Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”


A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.

While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.

Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.

“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.

Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.

She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”

Foreign reactions

Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.

 

 

Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”

More: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.

But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.

 

 

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.

Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.

“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.

“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.

Putin: ‘No new arms race’

The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”

Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.

Putin — who warned the West on March 1, 2018, that Russia had deployed or developed formidable new nuclear arms — vowed to decrease defense spending but said there will be no problem finding money for weapons and national defense.

The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.

Related: 10 hilarious times Russia trolled the West on Twitter

Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.

“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”

Putin and the seven dwarves

Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”

Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.

The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.

The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
One of the other four Russian candidates, Grigory Yavlinsky.

Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.

But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”

Reports of fraud

With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.

But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.

Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.

Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.

They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.

More: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.

While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.

Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.

Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.

Articles

Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

Grunts, eat your hearts out.


As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.

It’s part of an 18- to 20-month experiment that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade is calling the “Über Squad.”

Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.

The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.

The squad is set to be a miniaturized, weapons-focused version of what the Corps is doing with its “experimental battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced in 2016 that 3/5 would serve as a testing platform for technologies ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to robots mounted with machine guns, all while remaining an operational infantry battalion.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
U.S. Marines will get helmets with built-in hearing protection. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Santino D. Martinez)

The unit deployed to the Pacific this spring. As part of its experimental efforts, 3/5 Marines have been equipped with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is carried by Marine automatic riflemen, but service officials have discussed the possibility of fielding the weapon as the new service rifle for all or most infantrymen.

Wade has pioneered similar efforts within 2nd Marine Division. He spearheaded an effort last year that put rifle suppressors in the hands of three different companies within 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to assess how troops fared using them on deployments around the globe.

For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.

“This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”

Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well – so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.

“Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.

He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
A US Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Following the kitted-up squad through training and the Corps’ traditional pre-deployment event, the integrated training exercise, or ITX, at Twentynine Palms, California, will give Marines the chance to assess the value of the various gear elements and whether they add net cost or value to the warfighter.

Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.

“For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”

As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.

While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.

“What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Marines will assess the value of the various gear elements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.

While the technology the Marines will carry is not new or experimental the way a gun-wielding robot is, it has never been issued to individual Marines at the squad level.

Wade plans to survey Marines at the start and end of the effort about their personal feelings and perceptions carrying the gear, and will couple those observations with objective data showing how the squad stacks up against other units at exercises such as ITX.

“We want to know what the Marines’ perception is, do the Marines have confidence in [the gear],” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Corps just added this new phase to help recruits practice being Marines

Recruits arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depots in late November will be the first to go through an additional period of training, which will be known as fourth phase, designed to better prepare them for success as Marines.


The Marine Corps has reorganized a portion of the current 13-week recruit training to afford drill instructors additional time to mentor and lead new Marines. Among the slight modifications, recruits will tackle the Crucible, the demanding 54-hour challenge, a week earlier and then spend the final two weeks of training as ‘Marines’. The Crucible remains the culminating event for recruits as they earn the title ‘Marine.’

“Making Marines is one of the most important things that we do,” said Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Earning the title is, and will remain, difficult. Our standards and requirements have not changed but as recruit training evolves we want to ensure we are preparing Marines for success in their follow-on training and service to our great country.”

Fourth phase will utilize the six F’s of Marine Leader Development framework: Fidelity, Fighter, Fitness, Family, Finances and Future. Marines will be in small groups covering subjects that are critical to success and growth in all aspects of their personal and professional lives.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis/USMC

Neller added that the Corps is seeking more time for these new Marines to get used to the idea that earning the title ‘Marine’ is just the beginning.

“We thought it was important that the drill instructor, the key figure in the development of these new Marines, had a role to play in the transition,” said Neller. “They were their drill instructors, but now they have to be their staff sergeant, their gunnery sergeant and we thought that was very powerful.”

As drill instructors transition from trainers of recruits to mentors of Marines, the expected result is a more resilient, mature, disciplined and better-prepared Marine.

“This is a normal evolution of the recruit training experience,” said Neller. “We are trying to keep the very best of what we do now [in recruit training] and add something to make it even better.”

Recruits at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego will first tackle the fourth phase in early February 2018.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to end the negative military spouse stigma

Military spouses have enough on their plates. They do not need your unsolicited, unfavorable, unmannered, advice. There are so many ways you can help end the falsified image of helplessness military spouses have been forced to live with, within our culture. We are educated, physically strong and well-rounded people. We don’t need a pity party.


