The Russians Are Not Amused

Remember Anna Chapman and the nine other Russian spies that were arrested last June? Well, it appears they were outed by a high ranking Russian intelligence officer who was also working for the United States. Needless to say, the Russians are not pleased about this huge embarrassment.

Russian Double Agent Betrayed Spy Ring in US

Russia’s spy scandal is flaring up again on the news that an intelligence service colonel betrayed the identities of 10 spies, then defected to the United States.

A high-ranking Russian double agent was behind last summer’s exposure and arrest of 10 Russian sleeper spies in the United States. The news was published in Kommersant newspaper Friday and later confirmed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Days before the arrests, a Colonel Shcherbakov, a branch leader of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, fled Moscow to join his daughter and son in the United States, according to the news report.

Gennady Gudkov, a deputy on the State Duma’s Security Committee, told Interfax that the colonel’s defection was a major blow to the “S” Directorate, which prepare deep cover agents for overseas work. He said internal alarm bells should have rung because the colonel’s daughter was a long-term resident in the United State and the Colonel declined a promotion last year, presumably to avoid taking a lie detector test.

Russia Hunts Double Agent Who Betrayed Spies, Newspaper Says

A Moscow newspaper reported on Thursday that the Kremlin has dispatched an assassin to hunt down a suspected double agent it blames for betraying the Russian spies arrested in June by the United States.

According to the report in Kommersant, an unnamed Kremlin official said that the former head of the Russian intelligence service’s “illegal” spying operations in the U.S., a Colonel Shcherbakov, had betrayed his colleagues and is now being actively sought out.

See also:
Spy Defection Roils Russian Intelligence Service
Mole in intelligence service betrayed Russian spies in US, says newspaper
Senior Russian official may have turned in spies to U.S., newspaper says
Russian official revealed spy ring
Dmitry Medvedev confirms traitor told US about Russian spy ring
Russian intelligence service identifies traitor in U.S. spy scandal
Anna’s Unfaithful Spy Boss
More Information Revealed On the Russian Spies In The US
Russian double agent helped US crack spy ring: lawmaker
Russian Newspaper Names Double Agent Responsible For Spy Ring Bust
Kremlin official issues death threat in Russian spy scandal. Is the KGB coming back?
Top Russian Spy Reportedly Defects After Betraying Anna Chapman, Other Agents in United States
Video: Top Russian Spy defects after betraying ring in the United States
Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)
Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki

Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)

This is a major score for U.S. intelligence, high ranking defectors like this don’t come around very often. It’s a safe bet that the CIA got a lot more information out of Colonel Shcherbakov than just the names of the ten Russian agents.

/well played Colonel Shcherbakov, your new country thanks you, hopefully the CIA can keep you alive

Coups Have Consequences

Apparently, the interim government of Kyrgyzstan, that came to power in a coup two months ago, has lost control of parts of the country and, so far, their pleas for the Russians to intervene and bail them out are being rebuffed. And so, the chaos and carnage continues to unfold.

Kyrgyzstan to get aid, no troops from regional security group

A Moscow-led security organization Monday recommended offering logistical support and goods such as fuel to Kyrgyzstan rather than peacekeeping troops to help stop ethnic violence in the Central Asian country.

Kyrgyzstan law enforcement organizations, with some help, can control the rioting that began Thursday in Osh, said Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is made up of several former Soviet republics, including Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Bordyuzha met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday as officials announced that the death toll from the rioting in southern Kyrgyzstan had increased to at least 125, with more than 1,200 injured. Tens of thousands of people have fled the violence, many of them ethnic Uzbeks moving either into Uzbekistan or massing at the border.

“The current situation in Kyrgyzstan is intolerable, people have been killed, blood is being shed, and mass ethnic unrest is continuing,” Medvedev said, Interfax news agency reported. “This is extremely dangerous to that region, and therefore anything possible should be done to prevent such developments.”

Medvedev also indicated that the security organization’s leaders may need to reconvene if the situation worsens. He said he had shared the same message with Roza Otunbayeva, prime minister of the interim government in Kyrgyzstan. On Saturday, Moscow rejected Otunbayeva’s request to send troops to quash the riots.

