Syria

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Russia’s War Addiction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/08/2022 - 6:45pm in

Kyiv-based Paul Niland explores the recurring feature of Vladimir Putin's 22-year rule

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Being at war is abnormal, unless you are Russian. Wars start when everything else fails. Diplomacy has failed. Mediation has failed. All that is left is to ask brave men and women to risk their lives in service of their state. Unless you are Russian.

If you are Russian, war is your default state of affairs under Vladimir Putin – because the state has failed. The Russian President's 22-year rule has been marked by constant conflict, not that the men and women of the Russian military are risking their lives 'in service of their state' – in reality, they are serving Putin’s bloodthirst.

His rise to power was itself the result of a series of bloody acts of mass violence. In May 1999, Putin became the Russian Prime Minister under President Boris Yeltsin. From that leverage point, the network around Putin began its machinations to install him as head of state. To enable this move, several tactics were employed, including the blackmailing of the Yeltsin family over the Mabetex affair.

But, in order to ensure that Putin would be able to win the presidency – at a time when elections in Russia were new but relatively accepted – the former KGB officer needed an event that would make him, in the eyes of voters, a national hero. He, of course, chose war.

In her remarkable book Putin’s People, journalist Catherine Belton observes that, when Putin was on the verge of securing Yeltsin’s nomination for the post of acting president, Putin withdrew for several days to the gated Ozera Collective community that he and his FSB cohorts had built from the funds they had illegally amassed while Putin was part of the team of St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoliy Sobchak. The isolated deliberations and planning lasted for several days. Shortly afterwards, powerful explosions ripped through apartment buildings in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buynaksk. The apartment bombings cost the lives of more than 300 people. They were Russian citizens, murdered while they slept.

The apartment bombings were blamed on Chechen separatists and they became the justification for the second Chechen War, which was the event around which Putin created his national reputation and thus sealed his capture of the Russian presidency. There is ample evidence that these bombings were the work of the FSB, Russia’s security service – a state organ that Putin had been the head before prior becoming Prime Minister.

To the Russian people, this special military operation had to be justified and was sold as wiping out terrorists. They either turned a blind eye to or enjoyed watching the annihilation of cities like Grozny. They shrugged their shoulders at the loss of 60,000 lives. With that, the rot set in to Russia’s collective thinking.

The Chechen War did not end with some glorious military victory of Russia’s armed forces – it ended when Putin co-opted Ramzan Kadyrov to bring hostilities to an end. Kadyrov was bribed with a personal fiefdom and access to riches beyond his wildest dreams.

As one war ended, another was soon needed.

On 8 August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia. Propaganda informed the Russian people that it was necessary to 'protect' the 'separatist' territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In reality, Russia had appointed Russian nationals to senior leadership positions in those territories years earlier, and it was Russia running the show there.

Russia now occupies 20% of the sovereign state of Georgia. The narrative of separatists being supported by Russia was, of course, to be redeployed when Putin turned his attentions to Ukraine.

Between Georgia and Ukraine, the Russian President found an excuse to satisfy his barbaric impulses in service of, and in partnership with, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Putin’s imperative here was to prevent an autocrat being toppled by a popular revolution. 

Assad had been struggling, even with his own brutality, to quell the stirrings of revolution for some time before Putin joined the fight and ordered the Russian air force to obliterate entire cities with the blanket justification that those standing against Assad were terrorists. Given the 'War on Terror' and the rise of extremist groups, this was an easy story for people to accept.

Russia's war in Ukraine began in 2014 and expanded this year. The reactions from the Russian people have been consistent – a majority support this war, despite the baseless justification that Ukrainians are the modern-day equivalent of the Nazis. For more than 20 years all the Russian people have known is war. The scenes in Ukraine are acceptable because Ukraine deserves it – just like the people of Chechnya, Georgia and Syria deserved their fates too. 

Russia, as a nation, has arrived at a place of a collective sickness.

There are those who are indifferent to the war crimes being committed by the Russian Army in Ukraine, and there are those who are knowingly supporting such evil. In monitoring this war, I have seen instances of wives granting their husbands permission to rape Ukrainians and of mothers listening to the tales of torture told to them by their sons. Not a few times, not even dozens of times, but hundreds of times. 

The people of Russia know what their country is doing – and they either don’t care or think that it is normal, because war is not an abnormal occurrence for Russian citizens. It is the default.

The kind of collective madness we are witnessing in the people of Russia today has historic parallels, as noted historians of Nazism and fascism have been telling us for months. It has been built, cumulatively, over many years and many wars. The responsibility for destruction in Ukraine ultimately belongs with all of the Russian people.

Paul Niland is an Irish journalist based in Ukraine. He is the founder of the country’s national suicide prevention hotline, Lifeline Ukraine

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People Crossing Channel from Countries With High Rates of Explosive Violence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/08/2022 - 6:45pm in

New analysis shows how, for the majority of people crossing the Channel into the UK, home has become a place of bombs and shells

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A new investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team has exposed the links between Channel crossings and countries with high levels of death and injury as a result of explosive violence. 

