President Vladimir Putin tells West not to fear Russia

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

“Only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack Nato,” Mr Putin told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The Western alliance is bolstering its military presence in its eastern European members in response to their fears of Russian threat, following its involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
Nato says that Russia is backing rebels in Ukraine – a claim denied by Moscow.

Early this month, Nato pledged to counter “hybrid warfare” from Russia – which included a mixture of conventional military tactics, subversive campaigns and cyber-warfare that Russia was using in Ukraine.

Three Baltic countries are preparing to ask for a permanent presence of Nato troops on their soil to act as a deterrent to the Russian military.

A 5,000-strong Nato “spearhead” force is being established and six small headquarters set up to co-ordinate operations.

In his interview with Corriere della Sera, Mr Putin said some countries were “simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia” in order to receive “some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid”.

“There is no need to fear Russia,” Mr Putin said.

“The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.”

Heavy fighting has erupted in Ukraine this week, focusing on the towns of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, west of rebel-held Donetsk.

The opposing sides have accused each other of shattering February’s Minsk ceasefire, requiring them to withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline.

Read More here at the BBC News

Nato Criticises Russia Amid Upsurge in Ukraine Conflict

Nato said on Thursday Russia was delivering sophisticated weaponry to rebels in eastern Ukraine, renewing long-standing accusations amid the worst upsurge in fighting in months between the Kiev government’s forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Earlier, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko told his military to be prepared for the possibility of a “full-scale invasion” by Russia across the entire length of the joint border.

“We have precise information that Russia is present in eastern Ukraine and that it has delivered large quantities of heavy, advanced weapons to the separatists,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo.

“Artillery, anti-aircraft systems, advanced weapons systems. They have supplied more than 1,000 units of this kind to the separatists.”

“Russia has a particular responsibility [to end the conflict] because they back the separatists and supply them with heavy arms. They also have forces in eastern Ukraine,” Mr Stoltenberg added.

Moscow denies sending troops into Ukraine or helping to arm the rebels. The United Nations says more than 6,400 people have been killed in the conflict, which began in April 2014.

Read More Here at the Irish Times

Salutin’ Putin: Inside a Russian Troll House

From The Guardian:

Russian Troll HouseJust after 9pm each day, a long line of workers files out of 55 Savushkina Street, a modern four-storey office complex with a small sign outside that reads “Business centre”. Having spent 12 hours in the building, the workers are replaced by another large group, who will work through the night.

The nondescript building has been identified as the headquarters of Russia’s “troll army”, where hundreds of paid bloggers work round the clock to flood Russian internet forums, social networks and the comments sections of western publications with remarks praising the president, Vladimir Putin, and raging at the depravity and injustice of the west.

The Guardian spoke to two former employees of the troll enterprise, one of whom was in a department running fake blogs on the social network LiveJournal, and one who was part of a team that spammed municipal chat forums around Russia with pro-Kremlin posts. Both said they were employed unofficially and paid cash-in-hand.

They painted a picture of a work environment that was humourless and draconian, with fines for being a few minutes late or not reaching the required number of posts each day. Trolls worked in rooms of about 20 people, each controlled by three editors, who would check posts and impose fines if they found the words had been cut and pasted, or were ideologically deviant.


Read More at The Guardian

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NATO Secretary General Applauds Jacksonville-based Fighter Wing’s Role as Tensions Rise Amid Crisis in Ukraine

Amid growing anxiety in Europe over Russian intervention in the Ukraine, NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg visited Jacksonville and its 125th Fighter Wing on Thursday.

About 200 members of the Florida Air National Guard wing and 12 of its F-15C fighters have been deployed to Eastern Europe since March, flying sorties and working with air forces in Bulgaria, The Netherlands and others.

Understandably, during a briefing by Brig. Gen. James Eifert and the 125th’s commanding officer, Col. Brian Simpler, Stoltenberg’s questions focused around the Russian threat and what the Air National Guard could do about it.

“Do you do a lot of intercepts of other planes approaching your airspace?” Stoltenberg asked. “Are there Russian planes?”

Simpler said his unit has trained for that mission and is capable of it. Maj. Gen. Robert Branyon cited an instance where it happened.

“Last year, [a Russian bomber] left from somewhere in the eastern part of Russia and they came down to San Francisco,” Branyon said. “Alaska had F-22s intercept them and Canadians intercepted them.”

Robert Bell, defense advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, said the move was absolutely intentional.

“The Russians were clearly sending a message,” Bell said. “They came north to south down the West Coast and made a left turn, like a simulated bombing run at San Francisco, went right into the air defense identification zone and penetrated it.

“It wasn’t accidental, you don’t fly that far and fly a flight profile like that unless you’re …”

Branyon added it was the first time the Russians sent fighter escorts along with the bomber.

Read More Here at the Florida Times-Union

Baltics Mull Joint Air Defence System Against Russia

From Yahoo! News:

NATO Fighter Planes Over Lithuania

NATO Fighter Planes Over Lithuania

Panevezys (Lithuania) (AFP) – Defence ministers for the three Baltic states said Thursday they are mulling a joint air defence system in response to security concerns over Russia’s activity in the region.

 The ministers of NATO-members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met in the northern Lithuanian city of Panevezys along with their Ukrainian counterpart, at a time when their relations with Russia are at a post-Soviet low over the Ukraine crisis.

“We plan to analyse the possibility of developing a medium-range air defence system to strengthen our defence capabilities,” Lithuanian Defence Minister Juozas Olekas told reporters.

“External threats lead us to cooperate more,” he said, referring to neighbour and Soviet-era master Russia, which has spooked the region with its intervention in Ukraine.

Read More here at Yahoo

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