Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) monitoring mission, demanding that those responsible “be held accountable.”
In a joint statement on Nov. 1, 2018, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on “multiple occasions” and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2018.
OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.
The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.
It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.
The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The mission said in March 2018 it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.
Featured image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on April 11, 2018, and warned the country against airstrikes in Syria.
The Kremlin released a statement verifying the call, and said Putin “emphasized the importance of respecting Syria’s sovereignty” and called on the Israeli Prime Minister to “refrain” taking action to that could “further destabilize the situation in the country and threaten its security.”
The two leaders discussed the recent aerial attack on military airbase in Homs, Syria, which reportedly killed at least 14 people. Russia has accused Israel of leading the strike, an allegation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.
Israeli officials confirmed the phone call, reported Haaretz, adding that Netanyahu said Israel would act to prevent Iran’s military presence in Syria. News of the phone call came as Netanyahu delivered a speech for Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoa) in which he brazenly threatened Iran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”
On April 11, 2018, Netanyahu reportedly told his security officials in a closed-door meeting that he believes the US will order a military strike against Syria in retaliation for a suspected gas attack on April 7, 2018, that killed dozens of civilians.
Russia has aligned itself with Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, and his government forces, and Israel is trying to curb Iran’s growing influence in Syria, and prevent Iranian fighters from attacking Israel’s border.
Netanyahu and Putin have maintained positive relations in the last few years, and have discussed preventing a military confrontation between their armies in Syria. But the recent call between the two leaders likely signals a growing divide in their approach to the regional conflict.
If you ever attend a military funeral or memorial ceremony, you may notice a group of men and women proudly holding rifles. Then, at a specific time, they aim their weapons up to the sky and fire, usually causing a slight stir in the crowd, even though everyone was expecting it to happen.
Don’t worry — those rounds are just blanks.
This practice is quite common throughout the world and, as with many traditions, it has a practical origin. Back when ships carried cannons, it was universally understood that immediately after firing, these weapons were rendered ineffective for a period of time — after all, reloading took a while. So, in order to demonstrate peaceful intent, ships would turn their cannons to the sky and discharge, telling those ashore that a ship’s weapons weren’t live.
Nobody knows why ships were designed, at one point, to carry precisely seven cannon. Some theorize that it’s related to the seven phases of the moon, others think it has to do with the biblical week, and some say it’s simply because seven is a lucky freakin’ number.
The cannon in shore batteries (with ample stores of dry, usable gunpowder) would fire three shots in return for every single shot they heard coming from the sea. For all you math geniuses out there, that equals 21 cannon shots. Upon hearing the return fire, ships at sea knew that the harbor was friendly — and the 21-gun salute was born.
It isn’t always 21, though. During a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the POTUS, former presidents, and presidents elect receive the traditional 21-gun salute. Other high-ranking officials, however, like the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military officers in command over multiple branches, receive a 19-gun salute.
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Christine Singh)
Although hearing the 21-gun salute typically means you’re mourning the loss of a fellow patriot, know that this is a practice rooted in peace and history. With this salute, the fallen join those who gave us traditions so long ago.
While some people see the NFL’s Salute to Service as a PR stunt, paid for by the U.S. military (we know who you are; we read the comments), what you need to know is that no matter who’s paying for it, those players really mean it. It’s the individual that really takes on the mantle of showing affection for U.S. troops.
To see appreciation in action, look no further than the 49ers’ George Kittle.
The 49ers’ tight end was the top passing target for San Francisco during the Veterans Day game on Monday night. The former Iowa Hawkeye had nine receptions for 83 yard in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants, but it was the reception he gave before the game that has fans talking.
The Nov. 12th game was played on the evening the United States observed Veterans Day and, as a result, was attended by dozens of uniformed servicemen and women from every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The 49ers invited the troops to open the game.
At the end of the National Anthem and before the game’s kickoff, Kittle made his way to the sidelines to shake each of the visiting troops’ hands. The video of Kittle shaking hands went viral, but not because Kittle had a camera following him – there was no time for a photo op. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
Kittle and the 49ers led for much of Monday night’s game, outdone only in the last few minutes of the game, losing to the Eli Manning-led Giants 27-23.
“He’s got a good personality,” says 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “He acts like a WWE wrestler and I don’t think that’s an act; I think that’s who he is 24/7, which is fun to watch. But you’ve always got to watch out for him. He’s pretty rowdy all the time.”
