Thundershowers lash Mumbai, IMD issues heavy rain warning for Sunday
MUMBAI: On Thursday evening, thunder and lightning coupled with rain lashed many parts of Mumbai and its neighbouring areas. Santacruz observatory said it received 53.4mm rainfall between only 5.308.30pm on Thursday. Weathermen have, in fact, issued a heavy rain warning at isolated places in the North Konkan region, including Mumbai, Sunday morning onwards. Mumbai has been witnessing thundershowers since the start of the week. On Thursday, waterlogging was reported at some places. Laxmi Lobo, a Shivaji Park resident, said there was waterlogging in the park. “In fact, rain water has not been draining out and we were planning to complain to the ward office about the same. This has become a den of mosquitoes,” she said. Thunder and lightning was also witnessed in areas around Mumbai like Ulhasnagar and Ambernath. Weathermen said heavy rain is likely at isolated places September 17 onwards and will continue till next day. “There is a weather system expected to develop in the Bay owing to which winds along the coast may increase,” said Nitha T, a scientist at IMD, Mumbai. Train services were hit as well. There was a technical problem between Bandra and Mahim stations on Harbour and Western lines due to the rain and services were stopped for some time. This resulted in delay in both Up and Down services, sources said.
Amarnath attack mastermind Abu Ismael was planning fidayeen operation
NEW DELHI: Abu Ismael, who had been leading Lashker-e-Taiba operations in the Kashmir valley over past 6-7 months, was planning a fidayeen attack on a security camp on the outskirts of Srinagar when J&K police caught up with him, top intelligence sources told TOI. A few days back, J&K police got track of Ismael, a top A++ category foreign terrorist who they had been trying to lay hands on since he masterminded the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. Tipped off by a source, the J&K police trailed Ismael over the past few days and finally cornered him in Nowgam. With his neutralization, the total count of terrorists killed in J&K so far this year has risen to 147 as against 150 in 2016. Ismael took charge of LeT operations in the valley almost 6-7 months back, well before Abu Dujana was killed. In fact, he replaced Dujana after the latter was ousted from Lashker-e Taiba over his refusal to be part of the Pampore attack and over distribution of loot from a March 2017 robbery. Ismael’s area of operation was essentially from Kulgam to Srinagar, an intelligence source said. “Last information we had was that he was planning a fidayeen attack on the outskirts of Srinagar,” said an officer. J&K police, along with CRPF and Army, has managed to neutralize many top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker since July 2016.
Burhan Wani, who assumed charge of Hizbul in 2014, was eliminated in an encounter on July 8, 2016. Forces have since been hot on his successor Zakir Musa’s trail. Sabzar Ahmed Bhat took over the Hizbul reins in May 2017 after Musa quit Hizbul, but was killed within a week. His successor Yasin too was killed in an encounter on August 13. “The emphasis is to create a vacuum in top echelons of the terror outfit by not allowing its senior most commander enough time to get a grip on its operations,” said an officer. The central agencies credit “good human intelligence” generated by J&K police for the high rate of terrorist killings. “J&K police always had good ground intelligence but were earlier tied up in controlling local protests including stone-pelting. With the mob violence having ebbed, they are now using this intelligence for counter-terror operations,” he said. In the past few months, many operations were undertaken based on technical intelligence generated by central agencies and ground intelligence by J&K police. However, after phone surveillance led to the elimination of many terrorists, a directive from top commanders asking cadres to junk their phones dried up the technical trail. “It is now essentially human intelligence by J&K police that is helping us,” said an intelligence operative.
Mumbai parents on high alert!
Tips for parents:
Spend as much time as you can with your kids
Teach them about good-touch and bad-touch
Enroll them in self-defense classes
Practice self defence sessions with kids at home
Ask questions apart from the regular ones about your child’s day
Build your child’s trust so that they confide in you
Tips for kids:
Never talk to strangers
Use force to push, if need be bite
Scream and run to a crowded area
Immediately narrate the incident to an elder
Talk to your parents about any untoward happening
Mumbai: Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear’ — said the late South African activist Nelson Mandela. However, promising children a safe environment has increasingly become difficult in the times that we live today. Repeated incidents of child abuse, rape, trafficking and kidnapping have left parents across the country helpless. The latest incident of a seven-year-old boy, Pradhyuman Thakur found with this throat slit in a school toilet in Gurugram after an alleged sexual attempt by the bus conductor has put them on high alert. Anuradha Vyas, 34, is one such parent. Between being glued to the television for the latest update on the case and having sleepless nights, tossing around for solutions to worst case scenarios, she decided that she had to do more than just teach about the good-touch, bad touch to her nine-year-old daughter, Preetha. One of the first things she did is to share a password with her. “I told her that should anyone approach her, offer her sweets or take her home (or anywhere else) by taking our names, she should ask for the password,” says Anuradha, adding that she’s not stopping at that. She and her husband, Aditya plan to invent more such code words and signs to help her daughter stave off predators. Like her, there are many parents out there, who are doing the same. They have now taken it upon themselves to train their kids to be alert and instill strength and confidence in them. We spoke to some of them, who shared the new strategies they have adopted to make their children alert about the monsters out there.
