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International balance of forces in Syria after Raqqa’s liberation unclear yet — expertMilitary & Defense October 20, 21:05
Some members of the UN Security Council keep on stirring up the conflict in Syria but the latest decisions of the Council show progress at negotiations, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said in an interview with Izvestia published on Tuesday.
"Efforts concerning Syria in the Security Council have never been easy. Some members of the Council, who let’s put it straight, contributed to the emergence of the conflict in Syria and still stir it up, cannot abandon their aspirations on toppling the current government of the Syrian Arab Republic," said the diplomat, who has represented Russia’s interests in the organization for more than a decade.
These countries rarely put forward constructive proposals and focus on "demonizing the Syrian authorities and Russia lately," Churkin noted. The diplomat pointed out that despite the uptight environment last year in the Council, progress had been made in negotiations on a range of issues. "Complicated diplomatic compromises had been reached several times that allowed making important decisions. In most cases, Russia’s initiatives became a catalyst, and sometimes jointly with international partners, including the United States," he stressed. The unanimous adoption by the Council of Resolutions 2328 and 2336 on improving the situation in Syria’s Aleppo and endorsing the intra-Syrian agreements in Ankara showed that the Council’s members are able to strike a compromise even on such controversial issues as the situation in Syria, the envoy said.
"In this context, we ushered in the New Year with new expectations on achieving peaceful settlement, and the UN has a special role here," Churkin stressed.
Russia can be ranked among the top five countries after the United States, China, the United Kingdom and South Korea for the level of development of its purported cyber army, the special units responsible for military and intelligence cyber security, Russian analysts said in a survey published amid the growing international tensions in this field, according to Kommersant.
These units are more often used for information warfare: for example, Russian hackers have been already accused of interfering in the recent US presidential elections and an attack on the computer systems of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the paper says.
The specialized cyber security units officially are used in several dozen countries and non-officially in more than a hundred, says the survey conducted by Zecurion Analytics, a Russian company, founded in 2001, that develops data leak prevention (DLP) software.
It works in information security markets in Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe, the United States, Japan and Turkey. The assessments are based on the countries’ military budgets, cyber security strategies, charter documents, reference data of international organizations, official commentaries and insider information.
A source on the information security market told Kommersant that Russia’s cyber forces number 1,000 people and receive the financing of around $300 mln per year. According to Zecurion Analytics, the US spends some $7 bln per year on this sector and the number of hackers working for the state is estimated at 9,000.
The cyber forces’ activities are chiefly focused on espionage, cyberattacks and info wars that include "various means of influencing the mood and behavior of a country’s citizens," Zecurion said.
Meanwhile, the market participants cast doubt on the company’s data. "For example, some 6,000 people work for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK. How did the analysts of Zecurion assess that 2,000 people deal with cyberattacks, that’s a big question," Marketing Director at the Moscow-based Solar Security Valentin Krokhin stated.
He also noted that espionage, cyberattacks and info wars are the competence of technological intelligence which is "as a rule a civilian agency and cannot use military budgets." The military structures of states have cyber commands, but these are the personnel involved in protecting the infrastructure of military cyber systems rather than "military hackers," he explained. "The most developed cyber units are in South Korea, Israel, Iran and Estonia. The forces of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and France in this respect are doubtful," Krokhin elaborated.
The Gujarat Energy Forum initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is opening in India’s Gandhinagar on Tuesday and a Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin will be attending the event. Kommersant business daily writes that the major three-day business forum in India may be used as a venue to discuss pressing political problems built up over time in Russian-Indian relations.
The visit by the Russian delegation to Gandhinagar will become the most significant event in the bilateral relations of the "privileged strategic partnership" between Moscow and New Delhi after the October 2016 meeting between Putin and Modi in Goa, the paper says.
Sources close to the Indian government told Kommersant that amid growing business cooperation there are signs of misunderstanding between the two countries in politics. Although the forum is aimed at developing business ties, it’s unlikely that the sides will manage to separate economics from politics, according to the sources.
