Friday, August 08, 2008

Russia Sends Tanks Into Georgia

Russia Sends Tanks Into Georgia (NSI News Service Info) MOSCOW 8 August, 2008: Russian troops rolled into the South Caucasus republic of Georgia on August, 8 after the Georgian military attempted to re-claim the separatist Moscow-leaning province of Southern Ossetia. There were conflicting reports by the side of the conflicts at the end of the first day of the sharp escalation in a conflict that dates to the early 1990s. Georgia's president and a staunch ally of the United States in the region, Mikheil Saakashvili, said in a public address that most territory of the maverick province is under the control of the Georgian military. About 30 Georgian citizens, mostly troops, were killed in fighting, he said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency. In the meantime, South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity claimed that the Russian troops along with the South Ossetian militia were dealing with the final pockets of the Georgian military's resistance at the outskirts of the republican capital Tskhinvali. Kokoity said in televised remarks on Russia's Channel One that 1,400 civilians died in the Aug. 8 fighting. The government of South Ossetia also called upon the world to recognize it as an independent state. Igor Konashenkov, an aide to the Commander of the Russian Land Force, said that more than 10 Russian peacekeepers died in the fighting. Two Russian battalions reinforced by tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into the South Ossetia several hours after the Georgian troops began intense shelling of Tskhinvali from the surrounding heights, Channel One said. Georgian Foreign Ministry claimed that Russian military aircrafts attacked the Marneuli air base and destroyed several Georgian military airplanes. Also, the ministry said that Russian military destroyed the Bolnisi airport by missile attack. Georgian media reported August, 8 that Russian aircraft bombed the Georgian town of Gori located near the border with South Ossetia. Georgia is aspiring to become a NATO member, a move Moscow fiercely opposes. Shortly after the U.S.-educated Saakashvili was elected Georgian president in 2003, he set as his major policy goals NATO membership and returning Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Tbilisi's rule. U.S. instructors have trained Georgian military forces since 2002, at the invitation of the country's political leadership.

Russia, Georgia battle in South Ossetia

Russia, Georgia battle in South Ossetia (NSI News Source Info) GORI, Georgia 8 August, 2008 - Russian forces battled Georgian troops in a breakaway part of Georgia in intensified fighting that sparked alarm in the West and heated exchanges at the United Nations reminiscent of the Cold War. An armoured vehicle on fire in the separatist capital of South Ossetia Tskhinvali is seen in this image from television footage by RTR Russian Television Channel, August 8, 2008. After more than a day of fighting in South Ossetia, Russian media reported overnight shelling of the regional capital, Tskhinvali. They said Georgian forces were responsible. Each side blamed the other for the fighting in the pro-Moscow enclave, which broke from Georgia as the Soviet Union neared collapse in the early 1990s, but has no international recognition. The president of the separatist region, nestled in the Caucasus mountains, said 1,400 people had been killed. Moscow said its troops were responding to a Georgian assault to take back the region. The United States, a big backer of ex-Soviet Georgia which has swung onto a pro-Western course under President Mikheil Saakashvili, called for an immediate Russian pullout. "We deplore the Russian military action in Georgia, which is a violation of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters on the sidelines of a heated Security Council debate. For the second day running, the Security Council failed to agree on a resolution to end the fighting as Russian and Georgian envoys at the U.N. hurled accusations at each other. The confrontation draws attention to a region hosting energy transit routes and gripped by competing interests in the West and Russia. The violence has the potential of igniting unrest elsewhere in the volatile Caucasus region which is a patchwork of ethnic groups and old rivalries. It was the first big diplomatic crisis confronting Kremlin leader Dmitry Medvedev since he took office in May. It dealt a blow to investor confidence and the Moscow stock exchange. RUSSIAN BOMBING RAIDS Georgia said Russia had bombed airfields and its Black Sea port of Poti and rushed tanks and troops into South Ossetia to reinforce the small force of Russian peacekeepers. A top Georgian official said Saakashvili, who wants to secure NATO membership for his ex-Soviet state, would declare martial law within hours. That would suspend civil liberties and give him a freer hand to manage the conflict. "If the whole world does not stop Russia today, then Russian tanks will be able to reach any other European capital," Saakashvili said on Friday. A Reuters correspondent near Gori -- the birthplace of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin between South Ossetia and the Georgian capital -- saw Georgian troops heading back towards Tbilisi on otherwise empty roads, kicking empty ammunition cartons away from their lorries. Checkpoints usually manned by the international peacekeeping force in the region were abandoned on the darkened road. Two tanks stood unguarded by the roadside. Georgian soldiers were subdued and appeared exhausted. Both the Russian-backed separatists and Georgia's government said they were in control of Tskhinvali. Saakashvili said the town, its surrounding heights and most villages were controlled by Georgian troops. But Irina Galgoyeva, spokeswoman for the separatists, said separatist forces still held Tskhinvali after heavy fighting. SAAKASHVILI GAMBLE Political analysts saw Georgia's bid to retake the region by force as a gamble to restore control over both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region on the Black Sea. "He is in big danger of losing the cachet he built up for himself in being pro-Western and the restraint he has often shown in the face of provocation by Russia," said James Nixey, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. But Saakashvili said on television: "What Russia is doing in Georgia is open, undisguised aggression and a challenge to the whole world." The secretary of Georgia's Security Council, Kakha Lomaia, said Saakhashvili would impose martial law within hours. Russia, he said, had bombed Poti and a military base as part of what authorities believed was the start of attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure. The president of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, told Interfax about 1,400 people had been killed. Few independent sources could be reached in Tskhinvali and this figure was impossible to verify. Saakashvili put Georgian casualties at about 30, mostly in the military. President George W. Bush, in Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games, pledged U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called for an immediate ceasefire. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he had spoken to the Russian and Georgian foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Eka Tkeshelashvili, to call for an end to the violence. Lavrov accused the Georgians of driving people from their homes.

