Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

When Mykola Reshetnuk first heard the blasts at just after 3 in the morning, he just buried himself deeper in his blankets and stayed in bed. But with the deafening reports seeming to get closer and closer, the 57-year-old Ukrainian got worried and left. And with good reason.

Seconds later, a shell tore through his house.

Reshetnuk, a pensioner, doesn’t live in a war zone. Instead, he is one of around 12,000 residents forced out of their homes after ammunition stored at a military depot near the town of Ichnya, about 135 kilometers northeast of Kyiv, began exploding early on Oct. 9, 2018, sparking a huge blaze that the Defense Ministry suggested was the result of “military sabotage.”


After the deployment of repurposed tanks and aircraft to the scene, officials said on Oct. 11, 2018, that the depot fire had finally been “extinguished completely.”

“I rushed out. I was hiding over there, in a ditch,” he told RFE/RL one day earlier, motioning to the side of a nearby road spotted with rubble and debris. “Everything was blasting, exploding around me.”

Off in the distance, explosions periodically punctuated his words.

As the smoke clears from the blaze, Reshetnuk and others may be forgiven for feeling like they live in a combat zone.

Rows of houses for kilometers around the Chernihiv region depot bear the scars of incoming armaments that were launched by the heat of the blaze.

Charred frames of homes that were occupied just days ago continued to smolder as people returned to survey the damage.

A couple walked their bikes down one of the town’s narrow roads, careful to avoid the potholes from the hundreds of shells that rained down and now lay littered about the town.

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“Did you get everything?” shouted one Emergency Services employee as crews armed with metal detectors and shovels scanned nearby yards after reports that some unexploded devices were still embedded in the ground.

They doubled back on his command, fearing the damage one overlooked hole in the ground could wreak on an unsuspecting victim. No casualties have been reported from the fire, and officials are hoping to keep it that way.

“From 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., we were hiding in the cellar. It was impossible to get out,” said Reshtnuk’s neighbor, Serhiy Ishchenko.

“We returned and the neighbor’s house and fence were in flames. All we could do was try to contain it so that the blaze wouldn’t spread to other buildings.”

Pointing to how the explosions appeared to go off at intervals in different parts of the depot, Ukrainian authorities blamed saboteurs.

There have been other major explosions and fires at Ukrainian arms depots in recent years, amid fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a few hundred kilometers southeast of the depot site.

The war has killed more than 10,300 people since it began after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and fomented separatism following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled after months of pro-European unrest in Kyiv.

Cease-fire deals signed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015 have failed to end the bloodshed despite near-constant dialogue among European, Russian, and U.S. officials over ways to resolve the four-year crisis.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

In March 2017, a massive firestorm at a munitions depot near the eastern city of Kharkiv prompted the evacuation of about 20,000 residents within a 20-kilometer radius of the site.

And in September 2017, more than 30,000 people were forced from their homes after artillery warehouses on a military installation exploded in the Vinnytsya region, southwest of Kyiv.

Authorities have frequently blamed the blasts on sabotage, and the government has allocated 100 million hryvnyas (.6 million) for the protection of the country’s ammunition-storage facilities.

But that does little for Reshetnuk as he surveys the damage to his home.

“The furnace is the only thing left here. Where will I keep myself warm now? What will I do in winter? How will I rebuild my house? My monthly pension is just 1,400 hryvnyas,” he says, spreading his hands to the sky to show how his house no longer has a roof.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to find out if you’re eligible for the big veteran’s tax refund


The Defense Department has announced
that more than 130,000 veterans may be eligible for a tax refund on taxes paid on their disability severance.

Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.


Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.

According to the DoD’s press release:

“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:

Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590

Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400

Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200

The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:

“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”

“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”

Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.

Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.

Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

House vets panel subpoenas details on VA art purchases

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
The VA campus in Palo Alto, CA | VA photo


The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.

Also read: VA awards $300 million in grants to help end veteran homelessness

“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.

“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.

The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.

Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.

In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.

“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
House Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller

The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.

“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.

“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.

Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.

Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”

When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.

Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.

“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam vet-turned-stunt driver lets WATM take the wheel

WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stunt driver Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman and stunt driver.


Follow along as Jim (bravely) lets Ryan get behind the wheel and try his hand at the stunt course.

Articles

A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The future flyoff between the Cold War-era A-10 ground attack aircraft and the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter will be “very interesting,” a general said.


