This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Being productive: 10 things you’ve been putting off doing but shouldn’t

You’re stuck at home. You’ve watched everything interesting on Netflix, and it’s only been a week. It might be time to do some of those projects you always knew you should but have been putting off… and off… and off… If you can accomplish all of these, you’ll come out of this time of lockdown with a much more organized life and a clearer head.


This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

1. Get your documents in order

Put all of your family’s essential documents in one place. This includes marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, car titles, a copy of your LES and orders, the deed to your house and insurance documents. Do you have a will? If not, now is a good time to do one, either online or virtually with a lawyer. Make sure you have all the insurance you need – not just auto and health insurance, but pet insurance, disability insurance, cell phone insurance, and flood insurance. Also insure your wedding and engagement rings. These are the ones people typically overlook.

2. Photograph your house

Take a photo of everything in your house for insurance purposes. Make sure you have a photo of each room, and all of your valuables. If you have a prized book collection, photograph the titles – you’ll want to remember what they all are if you have to replace them. Keep the photos on the cloud and on a USB that you keep in your safe.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

3. Clean your car

Now is the perfect time to clean your car! Like, really clean it. Take everything out – all the car seats, trash, reusable shopping bags, first aid kit, etc. Wipe down everything with a leather or car cleaner. Vacuum everything – get into the nooks and crannies. Clean the inside of the glass and all the crevices of the vents. Then tackle the outside of the car. Get a full tank of gas. You’ll feel SO much better.

4. Go over your finances

First, if you don’t have a budget, make one. It’s especially important now to stick to one and to know what you’re spending (and not spending). If you’re married, do this as a couple. Next, go over all of your bank accounts and make sure both you and your spouse know how to access all funds and what the passwords are (so military spouses don’t know the passwords to pay their bills until a deployment happens). Go over all of your investment accounts. If you have kids, consider setting up a 529 for them. If you haven’t yet, set up an IRA or Roth IRA. Put contributions on auto-debit if you tend to forget. Another tip to consider is splitting your savings accounts into different accounts. For example, have one for “vacation,” one for “auto tax (which usually is billed all at once every year), one for “utilities” or any quarterly bills, one for “auto maintenance fund,” etc. This will make it easier to see what you have in each.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

5. Get rid of stuff

Go through every room and every closet and see what you have that you can either sell online, donate or save for a garage sale this summer (hopefully we’ll be able to have these this summer). This will help free up some extra cash if you need it, and it will also help you see what you have and what you don’t use. You’ll be surprised what you find. Commit to doing one room of the house each week.

6. Home improvement projects

Now is the perfect time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve always wanted to do. Change out the hardware in your doors and outlets – it will make a big difference. Paint. Change out light fixtures. Replace your faucet or backsplash. Paint your front door. These are simple fixes that have big impact.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

7. Make a list of grocery staples and meals

Write down all of the things you regularly buy at the grocery store – this will make your life so much easier when you’re shopping. Identify a place in your fridge or pantry for each of these items and always put them there; that way, you can see when you’re out. Also, put together a list of five to ten meals and recipes your make regularly. That’s the first step to meal planning, which is the first step to a much more organized dinner life.

8. Back up your files

Make sure all of your computer files are backed up. Clean out any unnecessary computer programs. Print out your favorite photos and put them in an album too, which will give you extra security.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

9. Zero-out your inbox

This may be the most difficult, but it’s so important for your productivity. If you have thousands of emails (too many to sort through), I recommend creating a folder called “Emails until January 2020” and putting them all in there. Then create either work folders or folders for your person emails like “Online orders,” “Kids school,” “House,” “Military,” etc. Go through the last several months and start a new system of filing everything away (or deleting it) once you read it.

10. Talk about your future

Talk about your goals for the future with your spouse, or, if youre single, journal about them. Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? What is that trip you always wanted to take? If you identify what’s important to you now, you can do the steps necessary to get there.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Humor

This is how to avoid the dreaded ‘blanket party’ in basic training

Besides getting physically trained to the bone by a demanding drill instructor, recruits in boot camp have another element that is feared and rarely talked about outside of the military — the “blanket party.”