Fellow players and staff describe Kittle as a “mild-mannered and respectful citizen” off the field. On the field, however, they call him a “scarlet-and-gold-clad superhero,” according to Bleacher Report.
The Army element known as “America’s Contingency Corps” marked the 76th anniversary of D-Day by telling the story of a black veteran of that battle who died without ever receiving the full hero’s recognition he deserved.
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based XVIII Army Corps published a series of tweets Saturday night telling the story of Cpl. Waverly Woodson, who sustained “grievous” wounds at Omaha Beach in Normandy, but still managed to save the lives of 80 other soldiers.
The XVIII Corps is the same unit from which some 1,600 soldiers were ordered to the Washington, D.C. region this week to stand on alert for protest control. They ultimately returned home without entering the district.
Woodson was one of roughly 2,000 black American soldiers who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. A member of the all-black 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion, he worked for 30 hours to triage the wounded after getting hit by a German shell himself, according to the tweet thread. In all, he treated more than 200 soldiers.
“He was transferred to a hospital ship but refused to remain there, returning to the fight to treat more Allied Soldiers. He was hailed as a hero in his hometown of[Philadelphia],” the thread stated. “Yet when he returned to the US, he had to fight Jim Crow, facing discrimination at every turn.”
Woodson was nominated by his commander for the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest combat award. Instead, he was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple heart.
The tweets noted that Woodson had departed Lincoln University, where he was a pre-med student, to serve his nation after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Despite passing the Army’s officer candidate school exam, his race meant he could only serve as an enlisted soldier.
“Waverly Woodson never truly received the recognition he deserved for his selfless heroism on this day 76 years ago,” the thread concluded. “Today, let’s acknowledge him and the [largely overlooked] African American troops who landed on Normandy on D Day.”
“Based on extensive research on his service record, it is clear that Cpl. Woodson did not receive the Medal of Honor during WWII because of the color of his skin,” the lawmakers wrote. “We believe that the Army has sufficient evidence of the required recommendation to, at a minimum, permit a formal review by an award decision authority. Accordingly, we respectfully ask the Army to rectify this historic injustice and appropriately recognize this valorous Veteran with a posthumous recommendation for the Medal of Honor.”
It’s not clear if the XVIII Airborne’s public acknowledgement of Woodson and his heroism signals a larger interest on the part of the Army in revisiting his award.
Until the 1990s, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to black World War II veterans. Following a review commissioned by the Army in 1993, seven black veterans of the war received the nation’s highest combat honor, all but one posthumously.
Elon Musk has made another grand claim about his plans to colonize the red planet with his space exploration company SpaceX.
Speaking at the US Air Force Space Pitch Day on Nov. 5, 2019, Musk estimated that Starship, SpaceX’s 100-passenger reusable rocket design, will cost $2 million to launch.
In a series of follow up tweets, Musk threw out a few more figures about how many rockets will have to bring the necessary amount of cargo to properly set up base on Mars.
“A thousand ships will be needed to create a sustainable Mars city… As the planets align only once every two years,” he said. This led him to conclude it would take 20 years to transport one million tons of cargo which would “hopefully” allow for building a self-sustaining Mars base.
By Musk’s mathematics, that would mean a total billion spent on launching the rockets — although over 20 years the cost could fluctuate.
Musk has a history of making alarming predictions about his plans to colonize Mars. Notably he has espoused the idea of targeting nuclear weapons to detonate just above the planet’s ice caps, thereby causing the frozen water to evaporate releasing CO2 into the air and warming the planet’s surface — rendering it more habitable for humans.
The theory has little scientific grounding however. A study published in Nature found there is unlikely to be enough CO2 in Mars’ icecaps to engineer the desired greenhouse effect and, even if there were, Mars’ atmosphere is constantly leaking into deep space so the gas would gradually disappear.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The world of espionage is a high-stakes chess game of clandestine operations where the end justifies the means. The idea of professional temptresses infiltrating our government and financial institutions has been romanticized as a relic of another age, yet the threat has increased in spite of the defeat of the Soviet Union. The Russians have never been able to live down the embarrassing capitulation of Mikhail Gorbachev and tirelessly seek to restore their empire to its former glory.
Beautiful, educated women are recruited and groomed to target our policymakers, financial institutions, and even embassy guards to further a nefarious agenda. A threat to our infrastructure is a threat to every troop currently forward deployed. The remnants of the USSR are gathering once again, focused on the destruction of everything American. This is how the enemies of the west deploy their operatives to conduct Honey Pot operations against us and our allies alike.
