Monthly Archives: April 2011

EU/USSR2 Files: Dutch Special Services arrest fighter pilot on charges of passing secrets to Belarus; Russian strategic bombers regularly probe airspace around Netherlands, other NATO states

On April 29, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, citing Minsk’s Telegraaf, reported that Dutch Special Services have detained an F-16 fighter pilot from the country’s air force on suspicion of spying for Belarus. The 37-year-old airman from the 313 squadron, known only as “Captain Chris V,” is accused of passing state secrets to the “former” Soviet republic via a national of that country, most likely, we suspect, a covert agent of the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB).

The Dutch prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the incident, citing “interests in the investigation in regard to the delicacy of the issue from a diplomatic point of view.” The pilot was actually detained more than six weeks ago, on March 17. He will face a military tribunal on June 9.

Since 2007, when Moscow formally resumed strategic aviation patrols after a 15-year hiatus, Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers have regularly probed the perimeter of Dutch airspace, as well as that of other NATO states, such as the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Did the “state secrets” that the Dutch pilot pass to the Belarusians include composition, deployment, and command and control details of the Netherlands Royal Air Force or other NATO air forces? Unless further information is released to the news media, of course, we can only speculate.

However, “ex”-communist dictator Alexander Lukashenko is a compliant “little brother” in the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Belarusian KGB works hand in glove with the Russian Federation Federal Security Service (FSB). Thus, purloined information that arrives in Minsk no doubt makes its way to Moscow, possibly for a price.

Spies from the Not-So-Former Soviet Union are busy throughout NATO countries, even though we are told the Cold War has “ended.”

In 2009, Polish authorities detained a Russian national on charges of spying for Russian military intelligence (GRU). “It’s the first case since 1989 when a Russian spy was detected,” remarked an employee of the Chancellery of the Polish President last year. Polish authorities claim that for over six years “Tadeusz J” gathered sensitive information on the Polish Land Forces (army) and relayed that information to his Russian handlers via the latest cryptographic communications technology. In December 2010, the GRU agent was sentenced to three years in prison.

Last year, US authorities exposed and busted a deep-cover Russian spy ring, the members of which were deported back to their homeland via a Cold War-style “spy swap” in Vienna. Around the same period, British authorities arrested Katia Zatuliveter, assistant to Michael Hancock, a pro-Moscow Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament who sat on the Commons Defense Committee.

North Africa File: Qaddafi calls for ceasfire as Libyan civil war spills into Tunisia; rebels, regime forces battle for border crossing; Qaddafi loyalists shell Tunisian border town, Tunisian troops seize Libyan army convoy

On Saturday, Libya’s socialist dictator, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, once again called for ceasefire between his troops and NATO-backed rebels. Even as he delivered his televised remarks (pictured here), warplanes from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Italy pounded government targets in Tripoli, disrupting the broadcast several times. Defiant, Qaddafi refused to resign or leave the country as the rebels and the leaders of the USA, UK, and France have demanded. “I’m not leaving my country,” he ranted, blaming Al Qaeda for the popular uprising against his 41-year-old regime. “No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country.”

Two days ago, rebels and forces loyal to Qaddafi battled for a key border crossing near Dehiba, Tunisia, leading to the shelling of the Tunisian town and the subsequent seizure by Tunisian troops of a Libyan army convoy.

According to state-run Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), Qaddafi forces took control of the crossing in clashes that “caused deaths and injuries of many people.” Al Jazeera television later reported that rebels had retaken control of the crossing and that the Tunisian army captured 16 Libyan vehicles transporting Qaddafi forces. Late yesterday, the Tunisian government asserted that shells had hit Dehiba.

“The Tunisian authorities informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and asked them to take immediate measures to stop these violations,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry huffed in a faxed statement. TAP added that the Tunisian military was deployed to “monitor the developments.”

