Syria fully liberated from ISIS terrorists – Russian MoD

The Russian General Staff has declared the liberation of Syria from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), stating that all territories previously under terrorist control were liberated in the final push by the Syrian Army.

“All terrorist units of ISIS on Syrian soil have been destroyed, and the territory is liberated,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov said.

 

© YPG

“Therefore, as of today, there’s no territory controlled by ISIS in Syria,” he added. Gerasimov made the announcement during an annual briefing for foreign military attachés.

After being briefed on the successful military operation on both banks of the Euphrates River in Syria by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, President Vladimir Putin said that the political process and organization of the Syrian people’s congress in Sochi, agreed upon by Russia, Iran, and Turkey last month, must now become the focus. Among other goals, Putin named the drafting of a new constitution, and, eventually, parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Naturally, there might be some spots of resistance, but the military work has been largely completed in the area and at the time. Completed with a full victory, I repeat, with a victory and defeat of the terrorists,” Russian leader said.

The peace process, however, will be “a very big and lengthy job,” Putin cautioned. For this to happen though, the bloodshed in Syria must stop completely, he said. Securing the recent achievements and reinforcing the fragile de-escalation zones should be the first steps to that end, Russia’s president added.

Russia began providing support to Syria following an official request from Damascus in 2015 to prevent the terrorists from overrunning the country completely. Russia’s help allowed the Syrian Arab Army to turn the tide and liberate large areas of the country previously occupied by the jihadists. Smashing the blockade of Deir ez-Zor, an IS stronghold in eastern Syria, represented a turning point in this year’s campaign against the terrorists, ultimately leading to their demise.

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Reconciliation Process Instituted by Syrian Gov't Makes Progress

In the presence of the government authorities of the central province of Homs and the Russian Center for Reconciliation, about 27 cities and towns of that territory have joined to the reconciliation deal, media outlets from this country reported today.

After recognizing Russia's efforts to achieve peace in the areas in conflict, representatives of local organizations agreed that the momentum of the national reconciliation process contributes to the unity of the Syrian people.

It also enables the safe return home of thousands of displaced and Syrian refugees to this territory.


Tadmur, in Palmyra; al-Amriya, Jandar and USh al-Warwar are among the cities that took refuge in the occasion to the reconciliation deal.


As part of the reconciliation plan itself, more than 110 opposition elements laid down their weapons in front of the authorities in the city of Qamishli, Hassakeh province, about 710 kilometers north of Damascus.


The unarmed elements signed an official document in which they pledge not to commit illegal acts that disturb citizen security, Hassakeh governor, Jaez Al-Musa, said.

More than a hundred opponents received last weekend a pardon from the authorities in the southern province of Deraa, shortly after they vowed to comply with the laws of this Levant state.

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Alien life? Bacteria ‘that had not been there’ found on ISS hull, Russian cosmonaut says

Living bacteria were found on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS), and they might have extraterrestrial origins, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov said. The microorganisms will be studied further on Earth.

Shkaplerov, an ISS expedition flight engineer who will take his third trip to the ISS in December as part of the Expedition 54 crew, said that scientists found living bacteria while they were taking samples from the surface of the station. Speaking to TASS, he said that the microorganisms might have come from outer space.

“Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs,” Shkaplerov said. “So they have flew from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull.” The cosmonaut added that the samples are currently being studied and seem to be safe.

 
© NASA

Shkaplerov said that some microorganisms from Earth also survived in a vacuum and differences in temperature from -150C to 150C.

These bacteria accidentally entered outer space during the ‘Test’ and ‘Biorisk’ experiments, in which special pads are installed on the ISS hull and left there for several years to determine how the material is affected by the conditions in space. 

However, traces of bacteria originating on Earth – from Madagascar – and plankton from the Barents Sea were earlier found during a ‘Test’ experiment in May. Scientists explained that they got there due to the ionosphere lift phenomenon, in which substances from our planet’s surface rise to the upper atmospheric layer. Following the discovery, Russian space agency Roscosmos along with other scientists suggested raising the upper border of the biosphere to 400 kilometers from the current altitude of 20 kilometers.

No more ‘fighting ISIS?’ US to stay in Syria to prevent ‘win’ for Assad and Iran – report

The US plans to keep its troops in Syria long after the defeat of ISIS – the goal used to justify their illegal presence in the first place – because the Syrian government and its ally Iran would “win” if they were withdrawn, the Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration is “expanding its goals” in Syria to include a “potentially open-ended commitment” to support the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing several anonymous US officials. The change comes as the defeat of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group in Syria seems imminent.

