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September 28, 2022 3:47 pm

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Mandiant identifies 3 hacktivist groups working in support of Russia

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Mandiant researchers are tracking multiple self-proclaimed hacktivist groups working in support of Russia, and identified 3 groups linked to the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

gru Russia linked hacktivists

The experts assess with moderate confidence that moderators of the purported hacktivist Telegram channels “XakNet Team,” “Infoccentr,” and “CyberArmyofRussia_Reborn” are coordinating their operations under the control of the GRU.

The so-called hacktivist groups conducted distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and defacement attacks against Ukrainian websites, but the experts believe that they are a front for information operations and destructive cyber activities coordinated by the Kremlin.

The experts discovered that some APT28 tools were used to compromise the networks of Ukrainian victims, whose data was subsequently leaked on Telegram within 24 hours of wiping activity by APT28.

The APT28 group (aka Fancy BearPawn StormSofacy GroupSednit, and STRONTIUM) has been active since at least 2007 and it has targeted governments, militaries, and security organizations worldwide. The group was involved also in the string of attacks that targeted 2016 Presidential election.

The group operates out of military unity 26165 of the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) 85th Main Special Service Center (GTsSS).

Most of APT28s’ campaigns leveraged spear-phishing and malware-based attacks.

Mandiant identified at least 16 data leaks from threat actors claiming to be hacktivists, four of which coincided with wiping attacks conducted by Russia-linked cyberespionage group APT28.

“Mandiant has only observed the use of CADDYWIPER and ARGUEPATCH by APT28, although we note that others have publicly attributed some CADDYWIPER deployments to Sandworm.” reads the report published by Mandiant. “In two incidents, Mandiant observed APT28 conduct wiper attacks, which were followed, within 24 hours, by data from the victims being leaked on Telegram. In both instances APT28 deployed ARGUEPATCH, which dropped CADDYWIPER.”

Mandiant researchers are not able to determine the composition of these groups and their exact degree of affiliation with Russian military intelligence. 

“While the exact nature of the relationship is unclear” states the report, “it likely falls into one of two general possibilities:

  • GRU officers may directly control the infrastructure associated with these actors and their activities may be a front for GRU operations, similar to the relationship between the GRU and the false persona Guccifer 2.0.
  • The moderators respectively running these Telegram channels may directly coordinate with the GRU; however, the moderators may be Russian citizens who are not Russian intelligence officers. There are multiple possible configurations through which this dynamic could manifest, including but not limited to initial GRU support for third parties to establish the channels or subsequent links established after initial channel creation. 

Experts believe that the moderators of the XakNet Team channel are directly supported by APT28, based on XakNet’s leak of a technical artifact APT28 used in the compromise of a Ukrainian network. The unique nature of this technical artifact suggests that the moderators of XakNet Team either are GRU intelligence officers or work directly with the GRU APT28 operators.

“Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine created unprecedented circumstances for cyber threat activity. This likely is the first instance in which a major cyber power potentially has conducted disruptive attacks, espionage, and information operations concurrently with widespread, kinetic military operations in a conventional war.” Mandiant concludes.

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Russia)

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Grief for Vladimir Putin’s deputy defence minister as nephew is killed in war

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Paratrooper commander Captain Adam Khamkhoyev has become the first relative of a senior Vladimir Putin official to die during invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine: Funeral of injured Russian Captain Adam Khamkhoyev

The nephew of Russia’s hardline deputy defence minister has been killed by Ukrainian forces in the war.

Captain Adam Khamkhoyev, 30, a paratrooper commander, was killed on Friday night in Ukraine and later buried in the southern Russian province of Ingushetia.

His uncle is Colonel-General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Russia’s hardline deputy defence minister is a pro- war figure in Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s Government.

Captain Khamkhoyev’s death marks the first time a senior official of Putin has suffered the loss of a close relative in his war in Ukraine.

Colonel Yevkurov flew to Karabulak to attend his nephew’s funeral.

Baza news outlet reported that he “shared his condolences, spoke to the elderlies and the religious part of the community, and then flew back to Moscow.”

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov

Khamkhoyev was a graduate of the elite Ryazan Airborne Forces school and a commander of a Russian airborne assault squadron.

