Putin on Israel’s role in Il-20 downing: ‘Looks accidental, like chain of tragic circumstances’

The downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances,” Vladimir Putin said in response to a reporter’s question on whether it could be compared to Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet in 2015.

 

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu © Mikhael Klimentyev

When people are dying – especially under such circumstances – it is always a tragedy,” President Putin said during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow on Tuesday.

Responding to a reporter’s question as to whether the incident in Latakia could be compared to the downing of the Russian Su-24 by Turkey in 2015, Putin said the two situations were “different.”

Ankara “deliberately downed” the Russian jet, he explained, while the Il-20 incident “looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

The incident has heated up political tensions, with the Russian military placing the blame for the incident on Tel Aviv. It said that the Israeli raid on Syria late on Monday had triggered a chain of events that led to the Il-20 being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. The downing jeopardized the reasonably good diplomatic relations enjoyed by Russia and Israel, casting doubt on whether these could be maintained.

Russia will investigate the incident, Putin said, adding that Moscow will boost security of Russian troops in Syria following the incident. He said that these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

READ MORE: Israeli army blames Damascus for Russia’s Il-20 downing, mourns death of crew – statement

Following Putin’s remarks, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that he had notified his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman that Moscow “won’t leave Israeli actions unanswered.” He said the Russian jet had been downed by Syrian defense systems following their response to an attack by Israeli planes.

READ MORE: Netanyahu tells Putin he expresses regret at loss of Russian lives

On Tuesday evening, Putin spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone. He urged Israel to avoid such incidents in the future and said that Tel Aviv’s military endeavors in Syria violate the country’s sovereignty.

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Serial numbers of missile that downed MH17 show it was produced in 1986, owned by Ukraine - Russia

The serial numbers found on debris of the Buk missile which downed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine show it was produced in 1986, the Russian military said. The projectile was owned by Ukraine, they added.

There are two serial numbers found on fragments of the missile, which shot down the passenger airliner in June 2014 according to an international team of investigators led by the Netherlands. The numbers were marked on the engine and the nozzle of the missile.

The Russian military on Monday said they had traced them to a missile which had the producer serial number 8868720.

Speaking to journalists, Gen. Nikolay Parshin showed a document trail of the Buk missile. According to the documents, some of which have been declassified for the presentation, it was produced at a military plant in Dolgoprudny in the Moscow region in 1986.

The missile was shipped from the plant on December 29, 1986 and delivered to military unit 20152 located in what is now Ukraine. It is now called 223rd anti-aircraft defense regiment of the Ukrainian armed forces, the report said. The unit took part in Kiev's crackdown on rebels in eastern Ukraine in June 2014, the general said.

The evidence disproves the accusations by Ukraine and some other parties, which claim that a missile fired by a launcher, secretly delivered from Russia, was responsible for the downing of MH17, the Ministry of Defense report said. All the materials have been sent to the Dutch investigators, the Russian military added.

The Russian military also challenges video footage used by the UK-based group Bellingcat, which calls itself a citizen journalism organization, to back its allegations about the delivery of the Buk launcher from Russia. The Defense Ministry showed a video clip with some of the footage, highlighting inconsistencies, which it said proved that the footage had been manipulated to place images of the launcher into background which were not in the original.

The Bellingcat investigation was featured in the latest update by Dutch prosecutors involved in the MH17 investigation, prompting the Russian military to study it in detail, they said. The Russian video showed an example of how an Abrams tank can be shown to be carried by a trailer in the streets of Ukraine in the same way.

The third part of the presentation was what the Russian officials called a record of intercepted communications of Ukrainian officials discussing, in 2016, the risk of flying through restricted airspace over Ukraine. Among a barrage of complaints one phrase says unless the restrictions are respected "we'll f***ing f**k up another Malaysian Boeing".

The Russian military say the complaints came from Col. Ruslan Grinchak, who serves in a brigade responsible for radar control of the Ukrainian airspace. His unit tracked the MH17 flight in 2014, so he may have information which is not publicly available about the disaster.