 
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis © Aaron P. Bernstein 

Washington has been justifying its deployment of ground troops in Syria, which violates the embattled nation’s sovereignty, by citing the need to fight IS. US Defense Secretary James Mattis last week went so far as to erroneously claim that the US had been given a mandate to be in Syria, stating: “You know, the UN said that … basically we can go after ISIS. And we're there to take them out.”

While Washington has a history of skipping UN approval for its military interventions, be it in Syria or in other sovereign states, it appears that the semblance of legitimacy for keeping hundreds of troops in Syria is about to be dispelled. WaPo sources say that Washington actually sees its boots on the ground as a source of leverage in dealing with the government of President Bashar Assad and his allies.

“An abrupt US withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival – an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally. To avoid that outcome, US officials say they plan to maintain a US troop presence in northern Syria… and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas,” the newspaper said.

If true, it means Washington will be actively promoting Kurdish separatism to spite Damascus and Tehran, while paying lip service to preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.

“The conditions are there for the counter-ISIS campaign to morph into a counter-Iran campaign,” Nicholas Heras of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security told WaPo. “By placing no timeline on the end of the US mission… the Pentagon is creating a framework for keeping the US engaged in Syria for years to come.”

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'Syria chemical weapons probe poisoned by new Russia-US Cold War'

The way the OPCW-UN's investigated the chemical incident in Syria is clearly not what the world expects when it sets up an agency to investigate events like this, and wants to be able to rely on it, says Nicolas J. S. Davies, author of Blood On Our Hands.

Russia on Thursday vetoed a US draft resolution at the UN Security Council to extend the work of a joint inquiry into the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in Syria earlier this year.

RT:  Why do you think the US and Russia failed to agree on this issue?

Nicolas Davies: It’s very hard to understand what has gone wrong with the OPCW investigation here. I mean the inspectors didn’t go within a 100 kilometer of the site, presumably because it’s too dangerous for them because that area is controlled by rebels linked to Al-Qaeda. Yet, they trusted the same rebels to gather samples and have custody of all the physical evidence they then examined, which is a complete violation of the OPCW’s rules for handling materials like that and for conducting an investigation.

@RT_com Russia blocks US-drafted resolution to renew inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in https://on.rt.com/8sfv pic.twitter.com/gYyWfmlQoz

@RT_com Russian resolution on international inquiry into chemical attacks in has failed at UN Security Council https://on.rt.com/8sfv pic.twitter.com/SgBOthDb0t

Then in the report, they issued they seemingly ignored all the contrary evidence that suggested there might have been some other cause for these deaths of 82 people – possibly a bomb hitting another building nearby that was that was storing pesticides – that is one of the theories. But clearly that is not what the world expects of the OPCW or of the UNSC. When the world signs an international treaty and establishes an agency to investigate an incident like this, we expect to be able to rely on it, to conduct its investigations with integrity and to hear from experts from all sides and all points of view. This clearly didn’t happen. There are American experts challenging this … John Gilbert, who used to work for the Defense Department, I believe. So we haven’t had the kind of thorough investigation of this incident that all those ambassadors sitting on the UNSC should be demanding and should expect.

RT:  Do you think we’ll ever get to the bottom of what actually happened in Syria following this latest disagreement at the UNSC?

ND: I don’t know. This just seems to be poisoned by what people are calling a new Cold War between the US and Russia. Frankly, the hostility seems to becoming much more from the American side then the Russian side. But it really threatens the whole world. We’ve got the two countries with more of 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world that seem to be on a collision course. At the same time, we have a crisis on the Korean peninsula, where essentially the North Koreans have come to believe that the only way they can keep their own people safe is to develop weapons that threaten the lives of millions of Americans.

We have to acknowledge that this is just a breakdown in the rule of international law, in the world, and this has really developed for the most part since 9/11, and since the US invasions of Afghanistan, and Iraq and serial US acts of aggression against country after country, for which there has been no legal or political accountability whatsoever…

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October Revolution: Pills against oblivion

On the centennial of the October Socialist Revolution left-wing forces in the world celebrate the onset of a new era and throw pills against oblivion for those who seek to ignore an event that changed history on the planet.

