Romania finds ‘many’ more human remains near site of Jewish mass grave

FILE PHOTO: Rabbis from England and the United States prepare a grave to bury the remains of dozens of Jews in a cemetery in Iasi, Romania, April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel/File Photo

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Archaeologists have unearthed “many human remains” in northeast Romania near an area where in 2010 they discovered a mass grave for more than 100 Jews killed by Romanian troops during World War Two, military prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The archaeologists, who are supported by the Elie Wiesel Institute and have been scouring the area since 2010 for possible other mass graves, also discovered a grenade and an 82 mm caliber gun mortar at the site.

“Notified by the Elie Wiesel Institute… we launched a criminal probe regarding the June 29 unearthing of many human remains during archaeological research work in the proximity of an area where a mass grave was found in 2010,” the prosecutors said in a statement.

The site has been cordoned off but no further details were immediately available.

The mass grave discovered in 2010 was located in a forested area called Vulturi, some 400 km (250 miles) north of Bucharest, through which Romanian and German troops advanced at the start of their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

An international commission headed by Nobel laureate Wiesel had concluded in 2004 that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed in Romania and areas it controlled during World War Two as an ally of Nazi Germany.

Many of them were slaughtered in pogroms such as the 1941 killing of almost 15,000 Jews in and around the city of Iasi, or died in labor camps, or on death trains.

Wiesel, an American activist, writer and Holocaust survivor, was born in Romania in 1928. His mother and one of his sisters were killed at Auschwitz and his father at Buchenwald. Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his human rights work and died in 2016.

Vulturi was the second place in Romania where a mass grave has been discovered since the war. In 1945, 311 bodies from three mass graves were exhumed in Stanca Roznovanu in Iasi.

Romania has only recently started to come to terms with its role in the extermination of Jews, admitting for the first time in 2003 that it had taken part.

Romania switched sides in the war in 1944 as the Soviet Red Army swept down into the Balkans. The Communist regime which then took power did little to uncover the killings.

Romania was home to 750,000 Jews before the war, but only 8,000-10,000 remain today.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Blood and thunder at sea: British veteran remembers D-Day

D-Day veteran Richard Llewellyn poses for a photograph on HMS Belfast, on the River Thames in London, Britain May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Alex Fraser

By Andrew MacAskill and Iona Serrapica

LONDON (Reuters) – Seventy-five years ago, a young British sailor stood on the bridge of a warship, its gun barrels pointing out to the coast of France and watched the devastation being rained down on a country he wanted to liberate.

Today, Richard Llewellyn, 93, is among the dwindling number of veterans of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy; an operation that turned the tide of World War Two and marked the beginning of the end of the conflict.

The invasion of France is usually told as the story of brave, young men struggling across beaches and fighting their way inland. However, another battle unfolded at sea that day, between the Allied ships and the massive German coastal guns.

Llewellyn describes the thunderous explosions rolling along the shore as every ship in the Allied fleet was blazing away. The enormous firepower sent shells pounding into the cliffs, churning earth, rock, and entire landscapes.

All the while the German battery guns blasted back. The men on the boats could hear the scream of the shells as they passed overhead. The engines of the bombers above added to the concussion of noise. Dead bodies floated in the sea.

Llewellyn compares the scene to watching a spectacular firework display. The warship guns belched out enormous orange balls of flames and mustard colored smoke. Some of the battleships fired 16-inch shells, almost as heavy as a car, and so big they could be seen as they went past.

“The noise was just unbelievable. One of the things that I remember afterwards more than anything else was the noise,” said Llewellyn, who was 18 at the time, and a midshipman on HMS Ajax, which was a light cruiser in the British navy.

“If you go to the cinema and you hear a lot of noise and gunfire and so on, it doesn’t really register. But if you are actually there the whole air is vibrating all the time.”

The assault by almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast remains the largest amphibious invasion in history.

In the decades since, the invasion has become a touchstone for the leaders of Britain, the United States, France and other western countries who will gather in Normandy next month to invoke the heroism. The event will take place as the trans-Atlantic relationships that D-Day forged are fraying.

Differences over military spending for the NATO alliance, disagreements over how to approach the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have raised tensions in the decades-old alliance.

SEABORNE ASSAULT

These concerns are a far cry from the epic mobilization of military machinery and manpower that resulted in the invasion of France in 1944. Then, tens of thousands of men piled into ships and planes to cross the English Channel.

Llewellyn, who has a white goatee and is smartly dressed in a navy jacket and beret for his interview on the HMS Belfast in London, is eloquent and perfectly recalls the events that day. He effortlessly climbs the ship’s steep steps without help.

He said the mood among the men as they crossed the sea was more anticipation than fear or tension.

