routinely amplifies Russian claims about the war with Ukraine and about secret biological weapons research, as part of its own information battle with the United States that began with the debate over the spread of Covid-19.

China’s heavily censored internet, which aggressively stifles unwelcome political opinions, has also freely circulated conspiracy theories about a possible American role in the spread of monkeypox, as Bloomberg reported.

Russia’s efforts to push the claims about biological weapons come from an old Russia propaganda playbook, adapted to the age of social media.

Researchers at the RAND Corporation called the Russian strategy a “fire hose of falsehood,” inundating the public with huge numbers of claims that are designed to deflect attention and cause confusion and distrust as much as to provide an alternative point of view.

died on Tuesday, that it would hurt newly warming relations with the West.

Russia’s propaganda model today has been adapted to take advantage of “technology and available media in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War,” according to the RAND study.

Despite “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions” and a disregard of consistency, the strategy can often be persuasive to some, especially those who have preconceived biases, one of the authors, Christopher Paul, said in an interview.

“There are still people who believe the C.I.A. caused AIDS in Africa, even though that idea has been thoroughly debunked,” Mr. Paul said. “Not many, but some.”

Like many disinformation campaigns, Russia’s accusations on occasion have a passing relationship to facts.

Even before the war in Ukraine, Russia raised alarms about U.S. efforts to establish closer defense and research ties with several of Russia’s neighbors, including other former republics of the Soviet Union.

invoked a special session was in 1997, when Cuba accused the United States of spraying a plume of insects over the country’s crops, causing a devastating infestation.

The proceedings were not public, but several nations later submitted written observations about Cuba’s claims and the United States’ rebuttal. Only North Korea supported Cuba’s claim. Eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand — concluded there was no link. China and Vietnam said it was impossible to determine. (Russia submitted no response.)

“There’s a big silent majority that just wants to sit on the fence,” Dr. Lentzos said. “They don’t really want to take a side because it could hurt their interests either way. And so the big question is not ‘Do these guys believe it, or not?’ It’s to what extent are they motivated to act on it and speak out.”

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High Seas Deception: How Shady Ships Use GPS to Evade International Law

The scrappy oil tanker waited to load fuel at a dilapidated jetty projecting from a giant Venezuelan refinery on a December morning. A string of abandoned ships listed in the surrounding turquoise Caribbean waters, a testament to the country’s decay after years of economic hardships and U.S. sanctions.

Yet, on computer screens, the ship — called Reliable — appeared nearly 300 nautical miles away, drifting innocuously off the coast of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. According to Reliable’s satellite location transmissions, the ship had not been to Venezuela in at least a decade.

Shipping data researchers have identified hundreds of cases like Reliable, where a ship has transmitted fake location coordinates in order to carry out murky and even illegal business operations and circumvent international laws and sanctions.

maritime resolution signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015, all large ships must carry and operate satellite transponders, known as automatic identification systems, or AIS, which transmit a ship’s identification and navigational positional data. The resolution’s signatories, which include practically all seafaring nations, are obligated under the U.N. rules to enforce these guidelines within their jurisdictions.

sophisticated examples of AIS manipulation, officials said, and the country goes to great lengths to conceal the illegal activities of its large fishing industry.

Windward is one of the main companies that provide shipping industry data to international organizations, governments and financial institutions — including the United Nations, U.S. government agencies and banks like HSBC, Société Générale and Danske Bank. At least one client, the U.N. Security Council body that monitors North Korea’s sanctions compliance, has used Windward’s data to identify ships that breach international laws.

reported an increase in cases of AIS manipulation and jamming in the Black Sea, coinciding with U.S. and Ukrainian claims that Russia was trying to hide its oil exports and smuggle stolen Ukrainian grain.

many of the same ships have recently started trading Venezuelan oil that is under U.S. sanctions.

The spread of AIS manipulation by E.U.-registered vessels shows how advances in technology allow some shipowners to earn windfall profits from commodities under sanction while benefiting from European financial services and legal safeguards.

