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The YouTube channel syrianewfuture, which appears to be a Free Syrian Army source, posted this video news release to YouTube about 5:00pm pst today, in it the FSA claims to have killed a Russian General in Syria on Sunday:

Lieutenant-Colonel Majeed Al-Sayed Ahmad, leader of private missions and operations, make the following statement on the video:

During an operation led by Soqoor company for special operations and in collaboration with the Osama lbn Zaid battalion in western Ghouta who both belong to the Damascus area military command (DAMC) which deals with the Russian snakes in Damascus since the eleventh month of the year 2011 and with the help of God they eliminated the Russian Advisor of the Syrian defense minister and the chief of the general staff for the military knowledge General Vladimir Petrovich Kojyev with his personal translator Ahmad Ayooq. They also seized some documents and maps that belong to the Syrian army and in addition they seized important reports about the opposition and the Free Syrian Army. This is an addition to the series of accomplishments on the path of freeing the Levant from the Assad gang. This proves the involvement of the Russians in the humanitarian crimes against our people and our nation.
My brief search has turned up nothing else on General Vladimir Petrovich Kojyev and I am certainly in no position to express an opinion on the validity of the documents offered as proof. That being said, I strongly suspect the FSA is telling the truth here and Russia is in this thing much deeper than they like to admit.

Assuming this is true, I'll leave to comments any discussion about what his says about Russia's real support for the Assad regime and what it tells us about the FSA's ability to again conduct operations right at the center of power.

And we are expected to believe that Bashar al-Assad is conducting business in the usual way in the usual places. Yeah, right!

As usual, more, later ...

Wed Aug 08, 2012 at  9:48 AM PT: Since I publish this diary yesterday, Moscow and Damascus have claimed that the Russian general in question was not killed in Syria but is safely in Moscow and retired. Kataeb has this story today:

Russian general denies reports he was killed by Free Syrian Army

Wed 08 Aug 2012 - 5:38:57 PM

A Russian general Wednesday denied reports he had been killed by rebels in Syria during an operation against President Bashar al-Assad’s top security men.



General Vladimir Kuzheyev told reporters at a hastily arranged press conference at the Russian defense ministry in Moscow that he was flattered by the attention and happy to report he was well.

“I thank the media for devoting such great attention to my humble persona,” Kuzheyev said in comments also posted on the defense ministry’s official website and replayed on state television.

“As a general, I understand that this information was not just a provocation aimed against me but also -- and most importantly -- against my country.”


A video released on YouTube by the armed opposition’s Damascus Area Military Command claimed the killing of a Russian advisor to the Syrian defense minister and identified him as General Vladimir Khodzhev.

The post showed a document with a photograph of a man resembling the Russian general who emerged in Moscow on Wednesday. It added that his local translator had also been died in the rebel attack. More...


This article has at least one significant and verifiable inaccuracy. It says the FSA YouTube video identified the man killed as "General Vladimir Khodzhev."  It does not. The subtitles to the video clearly spell his name as "General Vladimir Petrovich Kojyev." This article does note the difference in appearance saying the FSA video posted "a photograph of a man resembling the Russian general who emerged in Moscow on Wednesday." Here is the picture of the general posted in the video, widened by 30% for perspective.









SANA, the Syrian state news agency has a story on this with a different picture of the general and a different spelling of his name, if indeed, we are talking about the same person:  

Russian Defense Ministry Refutes News on Assassinating Russian General in Syria

Aug 08, 2012



MOSCOW, (SANA) – Russian Defense Ministry and a security source on Wednesday said that Gen. Vladimir Cugiev, claimed by Syrian opposition to have been Killed in Syria, is safe and sound and lives, since he retired, in Moscow with his family.

The Ministry described the allegation of the so-called 'Syrian opposition' as flagrant lies, adding that such reports are aimed at provoking the Russian military personnel.

In the same context, a source at the Russian security forces said that Cugiev had worked as a consultant to the Defense Minister but he has not visited Syria since his retirement in 2010.

I expected either one of two responses from Moscow and Damascus to the FSA report, either outright denial or outrage that a legitimate diplomat or liaison person had been killed.

In my initial search for more info on General Vladimir Petrovich Kojyev, I quickly discovered that there were many similarly named generals and I couldn't tell who was who. If these reports were coming from reliable sources that would be one thing but both Moscow and Damascus have a long record of shamelessly fabricating documentation so the jury is still out on this as far as I can see.

