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Russia-Reliance group pact, 197 defense choppers for army and IAF

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Reliance_Infra-640x434New Delhi: There is a possibility of a Rs. 6,000 crore ($925 million) project between the defence arm of the Anil Ambani led Reliance Group and the Russian government, to make 197 helicopters for the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force, sources said on Friday.

Proclaimed as one of the largest deals under the “Make in India” programme, it calls for making 197 Kamov 226T choppers to retire the Chetak-Cheetah fleet that has been the key inventory in frontline operations for over 30 years, notably in difficult terrain like Siachen, the sources added.

“We are committed to actively participating in Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ program,” the spokesperson for Reliance Defence said when asked for the company’s comment on the deal, which involves manufacture of these light utility helicopters in the country.

“The manufacture of both military and civil helicopters to meet the needs of the country are a significant part of this commitment,” the spokesperson added.

It is reliably learnt that the project is to be executed under a new joint venture, for which the chosen Indian partner is a newly set-up chopper arm of Reliance Defence — which, in turn, is a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure. The process is on to acquire an industrial licence.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed for the Ka-226T during the summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi here last December. Upon agreeing to be make these choppers in India, Russia was offered an initial deal for 200 of these helicopters with the potential for another 400.

In May, the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cleared the proposal. Now, after extensive talks, the Russian government has communicated to New Delhi that it will be implementing the project in a joint venture with an Indian company — and that the partner so chosen is Reliance Helicopters. It also involves transfer of technology, sources said.

Earlier this month, Pipavav Defence, a part of the Reliance Group, was selected by Zvyozdochka Shipyard of Russia for the refit of 24 EKM 877 submarines in India, a deal potentially worth Rs.30,000 crore.

The company, the controlling stake of which was acquired by the Reliance Group earlier this year, was also selected by United Shipbuilding Company of Russia for the manufacture of four Talwar-class frigates, according to sources.

The company is also said to be a strong contender to build six advanced submarines for the navy, along with five other firms, for which the Indian government is expected to float a request for proposal soon. This deal is potentially worth Rs.60,000 crore.

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Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Attempts Of Influence On U.S. Politics From Foreign Countries

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted.

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Twitter
The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California. VOA

On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda organization, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.

The data, analyzed and released in a report by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially based in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media.

Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left and the right. Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States, the report said.

DFRlab says the Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter.

Russia, Twitter
The Internet Research Agency building, dubbed the Russian troll factory, is seen at Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia. VOA

Some of the tweets posted:

“Judgement Day is here. Please vote #TrumpPence16 to save our great nation from destruction! #draintheswamp #TrumpForPresident,” said a fake Election Day tweet in 2016.

“Daily reminder: Trump still hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia that were passed 4,193 in the House and 982 in the Senate. Shouldn’t that be grounds for impeachment?” said another tweet in March of this year.

Multiple goals

The Russian operation had multiple goals, including interfering in the U.S. presidential election, polarizing online communities, and weakening trust in American institutions, according to the DFRLab.

“The thing to understand is that the Russians were equal opportunity partisans,” Graham Brookie, one of the researchers behind the analysis, told VOA News. “There was a very specific focus on specific ideological communities and specific demographics.”

Twitter
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, speaks at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. VOA

Following an initial push to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected in 2016, the analysis identified a “second wave” of fake accounts, many of which were focused on infiltrating anti-Trump groups, especially those identified with the “Resistance” movement, exploiting sensitive issues such as race relations and gun violence. These often achieved greater impact than their conservative counterparts.

“Don’t ever tell me kneeling for the flag is disrespectful to our troops when Trump calls a sitting Senator “Pocahontas” in front of Native American war heroes,” tweeted an account posing as an African-American woman named “Luisa Haynes” under the handle @wokeluisa in November 2017. The tweet garnered more than 32,000 retweets and over 89,000 likes.

“They tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics or sexual orientation,” the Lab noted in its analysis. “On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.”

Iran trolling

Iran’s trolling was primarily focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

However, Iran’s trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited responses.

Twitter
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

This was partially because of posting styles that were less inflammatory, according to the report.

“Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted, and the analysis notes that overall activity from suspected Russian trolls fell this year after Twitter clampdowns in September and June 2017.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared To Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

But, that does not mean political trolls do not still pose a threat.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report. (VOA)