A blanket party is a form of (mob) discipline that usually takes place in a military barracks setting, typically in an open bay.

The image below for “Full Metal Jacket” is a perfect example of a blanket party.

Soap wrapped in a towel is a common tool to use during a blanket party. (Image via Giphy)We don’t condone taking part in blanket parties, but the idea is to coerce a shitty recruit back on the right track. Usually it brings a massive shitstorm of legal problems — no one wants that.

But before you step into the squad bay for the first time and subject yourself to the collective judgement of the team, here are some things to avoid so you’re never in a blanket party’s sights.

Snitching

Recruits go through some tough times during their stay in basic training and alliances tend to form. Recruits always get in trouble in one way or another.

When a single person reports wrongdoing on a group of people or an individual, they might get payback in the form of a blanket party.

For not being a team player

One of the purposes of boot camp is to learn the power of teamwork. Rarely has a single person ever completed a mission by themselves. So when a recruit doesn’t pull his own weight, that can easily screw over the whole team.

If that person continually screws over everyone, that individual might get some unwanted attention after “Taps” gets played.

Being a consistent f*ck up.

In boot camp, when someone in the squad screws up, everyone gets punished. The drill instructors usually punish the whole squad bay for an individual’s mistake to teach the importance of teamwork.

It takes multiple times before someone earns a party, but after making several mistakes that affect everybody — without a glimpse of positive production — recruits tend to take matters into their own hands.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Remember the epic jelly donut scene? Always lock your foot locker people. (Source: WB)

Also Read: 7 military regs service members violate every day

Being the guy that no one likes

Like we said before, alliances tend to develop in boot camp. Most of the time they form around where your bunks are located. Getting along with others is essential in any industry. In the military, troops have commonly sacrificed their lives to save their brothers. You rarely commit your life to someone you don’t respect.

So in a world where recruits are trained to defend themselves and our country as a team, the guy that can’t make friends tends to suffer.

Again, we can’t stress this enough, We Are The Mighty absolutely does not condone blanket parties…but in the past they have sometimes been a huge “wake-up call” for someone on the receiving end.

MIGHTY TRENDING

MI6 Head says Russia has violated prime rule of espionage

The head of MI6 says Russia broke one of the prime rules of espionage and won’t be trusted again after it tried to assassinate a former Russian agent despite giving him away in a spy swap.

Alex Younger said British spies had to revise their assumptions about Moscow after Skripal was attacked with a deadly nerve agent, in an operation which Britain has pinned on Russia’s GRU spy agency.


Younger is the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6, and gave a speech to students at St Andrew’s University in Scotland, which was reported by the Financial Times.

In the speech, Younger said the UK had partly trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin when Russia pardoned Skripal in 2010 in return for its own agents.

Younger said that he and his agents assumed that Moscow’s spy swap “had meaning” and would be honored, but that they revised their opinion in light of the Skripal attack.

Who is the Salisbury spy Sergei Skripal?

www.youtube.com

He said, according to the Financial Times: “Mr Skripal came to the UK in an American-brokered exchange, having been pardoned by the president of Russia and, to the extent we assumed that had meaning, that is not an assumption that we will make again.”

Skripal was part of an ambitious spy swap deal with the US in 2010 when four Russian agents who had betrayed their country were released by the Kremlin in exchange for 10 Russian spies in the US.

The UK accuses Russia of being behind the attack on Skripal in March 2018, a charge the Kremlin denies.

Novichok, the nerve agent used in the poisoning, has been traced to Russia, and the two men accused by the UK of attempting to assassinate Skripal have been identified by Investigative journalism site Bellingcat as GRU officers.

