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The News And Times Blog

Essential questions about the Russia-Hamas link: The evidence and its implications … War on Gaza: Hillary Clinton says Netanyahu ‘absolutely needs to go’ … The legacy of Russia’s Wagner will live on … The big problem with Tucker Carlson’s hyped Putin interview


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As the war in Gaza continues to unfold, essential questions about Russian and Iranian support for Hamas remain. They include whether Russia played any role in providing support to Hamas ahead of its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Evidence available from foreign-language publications in Russian, Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, as well as those in English, provides provocative leads, which, if accurate, have serious potential implications. 

 

Essential questions about the Russia-Hamas link: The evidence and its implications
As the war in Gaza continues to unfold, essential questions about Russian and Iranian support for Hamas remain. They include whether Russia played any role in providing support to Hamas ahead of its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Evidence available from foreign-language publications in Russian, Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, as well as those in English, provides…
 

War on Gaza: Hillary Clinton says Netanyahu ‘absolutely needs to go’
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should go” over his handling of the war in Gaza.  The former presidential candidate and first lady, speaking during an interview on MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight, blamed Netanyahu for the oversights that led to the Hamas-led attack on 7 October. “Netanyahu…
 

The big problem with Tucker Carlson’s hyped Putin interview
Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow should have been a big win for both of them.For Putin, it was a chance to explain his justification for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to a sympathetic voice in American conservatism, just as congressional Republicans are considering whether to approve a Ukrainian aid package….
 

What did Vladimir Putin say to Tucker Carlson? Five key takeaways
On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin spent two hours being quizzed by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in a highly anticipated TV interview. The interview took place just ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and at a time when United States politicians are pushing to restore military funding to Ukraine.list of 3 itemslist…
 

Зеленский отправил в отставку главкома ВСУ Валерия Залужного. Новым главнокомандующим назначен Александр Сырский
Владимир Зеленский отправил в отставку главкома ВСУ Валерия Залужного. Новым главнокомандующим Вооруженных сил Украины назначен командующий Сухопутными войсками генерал-полковник Александр Сырский. Об этом президент Украины написал в своем телеграм-канале. “Встретился с генералом Валерием Залужным. Поблагодарил за два года защиты Украины. Обсудили,…
 

Putin Assures Jewish Leaders On Hostages Held By Hamas; ‘Specific Results Achieved…’ | Watch
Published on Feb 08, 2024 02:14 PM IST Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is working on freeing hostages held in captivity by Hamas in Gaza. Putin said this after meeting Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, and the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities, Alexander Boroda, in the Kremlin. Putin claimed that Moscow…
 

Why are EU and US unable to reconcile Yerevan and Baku? Analysis
The Western stance The Karabakh conflict risks falling into oblivion, and this, at least, does not contradict the interests of the West in the South Caucasus region. Taking over the role of the main moderator of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Brussels aimed to construct the entire dialogue based primarily on the principle of the countries’…
 

South Caucasus Turns Away From Russia Toward Middle East
Rapid geopolitical change is curtailing Russian power in the South Caucasus, boosting the influence of Middle Eastern countries and bookending the region’s “post-Soviet” history. The South Caucasus is undergoing a geopolitical transformation. The war in Ukraine and the effective resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan…
 

Azerbaijan: Election over, Aliyev faces reputational challenge abroad
Azerbaijan’s snap presidential election has exacerbated an authoritarian conundrum for the incumbent, Ilham Aliyev. In moving to cement his legacy at home as Azerbaijan’s unifier and builder of a modern state, he has inflicted additional damage to his country’s image abroad, as reflected by a deepening feud with the Council of Europe. Aliyev cruised…
 

Putin says Russia is working to free hostages in Gaza conflict
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with government members via a video link in Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2024. Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Pool via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights, opens new tabFeb 7 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin told leaders of Russia’s Jewish community on Wednesday that Moscow had achieved “specific results”…
 

Hillary Clinton reacts to announcement Carlson will interview Putin: He’s a ‘useful idiot’
Skip to content Hillary Clinton reacted to conservative commentator Tucker Carlson’s recent announcement that he had secured an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling the former Fox News pundit a “useful idiot” In an interview with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, the former first lady appeared unsurprised by the news and highlighted…
 

Israeli Hostages and Their Families Pay the Price for Netanyahu and Gallant’s Boasting – Israel News – Haaretz.com
Haaretz | Israel NewsAnalysis | Even if the prime minister and defense minister aim to weaken Hamas’ standing in the negotiation, their endless talk about Hamas leaders’ assassination seems to have replaced actionsRavit HechtFeb 7, 2024 4:56 pm ISTGet email notification for articles from Ravit Hecht FollowFeb 7, 2024 4:56 pm ISTRavit HechtGet email…
 