Using data collected from Action On Armed Violence (AOAV) between 2020 and 2022, the extent of risk to people's lives from explosive violence in the countries of origin of many of those crossing the Channel can be revealed.

Those countries are Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen and Syria.

The Byline Intelligence Team found that a total of 6,722 people were killed across the six nations as a result of explosive violence, with a further 12,520 people injured. Of the total killed and injured, 510 were children. 

The highest number of civilians killed by explosive violence in the past two years was in Afghanistan – with 2,555 people killed and 4,809 injured. Of these, 46 were children. This was followed by Syria – with 2,167 deaths and 4,530 injured. Of these, 397 were children. 

Incidents include the May bomb attacks across minibuses and mosques in Afghanistan that killed 16 people earlier this year. Last autumn, 14 people were killed by a bomb attack in Damascus, Syria, where civil war has raged for more than a decade. 

The ongoing and often ignored conflicts in Yemen and Ethiopia have also led to hundreds of civilians losing their lives as a result of explosive violence.

Yemen – which has been the setting of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia since 2014 and, until recently, was considered to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world – has seen 797 people killed and 1,596 injured, including 38 children since the start of 2020. In Ethiopia, the figures were 628 killed and 658 injured, of which one was a girl. 

The rates of deaths from explosive violence were lower in Iran (190); Iraq (343) and Sudan (42). However, all three countries are considered unsafe to travel to by the UK Government.

The Political Response

The Byline Intelligence Team's investigation comes after the Ministry of Defence recorded 14 boats crossing the British Channel on Monday – bringing 696 migrant people, a record for the year so far. 

More than 17,000 people have arrived in the UK in small boats in 2022 – exceeding the total for the same period last year, suggesting that the Government’s deterrence policies are not having an effect in preventing people from making the dangerous journey. 

The majority of people arriving into the UK across the Channel, according to the latest Government immigration statistics, came from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Albania and Sudan. Data from November 2021, published by the Refugee Council, also recorded that between January 2020 and May 2021, there were 271 arrivals from Yemen, and 151 from Ethiopia.

While in 2018 and 2019, a clear majority of people arriving via the Channel were from Iran – 80% and 66% respectively – more recently the spread of countries has been more even. In 2021, Iranians made up 30% of arrivals, while 21% were Iraqis, and 9% Syrians.

That year, 11% of those crossing the Channel were from Eritrea, however AOAV data was not available for this country. Between January 2020 and May 2021, 961 people from Vietnam and 571 from Kuwait crossed the Channel but similarly, data was not available.

Both of the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, have committed to maintaining a 'hostile environment' for immigration – including by saying they would expand a controversial plan to deport those who arrive via the Channel to Rwanda where they can claim asylum.

Those granted asylum will then be expected to remain in the east African country and would have no safe, legal route back to the UK. This is despite the fact that most people arriving into the UK to claim asylum have no links to Rwanda and are more likely to come from the Middle East or East Asia. 

The Rwanda scheme has been implemented despite the vast majority of those who attempt the Channel crossing later being given asylum in the UK.

Government data from the first quarter of this year found that 90% of Afghan people were granted asylum; as were 88% of Iranians; 97% of Syrians; 97% of Eritreans and 92% of Sudanese people. The lowest grant rate was for Iraqis, at 48%. 

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The Afghanistan Impact

The number of Afghan people attempting the Channel crossing has risen considerably since the Taliban's takeover of the country last August.

In the first quarter of this year, 25% of crossings were made by Afghan people seeking asylum in the UK, according to analysis by the NGO Freedom from Torture. Between 1 January 2020 and 30 May 2021, they made up just 5.4% of arrivals (666).

The uptick in numbers of people from Afghanistan entering the UK via this irregular route is in part a response to the lack of safe and legal routes open to vulnerable Afghan people who are suffering persecution and threats from the Taliban – as well as ordinary families struggling to survive in an economic crisis that is leading to widespread malnutrition and suffering. 

The UK Government has opened three pathways on its Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).

The first was to resettle those evacuated or eligible for evacuation under Operation Pitting last August.

The second, which launched in June, resettles up to 2,000 Afghan citizens referred by the UNHCR.

The third, also launched in June, is currently prioritising the resettlement of up to 1,5000 eligible, at-risk British Council and GardaWorld contractors and Chevening alumni, and will open to wider groups of Afghans at risk in its second year.

“There is a risk that some Afghans may cross the Channel who could have come under resettlement schemes,” said Zehra Zaidi, co-founder of Action for Afghanistan. “But there are no schemes open to some categories of vulnerable people, or for at-risk groups the wait may be another two years, and they may not feel that they have two, three or more years to wait under draconian Taliban rule without placing them and their families even more at risk.