The clashes near Dehiba provoked panic among local residents and Libyan refugees in Tunisia. The crossing is part of a rebel supply route between Tunisia, which ousted its own dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January, and the Nafusah Mountains in western Libya. In that region, Qaddafi forces have surrounded and begun advancing on the rebel-held cities of Yafran, Galaa, and Kiklah, while rebels fortify their positions in the cities of Nalut, Jadu, and Zintan.

The skirmish near Dehiba, reports Bloomberg, “highlighted intensified fighting” in the mountainous region southwest of Tripoli. There, say US officials, Qaddafi’s troops have been attacking minority Berbers who support the rebellion, the most serious challenge to the strongman’s 41-year-old dictatorship. On April 27 Gene Cretz, US ambassador to Libya, told reporters at the State Department that the dictator’s troops “have been especially brutal” in the western mountains “where there has always been a suspicion on the part of Qaddafi toward the Berber groups.”

Elsewhere in the North African country, fighting has centered on the rebel-held western port city of Misurata, where this week opposition forces once again pushed Qaddafi forces out of the downtown core. Qaddafi’s troops, consisting of army loyalists and thousands of mercenaries from Africa and others from Eastern Europe–Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia–continued to shell civilian areas in the city even as rebels staged an advance.

The eruption of violence in western Libya contrasts with the rebel frontline in the east, where clashes with regime forces on the coastal road between Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and rebel headquarters in Benghazi have ground to a halt. Undaunted, Qaddafi forces seized the town of Al-Kufrah in the country’s southeast desert region, in a province that hosts some of Libya’s most productive oil fields. Yesterday, about 250 regular Libyan soldiers in trucks descended on the town and drove out rebels.

Meanwhile, NATO warplanes taking part in a United Nations-mandated air campaign to impose a no-fly zone over Libya continued their attack against regime-held positions around Misurata. More than two months of clashes in the Libyan civil war has killed as many as 30,000, according to some estimates, and thrust world oil prices up more than 30 percent. Libya boasts Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves, but output is down 75 percent as the popular uprising forced foreign producers to evacuate workers.

Latin America File: Qaddafi nephew top advisor on Ortega staff, holds rank of ambassador; Chavez praises Assad’s slaughter of Syrian protesters; Caracas-backed left-nationalist poised to win Peruvian presidency

As civil war and street-level agitation for regime change continues to engulf North Africa and the Middle East–most lately in Syria, where socialist dictator Bashar al-Assad has hurled his tanks against protesters–Latin America’s narco-communist despots offer moral justification for the slaughter.

In Nicaragua, past/present President Daniel Ortega has flaunted his friendship with embattled Libyan strongman and arch-terrorist Muammar al-Qaddafi since the early 1980s. Following his re-election in November 2006, after 16 years in the political wilderness, Ortega has made at least one pit stop in Tripoli en route to Tehran, where he has also cultivated an alliance with Hitler wanna-be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This week, Inside Costa Rica revealed that at the beginning of his second administration, “Comandante” Ortega appointed Mohamed Lashtar as his personal secretary and advisor for international affairs. Lashtar is a nephew of Qaddafi.

The revitalized symbiotic relationship between Nicaragua and Libya was revealed by Paul Trivelli, US ambassador to Nicaragua between 2005 and 2008, in four confidential cables signed in 2007. These cables were originally published by WikiLeaks in cooperation with Costa Rica’s La Nacion and then concurrently published in Nicaragua by Confidencial, La Semana, and El Nuevo Diario. Trivelli contends that Lashtar, who also goes by the name Mohamed El-Ashtar Ferrara, worked for his uncle’s intelligence network in the last decade of the Cold War.

Pictured above: While visiting Iran (probably in June 2007), Ortega walks with host and counterpart Ahmadinejad. Lashtar is indicated by the yellow circle.

