Pillars of smoke, massive blaze as oil tank ‘explodes’ in Lugansk, Ukraine (VIDEO)

Social media include accounts of blasts and say that so far one tank is on fire.

The carriages have reportedly been engulfed in black smoke for over half an hour.

Eastern Ukraine has been devastated following the 2014 revolution that brought President Petro Poroshenko to power. While a truce has been reached between Kiev and the break-away regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, political differences continue to stall the final settlement.

‘Russia can’t find common ground with those demonizing Syrian govt’

Damaged ancient architectures are seen in Palmyra of central Syria, on April 1, 2016 [Xinhua]

Damaged ancient architectures are seen in Palmyra in central Syria, on April 1, 2016 [Xinhua]

Russia has criticised demands for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down saying this restricts perspectives for political settlement in the war-torn country.

Russia will “never find common ground” with Washington and others who are forwarding Syrian settlement under the motto ‘Assad must resign”, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Monday.

The issue should be decided later by the sides involved in the Syrian conflict, Ryabkov added.

“We will never find common ground on the matter not only because it contradicts our entire foreign policy doctrine, under which regime change, ‘color revolutions’ and social engineering from the outside are unacceptable, but also simply because such a condition leaves no future for any political process,” Ryabkov told Russian agency Ria Novosti.

A fragile peace pact has held in Syria for over a month as opposing parties to the conflict try to negotiate an end to Syria’s civil war.

Moscow says Washington’s rejection of Damascus as “a legitimate partner” creates problems.

“Like in many cases before Palmyra [liberation] we feel that Washington’s approach depends upon certain priorities and preferences,” Ryabkov said.

“That is why, unfortunately, our Western colleagues, and not only Western, are so obsessed with Bashar Assad and the demonization of the Syrian government that … they fail to comply with the requirements of corresponding UNSC resolutions to the full extent,” he added.

Syrian and allied forces backed by Russian air strikes drove Islamic State militants out of the town of al-Qaryatain, near the ancient city of Palmyra, on Sunday, Syrian military said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been trying to retake al-Qaryatain and other pockets of the Daesh (Islamic State) control to reduce the terrorist group’s ability to project military power into the heavily populated western region of Syria.

Islamic State militants have retreated from Palmyra after an offensive by the Syrian military and Russian air strikes.


TBP and Agencies

Ukraine – the Precious Deadwood of the EU

345345345444It is curious how, as April 6 approaches – the day of the referendum on the approval of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine in Netherlands – two increasingly confrontational parties are starting to appear, although the referendum is purely advisory in nature and therefore not binding. So it remains to be seen whether those who are voicing reasonable concerns are going to get an upper hand or will Washington apply enough financial and political pressure to obtain the result it wants, instead of allowing people to decide for themselves.

The US has been heavily engaged in the struggle for Ukraine for some time now, aiming at tearing this state away from Russia and in turn, invest heavily into anti-Russian sentiments. This policy is being actively supported by certain American financial circles, who seek to obtain an impressive return on their “investments”, by getting control over fertile Ukrainian lands where they will be able to produce GMO crops, while paying no heed to legislation in the neighboring EU and Russia. Monsanto couldn’t care less if its products bring health issues and premature death to the people of Ukraine, as long as it can get a healthy profit out of it.

In a rush to get their share of the Ukrainian “pie,” Western businessmen, politicians and military contractors have already gotten themselves a red carpet rolled out in Ukraine before them, taking advantage of the corrupt nature of the sitting Kiev regime. By the way, the fact that Washington has deliberately installed this particular reign of corruption currently presiding over Ukraine has been noted by numerous Western media sources like The New York Times. It has also been frankly noted by Forbes that the sitting Ukrainian president received one hundred million dollars over the last year alone at the height of a bitter economic crisis in Ukraine.

Representing not only US political interests but his own personal welfare as well, US Vice President Joe Biden has got most of his relatives engaged in the teardown of Ukraine as well, by establishing hand-in-hand with his son, an array of US-Ukrainian companies. A number of US journalists are however convinced that this step is not simply violating Ukrainian laws, but American ones as well.

To protect their own interests, the financial and political elites of the US have installed a Neo-Nazi government in Ukraine over two years, a step that has been carefully documented by prominent alternative media source, Global Research. Unfortunately, the result of this “experiment” turned out to be truly disappointing – thousands of civilians have been massacred in the east of the country, since Kiev didn’t hesitate to turn heavy artillery and cluster bombs on the civil population they were allegedly sworn to protect. Those who survived have consistently been deprived of drinking water, food supplies, heat, and electricity. There’s ongoing genocide of the ethic Russian population being carried out by these so-called authorities under the very nose of the international community.

It is therefore not surprising that US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau urged Dutch voters to support the association agreement days before the vote. It’s even less surprising that American billionaire George Soros has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a propaganda campaign in favor of the association agreement with Ukraine across the EU, while applying a considerable amount of pressure on Holland’s officials.

One should draw their attention to the fact that we are witnessing two persistent attempts to accede to the EU, which are being pushed forward by states seeking accession, namely Ukraine and Turkey along with the overseas sponsors of these states. For the latter, the possible damage from this process bears minimum political risks. As for the potential damage to the EU, it can be quite considerable since it will be swarmed by both radicals and migrants once the gates are opened.

In recent months, Ukraine and Turkey have both been promoting bilateral contacts at the highest political level in a bid to promote mutual support of one another’s foreign and domestic policy. Behind the scenes, agreements reached between Poroshenko and Erdogan are astonishingly cynical toward both Middle Eastern migrants and Ukrainians, since the Ukrainian leader proposed to accommodate migrants in several regions of Ukraine. However, it seems doubtful that those displaced souls will have the desire to stay for long in a Neo-Nazi-controlled territory, so it’s clear that they will be making attempts to cross over the poorly protected Ukrainian border with the EU, thus creating yet another major headache for EU officials.

Therefore, the referendum in the Netherlands coming April 6 will be, to a certain extent, a test of the ability of EU citizens to make independent decisions that are based on their own best interests.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Pre-orders of Tesla Model 3 hit almost 200K in 24 hours

Those interested in the car were asked to place a $1,000 deposit on the vehicles, which would help in the production costs, and this certainly hasn’t deterred people with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk taking to Twitter on Friday to say that pre-orders had hit 180,000.

A short while later, Musk tweeted again to say the orders had continued to roll in with a total of 198,000 now placed.

With each car averaging at a cost of $42,000 that means that, if these reservations translate into actual sales once the car is delivered, Tesla would take in over $8.3 billion

With figures like that, it’s no surprise that Musk tweeted to say that the “future of electric cars [is] looking bright.”

Musk added that he would “recommend ordering soon, as the wait time is growing rapidly,” while also saying that they were “definitely going to need to rethink production planning.”

At the car’s unveiling on Thursday, Musk detailed how the car will be able to go at least 215 miles per charge and go from 0 to 60mph in less than six seconds, which left many thrilled.

Some have called Tesla the Apple of the automotive world. 

Others also complimented Musk on his interaction with Twitter users after the product launch, with the company head answering various questions posed to about the car on the social network.

One question raised after the Model 3’s unveiling involved the source of all the lithium for the batteries used to power the cars. 

Musk said during the launch that the company’s so-called Gigafactory will produce more lithium batteries than all other facilities combined, and at a cheaper cost, although no major deals with lithium producers have been announced. 

However, a number of big producers of lithium have already said they’re not willing to supply the metal at the prices Tesla has demanded.

As evidenced in the number of people interested, the demand for the highly sought-after metal can only increase, which in turn will make it more expensive.

With 70 percent of the world’s known lithium reserves currently found in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, the global lithium market is already approaching a shortage, Fortune reported, although there are hopes that the United States’ only operating lithium mine, located in Nevada, may be home to as yet undiscovered lithium.

Spying in St Louis: US spy agency HQ to be built in Missouri city

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) hopes to build its new western HQ in north St Louis, where it was offered free land on the site of the failed Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex.

The failed projects were demolished in the 70s, when many African-Americans residents moved to nearby Ferguson, now infamous as the city where teenager Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. 

READ MORE: Protesters gather in Ferguson to remember 1st anniversary of Michael Brown killing (VIDEO)

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner had hoped to entice the spy agency to the Prairie State by also offering free land, but the spy agency chose to remain in St Louis.

The competition between the two states has drawn attention to the government spying agency which has enjoyed a far lower profile than that of the NSA, the CIA and other elements of the US’s large intelligence apparatus. 

So what exactly is the NGA? 

The NGA is part of the Department of Defense and works with the CIA and the Air Force to provide intelligence that is largely geographical in nature. 

Established in 1996, the agency was known as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency until 2003. It provides geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT to the Pentagon and the intelligence community. NGA also provides combat support, mapping and satellite imagery.

Its main headquarters are in Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

According to the NGA, “anyone who sails a U.S. ship, flies a U.S. aircraft, makes national policy decisions, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on NGA.”

The agency credits itself with providing the strategic intelligence “that allows the president and national policymakers to make crucial decisions on counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, global political crises and more.”

