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  • REUTERS MOSCOW Jan 26, 2016 7:01am EST
    Russia won't take back refugees who crossed into Norway: Lavrov

    Moscow does not want to take back refugees who crossed into Norway from Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday in a dispute over 5,400 migrants that Oslo wants to deport.

    Norway's right-wing government toughened policies for asylum seekers in December and wants to send back those who crossed the Arctic border from Russia, saying Russia is safe for them.

    "The talk is about people who arrived in Russia with a purpose of either to work in Russia or to visit relatives," Lavrov told an annual news conference. "They had not declared their (true) purpose of visit as transit to Norway."

    "This means that they had deliberately stated false data about the purpose of their visit to the Russian Federation. This is why we do not want to admit these people back to Russia."

    Norway said it had contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry after Lavrov's comments and secured assurances that Moscow was still open to taking back at least some of 5,400 asylum seekers who crossed last year, many from Syria.

    "Russia has always said they are not interested in taking back most of the 5,400 refugees," ministry spokesman Rune Bjaastad said.

    "But we have an understanding with Russia that we can send back those who have a valid visa and residency in Russia," he said.

    Norway sent a bus to Russia last week carrying 13 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan. About 31,000 migrants arrived in Norway last year across all borders. Russia won't take back refugees who crossed into Norway: Lavrov | Reuters

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    • STOPFake: Russian Secret Services Claim ISIS to Attack Ukraine
      January 28, 2016 - 21:41

      The well-known Russian propaganda channel LifeNews published a news item claiming that Russia has warned Ukraine’s security Services that ISIS is planning to carry out terrorist acts in the country and particularly in Kyiv.
      Russia’s notorious LifeNews regularly broadcasts fake stories about Ukraine. Some of the more outrageous ones have claimed that Ukrainians crucify captive Russian soldiers and kill bullfinches because they are blue, white and red, the colors of the Russian flag.

      Fake: Russian Secret Services Claim ISIS to Attack Ukraine

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      • STOPFake: Russian Secret Services Claim ISIS to Attack Ukraine
        January 28, 2016 - 21:41

        The well-known Russian propaganda channel LifeNews published a news item claiming that Russia has warned Ukraine’s security Services that ISIS is planning to carry out terrorist acts in the country and particularly in Kyiv.
        Russia’s notorious LifeNews regularly broadcasts fake stories about Ukraine. Some of the more outrageous ones have claimed that Ukrainians crucify captive Russian soldiers and kill bullfinches because they are blue, white and red, the colors of the Russian flag.

        Fake: Russian Secret Services Claim ISIS to Attack Ukraine


        January 22, 2016 - 11:47 Opinions VIDEO
        ‘Russia is interested in ruining Ukraine’s image ahead of Dutch referendum’ – Fedchenko

        It looks like Kremlin’s traditional tactics to use fake video threats, says website founder Ukraine Todays Viewpoint is joined by the director of Mohyla School of journalism, one of website founders, Professor Yevhen Fedchenko, to discuss the most recent information attacks on Ukraine. Volodymyr Solohub: Just recently Ukraine found itself under yet another information attack. A video was spread online where members of Ukrainian military were threatening the Dutch…

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        • ATLANTIC COUNCIL Ashish Kumar Sen January 29, 2016
          In Putin's Russia, Intellectuals Trapped in a ‘Zone of Silence’
          Writers debate ‘shrinking’ space for independent media

          Intellectuals in Russia today suffer a fate that they consider to be worse than death—being forced to remain silent.

          “Instead of killing us they offer to move us to the zone of complete silence,” said Ilya Danishevsky, Chief Editor of the Vremena Publishing House. While some may view this as a “more humane approach,” it is a fate that writers cannot accept, he added. Danishevsky works closely with authors who challenge the official discourse.

          “We do not say the government needs censorship to prevent us from publishing our books. One doesn’t need to censor what does not exist,” Danishevsky said in Russian through an interpreter.

          Danishevsky was part of a panel of Russian writers hosted by the Atlantic Council and PEN America on January 28 that discussed, among other things, the state of freedom of expression in Russia today. Lyudmila Ulitskaya, best-selling author and winner of the Simone de Beauvoir Prize; Maria Stepanova, a poet and former Editor-in-Chief of; and Anna Nemzer, a novelist and Editor of TV Rain (Dozhd) were also part of the panel. Scott Stossel, Editor of the The Atlantic magazine, moderated the discussion.