Kids need to learn to say no : Children are easy targets as they are innocent, vulnerable and trust anyone easily. Aparna Dharmadhikari, a cinematographer and mother of two daughters, including a five-year-old says, “If a stranger offers kids a chocolate, they tend to accept it easily. So, we need to condition kids to refuse goodies from strangers. I tell them that I will give them whatever they want, but not to take anything from an outsider. I try not to tell them too many negative things as it may instill fear in their minds. It may also prevent them from growing up into healthy and independent individuals.” Seconding Aparna, Apeksha Kanchan, mother of two, adds, “We also tell them that mummy-daddy will never change their mobile numbers without informing them. Every time we visit a crowded place, we first mark a place and show it to them so that they can reach it in case we get separated”.
Bite to fight off attack : Just knowing about good-touch and bad-touch is not enough, says Mansi S, a teacher, who’s taught her eight-year-old boy to use force if necessary. “I have told my son to shout loudly if anyone tries to hold him by force. In fact, we have practised it at home too. We have demonstrated the ways he can resist when he’s held by force or ambushed. I have also told him to bite that person’s hand and run away from the scene when he gets distracted.” Deepesh Seth, a businessman and father of a six-year-old boy, says, “I had seen a video where they teach kids about the danger points — chest, between the legs and bottom; if anyone touches at any of these points, they need to shout the loudest, run to a safe place, preferably a crowded area and tell an older, trustworthy person about the incident. I have shown the video to my child and we repeat the instructions to him too”.
Take up self-defense classes : While the education system may or may not include it in the curriculum, parents have begun to realise the importance of self defence. Says Rachana Srivastav, mother to two toddlers, “Self-defence classes should be made mandatory in school, just like they have art, music and dance classes. It should be part of the syllabus, where they begin training for it from the age of five”. When they had to pick between karate and bharatnatyam, parents of eight-year-old Ishita decided to enroll her in the former. Tanuja M, the mother, explains the reasons for making that choice, “We were waiting for her to turn eight, so that she could start learning bharatnatyam. But when we took her to the classes, we saw that they offered coaching in karate too. We would have liked her to do both, but the timings clashed, so we decided that the need of the hour is to make her learn self -defence. Besides, I have seen kids, who learn karate are alert and have a positive attitude towards fitness. My daughter can take up a dancing course some other time”.
Creating awareness with social media : A Bandra-based professional make-up artiste, Amrin Mukhi usually drops her kids to school in her car. Just as she was thinking of sending her young ones via school bus, reasoning that she will save time which would help her finish other chores, the horrific incident made her change her plans. She says, “I spend around two-and-a-half hours dropping and picking up my two kids and was thinking of sending them by a school bus. But after these reports, I do not have the heart to even think about a school bus. After the incident in Delhi, this whole topic lays heavy on other parents as well. In fact, most of the conversations on parents’ WhatsApp groups are about how can we make sure our kids are safe in school.” One such message with a warning about group of child traffickers on the prowl has gone viral among school groups. “On September 12, we had an incident in our society, wherein a stranger entered our building, befriended some children and left after taking pictures of some 5-6 year olds from our building. We are shocked that he managed to do so in spite of the presence of many other older kids and nannies. Thankfully one of the older kids spoke about it to his parents at night. When they passed on the message, the other kids also confirmed the same. This is very unnerving,” states the message. “I thought it’s my duty to keep you informed so that you are alert and can ensure the safety of your children. You would agree that once someone has taken the picture of your child, it won’t take too long to forge an ID card and fetch any child from the bus or school premises. Our children need to know that NO MATTER WHAT, they need to keep away from strangers and let us know if any stranger has approached them,” concluded the message.