EAWorldView had this report on Syria today:

Syria Live Coverage: A Crumbling Regime?
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 11:16 | Scott Lucas



2038 GMT: Syria. Zabadani, northwest of Damascus (map), has been shelled every day for weeks, mostly starting at around sundown each day, the time when people break their fasts, the time when people are most vulnerable. Today, the LCC has a desperate claim:

Intense shelling by artillery, tanks, and rocket launchers in Housh area of the city. More than 50 martyrs have been reported thus far.


However, there appears as though there has been a translation issue. Fares Mohamed, with the LCC in Zabadani, says that 50 shells have fallen - There are not 50 martyrs.

This is breaking news, so sources are scarce, but two disturbing (and unverified) videos claim to show the explosions. It's night, making the videos even harder to verify, but Fares Mohamed says that the video appears to have been taken in Az Zabadani:


In a second video you can hear what sounds like distant gunfire.

1938 GMT: Syria. The Al Farouk brigade, arguably the most battle-hardened, ruthless, and some might say unscrupulous brigade of the Free Syrian Army, has won a significant battle near Al Qusayr, south of Homs (map). Armed with AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPGs, and their favorite anti-tank cannon, the brigade destroyed at least 2 tanks today, according to multiple sources.


It's worth noting the Islamist slogans on the caps and shirts of some of the men.

1915 GMT: Syria. Normally, we try to avoid posting rumors, but for several days activists have been talking about an impending meeting to reorganize the Free Syrian Army. Most of the chatter, however, has been in Arabic.

A prominent online activist, "The 47th," offers a summary in a series of English Tweets. While this should probably be treated as unconfirmed rumor, The 47th has been right before, and the information will give us something to look for over the next few weeks.

We've condensed the Tweets for space purposes and edited them for clarity:

Big meetings in Turkey next week betwn newly defected Generals & representatives from all FSA factions, including loose ones in Jebel Azzawiya & Deir Ezzor. Part of Hilary Clinton's visit to Turkey next week is to be briefed on the success of this meeting & to make sure the objectives are met.

During the meetings, chains of command will further be implemented, inluding factions that have been fighting on their own. Again, most FSA is somehow linked, and coordinated, except in some areas of the Governorate of Homs, Jabal Azzawya & Deir Ezzor.

Objectives:

  •  
  • Introducing the brigades that have been training on heat seeking missiles, assigning them to official brigades.
  •  
  • Possibly renaming the Free Syrian Army to the National Free Syrian Army - Joining small brigades into big ones... just like the Tawheed Brigade (Unity Brigade).
  •  
  • Training on Geneva Human Rights Conventions - Overhaul of structure of the command - Intel meetings.

Manaf Tlass will also be present in next weeks meetings, including the defected officers & unnamed Brig Officers from the Republican Guard.

This major initiative comes after Turkey warned Syrian opposition forces that the West is growing wary of Islamist elements, incohesion & human rights [violations]. Turkey is leading the effort in advising the FSA, training, setting up, supporting & arming the FSA.

Good news is: training FSA elements on heat seeking missiles & other SAMs has been done and we shall see it on the ground as of next week - and FYI: most of these SAMs are from Libya for some reason.


1844 GMT: Syria. Another FSA victory in the east? The LCC reports that the Free Syrian Army has stormed the Baath party headquarters in Tal Abayad (map), north of Al Raqqah. We're not able to verify that news yet, but more regime defeats on the Euphrates river serve as more signs that the regime is struggling to maintain control, or even a presence, on the northern and eastern borders of Syria.

1800 GMT: Syria. It's hard to believe that 3 weeks ago Aleppo was relatively quiet, 4 weeks ago so was Damascus, and a month and a half ago so was Deir Ez Zor. Now, things are different.

Things have changed so quickly that 22,000 Iraqi refugees have fled Syria and returned to Iraq, according to UNHCR Iraq representative Claire Bourgeois. And that's just since July 18 - 3 weeks ago:

"The problem of the Syrian refugees, of the (Iraqi) returnees, adds to the problem of the government of Iraq and the people of Iraq," UN envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler told the news conference.

"As you know, we have ... 1.3 million IDPs already in the country," Kobler said, referring to internally displaced persons -- Iraqis living in their country, but driven from their homes.
And the thousands of Iraqis who have returned from Syria in recent weeks may be only the beginning.