Putin says Russia is working to free hostages in Gaza conflict
President Vladimir Putin told leaders of Russia’s Jewish community on Wednesday that Moscow had achieved “specific results” in diplomatic efforts to free hostages caught up in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, Russian news agencies reported.<< Follow Ynetnews on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok >>The agencies said Putin made the comments…
 

Netanyahu: Anyone would say ‘no’ to Hamas’s terms for Gaza hostage deal
Israel won’t accept Hamas’s latest terms for a hostage deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Wednesday but he did not rule out continued negotiations for an acceptable agreement to secure the release of the remaining 136 hostages held in the enclave“From what I saw, even you would say no” to Hamas’s offer, Netanyahu told the reporter…
 

Gaza and the end of Israeli invincibility: MEMO in Conversation with Daniel Levy
On 6 October 2023, Israeli leaders were feeling confident of their international standing. Normalisation with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and talks in the air about impending normalisation with Saudi Arabia. The Palestinian issue seemed forgotten, the status quo allowed Tel Aviv to close Gaza off from the world, settlers to steal more land…
 

Turkey and Azerbaijan are the new masters of the South Caucasus
Armenia lost Nagorno-Karabakh, but the regional ambitions of Azerbaijan supported by Turkey may mean that the worst is not over for Yerevan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (L) shake hands in Dubai on December 1, 2023. © Getty Images × Turkey and Azerbaijan are the undisputed leaders in the South Caucasus…
 

Israel kills head of Hamas police’s special forces in Rafah – report
A Hamas police vehicle was struck in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah on Wednesday evening in what Palestinian media reported as a targeted assassination by the IDF.According to the reports, Hamas police’s special forces head, Majdi Abd al-Aal, was killed in the suspected attack.דיווח: חוסל מג’די עבד אלעאל, מפקד הכוחות המיוחדים של משטרת רפיח בחמאס! pic.twitter.com/6G4zAx94Sm—…
 

The legacy of Russia’s Wagner will live on
The rise and fall of mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin offers intriguing insight into the dangerous state of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A man sits near the grave of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash, at Porokhovskoye Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on August 30, 2023. © Getty Images × The war in Ukraine threatens to undermine…
 

Chuck Schumer to push stripped-down Israel and Ukraine aid package after GOP blocks Senate border bill
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told Senate Democrats he plans to force a vote Wednesday on an Israel and Ukraine aid package stripped of border security provisions after Republicans made clear they would block a move to take up the entire bipartisan border security and foreign aid bill in the afternoon, a Senate Democratic aide told NBC News.If…
 

Kremlin Cronies: Putin-Tucker Interview Will ‘Blow Up’ U.S. Election
Tucker Carlson’s trip to Russia came as a shock to many, except for the Russian propagandists who have been lobbying for the fulfillment of his long-standing wish to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. In recent years, the head of RT Margarita Simonyan pleaded with the Kremlin to make appropriate arrangements, and state TV host Vladimir Solovyov…
 

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As the war in Gaza continues to unfold, essential questions about Russian and Iranian support for Hamas remain. They include whether Russia played any role in providing support to Hamas ahead of its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Evidence available from foreign-language publications in Russian, Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, as well as those in English, provides provocative leads, which, if accurate, have serious potential implications. 

A long courtship

Russia has maintained a relationship with Hamas for more than 17 years, since the group’s leaders visited Moscow in March 2006, just weeks after taking power in the Gaza Strip. 

In the ensuing years, President Vladimir Putin repeatedly invited Hamas’ political and military leadership back to the Russian capital. Hamas officials and commanders secured high-level meetings with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Russia’s special envoy for the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, among others. 

Bogdanov’s role in the link between Russia-Hamas is central. He has been in charge of the relationship on a day-to-day basis for many years, regularly meeting its leaders in Moscow and Qatar. Bogdanov has also been entrusted by Putin to undertake sensitive diplomatic missions with China, among other major actors, to support Russia’s Mideast policies.

Russian talks with terrorists and Hamas political leaders

Hamas officials who have met regularly with Bogdanov over the years include its political leaders, such as former longtime head Khaled Meshaal; his successor, Ismail Haniyeh, a U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist; and Moussa Mohammed Abu Marzouk, a senior member of Hamas’ political bureau who previously served as its deputy chair under Meshaal. They also include senior members of Hamas’ military leadership, such as Husam Badran and Saleh al-Arouri. Badran formerly led Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank, where he planned suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, including the infamous 2001 Dolphinarium discotheque massacre in Tel Aviv, which killed 21 young Israelis. Al-Arouri, characterized by the Israeli government’s public intelligence center as number two in Hamas overall, founded its military wing and directs the group’s military and terrorist activities. He also notably has close, long-standing ties with Iran.