The NGA also claims to “defend the nation against cyber threats” by providing support to other intelligence agencies.

According to the agency, “NGA was integral in helping the Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community pinpoint the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, where bin Laden was residing.” 

Although Seymour Hersch’s investigation into his capture stated that a former Pakistani intelligence agent had provided the location in return for the $25 million reward offered by the US, the NGA did provide mapping of the compound and created a replica of the building to help plan the raid.

© nga.mil

Documents released by former government contractor Edward Snowden showed the NGA received $4.9 billion of the US’s ‘black budget’ in 2013, double its funding in 2004. In comparison, the CIA received $14.7 billion and the NSA $10.8 and their budgets increased by 56 and 53 percent, respectively.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper worked as director of the NGA for five years, from 2001 to 2006. Clapper began working there two days after 9/11 and recalled how they “dramatically altered the organization and outlook of the Agency” over a long weekend.

“Our nation, and our Agency, was fully engaged in a war and we had no choice but to focus on doing the best we could,” he said.

The NGA played a role in providing the data used to create the false weapons of mass destruction narrative that the US used as the reason to invade Iraq.

Pig heads dumped at Moroccan ambassador’s home amid anti-Muslim hate crime spike in France

The animals’ severed heads were left hanging on the fence outside the ambassador’s premises located in Neuilly-sur-Seine to the west of Paris.

“The pig’s heads were discovered by security staff on Thursday at 9:00am. The ambassador was present,” a police source told AFP.

The embassy filed an official complaint, but warned against jumping to conclusions.

Pig heads dumped outside Muslim school in Lancashire treated as hate crime

“We don’t want to interpret this act, it’s up to the authorities to investigate,” an embassy official said.

The head of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and the Morocco-linked Group of Muslims in France (RMF), Anouar Kbibech, called the attack a “desecration” and a “provocation” which has “moved up a level.”

Kbibech believes an “unhealthy atmosphere” reigns in France, “in which Muslims are the target of acts of stigmatization.”

The incident should be classified as a hate crime, an international political consultant Cecile le Roux told RT, calling it “an insult in very poor taste”.

“It must have been a very shocking sight indeed,” she added.

Incidents involving pigs’ heads are not unusual. In the past few years pigs’ heads have been discovered in several cities across France and frequently found outside of mosques.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been running high in the French population after the November terror attacks in Paris claimed the lives of more than 130 people.

READ MORE: Over 150 killed as Paris rocked by coordinated shootings, explosions 

Hate crimes against Muslims in France have tripled since the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015. More than 400 incidents of an “Islamophobic” nature were recorded by authorities in 2015, compared to 133 reported the previous year.

Turkey’s Civil War: Authoritarian Stability vs Separatist Terrorism

turk4-704x481In last year’s November Surprise, the Justice and Development Party (or AKP) solidified its position at the helm of Turkey’s ship, capitalizing on its supposed proven economic track record and firm stance in the face of separatist terrorism. The country is now still being led by the dynamic duo of Tayyip Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, respectively Turkey’s President (or Prez) and wily PM (or Wily). Both men appear more determined than ever to enforce their vision of Turkey’s future, as a country once again ruled by charismatic strongmen and united in its devotion to Sunni Islam.

Kurds attack Ankara: TAK vs AKP

But now Kurdish suicide bombers (or terrorists, if you will) have twice struck Turkey’s capital Ankara in quick succession (on 17 February and 13 March 2016, respectively). The authorities immediately associated these two deadly attacks with the names of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or Kurdistan Workers’ Party), active in Turkey, and the PYD (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat or Democratic Union Party), active in Syria. In this way, the AKP-led government seemed to acknowledge the existence of a causal link between the terrorist attacks and its military operations in the South-East of the country that have been continuing for many months now. The official rationale behind these fierce military operations is the Turkish state’s desire to bring an end to the armed struggle with Kurdish separatists, a struggle whose beginnings hark back to the 1980s and that was actually in the process of a peaceful resolution when the ceasefire was brought to a sudden end following the supposedly inconclusive June 2015 elections. These operations amount to veritable exercises in collective punishment and have been described as “a vicious offensive against Kurdish citizens over the last eight months” by the West Yorkshire-based writer, poet and teacher employing the pseudonym Ed Sykes.

But rather than give the AKP-led government additional justification for continuing its “vicious offensive against Kurdish citizens,” the PKK did not claim responsibility in spite of the government’s best efforts. Instead, a little known Kurdish fraction known as TAK (the Teyrêbazên Azadiya Kurdistan or the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons) released the following statement on the internet (17 March 2016): “On the evening of March 13, a suicide attack was carried out . . . in the streets of the capital of the fascist Turkish republic. We claim this attack.” The online message also contained the following explanation: “[t]his action was carried out to avenge the 300 Kurds killed in Cizre as well as our civilians who were wounded. We would like to apologise for the civilian losses which had nothing to do with the dirty war being waged by the fascist Turkish republic.” Furthermore, the internet missive elucidated that “[o]ur unit targeted state forces in Ankara, the stronghold of fascism and barbarism, to bring the AKP government that massacred Kurds in Cizre to account on a revolutionary basis. However, the police intervention on our unit which came as it advanced toward the target, resulted in civilian casualties. We therefore voice sadness over the loss of civilians that have no connection with those pursuing this dirty war.” And, in an apparent attempt to garner some sympathy the following was added: “[i]n the atmosphere that has been created as a result of civilian losses after our action, we hope that public opinion will understand the pains suffered by the Kurdish people who are being massacred savagely, and whose bodies are burned, displayed and not given to families. Even this savagery alone is a reason for Kurdistan Freedom Falcons to seek revenge.” In fact, the TAK had earlier also claimed responsibility for the first Ankara blast (17 February), explaining that the attack had come in response to the AKP government’s military crackdown in the South-East. In view of this state terror and the concomitant terrorist reaction, some voices have already come out to say the unspeakable. Voices, such as the one belonging to Kamuran Yüksek, the co-chair of the Democratic Regions Party (or DBP), a sister-party of the nationally recognized HDP (or Peoples’ Democratic Party), led by the co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. Already at the end of last January, Yüksek told the press that “the country could descend into a civil war,” and adding that “[w]e are already in such a situation, more or less.”

The Beyoğlu Blast: The Civil War moves West or a Caliphal Intervention?!??

And now terrorism has struck at the cultural and commercial heart of the country, as a “[s]uicide bomber kills four, wounds 36 in Istanbul shopping district,” on Saturday, 19 March 2016, as reported by the news agency Reuters. This audacious act hit the famous İstiklal Caddesi (or Independence Avenue), a pedestrian mall in the now-fashionable district of Beyoğlu, adjacent to the by now world-famous Taksim Square, and home to many brand name outlets as well as being a cultural hub in its own right, a hub where many locals and foreigners alike congregate and spend money: “Turkish media said three Israelis and one Iranian were killed, while two of the Israelis were also named by Washington as US citizens.” The fact that this suicide attack came quickly after the latest Ankara blast could lead to the conclusion that the spectre of a “civil war” in Turkey is now slowly turning into a reality, a new reality that has the country’s Kurds, or rather separatist or terrorist organizations of Kurdish provenance fight the AKP-led government of the country in an all-out guerilla campaign that takes no prisoners and kills civilians and soldiers, citizens and foreigners alike. But, as was the case with the seemingly random suicide attack on the Hippodrome in Istanbul’s tourist district of Sultanahmet last January, the authorities swiftly dismissed any Kurdish link and instead pointed the finger at Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Islamic State (or ISIS). And, as has become the Turkish norm by now, the authorities imposed a media blackout, so that journalistic investigation all but turned to speculation and conspiracy-mongering, leaving the official narrative intact and unquestioned.

By means of DNA evidence the Turkish authorities have since quickly identified the Beyoğlu suicide bomber as a young man named Mehmet Öztürk, whom the media now describe as an “ISIS militant.” The security forces have now also taken Öztürk’s father and brother into custody. Turkey’s Interior Minister Efkan Ala has told the press that “[t]he available information indicates a link with the terror group [known as] Daesh [or ISIS or the IS]. Whether other links and other powers were behind [the attack] is a topic for investigation. There is no search record available on the person [in question].” In other words, the appearance of Mehmet Öztürk as a caliphal operative active in Turkey is basically a matter of conjecture. Other terror acts perpetrated by ISIS in other locations are usually followed by some kind of subsequent claim of responsibility. But in Turkey, ISIS terror tends to remain unclaimed. For instance, the spectacular Brussels attacks of 22 March, that quickly succeeded the Beyoğlu blast, were claimed in due time. This “coordinated terror attack,” claiming the lives of at least 31 victims, in addition to the two suicide bombers, was subsequently owned by the Islamic State (or ISIS/Daesh), attributing its execution to a “security group from the soldiers of the caliphate,” before issuing a severe threat: “What is coming is worse and more bitter, God permitting.” In the same way, following the Sultanahmet attack, the IS carried out an attack on the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, executed by at “least five militants.” These actions were also immediately claimed by the terror group previously known as ISIS via the services of the Amaq News Agency, which openly supports the Caliph and his IS.