Talk to your kids : Whenever parents get time with their kids, they need to talk to them about their day and how it went. They should not hesitate to share and address any untoward happening. Arpita Singh, mother to a five-year-old, says, “Gone are the days when we asked kids just about their studies in school and homework. Now, we need to ask them if anyone made them uncomfortable. Or when the bus driver spoke to you, was anyone else present in the room? We need to assure them to not to be afraid of anyone. They need to be bold and be able to speak up against anything wrong and confide in their parents”. Vaidehi Bapat, a homemaker, says, “Parents should talk to kids about things that might happen when they are on their own outside home. Children should be able to share incidents that make them uncomfortable with their parents, who in turn should believe, even if the perpetrator is known to them.” Parents should bridge the gap between their kids and themselves by having a healthy environment at home. Says Swamini Savant, mother to a five-year-old, “We should make them realise that their parents are always there to help them irrelevant of any circumstances. If our child believes in us, he won’t be afraid of anyone”.
Largest march as a war against child abuse : Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel laureate and child rights activist, has declared a war against rape of children and kicked off ‘Bharat Yatra’ against trafficking and sexual abuse of children from Kanyakumari on September 11. Touted to be the world’s largest march, the month-long yatra will culminate in New Delhi on October 16. “The age of rape victims is getting lower and the heinous crime is getting even more horrific as the victims are being murdered, the time for talk and preaching is over,” Satyarthi reportedly said, attacking the ‘moral epidemic’ in the country. Lakhs of children from across the country are expected to take part in the march. Actress Tara Sharma Saluja, whose talk show deals with children and family issues, suggests that parents should have regular discussions with their kids, without causing panic in their impressionable minds. Says Tara, “Good health and security of our kids is the biggest priority of every parent. This recent spate of horrific incidents is concerning and as parents, both Roopak (her husband) and I have regular chats with our sons about safety, without making it too graphic and scary for them. From a young age, we have told our kids never to accept anything from strangers. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not just strangers but known people who may pose as a threat, so we are very particular about trusting the kids with only a handful of people.” She agrees that parents can’t be with their kids all the time but can equip them with safety guidelines and ensure that these measures are met. She adds that awareness also plays a big role. “Kids should be educated about good-touch and bad-touch. Communication is key, so they must always talk to their parents if they have any concerns about anyone behaving oddly with them. And schools should have safety measures like scannable ID cards and CCTV cameras. On a wider scale, we must emphasize on safety at grassroots level, so that perpetrators are aware of severe consequences”.
North corporation issues safety norms to its schools
NEW DELHI: North Delhi Municipal Corporation has issued new guidelines for improving the safety of over 3 lakh students in its primary schools. The move comes after the murder of seven-year-old Pradhyumn inside Ryan International School highlighted the absence of any safety protocol in schools. The 30-point charter aims to improve security in over 719 schools. There is special focus on separate toilets for kids and keeping tabs on NGO workers, relatives of workers, van drivers, vendors and other outsiders coming inside the school property. Students will also be sensitised towards the issue so that they inform their teachers on seeing any outsider on the premises. Mayor Preeti Aggarwal said that the students in corporation schools, which have classes only up to the primary level — are very young and need special attention. “A security audit of all the schools will be done to ensure compliance. I have asked the officials to make it a time-bound process, with provisions of penalty in case of any violation,” she added.
Corporation schools that remain open are vulnerable to security lapses. When TOI visited one such school, there were no guards at the gate and one could easily walk in. Most posts of supporting staff like guards and school inspectors lie vacant. At present, there are very few guards and only 2 school inspectors against the sanctioned posts of 26. According to the guidelines, schools have been directed to strictly ensure that students are not left alone with any outsider, including NGO members and guards. “Classrooms and other rooms that are not used on a particular day must be locked. No vendor should be permitted to sell any eatables near the school,” the guidelines said. Principals have been asked to ensure that teachers do not use mobile phones in school.
