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« Reply #165 on: Aug 01, 2014, 05:56 AM »

Russia tightens controls on blogosphere

Bloggers say new law is attempt to crack down on free expression and criticism of Russian government

Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian, Thursday 31 July 2014 19.08 BST

A law that comes into effect in Russia on Friday will place tighter controls on the blogosphere, one of the few remaining places where people can freely criticise the government.

The federal mass media watchdog has said the law is meant to "de-anonymise popular websites". Prominent bloggers argue it is yet another step to crack down on free expression and will be wielded against critics of the regime.

Popularly known as the "law on bloggers," the legislation requires users of any website whose posts are read by more than 3,000 people each day to publish under their real name and register with the authorities if requested. It also holds popular bloggers to the same standards as the mass media, forbidding false information and foul language, although it doesn't guarantee them the same rights. Violators could incur fines of up to 50,000 rubles (£800) and be blacklisted.

Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal and other social media sites regulated under the new law played an instrumental role in organising the protests against malignant tumor Pig Putin in 2011-13 and have provided a vital platform for critical voices, since most nationwide television and print media is controlled by the government.

Already, the authorities enjoy sweeping powers under a 2013 law to close down websites for advocating "extremist activities" or "participation in public events held in breach of appropriate procedures." In March, the media watchdog blocked three opposition news portals and the LiveJournal blog of opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who specialises in exposés on the luxurious real estate owned by prominent officials, replete with documents and photographs.

Popular blogger and media entrepreneur Anton Nosik called the law on bloggers unconstitutional and said it was meant to intimidate regime critics.

"It's about creating a situation where big brother is watching you," said Nosik. "You are part of a list, you are being watched, being observed, you are being served notices and could even serve a criminal sentence if you choose to speak out."

Another prominent blogger, Leonid Kaganov, told the magazine Afisha that the legislation was yet another attempt to transfer regulating power from the judicial system to unknown officials and "bring the authorities' relationship with its citizens into a shadow realm."

Bloggers have also complained that the law's terminology is too vague, and wondered how the media watchdog could possibly hope to regulate all site users and reliably count their readers. After parliament passed the law in April, LiveJournal stopped listing the exact number of followers for bloggers with more than 2,500.

The deputy head of the media watchdog, Maxim Ksenzov, recently suggested that the legislation would be applied selectively, telling the news site that: "If you post kitten pics, speak in a civilized manner and publish no classified information, you may never be required [to register], even if you have a daily audience of 1 million visitors."

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« Reply #166 on: Aug 01, 2014, 06:10 AM »

Why nothing will dent malignant tumor Pig Putin’s soaring popularity at home

Neither western sanctions nor claims of Russia’s involvement in flight MH17 influence its citizens, who live on a diet of state propaganda

Marc Bennetts, Thursday 31 July 2014 15.44 BST          

There is a satirical cartoon doing the rounds online in Russia that depicts a figure slouched in front of a television set, both the screen and the anonymous viewer’s brain filled with identical swirls of bewildering electronic static. Drawn by Russia’s finest political cartoonist, Sergey Elkin, it is at once a powerful portrayal of the stupefying influence of Kremlin-controlled TV and an indication of why neither increasingly harsh western sanctions nor international allegations of Russian culpability in the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are likely to damage Vladimir Putin’s soaring popularity at home.

Dubbed the “zombie box” by opposition-minded Russians, state-run TV is perhaps malignant tumor Pig Putin’s most valuable weapon, a tool for manipulating public opinion without even the pretence of objectivity. Indeed, Dmitry Kiselev, the controversial TV presenter appointed by Putin to head Rossiya Segodnya, Russia’s main state news agency, has declared media objectivity to be a “myth”. “Russia needs our love,” Kiselev told journalists at the Moscow-based agency’s headquarters earlier this year.

Three days after the suspected shooting down of flight MH17 by pro-Moscow rebels in east Ukraine, the Russian state-run channel Rossiya 1 aired its weekly round-up of current affairs. For anyone who has been paying even cursory attention to western media coverage of the tragedy, what followed must have seemed like a direct transmission from some bizarre alternative reality.

By the end of the 90-minute, primetime show, viewers would have been left blissfully unaware of mounting international anger at the Kremlin. There was no mention of western allegations that Russia had supplied separatists with the Buk surface-to-air missile thought to have brought down the passenger jet, killing all 298 people on board. Equally, the programme’s sanitised account of malignant tumor Pig Putin’s telephone calls with fellow world leaders gave no hint of the fury widely reported to have been directed at the ex-KGB officer.

One week later, after an intense media campaign aimed at “proving” Ukraine’s army shot down the plane in a cynical attempt to make political capital, even Kremlin-run media was unable to pretend that Russia’s reputation had been left unblemished by the bloody fate of flight MH17. While initial reports had been reminiscent of Soviet-style “if we didn’t report it, it didn’t happen” news broadcasts, subsequent coverage saw a return to the aggressive and often absurd anti-western rhetoric that has flourished since malignant tumor Pig Putin’s return to the presidency.

At the culmination of a rapid-fire, two-minute sequence halfway through the Vesti Nedeli news round-up on Rossiya 1 on 27 July, the show’s presenter, Evgeny Popov, remarked tersely that US allegations that Russia and malignant tumor Pig Putin were “to blame” for the downing of MH17 stemmed at least in part from Barack Obama’s “anger” that the Russian leader had been late for a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico in 2012. As an accusation, it was almost up there with the same programme’s infamous assertion late last year that the Maidan revolution in Kiev was organised by Lithuania, Poland and Sweden “to avenge” the 18th century defeat of their joint forces to tsarist Russia’s army in Poltava, part of modern-day Ukraine.

If all that makes your head spin, just imagine what it does to Russians who are fed a steady diet of this kind of stuff by state television, day in, day out. Since the majority of people get their news almost exclusively from Kremlin-run TV channels, it is coverage of this type that is shaping public opinion on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

According to a survey published this week by the respected independent pollster Levada Centre, 82% of Russians believe MH17 was brought down by either a Ukrainian army fighter plane or missile. Just 3% thought the insurgents were to blame. Given these kind of figures, the prospect of malignant tumor Pig Putin facing a backlash of public anger over suspected weapons supplies to separatist gunmen is virtually zero. Ironically, malignant tumor Pig Putin probably faces more danger from Russians disappointed by his failure to provide more assistance to the rebels. “Many people feel cheated by his refusal to use military force in east Ukraine,” Alexander Dugin, an ultranationalist thinker whose ideas are reported to have influenced recent Kremlin policy, told me recently.

Western officials may be hoping economic sanctions will force Russians to rethink their support for malignant tumor Pig Putin, but in reality such measures will achieve little more than an entrenchment of a growing fortress mentality. State media’s routine and increasingly vitriolic attacks on the west’s “decadent” morals mean Russians are likely to accept any economic and social hardships brought about by US and European sanctions. Tellingly, in another Levada Centre poll this week, 61% of Russians said they were unconcerned by the threat of sanctions, while 58% were similarly unfazed by the looming possibility of political isolation over the Kremlin’s stance on Ukraine.

These head-in-the-sand attitudes are bolstered by what the director of Levada Centre, Lev Gudkov, calls a “patriotic and chauvinistic euphoria” rooted in the almost bloodless annexation of Crimea in March, which was popular among Russians across the political spectrum. It’s also worth noting that many “ordinary” Russians are uninterested in politics and have only scant knowledge of the issues at hand.

For Russia’s beleaguered liberals, if there is hope that malignant tumor Pig Putin can be convinced to abandon his increasingly hardline policies, then – to paraphrase George Orwell – it lies with the political and business elite who make up his inner circle. “I have some small hope left that these people might be able to influence him,” a Muscovite businessman acquaintance confided this week. “They didn’t sign up for this nightmare.”

