Monday, June 24, 2013
Moscow: A powerful earthquake has hit Russia's Far East with slight tremors spreading westwards as far as Moscow.
Marina Kolomiyets, spokeswoman for Obninsk's seismic station of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Sunday the epicentre was in the Sea of Okhotsk, east of the Russian coast and north of Japan. She said the quake registered 8.0 on the Richter scale.
Emergency agencies in the Far East issued a tsunami warning for Sakhalin and the Kuril islands, but lifted it soon afterwards.
Kolomiyets said the earthquake originated 600 kilometres underground and with the tremors so far down they have the potential to spread quite far.
Tremors were felt in central Moscow, prompting some people to evacuate from buildings.
Russian news agencies also cited eyewitnesses reporting strong tremors across Siberia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said there would be “consequences” for Russia and China if they helped whistleblower Edward Snowden in boarding a plane to Moscow in an attempt to reach a third country.
“It would be very disappointing if he was willfully allowed to board an airplane,” Kerry, who was traveling in New Delhi, said, as reported by The Washington Post. “There would be without any doubt … consequences.”
The former National Security Agency contractor had traveled to Hong Kong before he revealed about secret U.S. surveillance programs. He is facing criminal charges in the United States for disclosing the global spying programs.
Snowden spent a night in Moscow’s airport after leaving Hong Kong on Sunday and was expected to board an Aeroflot plane to Cuba en route to possible asylum in Ecuador. But reports said that he was not spotted among the passengers before the airplane took off.
There is no confirmation of Snowden’s current whereabouts.
The White House has asked Russia to "look at all options available" to expel Snowden. The Russian government did not immediately comment but Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to comply with Washington’s request.
Experts say Moscow’s decision to allow Snowden to travel through Russia will further strain the U.S.-Russian relationship as tensions are already on the rise between the two countries over the unrest in Syria.
Washington has also lodged "strong objections" with Hong Kong and China for letting Snowden flee.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Monday his country was "analyzing" a request for asylum by Snowden.
Ecuador has previously rejected the United States' extradition request for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and helped him avoid prosecution by letting him stay at its embassy in London.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged Snowden with “espionage” and “theft of government property”, “unauthorized communication of national defense information,” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”
Snowden is the eighth whistleblower that has been charged under the Espionage Act under the Obama administration. This is more than all previous U.S. administrations combined.
A massive dome of high pressure, sometimes referred to as a "heat dome," has set up shop over Alaska, bringing all-time record temperatures just a few weeks after parts of the state had a record cold start to spring. In some cases, towns in Alaska were warmer on Monday and Tuesday than most locations in the lower 48 states.
Forecast temperature anomalies on June 19 from the GFS computer model.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: WeatherBell.com.
For example, Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969. In fact, it was warmer in Talkeetna, which is about 110 miles north of Anchorage, than it was in Miami, based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS). (As Weather Underground's Christopher Burt notes, there was an unofficial observation of 98°F on Monday, which would rank among the hottest all-time temperature records for the state.)
In Valdez, which sits along the cool waters of Prince William Sound, the temperature reached a remarkable 90°F Monday, beating the previous all-time mark of 87°F. And in Seward, another coastal port, the temperature hit 88°F, breaking the previous all-time high of 87°F that was set on July 4, 1999.
The US decision to upgrade Syrian rebel weaponry has run into a major setback:DEBKAfile reveals that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan phoned President Barack Obama in Berlin Wednesday, June 19, to report his sudden decision to shut down the Turkish corridor for the transfer of US and NATO arms to the Syrian rebels.
Against this background, the US President informed Congress Friday, June 22, that 700 combat-equipped American military personnel would remain in Jordan at the end of a joint US-Jordanian training exercise. They would include crews of two Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries and the logistics, command and communications personnel needed to support those units. The United States is also leaving behind from the war maneuver a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets at Jordan’s request. Some 300 US troops have been in Jordan since last year.
Erdogan’s decision will leave the Syrian rebels fighting in Aleppo virtually high and dry. The fall of Qusayr cut off their supplies of arms from Lebanon. Deliveries through Jordan reach only as far as southern Syria and are almost impossible to move to the north where the rebels and the Hizballah-backed Syrian army are locked in a decisive battle for Aleppo.
The Turkish prime minister told Obama he is afraid of Russian retribution if he continues to let US and NATO weapons through to the Syrian rebels.
Since the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week, Moscow has issued almost daily condemnations of the West for arming “terrorists.”
Rebel spokesmen in Aleppo claimed Friday that they now had weapons which they believe “will change the course of the battle on the ground.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources are strongly skeptical of their ability - even after the new deliveries - to stand up to the onslaught on their positions in the embattled town by the combined strength of the Syrian army, Hizballah troops and armed Iraqi Shiites. The prevailing intelligence assessment is that they will be crushed in Aleppo as they were in Al Qusayr.
That battle was lost after 16 days of ferocious combat; Aleppo is expected to fall after 40-60 days of great bloodshed.
The arms the rebels received from US, NATO and European sources were purchased on international markets – not only because they were relatively cheap but because they were mostly of Russian manufacture. The rebels are thus equipped with Russian weapons for fighting the Russian arms used by the Syria army. This made Moscow angrier than ever.
Until now, the Erdogan government was fully supportive of the Syrian opposition, permitting them to establish vital command centers and rear bases on Turkish soil and send supplies across the border to fighting units. He has now pulled the rug out from under their cause and given Assad a major leg-up
This about-turn is a strategic earthquake – not just in terms of the Syrian war but also for the United States and, as time goes by, for Israel too.
Ten years ago, Erdogan pulled the same maneuver when he denied US troops passage through Turkey to Iraq for opening a second front against Saddam Hussein.
President Obama reacted by topping up the US deployment in Jordan by 700 combat-equipped troops to 1,000. Patriot missile interceptors and F-16 fighter jets are left behind from their joint war game for as long as the security situation requires. DEBKAfile: The joint US-Jordanian maneuver was in fact abruptly curtailed after two weeks although it was planned to continue for two months until the end of August.
The widening disruptions of the surging Syrian war are on the point of tipping over into Jordan and coming closer than ever to Israel.