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After dispute with Russia, Ukraine imposes martial law

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine on Monday imposed martial law in parts of the country to fight what its president called “growing aggression” from Moscow after a weekend naval confrontation off the disputed Crimean Peninsula in which Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels amid renewed tensions between the neighbors.

Western leaders and diplomats urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.S. blamed Russia for what it called “unlawful conduct” over Sunday’s incident in the Black Sea.

Russia and Ukraine blamed each other in the dispute that further ratcheted up tensions ever since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw its weight behind separatists in eastern Ukraine with clandestine support, including troops and weapons.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked lawmakers in Kiev to institute martial law, something the country did not do even during the worst of the fighting in the east that killed about 10,000 people.

After a five-hour debate, parliament overwhelmingly approved his proposal, voting to impose martial law for 30 days in only 10 of Ukraine’s 27 regions — those bordering Russia, Belarus and Moldova’s pro-Moscow breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester. The locations chosen were ones that Poroshenko identified as potentially in the front line of any Russian attack. The capital of Kiev is not under martial law.

Ukraine’s navy said six Ukrainian seamen were wounded when Russian coast guard vessels opened fire on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait and then seized them late Sunday. The two nations blame each other. Video shown on Russian TV shows two ships colliding. (Nov. 26)

Poroshenko said it was necessary because of intelligence about “a highly serious threat of a ground operation against Ukraine.” He did not elaborate.

“Martial law doesn’t mean declaring a war,” he said. “It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting Ukraine’s defense in the light of a growing aggression from Russia.”

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry already announced earlier in the day that its troops were on full combat alert in the country.

The approved measures included a partial mobilization and strengthening of air defenses. It also contained vaguely worded steps such as “strengthening” anti-terrorism measures and “information security” that could curtail certain rights and freedoms.

But Poroshenko also pledged to respect the rights of Ukrainian citizens.

His critics reacted to his call for martial law with suspicion, wondering why Sunday’s incident merited such a response. Poroshenko’s approval ratings have been plunging, and there were concerns that he would postpone a presidential election scheduled for March.

Just before the parliament met to vote, Poroshenko sought to allay those fears by releasing a statement revising his original martial law proposal from 60 days to just 30 days, in order to “do away with the pretexts for political speculation.”

Oksana Syroid, a deputy speaker of parliament, noted that martial law was not introduced in 2014 or 2015 despite large-scale fighting in the east. A state of emergency “would present a wonderful chance to manipulate the presidential elections,” she said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Poroshenko assured him that martial law would not have a negative impact on the election.

Despite Poroshenko’s vow to respect individual rights, opposition lawmaker and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko warned before the vote that his proposal would lead to the possible illegal searches, invasion of privacy and curtailing of free speech.

“This means they will be breaking into the houses of Ukrainians and not those of the aggressor nation,” noted Tymoshenko, who is leading in various opinion polls. “They will be prying into personal mail, family affairs … In fact, everything that is written here is a destruction of the lives of Ukrainians.”

Poroshenko’s call also outraged far-right groups in Ukraine that have advocated severing diplomatic ties with Russia. Hundreds of protesters from the National Corps party waved flares in the snowy streets of Kiev outside parliament and accused the president of using martial law to his own ends.

But Poroshenko insisted it was necessary because what happened in the Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Russian mainland “was no accident,” adding that “this was not the culmination of it yet.”

Russian coast guard ships fired on the Ukrainian navy vessels near the strait, which separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, injuring six Ukrainian seamen and eventually seizing the vessels and their crews. It was the first open military confrontation between the two neighbors since the annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine said its vessels were heading to the Sea of Azov in line with international maritime rules, while Russia charged that they had failed to obtain permission to pass through the narrow strait that is spanned by a 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge that Russia completed this year.

While a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has sought to assert greater control over the passage since the annexation.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted that the dispute was not an accident and that Russia had engaged in “deliberately planned hostilities,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blamed Kiev for what he described as a “provocation,” adding that “Ukraine had undoubtedly hoped to get additional benefits from the situation, expecting the U.S. and Europe to blindly take the provocateurs’ side.”

Klimkin told reporters in Kiev that the government is in talks with the Red Cross to make sure the captive seamen are treated as prisoners of war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether the Kremlin considers them prisoners of war.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged Russia to “immediately cease its unlawful conduct” in the Black Sea.

Anne Gueguen, the French deputy permanent representative at the U.N., urged the release of the sailors and the vessels.

But Russia called Ukraine’s actions “dangerous.” Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council the incident was another example of Ukrainian leaders trying to provoke Russia for political purposes.

The European Union and NATO called for restraint from both sides. NATO said Stoltenberg expressed the U.S.-led military alliance’s “full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its full navigational rights in its territorial waters under international law.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke by telephone with Poroshenko to express her concerns and emphasize the need for de-escalation and dialogue, her office said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, said the incident was “further evidence of Russia’s destabilizing behavior in the region and its ongoing violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity.”

___

Vasilyeva reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Yuras Karmanau in Minsk, Belarus, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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Foreign Affairs

As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

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As Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders, focus centers on Iran in Syria

The threat represented by Iran in the war-torn nation of Syria manifests in multiple ways. Other Middle Eastern nations are concerned that if Iran’s military is allowed to get entrenched in Syria, they will have too much direct access to the region in ways that threaten the peace. The United States and western allies are concerned that exerting control over the Syrian regime will turn them into a puppet state that will not solve the problems faced by the Syrian people.