Suicide Terrorism: LTTE, PKK TAK

In contrast, both supposed IS-orchestrated Istanbul attacks (12 January and 19 March 2016) remained unclaimed, which did not stop the Turkish authorities from accusing the Caliph and his henchmen. On the other hand, the Ankara attacks have clearly shown that Kurdish terrorists are now equally capable of deploying suicide commandos though their ideological belief system does not hold the promise of 72 virgins in the afterlife. Instead, the TAK is now operating on the same wavelength as the erstwhile Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (or LTTE, meaning Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). According to the Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, prepared under the direction of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the “LTTE ha[d] a suicide unit, The Black Panthers [consisting] of both men and women that direct[ed] their attacks primarily against senior government and military personnel. Between July 1987 and February 2000, the LTTE carried out approximately 168 suicide attacks in Sri Lanka and India killing and wounding thousands of innocent bystanders.” Today the LTTE have ceased to exist, as the Sri Lankan government smashed the group militarily in March 2009.

Even though the LTTE was “the most effective and brutal organization to utilize this form of terrorism,” Turkey’s PKK has in time also resorted to this tactic. The Senior Research Fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Yoram Schweitzer relates that the “PKK has carried out a total of 21 suicide attacks or attempted attacks (15 attacks were actually carried out and 6 were intercepted). Its suicide campaign started on 30 June 1996 and ceased on 5 July 1999 at the decision of its leader Abdullah Öcalan [in captivity since 15 February 1999]. This terror campaign caused relatively low casualties: 19 were killed and 138 were wounded.” But now, the TAK, as the only Kurdish group to claim publicly that it is continuing a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state, has apparently decided to continue this relatively short-lived PKK tactic. And, it seems, the TAK is more effective in its execution of suicide missions, apparently following in the footsteps of the LTTE. And in this context, it is interesting and ominous to read in the Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century that the Tamil Tigers were “the only organization that succeeded in assassinating two heads of states. Former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi was killed in May 1991 by a female suicide bomber and Sri Lanka President Prendesa was killed in 1993 by a male suicide bomber.” The LTTE’s ideological superstructure was also based upon the principles of geographical separatism and (Tamil) nationalism, as the Tamil Tigers fought for the “oppressed Tamil people” in order to save them from the “chauvinist Sinhala regime,” in place on the island of Sri Lanka, as expressed by the Tamil extremist Fr. Emmanuel, S.J. Could these things now mean that the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons have decided to become a Turkish version of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam?? And should the Prez and Wily now start worrying seriously about their own safety??

Civil War as a Real Prospect

The Turkish state has effectively been at war in the south-eastern part of Anatolia’s territory for many months now. Even though casual observers might think that sheer and unadulterated nationalism lies behind the fighting, the reality on the ground proves quite different. It seems that the AKP leadership’s promises of continued stability induced a great majority of the voting public to cast their ballots in favour of the PM Ahmed Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan. As such, some would even argue that the sudden breakdown of the ceasefire with the PKK and the discontinuation of the Kurdish Peace Process were directly linked to the AKP’s election campaign and Erdoğan’s grand-standing, trying to prove that he alone would be able to unite and pacify the nation. That the Prez and his AKP would be able to unite and pacify the country as a nation of believers, firmly dedicated to Sunni Islam able to supersede mere ethnic or national ties and solidarity. The notorious Islamophobic director of the Middle East Forum Daniel Pipes rightly points out that the dynamic duo Erdogan-Davutoglu’s dangerous gamble has now brought the country “to the point that civil war has become a real prospect.” As a result, I would argue that the Turkish government has now taken compete control of the nation’s news’ media in order to propagate its own narrative. The message being driven home now is that AKP-led Ankara is doing all it can to bring peace and tranquility to the South-East, but is somehow being outsmarted by foreign players. such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his IS. And that the spectre of civil war is nothing but a chimera, a fancyful fantasy that does not fit into Turkey’s AKP narrative . . . the Prez himself has after all declared last year that “[i]f there are [people] who are expecting a civil war, then they belong to a network of treason. Treason.” And in this way, in Turkey, reality gives way to faith . . . faith in the figure of Tayyip Erdoğan and his ability to shape the Turkish narrative in his own image.

Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent scholar residing in İstanbul, with a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans and the Greater Middle East, , especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Palmyra mass grave: Tortured women & children among dozens of ISIS victims unearthed by Syrian Army

The grave was discovered by engineers and “popular defense forces” in the Masakin al-Jahizia neighborhood of the city, which lies only 500 meters from the ancient ruins, SANA reports

So far the army has recovered 25 corpses. Among those killed by IS were three children and five females. As the excavation proceeded, 15 more corpses were unearthed – all of them women and children.

ISIS kills 400, mostly women children, in Palmyra – Syrian state TV

Initial examination of the bodies revealed that some of the victims had been beheaded while other had been brutally tortured before their deaths.

The army continues to excavate the mass grave, fearing that more bodies may be found.

Engineering units continue their search for landmines and explosives as thousands were hidden by the jihadists before they were driven out of the city with the help of the Russian forces working with the Syrian Army.

Russian combat engineers arrived in Palmyra on Thursday with special robotic units to offer their expertise in detecting and dismantling mines in an area comprising over 180 hectares (445 acres), to save the UNESCO world heritage site, and help locals to return safely.

“At least 3,000 explosive devices were installed in the city,” the sapper explained to RT. He said IS created an almost invisible interconnected network, partially hidden under hard paved roads, which could blow up the entire city.

READ MORE:Palmyra booby-trap: ISIS had 3,000 bombs rigged, ready to level entire city with one click

A strategically important location, Palmyra was seized by IS jihadists in May 2015. That month, IS reportedly slaughtered 400 people, mostly women and children. At the time, Reuters reported that a video posted by IS’ supporters showed the militants entering governmental buildings in search of Syrian soldiers. They were also seen pulling down pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez Assad.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: the Balance of Relations

45345345For the second time in 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, paid an official visit to Riyadh in March. He took part in the closing ceremony of the Northern Thunder military exercise in the Saudi desert. The intensity of the visits is dictated by the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in the foreign policy of Pakistan, as well as the need to maintain a balanced approach to the countries of the region as a whole, given the recent intensification of relations with Iran. It is noteworthy that it is also the second time that the Prime Minister was accompanied by Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif on a foreign trip to the KSA. Much remains yet to be clarified.

Military contacts between Islamabad and Riyadh have been maintained for several decades. The first bilateral agreements were signed back in the 60’s; in the 80’s, two teams of Pakistani ground troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the commands of the two capitals hold annual joint military exercises, for example, Al Shihab-1 in 2015.

Despite the significant financial support from the KSA of social, economic, military and other projects in Pakistan, the relationship between the royal dynasty and the military and civil administration of Islamabad were not always smooth. The most recent failure occurred in March 2016. The royal family appealed to the Prime Minister, N. Sharif (and he publicly promised) to post part of the Pakistani army in the zone of military conflict in Yemen against Huthis Shiite in support of the KSA. But after ten days under the pretext of protecting only the holy places, the National Assembly of Pakistan (the lower house of parliament) refused. The Pakistani media wrote about a certain pressure the generals applied to parliamentarians.

The latest of Riyadh’s military appeals to Islamabad, announced in December 2015 as part of an alliance of 34 countries to combat the terrorist threat in the region, once again caused a lot of questions from the military leadership of Pakistan, as well as Malaysia and Lebanon about the goals and objectives of the new military campaign, the place and role of each participating country. For a long time, issues remained unclear related to the operational strategy, antiterrorist working methods, management, control and composition of the proposed cooperation. For two months, Islamabad did not comment. Sharif’s visit to Riyadh in March lifted the veil. According to the Pakistani media, Rawalpindi (the location of the Army headquarters) plans for its participation to include the exchange of intelligence information, the supply of military equipment and the development of counter-extremist propaganda.

Pakistan once again refused to participate in the armed conflict, putting forward several arguments: first, the reluctance to get involved in a so-called “foreign” war; secondly, the desire to avoid the explosion of separatist and sectarian movements within Pakistan; and thirdly, that new and promising markets (Iran) and possibilities are opening up, given the recent geopolitical developments in the region.

In the February issue of this year’s Pakistani military magazine Hilal, the author of the article entitled Balanced Approach Towards the Middle East underlines the importance as never before, of the diplomatic efforts to solve the “raging” conflicts. It’s hard not to agree with Mr. Masood Khan and his statement: “it is not clear, in which direction the Middle East will move in 2016 … fine balancing is required … in order to prevent a major war in the region, protect our interests and save Pakistan from sectarian faults.” Thus, in contradiction to the centrifugal tendencies conducted by KSA in the vast region, Pakistan, on the contrary, promotes and supports centripetal forces. Its policy of non-participation in armed conflict puts obstacles in the way of splits, the formation of secessionist movements and / or fragmentation of its territory. Islamabad experienced the disease of separatism in 1971, allowing the separation of the Eastern Province and the proclamation of the independent Republic of Bangladesh on the territory in 1973.

