For the night of 23 March 2014
North Korea: North Korea fired rockets into the Sea of Japan today. South Korea's Yonhap reported the North fired 16 FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) rockets to a range of 70kms.
Comment: Today's firings were the second set in two days. Thirty rockets were fired on Saturday. The Soviet Union made several variants of large artillery rockets, but the FROG-7 was the most successful; the most exported to Soviet client states and is the variant North Korea possesses. FROG-7 artillery rockets are 30ft long and 1.8ft in diameter. They can carry a warhead weighing more than a half ton to a range of 70km.
They were produced in the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964. Fifty years ago, FROG-7 rockets were considered the North's primary strategic weapons system. While obsolescent, the North maintains them in operational condition, as the firings just showed, at a base from which they can reach Seoul.
Russia-NATO: NATO officials have issued warnings about the buildup of Russian forces along the eastern border of Ukraine. One general warned that Russian forces could drive across southern Ukraine to liberate Transnistria, which is northwest of Crimea.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Antonov today denied and rebutted the allegations.
Antonov said, "Russian Armed Forces are not undertaking any undeclared military activity that would threaten the security of neighboring countries." He said Ukrainian military authorities have inspected the Russian forces along the border twice. Seven of eight Western European inspections missions have inspected forces along the Ukraine border.
Comment: Facts about the Russian force presence along the Ukrainian border are few. President Putin announced a second exercise was in progress during the 16 March Crimean referendum. He does not seem to have announced an end to that exercise. That also was the last time, Ukrainian and Russian bloggers posted to the web images of Russian forces arriving by train in the border region.
The Russians have sufficient forces based in the western military district for operations anywhere in eastern Ukraine, if ordered, without having to engage in "massing", as the weekend headlines proclaimed.
Russian forces would not need to drive across southern Ukraine to reach Transnistria, because they are already there. About 1,000 Russian forces already are stationed in Transnistria, guarding former Soviet ordnance storage facilities. A search of open sources could find no recent information on the Russian arrangements to support its forces in Transnistria
Russia has sufficient forces in Crimea to send a task group to Transnistria, if needed, in a few hours. Transnistria is just over 200km northwest of Crimea, via the road that runs through Odessa. There are no indications in open sources, however, that Russia intends to augment its forces in Transnistria at this time. A search failed to find an update report on the visit to Moscow last week by the Transnistrian delegation.
Ukraine-Crimea: Update. The Crimean vice premier announced today that the Ukraine electricity supply company cut electric power to Crimea by half. The Ukrainian supplier attributed the cut to a major malfunction. Crimean energy authorities have instituted a rolling blackout. The first vice premier said that Crimean leaders have been expecting a power cutoff and had made preparations for it. He said within two months, Crimea would no longer depend on electricity from Ukraine.
Comment: This looks like a first step in economic warfare, but it risks rapid escalation. Electric power is the most essential and vulnerable modern utility in every state. Loss of electricity produces loss of clean water and sanitation, food and health care, emergency services, schools as well as communications in every aspect of national life. Lengthy electric power outages incite angry, violent behavior.
Pro-Russian militiamen or Russian special forces or both seized two Ukrainian bases in Crimea that had been holding off the Russians. The pro-Russian forces also seized two Ukrainian naval ships.
Comment: Some hotheads appear to be anxious for Ukrainian military personnel to leave and t have their chance to loot Ukrainian property. Although senior officials on all sides appear to be moving slowly to sort out ownership and occupation issues, the hotheads pose a threat to local security.
Authorities in Kyiv and in Simferopol (Crimea's capital) seem to have trouble controlling the guys with the black face masks and fatigues..
Libya: Update. On 22 March, Libyan judicial police authorities took custody of the 12 crew members of the hijacked oil tanker, Morning Glory, from the Libyan navy crew. The US Navy crew that sailed the ship back to Libya delivered the ship and its original crew to the Libyans on 22 March, ending this 13-day episode.
End of NightWatch for 23 March.
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