"So we need clarity on the ACRS and clearly defined legal routes to reduce the crossings, and to increase the clarity for deeply vulnerable groups.”

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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NATO-backed network of Syria dirty war propagandists identified

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 2:57am in

Defaming journalism on the OPCW’s Syria cover-up scandal, The Guardian and its NATO-funded sources out themselves as the real “network of conspiracy theorists.” On June 10th, The Guardian’s Mark Townsend published an article headlined “Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists identified.” (“Russia-backed” has since been removed). The article is based on what Townsend calls a “new analysis” that “reveals” a “network more than two dozen conspiracy theorists, frequently backed by a coordinated Russian campaign.” This network, Townsend claims, is “focused on the denial […]

The post NATO-backed network of Syria dirty war propagandists identified appeared first on The Grayzone.

Aaron Maté challenges Guardian reporter on US govt-funded Syria smears

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/07/2022 - 1:38am in

The Guardian parroted an evidence-free report from the US state-funded Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Syria Campaign claiming The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté is “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” about Syria. Aaron phoned The Guardian’s Mark Townsend to challenge him on his defamatory article. A recent article in The Guardian parroted a US state-funded group’s evidence-free claim that The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, who has reported extensively on the OPCW’s Syria cover-up scandal, is “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” […]

The post Aaron Maté challenges Guardian reporter on US govt-funded Syria smears appeared first on The Grayzone.

VIDEO: How UK’s intelligence services target dissident academics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/07/2022 - 3:01am in

Dissident antiwar UK academics Piers Robinson and David Miller describe being targeted by the British intelligence services through media proxies and infiltrators. They examine The Grayzone’s revelations of journalist Paul Mason’s collusion with a top intelligence officer to destroy the careers of “rogue academics” like them.

The post VIDEO: How UK’s intelligence services target dissident academics appeared first on The Grayzone.

The Guardian Churns Out Embarrassingly Awful Empire Propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 2:40am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/e9eed205dcd5558132f61d614ed4a86d/href

The Guardian has put out a smear piece on critics of the imperial Syria narrative that reads like propaganda made by seven year-olds without adult supervision.

The article was initially released under the headline “Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists identified,” which was then hastily edited to “Network of Syria conspiracy theorists identified,” because the article does not even make an attempt to argue that all of the so-called “conspiracy theorists” it smears are backed by the Russian government. It claims only that the Russian government has at times cited and amplified information about Syria which is inconvenient for the US empire, which, you know, duh. Obviously it’s going to do that.

Your first clue that you are reading brazen empire smut is the feature image The Guardian uses for the article: a cinematic shot of a member of the “White Helmets” heroically carrying a child in front of a destroyed building. The photo is credited to Sameer Al-Doumy, whose own website describes him as an anti-Assad activist since childhood. Even if you knew nothing about the Syrian conflict or the White Helmets narrative control operation, if you knew anything at all about propaganda and how it’s used you would still instantly recognize that photo for what it is.

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Your next clue that you’re reading a very, very obvious piece of empire propaganda is that the article’s author Mark Townsend makes no attempt to justify his claims. He names a few people he claims are guilty of “disseminating disinformation” like Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and Aaron Maté, but, rather than presenting arguments and evidence that the claims those individuals have circulated are false, he simply asserts that it is so and moves on.

Your next clue is this line:

“Since 2020, journalist Aaron Maté at the Grayzone is said by the report to have overtaken Beeley as the most prolific spreader of disinformation among the 28 conspiracy theorists identified.”

Anyone who follows Maté’s reporting knows that he is an extremely careful journalist who only makes claims he knows he can back up with hard facts. As far as I know, to this day nobody has even attempted to refute his excellent reporting on the role of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in manipulating its own investigation into an alleged chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria in 2018.

Maté says Townsend made no attempt to contact him before sending this incendiary accusation out into the world, a glaring yet unsurprising breach of standard journalistic ethics.

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Your next clue that this is a propagandistic smear piece disguised as a news story is Townsend’s sourcing. The article revolves around a report by The Syria Campaign based on information gathered by a think tank called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal documented in 2016, The Syria Campaign is an imperial narrative management operation that is registered as a private company in the UK and has lots of shady connections and funding. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue is funded directly by the US and UK governments and a whole host of other US-aligned nations, as well as the foundations of western oligarchs like Bill Gates, Pierre Omidyar and George Soros.

Townsend’s other sources for his smear piece are “Farouq Habib, White Helmets deputy manager,” and an unnamed “former official at the US Department of State.”

Yeah. Don’t think we need to say much more about that.

The Syria Campaign’s report contains no more evidence or substantiation than Townsend’s mindless regurgitations. It simply redefines the word “disinformation” to mean “information I don’t like,” and then discusses data about people whom it has deemed guilty of spreading that category of information. It defines extensively well-evidenced information like leaked documents from whistleblowers in the OPCW as “disinformation”, and then on that absurd basis convicts journalists like Aaron Maté of “disseminating disinformation” for reporting on it.