According to La Nation, a youthful Lashtar, now 51 years old, arrived in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s, during the first Sandinista dictatorship, at which time he worked in the Libyan Arab Cultural Center, which is attached to Libya’s embassy in Managua. In the 1990s, while a series of US-backed governments ruled in Managua, Lashtar apparently became a citizen of Nicaragua, even as he represented Libya’s agricultural investments in that country. For more than a decade, he was also one of Ortega’s key financial and political operators until the latter’s surprise return to the presidency in January 2007.

Today, Lashtar manages the Nicaraguan Agropecuaria Arab Jamahiriya (Anilib), which was founded as a joint Nicaraguan-Libyan business venture nearly 30 years ago, that is, in 1983. Together, the Ortega clan which, as in the 1980s is still up to its armpits in red cocaine, and Qaddafi’s nephew are connected to several private businesses in Nicaragua. This includes Celeste SA which, according to the newspaper La Prensa, recently assumed control over Nicaragua’s Channel 47 television station.

Since January 29, 2007, Lashtar has held the position of “Private Secretary to the President for International Affairs,” an appointment that awards him the rank of ambassador and an office in the Nicaraguan Chancellery, as confirmed by Foreign Minister Samuel Lopez Santos. Lashtar is assistant to Jacinto Suarez Espinoza, who is both the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s international relations director and Nicaragua’s deputy in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).

La Nation tried unsuccessfully to interview Lashtar, who did not return messages left on his cell phone or email. In view of Qaddafi’s personal link to the first and second Sandinista regimes, is it any wonder that Ortega rushed to offer moral support for the strongman when the Libyan civil war erupted this past February, or that former Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann offered to represent Libya at the United Nations?

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s dictator, Hugo Chavez, who buddies around with Ortega, Qaddafi, Assad, and Ahmadinejad, has thrown his “good name” within the communist stratosphere behind Syria’s embattled 47-year-old Ba’athist regime. “From here [Caracas] we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez gushed, after witnesses on Monday reported that Syrian troops and tanks rolled into the town of Daraa, epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people. Chavez railed:

Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the [Syrian] president, without anyone investigating anything. They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’ Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the Empire. It’s imperial madness.

Incidentally, when Chavez rambles on about “the Empire,” he is referring to the USA. Some 390 people, according to human rights activists, have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria. Chavez, not to mention mentor Fidel Castro, has also applauded Qaddafi’s defiance of NATO airstrikes and a potential ground war, slamming the military intervention on the side of the Libyan rebels as an “oil grab” by Western capitalists.

Sitting on top of a pile of narco/petro-dollars, Chavez has not only propped up the paleo-communist regime in Cuba, but also exported his “Bolivarian Revolution” to other countries in the region. Using a variety of channels–such as laundering drug money through state-run oil giant PDVSA and front companies of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA)–Chavez has secured the allegiance of left-communist regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Uruguay. He has also tried to financially manipulate a past center-right government in English-speaking Belize and past center-left candidates in Mexico and Panama. His support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s narco-communist insurgency is too well documented to credibly refute.

Lately, Chavez has cultivated his political and personal relationships with Peru’s left-nationalist presidential candidate, ex-soldier and “red diaper baby” Ollanta Humala, who faces a run-off vote on June 5. Humala’s center-right opponent is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced past president of Peru, who in 1992 launched a vigorous counter-offensive against the Maoist guerrillas of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path. In addition to his own Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP), a coalition of hard-left groupings has lined up behind Humala, including the Socialist Party, Peruvian Communist Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party, and Political Movement Socialist Voice.

In late March, during a TV interview, Humala, who is the son of a communist lawyer, failed to adequately distance himself from Chavez. A Peruvian news anchor posed the following question to the head of the PNP: “Is President Hugo Chávez a dictator, yes or no?” Humala refused to answer the question, leaving the audience to make up their own minds about the candidate’s position. “If a president, whether elected by the people or not, disregards the Parliament, he rules as a dictator,” he said evasively, “And if Chávez’s government is disregarding the National Assembly, he is ruling as a dictator. I am not saying he is a dictator. I am not like Chávez.” Meanwhile, the other Peruvian presidential candidates continued to hack away at Humala’s alleged sympathy for the Venezuelan president, who has been ruling by decree since January.