The U.S. Treasury Department first listed al-Arouri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in September 2015, after he took responsibility for a June 12, 2014, terrorist attack that kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, including dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Naftali Fraenkel. In 2018, the U.S. State Department offered to pay a $5 million reward to anyone who brought him to justice to face trial for his crimes, including several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings.

Thus Russia has not limited itself to building a relationship with Hamas’ political leaders. Its lengthy diplomatic courtship of Hamas has included regular contacts with military leaders who have long histories directing terrorist attacks that have killed civilians.

Tighter Russian-Iranian operational relations

Russia has simultaneously built a close working relationship with Iran and its military and terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with increasingly tight financial, military, as well as political ties. Since the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, Iran and Russia have responded to U.S. sanctions with a program to “dump the dollar” and to connect bank-to-bank using SPRS, the Russian counterpart of the financial messaging system SWIFT, utilized by the rest of the world, with the goal of sanctions busting and intensifying their mutual economic ties. By January 2023, Russia had become the largest foreign investor in Iran, putting $2.7 billion into Iranian manufacturing, mining, and transport sectors, according to Ehsan Khandouzi, the country’s finance minister.

On the military side, two weeks before Hamas carried out its brutal Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu traveled to Tehran to meet with Iran’s top security official, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, as well as the head of the IRGC air force, Amirali Hajizadeh, to inspect Iranian-built drones and missile- and air-defense systems. During his visit, Shoigu stated that Tehran and Moscow had worked for months on long-term military cooperation, with “serious military and defense dimensions” and “an entire range of planned activities, despite opposition from the United States and its Western allies.” 

Iran’s pre-attack meeting with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Just as conspicuously, on Sept. 1, 2023, five weeks before Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, the group’s military leader, al-Arouri, traveled to Beirut to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, another long-time Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The PIJ’s longtime openly stated goal is the destruction of Israel.

Since its inception, the PIJ has carried out numerous terrorist attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets. According to the website maintained by the Iranian foreign ministry, at the Beirut meeting, the Iranian foreign minister and the two terrorist leaders agreed to work together on joint action to carry out what they called “the complete defeat of the Zionist regime” with “the formation of a single Palestinian state in all of historical Palestine.”

Critical Hamas-Russian meetings in Moscow

Against this backdrop, it becomes easier to decode the possible substance of important meetings that took place between Russian and Hamas leaders on March 16, 2023, in Moscow, held just days after Hamas received an invitation from Russia. The timing of those meetings is significant, coming one year after the re-invasion of Ukraine and the burgeoning imposition of Western sanctions on Russia and six and a half months before Hamas’ attack on Israel. So why did Russia decide to convene it there and then?

At those meetings, first Lavrov and then Bogdanov met with two of Hamas’ most significant leaders, political head Marzouk and military commander al-Arouri. Coming out of the talks, the top Hamas officials made statements consistent with Russia promising to support Hamas in changing the status quo with Israel. Al-Arouri was quoted stating the Moscow trip “was an important visit [for Hamas] that highlights the role of the movement with many global actors,” in which the Hamas “delegation affirmed its legitimate right to armed resistance [emphasis added] in order to confront the Israeli occupation and continued Israeli violence and oppression of Palestinians.” In response, Bogdanov reportedly emphasized Russia’s “unwavering support” for the rights of the Palestinian people.

After the meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov, Marzouk described the visit on Hamas’ website as “different from its predecessors” since the “[special] military operation in Ukraine [the Russian regime’s term for the war] caused special confusion in the world and in the international system.” 

One possible explanation: this time was different because, in the context of its stalled invasion of Ukraine, Russia had agreed to help Hamas, with the strategic purpose of opening up a costly second front for Western states supporting Ukraine. Now, the West would simultaneously have to support Israel at both military and political cost, especially vis-à-vis the Western countries’ relations with the Global South.

The evidence not only documents Russia’s long-term political support of Hamas, which it does not recognize as a terrorist group, but the meetings with Hamas and Iran also offer circumstantial evidence of engagement on the military side, as reflected by the suggestive timing of the March 16 Moscow meetings with Hamas convened by the Kremlin, and Shoigu’s meeting with Iran just ahead of the Hamas attack. 

The possible use of Russian proxies to assist Hamas

Did the Russian government directly, or indirectly, through proxies — Iran, Syria, or others — provide weapons, military training, financial support, terrorist finance facilitation, or the provision of intelligence and/or strategic or tactical advice to Hamas ahead of its brutal Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel? Could the Russian government even have provided Hamas implicit or explicit approval for the attack before it occurred?

Below is some of what is known to date. Taken together, the datapoints command attention.

