Russia, China to sign cooperation deal on Moon exploration

Russia and China will sign a space cooperation program for 2018-2022 in autumn to jointly explore the Moon and conduct the Earth’s remote probing, Glavkosmos space launch operator told TASS on Thursday.

"Work is nearing completion with the direct role of Glavkosmos to draw up a program of Russian-Chinese space cooperation for 2018-2022, which should be signed in the autumn of 2017," the company said.

lavkosmos is the coordinator and the contractor for a portion of the works in this program.

As Glavkosmos explained, cooperation with Chinese partners envisages the following areas: the exploration of the Moon and outer space, space vehicles and ground infrastructure, hardware components and materials, the Earth’s remote sensing data.

Glavkosmos is also working with Chinese commercial partners on the issue of holding experiments aboard the International Space Station and providing the data of the Earth’s remote sensing from Russian satellites, the company said.

Apart from China, Glavkosmos is also considering the possibilities of space cooperation with India, Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Chile, Peru and Armenia and their involvement in Russian projects, the company said in its annual report.

Specifically, Glavkosmos is holding preparations in Brazil for a tender for the delivery of space images to that country.

It was reported earlier that China was interested in buying the world’s most powerful Russian-made RD rocket engines produced by Energomash while Russian Space Systems showed interest in Chinese electronic components.

Russia and China are also working on making their GLONASS and BeiDou navigation satellite systems mutually complement each other and on installing adjusting ground-based stations on the territory of each other.

Besides, Russia and China are working within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) format to create a unified system of the Earth’s remote sensing.
International cooperation

As Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin said, Russia needs to look more actively for international partners to develop space projects.

"Building international partnership is, perhaps, the main strategic task for the entire Russian cosmonautics today. This is because the technological revolution, first of all, in micro-electronics, has made it possible from the viewpoint of investments the creation of space systems consisting of dozens and even hundreds of Earth remote sensing or communications satellites whose commercial success requires work on the markets, and also considering that the next stage of piloted flights is related to movement outside the bounds of the near-Earth space, which will require a sharp increase in expenditures on outer space," he told TASS.

According to the expert, broad and versatile international cooperation in the current situation is seen as a solution for Russian cosmonauts as it will help unite participants’ technological competences and their markets, share risks and expenses.

"Moreover, the international status of a project is practical and insurmountable protection from the Finance Ministry’s regular attempts to sequester space programs," the expert said.

In his opinion, considering the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, new potential partners should include, in the first place, BRICS countries and also, possibly, Indonesia, the UAE, Vietnam, Iran and others.

"In this context, the agreements for the period until 2022 between Russia and China, which has both the competences and the resources and the vast internal market, are a move in the right direction but, considering the scope and the severity of the problems and tasks faced by our space industry, a move that displays little initiative, is too cautious, insufficiently large in scope and extremely slow," the expert said.
Glavkosmos

The space launch operator Glavkosmos was established in 1985 in the USSR Ministry of General Machine-Building. The company engaged in the space rocket industry’s foreign economic activity, organized and held researches and participated in the work to convert defense enterprises to civil output.

Today Glavkosmos participates in the implementation of contracts for the launch of Soyuz rockets from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, organizes foreigners’ flights to the International Space Station and cooperates with India and China in the space sphere.

The Russian government wholly owns Glavkosmos.

It was reported earlier that Glavkosmos got the status of an authorized operator of Soyuz-2 carrier rocket commercial launches from Russian cosmodromes.

Apart from this, Glavkosmos has received the exclusive rights to distribute images received from Russia’s Kanopus-V and Resurs-P Earth’s remote sensing satellites on foreign markets.

In 2017-2018, Glavkosmos plans to act as the operator of the launches of over 100 commercial micro-satellites as an additional load while orbiting three satellites under Russia’s federal program. Of this number, 72 satellites were launched from the Baikonur spaceport on July 14. Another 40 satellites are planned to be launched from the Vostochny space center in the Russian Far East at the end of the year.

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos announced in May that Glavkosmos and Kosmotras had set up a joint operator for the launch of spacecraft by Soyuz-2 and Dnepr carrier rockets from the Russian spaceports. The new operator was named Glavkosmos Launch Services (GK Launch Services). Glavkosmos holds 75% and Kosmotras 25% in the new operator.

