Russia’s Baltic radar to be fully operational by 2014

Russia’s new anti-missile radar station in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad will become fully operational by the middle of 2014, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.

“According to our estimates, it will take about one and a half years to put the facility into full operation,” Serdyukov said.

The facility was opened in late November to counter the perceived threat from a joint U.S.-NATO missile defense system in Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev attended the station’s inauguration ceremony during his visit to the city.

When the radar enters full operation, it will be able to monitor simultaneously 500 targets at a distance of up to 6,000 kilometers, Serdyukov said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to deploy S-400 surface-to-air missiles to beef up the facility’s security, Serdyukov said.

The full text of the interview will be published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday.

 

Russian Navy to receive 10 diesel submarines by 2020

The Russian Navy is planning to receive up to 10 diesel-electric submarines by 2020, a Navy spokesman said.

“The Russian Navy expects to receive 8-10 diesel submarines by 2020,” the official said on Monday.

The new submarines will strengthen primarily Russia’s Baltic and Back Sea fleets, he added.

Russia’s Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard on Monday launched the construction of a Project 636.3 modernized Kilo-class submarine.

The Project 636 vessels, crewed by 52 submariners, have an underwater speed of 20 knots, a cruising range of 400 miles with the ability to patrol for 45 days. They are armed with 18 torpedoes and eight surface-to-air missiles.

The spokesman said the improved Kilo class submarines will feature advanced “stealth” technology, extended combat range and ability to strike land, surface and underwater targets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Russian Navy currently has about 20 diesel-electric submarines deployed to protect Russia’s territorial waters.

 

Russian Viktor Bout convicted over Colombian arms deal

A Russian arms dealer has been convicted of seeking to make millions of dollars by selling heavy weaponry to a terror group so it could attack what prosecutors said he told his customers was a common enemy — US forces helping the Colombian government.

A jury reached the verdict in the case against Viktor Bout after deliberating since Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. He was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans and US officials, deliver anti-aircraft missiles and aid a terrorist organisation.

Bout, a former Soviet military officer once known in the international arms market as the Merchant of Death, was arrested overseas in an elaborate sting in 2008. He had been transferred to the United States to face the allegations he sought to supply weapons on the black market to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the Farc.

In secret negotiations with Drug Enforcement Administration informants posing as Colombian operatives, Bout “did everything he could to show he could be the one-stop shop for the Farc,” assistant US attorney Brendan McGuire said in closing arguments.

Lawyers for Bout, 44, had offered what McGuire dismissively referred to as the “planes defence,” claiming their client had no intention of selling any weapons but acted like he would so he could unload two old cargo planes for $5m.

Bout’s attorney, Albert Dayan, argued that US authorities framed a legitimate businessman by building their case on recorded conversations that were open to interpretation and never resulted in the exchange of any arms or money.

US authorities “don’t have anything,” he said. “All they have is speculation, innuendo and conjecture.”

The case began when Bout, while under United Nations travel restrictions, was approached in Moscow by a close associate about supplying weapons to the Farc. Bout was told that the group wanted to use drug-trafficking proceeds to pay for surface-to-air missiles and other weapons, making it clear it wanted to attack helicopter pilots and other Americans in Colombia, prosecutors said.

The associate, South African businessman Andrew Smulian, took the witness stand for the government as part of a plea deal and testified that Bout agreed that for a downpayment of $20m he would arrange for cargo planes to air-drop 100 tonnes of weapons into Colombia. Bout traveled to Thailand in March 2008 to finalise the phony deal with the two DEA informants.

One of the informants, Guatemala-born Carlos Sagastume, testified at trial about the secretly recorded exchanges with Bout in a Bangkok hotel room.

On one tape, an informant could be heard saying: “We want to knock down those American sons of bitches.”

“Kill them, and kick them out of my country,” the informant says. “They don’t care where they go anymore. They go here, they go there. They go wherever they want. Why?”

Bout is quoted as saying on the tapes: “Yes, yes, yes. They act as if … as if it was their home.”

The witness said that during the same conversation, Bout was writing a list of weapons he could provide on a sheet of paper and at one pointed remarked: “And we have the same enemy.”

Asked on the witness stand what that meant, the informant responded, “He was referring to the Americans.”

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout found guilty of selling weapons to Farc rebels

Former Soviet military officer and international arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the ‘Merchant of Death’ and whose colourful life partly inspired a Hollywood movie, has been found guilty of trying to sell heavy weapons to Colombian rebels.