Spy swaps

Professor Anthony Glees, the director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, told Business Insider that the Russians take spy swaps “very seriously” because of the concern that “no one will ever do a swap with them again” if they break faith.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two men accused of poisoning the former spy Sergei Skripal.

(London Metropolitan Police)

He said that if Russia had really wanted to kill Skripal, it could have executed him in prison.

So Russia would need believe it had a good reason to attempt to assassinate Skripal on UK soil.

“The idea that they would do it for fun or anything less serious is to be discounted,” Eyal said.

A state of confrontation

Speaking on Dec. 3, 2018, Younger said that Russia was in a “perpetual state of confrontation” with the UK, and warned the Kremlin not to underestimate the UK’s determination to fight attempts to interfere with its way of life.

“The conclusion [Russia] arrived at is they should apply their capabilities across the whole spectrum to . . . our institutions and our partnerships,” Younger said.

“Our intention is for the Russian state to conclude that whatever benefits it thinks it is accruing from this activity, they are not worth the risk.”

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

Articles

Report says troops wouldn’t recommend military service to their own kids

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Spc. Yemima Tarber extended her commitment to the Army during a reenlistment ceremony that was presided over by her mother, Capt. Lisa Campbell at Fort Lee, Va. A new survey by military advocacy group Blue Star Families says most service members with multiple deployments wouldn’t want their kids to go through the same hardship. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class John Brown)


A new report from military family support organization Blue Star Families shows more than half of service members would not recommend military service to their own children. Additionally, slightly less than half of the respondents would not recommend it to other young adults who aren’t related to them.

Blue Star Families has compiled the so called “Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey” reports since 2009, which are widely used by government officials from the White House, Congress, the Department of Defense, and state and local officials to help understand the unique needs and challenges of military families. Data collected from the annual survey often impacts legislation.

This year’s survey respondents consisted of a mixture of 8,390 active duty personnel, military veterans, and military and veteran spouses — a 130 percent increase over last year’s survey.

Of those surveyed, enlisted service members who had been deployed more than three times were the least likely to recommend military service to their own children.

Among officers, those with less than two deployments and an employed spouse were more likely to recommend military service to young people who are not their children, but only if benefits they’d been promised when they commissioned were still in place — and generally only to those who might become officers.

Less than 20 percent of respondents said they would recommend service to anyone if the current trend of cutting benefits continued.

This could be bad news for those who consider military service to be a “family business.”

“The past year has seen new and emerging security threats in numerous regions while Department of Defense budget cuts and personnel downsizing continues,” Blue Star Families said in their summary of this year’s findings. “The resulting operational tempo is very concerning to service members and their families.”

According to the report, almost 60 percent of veterans had at least one parent who served in the military before them, but only 45 percent of currently serving military members had a parent who served prior.

The 2015 report noted that 80 percent of veteran respondents would be “happy” if their children joined the military. While that specific detail about happiness isn’t reported in this year’s survey, when compared to this year’s 67 percent who would not recommend service to their children, it does appear to show a downward pattern of service members who want their children to follow in their footsteps.

“Extended family separations, frequent moves, and outdated expectations that military spouses sublimate their personal, professional, and familial priorities to support their service member’s military service are the most prevalent topics identified as substantially reducing the quality of life and attractiveness of martial service,” Blue Star Families said. “Military families understand that serving may mean making sacrifices in support of service; however, DoD must also examine the military necessity of the burdens it asks military families to bear.”

The survey isn’t all bad news for the family business of military service. Military spouses who are able to maintain a career were 36 percent more likely to recommend it, and a whopping 76 percent of all spouses surveyed who felt that the military had a positive or neutral career impact were likely to recommend service.

There were two surprising findings elsewhere in the report: almost 80 percent of respondents were satisfied with the military lifestyle, and over 80 percent were satisfied with Tricare Standard.

You can view the Executive Summary on Blue Star Family’s website.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Blue Star Families 2016 Military Lifestyle Survey at a glance.