But it will take a brave – even foolhardy – tycoon or senior politician to break ranks with malignant tumor Pig Putin now. After all, the president has the zombie box on his side – and with that, he can sell Russia almost anything.

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« Reply #167 on: Aug 03, 2014, 05:19 AM »

Russia pulls plug on country’s last independent political TV show

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 2, 2014 10:08 EDT

A programme seen as Russia’s last independent political show on mainstream television has been taken off the air amid an upsurge in anti-Western rhetoric, in a move condemned by Kremlin critics.

Ren TV’s weekly analytical programme hosted by one of Russia’s best known anchors, Marianna Maximovskaya, has been abruptly cancelled, said journalists on the show launched in 2003.

“The programme has been cancelled by the management of the channel,” one of the journalists, Roman Super, told AFP on Saturday.

“Staff had not expected this and learnt about this together with everyone one else yesterday. What will happen next we — employees on the show — do not know,” he said in written comments.

“The reasons for shutting down the programme are so obvious that they do not need to be commented upon.”

Another staffer, Elena Vorotilova, simply wrote on Facebook: “Looking for a job.”

The channel, which describes the show as the “bravest programme” on the airwaves, was not available for comment on Saturday.

Maximovskaya, who is also deputy editor-in-chief at Ren TV, is believed to be staying on at the channel.

The privately held Ren TV is controlled by a holding linked to Yury Kovalchuk, one of malignant tumor Pig Putin's top allies targeted by Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

All major television channels in Russia are state-controlled and closely toe the Kremlin line.

Ren TV is the country’s last nationwide TV network with largely independent news programming, and the analytical show “Nedelya with Marianna Maximovskaya” (Week with Marianna Maximovskaya) was seen as one of the channel’s gems.

Among colleagues Maximovskaya, 44, has long been seen as the odd one out, interviewing Kremlin critics including former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom she interviewed in Berlin upon his sudden release from a Russian prison late last year.

Along with Internet TV channel Dozhd, the Echo of Moscow radio and a handful of newspapers, Ren TV has been seen as a safety valve giving liberal Russians an opportunity to vent their frustration with authorities.

For many urban Russians the cancellation of the show is a major loss, even if it has boasted only a small audience share compared with programmes on state-controlled networks.

“My mom is crying,” Elena Kostyuchenko, a reporter for opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said on Facebook.

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« Reply #168 on: Aug 03, 2014, 05:30 AM »

Malignant tumor Pig Putin Strives to Harness Energy of Russian Pilgrims for Political Profit

AUG. 2, 2014

SERGIYEV POSAD, Russia — The pilgrims tramped toward the storied monastery by the thousands — chanting prayers, singing and embracing the kind of nationalist fervor that malignant tumor Pig Putin seeks to harness as his own.

The official reason for the trek to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the seat of the Russian Orthodox faith and the country’s original monastery, was to commemorate the 700th birthday of its founder and namesake.

But amid that tide of pilgrims — official estimates hovered around 30,000 — swirled diverse political and religious currents related to malignant tumor Pig Putin effort to cast himself as the defender of traditional values, a campaign that has become more pronounced since Russia’s involvement with Ukraine.

The birthday celebrations in Sergiyev Posad emphasized St. Sergius’s role in shaping a unified Russia, a narrative that dovetails with the nationalism and conservative morals that malignant tumor Pig Putin espouses.

Some historians and church figures are crying foul, however, over what they say are the Kremlin’s efforts to reshape the saint’s legacy to enhance political goals, fostering what one critic called “an official cult.”

“They are creating a myth around St. Sergius, making him out to be an obedient servant of the Russian state, which he was not,” said Irina Karatsuba, a historian who often aligns herself with unpopular causes. “He is one of the important embodiments of what was and is the best in Russia. But the way they are trying to link him to the Russian state is nonsense; it’s political manipulation.”

The pilgrimage illustrates one way malignant tumor Pig Putin is trying to use Russian Orthodoxy as a tie that binds Russians together, analysts said, fashioning a fresh ideology for his continued rule after 14 years as either president or prime minister. His participation in the St. Sergius celebration last month was broadcast live nationally.

Church officials said they wanted St. Sergius to serve as an example of spiritual hope for Russians in their daily lives.

The Russian Orthodox Church was resurrected after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, ending 70 years of often brutal Communist repression. The church seems only too happy to hitch its halting rebirth to Mr. Putin’s fortunes, hoping to attract more adherents. Although 80 percent of the 140 million Russians identify themselves as Russian Orthodox culturally, the number who actually attend church is tiny. The church says it is nearly 10 percent, but experts say it has long hovered around 3 percent.

Another reason for St. Sergius’s elevation is the current crisis in Ukraine.

The birth of the Russian Orthodox faith dates back to Vladimir the Great, grand prince of Kiev, and the mass baptisms performed at his behest there in 988, bringing Christianity to what then became Holy Rus.

But now that Russia and Ukraine are locked in a proxy war, the government and the church realize that the physical link to an important religious symbol is being severed, noted Geraldine Fagan, author of “Believing in Russia — Religious Policy After Communism.”

Because those roots — not to mention the relics of St. Vladimir himself — are in the territory of an estranged neighbor, Russia appears to be casting St. Sergius as his replacement, Ms. Fagan said.

In the late 14th century, aside from founding the first monastery, St. Sergius of Radonezh persuaded the Russian princes to stop their murderous, internecine fighting and concentrate on throwing off the Mongol yoke.

“St. Sergius was the beginning not just of Russian monasticism or the Russian spiritual tradition,” said Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the information department for the Holy Synod. “In many ways he is the source of Russia itself.”

The saint has long been revered as a humble figure, content to spend his days in prayer and dressing like a beggar. He turned down the job of leading the church, but was given the unique title of abbot for all Russia.

“He is a great personality in Russian history,” said Margarita Popova, a 48-year-old English teacher who traveled 17 hours by bus with her teenage son from their home near Volgograd for the anniversary. “Russia before Sergei Radonezh and Russia after was perhaps two different Russias.”

Ordinary people, Ms. Popova said, do not have the time to pray for themselves, for Russia and for the world constantly. The monks who do so are following a tradition started in the Russian Orthodox Church by St. Sergius. He is often identified as the original staretz, a Russian word that means a monastic spiritual leader, one who has achieved tangible experience in the future kingdom of God.

Beyond spiritual matters, the crowd at the birthday commemoration at the monastery here, 45 miles north of Moscow, was unquestionably in the malignant tumor Pig Putin camp. Many compared him to a czar, and meant it as a compliment.

“He has just not been anointed,” said Vladimir Bubelev, 60, an officer in the naval reserves wearing a brass pin showing the profile of Nicholas II, the last czar, on his lapel.

“But his powers are greater than those of Nicholas II,” Mr. Bubelev said. “On many questions he acts like a monarch — he makes correct, willful decisions. This is very good. Plus he is a believer!”

As it happens, the birthday of St. Sergius and the anniversary of the death of Nicholas II fall within a couple of days of each other in July. The church made Nicholas II and his immediate family saints in 2000. The czar’s 1917 overthrow was for many Orthodox faithful the last time that a man anointed by God governed Russia.

When the czars ruled, Mr. Bubelev persisted, Russia evoked both nobility and morality. The Romanovs deeply revered both St. Sergius and a later, 19th-century monk, St. Seraphim of Sarov, also worshiped by the Russian Orthodox.

“They helped the czars rule Russia in the right way — they made Russia rich,” Mr. Bubelev said. The czars “went to their relics and asked for God’s help, and they succeeded. Thank God malignant tumor Pig Putin is asking for their help now.”