The verdict brings a dramatic end to one of New York’s most high-profile trials in recent years. It also put a stop to the career of the world’s most notorious arms dealer who prosecutors argued has provided weapons that have fuelled bloody conflicts around the world.

Bout, 44, had denied any wrongdoing in the case, which alleged he had been willing to sell a vast amount of lethal weapons and ammunitions to the Colombian rebel group the Farc, which he knew could be used to “kill Americans” who were helping the Colombian government. The shipment was to have included surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 machines guns, grenades, mortars, high explosives and 10m rounds of ammunition. Bout had argued that he was merely a businessman who happened to run an air freight operation in conflict zones.

Bout was caught in an elaborate sting operation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, whose informants posed as weapons buyers for the Farc. He was arrested in Thailand where he had believed he was to be meeting the buyers, and was then extradited to the United States.

Anti arms-trade campaigners enthusiastically welcomed the news of the guilty verdict.

“The verdict in the Viktor Bout trial closes the book on one of the most prolific enablers of war, mass atrocities and terrorism in the post-Cold War era. We should all be grateful that the world is safer now that the man who armed the hotspots of the globe is behind bars,” said Kathi Lynn Austin, executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project and former United Nations investigator, who had followed the trial.

Some experts used the verdict to call for a tightening of international controls on the arms trade, saying Bout’s career had long flouted huge loopholes which allowed the easy spread of weaponry into the world’s conflicts.

“It is tragic that because we have no global treaty regulating the activities of arms dealers, many other unscrupulous dealers and brokers will continue to operate … we can’t rely on well-paid informants to catch all rogue traders. The answer is better global regulations,” said Oistein Thorsen, an arms trade
campaigner at Oxfam International.

Lawyers for Bout had offered what prosecutors called the “planes defence” where they claimed that their client had no intention of selling any weapons but acted like he had so he could sell two old cargo aircraft for $5m. But prosecutors had poked holes in the defence with the use of secretly recorded conversations in Bangkok between Bout and the informants he believed were acting for the Farc.

On one tape an informant said that he wanted to kill Americans in Colombia.

“Kill them, and kick them out of my country,” the informant said on the tape. “They don’t care where they go any more.

“They go here, they go there. They go wherever they want. Why?”

Bout was quoted as replying: “Yes, yes, yes. They act as if … as if it was their home.”

The informant then testified that during the same conversation, Bout wrote down a list of weapons he could provide on a sheet of paper and told him: “And we have the same enemy.”

Asked what that meant, the informant responded: “He was referring to the Americans.”

Bout’s case was also hit by the testimony of his business associate, South African Andrew Smulian, who took the stand against him as part of a plea deal.

Smullian, 70, was accused of the same crimes as Bout. He pleaded guilty to all counts and agreed to testify against his former associate, hoping to reduce his own prison sentence, a minimum of 25 years.

Smulian said that Bout had said that for a downpayment of $20m he could air-drop 100 tonnes of weapons into Colombia. It was Smulian who had initially approached Bout in Moscow about setting up the deal with the Farc.

Bout now faces the possibility of life in prison at a sentencing hearing in February. He hugged one of his legal team as he left the court room. Defence lawyer Kenneth Kaplan expressed disappointment at the verdict.

“It was a tough case,” he said afterwards.

But Manhattan attorney general Preet Bharara welcomed the court decision. “Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries. He aimed to sell those weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing Americans. With today’s swift verdict, justice has been done and a very dangerous man is behind bars,” Bharara said in a statement.

Bout’s personal history is shrouded in mystery, as is much of the detail of his career, as he spent several decades criss-crossing the world and doing business in some of the globe’s deadliest war zones. He is believed to have sold arms to a dizzying array of countries and rebel movements often playing both sides of the same war.

Bout’s dealings have included the US, the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and various groupings in Africa from Congo to Sierra Leone. His career became so notorious that the Yuri Orlov character played by Nicholas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War is believed to have been partly based on Bout.

Russian arms dealer Bout guilty on all charges

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been found guilty on all counts by a jury in the Federal District Court of New York.

The jury unanimously agreed that Bout was guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans, to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles and to provide material support to terrorists.

The former Russian military officer denied all the charges against him.

The court will announce Bout’s sentence on February 8. He could receive a life sentence.

As the judge announced the verdict, Bout sat silently. Before being led out of the courtroom, he hugged his lawyer Albert Dayan.

Another lawyer for Bout, Kenneth Kaplan, said the defense team was disappointed with the verdict but that they had done everything they could in Bout’s defense.

