Cuban leader invited to visit Russia

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel is invited to visit Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists in reply to the question about a possible meeting between Russian and Cuban leaders.

"He [Diaz-Canel] has an invitation to visit Russia," Lavrov said on the outcomes of the talks with his Cuban colleague Bruno Rodriguez on the margins of the UN General Assembly’s session.

"Today, we have considered upcoming contacts planned at a political level, including in the context of discussing the current issues of our economic cooperation," Lavrov added, commenting on the outcomes of the meeting. "We are preparing a session of the intergovernmental commission. Of course, we have discussed the coordination of actions at the UN."

Miguel Diaz-Canel replaced Raul Castro as President of Cuba’s Council of State and President of the Republic of Cuba in April 2018.

Russia, Cuba Foreign Ministers Strengthen Strategic Partnership

Russia and Cuba have strengthened their strategic relations on Tuesday through a meeting of their Foreign Ministers, Serguei Lavrov and Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, respectively, on the margins of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.

During the meeting there was a substantive exchange of views on current issues of the Russian-Cuban strategic partnership, including regional and international matters.

onu cuba bruno lav2

The meeting paid special attention to the development of economic-commercial and humanitarian relations, as well as to the improvement of the legal basis of the agreements between both nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

'The foreign ministers were glad to point out that Russia and Cuba maintain the intensive dynamic of political dialogue, and they confirmed a mutual desire to increase interaction in the UN and other multilateral platforms,' the Ministry added.

The 73rd session of the United Nations General Affairs began its high level program this Tuesday.

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Russia’s S-300 delivery shows Israel who’s in charge, but not aimed at hurting relations – analysts

Russia’s decision to boost Syrian air defenses in response to the downing of an Il-20 plane amid an Israeli raid is meant to sting, but not pose a serious threat to Israel’s national security, experts told RT.

Last week, a Russian Il-20 electronic warfare plane with 15 crew on board was shot down off the Syrian coast by an anti-air missile fired in response to an Israeli air raid. The raid targeted the Latakia province, which houses a Russian airbase.

@RT_com Russian MoD on measures they take in Syria after Il-20 downing - WATCH STATEMENT https://on.rt.com/9evq

Moscow accused Israel of failing to warn the Russian military of its impending attack in time to move the landing aircraft out of harm’s way. On Monday, the Russian military said they would boost Syrian air defenses in several ways to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“It was inevitable that at some point [Israel] would cross that line in its special relationship with Russia and would go a bit too far,” said Beirut-based journalist Martin Jay.

“The deal that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gave to Israel was incredible. It [not only] allowed Israel to make air strikes with impunity across the country on targets that it believed to be Hezbollah weapons factories or Iranian military installations.”

Russia had also promised to keep pro-Iranian militias away from Syria’s border with Israel and froze a planned delivery of an S-300 long-range air defense system to the Syrian armed forces. This deal has now been unfrozen and is to be completed within two weeks, Moscow has announced.

“I think all bets are off now. Russia is showing Israel who is in charge and that it won’t take any more nonsense,” Jay told RT.

 
FILE PHOTO: A Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft. © Sergey Pivovarov / Reuters

The deployment of the S-300 would reduce Israel’s ability to strike targets in Syria, although how much would depend on the number of batteries and the skill of the crews that would man them, said Nikolay Surkov, a senior researcher at the Moscow-based International Institute for World Economy and International Relations. Should Israel take risks or use more costly weapon systems, it may be able to conduct air strikes in Syria even after the planned upgrade, he said.

“They will have to use more assets, use armed drones and cruise missiles as opposed to fighter jets,” he said. “At least that’s what they told me when we discussed a possible delivery of the S-300 a few years ago… Of course this would be more difficult, more costly and more risky.”

The Russian expert believes that Israel may tolerate losses during sorties in Syria up to a point, possibly even ramping up attacks by way of retaliation, as was the case with the loss of a fighter jet in February. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown air war in southern Syria not involving Russia directly.

“Russia has made its response and showed Israel how displeased it is. But Russia and Israel are partners, and neither side wishes to endanger this partnership. I believe a way forward that would satisfy both parties would be found. The Israelis would be more cautious in the future while Russia would refrain from further escalation,” Surkov predicted. “At the moment we don’t have a confrontation here, just mutual complaints.”

«Favorit» in Syria. What is the Russian S 300 able to..

Similar messages, which signal Russia’s willingness to prevent the conflict with Israel from spiraling out of control, came from Moscow after the Defense Ministry’s statement. The Kremlin stressed that the measures taken by the military are not aimed at any third parties while the Foreign Ministry said Russia’s relations with Israel are too “massive and comprehensive” to be significantly hurt by the fallout from the Il-20 incident.

But Jay, the Lebanon-based journalist, pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be limited by pressure at home in how he can deal with the situation.

“He has been resolving all the allegations of corruption through his political fortitude. He is doing really good at the moment, but this could be a game changer,” he said.

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Russia, Cuba Address Cooperation in Health, Education and Culture

Russia and Cuba exchanged ideas on Thursday about the open prospects for cooperation between the two countries in health, education and culture, among other areas, in the framework of the 2nd Eurasian Women's Forum.

St. Petersburg's governor, Gueorgui Poltavchenko, stressed that his city, with six percent of the national production of drugs, strengthens collaboration with the Caribbean island in that regard, during a meeting with Cuban Vice President, Beatriz Johnson Urrutia.

During the talks at the Smolni Palace, Parliament headquarters of this city, Poltavchenko said that Russia is looking for the possibility of any kind of exchange with the Caribbean nation in terms of health, from supplies to the creation of joint ventures in Cuba.

He also referred to the opportunities of a fruitful scientific exchange in health, as well as students and specialists from both states.

The governor of St. Petersburg noted that some 15 Cuban students are studying in different universities in this city and considered that number can increase.

The Cuban vice president thanked the Russian participation in the celebration in 2019 of the 500th anniversary of Havana and recalled that Santiago de Cuba, which previously celebrated it, is also, as St. Petersburg, a hero city.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is expected to attend the forum on Thursday.

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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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