Bengaluru: Police want CCTV cameras in school toilets
Bengaluru: A notice issued recently by the police department, asking schools to install CCTV cameras in bathrooms (among other places) has kicked up a storm, with 12 schools coming out in protest against the demand. The notice itself comes as a consequence of the alleged rape of an eight-year girl (studying in Class 4) by a 13-year-old boy from one of the 12 schools. The notice, issued by the jurisdictional police to each of these schools (a copy is with BM), stated that for the safety of students, CCTV cameras must be installed in front of the school, in every room, corridor as well as toilets or washrooms. A school principal told BM: “Just because the police want to play safe, they tell us to do a hundred things. They have asked us to put cameras in toilets. How can we do that? If I have to implement something at school, I have to send out a circular to the parents first. Then, only after hearing them out can we go ahead. If I send out a curricular like this, I will have to go to jail or parents will come and hit me”. D Shashi Kumar, General Secretary of the Associated Managements of Private Un-Aided English Medium School in Karnataka (KAMS), said: “It’s ridiculous that the police would send such a notice to schools. This would just put the managements behind the bar. There should not be such knee-jerk reactions. It should be thought
out well. You can’t provide security to one child at the cost of another. Privacy must also be considered”.
However, after the backlash from the school management, police officials went on a damage control mode and said it was a typo. An official said: “We have asked schools and colleges to install CCTV for the safety of children and that is how this has come out. What is mentioned as washrooms or toilets is nothing but the verandahs leading to the toilet. We did not say install cameras in the toilet. It is just a typing error. We will change that and issue a new notice to schools”. This circular was sent out to schools on September 8 after an alleged incident of rape of Class 4 student by a 13-year-old boy in one of the 12 schools. The incident reportedly took place on August 30. It was alleged that the girl was taken to the toilet on the first floor of the school and raped. Another minor boy had allegedly locked the door from outside and stood on guard outside the toilet to ensure nobody came to the toilet. The school was conducting a tuition class for students after school hours. As per reports, the attack took place after tuition. These two minor boys had threatened the girl against talking about it to anyone. Later, when the girl’s mother came home in the evening and found her crying, she reportedly told her about the attack. Soon after, the mother went to the police who registered a case under various sections of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. As all three students involved are minors, the police have submitted the case to the Juvenile Justice Board.
Hyderabad stranded in midnight deluge, NDRF gets SOS call
HYDERABAD: Many areas in the city came under a sheet of water due to heavy rains since Wednesday midnight. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and GHMC personnel swung into action to provide relief to stranded citizens in several localities. Malkajgiri, Kapra, Uppal and several other residential areas were inundated and normal life was thrown out of gear following the downpour. Hyderabad district received 9 cm of rainfall, the IMD said in its daily weather bulletin. Residents complained that they could not sleep since late Wednesday night as water entered their homes. GHMC commissioner B Janardhan Reddy and other officials coordinated the relief works since Thursday along with the personnel belonging to fire services, electricity and others. Twenty NDRF personnel carried out relief works with two boats.
14 live bombs recovered from shop in Howrah district
HOWRAH (West Bengal): Fourteen live bombs were today recovered from a shop in Howrah district, where a man was injured in an explosion yesterday, police said. Bomb squad personnel, during the search in the shop this morning, found the explosives, a police officer said. Komer Ali, the shop owner, who was injured in the explosion, has been admitted to Uluberia hospital with severe burn injuries, the officer said. Investigation into the incident is underway, he said, adding, police has not been able to interrogate Ali as he is in hospital. The explosion happened at the Teen Kapati Pool under the jurisdiction of Manikpur police station yesterday evening when Ali was closing the shop, the officer said.
A shoe that gives assaulters the ‘shock’ of their lives
HYDERABAD: Using only the concepts of physics he learnt in school and a few basic coding skills, a 17-year-old Hyderabad-based high school graduate Siddharth Mandala has designed an ‘ElectroShoe’ for women that will give an assaulter a strong electric shock and also send out an alert message to the nearby police station and family members. An aspiring tech entrepreneur, Mandala says that using such a product will help a woman thwart rape attempts. The shoe inflicts a 0.1amp “power kick” on the attacker. “All a woman needs to do is ensure that the battery is sufficiently charged. When the shoe makes contact with an attacker’s body, the attacker will be electrocuted,” he said. Call for help is automatic. Explaining the concept behind the ElectroShoe, Mandala says, “The shoe was created by using a unique circuit board that uses footsteps to charge itself with the help of a concept called the ‘piezoelectric effect’. The more the user walks, the more energy is stored in the shoe’s rechargeable battery“.
