Guard commits to continuing hurricane relief efforts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Guard commits to continuing hurricane relief efforts

Soldiers continue to help evacuate residents in flood-ravaged communities along North Carolina’s coastal plains six days after Hurricane Florence made landfall.

Army personnel have rescued a total of 372 residents and evacuated another 47 in both North and South Carolina, while more than 9,000 soldiers are supporting the hurricane relief efforts.

The National Guard conducted about 125 rescue missions alone on Sept. 18, 2018, said Army Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a North Carolina National Guard public affairs officer. He said water levels continue to stay at dangerously high levels, and in some areas they have even risen.


DeVivo said he expects the National Guard to continue operations for at least the next 72 hours, and possibly through the weekend. More than 3,100 North Carolina Guardsmen remain engaged in rescue operations, along with about 350 National Guardsmen from neighboring states.

‘We’re not going anywhere’

“We’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” DeVivo said. “Until we know the rivers have crested and the waters start to recede and communities can try to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Thousands have been displaced. And it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re ready to support the state well after the waters have receded.”

National Guard helicopters, working in conjunction with state and federal agencies, have delivered more than 61,000 pounds of relief supplies.

“I’m very impressed with the states — both South Carolina and North Carolina — they have responded and pushed forward and were proactive,” said Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy. “They had soldiers. They had high-water vehicles. They had aircraft out and ready to respond. They [were] ready to do whatever they were asked to do by their governors and local communities.”

Guard commits to continuing hurricane relief efforts

A South Carolina Army National Guardsman with the 1053rd Transportation Company carries a girl to a military vehicle after her family was trapped inside their vehicle by flood waters in Hamer, S.C., Sept. 18, 2018.

The hurricane’s effects were less severe in South Carolina, but residents in the northern section of the state also experienced heavy flooding. Eight people died due to the high waters or fallen trees.

Guardsmen continue to take part in search and rescue missions in both states and have been responding to high-water emergencies — residents trapped in stalled vehicles or stranded in flooded areas.

“We’ve dealt with this before, but not at these record levels,” said Army Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard. “[Florence] slowed down and picked up a tremendous amount of water. The winds dropped dramatically.”

Livingston lauded the efforts of the South Carolina Guard, which began evacuations early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2018.

“Difficult conditions to work under,” Livingston said. “But it’s amazing; they’ve got smiles and continue to drive on.”

Coordinated response

National Guardsmen from as far as Illinois, Virginia and Tennessee helped with relief efforts as communities along the coastal plains were swamped with flooding and power outages.

Soldiers in tactical vehicles have been rescuing displaced residents in waist-high water.

U.S. Army North has been helping coordinate relief efforts from forward command posts in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. The command provided 80 high-wheeled tactical vehicles along with 60 palletized load trucks for transporting supplies.

Multi-component task forces faced the difficult challenge of navigating safe routes through flooded areas at night.

“The waters are moving so rapidly and there’s so much water,” said Col. Ed Hayes, Task Force 51 operations officer.”You could plan a route, and all of a sudden, that road is blocked off.”

The Army Corps of Engineers installed power generators at locations throughout North Carolina. Soldiers from the 249th Engineering Battalion out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, installed power at several locations, including a storm shelter in Clayton, North Carolina; at Vidant Duplin Hospital in Kenansville; Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro; and the Rayford Waste and Water treatment facility in Whiteville, North Carolina.

DeVivo said the National Guard remains committed to the residents in affected communities.

“[The hurricane] is nothing our state can’t overcome,” he said. “It was challenging, but it’s not over by any means.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


Guard commits to continuing hurricane relief efforts

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

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Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The stakes are high for American veterans fighting ISIS

People enlist in the military for a number of reasons, ranging from anywhere between the insane, “I love shooting stuff” to the more pragmatic, “I need the college money.” Many of us also join because it’s the right thing to do — at least, in our minds. Many who joined the U.S. military in the days following the September 11th attacks are looking down the barrel at their 20-year anniversary. Others joined because the rise of ISIS gave a clear picture of what evil looks like in this world.