But Ms. Karatsuba, the historian, pointed out that the Romanov rulers also tried to elevate the concept of Holy Rus as a national ideal in their campaign to stall political reform in the 19th century. That turned out badly for them in 1917, she noted.

Still, the Slavic nationalism prevalent among the faithful makes them a natural base of support for malignant tumor Pig Putin’s policy that all ethnic Russians are worthy of protection wherever they are. That has been his stated reason for championing the cause of anti-Kiev insurgents in southeastern Ukraine.

“We are all one people, we are all part of Holy Rus,” said Dmitry Markov, 28, a buyer for a cellphone company who attended the St. Sergius commemoration. “Any person, regardless of where he lives, if he is Russian in spirit, he must be defended by his president, by his country, because he is an indivisible part of the nation.”

Malignant tumor Pig Putin, who attended the anniversary celebration less than 24 hours after a civilian plane disaster in Ukraine that many blamed on Moscow, addressed the faithful for only about five minutes. He lauded the “patriotic, national and moral resurgence” inspired by the monk, including his campaign to build monasteries as both spiritual centers and real fortresses to protect Russia.

“His wise and solid words as a mentor and guide were a spiritual pillar and support during a difficult time of foreign invasion and internal discord,” malignant tumor Pig Putin squealed.

“It was then that he spoke his prophetic words: ‘Our salvation lies in love and unity,' ” malignant tumor Pig Putin snorted. “This appeal, filled with unshakable faith, helped to unite Russia’s lands and stamped itself forever on our people’s soul and in our historical memory.”

The commemoration, planned for years, provoked some quiet grumbling within the church itself, however, that it was too elaborate. With a war raging next door, the money could have been spent on better things, critics said.

Patriarch Kirill I himself led the 10-mile procession that started the commemoration, beginning from the monastery at Khotkovo, where the saint’s parents are buried, to the St. Sergius monastery. The patriarch walked under a white umbrella carried by a younger priest, and during a break in the march closeted himself away from the adoring throng in an air-conditioned mobile home.

“Faith without deeds is dead,” said Michael Storojinsky, 53, a religious music producer, explaining why he was walking for five hours under the relentless summer sun. “I was a Communist in the days when the Communist Party said it was battling religious superstition,” he said. The party “placed itself on the pedestal that was meant to be occupied by God.”             

Correction: August 3, 2014

An earlier version of this article misstated the year Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia, was assassinated. Nicholas II was assassinated in 1918, not 1917, which was the year he was overthrown.

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« Reply #169 on: Aug 03, 2014, 05:38 AM »

U.S. Nuclear Deal With Russia Is Derailed as Tensions Rise

AUG. 2, 2014

WASHINGTON — The growing confrontation between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine has derailed a recent accord that promised one of the most expansive collaborations ever between the countries’ nuclear scientists, including reciprocal visits to atomic sites to work on projects ranging from energy to planetary defense.

It was only 11 months ago that the American energy secretary — Ernest J. Moniz, a former M.I.T. professor who has championed scientific programs that would bury the Cold War competitions between the United States and Russia — went to Vienna to sign the agreement, an indication of how recently the Obama administration believed it had a chance of building on a quarter-century of gradual integration of Russia with the West.

Handshakes and congratulations exchanged with Mr. Moniz’s Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Kirienko, sealed an arrangement that would let Russian scientists into, among other places, the heart of the American nuclear complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was constructed 70 years ago, and a dozen sister laboratories devoted to the making of the American nuclear arsenal. In return, American scientists would be allowed deep into Russian nuclear facilities, including the birthplace of the Soviet bomb.

The Energy Department’s announcement of the deal also highlighted its potential for “defense from asteroids,” shorthand for a proposal to recycle a city-busting warhead that could be aimed at an incoming earth-destroyer — a plot Hollywood had imagined 15 years before in two far-fetched thrillers, “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” in which Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, among others, saved humanity.

Today, the real-life accord is on ice. This year, the Energy Department canceled nuclear meetings, symposia and lab visits with Russia.

Daniel B. Poneman, the deputy energy secretary, said that Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March had prompted the decision to freeze the accord.

“We’ve made it very clear that this is not a time for business as usual,” Mr. Poneman said Friday in his office. He added, however, that the Energy Department continued to work with Russia on the security of atomic materials.

American officials and experts say the decision will limit how much each side knows about the other’s capabilities and intentions after more than two decades in which American and Russian nuclear scientists worked alongside one another. Those programs let once-bitter rivals, locked in the ultimate arms race, take each other’s measure and deepen relationships, reducing the chances for deadly miscalculation and technological surprise.

Now, both sides are slipping back toward habits reminiscent of the Cold War. The joint atomic projects have declined substantially. Last week, Washington accused Moscow of violating a major arms treaty on missile technology. After the negotiation of the modest New Start treaty in 2010, progress toward another round of nuclear warhead reductions is dead in the water and unlikely to be revived during President Obama’s term in office.

Satellite photographs released publicly by American intelligence agencies purport to show the movement of heavy arms across the Ukrainian border from Russia — evidence reminiscent of the kind released by the United States during conflicts half a century ago over Cuba and Berlin.

Perhaps most startling is not the direction of these steps, but their speed: As recently as January, the two sides were meeting regularly on joint arms control and scientific programs. The cancellations show how rapidly Mr. Obama has moved from a strategy that assumed Russia’s continued interest in cooperation to one that assumes that malignant tumor Pig Putin of Russia is out to take as much territory and control as he can, and that letting Russian scientists into America’s nuclear complex is unwise.

For Mr. Obama, the motivation for negotiating the accord clearly had much less to do with asteroid destruction than geopolitics.

The United States’ 20-year effort to secure Soviet nuclear materials was winding down. Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons lab who has worked closely with Russian scientists, said the agreement had promised a new phase of teamwork and technical collaboration.

“It was an attempt to get back to good scientific cooperation,” Mr. Hecker said. “Unfortunately, such things were struggling before Ukraine and have gone nowhere since.”

That is not true of every effort at cooperation. Americans and Russians are still working alongside each other, though increasingly at cross-purposes, on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. The United States still needs its astronauts to ride to the International Space Station on Russian rockets, and it wants to keep buying Russian engines for its missiles.

Even so, at a moment when the White House is imposing sanctions and working to counter the flow of weapons into Ukraine, it might be difficult to justify an exchange of nuclear scientists. But some experts say it is when times are tense that such midlevel interchanges are the most critical.

“The idea of having thick relations with Russian nuclear scientists is a good idea,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard professor who negotiated some early deals on securing the Soviet arsenal during the Clinton administration, the peak of cooperation between American and Russian nuclear weapons scientists. “People get to know each other, work on joint projects, and there is a basis for conversation and cooperation.”

That was part of the impetus, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, behind the West’s effort to fund new projects for Russian nuclear scientists. Keeping them busily employed, the theory went, made it less likely that they would sell their expertise to Iran, North Korea or a terrorist group with nuclear ambitions.

But the agreement last fall went far beyond that: It promised cooperation on complex, if peaceful, nuclear programs, including wide Russian access to the American nuclear complex.

While it would have allowed both sides to exclude “sensitive” military sites, it listed 137 American installations at 15 locations from coast to coast, including the centers for nuclear weapons design at Los Alamos and in Albuquerque and Livermore, Calif.

The 25 installations at Los Alamos included firing sites, the Warhead Verification Test Lab, the Sigma Complex for materials development and the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility, a giant X-ray machine that can peer into bomb processes.