Russia retaliates over new US sanctions

Russia retaliated Friday to new sanctions from Washington by announcing it would seize US properties and demand a reduction in American diplomatic staff, according to reports.

The Kremlin took the tit-for-tat action in the wake of the US Senate vote to slap new financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea over President Trump’s objections.

The bill now awaits the president’s signature.

Russian officials said the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok must cut the number of their “diplomatic and technical employees” to 455 by Sept. 1, the Washington Post reported.

That staffing level would equal the number of Russian diplomatic staff in the US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it would seize a Moscow warehouse and recreation complex used by the American Embassy.

A US Embassy spokesman could not immediately say how many people work for the Embassy and consulates in Russia.

The new US legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

It bars Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.

In December, President Obama kicked out 35 Russians described as “intelligence operatives” and seized two Russian diplomatic compounds because of Russia’s interference in the election.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recommend that President Vladimir Putin respond by expelling US diplomats, but he said he would wait, apparently hoping the newly elected president would reverse the decision after his inauguration.

US-Russian relations dropped to a post-Cold War low after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The new package of sweeping sanctions aims to hit Putin and his inner circle by targeting alleged corrupt officials, human-rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia dismissed the new sanctions as “creating unfair competitive advantages for the US economy.”

“This kind of blackmail aimed at restricting the cooperation between Russia and other nations is a threat for many countries and global businesses,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

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Astonished to watch mass hysteria among US politicians: Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he is astonished to see how many U.S. politicians are prone to mass hysteria regarding what he termed as "Russophobia." "We understand how uncomfortable it is now in Washington for those who are trying to demonstrate common sense on the backdrop of epidemic, paranoid Russophobia in the absence of any probe or at least asingle evidence over the months to prove Russia's interference into America's affairs," he said in an interview with the Kurdish television, according to TASS. "I have never thought that American politicians could be that prone to mass hysteria," he added.

He reminisced that he worked with many of them in New York saying, "Maybe many of those who have yielded to this furor, which is abnormal for the US' political life, understand that it is not normal and is to be stopped some way." Lavrov added that Moscow and Washington are playing a unique role in the solution of highly complicated problems in different parts of the world and no one else can replace them in the international arena.

The Foreign Minister also blamed the previous U.S. administration for undermining the Russian-American relations as he said, "We've inherited a huge heap of problems from the Barack Obama Administration. There are real time bombs and simply subversive acts that outgoing administration took in an agony when it was fully incapacitated by the results of the election and when it decided to spend the remaining time in the White House doing all sorts of unspeakable things in a bid to undermine the Russian-American relations."

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Lavrov: Shortsighted policies of US, EU in many ways provoked Ukrainian crisis

Since the end of the Cold War, Moscow hoped for international peace and cooperation, but certain decisions and actions of its Western partners have led to further "dividing lines" in Europe, and "have largely provoked" the Ukrainian crisis, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

In the early 1990s, “the US and its allies decided to pronounce themselves winners [in the Cold War] and refused to cooperate on creating equal and undivided security, having instead chosen to move dividing lines closer to Russia's borders,” Lavrov said Thursday, speaking at the ‘Russia & the EU in a changing world’ conference in Berlin.

 
FILE PHOTO. US President Donald Trump and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko © Jonathan Ernst

This policy was realized both through expansion of NATO and through an EU program called ‘The Eastern Partnership’ (EaP), the minister explained, saying that countries in the Eastern Europe were forced to make a choice either to support Russia or the West.

The largely-provoked-from-the-outside Ukrainian crisis has become the direct consequence of such shortsighted policy of Washington and Brussels,” Lavrov said.

Fulfillment of the Minsk agreements to resolve the conflict in Ukraine could contribute to de-escalation of tensions on the European continent, Lavrov said, adding that so far, Kiev’s eagerness to stay true to its obligations within the peace deal is “doubtful.”

We hope that Germany and France, as partners within the Normandy format, as well as the US who have a special influence on the Kiev establishment, will use their means to change the situation.”

The Russian minister added that Moscow wishes Ukraine to be “a normal democratic state,” but at the moment the power in Kiev “is largely in the hands of radicals, who do not comply with anyone, including with their commander-in-chief.”