When commenting the meaning of that event, the member of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Federation’s Communist Party (RFCP by its English initials), Valery Razhkin, highlights its importance and validity in exclusive for Orbe weekly.

“I think everybody celebrates the centennial of the Great October Revolution. 100 years ago, mankind first decided to live with socialism”, commented the also first secretary of the RFCP in this capital and deputy of the State Duma (Lower House of the Russian parliament).

“The Revolution found a path to lift Russia out of backwardness, where barely 27 percent of the population had some educational level and could read and write. In a short period illiteracy was eliminated”, he recalled.

“There was no other plan in the world like Goelro, applied by the young Soviet Union for the electrification of the whole country, villages and cities, whose work allowed to bring out all reserves, to concentrate and make them available according to development”, he asserted.

“The force that came to power in 1917 put everything according to man, to open up his potential, to live with his head held high and free”, commented the deputy amidst the preparations to mark the date with activities in St. Petersburg and Moscow.  

“That’s why, this date is celebrated all over the world, people would like to apply in their countries all the good things, all the wonderful things that were done after the 1917 events”, he considered.

“The October Revolution opened an era of the transition of capitalism to a system without exploiters or exploited, without division between rich and poor, of equal access to natural resources and with the right to fair work”, Razhkin highlighted.

“All that allows us to say that this date has a global nature, it is a date for those who fight for justice”, he remarked.

“History and time proved it is fair to consider the 1917 October Revolution the catalyst of the collapse of the colonial system. It dealt a very strong blow and showed people they can live differently”, the Russian deputy asserted

“In addition, with the victory of the Socialist Revolution, the capital immediately thought: ’that could happen to us’, and understood they could lose factories, banks, roads, air, land and maritime transport if they did not follow the path of social guarantees”, he pointed out.

That became more evident after WWII, when everyone saw and understood that the main factor of the victory over fascism as an ideology fell upon the shoulders, material, financial and human expenses of the Soviet Union”, he remembered.

“We, of course, defend historical justice, the truth, we oppose and condemn those who simply rewrite history and lie about the Soviet period”, he stated.

The deputy declared that a survey carried out several times among the population of his country asked about who and what is considered the symbol of Russia, and those surveyed did not choose a military, a scientist, a writer or a poet, but Lenin or Stalin.

“Despite what happened in the 1990s, the Russian people positively assess the period in which our grandparents and great-grandparents lived, and we too, that is, the Soviet period”, he pointed out.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Meddling for Trump? The most expensive Twitter ad was about Bernie Sanders – RT Editor-in-Chief

The accusations of “meddling” in US elections are not valid, as Russian media is targeted for covering US political news, RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said, noting jokingly that the costliest Twitter ad was not even about Trump, but Sanders.

Simonyan delivered the comments on Wednesday at an extended panel of the Russian Federation Council’s Interim Committee on the Protection of Sovereignty. The meeting was called to discuss last week’s move by Twitter to impose a blanket ban on ads from RT and Sputnik, citing alleged US “election interference.”

 

Russian media is being targeted in the US effectively due to its political coverage and therefore having political ads, Simonyan told the Committee. Twitter itself had approached RT with an advertising campaign proposal during the 2016 US election campaign, she added. 

“Look, we’re not an ice cream factory or the ‘Golos’ (Voice) program [a popular Russian TV singing contest] – we’re a news channel that’s focused on politics. Moreover, we were offered [the chance] to use political issues for promotion,” Simonyan told the meeting, showing the pitch from Twitter. The proposed ads campaign cost over $3 million, with customized emojis alone costing $800,000, according to the promotional materials shown by Simonyan to the meeting. 

“Twitter now is blaming us for what it initiated itself. Here’s this lovely presentation. [Twitter] approached us with it and said, ‘Hey, guys, look how cool [your ads would look on] our platform during the US presidential elections,’” she told the Committee.

“Unfortunately, we could not afford to spend such a sum,” she said, adding, that total expenditure on the promotional campaign in 2016 was some $275,000, Simonyan said. That’s the equivalent of the cost of a two-room apartment in a Moscow suburb, she pointed out.

 
© Global Look Press

“The most expensive Twitter ad [at $12,000] on RT America was about Bernie Sanders – not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but Bernie Sanders. How can you use this to make it look like we interfered in the US election race to help Trump – I don’t quite get it. Yet, this is what we are accused of,” she added.