The prosecution called seven witnesses during the trial, which began in New York on October 11. The defense did not call any witnesses and Bout did not take the stand.

His lawyers insisted that Bout, who used to be in the air cargo business, was trying to sell two planes, not weapons, when he discussed an arms deal in Thailand with two undercover U.S. agents posing as members of the Colombian rebel group FARC.

But prosecutors charged that Bout intended to sell the group at least 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47s, and 10 million rounds of ammunition.

Bout’s wife, Alla said that her husband was prepared for a guilty verdict, but had hoped to be acquitted on some of the charges. “He hoped for acquittal on some counts or for a hung jury…I think that Moscow should take up this issue,” Alla Bout said.

Russian Vice-Consul Alexander Otchainov, who regularly visited Bout in prison, said that Russia would continue to support him.

Russian State Duma Deputy Leonid Slutsky dismissed the verdict as “a typical American propaganda ploy.”

“They made Bout out to be some kind of evil genius,” said Slutsky, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).

Slutsky, who is the first deputy chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the entire history of the case, from the sting operation that snared Bout to his extradition from Thailand and trial in the U.S., was clearly prejudicial.

Deliberations in Bout trial to start on Tuesday

Jury deliberations in a U.S. trial against alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout have been postponed until Tuesday due to lengthy closing remarks by prosecution and defense.

 

Prosecutor Anjan Sahni argued for over two hours on Monday that extensive evidence and testimony from government informants proved Bout “was ready, willing and able” to sell heavy weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles, to Colombian terrorists.

 

Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan spoke for three hours trying to convince the jury that his client used the “weapons theme” to lure potential customers into buying two cargo planes. Dayan said the case against Bout had been built on “speculation, innuendo and conjecture.”

 

All 12 jurors must unanimously agree on the verdict after deliberations on Tuesday for the case to proceed.

 

Bout, 44, was arrested in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States in November 2010 after a furious legal battle in Thai courts.

 

Bout is charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials, conspiracy to sell missiles and conspiracy to support terrorism by cooperating with a designated terrorist group. The former Russian military officer denies all charges against him.

 

He could face life in prison if convicted.

 

NTC reluctant to investigate rebel atrocities

Three hundred bodies of alleged Gaddafi allies have been found in Sirte, shot in the head with hands tied behind their backs. Are Libya’s new rulers guilty of ordering political executions identical to those they claimed to be rebelling against?

In the light of this gruesome discovery, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s recent speech at a news conference in Brussels sounds like a grimly prophetic joke.

“Our military forces prevented a massacre and saved countless lives,” he declared. “Now is the time for the Libyan people to take their destiny fully into their own hands.”

And they have.

Over 300 bodies have been collected by volunteers across Sirte and buried in a mass grave. A day earlier, Human Rights Watch reported that 53 decomposing bodies had been found in an abandoned hotel in the town.

The condition of the bodies suggested the victims were killed approximately one week prior to their discovery. Most are believed to be residents of Sirte, some of them Gaddafi supporters. The ruling National Transitional Council has been slow to investigate atrocities committed by the rebel forces (including the alleged murder of the Colonel) despite repeated demands to do so.

The whole world watched the gruesome footage of Gaddafi’s capture, and the scenes of elation that greeted his death. However, RT’s correspondent in Tripoli says that when you come to Libya and start talking to people, their real feelings about Gaddafi are quite different from what is being portrayed in the world media. They are largely appalled at the way he was dealt with: captured, beaten, killed and exhibited in a supermarket freezer for everyone to see.

Another major concern of Human Rights Watch in post-Gaddafi Libya is the vast amount of unsecured explosive weapons, including surface-to-air missiles. Those missiles could be used to bring down civilian aircraft if they were to get into the wrong hands.

HRW has also found unguarded tank and mortar rounds, large amounts of munitions, and thousands of guided and unguided aerial weapons while inspecting the arsenals.

“For months we have been warning the NTC and NATO about the dangers posed by these stockpiles of unguarded weapons, and the urgent need to secure them,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Surface-to-air missiles can take down civilian aircraft, and the explosive weapons can be converted easily into the car bombs and improvised explosive devices that have killed thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

There are also large numbers of firearms in the hands of the general population. NTC efforts to get people to voluntarily disarm and hand in their guns have been relatively ineffective.

RT’s correspondent, Anissa Naoaui, went to one of the arms collection centers in Tripoli and witnessed only twelve AK47s being returned over the course of an entire day. By contrast, she only had to walk the length of a block in the capital to see three times that number of automatic weapons being brandished on the streets.