But former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, speaking to reporters in Belarus on Monday, said bringing the situation back to normal required international forces. The interim government has lost control, said Bakiyev, who was ousted in a coup in April.

In Jalal-Abad, north of Osh, mobs continued to loot and burn houses and kill people.

See also:
Uzbeks flee Kyrgyzstan, seek safety at border
Thousands flee ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan
“Slaughter” in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan violence: ‘I saw two neighbours shot dead before my eyes’
Kyrgyzstan’s unrest exposes heavy political jockeying
UN slams Kyrgyzstan violence
Red Cross: No Quick End to Kyrgyzstan Crisis
Russian-led Security Group Considers Intervention in Kyrgyzstan
Russia Weighs Pleas to Step In as Refugees Flee Kyrgyzstan
Coup In Kyrgyzstan?

Let’s hope this doesn’t totally spin out of control and spread countrywide.

/the Transit Center at Manas, a key U.S. airbase, crucial to our logistics chain into Afghanistan, is located near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek

Consensus Building

As the dust continues to settle, a more consistent narrative is taking shape and setting up.

Missing channel pirate ship carried Russian arms for Iran

A CARGO ship that vanished in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, the Israeli security service, according to sources in both Russia and Israel.

The Arctic Sea, officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m, disappeared en route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered off west Africa on August 17 when eight alleged hijackers were arrested. The Kremlin has consistently denied that the vessel was carrying a secret cargo. It claims the ship was hijacked by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom.

The official version was challenged by sources in Tel Aviv and Moscow who claimed the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad.

Mossad, which closely monitors arms supplies to Iran, is said to have tipped off the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers linked to the underworld.

The Kremlin then ordered a naval rescue mission which involved destroyers and submarines. Any evidence that the Kremlin had let advanced weaponry fall into the hands of criminals or be sold to Iran would be highly embarrassing, so military officials believe a “cover story” was concocted.

“The official version is ridiculous and was given to allow the Kremlin to save face,” said a Russian military source. “I’ve spoken to people close to the investigation and they’ve pretty much confirmed Mossad’s involvement. It’s laughable to believe all this fuss was over a load of timber. I’m not alone in believing that it was carrying weapons to Iran.”

The alleged hijackers, four Estonians, two Russians and two Latvians, will go on trial in Moscow. According to the Kremlin’s account, they boarded the Arctic Sea in the Baltic by claiming their inflatable craft was in trouble and then took over the ship at gunpoint.

Sources in Moscow suggested Mossad may have played a part in the alleged hijacking by setting up a criminal gang, who were unlikely to have known anything about a secret cargo. “The best way for the Israelis to block the cargo from reaching Iran would have been to create a lot of noise around the ship,” said a former army officer.

“Once the news of the hijack broke, the game was up for the arms dealers. The Russians had to act. That’s why I don’t rule out Mossad being behind the hijacking. It stopped the shipment and gave the Kremlin a way out so that it can now claim it mounted a brilliant rescue mission.”

According to Israeli military sources, Israel received intelligence that weapons bound for Iran were being loaded in Kaliningrad, a port notorious for gun runners. “A decision was then taken to inform the Kremlin,” said the source.

Had the S-300 missiles been delivered, Iran would have significantly strengthened its air defences. An Israeli air force source said that in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear installations, such missiles could increase Israeli casualties by 50%.

. . .

Sources who suspect Mossad’s involvement point to a visit to Moscow by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, the day after the Arctic Sea was rescued. Peres held four hours of private talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president. Although the Israeli foreign ministry would not be drawn on the Arctic Sea, it confirmed that the two leaders had discussed the sale of Russian weapons to countries hostile to Israel. According to Israeli officials, Peres received verbal guarantees from the Russians that they would not sell advanced weapons systems to Iran or Syria.

“Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga,” said a Russian military source. “Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident.”

See also:
Arctic Sea ghost ship ‘was carrying weapons to Iran’
Was Russia’s ‘Hijacked’ Ship Carrying Missiles to the Mideast?
‘Times’: Mossad staged Russian ship hijacking
Ship hijack mystery deepens despite arrests
Russian Military Says to Check Arctic Sea Cargo
Best Explanation Yet, But Is It The Truth?