During Peru’s 2006 election, when Humala made a previous run for the presidency, Jorge Rodriguez, Chief of Venezuela’s Electoral Council and Chavez’s special envoy to Peru, was on-site to encourage the PNP leader.

Should Humala scoop up the presidency, Lima will likely fall within the orbit of the Havana-Caracas Axis, possibly leading to Peru’s incorporation into ALBA. A Humala victory might also embolden the country’s resurgent Shining Path narco-rebellion. One outcome is certain: the USA’s friendly relationship with Peru under President Alan Garcia’s American Popular Revolutionary Alliance will terminate.

Libya and, for that matter, Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon are not the only terrorist-sponsoring states to set up shop in the Americas. Iran has pursued political and economic relations with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Last November, according to Germany’s Die Welt, Tehran and Caracas concluded a secret military pact that will permit Iran to deploy medium-range Shahab 3 missiles and missile troops in the South American country, rendering the southern USA vulnerable to nuclear-biological-chemical attack.

Mexican Narco-State File: Los Zetas storm into border town, shoot up, torch businesses, hold off army for more than 2 hours; police find grisly discovery in Acapulco

Mexico’s vicious drug war continues unabated. Indeed, by attacking businesses and scaring away tourists, the powerful druglords are doing a better job than the country’s small communist insurgent outfits in bringing down capitalism.

This past Thursday morning, a convoy of gunmen most likely in the employ of Los Zetas drug cartel, stormed into the Mexican city of Miguel Aleman, shooting up, vandalizing, and torching the headquarters of the Tamaulipas State Police, the local transit police headquarters, and nearly a dozen businesses along the city’s main avenue, including the Ford and Nissan dealerships (pictured above), an Auto Zone store, a Stripes convenience store, a large furniture store, and a used car lot.

More than two hours later, after killing one gunman and arresting 11 more, the Mexican military finally ran the narcistas out of town. One soldier was killed in the engagements. As a result of the firefight, the Mexican army reported seizing 20 assault rifles, eight grenades, more than 300 magazines, and more than 7,600 ammunition rounds.

According to the 8th Military Zone in Reynosa, Los Zetas also attacked a military patrol along the Riberena highway before invading Miguel Aleman, which prompted the mobilization of troops toward the town.

Across the border in Roma, Texas, a National Guardsman took a video of the early-morning gunbattle. In another video, plumes of smoke can be seen rising over the city of about 27,000.

The same day, the body count at mass graves in rural San Fernando, Tamaulipas, rose to 177. The Mexican special forces-turned-narco-mercenaries are accused of killing their victims and stacking the bodies at several sites, the most recent of which was discovered this past Tuesday.

Lately, Miguel Aleman has been a refuge for refugees from smaller rural communities like Mier, which late last year was overrun by Zeta gunmen. Other towns like Camargo, across from Rio Grande City, and Guerrero Viejo, on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake where a US citizen was shot and killed in 2010, are mostly ghost towns.

Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, in the resort city of Acapulco, police made the grisly discovery of five decapitated, semi-naked bodies. All of the victims, four women and a teenage girl, appear to have been connected to a local beauty parlor. No motive for the killings was offered, but the Pacific coast resort has become a battle ground for Mexico’s rival cartels as they struggle to control the drug routes between South America and the USA.

Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to stage first “post”-Soviet trilateral military drills; Russia sends more S-300 anti-missile units to Belarusian-Polish front

In September, the three most important European components of the “former” Soviet Union—Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine—will for the first time since the “collapse of communism” hold two combined military exercises. Union Shield 2011 will take place at Gorokhovetsky, in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region, and at Ushuluk, in the same country’s Astrakhan region.