Evidence of Hamas’ access to Russian-origin weapons and technology

For years, Hamas fighters have relied on Russian weapons, for example Kornet anti-tank missiles, to attack Israeli targets such as buses carrying Israeli soldiers. Hamas has contended the weapons are made locally — that is, inside Gaza — but the laser-targeting technology used to precisely guide them is not likely to be readily manufactured there. Iran has long been believed to be the supplier. But there is growing evidence that more of Hamas’ weapons originated from Russia as well

On July 1, Hamas’ military arm undertook an open-to-the-Palestinian-public, Soviet-style show of its military inventory. Among the Hamas weapons on display were locally made missiles and launchers, Shihab drones, grenade launchers, and Russian-built Kornet anti-tank missiles. One Palestinian publication described the weapons displayed at the show as “Made in Gaza” and “Made in Russia.”

On March 14, just ahead of the Hamas visit to Moscow, CNN cited four unspecified sources who stated that Russia had been sending to Iran weapons and equipment lost on the battlefield in Ukraine that the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) states had provided to the Ukrainian military. These reportedly included Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, which could then be reverse-engineered and used by Hamas. In June, a senior Israeli official stated directly that he was concerned the weapons Moscow sent to Tehran would go straight from Iran to Hamas and Hezbollah.

On Sept. 10, Mossad chief David Barnea declared that the Israeli government was concerned Russia was seeking to sell advanced weapons to Iran in a barter arrangement. Barnea expressed worry that Iran would provide Russia with short- and long-range missiles in addition to the drones it was already selling to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and in turn, Russia would transfer advanced weapons to Iran that could threaten Israeli security “and maybe even our existence.”

Allegations of training by Russian “private” military companies

Using proxies to provide weapons to Hamas and, when possible, to have those weapons manufactured originally in other countries, such as China, or North Korea, fits the Kremlin’s usual modus operandi. Using proxies would enable President Putin to stir up conflict in the Middle East at lower risk than having its forces directly involved in a military action killing civilians. It would also be unsurprising for Russia to use “non-governmental” outfits, such as the so-called private military companies (PMCs), to train foreign fighters or to supply them with weapons, to provide some deniability if outsiders found out. 

The day after the Oct. 7 attack, an official Ukrainian source claimed, “Some of the fighters of the Wagner [Group] PMC, who left Belarus in the direction of African countries, were involved in the training and transfer of combat experience to Hamas militants.” According to the Ukrainian Center for National Resistance, a Ukrainian government news and information agency formed after the Russian re-invasion of Ukraine, Hamas fighters had been training to use small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to drop explosive material as part of their attack. The center stated, “Only the Russians, among the allies of Hamas, have experience using drones with reset mechanisms on enemy equipment.” The center further asserted that Wagner provided Hamas fighters this training in an unspecified African country and that its information had come from “the Belarusian underground,” another country where the Wagner Group had carried out activities in 2023. On Oct. 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated, without providing further specifics, “We are certain that Russia is supporting, in one way or another, Hamas operations”; Zelensky reiterated the charge, again without specifics, on Nov. 20.

To date, there has been no non-Ukrainian confirmation of the allegations that the Wagner Group offered training to Hamas. Some have suggested this support was provided in whole or in part by other lesser-known Russian “private” military companies, such as Vegacy Strategic Services or the “Vega Network” with offices in Moscow and complex links to one another, previously alleged to have carried out such training for Palestinian fighters in Syria; another possibility floated was PMC Redut, also active in Syria. 

Whatever the case, someone trained the Hamas fighters to undertake their sophisticated attack on Israel, as well as to behave as they did. In contrast with previous attacks by Hamas, the verified atrocities documented on Oct. 7, seen in footage recorded by body cameras worn by Hamas fighters, resemble the tactics used by Russian PMCs to intimidate and terrify local populations. Gunmen shooting the dead bodies of civilians in cars, beheading a body with a hoe, throwing burnt corpses in a dumpster, and committing heinous acts on the living — these are tactics used by Russian PMC fighters, not only in Ukraine but in the Central African RepublicMaliSyria, and Libya

The Ukrainian account provides one theory of who trained Hamas. Further independent reporting is needed to determine the truth. Of potential relevance is the release of declassified intelligence by U.S. officials on Nov. 21 that the Wagner Group has been recently preparing to provide an air-defense system “to either Hezbollah or Iran” at the direction of the Russian government.

The cryptocurrency connection

At the same time, there is separate evidence of Russian support for terrorist financing for Hamas. The Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex, currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, has reportedly served not only wealthy Russians, various criminal groups, and Iran but also provided a means to help Hamas — and the PIJ — fund their terrorist operations prior to Oct. 7.