What we do need is support for our working military spouses, efficiently running daycare facilities, and units that truly understand that we too are important to the readiness of our service members.

Do you want to strengthen our military communities? If so, here’s how you can help end the negative stigma of the military spouse.

Do Not Contribute to the degradation of our community.

If you hear a rumor don’t repeat it. If you see a hurtful meme, don’t share it. Oftentimes, bullying is concealed and bred this way. Eventually, it spreads into a full-fledged attack on military spouses. Further dividing our community. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

cdn.dvidshub.net

Be encouraging to those missing their loved ones.

Every second of every day, a military spouse is left as their service member goes off to training, temporary duty, or war. They may be a new spouse, or maybe not. Either way, when they post about missing their loved one, be compassionate, or be invisible. You don’t have to contribute to every post. Just scroll on by.

Volunteer within the military community.

Volunteering is a great way to learn about the needs of a community. This can help you get to know the struggles military spouses face and how you can be a source of strength and compassion for them. If you have time, go volunteer at the local USO. If you don’t have time, but would like to donate resources, the USO is always in need of items such as; candy, coffee, greeting cards, and other basic care essentials. Reach out to your local USO and find out how you can help.

Be an advocate.

Speaking up about the struggles affecting military families helps start the much-needed conversation about the services or lack thereof within our community. Many services and programs specifically for military spouses aren’t well supported throughout the military for various reasons. We don’t need our hands held but we would like those in high places to advocate the need for the funding of enrichment programs.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

Hear our stories.

We all come from different walks of life. We are derived from diverse cultures and have unique skill sets. Learn about who we are. Some of us are doctors, some scientists, engineers, and many have served within the military ranks. Allow spouses to speak at military town halls, and conferences about those things that are in our lane of expertise.

Let’s end the negative stigma of military spouses. Learn who we are, be encouraging, be an advocate, and most importantly, do not contribute to the spreading of rumors or the bullying of military spouses. We deserve to be treated with respect. As our service members fight the battles abroad, we shouldn’t have to fight ones at home. We too matter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos show how the military is rescuing Florence victims

As Hurricane Florence, now weakened to a tropical depression, continues to wreak havoc along the East Coast, where it has claimed at least two dozen lives, more than 10,000 US service members are providing emergency assistance to those in need.

The Department of Defense, as of Sept. 15, 2018, had deployed a total of 13,470 personnel, 5,400 active-duty service members and 7,857 National Guard to support hurricane relief efforts. Additionally, 1,286 military assets, such as rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, high-water vehicles, and swift boats have been dispatched to assist with ongoing response operations.


“The collaboration between the Department of Defense, FEMA, and state and local partners is absolutely critical to our National Response Framework,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander USNORTHCOM said in a statement, adding, “We remain well informed of the emergency response requirements and are ready to respond when military assistance is requested.”

The following photos show the US military in action, lending a much needed hand to rescue people and even animals affected by the storm.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

U.S. Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) drive through the rain to a local fire station in order to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Williams)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Hagan)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U. S. Army photo by Spc. Andrea Salgado Rivera)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kelly)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damaris Arias)

US Marines with Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training conduct post hurricane cleanup at the Marine Corps Exchange on Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Exclusive: Navy SEAL and governor cleared

When ANTIFA and other radical groups threatened to destroy St. Louis, Missouri, in 2017, then-Governor Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, stepped in and with frontline leadership defeated them.

A few months afterward, in 2018, Greitens was forced to resign from office as legal costs, which numbered in the millions, mounted following a criminal charge against him. His deputy, Mike Parson, took his place.

This February, however, the Missouri Ethics Commission exonerated Greitens after a 20-month investigation. Kimberly Gardner, the George Soros-backed prosecutor who charged Greitens for crimes with no evidence is now under active criminal investigation. Moreover, the former FBI agent who worked to manufacture the false case against Greitens has been indicted for seven felonies for perjury and evidence tampering.


Now, a documentary series is in the works about the criminal takedown of the now-exonerated Greitens. A source with close ties to the Navy SEAL community and to several Los Angeles based filmmakers informed SOFREP that filmmakers in Los Angeles and Chicago, working with financiers in New York and New Jersey have developed a 12-minute film, as a preview of the potential movie or documentary series. SOFREP received exclusive access to a short preview.

