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Author Topic: BIRTH CHART FOR PIG PUTIN..DANGER TO WORLD STABILITY  (Read 5978 times)
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« Reply #75 on: Apr 20, 2014, 06:43 AM »

This is how the PIG rules ....

Pro-Russian Forces Work on Consolidating Power

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
APRIL 19, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — Just before the most important religious holiday of the year for both Ukrainians and Russians, the Orthodox Christian Easter celebration on Sunday, pro-Russian militant groups have paused what had been the daily expansion of their territory in eastern Ukraine.

They have turned instead to consolidating political power over areas already under their control. In a string of midsize mining and industrial towns that form the core of the area under pro-Russian militant control, centered on the town of Slovyansk, pressure mounted on dissenters and the media in ways that are commonplace in Russia but had not been in Ukraine until now.

Internet connections went dead on Saturday in Slovyansk, local news media reported, while Ukrainian television channels blinked off the air, replaced by Russian channels. Pro-Russian militants reportedly accomplished this by seizing a broadcasting tower that was also a telecommunications hub. Also in Slovyansk, local newspapers were not distributed after it became clear that at least some editors and reporters did not support the Russian-backed takeover of the town, and intended to write critically about it.

In another sign of pro-Russian forces’ consolidating politically, they announced Friday that Slovyansk’s elected mayor, who had waffled in her support of their armed seizing of the town and had then mysteriously disappeared, was in fact in their hands, and had not been seen in public because she was recovering from a medical operation.


Russia has massed troops on its side of the border, about 120 miles from Slovyansk. In a departure from earlier explanations that the troops are on a military training exercise, President Pig V. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Saturday that at least some of the troops were deployed there in response to instability in Ukraine. The government reinforced garrisons in the area “against the backdrop of what is happening in Ukraine,” Mr. Peskov told Russian Channel 1 television.

With militants vowing to ignore a diplomatic agreement reached in Geneva on Thursday by the United States, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine, but also halting the expansion of their territory, officials in Kiev had expressed some hope that a settlement was still possible. So the tightening of the separatists’ political grip appeared to be a setback.

In Slovyansk, the pro-Russian militants who a week ago overran City Hall first said the mayor, Neli Shtepa, would continue in her position, but work in a separate building.

By midweek, this arrangement appeared to be unraveling. On Thursday, journalists who checked the new building, a dance hall, found it eerily empty except for a woman in a cloakroom who said nobody had shown up to re-establish the old City Council. Soon enough, all pretense of allowing the elected local government to continue functioning vanished, and then so did the mayor.

“She is with us,” Vyachislav Ponomaryov, who has declared himself the new mayor, the “People’s Mayor,” announced late Friday on a loudspeaker set up in front of City Hall, masked gunmen standing behind him.

“She’s in a normal condition,” Mr. Ponomaryov said, according to Donbass, an online news portal covering eastern Ukraine. “It’s just that yesterday she had a small crisis. She is recovering from an operation. She doesn’t feel well. She signed a letter of resignation.”

He said pro-Russian militants were protecting Ms. Shtepa from the central government, as Ukraine’s domestic security service had opened a criminal case against her after she initially issued a statement in support of the armed men.

Later, though, she strayed from that message by publicly confirming what was obvious to everybody in the town: that the men in masks and unmarked uniforms were certainly not local, and that support for their cause of closer alliance with Russia was hardly unanimous in Slovyansk.

“It’s a dark forest,” she said of the masked men in one interview with a Russian television station. “I don’t know who they are, or what they are.” Soon afterward, she vanished.

On Saturday, newsstands in Slovyansk displayed notices saying “no local press,” the online news portal of Ukrainska Pravda reported. One newspaper editor said last week that he intended to publish his weekly with the headline “Occupiers in Slovyansk,” which, not surprisingly, did not make it to newsstands.


On Saturday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, told the BBC that the security services had suspended operations against the separatists for Easter, but that military action would resume if they continued to occupy government offices.

Armed pro-Russian militants have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6. Though the holiday and the agreement in Geneva appeared to have paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the Donetsk region, it was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to loosen their grip on areas already seized.


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« Reply #76 on: Apr 20, 2014, 12:13 PM »

Ukraine PM Says Russia Undermining Global Stability

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 April 2014, 20:43

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned in an interview that aired Sunday that Russia is undermining global stability and nuclear nonproliferation efforts amid an ongoing crisis between Kiev and the Kremlin.

Ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, he also called for financial and economic support and help modernizing Ukraine's military -- while stopping short of asking for weapons.

"The world has a reason to be concerned about the Pig's intentions because what (the) Russia Federation did, they undermined the global stability," Yatsenyuk told NBC's "Meet the Press" show, in remarks taped Saturday.

"They actually eliminated nuclear nonproliferation programs," he added in reference to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum under which Ukraine handed over its nuclear weapons in return for guarantees of sovereignty from Moscow and Western powers.

"Russia violated this deal, and Russia undermined the entire program of nuclear nonproliferation," Yatsenyuk said.

"And it's crystal clear that for today Russia... is the threat to the globe and the threat to the European Union and a real threat to Ukraine."

With Biden expected in Kiev this week, Yatsenyuk said that, in addition to financial and economic support, the Ukrainian military needed an "overhaul."

However, he refused to be drawn on whether Kiev needed weapons.

"We need to be in very good shape in order to stop Russia, and for this shape we need to have and to get the real support from our Western partners," he told NBC.

"We need financial economic support, we need to modernize the Ukrainian military and to overhaul all structures of (the) Ukrainian defense system."

In the same interview, Yatsenyuk accused Pig of harboring expansionist ambitions.

"The Pig has a dream to restore the Soviet Union, and every day he goes further and further, and God knows where is the final destination," he said.

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, hit back at the accusation.

"Any statements about us having dreams of restoring (the) Soviet Union is a false notion in its very nature," Kislyak said in an interview with "Fox News Sunday."

The exchange comes as pro-Kremlin rebels in east Ukraine appealed for Russian "peacekeepers" to sweep in after a deadly gunfight killed at least two of their militants, shattering an Easter truce and sparking "outrage" in Moscow.


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« Reply #77 on: Apr 20, 2014, 12:18 PM »

Is Bulgaria the Next US-Russia Flashpoint?

04/20/2014
WhoWhatAndWhy.com

Will Bulgaria be the next testing ground in the escalating confrontation between Putin’s Russia and the West—and why should you care?

The answer may have something to do with gas.

Follow the Pipelines

“If the Russians get their way in Ukraine, we will be the next country they will turn their attention to,” said Evgeniy Dainov, a political science and sociology professor at New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.

He is a staunch critic of the Kremlin who nevertheless refuses to support a Western initiative to wean Bulgaria off Russian energy by letting big American companies such as Chevron “frack” in its most fertile land.

Just like Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine, where clashes are currently taking place, Bulgaria has considerable shale gas reserves—and these reserves are near the heart of the East-West dispute.

A Russian Trojan Horse?

Bulgaria was once the Soviet Union’s most loyal ally—now it’s a member of the European Union and NATO but it continues to have close economic and cultural ties with Russia. So much so, in fact, that some Europeans worry that having Bulgaria in their midst will prove to be a “Trojan horse” from Russia.

The Bulgarians—along with the rest of Europe, and the West—are nervous about what they view as Russia’s intensifying expansionism: Kremlin influence inevitably follows direct investments and business deals with Russian entities. These can quickly morph into channels of political pressure—as in the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, when the Russians cut off the gas to 16 European Union countries.

Those Who Can Be Intimidated

A senior fellow and head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Bulgarian office, Dimitar Bechev explained to WhoWhatWhy his view on how Russia wields its power:

“The Russian regime has a very cynical attitude and divides people into two categories: those who can be intimidated and those who can be bought.”

Those who can be intimidated would include the Bulgarians, for many reasons. One reason: they depend on Russia for 90 percent of their natural gas, and they saw what happened during the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute (see map below).

Those Who Can Be Bought

There seems to be no limit to those who can be bought. Though Russia complains about “Nazis” in Ukraine, it has been funding extreme-right movements around Europe, which helps explain why the main ultranationalist party in Bulgaria just threatened to bring down the Sofia government if it approves sanctions against Russia.

“It is obvious that Russia is co-opting people and buying influence—these methods are much more visible in the former Soviet countries, but are also being implemented throughout the Balkans, in Bulgaria as well as in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and elsewhere,” Bechev said.

Russian money has helped produce an odd-fellows alliance between the far right and the left in Bulgaria—though in the case of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which controls the current coalition government and is also widely perceived as a conduit of Russian influence, there is more than money involved. It is the successor of the former Communist Party, whose graying constituency remembers fondly the old regime.

Western Interference Not Welcome Either

However, it’s not just financial self-interest or a kind of institutional nostalgia that leads Bulgarians to be suspicious of the West and its own brand of neo-liberal expansionist policies. Many Bulgarians have bitter personal memories of Western interference in their affairs in the post-Communist era. Indeed, Western-supported “economic liberalization” focused on the fire sale of state-owned industries contributed to the country’s financial ruin in the 1990s. As an editor for Anthropology News observed : “Thugs were everywhere. In almost every nice restaurant I visited, there were thick-necked former wrestlers with handguns shoved into the backs of their pants, bodyguards of the new super rich. Rapid economic liberalization created economic growth, but this wealth was concentrated in the hands of a new domestic pack of oligarchs. Western investors had no problem doing business with these robber barons, people who did not innovate or produce, but who bribed and stole their way to wealth. Government regulators were happy to sell off state assets at reduced prices as long as they were given their generous slice of the spoils.”

