WATER WARS–Ukraine Chokes-Off Crimea’s Water (war crime?)

Syndication: Ukraine throats water flow to Crimea

VG NETT norse

DRY: Here you can see part of the north-krimske canal near the settlement Tabachnoye close Dzhankoi the Crimea. Photo: REUTERS / Stringer
Ukraine has closed the locks of the canal which supplies the Crimean peninsula by up to 85 percent of fresh water.

 

It writes the Russian news agency Itar-Tass , which refers to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.

The north-krimske channel region adds water from the river Dnjeper, and pictures to be taken at any of the locks shows an almost dry channel.

According to Russian authorities, water shortages become acute in the Crimea and destroy crops of grapes, rice, corn and soy if Peninsula does not get more water soon, writes the BBC .

Yields on Crime is totally dependent on artificial irrigation.

The canal, which was built in 1961 to 1971, ranging from Khakhovka reservoir in southern Ukraine and runs until Kerch almost entirely east of the Crimean peninsula. According to the BBC, 80 percent of fresh water to the Crimea through this channel.

Dry ground: There is now so little water in the channel that it is possible to negotiate on foot. Photo: REUTERS / Stringer
Dry ground: There is now so little water in the channel that it is possible to negotiate on foot. Photo: REUTERS / Stringer

A BBC reporter who recently was in the Crimea said that the water supply was a locals’ main issues ahead of the controversial referendum on Crimea should join Russia.

Crime was recently formally part of Russia. Annexation is condemned by the EU and the USA, and Ukraine does not recognize the new government in Crimea.

There are about two million people in the Crimea, and about 60 percent of the population are ethnic Russians.

In 1954, the peninsula was transferred from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

Channel authorities in Ukraine claim that Crimea has built up a huge debt for last year’s water supply. The dispute has worsened after its rupture in relations between Kiev and Moscow.

According to the new pro-Russian government in the Crimea, the water supply has dropped from 50 cubic meters per second to about 16

Russia claims, according to the BBC, the border between Crimea and Ukraine is now an official state border and the Russian government is planning to establish permanent border controls.

Feds Forced To Admit–No terrorist plot in Montevideo

Feds: No terrorist plot in Montevideo

star tribune MINN

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2014 – 9:22 PM

Federal agents investigated claims against Buford “Bucky” Rogers, but admit now that they found no group plan of attack.

This May 3, 2013, photo shows authorities with Buford Rogers, right, during a raid on a mobile home in Montevideo, Minn.

Photo: Jeremy Jones, Montevideo American-News via AP

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what if militias

[The militia poster above, advocates a national “march on Washington,” by reps of the movement, similar to veterans caravans and the recent truckers protest.  This was the most radical thing found on the Michigan Minuteman Militia movement’s facebook page.  Their  website had been taken down.]

  • FILE – In this file photo provided by the Chippewa County, Minn., Sheriff is Buford Rogers who was arrested May 3, 2013, during a raid on a mobile home in Montevideo, Minn.

The admission came in an aside to a federal memorandum urging that Buford “Bucky” Rogers be sentenced to five years and three months in prison. Rogers, 25, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Rogers pleaded guilty in January to illegal possession of a semi-automatic rifle, prohibited because he is a convicted burglar, and possession of two black powder-and-nail explosive devices.

Federal prosecutors say Rogers’ arrest last May was necessary after the FBI was tipped off that he had a large cache of weapons and planned to attack the Montevideo police station, National Guard armory and a local radio tower, but he was never indicted on terrorism charges. Prosecutors say he should get five years because of “numerous” previous arrests, including third-degree burglary and possession of illegal weapons, suggesting he has “exhibited consistently dangerous criminal behavior over the course of many years.”

Federal Public Defender Andrew Mohring urged this week that Rogers get a two-year sentence, noting in a memorandum that “the facts of this case as it now exists stand in sharp contrast to those broadcast to the press and public when the case opened last spring.”

At the time of his arrest, Mohring said, Rogers was labeled by authorities as a “domestic terrorist.”

“Coming less than three weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, these accusations were made in an unusually public manner, through news releases and televised interviews,” Mohring wrote.

In the end, Mohring said, the only suggestion that Rogers was planning a violent conspiracy came from a single individual “of untested reliability” who did not meet the definition of a reliable informant.

“Not withstanding the foreboding name” — the Black Snake Militia that authorities claimed Rogers headed — the FBI later acknowledged the group contained only three or four people, Mohring wrote.

“After one and one half years, no additional evidence has been identified to confirm the existence of any plot to attack anyone or any thing,” Mohring wrote.

Federal prosecutors Andrew Winter and Charles Kovats Jr. say Rogers’ arrest was proper, despite a decision not to charge him with terrorism,

At the time of the arrest, they wrote, “the FBI had been informed that the defendant was part of a group cheering the Boston bombing, possessed explosive devices and planned to conduct violent acts imminently.