          Stepanova said it is important for the West to turn its attention back to Ukraine, from which Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and where it has since supported separatists in the east. Her colleagues in Ukraine are “suffering from a state of partial visibility,” she said. “They are standing in the darkness wondering what has happened.”

          Endangered freedoms

          Freedom of expression has become an endangered commodity in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. The latest example of censorship surfaced earlier in January when Valery Fokin, the award-winning artistic director of St Petersburg’s Alexandrinsky theater, accused the Russian Culture Ministry of vetting plays.

          “The government keeps shutting down independent media, independent TV channels, and the area where independent media is still allowed is shrinking,” said Ulitskaya noting, however, that there is a flip side to censorship. “It provokes a certain additional interest in the literature,” she said in Russian.

          Nemzer pointed to the dangers of censorship. “In my everyday work, I am dealing with history and historical memory, and I can see how the denial works, how it ruins everything,” she said.

          Attacks against journalists in Russia have become all too common. Fifty-six journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Among the most prominent of the victims is Anna Politkovskaya, a critic of the Kremlin’s actions in Chechnya, who was shot dead in her Moscow apartment in 2006.

          “Russia’s social and political climate is a comedy, but with quite an unexpected ending. You never know what is going to happen next, and that is what it is making it quite scary,” said Stepanova.

          The panelists, however, said they did not feel in any physical danger while doing their jobs. Stossel asked them if they worried that once back in Russia they could face serious consequences over their visit to the United States.

          To assume more intimidation is to make the mistake of thinking the “regime is too primitive in dealing with us,” said Danishevsky. “We live in a system where the clear delineation of cause and effect is missing.”

          “The biggest problem with Putin was he was never looking for love, all that he wanted was that people would be afraid of him,” said Danishevsky. “And when we hear these questions here in the United States, we understand that he has achieved his goal.”

          Putin not Russia

          The panelists said it is also a mistake to equate Russia, and all Russians, with Putin. Danishevsky was struck by how often Americans perceive Russia and Russians as a “synonym for the word Putin.” The priority should be to make a distinction, he said.

          “The most important thing is the understanding that there is no such thing as a monolithic Russia,” he added. “This is a huge country with lots of people, all of them have different ideas, different wishes, different thoughts.”

          Ulitskaya said she was among the “14 percent” of Russians who are not excited about Putin, but she said in that group there are different reasons for opposition to the Russian President. On the other hand, those who support Putin “all think the same way,” she added.

          Stepanova described her relationship with Russia as similar to a Facebook status update: “it’s complicated!”

          “Being frank, I have to admit that, ‘Yes, I love it,’” she said of Russia. Other than those nationalists who loudly proclaim their love for “Mother Russia,” Stepanova said, “Someone has to love it from the other side, and I do.”
          In Putin's Russia, Intellectuals Trapped in a ‘Zone of Silence’

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          • Ukraine Expands Trade Routes, Bypasses Russia
            26 January 2016 UKRAINE'S ORANGE BLUES Alexander Motyl

            The Beskyd-Skotarske train tunnel in the Carpathians is being widened from one track to two, thanks to funding provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. The project will more than double the speeds at which trains can travel through the tunnel as well as double the number of trains undertaking the journey. Since 60 percent of Ukraine’s current trade with countries to its west goes through the tunnel (originally built in 1886), the result will be a vastly enlarged capacity for imports and exports with the European Union, which already is Ukraine’s largest trading partner and with which Ukraine now shares a free trade zone. The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017; trains will start using it by mid-2018.
            Alexander J. Motyl's blog | World Affairs Journal
            Last edited by Hannia; 31st January 2016, 20:57.

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            • EUROZINE Timothy Snyder 26.11.2004
              Ukraine: an opportunity for Europe

              There are moments in history when one must think broadly and ambitiously. To secure democracy in Ukraine is certainly in the interest of the European Union, writes Timothy Snyder. It is also a test for a Europe that wishes to play a role in the world.