Then, once the failure of the precipitous “economic liberalization” was clear, the IMF came in 1997 and imposed fiscal austerity on the country—in effect, punishing ordinary Bulgarians for the economic collapse brought on by the previous Western-imposed policy. “Fiscal austerity” involved cutting budget deficits through reduced government spending, which meant, among other things, lower incomes for Bulgarian workers.

“Bulgaria provides stark evidence that an economic strategy based on low wages and labour market flexibility will fail,” the International Trade Union Confederation wrote  in a prescient report in 2012. “For more than a decade Bulgaria has been encouraged to pursue such a strategy by both the IMF and the European Union…. The Bulgaria record demonstrates that the draconian labour market reforms being forced on workers in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and other peripheral countries in Europe are misplaced.”

Just a year after the report was published, the failure of this second Western-imposed policy had resulted in daily protest marches in front of Parliament. Sociologists from the Sofia-based polling agency Alpha Research concluded in a report that “Bulgarian society is sliding down the spiral of institutional and political collapse.”

If parts of this story sounds similar to Ukraine’s, it is hardly a coincidence. When Ukraine, mired in financial trouble, applied to the IMF for financial aid last year, the IMF demanded painful austerity reforms, among them an end to fuel subsidies to Ukrainian families. The Ukrainian government refused  and turned to Russia, which offered $15 billion with foreign policy strings attached but no demands that would hurt the average Ukrainian. The rest is history. (It bears noting that the new revolutionary government finally forced the subsidy cut through last month.)

It’s no surprise, then, that at a recent pro-Ukraine demonstration in Bulgaria, few people viewed things as black and white. One demonstrator articulated his nuanced frustration this way: “I am here to protest the interference of all foreign powers in Bulgaria, as well as in Ukraine.”


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« Reply #78 on: Apr 21, 2014, 05:25 AM »

Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia

By ANDREW HIGGINS, MICHAEL R. GORDON and ANDREW E. KRAMER
APRIL 20, 2014
IHT

KIEV, Ukraine — For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

And Ukraine’s state security service has identified one Russian reported to be active among the green men as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian military intelligence operative in his mid- to late 50s. He is said to have a long résumé of undercover service with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian general staff, most recently in Crimea in February and March and now in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

“There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this, which is why U.S. officials have continued to make that case,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Sunday.

The question of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine has a critical bearing on the agreement reached Thursday in Geneva among Russian, Ukrainian, American and European diplomats to ease the crisis. American officials have said that Russia would be held responsible for ensuring that the Ukrainian government buildings were vacated, and that it could face new sanctions if the terms were not met.

The Ukrainian government provided these photographs last week to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. Ukraine says the photographs document that the armed men who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine are Russian combatants. The State Department, which has also alleged Russian interference, says that the Ukrainian evidence is convincing.

The equipment, including the helmets, used by the Donbass self-defense forces appears similar to that of the Russian special operations forces.

The Kremlin insists that Russian forces are in no way involved, and that Mr. Strelkov does not even exist, at least not as a Russian operative sent to Ukraine with orders to stir up trouble. “It’s all nonsense,” President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday during a four-hour question-and-answer session on Russian television. “There are no Russian units, special services or instructors in the east of Ukraine.” Pro-Russian activists who have seized government buildings in at least 10 towns across eastern Ukraine also deny getting help from professional Russian soldiers or intelligence agents.

But masking the identity of its forces, and clouding the possibilities for international denunciation, is a central part of the Russian strategy, developed over years of conflict in the former Soviet sphere, Ukrainian and American officials say.

John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer who now teaches at the Naval War College, calls it “special war”: “an amalgam of espionage, subversion, even forms of terrorism to attain political ends without actually going to war in any conventional sense.”

And one country, Mr. Schindler noted in an article last year in which he coined the term, that particularly excels at special war is Russia, which carried out its first post-Soviet war to regain control of rebellious Chechnya back in 1994 by sending in a column of armored vehicles filled with Russian soldiers masquerading as pro-Moscow Chechens.

Russia’s flair for “maskirovka” — disguised warfare — has become even more evident under Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer whose closest advisers are mostly from that same Soviet intelligence agency.

For nearly two months now, the shaky new Ukrainian government has been left to battle phantoms, first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine, where previously fringe pro-Russian political activists have had their fortunes lifted by small but heavily armed groups of masked men.

In the eastern city of Slovyansk, under the control of pro-Russian insurgents for more than a week now, the green men have worked hard to blend in with locals but have occasionally let the mask slip, apparently to send a clear message that any push to regain control by Ukrainian forces would risk bringing down the wrath of the Russian military.

A gradation of forces control the city and other areas now in the hands of separatist rebels, ranging from clearly professional masked soldiers and unruly groups of local men in camouflage, rifles slung over their shoulders, to teenage boys in sweatpants carrying baseball bats or hunting knives. At most times, only the local toughs are visible on the streets.

But when a woman sidled up to one of the masked gunmen in the city’s central square last week and asked where he was from, she got an answer that summed up Russia’s bedeviling and constantly shifting disguises. The gunman initially said he was “from Russia,” but when pressed, said coyly that he was “from New Russia,” a long-forgotten czarist-era term revived last week by Mr. Putin to describe a large section of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Asked by the woman what would happen if the Ukrainian Army attacked, he replied, “We have to stand for only 24 hours, to tend the fire, and after that, a one million man army will be here.”

When a Ukrainian armored column approached the town last Wednesday and then swiftly surrendered, a group of disciplined green men suddenly appeared on the scene and stood guard. Over the course of several hours, several of them told bystanders in the sympathetic crowd that they were Russians. They allowed themselves to be photographed with local girls, and drove an armored personnel carrier in circles to please the crowd.

A visual survey of the continuing dispute, including satellite images of Russian naval positions and maps showing political, cultural and economic factors in the crisis.

“It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, wrote in a blog post on the alliance’s website.“It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized, and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”

His evidence, however, was mostly circumstantial: Pro-Russian gunmen “exhibit telltale military training and equipment”; they handle weapons like professional soldiers, not new recruits to a pickup “self-defense” force; they carry weapons and equipment that are primarily Russian Army issue, not gear “that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers.” General Breedlove conceded that such points, taken alone, might not prove much, “but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.”

Heightening skepticism of Russia’s denials is also the fact that Mr. Putin, after denyingany Russian link to the masked gunmen who seized government buildings in Crimea and blockaded Ukrainian military bases there, last week changed his story and said, “Of course, Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces.”

More direct evidence of a Russian hand in eastern Ukraine is contained in a dossier of photographs provided by Ukraine to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Vienna-based organization now monitoring the situation in Donetsk and other parts of the country. It features pictures taken in eastern Ukraine of unidentified gunmen and an earlier photograph of what looks like the same men appearing in a group shot of a Russian military unit in Russia. 

One set of photographs shows what appears to be the same gunman in pictures taken in the Crimean annexation and more recently in Slovyansk. Another features a portly bearded man photographed in Slovyansk on April 14, wearing a camouflage uniform without insignia, but six years earlier, had been photographed during Russia’s invasion of Georgia with a Russian special forces patch on his left arm.

Another character in Ukraine’s case against Russia is Mr. Strelkov, the alleged military intelligence officer who Kiev says took part in a furtive Russian operation to prepare for the annexation of Crimea and, more recently, in insurgent action in Slovyansk.

No photographs have yet emerged of Mr. Strelkov, but the Security Service of Ukraine, the successor organization to what used to be Ukraine’s local branch of the K.G.B., has released a sketch of what it says is his face.

The security agency, known by its Ukrainian abbreviation S.B.U., first identified him publicly early last week after releasing an audio recording of what it said was a recording of an intercepted communication between Russian operatives in eastern Ukraine and their controller back in Russia.

In the recording, a man nicknamed “Strelok” — who the Ukrainian agency says is Mr. Strelkov — and others can be heard discussing weapons, roadblocks and how to hold on to captured positions in and near Slovyansk with a superior in Russia.

The superior, clearly anxious to keep Russia’s role hidden, can be heard ordering his men on the ground in Ukraine not to identify themselves and to find someone with a Ukrainian accent who can give an interview to a Russian television channel. It was very important, he added, to say on air that all the pro-Russian insurgents want is “federalization,” or constitutional changes to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.

Military analysts say the Russian tactics show a disturbing amount of finesse that speak to long-term planning.

“The Russians have used very specialized, very effective forces,” said Jacob W. Kipp, an expert on the Russian military and the former deputy director of the United States Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“They don’t assume that civilians are cluttering up the battlefield; they assume they are going to be there,” he said. “They are trained to operate in these kind of environments.”