We want to see Ukraine a stable country, where all minorities, including linguistic, religious and ethnic, live freely and exercise rights provided by international conventions,” he said.

Having discarded the idea of a multipolar world and chosen to act in its own interests, “the elite of the Western world have been pursuing the policy to politically and economically contain Russia.” At the same time, old security threats have not disappeared, but new ones emerged, Lavrov said, adding that the world is still dealing with these threats.

“Numbers of dissatisfied and deprived have grown both in national and global scales, which – against the backdrop of many unresolved issues – fuels extremist moods.”

 
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump © Carlos Barria

An “unprecedented growth of the terrorist threat” has been provoked by Western policies not only on the European continent, but also in the Middle East and North Africa, Lavrov said. He added that a number of countries in that region, including Iraq, Libya and Syria “were plunged into a deep crisis.”

The minister also criticized Western sanctions against Russia, saying he has to “remind that introducing sanctions is the prerogative right of UN Security Council, used purely in the interests of maintaining international peace and security.”

However, the West had decided to force restrictions against Moscow, making many people in Europe “victims of geopolitical games.” 

We will not engage in talks on some conditions of lifting of sanctions,” Lavrov said. He added that “it's not in Russians’ character to hold grudges against anyone, so if and when the EU recognizes the importance of getting back to normal relations with Russia,” Moscow will not refuse to cooperate.

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Report on alleged April Idlib chemical attack based on questionable evidence – Russian OPCW rep

The latest OPCW report on the April Idlib chemical incident lacks sufficient evidence and is based on data provided mostly by only one side of the Syrian conflict without necessary verification, the Russian OPCW representative, Aleksandr Shulgin, told RT.

“The conclusions of this report are based on questionable data provided primarily by all kinds of the Syrian armed opposition groups and NGOs, including the infamous White Helmets,” Shulgin said, referring to the report of the fact-finding mission (FFM) reviewed by the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), on Thursday.

The Russian representative drew attention to the fact that the report itself repeatedly says that the FFM investigative team decided not to visit the incident scene due to “security factors” and was thus unable to gather the necessary material evidence directly on the spot.

The team then had to rely on evidence provided by “various NGOs” that were working on the scene and testimonies of the alleged attack victims as well as those of the medical specialists, who treated the victims in “one of the neighboring countries.”

READ MORE: US slams Damascus as chemical weapons monitor says sarin used in April Syria attack, silent on blame

The report further says that the team was unable to implement the chain of custody for the samples they obtained from third parties, despite the fact that it is a standard basic procedure for such types of investigation, Shulgin noted.

The FFM report seen by RT indeed says that “the team was unable to implement a complete chain of custody, by the team, for samples from source.” Shulgin explained that the lack of the full chain of custody makes such evidence questionable, as its source cannot be verified with certainty.

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‘US info campaign against Syria is intervention warning sign’ – Russian Foreign Ministry

The US information campaign on Syria is a warning sign that an American-led intervention may be in the works, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

"The campaign, which was started by the US and is being backed by London and Paris, on the alleged chemical attack that is claimed to be prepared by Damascus, is not original, it's a textbook script, which has already been used in several countries in the region," Zakharova said.

 
FILE PHOTO. A Russian Su-30 fighter aircraft takes off from the Hmeimim airbase in Syria. © Maksim Blinov

In 2013, for example, "a provocation with the alleged use of chemical weapons became an excuse for a [potential] direct Western intervention in Syria. The situation was salvaged only by Russia's decisive stance," the official said.

Following the incident in April of this year, when the US leadership claimed a chemical weapons attack had been carried out by Syrian government forces in Khan Shaykhun, Washington is not doing anything that hasn’t been seen before, Zakharova added.

"The current information attack is very likely a warning sign of an intervention. The story will be the same: an incident happens on the territory controlled by the terrorists, civilian casualties follow. The so-called opposition – de facto the same jihadists, not very different from IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and Al-Qaeda, but who are still getting help from the US and allies – announce yet another ‘crime by the regime,’" Zakharova said.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman even pointed out potential locations for such incidents: Sarrakab and Ar-Riha, where Moscow “believes that such a staged [chemical weapons] attack is being prepared.”

 
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley © Joshua Roberts 

The US’ claims on an alleged chemical attack being prepared by Damascus aren’t only aimed against the Syrian authorities, but also against Russia, the Zakharova said.