Some needed a more direct route to the fight against ISIS. So, they traveled through Iraq or elsewhere to get to Syria, where they could join the Kurdish YPG, the People’s Protection Units, and the YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, to form the front line against ISIS onslaught in Syria.

You can now actually watch the struggle to liberate the people of Iraq and Syria from the grips of the Islamic State. Hunting ISIS is on History every week on Tuesday at 11pm and it is a no-holds-barred look at the Westerners with the Kurds. Watch the pain and horror of those who suffer under ISIS as well as the elation of civilians and children as their homes are liberated.


The series follows a lot of vets around, but features primarily PJ, a Marine Corps veteran, and his team of Western volunteers as well as Pete, from New Jersey, who leads a team of medics supporting Peshmerga fighters in Iraq.

The lives of American combat veterans fighting ISIS in Syria was documented by camera crews who followed them through checkpoints and training and into their front-line lives in Syria. They came from all over America and all walks of life. Some picked up where they left off as veterans of the Iraq War and others simply wanted to stop the reign of terror, theft, rape, extortion, and violence that comes with ISIS occupation.


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It takes a lot of ammo.
(History)

But they’re risking a whole lot more than their lives — they could be risking their own freedom.

United States law says anyone who “enlists or enters himself, or hires or retains another to enlist or enter himself, or to go beyond the jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or entered in the service of any foreign prince, state, colony, district, or people as a soldier or as a marine or seaman … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

But that all depends on the interpretation. In the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Wiborg v. United States, the Court held that it was only illegal if the American was recruited into a foreign service. In the case of Wiborg, Americans armed themselves and made their way to Cuba to train and assist Cuban rebels fighting Spain while the U.S. was at peace with Spain.

The Kurds don’t actively recruit Western fighters, but they also don’t have a state. The Kurds are the world’s largest ethnic minority without a country of their own. Before the ISIS war, there were some 23 million Kurds in the region. But that all depends on how the Kurdish armed forces act on their own. The Peshmerga in Iraq is a pro-Western fighting force. But the Kurdish YPG in Syria – home of the International Brigades – is considered a terrorist organization by America’s NATO ally, Turkey.

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(History)

You may remember the name John Walker Lindh, an American captured fighting with the Taliban in the days after 9/11. One of the key components to his defense was that he was in the armed forces of another state – the Taliban were the recognized government in Afghanistan – and that he personally didn’t attempt to join al-Qaeda or attack the United States.

The exact number of Americans and other western volunteers fighting ISIS isn’t known for sure, but the Kurds know most of them are military veterans. Though considered terrorists by Turkey, the United States considers all Kurdish forces to be an essential part of the fight against ISIS.

The one thing that is clear is that they can expect no direct help from U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The military and State Department are not obligated to aid volunteers in the two countries (American volunteers have, in fact, been turned away by the U.S. military). If they were caught at the checkpoints on their way back, they would go straight to a local jail.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s everything that went down at the Korean peace talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.

April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.


Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.

Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.

The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”

Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.

“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Moon echoed the sentiment.

“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.

Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.

“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.

Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.

How the two Koreas got here

The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.

In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.

But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.

The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.

And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”

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Moon (center, in the gray suit) talks with Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, in Seoul in February 2018.
(Government of South Korea photo)

The North warms up to its neighbors and the US

The aggressive posture didn’t last.

Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.

North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.

Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.

In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”

“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”

In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.

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Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.

Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.

“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our trainer will make you a leopard

One thing that’s great about being in the military is you get legitimate, professional license to practice sneaking up on people. It’s the ten year old’s dream…and no adult has ever, in the history of maturity, grown out of it.


Try this.

Google search “sneak up gif.”

Got it?

Great. See you in ten hours.

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(gif from rebloggy.com)

Pictured above is “Creeping With Intent To Scare Someone Crapless”, a perennial favorite. Note that it isn’t actually the raptor costume that makes this effective. This can be perpetrated to equal or greater effect “eu naturale.”