“It was exciting,” he said. “We were far more patriotic in those days than we are now. We knew that the Germans had to be defeated and anything had to be done to make it possible.”

He dismisses the idea that people were praying or savoring their last meal as the invasion began.

“We weren’t Americans, I am afraid,” he said with a chuckle.

THE LUCKIEST SHOT

Although only a teenager, his experiences living through the German bombardment of London, known as the Blitz, meant he was familiar with being bombed.

On D-Day, Llewellyn’s ship was engaged in a duel with German gun batteries, particularly those at Longues-sur-Mer, nestled high on the cliff tops, situated between where British and American troops were landing on the Gold and Omaha beaches.

In what was perhaps one of the most accurate or luckiest shots of the war, his ship situated a few miles offshore, scored a direct hit, landing a heavy shell through the narrow slit of one of the fortifications.

On the bridge of the ship, Llewellyn watched the invasion through binoculars as the haze of smoke shrouded the shore.

“There were landing craft destroyed,” he said. “They really met a hostile reception and you could see that and you could see the landing craft being hit by shells, there were a lot of fires.”

As his ship continued to shell the German positions it faced its own threat from mines, shelling, and the Luftwaffe, the German air force.

At one point, a German plane dropped a bomb that landed just a few meters from his boat. The explosion winded him and sent the ship violently swaying from side to side.

Was it terrifying?

“I suppose it was in a way,” he said with typical understatement.

Llewellyn survived the onslaught and the Allies conquered the coastline. He plans to attend the D-Day anniversary in Normandy next month.

He has been back several times and says it is an emotional experience, particularly visiting the graveyards.

But he also feels guilty about the destruction caused to France, particularly as the navy began firing shells at targets further inland, some of which fell in nearby villages.

“The ordinary citizens come up and say how grateful they are. I found that quite difficult to take actually. I don’t feel that we had done anything special, especially for them,” he said. “Their homes were knocked down by shells and troops. Unfortunately, war leaves a lot of destruction.”

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Risk of nuclear war now highest since WW2, UN arms research chief says

FILE PHOTO: Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) – The risk of nuclear weapons being used is at its highest since World War Two, a senior U.N. security expert said on Tuesday, calling it an “urgent” issue that the world should take more seriously.

Renata Dwan, director of the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), said all states with nuclear weapons have nuclear modernization programs underway and the arms control landscape is changing, partly due to strategic competition between China and the United States.

Traditional arms control arrangements are also being eroded by the emergence of new types of war, with increasing prevalence of armed groups and private sector forces and new technologies that blurred the line between offense and defense, she told reporters in Geneva.

With disarmament talks stalemated for the past two decades, 122 countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, partly out of frustration and partly out of a recognition of the risks, she said.

“I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognize – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues  “that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War Two.”

The nuclear ban treaty, officially called the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, was backed by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

The treaty has so far gathered 23 of the 50 ratifications that it needs to come into force, including South Africa, Austria, Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico. It is strongly opposed by the United States, Russia, and other states with nuclear arms.

Cuba also ratified the treaty in 2018, 56 years after the Cuban missile crisis, a 13-day Cold War face-off between Moscow and Washington that marked the closest the world had ever come to nuclear war.

Dwan said the world should not ignore the danger of nuclear weapons.

“How we think about that, and how we act on that risk and the management of that risk, seems to me a pretty significant and urgent question,” she said.

She added that it was not being adequately addressed in arms control talks or multilateral bodies such as the U.N. Security Council nor by bilateral arrangements between states.

On Wednesday, China’s disarmament ambassador in Geneva accused Washington of sabotaging and tearing up deals and having a “Cold War mentality”, and said Washington displayed bullying behavior.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation

Cargo ships navigate the Panama Canal during an organized media tour by Italy's Salini Impregilo, one of the main sub contractors of the Panama Canal Expansion project, on the outskirts of Colon city, Panama May 11, 2016

By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) – The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships’ satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology.

Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers.

About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea and the stakes are high in increasingly crowded shipping lanes. Unlike aircraft, ships lack a back-up navigation system and if their GPS ceases to function, they risk running aground or colliding with other vessels.

South Korea is developing an alternative system using an earth-based navigation technology known as eLoran, while the United States is planning to follow suit. Britain and Russia have also explored adopting versions of the technology, which works on radio signals.

The drive follows a series of disruptions to shipping navigation systems in recent months and years. It was not clear if they involved deliberate attacks; navigation specialists say solar weather effects can also lead to satellite signal loss.

Last year, South Korea said hundreds of fishing vessels had returned early to port after their GPS signals were jammed by hackers from North Korea, which denied responsibility.

In June this year, a ship in the Black Sea reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center that its GPS system had been disrupted and that over 20 ships in the same area had been similarly affected.

