Pro-Russian candidates win Moldovan, Bulgarian presidential elections

Pro-Russian candidates win Moldovan, Bulgarian presidential elections

France 24

© Nicolay Doychinov, Daniel Mihailescu, AFP | Bulgaria’s Rumen Radev (pictured left) and Moldova’s Igor Dodon

Pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon on Monday emerged as winner of Moldova’s presidential runoff, viewed as an East-West choice in the impoverished ex-Soviet country.

With 99.9 percent of ballots counted, Socialist Party chief Dodon had 52.3 percent of the votes, according to the electoral commission, with pro-European rival Maia Sandu on 47.7 percent.

“We have won, everyone knows it,” Dodon told a press conference overnight.

The full results are expected to be announced later this week.

The vote marks the first time in 20 years that Moldova – wracked by corruption scandals in recent years – is electing its leader by national vote instead of having parliament select the head of state.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, the tiny nation of 3.5 million people is caught in a political tug-of-war between Russia and the West.

Dodon had come out top in the first round of voting on October 30 with 48 percent ahead of Sandu, a centre-right former education minister who worked for the World Bank, with 38 percent.

They have diametrically opposed visions for Moldova’s future.

Dodon – who served as economy minister under a communist government between 2006 and 2009 – has called for deeper ties and boosting trade with Moscow.

Sandu meanwhile had urged a path towards Europe, calling for the withdrawal of thousands of Russian troops from the Russian-speaking separatist region of Transdniester, which broke away in the early 1990s after a brief civil war.

Moldova signed an historic EU association agreement in 2014, and half of its exports now go to the bloc.

The move was bitterly opposed by Russia, which responded with an embargo targeting Moldova’s crucial agriculture sector.

“I and all my friends voted for Igor Dodon since he promises to restore the strategic partnership with Russia,” said Vasilii Blindu, a 70-year-old pensioner in the northern town of Balti.

Both candidates criticised the vote as badly organised, highlighting the shortage of ballot papers for overseas voters. More than 4,000 Moldovan and international observers were on hand to monitor the vote.

Turnout was 53.4 percent, the electoral commission said.

Corruption scandals

The vote comes as a Moscow-friendly general also claimed victory in ex-communist Bulgaria’s presidential election Sunday, prompting Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to announce his resignation as his nominee was dealt a crushing defeat.

Speaking at a polling station on Sunday, Dodon had described his campaign as “against the oligarchs, against those who have robbed our country and want to destroy it”.

Moldova has been rocked by corruption scandals and political turmoil in recent years.

In 2014, $1 billion (920 million euros) mysteriously disappeared from three banks, prompting huge street protests and the arrest of the former prime minister Vlad Filat, who has since been convicted of corruption and abuse of office.

A recent report published by Transparency International called the country “the regional launderer for money of dubious origin”.

Moldova’s current Prime Minister Pavel Filip, who has served since January, is pro-European and introduced political changes including the direct presidential vote.

Moldova is considered by some international organisations to be Europe’s poorest country.

Forty-one percent of the population live on less than $5 (4.6 euros) a day while the average monthly salary is $240, according to World Bank figures.



SpaceX Explosion Costs One Highly-Insured Israeli Satellite, Stops Sale of Satellite-Maker To China

[Israeli satellite-maker Spacecom had $200 million invested in Amos-6 satellite, but insured the craft for $330 million.  Actual receipts will be slightly less, due to launch failure (Spacecom Assures Bondholders After Loss of Amos 6).  ]

The Story behind the Explosion of Amos-6


An unexpected explosion on the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral brought Israel’s flagship space project to an end

Photo: YouTube

Spacecom’s Amos-6, an estimated $200 million communications satellite built by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), was deemed a total loss after the Space-X Falcon 9 launcher to which it was attached exploded during a static engine test yesterday (Thursday). Defense News reports that Spacecom said the “anomaly” would have “substantial influence” on the company.

The explosion was a heavy blow for all parties involved: the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), who worked for years on the satellite’s development; Spacecom, the Israeli satellite operator that was expecting to sign a large deal with a Chinese company; and the American company SpaceX, which was entrusted with the satellite’s launch.

