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  • October 07, 2015 RADIO FREE EUROPE Carl Schreck
    Dear Mr. Putin, God Won’t Forgive You For This. Signed, Oleg Kashin

    In 1973, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn sent a letter to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev denouncing, among many targets both at home and abroad, Marxism and the "ideological lies that are daily foisted upon us."

    Five months later, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union after The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West. His missive to Brezhnev, a political manifesto titled A Letter To The Soviet Leaders, was published shortly after his forced exile. The Soviet leader never responded.

    Four decades later, prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin has invoked the title and spirit of Solzhenitsyn's famous letter in a searing critique of Russian President Vladimir Putin that has electrified the country's chattering classes.

    The vitriol in the dispatch, titled A Letter To The Leaders Of The Russian Federation and addressed to Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is driven by what Kashin calls a concerted effort by authorities to stymie the investigation into his vicious beating almost five years ago.

    But it broadens into an indictment of what he portrays as Putin's corruption-ridden 15-year reign that has been "a monumental moral catastrophe for our generation" and "left the nation demoralized and disoriented."

    "Whoever comes after you will have to create Russia all over again, from scratch," Kashin writes in the open letter, which he published on his website on October 3. "This is your only service to history -- what you've spent 15 years achieving."

    (Global Voices has published an English-language translation of the full text here.)

    The text has sparked wide debate among Russian-language social-media users in the antigovernment camp. Admirers, like the political commentator Maxim Trudolyubov, portray it as a potentially historic document of the Putin era.

    Trudolyubov, a political commentator and editor with the respected business daily Vedomosti, wrote that like Solzhenitsyn's letter to Brezhnev, Kashin's text could ultimately "anticipate" his "society's exit from a conformist stupor."

    Meanwhile, detractors, like Russian Internet pioneer and Kremlin critic Anton Nossik, say Kashin is naive to think the letter will have any impact on Putin or Medvedev, who will likely be "amused" by the screed.

    'A Long Path'

    Why exactly -- aside from Kashin's indisputable talent for polemics -- has this text resonated so forcefully among Russia's politically plugged-in? After all, there is no shortage of harsh criticism lobbed at Putin by opponents such as Aleksei Navalny, who has been convicted twice on criminal charges he calls retribution for his activism.

    In part, it's due to Kashin's own professional background, namely his reporting for several Kremlin-loyal publications, like the newspaper Vzglyad, linked to Vladislav Surkov, a Kremlin aide and an architect of Putin's political system.

    Kashin "worked together with Surkov's boys, serving this regime," Aleksei Venediktov, the veteran editor of the independent-minded Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy, said recently.

    "And this is his path, and it's very important that a person who supported this regime and this construction, took this long path," said Venediktov, adding that publishing such "invective" against Putin could be "unsafe" for Kashin.

    Then, of course, there are the circumstances surrounding the investigation of the November 2010 beating Kashin suffered in central Moscow at the hands of assailants wielding steel pipes.

    Kashin survived but suffered two broken legs, mangled fingers, a damaged skull, and multiple jaw fractures. Following the attack, Medvedev -- then Russia's president -- vowed that the perpetrators would be caught.

    The journalist told RFE/RL's Russian Service in an October 5 interview that when he met Medvedev in Israel following the attack, the then-Russian president told him: "It's crucial to tear the heads off the criminals -- the organizers and the executors -- no matter who they are."

    But while the suspected attackers have been rounded up, there's no indication that authorities are planning to pursue a top official who allegedly ordered the beating: Pskov Governor Andrei Turchak, a loyal Putin ally who had exchanged harsh words with Kashin online prior to the assault.

    One suspect, Danila Veselov, told investigators that he met with Turchak and a man who allegedly organized the attack prior to the incident. The governor, Veselov claimed, said that "ideally" Kashin's hands would be injured so that he "can't write all that slander."

    A day before Kashin published his open letter, Russia's independent TV Rain released video of Veselov's testimony.

    In the open letter, Kashin wrote: "You like to think of yourselves as the heirs to two empires, tsarist and Soviet. But the tsars sent criminals to hang; they didn't put them in governors' chairs."

    'A Slightly Different Level'

    Kashin told RFE/RL's Russian Service that he decided to publish the text after his letters to senior law-enforcement officials, in which he demanded that Turchak be questioned in the case, produced no results.

    "I decided to take the conversation to a slightly different level," Kashin said.

    He added that he "seriously hoped that having read the text, both Putin and Medvedev would experience some emotions."

    Kashin told Fontanka.ru in an October 5 interview that he "consciously alluded to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's famous text" when he composed his open letter.

    "I truly believe that today, in 2015, Solzhenitsyn's method of interacting with the government deserves attention and repetition," he said. "Because there simply is no other method. Every attempt to play by the rules the Kremlin lays down -- be it elections, protests in authorized places or somewhere else -- all of these attempts, in the grand scheme of things, are doomed to fail."