“The situation seems to be a massive provocation, both military and information-wise, a provocation which targets not only the Syrian leadership, but also Russia,” the spokeswoman said.

“These accusations and threats sound cynical amid the background of the blatantly illegal activities of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition fighting against the sovereign state of Syria,” the official added, referring to the US attack in April on the Shayrat airbase, as well as “mass civilian casualties in the coalition strikes in Raqqa and elsewhere.”

“Only during Ramadan, AFP reported the death toll of 500 civilians, who weren’t connected to the terrorists in any way,” Zakharova said.

On Wednesday, Moscow warned Washington against any “incendiary, provocative action” in Syria, stating there is no threat from the Syrian military.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, slammed the potential action as “unacceptable” and something that “breaches Syria’s sovereignty [and] isn’t caused by any military need.”

 
Smoke is seen while Philippines army troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines June 28, 2017. © Jorge Silva

It came after the White House claimed on Monday that the Syrian government was gearing up for a chemical attack, and threated that the country’s leadership would “pay a heavy price,” should the supposed attack take place.

Also on Monday, the Pentagon issued a statement that the US had spotted “activity” at Shayrat airfield that showed “active preparations for chemical weapons use.”

The US did not offer any further explanations or evidence that such an attack was due to happen, though, and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert rebuffed questions on the issue as “an intelligence matter.”

On Wednesday, the US suggested that the Syrian leadership had promptly changed its mind about an alleged attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as cited by Reuters, said: “it appears that they [Syria’s authorities] took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it.”

The Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied any allegations against them, as has the Russian leadership.

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Former CIA Employee Explains 'Dirty Little Secret' of US Mainstream Media

Notwithstanding the scandal blowing up around CNN over its outright false coverage of 'Russia-Trump collusion', the mainstream US media's narrative on Russia isn't going anywhere anytime soon, says former CIA analyst and author John Kiriakou.

CNN is in trouble. Facing scandal Monday with the resignation of three staffers following the retraction of a story alleging ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's transition team, the broadcaster was hit with a second humiliating blow Tuesday, after a CNN producer was caught on camera admitting that the Russia-Trump narrative was "bullsh*t" used to score ratings.

Speaking to Russian media about the scandal, John Kiriakou, a former US intelligence officer turned whistleblower, explained that unfortunately, the blow to CNN's reputation following revelations of dishonesty and misreporting aren't going to stop the mainstream media's claims of collusion between Russia and President Trump.

"The dirty little secret of the American media is that it's all corporatist, it's all owned by gigantic companies and all they care about is the financial bottom line," Kiriakou said, speaking to RT.

CNN Center
 

"They have to be more and more explosive in their stories, and sometimes the truth gets lost in those stories," he added.

In his hidden camera interview with Project Veritas, CNN supervising producer John Bonifield admitted that the reason the broadcaster continues to circulate the Trump-Russia collusion story is that the story sells, lack of proof notwithstanding.

Boasting about the network's "incredible" ratings, Bonifield explained that CNN's goal was to make money, not conform to journalistic ethics standards. "All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school, you're like, 'that's adorable'…This is a business," he said.

Given the scandal rocking the broadcaster over its shoddy reporting, Kiriakou noted that CNN, "frankly, is going to have to explain itself. What we have is the FBI and the CIA and members of Congress essentially telling us to just take their word for it. We can't take their word for it, we need some evidence. And apparently even CNN has not received any evidence."

CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia
 

As far as Project Veritas' activist James O'Keefe's hidden camera video was concerned, Kiriakou stressed that while O'Keefe himself was "a very controversial figure," it's true that "if the information is true, the American people have the right to know it."

"So many of us in the former intelligence community – I'm talking about my colleagues in the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity – have been saying both in television and radio interviews and in writing, that we're just not seeing any evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russian government or Russian hackers or any Russians at all," the observer noted.

Unfortunately, the observer emphasized that not only the mainstream media, but the Trump administration's political enemies in Washington, just can't seem to think up any way to attack him apart from made up claims about his Russia ties.

"There's this drumbeat here in Washington, that the only way to ruin President Trump is to tie him to the Russians. And I think the mainstream media, with the exception of Fox News, has latched onto that, and I think that many, many Democrats on Capitol Hill have also done the same," Kiriakou said.