The film also highlights the involvement of associates of then-Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, some of them convicted felons, who delivered at least 0,000 in cash to people who made false accusations against Greitens. Parson, the film points out, was the largest recipient of donations from lobbyists for a corrupt tax-credit scheme in Missouri’s history. It was a scheme that Greitens shut down.

Greitens’s story is all the more pertinent right now because of his leadership during the civil unrest of 2017. A source with a Special Operations background spoke to SOFREP and said that there is a particular interest in the Greitens story at the moment because of the former Navy SEAL’s actions while in office in Missouri. Moreover, SOFREP has learned that officials from across the country are contacting Greitens for advice on how to effectively deal with violent protestors and particularly those belonging to ANTIFA groups.

In 2017, when police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith in St. Louis, ANTIFA elements joined other anti-police elements from around the country in promising to burn Missouri down and take violent action against the police.

Then, as the Missouri governor, Greitens successfully kept peace in the state, stopping the anti-police and ANTIFA groups who tried to burn and loot businesses and attack the police. While leaders in the past had given people a safe space to loot and to burn, during Greitens’s tenure, such activities would buy them a one-ticket ride to jail.

Missouri had already experienced similar civil unrest, having been the ground zero for the nationwide anti-police movement in Ferguson. And when Greitens was elected in 2016, he pledged strong support to the law enforcement community.

Governor Parson, unlike Greitens who went to the frontlines to support police during his term, has taken a largely hands-off approach to violence. While Greitens was a visible, frontline leader, who did not allow any looting or burning while in office, Governor Parson has expressed sympathy for protestors, and has said that he won’t personally be making major decisions about how to protect citizens, instead of delegating those decisions to others. On Monday night and Tuesday morning in St. Louis, Missouri, rioters burned businesses, four police officers were shot, and one former police officer was attacked by rioters and killed.

(SOFREP readers will want to know that a St. Louis SWAT leader confirmed that one of the wounded police officers suffered severe bleeding. It was a former SEAL who is now a St. Louis Police officer, who applied a tourniquet, rushed the officer to the hospital, and saved his life.)

Asked about how the incumbent governor is dealing with that situation, Greitens told SOFREP that “he is doing really poorly. The situation demands frontline leadership. There must be someone on the ground who can take the critical decisions and plan for all contingencies. A leader who can deliver a calm and clear message on how to deal with the riots. Governor Parson is not that man.”

SOFREP understands that there is an alarming lack of communication and coordination between police forces and the Missouri National Guard, in addition to the non-existent intelligence sharing between them. Police chiefs don’t have operational plans to follow, forcing them to a hodgepodge response to the looters and rioters. There is, moreover, a significant issue of logistics.

“The police should be there to ensure and protect the people’s right to assembly and protest in a peaceful manner,” Greitens added. “But it’s also there to deal with anyone who seeks to oppose that right with wanton violence.”

As Missouri now burns, officers are being shot, and citizens are being killed, filmmakers want to highlight the role of politicians like Mike Parson, and Soros-backed prosecutors like Kim Gardner, who both worked to take down the Navy SEAL Governor. The only Governor in the country who successfully faced down ANTIFA and won.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In Turkmenistan, whatever you do, don’t mention the coronavirus

ASHGABAT — Authorities in Turkmenistan have yet to admit there are any cases of the coronavirus in the country. Now, officials are making sure the word doesn’t appear in print or casual conversations either.

RFE/RL correspondents in the capital, Ashgabat, report that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.

The word “coronavirus” also has disappeared from newly published state brochures on disease prevention in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation.


Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

In place of old brochures instructing citizens about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, new publications replace the word “coronavirus” with words like “illness” and “acute respiratory diseases.”

“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The lack of any report confirming even one coronavirus infection in Turkmenistan has raised suspicions and criticism about the country’s official data on the pandemic.

Countries that border Turkmenistan — including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan — have registered dozens of infections.

To the south, nearby Iran had reported more than 44,700 infections by March 31, including nearly 3,000 deaths.

Turkmenistan’s government sealed off Ashgabat on March 20 without any public announcement by authorities or state media about the reasons for the closure.

Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.

Concern over the outbreak among locals, along with the restrictions, has pushed food prices to record highs.

“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov,” Cavelier said on March 31. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

The United States has confirmed to RFE/RL its delivery of American-made, Javelin antitank missile systems to Ukraine in a move that is welcome in Kyiv but will almost certainly enrage Moscow amid a four-year conflict that pits Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian national troops.