U.S. Coast Guard officials also said interference with ships’ GPS disrupted operations at a port for several hours in 2014 and at another terminal in 2015. It did not name the ports.

A cyber attack that hit A.P. Moller-Maersk’s IT systems in June 2017 and made global headlines did not involve navigation but underscored the threat hackers pose to the technology dependent and inter-connected shipping industry. It disrupted port operations across the world.

The eLoran push is being led by governments who see it as a means of protecting their national security. Significant investments would be needed to build a network of transmitter stations to give signal coverage, or to upgrade existing ones dating back decades when radio navigation was standard.

U.S. engineer Brad Parkinson, known as the “father of GPS” and its chief developer, is among those who have supported the deployment of eLoran as a back-up.

“ELoran is only two-dimensional, regional, and not as accurate, but it offers a powerful signal at an entirely different frequency,” Parkinson told Reuters. “It is a deterrent to deliberate jamming or spoofing (giving wrong positions), since such hostile activities can be rendered ineffective,” said Parkinson, a retired U.S. airforce colonel.

 

KOREAN STATIONS

Cyber specialists say the problem with GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is their weak signals, which are transmitted from 12,500 miles above the Earth and can be disrupted with cheap jamming devices that are widely available.

Developers of eLoran – the descendant of the loran (long-range navigation) system created during World War II – say it is difficult to jam as the average signal is an estimated 1.3 million times stronger than a GPS signal.

To do so would require a powerful transmitter, large antenna and lots of power, which would be easy to detect, they add.

Shipping and security officials say the cyber threat has grown steadily over the past decade as vessels have switched increasingly to satellite systems and paper charts have largely disappeared due to a loss of traditional skills among seafarers.

“My own view, and it is only my view, is we are too dependent on GNSS/GPS position fixing systems,” said Grant Laversuch, head of safety management at P&O Ferries. “Good navigation is about cross-checking navigation systems, and what better way than having two independent electronic systems.”

Lee Byeong-gon, an official at South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, said the government was working on establishing three sites for eLoran test operations by 2019 with further ones to follow after that.

But he said South Korea was contending with concerns from local residents at Gangwha Island, off the west coast.

“The government needs to secure a 40,000 pyeong (132,200 square-meter) site for a transmitting station, but the residents on the island are strongly opposed to having the 122 to 137 meter-high antenna,” Lee told Reuters.

In July, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill which included provisions for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to establish an eLoran system.

“This bill will now go over to the Senate and we hope it will be written into law,” said Dana Goward, president of the U.S. non-profit Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, which supports the deployment of eLoran.

“We don’t see any problems with the President (Donald Trump) signing off on this provision.”

The previous administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both pledged to establish eLoran but never followed through. However, this time there is more momentum.

In May, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told a Senate committee the global threat of electronic warfare attacks against space systems would rise in coming years.

“Development will very likely focus on jamming capabilities against … Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), such as the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS),” he said.

 

SPOOFING DANGERS

Russia has looked to establish a version of eLoran called eChayka, aimed at the Arctic region as sea lanes open up there, but the project has stalled for now.

“It is obvious that we need such a system,” said Vasily Redkozubov, deputy director general of Russia’s Internavigation Research and Technical Centre.

“But there are other challenges apart from eChayka, and (Russia has) not so many financial opportunities at the moment.”

Cost is a big issue for many countries. Some European officials also say their own satellite system Galileo is more resistant to jamming than other receivers.

But many navigation technology experts say the system is hackable. “Galileo can help, particularly with spoofing, but it is also a very weak signal at similar frequencies,” said Parkinson.

The reluctance of many countries to commit to a back-up means there is little chance of unified radio coverage globally for many years at least, and instead disparate areas of cover including across some national territories and shared waterways.

The General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland had conducted trials of eLoran but the initiative was pulled after failing to garner interest from European countries whose transmitters were needed to create a signal network.

France, Denmark, Norway and Germany have all decided to turn off or dismantle their old radio transmitter stations.

Britain is maintaining a single eLoran transmitter in northern England.

Taviga, a British-U.S. company, is looking to commercially operate an eLoran network, which would provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT).

“There would need to be at least one other transmitter probably on the UK mainland for a timing service,” said co-founder Charles Curry, adding that the firm would need the British government to commit to using the technology.

Andy Proctor, innovation lead for satellite navigation and PNT with Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, said: “We would consider supporting a commercially run and operated service, which we may or may not buy into as a customer.”

Current government policy was “not to run large operational pieces of infrastructure like an eLoran system”, he added.

 

(Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen, Yuna Park in Seoul, Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, Sophie Louet in Paris, Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Mark Hosenball in London; Editing by Pravin Char)