“This year’s survey results show a military community at a point of inflection. It shows the country needs to get smarter about what a healthy All-Volunteer Force really looks like—and what it needs it to look like to ensure future success,” Blue Star Families argued. “The All-Volunteer Force was not designed for our current security environment of protracted low-level conflict, nor was it designed for the modern service member—who is better educated, married with children, and living in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspicious packages were sent to multiple military bases

Multiple suspicious packages were sent to military bases around Washington, DC on March 26, 2018, according to a law-enforcement official cited in a CNN report.


Scanning machines detected suspicious materials inside the mailed packages.

The National Defense University at Fort McNair received at least one package containing potentially explosive material at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to CNN.

Also read: That time Chick-Fil-A sent deployed troops a care package

Army officials also confirmed that Fort Belvoir, Virginia also received a package that “tested positive for black powder and residue,” according to US Army spokesman Michael Howard. An X-ray reportedly indicated a “suspected GPS” and an “expedient fuse” were attached.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

Both of the packages were rendered safe and no injuries were reported, Army officials told CNN. The FBI has since taken custody of the packages for further investigation.

Related: Military bases linked to cancer and health problems

Federal officials sad they did not believe the packages were sent by Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspect in the Austin, Texas, bombings who killed himself after a weeks-long bombing spree in March 2018 that killed two people and wounded five, NBC News reported.

Other military installations received suspicious packages in 2018. In late February 2018, 11 people fell ill and were treated for symptoms that included nosebleeds and burning sensations after an envelope containing an unknown substance was opened at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time U.S. F-15s stumbled into an Iraqi trap and won

It became clear just hours into Operation Desert Storm that the U.S. was leaps and bounds ahead of the Iraqi Air Force — the first aerial clashes resulted in the U.S. downing three enemy aircraft while suffering no losses. But U.S. pilots knew that Iraq had significant air defenses and fighter aircraft that had to be taken seriously.

And that’s what made it so scary for the Air Force and Marine Corps F-15 pilots who realized that they’d stumbled into a sophisticated trap on the second day of the assault.


This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

The F-15 is a stunning fighter that claims over 100 aerial kills with zero losses to enemy fire.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

Marine Corps Capt. Charles Magill was leading a flight of eight F-15s protecting a larger strike package headed into the contested airspace to destroy threats on the ground. The eight F-15s in the lead got a call from the E-3 Sentry aircraft on the mission.

Two MiG-29 Fulcrums were near the target area.

Magill decided to take three other F-15s with him to destroy the threat, leaving four behind to protect the main strike package.

www.youtube.com

Four-against-two odds, especially when the team of four has F-15s versus enemy MiGs, is a good setup — but the F-15s had been tricked. As they pursued the MiGs, the ground suddenly erupted with surface-to-air missiles, all locked on U.S. jets and racing to their targets.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

MiG-29 were useful and capable fighters, even if they lacked all the capability of American F-15s.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The American pilots were forced to jettison their external fuel tanks and take evasive actions. They deployed flares, put the planes through gut-wrenching turns, and, ultimately, avoided every missile fired against them. This left them in suddenly-safe skies once again — except for the two MiGs that had lured them. The Americans still smelled blood and decided to continue the pursuit.

As they drew close, the MiGs took a sudden turn towards the Air Force and Marine pilots, making the Americans think that the MiGs were prepared for a knockdown fight.

But, it turned out, the Iraqis had spotted a lone Navy F-14 Tomcat and were maneuvering to attack it, allowing the F-15 pilots to pursue the MiGs in turn. Magill took his shot immediately after Air Force Capt. Rhory Draeger. Magill, worried that his first missile had malfunctioned, took a third shot.

Draeger’s first missile flew true and shredded the Iraqi jet, while both of Magill’s missiles also made contact. The first missile tore the right wing from the Iraqi jet and the second missile flew into the resulting fireball and exploded. The strike package was safe once again to attack Iraqi ground targets and Operation Desert Storm continued unabated.