The A-10 Thunderbolt II is set to go up against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a series of weapons tests as early as next year under a stipulation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy and spending bill.

The legislation also prohibits retirement of the lumbering, low-flying, snub-nosed aircraft popularly known as the Warthog until the Air Force can prove the F-35’s ability to conduct close air support missions on the battlefield.

“It’ll be a very interesting test,” said Pleus, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program’s integration office for the service.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. | Lockheed Martin photo

“The A-10 was built to deal with tanks in Europe,” he said. “A low, slow, big cannon on the front of it meant to destroy tanks and assist troops in contacts and do [close-air support]” a mission the aircraft has flown more recently in the Middle East against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Pleus added, “CAS is a mission, not an airplane.”

Related: Here’s how Boeing’s updated F/A-18 may compare to the F-35

The cannon the general referred to is the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger in the nose of the Warthog. The weapon can hold as many as 1,174 rounds and is configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute.

The F-35 also features a gatling gun, albeit a smaller and lighter one.

The GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F-35A version of the aircraft and hold 182 rounds. It’s slated to be externally mounted on the Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier version and hold 220 rounds.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“The A-10 is a great CAS platform in a no-threat environment,” Pleus said, adding it was never meant to be a fast, high-flying aircraft that could maneuver in a contested environment — like in current parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
US Air Force / WATM

The test between the A-10 and F-35 will be structured and certified by the Defense Department’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, Pleus said. “That plan is something they are still developing” for the comparison testing “to start undergoing in 2018,” he said.

Citing his F-16 experience, Pleus said he would bet the A-10 comes out “as the better CAS platform” in a no-threat environment against the F-35, which performs similarly to the Fighting Falcon. But “as you now start to built the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles within the target.”

In that case, the F-35 would be the only aircraft left flying — even against more current versions of fighters.

Pleus said the argument isn’t over whether the A-10 has and can still perform close air support missions. The decision for Air Force leadership and lawmakers going forward, however, is how to distribute the resources to platforms that can do the mission, he said.

“Where are you getting your bang for your buck?” he said. “A single-platform A-10 that only does CAS and can’t do anything else and it has to be in an uncontested environment is probably not a realistic place for us to be continuing funding…for the future.”

The general continued, “If I were to develop that plan you have to show that the close air support is not just in a no-threat environment, because CAS is not always in a no-threat environment.

Pleus said, “When we get to the actual testing I think that’s where you’re going to see the differences.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief looks to convert $1 million into grants for soldiers

Army Emergency Relief expanded its support programming in 2020 to keep up with the evolving needs of those impacted by COVID-19. Now the organization is going a step further in easing financial burdens for soldiers and their families.

AER disbursed assistance to more than 710 soldiers this year, according to its website, totaling $1.1 million in assistance. With the pandemic continuing to cause detrimental impacts to Army families, the organization is looking to convert loans into zero-payback grants.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, Director of AER, said he is excited to announce this initiative.

“Soldiers and their families may be exposed to financial challenges as an incident to their service, and this year has presented many challenges. We’ve been closely monitoring the situation and I believe Americans have noticed as well,” he said.

Since its inception, AER has provided $2 billon in financial assistance, with half of that occurring since the events of September 11, 2001. The organization has also supported around 4 million soldiers. While donations do come from larger organizations, many come from citizens who want to support U.S. troops.

“Thanks to the generosity of citizens, patriotic corporations, and Soldiers themselves, we were able to go back and review zero-interest loans where conversion to grant makes the most sense and alleviates distress caused by the unique challenges we’ve experienced this year,” Mason said.

Although the goal itself isn’t to specifically hit the $1 million mark, Mason says by examining the individual needs that prompted the loans, they’ll be able to hit that target.

“Our goal is to identify loans issued in response to some of the unique challenges we’ve faced this year, and eliminate the requirement of payback on those loans. In doing so, we believe we will convert $1 million in loans to grants and potentially change the financial future for over a thousand soldiers and their families,” Mason explained.

Although the loans soldiers received are zero interest, the organization wants to take it further by seeing where they can turn them into grants and further support relief efforts.

“In short, we’re trying to do the right thing while respecting the contributions we’ve received from generous Americans,” Mason explained.

AER has expanded its outreach efforts to ensure soldiers and their families know about its mission and the importance of asking for help when it is needed. The organization is doing this through engagement with Army leadership to instill the notion that AER should be the first stop when Army families find themselves in financial trouble of any kind.