Cold War Sparrows
Honey pot spies are trained to be masters of opportunity and stealth by their direct chain of command or sent to spy schools. Other spies trained in sabotage are selected from within the intelligence agency itself, sparrows operate in a fashion similar to contractors: the less they know, the better. They will have few points of contact and will be groomed to identify targets on their own. The timeline between contact can span anywhere between days to years, unaware of other ongoing operations. As they become closer to the hearts of their target and infiltrate their inner circle, they carry on their day to day activities as sleeper cells. Agents will be given free rein to operate autonomously until they are contacted by their handlers.
Ronald Kessler, the author of Moscow Station, explains in his book in detail how the Russians were able to effectively infiltrate the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1989. He states that the Russians would lure lonely service members with Honey Pots to get them to collude with their Russian girlfriends, allowing the embassy to be bugged to the point where the building was deemed inoperable and had to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.
He received criticism from the public that it was inconceivable that troops could be seduced into treason. He strongly advised that troops should be trained further in OPSEC and recommended that embassy duty should be reserved for married service members to prevent such tactics in the future.
Sleeper-cell supergrass gets 25 years for exposing Chapman & Co.
Espionage is as old as warfare itself, and the Russians have perfected weaponized seduction as a Hail Mary in a tactic now known as the Honey Pot. Potential candidates are identified by their intellect, beauty, heritage, mastery of language, and cultural knowledge of foreign powers. They will be investigated thoroughly before they are selected to be the eyes and ears of the Kremlin. Once employed by the government they will use their assets and skills to seduce their targets.
College students are the most preferable due to their youth, and their studies offer insight into their ideology and aspirations for the future. A candidate following a career path that provides plausible deniability is a chief alibi in the event an agent is compromised and must be burned by the commanding intelligence agency. The agent is expected to fall gracefully on her sword, and the Russians will investigate everyone who fits this profile inside their borders or abroad.
“an expert at using her femininity to get information.” – Dennis Hirdt
The most famous example in recent history is Anna Chapman, a confirmed Russian Spy. Her blood ties to the former KGB via her father, Vasily Kushchenko, made her a prime, pedigree candidate. She was a college student at the time of her recruitment studying economics at Moscow University and was deployed went on vacation to London and married an Englishman named Alex Chapman. Her marriage granted her dual citizenship that allowed her to work for Barclay’s Bank during her marriage. She traveled between Russia and England, informing the powers-that-be of our ally’s economic strategies.
After her divorce, she moved to New York City and started a realty company called PropertyFinder Ltd. that served as her cover while developing ties into the upper echelons of policymakers. She was arrested in June 2010 in the United States by the FBI after attempting to forward a false U.S. Passport through her network to the Kremlin. This action, combined with the information of a U.S. double agent, resulted in her capture and nine others. The following month she was one of the spies exchanged in a deal between the U.S. and Russia.
She was rewarded with a medal from the Russian government, the October cover of the Russian edition of Maxim, became an adviser to FundServiceBank, and was gifted her own television show called Mysteries of the World with Anna Chapman.
War never changes.
1985 Associated Press
How to deal with this threat
Other than the fact that it is unlikely that you will become the target of a Sparrow, one must always exercise caution when handling sensitive information. OPSEC, especially in the bedroom, must be kept under vault like circumstances. Your captivating partner in the throes of passion may be after more than your BAH and Tri-Care.
At the heart of Arlington National Cemetery lies one of our nation’s most magnificent displays of honor and respect to our fallen troops. Three unnamed graves are tended to by some of the most disciplined soldiers the military has to offer. The soldiers tirelessly guard the monument. Every hour (or half hour, during the spring and summer months), the guard is changed with an impressive, precise ceremony.
Each year, these three fallen soldiers receive up to four million visitors — but it’s not about honoring the specific individuals contained within the tomb. In death, these three fallen soldiers have became a symbol, representing each and every troop who gave their last breath in service of this great nation. Every step taken by the sentinels, every bouquet of flowers offered, every wreath laid, and every flag placed is for every American troop who has fallen.
This is exactly what was intended when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated almost one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1921.
The King of England is also the head of the Church of England, so he chose to place the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, where all future kings and queens would be crowned, married, and buried.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The tradition of honoring a fallen but unknown troop actually originated as a joint effort between France and the UK.
