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Offbeat After Skripal murder, concerns for Russian defectors in the U.S.

13:06  10 august  2018
13:06  10 august  2018 Source:   nbcnews.com

Moscow: UN investigating the killing of 3 Russian reporters

  Moscow: UN investigating the killing of 3 Russian reporters Officials in Moscow say U.N. representatives are helping investigate the killing of three Russian journalists in Central African Republic. The reporters were ambushed and killed on Monday outside the town of Sibut. They were investigating a Russian private security company that was operating in CAR as well as Russian ties to the local mining industry. The project was funded by exiled opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a long-time foe of President Vladimir Putin.

He had been helping a Swiss investigation into a Russian money-laundering scheme linked to the Kremlin, and there is speculation that he might have been murdered . Bailey visited the Salisbury home of Skripal after he and Yulia were found slumped on a bench in the city centre.

Critics say the British authorities took only modest countermeasures after Russian agents poisoned a “We shall not tolerate such a brazen act to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” the prime minister said. Whatever Mr. Skripal may have once done, he said, he posed no threat to Russia now.

Image: Emergency officials work at the scene of an investigation in SalisburyEmergency workers in hazard suits place a tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, England, on March 8, 2018. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Emergency officials work at the scene of an investigation in SalisburyEmergency workers in hazard suits place a tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, England, on March 8, 2018.

WASHINGTON — If Russia was brazen enough to kill with a chemical weapon on British soil, could it happen in the United States?

Heightened concern spurred by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England is prompting U.S. national security officials to consider seriously the prospect of a similar attack, current and former officials said. As the Trump administration punishes Moscow with more sanctions, the U.S. is taking a renewed look at how best to protect Russian defectors, dissidents and other émigrés, as well as how to respond if a military-grade nerve agent were ever deployed on American soil.

Trump administration to hit Russia with new sanctions for Skripal poisoning

  Trump administration to hit Russia with new sanctions for Skripal poisoning The administration has signed off on a determination that Russia violated international law, triggering new U.S. sanctions.WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is hitting Russia with new sanctions punishing President Vladimir Putin's government for using a chemical weapon against an ex-spy in Britain, U.S. officials told NBC News Wednesday.

On 4 March 2018, Sergei Skripal , a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK' s intelligence services, and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England

After Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian defector , was murdered in London in 2006, politicians such as Theresa May, home secretary from 2010 to 2016, failed forcefully to pursue the state-sponsored Russian perpetrators, even after their identity was known. The people who attacked Skripal may

So far, nothing of the sort has taken place, and even most Russia critics doubt that President Vladimir Putin would take such an extraordinary risk. Still, though Putin's government vehemently denies any involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the U.S. has pointed the finger squarely at Russia, which has been accused of killing targets on foreign soil more than once.

The Salisbury attack in March also coincides with other recent actions inside the U.S. that were similarly audacious, including intricate influence operations in both the 2016 and 2018 elections and a hack of the U.S. energy grid. The federal government has attributed all of those to Russia.

"If you think the Russians are trying to be good neighbors, this is the kind of thing they still do," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in an interview this month with NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell. "Russians do bold things and extraordinary things."

This Russian Spy Agency Is in the Middle of Everything

  This Russian Spy Agency Is in the Middle of Everything Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU, is getting blamed for all sorts of things these days. Robert Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers for hacking into computers of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The GRU allegedly was behind the recent poisonings of four people in Britain, including former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who survived, and a woman accidentally exposed to the powerful nerve agent used, who died. The 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine has been laid at the door of the GRU.

The former mole was slow to recover; a month after the attack, Skripal and his daughter were said to be out of danger. But while Moscow has “always sought to locate Russian defectors in the U . S . and Britain,” fellow agency Russia hand John Sipher says, it also “attempts to lure them back to Russia ”

Moscow also shuts down all activities of British Council in retaliatory move after expulsion of Russian diplomats. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’ s Today programme, Tugendhat said: “We should be absolutely clear – none of the 23 British diplomats being expelled have been involved in the attempted murder

There are dozens of defectors from Russia and the former Soviet Union currently living in the U.S. who already enjoy protection by the CIA and are believed to be high on the Russian government's list of potential targets. The defector program has been active since the CIA's earliest days and was authorized by Congress.