With the entire country being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs remain great for many families. AER is poised to continue supporting Army families and finding ways to ensure they thrive, even in the midst of a pandemic. Stepping forward to convert loans into grants is just one more way it can live out its mission of soldiers helping soldiers.

To learn more about AER and how you can support their mission or request assistance, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to translate military experience into a bomb resume

Many military service members and veterans have significant amounts of experience initiating, planning, leading, and briefing missions. Missions that have completion dates, and deliver unique results, capabilities, goods, or services to the commander. Since this is the very definition of projects, endeavors that are temporary and unique, it follows then that many military service members and veterans have significant amounts of project management experience.


The trick is translating it, as in our above example of mission and project.

service members and veterans can use the Project Management Body of Knowledge and the PMP Examination Content Outline (PMPECO) documents to translate their Military experience into a language that civilian hiring managers understand, value, and hire for. This article describes how.

Basic one

When we write a mission up as a project, i.e. create a project description, it needs to be complete so it is more meaningful. What I mean is that we need to construct the project description with five or six full sentences, each describing one major project activity per process group. Examples of project activities we can use are found in the PMPECO, with each arrayed to its respective process group.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

A soldier with the 110th Composite Truck Company, attaches a trailer to a vehicle as evening falls on Sept. 13, 2018. Soldiers worked into the night preparing vehicles for rapid deployment to hurricane-affected areas along the American East Coast.

Basic two

Each project description needs to be concise; it should fit nicely within 550 characters or less, to include spaces, so we can transfer it onto the PMP Exam Application at some point. Doing so allows us to sit for the PMP exam so we can ‘validate’ all of our mission experience with this universally accepted, sought after project management credential. Think NCOER, OCER, or FitRep-type statements here.

Basic three

Each project description should be coherent, i.e. readable. These project activity statements should be sequenced according to their presentation in the PMBOK; starting with Initiating Process Group and moving through the Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing Process Groups. That walks the reader through the project start to finish. Furthermore, the verb tenses should agree; past tense led stays led throughout the description, not I lead this and I led that. It makes the reading easier.

Basic four

The description should be precise, using the terms and concepts depicted in the PMPECO (and PMBOK). Commander becomes Sponsor; Mission Paragraph 2 becomes Charter; POAM (plan of action and milestones) becomes project schedule; Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine becomes project team member; and foreign national becomes stakeholder.

They should also be accurate and personalized to the author’s experience. This can be done by counting the number of stakeholders involved in the briefings, or the types of risks analyzed and managed, or the total dollar value of the equipment purchased and shipped to units downrange. This quantification and qualification personalizes the statements to the authoring project manager.

Basic five

Anything temporary and unique counts! Military, volunteer, recreational. Many veterans engage in volunteer activities, and these count as projects as well. Toys-for-Tots, command dine-ins, special event hosting on base, church functions, Scout trips and the like are just some examples. You want to document between 4,500 hours and 7,500 hours of experience leading and directing the project activities you see listed in the PMPECO. Doing so will qualify you to sit for the PMP or CAPM project management credentials, which ‘validates’ your experience because hiring managers know PMI saw it to approve you to take the exam.

Speaking of examples

Our first mission-to-project example is a weapons qualification event. The 542 character-long copy follows:

  • Obtained approval of Combat Marksmanship training event for USMC platoon and wrote Letter of Instruction as project charter.
  • Planned procurement of ammunition and developed schedule from event date backwards.
  • Acquired Corpsman, drivers, and range personnel as project team members.
  • Controlled risks through personnel monitoring and operating procedure compliance.
  • Closed project by cleaning up range, returning radios, arms, and vehicles, documenting shooter performance, and briefing the platoon and Battalion leadership on project results. It is sequenced, verb tenses agree, it is complete, accurate, and individualized, and it uses precise project management terms to root our military experience in.

The second example of a project description is a command inspection, and it too shows all process groups, is complete, and weighs in at 544 characters, to include spaces:

  • Developed charter for approval, to include inspection scope, reason, inspector(s), and inspected units. Defined scope by identifying the date, time, and location of the command inspection, and planned inspection of which units/elements/equipment when.
Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

Sgt. Shuntaneque Greenwald, assigned to U.S. Army NATO Brigade, plots points on a map for night land navigation during the 2018 U.S. Army Europe Best Warrior Competition Aug. 16, 2018, at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

  • Managed stakeholders’ expectations through frequent communication with X key personnel during the planning and execution.
  • Controlled water, chow, and personnel formations, documented deficiencies during the inspection, and took corrective action.
  • Briefed commander on results and way ahead.

