” he added.

According to the general, foreign journalists arrived in the city to take photos and shoot videos about the alleged “civilian killings by Russians” and then publish them in the Ukrainian and Western media.

“We are warning the world community and international organizations in advance about the cynical provocation being prepared by the Ukrainian authorities. Civilians may suffer in it, while the Kiev regime will blame the Russian Armed Forces for civilian deaths following a well-tested scenario,” the general said.

 

INSIGHTS

Ivan Timofeev: Beijing and Moscow can lead resistance against West dictating to rest of world

By Ivan Timofeev, Valdai Club Programme Director & one of Russia’s leading foreign policy experts.

Countries of the world can use a lesson from history to neuter the hegemonic power of the West

The experience of the erstwhile Golden Horde, as of many other empires, suggests that directives lose meaning when the mass of players ignoring them becomes critical. Thus, while today’s Western hegemony still retains a large amount of control, the resistance of major players like Russia and China could gradually undermine its dominance.

The modern policy of sanctions is to some extent reminiscent of the management practices of the Golden Horde. One of its elements was the system of directives – orders, instructions, and permission issued by the Khan to his subjects and vassals. We remember well from the history books the principles for reigning, i.e. permission from the Khan to Russian princes to own this or that land. Orders were also issued to the clergy, exempting them from taxes or granting them other privileges.

These were the tools of imperial policy, formalizing the Khan’s decisions in relation to the rulers or institutions dependent on him. It had a cross-border character, i.e. it was an instrument of governing a subordinate but alien territory. On the one hand, it was the possession of the Khan. On the other, it was a separate state unit. Historians have noted the influence of the Horde’s legacy on the formation of a centralized state built around Moscow. Historian George Vernadsky has pointed to this influence.

It would seem that it makes sense to discuss the Horde’s practices specifically in relation to Russia, pointing to the ‘Asian’ nature of its politics, its history of despotism, and excessive concentration of power. Such a narrative has been developing for centuries, in one way or another, among Russia’s western neighbors. However, some imperial practices appear to be universal. Today, they can be seen in US policy, and to some extent, in that of the EU. Russia itself has lost much of its imperial legacy, becoming even more so a nation-state than its Western rivals. This, of course, does not exclude a transition to imperial organization in the future under certain circumstances.

The characterization of the contemporary US and EU as empires poses two risks. The intellectual risk relates to the obvious differences between the empires of the past and modern political forms. In many respects, they are simply not comparable. Equating modern industrialized mass democracies to the oppressive and economically primitive empire of the Mongols will provoke resentment on the part of some and a condescending smile on the part of others. Normative risk is determined by American and Western European identities themselves. For all the differences between them, they are defined by their belief in the free organization of their political institutions, which exclude coercion by force. Their political communities are organized voluntarily, unlike the empires of the past, which were managed through violence and coercion.

The American and Western European identity is based on the idea of the superiority of the political organization they have created. It appears to be the fairest in terms of equality of rights as well as the freedom of citizens within the social contract. ‘Significant others’ for such an identity are both the despotisms of the past and some modern states that are believed to be autocracies. These include, above all, Russia and China. The supremacy of capitalism and the market is also part of the Western identity. It is contrasted with unfree economies in which the state plays a key and directive role. From a normative point of view, to call the US and EU empires would almost be a political provocation.

Still, such an experiment seems justified, all the more so because there are certain intellectual achievements behind it. Among others, one may recall, for example, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s ‘Empire’. The experiment is based on two assumptions. The first is that in contemporary international relations, inequality and hierarchy persist as a result of differences in power, economic, and human capabilities. The second is that voluntary organization does not preclude coercion and domination. The softness of politics compared to the empires of the past hardly means the absence of coercion and domination per se.

Moreover, the democratic structure of individual states does not preclude coercive relations between them, let alone with other states.

In the 20th century, the US was indeed able to create a unique international community that could be called a ‘soft empire’.

At its core, it undoubtedly contained an instrument of force and coercion. It was shaped by the outcome of the Second World War, in which the US – together with its allies – defeated and then occupied a number of major states (Italy, Germany, and Japan). However, the economic, technical, and financial supremacy of the US turned out to be much more important. America became the most important source for the reconstruction of post-war Western Europe and Japan, which later became major economic players.

The US not only did not impede their development, it also benefited from it. During the Cold War with the USSR, a system of Euro-Atlantic community was formed in which the US dominated both militarily and economically, avoiding excessive control and coercion. Such diktat, by contrast, was characteristic of the USSR’s relations with its allies in Eastern Europe, with the Soviet economic base proving to be markedly less than that of the US and its Western European allies.

The differences in levels of coercion between the Western and Eastern blocs during the Cold War allowed its presence to be downplayed at the ideological level in the ranks of the former and exaggerated in the ranks of the latter. The film epic Star Wars in the late 1980s became a kind of archetype for mass consumption, illustrating the differences between the two systems.