The Syria Campaign’s report contains blatantly ridiculous claims, like the nonsensical assertion that people who’ve said the “White Helmets” aren’t what they purport to be have somehow caused its members to be killed:

Of all the ham-fisted propaganda I’ve seen The Guardian churn out over the years, this article was definitely one of the worst. Not quite on the level of its notoriously bogus but still-unretracted Assange-Manafort report, but it’s right up near the top.

In 2019 Declassified UK put out a report on how The Guardian lost all semblance of journalistic integrity when it was successfully absorbed into the British national security machine not long after it published the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013. This tracks with comments made by Australian journalist John Pilger that there had been a “purge” of critical anti-imperialist voices around that time.

“My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more,” Pilger said in a January 2018 radio interview.

Because of its apparent respectability and ostensible place on the leftish side of the political spectrum, The Guardian plays a crucial role in manipulating public perception in a way that advantages the empire. Whether that’s smearing people who question the imperial line on Syria, smearing Assange, or smearing Jeremy Corbyn, it provides a pathway into the minds of a crucial sector of the population who would respond to such manipulations more critically if they came from conservative publications.

In reality The Guardian is no less propagandistic than the Murdoch press, and is frequently more destructive due to its ability to market right-wing horrors to an unsuspecting demographic who otherwise wouldn’t buy what they’re selling. It pushes the same agendas, and it serves the same empire. The Guardian is just Fox News for people who eat organic produce.

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Disinformation and Deceit: How Russia Attacked Western Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/03/2022 - 11:18pm in

The disinformation tactics used by Russia since its invasion of Ukraine are familiar to anyone who observed them in Syria, the US election and Brexit, reports Sian Norris

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It started with a photograph.

In the wake of Russia’s attack on the maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, a pregnant woman wrapped in a blanket, her eyes wide and afraid, stared into the lens. The beauty blogger Mariana Vishegirskaya had been attending a medical appointment when the shells hit. She gave birth to a daughter a few days later. 

As soon as the photo hit the news networks, prompting outrage around the world, the Russian disinformation machine revved up its engines. She was not a patient, the Kremlin insisted, but a crisis actor. There were no patients in the hospital, argued Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Pictures from Vishegirskaya’s Instagram were quickly shared, designed to prove… to prove what? Can’t a beauty blogger also be a pregnant patient? A victim of war?

That same day, a photo of a pregnant woman being stretchered to safety also went viral. The woman and her unborn child died a few days later. Undeterred by the evidence in front of their eyes, Russian channels and their backers claimed she was Vishegirskaya. Seeing as Vishegirskaya had survived, the conspiracist argument went, the death of this young woman was “fake news”.

A different war, and thousands of miles away, but Vishegirskaya’s story could have been Aya’s – a girl caught up in Syria’s conflict. So-called ‘independent journalist’ Eva Bartlett said Aya’s image was “recycled” in White Helmets rescue videos. She claimed that Aya had been spotted repeatedly in footage shared by Syria’s humanitarian civil society group.

Bartlett was notorious for channelling Russia's disinformation about the war, as it spread conspiracies that Syria’s White Helmets were a propaganda action by a U.S.-UK-Israeli coalition. She even appeared on Russian state TV channel, RT, to dispute a United Nations report on Russian-led war crimes in Syria.

Once again, the evidence in front of her eyes should have been enough to prove Bartlett wrong. The videos she pointed to clearly showed different girls. 

Manufactured accusations that those suffering the brutal impact of war are ‘crisis actors’ has been a crucial weapon in Russia’s disinformation war in Syria and Ukraine. It is a key conspiracist trope – far-right provocateurs such as Alex Jones have claimed that victims of mass shootings and terrorist attacks are ‘crisis actors’. 

This crossover in strategies is not surprising, when you consider the relationship between Russian disinformation and the Trump-backing US far-right.

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200,000 Tweets

In 2018, Twitter deleted 200,000 tweets sent around the time of the 2016 US election that the social network determined was tied to “malicious activity” from Russian-linked accounts. 

The mass deletion took place two years after Donald Trump’s surprise defeat of Hillary Rodham Clinton during an election dogged by campaigns of Russian interference. 

There is no doubt that a Trump-led US was beneficial to Russian interests. His election, according to Catherine Belton’s book Putin’s People, followed two decades of the real estate mogul being courted by Russian investors, with any potential dodgy links brushed aside by the statement “Donald doesn’t do due diligence”. Trump’s belligerent attitude towards the global order, his antagonism towards NATO and the European Union, and his love of ‘strongmen’ leaders was advantageous to an aggressive and imperialist Kremlin. 

Analysis into the tweets by Byline Times reveal how Russian-linked attacks used various attack methods in its disinformation war to boost Trump’s popularity and undermine Clinton – including specific targeting of black voters. 

