Russia and Azerbaijan intend to expand military cooperation, said Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. He made the remarks during a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov in Moscow Nov. 30 on the sidelines of the meeting of the CIS Ministerial Council, APA’s Moscow correspondent reported. Shoigu noted that the Defense Ministries of Azerbaijan and Russia also plan to enhance cooperation in the training of Azerbaijani servicemen in Russia’s military educational institutions.
Russian and Uzbek Defense Ministers, Sergei Shoigu and Kabul Berdiyev, have signed an agreement on the development of military-technical cooperation and the plan of bilateral cooperation between the two countries’ Defense Ministries for 2017. Shoigu affirmed that the signing of this document will make it possible for Russian Federation to tackle the issues of equipping Uzbek Armed Forces without delay and boosting their combat capability. According to Russian Defence Minister, this concerns, first and foremost, joint steps to ensure the two countries’ military security enhance the armed forces’ combat potential, train military personnel and develop military-technical cooperation. The Minister added that the program of modernization and re-equipment of Uzbekistan’s armed forces with modern Russian weapons until 2020 is being implemented.
On 21 November 2016, a joint investigation team (JIT) consisting of investigators and judicial authorities from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, took action against a money laundering ring whose members were active in Western Europe and Morocco.
The action day, supported on-the-spot by Europol experts, was conducted by over 450 police officers simultaneously in France (Gendarmerie Nationale), Belgium (Police Judiciaire Fédérale) and the Netherlands (Nationale Politie) and resulted in the arrest of 36 suspects.
The JIT members had been investigating since 2015 into the activities of this complex structure involved in laundering to Morocco the proceeds from drugs trafficking in Europe, with a total amount of funds already laundered estimated at over EUR 300 million.
The criminals’ modus operandi involved the use of cash couriers traveling by car who would pick up the proceeds from drug trafficking throughout Western Europe (collection rate of over EUR 1 million per month) and transport them to Belgium and the Netherlands. The cash was there laundered to Morocco via the Middle East using unregulated financial channels (the Hawala system), thus leaving no tell-tale trail evidence for law enforcement investigators.
Eurojust was requested to facilitate the transmission and execution of Letters of Request, and to assist a joint investigation team between France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Europol has been supporting this operation since July 2015 by providing analytical and operational support (cross-matches, operational analysis and commercial intelligence reports) to all involved Member States. Mobile offices were deployed to Paris and Brussels on the action day to assist the national authorities. Over EUR 5.5 million in cash have been seized, alongside EUR 800 000 worth of gold, two semi-automatic weapons and ammunition.
On Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, affirmed, in response to a question from a legislator, that Japan has lodged a protest against Russia’s deployment of anti-ship missiles in the southern Kurils. Japan’s Prime Minister Sindzo Abe expressed regret about the deployment of the Russian anti-ship missiles. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier said that the placement of missile systems in the Kurils was a well-founded move and should not affect negotiations with Tokyo, including those on a future peace treaty. According to Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Minister’s spokeswoman, the deployment of the missile system Bastion in the southern Kuril islands is expected to strengthen the national security, so it would not be a threat to stability in the region.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is visiting China, on Wednesday had a meeting with the Vice-Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, Gen Xu Qiliang, in the course of which he proposed to have a detailed discussion about the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as about the prospects for a bilateral cooperation in the military sphere and in defense-related technologies. Shoigu also met his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan. During the meeting between the two Ministers, Shoigu affirmed that Military cooperation between Russia and China contributes to bring peace and stability on the Eurasian continent and beyond. China has been an active buyer of Russian defense technology. Just this month, Russia announced the delivery of S-400 defense systems to China by 2020. Beijing has also become the first state in the world authorized to buy the one of a kind system. According to media reports, the transaction amounted to around $3 billion. According to some experts, with relations between Moscow and the West deteriorating over the past two years, due to the Ukraine crisis and the following sanctions, Russia has seemed content to increase cooperation with its Chinese neighbor, and the entire region has profited from it.
