Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink

A Starlink satellite internet system is set up near the frontline town of Bakhmut amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink

  • Ukraine itself has widely used Starlink to ensure communications and connectivity for its troops during the two-year war

KYIV, Ukraine: The Kremlin on Monday rejected Ukraine’s claims that Russian troops fighting on the frontline were using Starlink Internet terminals.
Kyiv’s GUR military intelligence agency said it had evidence that the terminals were being used on a “systematic” basis by Russian troops, accusing Moscow of “smuggling” them into the country.
Starlink, owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide Internet to remote locations, or areas that have had normal communications infrastructure disabled.
“My companies have probably done more to undermine Russia than anything,” Musk said during a streamed session on X, formerly known as Twitter, criticizing US funding to Ukraine.
Musk maintained that SpaceX had taken away two thirds of Russian space launch business and that “Starlink has overwhelmingly helped Ukraine.”
“It cannot be officially supplied here and is not officially supplied here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.
“Accordingly, it cannot be officially used here in any way,” he added.
The system is not active in Russia, meaning even a device inside Russia could not connect.
But Kyiv has accused Russian troops of using the device across the frontlines in Ukraine.
“Starlink is freely available in Russia. Compared to last year, now the use of Starlink in the Russian army on the front line has become more systematic,” GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov said Monday on state television.
He said it would not “reveal all the details” of its claims.
Ukraine itself has widely used Starlink to ensure communications and connectivity for its troops during the two-year war.
Musk called reports SpaceX had sold Starlink terminals to Russia “categorically false” in a post on his X social media platform.
“To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” he added.
Ukraine’s Yusov said Kyiv accepted that Starlink was not “officially being sold to the Russians.”
He said Russia bought them through “parallel imports, which is essentially smuggling.”
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine and was hit with Western sanctions, it has set up a network of traders and intermediaries in third countries to get hold of banned goods and other products no longer available inside Russia.
It is not the first time Kyiv and Musk have clashed over Starlink.
Last year the Tesla and SpaceX tycoon rejected a request to activate the network in the Crimean city of Sevastopol to support a Ukrainian attack on Russia’s naval fleet.
He said SpaceX would have been “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation” if he had agreed.
Also last year he said his company could not indefinitely fund the service in Ukraine, before agreeing to maintain the connections.


Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

Keith Edmund Gavin. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 4 sec ago
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Alabama agrees to forgo autopsy of Muslin inmate scheduled to be executed next week

  • “No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: Alabama has agreed to forgo an autopsy on a Muslim death row inmate, scheduled to be executed next week, who said the post-mortem procedure would violate his religious beliefs.
Keith Edmund Gavin had filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to avoid the autopsy, which is typically performed after executions in Alabama. The Alabama prison system in a Friday statement said it had agreed to forgo the autopsy.
“No autopsy will be performed on Keith Edmund Gavin. His remains will be picked up by the attending funeral home,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement.
Gavin, 64, is set to be executed July 18 by lethal injection at a south Alabama prison.
Gavin filed a lawsuit last month asking a judge to block the state from performing an autopsy after his execution. His attorneys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“Mr. Gavin is a devout Muslim. His religion teaches that the human body is a sacred temple, which must be kept whole. As a result, Mr. Gavin sincerely believes that an autopsy would desecrate his body and violate the sanctity of keeping his human body intact. Based on his faith, Mr. Gavin is fiercely opposed to an autopsy being performed on his body after his execution,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in state court in Montgomery.
His attorneys said they filed the lawsuit after being unable to have “meaningful discussions” with state officials about his request to avoid an autopsy. They added that the court filing is not an attempt to stay the execution and that “Gavin does not anticipate any further appeals or requests for stays of his execution.”
William Califf, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, said earlier this week that “we are working on a resolution” in the case,
Gavin was convicted of capital murder for the 1998 shooting death of William Clinton Clayton Jr. in Cherokee County in northeast Alabama. Clayton, a delivery driver, had stopped at an ATM to get money to take his wife to dinner when he was shot, prosecutors said.
A jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty for Gavin. The trial court accepted the jury’s recommendation and sentenced him to death.