              More than Yugoslavia in the last decade, more than Turkey in the decade to come, Ukraine today is the test for Europe. Ukraine is an important European country, with a long border with the European Union, where nothing less than democracy is at stake in a peaceful revolution. The protests of the democratic opposition in Ukraine are like nothing seen in Europe since 1989. By every reasonable estimation, the democratic reformer Viktor Yushchenko has won the presidential election. According to mounting evidence, his opponent, the sitting prime minister, was complicit in massive electoral falsification. The European Union and its member states must take a clear stand for a peaceful resolution of this conflict that endorses the will of the Ukrainian people.

              It is worrying for Europe that Russia believes it can intervene in Ukrainian politics, and in effect choose the president of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin intervened openly in the election campaign, twice visiting Ukraine to back his candidate. Putin has in effect told the world that only elections won by his candidate would be democratic. But democracy is not about the preferences of outside leaders, it is about a process. This process was abused in Ukraine, in all likelihood with Russian funding, and certainly with the help of Russian advisors. As of this moment, President Putin and the dictatorial President Lukashenko of Belarus are the only leaders to have congratulated Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovitch, declared the victor after an obviously fraudulent tally.

              Russia is making a mistake. Such interference in Ukrainian affairs will require, over the long run, the use of military force. Unconfirmed reports from Kiev indicate that Russian special forces have entered Ukraine. If this is true, this would be a horrible miscalculation by the Russian leadership. Russia cannot control a country of fifty million people, the vast majority of whom care of about their own independence, without destroying itself. Russian soldiers in a foreign country shooting foreign civilians would be a catastrophe for all concerned, perhaps especially Russia. Rather than supporting his man come what may, President Putin should join the call for peaceful discussions and negotiations. He still has time to take a position in line with the international consensus. This is a point that the European Union and its member states must make to Russia now.

              Important as it is to prevent such a disaster, the European Union has a larger role to fill than diplomacy with Russia. The European Union is a center of democracy in the world. If Europe is to be a power of any kind, even a regional power, it must have some influence upon its neighbors, especially its immediate European neighbors. It must translate its enormous economic power and cultural appeal into foreign policy. Now is the time to try. There are moments in history, as in 1945 throughout western Europe, as in 1975 in Spain, as in 1989 throughout eastern Europe, as in Ukraine today, when one must think broadly and ambitiously. To secure democracy in Ukraine is in the interest of the European Union, because democratic neighbors are peaceful and prosperous neighbors. It is also a test for a Europe that wishes to play a role in the world. Yet above all democracy is also a goal which Europe must pursue if it is to be true to itself.
              Eurozine - Ukraine: an opportunity for Europe - Timothy Snyder
              Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a Permanent Fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM). Among his publications are: Thinking the Twentieth Century: A Conversation with Tony Judt (Penguin, 2012); Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (Vintage, 2011); The Red Prince. The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (Basic Books, 2008); and Sketches From a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (Yale University Press, 2005). His new book Black Earth will appear in 2015. In May 2009, he delivered the keynote speech at the Eurozine conference "European histories" in Vilnius.

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              • Putin overplays his hand with Lisa Case in Germany and loses friends in Berlin, Mitrokhin says
                EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/31

                In the pursuit of his goal of exacerbating the European refugee crisis, Vladimir Putin has taken actions in Germany including stirring up the Russian German community over the Lisa Case that have sent Russian-German relations to a new and much lower level, according to Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russian analyst who lives in Bremen.

                This is no small thing to have done, the analyst says, because “Germany had been the last major state of the Western world with which Russia had the illusion of partnership relations.” Now, Berlin is looking at Moscow far more critically than it did and Germans are asking just how far the Putin regime is ready to go.

                The cause of all this is quite simple, Mitrokhin says. Lisa is a 13-year-old Russian German girl who went missing for 30 hours. When she returned home, she said she had been kidnapped and raped by several Arab-looking men, an inflammatory charge now at a time of massive immigration to Germany from Syria and the Middle East.

                The police and her parents dismissed that version and one local newspaper suggested Liza was in love with a 19-year-old German of Turkish origin and had dreamed up the charges she made to hide her activities from her parents. According to Mitrokhin, “this version appears quite likely.”

                That is because, he says, “despite the anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic attitudes among Russian Germans, sexual relations and marriages of Russian speakers with Turks, Kurds, and Albanians living in Germany are no rarity.”