“The fact that a broader plot was not discovered is not exculpatory,” they added. “It merely evidences the absence of additional inculpatory (incriminating) behavior.”

Prosecutors note that when they searched Rogers’ father’s premises they “uncovered a sizable collection of explosive devices, firearms, ammunition, military clothing and other militia related items. … Beyond the inherently dangerous nature of the devices was defendant’s disregard for the safety of his neighbors in storing the devices in a residential area.”

Mohring argues that Rogers’ past crimes were overstated, and while he admits to possessing dangerous weapons, he did not use them and he has already spent a year in jail.

The FBI’s source for believing there was a terrorist plot, according to court documents released earlier, was a single unnamed witness who first met Rogers at an Arizona “pow wow” in 2012, then moved to Montevideo and stayed with Rogers’ family. The witness told the FBI that Rogers “talked regularly about his plans to use his ‘Black Snake Militia’ to cut off connections to the city of Montevideo, to ‘take out’ a radio tower, to block communication to the city, to raid the National Guard armory and to attack the police station.”

The witness told the FBI around May 1, 2013, that Rogers had cheered the Boston Marathon bombing and planned to attack Montevideo that weekend. It prompted the FBI to assemble about 50 officers and two armored carriers to raid Rogers’ father’s home. Rogers was arrested without incident.

As part of the plea agreement in January, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed to drop two other counts against Rogers, one for possession of two Molotov cocktails, the other for possession of a pipe bomb.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

Ukraine, Deadbeat Nation Begs EU To Fill Its Rusty Pipelines

“We will destroy these pipelines and deprive our enemy of its source of income,” Yarosh said.

“More than half of the nation’s natural gas pipelines are in such bad shape that they could explode at any time.”

Ukraine: Russia’s Gazprom issues May 7 ultimatum over gas supplies

the telegraph

Energy giant sets payment deadline and warns Europe it risks “severe problems” in winter unless it helps Ukraine pay $8.5bn gas bill this summer

About 30 per cent of European gas comes from Russia and roughly half of it passes through the Ukraine under transit agreements. Photo: REUTERS

Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom has ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine, issuing a May 7 ultimatum to settle $3.5bn unpaid debts or start paying in advance for its gas.

Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive, warned that Europe must help Ukraine pay the bill – and a further $5bn needed to refill storage facilities this summer – or face “severe problems” with gas supplies this winter.

By May 7, Ukraine would owe about $3.5bn for gas it has used in recent months, Mr Medvedev said. If it failed to pay, Gazprom would stop supplying Ukraine with gas for domestic usage from June, unless it paid for it in advance.

“If they don’t pre-pay they are not entitled to get any gas,” he told reporters in London.

About 30 per cent of European gas comes from Russia and roughly half of it passes through the Ukraine under transit agreements.

Mr Medvedev said Gazprom would continue to supply the gas destined for transit to Europe, but said Ukraine may siphon off gas to meet its domestic needs.

He warned that in winter, when demand is high, the consequences would far more severe because Ukraine’s pipeline system cannot physically import enough gas from Russia to meet its domestic needs as well as its transit commitments.

Ukraine therefore needs to buy a further $5bn of gas over the summer to stockpile in storage facilities, ready to meet winter demand.

If it fails to do so, Europe’s winter supplies will be threatened because Ukraine will likely siphon off supplies from Russia to meet domestic demand and fail to honour its transit commitments, Mr Medvedev said.

“The deficit of the gas in underground storage in the Ukraine could create severe problems next winter,” he said. “This is why we have called European countries to look at this matter together.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote to European leaders earlier this month indicating Gazprom would move to pre-payments and acknowledging the “extreme measure” of cutting off the gas could jeopardise European supplies.

Mr Medvedev said that if European leaders want to protect their gas supplies in winter they must help Ukraine pay for the gas now.

“It’s necessary to find a solution of putting the gas in underground storage, to finance it. It’s quite obvious Ukraine does not have any source of revenues to finance it and the size of financial aid we see under discussion is not sufficient,” he said.

He said the size of potential financial aid under discussion between IMF and the Ukraine was “substantially lower” than the imminent $8.5bn gas bill and the funds should be found “on an intergovernmental level”.

“The most urgent thing is the current outstanding deliveries, which will reach $3.5bn on 7 May, and about $4-$5bn necessary to put gas in underground storage, so overall size is about $8.5bn which is urgently needed now,” he said.

He insisted that Russia was “not interested in a gas crisis” and would “do everything in order that our customers in Europe can receive our gas”.

Russia can increase supplies through other routes bypassing Ukraine but not enough to compensate for volumes that would likely be siphoned off by Ukraine, he said.