At the same time, Pakistan is aware of the need to preserve traditional solidarity with the Saudi royal family, yet maintain that the time of its leadership in the region is in the past.

Islamabad is opening itself to radically new transnational projects of the 21st century in the region. Islamabad regards rapprochement with Tehran as a positive direction, despite the fact that, in general, Teheran’s step towards the Western world has made the region “feverish” (in the words of Mr. Masood Khan). In February 2016, Pakistan also lifted sanctions against Iran, supporting the decision of the “Six” (the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany). In addition to the prospective energy and hydrocarbon supplies to the country, Pakistan is set to earn a huge profit by using its strategic geographical position. The area will act as a transport bridge from the Chinese border and further to Central Asia, Iran, and then to the West under the revived China’s Silk Road project (one belt – one road). In February 2016, Beijing and Tehran signed a series of agreements.

Despite the fact that in January 2016 the Minister of Defense of the KSA rejected the mediation efforts of Pakistan in resolving the crisis with Iran (after the rift in diplomatic relations in early January 2016), Islamabad, for various reasons, remains one of Riyadh’s few opportunities to maintain civilized dialogue with Tehran and to stabilize the situation in the region.

The position of neutrality, which Pakistan upholds, and above all, the Army generals (given that the Pakistani army is one of the strongest in the region), is a guarantee their own security.

At the same time, the Northern Thunder military exercise (participated in by 21 states), led by the KSA, is a kind of demonstration of military force of the Sunni wing of Islam to the Shiites, in particular the leadership of Iran and the Yemeni Huthis.

The non-interference policy of a number of states in the region, in particular, Islamabad, is a deterrent to the further military ambitions of the new leaders of the Saudi dynasty and thus counteracts the emerging destabilization mechanisms. The Middle East will not sustain another armed conflict.

Natalia Zamaraeva, Ph.D (History), Senior Research Fellow, Pakistan section, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Armenia, Azerbaijan accuse each other of sharp Karabakh escalation with tanks, artillery & aircraft

Both Azeri and Armenian defense ministries accused each other of provoking the escalation. Azerbaijan said Armenian troops opened fire 127 times over 24 hours along the border. They were using mortars and heavy machine guns, the statement released on Saturday morning said.

Armenia said Azeri troops went on the offensive overnight and were using tanks artillery and military aircraft.

Militias in the unrecognized Karabakh republic, the focal point of the conflict, claimed they shot down two Azeri helicopter gunboats and a drone and destroyed two tanks. Azerbaijan has denied those reports.

Azerbaijan reported, “destroying a large number of enemy forces, hardware and military infrastructure” during the clashes. Armenia said Karabakh military “caused significant casualties and pushed the enemy back.” 

Yerevan distinguishes its own armed forces from those of the breakaway republic, while Baku considers them all Armenian.

The two countries blamed each other for triggering the escalation.

“The responsibility for the situation is fully on Armenia, the aggressor and occupier nation,” the Azeri Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Armenia said it condemned the actions of the “Azerbaijan military along the engagement line with Nagorno Karabakh and the border with Armenia.” Both accused their rival of targeting civilians in Azerbaijan and Karabakh respectively.

Several military reported dead in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalation

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on all sides in the conflict to immediately cease hostilities, the Kremlin spokesman said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow was in contact with other members of the OSCE Minsk group, which is tasked with monitoring the Karabakh truce, and was closely watching the development of the situation.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu held emergency phone talks with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts to discuss how the situation can be defused, the ministry said in a statement.

The two former soviet republics are locked in a decades-long conflict over Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian mountainous region that was part of Azerbaijan, but broke away in 1988.

The region declared independence in 1991, with a bloody three-year war following it. Russia brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994, but the tensions have never actually stopped since then and there is occasional violence.

The mutual distrust between Armenia and Azerbaijan is rooted in a long history of ethnic and religious conflicts in the region as well as their participation in the rivalry of regional heavyweights – the Turks, the Russians and the Persians over the centuries.

Both nations had their first bid for statehood in the wake of the collapse of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Among other things their independence resulted in a war in 1918. When Moscow reinstated its control over the region, the conflict was swept under the rug, but never fully extinguished.

The current escalation comes amid the standoff between Russia and Turkey over the Syrian conflict. Ankara supports Azerbaijan, while Armenia is an ally of Moscow.

The Mysterious Letter: Is Washington Plotting Against Xi Jinping?

45645645654On March 4th, a short, anonymous letter was posted on the internet. In a few paragraphs, the letter raised the same criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping that is constantly raised in the western press: accusing him of “centralizing power” and breaking away from “collective leadership.” The letter further accused Xi of antagonizing the United States and mismanaging China’s affairs. The letter condemned Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, saying it made government bureaucrats afraid to do their work. It also condemned Xi’s call for tighter control of government media, and, with words that have been described as “bombastic”, demanded that he step down.

The author or authors of the letter, who signed it simply as “Loyal Communist Party Members,” have so far remained anonymous. While very little information about the letter has been discovered, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: the western press loves it. After columnist Jia Jia was briefly detained and released, the western press speculated, without any evidence, that this was somehow related to this mysterious publication.

As of March 28th, the western press continues to talk about the letter and promote unsubstantiated claims about arrests related to it. Wen Yunchao, a professional anti-China dissident based in New York City, claims his family was arrested in retaliation for the letter. The US press is repeating Wen’s claim almost as if it is a known fact, despite the reality that neither Wen Yunchao nor his arrested relatives are members of the Communist Party.

This letter could represent as few as a single party cadre, assuming its author or authors are even part of the 86 million-strong Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As an organization following the “party of a new type” model pioneered by Lenin, the CCP presents a unified public face and keeps its arguments internal. Despite the Party’s reputation for iron-clad discipline, any organization with 86 million members can be expected to have, at least, a few internal disagreements.

Criticism of the Chinese government is coming from many different places. While China’s economy has rapidly grown in the last several decades and living standards are improving across the country, this prosperity has not been evenly distributed. While the wages of industrial workers have substantially increased in the last decade, a small number of Chinese people have become millionaires and billionaires. A large number of Chinese Communists feel that the market sector has too much power and has undermined the revolution. President Xi’s crackdown on corruption, which is highly popular among the Chinese people, is driven by widespread frustration with the rise of economic inequality.

While the millions of Chinese “hardliners” and “neo-Maoists” have been the subject of a few articles in “The Economist,” and portrayed as dangerous in the New York Times, their critiques of Chinese leadership for not being revolutionary or communist enough have never received anything near the amount of publicity given to this mysterious letter.

In addition to the anonymous letter, the western media has also magnified the grievances of employers and newly wealthy people. A number of Chinese capitalists think the government is far to friendly to working class. The March 10th edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted a real-estate chairman as saying: “China, as a developing country, has adopted labor laws of a European welfare state… businesses have been hurt.

What Has Xi Done?

Yum Brands is a fast-food conglomerate based in the US state of Kentucky. The reality of China’s market reforms was shown to world when Yum subsidiaries Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut first set-up shop in Beijing during the 1980s. The owners of the Kentucky-based corporation are announcing that they now intend to sell off the Chinese wing of their business. Why? Reports cite “turbulence stemming from food safety scares.”

“Food Safety Scares” is an unmistakable reference to the crackdown on Yum’s Chinese meat supplier, OSI, which made global headlines. The Chicago-based meat corporation, which partners with Yum Brands in distributing meat to its restaurants across the Chinese mainland, was caught intentionally serving rotten meat in 2014. Leaders of OSI were dragged out of their offices in handcuffs, and some executive officers are now in prison for endangering the public.

The crackdown on OSI has become symbolic of Xi’s reorientation toward foreign capitalists. In the USA, officials who serve rotten meat might be forced settle a class action lawsuit, or perhaps pay a heavy punitive fine. But in Xi Jinping’s China, wealthy corporate executives and business owners are not insulated from the rule of law.

Immediately after taking office in 2013, one of Xi Jinping’s first moves was to arrest the wealthy mine owner Lui Han, who had been operating a mafia-like cartel, running casinos and illegal firearms while assassinating business rivals. When Lui Han and four of his collaborators were executed on February 9th, 2015, the world was reminded that in one country, even billionaires can be subject to the death penalty.

Xi’s “Mass Line” campaign has not only targeted corporate executives, but also CCP members who take bribes and enable corporate malfeasance. Government media has been essential in Xi’s campaign. Investigative journalists on state TV in Shanghai  were the ones who caught OSI serving rotten meat and exposed this scandal to the public. Party members who have been caught engaging in corruption are forced to apologize on national television, a revival of the “Jiantao Culture” that defined the Cultural Revolution.

The letter – so widely celebrated by in western media – is interpreted by the BBC as condemning Xi’s visits to Chinese media in February, in which he emphasized that “their primary duty was to obey the party.” He has also passed a new law restricting the activities of NGOs known to collaborate with the National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA.