His uncle, Yevkurov, was a decorated paratrooper who once won the Hero of Russia honour, the country’s highest award.

No details have been released from either Russia or Ukraine on the details of his death.

Captain Adam Khamkhoyev
social media/e2w)

The news comes as Russian soldier Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was given a life sentence after being convicted of killing a 62-year-old civilian in the first war crimes trial since the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin has faced continued losses with the British Ministry of Defence saying that in three months of the war in Ukraine, Russia is likely to have suffered casualty numbers similar to those experienced by the Soviet Union during a nine-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Yevkurov is a former governor and now one of the deputies of close Putin ally Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister.

He was the subject of an assassination bid in 2009.

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, then Head of Ingushetia, meets president Vladimir Putin in 2015
social media/e2w)

In March in a harrowing clip, he was seen visiting a bed-bound soldier in hospital.

The serviceman had lost a leg and looked wide-eyed and scared as Yevkurov told him: “ I hope you’ll get back on your feet.”

A report in the New York Times states that the United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that have allowed Ukrainians to target and kill Putin’s generals, with the attrition rate now standing at around one colonel every two days.

Funeral of Captain Adam Khamkhoyev, killed in Ukraine
social media/e2w)

Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, said the US was providing “Ukraine with information and intelligence that they can use to defend themselves”.

But Adrienne Watson, a national security council spokesperson, said intelligence was not provided “with the intent to kill Russian generals”.

Ukrainian officials said they have killed around 12 generals on the front lines.

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Russian media report Shoigu personally visiting training grounds with the mobilised

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UKRAINSKA PRAVDA – TUESDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2022, 18:10 Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, allegedly conducted an independent review of the training process of Russians called up from the reserve at the military training grounds of the Western Military District.

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Spy Wars: The Hidden Foe America Must Defeat to Save Its Democracy | OZY

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  • Russian military intelligence chief Igor Kostyukov is leading Moscow’s efforts to swing the 2020 election in favor of President Trump.
  • It’s the biggest test for American democracy — and for Kostyukov, whose two immediate predecessors died in quick succession amid rumors Vladimir Putin wasn’t happy.

Angela Merkel is known for keeping her calm in difficult situations, but addressing the German Parliament in early May, the country’s chancellor appeared to briefly lose her cool. “Outrageous” is how she described the hacking of the parliament’s systems, including her own official email, by Russian agents in 2015, through a process German officials took five years to piece together.

Days later, Germany’s foreign office summoned Russian Ambassador Sergei Nachaev, and warned him that Berlin would seek European Union sanctions against both the suspected hacker and the man in charge of the agency believed to have orchestrated the operation: Russia’s military intelligence chief Igor Kostyukov.

But the successful attack on the German Parliament was merely a teaser. For Kostyukov, a navy vice admiral who has directed some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most ambitious and dangerous recent overseas intelligence missions at the Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye or GRU, the November election in the U.S. is the ultimate prize, say experts. Enabling President Donald Trump to return to power would be the biggest success of the 59-year-old’s career.

It may indicate that the Kremlin sees the current intensive confrontation … as a prelude to an inevitable conflict.

Matthew Rojansky, Wilson Center

U.S. intelligence agencies have already warned that Russia is trying to repeat its 2016 attempts to influence the election to favor Trump. On Thursday, Microsoft said Russian government hackers had targeted 200-plus people, campaigns and organizations in both parties. But the involvement of Kostyukov’s GRU — also blamed for the Russian campaign in 2016 — in the November election is particularly “revealing” with Moscow and the West locked in confrontation on multiple fronts, says Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“Bear in mind
that its [the GRU’s] main purpose is to support Russia’s military via
intelligence gathering and operations in times of war,” says Rojansky, an
expert on U.S.-Russia relations. “That does not necessarily suggest that Russia plans to expand or accelerate
attacks, but it may indicate that the Kremlin sees the current intensive
confrontation … as a prelude to an inevitable conflict.”

If Putin is indeed looking for someone to give him an edge in the event of a future military conflagration, the heavyset Kostyukov is the best man for the job. He led the Russian military operation in Syria that has given Moscow unprecedented control over the war-torn nation. His success in Syria drew public praise for GRU officers from Putin in 2016, with Kostyukov seated beside him. The Syria campaign earned Kostyukov the Hero of Russia medal in 2017. The GRU chief is also a central figure in Russia’s attempts to bring rebel Libyan leader Khalifa Haftar to power in Tripoli.