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« Reply #79 on: Apr 22, 2014, 04:35 AM »

Under Russia, Life in Crimea Grows Chaotic

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
APRIL 21, 2014
IHT

SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — After Russia annexed Crimea practically overnight, the Russian bureaucrats handling passports and residence permits inhabited the building of their Ukrainian predecessors, where Roman Nikolayev now waits daily with a seemingly mundane question.

His daughter and granddaughter were newly arrived from Ukraine when they suddenly found themselves in a different country, so he wonders if they can become legal residents. But he cannot get inside to ask because he is No. 4,475 on the waiting list for passports. At most, 200 people are admitted each day from the crowd churning around the tall, rusty iron gate.

“They set up hotlines, but nobody ever answers,” said Mr. Nikolayev, 54, a trim, retired transportation manager with a short salt-and-pepper beard. 

“Before we had a pretty well-organized country — life was smooth,” he said, sighing. “Then, within the space of two weeks, one country became another.” He added, “Eto bardak,” using the Russian for bordello and meaning “This is a mess.”

One month after the lightning annexation, residents of this Black Sea peninsula find themselves living not so much in a different state, Russia, as in a state of perpetual confusion. Declaring the change, they are finding, was far easier than actually carrying it out.

The chaotic transition comes amid evolving tensions in nearby eastern Ukraine, where the possible outcomes include a Crimea-annexation replay.

In Crimea now, few institutions function normally. Most banks are closed. So are land registration offices. Court cases have been postponed indefinitely. Food imports are haphazard. Some foreign companies, like McDonald’s, have shut down.

Other changes are more sinister. “Self-defense units,” with no obvious official mandate, swoop down at train stations and other entry points for sudden inspections. Drug addicts, political activists, gays and even Ukrainian priests — all censured by either the government or the Russian Orthodox Church — are among the most obvious groups fearing life under a far less tolerant government.

In fact, switching countries has brought disarray to virtually all aspects of life. Crimeans find themselves needing new things every day — driver’s licenses and license plates, insurance and prescriptions, passports and school curriculums. The Russians who have flooded in seeking land deals and other opportunities have been equally frustrated by the logistical and bureaucratic roadblocks.

“The radical reconstruction of everything is required, so these problems are multiplying,” said Vladimir P. Kazarin, 66, a philology professor at Taurida National University. (The university’s name, which derives from Greek history, is scheduled to be changed.) “It will take two or three years for all this chaos to be worked out, yet we have to keep on living.”

On a deeper level, some Crimeans struggle with fundamental questions about their identity, a far more tangled process than merely changing passports.

“I cannot say to myself, ‘O.K., now I will stop loving Ukraine and I will love Russia,’ ” said Natalia Ishchenko, another Taurida professor with roots in both countries. “I feel like my heart is broken in two parts. It is really difficult psychologically.”

The Crimean government dismisses any doubts or even complaints.

“Nonsense!” said Yelena Yurchenko, the minister for tourism and resorts and the daughter of a Soviet admiral who retired in Crimea. These “are small issues that can be resolved as they appear,” she said, adding, “It might result in certain tensions for the lazy people who do not want to make progress.”

Legions of Russian officials have descended on Crimea to teach the local people how to become Russian. In tourism alone, Ms. Yurchenko said, Crimea needed advice about Russian law, marketing, health care and news media.

“Can you imagine how many people need to come to work here for just that one sector?” she said in an interview, explaining why even her ministry could not help anyone find a hotel room in Simferopol. “We also have transportation, economy, construction, medicine, culture and many other things.”

Other changes in national identity elsewhere, like the “velvet divorce” of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, happened with more advance planning. Crimeans feel as if they went through the entire reverse process in 1991, when Ukraine left the Soviet Union, which had transferred the peninsula to Ukraine from Russia in 1954. Confused? So are they.

For Crimeans, every day overflows with uncertainty.

Food imports, for example, have dwindled in the face of murky, slapdash rules. The Crimean authorities recently banned cheese and pork from Ukraine, then announced that full Russian border controls would be put in effect on Friday. Shoppers are suddenly finding favorite brands of ordinary items like yogurt unavailable.

Citing logistical problems, McDonald’s closed. Metro, a giant German supermarket chain, also shut down. Most multinational businesses want to avoid possible sanctions elsewhere for operating in Crimea.

Flight connections have been severed except to Russia. Crimea officially moved an hour ahead to Moscow time, but cellphones automatically revert to Ukrainian time.

In Dzhankoy, about 55 miles north of this capital city, Edward A. Fyodorov, 37, has been selling ice cream since he was 9 years old. Those sales eventually led to a fleet of 20 refrigerated trucks. He used to import all manner of food from Ukraine, including frozen buns and salad fixings for McDonald’s, plus various goods for Metro supermarkets and 300 smaller grocery stores.

Business is off 90 percent, he said. Five to seven truckloads a day have diminished to about one a week. He has been looking for Russian suppliers, but products cost about 70 percent more and transportation issues are thorny.

Crimea lacks a land border with Russia, about 350 miles away through Ukraine. The lone ferry crosses to Crimea from an obscure corner of the Caucasus. An expensive bridge promised by the Kremlin is years away.

“It is impossible to make any plans or forecasts,” said Mr. Fyodorov, voicing an almost universal lament. Even if he found work, he said, closed banks make payments impossible.

Long lines snake outside the few Russian banks operating. (Some Crimeans waiting in line resorted to a Soviet-era tactic of volunteering to maintain epic lists — at one passport office the list stretched to more than 12,000 names.) President Vladimir V. Putin announced Thursday that he hoped to have Russian banks functioning normally in Crimea within a month.

The Kremlin, which has announced plans to make Crimea a gambling mecca, set an official deadline of Jan. 1, 2015, for the transition. The initial cost allocated “to all Crimean programs” this year will be $2.85 billion, Mr. Putin said, but given the promises the Kremlin has made for everything from infrastructure to doubling pensions, the eventual annexation bill is expected to climb far beyond that.

Prices are often quoted in both Ukrainian hryvnias and Russian rubles, but the exchange rate fluctuates constantly. Even the simplest transactions like paying taxi fares result in haggling by calculator.

Land sales, despite surging demand from Russians wanting seaside dachas, have stalled because land registration offices are closed.   

Maxim and Irina Nefeld, a young Moscow couple, had dreamed about living near the sea for so long that they were on Crimea’s southern coast seeking land on March 18, the day Mr. Putin announced the annexation.

They found a pine-covered lot, a third of an acre with a sea view, for $60,000. They agreed to buy it, but could not complete the deal without the land office, or find a bank to transfer the money.

The next day the owner asked for $70,000. Mr. Nefeld went back to Moscow to get it in cash. When he returned on April 10, the landowner demanded $100,000.

Russian laws leave some groups out in the cold. Russia bans methadone to treat heroin addiction, for example. As local supplies dwindle, the daily dosage for 200 patients at the clinic here has been halved.

“It is our death,” said Alexander, 40, declining to identify himself publicly as a recovering addict. Unaware that methadone was illegal in Russia, he voted for annexation.

Crimeans are occasionally alarmed by armed men in uniforms without insignia who materialize at places like Simferopol’s train station, inspecting luggage and occasionally arresting passengers. Various people detained in protests against the referendum a month ago have not resurfaced.

When confronted, the uniformed men tell Crimeans that they are “activists from the people” who are “preserving order.”

Archbishop Kliment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, vilified by its Russian counterpart, said Russian priests with armed supporters had threatened to confiscate churches in at least two villages. His 16 priests sent their families and their most valuable icons to the Ukrainian mainland for protection, he said.

Natalia Rudenko, the founding principal of the capital’s one Ukrainian school, said city officials fired her shortly after a member of the self-defense forces visited, demanding to know why the school was still teaching Ukrainian and not flying the Russian flag. Ms. Yurchenko, the tourism minister, said the school could continue to teach Ukrainian, since the new Constitution protected the language, but it would need to add Russian classes.

It is hard to tally the many branches of government not functioning.

Court cases have been frozen because the judges do not know what law to apply. Essential procedures like DNA testing must now be done in Moscow instead of Kiev.

One traffic officer confessed he had no idea what law to enforce — he was being sent to school two hours a day to learn Russian traffic laws.

Lawyers, their previous education now irrelevant, plow through Russian legal textbooks wrestling with the unfamiliar terms. “I won’t be able to compete with young lawyers who come from Russia with diplomas in Russian law,” said Olga Cherevkova, 25, who was previously pursing a Ph.D. in Ukrainian health care law.

She is weighing whether to abandon the land of her birth, of her identity.

“Maybe I should just pack my suitcase and move to Miami,” she laughed, then caught herself. “I am laughing, but it is not really a joke. I want to live in a free country. Still, for me as a lawyer, it is interesting, if a bit strange.”
Correction: April 22, 2014

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the origin of the name of Taurida National University. It  derives from Greek history, not Crimean Tatar history.

***************

Russia Bans Tatar Leader from Crimea

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 April 2014, 12:07

Russia on Tuesday banned the leader of Crimea's pro-Kiev Tatar community from entering the Black Sea peninsula for five years, the Tatar assembly said.

Mustafa Dzhemilev was handed an official order barring him from returning to Crimea as he crossed to mainland Ukraine from the territory that Moscow controversially annexed last month, the assembly said in a statement.

