Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Assassinated

By Douglas F. Roberts, The Chicago Times

July 8, 2022

TOKYO — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in a shooting while delivering a speech Friday in Nara, Japan.

Abe, 67, was shot in the back by an assassin and later airlifted to a nearby hospital in Nara.  After tremendous effort to safe Abe’s life, he was later pronounced dead.  As a hearse carrying Abe’s body left the hospital, his wife Akie dutifully bowed her head as the vehicle passed.

According to Nara Medical University emergency department chief Hidetada Fukushima, “Abe suffered major damage to his heart and a major artery. Abe never regained his vital signs.”

The alleged assassin Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was arrested by authorities on scene.  Yamagami is a former member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.  Authorities retrieved a homemade firearm they believe was used to kill Abe.  It has been reported that Yamagami has confessed to the assassination.

Abe was giving a speech outside a train station ahead Japan’s parliamentary election.  In a video, Abe is seen raising his fist when two gunshots blow into his back causing him to collapse.  Authorities are then seen tackling the gunman to the ground.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was quoted as saying the shooting was “dastardly and barbaric.” and said the government would review security measures for political figures.  Opposition leaders also condemned the assassination as an attack on Japan’s democracy.

Abe won six national elections and devoted his reign to strengthening Japan’s defense forces and security alliance with the United States.  Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister after leaving office for health reasons in 2020.

Ukraine Strikes Crimean Oil Platform

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

June 22, 2022

SEVASTOPOL – Crimean officials announced Monday that Ukraine fired on Black Sea oil drilling platforms wounding three.

The Russian controlled governor of Crimea announced three people were injured and seven are missing after Ukraine attacked three oil drilling platforms in the Black Sea off the Crimean coast.

“We confirm that there are three injured and seven reported missing. We guarantee that the search will continue,” Governor Sergey Aksyonov said in a statement.

The attack by Ukraine is the first reported of its kind against the energy infrastructure in Crimea since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.  The platforms are operated by Chernomorneftegaz, a former Soviet owned oil and gas giant, which was sanctions by the United States in 2014.  Chernomorneftegaz operates gas and oil fields in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Germany Returns To Coal Power

By The Chicago Times Staff

June 19, 2022

BERLIN – Germany to ration the use of natural gas in production of electricity as supply dwindles from Russian pipeline

Russian state-owned Gazprom announced that supply reductions could be expected from the Nord Stream pipeline as repairs are completed.  However, many in the European Union believe Russia is playing games and using the reductions as a form of punishment against NATO member nations.

Robert Habeck, the German Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs believes Germany may have to reactivate some of Germany’s coal-fired power plants to produce electricity to make up the difference.

Habeck’s solution is in conflict with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s standing order which sets the goal to reduce coal use for electricity by 2030.

German energy officials said the dependence on Russian gas is necessary until alternative sources come to market.  German citizens have been asked to cut back their energy use as tensions grow with Russia over Ukraine.

“It’s obvious that Putin’s strategy is to unsettle us by driving up the price and dividing us.  We won’t let that happen.” Habeck said in a statement.

Gazprom has cut exports to non-former Soviet republics by 28.9 percent since last year.

“Our product, our rules. We don’t play by rules we didn’t create,” Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller declared in a statement at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Russia: Former US Embassy Worker Sentenced For Smuggling Drugs

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

June 17, 2022

MOSCOW — A former US embassy worker has been sentenced to 14 years in a Russian maximum-security prison for after being found guilty of cannabis smuggling and illegal storage of drugs.

Former US embassy worker, Marc Fogel, was found guilty by a Russian (nee Soviet) court in Khimki on Thursday.

Fogel joins a growing list of US citizens being held in Russian prisons as US-Russian relations have soured over the past 2 years.

According to Russian authorities, Fogel was arrested by customs police in August 2021 after arriving from New York at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

Russian officials claim Fogel had been found in possession of marijuana and hash oil during routine customs check of his luggage.  Court documents claim the drugs were hidden inside Fogel’s contact lens case and e-cigarette cartridges.

Fogel insisted the cannabis was prescribed in the US for medicinal purposes after a spinal operation.  Russian law prohibits the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Fogel, a former US embassy worker, had been working as a teacher at the Anglo-American School of Moscow at the time of his arrest.  According to the US State Department, Fogel’s protection of diplomatic immunity had expired in May 2021.

Currently, the US State Department has issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia and urged US citizens to depart immediately.  It is believed Russia will harass US citizens and block the ability of the US embassy to assist Americans held hostage by Russian authorities.

Algeria To Sever Trade With Spain

By W. Spencer, The Chicago Times

June 10, 2022

ALGIERS – North African nation Algeria announced suspension trade with Spain over status of Western Sahara.

Algerian government officials made the trade suspension announcement one day after they tore up a 20-year-old “friendship” treaty with Spain which committed both nations to cooperation in controlling migration.  The suspension of trade included exports of products and services.  Algeria has also suspended imports from Spain.

The dispute over Western Sahara has been fuming for some time between Algeria, Spain, and Morocco.  Spain dominated Western Sahara as a colonial power until 1975 when the region was annexed by Morocco.  Algeria has supported an independent Western Sahara and has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence for the area claimed by Morocco.

According to many foreign policy experts, Algeria is making a power play for the region while Spain and the rest of the European Union are distracted with the war in Ukraine.

In March 2022, Spain formally recognized Moroccan plans to grant the region full autonomy which is just short of full independence.  In response, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Spain.

As a result of the trade suspension, Spain will lose access to Algerian natural gas, which could drive natural gas prices even higher.

Russia Fires Zircon “Plasma Stealth” Hypersonic Cruise Missile In Test-Launch

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

May 28, 2022

OSLO – Russia test-fired a hypersonic Zircon nuclear capable cruise missile that traveled over 625 miles.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the missile was launched from the Barents Sea and hit a target in the White Sea. Video of the test fire showed the missile being fired from a ship.

The Zircon has been described as part of a new generation of anti-ship hypersonic cruise missiles that can travel at nine times the speed of sound. Russia has conducted previous test-launches of the Zircon from warships and submarines over the past year.

The Zircon can travel at speeds of Mach 8 to Mach 9 (6,100–6,900 mph).  Western military leaders believe the missile could penetrate existing naval defense systems.  Since the Zircon travels at hypersonic speeds within the atmosphere causing “Plasma Stealth” in which the air pressure in front of it forms a plasma cloud as it travels making it nearly invisible to active radar systems.  As a result, targets will not have time to carry out defensive maneuvers or retaliatory strikes.

According to the Pentagon, last month Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable Sarmat intercontinental missile, capable of carrying 10 or more warheads.  The Sarmat is capable of striking the United States.