The CIA can bring up to 100 people into the U.S. per fiscal year under that program, although officials wouldn't say how many have actually been brought in. The U.S. intelligence community takes responsibility for their relocation and security needs, through the CIA's National Resettlement Operations Center.

But that program is geared toward ex-government officials or intelligence assets who provide information to the U.S. intelligence community. It doesn't cover political dissidents, government critics and others who don't meet the definition of "defectors" but could still find themselves in danger in the U.S. because of their perceived risk to a foreign government.

Russia calls new U.S. sanctions draconian, rejects poisoning allegations

  Russia calls new U.S. sanctions draconian, rejects poisoning allegations Russia's embassy in the United States on Thursday called new U.S. sanctions draconian and said the reason for the new restrictions -- allegations it poisoned a former spy and his daughter in Britain -- were far-fetched. The United States on Wednesday announced it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia after Washington determined Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain.

“The Russians have always sought to locate Russian defectors in the U . S . and Britain, and attempt to lure them back to Russia if possible,” fellow CIA veteran and Russia hand John Sipher told Newsweek. And why Skripal , the defector asked?

Russia ’ s long history of liquidating defectors and enemies of the state is ruining its reputation. The grave of murdered Even after British Prime Minister Theresa May’ s statements on Wednesday about the attempted assassination of former GRU agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, many questions

Former U.S. national security officials said the list of assumed Kremlin enemies in the U.S. is long, but that the government doesn't offer most of them any special protections. It's left to the FBI and other law enforcement and national security agencies to investigate specific threats as they emerge.

The renewed look at dissidents' safety comes as Trump critics and Russia hawks argue that the president has emboldened Putin through his reluctance to challenge the Russian leader for his country's aggressive actions overseas.

Asked earlier this year about Putin's authoritarian government, Trump said: "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

The killing of three Russian journalists late last month in the Central African Republic has further raised concerns about the safety of Russians overseas. The journalists were investigating a private security firm with reported Russian connections operating in Africa. The circumstances surrounding the ambush are still unclear.

Yet in the Skripal case, the Trump administration did ultimately act. As NBC News first reported, this week it slapped sanctions on Moscow for violating international law by using a chemical weapon overseas. Those sanctions are designed to deter any additional attacks: they include a second round of penalties that kick in after three months if Russia doesn't make reliable assurances it won't use chemical weapons again and allow in international inspectors.

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It is still unknown whether Sergei Skripal , a Russian military intelligence officer turned British espionage asset, was poisoned in his new home town of Salisbury. It’ s also not surprising that Moscow’ s hand is being seen in the incident, given not only the murder of defector Alexander

UK Prime Minister Theresa May says Russia was "highly likely" responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. He was granted refuge in the UK after a high-profile spy exchange between the United States and Russia in 2010.

Image: Officials bag samples after swabbing railings near the Maltings shopping centerOfficials bag samples after swabbing railings near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, England, on March 16, 2018, as investigations continue following the death of Sergei Skripal. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Officials bag samples after swabbing railings near the Maltings shopping centerOfficials bag samples after swabbing railings near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, England, on March 16, 2018, as investigations continue following the death of Sergei Skripal.

"We once again reject in the strongest terms any accusations in the context of a possible involvement of the Russian state with what happened in Salisbury," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after the U.S. rolled out the sanctions Wednesday.

U.S. officials said the difficulty in keeping potential targets safe increases when a public spotlight is cast on their situation, such as by a high-profile case like the Skripal poisonings. They also emphasized the need for better preparedness and training for the complicated emergency management and counterterror scenario that would play out if a chemical agent were ever deployed in a U.S. city as it was in Salisbury. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss security concerns.

Skripal, a former Russian military officer convicted of spying for Britain, and his daughter were poisoned in March with Novichok, a Cold War-era creation of the former Soviet Union. The Trump administration joined the U.K. and other countries in blaming Moscow. Two others in the U.K. were later exposed to the poison, including one who died, in an incident British authorities say they believe is linked to the Skripal attack.

Kremlin 'pleased' with Helsinki summit, US and Western intelligence assesses

  Kremlin 'pleased' with Helsinki summit, US and Western intelligence assesses Russian officials were "pleased" with the Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, US and Western intelligence agencies have found, according to two intelligence sources with knowledge of the assessments. The assessments, based on a broad range of intelligence, indicate that the Kremlin believes the July 16 summit delivered a better outcome than it had expected, but that Moscow is perplexed that Trump is not delivering more Russia-friendly policies in its aftermath.