Our third and final example is extremely representative in today’s global environment, and helpful considering the nature of the prolonged Global War on Terror. It documents a fundamental military mission in the language of project management, a security patrol. In 368 accurate characters, we discuss it as Identified high-level risks and constraints for Charter inclusion and approval:

  • Planned personnel needs and equipment, and conducted risk planning.
  • Conducted project activities in accordance to schedule, logistics plans, and monitored and controlled risks; responding to triggered risks as planned.
  • Closed project through collected lessons learned and sponsor debrief.

Conclusion

The work civilian project management professionals, governing bodies, and academicians have done in the project management space has created a way for military service members and veterans to tell the story of their military experience in a language civilian hiring managers understand, value, and hire for.

We can use the PMBOK and the PMPECO to write up each temporary and unique mission as a project. When we aggregate these individualized, precise, accurate, coherent project descriptions, we have a resume full of project management experience.

And when we add the PMP or CAPM to this resume, it becomes validated in the minds of civilian hiring officials because they know PMI saw thousands of hours of project management experience before allowing to sit for the PMP or CAPM exam. Telling our military story in project management allows us to overcome one of the biggest challenges we will face during our transition.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

Early results came in from the US Air Force’s realistic, challenging Red Flag air combat exercise — and it looks like the F-35 slaughtered the competition.


Aviation Week reports that the Joint Strike Fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed. The F-35 achieved this remarkable ratio in a drastically increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries.

“In the past, the non-kinetic effects were not fully integrated into the kinetic fight,” Col. Robert Cole, the Air Force Cyber Forward director, said in a statement.

But now, F-35s take on cyberthreats and electronic warfare in addition to enemy surveillance and conventional, or kinetic, threats.

“This integration in an exercise environment allows our planners and warfighters to understand how to best integrate these, learn their capabilities and limitations, and become ready to use [these combined resources for maximum] effect against our adversaries,” Cole said.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

But the F-35s didn’t just shoot down the enemy — they used their sensor-fusion and datalink abilities to talk to other planes and help them sniff out threats they wouldn’t have seen on their own.

“Before, where we would have one advanced threat and we would put everything we had — F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, missiles, we would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out — now we are seeing three or four of those threats at a time,” Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, told Aviation Week.

“Just between [the F-35] and the [F-22] Raptor we are able to geolocate them, precision-target them, and then we are able to bring the fourth-generation assets in behind us after those threats are neutralized. It’s a whole different world out there for us now.”

The ability for fifth-generation US aircraft to detect threats and send that information to legacy planes meets an urgent need for the US military.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
Even after the F-35 runs out of missiles, it can still pass valuable targeting data to legacy planes laden with bombs and missiles. | US Air Force by Jim Hazeltine

As adversarial nations like China and Russia constantly improve their counter-stealth abilities and air defenses, numbers increasingly matter.

The F-35 has repeatedly hit cost and schedule overruns during its production and is now years behind schedule. But the latest performance at Red Flag proves that even a handful of F-35s can improve an entire squadron’s performance.

The current Red Flag exercise will conclude on February 10.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may have actually increased nuclear production

As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.

The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.


“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”

According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
United Statesu00a0President Donald Trump

Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.

During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.

And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.

“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”

“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts to North Korea’s latest ballistic rocket test-fire through a precision control guidance system.
(KCNA photo)

The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.

The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed and directly contradicted Trump’s claim.

“I’m confident what [Trump] intended there was, ‘we did reduce the threat,'” Pompeo said during a Senate hearing on June 27, 2018. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This admiral thinks North Korea’s nukes are meant to be used

The commander of U.S. Pacific Command said Feb. 14, 2018 he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pursuing nuclear weapons to eventually reunify the Korean Peninsula under his brutal communist regime.


The U.S. should take that long view into account when dealing with Kim’s quest for nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. cities, Adm. Harry Harris said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

“I do think that there is a prevailing view that KJU [Kim Jong Un] is doing the things that he is doing to safeguard his regime. I don’t ascribe to that view,” Harris said. “I do think that he is after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do.”

North Korea conducted ICBM and nuclear tests in 2017 and has defiantly continued to pursue the weapons despite U.S. and international condemnation and economic sanctions. Recent testing and U.S. intelligence estimates show the regime is close to completing the missiles.