Miscreants attempt to rob two ATM outlets in Vellore
VELLORE: Miscreants attempted to rob two ATM outlets in Anaicut Bazaar, Vellore, during the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday. The incident came to light on Thursday morning when the passersby noticed that the ATM outlets were damaged. The miscreants attempted to rob the Indicash ATM and Axis Bank ATM in the bazaar area. Upon information, police personnel attached to Anaicut Station rushed to the spot and conducted an inquiry. They received a complaint from the officer-in-charge of maintenance of Indicash ATM. It was stated that the cash in the vault was intact, but the machine’s monitor, camera, modem and battery were found damaged. The police have launched an investigation to track down the miscreants.
At least 50 dead in attacks in southern Iraq
NASIRIYAH: At least 50 people including Iranians were killed on Thursday in twin gun and car bomb attacks near the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, local officials said. “The toll has now reached 50 dead and 87 wounded,” Abdel Hussein al-Jabri, deputy health chief for the mainly Shiite province of Dhiqar of which Nasiriyah is the capital, told AFP. The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency has released a statement claiming responsibility for the twin attacks. He warned that the death toll could rise as many of the wounded were in serious condition. The first attack struck close to a restaurant while shortly afterwards a car bomb targeted a security checkpoint in the same area, officials said. Security sources said the attackers were disguised as members of the Hashed al-Shaabi, mainly Shiite paramilitary units which have fought alongside the army and police against the Islamic State jihadist group to the north of Baghdad. The area targeted is used by Shiite pilgrims and visitors from neighbouring Iran headed for the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala further north, although Dhiqar has previously been spared the worst of the violence. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but IS regularly stages attacks in Iraq, where the jihadist group has lost swathes of territory to US-backed pro-government forces.
Russia’s war games with fake enemies cause real alarm
A military vessel is seen during the joint war games Zapad-2013 at the Khmelevka range on Russia’s Baltic Sea.
MOSCOW: The country does not exist, so it has neither an army nor any real citizens, though it has acquired a feisty following of would-be patriots online. Starting Thursday, however, the fictional state, Veishnoriya, a distillation of the Kremlin‘s darkest fears about the West, becomes the target of the combined military might of Russia and its ally Belarus. The nation was invented to provide an enemy to confront during a six-day joint military exercise that is expected to be the biggest display of Russian military power since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago. The exercise, known as Zapad-2017, is the latest iteration of a series of training maneuvers that began under the Soviet Union in the 1970s. After a long break following the collapse of communism, Zapad was revived in 1999 and then was expanded after Vladimir Putin became president at the end of that year. Zapad, “west” in Russian, used to include military forces from countries under the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet-led military alliance whose non-Soviet members have now all joined Nato. Today, the military exercise has shrunk to just two participants — Russia and Belarus — but it is still viewed warily by military planners in the West. It comes at a time of deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, with Washington and Moscow trading diplomatic penalties seemingly weekly. From bitter experience over Russian election meddling and military adventurism in recent years, Western officials have developed a deep distrust of the Kremlin’s motives and its proclamations of good intentions.
There are fears that Moscow may be moving far more troops into Belarus than it intends to withdraw, establishing a permanent military presence there on the border with Nato countries. And officials in the Baltics and Poland have voiced alarm that the exercises could be used as a cover for Russian aggression, as happened in 2014, when Moscow staged large-scale exercises to camouflage preparations for its annexation of Crimea and intervention on the side of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. “Nato will be monitoring the exercises closely,” the alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in an interview recently in Brussels, the site of Nato’s headquarters. Russia, he said, is entirely within its rights to train its forces. But it has stirred unease by routinely skirting mutually agreed upon rules designed to calm jitters. “The lack of transparency increases the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculations, accidents and incidents that can become dangerous,” Stoltenberg said. He called on Russia to “respect both the letter and intentions” of the so-called Vienna Document, which commits Russia and Western nations to report all exercises with more than 13,000 troops or 300 tanks and to allow foreign observers to monitor those that do. The West has been bracing for the Russian exercises for months. Then, late last month, a scenario outlined by the military leadership in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, described the main task for this year’s Zapad program: to repel aggression by Veishnoriya, a fictional country that is backed by the West and intent on driving a wedge between Russia and Belarus. The scenario also includes two other fake countries, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya, which form a coalition with Veishnoriya to menace Russian security.