    Initial indications suggest that, as was the case of Brezhnev with Solzhenitsyn's letter, Putin is unlikely to respond to Kashin.

    Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-run TASS news agency as saying on October 5 that Kashin's open letter had been read in the Kremlin but that "judging by the text, it doesn't look like [the author] is counting on any sort of answer."http://www.rferl.org/content/russian-journalist-oleg-kashin-letter-to-putin-medvedev-solzhenitsyn/27290849.html

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    • October 07, 2015 RADIO FREE EUROPE
      Russian Billionaire Fridman Eyes Buying Eon's North Sea Assets

      Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman has emerged as the front-runner to acquire German utility E.ON's Norwegian North Sea assets, industry sources said on October 6.

      The potential billion-dollar acquisition would signal a renewed push by the Russian oligarch to expand his LetterOne private equity fund's oil and gas portfolio after being forced to sell his British North Sea assets under the pressure of U.S. and European sanctions on Moscow.

      E.ON is hoping to fetch up to $2 billion from the sale of all its oil and gas assets in Norway, the British North Sea, and Algeria as part of a broad restructuring.

      LetterOne is now in advanced talks with E.ON to buy the Norwegian assets, the sources said.

      An announcement on the deal could come in the coming days, though final details still need to be hammered out.

      In April, the British Energy Ministry gave Fridman six months to dispose of LetterOne's North Sea assets, acquired from German utility RWE, or see the their licenses revoked as the West tightened sanctions against Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine. Russian Billionaire Fridman Eyes Buying Eon's North Sea Assets

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      • Russia now faces threat of real terrorism and even civil war, Moscow sociologist says
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/10/06

        “The war in Syria is not a hybrid war or a media conflict,” Denis Sokolov says. Instead, “for the almost half million combatants fighting there it is a very real war,” one that they and their supporters may bring to Russia in the form of real terrorism across the country and even the horrors of civil war.

        In a commentary in “Vedomosti” today, the Moscow sociologist says that Russia has been successful in dealing with hybrid forms of war and “the simulacrum of terrorism” to promote the agenda of the Kremlin elite but it now faces a real war and the challenges are more serious.

        “Terrorism,” the expert from the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says, “has already taken several thousand lives and now, in conjunction with the fall of oil prices, the conflict in Ukraine and the expansion of military ambitions in the Middle East, it may bring the conflict onto Russian territory.”

        That is because, Sokolov says, “the war in Syria and Iraq is not a hybrid war which ‘polite little green men’ can cope and not the blackmailing of ‘our Western partners’ who are prepared even to move red lines if only there will not be a war.” Instead, there are real fighters who don’t take their views from NTV TV channel and who can reorient the conflicts inside Russia.

        As a result, he argues, “home-grown’ terrorism can grow out of the format of special operations into that, as is already the case in Syria, of a real war.” Even if the Syrian campaign against Assad’s opponents is “simply a symbolic action,” it will bring into Russia “unlimited terror” not just in the North Caucasus but “throughout the entire territory of the country.”

        The siloviki are “provoking Muslims [in Russia] with repressions that have no justification, but they will disappear from the streets when it will become dangerous and the budget collapses.” Then, Sokolov says, people will decide to form “detachments of self-defense,” leading to “pogroms and possibly civil war.”

        The domestic conflicts and acts of terrorism Russia has faced up to now, Sokolov says, are one thing. But when war begins, “everything changes – terrorism, divisions, and opposition can change from being simulacra of a horrible beast into a civil war,” as one can see if one looks at what happened in Russia in the first part of the 20th century or in Ukraine more recently.

        One source of cadres for such conflicts are those who fought in the Donbas; another and more widespread one are Muslims from across Russia who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamic state, the Moscow scholar says. (He cites figures from various republics.) When they return as return they will, they will seek to extend its influence at home.

        If and when that happens, he suggests, the kind of terrorism Moscow has faced up to now will be “transformed into a real civil war” that its participants will treat as a serious business rather than something less and be based on ISIS control of major revenue streams from the sale of raw materials like oil.

        In that case, he implies, the methods Moscow has used up to now will clearly be insufficient to ensure that it will be able to keep the situation under control. Russia now faces threat of real terrorism and even civil war, Moscow sociologist says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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        • Six powerful quotes from Anna Politkovskaya about Vladimir Putin
          EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/10/07

          Nine years ago, on October 7, the well-known Russian journalist and human rights activist, a fighter against Putin’s government and propaganda of Anna Politkovskaya was mudered. The courageous Politkovskaya, who was not afraid to speak and write about all the atrocities of the Russian president, was shot dead on his birthday…

          On Putin’s 63d birthday anniversary, we offer to you six quotes of Anna Politkovskaya. They are based on her long-term observations of the Russian leader.