More recently,
Kostyukov is believed to have masterminded the attempted bounty killings of
American soldiers in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters, even as the militant
group and the U.S. were finalizing a peace agreement.

But those wartime credentials aren’t the only qualities that Putin sees in Kostyukov, suggest experts. In the Russian espionage system, the GRU has significant autonomy with a “global remit,” says Rojansky. Yet Kostyukov has repeatedly shown that he sticks to Putin’s script, says a senior Indian intelligence officer who requested anonymity. “He’s reliable, he’s proper,” says the officer, who has met Kostyukov. So proper that his salt-and-pepper hair is never out of place. He is known to lower his eyes in Putin’s presence, out of respect.

Born in the Russian Far East region of Amur, Kostyukov was earlier the GRU station chief in Rome. He is known to have a son, Oleg, who has a weakness for Italian wines. But like a good spy, Kostyukov has made sure that beyond those tiny nuggets, even the closest watchers of Russia’s intelligence agencies know little about his private life.

7th Moscow Conference on International Security: Day 2

That mystery is
part of what makes Kostyukov one of the West’s most dangerous adversaries. The
U.S. first imposed sanctions against him for Russia’s interference in the 2016
election, and added fresh ones in 2018, prohibiting any American individual or
entity from engaging with him. Last year, the European Union put Kostyukov on
its sanctions list for the 2018 chemical poisoning of double agent Sergei
Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, U.K.

But the stakes are higher than ever in 2020 for both Kostyukov and his targets. He was deputy chief of the GRU at the time of the 2016 election interference and the Salisbury poisonings. He became top boss only in November 2018.

Compared to 2016, Russia’s online interference strategies have grown in sophistication, says Dov Levin, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Hong Kong. Its trolls are better at impersonating individuals and parties, “which makes the detection of the Russian hand much harder,” says Levin, whose book on foreign election interference, Meddling in the Ballot Box, was released this month. The GRU, he says, is also constantly creating “digital” equivalents of traditionally “analog” dirty tricks, making covert operations that used to involve agents or officials tougher to track. What if they hack traffic signal systems or electricity grids from thousands of miles away to make voting selectively harder in some pockets of the country?

America’s ability to counter Kostyukov could determine the very credibility of its democratic electoral process. But the risks are high for Kostyukov too: His two predecessors died mysteriously within a span of two years, amid rumors that Putin was unhappy with the GRU’s performance after the extent of its interference in the 2016 election and in the Salisbury poisonings became embarrassingly hard to deny.

It’s a battle he can’t afford to lose. Nor can the U.S. let him win.

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Durham’s latest ‘Russiagate’ bombshells: FBI informant Danchenko made up key parts of Steele dossier

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Russian-born Igor Danchenko made up sources for two of the most sensational claims in the Steele dossier––that President Donald Trump once saw prostitutes in the Moscow Ritz-Carlton and that he engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy’ with the Kremlin.

The FBI could have ended Mr. Danchenko’s Washington career in 2010 after learning he wanted to buy classified information from Obama aides and pass it to Russia, but the agency botched the probe.

When the dossier was leaked in January 2017, those two claims drove the media to label Mr. Trump an election cheater and traitor.

Days later, Democrats at a House intelligence hearing tried to get witnesses such as FBI Director James Comey to attest that Russian intelligence typically orchestrates sex in Moscow hotel rooms for blackmail. 

On Sept. 13, a new filing by prosecutor John Durham said Mr. Danchenko had zero sources for those claims which he fed to his London client, dossier author Christopher Steele. He was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. 

We also learned that Mr. Danchenko coached a previous client on how to fabricate sources in intelligence reports, advising this client to put sources in all-caps–––which Mr. Steele did in the subsequent 2016 dossier. 

Mr. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty to five charges of lying to the FBI.

Mr. Durham’s legal brief reveals how the FBI top echelon kept Mr. Trump under investigation for years while agents used the hoax dossier to pursue him

Mr. Danchenko was on the FBI payroll as a confidential human source (CHS) in March 2017 after a session lying to agents, Mr. Durham now discloses. The hiring explains why he sat down with them for repeated interviews.