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(gif via reactiongifs.com)

And never underestimate the joys of the “Tip-Toe-Tail-Tip-Tug,” as demonstrated here. Be very, very careful who you do this to.

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(gif via imagur)

And here’s an example of the classic game, “Who’s Hunting Whom?” Watch closely. Which dog do you most identify with? Your answer to this question will force irrevocable conclusions to be drawn about your personality.

For instance, Max is Dog #1, the hunter of the hunter of the hunted.

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He makes it seem like he’s working his core when in fact, he’s lying in wait… (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Why is he Dog #1?

Because this is Max. Max doesn’t sneak. Kids sneak. Max stalks. Stalks like a fox. His prey? Other jocks. And he doesn’t wear socks. Max wears stalkings.

In this episode, Max gets down and dirty with the core-connected muscles that make it possible for you to low crawl toward your target and then lay down some suppressing fire from the prone position.

But admit it. You thought you’d sneak out today without doing PT. Well, sorry, but Max has been hunting your ass since lunch break. He’s got you in his crosshairs and there’s nowhere to run. Because he can take anything you cherished during childhood and turn it into a regimen for self-improvement (for example, rope swings).

Remember how you loved Spider-Man?

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Oh the crawliness that is me! (gif via smosh.com)

Yeah, about that:

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This is the crawliness that’s about to be you. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch as Max ignores your pleas for mercy, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

This is how you train for brotherhood

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


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Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

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Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

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Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

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Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

There will be no major strategy changes in Afghanistan

U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel says he does not expect major changes in military strategy as a result of an updated assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan currently being conducted.

“I don’t envision something…that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress,” Votel told a news briefing in Washington on July 19.

Votel said his review work was more designed to consider adjustments that might be required to help Kabul reach its goal of bringing Taliban militants to the negotiating table.


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As of July 20, 2018, it is reported that there have been 2412 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

Media reports earlier in July stated the United States was planning to undertake a major strategy review for the 17-year war effort in Afghanistan and that U.S. President Donald Trump was frustrated by a lack of progress. The U.S. administration at the time denied that a major reassessment was planned.

Trump on August 21, 2017, announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, leading to an eventual increase in the number of troops deployed to country, and backtracking on campaign pledges to end U.S. involvement there.

Officials said Trump had authorized an additional 3,000 U.S. troops, bringing the U.S. contingent in the NATO-led effort to about 15,000, although media have quoted administration officials as saying the president was reluctant to do so.

Trump also upped the pressure on neighboring Pakistan, saying the authorities there were providing safe havens to militants operating in Afghanistan and attacking U.S. forces.

Votel cited positive signs from Islamabad, but he urged Pakistan to arrest, expel, or target the militants with military action.

“We also need to see [Pakistan] continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.

Also read: Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before

Earlier this month, Taliban leaders said they would not negotiate with the Kabul government after a first-ever cease-fire between the two sides coinciding with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr raised hopes of jumpstarting long-stalled talks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani dismissed the Taliban’s rejection of his offer of peace talks, suggesting that the militant group can still be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul on July 16, Ghani said the Taliban’s opposition to peace talks was not “a full rejection.”

“It’s like when you ask someone’s hand in marriage and the family of the bride says no several times [before relenting],” Ghani said, referring to a culture in which refusal is seen as a sign of humility. “In reality, it is likely that we will get a positive answer.”

The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, as well as Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda militants, nearly two decades after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

IS and Al-Qaeda were not included in the recent government-announced cease-fires.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Case remains open in death of US Ambassador to Afghanistan

On Feb. 14, 1979, Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped at gunpoint, held hostage in a Kabul hotel, and killed in a botched rescue attempt.

Forty years on, the precise circumstances surrounding the death of the 58-year-old diplomat remain shrouded in mystery. Several questions remain unanswered, including who was behind Dubs’ kidnapping, who fired the fatal shots, and whether the Soviet Union was involved.