Cyprus’s deputy shipping minister, Vassilios Demetriades, said illegal manipulation of on-ship equipment is punishable by fines or criminal penalties under the island’s laws. But he has downplayed the problem, saying AIS’s “value and trustworthiness as a location device is rather limited.”

According to Cyprus’s corporate documents, Reliable belongs to a company owned by Christos Georgantzoglou, 81, a Greek businessman. The ship crossed the Atlantic for the first time shortly after Mr. Georgantzoglou’s company bought it last year, and has transmitted locations around eastern Caribbean Islands since, according to Windward’s analysis.

But Venezuela’s state oil company records reviewed by The New York Times show that Reliable was working for the Venezuelan government in the country during that time.

Mr. Georgantzoglou and his company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Their Venezuelan dealings appear to contradict a promise made by Greece’s powerful shipowners association in 2020 to stop transporting the country’s oil. The association did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Reliable is still moving fuel around Venezuelan ports or loading crude onto Asia-bound ships in open waters to hide its origin, according to two Venezuelan oil businessmen, who asked not to be named for security reasons. It still broadcasts coordinates of a ship adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

Adriana Loureiro Fernandez and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Live Updates: Ukraine Announces Military Push in South; U.N. to Inspect Nuclear Site

Credit…Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday that it was dispatching a team of experts to inspect a nuclear complex in southern Ukraine that has been imperiled by shelling, launching a crucial but highly risky mission to ease global fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

After weeks of contentious negotiations involving Russia, whose forces occupy the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and Ukraine, whose engineers are keeping it running amid near-daily artillery strikes in the area, the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency announced that the inspectors were “on their way” and would reach the site later this week.

Both Russia and Ukraine welcomed the announcement by the I.A.E.A. director general, Rafael M. Grossi, even as they repeated accusations that the other side was responsible for the shelling. Mr. Grossi did not specify how the mission would reach Zaporizhzhia, which is Europe’s largest nuclear facility, a sprawling complex of six light-water reactors, cooling towers, machine rooms and radioactive waste storage sites.

If the inspectors travel through Ukrainian territory to reach the plant, which is located along the Dnipro River in a part of southern Ukraine controlled by Russian forces, they would become one of the few international missions to cross the front line during the six-month war.

The I.A.E.A. has said that at Zaporizhzhia its team would check on safety systems, assess damage to the plant and evaluate the staff’s working conditions. Among the main concerns is that fires or other damage could cause cooling systems to fail and lead to a nuclear meltdown.

But the agency did not immediately disclose the timing of the visit or security arrangements, a sign of the complexities and dangers of the mission, even for an agency that has monitored nuclear sites in Iran, North Korea and other challenging locations.

Russia’s envoy to the I.A.E.A., Mikhail Ulyanov, said that Moscow would facilitate the visit, and that the agency has signaled that it intends to station some experts at the Zaporizhzhia complex “on a permanent basis,” the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said on Monday that he expected the I.A.E.A. experts would conclude that Russia was putting “the entire world at risk of nuclear accident,” and repeated Ukraine’s calls for Moscow to withdraw its forces from the plant.

The area where the plant is located has seen some of the most intense recent fighting in the war, as strikes along the entire southern front line hit ammunition depots, towns and military bases. The plant has come under sporadic shelling since early August, although the extent of the damage to it remains unclear.

Last week, after fighting severed a high-tension electrical line, the Zaporizhzhia facility was temporarily disconnected from the nation’s power grid for the first time, Ukrainian officials said. Operators implemented emergency procedures to cool the reactor cores with pumps powered by diesel generators, but the event underscored the extreme danger posed by nearby fighting.

Plant employees and outside experts say an artillery strike would not penetrate the yard-thick reinforced concrete of the containment vessels over the six reactors, but could damage the reactors’ supporting equipment or spark fires that could burn out of control. Artillery strikes could also breach less robust containers used to store spent nuclear fuel.

