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June 7, 2013

News Briefs June 7, 2013

Putin: Navy in Mediterranean not saber-rattling

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will permanently keep a navy squadron in the Mediterranean Sea to protect its interests.

Speaking at a June 6 meeting with the military brass, Putin said the move shouldn’t be interpreted as saber-rattling. He said the Mediterranean is a ìstrategically important region, where we have interests connected with ensuring Russia’s national security.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov said Russian squadron currently deployed to the area consists of 16 navy ships. The Defense Ministry said it would regularly rotate them to keep a constant presence of about a dozen ships.

Russia has a navy base in the Syrian port of Tartus, the only such outpost outside the ex-Soviet Union, and its ships have been making regular visits to the Mediterranean in a show of support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. AP

Lawmakers press forward on sexual assault bill

Lawmakers are pressing forward with legislation aimed at stemming an epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.

The House is scheduled to vote next week on a defense policy bill that would take away the power of military commanders to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases.

The legislation also would require that anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.

The measures were approved late June 5 by the House Armed Services Committee, setting the stage for the full House vote.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee expressed outrage over the Defense Department’s inability to eradicate sexual assaults in the ranks and overwhelmingly supported the provisions. AP

Judge accepts soldier’s pleas in Afghan massacre

A military judge has accepted an American soldier’s guilty plea in the killing of 16 Afghan civilians during nighttime raids on two villages last year.

SSgt. Robert Bales’ pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple counts of murder at a hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle.

The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, later accepted the pleas, ensuring Bales will avoid the death penalty. A jury will decide in August whether Bales gets a sentence of life with or without the possibility of parole.

Bales was charged in the March 2012 attacks on two villages near the remote base in southern Afghanistan where he was posted. Most of the victims were women and children, and some of the bodies were burned. AP

Spain seeks U.S. help to slim down overweight sub

A new, Spanish-designed submarine has a weighty problem: The vessel is more than 70 tons too heavy, and officials fear if it went out to sea, it would not be able to surface.

A U.S. Navy contractor in Connecticut, Electric Boat, has signed a deal to help the Spanish Defense Ministry find ways to slim down the 2,200-ton submarine.

The first in Spain’s new class of diesel-electric submarines was nearly completed when engineers discovered the problem. Former Spanish Defense Ministry official Rafael Bardaji says the shipbuilder, Navantia, explained that the problem was caused by a miscalculation _ someone apparently putting a decimal point in the wrong place.

A $14 million contract calls for Groton, Conn.,-based Electric Boat to assess the problem and the scope of the work needed to fix it. AP




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