          1. What reasons do I have to dislike Putin? There are many. For one, his artlessness, which is worse than theft. His cynicism and racism. His endless war and lies. The gassing at “Nord-Ost.” The corpses of innocent victims, accompanying his entire first term. Those are corpses which could have been avoided.

          2. I often wonder if Putin is human at all, or a frozen or iron statue. I wonder and can’t find confirmation that he is a human being.

          3. Putin, having accidentally received enormous power into his hands, administered to catastrophic consequences for Russia. And I do not like him, because he does not like people. He can’t stand us. He despises us. He believes that we are a means FOR him only, a means to achieve his own personal power goals. Therefore, he can do anything he wishes to us, plays with us as he pleases, destroys us, if he wishes. For him, we are nobody. And he, having accidentally scrambled to the top, is now a king and a god, whom everybody should worship and fear.

          4. Putin has propped up his rule solely on the clay struts of the oligarchy – ordinary people did not find a place for themselves in this scheme. He is friends with some oligarchs, and fights with others, and it is this that we call supreme State Administration, when billionaires who have divided oil and gas reserves among themselves, have ultimate importance.

          5. Why do I dislike Putin? For the years that pass by. This summer it will be five years since the second Chechen war was initiated for the sake of Putin’s first ascension to presidency, and it is still ongoing.

          6. Putin’s style of politics displays deep personal resentment. Putin has many times publicly demonstrated that he fundamentally does not understand the purpose of a debate, especially a political debate. According to Putin, a discussion between a superior and his subordinates should not be possible. Six powerful quotes from Anna Politkovskaya about Vladimir Putin -Euromaidan Press |

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          • Oct 7, 2015 ANKARA Orhan Coskun & Jonny Hogg REUTERS
            Furious but powerless, Turkey left smarting by Russian action in Syria

            Turkey may be furious about Russian incursions into its air space but beyond words of protest there is little it can do, with its dependence on Russian energy and trade keeping its hands tied, and its own Syria policy in disarray.

            President Tayyip Erdogan has said he is losing patience with Russian jets crossing the border after Moscow launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week. "An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO," he warned.

            The military alliance has, rhetorically at least, leapt to Turkey's defense, describing the Russian violations as "extremely dangerous", raising the prospect of direct confrontation between the former Cold War adversaries.

            Russia's actions are galling for Erdogan, who has lobbied in vain for Assad's removal. The Syrian army carried out what appeared to be its first major assault backed by Russian air strikes on Wednesday, highlighting how Turkey has been left impotent as the conflict over its southern border takes on an increasingly international dimension.

            "Russia coming in highlights that Turkey's policies in Syria are not working," said Jonathan Friedman, Turkey analyst at Stroz Friedberg, a risk consultancy.

            "You've seen over time Russia and the U.S. taking stronger roles in the region. That constrains regional actors' abilities to influence developments."

            Turkey shares a 900 km (560 mile) border with Syria and has shouldered much of the humanitarian fall-out from the civil war, now spilling into a fifth year. It has kept an open border policy throughout the conflict, taking in more than 2.2 million refugees at a cost of $7.6 billion and rising.

            A member of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, it has, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, backed anti-Assad insurgents, some of who have been targeted by the Russian air strikes. It has also lobbied for the creation of a "no-fly zone" or a "safe zone" near its border with northern Syria, a proposal that has failed to resonate in Washington.

            "For Turkey there isn't a whole lot of room for maneuver ... All they’ve got left is this tough guy rhetoric," said one Western diplomat based in Ankara.

            Long reluctant to take a frontline military role against Islamic State, Turkey in July made a dramatic shift in policy, opening its air bases for use in coalition air strikes and sending its own planes into action in northern Syria.

            Its then-foreign minister said in August "comprehensive" joint air strikes with the United States would begin soon, a plan Ankara hoped would lead to the creation of a safe zone along its border. But there has been little progress.

            "Turkey ought to be involved deeply in any Syria resolution, given its strategic and geographical position, but it remains a minor player in the coalition, and is pushing unattainable policy goals," the diplomat said.

            "For the time being Turkey is simply acting as a huge aircraft carrier, with its nicely positioned bases."

            REALPOLITIK

            Russia's air strikes, which mean Russian planes as well as those of the United States and its allies are flying combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two, have made the prospects of the "no-fly zone" Turkey has long campaigned for look more remote than ever.

            That could be a blessing in disguise for Ankara, according to Aykan Erdemir, non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

            "Russia's presence seriously limits Turkey's options, forcing Ankara to be more cautious and prudent in the Middle East," he told Reuters.

            "I think the safe zone is off the table and that's probably a disaster averted for Turkey. Ultimately it would have gotten out of control ... Turkey could have been drawn into a forever war," he said.

            Turkey is highly sensitive to threats to its border security, and Erdogan, commander-in-chief of its armed forces, is ill-disposed to being threatened.

