February 28, 2024 / by 

 

Putin’s Other War of Attrition

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, died today as a complication of Vladimir Putin’s trumped-up imprisonment.

Reports indicate Navalny died of an embolism, though no independent autopsy has been scheduled. Putin had previously tried to poison Navalny with nerve agent novichok, the same poison used against former double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Navalny’s work documenting Russia’s corruption tweaked not only Putin but his underbosses and capos.

The example in the video above, centered on the family of Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, offers a reason why Putin targeted Navalny: the Russian emperor is an organized crime overlord whose henchmen have hollowed out Russia.

This is a key reason, too, why Russia is engaged in a war of attrition against Ukraine. It can’t muster the military might to take out Ukraine because its defense department has been riddled with leaks siphoning off the resources needed to build a first world credible military, just as Chaika and his family have bled Russia’s law enforcement and tax revenue structure.

While we can thank this hollowing out for preventing an absolute blow-out against Ukraine, the Russian military as it exists continues to offer the corrupt regime opportunities to vacuum more resources out of the country.

Navalny’s continued existence was a threat to what was yet another of Putin’s war of attrition – the one of organized crime against the Russian people.

It has not helped that the Republican Party has been aiding and abetting Putin’s antidemocratic efforts against Russians by supporting Putin’s useful idiots, most especially Donald Trump.

It has not helped that useful idiots like Tucker Carlson have been so eager to kneel down before Putin and kiss his ring.

Former ambassador and academic Michael McFaul was blunt in his assessment: “Putin killed Navalny, let’s be crystal clear about that.

Though Navalny had been declared a political prisoner by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Putin certainly did nothing to ensure the safety and longevity of Navalny, who had been transferred to high security penal facility IK-3 in late December 2023.

How convenient for Putin to have Tucker Carlson interview him the week before Navalny died out of the public’s view in thinly-populated western Siberia, providing a synthetic gloss of western approbation over Putin’s criminality.

Navalny may have lost this war of attrition but he was right: “Listen, I’ve got something very obvious to tell you. You’re not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.”

If Navalny had not continued to pose a threat to Putin’s regime, he would have been ignored.


Finally: War Criminal Dead at 100

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Henry Kissinger died today, age 100.

I am posting an image of the headlines at the top of Google News this hour because I don’t trust myself to write much about this man.

Polarizing barely describes Kissinger’s approach to foreign policy. So many of the challenges we’ve faced since Kissinger left the Nixon administration are blowback and blowback upon that blowback from his bullshit.

And by bullshit I’ll point to his unlawful war on Cambodia, as just one example. Nixon may have started the unauthorized bombing but Kissinger’s support ensured it would continue.

Beloved chef and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain put it best in his 2010 book, ‘A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines’:

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”

You will hear that quote above often this week because there have not been enough people who have distilled Kissinger’s wretchedness into less than 100 words as Bourdain did.

I wish I could but the size and scale of Kissinger’s evils outstrip my ability.

~ ~ ~

This is an open thread. Leave your comments about Kissinger and war crimes here rather than pollute other threads.


Three Things: This Week’s Massive Dickhead Award Goes To…

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This last week was bad. We were swamped with dickheads, more so than usual, and some of them bigger dickheads than the usual fare.

There are so many it’s worth assessing who was the champion dickhead this week.

Below are my top three. Tell us in comments who you’d have picked for this week’s Massive Dickhead Award.

~ 3 ~

WINNER: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10)

This asshat became the Acting House Speaker after the ultra-fascist faction of the GOP House Caucus led by Matt Ephebophile Gaetz forced the feckless Kevin McCarthy out of the speaker’s role.

McHenry chose to come out swinging rather than settling calmly and rationally into the speakership.

Within hours of McCarthy’s removal, McHenry booted Nancy Pelosi out of her office while she was out of D.C. escorting Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s body back to California. She was not accorded a reasonable amount of time to attend the funeral service and return to D.C. to clean out her office.

He then blew off the Congressional delegation in need of air transportation to California for Feinstein’s funeral.

…the House Republican leadership did not allow a plane to transport the late Senator’s colleagues from DC to SFO. After the late Senator passed, Rep. Zo Lofgren contacted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy to request air transportation for colleagues to attend the memorial service.

This is a courtesy any delegation is traditionally afforded to allow members to travel together to honor a member who passed away. But, Rep. Lofgren, who’s the delegation representative, never heard back from McCarthy. According to Thompson, she made the same request of Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry but also didn’t get a response.

“It’s just sad commentary on the House Republican leadership where they wouldn’t allow a plane to come back so her colleagues can pay tribute to this great legislator, great Senator remarkable leader,” Thompson said. “I’m assuming some people will not be able to make it because of that.”

Sloppy if not arrogantly thoughtless. A slap at the state which is the fifth largest economy in the world, with the largest congressional delegation, as if McHenry doesn’t think anything of winning Democratic seats in California.

There have been 39 representatives and senators who’ve died in office since 2000, and at no time has there been such a pointed dickishness toward the congressional delegation traveling to funeral services, regardless of the political party in control of the House or Senate.

But this is McHenry’s SOP, has been since at least 2008. He demonstrated his sloppy thoughtless arrogance then:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn’t re-air a video he’d shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican, traveled to Iraq with other lawmakers for the first time on March 22. The video was the second incident stemming from that trip that has drawn unwanted attention to McHenry. Earlier, he was criticized for berating a guard in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone for not allowing him into a gym there because the congressman did not have the proper identification credential.

The new criticism stems from a video that was featured on his Web site last Friday. Shot in the Green Zone, it showed McHenry gesturing to a building behind him and saying that one of 11 rockets “hit just over my head.” Then he named two other places struck by the rockets.

As in 2008, his unthinking reflexive behavior is a sign McHenry is not capable of governance, only peevish pettiness which pisses on the American public and their needs for rational effective government.

Our country deserves and needs better than massive dickheads who believe owning the libs is the job for which the American public pays them. It’d be nice to think the GOP thinks so, too, but they actually allowed McHenry to pull this bullshit and spit on congressional comity at a time when it’s most needed to negotiate a budget. Thanks to North Carolina’s persistent partisan gerrymandering, the GOP ensures both NC-10 and the country are stuck with this prize-winning jerk, at least through the 2024 election.

~ 2 ~

SECOND PLACE: Vladimir Putin

Killing 50 civilians including a child with a missile, wiping out half the village of Hroza while its residents interred a loved one is both a war crime and the height of dickishness.

Way to win hearts and minds, Pooty, you kidnapper and murderer of children.

You’d think he’d have learned something from U.S. errors in places like Iraq and Afghanistan but nope. He just doubles down on his criminality.

Added asshole-ishness: this agitprop trying to stir up shit between the U.S. and Israel immediately after the attack by Hamas.

Unlike Putin, POTUS can walk and chew gum, isn’t hiding in their ill-gotten fortress of solitude, and isn’t obsessed with toxic nostalgia for the past like the decades-plus effort to restore the USSR.

The U.S. also has a defense budget larger which makes Russia’s look like nothing – we can manage more than one challenge.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? All Russia has in its arsenal is cheap influence operations amplified by cringelords?

Speaking of cringelords…

~ 1 ~

THIRD PLACE: Elon Musk

Why this guy bothers with American citizenship is beyond me given his reluctance to respect its government.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday sought to force Elon Musk to sit for a deposition as part of an ongoing investigation about his purchase of Twitter, now known as X.

The SEC said Musk failed to appear for testimony as required by a May subpoena despite agreeing to show up last month at the SEC’s office in San Francisco.

Musk waited until two days before the scheduled date to notify the SEC he would not appear, regulators said. They’re now seeking a court order to force Musk to comply.

Musk’s response this week was pure DARVO:

Elon Musk called for an overhaul of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday, the same day the agency sued him in an effort to compel him to testify about his purchase of Twitter, the platform now known as X.

“A comprehensive overhaul of these agencies is sorely needed, along with a commission to take punitive action against those individuals who have abused their regulatory power for personal and political gain. Can’t wait for this to happen,” Musk wrote on X in response to news of the SEC suing him.

So predictable: deny the abuse, reverse victim-abuser order. Poor Musk is the victim, won’t somebody deal with the mean old SEC?

The acquisition of Twitter by this narcissistic git very much needs investigation. As noted previously, Musk was so desperate to avoid Delaware’s Chancery Court after he sued to stop his acquisition last year that he threw in the towel and proceeded to buy Twitter.

What is it that Musk doesn’t want revealed in public record?

An alleged proponent of free speech, Musk appears to have shrugged off an egregious persecution of civil rights though it’s his platform which has been at the heart of the Saudis’ charges and death sentence against Saudi citizen Mohammad Alghamdi for their tweets.