Major intelligence questions

Taken as a whole, the circumstantial evidence raises serious questions about what Russia and Iran knew and how much they may have helped Hamas to carry out its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. U.S., Israeli, and other Western intelligence agencies must work intensively to reach assessments on an array of key questions. With its invasion of Ukraine stalling out, did Russia decide to work to open up a second front in the Middle East as a means of dividing and distracting its adversaries? Did Russia promise Hamas assistance in its meetings with the group’s political and military leadership last March? If so, what did such pledges include: arms and technology, military training, financial support, assistance in money laundering, information warfare, and which types of assistance were provided in practice? Did Russia and Iran agree together to help Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah or others in the region take on Israel as a means of weakening their respective enemies in the West as well as Israel itself? Did Russia and Iran know that the attack was going to take place? Did they agree on its timing? 

The information that is public does not provide definitive answers to these questions. But there is one more data point that is especially relevant. It is one that took place soon after the Oct. 7 attack and the start of Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza.

The post-Oct. 7 Moscow meetings with Iran and Hamas and Russia’s current disinformation campaign

On Oct. 26, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Bagheri Kani met with Russia’s Bogdanov and Hamas’ Marzouk for a trilateral meeting in Moscow. Officially, the three gathered to discuss dual-national Russians who were being held hostage by Hamas. Little more than that was said publicly, besides Marzouk praising Moscow’s position on the conflict and the active efforts of Russian diplomacy. The New York Times presented the meeting as a belated effort at diplomatic catch-up by Russia to demonstrate its diplomatic engagement in the crisis, after initially seeking to “keep its distance” from the conflict.

If one draws a straight line from the Oct. 26 meeting back to the successive series of Russian-Iranian, Russian-Hamas, and Iranian-Hamas meetings that occurred in the months prior to Oct. 7, it is plausible to suggest there was more on the agenda than diplomacy. The growing evidence of the ongoing systematic Russian effort to disseminate pro-Hamas disinformation, including the retention of Moldovan agents by a Russian national to carry out destabilization efforts in France, provides a further clue of Russia’s continuing efforts to help Hamas and stoke conflict over the Israeli-Hamas conflict in the West.

There is a pressing need for Western intelligence agencies to gather enough information to reach solid conclusions about the extent of Russian involvement in the Hamas attack, and to make those conclusions public. The findings will be an essential element of managing as well as containing the conflict going forward. Any such findings could also have legal implications. Under U.S. law, countries designated as state-sponsors of terrorism have no immunity to civil suits by their U.S. victims. It is thus squarely in the public interest for the truth to come out.

Jonathan M. Winer, a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute, was the U.S. Special Envoy and Special Coordinator for Libya from 2014 to 2016 as well as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement.

Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.

divWar-on-Gaza-Hillary-Clinton-says-Neta

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should go” over his handling of the war in Gaza. 

The former presidential candidate and first lady, speaking during an interview on MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight, blamed Netanyahu for the oversights that led to the Hamas-led attack on 7 October.

“Netanyahu should go. He is not a trustworthy leader. It was on his watch that the attack happened,” Clinton said on Wednesday, referring to the assault on military bases and civilian communities in southern Israel, which killed around 1,140 people. 

“He needs to go, and if he’s an obstacle to a ceasefire, if he’s an obstacle to exploring what’s to be done the day after, he absolutely needs to go,” she added. 

More than 27,708 Palestinians have been killed and over 67,000 wounded by Israel’s subsequent bombardment in Gaza. 

Asked about the ongoing war, Clinton laid blame on Hamas, and defended Israel’s actions. 

“We wish there was a ceasefire. If Hamas would agree to a ceasefire, there would be a ceasefire,” Clinton said, on the same day that Netanyahu rejected a wide-ranging ceasefire proposal put forward by Hamas.  

“Look what Russia has done to Ukraine, destroying hospitals, schools, levelling whole cities, kidnapping children. It’s horrible. When you’re the aggressor, as Hamas was on 7 October, or as Russia was in February 2022, what do you do with an aggressor? You have to stop them,” the former secretary of state added. 

She said Hamas was “not doing anything to protect Palestinians” being killed by Israel’s military campaign. 

Netanyahu rejects Hamas deal 

Earlier on Wednesday, several news outlets, including Middle East Eye, said they had seen Hamas’s proposed three-stage ceasefire plan.

According to the draft document, all Israeli women, children under 19, the elderly and sick would be released from Gaza during the first 45-day phase in exchange for the release of all Palestinian female, children, sick and elderly prisoners over 50 years old from Israeli jails. 

In addition, Israel would release 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 500 with life sentences. 

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The first stage would also see Israeli forces withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, allowing freedom of movements for Palestinians across the Gaza Strip, including the return of displaced people from south to north. Additionally, the United Nations would be permitted to set up tent encampments.

This phase would also see the cessation of all forms of air activity over Gaza, including reconnaissance, for the duration of the period.