On April 20, Ukrainian Defence Minister Mikhail Yezhel arrived in Minsk to participate in a joint meeting with his Russian and Belarusian counterparts, Anatoly Serdyukov and Yuri Zhadobin. Strangely, even though Ukraine was involved in the founding of and currently participates in the Commonwealth of “Independent” States, it is not officially a member of that successor organization to the USSR. Similarly, Ukraine is not a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which binds Russia, Belarus, Armenia, and all of the Central Asian republics, except Turkmenistan, in a military alliance.

“We discussed participation in the upcoming military exercise Union Shield 2011 to be held in September,” related Yezhel, adding: “We will certainly study the plan of the exercise in detail and join in. We are also interested in the experience of army reform in Belarus. We should take all the best the Union State of Russia and Belarus has to offer and use it at home.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine transferred the nuclear arsenal based on its soil to Russia, the first time any country has voluntarily given up its atomic warhead stockpile.

The Union Shield 2011 maneuvers will involve about 12,000 troops, more than 50 warplanes and helicopters, and 200 pieces of military hardware.

In spite of occasional diplomatic spats, Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator, President Alexander Lukashenko, is firmly committed to theUnion State, while Ukraine’s burgeoning “neo-Soviet” dictator, President Viktor Yanukovich, frequently enrages nationalists by snuggling up to the Kremlin. By participating in the Union State’s military component, one should be excused for asking whether Yanukovich intends to lead Ukraine into this building block of the to-be-restored Soviet Union. One should also be
excused for asking whether Union Shield 2011 is an attempt by Moscow and Minsk, with a little help this time from Kiev, to incrementally assemble a “lite” version of the Soviet Armed Forces.

During the defense ministers’ pow-wow, Serdyukov promised that Russia will deliver more S-300 anti-missile batteries to Belarus, which is on the front line with Warsaw
Pact-turned-NATO member Poland. As part of the Union State’s integrated air defense network, Belarus has deployed and placed several Russian-built S-300 air defense battalions on combat duty. Modernized versions of the S-300 (pictured above) have a maximum engagement range of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles).

“We have completed the first stage of modernization of the Belarusian S-300 air defense systems and agreed to intensify work on further deliveries of these systems to Belarus,” explained Serdyukov. “We are strengthening this network.”

In September 2009, Russia and Belarus provoked outrage among Poles by carrying out the Zapad (“West”) exercise on Belarusian territory, at which time 13,000 troops simulated a combined air and sea attack against Poland, complete with atomic weapons. According to documents obtained by Wprost, one of Poland’s leading news magazines, the Russian Air Force practiced using weapons from its nuclear arsenal, while in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which also borders Poland, Russian Ground Forces stormed a “Polish” beach and attacked a natural gas pipeline.

Zapad 2009 also involved the simulated suppression of an uprising by a national minority in Belarus. Not so coincidentally, Lukashenko’s KGB lackeys often harass the country’s Polish minority, creating strained relations with Warsaw.

After the Russian-Belarusian drill, one Pole, identified only as Ted, told Polskie Radio: “Russia has laid bare its real intentions with respect to Poland. Every Pole most now get off the fence and be counted as a patriot or a traitor.”

In a related story, on Wednesday the Russian Air Force completed a two-day large-scale strategic aviation drill that featured air-to-air missile launches and aerial refuelling operations. The exercises, which involved Soviet-era Tu-160, Tu-95, and Tu-22M3 nuclear-capable bombers, were conducted over the Baltic, North, and Black seas, doubtlessly under the watchful eye of NATO radar. Providing escort for the Russian bomber crews were MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-27 fighter jets and Il-78 flying fuel tankers.

Red Terror File: Belarusian dictator refutes allegations his regime behind Minsk subway bombing; Russian Communist Party boss defends Belarus’ “controlled market,” blames EU for “terrorism”

Last Saturday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko angrily refuted allegations that his government orchestrated the subway bombing in Minsk that killed 13 commuters and wounded more than 200 others on April 11. He lashed out at detractors and sceptics alike. “What they are saying,” he ranted, “—that this was done to distract the attention from the economic situation—only idiots and scoundrels would make such judgments. Is the situation in the country so critical that I have to resort to desperate measures? It is not critical.”

