News Briefs – May 29, 2020

Russia to hold World War II victory parade on June 24

Russia will hold a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the defeat over Nazi Germany in World War II on June 24, after the celebration was postponed from May because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement May 26 during a video conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and ordered the ministry to start preparing for the event.
“We will do this … on the day of the legendary, historical victory parade in 1945,” Putin said.
The parade traditionally takes place every year on May 9, Russia’s most important holiday. Thousands gather in Moscow, including elderly veterans proudly wearing their medals. This year, it was supposed to highlight Russia’s exception role in history and on the world stage, with leaders like France’s Emmanuel Macron and India’s Narendra Modi promising to attend.
Last month, however, Putin postponed the commemorations, citing virus concerns.
“The risks linked to the epidemic that hasn’t yet reached its peak are extremely high, and that doesn’t give me the right to start preparations for the parade,” Russian president said in televised remarks on April 16.
On May 26, Putin noted that, “according to specialists,” Russia has passed the peak of the outbreak. He tasked Shoigu with ensuring safety at the event and minimizing risks of infection. AP

Military helicopter crash-lands in Russia, kills 4 on board

A Russian military helicopter crash-landed on an airfield May 26 in the far eastern region of Chukotka, killing four people, the military said.
The crash involving a Mi-8 helicopter may have been caused by a technical malfunction, the Defense Ministry said. Three crew members and a technician on board died in the crash, according to the governor of Chukotka, Roman Kopin.
It’s the second fatal incident with a military Mi-8 helicopter in a week. On May 19, another Mi-8 crash-landed near the town of Klin, 56 miles from Moscow, killing all three crew members.
Officials said at the time that crash was probably caused by a technical malfunction.
The Mi-8 is a multipurpose, medium twin-turbine helicopter, originally designed in the Soviet Union and now produced by Russia. It is one of the most common helicopters in the Russian armed forces. AP

Russia says U.S. leaving overflight treaty will hurt security

Russia said May 26 that the U.S. decision to withdraw from an international treaty allowing observation flights over military facilities would erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations.
President Donald Trump last week announced Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party. Russia denied breaching the pact, which came into force in 2002, and the European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider.
The accord was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing its more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities.
The treaty “helps deescalate the situation and avoid a wrong interpretation of the parties’ military intentions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. It called the pact a “major instrument of cooperation between the militaries that helps boost mutual trust.”
“The less openness, the less trust, and consequently, security,” the statement said.
The Foreign Ministry said that while an extensive fleet of spy satellites could help the U.S. compensate for a lack of observation flights if it withdraws from the Open Skies Treaty, the interests of the accord’s remaining participants would be hurt and security in Europe would therefore suffer.
The foreign ministries of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said last week they would continue to implement the accord as “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that was created over the past decades in order to improve transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.”
They called on Russia to lift flight restrictions, notably over its westernmost Kaliningrad region, which lies between NATO allies Lithuania and Poland. Of the 10 countries, Finland and Sweden are not NATO members.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued that the limits on flights over Kaliningrad were permissable under the treaty’s terms. Lavrov asserted that the U.S. has imposed more sweeping restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.
Moscow hasn’t said whether it would stay in the pact if Washington withdraws. The Russian government intends to “take a well-balanced approach to the situation based on our national interests,” Lavrov said. AP

Top lawmaker denies that Russia sent warplanes to Libya

A senior Russian lawmaker on Wednesday strongly rejected the U.S. military’s claim that Russia has deployed fighter jets to Libya to support east-based forces in their offensive on the capital, Tripoli.
Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian air force chief who heads the defense committee in the upper house of parliament, dismissed the claim by the U.S. Africa Command as “stupidity.”
“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” he said.
The U.S. Africa Command said May 26 the Russian military aircraft arrived in Libya recently from an airbase in Russia via Syria, where they were repainted to hide their Russian origin. AFRICOM did not say exactly how many aircraft were transferred or when exactly they arrived in Libya.
AFRICOM said the aircraft were likely to provide close air support and offensive fire for the Wagner Group, a Russia-based state-sponsored company that employs mercenaries to fight alongside the eastern forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter.
Bondarev noted that several African nations operate MiG-29 fighter jets — the warplanes of the type seen on a Libyan airfield in images released by AFRICOM.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country is now split between a government in the east allied with Hifter and one in Tripoli, in the west, supported by the United Nations. AP

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