‘US want share of Libya success’

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Washington wants to see the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi captured or killed. Professor Paul Sheldon Foote says that the Obama administration believes this killing would be a justified one.

The statement came during her surprise visit to Libya at a meeting with senior members of the country’s National Transitional Council.

She has also pledged millions of dollars in new aid, including medical care for wounded fighters and additional assistance to secure weaponry, which many fear could fall into the hands of extremists.

Most of the new aid money will go toward finding and destroying thousands of Gaddafi-era shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles that are unaccounted for since the fighting began.

“The United States was proud to stand for you in your fight for freedom and we will continue to stand with you as you continue this journey,” Clinton proclaimed during talks with National Transitional Council Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil.

Addressing leaders of the interim body, Clinton noted that the fighting wasn’t over yet but vowed that NATO would continue to protect civilians as long as the threat continues.

Clinton is the most senior American official to visit Libya since the uprising against Gaddafi began in February and only the second secretary of state to visit in the past 50 years.

Speaking of the legitimacy of killing Colonel Gaddafi, Professor Paul Sheldon Foote from California State University says that if it is okay for Americans to kill current leaders, they will not have any problems with killing former ones.

“Warmongers in the Obama administration will argue that he [Gaddafi] is a former leader and therefore he’s fair game,” he declared. “Don’t forget who Hilary Clinton is. In 2008 as a candidate for president she threatened to kill every man, woman and child and turn Iran into a waste basket.”

Foote believes that behind this unannounced visit there is the desire of the Obama administration to put some American ‘fingerprints’ on the success.

“In addition to saying that they’ve killed Bin Laden, they want to say next year in Obama’s campaign for re-election that they’ve brought a great victory in Libya,” he said.

Keith Harmon Snow, a war correspondent and independent investigator, believes that killing Gaddafi would be an illegal targeted assassination and that there is obviously a hidden agenda behind Hilary Clinton’s apparently spontaneous visit.

“There is a lot of fighting in Libya at present and almost everything we’ve been told, everything we’ve seen, is false. We are getting just a complete propaganda story of what’s going on in Libya,” he said. “Why is she there? Clearly to make it look to the American public like we are in absolute control of Libya. Cover up the atrocities, put a white, clean, shiny, happy, lovely face on the death and destruction.”

­Watch full interview with Keith Harmon Snow


U.S. court starts interviewing witnesses in Bout case

Witnesses began to testify during the second day of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout’s trial.

The trial against Bout started on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is expected to continue for three or four weeks.

The first government witness to testify was William Brown, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who headed the sting operation that ultimately led to Bout’s arrest in Thailand on weapons trafficking charges.

His questioning lasted throughout the day and will continue next Monday, when the hearings resume after a four-day break.

Prosecutors requested ten days to interview its witnesses and present evidence to the jury.

The key prosecution witness is Bout’s suspected associate Andrew Smulian, who pleaded guilty shortly after his arrest.

Bout is charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials, conspiracy to sell missiles and conspiracy to support terrorism by cooperating with a designated terrorist group. The Russian national denies all charges against him.

Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, told the 12-member jury that Bout, who used to be in the air cargo business, was trying to sell two planes, not weapons, when he discussed an arms deal in Thailand with two undercover U.S. agents posing as representatives of the FARC guerilla movement.

Bout, 44, allegedly agreed to sell them at least 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47s, and 10 million rounds of ammunition, prosecutors say.

Viktor Bout never planned to sell arms to rebels – lawyer

A lawyer of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout said on Wednesday that his client never intended to sell weapons to Colombian rebels.

 

The trial against Bout started on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is expected to continue for three weeks.

 

“The simple and very profound truth is that Viktor Bout never wanted, never intended and never was going to sell arms,” Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, told a 12-person jury panel.

 

Dayan said Bout, who used to be in the air cargo business, was trying to sell two planes, not weapons, when he discussed an arms deal in Thailand with two undercover U.S. agents who posed as South American FARC revolutionaries.

 

The prosecution insists that Bout, 44, had allegedly agreed to sell at least 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47s, and 10 million rounds of ammunition to kill Americans.

 

“Viktor Bout was given the opportunity to put millions of dollars of weapons [into the hands of] terrorists in order to kill Americans,” prosecutor Brendan McGuire said in his opening statement on Wednesday. “He jumped at the opportunity.”

 

Bout, who was arrested in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in November 2010, denies all the charges against him. He could face anything from 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

 

Accused Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Goes On Trial

Jury selection in the trial of Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer nicknamed by the U.S. authorities “The Merchant of Death,” has wrapped up after the first day of his trial in a New York federal courtroom on October 11.