Besides blowing off the SEC’s subpoena and blowing off free speech, Musk also managed to both screw up his own company’s product and spit in the face of media outlets which have continued to bolster the sagging social media platform.

Musk decided headlines make tweets look bad so he’s had them removed. Before the change if a news outlet included a link to a news article in their post, the article’s headline would appear next to an image served from the link so that users would know what the link was about and the tweeter could add a prefacing blurb in the tweet’s body.

Now the user must allocate their post’s text to adding a headline. Jay Peters at The Verge does a better job of explaining the problem (red markup mine on image below):

In short, Musk stiffed news media the most with this move which he claims improves the platform’s aesthetics.

Ri-ight. Because all the white supremacists and TERFs and other haters don’t damage the platform at all.

Bloomberg’s finally coming around about the moral argument against the former bird app, but it’s infuriating they can’t see the business argument is right there, too, thanks to Musk’s constant degradation of service.

What happens when journalists are targeted by intelligence operatives because Musk has decided maintaining privacy of personal data shared with the former Twitter is now an inconvenience, or that data is just another fungible to be harvested without regard to users’ privacy and security and the FTC’s consent decree?

~ 0 ~

Honorable Mention:

Matt Gaetz, because a pumpkin has more smarts and savvy than this shit stirrer who launched the ouster of Kevin McCarthy thereby setting McHenry loose to be a bigger dick than usual.

At some point we need to call Gaetz and his wrecking crew anarchists because that’s what they are – they don’t give a fuck about the republic and keeping it, they just want to destroy it.

Let’s hope this next week we run into fewer dickheads.

Who’s on your list of Massive Dickheads from this past week? Who has screwed over more people and undermined democracy in a big way? Share your nominees in comments.

This is an open thread.


Putin Doesn’t Cook

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

When I saw the news Wednesday afternoon regarding a then-euphemistic plane crash outside Moscow, I couldn’t help think of of a line from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces:

“I bet you cook good, huh?” Darlene asked.
“Mother doesn’t cook,” Ignatius said dogmatically.
“She burns.”

Putin may have had enough of his former chef Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s cooking — enough that he didn’t bother with tossing the object of his unhappiness out a window.

He may burned him by way of Russian air defense missiles.

It calls to mind another fried crisp event a few years back, when fossil fuel company Total S.A.’s chief executive Christophe de Margerie died in the bright white flames of his jet after a pretty and allegedly drunken snowplow driver hit the jet as it was preparing to take off.

Prigozhin’s plane didn’t even get a pretty object of attention for redirection as de Margerie did.

He got something more like that which eliminated Russian deputy attorney general Saak Albertovich Karapetyan in 2018 when his helicopter crashed northeast of Moscow in the Kostroma region. Karapetyan had been associated with high level international operations intended to obstruct foreign investigations including the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, the death of Sergei Magnitsky, and with Natalia Veselnitskaya’s Trump Tower meeting with Trump campaign team. Karapetyan had been blamed for information leaks to the west.

At first the helicopter crash was blamed on a night-time run in with trees; later reports said the pilot had been shot and a helicopter blade had gun shot damage.

Prigozhin’s plane had been traveling at an elevation of 28,000 feet making another run-in with trees unlikely.

Putin’s disgraced chef had two months to the day from his mutinous protest this June to put his affairs in order before his plane was swatted out of the sky.

~ ~ ~

Also of note:

— Early morning August 23, Russian Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces Sergei Surovikin was reported to have been fired. Surovikin had been responsible for leading Russia’s military assault on Ukraine from October 2022 until January 2023. He had also been linked to Prigozhin’s June rebellion as a secret member of Wagner group. Surovikin had disappeared from public view after the rebellion; reports about his location varied widely, with some claiming Surovikin had been detained, his daughter claiming he had not, and yet more reporting he was “resting.”

— Prigozhin had been seen on video earlier in the week at what appeared to be a location on the African continent. When and where exactly the video had been taken isn’t clear, nor is the status of Wagner operations in Africa after the plane crash Wednesday.

— Initial reports about Prigozhin’s plane crash attributed the cause to Russian air defense missiles while also claiming Prigozhin and nine others on board were killed. The Telegram social media channel associated with Wagner group, the Grey Zone, also said Prigozhin had been “killed as a result of actions by traitors of Russia.” Grey Zone also reported Wagner co-founder Dmitry Utkin had been on the plane. But as coverage of the crash progressed, the reports shifted from assumptions Prigozhin was dead to reports that Prigozhin’s name was on the plane’s passenger list.

— Reports changed from dead to listed not long after exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky noted Prigozhin’s personal security practices:

Oddly enough, BBC has now removed the quote from their coverage of the plane crash. Only this screenshot documents a journalist’s observation of this quote.

— There had been two planes registered to Prigozhin in the air over Russia on August 23; the whereabouts of the second plane isn’t known at this time though it had been recorded by FlightRadar24.

— Vladimir Putin spent part of Wednesday observing the 80th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Kursk. The largest tank battle in history began July 5, 1943 and ended seven weeks later on August 23 in southwest Russia.

— Putin had also been scheduled to speak at a BRICs summit early Wednesday as a virtual attendee; however his speech was not live but prerecorded. There have been a number of observations about Putin’s voice which did not sound like his normal speech. China’s President Xi Jinping didn’t show up as scheduled at one of the BRIC summit events but this does not appear related to Putin’s speech. In his absence, Xi’s speech was instead delivered by Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.


Done Cookin’: Putin’s Chef Moves to Belarus [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

If you have a bead on what transpired in Russia from Friday through Saturday, you’re ahead of most folks.

I’ll let VOA’s Steve Herman give a tick-tock:

1:14 p.m. ET / 8:14 p.m. Moscow —

1:16 p.m. ET / 8:16 p.m. Moscow —

1:29 p.m. ET / 8:29 p.m. Moscow —

What the hell happened?

There’s a bit more in the audio:

Dmitri @[email protected]
Prigozhin says it’s over:

“They were going to dismantle PMC Wagner. We came out on 23 June to the March of Justice. In a day, we walked to nearly 200km away from Moscow. In this time, we did not spill a single drop of blood of our fighters. Now, the moment has come when blood may spill. That’s why, understanding the responsibility for spilling Russian blood on one of the sides, we are turning back our convoys and going back to field camps according to the plan.”

Audio: https://t.me/concordgroup_official/1303
1:31 PM · Jun 24, 2023

The recent order for mercenaries to sign a contract with Russia’s defense ministry does appear to be a trigger. It would be tantamount to disbanding Wagner group since its personnel would be directly subordinate to Russia’s Defense Ministry and not Prigozhin and Wagner leadership.

Many, MANY people are still scratching their heads about Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko acting as a peace broker.

For my part I thought Lukashenko had flown out of Belarus late last night Belarus time according to reports in social media. Indeed, The New Voice of Ukraine reported he’d left just after midnight and arrived in Turkey at 5:15 a.m. local time after taking a wide detour:

According to the map, the plane tried to bypass Russia’s Krasnodar and Stavropol Krais, flew over the Caspian Sea and then reached the Turkish resort via Georgia.

That’s nearly twice as long as necessary to get to Turkey, which one might do if concerned about missile launchers in or near eastern Ukraine/western Russia.

Why Lukashenko, who appears to be a rather inert figure save for Putin’s puppetmastery, especially since he’d been rumored to be quite sick for weeks?

At 2:20 p.m. ET the advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine tweeted —

Anton Gerashchenko (@[email protected])

Former supporter of Prigozhin about alleged agreement between Prigozhin and Russian authorities:

“Now it’s finally allowed to say the three things he’s been promised. 1. Shoigu’s resignation. 2. Amnesty for “musicians” [Wagner mercenaries]. 3. The possibility to return to Africa. I’m sure that in reality he signed his own death sentence. And Wagner PMC as well, of course.”

In general, many “Wagner war correspondents” are extremely disappointed with the situation.

Some publicly resign. And curse Prigozhin.

2:20 PM · Jun 24, 2023

To be fair, let’s acknowledge before Prigozhin’s feint over the last day either Putin and/or Shoigu wanted to seize control of Wagner group personnel directly to augment what’s left of Russia’s armed forces.

But Prigozhin signing his own death warrant? Hmm — who’d execute it?

In the course of sorting through all the feeds and news articles related to the last 24 hours in Ukraine and Russia, I ran across several social media reports regarding the parties to the negotiations with Prigozhin. It contained a tidbit which at the time the deal was reported didn’t seem important.

Now I realize it may have been critical to understanding why Prigozhin traded away what looked like his leverage by stopping the march to Moscow and reversing Wagner personnel’s direction back to Rostov and the front.