Wall Street Fears ‘Cult of Personality’

Xi Jinping’s presidency has been a turning point in China, with the market sector facing far more regulation and discipline from the state. Much of the criticism of Xi Jinping invokes the phrase “cult of personality,” a term with loaded in history in the world communist movement.

In 1956, Khrushchev attacked Joseph Stalin, the recently deceased leader of the Soviet Union. The famous “secret speech” was applauded in the western press, as were his attempts to appease the United States and de-centralize the Soviet economy. It was in Khruschev’s 1956 denunciations of Stalin that the now widely used phrase “cult of personality” originated.

When Khruschev denounced Stalin’s “cult of personality,” he was denouncing what was an apparent source of Stalin’s political strength. From 1928 until 1954, Stalin was put forward as the public face of Soviet Communism. Representing the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Stalin was presented in Soviet media as a kind of the fatherly figure who carefully articulated the party’s goals and policies while charismatically inspiring people to carry them out.

In reality, Stalin was not a “dictator” in the way the term is commonly understood. The popular definition of the term is a misconception. At no point in history has one person ever had the time or ability to make every decision in running the affairs of any country. In no society, not even absolute monarchies, does any individual hold absolute power. Under all systems, leaders and ‘heads of state’ function as de facto representatives of a much larger faction or clique.

As a representative of the leadership of the Soviet state, Stalin excelled in tasks the party assigned him. The words he said on the radio and wrote in newspapers were vetted, trusted and obeyed. Pushed forward by Stalin’s “cult of personality” in the 1930s, the Soviet people raised their country to the status of an industrial world power. What was previously a primitive agrarian society became fully electrified, with running water and mechanized agriculture. In the 1940s, the Soviet people carried out world-renowned acts of bravery while defeating fascism. By the 1950s, the children of illiterate peasants had been educated in newly constructed universities, and grown up to become the scientists and engineers behind Sputnik.

Though Stalin’s “cult of personality’ was quite effective, it was something that many within the party bureaucracy disliked. It had the effect of establishing and enforcing almost a single, unified policy on the country. It removed the “wiggle room” and “gray area” in which gatekeepers, power-hungry bureaucrats, and cynically corrupt elements in any system can grow and thrive. Because of Stalin’s ability to mobilize the public, figures within the party bureaucracy were not free to exploit their privilege, or to flaunt the anti-capitalist goals of the revolution. The overwhelming majority of the individuals arrested and imprisoned during the so-called “Great Terror” of 1937 were not ordinary workers, but party bureaucrats.

While the Soviet Union was certainly much less “free” and “open” during the Stalin period, it was also far more impenetrable. The Soviet Union was brought down in 1991, after many decades of “de-Stalinization”; “openness” and “reform” had created a space for allies of western capitalism. As Xi tries to move China in a more anti-capitalist direction, the western press invokes Stalin and “Cult of Personality” rhetoric to attack him.

Much like the US right wing champions “state’s rights” as a way to weaken the federal civil rights legislation and protections for organized labor, the right wing of Chinese communism upholds “collective leadership” for the same reason. “Collective Leadership” is protecting the western capitalists and Chinese billionaires from feeling the brunt of a powerful state capable of controlling them and mobilizing the population.

Conspiracy Against ‘The Big Boss?’

Xi Jinping has begun to build a special relationship with the Chinese public. He is affectionately known as “The Big Boss”, and many see him as whipping the country back into shape and forcing private capitalists to obey the overall economic vision. A book of Xi’s speeches entitled “The Governance of China” has been published and widely circulated. Xi’s words are frequently quoted in the press, not just as the words of a political leader, but as ideological guidance. Not since Deng Xiaoping, Zhou En Lai or Mao Zedong has a living figure been treated with such reverence in China.

The anonymous letter, which is almost celebrated in the western press, may be completely irrelevant. The western press could be blowing it up into something far bigger than it is, hoping to discredit Xi and give the impression that he unpopular.

However, the letter could also indicate something more sinister. It is highly possible that Wall Street and the state department are maneuvering within China to depose Xi, and perhaps have allies within the party. It would certainly be to the benefit of many rich people in both the United States and China to replace Xi with more market-oriented leadership.

The letter and its trumpeting in western media could be a kind of call to rally the rightist factions, setting the stage for an attempted coup d’etat or intense confrontation within the party structure.

Chinese Communism is now facing many challenges, both on the international stage and among the Chinese people. As Xi continues to fight and restrict capitalism, strengthening “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” – and becoming more popular for doing so – the reaction from the rich and powerful is likely to grow more intense. The media fixation with the mysterious letter, the recent confrontations in the South China Sea, both coinciding with anti-China tirades from US Presidential candidates, all point to sharp confrontations ahead. 

Georgia Trafficks Weapons, and I Have the Documents, Claims Former Georgian Colonel

12674532_1024511274272032_1396604649_nAll governments are corrupt and to many, corruption is endemic to their function. Sadly, Georgia may well fall into this group. However, given Georgia’s strategic position, wars and rumour of wars on all sides, the role seemingly chosen for Georgia may put that nation into a category of its own, neither a simple rogue nation nor a total police state dictatorship, not yet anyway. But Georgia is a clear and present danger to the safety of the region, and with that, the entire world as well.

We begin our examination with Colonel Tristan Tsitelashvili, the famous commander of Georgia’s Avaza Batallion, once famous for its brutality and organised looting. The colonel is also a veteran of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-Russia wars over the breakaway regions of (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) in 2008.

Tsitelashvili was arrested the same year and convicted of buying, selling and using narcotics. He was sentenced to 7 years, but released with many other political prisoners as part of the general amnesty granted by the new Georgian government in 2012. After his release, I was able to meet, interview and eventually debrief him.

Tsitelashvili remains adamant that the accusations against him were fabricated because the former government wanted to get rid of him. He openly accuses former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his uncle Temur Alasania of making billions from arms trafficking and explains that this contributed to Georgia’s defeat in the 2008 war and subsequent loss of territory. He also claims current defence minister Tina Khidasheli is profiting from the same business.

Tsitelashvili still carries a weapon with him at all times, having a permit to do so, and maintains that this is necessary as because he can back up his serious allegations with documents. As further protection, he asked to be interviewed by Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for Veterans Today, so that he could go into more details than previously reported in the Georgian or international media.

Silverman has been able to check everything Tsitelashvili has alleged, and has investigated the same issues himself for many years and paperwork on fake end users going back to 2007. He has also recently been contacted by US Naval Intelligence, ostensibly to help a local US operative resolve, through non-official contact, some corruption issues concerning the Tbilisi biolab and Bechtel National. However NEO editorial staff suspect the US Navy’s real interest is in what Silverman knows about the Georgia’s involvement in providing material support to terrorists via illicit sales of stolen oil, a false flag gas attack in Syria, and proceeds from the sale of weapons.

Here is the interview transcript, as agreed with both parties, Silverman and Tsitelashvili.

Do you know anything about Bel Trading and Consulting?

Bel Trading and Consulting is a Ukrainian company based in the Seychelles. It was one of the companies allegedly tied to Viktor Bout, but we know now that claim was a red herring – it is really tied to the US ratline used to provide weapons to terrorists and others.

Bel is tied into the illegal weapons trade involving Ukraine, Georgia and the United States, and this is where many of the weapons and funds for so-called freedom fighters in Syria come from. The documents used to send them bear the same signatures as other shipments which you investigated years ago. You will find several common names, for instance, Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Mamuka Muriri, and Arkadii Almendiev, who is from Bel Trading and Consulting. Naturally this is John McCain’s boy. Some of this information can be found on US Embassy Cable 09STATE79547

I will provide you with a list of all the freight forwarding companies involved. Some of the information will connect with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now wants to be the next US president.

Georgia should realise that what is going on in Ukraine and Syria threatens its national security. We are right in the middle of this mess because we allowed our territory to be used for weapons trafficking by criminal gangs, not for geopolitical reasons.

What do you think about Tina Khidasheli?

She is an unprofessional Minister of Defence. The MOD needs serious reform, but I am not sure anything will change for the better any time soon; certainly not during her tenure. She has not only helped to falsify elections but given bonuses to military staff without justification, and someone should investigate how she is squandering the ministry’s budget.

What about the Georgian army and its weapons stock? Can Georgia defend itself?

We have serious problems in both the army and the defence system. Recruits are not being trained correctly and are not up to their jobs. The weapons supply is inadequate and the borders are not protected. We won’t be able to defend ourselves if there is any problem, but a lot of people want things to be this way, because it makes it easier to cause a mass disturbance.

When Irakli Alasania was defence minister Georgia wanted to buy an air defence system from France. These negotiations were reactivated by Khidasheli. Did she ever buy this system, and if so, did it enter Georgia?

This is a very interesting question. According to my information the system was bought but has never been delivered to Georgia. I can’t say any more at present, but a friend and I are working on it and we will make an announcement soon.

What do you know about the arms trafficking of previous years, and who was involved?

First, I can prove each word of what I will say here, as I have the documents. One of them is signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I don’t just throw words in the air.