The 44-year-old Bout has pleaded not guilty on charges of conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell weapons to a terrorist organization, and violating a United Nations arms embargo.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Bout was apprehended in Thailand in 2008 in a sting operation carried out by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, who posed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a Colombian rebel group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Bout is accused of planning to sell the rebels surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.

His two-year legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States ended in November, 2010, and led to accusations from Moscow that Washington had breached international law

Bout’s case has attracted enormous media attention and the courtroom in downtown Manhattan where the trial is taking place was packed to capacity. Reporters were not allowed inside.

The selection of 12 jurors and 3 alternates wrapped up quicker than had been expected. The trial itself is expected to last about a month.

Douglas Farah, a security consultant and a former journalist, is the co-author of a book on Bout’s life, called, appropriately, “Merchant of Death.”

Prosecution Setback

He said the prosecution’s key evidence will be secretly recorded conversations where Bout is heard saying that he is determined to kill Americans.

“The fact that he expressed an intention to provide weapons to a designated terrorist organization with the intent to harm Americans is what matters,” Farah said.

Farah believes the chances that Bout will be found guilty are fairly high, despite a setback for the prosecution during pre-trial hearings when the judge suggested that some of the evidence against Bout may be inadmissible in court.

“The vast bulk of what the DA [district attorney] is going to present remained intact and I think that would be the meeting with Viktor Bout in Thailand and numerous emails and voice mails claiming to be able to deliver significant amounts of weapons to people he thought were the FARC,” he said. “So I don’t think that their case was fatally damaged, I think it might have been damaged around the edges on the margin by what the judge ruled.”

Bout’s defense team has argued that their client has never brokered or sold weapons and was merely running a fleet of cargo planes that may have been used for weapons transportation.

Bout’s wife and daughter were seated in the courtroom on the opening day of the trial, along with officials from Russia’s New York consulate.

Judge Gives Impartiality Warning

His wife, Alla, has accused U.S. authorities of unfairly targeting her husband and said she doesn’t believe he will receive a fair trial.

In an unusual move, presiding Judge Shira Scheindlin announced that in order to ensure an impartial jury, she will require jurors to sign a sworn affidavit that they won’t read information on Bout on the Internet or elsewhere.

Bout was the inspiration for the 2005 Hollywood film, “Lord Of War” starring Nicholas Cage.

Farah thinks the trial will not be much different from other high-profile cases where impartiality has been a concern.

“The jury selection system seems to work pretty well and I think that the judge is absolutely right in asking them to refrain from reading anything about him, going with an open mind,” he said. “And I think it is going be as good as any system can get, I think he has as good a shot at a fair trial under this system as anyone could get.”

Navy eyes dozen new stealth destroyers

The Russian Navy is to deploy 14 to 16 new destroyer-class multipurpose warships over the next two decades. The desired vessel will be a natural naval killer of all sorts of targets from submarines to enemy missiles.

Production of the first ship of the new series may begin as early as in 2012, a source in the defense industry told Izvestia newspaper. The military want a versatile tool capable to engage surface fleets, submarines and aerial targets, including missiles.

“It will be a universal warship, which will be able to replace three classes of vessels. Thanks to modern weapons it will surpass the Large ASW destroyers in anti-submarine warfare and modern surface combat destroyers and guided-missile ships in terms of surface firepower and air defense capabilities, with the exception of the [nuclear-powered battlecruiser] Peter the Great and other ships of that class,” the source said.

Key to such versatility will be rocket launch systems, which will be able to fire different types of missiles depending on the task. The destroyers will carry anti-ship guided missiles, anti-submarine rocket-propelled torpedoes, surface-to-surface cruise missiles and medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missiles. It will also have two to four twin artillery guns.

“At the moment different versions of the warship are being evaluated and the propulsion system is being chosen. Depending on the Navy’s needs and budget restrictions they will have nuclear or gas turbine propulsion,” the source added.

Earlier media reports said the new vessel, which has been in development since at least 2009, will have displacement of 9-10,000 tonnes or 12-14,000 tonnes, depending on the choice of propulsion system. It will carry two or three combat helicopters. Its hull will use stealth technology to lower the ships radar cross-section.

The destroyer will be equipped with modern tactical information and weapons control system similar in capabilities to the American AEGIS.

With deployment of new ships, the navy will have additional flexibility in forming small yet powerful naval task forces consisting of one destroyer and tree to four escorts, the military say. The new ships will partially replace older destroyers and will partially strengthen the Russian fleets.