Dzhemilev, also a member of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada parliament, condemned the decision as "an indication of what a 'civilized' state we are dealing with".

Dzhemilev pledged he would ignore the ban and return to Crimea.

Crimea's 300,000 Muslim Tatars, who make up around 12 percent of the peninsula's population, largely boycotted a disputed referendum last month in which nearly 97 percent of voters chose to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

In an attempt to appease the community, Russian President Pig Putin said Monday he had signed a decree rehabilitating Crimea's Tatars, who were deported under Stalin over accusations of Nazi collaboration and who fiercely oppose the region's new Moscow-backed authorities.

The overture looks unlikely to satisfy the Tatars, who eye the Kremlin with distrust and have recently said they will consider holding a plebiscite on broader autonomy.
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« Reply #80 on: Apr 22, 2014, 04:46 AM »

Ukraine crisis: US warns of dangerous precedent for other territorial disputes

US officials asked Asian countries not to seek to take commercial advantage of sanctions against Russia on eve of Obama Asia trip

Dan Roberts in Ukraine
theguardian.com, Monday 21 April 2014 13.27 EDT      

Joe Biden in Kiev Joe Biden is greeted by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia at Borispol airport outside Kiev. Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

The White House has warned of the danger of worsening tension in Ukraine setting precedents for other territorial disputes around the world as it reacted for the first time to fresh clashes over the weekend with pro-Russian forces.

Speaking on the eve of a trip to Japan and Korea by Barack Obama that is likely to be overshadowed by the ongoing crisis, US officials said it was imperative that Asian countries did not seek to take commercial advantage of sanctions against Russia.

“International order is at stake,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser. “Our policy on Ukraine is not targeted at Russia specifically, it is targeted at upholding the international order that we believe has been violated.”

US secretary of state John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to defuse the crisis. State department spokesman Jen Psaki said Kerry spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and "urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically."

The administration believes widespread international condemnation of Russia at the United Nations, including abstention by China on a critical vote, has been driven partly by anxiety in Asia about the repercussions for other flashpoints such as the South China Sea and Korean peninsula.

“One of the reasons you saw that vote in the UN was that Asian nations don't like precedent being set that a sovereign nation's territorial integrity can be violated with impunity,” added Rhodes.

But the White House was cautious on Monday in its first reaction to fresh clashes between Ukrainian security personnel and pro-Russian forces at the weekend which resulted in several deaths.

“We are looking into it,” said Rhodes. “We have been very clear that we do not support any types of violence and we want to see de-escalation.”

Officials in Washington are anxious to hold onto a diplomatic agreement made last week in Geneva and said the incident was a sign of why it should be implemented rather than indication it was already breaking down.

“The road map laid out in Geneva requires pro-Russian forces to lay down their arms and vacate those buildings. As long as they are there, the risk of this type of confrontation is acute,” added Rhodes.

“We have seen the Ukrainian government begin to follow through on their commitments and this is where we have a difference with [Russian] foreign minister Lavrov.”

Officials travelling with vice-president Biden on his way to Kiev described the situation in eastern Ukraine as “still very murky” despite claims by the Ukrainian government that it was a provocation by pro-Russian forces.

A senior administration official said the US doesn't have any evidence that there was any Ukrainian security service involvement or involvement from people coming from Kiev.

"We have nothing that suggests that there was either but we don't have 100% of the facts on that," he told pool reporters travelling with Biden.

But the US official acknowledged it has not seen the kind of progress required under the Geneva agreement "and we've seen certain activities that have been discouraging."

The US will impose "costs" on Russia in coming days if that doesn't change, he added. "This is not going to be an open-ended process. This is going to be a situation where we take stock and determine in the relatively near term what our next step should be."


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« Reply #81 on: Apr 23, 2014, 04:56 AM »

Russia Threatens Response if Interests Attacked in Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 April 2014, 06:43

Russia issued a blunt warning Wednesday it would respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine, as pro-Kremlin rebels in the restive east of the country braced for a new military offensive by Kiev.

The threat by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, recalling the 2008 war with Georgia over South Ossetia, came as U.S. troops were headed to region in a show of force after Washington again warned Moscow of new sanctions over the escalating crisis.

"If we are attacked, we would certainly respond. If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law," Lavrov told state-controlled RT television.

The United States said it plans to deploy 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states starting Wednesday to "reassure our allies and partners".

Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov late Tuesday ordered a new "anti-terrorist" operation against separatists holding a string of eastern towns after the discovery of two "brutally tortured" bodies.

One of the dead was a local politician from Turchynov's party who was kidnapped nearly a week ago, the leader said, blaming his death on the rebels.

Kiev's offensive threatens to sound the final death knell for an already tattered agreement struck last week in Geneva between Ukraine, Russia and the West to ease the crisis, which some fear could tip the country into civil war.

"Security agencies are working to liquidate all the groups currently operating in Kramatorsk, Slavyansk and the other towns in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions," said Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency.

- Calm in flashpoint town -

In the eastern town of Slavyansk, a tense flashpoint town near where the two bodies were found, the streets were calm, with locals walking about as usual.

A handful of rebels wearing camouflage gear and ski masks but with no apparent weapons stood outside the barricaded town hall they are occupying.

In front of the building were displayed three photos of militants who were killed in a weekend attack on a roadblock the separatists have blamed on pro-Kiev ultra-nationalists.

On Tuesday, a Ukrainian reconnaissance plane was hit by small-arms fire from the town, but the aircraft landed safely with none of its crew hurt.

Pro-Moscow insurgents in Slavyansk are holding two journalists, an American working for the company Vice News, Simon Ostrovksy, and a Ukrainian working for a pro-Kiev outlet, Irma Krat.

Slavyansk's local rebel leader Vyatcheslav Ponomarev told reporters that the American "is not being detained, was not abducted, has not been arrested" and claimed he was "working" in one of the rebel-occupied buildings.

However the Twitter feed of the normally prolific journalist has been inactive for a day.

- Lack of 'measurable progress' -

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in an overnight call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "expressed deep concern over the lack of positive Russian steps to de-escalate, cited mounting evidence that separatists continue to increase the number of buildings under occupation and take journalists and other civilians captive," a senior State Department official said.

Kerry also warned that a lack of Russian progress on the Geneva deal struck last week would lead to more sanctions on Moscow.

Washington, like Kiev, believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is behind the Ukrainian rebellion in the east.

The State Department official said Kerry "reiterated that the absence of measurable progress on implementing the Geneva agreement will result in increased sanctions on Russia".

Those messages were underlined on a visit to Kiev on Tuesday by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who also stressed U.S. support for Ukraine's new leaders -- in power since the ouster in February of the pro-Kremlin president.

Biden called on Russia to pull back its forces from the border, and to reverse its annexation of the strategic Crimea peninsula last month.

The deepening of the crisis has given rise to a precarious Cold War-style standoff between Moscow and the West.

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine's eastern border, while the United States was sending 600 soldiers to NATO member countries near Ukraine to boost defences in eastern Europe.

A company of 150 troops will arrive in Poland on Wednesday and another 450 are due in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the coming days.

The move sends a "message to Moscow" that "we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe," U.S. Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference in Washington.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has more than 150 monitors in the Ukraine, has also said it was worried about the increasing tensions.

Russia has dismissed the threat of new sanctions and insists that it has the right to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

But Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has acknowledged his nation's economy was facing an "unprecedented challenge" with recession looming.
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« Reply #82 on: Apr 23, 2014, 05:06 AM »

SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/22/2014 05:53 PM

The Propaganda War: Opposition Sings Kremlin Tune on Ukraine

By Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp in Moscow

The propaganda war in the Ukraine crisis has spawned a renewal Russian nationalism, with members of the opposition and the intellectual class suddenly praising Pig Putin. Many in Russia are accepting the Kremlin's official line uncritically.

Perhaps Alexander Byvshev was a little naïve. Maybe he thought his small village was somehow a safe haven from the world of global politics. But how wrong he was.

Byvshev, a German teacher in the district of Orlov, recently opened up his local newspaper, Sarya, or "the dawn," only to find his name featured in a prominent slot. "In these troubled times, when enemies outside the country are showing their teeth and preparing to take the leap of death, you can find people who would like to undermine Russia from within," the newspaper wrote. "People like A. Byvshev."

How did Byvshev wind up in the newspaper? All it took was a short poem he wrote and posted on VK, Russia's popular social network answer to Facebook. He had directed the poem at "patriot cheerleaders" who uncritically follow Moscow's propaganda. "From a very early age, I have been accustomed to not telling lies," Byvshev says. "If Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine, then one has to speak openly about the fact that it was theft."

'No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia'

It's an openness that hasn't done him much good recently. "There's No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia," blared the headline of the article about Byvshev. Acquaintances stopped greeting him, local businesses began ignoring his presence and now the local regional prosecutor is threatening to press charges against him for "incitement to hatred." He faces two years behind bars if convicted.

It is an incident reminiscent of the 1930s, an era when the line between Communist and public enemy was a fine one. At the time, Stalin had hundreds of thousands of so-called enemies of the people shot and killed.