Tweets appealed to white supremacist and Islamophobic feeling, warning that “Sharia law is coming to America” and that “#IslamKills”. The Russian-linked accounts riled up hate and fear towards the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing disinformation that it was a terrorist organisation, sharing fake footage of black-on-white violence, and portraying black people as criminals and racists. 

Abortion and gun control were also popular subjects, with claims the pro-choice movement was violently attacking those opposed to abortion, and that Clinton and Obama were in favour of taking away guns. While it’s true the Democrats tend to be more pro-abortion and anti-guns, the disinformation on display was deliberately crafted to stoke up fear and resentment. 

The majority of the tweets sought to stir up white supremacist feeling. However, a significant number also focused on persuading black voters to support Trump. These tweets claimed the black community had been failed by Obama, and highlighted Clinton’s track record on racism. The latter specifically focused on her description of young black men as “super predators”. “American blacks are waking up to the Democrat plantation,” read numerous tweets. 

Of course it is important to call out discriminatory statements from the past and hold politicians to account regarding their attitudes towards minority communities. The accounts did not, however, do the same for Trump, who they claimed would bring real change for the black community. The strategy was somewhat successful – in 2020 Channel 4 News revealed how the Trump campaign targeted 3.5 million black voters with disinformation designed to make them stay away from the polling booths. 

Brexit Bites

Before there was Trump, there was Brexit. The vote to leave the European Union featured in the cache of Russian-linked tweets – with similar tropes in play. The Brexit-related content focused on Islamophobia, as well as antisemitic conspiracy about the billionare, pro-EU philanthropist George Soros. 

There has been much speculation about the influence of Russia on Brexit. It should not be ignored that the forces of an anti-EU, anti-migrant and xenophobic media, combined with the impact of the 2008 economic crash and austerity played a vital role in pushing the Leave vote. 

That said, researchers at Swansea University in Wales and the University of California Los Angeles estimated that 150,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts posted tens of thousands of messages urging Britain to leave the European Union in the days before the referendum.

The first round of Russian disinformation in UK politics pre-dated Brexit, with Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014. According to a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), specific disinformation efforts around the Independence vote  included “using pro-Russian internet trolls to circulate disinformation claiming the vote was a fraud, amplifying the voices of those disappointed by the ‘no’ vote, and encouraging pro independence campaigners to start petitions demanding a repeat of the referendum”.

CSIS also found that Russian-linked trolls posted fake videos on Twitter and YouTube that suggested the votes had been interfered with. A report by the DFRLab found the accounts are “consistent with the behavior of accounts known to be run by the so-called ‘troll factory’ in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the U.S. 2016 presidential election”.

Two years after the Scottish vote, and disinformation narratives from Russian-linked trolls successfully exploited the UK’s existing vulnerabilities since 2008. The Brexit disinformation war focused on issues of migration, seeking to fuel a growing resentment towards globalisation that had flourished after the global economic crash.

Ironically, narratives included accusations of corrupt foreign influence on mainstream political parties. Disinformation, shared on social media channels, also sought to paint the European Union as ineffective and attacking British sovereignty. 

The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into Russian interference found that the UK Government “underestimated the response required to the Russian threat and are still playing catch up … Russian influence in the UK is the new normal … the UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation”.

The Kremlin could do this successfully because those divisions in the British electorate already existed. In the post-2008, austerity-led world, a mixture of political and media narratives, and social media trolling, created an ‘us and them’ narrative that was anti-migrant, anti-progress, and pushed dissatisfied voters towards a creed of nature and nation. 

Now, with war in Europe, the Kremlin is using the same disinformation tactics it rehearsed in Syria, the US and the UK. In some corners, it has been successful. Both hard left and far-right actors are becoming willing avatars for Putin propaganda – with the far-right praising Russia for being a white, conservative bastion of traditionalism, and the hard-left repeating Kremlin propaganda that the West is the aggressor. 

It’s up to the rest of us to hear the truth. To look into the eyes of victims and survivors like Mariana Vishegirskaya and say: we believe you.

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Russian-Led Attacks More Deadly for Civilians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 8:30pm in

Although US forces have killed more civilians in conflicts over the past decade, Russian-led attacks using explosive violence are more lethal per incident to civilians, Sian Norris reports

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Russian-led attacks using explosive weapons over the past decade are more deadly per incident to civilians than those committed by the US, new data from the research charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals today. 

Data exclusively shared with Byline Times shows that, between March 2012 and February 2022, there have been at least 1,360 Russian or Russian-backed incidents involving explosive weapons, killing 4,390 civilians and injuring 5,062 more. 

This means that, on average, each Russian-led incident led to 6.95 civilians harmed. The incidents killed or injured 13,887 people in total.

In the same time period, US-led attacks using explosive weapons killed 5,812 civilians and injured 2,171, with 22,608 people killed or injured in total.