Okay, so the Mossad gets wind of a plot by Russian mobsters to illegally smuggle and sell sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Israel tips off the Russian government, but there’s a problem. If word of this illegal arms sale gets out, the Russian government will be highly embarrassed and lose face. So, a cover story unfolds whereby the Mossad arranges for a “hijacking” of the Arctic Sea which throws a monkey wrench in the mobsters’ plan and allows the Russian Navy time to swoop in and “rescue” the ship. It’s a win win for both Israel and Russia. The Israelis help stop the sale of advanced missiles to Iran, which would drastically complicate any future Israeli airstrikes against Iran and, instead of of looking like incompetent dumbasses, unable to keep track of the inventory of their most sophisticated weapons, the Russians come off looking like heroes, having recovered their ship and crew (and the missiles) from the “hijackers”. The Mossad dissapears and the Russians throw a thick security blanket over the whole episode and its aftermath, maintaining plausible deniability that there was ever any illegal attempt to smuggle and sell S-300 missiles in the first place.

/makes sense to me

New Day, New Story

Yesterday, there weren’t any hijackers, but today there are suddenly eight. Go figure.

Russia Detains Eight in Hijacking of Ship Arctic Sea (Update1)

Russia’s navy detained eight suspected hijackers of the Maltese-flagged freighter Arctic Sea after a 25-day odyssey that ended in the Cape Verde islands off west Africa, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said.

The eight hijackers are citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia, Serdyukov told President Dmitry Medvedev today in comments published on the Kremlin’s Web site. The armed group boarded the Arctic Sea on July 24, then forced the crew to change course toward Africa and to shut down the ship’s navigational equipment, he said. The freighter had been en route from Finland to Algeria.

Russia learned of the Arctic Sea’s location “several days ago” and kept that information secret to give its warship, the Ladny, time to navigate the Cape Verde archipelago and catch the hijackers by surprise, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the government’s newspaper of record, reported. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided logistical support, the newspaper said.

The disappearance of the Arctic Sea, owned by Helsinki- based Oy Solchart Management AB, sparked international speculation about its fate, including a reported sighting at the Spanish port of San Sebastian, a possible second attack off Portugal and a Finnish police report of a ransom demand.

. . .

Defense Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said by phone in Moscow today that he couldn’t confirm or deny the Rossiyskaya Gazeta report that NATO cooperated in the investigation. He said the crew was aboard the warship Ladny near Cape Verde and was being questioned. Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for NATO in Brussels, couldn’t be reached for comment immediately.

The freighter was en route from Finland to Algeria with a cargo of timber valued at 1.3 million euros ($1.8 million). The seller was Rets Timber, a joint venture between Europe’s largest papermaker, Stora Enso Oyj, and UPM-Kymmene Oyj, Kari Naumanen, chief executive officer for Helsinki-based Rets, said by phone today. Most of the lumber came from other companies, he said.

Rets knows “nothing more than what’s public,” and wasn’t contacted by the hijackers, Naumanen said.

Finnish police didn’t contact Rets before going public with their investigation and haven’t shared internal information, he said. “They have not put one single question to us.”

The vessel will continue to Algeria to deliver its shipment, which is the property of three importers in Algeria, Naumanen said, declining to identify them. Rets has used Solchart for shipments to Algeria and Egypt for about 13 years, he said.

See also:
Russia says Arctic Sea was hijacked, suspects arrested
Eight Are Arrested Over Arctic Sea Hijacking
Russia Says It Holds Hijackers of Cargo Ship
Russia holds eight after recovering missing ship Arctic Sea
Crew of Arctic Sea under interrogation in hopes of yielding answers to mystery
Arctic Sea hijackers ‘threatened to kill crew, sink ship’
Hijackers of Ship Arctic Sea Demanded $1.5 Million From Insurer
Ship location kept quiet to protect hijacked crew
Doubts cast on Russia’s ‘rescue’ of Arctic Sea
Look Ma, No Hijackers

So, eight criminals hijack an 18 year old freighter laden with a cargo of $1.8 million worth of wood and demand $1.5 million in ransom? It hardly seems worth the effort, certainly no self-respecting Somali pirate would sink that low.