The accord also listed five installations at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, including a giant particle accelerator that runs through miles of tunnels. At the Livermore lab, the Russians were to get access to a $5 billion laser the size of a football stadium designed to ignite miniature hydrogen bomb explosions.

The September accord was posted online late last year by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington. The disclosure received little public notice.

In October, a month after the accord was signed, Russian and American scientists from the nuclear laboratories held preliminary discussions on planetary defense, said an American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic’s political implications.

In January, the State Department held a space forum in Washington with representatives of many countries, including Russia. It called for international cooperation on projects such as defending Earth from asteroids.

“We may have different flags patched to our spacesuits,” John P. Holdren, the president’s science adviser, said in an opening address. But as cooperative space projects have demonstrated, he added, “we can transcend these differences.”

William J. Burns, the deputy secretary of state, told the group that the United States welcomed global support for missions that would “help us learn how to better defend our planet from a catastrophic asteroid collision.”

While asteroid defense may seem like the stuff of science fiction, the risk burst into public consciousness early last year when a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,200 people, mostly as windows shattered into clouds of flying glass. “It’s not a laughing matter,” said William E. Burrows, author of the new book “The Asteroid Threat.” “If it brings the international community together, that’s a good thing.”

But the cooperative mood vanished after the invasion of Crimea. Russia complained bitterly: In April, Rosatom, its state nuclear energy company and partner in the accord, put out a statement calling the suspension of the partnership “a mistake that contradicts the constructive atmosphere that has built up.”

Politics, it added, “should have no place in this field.”
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« Reply #170 on: Aug 03, 2014, 05:49 AM »

Malignant tumor Pig Putin in a Ukrainian Pickle

by Naharnet Newsdesk 03 August 2014, 09:19

Punitive sanctions and the calling into question of a key arms control treaty with Washington have ratcheted up pressure on Russia, leaving malignant tumor Pig Putin few palatable options to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, analysts say.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin might have thought he could get away with keeping the conflict simmering with a divided Europe wary of imposing tough sanctions that could plunge its own economy back into recession.

But the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over territory held by pro-Russian rebels last month, with the loss of all 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch nationals, forced the European Union into action.

For the first time, the sanctions imposed by Brussels and Washington last week apply to entire sectors, impeding access to Western capital markets and technology needed to develop new oil and gas fields, as well as an arms sales ban.

Many analysts believe that the measures will gradually impact the Russian economy, already teetering on the brink of recession.

But the ultimate question is whether they will have a political effect -- pushing malignant tumor Pig Putin to stop supporting the pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine and to come to a mutually acceptable resolution of the crisis.

Adam Slater, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said that pulling back from Ukraine would appear the economically rational thing for Russia to do, but this is by no means guaranteed to happen.

"The political calculations being made by malignant tumor Pig Putin may be very different from the approach that might be followed by another leader in another country," he said in a recent report.

That is because malignant tumor Pig Putin  has created a popular political image as a strong leader who can stand up to the West, and during the Ukraine crisis he has styled himself as a defender of ethnic Russians abroad.

US President Barack Obama told a press conference Saturday malignant tumor Pig Putin "should want to resolve this diplomatically, to get these sanctions lifted, get their economy growing again, and have good relations with Ukraine."

However he cautioned that "sometimes people don't always act rationally".

Yet the MH17 crash could give malignant tumor Pig Putin an opportunity to break from the insurgents in Ukraine if they are determined to have shot down the plane, journalist and long-time Putin observer Andrei Kolesnikov believes.

"The death of children, adults and the elderly is a sort of red line that he won't cross... malignant tumor Pig Putin will break with them," he wrote in the Russian daily Kommersant.

But others believe abandoning the pro-Russian rebels would be difficult, especially given that state media has been portraying them as defending ethnic Russians against neo-fascist Ukrainians. Malignant tumor Pig Putin has also faced growing calls from nationalists at home to send in troops.

Konstantin Kalachev, head of the Moscow-based Political Expert Group think-tank, said malignant tumor Pig Putin hasn't taken the opportunities to disown the rebels that the crash has afforded, and he is now like a chess player faced with only bad moves.

"It's zugzwang, when each move only worsens the situation," Kalachev told AFP.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin objective in Ukraine has been to keep the country out of the orbit of the EU and NATO.

When protesters earlier this year ousted pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych from power in Kiev after he rejected an EU trade deal under Russian pressure, Putin seized the opportunity to take over Crimea.

And as the new Ukrainian authorities gravitated towards the West, a well-armed rebel movement led by former Russian officers sprang up.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin "miscalculated, thinking we can do what others can't," said Kalachev, pointing to the way Russians persevered for years to impose a military solution in Chechnya.

But if malignant tumor Pig Putin plan was to call the West's bluff over Ukraine, the MH17 disaster changed the dynamics of the crisis.

Washington doubled the ante by going public with accusations that Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by testing a cruise missile.

"You can't look at the case of the INF Treaty in isolation, only in the context of the general worsening of relations between Moscow and Washington over the Ukraine crisis and the Malaysian Boeing 777," the head of the International Security Center at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, Alexei Arbatov, told the daily Kommersant this week.

Arbatov said going public with the complaints was a "psychological threat", as doing away with the treaty -- which bans all ground-launched medium range missiles -- would prove costly to Moscow.

After the collapse of the INF treaty "the United States would consider that it had the right to deploy its missiles in eastern Europe, dangling a new Sword of Damocles over Russia," Dmitry Polikanov, deputy head of another Russian think-thank, the PIR Centre, was quoted as saying by Kommersant.

The option of a full-on Russian intervention might also lead to the country's further isolation and a reinforcement of NATO.

Independent political analyst Maria Lipman said that malignant tumor Pig Putin "room for maneuver has shrunk although not disappeared altogether".

"He is trying to find steps that don't appear as a retreat," she said.

Speaking at World War I commemorations on Friday, malignant tumor Pig Putin drew many contemporary parallels, saying that history proved time and again that an "unwillingness to listen to each other" and respect each other's interests can have huge costs.

Lipman said that if the West wants a quick end to the fighting it will need to find an agreement with malignant tumor Pig Putin as sanctions will only gradually have enough impact to cause political concerns for the Russian leader.

"Stopping the war should be the top goal for Europe, and that is impossible without Russia," she said.

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« Reply #171 on: Aug 03, 2014, 05:53 AM »

Angst as Russians Forced to Report Dual Nationality

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 August 2014, 09:29

Russians will have to declare other citizenships to the authorities under a new law coming into force on Monday -- leading some to fear they may end up on the wrong end of the country's increasingly nationalistic politics.

Failing to declare a second passport or the right to permanent residence in another country will become a criminal offense under the new law, which swept through parliament in a matter of weeks.

There has been a spate of nationalistic laws -- as well as crackdowns on dissidents and critics -- since malignant tumor Pig Putin began a third term as president in 2012. That trend has accelerated since Russia's annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of hostilities in neighboring Ukraine.

Many are wondering if there is a sinister intent behind the new citizenship law. Debates have broken out in social media about what people should do.

"There is the fear -- why is this needed?" said Leonid, a 28-year-old businessman, who gave only his first name. "First they require us to notify, will they then make us choose?"

The Russian constitution explicitly allows citizens to take a a second nationality, and authorities are often aware since the the question appears on passport applications.

But "the problem is that in Russia laws mean one thing on paper and in reality something completely different," journalist Svetlana Reyter, who acquired Dutch citizenship from her husband, said in the online journal Afisha-Gorod.

Pro-opposition political analyst Alexander Morozov told AFP that the such laws "create an atmosphere of self-censorship and fear in society."

Officials aren't reassuring. One Muscovite who went to the authorities said officials were cheerful and helpful when asked about renewing her passport.