In these reports it was noted Lukashenko was not the actual negotiator but that the other participant was key to the process — Tula’s governor Aleksey Dyumin. Lukashenko may instead have been a guarantor of the deal while Dyumin, a former member of FSB, GRU, presidential guard, and deputy defense minister, handled the negotiations.

Tula Oblast is a province located in Russia’s Central Federal District; its capital city, Tula, is located about 140 miles/224 km south of Moscow.

The M4 highway on which Wagner group personnel convoy worked its way toward Moscow runs right through the heart of Tula Oblast.

One could see why Tula’s governor might have a vested interest in negotiating a de-escalation of tensions since the convoy might begin to run into conflict in the middle of the oblast.

But if negotiations were between Lukashenko, Dyumin, and Prigozhin, why was Lukashenko given top billing with Dyumin’s role rarely mentioned in media?

This article in Meduza from last autumn, focusing on the relationship between Prigozhin and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, also spells out their connections to Dyumin:

Meduza’s sources also say that Kadyrov’s and Prigozhin’s criticisms of the army are silently supported by “a group of ambitious young FSO-men” — that is, Putin’s former security officers, the Governor of Tula Alexey Dyumin and the former head of the Yaroslavl region, Dmitry Mironov, who is now an assistant to the President. According to sources close to the President’s Office, Mironov and Dyumin often talk and meet in person. Sources in the Yaroslavl and Tula regions confirm this information.

A source in Tula’s regional administration points out that, even before the war, Evgeny Prigozhin collaborated with the local government – for example, by bringing political consultants to manage elections. The Insider (a media project deemed a “foreign agent” and “undesirable” in Russia) has also written about Dyumin’s connection to Prigozhin.

According to two sources close to the President’s Office, Ramzan Kadyrov got to know both Dyumin and Prigozhin when they were still Putin’s bodyguards. Apparently, Kadyrov was friendly with both of them – and even called Dyumin his “elder brother.”

“FSO men” — members of the Federal Protective Service which includes Putin’s guards. What an interesting common link.

Lukashenko is also connected to Dyumin economically; Belarus and Tula Oblast have swapped commodities since a deal last autumn. It’s possible this is a means to get around sanctions on Russia though it’s not clear from financial reporting.

But Lukashenko has another relationship which hasn’t surfaced in all of today’s reporting. Belarus has been useful to Wagner group:

The last weeks of the 2020 presidential election campaign in Belarus brought an unexpected development: on July 29th, Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Russian citizens who allegedly belonged to the Wagner Group. While Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko used the story of the arrested Wagner operatives for his election campaign, accusing them of planning to interfere with the elections, independent sources revealed that, in fact, the Wagner Group has been using Belarus regularly as a transit country to various operational theaters; thus their presence on Belarusian territory was by no means extraordinary.

Wagner uses Belarus to move to its other operations and programs while it also proved useful as a scapegoat — or willing partner — in the 2020 election.

One of the sources which mentioned Dyumin was the real negotiator also said he was the likely next Russian Defense Minister.

Which means that Dyumin may have had a vested interest in looking useful to Putin, making sure the negotiations included the removal of Sergei Shoigu as Defense Minister, and that Prigozhin would get something out of this show of force demanding Shoigu’s ouster.

Was all of this just theater by a handful of buddies who had shared histories in order to shift one of them into Defense Minister — the guy who’d likely award contracts to mercenaries?

~ ~ ~

One other critical point to keep in mind about Russian  private military companies (PMCs) like Wagner: they don’t technically exist in Russia. They’re not licensed in any way; the government looks the other way allowing weasel words to justify companies having their own security. They’re meant to be a means to do off-the-books work so they aren’t in public or government records.

By being off-the-books, Putin can opt for maximum plausible deniability while keeping head count and subsequent losses out of the public eye, undocumented by Russian Ministry of Defense in casualty reports.

Between this fact and the Defense Ministry’s move to consolidate head count between regular armed forces and PMCs, Putin and/or Russian military’s top brass can hide the mounting Russian casualties in Putin’s misbegotten war on Ukraine.

Prigozhin didn’t spell this out directly, but he did point out that he felt Wagner was going to be broken up. He made this seizure of his PMC public if not on the books, and he punctuated it with the march, ensuring the head count Wagner committed to this statement was in the public’s consciousness.

Which brings up another point: responsible as he was for the Internet Research Agency troll farm which has screwed with the U.S. through online influence operations since 2013, Prigozhin knows how to influence perception and public opinion even with this march on Moscow.

How much of the march was an influence operation?

How much of the subsequent negotiations and the response of other key players was an influence operation?

Who was the intended target of the operation(s), if that’s what Wagner group’s weekend’s march toward Moscow was?

What was the ultimate intent of the operation(s), assuming that’s what this was, apart from the concessions revealed to the public?

~ ~ ~

It will be quite some time before all the details fall into place to explain what really happened.

Ukrainians may be amused by some of it, may have taken advantage of the situation by pressing east along the front during the confusion, but Russian missiles continued to fall on Ukraine. Three died when Kyiv was hit though Ukraine’s air defenses managed to deter 80% of the attempted strikes.

The U.S. intelligence community, though, had information suggesting Prigozhin could attempt a coup two weeks ago.

At least one news report suggested this possibility the last week of May.

Let’s hope Ukraine had been informed and will continue to be informed about another potential coup. With Putin’s grip on power proven weak by Prigozhin, it’s more likely there will be more marches toward Moscow ahead, increasing confusion in Russia about its leadership, and improved opportunities to seize more of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 11:45 A.M. 26-JUN-2023 —

Kevin Rothrock, managing editor at Meduza (English), reported Prigozhin uploaded an audio recording which was more than 11 minutes long some time before 10:30 a.m. ET/5:30 p.m. Moscow time. Rothrock has published both a Russian and an English transcript though both are AI generated.

This is the English transcript:

Today I opened the press service and received thousands of questions about the events. In order to avoid misunderstandings, I want to answer the main of these questions. First. What were the prerequisites for Masha Justice on 06/23/23? PMC “Wagner” is perhaps the most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, and possibly in the world. motivated, charged fighters who performed a huge number of tasks in the interests of the Russian Federation and always only in the interests of the Russian Federation, in Africa, in the Arab countries and around the world. Recently, this unit has achieved good results in Ukraine, having completed the most serious tasks.

As a result of the intrigues of ill-conceived decisions, this unit was supposed to cease to exist on July 1, 23. A council of commanders gathered, which brought all the information to the fighters. No one agreed to sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense, since everyone knows very well from the current situation of their experience during the NWO that this will lead to a complete loss of combat capability. Experienced fighters, experienced commanders will simply be smeared and will actually go to the meat, where they will not be able to use their combat potential and combat experience. Those fighters who decided that they were ready to move to the Ministry of Defense did. But this is the minimum amount, calculated by a percentage or two. All the arguments that were in order to keep the Wagner PMC safe and sound were used.

But none were implemented. in an attempt to enter into any other structure where we can really be useful. We were categorically against what they want to do. At the same time, the decision to transfer to the Ministry of Defense and understanding our attitude to close the Wagner PMC was made at the most inopportune moments. Nevertheless, we put the equipment on the grass, collected everything that was needed, made an inventory and were going, if the decision was not made, to leave on June 30 in a column to Rostov and publicly hand over the equipment near the headquarters of the NWO. Despite the fact that we did not show any aggression, we were attacked by missiles and immediately after that the helicopters worked. About 33 fighters of PMC “Wagner” were killed. Some were injured.

This prompted the Council of Commanders to immediately decide that we should move out immediately. I made a statement in which I said that we are not going to detect aggression in any way. But if we are hit, we will take it as an attempt to destroy and give an answer. During the entire march, which lasted 24 hours, one of the columns went to Rostov, the other in the direction of Moscow. During the day we covered 780 kilometers. Not a single soldier on earth was killed. We regret that we were forced to strike at air assets, but these assets were dropping bombs and delivering missile strikes. During the day we covered 780 kilometers, short of 200 small kilometers to Moscow. During this time, all military facilities that were along the road were blocked and neutralized. Nobody died, I repeat once again, from those who were on the ground. And this was our task. Among the fighters of the Wagner PMC, several people were wounded and two dead, who joined us, military personnel and the Ministry of Defense, of their own free will. None of the fighters of PMC “Wagner” was forced to this campaign, and everyone knew his ultimate goal.

The purpose of the campaign was to prevent the destruction of the PMC “Wagner” and to bring to justice those persons who, through their unprofessional actions, made a huge number of mistakes during the SVO. It was demanded by the public. All the servicemen who saw us during the march supported us. We did not reach about 200 kilometers to Moscow, having covered 780 kilometers in one and the other direction. We stopped at the moment when the first assault detachment, which had approached 200 kilometers from Moscow, deployed its artillery, reconnoitered the area, and it was obvious that at that moment a lot of blood would be shed. Therefore, we felt that the demonstration of what we were going to do, it is sufficient. And our decision to turn around was two major factors.

