Russia poses risk to undersea cables: UK defense chief

British Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach in London. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Russia poses risk to undersea cables: UK defense chief

LONDON: The head of Britain’s military said that Russia could try to sever undersea communications cables, and protecting them is a defense priority for NATO.
Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach said cutting or disrupting the cables could have a “potentially catastrophic” economic effect.
Peach told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that “along with our Atlantic allies, we have prioritized missions and tasks to protect the sea lines of communication.”
Peach said that Russia “in addition to new ships and submarines continues to perfect both unconventional capabilities and information warfare.” He said NATO is working “to match and understand Russian fleet modernization.”
Earlier this month, the Policy Exchange think-tank highlighted how Russia had “easily” severed all digital communications to Crimea during its 2014 invasion of the Black Sea peninsula.
Separately, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Friday it had uncovered a cell of Daesh that was planning imminent terror attacks in the country’s second city Saint Petersburg.
“The FSB identified and stopped the activities of a clandestine cell of IS (Daesh) supporters who planned to commit attacks on December 16,” the security service said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
According to the FSB, the group planned a suicide attack and “the killing of citizens” in crowded areas of the northern city.
Seven members of the cell were arrested during raids that took place on Wednesday and Thursday.
The police confiscated a “large number of explosives used to make homemade bombs, automatic rifles, munitions and extremist literature,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said Russia was on alert for the possible return of militants from Syria ahead of the World Cup and presidential election in 2018.
As many as 40,000 fighters traveled from all over the world, including Russia, to join Daesh in Syria after the 2014 declaration of its self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq.
In 2015, Russian security services estimated that 2,900 Russian citizens had joined the radical group, as well as “several thousand” Central Asians.
Russia has suffered several terrorist assaults in recent years, including a deadly attack in Saint Petersburg that left 14 dead in April this year.


World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

Updated 15 min 11 sec ago
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World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

  • The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
  • Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Thursday called for justice on the Rohingya crisis after his visit to Myanmar's Rakhine state, telling embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi the world "won't let it rest".
Hunt's rallying cry for accountability comes at the end of a busy two-day visit during which he visited Rakhine -- the epicentre of a brutal military campaign that drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims -- and met with Suu Kyi.
"Burma needs to know the international community won't let it rest," said Hunt using Myanmar's former name.
Myanmar has set up an "independent" commission to address the army's crackdown against the Rohingya, rejecting the UN probe and calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
"If we don't see that process happening, we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure there is justice... the world is watching," Hunt said after the meeting, which he said was "lively" and "frank".
The British foreign minister's visit came the same week UN investigators released a damning and meticulous report detailing why six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
The evidence warrants the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, UN investigators said.
Hunt also brought up with Suu Kyi his "concerns" on the jailing of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced earlier this month to seven years each under the state secrets act.
The pair had uncovered the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men in the Rakhine village of Inn Din -- something the army has since acknowledged.
Suu Kyi, who endured a total of 15 years of house arrest under the previous junta-led regime, said last week Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's sentencing upheld the rule of law.
"She said she would look into it," Hunt said Thursday.
Before the meeting, the foreign minister was led on a three-hour, tightly-managed tour of Rakhine via helicopter, which included the Taung Pyo Letwe returnee reception centre, opened to receive the refugees even though virtually no Rohingya have come back.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement last year to repatriate the Muslim minority but it has stalled as they fear returning to Rakhine without their safety and rights guaranteed.
In each of the three other locations Hunt was shepherded to, he found a pre-selected group of locals waiting to speak to him. At Pan Taw Pyin village, the final stop, he walked off to try to speak with nearby residents about their experiences despite the heavy security presence.
The military has consistently denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting that its campaign was justified to root out militants, and Myanmar's ambassador to the UN on Tuesday slammed the UN probe as "one-sided" and "flawed".
Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.
Her supporters say her hands are tied by a still powerful military, which controls a quarter of parliament's seats and three ministries.
UN investigators say her government's "acts and omissions" contributed to the "atrocity crimes" in the crisis.
Hunt will head to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, where he will chair a foreign ministers' meeting Monday on Myanmar.
Suu Kyi will not be travelling to New York for the UN top meeting.