NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018
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NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

  • We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, says NATO spokeswoman
  • At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks

BRUSSELS: NATO says the Russian navy is building up its presence in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over the war in Syria.
Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
“We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria,” NATO’s chief spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said Wednesday.
She says several of the Russian ships are equipped with cruise missiles.
Russian defense officials could not be reached for comment. At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks. Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall.
Moscow has repeatedly alleged that Syrian rebels are preparing a chemical weapons attack in Idlib as a provocation to bring a Western attack on Syrian forces.
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said the naval buildup was connected to that prospect. “The United States and its allies have forced Russia to send a powerful sailing group to the Mediterranean,” it wrote on Tuesday.
State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the Russian reports “false-flag-type reporting.”
“We’ve seen that before where they try to put the blame — they try to put the onus on other groups and we don’t buy into that,” she said Wednesday during a regular briefing with reporters in Washington.
Western countries and independent analysts say Syrian government forces have carried out a number of chemical attacks over the course of the seven-year civil war. The US has vowed to respond if Syrian forces use chemical weapons in Idlib. Western countries carried out strikes on Syrian government forces after an alleged chemical attack earlier this year.
Both Syria and Russia deny that government forces have ever used chemical arms.


Ramadan in Sudan: Iftar with the ‘flavor of revolution’

Sudanese protesters attend the Friday prayers near the military headquarters in Khartoum during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition. (AFP)
Updated 19 May 2019
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Ramadan in Sudan: Iftar with the ‘flavor of revolution’

  • For some this holy month might be the first, without Bashir’s regime, for many years

KHARTOUM: Over the past 30 years, the Sudanese people have lived under the repressive regime of Omar Al-Bashir. But, since the surge of protests that began in the city of Atbara on Dec. 19, in what was to become the start of the Sudanese revolution, citizens hoped that this Ramadan might be the first for many years, and for some, of their entire lives, without the president.

Now, that dream has been realized.
Under Bashir’s rule, poverty stalked the country, but despite the increase in destitution, the values of solidarity and compassion remained strong throughout Sudanese society. Now, as the revolution enters its next phase, those traits endure.
The sit-in in front of the General Command of the Sudanese Armed Forces represents the largest manifestation yet of solidarity and compassion among the general public, who have made this latest protest a symbol of their desire to form a civil government, and turn the country toward the path of democracy and freedom.
Thousands of Sudanese have marched to the rallies, with families arriving hand-in-hand, including their young children in tow, carrying food and drink to prepare for iftar in the courtyard.
The turnout includes hundreds of Sudanese from voluntary organizations providing Ramadan meals to the fasting protesters, and even the soldiers guarding the building, painting a colorful picture of the true spirit of the holy month.
The most prominent charity leader in Sudan, Fares Al-Nour, who was arrested before the overthrow of the Bashir regime, says two centers have been established within the sit-in to supply protesters and soldiers alike for iftar.
Alaa Eddin Sulaiman, an activist, told Arab News that this year’s Ramadan came with the “flavor of the revolution” and that the Sudanese people were expressing joy that the holy month had arrived with Bashir and his regime forced to go.
“We are preparing for a new era, in which the winds of democracy, justice, freedom and supremacy of the law will prevail,” he said.