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Russian troops arrive in Pakistan for 1st-ever joint drill

© Georgiy Zimarev / Sputnik

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Russian troops have arrived in Pakistan on Friday to take part in two-week military exercise, a first in the two countries’ modern history. Moscow and Islamabad were on opposite sides during the Cold War.

Around 70 Russian soldiers and officers along with some 130 Pakistani counterparts are taking part in the war games called Friendship 2016, which kick-start on Saturday. The name is a symbolical reference to the old Cold War tensions between Moscow and Islamabad, which the two capitals are now trying to overcome.

On Friday, an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane delivered the troops to Pakistan from their home base in southern Russia.

 

The exercise is to take place in a mountainous area in the eastern Punjab province. Both countries have long experience of counterinsurgency operations in this difficult terrain, which they want to share with each other.

The exercise was first announced in January and is a signal that “Moscow and Islamabad are interested in deepening military-to-military relations,” Pakistan’s ambassador to Moscow Qazi Khalilullah told TASS.

“This obviously indicates a desire on both sides to broaden defense and military-technical cooperation,” he said.

The Friendship 2016 drill is going ahead despite speculation that they may be canceled, which surfaced after tensions between Pakistan and India escalated in the wake of the September 18 attack on Indian troops stationed in Uri, a town in the disputed province of Kashmir.

Moscow informed New Delhi of the scheduled joint exercise with Pakistan and is certain that they should not concern India, considering that they are conducted far from the disputed territories, Zamir Kabulov, the chief or Russian Foreign Ministry’s Middle East department told RIA Novosti.

Russian military cooperation with Pakistan has been gaining pace over the past few years, making a turn from the past, when Islamabad was a key supporter of the Taliban insurgency in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

In 2014, Moscow lifted a longstanding ban on sale of arms to Pakistan. Last year the two countries signed a deal on four Russian Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters, which are meant to replace Pakistan’s aging US-made AH-1 Cobras.

 

Source rt.com

America

US intelligence chiefs say Russia still meddling, threatening 2018 elections

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

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Dan Coats

WASHINGTON — Russia and other adversaries will continue to engage in cyber warfare to “degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances,” the nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that every facet of society is being targeted with cyber intrusions.

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

“There should be no doubt that (Putin) views the past effort as successful,” Coats said.

The national intelligence director’s comments come against the backdrop of continuing congressional and criminal investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Kremlin coordinated their activities with President Trump’s campaign.

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Middle East

Putin vows to continue supporting Syria’s sovereignty in New Year’s telegram to Assad

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Putin-and-Assad

Russia will continue its assistance in “upholding its state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and promoting a political settlement and economic recovery,” President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad in a New Year’s message.

The Russian leader expressed hope that “the situation in Syria would continue changing for the better,” emphasizing that “defeating terrorists and rapidly bringing the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic back to normal” would benefit the “interests of the whole world and would improve security in the Middle East.”

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Russia

Lavrov, Tillerson discuss need for urgent North Korea negotiations: Moscow

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Lavrov Tillerson

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the need to start a negotiations process.

“The sides were united in the opinion that nuclear missile projects in North Korea violate the demands of the UN Security Council,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two men spoke by telephone.

Lavrov “once again highlighted that it is unacceptable to exacerbate tensions around the Korean peninsula with Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Pyongyang and increasing military preparations in the region,” it said.

“It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible,” the statement said, adding that it was Tillerson who initiated the call.

The UN Security Council on Friday slapped new sanctions on North Korea that will restrict oil supplies vital for its missile and nuclear programmes, the latest response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States, while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.

Pyongyang has slammed the UN sanctions as an “act of war”.

Moscow has called for talks between North Korea and the United States, warning of a “risk of uncontrolled escalation”. Russia has also criticised Washington’s military drills with South Korea saying it provokes Pyongyang.

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