Although the number of civilian and military casualties are higher, each US-led incident led to 4.2 civilians being harmed. As a result, Russian-led attacks are 65% more injurious to civilians than US attacks.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, there have been further civilian casualties caused by explosive violence deployed by Russian forces, which are not included in the dataset.

Up until 22 March 2022, AOAV’s data, gathered from reputable English language media sources, has reported 493 civilians killed with a further 346 injured. Of these, 55 are children. 

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Civilian Targets

Vladimir Putin’s approach to warfare has long involved the targeting of civilian infrastructure. The investigative journalist organisation Bellingcat has recorded 64 events targeting civilian spaces in Ukraine between 8 March and 22 March. 

Shopping centres, theatres and apartment blocks have all been shelled in that time period, with the Kremlin claiming these are legitimate military targets. At least four civilians were injured in Kherson, after Russian forces fired snipers at a crowd of protesters. 

In the besieged city of Mariupol, hospitals have also been considered a legitimate military target, with three pregnant women killed in the recent attack on a maternity hospital in the city. A heavily pregnant woman who was photographed while being carried out on a stretcher to safety was one of those who lost their lives, along with her child. The doctors tried to save her baby by performing a caesarean section. When it was clear the child would not survive, the mother reportedly said “kill me now”. She died not long after. 

The tactics deployed against civilians in Ukraine are familiar to people in Syria, where Russian forces have assisted the dictator Bashir al-Assad with a bombing campaign since 2015.

At least nine hospitals in Syria were targeted by explosive violence between 2015 and 2020, killing 37 civilians including medical staff. Schools, residential neighbourhoods, a prison and markets have also been the focus of attacks, with the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure amounting to war crimes, according to Human Rights Watch

Russian-led explosive violence was also instrumental in the siege of Aleppo in 2016, with the treatment of that city offering a disturbing playbook for the current scenes in Mariupol.

Syrian Government forces sealed off Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern half, depriving citizens of basic necessities. At the same time, Russian forces conducted a brutal bombing campaign against the population. In the entire course of Syria’s war, 51,731 named individuals have been killed in Aleppo. These are not all casualties from Russian-led attacks, and they are not all civilians. 

People in Mariupol are now facing the same trauma – under siege and under bombardment. The fear among the Ukrainian people is that Putin will repeat his Syria strategy in their country, besieging and bombarding town after town. 

US Killings

The US shares a poor record on killing civilians, not least in Iraq and Afghanistan which it invaded in 2003 and 2001 respectively, and in the campaign against ISIS. 

AOAV’s data shows that 5,812 civilians have been killed and 2,171 injured in US-led explosive violence attacks since March 2012. 

Most recently, a drone strike by US forces in Kabul led to the killing of 10 civilians. Seven of those killed were children. 

In 2017, the US military admitted that 105 civilians were killed in an airstrike carried out against the Iraqi city of Mosul, while days earlier a US-led airstrike killed 35 civilians in Syria.  

According to the US military’s own numbers, 1,417 civilians have died in airstrikes in the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Since 2018 in Afghanistan, US air operations have killed at least 188 civilians. This may be an underestimate, as analysis from The New York Times found that “many allegations of civilian casualties had been summarily discounted”.

During the Iraq War, the battle between US forces and Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah saw 600 civilian casualties, of which half were women and children. Not all the civilians were killed by US personnel or through explosive violence. 

AOAV’s data is based on English language media reports of explosive violence. There may be more incidents from Russian-backed forces in Syria that have not been included, having instead been reported as attacks from the Assad regime, but as their methodology is consistent across the world it means comparing nation states such as the US and Russia is possible.

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

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Russia’s Long War and a Pivotal Moment in History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/03/2022 - 2:22am in

Canadian diplomat and politician Christopher Alexander argues that Putin is still fighting the wars of the 20th Century, and reversing his invasion of Ukraine could finally put those ghosts to rest

Vladimir Putin is still fighting his forefathers’ war. Of the four dictatorships that started the Second World War – Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Empire of Japan and Stalin’s USSR – three were defeated.

Germany, Italy and Japan are thriving democracies today. Only Russia – a Nazi co-belligerent in 1939 and only briefly our de facto ally – has fought on. 

Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union sealed their infamous pact in August 1939, then invaded Poland together in September 1939, as allies. It was a deep bond. Stalin had seeded Germany’s far-left and far-right for decades, while helping Germany re-arm from 1922 to 1933, making him a kind of authoritarian godfather to Hitler – so much so that leading scholars such as Richard Pipes saw “the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and Italian Fascism as having developed from the Bolshevik model”.

Stalin wanted to be the last dictator standing after the war. In January 1943, with the battle of Stalingrad not yet won, Stalin was a no-show at the Casablanca Conference, where Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle agreed on the policy of ‘unconditional surrender’. Roosevelt still worried the Soviet leader might yet conclude a separate peace with the Nazis.