The proposal called for “a temporary cessation of military operations, a cessation of aerial reconnaissance, and a repositioning of Israeli forces far outside the populated areas in the entire Gaza Strip”. 

During the second phase, all Israeli male hostages, including soldiers, would be released in exchange for a number of Palestinian prisoners to be determined at a later time. 

And in the third phase, the remains of those captives who have died would be exchanged. By the end of the third phase, Hamas would expect the sides to have reached an agreement on an end to the war.

Netanyahu rejected the deal later on Wednesday, and said Israel would continue its military campaign until it had secured “total victory”.

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Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow should have been a big win for both of them.

For Putin, it was a chance to explain his justification for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to a sympathetic voice in American conservatism, just as congressional Republicans are considering whether to approve a Ukrainian aid package. For Carlson, it was an opportunity to bolster his relevance after being fired from Fox News last year — and promote his new media venture at the same time.

But Carlson’s much-touted interview, recorded on Tuesday and released on Thursday evening, ran into a problem as soon as it began. In his attempt to justify the invasion, Putin spent a significant part of the interview focused on a tedious recounting of Russian and Ukrainian history, to the point that Carlson became irritated and two began to clash.

Carlson addressed the dispute in his introduction to the interview.

“Putin went on for a very long time, probably half an hour, about the history of Russia,” the former prime-time star explained in his preamble from a spot overlooking Moscow’s Red Square as snow fell around him. “… And honestly, we thought this was a filibustering technique and found it annoying and interrupted him several times, and he responded. He was annoyed by the interruption.”

End of carousel

Putin’s lengthy version of the history between the two countries — which he’s laid out before, and has been criticized as a revisionist pretext for war by some historians — went back as far as the 9th century, namechecking the likes of “Prince Rurik” and “Prince Yaroslav the Wise” in an attempt to argue that Ukrainians are actually Russian.

But that rambling account seems unlikely to resonate with Carlson’s die-hard conservative audience in the United States.

Carlson later claimed that he understood why Putin needed to discuss so much history, but as he tried to cut in during the interview, the Russian president grew irritated.

“I asked you at the beginning, are we going to have a serious talk or a show?” Putin said at one point, speaking through a translator. “You said a serious talk. So bear with me, please.”

On Fox News, Carlson was a master of combative interviews, carefully controlling their flow with interjections and even undermining his subjects by flashing a blank look on his face or a mischievous smile. But in Moscow, Carlson was a bystander for much of his own interview, interjecting only briefly. He also didn’t ask the Russian president about a number of challenging topics, from Russian atrocities in Ukraine to Putin’s attacks on internal dissent.

The disputes between Carlson and Putin were a surprise in part because they have recently agreed on so much. Carlson has called Ukraine an undemocratic “client state” used to provoke Russia into war, words that echoed Putin so closely that an anti-Trump Republican group created a viral video in 2023 that paired Carlson’s rhetoric with Putin’s.

Still, Carlson’s disagreements with Putin about the interview itself became clear even before the interview aired. Earlier this week, in a promotional video for the interview, Carlson falsely portrayed himself as the only Western reporter who had “bothered” to interview Putin. That carried with it an insinuation, deliberate or not, that Putin isn’t important enough to interview, sparking pushback from a Putin spokesman who claimed Putin has received “many” interview requests.

Despite his fleeting clashes with Carlson, Putin still used the interview to portray Russia as a country acting in self-defense, beset by NATO and the CIA. And while most of the discussion focused on the war, Carlson also granted Putin a forum to hold forth on the grand intellectual questions of our time.

In one of the interview’s stranger questions, Carlson asked how a world leader could profess to be a Christian while ordering violence, only to see the Russian president brush the question away by praising Russia’s “moral values.” Carlson also asked Putin when he thought an “AI empire” of self-aware machines would begin.

“I think there’s no stopping Elon Musk,” Putin replied, referring to the billionaire owner of X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, who has welcomed Carlson’s show onto his platform. “He will do as he sees fit.”

In the interview’s most contentious moment, Carlson pressed Putin to release Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia for almost a year.

“I just want to ask you directly, without getting into the details of it or your version of what happened, if, as a sign of your decency, you would be willing to release him to us and we’ll bring him back to the United States,” Carlson said.

Putin demurred, suggesting that Gershkovich could only be released as part of a prisoner exchange.

There was a sense even among some of Carlson’s allies that the interview had failed to reach its full promise. On X, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn — who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying about his own contacts with the Russian government — said viewers should understand that Carlson was probably subjected to negotiated terms about the interview.

“I’m certain there will be a lot of Monday morning quarter backing,” Flynn wrote.

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin spent two hours being quizzed by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in a highly anticipated TV interview.

The interview took place just ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and at a time when United States politicians are pushing to restore military funding to Ukraine.