The previous day, Lukashenko attributed the bombing to an international campaign to destabilize Belarus. “First came the currency market, then food market and then the subway blast occurred,” Lukashenko lamented. “It was the entire chain.”

The Minsk bombing has bewildered terrorism experts, who havespeculated about likely motives in the tightly controlled “former” Soviet republic, which has little history of large-scale terrorist attacks, unlike the Russian Federation. Some bloggers have asserted that the Lukashenko regime resorted to terrorism to distract Belarusians from the country’s poor economic state.

Belarus’ hard currency reserves are critically low and the economy faces a possible currency devaluation. Last year, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan formed a customs union that oppositionists in all three countries claim is a building block toward restoring the Soviet Union.

Belarusian authorities have arrested five suspects in connection with the incident, including a man in his mid-20s accused of placing the bomb on the platform of Minsk’s busiest subway station, Oktyabrskaya. They have not suggested who ordered the bombing.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council condemned “the apparent terrorist attack.” An anonymous UN diplomat confided that “the word ‘apparent’ was included in this statement for a reason,” namely that the Security Council itself suspects Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator is endeavouring to “stamp out the last vestiges of political pluralism and dissent.”

Lukashenko has ordered the State Security Committee (KGB), still known by its dreaded Soviet-era name, to interrogate the country’s harried dissidents over the blast. Meanwhile, the prosecutor general warned that “irresponsible web reports” will lead to the need to “bring order” to the Internet, the last “outpost” of free speech in Belarus. Last Friday, the Information Ministry reprimanded two leading independent dailies, Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya, for their coverage of the bombing. Under Belarusian law, two such reprimands are sufficient for authorities to secure a media outlet’s lawful closure.

The day after the Minsk bombing, Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), rushed to Comrade Lukashenko’s defense. He parroted the dictator’s rant, alleging that “aggressive forces” based in the European Union, meaning capitalists, are determined to bring down Belarus. Chairman Zyuganov railed:

It seems to me that this terrorist attack was primarily aimed at destabilizing the situation in Belarus, undermining the country’s healthy climate and creating an atmosphere of fear. Those standing behind the blast are deep-dyed villains. It was an absolutely outrageous, well-planned terrorist attack staged in a busy rush hour.

In principle, there are very influential forces that are interested in destabilizing the situation in this country and, subsequently, in condoning such terror acts.

Belarus remains among the few former Soviet republics that continue developing confidently today. It has quite worthy standards of living, and all of the main enterprises continue operating. There is no organized crime, oligarchy and immorality that exist in many other regions and territories. Belarus has been following its own path, on the one hand, taking care of its citizens, and, on the other hand, working to create a controlled market for the benefit of its people.

 The fact that the Belarusians continue living their own life and have not yielded to foreign pressure is an eyesore to many people. It causes heartburn among aggressive
forces because they cannot control everyone. Europe seeks to crush Belarus.

Dirty and mean forces needed this explosion in the Minsk subway system. Europe is certainly annoyed by the Belarusian authorities’ independent decision making.

Incidentally, this week Zyuganov announced that he will once again represent the CPRF in Russia’s March 2012 presidential election. He secured a close second behind President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, but achieved a distant second in the 2000 and 2008 elections. Zyuganov did not bother running in the 2004 presidential election. The CPRF
regularly accuses the United Russia party, itself founded by “ex”-communists, of rigging the country’s elections. President Dmitry Medvedev has declared his candidacy, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has issued no official statement yet.