“They have already been delivered,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed on April 30, 2018, in response to an RFE/RL query on the handover of Javelins.


In a statement posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also confirmed the delivery and said his country continues “to strengthen our defense potential in order to repel Russian aggression.”

“I am sincerely grateful for the fair decision of [U.S. President] Donald Trump in support of Ukraine, in defense of freedom and democracy,” Poroshenko wrote. “Washington not only fulfilled our joint agreement, it demonstrated leadership and an important example.”

A shipment of lethal aid would appear to deepen U.S. involvement in the simmering conflict and mark at least a symbolic victory for Ukraine in its effort to maintain Western backing in the ongoing conflict.

After months of heated debate in Washington and, reportedly, much reluctance on the part of U.S. President Donald Trump, the White House was said to have approved the Javelin sale in December 2017.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
President Donald Trump

That announcement sparked a sharp rebuke from Moscow, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accusing the United States of “fomenting a war.”

Two sources who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it — one in Ukraine and the other in the United States — confirmed the Javelin deliveries to RFE/RL ahead of the State Department announcement.

Neither disclosed when the missile systems arrived in Ukraine, whether all the promised missiles and launchers had been sent or where they were being stored; or whether Ukraine’s military had begun training on Javelins. But one of the sources added that the Javelins were delivered “on time.”

The State Department provided no details beyond the confirmation of the delivery.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has lobbied hard to Western officials for more weapons, in addition to limited supplies of nonlethal aid from Washington and European allies so far and U.S. approval of commercial weapons sales.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

A $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved in 2017, and confirmed in March 2018, specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares, for Kyiv.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in December 2017, that U.S. military assistance to Ukraine was intended to bolster that country’s ability to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.”

Kyiv and Western governments say Moscow has armed and coordinated Ukrainian separatists as well as provided Russian fighters to help wrest control of swaths of territory that border Russia since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

The Javelins’ delivery is likely to spur a response from Moscow, which rejects accusations of involvement despite mounting evidence that includes weapons movements and cross-border artillery barrages, captured Russian troops, and intercepted communications.

Responding to the approved delivery of the missiles to Kyiv in December 2017, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said arming Ukraine would further inflame tensions between Moscow and Washington and push Ukraine “toward reckless new military decisions.”

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Since 2015, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $750 million in nonlethal aid, including Humvees, night-vision equipment, and short-range radar systems.

There has been a recent uptick in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatist forces, according to reports from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM).

A 3-year-old cease-fire deal known as Minsk II has helped to reduce the intensity of the fighting, but it has not ended the war.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in March 2018, that while the Javelin sale would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine” and “help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

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

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This is the competition for special operations experts

Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.


Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.

So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?

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Team Colombia, winners of Fuerzas Comando 2016, return the trophy to Paraguayan Brig. Gen. Hector Limenza at the opening ceremony for Fuerzas Comando 2017 in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay, on July 17, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christine Lorenz)

First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.

This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.

Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.

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A member from Team Uruguay during the physical fitness test, which includes push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 4-mile run. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.

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Colombian competitors sprint through the finish line of the obstacle course event, taking a step closer to securing the Fuerzas Comando 2017 championship, July 24, 2017 in Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.

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Peruvian competitors run the 14-kilometer ruck march while picking up and moving various objects, ending with team marksmanship at a firing range. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.

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Costa Rican competitors clear a room in a live-fire shoot house where they must clear a building and rescue a simulated hostage as efficiently as possible. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.

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A Guyanese sniper loads a round into his rifle while his teammate scans the range for targets. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Williams)

The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.

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A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)

Then there is concealment.

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Competitors drag litters 100 meters then work together to haul them onto a platform. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class James Brown)

They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.

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Honduran, Colombian, and U.S. Soldiers commemorate a successful Fuerzas Comando on July 27, 2017, in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joanna Bradshaw)

This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?

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Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.


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U.S. Air Force Airmen Erin O’Shea lays wreath on grave site at Arlington National Cemetary, Va., Dec. 15, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes)

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.

“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.

The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.

According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.

For more information on Wreaths Across America, to make a donation, or to get involved, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The surprising way the Navy wants to repair H-53 rotors

Fleet Readiness Center East is celebrating an achievement, and likely first, in using 3D printing and polymers as a supply solution to repair components for the H-53E.