Today, Moscow's territorial claims in Ukraine have unleashed a sense of nationalism so aggressive that it has silenced virtually all critical voices. Indeed, it is a singular official view that appears to have prevailed in Russia -- namely that a clique in Kiev, with American support, is seeking to destroy Ukraine despite heroic efforts by millions in the eastern part of the country. And that these people need Russia's support.

The ability to differentiate appears to have evaporated and the state propaganda machine has become as effective as it is comprehensive. The media seem to be following it in lockstep, as evidenced last week. "Ukraine Is Waging War against Its Own People" read the front page of one issue of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official Russian government newspaper, in response to the decision by the interim government early last week to send troops to the eastern part of the country. The "Kiev junta" wants to "bombard the Donbas," commented Russia's largest-circulation daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, adding: "Our people are mourning the dead and injured." "Sloviansk is covered in blood," claimed the tabloid Tyov Den ("Your Day"). None of these reports is true.

Have Russians Become Gullible?

The problem is that people in Russia these days seem to believe almost every false report that comes out of Moscow, and few are questioning their accuracy. New channel Russia 24 unceasingly shows Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country holding machine guns and grenade launchers. But nobody in Russia bothers to ask where they are getting their arms from.

Russian President Pig Putin, the man ostensibly rushing to the aid of Russians in Ukraine, is the hero of the day. Finally, Russians seem to believe, he is paying the West back for years of humiliation. And yet the justifications the Pig has provided could hardly be more cynical.

Last Wednesday, the Pig snorted the escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine to be the product of the "irresponsible and unconstitutional policies of the regime in Kiev," which, he claimed had used the army to suppress the protests of peaceful citizens in the region. Yet to that point, there had been little activity by the army. During the Maidan square revolt, he called for the exact opposite: Putin said the military must use force to stop the protests.

Nationalist Delirium

Moscow is acting as though it were located just behind the front lines. Indeed, the pull of nationalist delirium has become so strong that even Putin's own opponents seem no longer capable of resisting it.

Only two years ago, Sergei Udaltsov, along with blogger and opposition politician Alexei Navalny, was one of the most eloquent speakers at anti-Putin protests in Moscow. He has been under house arrest since 2013 on charges he sought to incite mass riots. Despite his situation, even Udaltsov has declared his support for Russia's actions and its annexation of Crimea. "I am a supporter of direct democracy, and I welcome the Crimea referendum as an expression of popular government," he recently stated.

Blogger and attorney Navalny has also been placed under house arrest and is banned from using the telephone or the Internet. That didn't stop him from writing an interview with himself, which was then distributed by his family. In it, he claims that Crimea was given to Ukraine in an act of "unlawful arbitrariness" by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 that is still offensive today, even to normal Russians. He also offers some pseudo consolation to Ukrainians: "To hell with Crimea. Why do you need it, anyway?"

A Divided Intelligentsia

At a time when polls indicate that 80 percent of Russians are backing their president, it is difficult to be both a patriot and a critic of the Kremlin. Those who would criticize the government become the object of close scrutiny. The annexation of Crimea and the battle for eastern Ukraine has divided not only Putin's opponents, it seems, but also Russia's intelligentsia.

On the one side, around 500 members of the Russian creative community recently signed a letter in support of the Pig, including star conductor Valery Gergiev. On the other, authors Victor Erofeyev and Lyudmila Ulitskay, along with 900 other artists, signed their names to a petition condemning the annexation and warning against a possible war with Ukraine.

Sitting in her office in a historical building in central Moscow, Irina Prokhorova, chairwoman of the opposition party Civic Platform, laments the current situation. "It's almost as if we've returned to the Soviet era," she says, "a time when all discussions about government decisions were prohibited." The building belongs to her brother Mikhail, a billionaire who ran for president in 2012 on a platform of ensuring greater democracy and a stronger free market economy. He ultimately garnered 8 percent of the vote, a respectable result.

Iron Curtain Lite?

Prokhorova sees in the enthusiasm over the annexation of Crimea a "nostalgic return to the imperialist past." "Earlier, people with differing political convictions had mutual respect for each other," she says. "But now even friendships are breaking up. A witch hunt has begun." She warns that Russia is steering itself on a course toward a "civil cold war."

Reknowned historian Andrey Zubov, until recently a professor at Russia's elite MGIMO foreign policy university, experienced that first hand not long ago. Zubov got dismissed from his professorship earlier this month after comparing Putin's annexation of Crimea with Hitler's 1938 Anschluss of Austria. Fervent Russian patriots also want to strip the country's most famous rock star, Andrey Makarevich, of all honors ever bestowed him because he dared to protest against the Kremlin's Ukraine policies.

Other intellectuals, like former television executive Nikolai Svanidze, are more cautious and view themselves not as members of the opposition, but as a "liberal and democratic part of the political elite." Although Svanidze considers Crimea to be Russian territory, he rejects the methods used to annex it as well as the actions of forces in eastern Ukraine he believes are steered by Russia. He says he now fears the creation of an "Iron Curtain Lite," the "archaization and Sovietization of our domestic politics" and major economic problems in the mid-term.

A few newspapers do still throw light on the thoughts of the liberal wing of the Moscow elite, despite their current silence. And the Kremlin still tolerates their existence -- no doubt due to their low circulations.

Articles printed in Nezavisimaya Gazeta openly state that the majority of Ukrainians are opposed to annexation by Russia -- even in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine -- and that militant forces there are receiving their orders from Russians who have traveled into the region. They have also run stories on how so-called civil defense forces somehow managed to open several weapons depots. And that they were miraculously able to disarm the 25th Separate Dnipropetrovsk Airborne Brigade and now possess tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and all sorts of ammunition.

Intelligent and Uncensored

The views published in the daily Vedomosti are even more vehemently critical of Kremlin policy. The newspaper, owned by a major Russian media company, was founded in 1866. In recent months, it has become the spiritual home of critical intellectuals.

Vedomosti doesn't follow any ideology and isn't financed by any political party or oligarch. The newspaper largely covers business and economics and it is read by virtually every political camp because of the market reports.

What sets the newspaper apart, however, is the fact that it can afford its own staff of columnists, which includes historians, philologists and theologians who sit in a glass-walled office at the center of the editorial offices. They are surrounded by bookshelves that include the Bible, English-language encyclopedias and even the works of forgotten Russian anarchists. This glass box is one of the few places in Russia where Kremlin politics are still commented on each day in an intelligent and uncensored manner.

"We were always centrists," says 37-year-old editorial writer Nikolai Epple, "but now that Russian leaders have gone mad, we're automatically shifting to the left."

During Soviet times, everyone knew that official statements were propaganda, Epple says. People would just laugh and joke about them with friends behind closed doors. "But now many believe the reports coming out of Ukraine -- and that is dangerous," he warns. "It gives you the feeling that something terrible is happening in modern-day Russia."

Epple just finished writing an editorial about the "special path" that Russia pursued time and again in the past. "Russia's drift away from Europe that has been happening since the 1990s has once again turned us into an island civilization," he argues. Epple says the Kremlin believes its job has less to do with communicating with the rest of the world and more with holding together its area of power from alleged attacks by foreign enemies. "He's trying to create another Cordon sanitaire," he explains. "And he is surrounding himself with areas that are ailing economically or are torn apart by ethnic conflicts."

Despite editorials in that vein, there hasn't been any public pressure exerted on his newspaper, the journalist says. "Still, the atmosphere is getting more ominous. It already takes some courage to write that Kiev's new leaders aren't fascists. I wonder each day of there is anyone who is capable of putting the brakes on the hysteria in our country?"

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey


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« Reply #83 on: Apr 23, 2014, 05:07 AM »

SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/22/2014 05:53 PM

The Propaganda War: Opposition Sings Kremlin Tune on Ukraine

By Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp in Moscow

The propaganda war in the Ukraine crisis has spawned a renewal Russian nationalism, with members of the opposition and the intellectual class suddenly praising Pig Putin. Many in Russia are accepting the Kremlin's official line uncritically.

Perhaps Alexander Byvshev was a little naïve. Maybe he thought his small village was somehow a safe haven from the world of global politics. But how wrong he was.

Byvshev, a German teacher in the district of Orlov, recently opened up his local newspaper, Sarya, or "the dawn," only to find his name featured in a prominent slot. "In these troubled times, when enemies outside the country are showing their teeth and preparing to take the leap of death, you can find people who would like to undermine Russia from within," the newspaper wrote. "People like A. Byvshev."

How did Byvshev wind up in the newspaper? All it took was a short poem he wrote and posted on VK, Russia's popular social network answer to Facebook. He had directed the poem at "patriot cheerleaders" who uncritically follow Moscow's propaganda. "From a very early age, I have been accustomed to not telling lies," Byvshev says. "If Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine, then one has to speak openly about the fact that it was theft."

'No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia'

It's an openness that hasn't done him much good recently. "There's No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia," blared the headline of the article about Byvshev. Acquaintances stopped greeting him, local businesses began ignoring his presence and now the local regional prosecutor is threatening to press charges against him for "incitement to hatred." He faces two years behind bars if convicted.