S.Ossetia says over 1,000 dead after Georgian attack

S.Ossetia says over 1,000 dead after Georgian attack (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 8, 2008 - Over 1,000 civilians have been killed as the result of an attack by Georgia on the capital of its breakaway republic of South Ossetia, the North Ossetian nationalities minister said Friday. "According to the South Ossetian information and press committee, the number of fatalities is estimated, according to preliminary information, at over 1,000," Teimuraz Kasayev said. North Ossetia is part of Russia. Georgia launched a major offensive early Friday morning using tanks, combat aircraft, heavy artillery and infantry. Earlier Colonel Igor Konashenkov, an aide to the commander of the Russian Ground Forces, said about 10 Russian peacekeepers were killed and 30 wounded in the conflict zone. The Russian Transportation Ministry's press service said Friday that Moscow would cut air links with Tbilisi. Georgian military forces have begun retreating from the capital, Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian information and press committee said. "Using grenade launchers [South] Ossetian local defense forces are destroying Georgian tanks. According to eyewitnesses they [the tanks] are on fire throughout the city," the committee said in a statement. The statement also said that most of the city had been devastated by the Georgian military attack, which left the hospital destroyed and the republic's university on fire.

Pakistani intelligence complicit in Afghan violence: US general

Pakistani intelligence complicit in Afghan violence: US general (NSI News Source Info) August 8, 2008: The top US commander in Afghanistan Thursday publicly accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of "some complicity" over time with militant groups fomenting violence in Afghanistan. Lieutenant General David McKiernan's comment in an interview with CNN was the most unambiguous statement yet on the matter by a senior US military officer, reflecting growing US frustration over the insurgent violence in Afghanistan. "Do I believe that the Pakistani government must do more? I absolutely do. Do I believe there has been some complicity on the part of organizations such as the ISI over time in Pakistan, I believe there has been," McKiernan said. His comments coincided with a political crisis in Islamabad where the ruling coalition said it will seek the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf, the country's former military leader and long-time US ally. And it follows reports that the CIA's number two, Steve Kappes, recently confronted the Pakistanis with evidence of ISI involvement with an insurgent network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The New York Times reported last week that intercepted communications provided the Americans with clear evidence that the ISI was involved in a July 7 suicide bombing at the Indian embassy that killed about 60 people. It has long been assumed by US officials that elements of the ISI has maintained ties with the Taliban and other militant groups it helped create to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Indians in Kashmir. But the relationship has come under greater scrutiny over the past two years as the militant threat has grown in the tribal areas, and fighters have poured out of those safe havens into Afghanistan. "I don't believe we can get to the right outcome in Afghanistan as long as these militant sanctuaries exist across the border," McKiernan said. "We've seen the increased numbers of foreign fighters in eastern and southern Afghanistan this year, and there is an expectation that the leadership in Pakistan will do something about these militant sanctuaries in their country," he said. McKiernan said Al-Qaeda is heavily involved in the insurgency. "Al-Qaeda provides financing, they help recruit fighters, they help with logistics, command and control, intelligence for the Taliban," he said.

