This Week's Topics:
Biolabs in Ukraine
Russia Requests Help From China
The Male State
US Journalists Killed in Ukraine
The New Nuclear Alliance
Iran Hits Israel
Saudi Arabia Executes 81People in a Day
History's Mysteries: The Woman Odette
So what is going on in that conflict?
Russian forces continue to regroup near Ukraine’s larger cities in preparation for upcoming attacks. The Ukrainian Army conducted several successful counter-attacks and destroyed quite few pieces of Russian equipment.
A theater sheltering civilians was bombed in Mariupol according to Ukrainian officials. Russia denies the airstrike occurred, but we know they would never admit to it anyway. Mariupol's city council shared images of a burning building, saying hundreds of residents had taken refuge inside, and the number of casualties was not yet known.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed U.S. Congress, calling on it "to do more." Specifically, he continues to push for a no-fly zone over Ukraine--- which the U.S. and NATO do not back. The U.S. did, however, approve $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine and vowed to send more weapons.
So to recap, the war rages on, and while there is talk of the possibility of being close to a ceasefire agreement; I am not optimistic that will happen. I am not alone as the French defense minister is not optimistic either; or he is just tired of being lied to by his Russian Counterparts.
Biolabs in Ukraine:
There has been a lot of chatter about bio-labs in Ukraine. What is going on there?
This has been the top story in the fact-checking community. Russia has been pushing a narrative that Ukraine has been creating biological weapons to use on their own people as well as Russian troops. They say that it is being funded by the Pentagon, and if the weapons are used it would be a war crime and justify Putin’s actions.
Is there any truth to the claims that Ukraine has biological weapons they are ready to use?
The truth is more nuanced than “Yes” or “No." Does Ukraine have a number of biolabs in the country? Yes---every country has bio-labs used to research various diseases. Bio-labs are distinguished by the level of disease being researched. For example, the highest level of bio safety is BSL-4, and there are currently 60 BSL-4 labs in the world. Seven of these are in the US, Russia has one, but Ukraine has zero. They do, however, have some level 3 bio-labs that were created by the U.S. based company Black and Veatch. There has not, at this time, been any definitive proof that Ukraine owns a bio-weapons facility that is financed by the US Government.
Echo Analytics, a US based open-source intelligence company, did a great deep dive into this. We will try to touch on a few things real quick. I do want to say one thing. Just because you read something on the internet does not make it true. It is important to keep in mind that many people in the media and politics are careful and selective with their wording.
Can you give an example?
The way misinformation works is to only be as truthful as you need to be to form and promote the narrative you want people to believe and support. Example: Former democratic presidential candidate says, “Ukraine has several HIGHLY dangerous biological laboratories funded by the U.S. Pentagon.” Now, is this true? That would be up for interpretation. What do you consider HIGHLY dangerous? BSL-3 labs work with pathogens such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Black and Veatch claims those are “especially dangerous pathogens." Black and Veatch also say that the labs in Ukraine are “specifically designed and constructed to support work with especially dangerous pathogens that can be naturally occurring or introduced in a bioterrorism attack. It serves as a central location for research, consolidation, and training on the proper handling of dangerous pathogens. The lab also provides the Ukrainian Ministry of Health a safe environment to confirm diagnosis of suspected dangerous pathogens, enhancing public health while deterring bioterrorism.”
Do we know specifically where this information came from?
Echo Analytics actually traced it back to February 25 of this year. A member of the anonymous image board 4chan posted that the U.S. Department of Defense funded Ukrainian bioweapons. This post caught the attention of QANON and started making the rounds on social media. We honestly do not have enough time to get in to this, so I just want to finish this topic up by saying, words mean a lot.
Are there biolabs in Ukraine? Yes.
Was it funded by DoD? Yes, by a grant from DTRA(The Defense Threat Reduction Agency) which is the only Department of Defense organization focused exclusively on countering and deterring weapons of mass destruction and emerging threats.
Are there biological weapons being researched in Ukraine that are currently supported by the U.S. Department of Defense? Not that I have seen yet. That lab and weapon distinction is important. If a highly classified bio weapons laboratory funded by DoD is found, the U.S. will have a lot of explaining to do and honestly, it’ll be tough for anyone that knew about them to come back from that revelation.
I rambled a bit, but I think this topic is very important. I want to say one more time, I have NOT seen evidence of a biological weapons laboratory in Ukraine funded by the DoD. If I do see that evidence.
Russia Requests Help From China:
I read recently that Russia and China are discussing more of a partnership. What is the deal there?
This week Russia has requested the support of China in its invasion of Ukraine. The request included military aid and equipment, but it is not clear what Moscow has requested specifically. U.S. intelligence has information suggesting China has interest in providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine.