Research and Engineering Group engineers used a polymer additive manufacturing process — fused deposition modeling — to produce replacement blade inspection method vents (BIM vents) for the aircraft’s main rotor blades.

“I believe this is the first time a polymer AM process has been used to build a flight critical repair component in (Naval Air Systems Command),” said Douglas Greenwood, AM Lead for the Advanced Technology Integrated Product Team. “We don’t usually, if ever, see ‘polymer AM’ and ‘flight critical’ in the same sentence.”


According to Joshua Peedin, senior engineer for H-53 Rotor Systems, artisans in Blade Shop 94304 identified integral damage in the parts during the repair process in 2016. It was a discovery of cracks in the foam beneath the root fairing that pointed to the damage in the vents.

The BIM vents work as part of the indication system to alert pilots to pressure loss in the blades. The BIM vents are critical application items, which means they have a critical function for a major component; not critical in terms of safety of flight.

Peedin said that unavailable parts led him in the direction of the solution. “I contacted our logisticians and (the OEM) to see if we could buy any replacements,” he said. “Neither had any available, so I checked the technical drawings to see if we could manufacture our own replacements.” He said making composite molded replacements were considered, but the composite material was too rigid to meet the required specifications.

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Aircraft Mechanical Parts Repairer Todd Bridgers applies a gel viscosity instant adhesive to a blade inspection method (BIM) vent — produced at Fleet Readiness Center East — before applying it to an H-53 blade.

Peedin said Materials Engineers Rob Thompson and Andrea Boxell, from the Polymers and Composites Branch, pointed out FRC East’s capability of 3D printing the part using a material that is chemically similar to the original material — a high-performance, thermoplastic polyetherimide. He also got the help of FRC East Digital Data Center members Justin Reynolds and Todd Spurgeon, AM subject matter experts, to redesign the BIM vents to ensure design compatibility with FRC East’s 3D printers.

“We had many meetings throughout the process to ensure everyone was in agreement to move forward,” said Peedin.

The prototype repair parts were tested under pressure and heat to ensure the repair could withstand in-service conditions and future blade repairs. The local engineers developed, documented, reviewed, and approved the repair procedure through AIR-4.3 Air Vehicle Engineering. The repair was first successfully demonstrated on a scrap main rotor blade asset. The most recent BIM vent repair was the second performed on a production main rotor blade asset using the AM parts.

Greenwood said the accomplishment is also noteworthy, as it demonstrates the flexibility of AM processes. He said FRC East primarily uses the AM printers to make sheet metal form blocks, prototype parts, visual aids, support equipment and many other kinds of parts to support FRC East production.

“All of those parts are built using materials different from the BIM vent parts and none of them are intended for use in flight,” said Greenwood. “Nevertheless, we are using the same printers with a different material to make the BIM vent repair parts.”

Greenwood added, the BIM vent parts mark a new milestone for FRC East. “This is an even bigger achievement for FRC East,” he said. “Using our printers to make polymer AM repair parts on H-53E main rotor blades that will enter the supply system and be used by the fleet.”

The accomplishment offers benefits in the way of cost avoidance, production, and aircraft readiness.

Peedin said the estimated cost to make the type of repair to blades through fused disposition modeling is about ,000 per blade. The pre-existing alternative to the fused deposition modeling repair was to pay the OEM to overhaul the main rotor blade for about 0,000 per blade; a 5,000 savings per blade.

Peedin said, FRC East is now able to keep a steady flow of main rotor blade repair work in the blade shop. “This will lead to a reduction of backordered repairs and ultimately contribute to improvements in the H-53 readiness posture,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Naval Air Systems Command. Follow @NAVAIRNews on Twitter.

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The US Coast Guard busted 11 tons of cocaine being smuggled in the Pacific Ocean

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A US Coast Guard crew unloaded 11 tons of seized cocaine on August 18, 2016. | US Coast Guard


The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Sherman unloaded roughly 11 tons of cocaine in San Diego on August 18. The haul was the result of seizures performed by USCG Cutters Alert, Reliance, Sherman, Tampa, and Vigorous in the eastern Pacific from mid-June through July.

The Coast Guard stopped a semi-submersible craft carrying nearly 6.5 tons of cocaine earlier this year. About 90% of the cocaine used in the US is smuggled through the Central America/Mexico corridor, and 2.2 pounds of the drug can be worth up to $150,000 once it is broken down, diluted, and resold on US streets.