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Here are the five key takeaways:

Putin claims Clinton flip-flopped on Russia joining NATO

Putin revealed that, at some point, former US President Bill Clinton told him that Russia would have an opportunity to be welcomed into the military alliance, NATO.

“At a meeting here in the Kremlin with the outgoing President Bill Clinton, right here in the next room, I said to him, I asked him: ‘Bill, do you think if Russia asked to join NATO, do you think it would happen?’ Suddenly he said, ‘You know, it’s interesting. I think so,’” said Putin who was speaking through an interpreter.

“But in the evening, when we met for dinner, he said: ‘You know, I’ve talked to my team, no, no, it’s not possible now.’ You can ask him. I think he will watch our interview, he’ll confirm it,” the Russian president said.

“I wouldn’t have said anything like that if it hadn’t happened. Okay, well, it’s impossible now,” he added.

“Would you have joined NATO?” Carlson asked. “Look, I asked the question, is it possible, or not, and the answer I got was no,” Putin said.

“But if he had said yes, would you have joined NATO?” Carlson said.

“If he had said yes, the process of rapprochement would have commenced, and eventually it might have happened if we had seen some sincere wish on the other side of our partners. But it didn’t happen. Well, no means no. Okay, fine,” Putin said.

Putin also highlighted that they were promised that NATO would not expand to the East. “Not an inch to the East … and then what? They said, ‘Well, it’s not enshrined on paper, so we’ll expand.’”

“There were five waves of expansion. We tolerated all that. We were trying to persuade them. We were saying, ‘Please don’t. We are as bourgeois now as you are. We are a market economy, and there is no Communist Party power. Let’s negotiate’,” Putin added.

U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) confer during a ceremony to sign agreements on the establishment of a joint warning center for the exchange of information on missile launchesFormer US President Bill Clinton (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin confer during a ceremony to sign agreements on the establishment of a joint warning centre for the exchange of information on missile launches [File: Reuters]

Putin says Russia is open to releasing WSJ journalist

Putin said that it might be possible to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is awaiting trial on spying charges, in exchange for a Russian prisoner.

The Russian president suggested that, in return, Moscow wanted Germany to free Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of the 2019 murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin.

Gershkovich was arrested on March 29, 2023 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and accused of trying to obtain defence secrets. He and his newspaper strongly reject the charges and the US government has designated him as wrongfully detained.

“We are willing to solve it but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached,” said Putin, stressing that Western powers will have to take what he called “reciprocal steps”.

“There have been many successful examples of these talks crowned with success. Probably this is going to be crowned with success as well but we have to come to an agreement,” said Putin.

Russia and the US have agreed high-profile prisoner swaps in the past – most recently in December 2022 when Moscow traded Brittney Griner, a US basketball star convicted of a drugs offence in Russia, for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March while on a reporting trip and charged with espionage, stands behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendantsWall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in March while on a reporting trip and charged with espionage [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Putin called any US military support of Ukraine a ‘provocation’

Carlson asked Putin: “Can you imagine a scenario where Russia is ready to send troops to Poland?”

“Only in one case if Poland attacks Russia, why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else,” Putin said.

US politicians have said we “have to continue to fund the Ukrainian effort, or US soldier citizens could wind up fighting there. How do you assess that?” Carlson asked. That argument is based on the fact that Poland and the Baltic states are NATO members, and the alliance’s principle of collective security would kick in if any if them were attacked, necessitating US forces to intervene directly.

“This is a provocation. I do not understand why American soldiers should fight in Ukraine,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an interview with U.S. television host Tucker CarlsonRussian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an interview with US television host Tucker Carlson in Moscow  [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik, via Reuters]

“Well, if somebody has the desire to send regular troops, that would certainly bring humanity to the brink of a very serious global conflict. This is obvious,” Putin added.

“Do the United States need this? What for? Thousands of miles away from your national territory. Don’t you have anything better to do? You’ve issues on the border, issues with migration, issues with the national debt… you have nothing better to do, so you should fight in Ukraine?

“Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? Make an agreement. Already understanding the situation that is developing today, realising that Russia will fight for its interests to the end.”

Putin also said a solution would be possible if the US stopped supplying weapons.

“If you really want to stop fighting, you need to stop supplying weapons. It will be over within a few weeks, that’s it, and then we can agree on some terms. Before you do that, stop,” Putin said.

‘Who blew up Nord Stream?’ Putin suggests it was the CIA

Putin also blamed the CIA for the explosions of the Nord Stream pipelines, cutting off a major route for Russian gas exports to Europe and fuelling geopolitical tensions.

“Who blew up Nord Stream?” Carlson asked. Putin replied: “You, for sure.”

Carlson jokingly responded, “I was busy that day”. Putin said, “You personally might have an alibi, but the CIA has not such alibi”.

