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NATO chief fudges Ukraine membership bid
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Russia:Cluster Bombs Russia is not afraid

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT-Providing “yet another wonder weapon” to Kiev is nothing but an act of despair on Washington’s part, the foreign ministry has said.Washington’s decision to hand over cluster munitions to Kiev only shows that Ukraine and its Western backers are“powerless” to change the situation on the frontlines, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday. 
The use of this new ammunition would hardly affect the Russian military campaign but would have “dire consequences” for civilians, she noted in a statement published by the ministry.
These bombs are nothing but “yet another ‘Wunderwaffe’ [wonder weapon] Washington and Kiev are betting on, without thinking about the harsh consequences” of its employment, Zakharova said, adding that previous uses of such munitions in the Middle East and other parts of the world showed that its bomblets could stay unexploded for a long time and go off after a conflict has ended. 
“Through the cluster munition deliveries, Washington de-facto becomes an accomplice in mining [Ukraine’s] territory and will share full responsibility for the deaths… of both Russian and Ukrainian children,” the spokeswoman stressed.
The continued expansion of weapon supplies to Kiev is aimed at “raising the stakes in this conflict to the maximum,” Zakharova warned, adding that such actions also show the US and its allies engaging more and more in the hostilities. This serves as yet another example of America’s “aggressive anti-Russian course,” she said, stressing that Washington is seeking to prolong the conflict for as long as possible and turn it into a “war to the last Ukrainian.”
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America Blocks Ukraine’s Access To Nato

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT- Kiev has demanded clear guarantees regarding its future in the US-led military bloc,Ukraine must implement “reforms” before it can join NATO, the White House has said, suggesting that even when the conflict with Moscow is resolved, membership for Kiev could still be far off as it struggles to meet the organization’s standards.
Asked whether Ukraine would be offered a “clear pathway to NATO membership” at an upcoming summit in Lithuania next week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Kiev still had many hurdles to clear.
“The president has said this over and over again: Ukraine would have to make reforms to meet the same standards as any NATO country before they join,” she said at a Wednesday briefing. And while Washington remains committed to NATO’s open door policy, she noted that “any decision” on expansion must be supported by all members of the bloc.
While Jean-Pierre did not specify the reforms Kiev would need to make, Biden previously stated that the alliance would not “create special conditions for Ukraine to join,” arguing it would be required to meet the same criteria as any other nation seeking membership.
“I think they have done everything to demonstrate the ability [of] military coordination, but there is a whole question, is their system safe, and is it not corrupt?” the president said last month. He went on to ask whether it meets “all the standards that any other country in NATO meets?”
Despite those prior comments, during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last month, the two leaders reportedly discussed a scheme to simplify the accession process for Ukraine. Under Stoltenberg’s plan, the country would not be made to complete a “membership action plan” typically required of applicants. While other Eastern European states went through the procedure before being admitted, NATO’s most recent member, Finland, was spared the process after applying to join last year.
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Russia briefly turned off ‘international’ internet

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT-The extraordinary step was part of an annual domestic network security check-up,Russian authorities briefly disconnected the country from the global internet earlier this week, the media outlet RBK reported on Wednesday, citing sources within the telecommunications industry. The move was part of a legally mandated test to assess whether domestic networks can handle operating on their own.
The “international Internet was turned off” at one point between Tuesday and Wednesday, as the media regulator Roskomnadzor checked the performance of Russian sites and network-dependent services in the event that the country is disconnected from abroad.
“The exercises were successful,” a Roskomnadzor representative told RBK, adding that the Sovereign Internet Law of 2019 mandated such a test at least once a year. He did not elaborate on what the drill was meant to accomplish.
“During the exercise, they could check whether RuNet would really continue to work after such a shutdown. Bulletproof vests are tested in much the same way, when they are put on mannequins and then shot,” one telecom executive told the outlet.
Sitronics Group executive Alexander Dvoryansky noted that Russia needs to take into account the possibility of being disconnected from the global network, since the root servers are controlled by the US. Tests to determine whether RuNet will continue to operate if cut off from the rest of the world are “absolutely expedient,” Qrator Labs founder Alexander Lyamin agreed. 
The 2019 law envisioned creating Russia’s own national DNS system, which would store all domain names and corresponding IP addresses and provide cryptographic data protection. It also allowed Roskomnadzor to install special equipment on network nodes in order to override routing. The technology has since been used to target platforms and contents outlawed in Russia, but multiple officials have insisted it will never rise to the level of the “Great Firewall of China.”
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Russia Launches Criminal Probe After Award-Winning Reporter Attacked

