Militant islamic fighters train counter-terrorism in Russian Arctic

Militant islamic fighters train counter-terrorism in Russian Arctic

“As-salamu alaykum,” says Usmayev as he greets the camera in a video show-off recorded on great river Yenisey near Dudinka in the far Russian north.

Special forces from the Russian National Guard and instructors from the Chechen Spetsnaz University are training in the region in freezing temperatures down to minus 30, he explains.

 

Chechen Deputy Premier Vakhit Usmayev together with Rosgvadia leader Viktor Zolotov. Usmayev operates on social media under the name @djihad_95. Screenshot from video

 

He ends his social media post with the words “Akhmat-Sila!”, a salute widely used in Chechnya to honor Akhmat Kadyrov, the Chechen strongman who was killed in 2004. He is the father of current Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

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Moscow to put screws on President Sandu, plunging her into a political game with Russian vaccine

Fears are confirmed that the lack of support for Moldova’s President Maia Sandu by the parliament will stir her to cozy up to Russia, despite her Western-leaning campaign promises.

Half a year after she won the presidential election, Sandu is trying to call parliamentary re-elections to win the support of the law-making body that is now blocking her attempts to reform the country.

We outlined in November 2020, that having gained the presidency, Sandu would not get parliamentary support, therefore. Her PAS, in a bloc with ACUM, has got just 15 seats of the 101-seat parliament. As a comparison, the Socialists have 37 votes, and the Democrats have 13 seats. Such support by the parliament will not allow for serious reforms. This means high risks of a large slippage in support for Sandu as early as in 1.5 years of presidency.

The Socialist Party of Russian-minded former president, socialist Igor Dodon, backed by advisers from among senior Russian intelligence officers (SVR) in the presidential campaign last year, has jumped with two feet into the election campaign amid an unfavorable epidemiological situation and drop in the polls, playing the vaccination card. The latest IMAS poll shows that Sandu’s PAS has 42.5% now, while the socialists have 32.7%.

Dodon’s party is trying to accuse Sandu of disrupting the vaccination campaign in Moldova. Dodon, together with the Russians, takes advantage of high-quality vaccine shortage in the global market for geopolitical purposes. Russia seeks to discredit the policymakers in other countries by criticizing their response to the pandemic and make the contracts to supply Russian vaccine that has not passed all required clinical trials, so that the political regimes would be dependent on the Kremlin, and Russia would win the support by the people in such countries.

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Russia’s Northern Sea Route push is met with scepticism

Russia’s Northern Sea Route push is met with scepticism

In the aftermath of the “Ever Given” cargo ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal, the Arctic shipping route north of Russia has become an increasingly suggested transportation option. Naturally, Moscow is the main proponent of such a development as an alternative waterway.

The NSR has one clear advantage over the Suez Canal. Timewise, shipping is faster through the route as a cause of the circumference of the Arctic circle being more than two times smaller than that of the Tropic of Cancer, which the Suez Canal is close to.  However, there are several grand negatives overshadowing the route’s time advantage. Seemingly, cost is the most reiterated counterargument

Currently, the cost of transportation through the NSR is approximately three times more expensive than that of transportation through the Suez Canal. To oppose this negative, Russian officials are trying increase the waterway’s popularity by artificially reducing the cost of transportation along the NSR.

Yuri Trutnev, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, stated on the Northern Sea Route Telegram channel that the transportation of goods across the NSR should currently not be more expensive, and in the long term, be cheaper than transportation through the Suez Canal. To achieve this, Trutnev announced that Russia is willing to create a separate federal program and finance it to reduce the cost of delivery of goods through the Arctic.

However, another catastrophic negative is more difficult to counter: environmental damage. Amongst those who have opposed the idea of the NSR’s transportional growth is the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). MSC has reemphasized its rejection of the NSR on the basis of environmental grounds. Increasing transportation through the Arctic will cause hefty environmental damages including the diminishment of biodiversity, acceleration of melting glaciers and furtherance of global warming as a cause of increased black carbon emissions, air pollution and potential oil spills. According to MSC’s CEO, Soren Toft, as a responsible and environmentally conscious company, the decision of rejecting the route as a potential was an obvious one, the Shipping and Logistics news-portal Ajot reported. 

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Disclosed plot in Jordan likely to rock country’s image as an island of stability

Conspiracy against the government disclosed in Jordan rises uncertainty in this country, revealing a race for the throne inside the royal family. Foreign connection trace increases risks for the stability of one of the key players in fighting terrorism in the Middle East. 