The first factor is that we did not want to shed Russian blood. The second factor is that we went to demonstrate our protest, and not to overthrow the government in the country. At this time, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko extended his hand and offered to find solutions for the further work of Wagner PMC in legal jurisdiction. The columns turned back and went to the field camps. I want to point out that our march of justice showed a lot of the things that we talked about earlier. Serious security problems throughout the country. We blocked all the military units of the airfield that were in our way. In 24 hours, we covered the distance that corresponds to the distance from the launch site of Russian troops on February 24, 22 to Kyiv and from the same point to Uzhgorod.

Therefore, if the action on February 24, 22, at the time of the start of the special operation, was carried out by a unit in terms of the level of training, in terms of the level of moral composure and readiness to perform tasks, like the Wagner PMC, then perhaps the special operation would last a day. It is clear that there were other problems, but we showed the level of organization that the Russian army should correspond to. And when on June 23-24 we walked past Russian cities, civilians met us with the flags of Russia and with the emblems and flags of the Wagner PMC. They were all happy when we came and when we passed by. Many of them still write words of support, and some are disappointed that we stopped, because in the march of justice, in addition to our struggle for existence, they saw support for the fight against bureaucracy and other ailments that exist in our country today.

These are the main questions that I can answer in order to exclude rumors both in Russian social networks and the media and in foreign networks. So, we started our march because of justice. On the way, on the ground, we did not kill a single soldier. In a day, only 200 kilometers did not reach Moscow, they entered and completely took control of the city of Rostov. The civilians were glad to see us. We showed a master class on how February 24, 22 should look like. We did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime and the legally elected government, which has been said many times. We turned around in order not to shed the blood of Russian soldiers.

There’s a lot of fuzziness in this with regards to the terms of the Ministry of Defense’s subsumption of private military companies’ personnel (and possibly assets?).

Also a lot of fuzziness in this regarding the agreement Prigozhin negotiated to end his march to Moscow.

Up to now there have been weasel words with regard to the number of Russian armed forces killed/not killed. This transcript offers more specificity though I haven’t seen much information about the aircraft shooting on Wagner personnel during the march.

Assuming this is a legitimate audio recording and not an AI-generated fake from which an AI-generated transcript has been produced, there may be a dig at Shoigu and the Russian military industrial complex with the bit about bureaucracy. Shoigu is not a soldier by training and experience but a bureaucrat.

Another dig likely aimed at Putin: the reception of Wagner group by Russian citizens. Putin gets highly-produced crowds, not spontaneous pop-ups.

Watch this video pulled together by RFE/RFL showing Prigozhin and Wagner personnel leaving Rostov-on-Don late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. That’s in part what Prigozhin made reference to in his audio.

It’s also the real, lingering threat to Putin. The video looks much more like an extremely popular politician leaving a campaign event.

There have been wisecracks made about Russia’s army being the second most powerful army in Russia and the third most powerful in Ukraine, implying Wagner group had more clout than Russia’s armed forces.

Once Wagner has left Russia, Belarus may have a more powerful army than Russia. Food for thought.


Compliments to the Chef: Prigozhin’s Trouble Looks like Civil War [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Moscow Times reported about four hours ago — roughly 4:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 p.m. Moscow and Kyiv time — that Russia’s Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) had filed charges against Putin’s chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin was charged with “inciting an armed uprising” and military vehicles were deployed to the streets of Moscow and Rostov-on-Don after he made an extraordinary threat to “stop” Russia’s top military brass.

Prigozhin on Friday accused Russia’s military leadership of ordering strikes on Wagner’s camps and killing a “huge” number of forces.

In a tirade against the Defense Ministry, with whom he has been feuding publicly for months over the handling of the war in Ukraine, Prigozhin, 62, said Wagner’s leadership had determined that “the evil that the military leadership of the country brings must be stopped.”

Prigozhin had been infuriated by an attack on his Wagner group personnel by Russia, according to Bellingcat’s Aric Toler:

A Russian military blogger visited a Wagner base shortly before it was allegedly the target of a shelling attack, which Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin has blamed on the Russian Ministry of Defence (MOD), although which the MOD has denied.

On the evening of June 23, a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel posted the following message, which was soon-after shared by Prigozhin on his personal Telegram channel: “A missile attack was carried out on a PMC Wagner base. There are many casualties. According to the information of the fighters who are witnesses, the attack was carried out from a rear direction – that is, it was carried out by soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defence.”

Nadin Brzezinski noted protective action under way in Moscow:

Moscow has mobilized Rosvgardia (National Guard) and Federal Protective Service, FSO troops. There are rumors that the Guard, or some formations, are picking up arms.

Voice of America’s Steve Herman confirmed RIA Novosti reported Moscow has been locked down.

The protective activity follows several statements Prigozhin made on Friday evening after release via social media platform Telegram of a video purportedly showing the effects of a Russian missile or missiles hitting Wagner group’s “rear camps,”

— Prigozhin said “A huge number of our fighters, our comrades-in-arms, died. We will decide how to respond to this atrocity. The next step is ours,” attributing the deaths to missile strikes by Russia’s Defense Ministry.

— Prigozhin’s press office released a recording in which Prigozhin said, “The evil that the military leadership of the country bears must be stopped. They neglect the lives of soldiers, they forgot the word “justice”, and we will return it. Therefore, those who destroyed our guys today, and tens of thousands of lives of Russian soldiers, will be punished…I ask everyone to remain calm, not to succumb to provocations, to stay in their homes, it is advisable not to go outside along the route of our journey. After we finish what we started, we will return to the front to defend our homeland. The presidential power, the government, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Guard and other structures will continue to work. We will deal with those who destroy Russian soldiers and return to the front.”

— “Shoigu just cowardly fled from Rostov. At 21:00, he ran cowardly, like a woman, so as not to explain why he raised helicopters to destroy our guys, why he launched missile strikes. This creature will be stopped,” Prigozhin said in his third statement, apparently blaming Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu directly for the missile attack.

Prigozhin and Shoigu have been in conflict since last fall, blaming Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov for both Russia’s military failures and for attacks on Wagner group personnel on the ground. He hasn’t held back with Putin about these problems.

Two to three hours ago — roughly 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET, 1:00-2:00 a.m. Moscow — Prigozhin said, “We are going farther. We will go to the end,” apparently referring to Wagner group personnel moving toward Rostov-on-Don, a city in western Russia located on the eastern tip of the Sea of Azov. The city is located about 110 miles east of Mariupol Ukraine and 270 miles northeast of Kerch in Crimea. Shoigu was alleged to be in Rostov-on-Don.

There is a lot of confusion internally as to the intent and meaning of Prigozhin’s statements and actions, much of it due to multiple messages across Russia’s military and political leadership. First deputy chief of the general staff of the armed forces Lt. General Vladimir Alekseev called it a coup. Deputy Commander Sergei Surovikin pleaded with Wagner group leadership to return to their positions before the missile attack.

~ ~ ~

Confusion reigns outside of Ukraine and Russia as well, at least inside the U.S.; while European news outlets are covering these developments in real time, U.S. outlets have been lagging.

ADDER: Snapshot from 8:00 p.m. ET of the top of Google News’ full coverage for Russia’s charges against Prigozhin and Prigozhin’s hostility toward Russian defense:

The New York Times may be the one exception; it has an aggregated feed of ongoing updates, thankfully with local times posted at the top.

There have been many observations that Twitter is now functionally useless for real time news when it had been the go-to platform before Twitter was acquired by Elon Musk.

The White House has been updated and is in a wait-and-see mode:

Joe Biden didn’t change his plans for the evening and attended an abortion rights event.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 9:30 A.M. 24-JUN-2023 —
Moscow is being fortified against Wagnerites:

See community member harpie’s comments beginning at 6:33 a.m. ET for a chronological rundown of developments overnight.

Prigozhin is no longer targeting only Shoigu and Gerasimov.

It says something that Russia’s deputy prime minister has bailed out of the country:

Meanwhile, in Ukraine:

Hoping for a bumper popcorn crop this season.

~ ~ ~

If there are updates to this piece they will appear at the bottom of this post.


Now Fully Normalized: Sportswashing the Bonesaw with Golf

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Golf as a professional sport now has completely lost its way.

The PGA Tour and Saudi-funded LIV Golf announced they are merging.

The controversial Saudi Public Investment Fund will make an investment into the new merged company “to facilitate its growth and success.” The new company does not yet have a name, according to the press release.

source: ABC News

All of the PGA Tour’s golfers who didn’t jump to LIV are now compromised by Saudi Arabia’s efforts to sportswash its fossil fuel dependency, its contribution to the mounting climate crisis, its history of human rights violations, its destabilizing actions in other countries in the Middle East and the US, and most horrifically of all, the murder of the Washington Post’s contributor Jamal Khashoggi who was sawed to death at the order of Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

Every golf pro playing on the new merged tour will have blood and oil on their clubs.