It is an incident reminiscent of the 1930s, an era when the line between Communist and public enemy was a fine one. At the time, Stalin had hundreds of thousands of so-called enemies of the people shot and killed.

Today, Moscow's territorial claims in Ukraine have unleashed a sense of nationalism so aggressive that it has silenced virtually all critical voices. Indeed, it is a singular official view that appears to have prevailed in Russia -- namely that a clique in Kiev, with American support, is seeking to destroy Ukraine despite heroic efforts by millions in the eastern part of the country. And that these people need Russia's support.

The ability to differentiate appears to have evaporated and the state propaganda machine has become as effective as it is comprehensive. The media seem to be following it in lockstep, as evidenced last week. "Ukraine Is Waging War against Its Own People" read the front page of one issue of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official Russian government newspaper, in response to the decision by the interim government early last week to send troops to the eastern part of the country. The "Kiev junta" wants to "bombard the Donbas," commented Russia's largest-circulation daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, adding: "Our people are mourning the dead and injured." "Sloviansk is covered in blood," claimed the tabloid Tyov Den ("Your Day"). None of these reports is true.

Have Russians Become Gullible?

The problem is that people in Russia these days seem to believe almost every false report that comes out of Moscow, and few are questioning their accuracy. New channel Russia 24 unceasingly shows Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country holding machine guns and grenade launchers. But nobody in Russia bothers to ask where they are getting their arms from.

Russian President Pig Putin, the man ostensibly rushing to the aid of Russians in Ukraine, is the hero of the day. Finally, Russians seem to believe, he is paying the West back for years of humiliation. And yet the justifications the Pig has provided could hardly be more cynical.

Last Wednesday, the Pig snorted the escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine to be the product of the "irresponsible and unconstitutional policies of the regime in Kiev," which, he claimed had used the army to suppress the protests of peaceful citizens in the region. Yet to that point, there had been little activity by the army. During the Maidan square revolt, he called for the exact opposite: Putin said the military must use force to stop the protests.

Nationalist Delirium

Moscow is acting as though it were located just behind the front lines. Indeed, the pull of nationalist delirium has become so strong that even Putin's own opponents seem no longer capable of resisting it.

Only two years ago, Sergei Udaltsov, along with blogger and opposition politician Alexei Navalny, was one of the most eloquent speakers at anti-Putin protests in Moscow. He has been under house arrest since 2013 on charges he sought to incite mass riots. Despite his situation, even Udaltsov has declared his support for Russia's actions and its annexation of Crimea. "I am a supporter of direct democracy, and I welcome the Crimea referendum as an expression of popular government," he recently stated.

Blogger and attorney Navalny has also been placed under house arrest and is banned from using the telephone or the Internet. That didn't stop him from writing an interview with himself, which was then distributed by his family. In it, he claims that Crimea was given to Ukraine in an act of "unlawful arbitrariness" by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 that is still offensive today, even to normal Russians. He also offers some pseudo consolation to Ukrainians: "To hell with Crimea. Why do you need it, anyway?"

A Divided Intelligentsia

At a time when polls indicate that 80 percent of Russians are backing their president, it is difficult to be both a patriot and a critic of the Kremlin. Those who would criticize the government become the object of close scrutiny. The annexation of Crimea and the battle for eastern Ukraine has divided not only Putin's opponents, it seems, but also Russia's intelligentsia.

On the one side, around 500 members of the Russian creative community recently signed a letter in support of the Pig, including star conductor Valery Gergiev. On the other, authors Victor Erofeyev and Lyudmila Ulitskay, along with 900 other artists, signed their names to a petition condemning the annexation and warning against a possible war with Ukraine.

Sitting in her office in a historical building in central Moscow, Irina Prokhorova, chairwoman of the opposition party Civic Platform, laments the current situation. "It's almost as if we've returned to the Soviet era," she says, "a time when all discussions about government decisions were prohibited." The building belongs to her brother Mikhail, a billionaire who ran for president in 2012 on a platform of ensuring greater democracy and a stronger free market economy. He ultimately garnered 8 percent of the vote, a respectable result.

Iron Curtain Lite?

Prokhorova sees in the enthusiasm over the annexation of Crimea a "nostalgic return to the imperialist past." "Earlier, people with differing political convictions had mutual respect for each other," she says. "But now even friendships are breaking up. A witch hunt has begun." She warns that Russia is steering itself on a course toward a "civil cold war."

Reknowned historian Andrey Zubov, until recently a professor at Russia's elite MGIMO foreign policy university, experienced that first hand not long ago. Zubov got dismissed from his professorship earlier this month after comparing Putin's annexation of Crimea with Hitler's 1938 Anschluss of Austria. Fervent Russian patriots also want to strip the country's most famous rock star, Andrey Makarevich, of all honors ever bestowed him because he dared to protest against the Kremlin's Ukraine policies.

Other intellectuals, like former television executive Nikolai Svanidze, are more cautious and view themselves not as members of the opposition, but as a "liberal and democratic part of the political elite." Although Svanidze considers Crimea to be Russian territory, he rejects the methods used to annex it as well as the actions of forces in eastern Ukraine he believes are steered by Russia. He says he now fears the creation of an "Iron Curtain Lite," the "archaization and Sovietization of our domestic politics" and major economic problems in the mid-term.

A few newspapers do still throw light on the thoughts of the liberal wing of the Moscow elite, despite their current silence. And the Kremlin still tolerates their existence -- no doubt due to their low circulations.

Articles printed in Nezavisimaya Gazeta openly state that the majority of Ukrainians are opposed to annexation by Russia -- even in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine -- and that militant forces there are receiving their orders from Russians who have traveled into the region. They have also run stories on how so-called civil defense forces somehow managed to open several weapons depots. And that they were miraculously able to disarm the 25th Separate Dnipropetrovsk Airborne Brigade and now possess tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and all sorts of ammunition.

Intelligent and Uncensored

The views published in the daily Vedomosti are even more vehemently critical of Kremlin policy. The newspaper, owned by a major Russian media company, was founded in 1866. In recent months, it has become the spiritual home of critical intellectuals.

Vedomosti doesn't follow any ideology and isn't financed by any political party or oligarch. The newspaper largely covers business and economics and it is read by virtually every political camp because of the market reports.

What sets the newspaper apart, however, is the fact that it can afford its own staff of columnists, which includes historians, philologists and theologians who sit in a glass-walled office at the center of the editorial offices. They are surrounded by bookshelves that include the Bible, English-language encyclopedias and even the works of forgotten Russian anarchists. This glass box is one of the few places in Russia where Kremlin politics are still commented on each day in an intelligent and uncensored manner.

"We were always centrists," says 37-year-old editorial writer Nikolai Epple, "but now that Russian leaders have gone mad, we're automatically shifting to the left."

During Soviet times, everyone knew that official statements were propaganda, Epple says. People would just laugh and joke about them with friends behind closed doors. "But now many believe the reports coming out of Ukraine -- and that is dangerous," he warns. "It gives you the feeling that something terrible is happening in modern-day Russia."

Epple just finished writing an editorial about the "special path" that Russia pursued time and again in the past. "Russia's drift away from Europe that has been happening since the 1990s has once again turned us into an island civilization," he argues. Epple says the Kremlin believes its job has less to do with communicating with the rest of the world and more with holding together its area of power from alleged attacks by foreign enemies. "He's trying to create another Cordon sanitaire," he explains. "And he is surrounding himself with areas that are ailing economically or are torn apart by ethnic conflicts."

Despite editorials in that vein, there hasn't been any public pressure exerted on his newspaper, the journalist says. "Still, the atmosphere is getting more ominous. It already takes some courage to write that Kiev's new leaders aren't fascists. I wonder each day of there is anyone who is capable of putting the brakes on the hysteria in our country?"

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey
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« Reply #84 on: Apr 23, 2014, 06:20 AM »

Analysis: Pig Putin likely to ignore West on Ukraine

Since he took over Crimea, President Pig V. Putin has seen his popularity soar and his opposition fall silent. So when the U.S. vice president told Russia to defuse tensions in Ukraine, Putin had few reasons to listen.

By LYNN BERRY
Associated Press
MOSCOW —

Since he took over Crimea, President Pig Putin has seen his popularity soar and his opposition fall silent. So when the U.S. vice president told Russia to defuse tensions in Ukraine, Putin had few reasons to listen.Emboldened by the national euphoria over the annexation of Crimea, Pig has moved against the few remaining critical voices in Russia and further neutered the news media. On Tuesday, a court cleared the way for sending his most vocal critic to prison.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was found guilty of slandering a lawmaker and fined the equivalent of $8,400. As a result, he may be jailed during a trial in a second case that starts Thursday. If found guilty, he could be sent to prison.

Navalny was nearly jailed last summer, when he was running a high-profile mayoral campaign in Moscow, but his conviction brought thousands into the streets in protest. The Kremlin evidently calculated it would be better to allow him to run for mayor, but he surprised everyone by finishing a strong second with 27 percent of the vote.