Jordanian authorities on Saturday, April 3rd, arrested as many as 20 people and sought to restrain the movement of a former crown prince amid what officials called a threat to the “security and stability” of a country long regarded as a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East. In a statement published by the Jordanian state news agency, it was said the action was part of a broader security investigation in which a former minister, a member of the royal family and some other unidentified individuals were detained.

Prince Hamzeh bin Hussein, the eldest son of the late King Hussein and his American-born fourth wife, Queen Noor, was told to remain at his Amman palace amid an investigation into an alleged plot to unseat his older half brother, King Abdullah II, according to a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official briefed on the events. The official statement said that the former crown prince had not been arrested but that “comprehensive investigations” were underway.

The arrests of other officials were reported by Jordanian news outlets. Among them:

 Sharif Hasan, a member of the royal family. He is the son of Sharif Hasan Ibn Zayd Al Nasser, a Hashemite who lives in Saudi Arabia. 

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Reactor core unloaded from fire-hit Losharik submarine

Reactor core unloaded from fire-hit Losharik submarine

On July 1st, 2019, Russia’s Russian deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine AS-31, nicknamed Losharik, was seriously damaged in a fire, killing all 14 officers on board. The accident happened as the sub was working on sea-floor installations in the Motovskiy Bay not far from Russia’s maritime border to Norway. 

After the accident, AS-31 was transported to Zvezdochka, a part of the Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation and Russia’s largest ship repair center, located in Severodvinsk on the coast of the White Sea.

In March this year, specialists at the yard completed the task of extracting the deep-diving submarine’s nuclear reactor core. 

Losharik was supposed to originally undergo restorations in 2020, however, the reconstruction was postponed and rescheduled for 2021. According to state-affiliated news agency TASS, the operation lasted approximately one month and happened without problems. A source speaking to TASS, who claims to have close connections to the Russian Defense Ministry, states that Losharik is now starting to undergo restoration after the fire and modernization.

Losharik is constructed from seven, spherical, titanium hulls. The front five hulls are interconnected, while the last two are paired up and hold AS-31’s nuclear reactor and machinery. According to TASS’s source, the deep-diving submarine’s titanium hull suffered practically no damages. The nuclear reactor itself, powering the submarine, will not be replaced and are ready to work with the new uranium fuel elements in place. 

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Reactor core unloaded from fire-hit Losharik submarine

Reactor core unloaded from fire-hit Losharik submarine

On July 1st, 2019, Russia’s Russian deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine AS-31, nicknamed Losharik, was seriously damaged in a fire, killing all 14 officers on board. The accident happened as the sub was working on sea-floor installations in the Motovskiy Bay not far from Russia’s maritime border to Norway. 

After the accident, AS-31 was transported to Zvezdochka, a part of the Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation and Russia’s largest ship repair center, located in Severodvinsk on the coast of the White Sea.

In March this year, specialists at the yard completed the task of extracting the deep-diving submarine’s nuclear reactor core. 

Losharik was supposed to originally undergo restorations in 2020, however, the reconstruction was postponed and rescheduled for 2021. According to state-affiliated news agency TASS, the operation lasted approximately one month and happened without problems. A source speaking to TASS, who claims to have close connections to the Russian Defense Ministry, states that Losharik is now starting to undergo restoration after the fire and modernization.

Losharik is constructed from seven, spherical, titanium hulls. The front five hulls are interconnected, while the last two are paired up and hold AS-31’s nuclear reactor and machinery. According to TASS’s source, the deep-diving submarine’s titanium hull suffered practically no damages. The nuclear reactor itself, powering the submarine, will not be replaced and are ready to work with the new uranium fuel elements in place. 

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Al-Shabaab threats to American and French forces can benefit China and President Guelleh campaign

Al-Shabaab tries to expand its influence in East Africa and push out Western foreign military forces beyond the region. It uses upcoming presidential elections uncertainty in Djibouti to grow influence and capabilities near the important world trade-route. 

Ahmed Omar Abu Ubaidah (Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar), the leader of the Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab called for attacks against American and French interests in Djibouti before key presidential elections on April 9, 2021. The Al-Shabaab leader accuses the Djibouti government of “turning the country into a military base from where every war against the Muslims in East Africa is planned”. In newly released audio, Ahmed Omar Abu Ubaidah accuses the leaders of Djibouti of turning the country into a military base “from where every war against the Muslims in East Africa is planned.” Abu Ubaidah specifically called on the youth in Djibouti to “carry out individual lone wolf martyrdom operations” to expel the French and Americans.”