The name was given to a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in a covert programme that was revealed by defectors . Sceptics have questioned why the Russian government would seek to murder Mr Skripal after previously jailing him for treason and agreeing to hand him over to the

After chairing a meeting of the national security council, the prime minister told MPs that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. She warned that Britain would not tolerate such a “brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil”.

Asked about security concerns post-Salisbury, the FBI said it was working with federal, state and local law enforcement "to assess intelligence around any potential threats to public safety," adding that people should be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity. The CIA and the White House declined to comment.

The Skipral poisoning, though shocking in its potential exposure of the public to a chemical agent, was far from the first time over the years that Russian government critics have been poisoned in Europe, and especially in the U.K. Among the more prominent cases is Alexander Litvinenko, another ex-spy and dissident who died in 2006 after drinking radioactive tea in London.

IMAGE: Alexander Litvinenko in a London hospital bed shortly before his death in 2006.Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in a London hospital bed shortly before his death in 2006. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC IMAGE: Alexander Litvinenko in a London hospital bed shortly before his death in 2006.Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in a London hospital bed shortly before his death in 2006.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition figure and democracy activist, has been poisoned twice — both times while in Russia, he said. Although he travels back and forth, he considers the U.S. the safest place for his family, given that there haven't been the kind of attacks in the U.S. that have occurred elsewhere.

Yet the reminders of the risk are frequent. A few months ago, Kara-Murza said, Russian state television showed viewers his family's home address in the United States.

"Generally, I hesitate to say I feel safe anywhere. We've known for a long time that opposing Putin is a dangerous vocation to engage in," Kara-Murza told NBC News. "But if there is a safe place on this earth, I think it is the United States."

Bolton to meet with Russian counterpart in Switzerland next week

  Bolton to meet with Russian counterpart in Switzerland next week National security adviser John Bolton will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, next week to meet with his Russian counterpart, the White House announced Tuesday. The meeting will serve as a follow-up to last month's summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bolton and his counterpart will discuss a "range of important national security issues," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

London (CNN) British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament on Monday that it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Eight days after the Skripals collapsed, Prime Minister Theresa May identified the poison as Novichok, developed in the last years of the Soviet Union. The second element was evidence that Russia had publicly stated its intent to assassinate defectors living abroad.

Russia argues that recurring allegations that its operatives are responsible for overseas assassinations are spurious and intended to provoke anti-Russian sentiment in the West. But U.S. spy agencies have long considered the threat to be well-founded.

A CIA report on KGB methods compiled in 1964, not released publicly until 1993, said it had "long been known that the Soviet state security service (currently the KGB) resorts to abduction and murder to combat what are considered to be actual or potential threats to the Soviet regime." Difficult-to-trace poisons were a favored method, the report said.

In 1987, then-CIA Director William Webster told a Senate hearing that defectors faced harassment from Soviet officials, both in the U.S. and against any family still back in the Soviet Union, intended to limit their movement, discourage them from helping the U.S. government, persuade them to "re-defect" back to the Soviet Union or recruit them as double agents. Webster told senators that the Soviets' "greatest interest is in those who can do them the most harm."

Image: Army Officers remove bench at the centre of Skripal poisioning caseArmy officers remove the bench on March 23 where Sergi Skripal and his daughter were found in Salisbury, England, on March 4. © Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Army Officers remove bench at the centre of Skripal poisioning caseArmy officers remove the bench on March 23 where Sergi Skripal and his daughter were found in Salisbury, England, on March 4.

Russia says U.S. sanctions over North Korea risk undermining peace process .
Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that fresh sanctions, imposed by the United States against a Russian firm and an individual over North Korea, may undermine peace process in the Korean peninsula. In a statement, the ministry also said that Washington "is not aware" of how the "utmost pressure" on Pyongyang is "fraught with danger".On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on a Russian port service agency and Chinese firms for aiding North Korean ships and selling alcohol and tobacco to Pyongyang in breach of U.S. sanctions."The destructive U.S.' tactics, pursued beyond the framework of the U.N.

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