            "There is no hesitation over border protection. Relations between Turkey and Russia are good but it is impossible to ignore what happened in the last few days and we will not do so," one senior official told Reuters.

            But with winter approaching, when energy demand peaks, and a parliamentary election on Nov. 1 where the ruling AK Party is desperate to claw back its majority, there are compelling domestic reasons for Erdogan to avoid confrontation with Moscow.

            Turkey imports almost all of its energy, including 60 percent of its gas and 35 percent of its oil, from Russia. Russians also make up a large and growing proportion of Turkey's tourist traffic, key for financing its current account deficit.

            Trade ties are deepening. Russia's state Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is due to build Turkey's first nuclear power station, a $20 billion project, while plans are on the table for a gas pipeline from Russia known as TurkStream.

            "Both sides will act carefully in order to prevent a crisis. In the present situation, neither have the luxury of ruining the relations," said Hasan Selim Özertem, Russia and Caucasus analyst at the Ankara based think-tank, USAK.

            Ali Sahin, deputy head of foreign relations in the AK Party, said Russia's actions constituted a risk for the future of bilateral relations but made clear neither had an interest in the situation deteriorating.

            "Turkey has clearly expressed its annoyance and has brought NATO on board. Turkey’s rules of engagement are clear," he told Reuters. "But I don't think Russia will continue these actions and let relations sour."
            Furious but powerless, Turkey left smarting by Russian action in Syria | Reuters

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            • What is meant by amnesty for the separatists?
              07.10.15 | Yevhen Zakharov HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

              At the negotiations between the ‘Normandy Four’ leaders, the decision was taken that before elections according to Ukrainian legislation, that the militants must go through an amnesty procedure.

              Full amnesty for people who have killed or tortured is simply impossible since leaving certain grave and particularly grave crimes without punishment would guarantee that these people would continue carrying out the same activities.

              Judging by what President Poroshenko said in an interview after the summit, there is basically the same understanding there. What is involved is that those who did not commit crimes, but simply took part in some separatist protests, stood guard at roadblocks, etc. should not face prosecution. This is indeed possible, whereas a full amnesty would be a total aberration.

              Furthermore, the very use of the term ‘amnesty’ in the context of this agreement sounds rather strange since you only amnesty people convicted of a crime through court proceedings. The very fact of an amnesty suggests that a punishment has been made less severe. It is impossible to amnesty those whose guilt has not been proven by a court. Presumption of innocence means that a person is not a criminal until a court sentence has entered into force. Amnesty for a person who has not been recognized as an offender is a nonsense.

              Therefore all Paris agreements are, strictly speaking, beyond the realm of law. This is solely a question of political expediency and therefore it is in principle incorrect to use the word ‘amnesty’.

              There is no chance of implementing these agreements in the present circumstances. This is not because Ukraine does not want to, but because Russia will not allow them to be implemented.

              Of course the Paris summit has resulted in one more step towards peace. Tanks and weapons over 100 mm. calibre are being moved from the demarcation line and this is extremely important. However artillery weapons remain, together with mines which the separatists are planting and which our soldiers are constantly being blown up by. In addition, there are Russian military bases along the Ukrainian-Russian border and this means that it could flare up with new force at any moment that Russia wants, as we have observed on many occasions.

              On that subject, up till now all agreements have been accompanied by intensified action at the front, There was escalation after the first Minsk agreement, and the seizure of Debaltseve took place after the second lot of negotiations. I therefore have no confidence in the strength of the ceasefire since the main reason for what is happening is Russia and its leaders’ unwillingness to let go of Ukraine.

              The main aim of all of this is to keep us in a state of tension, to stop us from living, to ensure that we spend over 100 million UAH per day on military needs, and not on the development of the country. Hot spots of tension have been created by Russia in Donbas, with people having so fallen out with one another that it is difficult to imagine their future peaceful co-existence. How will those who left and returned live with those who remained?

              This conflict will drag on for a long time, it will take decades to achieve full peace in the region. However the whole problem is that there are no signs of the Russian Federation’s leadership planning to change their current policy. I am therefore sceptical about the possibility of implementing their agreements.

              It is nonetheless necessary to engage in this. It has long been said that a bad peace is better than a good conflict. Furthermore any such steps mean that there will be less shooting, and therefore less killed and wounded and after all that is the most important thing.What is meant by amnesty for the separatists? :: khpg.org

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              • The metamorphosis of Vladimir Putin

                Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar traces Vladimir Putin's ascent to becoming the most powerful Russian president in decades. And illustrates the grip that extreme paranoia has on Moscow's power elite.
                DEUTSCHE WELLE Mathias Bölinger 06.10.2015

                A reception honoring the Russian army in Moscow in 2004: The president stands in the corner whispering with the head of his intelligence services for the duration of the evening. The following morning he calls his prime minister, the economic-liberal Mikhail Kasyanov, and asks for his resignation. Putin says he knows that Kasyanov is involved in a conspiracy to sabotage upcoming presidential elections. He also knows that his co-conspirator is Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Kasyanov resigns.

                Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar recounts the strange anecdote while presenting his new book, "Endgame - The metamorphosis of Vladimir Putin."

                'Putin has no game plan'

                Zygar has been speaking with current and former associates of the Russian president for years. The journalist describes Putin's rise to the undisputed and redoubtable head of state that he now is, as a series of coincidences and disappointments. "Putin is not a strategist, he doesn't have a game plan," according to Zygar.

                The 34-year-old is the editor-in-chief of the critical independent television station Dozhd, which has been under pressure from the government for years for its unflattering reporting. In his book, Zygar battles against the idealization of Putin as a savvy and ingenious puppet-master; both the demonic version put forth by the West, and the idolizing version propagated by Russia's official state media.

                Rather, he paints a portrait of Vladimir Putin as a man seeking recognition. Zygar describes how the then unknown president began his first term by trying to woo Western politicians. How he organized a sumptuous opera evening for a visit by Tony Blair, and mesmerized conservative Christian George W. Bush with a miraculous story. When his dacha burnt to the ground, he told Bush, the only thing that survived the flames was a small wooden crucifix. The president's only goal was, and is, that Western leaders see him as an equal.

                During that same time, he also attempted to make clear Russia's desire to join the defensive alliance of NATO to that organization's leadership. However, he also expected a special invitation and preferred treatment for Russia, allowing it to head to the front of the line. The invitation never came. "That was a heavy psychological blow for Putin," says Zygar. "And in my opinion, a serious mistake by NATO." For that is when Putin's metamorphosis began. And when the rejected leader began to seek revenge on those who had spurned him.

                'Hysteria and paranoia'

                Zygar is a long way away from adapting the insulted tone of the Russian establishment in his assessment. He is more interested in tracing Russian leadership's slide into the aggressive world view that has eventually led to the war in Eastern Ukraine and military intervention in Syria. "The Germans that think they understand Putin would be surprised at the level of hysteria and paranoia that predominates Russia today," says Zygar.

                The most interesting aspect of the book "Endgame" is its detailed reconstruction of this evolution. Zygar, who has never spoken with Putin personally, recounts this transformation based on 19 key figures from Putin's sphere of influence. Among them are companions, such as chief ideologue Vladislav Surkov and interim President Dmitry Medvedev, but also opponents such as former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

                The book is a family chronicle of Russia's new power elite. In this way, Zygar draws a connection to the days of the Cold War, in which observers attempted to divine the plans of those in power by examining the constellations of persons in the politburo. Zygar's publicists made a point of inviting former East German civil rights activist, Russia expert and now Green party politician, Werner Müller, to the book presentation. Müller called the book "required reading for Kremlin astrologists."

                'Besieged fortress'

                The book's conclusions are indeed pessimistic. In the minds of Putin and his associates, Russia is a "besieged fortress," writes Zygar.
                In light of this mindset, Russia's aid of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad is only logical. Assad "seemed very happy" when Russia entered into the conflict against pro-Western Georgia, resulting in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, says Zygar, who interviewed Assad shortly thereafter. "Assad has been waiting for Putin to come to his aid since then. Now that wish has been granted."

                The brotherhood in arms between Putin and Assad is based on a shared conviction that giving in to the West would mean one's own demise. And that a disgruntled populous is always the result of aggressions controlled by the West. Should Putin's grip on power in Russia ever be challenged, the author is certain: "Putin won't act like Mubarak or Yanukovych." The Presidents of Egypt and Ukraine were forced to step down because of the pressure of mass demonstrations. "Putin," says Zygar, "will act like Assad." The metamorphosis of Vladimir Putin | Europe | DW.COM | 06.10.2015

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                • Pentagon: U.S. not to cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria
                  07.10.2015 UNIAN

                  The United States will not cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria because Moscow's strategy is "tragically flawed", U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday in his strongest comments yet on the issue, according to Reuters.

                  "We are not prepared to cooperate in a strategy which as we explained is flawed, tragically flawed on Russia's part," Carter said during a trip to Rome, renewing U.S. accusations that Russia's strikes were not focused on Islamic State militants, Reuters reports.

                  However, the United States is willing to hold basic, technical discussions with the Russians to try to secure pilot safety.

                  The United States has put forward various proposals, including simple safety protocols, such as maintaining a safe distance between U.S. and Russian aircraft and using common radio frequencies for distress calls, officials say, adding they would be similar to regulations found in civil aviation.

                  Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Tuesday the United States was awaiting a formal response from Russia on the U.S. suggestions.