Ahmad Umar.

“Make American and French interests in Djibouti the highest priority of your targets,” the audio posted by al-Shabaab media says. Djibouti has a military contingent serving as part of the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Abu Ubaidah said his group was ready to offer “safe refuge” and “prepare and train” those willing to migrate from Djibouti if they cannot fulfill the “individual obligation of jihad.”

Al-Shabaab remains a persistent threat to U.S. interests in East Africa. This is why it remains important to apply continued pressure on the al-Shabaab network and isolate the threat it presents to the region and beyond.

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Northern Fleet marines use clearly marked Red Cross vehicle as target and cover in ambushing drill

Northern Fleet marines use clearly marked Red Cross vehicle as target and cover in ambushing drill

The Northern Fleet Marine Brigade consists of some of Russia’s best-trained elite soldiers and should very well be aware of the law of armed conflicts, also when exercising.

This week, though, an easy-to-see Red Cross mark was in the center of the brigade’s ambush tactics training, photos made available to the press by the Northern Fleet show.

The photo gallery shows how a two-link Aleut all-terrain tracked vehicle came driving along a snow-covered road in the taiga forest, followed by what seems to be a two-section DT-10PM all-terrain tracked vehicle.

The Red Cross mark on the side door is clearly visible for the soldiers hidden in the snow a few tens of meters from the road. Then, the ambushing group starts shooting.

At least five heavily armed soldiers wearing camouflaged uniforms jump out with weapons well-equipped to repel the attack, the photos show. One soldier shoots with a belt-fed heavy machine from the roof just over the Red Cross sign.

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Bosnia-Herzegovina`s past and future challenges

The beginning of the 90s in the Balkans was marking an uncomfortable beginning for the then Yugoslavia. After Tito’s death in 1980, tensions within Yugoslavia were re-emerging, from nationalist groups calling for more autonomy, tensions calls to the declarations of independence of Croatia and later Slovenia.

Conflict and resentment would not stop there. In 1991 this discontent spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina. BiH, a country inhabited by Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Croats, would soon face the war. BiH Serbs threatened bloody war if the majority Bosnian and Croat communities tried to break away. The war started and the Serbs were taking control of most of the country, of course with the support of Radovan Karadzic[1] and under the leadership of Ratko Mladic[2], genocide took place in Bosnia against the Bosnian population.

This would later be called the greatest failure of the United Nations in Balkans, as the genocide of civilians took place in the area controlled by UN troops UPROFOR, who were stationed in the area called as a “Safe Zone”.  UNPROFOR was deployed in BiH according to UN Security Council Resolution 819 with the aim of reaching an agreement between Serbs and Bosnians. The agreement was reached in 2003 which demilitarized Bosnians but not Serbs, and this turned out to be fatal for Bosnians. 

Two years later, in 1995, Serbs killed and massacred over 8,000 civilians of the Bosnian Muslim community in Srebrenica. What happened in Srebrenica, was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II. Hundreds of Russians and Greeks also took part in the massacre on the Serb side. This whole event took place in the eyes of the United Nations mission UNPROFOR. The United Nations had made Srebrenica a safe haven for civilians, but this did not prevent Serbian soldiers from attacking the “Safe Zone” controlled by UN troops.

Now more than 25 years after this genocide, more than 1,000 troops from the Srebrenica massacre are still missing, and among other things, BiH is still fighting on its way to meeting the priorities of joining the European Union. BiH, after a five-year political stalemate, only last year managed to approve in Parliament the Rules of Procedure for the Stabilization and Association for the Parliamentary Committee, this is just one of the 14 main priorities that must be met on the road to the EU.

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Military constructs kindergarten for 360 kids at Novaya Zemlya

Military constructs kindergarten for 360 kids at Novaya Zemlya

Housing and development of infrastructure in the Arctic get special attention, according to a Defense Ministry statement given to Interfax.

Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov elaborated when he recently visited the Northern Fleet, from January 1 this year responsible for all military units in Russia’s Arctic region.

“From 2013 until today, specialists from the military construction complex have commissioned 791 buildings and structures,” Ivanov said.