Russia’s biggest post-Soviet windfall has been new channels for its disinformation. Kremlin propagandists have lit up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with rolling tidal waves of viral lies. RT (Russia Today) and Fox News took the Pandora’s box of Russian propaganda into every American home.

By 1945, Stalin was stronger than ever, with a license from the Tehran Conference later in 1943 (as well as Yalta) to strangle democracy in Central Europe – as Lenin had done in 1917-24.

Stalin never deviated from his subversive agenda. Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet defector whose revelations announced the Cold War, confirmed in excruciating detail to Canada’s 1946 Taschereau-Kellock Royal Commission that the USSR had never stopped spying on its ‘allies’. With Mao, Stalin launched the Korean War in 1950. His successor Khrushchev set up the Warsaw Pact and triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan bore the brunt of the ‘containment’ policy announced by American diplomat George Kennan’s long telegram, written just as Gouzenko’s disclosures were hitting home. But Soviet subversion, terrorism and war claimed millions of victims in dozens of states across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, many assumed their long war was over. They did not reckon with Vladimir Putin’s lifelong grudge – directly analogous to Hitler’s resentment of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles – that it was hiding in plain sight.

As a venal and forgettable mid-ranking functionary in St. Petersburg, Putin was complaining in 1994 about the loss of “huge territories” which – in his openly chauvinist view – “historically have always belonged to Russia”. As President of Russia, he was more explicit, telling the Duma in 2005 that the USSR’s collapse had been “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, he called NATO expansion “a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust”.

In 2008, he invaded Georgia. In 2011, he backed Assad’s genocide in Syria.

The Next Onslaught

Putin’s special obsession was Ukraine, which he sought to subjugate first by corruption, then by force, while continuing to occupy parts of Georgia and Moldova. His wars in Syria and Libya aimed to deepen Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, while destabilising dozens of democracies with massive flows of irregular migrants.

After a 2019 speech on Africa, Putin’s mercenaries played a role in five coups across the continent, while regaining their position as the top arms exporter to Africa and fomenting conflicts to drive a new flood of refugees northwards.

Putin uses Stalin’s toolbox. The Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Russia’s General Staff, Gouzenko’s spy outfit, got him elected – and poisoned the Skripals at Salisbury.

21st Century Russian malign influence has been greater than during the Cold War precisely because of the intimacy of Moscow’s post-1991 access. Russian oligarchs courted Western politicians. Kremlin surrogates backed fringe parties. Putin’s money flooded ‘grey zones’ of business, finance, the media and organised crime.

But the game-plan is ultimately unchanged since Stalin: to weaken or break the Euro-Atlantic unity. A book published in 1997 – three years before Putin became president – reads like a checklist for a quarter-century of Kremlin mischief.

Russia has cheered on the world’s leading state sponsors of terror, including Iran’s IRGC and Pakistan’s ISI. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, on the very day Putin launched his larger war in Ukraine, highlighted Pakistan’s role in forcing a humiliating US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.

Russia courted terrorists after 1991. Credible evidence from the murdered Alexander Litvinenko (among others) shows Moscow used Ayman al-Zawahiri, who spent the first half of 1997 in Russian custody, to turn Al Qaida’s main effort towards US targets.

But Russia’s biggest post-Soviet windfall has been new channels for its disinformation. Kremlin propagandists have lit up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with rolling tidal waves of viral lies. RT (Russia Today) and Fox News took the Pandora’s box of Russian propaganda into every American home. Corporate alliances, alongside digital channels like Breitbart, Info Wars or Rebel News, have torqued democratic debate in made-in-Moscow directions.

Putin’s crew have played hardball with US politics. Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn went from giving a lecture on ‘intelligence and leadership’ at GRU headquarters in Moscow hosted by the Russian general who later quarterbacked Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, to being Putin’s guest at a RT dinner, a proponent of a military coup in the US, and an advocate of the QAnon cult. Paul Manafort went straight from advising Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, ousted in 2014, to being Trump’s campaign manager.

In Canada, Russia-directed assets helped to defeat Stephen Harper, who led the charge in ejecting Putin from the G8, sanctioning Russia for its first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and scaling up training for Ukraine’s army in 2015.

The same assets have since backed anti-immigrant, Western separatist and anti-vaxx movements, further splintering Canada’s political spectrum. In late 2021, a large Bitcoin payment originating in Bulgaria was relayed through several US intermediaries to those behind Canada’s ‘trucker’s blockade’ – just as Putin’s war machine was kicking into higher gear.

The Final Rout

The Russian dictator’s father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, was a submariner, saboteur and soldier under Stalin, whose ideology fuelled decades of Cold War violence, as well as Putin’s recent wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere in Africa.

Ukraine now bears the brunt of this onslaught, which has cost our world so much.