In 1916, David Railton was a chaplain in the English Army serving on the Western Front of World War I. Near Armentières, France, he discovered a rough, wooden cross planted in the middle of a battlefield. It read, simply, “an unknown British soldier, of the Black Watch.”
David Railton would go on to join the clergy after the war, but the image of that cross never left his mind. It took years, but after many attempts, he finally got the ear of Bishop Herbert Ryle, the Dean of Westminster. Railton wanted to repatriate the remains of this fallen soldier and give him proper honors, despite not knowing his identity. Bishop Ryle was moved by Rev. Railton’s passionate words and went directly to King George V with his proposal.
“How that grave caused me to think!… But, who was he, and who were they [his folk]?… Was he just a laddie… . There was no answer to those questions, nor has there ever been yet. So I thought and thought and wrestled in thought. What can I do to ease the pain of father, mother, brother, sister, sweetheart, wife and friend? Quietly and gradually there came out of the mist of thought this answer clear and strong, “Let this body – this symbol of him – be carried reverently over the sea to his native land.” And I was happy for about five or ten minutes.”
The soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey, London on November 11, 1920, thus creating what’s now known as The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior.
It’s fitting that the Arch built in honor of the French victory in WWI would also be the final resting site for her unknown soldier.
(Photo by Jorge Lascar)
Meanwhile, across the English Channel, in France, a young officer in the Le Souvenir Français, an association responsible for maintaining war memorials, had better luck. He argued for bringing an unidentified fallen soldier into the Pantheon in Paris to honor of all fallen French soldiers from the Great War — and his proposal garnered support.
Both England and France decided to share the honors. They buried France’s Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc de Triomphe on the same day as The Unknown Warrior was laid to rest at Westminster.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cody Torkelson)
The next year, as the United States began the process of repatriating remains from the European battlefield, plans for an American Tomb of the Unknown Soldier began to take shape. The originator of the idea remains unknown to history, but the selection process was public. On October 24, 1921, six American soldiers were asked to come to Châlons-sur-Marne, France. Each soldier was a highly decorated and highly respected member of their respective units. They were selected to be pallbearers for the remains as they made their way back to the States.
While there, the officer in charge of grave registrations, Major Harbold, randomly selected one of the men. He gave Sgt. Edward F. Younger a bouquet of pink and white roses and asked him to step inside the chapel alone. There, four identical, unmarked coffins awaited him. He was told that whichever coffin he laid the roses on would be laid to rest in the National Shrine.
Younger said of the event,
“I walked around the coffins three times, then suddenly I stopped. What caused me to stop, I don’t know, it was as though something had pulled me. I placed the roses on the coffin in front of me. I can still remember the awed feeling that I had, standing there alone.”
The remains were brought to the Capital Rotunda and remained there until November 11th, 1921. President Warren G. Harding officiated a ceremony in which he bestowed upon the Unknown Soldier the Medal of Honor and a Victoria Cross, given on behalf of King George V.
Since that day, the entombed soldier has been guarded every moment of every day, rain, shine, hurricane, or blizzard.
The United States must confront Russia for providing weapons to the Taliban for use against American-backed forces in Afghanistan, top U.S. military officials said Monday.
At a news conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his side, Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, wouldn’t provide specifics about Russia’s role in Afghanistan. But said he would “not refute” that Moscow’s involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban.
Earlier Monday, a senior U.S. military official told reporters in Kabul that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weapons. The Taliban are using the weapons in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, according to the official, who briefed journalists on intelligence information on condition of anonymity.
Russia denies that it provides any such support to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Russia says contacts are limited to safeguarding security and getting the hard-line religious fundamentalists to reconcile with the government — which Washington has failed for years to advance. Russia also has promoted easing global sanctions on Taliban leaders who prove cooperative.
Asked about Russia’s activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the increasing U.S. concerns.
“We’ll engage with Russia diplomatically,” Mattis said. “We’ll do so where we can, but we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries.”
“For example,” Mattis told reporters in the Afghan capital, “any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.”
Mattis met with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior government officials just hours after the nation’s defense minister and Army chief resigned over a massacre of more than 140 Afghan troops at a military base last Friday.
The insurgent assault was the biggest ever on a military base in Afghanistan, involving multiple gunmen and suicide bombers in army uniforms who penetrated the compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army in northern Balkh province on Friday, killing and wounding scores. The death toll was likely to rise further.