Later this year, three new residential buildings with a total of 168 apartments will be ready in the military town of Belushya Guba.

Also, a kindergarten with room for 360 children is under construction and will be opened by the end of 2021. In comparison, the current kindergarten has a capacity for 80 children, according to the portal of the municipality.

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North Russian regions want extension of Arctic shipping route

North Russian regions want extension of Arctic shipping route

The regional leaders of St.Petersburg, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Sakhalin and Kamchatka have sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev where they propose the extension of the Northern Sea Route the Baltic and Pacific Seas.

According to the governors, the extension of the route will help synchronize the development of port infrastructure and harmonize logistical chains in the Arctic. A representative of the deputy prime minister’s office confirms that the letter will be addressed in the “nearest future,” newspaper RBC reports.

The Northern Sea Route includes the waters between Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait. Map by nsra.ru

The current Northern Sea Route stretches from the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya to the Bering Strait.

Among the authors of the letter is Andrei Chibis, Governor of Murmansk. He argues that the state must increase subsidies for marine transportation, including on icebreaker services.

Chibis also calls for a liberalization of sailing requirements in Arctic waters. When there is no ice on the Northern Sea Route, ships without ice-class should be allowed to sail and there should be no mandatory icebreaker escort, he argues.

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Arctic LNG 2 aims to raise $11 billion in a 50/50 split between domestic and Asian banks

Arctic LNG 2 aims to raise $11 billion in a 50/50 split between domestic and Asian banks

The pool of banks reportedly ready to provide loans for 51,6% of the total costs of Novatek’s second liquid natural gas (LNG) plant above the Arctic Circle are the same that financed the company’s first plant on the Yamal Peninsula.

The Russian banks VEB.RF, Sberbank and Gazprombank will cover half and a pool of foreign banks, consisting of China Development Bank (CDB), the Export-Import Bank of China, the Bank of Japan for International Cooperation (JBIC), Intesa Sanpaolo and Raiffeisen Bank International will cover the other half, according to Kommersant.

Earlier in March, Novatek CEO Leonid Mikhelson told state-affiliated news agency TASS investments to implement Arctic LNG-2 was not negatively affected by the pandemic.

Map. Novatek

The first of three trains for LNG production is scheduled to be launched in 2023, the second in 2024 and the third in 2026.

Six module-based units for liquid gas production are currently under construction at the Wison Offshore & Marine’s Zhoushan yard in China.

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Russia to support Myanmar military junta and strengthen its military ties with Naypyidaw

The Myanmar military junta was supported by the Kremlin; Russian ammunition was used by Myanmar to commit genocide against the Rohingya.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Colonel-General Alexander Fomin paid a visit to Myanmar where he met with the military junta leader and exchanged gifts.

General Min Aung Hlaing (right) and Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Colonel-General Alexander Fomin (left)

In January 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also visited Myanmar. He negotiated with the Supreme Commander of the country’s armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing who had seized power in February,1 military coup. Min Aung Hlaing reportedly has visited Russia six times, including last June.

Min Aung Hlaing’s turn to Russia for assets followed the new direction he gave the Tatmadaw as the country began its tentative transition toward democracy in 2011 after 50 years of oppressive military rule. Therefore, the Kremlin took measures to block any kind of democratic development in Myanmar in the interests of the local military elites. Moscow understands that Russia cannot become a leader for countries developing and maintaining democratic values. That is why authoritarian leaders’ support creates the opportunity to build relations on Moscow’s well-practiced principles – bribery, state corruption and guaranteeing international protection by vetoing UN resolutions.

Source: SIPRI.

Despite China’s backup of the Myanmar coup and junta, it is highly likely that Russia was informed of the coup plans during Shoigu’s visit to Myanmar and ensured Min Aung Hlaing of support at the coup final stage.

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Crisis-ridden Hurtigruten sells properties in Svalbard

Crisis-ridden Hurtigruten sells properties in Svalbard

Hurtigruten has over many years significantly strengthened its presence in the far northern archipelago and today owns several hotels, office buildings, apartments and shops in local town Longyearbyen. The real estate development has gone hand-in-hand with an explosive growth in Arctic tourism.

In 2019, there were 166,000 overnight stays in local hotels, an increase of almost 40,000 in four years, figures from Statistics Norway show. The number of expedition cruise tourists that same year amounted to almost 20,000 and conventional cruise tourists - almost 50.000.