The death of Dubs, a former charge d’affaires in Moscow, came at a critical time during the Cold War — it was a year after communists seized power in Kabul and months before the Soviet Union sent in troops to prop up the Marxist government.

The incident prompted international shock and outraged the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which closed the U.S. Embassy in response, although it did keep a charge d’affaires. Months later, Washington began its covert support to the mujahedin, the Islamist guerrilla fighters who were battling the Kabul regime and would later fight the Soviet Army.

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President Jimmy Carter.

Room 117

On the morning of Feb. 14, 1979, Dubs’ car was stopped by four gunmen in Kabul as he was traveling to the U.S. Embassy. There were reports that at least one of the gunmen was dressed as a uniformed Kabul traffic policeman. Dubs’ abductors took him downtown to the Hotel Kabul, now known as the Serena Hotel.

By noon, Afghan security forces had surrounded the hotel. Soon after, Afghan forces stormed Room 117, where Dubs was being held. After a brief exchange of fire, Dubs was found dead. The ambassador had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

Two of the four gunmen involved in Dubs’ abduction were also killed in the assault.

‘Suppression of the truth’

Washington protested to Kabul, saying that Afghan forces stormed the building despite a warning from the U.S. Embassy “in the strongest possible terms” not to attack the hotel or open fire on the kidnappers while attempts were being made to negotiate Dubs’ release.

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Garden area of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In 1980, the State Department issued a report on its yearlong investigation into Dubs’ death, attributing blame to Afghan authorities and Soviet advisers assisting them.

The State Department said that at least three Soviet advisers had played an “operational role” during the storming of the hotel.

Moscow acknowledged that its advisers were present but said they had no control over the Afghan decision to storm the hotel room. Kabul said Soviet advisers were not present.

Washington said it was also not able to reach Foreign Minister Hafizullah Amin for hours, a claim denied by Amin, who would later become the leader of the country.

The State Department report said Dubs died of “at least 10 wounds inflicted by small-caliber weapons.”

The report said physical evidence in the hotel room, including weapons, had disappeared.

Afghan officials produced for the Americans the body of a third kidnapper who had been detained by police. Kabul also provided the corpse of the fourth kidnapper, who U.S. officials did not see at the hotel.

It is still unknown whether Dubs was killed by his abductors, his would-be rescuers, or a combination of both.

The State Department said the Kabul government’s account was “incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate,” with “no mention of the Soviets involved in the incident.” The U.S. report concluded: “Sufficient evidence has been obtained to establish serious misrepresentation or suppression of the truth by the government.”

Cold case

The identities of Dubs’ kidnappers were never revealed, and Washington, Moscow, and Kabul all have their own take on the incident.

Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, blamed Dubs’ death on “Soviet ineptitude or collusion,” according to his memoirs. He described the Afghan handling of the incident as “inept.”

In the book Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion In Perspective, author Anthony Arnold suggested that “it was obvious that only one power…would benefit from the murder — the Soviet Union,” as the death of the ambassador “irrevocably poisoned” the U.S.-Afghan relationship, “leaving the U.S.S.R. with a monopoly of great-power influence over” the Kabul government.

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(Hoover Institution Press)

In the months after Dubs’ death, Carter would dramatically draw down America’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and cut off economic and humanitarian aid.

In Russia, the kidnapping was blamed on the CIA, which state media said wanted to provide an excuse for U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan.

Kabul claimed the abductors were members of a small Maoist group, while officials at the time also blamed the mujahedin.

The abductors had demanded the release of “religious figures” who they said were being held by the Kabul government.

In a newly published book, Afghanistan: A History From 1260 To The Present, author Jonathan Lee writes that U.S. officials suspected the communist government in Kabul was behind the incident “either in a naïve attempt to discredit the Islamist resistance or to force the U.S.A. and NATO powers to disengage with Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


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A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

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American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

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The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japans first marine unit in 70 years just drilled with U.S.