Articles

The North Korean nuclear threat is looming larger

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons this century will be able to strike Seattle in four years, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Wednesday.


“I really do think that it is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term the North Korean’s will be able to reach Seattle with a nuclear weapon onboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” Hayden said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Also read: As North Korea gets more ambitious with missiles, Japan looks to US for backup

“Now, will it be a high-probability shot, they have technical issues, so probably not. But then again, what kind of odds are you comfortable with when it comes to Pyongyang?” Hayden said.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

So far this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has conducted 25 ballistic-missile tests and two nuclear tests.

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow of Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, says the North Korean threat isn’t four years away — it’s nearly here.

“Hayden is a bit behind the curve on the North Korea ICBM threat,” Klingner told Business Insider.

“After the December 2012 launch, the South Korean navy dredged up off the ocean floor the stages of the North Korean missile, Klingner explained. “South Korean and US officials assessed the missile had a 10,000 km range which covers a large part of the US.”

Fast forward to this year, on February 7, a month after North Korea’s purported hydrogen-bomb test, the rogue regime fired a long-range rocket it claimed was carrying a satellite for its space program.

The launch, which was largely viewed as a front for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, was not only successful but also showcased the North’s technological advancements.

“After the February 2016 launch, experts assessed it could have a range of 13,000 km, covering the entire US,” Klingner said, which makes the Seattle range estimate “outdated,” he added.

According to Klingner, even the rocket with a range of 10,000 km would compromise approximately 120 million people.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
A graphic showing the range of the North Korean rocket launched on February 7, 2016. | Courtesy of The Heritage Foundation

What’s more, in 2015, US commanders of US Forces Korea, Pacific Command, and North American Aerospace Defense Command publicly assessed that Pyongyang is able to strike to the US with a nuclear weapon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s new bomber deployment is inflaming tensions

Two Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Dec. 10, 2018, and their presence has already prompted dueling statements from Washington and Moscow.

The bombers landed at Maiquetia Airport outside Caracas after a 6,200-mile flight, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were accompanied by an An-124 military transport plane and an Il-62 long-range aircraft.


The Defense Ministry said the journey took the bombers through the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, but the flight was “in strict compliance with international rules of the use of airspace.”

Moscow didn’t say if the bombers carried weapons, but they are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear-armed missiles with a range of 3,400 miles.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

A Russian Tu-160 in flight.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez has said the Russian aircraft would conduct joint flights with Venezuelan planes. Moscow hasn’t said how long this trip would last, but it has already drawn a response from the US, which views Venezuela as its most significant foe in the region.

“Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

The Pentagon also criticized the deployment, contrasting it with the US dispatching the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which treated tens of thousands of patients, many of them Venezuelans, on a tour of South America in 2018.

“As the Venezuelan government seeks Russian warplanes, the United States works alongside regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said Dec. 10, 2018. “We maintain our unwavering commitment to humanity.”

The Kremlin rebuked Pompeo, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Pompeo’s comments were “rather undiplomatic” and that Moscow “consider[s] this statement to be totally inappropriate.”

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

He also chided the US for labeling the deployment as a waste of money. “It is not appropriate for a country half of whose defense expenditure would be enough to feed all of Africa’s people to make such statements,” Peskov said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also joined the fray. In a statement released Dec. 11, 2018, the ministry said it acknowledged that “tweets” did not “bind anyone to anything in the US in general.”

“However in this situation an official is involved, so this disregard of the rules of diplomatic ethics cannot be seen as a statement ‘to dismiss,'” the ministry added. “What the secretary of state said is inadmissible, not to mention that it is absolutely unprofessional.”

Good friends, but not best friends

Tu-160 bombers last visited Venezuela in 2013 and 2008, the latter trip coming during heightened tensions over Russia’s war with Georgia. Tensions between Washington and Moscow are again heightened, amid Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, but Moscow’s ties to Caracas are longstanding.