Victory in the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet bloc can be considered the pinnacle of the development of the American ‘soft empire’, and the globalization that gathered momentum in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was its peak.

In Western Europe itself, a ‘soft empire’ emerged, fundamentally different from, but closely linked to, the US. It was not based on military and political coercion. Formed on the basis of economic integration, the EU created its own ‘universe’ based on common standards and rules of the game, voluntarily adopted by its members. However, over time, the ‘European project’ began to acquire a political component. Until now, it has been negligible as a politico-military player, remaining a junior partner of NATO. However, the power of standards, rules, and bureaucracy ensures – within the EU and in the orbit of its economic influence – a relationship of power and coercion no less effective than the use of force.

The US retains its role as the world’s financial leader. The US dollar is a convenient and efficient instrument of international payments. The EU is a major market and the euro also plays a prominent role in international finance. Of course, the humanism and ‘softness’ of Western ‘empires’ has had its limits. Where the use of force was possible, it was used quite harshly. The experiences of Yugoslavia and Iraq showed this. But in the case of Iran, any aggression meant the prospect of much greater losses. The use of economic measures made sense as a cheaper but rather destructive technology of power.

Economic sanctions can be considered a key power technology of today’s ‘soft empires’. The US is far removed from the rest of the world in their application, although the EU also applies them, and the UK introduced them into its independent foreign policy system after Brexit. The globalization of dollar settlements allows US financial authorities to monitor transactions around the world, restricting them where they conflict with Washington’s political interests. In a global economy and a US-centric financial system, blocking US sanctions is likely to mean major losses or even collapse for a major company with any international activity. Hitting systemically important exporters with blocking sanctions can cause enormous economic damage to individual economies, as the experience of sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, and Russia has well demonstrated.

The use of secondary sanctions, as well as fines and criminal penalties for violations of US regulations, has disciplined businesses regardless of their country of origin. For example, the Chinese authorities condemn US sanctions, but Chinese companies are forced to take them into account and generally avoid violating them for fear of financial losses and loss of the US market. Until February 2022, large Russian businesses were also careful not to violate American sanctions regimes, even though official Moscow opposed their application and Russia itself was under a number of restrictive measures. Western European business has been hit hard by US penalties and complies with US regulations, despite grumbling from Brussels. The EU itself is actively developing its toolkit of restrictive measures. 

Today’s sanctions policy is also giving rise to a reincarnation of the practice of issuing directives. By imposing restrictions in one area or another, the US Treasury can, for example, issue a general license authorizing certain transactions. Similar permissions are possible in EU policy. Two recent examples illustrate the practice of rules in relations with Russia. 

The first example is the situation with food exports. Formally, the US has not imposed an embargo on exports of Russian grain, fertilizers, and agricultural products. However, a number of Russian agribusiness assets came under blocking sanctions. Fearing secondary sanctions and penalties amidst extensive financial and economic sanctions on Moscow following the outbreak of the military conflict in Ukraine, foreign banks have refused to carry out transactions involving exports from Russian suppliers.

Shipping companies have also refused to ship Russian products for similar reasons. Combined with the difficulties of Ukrainian food exports due to the hostilities, rising food prices, droughts, and other factors, the restrictions on Russian supplies threatened to have serious global consequences. The response was a US Treasury ‘label’ in the form of a general license to deal in Russian food. 

The second example is the situation regarding attempts by Lithuania to block part of the Russian transit to Kaliningrad Region. EU sanctions prohibit the import, transport, and transfer of a number of Russian goods. Under this pretext, their transit through Lithuanian territory was blocked. In this case, the directive was issued by Brussels, explaining that the sanctions do not apply to the transit of these goods by rail. 

In the context of the sanctions tsunami, Russia will have to face the good old practice of bans and rules, recalling the Horde experience. Directives will be issued where the interests of the initiators of sanctions so require. They may also be issued as rewards for ‘changing behavior’. Ultimately, in today’s sanctions policy doctrine, ‘behavioral change’ is one of the main objectives. Consequently, Russia can either continue to rely on directives or create conditions in which foreign restrictions can be circumvented. For the food exports mentioned above, this could involve a system of financial settlements with Russian export consumers independent from Western control and an accelerated build-up of Russia’s own merchant fleet. With regard to Kaliningrad transit, it would mean developing maritime transport to the Russian enclave. Such measures will require investment and political will. The alternative is dependence on other people’s rules, which can be issued today and taken away tomorrow. 

The experience of the Golden Horde, as of many other empires, suggests that directives lose meaning when the mass of players ignoring them becomes critical. Western ‘soft empires’ still retain a large margin of safety. But the resistance of big players like Russia may gradually undermine their dominance. The inclusion of China would present the soft empires with an even greater challenge. China’s policy will be extremely cautious, but the experience of the economic attack on China during Donald Trump’s presidency in the US is already forcing Beijing to take measures to ensure economic sovereignty and insurance mechanisms in case of inevitable escalations. So far, China has put up with directives for its big companies. But the question is, how long will this acquiescence last?