Now we’ll get stupid takes from people who contributed to our continued subordination to oil, like members of the Bush administration:

The merger didn’t come as a complete surprise to veteran U.S. diplomat Richard N. Haass.

“I thought it was near-inevitable as LIV was not going away, given Saudi financial support and strength of several LIV golfers,” said Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Plus, efforts to isolate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were fading in the wake of the president’s visit to and subsequent developments.”

source: NBC News

Ugh. Just go play golf, Haass.

The subsequent developments include Saudi Arabia fucking with the global economy right now by reducing oil production, thereby working toward higher oil prices while countries are struggling with inflation.

At least it’s easy to see how Saudi Arabia will fund its investment into this merged entity – off the backs of working people everywhere who’ll never set foot on a golf course.

The PGA could have had the good sense to find a way to delay this bullshit merger until after the shoe(s) drop related to the Special Counsel’s investigation into Trump’s “mishandling” of classified documents, but nope.

Sure hope the former PGA doesn’t mind getting tainted with that wretched mess, too, now that they’ve crawled into bed with Trump’s bloody-handed sponsors by way of LIV events hosted at Trump organization golf courses.


The Other Albanian Stuff

[NB: check the byline, thanks. This post contains some speculative content. /~Rayne]

Albania is a tiny country. Its population is a little smaller than that of Kansas, all living in a land mass the size of Massachusetts or Hawaii. The U.S. has six counties which are larger in area, and six which are larger in population.

It seems rather odd that two different stories related to Rudy Giuliani happened to involve Albania given its relative size.

While Giuliani was politicking an exiled Iranian dissident/terrorist group each year, often in Albania where the exiles waited regime change, an FBI special agent was schmoozing Albanians about oil drilling rights among other things.

What are the chances these two story arcs are wholly unrelated?

Items in the following timeline related to Charles McGonigal including some related to Russia are in italics; Albanian-specific items are noted in boldface.

– – –

2014-2019 — Giuliani met with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK) at least once each year; he never registered under FARA, appearing at MEK-related events in Poland, Albania, Paris and Washington (NBC News, Oct 2019)

– – –

April 2017 — Approximate time relationship between then-Special Agent Charles McGonigal and Allison Guerriero began (earliest date of requested documents from Nov. 2021 subpoena)

Spring 2017 — Giuliani and ally Michael Mukasey met with Iranian dissident group MEK.

01-JUL-2017 — John Bolton met with MEK members in Paris, advocating Trump admin push for regime change in Iran.

17-JUL-2017 — John Bolton tweeted, “Withdrawing from the Iran #NuclearDeal should be a top @realDonaldTrump administration priority.”

05-SEP-2017 — Date given in the DC District indictment for second count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2), related to filing of an FD-772b for travel beginning two days later.

07-SEP-2017 — McGonigal met with Person A and negotiated terms of compensation; he traveled by air with Person A to Albania, met Person B and other foreign nationals.

09-SEP-2017 — McGonigal met with Person B and Albania‘s Prime Minister, during which McGonigal lobbied against Albania awarding oil field drilling licenses to Russian front companies. Person A and Person B both had financial interests in Albania‘s award decision.

September 2017 — While in Albania, Person A introduced McGonigal to an Albanian businessperson/politician who asked McGonigal to launch an investigation into an alleged plot to kill the Albanian businessperson/politician.

10-SEP-2017 — McGonigal traveled with Person A and others, from Albania to Kosovo. He met a Kosovar politician. McGonigal then returned to the US with Person A, traveling together.

September 2017 — McGonigal continued a relationship with Albania‘s prime minister after returning from Albania.

Fall 2017 — McGonigal received cash from Person A at Person A’s residence in separate payments of $80,000 and $65,000. McGonigal told Person A the money would be paid back.

05-OCT-2017 — Allison Guerriero saw “a bag full of cash” in FBI’s SA Charles McGonigal’s Park Slope apartment.

16-OCT-2017 — Date given for third count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2), related to filing of an FD-772b.

15-NOV-2017Date given for fourth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). McGonigal submitted a false FD-772 in advance of “official” travel to Austria. He did not disclose Person A was traveling with him; he did not indicate travel expenses would be covered by another party; he did not indicate he would be traveling to Albania as well as Austria; he did not disclose any other expected foreign contacts.

17-NOV-2017 — McGonigal flew to Austria.

18-NOV-2017 — With Person A acting as an interpreter, McGonigal along with a DOJ prosecutor (?!) interviewed the Albanian businessperson/politician McGonigal met in September. McGonigal did not submit paperwork for authorization of interpreter services or their payment, nor was an official FBI record filed of the interview.

18-NOV-2017 — McGonigal and Person A traveled from Austria to Albania after the interview, meeting again with the Albanian businessperson/politician. No DOJ prosecutor was present. The Albanian businessperson/politician discussed business opportunities with McGonigal and Person A.

21-NOV-2017 — McGonigal flew from Albania to Austria and then the US. Neither McGonigal nor the FBI paid for his lodging during his stay in Albania.

24-NOV-2017 — McGonigal received information from Person B about a US citizen registered to lobby on behalf of a Albanian political party in opposition to the Albanian PM’s party.

25-NOV-2017 — McGonigal informed the DOJ prosecutor involved in the November 18 interview of a potential new criminal investigation involving the US citizen who was a lobbyist for an Albanian opposition party.

December 2017 — Washington DC: McGonigal dined with Person A and Albanian government officials. New York City: McGonigal dined with Person A and Albania‘s PM.

– – –

04-JAN-2018 — McGonigal received information from Person A about the Albanian opposition party’s US citizen-lobbyist. He forwarded the information to another FBI NY special agent on 05-JAN-2018.

22-JAN-2018 — Date given for fifth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). McGonigal filed a false FD-772b about the November trip to Austria. He did not report his trip to Albania; he did not report his meeting with Person B or Albania‘s PM; he did not report he had disclosed his FBI employment to foreign nationals on non-FBI business.

21-FEB-2018 — Through 24-FEB, McGonigal traveled with Person A to Albania without reporting the trip on FD-772 or FD-772b forms.

26-FEB-2018 — FBI-NY opened a criminal investigation into the Albanian opposition party’s US citizen-lobbyist at McGonigal’s request. FBI-NY later identified Person A as a confidential human source for the investigation; Person A provided information during the investigation. At a later date, Person B helped facilitate a meeting between FBI-NY and witnesses in Europe, including paying for witness travel expenses. McGonigal did not report his relationship with Person A, nor did he report contacts with Person B on form FD-981 as required.

04-MAR-2018 — McGonigal shared a meal with Person A, Albania‘s PM, a former FBI special agent who then worked at an international professional services firm and others in Washington DC.

20-MAR-2018 — Giuliani met with MEK leader Rajavi at MEK event in Tirana, Albania.

22-MAR-2018 — Trump announced by tweet that John Bolton would become National Security Adviser.

06-APR-2018 — Treasury Dept. identifies Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (SDN) subject to sanctions.

09-APR-2018 — John Bolton began as National Security Adviser.

26-APR-2018 — Through May 2, McGonigal traveled with Person A to Europe including Albania; he did not report the travel on FD-772 or FD-772b forms.

27-APR-2018 — McGonigal met with Person C (a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Person D (a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina) in Germany. C and D asked to meet with the US Ambassador to the United Nations or another high-level US govt. official to request US support for a political purpose affecting Bosnia and Herzegovina.

08-MAY-2018 — McGonigal asked FBI’s liaison to UN for assistance arranging a meeting requested by Person C and Person D.

08-MAY-2018 — Trump unilaterally exited the P5+1 JCPOA agreement with Iran.

09-MAY-2018 — US to reimpose sanctions on Iran — 180-day countdown to implementation began.

Spring-Summer 2018 — Deripaska’s connection, former translator for Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Shestakov, asks McGonigal to help Agent-1 obtain an internship for Agent-1’s daughter in counterterror/intel/international relations. McGonigal agreed.

10-JUN-2018 — Date given for sixth count against McGonigal, for false statements under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). Until May 2019, McGonigal created and submitted a false OGE-278 report which failed to include $225,000 in payments from Person A. An eighth count was charged under 18 USC 1519 for falsification of a record or document.

25-JUN-2018 — McGonigal proposed to Person A that Person A and Company A contract with Person D and Person D’s pharma company, by which Company A would be paid $500,000 by Person D and their pharma company (located in Bosnia and Herzegovina) in exchange for arranging a meeting between Person D’s pharmaco and a US delegation rep to the UN.