Asked about the prospect of sanctions affecting Gazprom, he said that Russian energy supply deals had never been subject to sanctions throughout a series of historical crises. “History shows sanctions never help to find a solution,” he said.

“We are mutually dependent. If somebody thinks to cut the revenue stream, what does that imply? What is their logic – we will give you our gas without payment?”

But he confirmed Gazprom was making contingency plans for possible sanctions. “Definitely we don’t sit still, we are considering all the scenarios,” he said.

Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are Tied by Gas Dependency

Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are Tied by Gas Dependency

INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIGEST

The German energy giant RWE has begun to “reverse flow” supplies of gas from Europe back to Ukraine via Poland, a process first arranged in 2012, with an agreement to deliver up to 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Assembling the Nord Stream in 2011. Bair175/SA

The question for the Ukrainian interim government and state-owned energy firm Naftogaz is how this gas will be delivered, how soon, and whether it will be enough. Hungary has the capacity to deliver 5.5 billion cubic metres (bcm), Poland could deliver 1.5 bcm, and Romania could potentially provide 1.8 bcm capacity, but not before 2016-17 at the earliest.

Talks between Ukraine and Slovakia have renewed in an effort to tap into its capacity to deliver 9 bcm of gas, but the Slovak government and pipeline operator, Eustream, are anxious to ensure that feeding gas back to Ukraine does not breach its contracts with Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom. Given that Ukraine imports around half of its annual 55 bcm of gas consumption, even with these new suppliers it will remain dependent on Russian gas.

The current situation comes as Kiev faces price hikes from US$285 to US$485 per thousand cubic metres of Russian gas, after Gazprom cancelled discounts offered in April 2010 and December 2013. The new price is significantly higher than, for example, the price of US$399 paid for Russian gas at the German border.

Naftogaz has struggled to pay for its Russian gas imports since late 2013, and now owes Gazprom more than US$2 billion. The combination of Naftogaz’s debts and unwillingness to pay the higher price means that many in Europe fear a suspension of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine – which, as it travels through the same pipelines, would also interrupt Russia’s gas exports destined for Western Europe.

This is not the first time that Russia and Ukraine have clashed over gas prices. For more than a decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine benefited from Russian gas import prices far lower than those in Western Europe. Attempts by Gazprom to raise gas prices for Ukraine resulted in disputes and suspensions of gas supplies to Ukraine in January 2006 and January 2009.

With Gazprom delivering 140 bcm to the EU in 2013 – more than a quarter of the EU’s total gas consumption – this has left many countries scrambling to find alternative ways to meet their needs.

Find new routes

Russian gas is delivered to the EU via several routes, of which the Ukraine pipelines are the most important, accounting for 55-60%. Around 25-30% travels through Belarus, and the remainder comes through the new Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea directly from Russia to Germany.

Opened in late 2011, Nord Stream is 51% owned by Gazprom, with the remaining shares owned by European energy companies (BASF Wintershall, E.On, Gasunie, and Gaz de France). The pipeline’s capacity can reach 55 bcm per year, but due to regulatory problems in Germany is currently operating at half capacity.

Gazprom is also planning the South Stream pipeline, another joint-stock partnership between Gazprom and local energy companies in each of the states it travels through. This would link Russia to Bulgaria under the Black Sea, through Serbia, Hungary, and Slovenia to northeast Italy.

If built, the 63 bcm per year capacity of South Stream and the 55 bcm capacity of Nord Stream combined could reduce Russia’s dependence on the Ukraine pipelines to almost nothing, if Gazprom’s current export levels of gas to Europe remain stable.

Find new sources

Ukraine’s efforts to find alternative sources of gas imports have led to protests from Gazprom. The gas that would be exported from the European market to Ukraine would actually be Russian gas, being re-exported at a profit by European energy companies. Gazprom claims such a scheme could be illegal, but has not clarified on what grounds.

Re-exporting imported gas was previously forbidden in Gazprom’s contracts with European energy companies, under the “destination clause.” But by 2006, these clauses had been removed on the grounds that they infringed Article 81 of the European Community Treaty (restrictive business practices). So any European energy company – theoretically, at least – now has the right to re-export gas, regardless of its source or destination.

The legality of re-exporting Russian gas from Europe to Ukraine may hinge on Gazprom’s gas transit contracts with Naftogaz and Eustream. These contracts effectively “reserve” the pipeline for delivering gas from east to west. Should Naftogaz and Eustream reverse the flow of their pipelines without Gazprom’s agreement, they could be in breach of contract. This condition applies even if those pipelines are not being used at full capacity, as is currently the case, and even if Naftogaz and Eustream are still able to fulfil their commitments to deliver Russian gas from east to west.