Gen. Igor Konashenkov, who hosted the briefing, said that Ukraine failed to provide radar data from its stations to the Dutch investigators. He also suggested that archive documents from the Ukrainian unit, which received the Buk missile back in 1986, would be of use to the probe, unless Kiev claims that they are no longer available. He stressed rules are in place which mean that such documents should still be stored in Ukraine.

 

A site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash

The Russian military said they had no evidence to disprove a scenario, involving the Ukrainian rebels capturing the missile from the Ukrainian army, but pointed out that Ukrainian officials publicly denied anything like this had ever happened.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, falling in the rebel-held part of the country. The crash claimed the lives of 283 passengers and 15 crew members, most of them Dutch nationals. Russia was blamed by Western media in the first days after the tragedy, even before any evidence had been collected on the ground.

The Joint Investigation Team, which is lead by the Netherlands, includes Ukraine, but not Russia. Moscow believes that the investigation is biased, failing to obtain all necessary evidence from Ukraine and relying on questionable sources while ignoring evidence provided by Russia, which doesn't fit the theory favored by Kiev.

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Russia to create humanitarian corridors in Idlib to prevent civilian casualties – Russian FM

Moscow will create humanitarian corridors in Syria’s Idlib and encourage local reconciliation deals to prevent civilian casualties, the Russian Foreign Minister has said. He warned that terrorist sites would still be targeted.

“We will do everything not to hurt civilian population,” the diplomat said.

While delivering his message, Lavrov also pulled no punches on the way the Western coalition helped “liberate” cities. In particular, he touched upon Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa, which have been major strongholds of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists for a long time.

The cities were razed to the ground during the Western-backed offensives and corpses were lying under the rubble “for months,” he said. The minister recalled that during these operations no proper evacuation corridors were created for civilians to leave.

 

 

 

Lavrov dismissed reports suggesting that the Syrian army has already launched an assault on Idlib.

Western media and some politicians have been pushing the narrative that, if the Syrian army launches an offensive in Idlib, it will definitely end in a humanitarian disaster. The notion has been addressed by Russian officials who said that they will take all necessary measures to protect civilians.

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley claimed that “any offensive” in Idlib is “going to be dealt with.” The US has struck Syria twice after claims of chemical weapons use by the government in Damascus. “Don’t test us again,” she said in an interview to Fox News this week, addressing the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of various jihadist groups that once sought to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, with support from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers. The most powerful of these groups is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra; it is an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization the US holds responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The US-led operation in Mosul turned most of the Iraqi city into rubble. It might not return to normal life for decades with the UN saying that it is still littered with multiple bombs. An RT crew visited the devastated city, five months after the operation had been declared over in July 2017, and filmed the scale of the destruction.

Meanwhile, the once prosperous north-eastern Syrian city of Raqqa was left with 90 percent of its buildings in ruins after the 2017 operation. ( LINK)  One year on, the city lacks aid and resources to de-mine the area and recover bodies from the ruins.

Bodies still rotting under rubble year after liberation of Raqqa

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Cuba Calls Conspiracy to Attribute Alleged Attacks to Russia

Cuba has called today a conspiracy the insinuations published in the United States that Russia would be behind alleged health incidents with U.S. diplomats in this capital, called by Washington ''attacks''.

The NBC article lends itself to dangerous play. To insinuate conspiracies of third countries in Cuba without evidences or foundation, citing sources without names and inventing intrigues', wrote in his Twitter, the General Director of the US at Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio.

The official reiterated that on the island no diplomat is attacked, 'from any country and by any country'.

NBC blamed this conclusion on intelligence agencies investigating the events, although without naming sources and under the argument of interception of communications.

According to Fernandez de Cossio, this is an irresponsible and malicious version, and above all, lacking credibility.