28/30-JUN-2018 — German, French and Belgian police broke up an assassination/terror plot to set off an explosive device at an MEK gathering in Paris. Iranian intelligence (MOIS) was believed to be behind the plot; Giuliani had been in attendance at the event. Four Iranians were eventually arrested including Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian intelligence officer assigned to Vienna under diplomatic cover.

01-JUL-2018 — McGonigal sent electronic message to Person A confirming he resent proposed contract, asking Person A to protect his name.

03-JUL-2018 — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Switzerland and Austria to attempt to salvage the JCPOA.

18-JUL-2018 — Person A proposed the contract to Person D as described on 25-JUN.

26-JUL-2018 — McGonigal provided to FBI’s UN liaison dates proposed for a meeting requested by Persons C and D.

06-AUG-2018 — First series of sanctions reengaged and next 180-day countdown began.

13-AUG-2018 — During a meeting, McGonigal provided information to a senior official for US delegation to UN about the meeting request by Persons C and D. McGonigal didn’t disclose Person A’s financial interest or McGonigal’s financial relationship with Person A.

22-AUG-2018 — Giuliani lobbied Romania on behalf of Freeh Group; Freeh’s client was not specified. Giuliani’s letter was in opposition to U.S. State Dept. policy on Romanian anticorruption efforts.[1]

September 2018 — Charles McGonigal left FBI and began working as Senior VP at Brookfield Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management which is owned in part by Qatar. Brookfield signed a 99-year lease on Jared Kushner’s 666 5th Avenue building in August 2018.

04-NOV-2018 — Second series of sanctions reengaged including purchasing fossil fuels from Iranian oil companies.

Late 2018 — McGonigal broke up with Guerriero. “A few months later” she ratted on McGonigal to William Sweeney, FBI-NY office.

– – –

2019 — Shestakov and McGonigal introduced Agent-1 to an international law firm so that Agent-1 could work to have Deripaska delisted as an SDN, lifting sanctions. Throughout the year, McGonigal traveled to meet Deripaska in London and Vienna at Deripaska’s residences. The law firm was to pay McGonigal $25,000 out of $175,000 it received for its services to Agent-1.

XX-FEB-2019 — Trump discussed replacements for DNI.

06-MAY-2019 — Date given for first count against McGonigal, for concealment of material facts under 18 USC 1001(a)(1) for filing false forms FD-772, FD-772b, FD-981, and OGE-278 which did not include information about his travel, compensation for travel-related expenses, relationships with foreign nationals, and the $225,000 received from Person A. The OGE-278 filed after his retirement was submitted this date for which a seventh count was charged under 18 USC 1001(a)(2). A ninth count was charged under 18 USC 1519 for falsification of a record or document.

20-JUN-2019 — In retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, Trump approved strikes on Iran which were abruptly aborted.

11-JUL-2019 — Giuliani spoke to MEK in Albania and met with its leader Maryam Rajavi.

28-JUL-2019 — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ departure and John Ratcliffe nominated as replacement announced by Trump via Twitter. (Ratcliffe later removed himself from consideration.)

08-AUG-2019 — Primary Deputy Director DNI Sue Gordon resigned effective 15-AUG-2019, without additional prior notice, as ordered. Resignation letter without handwritten note.

15-AUG-2019 — Coats’ last day as DNI.

30-AUG-2019 — Trump tweeted a high-resolution satellite image of Iran’s failed Safir SLV launch while claiming the U.S. was not involved. The image may have been classified and ‘insta-declassified’ by Trump.

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

10-SEP-2019 — Bolton tells Fox’s Brian Kilmeade by text that he quit.

11-SEP-2019 — Bloomberg reported Bolton pushed back Monday-Tuesday at Trump over Iran sanctions; Bolton wanted maximum pressure while Trump wanted to encourage a meeting with Iran’s Rouhani later in September.

20-SEP-2019 — Mukasey registers as representative for MEK, claiming no compensation for this work; Giuliani remains unregistered.

27-DEC-2019 — K1 military base in/near Kirkuk, Iraq attacked by Kataib Hezbollah, a group linked to Iran. The group denied responsibility. A US contractor was killed and US soldiers wounded.

29-DEC-2019 — Trump ordered retaliatory airstrikes in western Iraq and eastern Syria targeting Kataib Hezbollah’s locations.

30-DEC-2019 — While golfing, Trump told Sen. Lindsey Graham about a plan to assassinate Iran’s Gen. Soleimani.

31-DEC-2019 — US Embassy-Baghdad stormed by Kataib Hezbollah. Sen. Graham tweets about meeting with Trump regarding the embassy.

31-DEC-2019 — Trump threatens Iran by tweet.

– – –

02-JAN-2020 — Trump authorizes assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani by missile strike.

March 2020 — Law firm and McGonigal’s work on behalf of Agent-1 ended.

– – –

Spring 2021 — Agent-1 negotiated with Shestakov and McGonigal to work directly for Deripaska on sanctioned matters, bypassing the law firm.

August 2021 — McGonigal, Shestakov, and Agent-1 drafted a contract for business intelligence services paid to an intermediary corporation owned by McGonigal’s “friend” who then paid McGonigal.

November 2021DOJ investigation of McGonigal underway; Guerriero received a subpoena.

– – –

Early Jan 2022 — McGonigal left employment at Brookfield.

Mid-July 2022 — Albania suffered a serious cyberattack for which it blamed Iranian groups.

07-SEP-2022 — Albania severed diplomatic ties with Iran over the cyberattacks; it had considered invoking Article 5 as a member of NATO.

– – –

I couldn’t help think of the relationship between Albania and Iran during the last week of January when an Iranian military industrial facility located in Isfahan province was attacked by drones which appeared to be under Israeli control.

The possibility crossed my mind that all of this effort with McGonigal working for Russians and Albanian opposition, and Giuliani and Bolton propping up MEK against Iran was intended to squeeze Albania between larger geopolitical players, possibly spreading destabilization to other neighboring countries. Montenegro, for one, has been under various forms of pressure for years by Russia because of its accession to NATO against which Russia pushed back.

Nor could I help but think of crude oil and gas market price fluctuations[2], and the threat to the EU due to Russia’s war on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia.

 

Where Albania fits into that picture along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with Romania, is the Southern Gas Corridor running from Azerbaijan through Turkey and finally through Albania, with a leg to the north from Turkey through Bulgaria and Romania to Ukraine.

Have Giuliani and McGonigal been used to increase instability in Albania in order to disrupt gas distribution to NATO member states in EU?

Have both of these corrupt hacks been used to increase instability in Albania to put pressure on a couple of the smallest NATO members, including Albania’s neighbor Montenegro which also plays a role in gas pipelines to EU states?

_________

[1] This item added because it seems like such an odd item. Tirana, Albania is a four-hour flight from Bucharest, Romania, though.

[2] This is a guesstimated amount Putin/Russian oil companies lost after Obama eased sanctions on Iranian oil during P5+1 JCPOA negotiations until the eventual implementation of the JCPOA. It does not include the amount lost after implementation.

8614.21 BBL/D/1K x 7 days x 73 weeks x -$45/BBL =

(8614.21 x 1000) x (511 days) x -$45/BBL =

-$198,083,758,950 lost

Based on average daily production 1992-2022 (see: https://tradingeconomics.com/russia/crude-oil-production) and at one-half the difference between WTI’s highest price in June 2014 and its price in January 2016.


Zelenskyy wasn’t the First Ukrainian President to Address a Joint Meeting of Congress

On April 5, 2005, the JFK Library welcomed the recipient of their annual Profile in Courage Award, Viktor Yushchenko. Senator Ted Kennedy opened his brief remarks at the ceremony by saying this:

In “Profiles in Courage,” President Kennedy wrote: “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” Our honoree this evening vividly embodies my brother’s words, and is renowned throughout the world for his extraordinary courage.

As we all know, at a critical moment in his nation’s history, he took a strong and courageous stand for what he knew was right. He risked his life – and nearly lost it – in the ongoing struggle for democracy in Ukraine. His story is the story of honor, decency, and the will of the people triumphing over fraud, deceit and intimidation. And because of his great courage, the rule of law prevailed against the oppressive rule of the powerful over the powerless.

In 1993, Yushchenko became head of Ukraine’s national bank, but 8 years later he was dismissed because his push for reforms made him too popular with ordinary Ukrainians. Again from Ted Kennedy:

Refusing to be silenced, he became the head of a political party and helped create a bloc of reform parties called “Our Ukraine,” which won a plurality of seats in the parliamentary elections of 2002 and became a significant force in the legislature.

As the presidential election approached in 2004, it was obvious that he appealed to Ukrainian citizens in ways no other politician could. His popularity was higher than any others because he had the ability to relate to people’s lives, and was so clearly seeking public office for the public good, not private gain.