According to my information, the arms trafficking began in 2007. Then-defence minister Davit Kezerahsvili spent 50 million dollars on defence systems from Ukraine, including specialist weapons systems, enough to equip a total of 9 divisions. These sales were mediated by Bel Trading and Ukrsexport. However Georgia received only 2 divisions of weapons, which were not part of the 9 agreed. The weapons delivered were completely different to the ones Georgia thought it had bought. In many cases the items delivered were unusable or so old that things were growing out of them.

How did this become known?

Ukraine was also supposed to send instructors with the weapons, who would train our troops in how to use them. They arrived at Poti from Ilichevsk. The Georgian defence staff gave them a supra, traditional dinners and so on and so forth, but finally the instructors reminded them that they had a job to do. When they saw what had been sent they were shocked, as they were expecting to see the weapons Georgia had bought.

What happened to the weapons purchased with Georgian money?

They went to Syria. Members of our previous government earned a lot of money from them. This was not the only case either.

In 2008, before the war, Georgia bought 40,000 small arms at a cost of $25 million. Only 5,000 of these were given to the army. The other 35,000 were put in storage in Gori, and according to my information they were then shipped to Venezuela. After the war, Georgian state officials said that these arms had been lost or taken by the Russians as trophies of war.

In that same year Georgia had 250 very expensive weapons, including heat seeking rockets, on standby in Kodoti. While the war was going on Vano Merabishvili, the Minister of Internal Affairs, ordered the troops to leave these weapons where they were, in pristine condition.

When you are losing a war you have two choices: you can either destroy your weapons or take them to a safe place so the enemy can’t get them. But Merabishvili had other intentions. The Russians came in helicopters and transported these weapons to Armenia, and once again, Georgia said they had been lost in battle.

So they were sold to Armenia?

No, according to my information these weapons were also sold to Syria. Saakashvili and his uncle earned more than a billion from this deal. There is a terminal in a Georgian airport called Karibche. Temur Alasania has long wanted to take control of this terminal, but someone else owns it. Former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania always prevented Alasania taking control of it as he knew what kind of plans Alasania had. Zhvania didn’t want Georgia to be used as a weapons transit country, because he was a real Georgian, he was smart and loved his homeland.

According to my information, before his death Zhvania held a meeting with Alasania which some state officials also attended. Zhvania once again expressed his opposition and Alasania responded, “OK, let’s see if I get the terminal.” Zhvania was dead less than a month later. I don’t believe the official version, I think he was murdered, and I know you agree with me.

Which officials, exactly, attended that meeting?

There were several of them, and they are well known to the public, but I can’t name them here. Alasania needed to conduct arms trafficking out of sight and without competition, and this is where the terminals such as those at Batumi and Poti ports came into play.

The head of the Navy at that time was Zurab Iremadze, a very decent person and a patriot. He was also against what Alasania was doing, and soon after he was found poisoned. Judge for yourself how that could have happened.

How do you know he was poisoned? Who gave you this information?

A soldier. I have been investigating his death for years and I know a lot of people. Georgia is a small country, it’s not difficult to find things like this out.

Whenever I say something I have the documents to prove it. This is why I was arrested in 2008. They tortured me in the Moduli building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a long time. They gave me a mock execution, pretending they were going to shoot me, and then did the same in the prison. In 2014 I was released as a political prisoner.

Did you try and meet state officials and give them your information after you were released?

Yes of course, I met Kbilashvili the Georgian prosecutor. I told him everything. He called people and told them that I knew a lot about a case they were working on and could help them. But then a lot of Saakashvili’s people, who are still working in different institutions, began terrorising my family and my friends’ families. The people working on the case started acting differently. So now, when we get information we spread it through the media. We ask everyone to help us spread it, and this protects us too.

How did you discover that the “lost” weapons had been sold to Venezuela and Syria?

After the war I got hold of a very interesting Russian document which lays out how many weapons they had seized in Georgia. It does not compare with Georgia’s official statements. For example, Georgia says the Russians took 50 weapons from Gori, but the Russians say they took 10. The numbers given are not even similar.

Former minister Berdzenishvili unconsciously helped reveal this dirty business by writing to US Ambassador John Tefft, asking him to find out why weapons Georgia had bought were not in the country.  Tefft asked Hillary Clinton to help, and she even sent FBI agents to Georgia to investigate. They immediately ordered all arms shipments to stop, including those to offshore companies, as they realised Georgia was involved in a massive weapons trafficking operation. However, their actions were more of a cover up than an effort to launch an investigation, and the very fact they met behind closed doors proves nothing was done for the sake of transparency and criminal justice.

As Georgia is an independent country, why did Berdzenishvili ask Tefft to solve this problem and not Georgian officials? Is it possible that the Americans were also involved?

We live in a world where corruption is everywhere, including Georgia and the US. America is divided into two parts, the supporters of Hillary Clinton and the supporters of John McCain. The first is really trying to do something and another is doing nothing. McCain supports Saakashvili and people like him. He earns money by provoking conflict and then making a profit off it. These profits are divided up, and nothing is left behind for all those killed in the process.

Two weeks ago WikiLeaks released the recording of Saakashvili chatting to McCain about Syria, Russia/US confrontation and terrorist attacks. What plans do you think he has?

McCain wants to take advantage of the situation in Syria to rebalance the world the way he wants. When all the attention is on Syria, no one will care about a small country like Georgia. But he has not been able to control the situation.

Saakashvili also thinks Syria will help him. While the world’s full attention is on Syria, the Islamic State and so forth, he has the chance to conduct a revolution and stage a comeback.

According to WikiLeaks, Tatarkhan Batirashvili is working for him. Is Batirashvili a Saakashvili supporter or simply a terrorist?

Tatarkhan Batirashvili, now allegedly dearly departed, was an experienced combatant, trained by the CIA. In 2008 he was arrested and sent to jail. Bacho Akhalaia was the defence minister then. I think there was some sort of confrontation between them, because when Batirashvili was released he went to Turkey and has never come back to Georgia. We now know why, and it has never been a secret, he had work to do there for the US government.

During Saakashvili’s time military trainings were held in Krtsanisi, a US-sponsored training facility, in which a number of young people were trained. Snipers and suicide bombers were also trained, at another base in the Norio woods. There were a lot of Chechens involved, and at that time at least 25 Chechens worked in the Moduli building, which houses Georgian counterintelligence.

What danger would Georgia face from a war between Russia and Turkey?

Turkey has made a huge mistake. They were only thinking about their own interests. Turkey has occupied us already, not with weapons but through the economy. Don’t think I am pro-Russian, but I’d prefer to have good relations with Russia than Turkey.

What kind of game is Ivanishvili playing?

I think Ivanishvili is trying to balance things. If Georgia changes its course, it might face serious problems. Even on Russian military maps South Ossetia and Abkhazia are shown as parts of Georgia. I believe that if we have a good relationship with Russia we will get our territories back. Russia also wants good relations with us, as no country wants NATO troops near its borders. Russia is having a difficult time internationally, almost everybody is against it. It doesn’t need more confrontation, and vice versa. If we become a neutral country everything will be OK.

How can Georgia be neutral when its territories were occupied several years ago?

Nothing is impossible. If we build a friendly and two-way relationship with Russia everything is possible.

Finally, why do you need to carry a weapon?

Many things are surfacing, for instance the history of the US administration’s links with Turkey, gas attacks, Bel Trading and Consulting, and the Grey Wolves, supporters of the Turkish regime, and their links to terrorists here in Georgia, which include moving people and equipment (arms and chemical components) into Turkey. The more things that surface, the more I need to defend myself, as I had documents proving these things long before they were known about.

Ukraine continues to deliver military equipment and ammunition to Georgia

After the end of the Georgian-South Ossetian war in 2008 Ukraine delivered military equipment to Georgia through the company “Ukrcpecekcport”. This included:

In addition, in September Ukraine is planning to send to Georgia: ten T-72 tanks, three BTR-80, twenty PZPK “IGLA-1”, forty PZPK “STRELA” also “RPG-7” rounds and 125 mm. PTYP “KOMBAT”.

In October Ukrcpecekcport intends to provide the Georgian side 12 new tanks T-84 “OPLOT” which are manufactured in the Kharkov factory called “Malisheva”. Georgia has paid 45 million Hryvnia in advance.

The Ukrainian side is also taking part in the delivery of presses with representatives of offshore company “Bel Trading and Consulting,” Antonenko Cergei Bailevich and Kicel Vladimir Aleksandrovich.

According the order of former President Yushchenko Ukrainexport group was to be responsible for delivering the cargo to Georgia. Part of this agreement includes transferring a large part of the proceedsfrom the sale of military equipment and ammunition to family members of President Yushchenko, and for this money to be deposited in foreign bank accounts. Exports of military equipment to Georgia according the agreement between two presidents (Ukrainian and Georgian) was negotiated at low prices. For compensation, former Georgian president Mikheil Sakashvili gave Viktor Yushchenko two “Land Rover” armoured vehicles in 2008 out of appreciation.

