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Emmet

OPERATIONAL CONTEXT

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OPERATIONAL CONTEXT

 

It is February 2015. Escalation of the conflict in UKRAINE continues, placing the RUSSIAN FEDERATION on an ever increasing path towards outright confrontation with NATO and the European Union. The paper-thin mask of deniability over initial Russian intervention has slipped and western leaders are talking increasingly of implausible deniability when describing the actions of the Putin Regime.

 

 

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The authorities inside the RUSSIAN FEDERATION, including the much feared FSB, have clamped down hard on internal dissent, with record numbers of arrests and disappearances reported by NGOs including Amnesty International. However, these have not been sufficient to stifle a wave of growing civic unrest which has thrown together the families of missing dissidents alongside those whose loved ones are alleged to have been killed during unofficial operations in Ukraine and elsewhere.

 

 

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The dramatic fall in oil prices has hit the Russian economy very hard, and is cited by the Putin regime as evidence of Middle Eastern complicity in a western plot to destabilise the ?Greater Russia?.  As targeted sanctions begin to bite a growing number of regime figures are reported to have serious concerns that Russia is heading for a strategic shock for which is it unprepared. Internal unrest, unpopular conflict and tumbling revenues are already causing unsustainable price rises. A vicious cycle has been created from which the regime will struggle to break out.

 

 

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More than any other European nation the UK is providing a base from which anti-regime activists are criticising the Russian State. Russian dissidents and exiles from across the world are reported to be planning a London conference on the future of the Federation. The Russian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, is reported to have demarched the UK Government in the strongest terms, warning against what many view as tacit support to these controversial figures.

 

 

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As the inquest into the death of former FSB Officer Aleksander Litvinenko gets underway in London a series of incursions into European airspace by nuclear capable Russian Strategic Bombers are reported by NATO. As far back as 2011 defence sources cited increasing incursions by Russian aircraft in the strategically vital Baltic. In 2013 Tu-22M3 Backfire heavy bombers, capable of carrying cruise missiles and nuclear weapons, and their Su-27 Flanker fighter jets were reported to have practised attack runs close to the Swedish coast http://www.businessinsider.com/david-cenciotti-russia-simulated-a-massive-aerial-attack-2013-4?IR=T. On 28 October 2014 a pair of Russian aircraft carried out simulated attacks on a range of targets in the Baltic http://theaviationist.com/2013/11/13/russian-bombers-sweden-new-attack/; on and On 29 January RAF Typhoons shadow a pair of Tupolev 95 ?Bear? aircraft along the English Channel http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/29/russian-bombers-english-channel-ambassador-summoned. Russia?s formidable Baltic Fleet also carried out large scale landing exercises in the Kaliningrad area in June 2014.

 

 

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THE BORNHOLM INCIDENT
History & Geography
Bornholm ([b??n?h?l?m]; Old Norse: Burgundaholmr, "the island of the Burgundians") is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of most of Denmark, south of Sweden, northeast of Germany and northwest of Poland. The main industries on the island include fishing, arts and crafts such as glass making and pottery using locally worked clay, and dairy farming. Tourism is important during the summer. The topography of the island consists of dramatic rock formations in the north (unlike the rest of Denmark which is mostly gentle rolling hills) sloping down towards pine and deciduous forests and farmland in the middle and sandy beaches in the south.
The Ertholmene archipelago is located 18 km (11 mi) to the northeast of Bornholm. These islands, which do not belong to a municipality or region, are administered by the Ministry of Defence.
Strategically located in the Baltic Sea, Bornholm has been fought over for centuries. It has usually been ruled by Denmark, but also by L?beck and Sweden. The Hammershus castle ruin, at the northwestern tip of the island, is the largest medieval fortress in northern Europe, testament to the importance of its location.

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Military Significance
Bornholm was heavily bombarded by the Soviet Air Force in May 1945. On 9 May Soviet troops landed on the island, and after a short fight, the German garrison (about 12,000 strong) surrendered. Soviet forces left the island on 5 April 1946.
After the evacuation of their forces from Bornholm, the Soviets took the position that the stationing of foreign troops on Bornholm would be considered a declaration of war against the Soviet Union, and that Denmark should keep troops on it at all times to protect it from such foreign aggression. This policy remained in force after NATO was formed, and Denmark had joined it: the Soviets accepted the stationing of Danish troops, which were part of NATO but were far from that alliance's most powerful element, but strongly objected to the presence on the island of other NATO troops, particularly of US troops. A major diplomatic incident was narrowly averted in 2000 when an American helicopter landed outside the town of Svaneke due to engine problems in a NATO exercise over the Baltic Sea.
Strategic Importance
Despite the fears of the Soviet Regime in the aftermath of the Second World War both NATO and the Danish government perceived the strategic importance of Bornholm to have reduced over time With the fall of Soviet Russia and the subsequent thawing of relations with the west, the Danish Military presence on the island was reduced to a token force of local reservists. Despite increasingly provocative actions by the Russia Federation in the early part of this century this stance has not appreciably changed, due in part to fear of re-igniting old Soviet era diplomatic rows.

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THE BORNHOLM INCIDENT
In late October 2014 Swedish Air Defence radar detected a low flying package of 5-6 fast moving aircraft moving out of Russian Airspace on a vector towards the straights of Denmark. The technical failure of a JAS 39C/D of the Skaraborg Air Force Wing QRF (F 7 S?ten?s) resulted in a failure to intercept the unknown aircraft prior to a breach of both Swedish and Danish Airspace. Reports from the local Politet units subsequently confirmed by the Politiets Efterretningstjeneste suggest that the aircraft had made a low level reconnaissance of Bornholm before returning to Russian Airspace before they could be intercepted.

A second incident in early November saw a force of two Tu-22M3 Backfire heavy bombers and four Su-27 Flanker fighter jets intercepted by both JAS 39C/D of the Skaraborg Air Force Wing QRF and Danish F-16?s operated by Sqn 730 out of Fighter Wing Skrydstrup whilst carrying out a similar manoeuvre. These aircraft returned to Kaliningrad Chkalovsk.

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In December 2014 the Politiets Efterretningstjeneste issued a report to NATO HQ citing the discovery of a damaged RAID rucksack at a remote location on the North Eastern coast of Bornholm. The rucksack was assessed as part of a recently manufactured 6B38 combat equipment set. Manufactured by SSO (SoyuzSpetsOsnashchenie) and issued to a variety of Russian Infantry units. Separate reporting from a clandestine source with access to senior commanders of the 128th Surface ship Brigade in Kaliningrad indicated that a separate Military compartment had been created in June 2014 and assigned priority for the tasking and requisition of troops and supplies for unspecified operations.

In early January 2015 a male Russian Citizen claiming to be part of an ill-fated New-Years yachting expedition surrendered to local Politiet officers in Svaneke having apparently been wrecked during stormy weather. The man was dressed in civilian clothing although the subsequent Politiet report notes military-style footwear. No vessel was identified, but body parts belonging to a further male were subsequently recovered from rocks on the north-east coast.

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IMPLICATIONS

The UK Joint Intelligence Committee, in co-operation with the intelligence services of Denmark and Sweden has assessed that elements of Russian Federation forces deployed in the Baltic have attempted clandestine military operations on the Island of Bornholm on at least two occasions in the past 12 months. The JIC further assess that other operations may have gone undetected and that further operations may be planned.

This outline assessment has been shared with the NATO Intelligence Fusion Centre with a view to developing contingent tasking of NATO QRF assets. NATO HQ is also considering pre-emptive action to ward off further incursions.

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Edited by Sgt Cope

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