Europe Braces for Russian Cyber Assault Before 2017 Elections

LONDON � Amid ongoing accusations that Russia attempted to influence and subvert the U.S. presidential election, Europe is bracing for a similar operation by Moscow before a series of elections. France, Germany and the Netherlands go to the polls in 2017, and analysts say Russia is already attempting to influence the outcomes, a charge Moscow denies.

As the chief European architect of sanctions against Russia, analysts say German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the European leader Moscow would most like to see voted out of power.

In a speech this month Merkel warned of the dangers of external attempts to hack the election, adding that German leaders must inform people, and express their political convictions clearly.

The chancellor is running for a fourth term. But she does have an Achilles heel. Nearly a million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015 and analysts say Russia will likely use this to try whip-up anti-immigrant feeling.

In January, a fake news story about a Russian-German girl named “Lisa” who had reportedly been raped by migrants prompted protests in Germany, and accusations of a cover-up from Moscow. The girl later admitted it was a lie. Russia will likely ramp up its efforts at disinformation before the election, says Center for European Reform analyst Ian Bond.

They can target it both in France and in Germany. But because Angela Merkel herself has been so closely identified with the policy of admitting refugees and asylum seekers to Germany, it is, I think, an area of vulnerability for her, Bond says.

Break-up of EU as goal

The far right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party is rising in the polls. Monday’s terror attack in Berlin could boost support, says Thorsten Benner of Berlin’s Global Public Policy Institute.

Or if we have an unraveling of the refugee situation again with the EU-Turkey pact unraveling on refugees. That could also increase the pressure on Germany, Benner says.

Across Europe, far right parties have sought close relationships with Moscow. Ian Bond says the populist parties share one goal, the break-up of the European Union.

And from a Russian point of view if you can divide Europe, if you can then pick off individual states and make them feel more vulnerable or make them feel that they have to accommodate themselves to Russia, then that is a huge win.

With Donald Trump taking over the U.S. presidency in January, Bond says European unity will be tested from all sides.

Trump himself, like Putin, seems to share this preference for dealing with countries in Europe bilaterally rather than multilaterally. And so I think he is not going to shed many tears if in fact the EU is weakened as a result of Russian activity in European elections in the coming months Bond says.

While Trump has said US NATO allies should pay more for defense, he has not suggested he wants to see the European Union weakened.

European leaders hope that by sounding the alarm early, any attempts by Moscow to influence upcoming elections can be extinguished. But analysts warn Russia’s propaganda drive is already well underway.

Source: Voice of America

في ختام النسخة اليابانية رسمياً … أبوظبي تتسلم راية تنظيم كأس العالم للأندية لكرة القدم

أبوظبي، الإمارات العربية المتحدة – 19 ديسمبر 2016 : تسلمت العاصمة أبوظبي راية تنظيم كأس العالم للأندية لكرة القدم من اليابان، في حفل تسليم رمزي أقيم قبيل المباراة النهائية بلحظات، حيث تبادل نائب الأمين العام بالاتحاد الدولي لكرة القدم زفومينير بوبان، ومدير المسابقات بالاتحاد الدولي لكرة القدم كولن سميث، وممثل اليابان المحلي كوهزو تاشيما رئيس الاتحاد الياباني، […]

‘Hundreds of civilians detained in regime-held region’: Activist

ISTANBUL : A Syrian activist in eastern Aleppo said Friday that Syrian regime and pro-regime terrorists detained hundreds of civilians in regime-held region.

Speaking in a video which she published on Twitter, Lina Shamy claimed that a large number of people came back from the evacuation point to the city after the regime and pro-regime terrorists breached the truce.

Stating that there are still thousands of civilians and injured people in the besieged part of Aleppo, she shared images of people returning from the evacuation point.

“There is no international monitoring on [the] evacuation,” Shamy claimed.

She also claimed that the Red Cross and humanitarian organisations have left the civilians alone in regime-held region, adding that those people “could not come back”, and have been threatened with a massacre.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Friday on Twitter “all parties and the international community to abide by the truce agreement and support the implementation of the evacuation process.”

“The Turkey-brokered truce in Aleppo and the continuation of evacuations is the only hope left for innocent people,” he added.

Before these statement, an UN official told reporters Friday in Geneva that the evacuation of civilians was suspended without explanation.

World Health Organization (WHO) Syria representative Elizabeth Hoff stated, “I do not have the reasons. That has not been provided to me � why it was aborted l do not know. l hope it is only suspended,”

Though they do not know how many people remain in eastern Aleppo, Hoff said, “There is a very high number of people who should be evacuated.”

Hoff also said staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the WHO have been told to leave the area following the suspension.

Earlier this week, Syrian opposition forces in eastern Aleppo reached a ceasefire deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to evacuate civilians from the city.

Since then, at least 7,500 civilians have left Aleppo for safe areas in Idlib — which is located near the border with Turkey — according to Syrian opposition group officials.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests — which erupted as part of the “Arab Spring” uprisings — with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-battered country, according to the UN. The Syrian Center for Policy Research, however, put the death toll from the six-year conflict at more than 470,000 people.

*Ilker Girit in Istanbul contributed to this story.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Hundreds at Russia, Iran embassies protest over Aleppo

ANKARA : Hundreds protested Thursday in front of the embassies of Iran and Russia in Ankara over those countries’ violations of the cease-fire in Aleppo.

Protesters from Turkey’s Human Rights and Service Association, Faith Freedom Platform, and trade unionists chanted slogans condemning the UN and countries that have stayed silent in the face of the humanitarian tragedy in Aleppo.

The massacre in Aleppo and the theater in the UN,” the group chanted.

Serkan Codal, a spokesman for the protesters, said that Syria is being subjected to genocide.

Nearly 1 million people were killed in Syria, and we stand with those that are now being tortured, he said.

Separately, protesters in Ukraine gathered in front of the Russian Embassy in Kiev over Russia’s violation of the cease-fire and alleged war crimes against the civilian population of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The group said that Russia and the regime forces must immediately stop assaulting the civilian population.

Violence escalated in the city Monday when Syrian regime forces advanced into opposition-held parts of eastern Aleppo following a five-month siege and persistent aerial bombardment. The Russian-backed regime had been trying to reestablish control over parts of Aleppo captured four years ago by armed opposition groups.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests � which had erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings � with unexpected ferocity. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed by the conflict and millions more displaced.

Source: Anadolu Agency