What is not explained is why the FBI kept him on the payroll until October 2020 during the Trump presidency, and we do not know what Mr. Danchenko, once suspected by the U.S. of being a Russian agent said. 

But Mr. Durham supplies more nuggets. While Mr. Danchenko worked at the liberal Brookings Institution in 2008, he approached two colleagues. He asked if they would supply classified information for cash after appointments in the incoming Obama administration.

One Brookings employee went to the FBI, which opened a counter-intelligence probe and discovered Mr. Danchenko had made contact with the Russian embassy and intelligence service. 

The FBI closed the investigation, however, after mistakenly believing he left the country. 

Also unexplainable is why the FBI would continue paying the dossier’s chief source as the Democratic-financed claims collapsed before the bureau terminated him.

What Mr. Durham presents in his filing on evidence for a trial set to begin next month is that Mr. Danchenko fabricated his sources when he spoke to the FBI and Mr. Steele.

Mr. Danchenko said the “well-developed conspiracy” assessment came from a phone call with a source he believed to be Sergei Millian. Mr. Millian is a Belarus-born U.S. Citizen who ran an organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

The Durham brief in U.S. District Court in Alexandria states that Mr. Danchenko never spoke to Mr. Millian and Mr. Millian never provided any dossier information. 

At one point, Mr. Danchenko told the FBI he spoke in July for a dossier item that appeared in June 2016.

With this sentence, Mr. Durham implies Mr. Danchenko fabricated his dossier contributions accepted by Mr. Steele:

“Put bluntly, these facts demonstrate that the defendant could not keep his lies straight, and that the defendant engaged in a concerted effort to deceive the FBI about the sourcing (or lack thereof) of the Steele Reports,” Mr. Durham states.

For the Ritz Carlton fiction, the filing says, Mr. Danchenko attributed the story to a source that fits the description of Bernd Kuhlen, the hotel’s manager. 

But Mr. Kuhlen, listed as a prosecution witness, says he never spoke to Mr. Danchenko or heard the Trump tale.

This brings us to Charles Dolan, a Hillary Clinton-connected PR contractor who worked for the Kremlin and mixed with hotel staff during a June visit to Moscow.

Mr. Dolan became a source for Mr. Danchenko whom he used to network for foreign clients. Mr. Dolan told prosecutors he had lunch with Mr. Kuhlen at the Ritz and was shown by staff the hotel’s presidential suite where Mr. Trump supposedly stayed. But Mr. Dolan says there was no talk of Mr. Trump and he will testify to that. 

The Moscow tale appeared in Mr. Steele’s first memo dated June 20, 2016, the month when Mr. Dolan and Mr. Danchenko were in Moscow. Mr. Kuhlen, the hotel manager, is “Source E,” the Durham filing says.

Mr. Danchenko told the FBI in May 2017 that “Source D” “could be referring to Sergei Millian.”

Said Mr. Durham, “In short, the Government intends to prove at trial that the defendant falsely sought to attribute the Ritz Carlton Allegations to Mr. Kuhlen.”

To show Mr. Danchenko’s pattern of devious behavior, Mr. Durham replicated an email he sent in February 2016 to another client, Sidar Global, who asked him to review a company intelligence report.  

Mr. Danchenko emailed:

“Emphasize sources. Make them bold or CAPITALISED [sic]. The more sources the better. If you lack them, use oneself as a source (“Istanbul-Washington-based businessman” or whatever) to save the situation and make it look a bit better.”

As for Mr. Millian, he left the U.S. in March 2017 after inaccurate press reports said he was Mr. Steele’s source which is what Mr. Danchenko told Mr. Steele. Mr. Millian has always denied this–––an assertion confirmed by Mr. Durham

Mr. Durham has been in a months-long effort to convince Mr. Millian to return to the U.S. to testify, but he has refused, fearing harm to his family and arrest by the FBI.

“The Government has repeatedly informed Millian that it will work to ensure his security,” Mr. Durham wrote. “Counsel for Millian would not accept service of a trial subpoena and advised that he does not know Millian’s address in order to effect service abroad.”

Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with the Washington Times.

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Australia asks FBI to help ID source of giant data leak

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+Comment Australian authorities have asked the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to assist with investigations into the data breach at local telco Optus.