Russian Presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in the wake of media, reported that Russia had placed coastal missile systems Bastion and Bal on the Iturup and Kunashir islands, affirmed that the deployment of missile systems in the Kuril Islands is well founded and it should not harm Russia’s talks with Tokyo, including those on concluding a peace treaty. Russia and Japan have been in talks (with intermissions) over a peace treaty based on the outcome of World War II. Sovereignty over the southern part of the Kuril Islands is the stumbling block. After the war, the Soviet Union took over the whole of the Kuril archipelago. Japan keeps disputing sovereignty over the Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands and the uninhabited string of small islands Habomai. On Saturday, after a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, affirmed that the peace treaty between the two countries isn’t a simple problem to resolve but Moscow-Tokyo consultations on the issue are continuing. At the same time, the Russian President affirmed that talks on signing a peace treaty prove the evidence of the progress in the relations between the two countries.
MEPs in Strasbourg have voted on a non-legislative resolution which calls the EU to respond to the information warfare by Russia. RT and Sputnik news agency are alleged to be among from the most dangerous tools of hostile propaganda. Early in October, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a report on combating propaganda which named the Russian media one of the main threats. Commenting the news, Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that the European Parliament’s resolution on the Russian media’s activities proves the fact that the Western countries’ perception of democracy has been degrading. In the Wednesday vote, 304 MEPs supported the resolution based on the report ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, with 179 voting against it and 208 abstaining. The report suggests that Moscow provides financial support to opposition parties and organizations in EU member states, causing disintegration within the bloc. At the same time, Russia is accused of “information warfare” with such entities as RT TV channel, Sputnik news agency, Rossotrudnichestvo federal agency and the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) fund alleged to be among its most threatening propaganda tools.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, affirmed that there is still no possibility in sight for another ministerial meeting of the Normandy Quartet (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) since a road map on Donbass, that the ministers will have to approve, hasn’t been agreed on yet. Lavrov also said that the Normandy Quartet leaders gave instructions to their foreign policy aides to draw up a road map, the aides have been maintaining constant contacts with each other. The aides have been working to outline the sequence of steps, taking into account the principle of simultaneous efforts, agreed on by the four leaders in Berlin on 20th of October. The principle concerns security sphere and political reforms that the Ukrainian authorities should carry out according to the Minsk agreements dated February 12, 2015.
On Tuesday, the press service of the Russian Embassy to Ukraine affirmed that the Russian consulate general in Odessa has sent a note to Ukraine asking it to present copies of the documents confirming the identity of the detained Russian nationals. Late on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that two Russian servicemen had been abducted by Ukraine’s Security Service in Crimea and taken to Ukraine’s Nikolayev region. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry’s spokesman on the Donbass Military Operation, Alexander Motuzyanik, affirmed that the Russian servicemen detained on the border with Crimea are the former servicemen of Ukraine’s army accused of breaking the military oath. According to a Russian Black Sea Fleet source, the Russian servicemen abducted by Ukrainian security operatives in Crimea have been lured under the pretense of providing them with documents confirming obtaining higher education in Ukrainian universities. The Russian Ministry warned that the Ukrainian authorities could use psychological and physical pressure to force the Russian servicemen to confess their alleged crimes against Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major-General Igor Kanashenkov, affirmed that the United States are creating a security threat by saturating Europe with their armaments. The Defense Ministry spokesman thus commented on a statement by the US State Department that Russia was deploying S-400 antiaircraft missile systems and Iskander tactical missile complexes in its Kaliningrad Region. The general mentioned the construction and deployment of US missile shield facilities in Poland and Romania and the upcoming deployment of NATO’s combat units mostly composed of US servicemen in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, as well as the dispatch of US marines to Russia’s neighbor Norway in the imminent future. On Monday, Russian Senator Viktor Ozerov, chair of the upper house Defense and Security Committee, said Russia will be forced to deploy ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, responding to the threat posed by US cruise missiles recently sent to Poland and Romania.