/sorry, I’m still not buying it, there’s got to be more to this story that’s not being made public yet

Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?

What Happened to the Missing Ship ‘Arctic Sea’?

Russia’s president has ordered the Russian Navy to take part in the search for the cargo ship “Arctic Sea.” Manned by a Russian crew, the ship vanished two weeks ago off the coast of southern Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev told Secretary of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov to “take all necessary measures to establish the whereabouts and to find the missing ship ‘Arctic Sea’ with a Russian crew on board, as well as to free [the ship’s crew], should such a need arise,” the Kremlin told Interfax on Wednesday.

The Arctic Sea is a 5,000-ton cargo ship that was carrying timber worth approximately $1.6 million from Finland to Algeria. It left port July 23, and the next morning was reportedly boarded in Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea by a band of masked hijackers in a high-speed rubber boat, who identified themselves as anti-drug police. The 15-man crew was tied up while the hijackers searched the ship.

After 12 hours, they apparently disembarked and sped away, breaking radio and other communications gear but without taking anything of value, the crew reported to the Maltese Maritime Authority, where the ship is registered. Instead of making port after the incident, the ship continued on its trip.

The ship was last heard from July 28, when it radioed the Dover, England, Coast Guard because it was approaching the English Channel. In a call the Coast Guard called routine, the ship said that it was en route to the Algerian port of Bejaia, where it was due to arrive Aug. 4. The last time its position was recorded by tracking equipment was July 30, when it was off the coast of the northern French town of Brest. On Aug. 2, the ship was spotted by Portuguese coastal patrol planes.

But the next day, Aug. 3, Interpol told the Dover Coast Guard that the ship had been hijacked more than a week before and asked the Coast Guard to stay vigilant. By that point, however, the ship had passed through the English Channel and had fallen off the radar.

See also:
Secret cargo theory as hunt for missing vessel Arctic Sea goes on
Hijacked Arctic Sea feared to be carrying secret cargo of drugs
Missing ship may have secret cargo
Russian Navy Joins Search for Freighter
Hunt Intensifies for Missing Cargo Ship
Ship disappears after sail through English Channel
Piracy fears surround Arctic Sea disappearance
Arctic Sea’s unstable sisters
MV Arctic Sea

Unless it sank, I find it hard to believe, in the age of satelites, that they can’t find a 300 ft. ship in the Atlantic. This whole episode is well within the realm of the bizzarre. The Russians cannot be happy about what’s happening. The resolution of this mystery should prove to be quite interesting, if we ever find out for sure.

/given the seemingly professional nature of the presumed piracy, I think we can safely say that whatever cargo the Arctic Sea was transporting, it sure as hell wasn’t timber

A Whiff of Warsaw Pact

Just a day after convincing Kyrgyzstan it kick the U.S. out of Manas Air Base, a vital link in our supply chain for Afghanistan, Russia announced the formation of a new regional military force.

Post-Soviet nations to form military force

A Russian-led bloc of post-Soviet nations has agreed to establish a rapid-reaction military force to combat terrorists and respond to regional emergencies, Russian media reported Wednesday.

The decision came a day after reports that Kyrgyzstan is planning to close a strategically important U.S. military base that Washington uses to transport troops and supplies into Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, the Collective Security Treaty Organization — made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — decided on the rapid-reaction force at a Kremlin summit, the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

The group’s security council “spent a long time discussing the central issue of forming collective reaction forces and, generally, of rapid reaction to possible threats,” said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

“Everyone agreed that the formation of joint forces is necessary,” he said.

. . .

Russian media reported that the force will be used to fight military aggressors, conduct anti-terror operations, battle regional drug trafficking and respond to natural disasters. The force will be based in Russia under a single command, with member nations contributing military units.

See also:
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
Russia Buys A Vowel In Kyrgyzstan

/the Russian Bear stirs, has Obama finished his waffle?