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Top German Spy Says Germany Suffers Cyber Attack From Russia 'Every Day'

German government and business computers are coming under increasing cyber attack every day from other states’ spy agencies, especially those of Russia and China, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief has warned. Addressing a cybersecurity conference in Berlin, Hans Georg Maassen said that of an estimated 3,000 daily attacks by hackers or criminals on German government systems, about five were the handiwork of intelligence services. The latter are so sophisticated that they can easily be overlooked, he added. “We have seen that there are ever more frequent attacks by foreign intelligence agencies on the German government IT infrastructure,” he said.  These occur most frequently, Maassen said, before major international meetings such as a G20 conference, where government advisers might receive a virus e-mail purporting to be from another country’s negotiators.  He described Berlin as the capital of “political espionage,” saying Germany’s economic, defense, foreign and arms policies were all targets for hackers, as well as major firms for their cutting-edge high technology. Germany is Europe’s economic powerhouse, a major United States and NATO ally, and many of its manufacturers are industry leaders. Maassen said companies sometimes struggle to protect their most valuable technology and products. Disclosures by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that Washington had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and conducted mass surveillance in Germany caused public outrage last year. Germany is acutely sensitive about surveillance because of abuses under the Stasi secret police of former East Germany as well as under the Nazis (Source: The Moscow Times).

US Vice President Joe Biden, in Turkey, calls concentration of powers 'corrosive'

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 22 warned that a concentration of powers under a head of state was “corrosive,” before a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the first time since his critical remarks over Turkey’s policies in Syria sparked a crisis in early October. Biden’s remarks accusing  Turkey of facilitating the development of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria had angered Erdoğan. Speaking at a meeting of the Checks and Balances Network, an initiative that gather more than 150 nongovernmental organizations. Biden noted that in the United States the three branches of power — presidency, legislature and judiciary — are equal in status. “Our founders (of the United States) concluded that a concentration of powers was the most corrosive thing that can happen to any system,” he said. “We still believe that,” he added. Biden did not specifically refer to Turkey in his remarks open to the press ahead of a closed-door meeting, saying he was not in Istanbul to “proselytize.” But he added: “The best way to preserve freedom is not to have too much power concentrated in any branch of government.” He said his own insistence on the issue was so great that President Barack Obama “joked with me that I thought Congress should have more power than he does.” Earlier in the day, Biden told Europe it was time to act on improving its energy security, warning of Russia’s “track record” in using energy supplies as a weapon. Speaking at an Atlantic Council meeting in Istanbul, Biden said Europe needed to step up efforts to “ensure diversification” away from Russian oil and gas imports (Source: Hurriyet Daily News).

Russia's Foreign Minister: West seeking regime change in Moscow

Russia has accused the West of seeking a regime change in Moscow, once again raising tensions over the conflict in Ukraine. The criticism of Western sanctions on Russia by Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, came a day after US Vice President Joe Biden hinted at possible further measures over Russia’s “unacceptable” role in the fighting that continues to plague Ukraine. “As for the concept behind to the use of coercive measures, the West is making clear it does not want to force Russia to change policy but wants to secure regime change,” Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as telling a meeting of the advisory Foreign and Defence Policy Council in Moscow on Saturday. He said that when international sanctions had been used against other countries such as Iran and North Korea, they had been designed not to harm the national economy. “Now public figures in Western countries say there is a need to impose sanctions that will destroy the economy and cause public protests,” he said. Lavrov’s remarks came came on a day Ukraine’s defence minister said there were 7,500 Russian troops in the country’s east. Russia denies claims that it provides military support to pro-Moscow separatists locked in conflict with government forces in the former Soviet state. The US and the EU have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine targeting the key energy, defence and finance sectors. These have sent the ruble into free fall and inflation soaring. On a visit to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, on Friday, Biden accused Russia of failing to honour a peace agreement signed in September, which includes a shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. “So long as that continues, Russia will face rising costs, greater isolation,” he said (Source: Al Jazeera).