"India’s readiness to develop long-term trade, economic, military and technical cooperation with Russia will largely depend on whether Moscow and New Delhi maintain similar positions on key security issues in South Asia that directly affect India’s national interests," an informed source in New Delhi told Kommersant.
One of the leading Indian experts, Vice President of the Observer Research Foundation Nandan Unnikrishnan, told the paper that a major irritant for New Delhi is Moscow’s latest attempt to bring some representatives of the Taliban into Afghanistan’s political process, essentially freeing them from the sanctions regime introduced by the UN Security Council in 1999.
The second serious source of major concern is that Moscow and Islamabad allegedly held secret talks on the possibility of Russia joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, according to Pakistani media reports late last year. India fears that the corridor will pass through India’s Kashmir, which New Delhi considers as a region occupied by Pakistan since 1947, the paper says.
Several days before Donald Trump’s inauguration the second highest executive official in the outgoing US administration, Vice President Joseph Biden, may pay a visit to Ukraine. Although not officially confirmed, sources in Kiev and Washington told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the visit is under preparation and signals the end of the previous post-Soviet era in the Ukrainian-US relations.
There is a dispute in Ukraine and the West now on how ties with Russia could be restored, the paper says. Sources in Kiev said that there are major talks on a plan unveiled by Viktor Pinchuk, an influential Ukrainian oligarch in the West and a son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. In his article published by the Wall Street Journal, Pinchuk spoke about a compromise that could solve the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. For that, Kiev needs to give up the idea of membership in the EU and NATO and postpone a solution to the Crimean issue. As for Donbass, Pinchuk said that it is impossible to hold absolutely fair elections in the region until Ukraine restores full control over it. But a compromise could be reached on holding elections in the current situation to show "Ukraine’s commitment to peaceful reunification" and "save thousands of lives."
Former Ukrainian representative in the political subgroup at the Minsk talks on settlement in Donbass Roman Bezsmertny said that after Trump’s inauguration the US and the whole world will enter a new era. "This is the end of the current world order. I would say that there was a Versailles-Washington system… Trump’s victory in elections is the end of this system. So, a bell rang that says that there is a need to gather and discuss this new order," he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel.
Political scientist Vadim Karasev said that US policy in Ukraine will lose its personal air once Trump takes the reigns. For the Obama team, the Ukrainian project was meant to become a symbol of success in democratic reforms for the post-Soviet space. The new team will take on an absolutely pragmatic approach, he stressed.
Experts in Kiev noted that the US Democrats have turned a blind eye to what happened in Kiev for many years. The Republicans will now demand an account for every cent spent on the Ukrainian project, starting from the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko.
Russia’s meat giant Miratorg has announced that it has inked "a strategic five-year contract" on the supplies of processed meat products for Burger King restaurants in Russia, Vedomosti writes. A representative of the network confirmed that now all beef for burgers, croquettes and other semi-finished chicken products for Burger King will be supplied by Miratorg.
The company has not released any details on the volume of supplies. Andrei Petrakov, Executive Director of the Restcon consulting company specializing in the restaurant business told the paper that on average one Burger King restaurant sells at least 500 burgers per day and this amounts to at least 50 kg of meat. There are around 300 Burger King fast food outlets in Russia, according to the company’s website.
Miratorg produces more than 40,000 tonnes of beef, 100,000 tonnes of poultry and around 400,000 tonnes of pork annually. Last year, the production of frozen semi-finished products and ready-made meals at the holding grew 27% to 43,000 tonnes. The meat giant has been supplying processed products for Burger King for around four years, but so far its supplies were not the major ones, a representative of the company said.
Since 2009, Miratorg has been cooperating with Burger King’s major rival McDonald’s. A representative of Burger King said this cooperation does not pose any problem for the restaurant chain. Both companies have their own unique recipes and technologies and the fact that Miratorg supplies meat to them does not affect their rivalry, Restconsalt agency’s chief Sergey Mironov told the paper.
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