Watch the unloading video below:

The drug shipments were intercepted in international waters off the coast of South America, which is a major cocaine production area, and of Central America, which has become a major drug transshipment point in recent years.

The eastern Pacific Ocean has become an important thoroughfare for illegal narcotics produced in South America and headed for the US and points elsewhere.

Latin American criminal organizations often coordinate to move shipments north from the Pacific Coasts of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia (which produces the most coca in the world), to destinations in Central America, particularly Guatemala, and parts of Mexico’s west coast.

Mexico’s Pacific ports and other coastal areas have also become areas of competition for that country’s drug cartels, driving violence up.

In March this year, Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of US forces operating in Central and South America, told lawmakers that US forces were ill-prepared to meet the goal of interdicting 40% of the illegal traffic moving from the region toward the US.

“I do not have the ships; I do not have the aircraft, to be able to execute the detection-monitoring mission to the level that has been established for us to achieve,” Tidd said at the time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This general was the highest ranking service member killed on 9/11

On that fateful September morning, 2,977 people died as the result of a series of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an attempted attack on the US Capitol Building. The attack on the Pentagon killed 125 people working at the Department of Defense headquarters including 70 civilians, 33 sailors and 22 soldiers. The highest ranking of these casualties was the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude.

Born in Indianapolis on November 18, 1947, Maude enlisted in the Army on March 21, 1966. He completed OCS and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in February 1967. With the nation in the midst of the Vietnam War, Maude’s first assignment after the Adjutant General Officer Basic Course was to the Southeast Asian conflict. His Army AG career went on to include postings throughout the United States as well as Germany and Korea. Before his posting at the Pentagon, Maude served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and Installation Management, Seventh Army, also known as United States Army Europe and Seventh Army.


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2nd Lt. Maude (right) participating in the dedication of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade headquarters in Vietnam with the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Robert Forbes (center) (Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association)

Maude was posted to the Pentagon in 1998 and was nominated as Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel in 2000. One of his last campaigns was the “Army of One” recruiting campaign that replaced the iconic but increasingly ineffective “Be All You Can Be” campaign. “We were in the middle of our worst recruiting year,” said former Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. “I felt very strongly when the job came open that Tim was the right guy…to manage the human resources of an organization that has to hire 80,000 new employees a year.”

To meet the needs of the Army, Maude modernized its recruiting strategy. Utilizing television and internet advertising, the general hoped to make the Army attractive to the latest generation of American youths. Maude testified before Congress concerning the necessity of meeting recruiting goals to meet the Army’s mission. In September 2001, Maude announced the “Army of One” campaign was proving to be effective at drawing more recruits to the ranks. On September 4, 2001, the Army reported that it had met its goals early for active duty soldiers and that the Reserve and National Guard components would meet theirs by the end of the month. Sadly, Maude would not live to see the full success of his campaign.

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Lt. Gen Maude’s official Army photo (US Army)

On September 11, 2001, at 9:37 EDT, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon. The section of the building that was struck, which had just undergone a 0 million renovation, housed both the Naval Command Center and the Army G1 offices. Prior to the renovations, Maude had been working out of a temporary office in a different part of the Pentagon. According to his sister, Carol, the general was holding a meeting that morning with five other people. In the chaos following the attacks, Maude’s family waited anxiously to hear if he had survived. “There’s still part of me that would like him to be found in a little cubbyhole somewhere and come back to us,” Carol said. However, three days after the attacks, Maude’s family was informed that he had perished at the Pentagon.

General Maude’s death on 9/11 made him not only the highest ranking service member to be killed that day, but also the most senior US Army officer killed by foreign action since Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was killed on June 18, 1941 in the Battle of Okinawa. More than that though, Maude left behind a legacy of selfless service and taking care of the Army and the nation’s most important resource. “You need to take good care of your soldiers,” Maude said in an address to a room of field-grade officers a few months before 9/11. He recognized that the key to accomplishing the Army’s mission was its people.

“He would say, ‘If a soldier is there in a foxhole worried about his wife and kids, then he’s not there focused and taking care of his buddy,'” said Maude’s wife Terri. “He came to believe that soldiering and family issues were one and the same.” In fact, Maude’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery reads, “HE TOOK CARE OF SOLDIERS.”

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Lt. Gen. Maude’s headstone (Arlington Cemetery)

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