 

Cruise ship in Svalbard. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

A significant number of the visitors were served by Hurtigruten’s ships, hotel staff and adventure tourism personnel.

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Cold weather perfect to pioneer electric aviation says Finnair and signs intention to purchase 20 battery planes

Cold weather perfect to pioneer electric aviation says Finnair and signs intention to purchase 20 battery planes

With zero-emissions, low-noise and possible to operate on 750-meter runways, the first generation electric planes will be perfect for commuter flights between small airports close to city centers. Such airports are numerous in the Nordic countries.

In mid-March, Norwegian-based regional airliner Widerøe announced its intention to be launch-operator of the Rolls-Royce and Tecnam developed P-Volt passenger aircraft.

Now, Finland’s flag carrier Finnair says it has signed a letter of interest with pioneering Swedish aviation company Heart Aerospace and intends to buy up to 20 of its ES-19 battery-powered aircraft.

Heart Aerospace says it will deliver the first ES-19 certified for commercial flights by 2026.

Finnair’s Head of Sustainability, Anne Larilahti says cold weather in the Nordic region makes it a perfect place to pioneer electric aviation technology.

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From the ICTY to the Specialized Chambers: The KLA’s Journey through the Courts

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers & Specialist Prosecutor’s Office for Kosovo in The Hague were established at the persistence of the international community with the relevant constitutional changes by the Assembly of Kosovo. The Special Court as it is referred to in Kosovo is temporary and although it is a part of the judiciary in Kosovo, it operates independently and is funded by the European Union.

Its establishment follows a 2011 Council of Europe report in which Swiss Senator Dick Marty prepared which spoke about alleged crimes committed by KLA members against ethnic minorities and political opponents from January 1998 to December 2000. Dick Marty’s report accuses Kosovo political leaders of organ trafficking and other crimes committed in Kosovo and Albania. This had severely damaged the image and future of Albania from a geo-political perspective as a member of NATO and as a contender for eventual membership in the European Union. The presented evidence by Marty is also very controversial and inconclusive.  A few years before the report, Gazeta Express in Kosovo published a wiretapping of an alleged member of Serbian secret service trying to buy services of a Kosovo Albanian to testify about organ harvesting scandal for the same court. This scandal was stopped by the Kosovo police but the attempt to buy witnesses is a major problem in establishing truths. 

The investigation of the swiss politician, Dick Marty on organ trafficking and other crimes in Kosovo and Albania was not finding evidence even after some of his trips through the region. War crimes investigators from EULEX (European Union Justice and Justice Mission in Kosovo) also told Mr. Marty that the allegations against the authorities were a terrible “tale”. Marty, known for his “investigations” on CIA secret prisons in Europe is also known to have opposed Kosovo’s Independence and is now collaborating with Serbia in attempts to mine Kosovo statehood. Dennis McShane, a former UK minister of EU, says in a authored text in Open Democracy that “Dick Marty’s report to the Council of Europe reflects the unfortunate politicisation of that body by Russia since accession in 1995. Kosovan politics is not clean, but there is no evidence of organ trafficking by Thaçi. And Marty’s judgement is clouded by his anti-American instincts”. McShane also says that “There is not one single name or a single witness to the allegations that Thaçi was involved in the harvesting of human organs from murdered victims. That such disgusting practices happened and happen elsewhere in the world is not in doubt. But Marty fails to link Thaçi directly to organ harvesting though the lurid title of his report – “Illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo” – is designed to maximize headlines”. The report was initiated by Konstantin Kosachev and Mikhail Margelov, Russian MEPs along with Milos Aligrudic, MP from Serbia, Yevhen Marmazov from Ukrainian Communist party (banned since 2014) and MEP. Other MPs followed from various parliamentary groups of the European Parliament. 

In 2015, Kosovo was led to believe that UN will establish an international tribunal to investigate Kosovo for the allegations. In fear of Russian influence on the UNSC, Kosovo Assembly in 2015, voted in favor of establishing a Special Court and considered its establishment as “A challenge that Kosovo must pass”. It is clear that all this was created by the extraordinary pressure exerted by the diplomatic representatives on the Kosovo institutions by asking the Kosovo Assembly to establish its own Special Court that will look at the crimes of one ethnicity only in the context of so many war crimes of Serbian military unindicted by the ICTY and other courts. Opposition political parties opposed the establishment of the Special Court on the pretext that they were not opposed to a war crimes tribunal, but demand that it be comprehensive, and not judge only the Albanian side. 