India may test futuristic jets by 2015

India may test futuristic jets by 2015
(NSI News Source Info) August 8, 2008 NEW DELHI: India hopes that the first developmental flight of the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), to be co-developed with Russia, will take place by 2015-2016. The FGFA, as envisaged by IAF to fulfil its futuristic requirements, will have a lethal mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities. Apart from a ‘‘minimal’’ radar tracking signature to impart stealth, the FGFA will have ‘‘a very high degree of network centricity’’, as also multi-spectral reconnaissance and surveillance systems — optical, infrared, laser and radar sensors.
‘‘The FGFA should fly for the first time by 2015 or so. If it manages to do so earlier, then it will be a big achievement. Negotiations with Russia are making good progress, with the details being worked out,’’ IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major told TOI on Thursday. ‘‘It is very complex to design and develop an FGFA. The FGFA we want will be an entirely new platform, with many additional features, stealth being an important one,’’ he added. The ongoing negotiations with Russia flow from the FGFA agreement signed during the Indo-Russian inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation meeting, co-chaired by defence minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart, last October. The bone of contention is that Russia has already frozen the design parameters of its FGFA, the single-seater Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA, the first prototype of which is likely to take to the skies by 2009. India, however, wants a twin-seater FGFA built to its requirements, which will obviously require several design changes. With the FGFA project expected to cost $8-10 billion, a cash-starved Russia is agreeable to the idea of having both single and twin-seater versions. ‘‘The various issues are being sorted out,’’ said an official. There is only one operational FGFA in the world at present, the American F/A-22 ‘Raptor’, which comes at a whopping $142 million apiece. Another, the F-35 ‘Lightning-II’, in turn, is still under joint development by US, UK and seven other countries. The most potent fighter in the IAF fleet currently is the Sukhoi-30MKI, which can be placed a little over fourth-generation, along with others like Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen and F/A-18 ‘Super Hornets’. While fourth-generation fighters typically revolve around multi-role capabilities, FGFA takes it forward by incorporating stealth technology, composite materials, supercruise, thrust-vectoring and integrated avionics as well. Since it will take well over a decade for an Indo-Russian FGFA to become fully-operational, IAF is banking upon the 230 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia at an overall cost of around $8.5 billion. Then, of course, there is also the mammoth $10.4 billion project to induct 126 new multi-role combat aircraft in IAF from 2012-2013 onwards.

Georgia launches major attack on rebel province despite ceasefire

Georgia launches major attack on rebel province despite ceasefire (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 8, 2008 - The Georgian military attacked the capital of breakaway South Ossetia on Friday with tanks and infantry and bombed a village, despite a ceasefire declared by Georgia, the separatist government said. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had declared a unilateral ceasefire late on Thursday, soon before the UN Security Council gathered for an emergency meeting amid fears of full-scale war breaking out in the region. The South Ossetian government said Georgian tanks and infantry attacked Tskhinvali, and that a large part of the city has been destroyed. Over 15 civilians have been killed, several buildings are on fire in the city center, and the local parliament building has burned down, the government said. The rebel administration also said Georgian Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes have bombed the South Ossetian village of Kvernet as well as a humanitarian aid convoy. At the Security Council session, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on the council to intervene to stop violence in the region. The Kremlin said Russia's leadership is also holding emergency talks on the conflict, and is considering urgent measures to end the violence. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev "is heading a meeting to discuss a series of urgent measures to stop the violence in South Ossetia, to protect the civilian population and Russian citizens in the conflict zone, considering that Russian peacekeepers have a mandate there, and to safeguard Russian interests in the region," the Kremlin press service said. A correspondent for Georgia's Imedi radio said Tskhinvali has now been seized by Georgia, but the report has not been confirmed by other sources. Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze said Georgia will continue its military operation until peace is established. "The goal of Georgia's actions in the conflict zone is to establish peace in the region. And we will not stop until we have attained this goal," he said. He said the country would offer an amnesty to South Ossetia's leaders, and provide over $35 million in reconstruction aid for province.