“Do you have evidence that NATO or the CIA did it,” Carlson said. The Russian president responded he “won’t get into details” but you should “look for someone who is interested” and who “has capabilities”.

Many people might be interested but not all “of them are capable of sinking to the bottom of the Baltic Sea and carrying out this explosion”, Putin said.

Nord streamA gas leak from Nord Stream 1 is seen in the Swedish economic zone in the Baltic Sea in this picture taken from the Swedish Coast Guard aircraft on September 28, 2022 [Reuters]

Advances in AI and genetics are a threat, Putin said

Putin said the world is changing faster than “during the collapse of the Roman Empire”.

He also said: “Mankind is currently facing many threats due to the genetic researchers – it is now possible to create this superhuman. A specialised human being. A genetically engineered athlete, scientist, military man. There are reports that Elon Musk has already had the chip implanted in the human brain in the US.”

“What do you think of that?” Carlson asked

“I think there’s no stopping Elon Musk. He will do as he sees fit,” Putin said.

“Nevertheless, you need to find some common ground with him, search for ways to persuade him,” Putin explained.

He said that humanity needed to think about what to do about the advances in genetics and artificial intelligence and suggested the nuclear arms control treaties of the Cold War could be a guide.

“When there arises an understanding that the boundless and uncontrolled development of artificial intelligence or genetics or some other modern trends, cannot be stopped, that these researches will still exist just as it was impossible to hide gunpowder from humanity… when humanity feels a threat to itself, to humanity as a whole, then, it seems to me, there will come a period to negotiate at the interstate level on how we will regulate this,” Putin added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Владимир Зеленский отправил в отставку главкома ВСУ Валерия Залужного. Новым главнокомандующим Вооруженных сил Украины назначен командующий Сухопутными войсками генерал-полковник Александр Сырский. Об этом президент Украины написал в своем телеграм-канале.

“Встретился с генералом Валерием Залужным. Поблагодарил за два года защиты Украины. Обсудили, в каком обновлении нуждаются Вооруженные силы Украины. Обсудили также, кто может находиться в обновленном руководстве Вооруженных сил Украины. Время для такого обновления – именно сейчас. Предложил Валерию Федоровичу и дальше быть в команде”, – написал Зеленский.

Он также отметил, что сегодня к руководству Вооруженными силами Украины приступает новая управленческая команда.

“Я хочу, чтобы видение войны было единым и у наших воинов в Работино или Авдеевке, и в Генеральном штабе и Ставке. Я провел десятки разговоров с командирами разного уровня. В частности, сегодня говорил с бригадными генералами Андреем Гнатовым, Михаилом Драпатым, Игорем Скибюком и полковниками Павлом Палисой и Вадимом Сухаревским. Все они рассматриваются на руководящие должности в армии и будут служить под руководством наиболее опытного украинского командующего. У него есть успешный опыт защиты – провел Киевскую оборонную операцию. Он также имеет успешный опыт наступления – Харьковской освободительной операции. Я назначил генерал-полковника Сырского главнокомандующим Вооруженными силами Украины”, – сказал Зеленский.

Залужный, в свою очередь, отметил, что провел с президентом Украины “серьезный и важный разговор”.

“Задания 2022 года отличаются от задач 2024 года. Поэтому все должны измениться и адаптироваться к новым реалиям. Чтобы победить тоже вместе. Принято решение о необходимости изменения подходов и стратегии”, – подчеркнул Залужный.

В комментарии “Суспільне” глава Минобороны Украины Рустем Умеров заявил, что “сегодня одобрили решение сменить руководство ВСУ”.

“Война не остается одинаковой. Война меняется и требует перемен. Боевые действия 2022-го, 2023-го и 2024-го – это три разных реальности. 2024 год принесет новые изменения, к которым должны быть готовы. Нужны новые подходы, новые стратегии. Сегодня было принято решение о необходимости смены руководства Вооруженных сил Украины. Искренне благодарен Валерию Федоровичу [Залужному] за все достижения и победы”, – написал Умеров в своем фейсбуке.

Александр Сырский – уроженец России, в Украине живет с 1980 года. Первое военное образование получил в Московском высшем общевойсковом командном училище. Затем окончил Академию Вооруженных сил Украины и Национальную академию обороны Украины. Командовал Сухопутными войсками ВСУ с 2019 года. В феврале 2022 года Сырский руководил обороной Киева, за что впоследствии ему было присвоено звание Героя Украины.

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Published on Feb 08, 2024 02:14 PM IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is working on freeing hostages held in captivity by Hamas in Gaza. Putin said this after meeting Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, and the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities, Alexander Boroda, in the Kremlin. Putin claimed that Moscow had achieved “specific results” in its diplomatic efforts using its contacts within Hamas’s political wing. Watch this video to know more.