The Baltic states and Poland, which fear that the fictional nations invented by Zapad planners are thinly disguised proxies for their own countries, say they believe that the number of Russian troops taking part in Zapad-2017 could reach 100,000. Western nations conduct war games, too, of course. This summer, the United States led an allied force of 25,000 in exercises in Eastern Europe. But the West follows the rules in the Vienna Document, and allows Russian observers to keep a watch. Russia, Stoltenberg said, has a record of exploiting loopholes in the Vienna Document, habitually understating the number of troops taking part in war games by tens of thousands. Moscow and Minsk insist that this week’s Zapad exercise will involve just 12,700 troops. This means that, like all previous Russian military exercises since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, it weighs in just under the 13,000-troop threshold and is therefore is free of observers from the West. But Estonia’s defense minister, Margus Tsahkna, has pointed to a tender issued this year by Russia’s Ministry of Defense for more than 4,000 railway wagons to transport military equipment and soldiers to Belarus. The figure suggests that far bigger military contingents would be on the move than declared, the minister said, a sign that Moscow may intend to leave some behind. The US military has echoed such worries, with Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who heads the Army forces in Europe, describing Zapad as a possible “Trojan horse” that would send in Russian forces but not take them out. Belarus, which depends on Russian supplies of cheap energy to keep its economy afloat and shares Putin’s belief that the West is plotting to sow division and even to invade, says it has no such concerns itself.
Military exercises, including those conducted by Nato, often feature invented enemies, a practice that blurs their real purpose and avoids upsetting real countries that do not like to be used as a punching bag for military training — especially when this involves simulated nuclear attacks. Western experts say they believe that Russian war games in 2009 and 2013 included simulated nuclear strikes against Warsaw and Stockholm. The three fake countries at the center of the Zapad-2017 drills have taken on a virtual life of their own online. While it is not clear who is behind it, a clearly pro-Western satirical Twitter account issues regular announcements in the name of the Veishnoriya Ministry of Foreign Affairs and displays pictures of the fake country’s passport, flag, national currency and other national symbols, all of them invented. “We are deeply concerned about the concentration of Belarusian military equipment at the borders of Veishnoriya,” reads one message posted by the nonexistent nation’s Foreign Ministry. Others include a call for volunteers from “brotherly countries” to repel an invasion from the east and warnings that Veishnoriyans are “warlike beasts” who will not surrender. Veishnoriya also has a lively account on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, with posts of beautiful Veishnoriyan women and natives in what is said to be traditional Veishnoriyan clothing. It also has fierce supporters on Facebook, where one fan provided a tongue-in-cheek “historical note” about the nonexistent country’s martial spirit: “Throughout its history, Veishnoriya hasn’t lost a single war”.
Russia has dismissed Western anxieties over Zapad-2017, saying that the exercises are purely defensive. Fueling unease is Russia’s silence on what exactly the exercises will involve. Belarus has invited foreign military attaches based in Minsk to watch and released some details of its war games with Russia, including airstrikes and tank battles on Sunday and Monday. But it is not clear that the attaches will have the freedom they need to move about and to talk with soldiers. Moscow, for its part, has said only that the exercises threaten nobody and will involve operations in Belarus, in Russia’s Western Military District and in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, next to Poland. This vagueness, according to Nato officials in Brussels, continues a pattern of obfuscation deeply entrenched since the Soviet era. A declassified CIA report on Soviet military exercises prepared in the 1980s said that deception was always a central feature of Moscow’s training program, with Soviet forces deploying elaborate ruses to camouflage the real number of troops and purpose of their major exercises. It noted that a Soviet naval exercise designed to practice landing troops on islands off Denmark, a member of Nato, had been disguised as training devoted to the defense of Soviet shores.
Measures taken to deceive Nato, the CIA report said, included leaking fake information on Soviet radio frequencies monitored by the West and planting disinformation through human agents. In some cases, the Soviet military deployed special “camouflage forces” that operated “in totally different regions” from those taking part in a real exercise “so as to mislead Nato intelligence.” It also generated phony radio traffic “in a manner intended to deceive foreign intelligence to the type of the exercise, its aim, conduct etc”. Foreign observers from Nato were never allowed to watch Soviet-era Zapad exercises, and diplomats based in Moscow were barred from visiting regions where the exercises were taking place. That was supposed to change with the signing of the Vienna Document, adopted in 1990 by the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and updated in 2011, but Russia has always found ways to circumvent the agreement. Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, said he could not speculate about the real purpose of Zapad-2017, saying that this would become clear only once it was over next week. At the same time, he noted, the exercise fits a “pattern of a more assertive Russia” that is “exercising more aggressively” and, through its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, has shown that “it is willing to use military force against its neighbors.