India postpones first lunar mission until mid-October

India postpones first lunar mission until mid-October (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, August 8, 2008 - The launch of India's first unmanned mission to the Moon has been postponed until the middle of October, the head of the Indian space program has said. The launch of the Chandrayaan I lunar orbiter by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was originally planned for September 19 but scientists have yet to conduct the thermo-vacuum testing of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) with the orbiter on board. "We will announce the exact launch date 45-50 days after the completion of thermo-vacuum testing," ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said. The Chandrayaan remote sensing satellite weighs about 1.3 tons and carries high resolution remote sensing equipment for visible, near infrared, soft and hard X-ray frequencies. Over a two-year period, it is intended to survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and three-dimensional topography. The polar regions are of special interest, as they might contain water ice. The satellite will release its Moon Impact Probe once it enters lunar orbit to give scientists a closer look at a specific region of the surface. The ISRO plans to launch a second lunar mission - Chandrayaan-2 - in 2011. Russia's space agency, Roskosmos, is teaming up with ISRO in the development of Chandrayaan-2's lander and associated rover. Chandrayaan-2 will comprise an orbiting spacecraft and a landing platform with the moon rover. Nair also said India continued to work on designs for a manned flight to the Moon by 2020.

U.S.-Israel To Develop David's Sling Missile Defense

U.S.-Israel To Develop David's Sling Missile Defense (NSI News Source Info) 8 August, 2008: TEL AVIV - The United States and Israel have concluded an agreement that officially kicks off the David's Sling development program, the newest bilateral effort to defend against a wide range of rockets, ballistic missiles and air-breathing threats. The David's Sling system will be designed to counter even very short-range threats, like those sometimes fired from Gaza. Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, signed the so-called Project Agreement during a visit here this week. "We're now out of the starting box. This agreement allows us to participate in a truly joint, co-managed program with the Israelis," Obering said. Unlike the U.S.-Israel Arrow interceptor, which is managed by Israel, funded jointly by the two countries, but intended only for Israeli defense, David's Sling will be co-managed, co-funded, and optimized to meet operational requirements of both governments. "We wanted a truly co-managed program because the United States will be very interested in this for our own purposes," Obering said. In an Aug. 7 interview, Obering described the David's Sling system - and its kinetic energy interceptor developed jointly by Rafael Ltd. and Raytheon Co. - as "an extremely fast reaction system" aimed at intercepting a broad basket of threats. "We're talking about the very short-range rockets you're seeing coming out of Gaza and longer-range rockets that were fired from Lebanon, all the way to short-range ballistic missiles that can be launched from a distance of several hundred kilometers," Obering said. The Pentagon missile defense chief confirmed that David's Sling also will be designed to defend against cruise missiles and other air-breathing threats. "Since the time of flight [of enemy threats] is very short, the ability to very rapidly detect, track and engage different types of threats is of cardinal importance. And given the enemy's variety of munitions, you don't necessarily know what's coming; whether it's a Qassem, a Katyusha or something else entirely. You're not sure, so you have to be ready and able to handle it all," he said. Obering declined to estimate overall program costs or the percentage that each government will contribute to the joint effort. "The agreement we just signed allows us to work through specific cost-sharing arrangements and other program parameters," he said. He said MDA has proposed ramping up funding support in its five-year POM, which has yet to be approved. Congress already has appropriated about $65 million since 2006 for the Rafael-Raytheon program, while Israeli officials here said MoD has contributed a similar amount over the past four years. In an interview earlier this year, an Israeli MoD official estimated that it would cost nearly $400 million to conclude development and begin low-rate production of the Stunner interceptor. He noted that MoD aimed to contain unit costs to about $350,000. Initial deployment is targeted for 2011.