                  Russia's deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, was quoted by the Tass news agency on Tuesday as saying the Russian military agreed in principle with the proposals made by the United States on coordinating military flights.

                  He said the two countries would hold a second joint video conference on the subject in the "coming days."

                  As UNIAN reported earlier, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that it is impossible to defeat Islamic state without the support of the U.S. and Turkey.Pentagon: U.S. not to cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria : UNIAN news

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                  • How Iranian general plotted out Syrian assault in Moscow – Reuters
                    07.10.2015 UNIAN

                    At a meeting in Moscow in July, a top Iranian general unfurled a map of Syria to explain to his Russian hosts how a series of defeats for President Bashar al-Assad could be turned into victory – with Russia's help, according to Reuters.

                    Major General Qassem Soleimani's visit to Moscow was the first step in planning for a Russian military intervention that has reshaped the Syrian war and forged a new Iranian-Russian alliance in support of Assad, the report says.

                    As Russian warplanes bomb rebels from above, the arrival of Iranian special forces for ground operations underscores several months of planning between Assad's two most important allies, driven by panic at rapid insurgent gains.

                    His Moscow meeting outlined the deteriorating situation in Syria, where rebel advances toward the coast were posing a danger to the heartland of Assad's Alawite sect, where Russia maintains its only Mediterranean naval base in Tartous.

                    "Soleimani put the map of Syria on the table. The Russians were very alarmed and felt matters were in steep decline and that there were real dangers to the regime. The Iranians assured them there is still the possibility to reclaim the initiative," a senior regional official said. "At that time, Soleimani played a role in assuring them that we haven't lost all the cards."

                    Soleimani is the commander of the Quds Force, the elite extra-territorial special forces arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and reports directly to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
                    How Iranian general plotted out Syrian assault in Moscow – Reuters : UNIAN news

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                    • For Russians, Syria Campaign is Symbol of Competence
                      Charles Maynes VOICE OF AMERICA Oct 07, 2015 4:10 PM
                      MOSCOW—

                      Russians have an old expression: "You can't argue with the weather." But some may have found it jarring to hear the daily forecast promising unusually clear skies and warm temperatures throughout October.

                      But this was the weather in Syria, after all. A sign of the changing times.

                      "Russian aerospace forces are continuing their operation in Syria. Experts say the timing was very well chosen in terms of weather," assured the weather forecaster on Rossiya 24 state television.

                      Welcome to the Kremlin's new military gambit in Syria, an operation that’s portrayed as well-planned, antiseptic, and competent down to the season.

                      And it might look and sound familiar to Americans, says Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former member of Russia's Duma and a prominent opposition politician.

                      In an interview with VOA, Ryzhkov noted that every day the Defense Ministry holds briefings detailing pinpoint strikes and unveiling footage of Russian aircraft bombing "Islamist" positions' in ready-for-cable news sessions.

                      "You get the sense that the Russian military is demonstratively copying past American air campaigns [televised] on CNN, from the Gulf War or, more recently, NATO's strikes in Libya," Ryzhkov said.

                      "Russian military officials are showing everyone that we have the same planes, the same smart bombs. We can carry out the same military campaign as you," he added.

                      Showcase for military power

                      The Russian leadership highlighted Russia's renewed military might again Wednesday.

                      In a televised session at the presidential compound in Sochi, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin four Russian warships in the Caspian Sea launched 26 cruise missiles at Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria. All targets were hit successfully, noted Shoigu.

                      Putin applauded the military effort in Syria but warned it is too early to talk about the results. Putin also ordered Shoigu to continue to explore cooperation efforts on Syria with the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

                      There can be little doubt Moscow has, publicly at least, laid out similar objectives as Washington: to destroy IS militants and bring peace to Syria.

                      But the U.S. and its Western allies suggest Russia may have another goal: propping up the government of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad in the process. Initial Western reports suggest Russia is concentrating its air power on areas controlled by anti-Assad forces, rather than IS.

                      This week, the Kremlin pushed back against that narrative, chalking up such theories to an expansive Western-backed "information war."

                      Defense Ministry officials noted their bombings targeted terrorist sites with "100 percent certainty."

                      Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further and challenged those who argue Russia was only bombing "moderate Syrian forces" to essentially prove it.

                      Domestic response

                      How well these arguments play at home remains to be seen. Russians have voiced tentative approval for a war on terror, but less so for Russian troops to get involved in the conflict directly.

                      The Kremlin team is promising an air campaign limited in scope. Putin has ruled out Russian boots on the ground.

                      Yet a state media campaign is in place and already there have been hints of "military creep."

                      Several prominent politicians, including Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, have called for Russian "volunteers" to join the Syrian army in the fight against IS.

                      Such arguments are reminiscent of Russia's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine where the definition of "soldier" and "volunteer" have blurred according to Moscow's convenience.

                      And so the list of questions for Russia's "good war" in Syria grows.