Immediately after the war in Kosovo, a justice system was built by the UNMIK administration, a fragile and dysfunctional system. UNMIK, also disapproved the practice of trials in absence so most of the accused of war crimes in Kosovo, who were Serbs and managed to flee in 1999 went free. This crippled Kosovo justice system to deal with war crimes thus heavily building the distrust of Kosovo people in justice system. 

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The Kremlin Manchurian candidate is creating the Scottish separatist party, more radical than SNP

On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The party that wins the most seats will form the Scottish government.

Former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond announced the creation of a new pro-independence party which will stand in the Scottish Parliament election, seeking to help build a political supermajority for breaking away from the rest of Britain.”I’m announcing the public launch of a new political force: the Alba Party’, Salmond said in Twitter statement. Salmond and current SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used to be close friends and allies, but they fell out after several women made sexual harassment complaints against him. He was compromised; thus, he became an easy target for Russia’s intelligence influence operations. The same way Moscow used French actor Gérard Depardieu.

Salmond said that Alba will contest the upcoming Scottish elections as a list-only party under his leadership, seeking to build a supermajority for independence in the Scottish Parliament. It was reported that the party had been founded in January this year by former TV producer Laurie Flynn, and was registered by the Electoral Commission on February, 8.

As Alba’s website informs, if the party should get around half of the SNP list vote it would result in 20-25 Alba MSPs. The idea is to secure a Parliamentary ‘supermajority’ for independence ‘in the region of +40, rather than the +5 which was achieved in 2016’.

The Alba party is being created while the UK-Russia relations are taking a turn for the worse. On March 16, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Russia as Britain’s top security challenge. Despite the fact that support of separatist political project development fully reminds Moscow’s tactics that can be observed over the past 7-8 years, one cannot state that the Scottish pro-independence movement is an exclusively Russia’s project. Moscow seeks to support all foreign projects contributing to the weakening and decentralizing the states that the Kremlin sees as opponents.

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Election results in Congo hardly to roil the country, but hurt democracy

Presidential election results in Congo look pessimistic for democracy in this country. There are all signs the dictatorship has been set up in Brazzaville with elements of government corruption, clamping down on opposition, and human rights violation. The incumbent president seeks to hold the power in the country.  This desire spurs him on to contact and make agreements with other authoritarian leaders.

After 36 years in power, Denis Sassou Nguesso’s victory was crushing and expected.

 At the end of the first round of the presidential election held on Sunday 21 March, Denis Sassou Nguesso(Congolese Marxist-leaning Party of Labour) was re-elected for a fourth term as the head of Congo with 88.57% of the vote, according to provisional results announced on Tuesday by Raymond Zephirin Mboulou, the Minister of Interior. The turnout was 67.55%.

Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas (Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development), who died of Covid-19 on Sunday night during a medical evacuation to France, had obtained 7.84% of the vote. He was considered the main opponent of the head of state.

The two strongest challengers remain in prison: former army chief Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko was arrested after challenging the incumbent in the last polls and charged with breaching state security; André Okombi Salissa (Initiative for Democracy in Congo) previously served in government, but then ran against Sassou-Nguesso and was detained in 2017 for possession of weapons. The arrest and detention of Mokoko and Salissa were politically motivated, rather than for legitimate crimes. The only two who could potentially challenge Sassou-Nguesso are Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, his former minister, and his ex-minister of finance Mathias Dzon. Dzon achieved his best score in his home town of Gamboma, where he got close to 45%.

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Brief Analysis: Mozambique and the expansion of Islamist terrorism

Over the past year, security risks related to Islamist terrorism in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province have increased exponentially. The northern areas of the country, the poorest in Mozambique despite the presence of important mineral and hydrocarbon deposits, are affected by an Islamist insurgency, which in the early years was a strictly local issue, but with the prolongation of this and the rise of the Islamic State in Central Africa (ISCAP), it has transformed and consolidated as a regional threat, also due to the growing presence of foreign Islamist terrorists.

The jihadist propaganda message has found popularity among the majority of the population due to numerous factors related to social and economic problems, unemployment, exploitation by foreign companies, abuse and marginalisation, factors that have led many people, young people in particular, to support extremist Islamist groups. Moreover, the province of Cabo Delgado has for years been the focus of considerable investment in infrastructure for the extraction of oil, natural gas, pink sapphires, rubies and gems. However, the local population is excluded from job opportunities, to the detriment of foreign workers, and in many areas, land is being expropriated without adequate compensation, with violence, robbery and abuse by the private security forces of the various companies, with the complicity of the Mozambican police, creating demoralisation and social stress among the local population. Many people are being raped or killed, farming and fishing communities have been displaced. 