Japan activated its first marine unit since World War II in March 2018 to defend islands in the East China Sea, and in early October 2018 Marines and sailors with the US 7th Fleet trained with it for the first time.

Japanese forces are in the Philippines for the second edition of the Kamandag exercise, an acronym of the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea.”

Kamandag, usually a bilateral US-Philippine exercise, runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018.

One of the first drills saw members of Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade load five of their amphibious assault vehicles aboard the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship based in Japan, carrying a contingent from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Below, you can see how troops from each country teamed up to steam ashore.


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Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade during an amphibious landing in support of a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission during KAMANDAG 2 in the Philippines, Oct. 6, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevan Dunlop)

A few days later, unarmed Japanese troops and armored vehicles took part in an landing operation, hitting the beach alongside US and Filipino marines and acting in a humanitarian role. That was the first time Japanese armored vehicles have been on foreign soil since World War II.

Source: Business Insider

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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force troops provide aid during humanitarian aid and disaster-relief training during an amphibious landing as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 6, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

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Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade troops observe assault amphibious vehicle operations inside the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

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US Marines and members of the Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade stand by in the well deck of the USS Ashland after assault amphibious vehicle operations during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

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Japanese Amphibious Raid Deployment Brigade troops stand by inside the well deck of the USS Ashland, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

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Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade members inside an assault amphibious vehicle in the well deck of the USS Ashland after conducting amphibious operations as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“We really tried to help the Japanese … build the ARDB on a marine-to-marine level and a service-to-service level,” Marine Brig. Gen. Chris McPhillips, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and leader of US forces involved in the exercise, told Stars and Stripes on Oct. 9, 2018, from the Philippines.


McPhillips said the exercise improved the forces’ ability to work together in an emergency and enhanced communications at all levels.

Source: Stars and Stripes

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Japanese Amphibious Raid Deployment Brigade troops maneuver an assault amphibious vehicle inside the well deck of the USS Ashland as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“Our goal was to allow them to operate from US ships and learn how amphibious operations are conducted,” he added. “Specifically, the mechanics of getting [amphibious] vehicles on and off of ships.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

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A US Marine signals to an assault amphibious vehicle in the well deck of the USS Ashland, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

Japan, which disbanded its military after World War II, set up the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade in March 2018. It currently has about 2,000 members and is expected to grow. It will train to defend islands in the East China Sea, where Japan and China have territorial disputes.

Source: Business Insider

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Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade members drive an assault amphibious vehicle into the well deck of the USS Ashland during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

“Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Japanese Vice Defense Minister Tomohiro Yamamoto said at the unit’s activation in early April 2018.

Source: Reuters

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Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade troops enter the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles as part of KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Mortensen)

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a number of steps to strengthen the military, expanding the budget and adding new commands. Japanese warships recently ventured into the Indian Ocean to reassure partners there, and Japanese subs recently carried out exercises in the crowded waters of the South China Sea for the first time.


Abe himself also plans to visit the northern Australian city of Darwin in November 2018 — the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since Japanese forces bombed the city during World War II.

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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members prepare to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

Critics in Japan have expressed concern that the country is at risk of contravening the constitutional restriction against developing offensive capabilities and waging war. The amphibious brigade was particularly worrying, as critics believed such a unit could be used to project force and threaten neighbors.

Source: Reuters

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s Expert Infantryman training is getting an update

Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are rewriting the requirements infantry soldiers must meet when they test for the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Each year, infantry soldiers who have not earned the distinctive badge, consisting of a silver musket mounted on a blue field, must go through EIB testing, a series of 30 infantry tasks, ranging from land navigation to completing a 12-mile road march in under three hours.


Soon, EIB testing will feature more up-to-date tasks to reflect the modern battlefield, according to a recent Army news release.

Infantry officials recently conducted a modernized EIB pilot with multiple infantry soldiers, Master Sgt. Charles Evans, from the office of the Chief of the Infantry, said in the release.