Most of the request from the Kremlin to Beijing concerns monetary assistance, but Russia also inquired about drones. The Russians seem not to have anticipated that they or Ukraine would deploy drones in this conflict. That is one reason they are asking China about them. At this point, Russia has committed all of the troops it had pre-staged around Ukraine's borders prior to its invasion. Despite that, the Russian advance on Kyiv has made slow progress. There have been days when the troops remain stalled and sitting targets for Ukrainians.
So is China considering sending aid to Russia?
China is playing it safe and even stated that the report is false that Russia even asked for aid. The U.S. is getting ahead of this by holding a meeting with high level Chinese officials warning them against aiding Russia during this war.
China has the second largest economy in the world, the largest active military, the fourth best cyber security apparatus, and the third most nuclear arsenal which is quickly expanding to hypersonics. This is cause for concern, as sanctions will not do much to persuade China from staying out of global conflict.
The Male State:
What is this talk of The Male State?
The Male State is a Russian based online gang of racists, homophobes and misogynists. They were designated as extremists in their own country in 2021. In October of 2021, the private intelligence company Bellingcat posted a complete research paper on the Male State, and I will link that in the show notes for all to read. Now, while they are considered an extremeist group in Russia, they are still very popular with Russia’s far-right population.
What makes them an extremist group? And why would you say they are racists, homophobes, and misogynists?
Let me tell you a story from this past summer. An ad for a health food supermarket chain
was released, and one of the families in the ad were an LGBTQ+ family. The supermarket chain said, “It’d be hypocritical not to talk about the real families of our customers." That ad, according to Russian law, had to be rated for individuals aged 18+ due to Russian laws against the promotion of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships,” including homosexuality.
The Male State immediately jumped into action and posted on their secure messaging boards in Telegram that those featured in the ad were “Untermensch.” That is the German word for ‘subhuman’ used by the Nazis. All parties were then attacked by followers of the male state, the ad was discontinued, and the family fled to Spain by August.
So what are they doing in regards to Russia’s war on Ukraine?
It is a lot of talk with some sprinkles of disinformation and misinformation. Since the invasion of Ukraine, many Male State members have suggested a strike on Ukrainian president Zelensky, who is Jewish, and his associates in Kyiv could be seen as a “solution of the Ukrainian question." This is a nod to the Nazi term “Final Solution” in regards to the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.
How dangerous is this group?
I consider them very dangerous. Not because their group is vast in numbers, but they are huge in propaganda. That dangerous propaganda is being picked up by war weary Westerners looking for a reason to stay out of the conflict. This type of messaging suggests that Ukraine was once and has always been Russian, Ukraine has been infilitrated by Nazi’s looking to promote ethnic cleansing in the region; and that Ukraine is led by a pro-NAZI puppet regime.
The disinformation here is subtle, and in some extremist communities they are very effective. This could lead to a rift among the populations of various NATO countries as they try to decide whether to get involved in this war. When a country’s population is divided at war, it becomes difficult for their militaries to be effective. That is the danger the Male State poses for nations outside of Russia. Their ability to quickly and effectively push a false narrative is only rivaled by corporate media.
U.S. Journalists Killed in Ukraine:
Do you have information on the tragic deaths of journalists in Ukraine?
Let me first say--- you will hear us harp on the media a lot, but we just want to keep them honest especially during the misinformation era. We have never and will never call on anyone to harm or attack anyone--- let alone journalists just trying to do their job. Each of these deaths are tragic.
Brent Renaud, an acclaimed filmmaker and journalist, was killed on March 13, when his vehicle came under fire at a checkpoint 10 km NW of Kyiv. He was traveling with American journalist Juan Arredondo---who was wounded and taken to a hospital in Kyiv. Also, two journalists working for Fox News have also been killed. Cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshinova, who was just 24, were killed when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire on the outskirts of Kyiv. Their colleague, Benjamin Hall, was wounded and remains in hospital.
Will there be retaliation for the deaths of these innocent people?
For right now, the retaliation will be after the war has ended in the form of war crime accusations pointed at Vladimir Putin and the high ranking Russian military officials who green lit these attacks. For right now, NATO and the U.S. are playing the sanctions game.
The New Nuclear Alliance:
Should we discuss the nuclear alliance between North Korea and Iran?
Recently, reports have emerged that Iran and North Korea have formed an alliance on nuclear operations. That coincides with the recent testing of missiles that occurred while the world watched Russia invade Ukraine. This week, reporting has indicated North Korea test fired the Hwasong-17 aka the Monster Missile with the capability to reach Washington, D.C.
I already know the answer to this, but I will ask anyway. How did that test fire go?
It failed. Immediately. This was one of the indicators that it was indeed the Monster Missile; as this would be the first test flight of the missile. On average, it usually takes three test fires to validate a missile. The key date for a successful test fire will be around April 15, when the country celebrates the 110th anniversary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il Sung. This is a date they normally promote their military might through parades and missile launches.