                      What if, wonder some defense analysts, pilots are shot down? Or IS or another group launches a counterattack on Russia's base in Syria? Or if a terrorist attack comes to the homeland? What happens when national prestige is put on the line?

                      "War has a way of starting one way and ending another," says Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer in St. Petersburg currently defending several Russian contract soldiers who refused postings to Syria.

                      And then there are those who worry of a repeat of mistakes made during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, after heavy Soviet losses in a distant land led to public opposition to the war. The Kremlin seems intent on avoiding the comparison.

                      "But in Afghanistan the authorities also talked of a campaign limited in scope," recalls Valentina Melnikova of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, an NGO that defends the interests of soldiers' families.

                      Ultimately, public support for Putin's Syrian war may hinge on a promised air campaign remaining exactly that, in the sky. For Russians, Syria Campaign is Symbol of Competence

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                      • 17:28 07.10.2015 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                        Ukraine must unite with EU, U.S. against Russia disinformation campaign – Poroshenko

                        President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has spoken about the importance of uniting the international community in counteracting Russian propaganda.

                        "We definitely know that enemy hasn't finished the war yet, and the hybrid war, which the world faced a year ago, is in full swing since it embraces not just military aggression, not just economic loops which the aggressor thought he hanged on Ukraine's neck and destroying it economically…Hybrid war foresees a big powerful disinformation campaign," Poroshenko said while delivering a speech at the Military Academy of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

                        He said that Russia actively uses its propaganda to achieve its goals.

                        "If Goebbels [Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister] had lived in our times, I have no doubt he would have given the highest mark to the occupants' efforts when developing a global system of brainwashing, which Moscow is operating now," Poroshenko.

                        He added that there are television channels all around the world "through which the aggressor-country is attempting to spread a very dangerous poison around the world."

                        "During the UN General Assembly, from the highest rostrum in the world, I called on our partners to really discuss steps on countering Russian propaganda," Poroshenko said.

                        Poroshenko said combating Russian propaganda is one of the priorities of European Union which intends to establish a European Russian-speaking channel for Russian-speaking citizens of the EU to have an alternative source of information.

                        "We agreed with our partners in the United States. Moreover, during the last visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, special documents on a strategic communication between Ukraine-NATO were signed," Poroshenko added.

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                        • Russia Complicates US Pivot to Asia
                          VOICE OF AMERICA Li Bao Oct 07, 2015 5:10 PM

                          WASHINGTON—

                          With Monday’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP], the United States reached a milestone in its push for rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific region.

                          A new hurdle may be emerging, however, and this time it is not China.

                          In the last few months, Russia has been steadily increasing its military presence in the Western Pacific region, threatening to complicate the U.S. strategy in the region.

                          Growing military presence

                          At a recent discussion at the Stimson Center in Washington, former Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Japan’s Self Defense Force has been scrambling more in the North against Russia air force incursions than in the South against Chinese forays over the Senkaku Islands, which are called Diaoyu Islands by Beijing.

                          The U.S. is a staunch ally of Japan, and is bound by treaty to defend the Asian nation against foreign aggression.

                          Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told Congress last month that he was concerned about Russia’s growing military presence in the Pacific.

                          “Russia has a long coastline, and they have at least two major naval bases, including one for their ballistic missile submarines, two major air bases, and then a host of smaller operating bases in the Pacific,” the admiral said. “So, these are things that I worry about as I look at the panoply of threats that the United States faces in the Pacific.”

                          As part of the so-called "pivot" to Asia strategy, the U.S. Navy has pledged 60 percent of its warships for the region, which is believed by many observers to be intended to counter growing Chinese military power.

                          Slowing U.S. pace

                          Richard Weitz, a Russia expert at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based research center, said Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine last year, however, and its recent military actions in the Middle East, are slowing down the pace of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

                          “The U.S. is concerned about Russian actions in the Pacific, but it is more concerned about Europe and the Middle East,” he said. “Therefore, flowing forces from those regions, as you would in the pivot to Asia, is not occurring as rapidly as it would if the Russians were not a threat in Europe and Middle East.”

                          Appearing together with Admiral Harris at the Congressional hearing last month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific David Shear also expressed concerns about Russia’s growing military posture in the Asia Pacific region.

                          Shear said the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, though, released in August by the Pentagon, deals not only with China’s aggressive behavior in the region, but also with Russia’s growing military activities in the western Pacific. Russia Complicates US Pivot to Asia

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                          • Sergey Loznitsa’s “Maidan” documentary wins grand prize at International human rights festival
                            EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/10/08

                            The documentary Maidan, depicting the events of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution, has won the grand prize at the Nuremberg International Human Rights Festival, as reported on the festival’s website. The film director Sergey Loznitsa received the Grand Prix on Tuesday, October 6, along with the cash prize of EUR 2,500.