It's fair to ask why NBC lends itself to such a dangerous game, investigations by Cuba and U.S. law enforcement officials discard the use of weapons, he said.

From the United States, the term 'attacks' has been used to explain alleged health problems, including brain damage, of 26 diplomats, a scenario which served the administration headed by President Donald Trump to escalate hostility towards Cuba, dismantling the bilateral rapprochement that Barack Obama began.

First they tried to argue that the attacks were sonic in nature, but in the past few days the microwave thesis has emerged.

Cuba denounces the political manipulation of the issue with the clear purpose of hitting even more the ties between the two countries and insists on its willingness to collaborate with research linked to total scientific rigor.

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Russia, China Start Biggest Military Drill Since Cold War

The Vostok 2018 exercise will be held from Sept. 11 to 17 in Russia’s Eastern Military District, a sparsely populated district close to country’s borders with China and Mongolia.

The Vostok 2018 exercise by the Russian military is witnessing the biggest military drill by the country in 37 years. Around 300,000 troops and tens of thousands of vehicles, aircraft, and warships are participating along with units from China in the exercise.

RELATED: Trump to China: Ready to Tariff Another US$267bn-Worth of Goods

The exercise kicked off on Tuesday along with a bilateral meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The meeting looks forward to strengthening ties between the two countries amidst U.S.-led sanction against Russia and a growing U.S.-China trade war.

Putin said Moscow has a “trusting relationship” with Beijing “in politics, security, and defense.” His Chinese counterpart commented that both countries would continue to “make joint efforts to… push the China-Russia relationship up to a new height.”

Xi Jinping, left, met Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Reuters

The three days meeting of the Easters Economic Forum in Vladivostok brought together the leaders of Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea along with 5,000 delegates from 60 countries.

The exercise is meant to test the capability of the Russian military. To this effect, the drill will include around 300,000 Russian soldiers and officers, including 6,000 airborne troops, over 1,000 warplanes, helicopters and drones, about 36,000 armor, and 80 combat and support ships. Compared to that, China’s participation seems minuscule with only 3,200 troops and 30 aircraft.

In a statement in August, Gen. Sergi Shoigu, supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces, said the games would be at an "unprecedented scale both in territory and number of troops involved."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills were justified given "aggressive and unfriendly" attitudes towards Russia by the NATO block.

The first two days of the drill will see planning and preparation while the actual events will start on Thursday and continue till the last day. The exercise will be spread across five army training grounds, four airbases and areas in the Sea of Japan, Bering Straits and Sea of Okhotsk.

NATO spokesperson Dylan White said that the military organization has been briefed about the exercise in May and it would monitor it. "Vostok demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence."

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Cuba Lost $4Bln Over Last 12 Months Due to US Embargo - Ambassador to Russia

Cuba has lost over $4 billion over the past 12 month due to the United States' sanctions policy against Havana, Cuban Ambassador to Russia Gerardo Penalver Portal stated.

"Over the past year of the [US] blockade policy, Cuba has suffered losses of over $4 billion," Penalver told a press conference.

The diplomat emphasized that Havana would continue demanding that the economic, trade and financial blockade by Washington be completely lifted.

"On October 31, 2018, the Cuban government will condemn the continuation of this policy and will again present a draft resolution [calling for the US sanctions to be scrapped] to the UN General Assembly," the ambassador stated.

The United States first imposed an arms embargo on Cuba in 1958. The embargo was followed by the introduction of restrictions in various other sectors. They include sanctions on financial transactions, trade, travel, among others.

Cuba has repeatedly submitted its resolutions to the United Nations calling for the embargo to be lifted.

The year 2015 marked rapprochement between Washington and Havana when the two nations restored diplomatic ties under the administration of then US President Barack Obama. A year later, the United States, which had repeatedly voted against removing the embargo, abstained from the United Nations' vote on the issue for the first time.

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In 2017, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced a U-turn in the US policy toward Cuba, opting to retain the embargo on the Caribbean nation.