By inflicting massive losses on Russian invaders, Ukraine has created an opportunity to defeat Russian aggression that we should now seize – by implementing a full energy embargo on Russia, including by use of secondary sanctions, and by providing the air assets, air defences, a no-fly zone and other weapons systems Ukraine needs to save lives and win the war. 

Since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, we have never had a clearer path to stopping the war Lenin and Stalin started – and Putin has continued – to the enormous detriment of international peace and security, as well as democracy and freedom worldwide.

It’s not enough to see Putin ‘fail’: only defeat in Ukraine will end Russia’s war, at long last.

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Conflict and Complicity: 11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/03/2022 - 2:00am in

CONFLICT AND COMPLICITY11,000 Civilian Casualties Caused by Saudi Coalition’s Use of Explosive Weapons in Yemen Since 2015

New data shows the extent of the death toll that can be placed at Saudi Arabia’s door – as Boris Johnson seeks closer energy ties with the Gulf state

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Almost 11,000 civilian casualties have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s use of explosive weapons in Yemen since its military interventions began in 2015, data from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals.

AOAV has recorded 15,905 civilian deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons in Yemen since 2015, accounting for 70% of the total recorded casualties in the country from explosive weapons (22,843). Of the civilian casualties, 68% (10,854) have been caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s and Saudi Arabia’s use of explosive weapons.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have been the primary weapon of harm to civilians, accounting for 9,881 civilian deaths and injuries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting Saudi Arabia today in an effort to ramp up energy exports to the West – following the decision to divest from Russian oil and gas due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

AOAV data reveals that Saudi Arabia has killed or injured almost 800% more civilians in Yemen over the past decade from explosive violence than Russian forces (and Russian-backed separatists) have harmed in Ukraine.

Taking data from English-language media sources, AOAV has evidence that, over the past decade, the Saudi led air-campaign over Yemen has killed or injured almost 11,000 civilians – compared to the more than 1,200 civilians reported to have been harmed by Russian-backed operations in Ukraine.

This is not to diminish the casualties suffered in Ukraine, which are likely to markedly increase in the coming weeks. Rather, the comparison shows the double-standards of Johnson’s Government, in pursuing closer energy ties with Saudi Arabia.

Both figures are likely to be conservative estimates owing to the limitations of reliable reporting in conflict zones. Russia has also been responsible for countless deaths in Syria.


Boris Johnson’s Saudi Arabia TripTRADING OneMurderous RegimeFor Another
Adam Bienkov

The UN has estimated that the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021. More than 150,000 of these deaths were the direct result of the armed conflict, while a greater proportion have died due to hunger and disease as a result of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. 

This morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that although she does not agree with all the policies of the Saudi Government – questioned in particular about its public execution of 81 people in recent days – “the reality is we are facing an aggressor in Vladimir Putin, who is wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation and we do need to work with countries across the world to find alternative sources of oil and gas”.

But is Saudi Arabia not also – as Truss described Russia – a country that is “wantonly destroying a neighbouring sovereign nation”? 

‘Dictator to Dictator’

Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen are only outranked in harm caused to civilians from explosive violence since 2011 by Syrian regime forces (25,074 civilian casualties), and ‘unknown’ state users of explosive weapons (17,317).

Though the leading perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons use so far in 2022, Russia ranks sixth as a perpetrator since 2011 (4,685) – though Russia may well be part of the ‘unknown’ belligerents in Syria.

Russia’s status as the leading state perpetrator of civilian casualties from explosive weapons this year is down to Putin’s indiscriminate bombing of populated areas in Ukraine.

According to AOAV data, the Russian state has caused at least 582 civilian casualties from explosive weapons use in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia is the second-worst perpetrator, causing 390 civilian casualties to date this year.

However, as Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen enters its seventh year, the average number of civilian casualties per incident of explosive weapons use is nearly double that of Russia’s average in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, there is an average of seven civilian casualties per explosive weapon strike by Russian armed forces. In Yemen, the average number of civilian casualties killed and injured per strike by the Saudi-led coalition is 15.


UK Trade With ProblematicHuman Rights CountriesIncreased by 36%After Brexit
Sam Bright

The UK has approved arms export licenses worth £8.2 billion to the Saudi-led coalition since 2015. In June 2019, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Government’s decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia was “irrational” and therefore “unlawful”. However, the UK announced a year later that it was resuming sales to the country.

Byline Times has previously revealed that £56 million worth of export licenses for military goods have been approved to Russia since 2010 (not including the current crisis) – £18 million more than the value of military export licenses approved to Ukraine.

The Government’s attempt to expand ties with Saudi Arabia also fits an economic pattern, with trade increasing markedly since the 2016 EU Referendum with countries listed on the UK’s human rights watchlist.

“Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy,” Labour Leader Keir Starmer has said of Johnson’s Saudi Arabia trip. “Saying we are not going to rely on Russia and then going to Saudi Arabia is not an energy strategy.”

Additional reporting by Emily Griffith

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BYLINE INTELLIGENCE TEAM

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