                            Sergei Loznitsa’s picture Maidan chronicles the three months of the Euromaidan revolution, from December 2013 to February 2014. The two-hour film is a gallery of long shots, which change gradually. The drama is created by the events themselves, with the camera only capturing the reality.

                            “Before starting to create the film, I had to define rules by which it will be made,” Loznitsa commented at a press conference. “I decided to use a static camera. My film is about people. I didn’t want protagonists, so I just decided to hold the camera in one plane. My guide was Eisenstein’s Strike.

                            The film shows the revolutionary events in Kyiv in quiet close-ups, with no comments, statements or value judgments. The footage with flying flags, burning barricades, and unarmed people speak for themselves, according to the jury’s evaluation.

                            The film about events in Ukraine was first shown at the International Film Festival in Cannes in May 2014. Its author, director Loznitsa, was born in Belarus and raised in Ukraine. Since 2001, he lives and works in Germany.

                            Sergei Loznitsa is considered to be one of the best filmmakers in the world. His films, such as Settlement, Portrait, or Blockade have won numerous prizes at film festivals. Maidan was made freely available in the internet on the first anniversary of the Euromaidan revolution. You can watch it in the header of this article.

                            Sergey Loznitsa's "Maidan" documentary wins grand prize at International human rights festival -Euromaidan Press |
                            Source: Life.pravda.com.ua
                            Source: zahid.net

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                            • Crimean blockade getting Moscow’s attention
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/10/08

                              The effectiveness of the Crimean Tatar-organized blockade of occupied Crimea is reflected not only in price rises and shortages in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula but also in the reaction it is generating not only among the occupation forces but also in Moscow which has been trying to play down the Crimean issue.

                              The blockade of occupied Crimea has resulted both in shortages and price increases for basic foods that mean the prices in Crimea are now “higher than in the Ukrainian capital” and in some cases an order of magnitude of more higher, the best indication that the action is having an impact.

                              But the most important consequence of the blockade, Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, is that it has returned the issue of Crimea to the center of attention of the international community and led to new declarations that the Russian occupation must end and Ukrainian control restored.

                              The reaction of occupation regime officials suggests, the Crimean Tatar QHA news agency says, that they are beginning to “panic” as a result of the blockade. Remzi Ilyasov, vice speaker of the Russian-organized Crimean State Council, says the blockade shows Ukraine doesn’t care about Crimeans while Russians do.

                              And Vladimir Konstantinov, the chairman of the Crimean State Council, says that the blockade represents “a threat of genocide,” something he adds are “the real intentions of the fascist illegal band formations.”

                              By such declarations, QHA points out, the occupation authorities are showing “the effectiveness of the action and also indirectly undercutting the recently made statements” of other officials there “that the blockade of Crimea is not inflicting any economic harm on the peninsula.” Crimean blockade getting Moscow’s attention -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                              • Could Ukrainians decide Canada's upcoming election?
                                Oct. 8, 2015, INTL BUSINESS TIMES

                                While Syria is expected to dominate the next presidential debate in the U.S., another major conflict zone -- Ukraine -- may be a deciding factor in Canada's upcoming election, AFP reported Wednesday. Incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in a close race over 338 seats in Canada’s parliament heading into the Oct. 19 election.

                                The election has pitted Harper’s Conservative Party against the Liberals and New Democrats with Ukrainian-Canadians potentially holding enough of a voting share to push the race in one direction or the other. There are approximately 1.3 million Ukrainian-Canadians in Canada, and at almost 4 percent of the population, they could sway the vote.

                                "The Tories established that the Ukrainian vote could tilt the results in a dozen tight electoral races in Canada," said Dominique Arel, the chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, referencing the Conservative Party.

                                Politicians in Canada have targeted the Ukrainian-Canadian population in the past with that group comprising over 10 percent of the population in a few districts. With the conflict in Ukraine ongoing, experts said international affairs could factor into this election more than in the past.

                                Harper has courted the Ukrainian-Canadian vote and taken a hard-line stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

                                “Canada has provided significant assistance to Ukraine as well as imposed tough sanctions against the Putin regime for its illegal occupation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine,” Harper said, speaking at a Ukrainian festival over the summer. “Moreover, Canada will continue to stand with Ukraine in the face of the ongoing violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

                                Across the border to the south, American presidential candidates have also mentioned the situation in Ukraine, but the issue was expected to get less play in the 2016 election. Republican candidate Donald Trump has criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s actions in the matter and also said he would have better relations with Putin than Obama does.

                                "Our president is not strong, and he is not doing what he should be doing for the Ukraine," Trump said.

                                The war in eastern Ukraine, which has pitted government forces against Russian-backed separatists, has taken the lives of over 8,000 people and displaced 1.4 million since it began, in April 2014. Ukraine War Update: Could Ukrainians Decide Canada's Upcoming Election?

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