No Evidence of Cuba’s Alleged Involvement in Sonic Attacks

The United States has no evidence of Cuba's involvement in so-called sonic attacks on US diplomats, Cuban Ambassador to Russia Gerardo Penalver Portal said Monday.

"Cuba has spoken from the outset of its willingness to cooperate in clarifying the circumstances of these so-called attacks. But the US government continued to produce accusations without any evidence. Clearly, they want to manipulate politics," he told a press conference.

More recently, US diplomats in China also complained of symptoms similar to those suffered by their colleagues in Cuba.

In June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the State Department established a task force to respond to the mysterious sonic incidents overseas.

Last August, the US State Department said diplomats working at its embassy in Cuba were affected by an incident involving a mysterious audio device. Media reports at the time said some of the diplomats suffered permanent hearing loss and possible brain injuries due to a sonic weapon. Over 20 diplomats were affected, according to the State Department. The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the incidents.

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Cuba, Russia Promote Exchange Between Scientists

Young graduates, specialists and Cuban professors in the nuclear field are preparing today in Russia as part of the actions planned in the collaboration agenda between both countries.

According to a press release from the Agency of Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies of Cuba (AENTA), the scientists of the island will participate with their Russian colleagues research projects on the use of nuclear energy.

Medicine, waste disposal and nuclear safety, as well as irradiation technologies for food preservation, the production of isotopes for medical purposes are subjects to be studied by specialists.

Cuban scientists will be received at the Unified Nuclear Research Institutes, in Dubna; the Physical Engineering of Moscow; and its subsidiary in Obninsk, the universities of Kazan, the Moscow State of Lomonosov and the St. Petersburg technique, among other study centers.

In addition, as part of the collaboration agreement, the second meeting of the joint AENTA/Rosaton coordination committee will take place soon in Havana.

AENTA is mainly dedicated to the development, promotion and peaceful use of nuclear applications in nuclear medicine, and the production of radiopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

It also provides scientific-technological services and high added value products related to nuclear technologies, renewable energy sources and other advanced technologies that contribute to the country's sustainable development.

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Russian jets hit solely Nusra targets in Syria’s Idlib – MoD

Russian military planes launched precision strikes against Jabhat an-Nusra objects in Syria’s Idlib province on September 4, the Russian Defense Ministry has revealed, countering reports of civilians falling prey to bombardment.

The statement comes after speculation that Russian aircraft in fact bombed civilian targets in the area on Tuesday and that the assault led to casualties.

Moscow, for its part, has repeatedly warned that the area is the last stronghold for the terrorists, where militants, among others, have their weapons stockpiled. A particular point of concern, Russia said, were plans by terrorists to stage a fake chemical attack with the aim of framing Damascus. Especially worrying was that militants also received their weapons from “forces from abroad.”

@RT_com US demonstrates ‘subtle desire’ to rescue terrorists in Idlib, Syria – Lavrov https://on.rt.com/9dou

“High-precision munitions” targeted the terrorists’ sites, according to Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

The official stressed that the hits were launched “solely on the identified terrorist objects [targets] located far from settlements.”

Elaborating on the targets, the Russian MoD said Su-34 hit and destroyed a workshop where Al-Nusra Front terrorists constructed drones and a warehouse of explosives for them. An Su-35C also bombed a storehouse, where the militants kept their MANPADs.

Ignoring Russia’s warnings, the US has been threatening to retaliate if Syrian authorities use chemical weapons. Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump warned Syrian leader Bashar Assad not to launch an attack in Idlib, also saying that Iran and Russia should not take part in the “potential human tragedy.”

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the planned chemical weapon provocation in “the last remaining hotbed of the terrorists,” Idlib, is aimed at keeping the terrorists in the area. He noted that civilians are still being held as “human shields” there.

The Western media still refers to those controlling Idlib as ‘moderate rebels’. However, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, also noted that an estimated 10,000 terrorists are entrenched in the area.

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