“In the Chávez era, Russia was a major arms supplier to Venezuela, and Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, remains a major player in Venezuela’s collapsing oil sector,” Benjamin Gedan, former South America director on the National Security Council and a fellow at the Wilson Center, said in an email.

“In recent years, as once prosperous Venezuela became an international panhandler, Russia renegotiated loans to postpone sovereign default,” Gedan added.

Russia remains one of the most important international allies for the increasingly isolated regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Gedan said, but that support is not as robust as it may appear.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Russia’s own oil industry has faced headwinds, and its economy has been strained by sanctions imposed by the US and European Union after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. While Russian President Vladimir Putin remains broadly popular, backlash to a government plan to raise pension ages has dented his standing.

“Russia’s generosity is motivated in part by its desire to prop up a Latin American regime that is hostile to US interests,” Gedan said. “That said, Moscow does not have the wherewithal to bail out Venezuela. Given the impacts of sanctions and relatively low oil prices, Russian support for Venezuela these days mostly involves purchases of oil assets priced to sell by the desperate Venezuelan government.”

Maduro returned from a three-day visit to Russia last week touting billion in investments, including a billion pledge for joint oil ventures and a Russian agreement to send 600,000 metric tons of wheat to Venezuela in 2019.

But officials in Russia questioned those deals, with one Rosneft official telling the Financial Times that the amount of new oil investments mentioned by Maduro sounded “suspiciously close” to the amount of the existing agreement.

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

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 30 edition)

Here’s the current stuff you need to know about:


Now: 4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 Russian nuclear bombers threaten U.K. in new incident

The UK and France scrambled fighter jets to respond to a two Tu-160 Russian nuclear bombers that approached Scotland without responding to air control on Sept. 20, 2018.

The UK Ministry of Defense said the unresponsive planes presented a hazard to other aviation by not communicating.

“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”


Military flight radar trackers spotted an unusually large number of Russian nuclear bombers taking off from bases in the country’s east early on Sept. 20, 2018, and tracked them as they flew above Scandinavia and down into North Sea towards the UK.

The fleet included three Tu-160 supersonic bombers and three Tu-95 propeller driven bombers with refueling tankers along for the long-distance haul. Williamson’s statement says only two Tu-160s were involved in the interception incident.

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Russia’s Tu-160 supersonic nuclear-capable bomber.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

UK and French jets flew out to greet the bombers. Business Insider observed flight radar trackers as the incident unfolded. Ultimately the Russian bombers turned away and the European jets returned home. The Russian bombers did not enter UK airspace.

Typically the UK scrambles its own fighters to respond to potential breaches of airspace, so the inclusion of French jets may suggest some abnormality in the incident.

Together the six Russian bombers represent a massive array of air power. Both bombers can carry anti-ship and nuclear missiles in large enough numbers to punch a serious hole in UK or European defenses.

Russia regularly uses its bombers to probe the airspace of its neighbors and possibly gauge response time to aide in planning for potential future conflicts.

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

Articles

Marine who lost legs in Afghanistan rescues baby from a smoking car

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act
Matias Ferreira (left)


A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.

Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.

The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.

Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.

“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.

He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”

While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.

“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”

The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.

“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”

Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.

“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”

Articles

California may give legal aid to deported vets

California may start giving legal help to veterans who have been deported.


The state Assembly passed a bill May 8 to provide legal representation for people who were honorably discharged from the military but have since been deported.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher says her bill is intended to help deported veterans return to the country. The San Diego Democrat says the bill would help them reunite with their families and access health services and other benefits.

“It’s time we bring our deported vets back,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “California can lead the way by trying to bring them home.”

The American Civil Liberties Union says it has found dozens of cases where veterans have been deported.

Many deported veterans would have been eligible to become naturalized citizens but were not properly informed about the process, Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Funding for the bill will be subject to availability of money in the state budget.

The bill directs the state to contract with a nonprofit legal services organization. AB386 passed the Assembly without any dissenting votes and now goes to the Senate.