MOSCOW, June 18 -- Using Russian equipment and software to manage the country's power grids is necessary to protect the energy system from cyber criminals, the press service of the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Media said on Monday.
The ministry was commenting on the article in The New York Times that claims that "the United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia's electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively." "Informational security of the energy system is one of our priorities. We are constantly working on it together with the Ministry of Energy. Using our own intelligent accounting software, telecommunications equipment, component base and secure protocols provides a guarantee against hacker attacks," spokesman for the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Media Yevgeny Novikov said. Novikov noted that "smart" meters can be used to remotely turn on and off the supply of resources (electricity or gas). "So a hacker attack can, for example, leave a hospital, school, or a whole city, without electricity. In a situation with gas supplies, consequences can be catastrophic," Novikov said.
WASHINGTON, June 18 -- The United States is sending 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East after last week's attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement on Monday.
"In response to a request from the US Central Command (CENTCOM) for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East," Shanahan said. "The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region," he added. "The United States does not seek conflict with Iran. The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests," he noted. "We will continue to monitor the situation dilligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats," Shanahan concluded.
On June 13, two tankers caught fire in the Gulf of Oman after an attack. The crews, with Russian nationals among their members, were evacuated by the Iranian rescue services and taken to the port of Jask. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that Iran is responsible for the attacks. Tehran has denied any involvement in the incident. The Kokuka Courageous tanker, registered in Panama and owned by a Japanese transport company, was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. The Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair vessel, owned by Norway's Frontline, was sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Taiwan with petrochemical feedstock.
ANKARA, June 17 -- The supplies of Russia’s S-400 missile defense systems to Ankara will begin in the first half of July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after returning from the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
"We discussed with Russia the S-400 issue, this is a closed chapter. There haven’t been any problems. I think the supplies will begin in the first half of July," Erdogan said, according to the NTV TV channel. Ankara is not planning to give up its S-400 contract, Erdogan stressed. "We have put our signature, we will fulfill what we have started. As part of the loan, Russia gave us various benefits and granted a loan with such interest rates which do not exist on the international market," he explained. Turkey’s National Defense Ministry is preparing a reply to a letter sent by Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Washington’s decision to suspend Turkey’s participation in a program on training Turkish pilots in the US on the F-35 bombers in the wake of the S-400 deal. "Very soon, maybe even this week the letter will be sent to [the US side]," Erdogan said.
The first reports that Russia and Turkey were in talks on the S-400 supplies emerged in November 2016. Moscow confirmed that the contract had been signed in September 2017. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said back then that the deployment of S-400 systems would begin in October 2019. According to Sergei Chemezov, the director general of Russia’s Rostec state corporation, the contract’s price tag is $2.5 bln. Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy these missile systems from Russia. The US has been vigorously trying to stonewall the S-400 deal. Earlier Washington warned Ankara that should the deal with Russia be implemented, the US would not supply its F-35 fighter-bombers to Turkey. The S-400 Triumf is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
HONG KONG, June 16 -- Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has called on residents not to be used as pawns by foreign forces amid the US-China trade war, and said more than 60 statements issued by overseas powers had fuelled tension over the controversial extradition bill.
More than 200 Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) met officials from the liaison office on Sunday, when they were also asked to support the Hong Kong government in riding out the storm. The meeting was held hours before people took to the streets for a second consecutive Sunday, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announcing the suspension of the legislation the day before. The bill, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China. “The liaison office officials recognised the Hong Kong government’s intention to pass the extradition bill to plug legal loopholes. But it’s a shame that … many foreign forces keep interfering and smearing the bill,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s only representative to the NPC’s Standing Committee. He and the other delegates met Wang Zhimin, director of the liaison office, and other duty chiefs for about an hour.
TOKYO, June 14 -- The Japanese operator of a tanker attacked near the Strait of Hormuz suggested Friday the vessel was hit by an incoming projectile, not by torpedo.
Some crew members of the Kokuka Courageous, which was attacked twice in the major shipping route Thursday, have said they "witnessed a flying object" at the moment of the second attack, said Yutaka Katada, president of the Tokyo-based operator Kokuka Sangyo Co., at a press conference. Katada said it is unlikely that the tanker was attacked "because the attacker thought it was a Japanese vessel," saying the ship was flying the national flag of Panama while sailing. The Kokuka Courageous was carrying 25,000 tons of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore when it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, near the Fujairah port of the United Arab Emirates, according to the company.