Data dump
© Sputnik/ Vitaly Podvitski / Failing? CNN's U-Turn on Russia Coverage
 

Speaking to Radio Sputnik about the crisis now facing CNN, Dmitri Zhuravlev, the director of the Institute of Regional Problems, a Russian think tank, said that he actually sees grounds for the fiasco being the first step in turning the mainstream media narrative on Russia around.

CNN's position today, the analyst noted, consists of opposing Moscow over everything Russia does, and of searching for someone to blame for America's domestic political problems. 

"This is very unfortunate," Zhuravlev stressed, "especially if we recall the role CNN played in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the agency covered the situation in the Soviet Union rather objectively, sometimes even taking up positions contrary to those of US leaders."

As far as the resignation of the staffers was concerned, the analyst noted that "if the situation has reached a stage where for the sake of objectivity it's necessary to dismiss employees, something is wrong. And maybe it's not about CNN, but the general climate in the US. The main thing now is to wait for the moment when a sense of objectivity wins out over the narrow-minded position which currently prevails. CNN can probably be characterized as the leading [US] news agency. If its position changes, it, like an icebreaker, will be followed by other US media in changing course," Zhuravlev concluded.

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Moscow warns Washington against ‘incendiary, provocative action’ in Syria

Moscow has warned the US against taking unilateral action in Syria, as there is no threat from the Syrian military, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. The statement comes after the US accused Syria of preparing for a chemical attack, without giving any evidence.

Asked if Russia had warned the US administration against any unilateral action in Syria, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, replied that Russian officials have “always spoken about that, including in relation to their [US] latest strikes on Syrian armed forces.”

“We believe that it’s unacceptable and breaches Syria’s sovereignty, isn’t caused by any military need, and there is no threat to the US specialists from the Syrian Army. So it’s incendiary, provocative action,” Gatilov said, as cited by RIA Novosti.

 

US Defense Secretary James Mattis © Aaron P. Bernstein

On Monday evening, the White House claimed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was preparing a chemical attack and warned that the Syrian government would “pay a heavy price” if the attack was carried out, as cited by AP.

Hours later, the Pentagon said it had detected activity by the Syrian authorities in preparation for the attack. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said that the US had seen “activity” at Shayrat airfield that showed “active preparations for chemical weapons use.”

The US government failed to provide any further details or proof of such claims, while the State Department’s spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said it was “an intelligence matter.”

When confronted by a journalist that Washington uses the phrase to justify anything that suits it, Nauert answered: “I’m not going to get into that one with you, but this is a very serious and great matter.”

On Wednesday, though, the US suggested that the Syrian leadership had swiftly changed its mind about planning an alleged attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as cited by Reuters, said: “it appears that they [Syria’s authorities] took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it.”

The Syrian government, as well as Russian authorities, have denied any allegations against them, with Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable."

In the latest statement, Deputy Foreign Minister Gatilov said that Russia doesn’t rule out that “there may be provocations” following the announcement from Washington.

 

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson © Sergey Guneev

The statements by the US administration complicate the [peace] negotiations in Astana and Geneva, and Moscow believes such attempts to boost the tensions around Syria are unacceptable.

"The statements on Syrian armed forces getting ready to use chemical weapons is complete nonsense… These assumptions aren’t based on anything, no one provides any facts," the Russian diplomat said.

"If the aim is to ramp up the spiral of tension, we think it’s unacceptable. It complicates the process of negotiations undertaken in Astana and Geneva," Gatilov underlined.

“We’ve seen this in the past. Of course there are many ill-wishers, who want to undermine the process [of negotiations]. So any provocations are possible,” the deputy foreign minister added.

Earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued another official statement, saying: “We consider all these insinuations about chemical weapons which are being carried out in the worst traditions of the 2003 NATO intervention in Iraq as an ‘invitation’ for terrorists, extremists, and the armed opposition in Syria to carry out another large-scale provocation, which will result in the ‘unavoidable punishment’ of President Assad, according to Washington’s plans.”

In April, US President Donald Trump launched an attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles, which targeted Shayrat Airbase near the city of Homs. The strike was in response to what the US claimed was a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, orchestrated by Syria’s government – something Damascus repeatedly denied.

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