An investigation has already been launched into the circumstances that led to the failure, which has far-reaching implication both economically and in terms of the image and prestige of the Israeli companies involved, reports the Jerusalem Online. Amos-6 is the largest communications satellite manufactured in Israel and was meant to provide television services to Europe as well as other communication services. Amos-6’s flagship project was the deal with Facebook according to which the social networking giant was planned to provide high-speed internet services to at least 14 countries across Africa using the Israeli satellite.

The satellite was expected to operate for at least 16 years, and now Israel will have to decide whether to invest in the accelerated development of another similar project. In 2012, Israel Aerospace Industries signed a $195 million deal to plan, manufacture and operate the Amos-6 satellite – a price that has since increased.

Substantial technological improvements were introduced in the Amos-6 such as electric propulsion technology that allowed for the significant reduction of its weight and the cost of its launching, making it one of the most advanced satellites of its kind in the world.

A Blessing in Disguise?

IAI noted that Amos-6 was the largest and most advanced Comsat ever built in Israel:  “We’re saddened by the loss of the satellite and stand ready to serve Spacecom… The sector of communications satellites is strategic for IAI and for the state of Israel and we hope that the state will ciontinue to act for the good of preserving the knowledge that will allow continued production of communications satellites in Israel.”

Indeed, the loss of the Amos-6 communications satellite marked a strategic setback, but also opportunities, for the Israeli space industry, whose follow-on orders were threatened by the planned sale of Spacecom to a Beijing conglomerate.

Just last week in an Aug. 24 notice to its principal shareholders, Spacecom said it had agreed to sell the company for Xinwei Technology Group for $285 million in cash. The company noted that the sale was contingent upon the successful launch of the Amos-6.

Now, with that planned deal clouded by uncertainty, Israeli industry executives and experts say IAI may have greater chances of snagging an Amos-6 replacement order as well as follow-on contracts that may have gone to non-Israeli firms once the sale was complete.

Industry executives here said Spacecom has been in communication with US firms Boeing and Loral for price and availability data for its follow-on Amos-7 and possibly Amos-8 satellites.

Earlier this summer, Yossi Weiss, CEO and President of IAI, acknowledged that IAI will have to fight hard to keep Spacecom from going abroad to meet its follow-on communications satellite (Comsat) needs, just as the firm had to fight to clinch the Amos-6 deal more than three years ago.

“It’s a crisis and opportunity at the same time,” said Tal Inbar, head of space programs at Israel’s Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies. “It all depends on the strength and financial resources of Spacecom.”

Inbar confirmed that if the deal with the Beijing conglomerate had gone ahead, chances were slim that the Amos-7 order would be awarded to IAI. Now, he said, it could be a different story. “If, after Spacecom gets the insurance money, they embark on an emergency buildup for a new satellite and if – and it’s a big if – the next satellite will be ordered from IAI, this could assure continued business for the state of Israel’s Comsat sector,” he said.

He added, “The big question is what will be Spacecom’s future plans. If they want to replace Amos-6 very quickly, they may opt to buy an existing satellite that is already in space.”

Obama Sees the Light, Orders Killing of al-Nusra Leaders

Obama changes tack with clampdown on Nusra in Syria

the irish times

US president’s order to ‘track and slay’ jihadi group’s leaders signals turnabout in policy

US president-elect Donald Trump has reiterated his intention of joining the Syrian government in the battle against Islamic State, also known as Isis, and rejected appeals from the opposition for enhanced aid for their campaign to topple president Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal he would not continue the Obama administration’s policy of backing “moderate” armed Syrian groups fighting Damascus. “I’ve had the opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude [is] you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting Isis, and you have to get rid of Isis.” He pointed out that Russia and Iran are aligned with Syria while the US is “backing rebels against Syria”, and, as he put it, “ . . . we have no idea who these people are,” referring to mostly jihadi groups receiving training, arms and equipment from the US.

He warned if the US attacks Assad, “we [will] end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria”. He has repeatedly spoken of reconciling with Russia and mentioned the “beautiful letter” he had from Russian president Vladimir Putin congratulating him on his election.