 


SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

Updated 15 min 6 sec ago
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SpaceX rocket accident leaves company’s Starlink satellites in wrong orbit

  • An upper stage engine malfunctioned minutes after the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites
  • More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A SpaceX rocket has failed for the first time in nearly a decade, leaving the company’s Internet satellites in an orbit so low that they’re doomed to fall through the atmosphere and burn up.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Thursday night, carrying 20 Starlink satellites. Several minutes into the flight, the upper stage engine malfunctioned. SpaceX on Friday blamed a liquid oxygen leak.
The company said flight controllers managed to make contact with half of the satellites and attempted to boost them to a higher orbit using onboard ion thrusters. But with the low end of their orbit only 84 miles (135 kilometers) above Earth — less than half what was intended — “our maximum available thrust is unlikely to be enough to successfully raise the satellites,” the company said via X.
SpaceX said the satellites will reenter the atmosphere and burn up. There was no mention of when they might come down. More than 6,000 orbiting Starlinks currently provide Internet service to customers in some of the most remote corners of the world.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the problem must be fixed before Falcon rockets can fly again.
It was not known if or how the accident might impact SpaceX’s upcoming crew flights. A billionaire’s spaceflight is scheduled for July 31 from Florida with plans for the first private spacewalk, followed in mid-August by an astronaut flight to the International Space Station for NASA.
The tech entrepreneur who will lead the private flight, Jared Isaacman, said Friday that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has “an incredible track record” and as well as an emergency escape system.
The last launch failure occurred in 2015 during a space station cargo run. Another rocket exploded the following year during testing on the ground.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk said the high flight rate will make it easier to identify and correct the problem.

 


District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

Updated 12 July 2024
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District court rebuffs fining Netherlands for Israel jet parts

  • The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35”

THE HAGUE: Dutch judges on Friday slapped down an urgent request by a trio of rights groups to penalize the Netherlands for not respecting a ban on supplying F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.
In a landmark verdict in February, an appeals court ordered the Netherlands to stop delivering parts for fighter jets used by Israel in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
But the rights groups went back to court in June, saying that the ban has not prevented parts ending up in Israeli planes.
Their lawyers accused the Dutch government of continuing “to deliver (parts) to other countries, including the US.”
The three groups asked The Hague District Court in an urgent request to impose a €50,000 per day fine on the state for not respecting the verdict.
Their lawyers said F-35 parts exported by the Netherlands continued to reach Israel via other routes, including the so-called “Global Spares Pool” — a joint stock of spare parts maintained by countries that operate the F-35.
The Hague District Court’s judges agreed on Friday but stressed February’s judgment “said nothing about the route that parts take via other countries for the production of the F-35.”
The judges said the February judgment had a “more limited scope” than the rights group’s current urgent request.
“It has not been demonstrated that the state is not complying with the ban or does not intend to continue to comply,” the judges said.
“Therefore, there is no penalty for a violation,” the judges said.
In its verdict in February, appeals judges found that there was a “clear risk” the planes would be involved in breaking international humanitarian law.
The Dutch government then acknowledged it could not prevent parts shipped to the US from eventually ending up in Israeli F-35s.
But its lawyers said it did not believe the Netherlands had to restrict exports of F-35 parts to countries other than Israel.
The Dutch government added that it would implement the February verdict but announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

 


Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age

Updated 12 July 2024
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Teenage migrant in Spain’s Canaries sleeping rough after coming of age

  • Around 19,000 migrants, mainly from West Africa, arrived on the islands in the first six months of 2024, a 167 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to government figures

MADRID: When Abdellatif Bouhlal landed on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria after surviving the perilous sea journey from Morocco on a rickety dinghy, he was alone and just 15 years old.
Having been picked up at sea, Bouhlal spent three years in a reception center for unaccompanied minors, but when he came of age, he had to leave and find his shelter.
With the authorities slow to process the paperwork he needs as a foreigner to be able to work in Spain, he was forced to sleep rough and beg for money, he said.
“On the same day I turned 18, they dumped me out on the streets like a dog,” he said from a makeshift tent on El Cabron beach in the town of Arinaga.
Bouhlal’s story is shared by thousands of young migrants who attempt the perilous journey on the deadly Atlantic route, only to find a host country that struggles to cope with an unprecedented number of arrivals and integrate them into the domestic jobs market.
Around 19,000 migrants, mainly from West Africa, arrived on the islands in the first six months of 2024, a 167 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to government figures.
Disagreements on migration policy have driven a wedge between the conservative People’s Party, or PP, and the far-right Vox, which ruled five Spanish regions together until Thursday when the PP backed a plan by Spain’s central Socialist-run government to move around 400 under-18 migrants from the Canary Islands to the mainland.
Bouhlal, born in the north-central Moroccan city of Beni Mellal, said he had left his country because he saw no future.
His scant belongings include a bare mattress, a cardboard box with second-hand clothes, and a few candles.
On windy nights, he covers his head with a blanket to protect his eyes from the sand being blown around.
Bouhlal said that when he begs for money, he faces the dilemma of spending it on food or the bus fare to the island’s capital, Las Palmas, for appointments with officials handling his residency case.
He has not seen his mother in 3 1/2 years.
A tearful Bouhlal, who does not have a phone, said he closes his eyes every night and pictures having dinner with her and his little sister. “Not talking to her really hurts,” he said.