But now Pig, with his approval rating at 80 percent, no longer appears willing to tolerate any criticism.
Chillingly, Pig has begun to cast his critics as "national traitors," an intimation that anyone who opposes the Kremlin is serving the interests of the West. He has compared Russians who oppose his aggressive actions in Ukraine to the Bolsheviks, who took advantage of Russia's defeat in World War I to stage their 1917 revolution.

Navalny, who for years has led a relentless effort to expose government corruption, wrote an opinion column for The New York Times last month that urged the U.S. to impose sanctions on the Pig’s closest friends as punishment for the takeover of Crimea. The next day, five of the nine people Navalny mentioned were hit. He understood that the Kremlin would make him pay for taking delight in the sanctions. "Time to pack a bag for jail," said a post on his Twitter feed.

The travel bans and asset freezes imposed on Russian officials by the U.S. and European Union have been greeted publicly by bravado and ridicule in Moscow, with those targeted proclaiming themselves proud to have made the sanctions list. But the sanctions have hurt Russia's economy by spooking investors and driving up inflation as the ruble has lost value. The U.S. and EU have said they will broaden the list and impose more punishment against Russia's banking and energy sectors if Moscow fails to follow through on the provisions of an international agreement on Ukraine reached last week in Geneva.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Russia must quickly "stop talking and start acting" to reduce tensions in Ukraine if it wants to avoid more sanctions. "We will not allow this to become an open-ended process," he said Tuesday in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The visit was a show of U.S. support for Ukraine's interim government, which took over after the pro-Moscow president was ousted in February following months of protests and is struggling to hold the country together.

After Moscow seized Crimea, pro-Russian militias began taking over government buildings throughout southeastern Ukraine and setting up checkpoints on roads. Russia also has tens of thousands of troops arrayed along its side of the border. Biden urged Moscow to encourage the pro-Russia forces to stand down and "address their grievances politically."

The threat of violence only increased, however. Ukraine's acting president reported late Tuesday that the bodies of two people he said were abducted by pro-Russia insurgents were found and a military aircraft was reportedly hit by gunfire. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered security forces to resume "anti-terror" operations in the east, although previous ones have had little effect.

Russia has denied that it has been stoking the turmoil or has failed to live up to the Geneva agreement.
Pig has little interest in seeing an easing of tensions in eastern Ukraine, which he has described as historically Russian lands and part of what he calls the "Russian world." The government in Kiev and many in the West believe that provoking a confrontation would give Russia a pretext to invade. Putin has said he hopes he won't have to send in troops but retains the right to do so if necessary to protect ethnic Russians, a sizeable minority in Ukraine's east.

Pig Putin's ultimate goal is to prevent Ukraine from moving closer to the European Union and NATO. How he intends to do this is still an open question. But with dissenting voices at home falling silent, Pig may only need to see how far the West is willing to go.
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« Reply #85 on: Apr 24, 2014, 05:44 AM »

The Pig's military exercises are more than a game

Russia is using military exercises along Ukraine border as a deliberate provocation, aimed at intimidation and destabilisation

Ukraine: US and Russia move troops into position

Ewen MacAskill, defence and security correspondent
theguardian.com, Wednesday 23 April 2014 17.55 BST       

Russia announced on Wednesday it was conducting military exercises in the Rostov region, bordering Ukraine. But this is no exercise, rather the use of military muscle, a deliberate provocation and the latest in a series of such manoeuvres by the Russian president, Pig Putin, aimed at intimidation and destabilisation.

The days when Russia conducted military exercises or played war games simply to get their troops in a state of readiness have long gone. The manoeuvres in Rostov were announced soon after a snap naval exercise in the Caspian Sea. Both are aimed at heightening tension and come after weeks of "exercises" along the Ukrainian border.

Other countries too use military exercises and war games to send messages, exert pressure or to issue threats. The US sends its fleets all round the world, from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, and North Korea conducts regular war games, and there is nothing playful about them.

Russia's Rostov exercises border the most troubled part of the Ukraine, close to areas of unrest such as Donetsk. According to Russian military analysts, it is not a traditional area for manoeuvres.

Military exercises date back to at least Frederick the Great in the 18th century. He is famous for the repeated drilling that made the Prussian army so formidable.

During the cold war, both Russia and Nato conducted large-scale military exercises in preparation for a possible world war three. With the end of the cold car, and with the US and other Nato forces engaged in real wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan – the need for elaborate war games diminished.

But Pig has made military exercises part of his Ukraine campaign, a "disguised warfare" strategy that sees troops massed along the border combined with stirring unrest among Russian sympathisers, possibly backed by Russian special forces. It has led to the annexation of the Crimea and is helping to destabilise population pockets in eastern Ukraine.

A former Nato commander, retired US admiral James Stavridis, said in the New York Times: "It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem. They have played their hand with great finesse."

One of the advantages of military exercises, like the use of special forces, is that the real intent is deniable. Pig can claim that they are simply conducting drills.

Ian Morris, author of the newly-published War: the Role of Conflict in Civilisation from Primates to Robots, told the Guardian: "Military exercises can be whatever you want them to be. Sometimes they're a way to send a message, a bit like the Mafia putting a horse's head in your bed. Sometimes, though, 'exercises' are a cover for mobilising for an invasion, as the Russians have recently shown."

Morris, a professor at Stanford University in California, said that such war games can be risky, leading to uncertainty over whether they are designed to keep troops on their toes or cover for mobilising for an invasion.

"The problem is that it can be hard to tell which is which. They came close to nuclear war in November 1983 because the Soviets thought a Nato exercise was a warm-up for an attack," Morris said.

Stanislav Petrov, the Russian deputy chief for combat algorithms at Serpukhov-15, the nerve centre of the Soviet Union's early warning system, had to make a decision about whether to launch a counter-strike after computers showed supposed incoming missile attacks. In reality, it was a war game by the US exploring the opening exchanges of a nuclear war.

Brigadier Ben Barry, an army specialist at defence thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which has offices in Washington and London, said confidence-building measures had been put in place since the 1980s. But there were no such confidence-building measures today on the Korean Peninsula, one of the most dangerous flashpoints in world.

South Korean forces conduct joint exercises with the US and "this can spook the North Koreans because some of the things done are picked up by North Korean intelligence and can look like a surprise attack," Barry explained.

In March, North Korea fired shells into South Korean waters and announced plans to conduct military exercises along the territorial boundary.

But Barry saw one hopeful sign. "Unlike the burst of rhetoric from North Korea before last year's joint US-South Korean exercises, the North Koreans had notified the South Koreans of the area where they planned to fire. It was a useful thing to do in terms of de-escalation," Barry said.

The US and its Nato allies, including Britain, carry out regular joint military exercises with partners around the world, where the aim is to build good relations, learn more about different regions and to be better prepared for when a crisis arises.

But Pig has shown the limitations of this. The problem for the US and its Nato partners is that Putin can use the strategy he has employed in the Ukraine elsewhere, over and over again.

The Caspian Sea naval war games expand the crisis beyond the border of Ukraine, throwing up a new threat, the potential to create trouble in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, or at the very least, there is the potential disruption of oil supplies.

The US is sending 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic countries, also for "exercises". But the US and Nato lack the will or manpower to do much in response to the Ukraine crisis other than impose economic sanctions and conduct joint military exercises of their own, which do not hold the same sense of menace as Pig Putin's.


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« Reply #86 on: Apr 24, 2014, 05:55 AM »

The Pig's Foe Faces Threat of Jail in New Trial

by Naharnet Newsdesk
24 April 2014, 07:12

Prominent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny goes on trial Thursday in a major case that his supporters fear will end in a lengthy jail sentence for President Pig Putin's top critic.

The 37-year-old anti-corruption blogger was convicted of embezzlement in July and sentenced to five years in jail but walked free the following day in a surprise move that allowed him to run a high-profile campaign for Moscow mayor.

But his luck appears to be running out as the Pig, buoyed by 80-percent approval ratings and a huge surge in patriotism following the takeover of Crimea last month increasingly shows he will brook no dissent.

"The Kremlin's hands are free now," said analyst and blogger Alexander Morozov.

"The Kremlin can do as it pleases on the wave of the post-Crimea flag-waving and powerful revanchist sentiments."

In a speech celebrating the takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula in March, Pig referred to critics as a "fifth column."

Just a few days before, Navalny had called the annexation a "big strategic mistake".

Over the past weeks, authorities have redoubled efforts to root out dissent, blocking major opposition websites as well as Navalny's  popular blog he had used to expose corruption among the elite.

The jailing of Navalny would deprive Russia's already demoralised opposition of a charismatic leader after huge protests against Pig Putin in 2011-12 failed to knock him off his perch.

Along with his brother Oleg, Navalny faces charges of stealing and laundering 27 million rubles ($756,500) from French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

He has dismissed these and other charges against him as a Kremlin attempt to punish him.

In February, the father of two was placed under house arrest and banned from using the Internet.

On Thursday, a court could decide to transfer Navalny from his apartment to a pre-trial jail, his lawyer Vadim Kobzev said.

"I am sure that this case is being coordinated at the highest level," he told Agence France Presse, referring to the Kremlin.

-'Prosecution is lying'-

In the new case, Navalny is being accused of committing three crimes, said Kobzev, adding he was hard-pressed to estimate a maximum punishment his client faces.