Meanwhile, Israel faces the greatest threat as the nation that wants to wipe them off the map would be next door neighbors if they continue to fortify themselves in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this all too well and has not been shy about expressing these views to the world. In fact, he did it today in meetings with 60 world leaders and followed up by sharing his perspectives on Twitter.

Iran is not Israel’s problem alone. They are a problem for all freedom-loving countries in the region as well as powers throughout Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. Israel needs our support as well as the support of others who realize the threat Iran poses to us all.

 


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Guns and Crime

Former counterintelligence agent Monica Elfriede Witt charged for allegedly conspiring with Iran

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Former counterintelligence agent Monica Elfriede Witt charged for allegedly conspiring with Iran

What motivates people to defect from the United States to work with nations opposed to our way of life? We may never know what Monica Elfriede Witt was thinking when she defected to Iran in 2013, but one thing is certain. If the charges against her are true, her treachery may have put American lives in danger.

Though she defected in 2013, it’s unclear when her loyalty shifted away from the United States. She ended her official and contractor duties in 2010 after serving in a counterintelligence role since 1997, but it’s possible she was operating covertly even after that point. It’s conspicuous that a trip to Iran in 2012 was where she made contact for arrangements to move her to Iran permanently.

“The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation’s security, our military, and the American people,” said Special Agent Terry Phillips of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. “While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation.”

My Take

This is thankfully quite rare in the United States today… or at least we hope. Perhaps it should concern us that we’re just now hearing about her even though she defected nearly six years ago. No, I don’t expect the intelligence community to reveal their leaks while in the middle of an investigation, but it still seems a bit too long in the modern era for charges to be filed after it seemed pretty clear she had access to sensitive data and her defection was made known when it happened.

There’s no way to prevent every single potential spy or defector from infiltrating our intelligence services or sharing information with our enemies. If someone wants in, they can go through the long process of participating, pretending to be loyal while hiding their true feelings. Then, there’s the risk of radicalization; those exposed to the enemy may grow sympathetic to them over time.

It may be very scary to think someone with access to sensitive information, including the identities of current operatives, could be working with the enemy. Thankfully, these cases seem to happen less frequently in America than in other nations.

 


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Conspiracy Theory

Camp Century: The problem nobody wants to discuss

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Camp Century The problem nobody wants to discuss

What if I told you there was a nuclear waste dump buried beneath the ice in Greenland? What if I told you the United States military put it there and after leaving it, has not taken responsibility for its cleanup? What if I then mentioned it’s becoming a hot topic for climate change alarmists who are using it as one way to pressure the government into abiding by the Paris Climate Accords or some other variation of global warming adventurism?

What I’m talking about is Camp Century, and it’s going to be making the news more and more in coming years. Why? Because it was buried under snow and ice, but that snow and ice is melting. Unless conditions change, it’s going to be in open air soon enough, allowing for the possibility of contamination and nuclear challenges that can reach the entire northern hemisphere.

Before we get too deep into the dangers associated with Camp Century, let’s address the fearmongering. Those who do not believe that man-made climate change is legitimate need not worry too much about it. If the models continue to support the conclusion that temperature rising and falling is cyclical, then Camp Century will remain safely under the ice indefinitely. Recent evidence is pointing to this trend, though you may not know this based on headlines.

As our EIC pointed out on Twitter:

To elaborate on this, the headlines following the release of 2018 temperature numbers were generally negative, pointing to the alarmists’ narrative that global warming keeps making things bad for us. They made headlines like the one mentioned above, but buried deep in the stories was the truth: 2018 was actually COOLER than 2015, 2016, and 2017.

It’s important to note that I’m not a climate change denier. I do, however, believe climate change cannot be attributed directly to the carbon emissions of man, and moreover reduction of carbon emissions will not reverse the trend based on the scientific studies I’ve read. I believe it’s a cycle. I’m an environmentalist at heart who believes in protecting the world around us, but I’m not ready to go into a downward fiscal spiral over carbon emission alarms.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say Camp Century is uncovered as a result of climate change or any other means. Should we be concerned about a natural disaster causing unnatural consequences? Yes, but not just because of the nuclear waste buried beneath the ice. It’s possible there’s much worse things down there to uncover.

Project Iceworm

Little known to the public is a plan to use Camp Century for more than its stated goal of arctic research. Project Iceworm was actually the primary goal of the United States military. Their hope: To place nuclear weapons in Greenland that could reach our Cold War enemies very quickly.

The project was allegedly scrapped when ice shifts happened much more rapidly than initially projected. Again, this is great fodder for global warming alarmists, but even if we argue the ice shifts were caused by global warming six decades ago, it goes against the other narratives that the ice has been melting dramatically for only about two decades.

Nevertheless, there may be more buried under the ice than just diesel fuel and some spent nuclear rods.

This video is made with a climate change alarmist spin to it. Don’t let that take away from the other information in it, which is very good and somewhat important. At the very least, it’s interesting to know we were trying to “nuke up” Greenland in the past.

 


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