We now know why, and what we have found out thus far in this investigation is but the tip of the iceberg. It is especially revealing as to where these arms imports ended up, and how the proceeds from the sale were used in other operations, mainly covert operations. It is no wonder the CIA terrorists are fighting with those supported by the US Department Defence, DoD in Syria.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Belgium wants migrants to sign pledge to accept local values

Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken has drafted a document – “Newcomer’s statement.” The proposal is expected to be passed by parliament in the next few months, according to Reuters.

All non-EU immigrants and their children, who wish to stay in Belgium for longer than three months, will be asked “to respect the laws and democratic principles” and concede to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of sexual orientation. The obligation to sign the “Newcomer’s statement” does not apply to international students and asylum seekers.

“Every individual can decide not to adhere to any religion or deny his/her religion,” the draft says. “In this country we consider a relationship between two men and two women as equal to a relation between a woman and a man.”

“In this country men and women have the same rights and obligations … to education and work. Any adult, men or women, can freely choose, without pressure of his/her parents, his/her job, home and partner,” the document notes, in an apparent reference to Islamic culture, where obedience to parents’ or husband’s will is considered a virtue.

A Belgian police officer © Yves HermanHundreds of Belgians joined terrorists to fight in Syria – Interior Ministry

Immigrants would also be asked to agree to “do everything possible” to prevent any act of terrorism and report it to the police. And finally, integration into society is a “condition to continue to have a right to stay in Belgium,” while failing to integrate “endangers the granting or renewal of [one’s] residence permit.”

Officials say the proposal would guarantee immigrants’ willingness to adapt to local culture and values.

“Many people come to Belgium from countries with other values,” Francken’s spokesman Laurent Mutambayi told Reuters. “If they want to build their life here in Europe, (we have) no problem with that, but they have to sign this statement that they accept our values,” he added.

However, it is still unclear whether the statement will be legally binding. The proposal does not explain criteria to evaluate an immigrant’s adherence to those values and behavioral standards. Critics add that the tone of the document is biased and would fuel prejudice towards migrants.

“It’s an extra tool for the immigration office to keep some people out of Belgium,” said Didier Vanderslycke from ORBIT, an organization working on diversity and migration.

“The integration process can start when you have residence and not when you sign a document that you will integrate. It’s really a bad thing as a welcome for people,” he told Reuters.

For the proposal to be enshrined in law, it needs adoption by a simple majority at Belgium’s federal parliament and a signature of the government.

Zuma must repay millions in corruption ruling

The ANC is unlikely to pressure Zuma to step down after the court decision [Xinhua]

The ANC is unlikely to pressure Zuma to step down after the court decision [Xinhua]

South Africa’s 11-judge Constitutional Court – the country’s highest legal authority – has said that President Jacob Zuma was in breach of the constitution even after being ordered by a corruption investigation body to pay back $16 million in government funds he spent to renovate a personal home.

Zuma issued a statement reiterating his innocence in any wrongdoing, but his office later said that he would consider the ruling and then take appropriate action.

“The president will reflect on the judgement and its implications on the state and government, and will in consultation with other impacted institutions of state determine the appropriate action,” the government said in a statement made available to the media.

The case stems from the renovation of Zuma’s rural home in Nkandla in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province in 2010.

At the time, the costs reached $23 million.

A corruption case filed by opposition parties against the renovation came to a head in 2014 when the public protector said that Zuma had to repay a portion of the costs to the government.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday said that Zuma had “failed to uphold the law”.

Zuma’s African National Congress party said it respected the Constitutional Court’s decision but ruled out that the embattled president would step down – as opposition pundits have demanded – before the end of his term in 2019.

Zuma has been on the defensive since his abrupt sacking of South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replacing him with David van Rooyen, who is considered an unknown in the industry.

Opposition parties appear to have been emboldened by the court’s decision Thursday. They announced they would hold street protests demanding Zuma step down.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Russia and China in Kazakhstan: Balance of Power

34534544When visiting Kazakhstan in 2013, Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked about the New Silk Road project (NSR) envisioning it running across the entire Central Asia, making it not only the longest, but also the most lucrative transport route connecting Asia to Europe. According to Xi Jinping, participation in the project of the Republic of Kazakhstan—China‘s long-term dependable partner—would be extremely important.

Kazakhstan and China have historically shared many economic and cultural ties. And it is quite natural, since the two countries have a common (nearly 2 thousand km long) border. Besides, Kazakhstan’s geographic location affords it to serve as a link connecting China, Central Asia and the Middle East. The ancient Silk Road also passed through the territory of today’s Kazakhstan. Nowadays systems of railways and highways and networks of oil- and gas pipelines sprawling across Kazakhstan and China also interconnect them.

The goods turnover between the countries has reached $20 bn. China has also invested nearly $30 bn in Kazakhstan’s mining (Kazakhstan is extremely rich in mineral resources), transport and agricultural sectors of economy. Kazakhstan schedules to receive another infusion of funds of about the same amount pursuant to the agreement on industrial cooperation, signed in March 2015. All that makes China a major trade partner of Kazakhstan and one of its key strategic partners. Cooperation between the two countries will be tremendously reinforced if Kazakhstan participates in the NSR project. The Chinese party also forecasts that Kazakhstan’s participation will significantly improve its economy since the country will be exposed to the Asia-Pacific and European markets.

Kazakhstan was among first to embrace the Chinese project. A proposal to participate in it echoed the policy Kazakhstan adopted in 2014 introducing a new strategy “Nyrly Zhol—the Path to the Future” focusing on the intensified development of industry, energy sector and the transport infrastructure. Today, Kazakhstan and China actively discuss joint actions they could take to achieve the goals outlined by each country’s economic strategy. As has been said above, China is interested in funding Kazakhstan’s industrialization. A respective agreement was reached back in 2014, during the visit of Head of the Chinese Government Li Keqiangto to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s strategy of industrial and innovation development implies intensified advancements in the heavy, oil, gas and food industries, as well as in other sectors of economy. China is going to participate basically in all these projects. The Ministry of Investments and Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan regularly holds joint meetings with representatives of the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China where Chinese and Kazakh experts carefully evaluate industrial projects singling out those worthy of being funded.

In March 2016, Ambassador of China to Kazakhstan Mr. Zhang Hanhui stated that the first steps the People’s Republic of China and Kazakhstan had taken toward the implementation of the New Silk Road project proved successful. For example, the construction of a highway connecting China to Western Europe, which runs through the territory of Kazakhstan, is coming to a close.

Kazakhstan will, undoubtedly, benefit from the cooperation of this scale and format. On the other hand, the fact that China is gaining access to the Kazakhstan’s key sectors of economy is somewhat alarming. Traditionally, Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, has been regarded as Russia’s sphere of influence. Kazakhstan is our important strategic partner and many Russian analysts express concerns over its affinity toward China. Kazakh-Chinese cooperation in the field of energy alerts. For example, at the end of 2011, Moynak Hydro Power Station was commissioned, and it was a Chinese company that played a key role in its construction. The launch of a new HPS has noticeably improved the supply of electricity in the southern parts of country. Russia, however, being a provider of solutions in the nuclear power industry, has always viewed Kazakhstan’s energy sector as the sphere of its particular interest.

And Russia puts high hopes on cooperation with Kazakhstan specifically in this field. Kazakhstan possesses vast reserves of uranium and leads the world in terms of its mining. Thus, nuclear cooperation with Kazakhstan looks very promising. First, it is extremely advantageous for Russia to have a source of uranium right across the border. Currently Rosatom is acquiring uranium deposits worldwide. But Kazakhstan’s uranium deposits remain unrivalled in terms of their volume, simplicity of mining (due to their shallowness) and effortless delivery to Russia. Second, presence of rich resources compels Kazakhstan to consider the development of its own nuclear power industry and build nuclear power plants. Russia is looking to participate in these projects by providing technologies and specialists. Joint projects in this domain could significantly strengthen the ties between Russia and Kazakhstan and bring abundant profits. Kazakhstan is also planning to increase its revenues from export of uranium by engaging in the manufacturing of nuclear fuel. Russia can be very helpful in assisting with this project as well.

But China also stakes on participation in the production of nuclear fuel from the Kazakh uranium. Perhaps the risk of competition in the vital for Russia domain of nuclear power motivated Rosatom to make some proactive steps aimed at consolidation of its position in Kazakhstan. In the same 2013, when the Chinese leader introduced his New Silk Road initiative to the Kazakhstan government, the subsidiary of Rosatom JSC Atomredmetzoloto acquired the majority interest in the Russian-Canadian joint venture Uranium Onе, the largest developer of uranium deposits in Kazakhstan. Some mass media immediately pointed out that in doing so, Russia took control over almost the entire Kazakh uranium mining industry.

Considering that export of uranium is one of the most important sources of Kazakhstan’s revenues, it would be safe to say that Russia has managed to preserve its position in Kazakhstan for the foreseeable future. Expansion of cooperation between Kazakhstan and China, therefore, does not pose a serious threat to Russia’s interests.

Dmitry Bokarev, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

El Clasico: Can Barcelona beat Real Madrid to make it 40 matches unbeaten?