Twitter, however, cited the report released in January, compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). It devoted seven pages to RT’s alleged influence on the election “by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.”

The report, which did not provide any solid facts to back up its far-reaching allegations, has been widely cited as “proof” to fuel the “Russian election meddling” hysteria that persists in the US. It was also used as a pretext to put severe pressure on Russian media broadcasting in the US, particularly RT America.

In September, the contractor that supplies various services for RT America, including TV production and operations, received a letter from the US Department of Justice, claiming that it was obliged to register as a “foreign agent,” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The Act was adopted in the late 1930s to counter pro-Nazi propaganda and serves the goal of informing “the people of the United States … of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy, and laws.”

 
CNN World Headquarters © John Greim / Getty Images

Foreign media have always been exempted from the effects of the Act, due to the principle of freedom of the press. If RT's contractor fails to register as a foreign agent, it may face the seizure of its assets and even arrests of its employees, which would effectively destroy RT America’s ability to broadcast.

The pressure on Russian media outlets and the threats to limit their ability to broadcast triggered an angry reaction in Moscow, which has repeatedly promised to implement tit-for-tat measures against the US media if any of the decisions to hamper the freedom of Russian media outlets would be implemented. Apart from adopting reciprocal measures, Russia is ready to impose restrictions on US NGOs and their affiliates if Washington undertakes hostile moves against Russian media, Deputy Justice Minister Oleg Plokhoy said at the Committee meeting on Wednesday.

“We will likely have to implement measures to tighten control over foreign NGOs and their branches, agencies and other affiliated persons. The degree of that control is almost identical to those measures undertaken in the US today against Russian media,” Plokhoy said, stressing that the Justice Ministry is ready to implement such measures immediately, as it’s been working in the “cocked-hammer” mode since the threat to Russian media emerged.

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No evidence of RT manipulating YouTube during US election – Google

Google says it found no evidence that RT manipulated video hosting platform YouTube or violated its policies during the 2016 US election campaign. It comes amid a frenzy in the US over alleged Russian meddling in the election and RT’s coverage in particular.

On Monday, Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, shared the results of the company’s investigation into how Google products may have been misused to affect the election. The two-page report falls far short of revealing the smoking gun that some commentators were hoping for.

 
© Dado Ruvic

Google identified two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-based NGO accused by some US media reports of being a Russian government “troll bot factory.” The accounts spent a total of $4,700 on Google platforms during the 2016 election cycle on search and display ads, the report said. The ads were not targeted at specific groups based on geography or political preferences.

On YouTube, Google found 18 channels “likely associated” with the campaign that published videos in English and “with content that appeared to be political,” but not exclusively so. The channels uploaded 1,108 such videos representing 43 hours of content and totaling 309,000 US views from June 2015 to November 2016, the report said, noting that a single user may generate multiple views on a single video. Only 3 percent of the videos generated more than 5,000 views, Google said. Neither channel was targeted at the US or any particular part of the US public. The company has suspended the channels in question.

The report also specifically mentioned the use of YouTube by RT, which remains the most-viewed international news network on the platform. “Some have raised questions about the use of YouTube by RT, a media service funded by the Russian government,” the document said. “Our investigation found no evidence of manipulation of our platform or policy violations; RT—and all other state-sponsored media outlets— remains subject to our standard rules.”

Commenting on Google’s report, RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said: “As they said in school, QED [Latin: quod erat demonstrandum, English: ‘what was to be shown].”

Earlier, microblogging website Twitter banned the accounts of RT and another Russian news outlet, Sputnik, from using the service’s advertising mechanism. RT criticized the news, saying it was inconsistent with the US-based company’s multimillion-dollar offer of an exclusive ad campaign on Twitter to raise the news outlet’s presence during the 2016 election.

 
© Sputnik

Russian officials say RT is being targeted as part of a general anti-Russian “witch-hunt” in the US. Moscow denies any interference in the US election and says it was drawn into partisan strife in America that has nothing to do with Russia.

Executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee's panel on Crime and Terrorism on Wednesday, with more hearings scheduled with other Senate and House committees. The tech giants are to report to lawmakers on the results of their internal investigations into alleged use of their online services by the Russian government to influence the US election campaign.

Leaks from Facebook and Twitter testimonies reported this week imply that the scale of such alleged actions, as identified by the companies, was very small.

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