The phone call between President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelensky “did not go well“, CNN headlines: while “Biden warned that the Russian invasion in February is practically certain when the frozen ground makes it possible for tanks to pass through”, Zelensky “ asked Biden to tone down, arguing that the Russian threat is still ambiguous”. While the Ukrainian president himself takes a more cautious stance, the Ukrainian armed forces are massing in Donbas close to the Donetsk and Lugansk area inhabited by Russian populations. According to reports from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, units of the Ukrainian Army and National Guard amounting to about 150,000 men are positioned there, the news is overshadowed by our mainstream which speaks only of the Russian deployment.
Baghdad - Iraqi legislators intend to transfer to international courts and the UN the case of four former Blackwater contractors convicted of killing innocent Iraqi civilians and recently pardoned by US President Donald Trump for further consideration, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee told Sputnik. The parliament's foreign relations committee earlier demanded the government to review or suspend deals concluded with the US security companies over Trump's decision to pardon four ex-Blackwater contractors convicted in connection with the death of 14 Iraqi civilians, including two children, in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007.
By Anuradha Mittal for the Oakland Institute. Oakland, CA—The Return of Erik Prince: Trump’s Knight in America’s New Crusade? a new brief from the Oakland Institute, exposes the comeback of the founder of Blackwater, the notorious private security company. An ardent detractor of Obama/Clinton foreign policy during the presidential campaign, Prince is now set with access to unique assets, to be a key player in Trump’s foreign policy. Using information not seen before, the brief describes Prince’s post Blackwater maneuvers – acquiring logistics capacity in Africa, the Mediterranean Region, and Asia, and networking with high-level individuals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to launch a private equity fund, Frontier Resource Group (FRG).
A federal jury in Washington, D.C., returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives charged with killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians and wounding scores of others in Baghdad in 2007. The jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts,according to the Associated Press. A fifth Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the case against his former colleagues. The trial lasted ten weeks and the jury has been in deliberations for 28 days.
Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter. The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence. Prosecutors had claimed Slatten, the convoy’s sniper, viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11” and often “deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles” or tried to smash windscreens of passing cars as his convoy rolled through Baghdad.
Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports. American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports. After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.” “The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials.
Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards went on trial Wednesday in the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of at least 18 others. Over the next few days, a jury of 12 residents from the District of Columbia will be chosen from a pool of 111 people to decide the guards' fate. The trial is expected to last months. The judge overseeing the trial, Royce Lamberth, has been a U.S. district judge for more than 25 years and he has a military background. He served as a captain in the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps from 1968 to 1974, including three years at the Pentagon. The prospective jurors filled out 26-page questionnaires that delved into whether they had any personal experience with excessive use of force by security guards; whether they would be able to follow testimony from Arabic-speaking witnesses through a translator; and whether they have strong feelings about the war in Iraq or the prosecution of American citizens for acts committed in a war zone .
In news as shocking as it was unreported in the United States, the Brazilian press revealed earlier this week that Academi—the rebranded private militia once known as Blackwater—has been providing security training for the 2014 World Cup. The notorious company, responsible for the 2011 Nisour Square massacre in Iraq, has been training Brazilian security forces in North Carolina. Hosting mega-events comes with astronomical costs. This summer’s World Cup in Brazil is the most expensive ever, with a tab so far of $11 billion to $13 billion. These costs promise to catapult even higher as unfinished projects linger long after the soccer fans have returned home, with some estimating the final price tag to crest at $15 billion. In addition to being the most expensive, the World Cup organizers plan to deploy more force than any previous tournament. More than 170,000 security personnel from the military, police and secret service will be on hand, 22 percent more than worked the previous World Cup in South Africa. Now we know that some of these forces will be trained by a private security firm with a dodgy history.
Speculation was growing last night that American mercenaries had been deployed to Donetsk after videos emerged of unidentified armed men in the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city. At least two videos published on YouTube earlier this week show burly, heavily armed soldiers with no insignia in the city, which has been gripped by pro-Moscow protests. In one of the videos onlookers can be heard shouting 'Blackwater! Blackwater!' as the armed men, who wear no insignia, jog through the streets.