The UNHCR had registered 87,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria as of the end of May, Bourgeois said, adding: "We expect that about 50 percent of that caseload might return back to Iraq."

1559 GMT: Syria. Since this morning we've heard reports of a sudden intensification of fighting in Busra al Harir in Daraa province (map). Dozens were reportedly injured as the regime stormed the town and the FSA fought back.

Now, the LCC reports that the insurgents have destroyed a BMP armored vehicle, and fighting continues:


1544 GMT: Syria. Guardian's Martin Chulov talks about the battle for Aleppo today, and the public frustration with the amount of fighting and damage in the country's largest and wealthiest city - the most interesting part of the report is that the Free Syrian Army has moved its headquarters after residents complained about the constant bombing by the military:


1536 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera reports on the battle for the citadel at the center of Aleppo, as well as the relations between the Free Syrian Army and the citizens of the largest city:


1515 GMT: Syria. Just north of our last report, in Deir Ez Zor (map), the Free Syrian Army continues to eat away at the regime, and the military continues to pound the city with shells. The Guardian speaks to a resident of the city:

Eighty per cent of the population (which is between 900,000 and one million) left city before the siege and went to Raqqah, Aleppo and Damascus. Those who went to Aleppo and Damascus are facing an even worse situation.

Only 20% of the people are left here besides the FSA. We have 14,000-15,000 FSA fighters here now – most of the them are military defectors.

Most of the Syrian army artilleries are stationed in the "Baath camp" and the military airport where all the shooting is coming from against the people.

Today is the 46th straight day of shelling - before that, Deir Ez Zor was a nice place.

Meanwhile, another video, this one from inside the walls of the compound, shows the security HQ that has reportedly fallen to the FSA in Mayadin (map):


1510 GMT: Syria. A huge claim from the Local Coordinating Committees - that the Free Syrian Army in al Mayadin, near Deir Ez Zor (map), has captured a major military security headquarters in the city. Video shows FSA fighters, with guns and RPGs, in front of what they say is the former military stronghold:


1354 GMT: Syria. The Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo (map) has been absolutely hammered by shells, rockets, gunfire, and air strikes today. The Guardian's Mona Mahmood has spoken to an opposition spokesman, Khalid Al-Halbi, from the area:

About 60% of the buildings are destroyed here. There is no water, no power and no shops are open. They have either been shot out or burnt out.

Most of the families still in the district are in shelters. There are many wounded people in a serious condition who can't be treated in field hospitals.

All the small field hospitals we have established here are staffed by volunteered doctors and nurses. They have even been attacked when treating the wounded.

We have to take hundreds of wounded people to Azaz [north of Aleppo] in private cars. The Red Crescent does not have enough cars to move the wounded to Turkey, we have to do that by ourselves.

Khalid Al-Halbi also says that other districts in Aleppo are also under attack. Halbi says no one can use the hospitals because security forces will arrest people. He also says that the Free Syrian Army has set up training camps for new recruits who do not know how to use light weapons.

Two videos, each one progressively more intense, show how serious the situation there is. Saleh el Dine was an upscale neighborhood, often frequented by students. Now, it is a pile of rubble.


1331 GMT: Kuwait. EA's John Horne reports:

Politicial instability persists after politicians today again boycotted a parliamentary session, the second time in a week, increasing the possibility that the current National Assembly will be dissolved. Speaker Jassim al-Kharafi told Reuters that he will not call for another session, but instead "take the matter to his highness the emir".

The present political crisis stems from a June ruling which ostensibly dissolved the currently elected parliament and restored a far more pro-goverment which had been elected in 2009.

1320 GMT: Syria. Aleppo has been bombed, and strafed, by Syrian fighter jets today:



Sure enough, the building in the right of the frame is a major hotel in Aleppo (map). Meridian, which goes by other names, is near Salah el Dine, in the southwester quadrant of the city where the fiercest fighting has been taking place.

We'd also note that, following research by blogger Brown Moses, we're not sure that's a MIG.

1309 GMT: Syria. According to the activist network, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria (LCCS), 100 people have been killed by regime forces so far today:

26 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 23 in Aleppo, including 10 prisoners who were field-executed; 17 martyrs in Daraa; 13 in Idlib; 12 in Homs, including 10 in Deir Baalba (mostly children); 5 in Deir Ezzor; 3 in Hama and 1 in Lattakia.

