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

Incoming NATO Military Committee Chairman: Russia Could Occupy The Baltics in 2 days If It Wanted To

From Business Insider:

909px-Flag_map_of_NATO_Countries_(Europe)The future chairman of the NATO Military Committee has issued some dire warnings about Russia’s ability to occupy the Baltic States.

Czech General Petr Pavel, who is scheduled to become chairman in June, warned on May 27th that Moscow would be able to conquer the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania within two days even despite the former Soviet republics’ NATO membership, according to the Czech news site CTK.

This is largely due to the complexity of the NATO decision-making process, along with the small geographic area of the Baltics. Russia could take advantage of NATO’s relatively slow-moving command structure to blitz across the three countries in a matter of hours.

“On the one hand, one of [NATO´s] disadvantages is its complex process of decision making. It is because NATO has 28 members who have to reach consensus on all conclusions,” Pavel told CTK.

“From the technical point of view, if I consider how many forces Russia is able to deploy in the Baltics, the size of the Baltic countries and the density of forces on their territories, the Baltics could really be occupied in a couple of days.”

Read more here at the Business Insider

Putin denies Russian troops are in Ukraine, decrees certain deaths secret

From the Washington Post:

MOSCOW — If there was one weak spot in Russian support for the Kremlin’s aims in Ukraine this year, it was the population’s strong aversion to sending in Russian troops — something Russia denies doing, despite mounting international evidence to the contrary.

Now, Russia can ignore that evidence — as well as any questions citizens might raise — since President Vladimir Putin signed a decree classifying certain peacetime deaths of soldiers as state secrets.

Putin signed an order Thursday making the deaths of Russian troops lost during “special operations” a secret, amending a previous decree that limited such secrecy to deaths of soldiers in wartime. Some watchers can see only one plausible reason for the change: Russia is gearing up for another military push into Ukraine.

“We’re in a pre-war situation. Right now there’s going to be another campaign in Ukraine,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst based in Moscow, who added that Russia was being secret about losses because “we’re fighting a secret war.”

But war brings about the sort of casualties that can serve as proof of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, Felgenhauer pointed out.

“If foreigners know about the losses of soldiers in Donbass, that’s not very good,” he said, using a term that refers to eastern Ukraine.“But more important is that the Russian public doesn’t know. So it’s going to be a secret, as it was in Soviet times.”

Russia has long denied its troops are operating in Ukraine, dismissing as fabrications reports of training camps, troop buildups and even the testimony of captured Russian soldiers claiming to be on active duty.

Read More here at the Washington Post.

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