US and Turkey discuss transition away from Assad in Syria

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan he had discussed a transition of power in Syria away from President Bashar al-Assad during a four-hour meeting in Istanbul on Saturday. Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) insurgents in Syria and Iraq, pushing for a more comprehensive strategy that includes Assad’s removal from power. “On Syria, we discussed … not only to deny ISIL a safe haven and roll back and defeat them, but also strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime,” Biden told a joint news conference with Erdogan (Source: Reuters).

Kiev says Russia has 7,500 troops in Ukraine

Four Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 10 others wounded in violence gripping Ukraine’s east, according to security officials in Kiev, who accused Russia of having 7,500 troops deployed on Ukrainian soil to back pro-Moscow separatists. One civilian, a 60-year-old man, was also killed in the eastern region of Lugansk on Friday, the governor’s office announced on Saturday. Repeated attempts to end the violence that broke out nearly a year ago have failed, as armed rebels, who have declared self-proclaimed independence in eastern parts, and Ukrainian troops accuse each other of violating a ceasefire agreement. Ukraine’s defence minister Stepan Poltorak said in a statement published on the ministry’s website on Saturday: “Unfortunately, the stabilisation of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not depend only on us.” Ukraine’s military has accused Russia on Friday of shelling its territory for the first time since the ceasefire was signed. “The presence of 7,500 representatives of Russian armed forces in Ukraine destabilise the situation and prevents us from stabilising it,” he added. The ceasefire, which has been in place since early September, has not stopped almost 1,000 people from dying in fighting since, according to the United Nations. Ukraine’s new coalition government declared joining NATO a priority on Friday in a move likely to provoke fresh anger from Russia, which denies supporting the rebels (Source: Al Jazeera).

Vice President Joe Biden dodges angry mob in Ukraine

Vice President Joe Biden backed out from appearing with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at a memorial ceremony in Kiev on Friday, when the Secret Service determined it “wasn’t a good idea” after a crowd became “unruly,” a pool report said. “When Biden’s motorcade arrived on outskirts of what had become very large and somewhat unruly gathering, many chanting ‘shame’ at Poroshenko. … [U.S.] [S]ecret [S]ervice decided wasn’t a good idea for Biden to wade in,” according to the pool report. At that point, the report said, Biden’s “[m]otorcade turned around.” Biden, who has been in Ukraine with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was in Kiev on Friday morning to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony for people killed in demonstrations earlier this year. However, a crowd that was first around 100 people, mostly elderly men and women, quickly grew at Poroshenko’s arrival. The pool report said there was “little apparent interference” by Ukrainian security for Poroshenko. Biden later got out of his car and shook Poroshenko’s hand after the Ukrainian president emerged on foot. Biden’s motorcade then drove to another location a short distance away for a bilateral meeting with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Biden eventually made an unscheduled stop to a separate memorial later in the day, according to a pool report. Laying flowers at the memorial, the vice president asked to be accompanied by Myroslava Gongadze, a Voice of America correspondent and Ukrainian, who is part of the traveling pool. Gongadze’s husband, an investigative journalist, was killed by government police at the location over a decade ago (Source: Politico).

US delivers three counter-mortar radar systems to Ukraine

The US military delivered three lightweight, counter-mortar radar systems to Ukrainian armed forces on November 20, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said. The radar systems are the first few of 20 that Washington plans to send to Ukraine during the next several weeks. In mid-December, US military instructors plan to start training Ukrainian armed forces. “The radar systems see incoming mortar fire and quickly calculate the point of origin of a mortar round fired by the enemy, and allows friendly forces to react appropriately,” Warren said. According to the Pentagon spokesman, the Ukrainian armed forces will determine how, where and when they will use the systems. “It’s also up to the Ukrainians if they attach these radar [systems] to a fire-direction system, which will allow for counter battery fires, or if they use them independently and react with ground forces,” he said. The radar systems are part of the $118 million aid package for this year in equipment and training that the US has committed to assisting Ukraine’s troops. A US 12-member team has also recently completed some medical training in Ukraine (Source: TASS).