Why is the alliance with Iran interesting?
Iran is attempting to gain nuclear power, and North Korea is a country that has a similar world view towards the West and the United States. Iran is looking for the destruction of Israel. While North Korea may not have that specific goal, they do view Israel as a western country and would not be opposed to helping Iran achieve their goal.
Iran Hits Israel:
Are things heating up in the Middle East?
Things have started to boil for sure. First, Iran decided it would be smart to launch a dozen missiles toward a U.S. base in Erbil, Iraq. Then Iran took credit for it. However, in taking credit they did mention it was targeting two advanced Israeli centers.
Why the distinction that it was targeting Israeli positions?
That is the easiest way to not get a reaction from more pro-U.S. countries in the Middle East. The majority of Middle Eastern countries have a world view inconsistent with Israel’s existence and this has been a battle since the dawn of time.
Isn't this a huge red flag to the U.S. and western Europe as they reengage in talks about Iran's nuclear capabilities?
Yeah, no doubt. This was a terrible miscalculation, but Iran continues to fight a remote war with Israel where they either deliberately attack Israeli sites or retaliate against Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear sites.
So how close are we to World War III?
Closer than we have ever been, and I, for one, am getting tired of living through these major historical events.
Saudi Arabia Executes 81 People in a Day:
What happened in Saudi Arabia this week?
I wanted to shed some light on the atrocities of the Saudi government. I am not trying to gloss over this. I do think it is important in the context of geopolitics and where some countries are aligning themselves. This past Saturday, Saudi Arabia executed 81people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to belonging to militant groups. This is the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.
By contrast, the most people executed in one day in the U.S. in modern history is 4 in 2017. Those were all people convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The number of death penalty cases being carried out in Saudi Arabia had dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, but the kingdom continued to behead various convicts.
This was not a covert mission as the state-run Saudi Press Agency announced Saturday’s executions by saying they included those “convicted of various crimes, including the murdering of innocent men, women and children.”
History's Mysteries: The Woman Odette
Let's get to it. What is this week's "History's Mysteries?"
This week we discuss another exteremely important woman in espionage history. Odette Hallowes was born on 28 April 1912, in Amiens, France. At a time when it was rare for a woman to step out of the domestic environment, let alone engage in dangerous undercover war work, Odette had entered the brink of Hell and survived against all odds to testify against her persecutors at the International Nazi War Crimes Tribunals in Hamburg. Her contribution to the war effort was deemed to be all the more remarkable because she was the mother of three small daughters.
Odette arrived on the beaches in France on the night of 2 November 1942, and joined the Spindle network to get information to the French Resistance. She arrived at a difficult time for the network, as there was internal strife as well and a list of members had been lost and recovered by German forces---leaving all members exposed. She was tasked with finding food and lodging for French resistance members who were in France illegally without ration cards. She also tended to air drops that were sometimes carelessly placed in dangerous areas.
Due to this work, Odette was arrested by Italian forces posted at a hotel in Saint-Jorioz at 2:00 a.m. on April 16. She was interrogated by the Gestapo fourteen times. She was subjected to torture. Her back was scorched with a red-hot poker, and all of her toenails were pulled out. She refused to disclose the whereabouts of other British agents, and stuck to her cover that the man she was with was her husband. Coincidentally his name was Peter Churchill and she claimed him to be the nephew of Winston Churchill.
Was he related?
Not at all. They were not married either. After those interrogations, Odette was condemned to death on two counts in June 1943. She responded, "Then you will have to make up your mind on what count I am to be executed, because I can only die once." She was sent to the largest German concentration camp for women, called Ravensbruck. Interestingly, when U.S. forces reached the South of France, Odette was taken to a U.S. base by camp commandant Fritz Suhren hoping that her supposed connection to Winston Churchill would help to negotiate his way out of execution.
Did that work out for him? Nope, he was convicted and hanged in 1950. Odette’s survival was integral in convicting war criminals associated with the German Gestapo and NAZI party. She testified against numerous prison guards charged with war crimes at the 1946 Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials. In 1947, she did in fact marry Peter Churchill, but there remains no family connection to Winston Churchill. Her actions point to the type of endurance and courage a spy needs in the face of adversity. Under intense torture she refused to give information that could help the Germans arrest more spies in the area. Each one of those individuals working with the French Resistance at that time have her to thank for their survival.
Anything else for this week?
After that, I think we are out of time this week
Tiana, thank you so much and until next week, stay safe out there. As always, if you like this show please try to tell at least one person about us. We can be found wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, head over to Apple and Spotify podcasts and give us a 5 star review. Those help us get noticed by thousands of podcast listeners globally. And as always, if you would like in depth coverage of these stories and more, please subscribe to our community at aucoinanalytics.com.