Category: Viktor

So you think you’re a blogger

When I started hearing about a blogger called Brown Moses, who collated Syrian rebel videos and identified unexploded ordnance, and regularly posted remarkably sharp depth pieces on the Leveson inquiry, I assumed this person was some retired six-letter agency type with their SAS badge on the mantelpiece, in the formaldehyde jar, stuck through Jimmy Savile’s real nose.

But no. He is your original, washed in the blood of the lamb, A-Number-One front room indie blogger!

“If EastEnders isn’t on I get straight on the laptop. On a good night when nothing much has been posted, it will take me an hour and a half, but I’ve been looking more closely recently.”

Oh, but you will…

Don’t read this, read them!

Good NYT piece is good – working through the effort to arm Syrian rebels, with Saudi and Qatari money, Croatian surplus warstocks, and Jordanian airlift. Inevitably, the kit is moving aboard Il-76s. This time out, though, the aircraft are Jordanian (and occasionally other) military aircraft that sometimes operate as “Jordan International Air Cargo”, a nationalised freight line.

I don’t have much to offer except that it’s great to see the method applied, and it’s fairly common in that part of the world for an air force to have a semidetached heavy lift operation. Libyan Air Cargo operated their air force’s An124, Maximus is the UAE’s version of the same idea.

Awesomely, someone’s virtual-radar box on Cyprus collected the data. This seems to be well reported, so I’m not going to make a special effort. Hugh Griffiths of SIPRI is anyway involved.

Kam Air

Remember Kam Air, fabulous Afghan airline, repeatedly blogged here? Sure you do.

The U.S. military has blacklisted Afghanistan’s largest private airline, alleging it is smuggling “bulk” quantities of opium on civilian flights to Tajikistan, a corridor through which the drugs reach the rest of the world.

Kam Air was barred this month from receiving U.S. military contracts by U.S. Central Command chief Marine Gen. James Mattis, according to U.S. military officials…

It’s Richard…Chi-Backli!

Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

And a response from C.J. Chivers, too. Richard Chichakli has shown up in Australia, after eight years in the wind. Weirdly, he applied for a job in an auxiliary but armed security force run by the State of Victoria’s police, which involved a background check. The check threw up a relatively recent Interpol notice on him. I wonder if he was out of money, needed a legal gun, or was deliberately looking for an opportunity to turn himself in?

This implies that as well as flitting from the US with an unsuspected Egyptian passport and his stash of frequent-flyer miles, he pulled something similar to get out of Russia. When his website stopped updating, someone left a comment on it to the effect that he had been found dead on a motorway hard shoulder near Moscow. So, did he fake his own death?

Further, I remember being told by a source that Aerocom was setting up something called “Air Bridge Group” at a remote-ish airfield in Queensland to operate An-12s and similar aircraft with big rear cargo doors into South-East Asia. This never got off the ground, being suspected of having something to do with drug imports, but perhaps Chichakli still had useful contacts in Australia.

O RLY?

Here’s an interesting story about US efforts to aid the Syrian rebels. Especially this bit:

A centerpiece of the effort this year focused on getting Iraq to close its airspace to Iran-to-Syria flights that U.S. intelligence concluded were carrying arms for Assad loyalists—contrary to flight manifests saying they held cut flowers…

One example of the U.S. approach—and of its limitations—came earlier this year when the U.S. sought to pressure Iraq to curtail flights between Iran and Syria across Iraqi airspace. That supply route opened wide after the U.S. completed its troop withdrawal from Iraq in December, U.S. administration and military officials say.

The next month, the CIA picked up detailed intelligence that Iran was using an Iranian private cargo airline, Yas Air, to fly arms over Iraq to Syria, according to U.S. officials. . . .

In an official complaint to Baghdad called a démarche, the U.S. demanded an end to the flights, said officials briefed on the discussions. “You’ve got to stop this,” the Americans told Iraqi leaders, according to one senior U.S. official.

The démarche appeared to persuade the Iraqis to act, according to American officials; the flights stopped.

But in late January and early February, the CIA began to track flights of Syrian government AN-76 cargo planes between Syria and Iran, a new tactic. . . .

While U.S. and Iraqi officials went back and forth on the issue, several Syrian cargo planes made the trip to Iran and back without interference.

As Iraq prepared to play host to an Arab League meeting at the end of March, which would showcase its emergence from American occupation, U.S. officials raised the possibility Iraq would face disclosures about the flights—an embarrassment because most Arab nations had turned against Mr. Assad.

The warning appeared to get through. Iraqi leaders told the U.S. they might search the suspect flights. Two weeks before the Arab League summit, the flights of the Syrian AN-76 cargo planes abruptly stopped, U.S. officials say.

Flowers, eh? No fish? Doing a quick look, I find that Yas Air is now on a UNSC list, and that it operates 2 Il-76 and 3 An-74. All three of the An-74s were previously registered to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Corps. The Ilyushins have knocked around various Iranian owners, but the prior one (Parsair) also seems to have taken over another aircraft from the IRGC. Guys. This isn’t going to fool anyone.

Refusal

So we spent quite a while wondering about where all the Antonovs would go after the UAE eventually turned nasty on them and cleaned up, after a fashion. We even found some of them in Russia. We speculated about locations.

Here’s a data point, and quite an encouraging one – an old mate of Viktor’s turns up in Mauritius, where he is refused an AOC for his proposed new airline. His local partner, another Russian, claims he only ever wanted to start an airline (although he does know the guy from the DRC). However, it’s quite possible that the game was the same as in South Africa with Norse Air, and Denissenko intended to get his pal to apply for the AOC and then use it for other purposes.

Meanwhile, the Viktorfeed is positively dull, and if you want really shocking news, my bank looks like a better bet.

out!

Fedorcio out they cry! See also this New Yorker piece on Viktor Bout.

On April 26, 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in the Treasury Department, unveiled sanctions aimed at Bout, thirty companies associated with him, and Chichakli. That morning, F.B.I. agents went to Chichakli’s home, in Texas, to search his office. They confiscated his computer, bank records, flight journals, a copy of Bout’s passport, and more than two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds. No criminal charges were filed, however, and a week later Chichakli flew to Russia, where he has been living ever since. Soon after the raid, Department of Defense officials entered the names of the companies under sanctions into their databases. They made a surprising discovery: some of Bout’s companies were now delivering tents and frozen food to troops in Iraq.

Not that surprising by April ’05. But worth reading.

…like it’s 2008!

Having fixed the Viktorfeed, I notice with some pleasure that the activity levels continue to decline. It looks like the last gang in town is “Reliable Unique Services”, ICAO:RLB, an alias for Rus Aviation, operating five Il-76, a couple of which served with various version of Click Airways.

technical update

It has just come to my attention that both Dubai and Sharjah airports have redesigned their websites. Also, I’ve added 395 more meetings to the scraper this weekend, but for some weird reason the DFID disclosure isn’t actually being treated as a csv file by the csv module. Scraping, scraping, scraping, always bloody well scraping. I even had to write a scraping script for work last week.

Also, does anyone else find the OpenTech schedule a bit thin?

Meanwhile, I think I may be about to buy a laptop. Does anyone have experience of the new, cheap-end Lenovo ThinkPads or indeed their top-end netbook-cum-tablet?