The focus is likely to be Damascus, where fighting has intensified since Sunday, and Aleppo, where the regime appears to once again be bombing - but we've yet to see that "final assault" everyone's waiting on.

Also, based on a quick survey of activist reports, Daraa province may be heating up - more details soon.

1152 GMT: Syria. Writing from Damascus, "Layla M." profiles those who still back the regime, "For Many Assad Supporters, Other Paths Appear Riskier":

Some worry about losing jobs, patronage or connections if the Assad regime survives, or even hangs on for a while. Some dread the Iraq scenario: sectarian bloodletting and chaos.

Others fear what might come after Assad: a change in the balance of power between the United States and Iran; a foreign-backed carving up of Syria; and they fear an extremist Sunni Muslim government bent on ridding the country of its Christian and Druze minorities, and a campaign of killing and/or forced relocation of Assad’s Alawite brethren.


1110 GMT: Syria. Clashes between regime forces and insurgents continue in Kafaranbel in Idlib Province --- insurgents firing RPGs and rifles today:

Under fire, men use a rope to pull away a body:

Insurgents man an anti-aircraft gun on Monday, hoping to down a regime helicopter:

1104 GMT: Syria. Arriving in Damascus for talks with Syrian officials, high-ranking Iranian official Saeed Jalili has declared, “The Islamic Republic of Iran believes in a Syrian solution based on national dialogue among all Syrian groups to settle the country’s issues, and does not consider foreign approaches as useful."

Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council, also spoke of last Saturday's seizure of 48 Iranian men by insurgents, “We hold all those who fully support the Syrian terrorists responsible for the abduction of the Iranian pilgrims and use all the capacities to secure their release.”

1009 GMT: Syria. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has said that a Syrian brigadier general was among more than 1300 refugees who fled to Turkey overnight.

0952 GMT: Syria. Last night we carried the first-hand account of Al Jazeera English's Jenan Moussa as she hid in a basement amid nearby explosions. She later sent the message:

0702 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Six international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have asked Saudi authorities for permission to observe the court cases of four activists.

Lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair, writer Mikhlif al-Shammari, and professors and rights advocates Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammad al-Qahtani face charges that include tarnishing the reputation of the state, cooperating with international rights organisations and encouraging protests.


0646 GMT: Syria. One of the significant changes that we have noted in the last month over the politics and presentation of the conflict is that, with insurgent control of much of northern Syria, foreign correspondents could now enter the country and provide first-hand reports.

Robert Mackey of The New York Times posts about the development.

0640 GMT: Yemen. Two US drones targeted insurgent positions in central Yemen on Monday, two days after a suicide bombing in Abyan Province in the south killed 45 people.

No toll was given for the four explosions near Rada. A car reportedly belonging to an insurgent was hit by a missile and caught fire.

0631 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Thousands protest on Friday night in Tarout in Eastern Province, during the funeral procession for 18-year-old Hussein Yousef al-Qallaf, who died on Friday in a clash with police --- the crowd also chanted for the release of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, shot and detained last month:

0625 GMT: Bahrain. The Public Prosecutor's Office has said 15 police officers will face charges of torturing doctors during their detention last year.

Chief Investigator Nawaf Hamza said the charges were being brought following an inquiry into a complaint by doctors at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain's main hospital: "This procedure confirms the intention of the Bahrain government to bring to account all those found guilty of human rights violations and to recompense the victims."

Said Yousif, deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, questioned the announcement, declaring, “The public prosecution are part of the torture, we have testimony of detainees who have been tortured inside their building. We also have testimonies of people who have told the public prosecution they have been tortured and they have been ignored. We don't believe it is an independent institution, it is part of the problem."

Yousif added, "Senior members of the ruling elite were involved in torture but they are only charging the low-level officers."

0515 GMT: Syria. After Monday's political drama, with the surprise defection of Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, we will be watching today for the Assad regime's response. And we will return to the military front --- overshadowed by the Hijab developments --- with the looming question of a regime attack on Aleppo still unresolved.

State news agency SANA says no more this morning other than:

President Bashar al-Assad on Monday issued Decree No 294 on dismissing Prime Minister Riyad Hijab from his post.