Attorney general Mark Dreyfus yesterday revealed the FBI was asked to help identify the entities involved in the attack, which saw Optus leak data describing over ten million account holders. Data suspected to have been accessed included drivers licence details, passport numbers, email addresses and phone numbers.

Optus, owned by Singaporean mega-telco Singtel, disclosed the breach last Thursday.

In the days since, unpicking just what happened has become harder.

Ransom not payed but we dont care any more. Was mistake to scrape publish data in first place.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said the attack was “sophisticated.”

Australia’s Home Affairs minister Claire O’Neil said in Parliament that Optus “left the window open” – a likely reference to an apparent insider account of the attack that attributed it to an API allowing access to Optus’s trove of customer identity information used to verify customers’ identities with third parties or conduct credit checks. That data was allegedly mistakenly exposed to the internet, making queries to access customer info trivial.

But Optus CEO Rosmarin said O’Neil’s remarks were made before Optus had briefed the minister and in interviews said she felt the need to correct misinformation – an unapologetic riposte that has been typical of the telco’s response.

While the politics of the breach played out, attention turned to identifying the actors behind the breach and their intentions.

An entity claiming to have perpetrated the hack posted a demand for a $1 million ransom to the notorious BreachForums. Australian infosec reporter Jeremy Kirk contacted the poster, who provided some data that Kirk verified as containing records of Optus customers. Kirk later revealed that the entity had released 10,000 records and promised to release more.

Kirk also revealed that the data he had seen included references to Medicare, Australia’s national public health insurance scheme. Ministers quickly noted that Optus had not previously disclosed the leak of Medicare data.

The omission matters for two reasons, one of which is that it cast further doubt on Optus’s honesty.

The other is that Australia requires provision of multiple documents to establish identity when doing things like applying for loans or opening bank accounts. Allegations that Medicare membership numbers may have been present in the stolen data therefore increased the risk of identity fraud flowing from the data breach.

The potential for ID fraud had already seen state governments scramble to allow issuance of replacement drivers licenses, and citizen anger as that process proved difficult to arrange. Australia’s opposition parties have since called for free replacement passports to be issued to victims of the breach and government response to the incident has become another issue up for debate.

While the news cycle lurched in that direction, the BreachForums user announced that they had deleted the Optus data and withdrawn it from sale.

“Too many eyes. We will not sale data (sic) to anyone. We cant if we even want to: personally deleted data from drive (Only copy)” the entity wrote, adding “Optus if your reading we would have reported exploit if you had method to contact. No security mail, no bug bountys, no way too message.”

“Ransom not payed but we dont care any more. Was mistake to scrape publish data in first place.”

BreachForums posts sometimes mix accurate and highly speculative information, so Australian authorities have not accepted the post as the end of the matter and are continuing investigations.

But no alternative culprit has been mentioned, which is where collaboration with the FBI comes in.

Optus remains largely silent. The company has published a statement and FAQ but has not advised of compensation or whether it will fund new passports or drivers licences. Parent company Singtel has said almost nothing.

Australia’s population is 26 million so the 10.2 million records lifted from Optus may describe as much as 38 percent of the population. That’s vastly more than any previous data breach in Australia, and Optus is comfortably the most prominent brand to have suffered such an incident.

The incident has therefore dominated a news cycle and given unprecedented prominence to information security concerns.

Australia’s government, too, has given unusual focus to consumer protection in the digital age after years of focus on the intersection of infosec and national security. In coming days it’s expected laws will impose consumer protection requirements on companies that hold personal data, plus sterner fines for entities that leak data.

Debate on appropriate next steps for personal protection, and legislative responses, are suddenly mainstream.

They’ve never been there before because Australia has never endured such a high-profile attack.

Grim as the situation is, this may therefore be the breach Australia needed to have. And I say that as someone yet to be notified by Optus about whether my entanglements with the company put me at risk … and therefore hopes very much that the company soon explains itself in a way that displays sincere regret and an intention to restore trust. ®

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Complaints about Russia’s chaotic mobilisation grow louder

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By Kevin Liffey

LONDON (Reuters) -The strongly pro-Kremlin editor of Russia’s state-run RT news channel expressed anger on Saturday that enlistment officers were sending call-up papers to the wrong men, as frustration about a military mobilisation grew.

