The Guardian - The Associated Press - CBC News/Sept. 11, 2018

World News

World News
  • Russia begins its largest ever military exercise

  • Pope to meet U.S. bishops

 

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Russia begins its largest ever military exercise with 300,000 soldiers Nato condemns Vostok-2018 drills with China as a rehearsal for large-scale conflict

The Guardian/Sept. 11, 2018

Russia has launched what it has called its largest ever military drill, with hundreds of thousands of troops joining Chinese soldiers in a show of force condemned by Nato as a rehearsal for large-scale conflict.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is expected to attend the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, is a guest.

The week-long exercise, known as Vostok-2018 (East-2018) “have kicked off” in far-eastern Russia, the defence ministry said on Tuesday. Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 Russian soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones, as well as 3,500 Chinese troops.

The Russian defence ministry released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills. Putin talked up Russia’s increasingly close ties with China as he met Xi in Vladivostok on Tuesday. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres,” the Russian leader said. Xi said the two countries’ friendship was “getting stronger all the time”.

The military exercises come amid escalating tensions between Moscow and the west over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 wargames in which between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers took part in Zapad-81 (West-81) – the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.

But Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said these exercises were even larger.

“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said.

The exercises will be held across nine training ranges and three seas: the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Nato said Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time – a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” the alliance’s spokesman Dylan White said last month.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed such concerns on Tuesday. “These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces,” he said.

Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic in recent years. Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating. Exercises in eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part, according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.

 

Pope to meet U.S. bishops amid sex abuse scandal, allegations of Vatican coverup

The Associated Press/Sept. 11, 2018

Pope Francis will meet Thursday with a delegation of U.S. cardinals and bishops over the sex abuse and coverup scandal roiling the Catholic Church and his own papacy, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said he wants Francis to authorize a full-fledged Vatican investigation into Theodore McCarrick, who was removed as a cardinal in July after a credible accusation he groped a teenager. DiNardo has also said recent accusations that top Vatican officials - including the Pope - covered up for McCarrick deserve answers.

Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said DiNardo would meet with Francis on Thursday in the Apostolic Palace, along with Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Pope's top sex abuse adviser. Also involved are two officials from the U.S. conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, according to a Vatican statement.

Francis ordered McCarrick, 88, to a lifetime of penance and prayer in July pending the outcome of a canonical trial into the groping allegation involving a teenage altar boy in the 1970s. After the allegation was publicized in June, it emerged that it was apparently an open secret - including at the Vatican - that McCarrick routinely invited seminarians and young priests into his bed and engaged in sexual misconduct.

The McCarrick scandal took on crisis proportions two weeks ago after the Vatican's former U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, accused two dozen Vatican and U.S. cardinals and bishops of covering up for McCarrick for two decades. Specifically, Vigano accused Francis of rehabilitating McCarrick from canonical sanctions. The Vatican hasn't responded to the accusations, but presumably the "clarifications" it has promised will come sometime after Francis meets with the top U.S. church leadership this week. Francis has refused to comment directly about Vigano's claims, but nearly every day over the past two weeks his homily at morning mass has seemed somewhat related to the scandal.

On Tuesday, he drew Satan into the fray, suggesting that the devil was behind Vigano's revelations.

"In these times, it seems like the 'Great Accuser' has been unchained and has it in for bishops," he said. "True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people." Bishops, he said, should be men of prayer, and should know they were chosen by God and keep close to their flock.

In other eyebrow-raising comments Tuesday, a top aide to both Francis and former pope Benedict said the sex abuse scandal was such a game-changing catastrophe for the church that it amounted to the church's "own 9/11." Archbishop Georg Gaenswein told a book presentation that he by no means was comparing the scandal to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

But he said the years-long scandal, and recent revelations in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, showed just "how many souls have been wounded irrevocably and mortally by priests from the Catholic Church."