 

How Ukrainians Sell NATO-Supplied Weapons Abroad

Sputnik news  https://sputniknews.com/20220804/exclusive-ukrainians-sell-nato-supplied-weapons-abroad-1098120922.html

Following the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, western countries pledged to provide billions of dollars in aid for Kiev, but most of it has arrived in the form of weapons to fight Russian troops. However, it would seem that some Ukrainians found a better use for the arms.

Moscow’s warnings to western countries about the dangers of uncontrollably pumping Ukraine with weapons appear to be starting to come true, with some US-supplied arms already surfacing on dark net markets and in international smuggling rings, Sputnik Arabic’s investigation has shown.

Following a search across markets on the dark net – a separate part of the world-wide-web accessible, for example, through Tor browser – Sputnik managed to find an online shop dubbed “Weapons Ukraine” on the THIEF marketplace. True to its name, it’s readily selling weapons.

Express Delivery of 200 Rifles

“Weapons Ukraine” claims to be based in Kiev, has its name in Russian, and boasts about having conducted 32 successful deals confirmed by a guarantor – a middleman provided by the dark website to assure that a client gets their wares and the seller their money. The shop’s owner offers M4S assault rifles courtesy of US arms suppliers for $2,400, well above the Pentagon’s price tag of between $600 and $1,200.

Unlike the Pentagon, “Weapons Ukraine” is ready to sell several hundred of these rifles without bureaucratic complications, such as export licenses, to nearby anyone. In this case, the online shop agreed to sell to Houthi fighters from Yemen hiding behind the username “3ladin_houthi” – a fake identity assumed by the Sputnik Arabic journalist. Upon contacting the trader, whom the journalist addressed in Arabic converted through an online translator into English, the arms dealer asked to switch to Wickr messenger for further communications.

There, the trader confirmed that they were ready to deliver the weapons to Yemen by hiding them in oil barrels. Moreover, the dealer was ready to throw in some extra rifle ammo and frag grenades. The transportation itself would take only ten days, the seller assured.

“Weapons are transported in barrels of motor oil. One barrel holds 10 m4s and 2,000 rounds of ammunition, 20 grenades. Transportation takes 10 days by sea. You basically get barrels of engine oil without raising suspicion,” the trader wrote.

The barrels are shipped on rarely-inspected vessels carrying humanitarian assistance. However, the seller refused to sell as many as 100 barrels of weapons so as not to arise more suspicion. “Weapons Ukraine” and “3ladin_houthi” agreed to ship 20 barrels containing 200 rifles and 400 grenades, with a value of $400,000 for the goods.

Crypto – the Dark Web’s King

Most dark web marketplaces trade illegal goods use cryptocurrencies, since they are difficult or impossible to trace. THIEF is no exception. As “Weapons Ukraine” explained to “3ladin_houthi”, the transaction consists of several steps.

First, the final terms of the deal are discussed and solidified in the presence of a middleman provided by the marketplace. Then, the buyer deposits crypto coins, in this case Monero, to its account on the platform, while the seller ships the goods.

Upon receiving the shipment, the buyer confirms its integrity and quantity and transfers the deposit to the middleman. The latter then sends the money to the seller, withholding 2% for their services. “3ladin_houthi”’s deal would have brought the middleman $8,000 in exchange for guaranteeing that the seller gets the money and that the buyer is not robbed of their share.

‘Allies’ in Poland and Portugal

The full details of the shipment become available only once the deal is agreed upon and the deposit is transferred to the middleman. The buyer gets a tracking number that allows them to know what ship their guns are loaded on to, when and from which port it leaves, and when it arrives to the destination.

Before inking the deal, the seller was only ready to provide general details of the shipment.

“At this point, I don’t know you and you don’t have a deposit. Maybe you are an Interpol agent. I told you in general terms how things work,” the trader said.

“Weapons Ukraine”, however, slipped that the weapons will be loaded onto a ship by their “allies in Poland”. The arms dealer also provided a Russian-written map with a hand-drawn estimate of the ship’s route. According to the map, the transit will depart from a port in Portugal, go around the African continent and arrive in Yemen. The shop’s owner did not elaborate on how the guns are going to make it from Ukraine to Poland and then onto Portugal.

The rest of the details of the shipment remain a mystery, as the next step in the deal – the marketplace’s verification of the buyer’s account – would blow the ruse.

Still, considering the fact that “Weapons Ukraine” has 32 successful sales of unspecified quantities of weapons, it is safe to assume they had developed a working route for deliveries. Based on the 20-barrel limit, the online shop might have sold as many as 6,400 rifles and 12,800 grenades worldwide. All they need now is more arms to sell – meaning more weapons deliveries from NATO countries.

 

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