Wednesday’s announcement of Russia’s first public mobilisation since World War Two, to shore up its faltering Ukraine war, has triggered a rush for the border, the arrests of over 1,000 protesters, and unease in the wider population.

It is also attracting criticism from the Kremlin’s own official supporters, something almost unheard of in Russia since the invasion began.

“It has been announced that privates can be recruited up to the age of 35. Summonses are going to 40-year-olds,” the RT editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, railed on her Telegram channel.

“They’re infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite. As if they’d been sent by Kyiv.”

In another rare sign of turmoil, the defence ministry said that the deputy minister in charge of logistics, General Dmitry Bulgakov, had been replaced “for transfer to another role” with Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, a long-time army official.

Mizintsev, under UK, European Union and Australian sanctions, has been referred to by the EU as the “Butcher of Mariupol” for his role in orchestrating a siege of the Ukrainian port early in the war that killed thousands of civilians.

Russia appears set to formally annex a swathe of Ukrainian territory next week, according to Russia’s main news agencies. This follows so-called referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine that began on Friday. Kyiv and the West have denounced the votes as a sham and said outcomes in favour of annexation are pre-determined.


For the mobilisation effort, officials have said 300,000 troops are needed, with priority given to people with recent military experience and vital skills. The Kremlin denies reports by two foreign-based Russian news outlets that the real target is more than 1 million.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – who has repeatedly urged Russians not to fight – said pro-Moscow authorities knew they were sending people to their deaths.

“Running away from this criminal mobilization is better than being maimed and then having to answer in court for having taken part in an aggressive war,” he said in Russian in a video address on Saturday.

Russia officially counts millions of former conscripts as reservists – most of the male population of fighting age – and Wednesday’s decree announcing the “partial mobilisation” gave no criteria for who would be called up.

Reports have surfaced of men with no military experience or past draft age receiving call-up papers, adding to outrage that has revived dormant – and banned – anti-war demonstrations.

More than 1,300 protesters were arrested in 38 towns on Wednesday, and on Saturday evening more than 740 were detained in over 30 towns and cities from St. Petersburg to Siberia, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Reuters images from St. Petersburg showed police in helmets and riot gear pinning protesters to the ground and kicking one of them before carrying them into vans.

Earlier, the head of the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeyev, announced he had written to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu with a request to “urgently resolve” problems.

His Telegram posting criticised the way exemptions were being applied and listed cases of inappropriate enlistment including nurses and midwives with no military experience.

“Some (recruiters) hand over the call-up papers at 2 a.m., as if they think we’re all draft dodgers,” he said.


On Friday, the defence ministry listed some sectors in which employers could nominate staff for exemptions.

There has been a particular outcry among ethnic minorities in remote, poor areas in Siberia, where Russia’s professional armed forces have long recruited disproportionately.

Since Wednesday, people have queued for hours to cross into Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Finland or Georgia, scared Russia might close its borders, although the Kremlin says reports of an exodus are exaggerated.

Asked by reporters at the United Nations on Saturday why so many Russians were leaving, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to the right of freedom of movement.

The governor of Buryatia, a region which adjoins Mongolia and is home to an ethnic Mongol minority, acknowledged some had wrongly received papers and said those without military experience or who had medical exemptions would be exempt.

On Saturday, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, president of Mongolia until 2017 and now head of the World Mongol Federation, promised those fleeing the draft, especially three Russian Mongol groups, a warm welcome, and bluntly called on Putin to end the war.

“The Buryat Mongols, Tuva Mongols, and Kalmyk Mongols have … been used as nothing more than cannon fodder,” he said in a video, wearing a ribbon in Ukrainian yellow-and-blue.

“Today you are fleeing brutality, cruelty, and likely death. Tomorrow you will start freeing your country from dictatorship.”

The mobilisation, and the hasty organisation of the votes in occupied territories, came soon after a lightning Ukrainian offensive in the Kharkiv region this month – Moscow’s sharpest reverse of the war.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Peter Graff, Frances Kerry, David Ljunggren and Daniel Wallis)

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CIA director says Putin’s military has a lot of problems, “manpower only one of them”

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By Caitlin Yilek

September 27, 2022 / 7:02 PM / CBS News

CIA Director Williams Burns said Russia’s military has more issues than just manpower after President Vladimir Putin ordered a mobilization of 300,000 reservists last week. Putin’s decision, which has sparked protests and attempts to flee the country, comes as Ukraine has liberated some Russian-held areas. 