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. Russian investigators on Wednesday said they had launched a criminal investigation after award-winning journalist Yelena Milashina was badly beaten in Chechnya.
Milashina, 45, covers rights abuses in Chechnya, the Caucasus republic ruled for years by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord.
Milashina, who reports for Russia’s top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Alexander Nemov, a lawyer, were badly beaten this week in the restive republic of Chechnya.
She is in a “difficult” condition in a Moscow hospital, her editor told AFP earlier in the day.
The Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement it opened a criminal inquiry into the intentional infliction of “moderate” bodily harm and “light” bodily harm.
The top investigator in Chechnya, Vitaly Volkov, told the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, that the investigation had been launched following a preliminary probe.
Genuine official investigations into rights abuses are very rare in Chechnya. International media advocates and rights groups voiced concern after Milashina said she had been battered and held at gunpoint with Nemov during a work trip to the volatile region in southern Russia.
“Milashina is in Moscow in hospital. Her condition is, frankly, difficult: she was really severely beaten,” Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, told AFP reporters.
Novaya Gazeta published a video of Milashina in hospital with her head shaven and her hands bandaged. Nemov received a knife wound in the assault.
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British Special Air Services (SAS) troops may have killed dozens of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. British  Special Air Services (SAS) troops may have killed dozens of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan as they allegedly carried out a policy of eliminating “all fighting-age males” while raiding homes between 2010 and 2013, lawyers for families of the victims have told a UK investigative panel, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.
London-based law firm Leigh Day submitted fresh claims citing at least 30 suspicious incidents that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 Afghans. A public inquiry into alleged war crimes by UK forces in Afghanistan was launched in December, led by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, who issued a call for evidence from all interested parties in March.
SAS soldiers allegedly targeted young Afghan males encountered during their raids, “regardless of the threat they posed.” One of the troops “personally killed” 35 Afghans during a six-month deployment to the country, according to Leigh Day’s filing.
The killings were typically justified based on claims that the Afghans were armed, but in some incidents, there were more people shot dead than there were weapons found. Senior officers raised concerns at the time that UK troops were showing “a casual disregard for life,” lawyers for the Afghan families said, but military authorities responded with a “wide ranging, multilayered and years-long cover-up.”
The raids of Afghan compounds were carried out in search of Taliban fighters, often at night, during the UK’s deployments to Helmand province, the Guardian said. Earlier reports suggested that there may have been 54 people murdered by a single SAS unit, but lawyers for the families now claim that more troops were involved over a longer period of time than previously thought. The lawyers claimed to have found “credible evidence of a widespread and systematic pattern of unlawful and extrajudicial killings.”
An investigation by military police ended in 2019, when UK defense officials said no evidence of criminal wrongdoing had been found. However, the lawyers claimed that the special forces headquarters deleted “an unknown quantity of data” shortly before police arrived to examine possible evidence, despite having been ordered by investigators not to erase any material stored on their servers.

Jenderal Armagedon Rusia Dilaporkan Ditangkap

STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. Media The Moscow Times melaporkan jenderal Rusia Sergei Surovikin telah ditangkap. The Moscow Times mengutip dua sumber yang dekat dengan Kementerian Pertahanan yang berbicara dengan syarat anonimitas. “Situasi dengan dia tidak ‘OK.’ Untuk pihak berwenang, saya tidak bisa mengatakan apa-apa lagi,” kata salah satu sumber seperti dikutip dari The Moscow Times.
Menurut sumber kedua, penangkapan itu dilakukan dalam konteks terkait dengan kepala Grup Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin. “Rupanya, dia (Surovikin) memilih sisi Prigozhin selama pemberontakan, dan mereka berhasil menangkapnya,” kata sumber itu.
Ketika ditanya tentang keberadaan sang jenderal saat ini, sumber itu menjawab: “Kami bahkan tidak mengomentari informasi ini melalui saluran internal kami.” Kementerian Pertahanan Rusia belum mengomentari dugaan penangkapan terhadap Surovikin, yang dijuluki sebagai jenderal Armagedon. Surovikin tidak terlihat di depan umum sejak Sabtu, ketika kepala Grup Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin melancarkan pemberontakan bersenjata melawan kepemimpinan militer Rusia.
Sebelumnya, blogger militer pro-perang Vladimir Romanov mengatakan Surovikin ditahan pada hari Minggu, sehari setelah pemberontakan Prigozhin dibatalkan. Romanov mengklaim bahwa Surovikin kini ditahan di pusat penahanan Lefortovo Moskow. Alexei Venediktov, pemimpin redaksi stasiun radio Ekho Moskvy yang ditutup, menulis di Telegram bahwa Surovikin tidak menghubungi keluarganya selama tiga hari dan pengawalnya tidak tanggap.
The New York Times pada Selasa lalu melaporkan, mengutip pejabat Amerika Serikat (AS) yang tidak disebutkan namanya, bahwa Surovikin telah mengetahui rencana Prigozhin untuk menghasut pemberontakan terhadap kepemimpinan militer Rusia. Juru bicara Kremlin Dmitry Peskov pada hari Rabu menolak laporan itu sebagai “spekulasi” dan “gosip”, menunjukkan bahwa Putin tidak menyerah pada tuntutan Prigozhin untuk perombakan petinggi militer Rusia dalam waktu dekat.
Putin:Laws Insulting Islam and Burning the A-Quran
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