“Their feedback was really essential to rolling out this new standard, making sure it was validated,” Evans said. “Just working out all the kinks and making sure that all the tasks were applicable, realistic and up-to-date with the latest doctrine.”

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Parachute infantryman Spc. Sean Tighe, assigned to B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, performs push-ups as 1SG Landon Sahagun, B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, counts his repetitions during the Expert Infantryman Badge testing.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Many of the changes in the manual are designed to standardize options for units in how to conduct the testing, but “there will be significant changes to some of the tests themselves,” according to the release.

“Indirect fire, move under fire, grenades, CPR and care under fire are all being reworked,” the release states.

The results of the pilot will soon be put into an updated training manual for EIB testing.

“The reason we did this event was to make sure it wasn’t just written from a single perspective, that it had feedback from all the different types of units across the Army,” Evans said.

The Army also is updating infantry training for new recruits. Fort Benning just started a pilot program to extend One Station Unit Training for infantry from 14 to 22 weeks to ensure soldiers spend more time mastering infantry skills such as land navigation and fire and maneuver techniques.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

France’s most wanted man made an unbelievable prison break

A notorious French criminal is on the run after pulling off a brazen escape in a helicopter from a prison near Paris.

According to the Associated Press, Redoine Faid, who is serving 25 years for failed robbery and murder of a police officer, previously escaped another prison in 2013 using explosives hidden in packs of tissues before being rearrested a month later.

Faid pulled off his latest escape at around 11:20 a.m. local time on July 1, 2018, according to the BBC. Three gunmen dressed in balaclavas and armed with assault rifles landed a stolen helicopter in the Reau Prison courtyard. The pilot of the helicopter had been taken hostage from a nearby flying club.


Police later found the helicopter burned in the town of Garges-les-Gonesse, north of Paris. Faid and his accomplices are believed to have ditched the airplane and escaped by car. The pilot was later released with no physical injuries, according to AP.

France’s Justice Ministry Nicole Belloubet said the escape took only “a few minutes.”

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“It was an extremely well-prepared commando unit that may have used drones to survey the area beforehand,” she said, according to the BBC.

The manhunt is ongoing and an interior ministry official told AFP that nearly 3,000 French police were recruited for the search.

Faid, a 46-year-old gang leader, committed his first bank robbery in 1990, and was arrested in 1998 after three years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, according to local media. He was sentenced to 30 years in jail but was released on parole after ten years. In 2009 he wrote a memoir, and claimed to have given up a life of crime.

But he was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of masterminding a robbery that resulted in the death of a police officer.

According to the BBC, Faid has said his lifestyle was inspired by Hollywood gangster films, including “Scarface.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia attacks, captures Ukrainian ships and sailors

Ukrainian lawmakers are to decide whether to introduce martial law after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

The Verkhova Rada is to vote on Nov. 26, 2018, on a presidential decree that would impose martial law until Jan. 25, 2019, the first time Kyiv has taken such a step since Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.


Before submitting the decree, President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia immediately release the ships and sailors, who he said had been “brutally detained in violation of international law.”

He also urged Moscow to “ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step” and to ease tension more broadly.

European Council President Donald Tusk condemned the “Russian use of force” and tweeted that “Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels refrain from further provocations,” adding: “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine.”

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European Council President Donald Tusk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Ukrainian sailors would be held responsible under Russian law for violating the border, but did not specify what that meant.

Poroshenko earlier said he supported the imposition of martial law, which could give the government the power to restrict public demonstrations, regulate the media, and postpone a presidential election slated to be held in late March 2019, among other things.

Yuriy Byryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, said on Facebook that his administration does not plan to postpone the election or restrict the freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of violating international norms with “dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area.”

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called for later in the day, and NATO ambassadors were meeting their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels to discuss the situation.

In a sharp escalation of tension between the two countries, Russian forces on Nov. 25, 2018, fired on two warships, wounding six crew members, before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.

Kyiv said it had not been in contact with 23 sailors who it said were taken captive.