Fears of a possible radiation leak if the plant is further damaged have prompted Ukrainian officials to start distributing potassium iodide, a drug that can protect against some radiation poisoning, to people living within 35 miles of the plant.

On Monday, Dmytro Orlov, the exiled mayor of Enerhodar, the Russian-occupied town near the plant, said that two neighborhoods in the city were hit by shelling overnight that he blamed on Russian forces. Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear energy company, said that the Russian shelling had wounded 10 residents of Enerhodar, including four employees of the plant.

Negotiations to allow I.A.E.A. inspectors access went on for weeks, with Russia reportedly insisting that inspectors travel through Russian territory to access the plant. Ukraine objected because that would have underscored Russian control over the facility, which provides 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity.

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As Russia Increases the Size of Its Army, Both Sides Dig In for a Long Conflict

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s largest nuclear plant was reconnected to the national power grid on Friday afternoon, but its time offline renewed concerns about the safe operation of the plant and the consequences for millions of Ukrainians if there are further interruptions to power.

Ukrainian engineers were able to restore damaged external power lines after repeated shelling on Thursday, ensuring the facility was able to meet its own power needs and continue to operate safely, according to Ukrainian and international officials, but efforts to reconnect it to the grid took longer.

With fires raging around the plant, new shelling in and around the facility on a near daily basis and an exhausted and stressed team of Ukrainian engineers tasked with keeping the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant running safely, however, calls for international intervention grew louder.

“Nowhere in the history of this world has a nuclear power plant become a part of a combat zone, so this really has to stop immediately,” Bonnie Denise Jenkins, the State Department’s under secretary for arms control and international security, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. Russian actions, she said, “have created a serious risk of a nuclear incident — a dangerous radiation release — that could threaten not only the people and environment of Ukraine, but also affect neighboring countries and the entire international community.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine used his nightly address to underscore the risks, saying emergency systems had worked on Thursday, but that, had they failed, the country, and the world, would be contending with a nuclear accident.

And though the immediate threat appeared to have been averted, the disconnection of the plant from the national grid caused widespread power outages across southern Ukraine, adding to the misery wrought by the war. When fully operational, the plant provides electricity for some 20 percent of the country, including roughly four million homes.

The Zhaporizhzhia regional government said that as of Friday morning, energy supplies were “partially restored” from other sources. Residents across the region reported widespread power outages overnight and into the morning.

The plant was reconnected to the Ukrainian grid at 2:04 p.m., according to Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom. The agency, in a statement, praised the workers at the plant who “tirelessly and firmly hold the nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine and the whole of Europe on their shoulders.” It was not immediately clear how many people were still without power.

Ukrainians in occupied areas are already living under difficult conditions. In eastern Ukraine, Russian bombardments and fierce fighting have destroyed nearly all of the infrastructure needed to provide heat, power and clean water, leading the Ukrainian government to order a mandatory evacuation of the less than 200,000 people still living in the eastern Ukrainian region known as Donbas.

The situation in the occupied south is more complicated. Many of the towns and cities there fell in the first days of the war and were spared the widespread destruction witnessed in the east. But if the nuclear plant were to go offline again, the power for hundreds of thousands living in occupied territories could be compromised.

“The south of Ukraine — the occupied areas — is already in a state of humanitarian disaster,” Mr. Zelensky said. “In addition to all the evil that the occupiers brought there, electricity, water and sewage were cut off.”

Though the plant’s disconnection from the national grid appeared to be the related to nearby fighting, Ukrainian officials have been warning for weeks that Moscow wants to divert the power from the plant for its own needs by disconnecting it from the Ukrainian grid and then reconnecting it to the Russian grid, a potentially complicated process in a war zone that leaves room for an accident.

Ms. Jenkins, the State Department official, said the U.S. is working through the United Nations Security Council to persuade Moscow not to attempt such a potentially risky move.

“We don’t want that to happen,” she said. “We are continuing to talk with Russia and through these Security Council discussions and to impress upon Russia not to do that.”