The President issued Decree No. 295 on designating Eng. Omar Galawanji as a caretaker premier in addition to his tasks as Deputy Prime Minister for Services Affairs and Minister of Local Administration.

The Local Coordination Committees claim 161 deaths at the hands of security forces on Monday, with 54 slain in Aleppo Province and 33 in Damascus and its suburbs.

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout
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Comment Preferences

  •  Why is his ID in Arabic and not Cyrillic? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karl Rover

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 06:54:25 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for keeping us posted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nailbanger, oldliberal

    Without the hard work here I, and I'm sure others, would never be able to keep up with the situation on the ground.

  •  Advisor to Syrian Defense Minster (7+ / 0-)

    The mere existence of a Russian general officer serving as a military adviser to the Syrian Defense minster is not surprising in the least. Such an officer has been assigned to Syria for decades, I presume. That such a person was in Syria is in itself not enough to conclude the Russians are involved deeply.

    The fact that the rebels killed such a Russian officer is of course, big news. How will they react to this I wonder.

    All I am saying is don't get ahead of the story with assumptions.

    •  very astute point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund

      And it's something to keep in mind as we witness the Russian reaction to this.

      That said, the paperwork he had with him could be damning.

      But that sort of thing can also be faked.

      All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

      by subtropolis on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 10:58:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hows does "assigned to Syria for decades..." (0+ / 0-)

      equate to "not enough to conclude that the Russians are deeply involved?"

      American military personnel have been assigned to NATO countries for decades.  That's because we are "deeply involved" with their militaries.

      Do you know why Russian advisors have bees assigned to Syria for decades?  To support, train, and equip the Syrian military.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:31:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Every embassy has a military attaché (0+ / 0-)

        There are US military officers in Syria right now. Does that makwe the USA deeply involved in propping up Assad?

        •  If this was embassy staff, the Russians would howl (0+ / 0-)

          Capturing a member of an embassy staff is a big no-no.

          Also, you might want to look into the issue of Russian relations with Syria.  Syria is a Russian client state, purchasing virtually all of its military equipment from them and hosting a major Russian naval base.  This base dates from the Cold War, when Syria was formally a Soviet ally.  The Assad regime is Russia's most important ally in the region.  This is not something novel that happened in response to Arab Spring, either.

          Here is the Wikipedia page on Russian-Syrian relations, for a quick overview.  It's Wikipedia, but it's a good outline.

          Art is the handmaid of human good.

          by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 07:29:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We don't know what the Russian reaction is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Claudius Bombarnac

            Being as this story just happened.

            I know Syria has a lot of Soviet/Russian equipment. Neither my birth nor the Six Days War happened last night. So that is why the presence of a Russian general officer, in and of itself, is not alarming.

            "Major" Russian naval base. {sigh} If I had a dollar for every time I read that claim here, I could buy - I dunno - a nice steak dinner. The Russians essentially lease a pier in Syria's #2 port city. It hosts some 50 Russian support people. It's a place one or two small ships can dock to get some paint scraped and refuel. It's not too far from saying the Coast Guard station in my Great Lakes home town is a "major" US Navy base.

            That being said it is Russia's only naval toehold outside The Black Sea / Baltic Sea / North Fleet bases so I am sure the Russian Naval brass over-values it. It is safe to assume there is a pro-Assad element in Russian internal politics That does not mean the pro-Assad faction dominates Russian FP.

            We can be sure the Russian Navy does not have that much internal prestige these days. The one warship their Black Sea Fleet was able to get seaworthy long enough to clear the Dardanelles is a 40+ year-old obsolete clunker. It's construction began about a month after that famous Six Days War. So this is the might 21st Century Russian Fleet these days ... the part that has not fulled conveted to iron oxide that is.

            For my money it is reckless to jump from this story to suggesting the Russian military is directly involved in fighting anti-Assad forces. Maybe they are. Maybe they are not. Maybe they have been but will decide Assad is a loser in the long term and then cut him loose.

            I cannot stop you from assuming go ahead if you are determined to do so. All I can do is express my opinion early assumptions are reckless. To me the real story is more interesting than hypothetical scenarios.

            •  It's more "revolting" than "alarming." (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Quicklund

              Russian backing for Syria has been part of the landscape throughout this entire episode, and for years before that.  I suppose you could say that any foreign power backing up a dictator as vicious as Assad against a popular uprising is "alarming" in the sense of being ugly and disreputable, but it's been standard operating procedure for Russia throughout the Syrian uprising.

