Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anti-American messages adorn spy's pages

Reuters) - Patriotic, anti-American messages adorn the pages of two alleged Russian spies on Russia's answer to Facebook, a reminder of historic suspicions and resentments that have survived the end of the Cold War.

"Russia will never abandon you!" is the repeated message on the pages of Mikhail Semenko and Anna Chapman, arrested in the United States on suspicion of being part of a Russian spy ring. Over 100 people left similar messages of support on the Russian language social netowrking site on Wednesday.

"Hang on in there Misha (Mikhail)... Everyone knows this is an American witch-hunt," one surfer posted on Semenko's page, referring to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist investigations at the height of the Cold War.

The U.S. arrests earlier this week of 10 alleged spies and tales of secret meetings, invisible ink and secret handovers, have been splashed over the front pages of U.S. media.

Russia has angrily rejected the allegations but later said ties between the Cold War foes would not be damaged.

Semenko's page says he is 27 and last visited on May 24. In his profile picture, the floppy-haired smiling Russian poses in front of the White House in Washington.

"Those yanks really know how to freak people out," another surfer wrote in one of many comments slamming Americans and protesting the innocence of those arrested.

People ranging from teenage boys to female pensioners posted the comments.

Chapman, who Russian media say is actually called Kushchenko, last visited the site on June 20. The 28-year-old's photo shows her casting a sideways glance, clad in a bright blue bustier and with flowing brown hair.

One of her many female supporters wrote: "Soon Anna will return home... Enormous respect is due to Anna. A book will be written about her and a film made."

The spy ring is accused of gathering information ranging from data on high-penetration nuclear warhead research programs to background on CIA applicants for the Russian government.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, additional reporting by Aleksandras Budrys; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Operation Moshtarak bags Taliban chief

(CNN) -- International and Afghan security forces wounded and captured a Taliban district chief and killed a "large number" of insurgents in a four-hour firefight, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Thursday.
The battle took place in a compound outside a village in the Baghran district of Afghanistan's Helmand province after insurgents opened fire on security forces with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, ISAF said.

No security force members or civilians were killed or wounded in the fighting, but a "large number of insurgents" died, ISAF said, without providing specific numbers.
"Dozens of automatic weapons, RPG launchers and rounds, a machine gun, grenades, and ammunition were discovered along with 20 pounds of wet opium" after the fighting, the statement said.

"This joint force operation dealt another significant blow to the Taliban network," said Col. William Maxwell, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. "These joint efforts are key to further establishing peace in the region."

NATO-led forces have been waging an offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Dubbed Operation Moshtarak, the offensive was launched in February by an international coalition of 15,000 troops including Afghans, Americans, Britons, Canadians, Danes and Estonians.
The Taliban had set up a shadow government in Helmand province's Marjah region, long a bastion of pro-Taliban sentiment.
It is a key area in Afghanistan's heroin trade and full of the opium used to fund the insurgency.


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