If convicted, he would unlikely walk out of jail like last summer, Kobzev said. "That just happens once in a lifetime."

In a move that stunned Russia, Navalny was released a day after being found guilty of embezzlement over a 2009 timber deal and arrested in court last July.

After Navalny came second in Moscow's mayoral election last September, polling more than 27 percent, a court converted his five-year sentence into a suspended term.

Navalny claims Yves Rocher testified against him under pressure from the Russian security service but later retracted its complaint.

"The prosecution is audaciously lying and concealing the fact that the French company had officially notified the investigation of an absence of damage," he wrote on Facebook this week.

Prominent author Boris Akunin released an open letter to Yves Rocher, saying the fact that Russian prosecutors ignored the withdrawal of the claims did not surprise anyone.

"We have long gotten used to the Kafkaesque-ness of our repressive system," he wrote.

But it is surprising however, the pro-opposition writer said, that the French company let the Russian authorities use its name "to discredit the opposition leader in the eyes of the international community."

In a written comment to AFP, Yves Rocher Vostok said it had filed a complaint against an "unknown person" to protect its interests and to have access to the investigation in a "case in which the company was likely to have been a victim."

Over the past months, Navalny has become fair game for Putin's loyalists of all stripes. In March, state television accused him of having contacts with the CIA.

On Tuesday, the activist was found guilty of calling an obscure deputy "a lawmaker-drug addict" and ordered to pay him $8,300. Another libel claim, from a senior lawmaker, is set to be heard on Thursday, before the main trial.

"The most promising start-up today is to come up with a reason to sue Navalny," quipped one blogger.

Navalny has taken attacks in stride, using his court appearances to deride his opponents and livening up Russia's political scene with acerbic wit and a dash of theater.


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« Reply #87 on: Apr 25, 2014, 06:12 AM »


Russia wants to start third world war, says Ukraine

Prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk accuses Moscow of acting like a gangster by aiming to occupy Ukraine 'militarily and politically'
   
Reuters in Kiev
theguardian.com, Friday 25 April 2014 11.11 BST   
   
The Ukrainian prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has accused Russia of wanting to start a third world war by occupying Ukraine "militarily and politically".

"The world has not yet forgotten world war two, but Russia already wants to start world war three," Yatseniuk told his interim cabinet in remarks broadcast live. "Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe."

In some of the strongest language he has used in a war of words between the former Soviet neighbours, as both sides have deployed troops close to their frontier, Yatseniuk accused Moscow of acting like a gangster supporting terrorists.

"It is clear that Russia's goal is to wreck the election in Ukraine, remove the pro-western and pro-Ukrainian government and occupy Ukraine politically as well as military," Yatseniuk added.

Yatseniuk took office in February after pro-European protests prompted the Kremlin-backed president to flee to Russia.

Ukraine plans to hold an election on 25 May to replace Viktor Yanukovich, but the Russian-speaking east of the country has been disrupted by pro-Moscow militants who have taken over the city of Slavyansk and public buildings elsewhere, demanding to follow Crimea and be annexed by Russia.

Russia denies involvement in the protests but has denounced the Ukrainian government, which it says is illegitimate and backed by "fascist" Ukrainian nationalists, and has threatened to step in to protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

Yatseniuk called on Moscow to fulfil its obligations to persuade activists in eastern Ukraine to lay down arms under a four-way agreement signed last week in Geneva by the two governments, as well as Ukraine's US and EU allies.

"Russia's support for terrorists and bandits who torture peaceful citizens is an international crime. It is a crime against humanity," added the prime minister.

Ukraine's state security service has accused Russian military intelligence officers in Ukraine, and the separatist leader in Slavyansk, of involvement in the torture and murder of a local councillor from Yatseniuk's Batkivshchyna (fatherland) party.

The prime minister said Kiev was still waiting for a response to an official request for details of Russian military exercises on the border. It made the request through Europe's OSCE security body and set a deadline of Saturday.

Yatseniuk said: "If the United States, the European Union and the entire international community continues to be united and act together to compel Russia to fulful its obligations, then we will maintain the peace, stability and international security system that Russia wants to destroy."


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« Reply #88 on: Apr 25, 2014, 06:13 AM »

S.&P., Citing Capital Flight, Cuts Its Rating on Russia

By DAVID JOLLY
APRIL 25, 2014
IHT

PARIS — Russia’s credit rating was cut on Friday by Standard & Poor’s to just one notch above “junk” status amid a growing push by Western nations to step up sanctions against President Vladimir V. Putin’s government as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.

Standard & Poor’s cited the destabilizing effects of capital flight from Russia, which it said reached about $51 billion in the first three months of 2014. Those outflows, which came as investors sought safer investments abroad, “heighten the risk of a marked deterioration in external financing, either through a significant shift in foreign direct investments or portfolio equity investments,” it said.

The geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe, in which Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Russian separatists have destabilized swaths of eastern Ukraine, could generate “additional significant outflows of both foreign and domestic capital from the Russian economy and hence further undermine already weakening growth prospects,” S.&P. said.

Just hours after the S.&P. move, the Russian central bank unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, to 7.5 percent. On March 3, the central bank had said it was “temporarily” raising the rate to 7 percent, from 5.5 percent.

The bank cited the inflationary impact of the sinking ruble, and said that annual inflation stood at 7.2 percent as of Monday. It added that it hoped to hold the inflation rate to 6 percent by the end of the year.

S.&P., in its downgrade before the rate increase, said it viewed the central bank “as being confronted with increasingly difficult policy decisions with regard to addressing inflationary pressures resulting from financial market volatility,” while also trying to support growth in the economy.

The American ratings agency cut Russia’s sovereign debt rating by one notch to BBB- from BBB, leaving it at the lowest “investment grade” level. It said the outlook remained negative, owing to the risks that economic growth would slow and that the central bank could lose room to maneuver on monetary policy.

Russia’s gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent last year, one of the weakest showings since 1999. If the Ukraine tensions ease, S.&P. said, it could expect growth to average 2.3 percent over the years 2014 to 2017. But a failure to resolve the crisis would leave a “significant downside risk that growth will fall well below 1 percent.”

The ratings agency also warned that it might again downgrade the debt “if tighter sanctions were to result in additional weakening of Russia’s net external position.”

Russian markets took the news in stride. On Friday morning, the benchmark Micex index was down about 1 percent, leaving it more than 14 percent lower for the year; the ruble was trading about 0.6 percent lower against the dollar, leaving it nearly 9 percent lower for the year.

Derek Halpenny, a foreign exchange analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in London, wrote in a research note that while the S.&P. move was “bad news” for Russia, the exposure of foreign investors to the country’s debt was “relatively small,” so the practical effects of the downgrade would be limited.

Still, he noted, another rating cut “would push Russia into junk status, and today’s announcement will only reinforce the capital outflows while the Ukraine tensions persist.”


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« Reply #89 on: Apr 25, 2014, 06:19 AM »

The Pig warns Russians to avoid Google: The Internet is a CIA ‘special project’

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, April 24, 2014 16:45 EDT

Russian President Pig Putin on Thursday snorted that the Internet a “CIA project” and warned Russians against making Google searches.

Pig Putin assured a group of young journalists that the Internet was controlled from the start by the CIA and its surveillance continues today.

“That’s life. That’s how it’s organised by Americans. You know all of this started during the dawn of the Internet as a special project of the CIA. And it keeps on developing,” Pig snorted in televised comments.

Responding to questions from a young pro-Kremlin blogger, Putin snorted that information entered on Google “all goes through servers that are in the States, everything is monitored there”.

He also made ominous comments on Russia’s most popular search engine Yandex, suggesting it could become more tightly controlled.

Yandex is “partly registered abroad and not just for tax reasons, but for other reasons too”, the Pig snorted, mentioning it is partly owned by international investors and reiterating his fear of foreign control of the Internet.

When Yandex was starting out, Pig snorted, they were “pressured” to have “that many Americans and this many Europeans among the executives”.

“We must fight determinedly for our own interests. This process is happening. And we will support it from the government side, of course,” he said without explaining what he means in detail.

Yandex handles some 60 percent of search queries in Russia and has a presence in several other countries. It allows users to search blogs and rates the most popular entries.

Yandex’s shares fell over 4.3 percent on the NASDAQ after the Pig snorted.

The company said in a statement quoted by news agencies that registration abroad is not done to dodge taxes but due to issues of corporate law, while foreign investment is a common feature of any Internet startup.

“Since our main business is in Russia, we pay almost all taxes in Russia,” Yandex said.

While the Internet remains the main sphere for political discussion, Russia has recently cracked down on debate, with a new law allowing the government to block blacklisted sites without a court order.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had his popular blog blocked and a widely read news site that covered opposition causes sacked its long-term editor and changed its stance after a warning on extremism from the state watchdog.

Russia this week passed in its initial stage new legislation that would force popular bloggers to register their sites and comply with similar regulations as mass media.

The 61-year-old president has frequently been scathing about the Internet, which he once described as “half pornography”, unlike Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who posts snaps on Twitter.

Pig's spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted this month that the president is a regular Internet user and even sometimes laughs at jokey Photoshopped images.


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