Also read: North Korea is calling US sanctions on Kim Jong Un a ‘declaration of war’

“It puts him in a position to blackmail the South and other countries in the region and us,” as Kim pursues what he sees as the regime’s “natural place” controlling the entire Korean Peninsula, Harris said.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
Kim Jong Un with North Koreans just after the test fire of a surface to surface medium long range missile. (image KCNA)

“I think we are self-limiting if we view North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as solely as a means to safeguard his regime.”

An armistice between the North and the United States has been in place since the Korean War ended in stalemate more than six decades ago. Since then, three generations of Kims have ruled the North and turned it into one of the most isolated and repressive regimes in the world.

The Trump administration is now struggling with the youngest Kim’s nuclear aspirations, which have put the regime on the verge of becoming the world’s latest nuclear power to acquire ICBMs.

Related: Here’s what you need to know about Kim Jong Un’s missile arsenal

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House Armed Services chairman, cited an article by former Ambassador James Jeffrey and speculated that current thinking on the North may be wrong.

“The dominant view is he wants missiles and nuclear weapons in order to safeguard his regime,” Thornberry said. “To think anything else is so unpleasant that we don’t let ourselves think that maybe he wants these nuclear weapons to hold U.S. cities hostage so that he can have his way and finish what his grandfather started on the peninsula.”

But North Korea is notoriously insular and U.S. intelligence is scant on its internal workings.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, questioned whether Harris could be so certain about Kim’s motivations.

More: A fake Kim Jong Un greeted North Korea’s Olympic cheer squad

“I think the real answer is there is no way to know. We can guess what he is trying to do,” Smith said. “I think anyone who confidently asserts that all Kim Jong Un wants to do is protect his regime is just as wrong as anyone who confidently asserts that he definitely wants to unify the peninsula.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Koreans are tired of all the Kim Jong Un photos

Kim Jong Un may enjoy being photographed frequently, but his desire to be at the center of state media attention may be irritating ordinary North Koreans.


Kim’s recurring presence in North Korean newspapers, like the Rodong Sinmun, now means major state visits must be commemorated with dozens of Kim photographs per issue, Daily NK reported Dec. 18.

On Dec. 9, Kim’s visit to Samjiyon in Yanggang Province was announced in the newspaper with 60 photographs from the location, with 50 out of the 60 pictures including Kim.

The attention-seeking Kim is drawing criticism from North Koreans, who say he is trying to repair his image following the execution of his uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

One North Korea source told Daily NK the “very common” photographs are a problem for smokers.

“People don’t like it,” the source said. “Among workers, who are looking for spare newspaper to roll up a cigarette, it is becoming increasingly hard to find a fragment without a portrait of Kim Jong Un.”

North Korea law forbids people from using pictures of Kim in derogatory ways, and travelers to North Korea have previously told UPI they are not allowed to fold a crease across a picture of Kim’s face or damage an image of him in newspapers.

Also Read: 7 nasty ways Kim Jong Un executes people

Kim may be tightening his grip as he concludes his fifth full year in power.

Analysts at Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy said Dec. 18 that Kim has purged top officials Hwang Pyong So and Kim Won Hong, less than a week after a South Korean newspaper reported Hwang may have been expelled from the Workers’ Party for taking bribes.

The INSS also said economic sanctions could hit the elites, and Kim could purge more economic officials to assign blame as conditions worsen in the country, Yonhap reported.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

Articles

101-year-old British D-Day vet breaks skydiving record

A 101-year-old D-Day veteran has become the oldest person in the world to skydive.


Bryson William Verdun Hayes completed a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) with members of his extended family on Sunday at an airfield in Honiton, southwestern England.

Among those jumping were Hayes’ son, grandson, great-grandson and great-granddaughter.

Ukrainians describe the day their world erupted in an ammunition fire
Bryson William Verdun Hayes broke the Guinness World Record for oldest skydiver by three days. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

At the age of 101 years, 38 days, Hayes broke the Guinness World Record held by Canada’s Armand Gendreau, who jumped in 2013 at 101 years, three days.

When he landed, Hayes said he was “absolutely over the moon” at the achievement. The jump raised money for the Royal British Legion, a veterans’ organization.

Hayes said he had wanted to try skydiving when he was 90, but was talked out it at the time by his late wife. He jumped for the first time last year at 100.

Hayes served in the British Army during World War II, and was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for his heroic actions.

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