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U.N. chief to meet Zelenskiy, Erdogan in Ukraine on Thursday

FILE PHOTO – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a signing ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey July 22, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ukraine on Thursday, a U.N. spokesman said, and on Friday visit the Black Sea port of Odesa, where grain exports have resumed under a U.N.-brokered deal.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that Guterres would meet Zelenskiy in Lviv in western Ukraine and discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, along with finding a political solution to the conflict with Russia.

Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling near the eastern Ukraine nuclear plant, which Russian forces took over in the early stages of their Feb. 24 invasion. The plant is still being operated by Ukrainian technicians. read more

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The United Nations has said it can help facilitate a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to Zaporizhzhia from Kyiv, but Russia said any mission going through Ukraine’s capital was too dangerous.

On Saturday, Guterres will visit the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which is made up of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials overseeing the Black Sea exports of Ukraine grain and fertilizer.

Three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, making it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers. The United Nations said the deal aims to ease a worsening global food crisis. read more

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Turkey says ship carrying first Ukrainian grain on track for safe arrival

  • Ukraine consults U.S. in using HIMARS launchers, official says
  • Comment prompts Kremlin to accuse U.S. of direct involvement
  • First wartime Ukraine grain export ship reaches Bosphorus Strait
  • U.S. sanctions target ex-Olympic gymnast seen as close to Putin

ISTANBUL/LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine war while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow’s invasion anchored safely off Turkey’s coast after a problem-free journey.

Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used U.S.-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

Skibitsky told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper there was consultation between U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes and that Washington had an effective veto on intended targets, though he said U.S. officials were not providing direct targeting information.

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Russia’s defence ministry, headed by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said the interview showed that Washington was entangled in the conflict despite repeated assertions that it was limiting its role to arms supplies because it did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow. read more

“All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

“It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians.”

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or Pentagon to the ministry’s assertions.

The Pentagon did deny, however, Moscow’s claims that Russia had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS since the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24. Russia regularly claims it has hit HIMARS but has yet to show proof. read more

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of carrying out devastating missile attacks on civilian targets on an almost daily basis. Both sides deny deliberately targeting civilians.

The accuracy and long range of missile systems provided by the West were intended to reduce Russia’s artillery advantage, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday night said that despite those supplies, his country’s forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas. … It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he said.

A Russian diplomat said at the United Nations that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by NATO countries over the invasion. read more

At a nuclear non-proliferation conference, diplomat Alexander Trofimov said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state.

“None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control department of Russia’s foreign ministry, told the U.N. conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

SAFE PASSAGE

Meanwhile, a July 22 U.N.-brokered deal to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain had an initial success. Turkey said that the first loaded ship since Russia’s invasion more than five months ago was safely anchored off the Turkish coast. read more

The vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni was at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 1800 GMT on Tuesday, some 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

A delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel work, is expected to inspect the ship at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said.

It was loaded with 26,527 tonnes of corn.

“We hope that there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Dujarric said there were about 27 ships in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal that were ready to go.

The exports from one of the world’s top grain producers are intended to help ease a global food crisis.

“Our goal now is to have an orderly schedule so when one ship leaves port there should be other vessels – both those loading and those approaching the port,” Zelenskiy said.

For the safe passage deal to stick, there are other hurdles to overcome, including clearing sea mines and creating a framework for vessels to safely enter the war zone and pick up cargoes. read more

Known as Europe’s breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain held in silos and 40 million tonnes from the harvest now under way, initially from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

Russia has called the Razoni’s departure “very positive” news. It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports.

Adding to those sanctions, the United States on Tuesday targeted Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast the Treasury Department described as having a close relationship with Putin. Putin has denied they are romantically linked.

The department said in a statement Kabaeva heads the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin group of television, radio and print organizations.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by Andrew Osborn. Mark Heinrich and Alistair Bell; editing by Nick Macfie, Grant McCool, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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