Curious coincidence

It is a curious coincidence that Trump reconfirmed his intention to shift on Syria shortly after it was revealed by the Washington Post that president Barack Obama had issued an order to the Pentagon to track and slay local leaders of al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, re-branded as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

He had previously limited US operations to taking-out senior al-Qaeda commanders and agents dispatched to Syria by Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of al-Qaeda central, based on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The decision to focus on Nusra’s entire leadership demonstrates Obama’s belated realisation that Nusra has become the most powerful insurgent group in Syria. Control by Nusra and its radical allies of the north-western province of Idlib gives al-Qaeda a strategic base from which to mount operations against Europe.

The US has reportedly carried out successful attacks on four Afghan veterans and local leaders but, so far, has not mounted strikes against Nusra bases and fighters in Idlib, as this has been seen as unacceptably widening Washington’s military commitment.

The order amounted to an abrupt turnaround by Obama who has, for nearly a year, refused to honour a pledge to Russia to force US insurgent allies to cut ties with Nusra, branded a “terrorist” organisation by the UN and the international community. In spite of strikes on Nusra leaders intended to compel US allies to break with Nusra, they have refused. Nusra has better motivated fighters and more arms than most insurgent factions. Nusra fighters have, for example, led the campaign to end the Syrian army’s siege of insurgent-held eastern Aleppo and have asserted control over other groups holding out there. Once in office, Trump could order a halt to aid to US “vetted” insurgent groups and collaborate with Russia in the air war not only against Islamic State but also Nusra and other jihadi groups fighting Damascus. Once Islamic state is contained or defeated, al-Qaeda-linked groups could inherit its mantle, ideology and agenda. Al-Qaeda could reclaim jihadi dominance on the global scene.

Captured German Embassy Suicide-Bomber Trained In Pakistan



Northern Balkh province acting governor Mohammad Eshaq Sarwari said on Sunday the attack on the German consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif was masterminded six months ago in Peshawar, Pakistan.

He said an arrested would-be suicide bomber confessed he had been trained for two months in Pakistan to carry out a suicide attack.

Sarwari said: “The arrested man said the attack plan was drawn up in Pakistan six months ago.”

“The plan was drawn up in Peshawar. He (arrested man) was trained for months on how to fire a Kalashnikov and a pistol. Then, here (Mazar consulate) was specified to them as a target and they were sent to carry out the attack,” he added.

A car bomb was detonated on Thursday night at the entrance to the consulate. The building sustained severe damage in the attack.

German troops reportedly destroyed what was left inside the building after the attack.

“The consulate offices were destroyed and the little things that remained were burned on Saturday. They (the Germans) have left the area and now the building is just a ruin,” Sarwari said.

It has not yet been specified on how the insurgents reached the consulate. But Balkh police chief said they will be alert to prevent such attacks in the future.

“Our security forces will be more alert after this to prevent such attacks,” said General Sayed Kamal Sadat, police chief of Balkh province.

Six people were killed and 129 wounded in the incident.

10 ISIS Junior Bomb Makers Arrested In Russia

FSB detains in Moscow, St. Petersburg members of group, plotting terrorist attacks

tass russian news

The terrorists planned attacks “with the purpose of killing civilians in crowded places”

MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported detention of ten members of a terrorist group, connected with the Islamic State terrorist organization, outlawed in Russia, who planned a series of terrorist attacks, FSB’s PR Center told TASS on Saturday.

“The Russian Federal Security Service with support from the Interior Ministry and cooperation with foreign partners from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has stopped activities of an inter-regional terrorist group, which united citizens of Central Asian countries, who plotted a series of sabotage-terrorist attacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg, using automatic guns and self-made high-power explosives.”

The terrorists planned attacks “with the purpose of killing civilians in crowded places.”

“As a result of the operative-search and investigatory actions, ten terrorists were detained on November 12 in Moscow and St. Petersburg,” FSB said. “They had four self-made high-power explosives, which were confiscated.”

“The detained are confessing contacts with leaders of the Islamic State terrorist organization, outlawed in Russia, in the Middle East region, targeted facilities, as well as allies and the supportive base both inside the Russian Federation and abroad.”