 


Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says

Updated 12 July 2024
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Russian assassination plots against those supporting Ukraine uncovered in Europe, official says

  • The plots have sometimes involved recruiting common criminals in foreign countries to conduct the attacks
  • One major plot recently uncovered had targeted Armin Papperger, CEO of defense company Rheinmetall

WASHINGTON: Western intelligence agencies have uncovered Russian plots to carry out assassinations, arson and other sabotage in Europe against companies and people linked to support for Ukraine’s military — one of the most serious being a plan to kill the head of a German arms manufacturer, a Western government official said.
The plots have sometimes involved recruiting common criminals in foreign countries to conduct the attacks, said the official, who is familiar with the situation but not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
One major plot recently uncovered had targeted Armin Papperger, CEO of defense company Rheinmetall, the official said.
The official declined to offer any details on other plots, which were first reported by CNN. The CNN report said the US informed Germany, whose security services were able to protect Papperger and foil the plot.
Rheinmetall is a major supplier of military technology and artillery rounds for Ukraine as it fights off Russian forces. The company last month opened an armored vehicle maintenance and repair facility in western Ukraine and also aims to start production inside the country.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson declined to comment on the alleged plot to kill Papperger but said, “Russia’s intensifying campaign of subversion is something that we are taking extremely seriously and have been intently focused on over the past few months.”
“The United States has been discussing this issue with our NATO allies, and we are actively working together to expose and disrupt these activities,” Watson added. “We have also been clear that Russia’s actions will not deter allies from continuing to support Ukraine.”
Neither Rheinmetall nor the German government would comment Friday on the reported plot against Papperger. The Interior Ministry can’t comment on “individual threat situations,” spokesperson Maximilian Kall said, but he added that more broadly, “we take the significantly increased threat from Russian aggression very seriously.”
“We know that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime wants above all to undermine our support for Ukraine in its defense against the Russian war of aggression, but the German government won’t be intimidated,” Kall said.
He noted that German security measures have increased significantly since 2022 and that “the threats range from espionage and sabotage, through cyberattacks, to state terrorism.”
European officials gathered for the NATO summit in Washington this week spoke of dealing with an escalation of “hybrid” attacks that they blame on Russia and its allies.
That includes what authorities called suspicious recent fires at industrial and commercial sites in Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany and other nations, and charges that Russia-allied Belarus was sending large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa to the borders of Poland, Latvia and other countries belonging to NATO.
When asked at a news conference at the NATO summit Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he could not comment on the CNN report. He did note a widespread campaign by Russian security services to conduct “hostile actions” against NATO allies, including sabotage, cyberattacks and arson.
“These are not standalone instances. These are part of a pattern, part of an ongoing Russian campaign. And the purpose of this campaign is, of course, to intimidate NATO allies from supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
In April, German investigators arrested two German-Russian men on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets, including US military facilities, in hopes of sabotaging aid for Ukraine.
Germany has become the second-biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine after the United States since Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report of a plan to kill Papperger. “All of this is again presented in the fake style, so such reports cannot be taken seriously,” he told reporters Friday.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart, Andrei Belousov, on Friday, their second call in less than a month, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh announced at a briefing Friday. The call was initiated by the Russian defense minister, Singh said.
She did not have further details to share, including whether the two leaders spoke about the accusations that Russia had attempted to assassinate top officials of Western defense firms producing weapons systems that are sent to Ukraine, but said “maintaining lines of communication is incredibly important right now.”