The three Ukrainian vessels were being held at the Crimean port of Kerch, the Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying on Nov. 26, 2018. The witness said people in naval-style uniforms could be seen around the ships.

The announcement of the hostilities on Nov. 25, 2018, came on a day of heightened tension after Russia blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.

The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Nov. 26, 2018, to discuss the matter.

The AFP news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying the meeting was requested by both Ukraine and Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukrainian authorities of using “gangster tactics” — first a provocation, then pressure, and finally accusations of aggression.

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Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border-guard service, said its forces fired at the Ukrainian Navy ships to get them to stop after they had illegally entered Russian territorial waters.

“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” the FSB said. It also confirmed that three Ukrainian Navy ships were “boarded and searched.”

But the Ukrainian Navy said its vessels — including two small artillery boats — were attacked by Russian coast-guard ships as they were leaving the Kerch Strait and moving back into the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s “aggressive actions” violated international law and should be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response.”

Demonstrators protested outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv late on Nov. 25, 2018.

Earlier on Nov. 25, 2018, Kyiv said a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian Navy tugboat in the same area as three Ukrainian ships approached the Kerch Strait in an attempt to reach the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted a video of the ramming on his Facebook page.

Mariupol is the closest government-controlled port to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

It has been targeted by the anti-Kyiv forces at times during the war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it erupted shortly after Russia seized Crimea.

In a reference to Russia, the Ukrainian Navy said the collision occurred because “the invaders’ dispatcher service refuses to ensure the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.”

“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Ukrainian Navy said in a statement. “All illegal actions are recorded by the crews of the ships and the command of Ukraine’s Navy and will be handed over to the respective international bodies.”

“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Navy said in a statement.

After that incident, Russian authorities closed passage by civilian ships through the Kerch Strait on grounds of heightened security concerns.

Russian news agencies quote a local port authority as saying that the strait was reopened for shipping early on Nov. 26, 2018.

In Brussels, the European Union late on Nov. 25, 2018, called upon Russia “to restore freedom of passage”‘ in the Kerch Strait.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO was “closely monitoring developments” in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and was “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, adding: “We call for restraint and deescalation.”

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he supports a move to introduce martial law.

“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”

The spokeswoman stressed that at a summit in July 2018, NATO “made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Azov Sea pose further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.”

Russia claimed it did nothing wrong. The FSB accused the Ukrainian Navy ships of illegally entering its territorial waters and deliberately provoking a conflict.

The Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea waters off Crimea have been areas of heightened tension since March 2014,when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.

But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.

Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading toward Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, such as Mariupol and Berdyansk.

The Ukrainian Navy said it was a Russian border-guard ship, the Don, that “rammed into our tugboat.” It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat’s engine, outer hull, and guardrail.

Russia’s ships “carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian naval ships,” the statement said, adding that the Ukrainian ships were continuing on their way “despite Russia’s counteraction.”

But the Kyiv-based UNIAN news agency reported later that the two small-sized armored artillery boats and the tugboat did not manage to enter the Sea of Azov.

Ukrainian Navy spokesman Oleh Chalyk told Ukraine’s Kanal 5 TV that the tugboat “established contact with a coast-guard outpost” operated by the FSB Border Service and “communicated its intention to sail through the Kerch Strait.”

“The information was received [by Russian authorities] but no response was given,” Chalylk said.

But the FSB said the Ukrainian ships “illegally entered a temporarily closed area of Russian territorial waters” without authorization. In a statement, it did not mention the ramming of the Ukrainian tugboat.

A few hours before Russian forces fired on Ukrainian Navy ships, the FSB said two other Ukrainian ships — two armored Gyurza-class gunboats — had left Ukraine’s Sea of Azov port at Berdyansk and were sailing south toward the Kerch Strait at top speed.

Russian officials said after the reported shooting incident in the Black Sea that those Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov turned back to Berdyansk before reaching the Kerch Strait.

The FSB also warned Kyiv against “reckless decisions,” saying that Russia was taking “all necessary measures to curb this provocation,” Interfax reported.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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