Ethnic rivalries also play a key role, as most of the insurgents come from the Kimwani ethnic group, marginalised by the Makonde, the ethnic group of the political elite. 

The jihadist group operating in Mozambique, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, is Ansar al-Sunna Wa-Jamma (ASWJ), an ultra-conservative Wahabi religious organisation (early members were followers of Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a radical Kenyan cleric), which was militarized from 2015 to 2017. ASWJ’s first militants, the group’s leaders, were radicalised to jihadism and trained in Tanzania, Sudan and Somalia (by former Mozambican policemen and border guards fired by the government or by trainers from the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab). The group initially limited itself to insurgent operations against private and government security forces, without a proactive propaganda or political agenda. The group gained prominence in October 2017, when 30 armed militants attacked a police unit in Mocimboa da Praia. The group’s leadership pursues goals centred on the creation of an Islamic State governed by Shari’a, the rejection of the government’s secular education system, is anti-Christian and anti-Western, prevents people from attending hospitals or schools it considers un-Islamic and aims to take control of the Cabo Delgado region in the north of the country, exploiting the delicate situation of economic crisis to recruit men and expand its control (recruitment is mainly through family ties and radical mosques.  The group uses videos to radicalise poor, marginalised and unemployed young people).  The group operates with small, hard-to-detect cells of 10 to 30 militants, use guerrilla tactics and operate relatively autonomously. The group controls mosques, or has built its own, where its members preach anti-state ideology and a radical interpretation of Islam. Estimates of the number of militants in the group vary between 450 and 1,500. ASWJ finances its operations with proceeds from the illegal trade in wood, rubies, charcoal, and ivory, as well as exploiting the illicit trafficking of heroin from Pakistan to Tanzania, Europe, and South Africa. The group is also involved in the illegal trade of ivory and smuggled goods. Additional funds come from sympathisers, who donate via electronic payments (using income from smuggling, religious networks and human traffickers, ASWJ sends young men to Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia for military training).

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The United States, Afghanistan, and the Issue of Peace: Prospects Analyzed

The Afghan war which began in 2001 is now the longest war in American history. The war had formally ended in December 2014 and had cost $578.7 billion. There are about 2,500 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan.  [1] Another report states that the war has by now cost more than $2 trillion, and more than 2,300 American lives. More than 38,000 Afghan civilians have been killed.[2]

Earlier, the February 2020 Doha agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban had called for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan by the May 1, 2021 deadline in return for the Taliban entering peace negotiations with Ghani Government in Afghanistan which is its adversary, desisting from attacking US or NATO troops, and decreasing violence in the country. The Taliban had also committed to prevent Al Qaeda, or other militants, from launching terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. Since entering last year’s peace agreement with the US., the Taliban have indeed halted all attacks on U.S. or NATO forces. Afghan government’s security forces and civilian casualties remain high and there have been an increasing number of unclaimed bombings and targeted killings in the past few months. [3] The Afghan government and the Taliban have blamed each other, and the IS.[4]  Later, the Taliban stalled the talks with the Afghan government as it did not meet the condition of the released of thousands of their men in a prisoner swap.[5]

On March 18, 2021, a meeting was hosted by Russia in Moscow to break stalemate in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan, China, the US and representatives of the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government attended the meeting. A joint statement issued after the meeting urged both Afghan government and Taliban to hold talks to conclude the long-awaited peace agreement. Abdullah Abdulla, head of the Afghan peace council also called for an end to violence and the acceleration of the peace talks.[6]

On March 19, 2021, the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed to accelerate peace talks The Head of the Afghan peace council Abdullah Abdullah indicated his desire to talk with the Taliban to bring peace. The Afghan government reiterated its commitment for the peaceful settlement of the crisis in Afghanistan.[7]

On March 21, 2021 Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a visit to Afghanistan and met with Afghan President Ghani. They discussed the peace process and concerns over rising violence, according to the statement. The visit came at a crucial time for the Afghan peace process as US President Joe Biden’s administration reviews its plan for Afghanistan ahead of the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline agreed by the previous Trump administration with the Taliban. 

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