Referring to the Russians again, Nicholson said “anyone who arms belligerents who perpetuate attacks like the one we saw” isn’t focused on “the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.”
Given the sophisticated planning behind the attack, he also said “it’s quite possible” that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was responsible. The Taliban claimed it carried out the attack.
Nicholson recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own. The Trump administration is still reviewing possible troop decisions.
Mattis on Monday offered a grim assessment for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.
“2017 is going to be another tough year,” he said.
Kabul was the final stop on Mattis’ six-nation, weeklong tour. He is the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan. As part of the administration’s review of Afghan policy, Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and Afghan officials.
The war began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.
Secrecy is one of the best currencies in war, so it’s sometimes best for commanders to keep their best assets hidden from the enemy and the public. While the military has admitted that most of the units on this list existed at some point, a lot of their missions were classified for decades before being disclosed to the public. For the units that are still operating, America still only gets glimpses into their activities.
1. Task Force 88/Task Force Black
They may or may not be the same group and they may or may not still be in operation. Task Force Black and Task Force 88 are names floating around the media for the unit that conducted raids against terror organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the height of the wars. The unit was commonly described as being a joint U.S.-U.K. force made up of the best that SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, and the British SAS had to offer. Controversy erupted when they were blamed for a cross-border raid into Syria. There is speculation that Task Force Black may be back in operation to destroy ISIS, if it ever stopped.
2. 6493rd Test Squadron/6594th Test Group
These Air Force units existed from 1958 to 1986 and were tasked with catching “falling stars.” They would fly out of Hawaii and catch film canisters falling from America’s first spy satellites. The satellites, part of the Corona program, orbited the Earth and took photos of Soviet Russia. Then, the satellites would drop their film canisters over the Pacific ocean where these Airmen would try to snatch the canisters out of the air.
The recovery process was surprisingly low-tech. A plane with a large hook beneath its tail would try to catch the canister’s parachute as it fell. When the planes failed to make the grab or the weather was too bad to attempt it, Coast Guard rescue swimmers in the unit would fish the film out of the water. The unit boasted a perfect record with more than 40,000 recoveries in 27 years. When its airmen weren’t snatching film from the air, the unit supported rescue missions near Hawaii. It was credited with 60 saves.
3. Delta Force/Combat Applications Group/Army Compartmented Elements
Like many of the units on the list, Delta has gone through a few name changes over the years. Formation of an elite counter-terrorism unit had been proposed multiple times in the 1970s and Delta Force is widely believed to have been formed in late 1977. Its operational history got off to a horrible start with the failed Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. Since then, Delta has distinguished itself in combat from the invasion of Panama to the Gulf War to hunting Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains. Since the unit is still operational, many of their missions remain classified.
5. 7781 Army Unit/39th Special Forces Operational Detachment
Operating in Berlin from 1956 to 1984, this team of green berets went through a few names during their history. They worked to keep West Berlin safe from communist incursions but also prepared to foment resistance if the city was taken over. Trained in classic spy craft skills, they were equipped with Bond-like gadgets such as cigarette-lighter guns and C-4 filled coal.
The Office of Strategic Services was formed in 1942 with the very broad mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information and conducting “special operations not assigned to other agencies.” Since few agencies had special operators in World War II, this gave the OSS a lot of room to run. Under Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the tiny agency conducted raids, smuggled weapons and spies, supported resistance groups in Axis territory, and collected intelligence. The OSS even employed the first “sea, air, and land” commando in U.S. history.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has consecrated the main cathedral dedicated to the armed forces, built to mark Victory Day in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Religious leaders, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his deputies, guests, and hundreds of uniformed soldiers attended the ceremony on June 14 at the newly constructed Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, located some 60 kilometers outside of Moscow.
The church was originally due to be opened on May 9 as part of a grand celebration to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. But the opening was postponed due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The massive cathedral, one of the largest in the world, sparked controversy earlier this year when leaked photos showed a partially completed mosaic featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Shoigu, General Valery Gerasimov, and several other Russian officials.
The plan to display the mosaic was later canceled following criticism and after the Kremlin leader reportedly expressed opposition to the idea.
“This is an unprecedented event for the soldiers and for all of the the citizens in the whole country,” Gerasimov, the current chief of the General Staff of the armed forces, said ahead of the event.
The construction of the church cost 6 billion rubles (about million), according to media reports.
The church was supposed to be paid for entirely through donations, but according to Russian reports almost 3 billion rubles (about million) came from the Kremlin budget.