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Report: Kremlin, Assad alerted before attack on U.S. troops in Syria

Prigozhin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch who controls a mercenary force in Syria, was communicating with Syrian officials and the Kremlin "days and weeks before and after" an attack on U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this month, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: This could indicate that the Kremlin signed off on an attack against U.S. troops in Syria that left scores of Russians dead and threatens to raise military tensions to new heights. It also adds to the intrigue surrounding Prigozhin, a Putin ally who was indicted by Robert Mueller for operating the Russian "troll farm" that carried out online election interference.

In an intercepted January cable to a Syrian official, Prigozhin said he had "secured permission" from a Russian minister for a “fast and strong” initiative in early February, per the Post.

  • The attack "marked the biggest direct challenge to the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria" since the U.S. "began deploying there in 2015," per the Post.
  • Big picture: The U.S. retaliated against pro-regime forces because they crossed the deconfliction line that was agreed upon by U.S. and Russian forces. And, U.S. forces were in communication with Russian officials before, during, and after the attack.

Go deeper: Read the full Washington Post report.

Shannon Vavra 5 hours ago
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Report: Kaspersky exposed a counterterrorism spy operation

Kaspersky logo.
Kaspersky logo. Photo: Jacopo Raule / Getty Images for Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab’s research exposed an ongoing U.S.-led counterterrorism spying operation, CyberScoop reports. According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, the operation was focused on ISIS and al-Qaeda.

What happened: Kaspersky announced a malware campaign called “Slingshot," an advanced, persistent threat, indicating it may have state-backing, earlier this month. They said the malware was on thousands of devices in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Turkey, and Yemen. Current and former U.S. intel officials told CyberScoop that Slingshot is a program that is run through the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command.

Khorri Atkinson 6 hours ago
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Report: Russia behind Venezuela's cryptocurrency

President Donald Trump at a White House meeting. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

Russian government officials and businessmen helped Venezuela launch the world's first state-issued cryptocurrency last month, which is intended to help sidestep U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, TIME reports, citing anonymous officials familiar with the issue.

The backdrop: TIME's report comes a day after President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting U.S. citizens from buying the newly created 'Petro.’