All 21 Filipino crew members of the ship escaped in life rafts and were rescued by a U.S. Navy vessel, but they have returned to the ship and restored the reserve power system. One of the crew was slightly injured but is improving, Katada said. The tanker, currently being towed to Khor Fakkan in the eastern part of the UAE, faces no danger of sinking or losing its freight or fuel, according to the company. The tanker had become unable to move on its own as its engine room became inoperable due to being filled with carbon dioxide, which crew members injected to prevent a fire before retreating, Katada said, adding the crew have already started discharging CO2. Katada said the company will "continue to operate" its vessels around the Persian Gulf "unless the sea route is blocked."
LONDON, June 14 -- The UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed he has signed a request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of computer hacking, The Guardian reports.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday, June 13, Javid said: “He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.” Javid’s decision opens the way to the court sending the WikiLeaks founder to America. Assange faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the U.S. Justice Department, that includes charges under the Espionage Act. He is accused of soliciting and publishing classified information and conspiring to hack into a government computer. Javid said: “It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Javid’s decision follows news last week that an attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden had suffered a setback when a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevented Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its offer of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.
WASHINGTON, June 14 -- American officials released images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday (June 13), one of a pair of incidents that have raised tensions between the United States and Iran over the past day.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat "was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous", one of two tankers attacked on Thursday, according to Navy Captain Bill Urban of the US Central Command. That was after another mine had already detonated, damaging the ship, the US said. The video and photographs showing a boat alongside the hull of a larger vessel with a hole in its side were released by the US Central Command along with a timeline of the episode. It was the first evidence publicly put forward by the US to support its claim - announced earlier on Thursday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - that Iran was behind the attacks. Iranian officials have rejected the accusation.
"Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls," Capt Urban said in a statement, adding that the crew of the Courageous was rescued by a Dutch tug and later taken aboard the USS Bainbridge. He said that the crew of the second tanker, the Front Altair, were put aboard a Revolutionary Guard Corp vessel. Iran said on Friday (June 14) it was responsible for maintaining the security of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, state radio reported, adding that blaming it for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was alarming. “We are in charge of maintaining security of the Strait and we rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time ... US Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo’s accusations towards Iran is alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Kokuka Sangyo, the Japanese operator of the Courageous, said it was attacked twice on Thursday, in incidents that were three hours apart, forcing the crew to evacuate. The tanker was carrying 25,000 tonnes of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Asia. Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing Kokuka Sangyo's chief executive officer, said the ship was hit by a shell. The manager of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair said it was sailing in international waters when it was damaged by an explosion, and that the episode was being treated as a "hostile attack". The ship had loaded a cargo of naphtha in Abu Dhabi and was bound for Taiwan, a company official said.
REIMS, June 12 -- Striker Alex Morgan scored five times as holders the United States began their World Cup campaign with a record 13-0 win over Thailand on Tuesday.
The Group F result was the largest margin of victory in either the men’s or women’s World Cup. When the Americans headed for the interval 3-0 up, there was little indication of what was to come in the second half. After netting four times in six minutes shortly after the restart, they then added six more goals in the last 16 minutes. Morgan opened the goal spree for the title favorites, who are in pursuit of a fourth world crown, with a header in the 12th minute and from then on there was no stopping the champions. Eight minutes later Rose Lavelle found the net with a left-footed shot while midfielder Lindsey Horan gave them a 3-0 halftime lead. Samantha Mewis opened the floodgates five minutes after the break as the U.S. made life miserable for the Thais by regularly finding the back of the net.
In total seven Americans scored during the match - Morgan (5), Lavelle (2), Mewis (2), Horan, Megan Rapinoe, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd all finding their way on to the scoresheet in a performance that is bound to strike fear into all of those teams hoping to end the United States’ reign as world champions.
“We really wanted to showcase ourselves and what we’ve been preparing for and working on and I think we did that,” said Morgan. “Every goal matters in this tournament and so that’s what we were working on in this game. We got a lot of attacks and I think we were really clinical in the number of attacks that we did get. “I am speechless. The ball just bounced my way today and I am looking forward to the next game. “To see Rose Lavalle have the confidence to go at players, Sam Mewis taking on players and scoring from outside the box... I am really proud of them.”
The result surpassed Germany’s 11-0 win over Argentina in 2007 and almost doubled the U.S. own previous record - a 7-0 success over Taiwan in 1991. “We did not do enough. They were excellent all around. We don’t have any excuse and accept they are better,” said Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian. “We have to improve in every aspect.” The last time the two teams met, the United States won 9-0. U.S. coach Jillian Ellis said the result was great confidence booster but did not want to get carried away with the emphatic nature of the win. “This only game one. It will be an incredibly hard World Cup,” she said. The U.S. will next face Chile on Sunday, while Thailand will be up against Sweden.