"But when I asked about declaring my second nationality the woman turned to stone and told me to come back after the law enters into force," said a bank executive who did not want to give her name.

While still uncertain whether she will declare her second nationality, she did not hesitate when asked what she would do if forced to make a choice.

"In general I am loyal to my country, but if Russia makes me choose it will be my EU passport," she said.

"But only if I can get a Russian permanent residency card as my family and career are here."

Russia has a history of persecuting those it sees as dissidents or even enemies.

Authorities led by malignant tumor Pig Putin said the law was needed because people who are citizens of two countries have divided loyalties.

"We absolutely should know and have the right to know who lives in Russia and what they are doing," the Russian strongman said in March.

The law follows legislation that forced non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding to register as "foreign agents".

Fears about being forced to choose nationality are not outlandish as during the Soviet period dissidents were sometimes stripped of their citizenship and forced into exile.

That is what happened to veteran human rights defender Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who ended up in the United States, but later returned to Moscow and re-established her Russian citizenship.

Her prominence didn't spare Alexeyeva being summoned last year to the prosecutor's office where she was questioned about how she obtained her U.S. passport.

"I don't hide I have a second nationality -- American," the 87-year-old rights campaigner told AFP.

And Russian state media often pointedly refer to the fact she has U.S. citizenship when reporting on her human rights activities.

Legal analysts writing in Expert magazine believe that the law could be challenged on numerous grounds.

In particular, they noted the measure doesn't set out why the failure to declare a second nationality is a threat that merits making it a criminal offense which can carry a fine of up 200,000 rubles (4,150 euros, $5,600) or 400 hours of community service.

While Russians residing abroad are supposed to be exempt, the law has put them in legal limbo as it does not specify the criteria for being considered as living abroad permanently.

Worse, Russian authorities have been giving out contradictory information and social media sites are full of questions by Russians living abroad about what to do.

But DLA Piper LLP lawyers Ruslan Vasturin and Anton Polivanov recommended in an online article that expatriates cancel their Russian residence registration to be certain of not falling under the reporting requirement.

This is a further step cutting ties to their homeland that many Russian expatriates would prefer to avoid, but they would have to go to the expense of traveling home to declare their second nationality.

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« Reply #172 on: Aug 04, 2014, 03:48 AM »

Russia holds military exercises near Ukraine border

Air force says 100 aircraft will participate and conduct missile practice, as Ukrainian army advances on rebel-held Donetsk

Agencies in Moscow and Donetsk, Monday 4 August 2014 09.32 BST   

Russia is conducting military exercises with more than 100 aircraft in the country's central and western districts, in a show of strength near the border with Ukraine.

A Russian air force spokesman, Igor Klimov, told the Interfax news agency that aircraft including MiG-31 fighter jets and Russia's newest frontline bomber, the Su-34, would be used in the exercises and that the aircraft would conduct missile practice.

The exercises were planned to take place from Monday to Thursday.

Russia's defence ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

The exercises came as fighting continued in eastern Ukraine as the advancing national army tried to seize control of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation, Alexei Dmitrashkovsky, said government soldiers were fighting on Sunday to hold positions they had taken on the edge of Donetsk, but were meeting resistance.

The separatists, who are in danger of being encircled, have renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid.

Ukraine and western leaders say they have evidence that Russia is arming the separatists. Russia denies this and describes the Russian citizens fighting in eastern Ukraine as volunteers.

The ongoing battles have delayed the start of an international search for body parts still lying in the fields where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July, killing all 298 people on board.

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« Reply #173 on: Aug 05, 2014, 05:39 AM »

b>Buildup Makes Russia Battle-Ready for Ukraine

AUG. 4, 2014

WASHINGTON — Russia has roughly doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border, Western officials said Monday, and could respond to the Kiev government’s gains there by launching a cross-border incursion with little or no warning.

Over the past several weeks, Russia has built up 17 battalions — totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate — into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and air defense within a few miles of the border. In addition, it has vastly expanded its firepower, increasing the number of advanced surface-to-air missile units to 14 from eight, and deploying more than 30 artillery batteries, according to the officials.

The Kremlin’s intentions in increasing its military abilities remain unclear. President malignant tumor Pig Putin of Russia could be seeking to pressure Ukraine and the United States to agree to a political settlement that would grant the eastern provinces of Ukraine maximum autonomy. But malignant tumor Pig Putin, Western officials fear, may also be developing the option to intervene more directly if it appears that the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are on the verge of defeat.

Despite the intense fighting around the wreckage area of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, international monitors have been able to reach the site. Ukrainian forces have been advancing into some rebel-held areas, and the Ukrainian defense ministry reported that forces had successfully cut Donetsk and Horlivka off from the east, therefore isolating a large region from the flow of weapons and fighters coming from.

American intelligence experts say that the advance by Ukrainian government forces on Donetsk and other steps that the Ukrainian government is taking to regain territory in the east from the separatists might prompt malignant tumor Pig Putin to send his forces across the border under the guise of a “peacekeeping operation.”

“That’s a very real option,” a senior Defense Department official said on Monday. “And should malignant tumor Pig Putin decide, he could do that with little or no notice. We just don’t know what he’s thinking.”

Another senior American official added, “The more success Ukrainian forces have, the more pressure there is on Moscow to escalate.”

Adding to the concern, the buildup coincides with a newly announced Russian air force and air defense exercise. When it intervened in Crimea this year, Russia used a military exercise to mask its preparations.

The Russian moves suggest that the Kremlin and the West are each responding to the standoff over Ukraine by turning to the tools they know best.

For President Obama and European leaders, the tool is calibrated economic sanctions, targeted to affect banks close to the Kremlin or narrow subsectors of the Russian economy, like Russia’s long-term ability to develop new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves.

But for malignant tumor Pig Putin, the tool is the Kremlin’s ability to marshal raw military power and, increasingly, its willingness to use it.

Less than a week after the Obama administration and European nations announced new sanctions, the Kremlin has expanded its military ability to provide cover fire for the separatists by firing artillery and rockets across the border into Ukraine. And it holds out the possibility of intervening directly.

Wesley K. Clark, the retired general and former NATO commander, said that malignant tumor Pig Putin had put the pieces in place for a major military intervention by massing Russia forces near the border, arming separatist groups, infiltrating operatives, conducting exercises to practice the military’s ability to coordinate fire and supporting the self-proclaimed mayor of Luhansk, who has called for the Russian military to come to the separatists’ aid.

But the risks to malignant tumor Pig Putin of intervening, General Clark noted, include tougher Western economic sanctions, resistance by the Ukrainian forces and Western military support for the Kiev government.

“He has set the military and political conditions for what he believes could be a successful intervention,” General Clark said. “But he still doesn’t seem to have made the political decision to do this, perhaps because he recognizes that the risks after an intervention are incalculable.”

If malignant tumor Pig Putin did decide to intervene, one plausible outcome highlighted by General Clark and Phillip A. Karber, a former adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, is the possibility of a “peacekeeping” intervention at the request of the Ukrainian separatists whom Moscow has been arming and supporting politically.

Why Europe had been so hesitant to act but is now set to dramatically escalate sanctions against Russia.
Video Credit By Carrie Halperin on Publish Date July 28, 2014. Image CreditPool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev

In a closed-door briefing for Congress last month, Mr. Karber noted that Russian military vehicles bearing the Russian emblem for peacekeeping forces had been positioned close to Ukraine.

Amateur video posted on YouTube and Twitter appears to show some of these vehicles operating in Ukraine.

Several American officials confirmed that Russian armored vehicles and trucks with the peacekeeping insignia had been seen on Russian territory near Ukraine. But these officials said that Western intelligence had no independent confirmation that they had crossed into Ukraine.