              Also, your information about the base at Tarsus is outdated.  It's being upgraded and expanded to become a permanent home for nuclear-powered Russian vessels.
              See here.

              Since Russia forgave Syria of three quarters, or $9.6 billion, of its $13.4 billion Soviet-era debt and became its main arms supplier in 2006, it has been reported that Russia and Syria have conducted talks about allowing Russia to develop and enlarge its naval facility, so that Russia can strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean.[6] Amid Russia's deteriorating relations with the West, because of the 2008 South Ossetia War and plans to deploy a US missile defense shield in Poland, President Assad reportedly agreed to the port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.[7] Since 2009, Russia has been renovating the Tartus naval base and dredging the port to allow access for its larger naval vessels.[8]
              On 8 September 2008, it was reported that ten Russian warships docked in Tartus.[9] According to Lebanese-Syrian commentator Joseph Farah, the flotilla which moved to Tartus consisted of the Moskva cruiser and four nuclear missile submarines.[10] An assertion unconfirmed by any other source and clearly beyond the capability of the facility in Tartus. Two weeks later, Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Peter The Great, accompanied by three other ships, sailed from the Northern Fleet's base of Severomorsk. The ships would cover about 15,000 nautical miles (28,000 km) to conduct joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy. Dygalo refused to comment on reports in the daily Izvestia claiming that the ships were to make a stopover in the Syrian port of Tartus on their way to Venezuela. Russian officials said the Soviet-era base there was being renovated to serve as a foothold for a more constant Russian Navy presence in the Mediterranean.[11][12]
              So, no, we're talking about something quite a bit more significant than chipping paint.
              That does not mean the pro-Assad faction dominates Russian FP.
              What are you talking about?  Syria is Russia's closest ally in the MENA region and home to its own overseas naval base.  They've forgiven billions of dollars in debt and sold them billions of dollars in weapons - the ones being used to put down the rebellion, for instance - including sales during the uprising itself.  Look at how much Russia has gone out on a limb for Assad at the UN Security Council, to the point that the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to send them a nasty-gram.  Syria is basically Russia's Israel, and you are willing to allow that there is a pro-Syrian "faction" in the government?

              Now THAT is a hypothetical scenario.

              Art is the handmaid of human good.

              by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 08:35:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'll look into it (3+ / 0-)

                However this flies in the face of a news release earlier this year about the North Sea Fleet flagship which the Russians sailed past Gibraltar earlier this year. It was explicitly stated this ship could not dock at Tartus. IIRC the Smetlivy can.  It is not really surprising the Russians would want all of their (very few) seaworthy vessels to be able to refuel there.

                At any rate I cannot say more than what I have already said. There is no question Russia has cultivated Syria since WWII.  The question is, going forward, how will the Russians decide they can best protect that investment?

                There is much evidence that proves Russian has invested in the Assad regime but that does not prove Russian forces are directly involved against Syrian rebels today. There is more than one way to negotiate a naval base, and I don't pretend to be a better chess player than the Russians. I'll wait to see what happens.

                •  Note that the improvements are not done. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Quicklund

                  As of today, the Tarsus base is still basically what you say.  My point was that Russia had planned on turning it into a mainstay of a modern naval presence in the Med, and had negotiated a deal with the regime.

                  I read somewhere that there is a quiet deal among the involved powers to allow the Russians to keep the base even if the FSA wins.  Wheels within wheels, eh?

                  Art is the handmaid of human good.

                  by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 12:29:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Your selection of Wiki dates back to 2008 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Quicklund

                Here's a more relevant selection.