These qualities endeared him to the people, but made him a special threat to the corrupt leaders of the regime in power. Nothing – not even a vicious attempt to poison him – could break his spirit and prevent him from speaking out against corruption and for a democracy grounded firmly in the rule of law.

[snip]

State-owned media shamelessly opposed him, and independent media were subjected to violence and intimidation in a largely successful effort to silence their support.

Opposition rallies faced constant harassment. Government employees, factory workers and students were threatened with dismissal unless they opposed him. President Putin of Russia openly intervened by declaring his support for the government candidate and sending a team of his top political advisers to assist him.

Yushchenko continued his campaign, even after being poisoned. (A political reformer, poisoned? Why does that sound familiar?). When the election was held, international observers noted huge irregularities and fraud, and when election authorities declared his opponent the winner, the people of Ukraine poured into the streets in protest in what became known as the Orange Revolution (after the prominent color used by Yushchenko’s campaign). In the end, the Ukrainian courts looked at it, agreed with the accusations of fraud, and ordered a new election – an election Yushchenko won.

The day after the JFK Library honored Yushchenko, he addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress. Just like Zelenskyy yesterday, he tied what was happening in Ukraine with the US and its own history, opening his remarks with these words:

Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, Honorable Senators and House Members, Ladies and Gentlemen: On the wall of this great building, there is the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “Out of many, one.” This motto reminds the world about the American Revolution, the starting point of the modern world’s history of liberty.

My road here went through the orange-colored Independence Square that became known as maidan. Millions of people standing there continuously repeated it: “Together we are many, we cannot be defeated.” This motto of the Ukrainian Revolution is a reminder of the fact that freedom continues to win. Ukraine is opening a new page in the world’s chronicle of liberty in the 21st century.

These two mottos have a lot in common. They speak to the strength of our peoples that comes from unity. They speak of the victories of our peoples in their struggles for freedom.

The whole address is here [pdf, beginning on page 12], but let me highlight a few other parts of it.

My oath is built on the reminiscences of the common prayer of hundreds of thousands of people in the maidan. Christians, Jews, Muslims were praying one prayer, everybody according to their rites, with everybody asking the Creator for one thing: freedom, fairness and blessings for Ukraine and for each of its citizens.

We are building an open economy that encourages innovation, rewards initiative, and assures high social standards. We are beginning an implacable war on corruption, promoting fair competition and forming transparent government-to-business relations. My goal is to place Ukraine in the forefront of prosperous democracies. My vision of the future is Ukraine in a United Europe.

That sounds a bit like something we heard from Zelenskyy last night:

Ladies and gentlemen — ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be, there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure.

But we do not complain. We do not judge and compare whose life is easier. Your well-being is the product of your national security; the result of your struggle for independence and your many victories. We, Ukrainians, will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.

We’ll celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Christmas and, even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian — if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish, as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. Only victory.

Yushchenko continued his 2005 speech by laying out a desire to integrate more fully with Europe, and buttressed his remarks with references to Presidents Wilson, Reagan, Bush the Elder, and Clinton. Then he went on:

Dear friends, the goal of my visit to the U.S. is to establish a new era in Ukraine-U.S. relations. We do not seek only thaws that alter chillings in our relations. We seek a new atmosphere of trust, frankness and partnership. A new Ukraine offers the U.S. a genuinely strategic partnership.

[snip]

The U.S. and Ukraine have common strategic interests, and we have unity in one thing. Everywhere possible we want to uphold freedom and democracy. We are committed to such a responsibility because we know if somebody is deprived of freedom, this freedom has been taken away from us.

[snip]

Ukraine will be a reliable partner to the U.S. in fighting terrorism. I am sure we will be able to overcome it and not only by power of force. It is our obligation to eradicate the sources of terrorism. We can defeat the ideology of hatred that nourishes it. I am fully convinced that the time will come when in the dictionary of world languages, the term “terrorism’’ will be followed by the footnote, “archaic term.’’

The actions of the past year have proven Yushchenko’s promise that Ukraine would be a reliable partner of the US to have been honored, and Zelenskyy’s speech yesterday was a great reminder of what Yushchenko said in 2005.

Near the end of his address, Yushchenko began his conclusion with these words:

Ladies and Gentlemen: John Fitzgerald Kennedy took an oath before the whole world by saying, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’’ I am subscribing to these words on behalf of Ukraine. This authority was given to me by my fellow countrymen who endured days and nights in bitter cold and snow on the maidan. Ukraine is free and will always remain free. Citizens of Ukraine gained their freedom due to their courage and support of friends and proponents of democracy across the world.

These words, too, have proven true.

Yushchenko spoke to Congress in 2005 at the invitation of a GOP-run House and Senate, while a Republican president was in the White House. Zelenskyy spoke to Congress yesterday at the invitation of a Democratic-run House and Senate, while a Democratic president was in the White House. Both Ukrainian presidents hit the same notes, pleading for a stronger partnership with the US, regardless of which political party was in charge in DC. Even without that partnership, however, each pledged that Ukraine would continue its fight for freedom.

Over the past year, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine have demonstrated that Yushchenko’s words were not simply flowerly language in a fluffy speech. Back in 2005, Caroline Kennedy said this about why the JFK Library selected Yushchenko to receive the Profiles in Courage award:

His courage has inspired citizens of the world. For those of us who are free – he has reminded us that we can never take our freedom for granted, and for people with no voice in their own government, President Yushchenko and the Ukrainian people have given them hope.

Zelenskyy delivered his own reminder of this to those of us who are free last night, much as Yushchenko did in 2005.

Thank you, President Zelenskyy. Slava Ukraini, indeed.

 


Three Questions at the Start of an Intelligence Review

There’s been a lot of focus on the narrow legal battles over the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, but sometimes stepping back to look at the big picture helps bring the conflict into focus. As a legal matter and a political matter, Trump, his lawyers, and his apologists are trying to make the claim that this is just a dispute about documents, like overdue library books. The passion with which the DOJ went after them since receiving the referral from NARA last February, especially the ferocity of the legal arguments and filings over the last two weeks, demonstrates how wrong the DOJ believes that framing to be.

I agree with the DOJ.

The documents are not really what is being fought over — the battle is over the damage  (hypothetical or actual) done to our intelligence services, our national defense, and our broader foreign policy by Trump’s possession of these documents at Mar-a-Lago. The documents are the first puzzle pieces the intelligence community [IC] has to put together, to fill in the whole picture and plan a way forward.

To understand why, let’s parse out what an intelligence review might look like. What follows is not based on any insider sources at the DOJ, ODNI, or any other federal agencies, but on my own experience (long ago) with classified materials and the general experiences of others I know with deeper and more recent work in classified matters, as well as analyzing other cases where classified materials were stolen from the government and passed along to foreign governments.

An intelligence review is designed to look at three things: what got exposed, to whom, and what dangers does that pose to intelligence sources, methods, and broader foreign policy objectives? These are all backwards-looking questions, to understand how this could have happened in the first place. They also serve as the starting point for forward-looking actions, as we and our allies pivot our overt and covert foreign policy approaches in a new context. Think of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who passed US and British nuclear secrets to the USSR in the 1940s. A backwards looking intelligence review ultimately identified him as the spy and spotted the flaws in our security procedures, and a forward looking review pivoted the US and British policy toward a world with nuclear powers who opposed each other.

In the current case, the IC review begins with three interrelated questions:

  1. Why did Trump take government documents to Mar-a-Lago in the first place?
  2. Why these documents?
  3. Why not those other documents?

The second and third questions begin to move toward an answer to the first question, so let’s start there. Broadly speaking, I see five possible answers, each of which poses different dangers.

1: Vanity

If this is the answer to that first question, we would expect to find that Trump took documents that made him look good, that pointed to actions that he believed he could claim credit for, or that simply let him feel powerful because he knows stuff very few others know. Think of these as Extreme Presidential Souvenirs. These would be documents that shout to the world, “Look at how great Trump is . . .”

Danger: Simply having documents like this in his possession would likely not be enough for Trump’s ego. Trump’s ego would demand that he show them to others, so that they would know how great Trump is. The level and kind of danger depends on who the “others” are, and who they might have spoken to about what Trump showed them.

2: Fear

In this scenario, the IC review would see that Trump took documents that would help cover up his failures and/or possible crimes, such as a full transcript of the “Perfect Phone Call” with Zelenskyy. These would be documents that whisper in Trump’s ear, “This could get you into trouble. You better hide this . . .”

Danger: These are the documents least likely to be shared by Trump, so in that respect they are safe. On the other hand, they become prime material for blackmail if unfriendly parties realize he has them. Trump’s nightmare is getting a phone call about these documents, threatening to expose the documents to the “wrong” people. “I’d like you to do me a favor, though . . .”