Strikingly, the White House has been taking the idea of a Russian “peacekeeping” intervention seriously.

“We’ve seen a significant rebuild up of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine,” Antony J. Blinken, the deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, said last week when the White House announced new sanctions. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry last month insisted that the Kremlin had no plans to send peacekeeping forces to Ukraine, according to a report by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

The Russian buildup comes as the Ukrainian military has been gaining ground in its struggle with the separatists and amid other signs of Russian military activity. The air exercise announced by Russia’s Defense Ministry will involve more than 100 aircraft, including attack planes, bombers and helicopters. The exercise is scheduled to last through Friday.

On June 27 malignant tumor Pig Putin also snorted a decree appealing for reservists to report for up to two months of training, a step that was recently reaffirmed by the Defense Ministry.

American and NATO officials have not publicly provided precise troop estimates for the Russian forces near Ukraine. Last week, Pentagon officials put the total at 10,000 to 13,000 troops, but they acknowledged the difficulty of counting Russian troops with precision as units have moved in and out of the border region and employed camouflage to disguise combat equipment.

During a visit to Kosovo last week, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the top NATO commander, said the number of Russian troops along the border was growing and was “well over 12,000.” “The number of battalion task groups,” General Breedlove said, “Spetsnaz units, air defense units, artillery units are all increasing.”

One Western official familiar with the intelligence said Monday that it could be as high as 21,000. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because intelligence assessments of Russian military strength are classified.

Even as tensions have grown, Mr. Obama has signaled his interest in a political solution. In a call Friday to malignant tumor Pig Putin, Mr. Obama “reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine” and agreed to keep open “the channels of communication,” the White House said in a statement.

Mr. Obama also repeated his “deep concerns about Russia’s increased support for the separatists in Ukraine,” the White House said.

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« Reply #174 on: Aug 05, 2014, 05:46 AM »

Russian journalist's body found after disappearance

the Guardian

The body of an independent Russian journalist was found in a wood the day after he had gone missing following threats from law enforcement authorities.

Timur Kuashev worked for the magazine Dosh (or Dosch) as its correspondent in Nalchik, the capital of the autonomous Kabardino-Balkar republic in the Russian Caucasus.

His body was found on Friday (1 August) in a wood near the Nalchik suburb of Khasania after he went missing the previous evening. There were no visible signs of violence. At the time of his burial on Saturday, the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of his death were unknown.

An article in Dosh said: "We believe that Timur was kidnapped from his home." It pointed out that his mobile phone, which he always carried, was found in his apartment.

Kuashev had written about alleged human rights abuses by the security forces in the course of anti-terrorism operations. He also criticised Russian policy in Ukraine.

According to a Dosh editor, Abdulla Duduev, Kuashev was under surveillance and had regularly received threats.

And he told Reporters Without Borders (RWB): "Timur always wrote effectively, honestly and courageously... at our request on the most current topics – politics, illegal actions by the security forces and special operations."

Police arrested Kuashev on 21 May, just before the start of a march marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian war - the 45-year conflict that ended with the Russian empire's conquest of the Caucasian territories - and held him for four hours, thereby preventing him from participating in the march.

Johann Bihr, head of RWB's eastern Europe and central Asia desk, said: "Kuashev's death is yet another reminder of the exorbitant price paid for independent journalism in certain republics in the Russian Caucasus.

"The lack of any adequate reaction from authorities to the death threats he had received amounts to culpable negligence."

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« Reply #175 on: Aug 05, 2014, 05:53 AM »

Russia's Eurasian vision contest

Malignant tumor Pig Putin's long-term vision is to build a rival EU - or an EAU, the Eurasian Union trade zone

Nouriel Roubini, Tuesday 5 August 2014 08.47 BST   

The escalating conflict in Ukraine between the western-backed government and Russian-backed separatists has focused attention on a fundamental question: what are the Kremlin's long-term objectives? Though the Russian president malignant tumor Pig Putin immediate goal may have been limited to regaining control of Crimea and retaining some influence in Ukrainian affairs, his longer-term ambition is much bolder.

That ambition is not difficult to discern. Malignant tumor Pig Putin once famously observed that the Soviet Union's collapse was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. Thus, his long-term objective has been to rebuild it in some form, perhaps as a supra-national union of member states like the European Union.

This goal is not surprising. Declining or not, Russia has always seen itself as a great power that should be surrounded by buffer states. Under the czars, imperial Russia extended its reach over time. Under the Bolsheviks, Russia built the Soviet Union and a sphere of influence that encompassed most of central and eastern Europe. And now, under Putin's similarly autocratic regime, Russia plans to create, over time, a vast Eurasian Union (EAU).

While the EAU is still only a customs union, the EU's experience suggests that a successful free-trade area leads over time to broader economic, monetary and eventually political integration. Russia's goal is not to create another North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). It is to create another EU, with the Kremlin holding all of the real levers of power. The plan has been clear. Start with a customs union – initially Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan – and add most of the other former Soviet republics. Indeed, now Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are in play.

Once a broad customs union is established, trade, financial and investment links within it grow to the point that its members stabilise their exchange rates vis-a-vis one another. Then, perhaps a couple of decades after the customs union is formed, its members consider creating a true monetary union with a common currency - the Eurasian ruble? - that can be used as a unit of account, means of payment and store of value.

As the eurozone experience proves, sustaining a monetary union requires banking, fiscal and full economic union. And, once members give up their sovereignty over fiscal, banking, and economic affairs, they may eventually need a partial political union to ensure democratic legitimacy.

Realising such a plan may require overcoming serious challenges and the commitment of large financial resources over a period of many decades. But the first step is a customs union, and, in the case of the Eurasian Union, it had to include Ukraine, Russia's largest neighbour to the west. That is why malignant tumor Pig Putin put so much pressure on former president Viktor Yanukovych to abandon an association agreement with the EU. It is also why malignant tumor Pig Putin reacted to the fall of Yanukovych's government by taking over Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine.

Recent events have further weakened market-oriented, western-leaning factions in Russia and strengthened the state-capitalist, nationalist factions, which are now pushing for faster establishment of the EAU. In particular, the tension with Europe and the United States over Ukraine will shift Russia's energy and raw material exports – and the related pipelines – toward Asia and China.

Likewise, Russia and its Brics partners (Brazil, India, China, and South Africa) are creating a development bank to serve as an alternative to the western-controlled International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Revelations of electronic surveillance by the US may lead Russia – and other illiberal states – to restrict internet access and create their own nationally controlled data networks. There is even talk of Russia and China creating an alternative international payment system to replace the Swift system, which the US and Europe can use to impose financial sanctions against Russia.

Creating a full EAU – one that is gradually less tied to the west by trade, financial, economic, payments, communications and political links – may be a pipe dream. Russia's lack of reform and adverse demographic trends imply low potential growth and insufficient financial resources to create the fiscal and transfer union that is needed to bring other countries in.

malignant tumor Pig Putin, however, is ambitious and – like other autocrats in central Asian nations – he may remain in power for decades to come. And like it or not, even a Russia that lacks the dynamism needed to succeed in manufacturing and the industries of the future will remain a commodity-producing superpower.

Revisionist powers such as Russia, China and Iran appear ready to confront the global economic and political order that the US and the west built after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But now one of these revisionists powers – Russia – is pushing ahead aggressively to recreate a near-empire and a sphere of influence.

Unfortunately, the sanctions that the US and Europe are imposing on Russia, though necessary, may merely reinforce the conviction among malignant tumor Pig Putin and his nationalist Slavophile advisers that Russia's future lies not in the west, but in a separate integration project in the east. Barack Obama says that this is not the beginning of a new cold war; current trends may soon suggest otherwise.