Although there may be no connection with Belarus’ internal problems, on Tuesday the Russian Air Force began a two-day large-scale drill, deploying 45 warplanes, including Tu-22M (Backfire), Tu-95 (Bear), and Tu-160 (Blackjack) strategic bombers, fighter escorts, and aerial tankers. The Kremlin expects to begin serial production of its first-ever stealth bomber in 2025 and, in the meanwhile, will rely on modernized versions of the other, Soviet-era aircraft to uphold its “nuclear triad.” Russia flew its prototype of the Sukhoi PAK-FA stealth fighter in January 2010. At the time, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin boasted that its performance will excel that of the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

Red Terror File: Belarusian KGB hunts for suspects in wake of Minsk subway bombing, 12 killed; dictator Lukashenko vows harsh security measures

Belarus’ “ex”-communist dictator Alexander Lukashenko ordered a harsh security crackdown yesterday after at least 12 people died in a subway bombing in Minsk, the first such terrorist attack in Belarus since President Lukashenko came to power. Another 149 people were wounded after the explosive device blew up during the evening rush hour in the capital’s busiest metro station, which is near the presidential residence.

Lukashenko ordered the State Secuity Committee (KGB), which still flaunts its Soviet-era name, to tighten security “to the uttermost” in a country that is already classified by the European Union as the continent’s “last dictatorship.” The KGB alleges that the blast may have been “orchestrated from abroad,” according to a transcript
of an emergency government meeting published on the president’s website. Several arrests were made in connection with the explosion, state-run Belta news reported.

The 56-year-old leader, whose government is under EU sanctions, extended his 16-year rule in December elections that international observers condemned as “undemocratic.” The former Soviet republic has been the subject of speculation about a possible default amid diminishing foreign reserves. Lukashenko is closely allied with Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez. The Communist Party of Belarus openly endorses Lukashenko’s policies.

Renaissance Capital analyst Anastasiya Golovach suggested that yesterday’s deadly blast in Minsk could have been a government-sponsored provocation: “The explosion could divert the public’s attention away from economic issues: the present currency crisis and certain, apparently unpopular measures being implemented by the state.” Belarus is seeking a loan of US$3 billion from Russia and other former Soviet republics.

“The event is shocking, not just as a terrorist attack but also because it happened in Minsk, Belarus, a place which has for a long time been considered highly stable in terms of security,” commented VTB Capital analyst Alexei Moiseev in Moscow. “One of the key positive factors in Belarus, stability, has come under attack.”

“Belarus does not face any obvious terrorist threats,” observed Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market research at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London. This fact alone cast a suspicious shadow over the bombing.

The Prosecutor General’s Office, however, declared the blast “an act of terrorism” and announced that it had opened a criminal investigation. Belarusian law enforcement authorities today presented composite sketches of two suspects, reported Russian state television channel. Rossiya 24 cited anonymous experts who stated that the bomb was radio-controlled. Officers of the Russian Federation Federal Security Service have arrived in Minsk to assist the Belarusian investigation.

The device went off as two trains were arriving at the Oktyabrskaya station, where the capital’s two metro lines intersect. The bomb, which was equivalent to 5 kilograms (11 pounds) to 7 kilograms of TNT, left a crater 80 centimeters (31 inches) deep.

On January 24, suicide bombers struck Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, killing at least 35 travellers.

Doom File: 7.1 quake hits NE Japan, damages second nuke plant, contaminated water leaks reported; currents carry Fukushima’s radioactive seawater northward

Northeast Japan, already devastated by a 9-magnitude earthquake that generated a massive tsunami on March 11, killing nearly 18,000, endured another large shaker last night. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that a second nuclear plant, Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture (pictured here), has sustained significant damage, resulting in radioactive leaks:

Tohoku Electric Power Company, which runs the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant in Miyagi Prefecture, said water had spilled onto the floor at all three of the plant’s reactors. The company also said it found water leaks at five locations in the plant, including inside buildings housing the reactors. The operator said the blowout panels, devices designed to control pressure inside the buildings, were damaged at reactor No. 3. The plant’s operations have been suspended since a 9-magnitude earthquake on March 11.  At least two people have died and more than 100 were injured by the April 7 aftershock.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was severely damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, suffered no serious damage but workers struggling with repair work were briefly evacuated.