                Video reporting by Russian TV in late June 2012 provided a tour of the Russian Navy's modest foothold in Tartus. The officer-in-charge conducting the tour said that only four(4) personnel now man the facility and that one of its two floating piers is inoperative because a storm had severely damaged its moorings. The shore facilities comprise a barracks, office space, two medium sized corrugated metal storage buildings, and a covered parking shed for about 5-6 service vehicles. A brief tour of the naval repair vessel then in port and tied to the sole operational pier also showed that it was minimally manned - about 10-12 personel, including the master and chief engineer. There was no mention of potential repairs or facility expansion.
                For REAL updated data on Tartus:
                Russian Naval Base Tartus pdf
                July 31, 2012
                ...
                This backgrounder will describe the technical capabilities of the Russian base at Tartus and its literal significance to the Russian Navy. It will also consider the political opportunities it affords to Russia in the context of the Syrian civil war.
                ...
                However, these are only basic support functions. There is no command and control facility, which means the Russian Navy cannot direct operations from Tartus.10 The harbor depth and pier clearance cannot support the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier; when it pulls into Tartus, it anchors offshore. The aforementioned repair ship PM-138 is actually home-ported in Sevastopol, and it is not permanently available at Tartus.11 Furthermore, crew support facilities
                are limited; commercial imagery indicates that there are no military hospital facilities or barracks, which suggests that base facilities will not support an extended port call at Tartus. The city of Tartus itself, with a population of over 100,000, does have adequate public services available, such as medical facilities, transportation, and hotels, to support Russian Sailors on an extended stay if they are allowed to stay in the city, rather than on the small base at Tartus itself.12
                ...
                Conclusion

                Current Russian activities deviate from the depiction of Tartus as a critical sustainment port supporting the expansion of Russian Naval capability. Instead, they suggest that Russia is using Tartus as a political lever, both to affect the outcome of the Syrian civil war and to maintain legitimate access to a strategically located facility nested in the Arab world....
                ...Curiously, and despite Russian support to the Assad regime thus far, it does not appear that a unified Syrian government is critical to Russia’s interests, nor is Assad personally.
                ...

                •  Note that the link was about planned expansion. (0+ / 0-)

                  Just like the powerful, expeditionary, nuclear-powered, 21st-century Russian navy itself, this is what we call "in the planning stage."

                  Nonetheless, the Russians clearly value the site a great deal.  A Med presence for the Black Sea Fleet has been a core Russian foreign policy goal for centuries, and the deal they struck with the Assad regime was their ticket to that goal.

                  BTW, I read recently that there was a quite deal to allow the Russians to keep the base even if the FSA wins.  Wheels within wheels, eh?

                  Art is the handmaid of human good.

                  by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 12:33:23 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Your analysis is fairly close to reality (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Quicklund

              See my post below.

              •  Thank you for that interesting info (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Claudius Bombarnac

                The Tartus facility is constant referred here on DKos as a "major" naval base but it isn't even a tiny naval base. It is a place Russian Ships can refuel w/o having to go all the way back to Crimea. That is a valuable capability (when Russia manages to get a ship to sea) but it is valuable to Russia only because they have so very little naval capability to begin with.

                Tartus is not a base it is a section of a civilian port. And a rather small section too. That means it is not a HQ facility, as your clip points out. It has no naval stores of note, no barracks, no attached airbase, no drydock, no heavy repair capability, no nothing that makes a true naval base a center of sustained operations.

                I am sure the Russians would like to hold on to it because it is their only trace of a base outside their home waters. But they will not pay just anything for it. And even if Assad falls the Russians should have at worst a 50/50 chance of keeping the lease.

                •  Any new government of Syria would have to (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Quicklund

                  deal with Russia. They have hundreds of billions of dollars of major arms, missiles, radar, aircraft, etc. that need to be serviced. They will not be able to dump and replace this stuff overnight. Of course, if there's an intervention, a lot of it will be destroyed as occurred in Libya.

                  The US is buying Russian helicopters for use by the new Afghan forces because they have the service facilities and trained pilots for them. Note: that congress voted it down but it will come up again or be done covertly through a third country.

                  Libya is going for all new armaments from the west. NATO pretty well cleaned out the old Russian stuff.

                  •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Claudius Bombarnac

                    Everything you say makes sense. There is a lot of investment in Soviet/Russian systems and that takes a long time to change even if change is desired.

                    I am pretty darn sure the newer members of NATO are still operating substantial amounts of Soviet-built hardware. e.g  The Czech Republic still has hundreds of Soviet APCs. To someone who grew up in the Cold War that's still a bit of a mind warp.

                    I hadn't heard about the Libyan purchases so thank you for passing that along. That's not too surprising. I gathered (during the uprising news) that Ghaddafi hadn't really kept his forces too well maintained even before all the fighting broke out. And of course NATO salesmen were probably the first ones putting a foot in the door.

                    •  The deals haven't been finalized yet except (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Quicklund

                      for a contract to refurbish a dozen Mirage jets that had been grounded due to lack of maintenance. It was a "window shopping" trip by Osama al-Juwali, the ex commander of the Zintan brigades who is now defense minister in Libya. The French tried to sell 14 new Rafales. There's also talks about refurbishing the airbases.