3: Greed

Given Trump’s proclivity to monetize anything he can for his own personal gain, it is hard to imagine that Trump would not be looking at anything that crossed his desk to see how he might make money on it. (“Hmmm . . . I’m doing some traveling? OK, which of my properties are closest, and how much can I charge the Secret Service for staying there?”) Documents that showed him something that would let him make money would be particularly tempting to Trump. Think of this as corporate espionage, or a twisted form of insider trading. Perhaps he received knowledge of foreign government’s as yet unannounced plans to develop certain properties overseas, and figured he could jump in, buy the property first, and then get bought out for a profit. Or maybe he would buy the property next to the future development and cash in when the government project became public and went forward, driving up the value of what he purchased. Perhaps these were not projects led by foreign governments, but by US corporations acting abroad whose plans were picked up as part of a signals intelligence surveillance program aimed at less-than-friendly nations. Documents like this would be calling out to his wallet, telling him “Hey, you can really use this . . .”

Danger: Suppose Trump acts on this information in some way, and the foreign government in question starts wondering “Did Trump merely get lucky in choosing to invest right where our project was going in, or did US spies give him the information?” Questions like that might lead to the exposure of human assets (sources) and signals intelligence capabilities (methods), which in turn could lead to those sources being shut down/arrested/killed, those signals intelligence methods being countered, or either the sources or methods being turned and used to feed false information to the US.

4: Corruption

As bad as #3 is, this scenario is the IC nightmare: Trump took documents that he knows other foreign governments, perhaps some of our greatest enemies, would love to have, and then deliberately passed them along to those governments. It might be to get revenge on Biden and the Dems for beating him in 2020. It might be to sabotage the work of the current administration and cause great public political problems for the Dems, to enable his return to the White House in 2024. It might be that some foreign adversary has compromising information about Trump or holds a private loan to Trump, his family, or his Trump Organization, and that country demanded classified information from Trump in exchange for not revealing the compromising information they hold or for not calling in the loan he could not immediately repay.

Danger: Beyond the damage done to sources, methods, and US foreign policy objectives created by disclosing the classified information in these documents, this scenario is worse. It weakens our relationships with our allies and harms our position in the world, simply by indicating we can’t keep secrets and by making us weaker through whatever is revealed. Should Trump have provided classified intelligence deliberately, it only gives those folks more leverage over Trump, which they would use to push for more information and more favors. Once you’ve turned over classified information to a hostile power, those folks own you forever. “Nice resort you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that foreign governments might lean on Trump to use his family to further their goals. “You need to have Jared talk to his friends in the Middle East, and convince them to . . . “

5: Some/all of the above

Trump might have taken some documents to feed his ego, others to hide them, and still others to try to monetize their contents. He might have taken some for his own reasons, and others because he was pressured to do so by hostile powers. The permutations are . . . troubling.

Danger: some/all of the above.

HOW BAD IS ALL THIS? DON’T ANSWER YET . . .

On top of these five possible explanations of Trump’s motives, one other thing is absolutely certain. Documents like those that were seized by the DOJ would have been catnip for the intelligence agencies of other nations. Once word got out that Trump had taken highly classified documents out of the WH (or once folks even suspected he had done so), all manner of foreign spies no doubt became very interested in Mar-a-Lago – much more than they had been during the Trump administration itself. It’s hard as hell to get into the WH and take classified materials, or to plant electronic surveillance devices inside the WH. Mar-a-Lago, on the other hand, is a relative sieve, especially after Trump left office and the security around Trump was much more directed to protecting his person rather than protecting all the stuff around a sitting president. At Mar-a-Lago these days, you pay your membership fee, and walk right in for a grand tour. Whatever the reason Trump chose to take these documents, even if he simply wanted to hold onto them as presidential souvenirs and he does nothing with them otherwise, should foreign agents copy them or steal them from Mar-a-Lago, that’s almost as bad it as it gets for the US.

Danger: Exposing whatever classified information to the prying eyes of our adversaries not only exposes sources and methods of our intelligence services, but provides our adversaries with insight into our strengths and weaknesses, depending on what the intelligence said. It also opens Trump to blackmail, as noted above in scenarios #2 and 4. “Well look what we found at your home. It sure would be terrible if the FBI were to discover that you were so sloppy with security that we were able to waltz right in and take them.”

To sort out the likelihood of each of these scenarios and the specific dangers posed, those conducting the IC review will do a couple of things. First, the leaders of the intelligence agencies are likely going back to the original creators of these documents, to tell them they were found in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago, and therefore (a) the creators need to assess what the specific danger would be if this particular document were to be exposed, and (b) the creators should look around to see if they have any signs that these documents had been shared already. The former is to measure the hypothetical damage, while the latter is to assess the likelihood that this is not hypothetical. Did spies suddenly go quiet, or did the quality of their information suddenly become different? Did satellites that used to provide good, regular photos of intelligence targets begin to provide much less good intelligence? All the while, the IC reviewers know that this is likely even worse.

EVEN WORSE? HOW CAN THIS BE EVEN WORSE?

If any of this information came to the US IC through our partnerships with other friendly nations (like Five Eyes or NATO), that means going to the intelligence folks in those countries who trusted us with their secrets and telling them that their trust was misplaced, at least while Trump was in office. They are the folks who need to assess the danger that exposure of this information would create, and who would have to see if there were signs that this information had already been shared. Of course we would promise to do whatever we could to assist them in that analysis, but that’s like telling a shopkeeper that you will help sweep up the shards of all the broken crystal after your kid threw a bowling ball into the display case.

Danger: It’s bad enough if our secrets get exposed, but if we let their secrets get exposed, that’s going to make them less likely to trust us in the future. As I said before, this is why having career diplomat William Burns as head of the CIA was a stroke of genius by Biden, and why Burns and the rest of the IC is no doubt bending over backwards to help Garland get this right, and bending farther over backwards to help our allies get this fixed.

SO HOW MIGHT THIS REVIEW WORK?

This is why the analysis of what was taken and trying to determine Trump’s motive(s) is the starting place. It leads to other critical questions like these:

  • What does Trump’s selection of documents — classified and unclassified — tell us about what is going on?
  • Were the documents tucked away by Trump over a long period of time, or did they all get tucked away in a specific, relatively short time period?
  • And what else was tucked in the drawers, file folders, and boxes next to these classified documents? Are there notes or letters that appear to have been written based on the content of the classified materials?

Depending on what this initial analysis reveals, the reviewers will begin to talk to the counterintelligence people in their agencies, especially if there is some concentration of subject matters or particular time frames involved.

  • Have you noticed any unusual behavior in known foreign agents around those time frames?
  • Was there any unusual signals traffic between foreign agents here and their bosses back home?
  • Were there any new agents who arrived here, who have a particular focus to their work that meshes with the subject matters of the documents Trump took? What actions have they taken?

To dig into all this, the analysts will be looking at other information and also be in contact with the folks in the field who are managing the human sources or electronic surveillance methods, to see what insights they might have. They know that decisions will need to be made about protecting or extracting sources who might be in danger, shutting down electronic surveillance already in place (pull out/relocate bugs and cameras if possible, re-direct satellite orbits, change communications frequencies, reprogramming software, etc.), and otherwise working to replace these sources and methods in some way to avoid further exposure. They hope to restore secrecy to the people and programs, and restore quality to the intelligence that might have been harmed through exposure.

While all this covert review work is going on, the FBI will no doubt be doing an ordinary shoe-leather investigation into the folks who have been going in and out of Mar-a-Lago over the last 18 months after the security of the resort was scaled back to simply protect the former president. They will be looking at guests and staff alike, trying to see what can be learned from videos, logs of visits, work schedules, and in some cases interviews. They will be looking at the White House document handling, especially after December 18, 2020 when the head of the White House Office of the Staff Secretary resigned and no one was named to take his place — even in an acting capacity — until January 20, 2021. They will be doing deeper domestic investigations of any new foreign agents that were identifies by the IC analysts.

And then there’s the investigation that NARA is probably already trying to complete: what other documents from the Trump White House were not turned over?

This is all very time consuming and expensive. You don’t want to do this if it isn’t necessary, but you absolutely have to do it if these sources and methods are likely to have been (or actually were) blown. Only when the Why?, Why?, and Why not? questions have been answered can the forward looking work really begin in earnest.

There’s a lot more that can be inferred about what an intelligence review would contain, but one thing is certain. The panel of judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Special Master Raymond Dearie are focused on what Judge Cannon does not want to recognize: this is not a case about misfiled documents, but a national security case in which documents hold the key to assessing the dangers posed and actual damage done to our nation, so that the current government can begin to address it.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/foreign-policy/