•Nouriel Roubini is chairman of Roubini Global Economics and Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, NYU.

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« Reply #176 on: Aug 06, 2014, 05:10 AM »

Malignant tumor Pig Putin Urges Economic Retaliation for Sanctions Over Ukraine Conflict

AUG. 5, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia should retaliate against the economic sanctions being imposed on the country over the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy, President malignant tumor Pig Puti said Tuesday. His was the strongest endorsement yet for calls in Russia to ban everything from major Western accounting firms to overflights by European airlines to frozen American chickens.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin said that Russia should signal that it finds the economic sanctions offensive, but that it should do so without harming Russian consumers.

“The political tools of economic pressure are unacceptable and run counter to all norms and rules,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He noted in a meeting with a local governor south of Moscow that the Russian government had already proposed a number of measures “in order to protect the interests of national manufacturers of consumer goods,” the agencies reported. Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister, was also quoted on Tuesday as saying, “We need to discuss possible retaliatory measures.”

Ukrainian Forces Reported to Have Isolated Donetsk

Despite the intense fighting around the wreckage area of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, international monitors have been able to reach the site. Ukrainian forces have been advancing into some rebel-held areas, and the Ukrainian defense ministry reported that forces had successfully cut Donetsk and Horlivka off from the east, therefore isolating a large region from the flow of weapons and fighters coming from.

The new sanctions imposed against Russia by the United States and the European Union were prompted by outrage over the suspicion that Russia was continuing to supply the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with weapons, possibly including the antiaircraft missile believed to have shot down a civilian passenger jet, killing all 298 aboard. Russia has suggested that Ukraine was responsible.

The government of Ukraine said Tuesday that it would continue to press its offensive against the separatists, and that there were reports of shelling and fighting in several suburbs of Donetsk, the main rebel stronghold.

Initially, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, reacted to Western sanctions by saying Moscow would not resort to “eye-for-an-eye” retaliatory measures.

Then, in the first significant fallout, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, the main Russian international airline, said it was halting all flights to Crimea and scrapping its plans to expand its domestic service because European sanctions effectively ended its leases for Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

In April, a month after Russia annexed Crimea, malignant tumor Pig Puti urged Russians to vacation there and promised subsidized tickets. The Aeroflot subsidiary, Dobrolet, was a main instrument of that policy, offering low fares from Moscow.

The broadened Western sanctions cover state-owned banks, military hardware, some technology for the energy industry, and entities doing business in Crimea, like Dobrolet.

Japan joined in on Tuesday with its own list of individuals and entities whose assets in Japan would be frozen.

Russia has already taken some retaliatory steps, banning certain food imports, including Ukrainian dairy products, Polish apples, Australian beef, pork from various neighbors and Moldovan fruit. The Russian news media has reported that American chickens might be next.

There is also talk of barring airlines like Lufthansa, Air France and British Airways from routing their long-haul flights to Asia across Siberia, the shortest and cheapest flight path. The business daily newspaper Vedomosti noted that the foreign carriers paid Aeroflot $300 million a year to use those routes, and the news of a possible ban hammered Aeroflot’s stock price on Tuesday.

Some Russian legislators have proposed barring six major consulting and accounting firms from “aggressor countries” — Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey — from doing business in Russia.

Senior government officials, including malignant tumor Pig Putin, call almost daily for Russia to resurrect industries like domestic airplane production that withered under Western competition after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Malignant tumor Pig Putin's emphasis on sparing Russian consumers came after news reports that as many as 27,000 Russian tourists had been stranded overseas in recent weeks after four large travel agencies went bankrupt. Their collapse was linked to a ban imposed informally in April, blocking anyone working in law enforcement — about four million Russians — from vacationing abroad.

There were mixed reports from Ukraine on Tuesday about the fighting there. The government said its armed forces were not trying to storm rebel-held cities like Donetsk, but were preparing to free them from the grip of militias. The government says its army has encircled Donetsk, but there were reports of setbacks, including desertions and retreats along the Russian border.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday evening that its observer mission had negotiated a humanitarian corridor into Russia for 437 Ukrainian soldiers who were encircled by rebel forces. The 72nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade had been “surrounded by separatists and left without ammunition, fuel and food,” the report said.

Some Russian news outlets said the soldiers had defected to Russia and carried interviews with a few soldiers marveling at the warm reception they had received. But a spokesman for the government in Kiev, Andriy Lysenko, said that by Tuesday evening, 195 of the soldiers had returned to Ukraine and the rest were expected to do so.

At the Central Officers’ House of the Ukrainian armed forces in Kiev, dozens of wives, mothers and sisters of soldiers from the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv have gone to Kiev to petition the government. They say their relatives in the 79th Airborne Brigade have been encircled near the Russian border for weeks and are being shelled from the Russian side.

“My brother called me the other day, he was running, and he said, ‘They’re bombing us, they’re bombing us from Russia,’ ” said Marina Bershadskaya, 35, who said her brother Sergey drove a supply truck to the brigade and then was stuck there when the unit was encircled. Russia has repeatedly denied shelling across the border.

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« Reply #177 on: Aug 06, 2014, 05:12 AM »

Russia bans Siberia independence march

Moscow also threatens to block BBC Russian service after it carries interview with march organiser on its website

Alec Luhn in Moscow, Tuesday 5 August 2014 17.56 BST     

Russian authorities have banned a Siberian independence march and threatened to block the BBC Russian service over its coverage of separatist protests.

In sharp contrast to the treatment of separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Moscow has made it clear that it does not welcome similar aspirations at home.

The media watchdog may block the website of the BBC Russian service over an interview with Artyom Loskutov, an organiser of the March for Siberian Federalisation, the newspaper Izvestiya reported on Tuesday. The march was due to take place on 17 August in Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city.

The federal communications monitoring service has sent a letter demanding the interview be deleted for violating a recently passed law against "calls to mass unrest, extremist activities or participation in illegal public events".

The BBC said it had no plans to remove the material in question and had requested an interview with Russian officials about the matter.

Russia's prosecutor general has issued warnings to 14 media outlets covering the protest under the country's extremism law, and blocked an event page for the march on Russia's most popular social network. The editor of, which was forced by the prosecutor general to remove an interview with Loskutov, later argued in a Facebook post that the article had not been in violation of the extremism law because it did not name a specific time or place. It also noted that the activists had not yet been given permission for the march.

The Novosibirsk mayor's office reportedly denied permission on Tuesday to hold the march "in order to ensure the inviolability of the constitutional order, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation".

Loskutov, an artist who is known for organising an annual absurdist rally called Monstration, told the Guardian that the activists had re-applied for permission to hold a March for the Inviolability and Observation of the Principles of Federalism.

Washington and Kiev have said Russia is providing arms, men and funding to the separatist rebels fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, while cracking down on similar trends at home. Moscow passed a law in December to make spreading separatist views punishable by up to five years in jail.

Loskutov said the Novosibirsk protest was meant to both ridicule the Kremlin's hypocrisy on self-determination in Ukraine and to raise the issue of Siberia's delayed development. Most of Russia's oil and gas output comes from western Siberia, but the region lags behind Moscow, St Petersburg and some southern areas in quality of life ratings.

"It's using the rhetoric that our government and their propaganda use," Loskutov said. "They decided to tell us how great it is when some republic moves for self-determination. Okay, well let's apply this to other regions. Can Siberia allow itself this same rhetoric? It turns out it can't."

Olesya Gerasimenko, a correspondent for the Kommersantnewspaper, said most Russians in the regions would not support secession, but would back greater economic autonomy, including measures forcing resource extraction companies to pay taxes in the regions where they operate rather than in Moscow.