France's President Francois Hollande to visit Ebola-stricken Guinea

France’s President Francois Hollande has said he will travel to the West African country of Guinea, one of the worst affected by the Ebola epidemic. His visit next Friday will be the first made to the country by a non-African leader since the outbreak began. Mr Hollande will meet with Guinean President Alpha Conde and visit a field hospital set up by French doctors. Meanwhile Liberian police said all public beaches would be closed from 29 November because of the virus’s spread. Public rallies and demonstrations were also banned, though an exception was made for those related to the ongoing mid-term senate election campaign. It is hoped that these measures will reduce the transmission of the virus. Mr Hollande will travel to Guinea ahead of a summit of French-speaking nations in Senegal. He told reporters: “France is taking action in matters that concern it and other countries in Guinea and has set up a hospital in [the country’s south-east].” France has also sent a medical team to Mali, which has recently reported a number of Ebola cases. Of the six people infected, all have died. Guinea, unlike Mali, is no stranger to the virus. The current epidemic, which has killed 1,214 Guineans, originated there. There have been 15,351 cases of Ebola and 5,459 deaths since the current outbreak began, according to the latest figures by the World Health Organization (Source: BBC).

US wants Turkey’s boots on the ground

Turkey has been hosting three key Americans over the last three days. One is Vice President Joe Biden. The second is John Allen, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) strategy. The third is General James Jones, the U.S.’s former National Security Adviser and currently the chairman of the American-Turkish Council. General Jones is in Istanbul to attend the Atlantic Council Summit, where Biden is also giving a speech. I had the chance to have a one-hour tete-a-tete conversation with General Jones and ask him the key questions in my mind. First of all, why does Washington not make a commitment that Bashar al-Assad must go? Does it not want to topple him anymore? “No” Jones replied. “Our objectives with Turkey are the same. We both want to see al-Assad leave, ISIL to be defeated and Iraq to survive as a unified country. Those objectives are clear and common. We are now working on how we get to those objectives.” Jones continued: “As long as both sides think the relationship is essential, they will find the path to accommodate. Since they agree on the objectives, they will agree on the methods as well. That we have different views right now doesn’t mean that in six months from now we won’t find accommodation.” He also engaged in some self-criticism of the U.S.’s Syria policy. “When al-Assad crossed the red line [referring to al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons], we should have taken stronger action (Source: Hurriyet Daily News).

Vice President Joe Biden to press Turkey over Islamic State role

US Vice-President Joe Biden is in Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aiming to push for a bigger Turkish role in the fight against Islamic State (IS). Turkey has said such a role would have to be linked with plans to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has pressed for a no-fly zone in Syria but has not won US backing. Mr Biden and Mr Erdogan have also had a public row over foreign jihadis crossing Turkey’s border with Syria. On Friday, Mr Biden held talks with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who praised the “deep-rooted” relationship between the countries. Mr Biden said: “We’ve been friends for a long time and one of the great advantages of being back in Turkey with a friend and Nato ally is we’re always direct with one another. “Friends don’t let the other wonder about what they are thinking.” The talks between Mr Biden and Mr Erdogan will focus on Turkey’s role in the US-led coalition against IS. They will also look at Turkey’s efforts to stop the flow of foreign jihadists joining Islamic State via Turkey, and Turkish assistance to more than 1.6 million refugees on its soil. The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul says Mr Biden may receive the red-carpet treatment but relations are not good. Last month, the US vice-president said that Mr Erdogan had privately admitted Turkey had allowed foreign jihadists to enter Syria. This was angrily denied by the Turkish president, who called his relationship with Mr Biden “history”. The vice-president’s office said he had apologised, our correspondent says, but Mr Biden then said it was not an apology, merely a clarification. So far, Turkey’s main contribution to the campaign against IS has been to allow some Kurdish fighters from Iraq to travel through Turkey to assist in defending the Syrian town of Kobane near Turkey’s border (Source: BBC).