Recognise mutual dependence

They key aspect of this situation is the extent to which all parties depend on each other. While the EU sources more than 25% of its gas consumption from Russia, around 60% of Russia’s gas exports are to the EU. Almost 60% of Russian gas exports to the EU are delivered via Ukraine, which is itself also almost entirely dependent on Russia for its gas imports (imports account for just over half of Ukraine’s gas consumption).

Occasionally the European media refer to Russia’s gas as an “energy weapon,” or to the possibility that Russia may “turn off the taps” as leverage in a political dispute with the EU. But this is simply not credible: both Russia and EU member states and their energy companies have a vested interest in maintaining good trading relations.

For Europe, the disintegrating Gazprom-Naftogaz relationship is the greater worry. Both sides have in the past failed to use arbitration and dispute resolution to resolve their disagreements, and the ongoing arguments and two complete gas suspensions were the result. Given the recent statements by Russian and Ukrainian officials, another suspension of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine cannot be ruled out.

This article was originally published in The Conversation.

Saudis Buy Fleet of Chinese Terminator Drones

Wing Loong drone

Wing Loong (Pterodactyl) drone   –(£625,000) US$1.050.500

MQ-9 ReaperMQ-9 Reaper  -US$4.03 million

Saudi Arabia joins the killer drone arms race

the verge

By Russell Brandom

Last week, Saudi Arabia bought its first drone fleet, according to a dispatch from Tactical Reports. Saudi Crown Prince Salman met with Chinese General Wang Guanzhong to sign a contract for a shipment of Chinese Wing Loong drones, also known as Pterodactyls. The drones that make up the shipment are designed to mimic America’s Predator drone, with surveillance capabilities and enough lift to carry two matched air-to-ground missiles.

Drones are available to whoever can pay for them

If the report is true, it means Saudi Arabia may have joined an exclusive club, one of the few nations with armed, unmanned aircraft. It’s a group that, to date, includes just the US, Britain, Israel, China, and (depending who you ask) Iran — but beyond those countries, the capability is increasingly available to whoever can pay for it. At the Singapore Air Show earlier this year, both Israel and China were showing off their wares to would-be clients, including the Pterodactyl drone named in the report, and you could find similar displays at dozens of other air shows. With American counterterrorism efforts providing an ongoing test of how valuable the machines can be, there are lots of countries willing to buy.

“The American monopoly on drones is over.”

The US is still responsible for the vast majority of drone strikes, but that may have more to do with politics than capability. A GAO report from 2012 found that more than 75 countries have some form of drone system. Most are unarmed but some, like the systems used in Australia, Japan, and Singapore, could be retrofitted for military purpose. More importantly, the US’ use of drones — more than 50 strikes in 2013 alone — seems to have whetted a global appetite for combat drones. “If you think of this as part of a broader trend of the proliferation of military robotics, then the idea that we were going to have a monopoly on this kind of technology was always a bit far-fetched,” says University of Pennsylvania political scientist Michael Horowitz. “The American monopoly on drones is over and probably never really existed.”

Israel exported $4.6 billion in drone systems over seven years

International trade barriers have slowed down the spread, but they haven’t stopped it. For US companies, combat drones are controlled under the same agreement as cruise missiles, through an association called the Missile Technology Control Regime. But China and Israel aren’t part of the group, and the two countries have begun aggressively marketing drone systems to outsiders eager to keep up with US capabilities. One report from the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated that Israel had exported $4.6 billion in drone systems between 2005 and 2012.

Experts also say Saudi Arabia has previously demonstrated both the interest and the budget for this kind of purchase. “Saudi Arabia and smaller countries like the UAE are trying to get their hands on whatever they can, and the US has pretty restrictive export policies,” says Cornell University professor Sarah Kreps, who studies drone proliferation. The result leaves China as one of the only sources available in town.

“Saudi Arabia and…the UAE are trying to get their hands on whatever they can.”

One of the biggest questions is whether the new generation of foreign drones can match US capabilities. “We don’t know at all about the quality of the pterodactyl,” Kreps cautions, “these aren’t combat-tested.” Since unmanned aircraft rely so heavily on satellite and communications infrastructure, it’s hard to tell from the craft alone how well it will perform in the field. The Pterodactyl is also typically sold for a fraction of the price of the Predator, which has only fueled skepticism.

But even if China needs help to bring its drones up to US standards, that expertise may not be hard to find. UAVs are built on mostly commercial technology, drawing from the robotics and aviation industries. That’s much harder to keep under wraps than military tech like warheads or missiles. As long as there’s a market, there’ll be an incentive to build cheaper and more powerful drones, and the club of drone-armed countries will continue to grow. As Horowitz puts it, “What we know about the history of military technology suggests it will be really difficult to keep a lid on this.”