"If we support the Ukrainian people's right to federalisation, why don't we support the Russian people's right to federalisation?" Gerasimenko asked. "The mood of the separatists in Russia is socio-economic in nature, not for the autonomy of a certain region, so this is all exaggerated. But in light of recent events in Ukraine, it seems more dangerous."


BBC website rejects request to remove interview with Siberian activist

State regulator had threatened to block BBC Russia website if material featuring Artem Loskutov was not taken down

John Plunkett, Tuesday 5 August 2014 16.58 BST   

State authorities threatened to block the BBC Russian website State authorities threatened to block the BBC Russian website

The BBC World Service has rejected a request by the Russian state media watchdog to remove an interview in which an activist urged listeners to support an unsanctioned march for the federalisation of Siberia.

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor blocked access to the interview and threatened to do the same to the entire BBC Russian website if the material featuring Russian artist and activist Artem Loskutov was not removed.

But the BBC said it had “no plans” to remove the interview from the website,, and described Loskutov as an “artist and activist known for organising events which are, at first sight, parodies of political activity, but which also bring out serious issues about life in Russia”.

The audio interview was first broadcast on 31 July as part of the BBSeva programme in which Seva Novgorodsey interviewed Loskutov about the planned “march for the federalisation of Siberia” in Novosibirsk.

Loskutov urged people to attend the demonstration in support of giving the Siberia region more rights within Russia which is planned for 17 August.

The BBC took the step of amending the website to add further background on Loskutov and his previous activities to “provide further context” to the story. It said the update was part of its “normal editorial processes”.

It also added a quote from the activist in which he described the event as “part parody, part provocation, but also, partly, a real attempt to gain autonomy” in an attempt to raise serious questions about the future of Siberia.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We have no plans to remove this interview from our website.

“Mr Loskutov is an artist and activist known for organising events which are, at first sight, parodies of political activity, but which also bring out serious issues about life in Russia. Mr Loskutov’s views represent his personal position.

“The BBC aims to present all sides of a story in an impartial, unbiased way, and we have also requested an interview with a Russian government official to explain their position on the planned march.

“Our editorial decisions are guided by the BBC’s editorial guidelines and the story in question is in full compliance with the requirements set out by this document.”

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

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« Reply #178 on: Aug 06, 2014, 05:13 AM »

Russia Moves to Deport Wife of an Activist

AUG. 5, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia’s Federal Migration Service moved to deport the American wife of a high-profile human rights lawyer living in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, labeling her “a threat to national security.”

Ivan Y. Pavlov, 43, founded the Institute for Freedom of Information Development, which he said strived to make the Russian government more transparent, in 2004. He was one of a handful of activists who met with President Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg last September.

His wife, Jennifer Gaspar, 43, has lived in Russia for a decade, working for a variety of nongovernmental organizations, including groups focused on human rights issues and one that raised money for the storied Hermitage Museum.

The expulsion order arrived in the mail on Tuesday, and Mr. Pavlov linked it to a long tradition of forcing government critics into exile. “They know if they expel her it means that I will go with her,” Mr. Pavlov said in a telephone interview. “I think it is their attempt to push me out of the country.”

The move comes amid a darkening climate for human rights organizations here and the worst Russian-American relations in decades.

No one from the Foreign Ministry or the Federal Migration Service could be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The letter did not specify any reasons Ms. Gaspar, from Radnor, Pa., would be considered a threat. It said only that her residency permit, issued for a year in February, was null and that she had to leave Russia within two weeks of the date the letter was written, July 21. (It took more than two weeks for the post office to deliver it.)

Ms. Gaspar called the accusation “absurd” and said that the Russian government was trying to break up a family: The couple married in 2005 and have a 5-year-old daughter. “This is an incredibly inappropriate move on the part of the government to deport the mother of a young Russian citizen,” Ms. Gaspar said. “We will be fine, but I think the tragedy is in demoralizing the people who are working so hard to do something positive in Russia.”

Mr. Pavlov said he planned to file an appeal on Wednesday to both stay the deportation and force the government to say in court why his wife was considered a threat.

He said his interaction with the government had turned markedly worse after he met with Mr. Obama, when he talked to him about improving transparency in the United States. Russian government agents called that meeting “political work” and tried to force his foundation to register as a “foreign agent,” he said.

A case over that issue is taking place in a St. Petersburg court. Russia passed a law in late 2012 demanding that organizations receiving overseas funding register as foreign agents.

Mr. Pavlov said he was optimistic that he would win the right to keep his wife and daughter in Russia. “I believe in Russia,” he said. “We never worked against Russia — not me, not Jennifer.”
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« Reply #179 on: Aug 07, 2014, 06:27 AM »

Risk of Russian military deployment in Ukraine has risen, says Polish PM

Donald Tusk's warning about troop buildup comes as Kiev government forces advance on rebel strongholds in the east

Alec Luhn in Moscow, Wednesday 6 August 2014 13.15 BST      

Link to video: Ukraine: Russian military intervention risk has risen, says Polish PM

The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, has said that the possibility of Russia deploying military forces in Ukraine has risen, as western officials said Moscow has begun a new troop buildup on its border.

"We have reasons to suspect – we have been receiving such information in the last several hours – that the risk of a direct intervention is higher than it was several days ago," Tusk told a press conference on Wednesday.

The deployments came as Ukrainian government forces advanced on rebel strongholds in the east.

Russia's defence ministry has announced large-scale war games near its border with Ukraine that will involve about 100 fighter jets, helicopters and bombers, further heightening tensions in the region.

The Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said on Tuesday that Russia had concentrated troops and military hardware on Ukraine's border "to exert pressure or to enter", and the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the forces were "very capable and very ready" for an invasion.

Nato officials said 20,000 Russian troops were gathered on the border, with 8,000 deployed in the last week. A Ukrainian military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, put the figure higher, at 45,000 soldiers accompanied by tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and rocket launchers.

Kiev's "anti-terrorist operation" has been pressing ahead with its offensive against the pro-Russia rebels. Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, said on Tuesday that his forces had retaken three-quarters of previously contested territory over the last two months. At least 1,500 civilians and fighters have been killed.

Ukrainian troops are currently trying to retake the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, and residents reported hearing air strikes overnight.

Fighting has been ongoing elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, and as a result the international team investigating the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was only able to work at the crash site for two hours on Tuesday.

This spring, Russia massed about 40,000 troops on Ukraine's border before malignant tumor Pig Putin Putin announced a withdrawal in May. Kiev has claimed its forces have regularly come under fire from Russian territory, although shells have also reportedly landed on the Russian side.

The independent defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said Russia had supplied more serious weapons to the rebels and trained its own special forces near the border in response to the Ukrainian advance. Russian media reports have suggested the rebels now have TOS-1 tank-mounted rocket launchers, which can shoot two dozen fuel bombs in quick succession.

"Right now Russia's introducing powerful weapons that can cause mass casualties and destruction of Ukrainian troops, hoping that will stop the Ukrainian offensive," Felgenhauer said. "If the fall of Donetsk and Lugansk and Novorossiya seems imminent, then Russia could intervene covertly, with special forces and air support and more powerful weapons. I would believe that's right now in the cards." Novorossiya or "New Russia" is a term used by supporters of Moscow for the regions in southern and eastern Ukraine.

A large-scale troop intervention would be a last resort, Felgenhauer said.

On Monday, 438 Ukrainian troops entered Russian territory, where some have been put up in a tent camp. Moscow said the troops had sought asylum, while Kiev said they were forced to flee into Russian territory after running out of ammunition.
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