Prevailing westerly winds have carried small amounts of radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima plant to the west coast of North America, contaminating dairy cattle in Washington, California, and Arizona, although US health officials deny Americans face any serious health threat from Japan’s nuclear disaster. Canadian officials have also detected a radiation spike in that country’s Pacific coast province of British Columbia.

Last night’s quake left more than 500,000 homes without power. More than 15,000 people are still missing as a result of the March 11 quake. Radioactive levels in seawater near Fukushima City are 2,800 times the legal limit, endangering Japan’s US$5.4 billion per year fishing industry. The  radioactive material was likely to be carried northward by ocean currents, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing the governments’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Neo-Sandinista File: Fearing North African-style uprising, Ortega deploys 11,000 police to thwart opposition protest ahead of illegal re-election bid

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Sandinista cadres and supporters occupied the streets of Nicaragua’s capital city to prevent an opposition march against President Daniel Ortega’s illegal re-election bid in November. Long-time Soviet ally and KGB asset Ortega first seized power in 1979, peacefully left office in 1990 after a democratic election, and returned to office in January 2007 with Moscow’s evident approval. Since that time, he has received visits from high-ranking Russian officials, accepted more than US$1 billion in covert support from Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, suppressed the political opposition and independent media, introduced draconian laws that will likely resurrect his 1980s police state, and renovated the Soviet-built strategic bomber-capable runway at Punta Huete, the longest in Central America.

The Sandinistas’ ill-named “March and Festival for Love, Peace and Life” was ostensibly organized by the Sandinista Youth movement, although first lady Rosario Murillo’s “strong and quirky influence” over the event was manifest. The latest pro-regime drama starred thousands of state workers, who were required to camp out overnight in the streets, and public high school students, who were forced to attend Saturday’s rally at risk of receiving grade-point reductions.

The pro-regime rally was designed to dwarf an anti-Ortega protest that ended up drawing fewer than 2,000 people after 11,000 heavily armed riot police thwarted their ability to march. “Far from having a professional police force, we have a police force that is at the service of Orteguismo,” complained Gonzalo Carrión, spokesman for the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, shortly before being detained and hauled off by police. “Today Nicaragua loses, the police lose and Ortega loses, because history will not absolve him.”

According to Ortega’s opposition and former allies, the Nicaraguan president fears a North African-style uprising against his re-constituted dictatorship. “What we have seen in Northern Africa and the Middle East is that citizen mobilizations can overthrow despotic and authoritarian regimes. And what we saw during [Saturday’s] march was a reflection of the fear and psychosis that has awakened in Ortega’s head as a result of what he’s seeing in that part of the world,” opined opposition lawmaker and Sandinista dissident Mónica Baltodano, who was dragged away from the protest and tossed on the ground by police.

In a related story, last Friday the neo-Sandinista regime announced that diplomat Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann would not be representing Libya at the United Nations after all. Former Catholic priest D’Escoto was Nicaragua’s foreign minister during the 1980s and president of the UN General Assembly between September 2008 and September 2009. Vociferously anti-USA, D’Escoto will instead represent Nicaragua at the international body.

Managua had announced two days before that D’Escoto, who once called US President Ronald Reagan “the butcher of my people,” had been appointed to represent Libya after Tripoli’s delegate was denied a visa. Ortega is a long-time ally of Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi, who is facing an armed uprising and UN-sanctioned NATO airstrikes. After protests erupted against the Qaddafi regime in mid-February, Nicaragua’s past/present communist dictator rushed to Colonel Qaddafi’s defense.

Welcome to the new site for Once Upon a Time in the West

Our old site is here. We expect it could take several months to “tweak” our new site. Please excuse any “mess.”