This Clasico has a multitude of undertones and connotations, with the result set to have decisive consequences either way.

The Catalan hosts enter the game as overwhelming favorites, given that they have been largely unplayable over the last three months – and have a growing unbeaten record to maintain.

Barcelona’s last defeat came back in early October at the hands of Sevilla, but since then the European champions have gone a staggering 39 games undefeated in all competitions.

Madrid meanwhile have seen their chances of mounting a La Liga title challenge subside, with a 10-point gap between leaders Barca and Zinedine Zidane’s men in third.

A 4-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu in the reverse fixture was the straw that broke the camel’s back for then-manager Rafa Benitez, and winning back pride will certainly be in the visitors’ thoughts this weekend.

The personal battle between the world’s two best players will resume, as Lionel Messi looks to reiterate his worthiness of being awarded a record fifth Ballon d’Or accolade back in January.

His nearest rival Cristiano Ronaldo has a strong record against Barcelona but will need to be at his mercurial best to inspire Los Blancos to victory.

A home win will all-but ensure the hosts retain their Primera Division title. An away win would end the unbeaten record and make the run-in more contestable.

The game is set to be watched by millions all over the world and the connotations encompass more than sporting factors.

This Clasico fixture will be even more emotional than usual, with Blaugrana legend Johan Cruyff recently passing away.

READ MORE: https://www.rt.com/sport/337022-johan-cruyff-dies-68/

Barcelona claim to be more than a club, with their team representing Catalonia and the ongoing push for independence. Capital city Madrid are seen as the opponents to this freedom.

The historical significance of the game continues to be apparent, with these two rivals regularly recalling their respective famous victories from over the years.

Barcelona have had the better of it in the last decade, with famous 5-0 and 6-2 victories under the Pep Guardiola regime going down in folklore.

To offset this, Madrid boast of being the best team in the continent’s history, courtesy of their Decima triumph in becoming European champions for a record 10th time in 2014.

From an economic perspective, the Clasico sides continue to be two of the most well-supported and affluent clubs in world football.

A war continues to be waged for supporter loyalty away from the action, with the brand of each club appealing to football enthusiasts across the globe.

A fixture that encompasses the world’s best players, biggest clubs and largest following, Saturday’s Clasico promises to be a global sporting highlight.

China’s envoy on Korean affairs to visit Japan

World powers accuse North Korea of pursuing a nuclear and ballistic weapons program in violation of UN sanctions [Xinhua]

World powers accuse North Korea of pursuing a nuclear and ballistic weapons program in violation of UN sanctions [Xinhua]

China’s foreign ministry on Friday announced that its top diplomat on Korean Peninsula affairs will visit Japan later in April in a bid to create consensus on resuming multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei will likely visit Japan in the coming two or so weeks to “communicate with the Japanese side about the resumption of the six-party talks.”

The multilateral talks include delegations from China, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, and Russia. They were initiated in 2003 as part of a diplomatic effort to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Wu’s visit to Japan, his first in four years, comes amidst heightened tensions and rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un promised that he would soon test a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying such a load.

The increased belligerent rhetoric comes after the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2270, which slaps new sanctions on Pyongyang after it carried out two nuclear tests in January and February.

South Korea has said it has agreed to begin talks with Washington on possible deployment of an advanced US missile defense system. Both Russia and China are critical of this deployment, the radar of which, Beijing believes, could penetrate its territory

Russian ally China is opposed to Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and has repeatedly appealed for calm.

“We hope North Korea does not do anything to contravene UN Security Council resolutions. We also hope all sides can remain calm and exercise restraint and avoid doing anything to exacerbate confrontation or tensions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Washington’s “Pocket Villian” is Still Getting Away With It

45645645655We are living in curious days when no amount of arguments made by the international community to manifest that there’s true criminal at the head of the state cannot not be regarded as a reason to condemn the felon and then punish him. This applies to a handful of political figures in the US, UK and a number of other countries.

But perhaps the best example one can come up with is the sitting President of Turkey – Tayyip Erdogan. You can see for yourself. Numerous media sources have already released documents and video evidence of illegal oil smuggling operations being run by ISIS across the Turksih border to the personal benefit of the Turkish President and members of his family. These claims have been confirmed by Western sources, which constitutes, according to the existing norms of the international law and the United Nations regulations, aiding and abetting terrorists – a severe crime that was bound to have resulted in harsh punishment.

On March 4 Turkish army and police units while following direct orders of Tayyip Erdogan surrounded the office of the largest and most influential media holding in Turkey – Zaman. After a storm of teargas shells that was fired at the windows of the building, law enforcement officers breached the front door took hold of this media empire, in accordance with the decision of the judges that were appointed by the Turkish president himself. The event itself is but a step in an unprecedented campaign aimed at seizing all power in the country by forcing all voices of the political and media opposition to keep silent.

Now Mr. Erdogan has launched an inhuman bombing of the Turkish city of Diyarbakir that is mostly populated by Kurds. This town has now been transformed into a bitter mess with bomb craters to be observed everywhere, while soldiers are conducting regular searches in private households. The sitting president has transformed the Turkish Kurds into his sworn enemies just due to the fact that they were standing in the way of his boundless political ambitions, while using the means that only a totalitarian ruler could employ.

The largest portal on the net that allows people to raise their voices against injustice – change.org has recently published a petition for the protection of human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey. In a matter of days over 60 thousand people have signed this document to condemn the actions of the Turkish President, who is putting Turkish citizens in jail for purely political reasons. There’s a total of 1845 prisoners who are doing time for “insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Recently, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the US Congress that terrorists cells would have never infiltrated Europe with the assistance provided to them by Turkey. He also added that Tayyip Erdogan supports radical Islamism. The Jordanian monarch added that: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

There’s little doubt that the foreign militants, fighting on the side of the terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq won’t be doing that for long, since they display all signs of moral and physical fatigue. However, those are being replaced by hundreds and hundreds of new bandits, flowing across the Turkish border. Ankara has no intentions to change this situation in hopes that those terrorist organizations will still be able to operate in the war torn states. It is curious that the leader of the terrorist group Tawhid wal-Jihod, Abu Saloh has recently been treated in Istanbul after being wounded in the armed clashes. Yet another terrorist leader Hoji Yusuf has recently visited Turkey as well along with a number of Uighur separatists, members of the Jabhat al-Nusra. Turkey provides refuge to the leaders of radial terrorist groups to let them muse over their ongoing plans to wage wars on the EU, Russia, Central Asia, China, and the US itself. Not surprisingly, that after such a vacation, fully recovered Abu Saloh and and other leaders are returning to Syria and Iraq to carry on their little personal wars.

On March 19 on charges of fraud, money laundering, and the violation of international sanctions, FBI detained Reza Zarrab – a key figure in a large-scale bribery and corruption network that functioned in Turkey in 2013. There is every reason to believe that Reza Zarrab had connections with top officials of Turkey. The arrest has had a blasting effect on the Turkish political elites, making it the most discussed topic in Turkey overnight. Turkish officials are not sure whether Reza Zarrab tell the United States officials about the links he had with the Turkish elite or not.

So let us follow closely, will justice be finally served to those that have been abusing political power Turkey and whether Erdogan will get what he deserves. Or will again the “influential forces in the White House”, Germany and Brussels, namely Barak Obama, Angela Merkel and NATO officials will safe their pocket villain from prosecution, despite a long list of crimes he’s being accused of.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

EU has 900 ‘no-go’ areas because of migrants, Hungary says

“The “no-go” areas can’t or almost can’t be controlled by the authorities. In European cities such as Paris, London, Stockholm or Berlin, where there is a high number of immigrants, more than 900 of these “no-go” zones exist,”says the website, launched this week by the government ahead of a referendum in Hungary on the EU quota plan. 

READ MORE: Hungary to hold referendum on EU migrant quota plan

“The mandatory European quotas increase the terrorist risk in Europe and imperil our culture,” the website says.

“Illegal migrants cross the borders unchecked, so we do not know who they are and what their intentions are. We do not know how many of them are disguised and may be terrorists.”

The website also showed a ticking clock representing an asylum seeker arriving in the EU every 12 seconds.

Those who come to the EU illegally “do not respect our laws and do not want to share common cultural values,” the website says.

“If we do not act, we will not recognize Europe in a few decades.”

The Hungarian government has long rejected a mandatory quota for the resettlement of migrants and refugees. To tackle the crisis, it argues the EU should secure its external borders.

In September 2015, in an attempt to prevent migrants from illegally crossing into Hungary, the government decided to erect a fence on the border with Serbia. It also introduced tough punishments of up to three years in prison for those abusing the border crossing or damaging the barrier.

However, the four-meter-high, razor-wire fence hasn’t stopped thousands of illegal migrants from forcing their way into the country.

In 2015, over one million asylum seekers arrived in Europe, according to data from the International Organization for Migration. Most came from Syria, where a civil war has claimed the lives of 250,000 people and displaced 12 million others since 2011, UN figures show. The asylum seekers also come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Mali and other countries.