“Even if he’s able to mobilize 300,000 troops, it’s not as if throwing people like cannon fodder toward the front, many of whom are not going to be well trained, many of whom are not going to have the kind of equipment that they need or the logistical support that they need as well,” Burns told “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell in an exclusive interview Monday. “His military has a lot of other problems; manpower is only one of them.” 

Putin’s military mobilization appeared to be an acknowledgment that the war in Ukraine is not going according to plans. As he announced the move, Putin also hinted at the possibility of nuclear war. 

“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said. “It’s not a bluff.”

Burns said it was “very hard to say at this point” if Putin is bluffing, but the U.S. intelligence community has not seen “any practical evidence” that Putin is moving closer to using nuclear weapons. 

“What we have to do is take it very seriously, watch for signs of actual preparations,” he said, adding that policymakers should also “communicate very directly the severe consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons.” 

Watch more of Norah O’Donnell’s exclusive interview with CIA Director Bill Burns on “CBS Sunday Morning” on Oct. 2. 


First published on September 27, 2022 / 7:02 PM

© 2022 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Over 30 Trump associates subpoenaed by grand jury over alleged efforts to influence 2020 election results

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By Arden Farhi, Fin Gómez, Andres Triay

Updated on: September 13, 2022 / 8:46 AM / CBS News

More than 30 people associated with former President Donald Trump and alleged efforts to influence the 2020 election results have received federal grand jury subpoenas, four sources told CBS News. 

The subpoenas, many of which were issued last week, mark a significant escalation in the Justice Department’s investigation into origins of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and other alleged attempts to stop the transfer of power to then-President-elect Joe Biden. One source familiar with the case characterized the investigation as huge. 

The Justice Department is examining how money was raised and spent on alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election; efforts to submit fake “alternate” electors to Congress from states lost by Trump; and the “Stop The Steal” rally held at the Ellipse, adjacent to White House grounds, on Jan. 6, just before the Capitol riot.

The Justice Department’s inquiry into potential mishandling of presidential and classified records found at Trump’s Florida estate is a separate matter.

Those who were served subpoenas included employees and contractors for the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee, including poll watchers, according to two sources familiar with the subpoenas. The sources said the identities of those subpoenaed range from household names to mostly unknown, low-level field staffers.

CBS News has confirmed that close Trump aide Will Russell received a subpoena by email last week. And The New York Times reported last week that former White House senior aides Stephen Miller and Brian Jack also received subpoenas.

Jack and an attorney for Russell did not respond to a request for comment. Miller declined to comment through an intermediary.

FBI personnel served several of the subpoenas early in the morning last Wednesday and Thursday, the sources said, adding that in at least two instances, agents executed search warrants that allowed them to seize individuals’ cell phones.

Virginia-based attorney David A. Warrington, who said he represents approximately a dozen clients who have been issued subpoenas, said the FBI was “very professional” when serving his clients. He added that the subpoenas his clients received are nearly identical, describing them as lengthy documents divided into sections and subsections. They cover issues related to “alternate” electors and election certification deadlines on Dec. 14 and Jan 6, fundraising by the Save America PAC and the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally — but not the ensuing riot.

The subpoenas require individuals provide documents and any communication between themselves and Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Bernie Kerik, Warrington said. The subpoenas also demand recipients to provide any communication with dozens of individuals who appeared on slates of fake electors.

At least some of the subpoenas compel recipients to appear before a grand jury on September 23 at the Washington, D.C., district courthouse, Warrington said. 

Mother and daughter Amy and Kylie Kremer were served subpoenas last week, according to Warrington. They are listed as “host(s)” on the National Park Service permit for the Ellipse rally on Jan. 6, 2021.

Both are part of Women for America First, which on its website tells visitors to “Help us fight back against the January 6th Committee and the DOJ!” Warrington said the Kremers are not connected to the riot at the capitol that ensued after the rally. 

First published on September 12, 2022 / 6:40 PM

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