                      War is a damn good business model. You get money to destroy then you even more to rebuild. Too bad so many have to lose their lives in the process.

  •  Or it could just be a Russian diplomat (0+ / 0-)

    I guess we will have to wait for additional confirmation.  I assume that other Russian diplomats are in Syria.

    "It looks like how music sounds." --My four year old nephew upon looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time

    by Mote Dai on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 07:53:31 PM PDT

  •  Except that I can't find any Russian general with (0+ / 0-)

    this name.

  •  I don't think Putin's gonna like that. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    subtropolis

    he's a bit.. touchy.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 08:08:26 PM PDT

  •  Been trying to get some analysis of this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldliberal, joe from Lowell

    FSA seems to be going to great lengths to make this credible, posting his pictures, documents...

    Can't find anything on this guy, but translating names from Arabic to English to Cyrillic and back to English would make C-3PO's circuits fry.

    Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/ZeddRebel

    by TarantinoDork on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 08:13:44 PM PDT

  •  looks legit to me (0+ / 0-)

    My first thought was that a defector had given up his location. He says the operation occurred in "the western Ghouta" which would be the farmland to the west of and behind the palace, north of al-Mazzeh military base. My bet would be that they staked the location and got the general in transit.

    It may even be that the information they received was from other than a defecting Syrian. The snakes he refers to are apparently the outsiders from Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. And then he makes the point that "he who warns is excused". More likely that was meant for the sake of Syrians contemplating switching sides, though.

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 10:52:30 PM PDT

    •  when your pm defect & says he's been in contact (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, joe from Lowell

      with the FSA for months, and you know there are a lot of "defections in place" you have cause to be paranoid. The FSA clearly is operating with better intel than the regime.

      Qaddafi managed to get some moles pretty well placed in the rebel army, so far I haven't heard that about the FSA and they seem to know what they are doing in Aleppo.

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 11:00:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  lessons learned (0+ / 0-)

        I loved the part about the PM having been friendly all this time. The Assads have to be crapping their pants right now. And any non-Allawite, too. Because when the paranoia ramps up, look out. FSA is winning the psychological game, for sure. The defection of the PM was a big deal.

        Big, but still not necessarily a game-changer. What i want to know is where's Maher Assad? When he's eliminated, you can stick a fork in it.

        (I'd love for them to take that fucker alive.)

        All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

        by subtropolis on Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 11:37:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome quote from Iranian government: (0+ / 0-)

    A senior aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:

    "Those who believe that, by developing insecurity in the countries of the region by sending arms and exporting terrorism, they are buying security for themselves are wrong," Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling Adnan Mansour, Lebanon's foreign minister.
    OK, first of all, we have a top-level official of the government that sends rocketry and other weapons to Hezbollah and the Syrian government - and which does so for the purpose of strengthening their regional sway - saying that sending arms and exporting terrorism is a bad strategy.

    But just to make the irony especially awesome, he says this to whom?  To the Lebanese Foreign Minister.

    Ooh, please Mr. Iranian diplomat, tell me more about the problem with exporting arms and terrorism as a security strategy!

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:18:57 AM PDT

  •  Of course... (3+ / 0-)

    Russia denies that Kojyev / Kuzheyev was killed, and indeed held a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Moscow at which reserve officer Vladimir Kuzheyev appeared "alive and well," countering what the Ministry terms the FSA's "bald-faced lie."

    Truth is elusive, and a suspicion that the FSA is telling the truth is perhaps not sufficient to represent their narrative as "breaking news." What's more important, Clay? To be first, or to be correct?

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:52:40 AM PDT

  •  Why stop there? (3+ / 0-)

    Maybe there's an Austrian archduke available to be killed?

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 07:10:24 AM PDT

  •  "Kuzheyev", "Kojyev" same name. (2+ / 0-)

    “Kuzheyev” and “Kojyev” could easily be different transliterations of one and the same surname.  (“J” is used in French to represent the “zh” sound of Cyrillic “zh”, or ж.)

    The omission of the patronymic “Petrovich” (“son of Pyotr”) means nothing.  The poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, for example, can also be called just Aleksandr Pushkin.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 01:26:49 PM PDT

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