                Had the case ended there, no one would have paid a lot of attention, but pro-Moscow outlets using social media whipped up the Russian German community, sparked demonstrations in a variety of German cities, and called into question the ability of the German police to protect Germans from Muslims and Turks.

                Underlying this conflict, Mitrokhin points out, are “the social problems of the Russian-speaking population of Germany. It now numbers “no fewer than four million people, the largest foreign language community in the country.” Many of those who formed its core were poorly educated and low skilled and thus were in the same social niche as Turks in Germany.

                That led to conflicts and suspicions, and the recent case shows that they are something that others can play on, even if many of the Russian Germans have acculturated if not assimilated into German life. Indeed, sociological research shows that the Russian Germans were the most successful large diaspora in Germany.

                But precisely because they were successful, they and their problems were largely ignored by the authorities, Mitrokhin says. That neglect especially now when Berlin is focusing on the new influx has rankled many, especially since they continue to view themselves as a distinct group – they identify as Rusaks – and follow Russian media and culture more than German ones.

                Russian media have played on this, talking about the new immigrants as being “a crisis of Europe” and about the way in which the Russian Germans have been neglected and otherwise getting a bad deal. Such stories “recall the situation at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

                Some of Liza’s relatives turned to neo-Nazis from the National Democratic Party of Germany, which has ties with Moscow, or to other radical groups and a social media campaign began to mobilize Russian Germans to engage in public protests and demand their rights against the new migrants.

                Their success in mobilizing the Russian Germans with this story has prompted “the German authorities to evaluate this unexpected ‘warning’ and now to guess about its causes.” That is leading ever more of them to view the upsurge in the activity of Russian Germans as being the product of Moscow policies and to questions about Russian intentions.

                Whatever the exact facts of the case are – and they remain in dispute – “serious harm has been inflicted on German-Russian relations” and that is leading Berlin to revise its “condescending attitude toward Putin sympathizers and direct agents of the Russian special services in the Russian-language diaspora,” Mitrokhin continues.

                Moreover, it is prompting discussions about whether Germany needs to expand Russian-language media for its Russian speakers in order to ensure that they are not mobilized against Berlin by Moscow and to fears that “pro-Putin activity among the Russian Germans will not disappear” but must be countered in one way or another. Putin overplays his hand with Lisa Case in Germany and loses friends in Berlin, Mitrokhin says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                • Hague court seems set to find Moscow guilty of ethnic cleansing in Georgia, Portnikov says
                  EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/01/31

                  Having been identified by a British court as involved with the murder by polonium of Alexander Litvinenko, Vladimir Putin likely faces something even more devastating: In taking up the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, the International Criminal Court in the Hague seems certain to find Moscow guilty of ethnic cleansing, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

                  That conclusion will reveal “a completely new face of the Kremlin regime, the Ukrainian commentator says, because it is “one thing to seize other’s territories… and quite another to carry out a banal ethnic cleansing according to the recipes of Adolf Hitler or Slobodan Milosevic.

                  The Russian-Georgian war of 2008, Portnikov points out, involved ethnic cleansing. “Georgian villages in South Ossetia were burned to the group and many of their residents destroyed. The ‘territorial integrity’ of the Republic South Ossetia which was soon recognized by Moscow and Caracas was secured namely by such an inhuman price.”

                  In fact, “there is nothing new in this,” he continues. “The war in Abkhazia in the early 1990s was a banal act of ethnic cleansing: out of the republic then were driven a large part of its residents, in the first instance, those of Georgian origin.” But there as more recently in the Donbas, Moscow had a kind of cover as this was done by nominally local militias.

                  “But in South Ossetia, there is no way to conceal what was done,” Portnikov says. There, regular units of the Russian army, whose supreme commander was at the time the harmless executor Dima Medvedev carried out ethnic cleansing.” And it seems clear that the International Criminal Court will so conclude.

                  That this will change how people view the 2008 war is suggested by what happened to Milosevich when he shifted from using local militias to carry out ethnic cleansing to employing regular army units. The international community was willing to put up with the former, but it wasn’t with the latter.

                  For most of the last eight years, those talking about the Russian-Georgian war have been obsessed about who started it. But what is interesting now is that “even if Georgia began it first,” that in no way can “justify the expulsion of Georgian peasants from their native places, the burning of their homes and murder.”

                  When the International Court releases its findings, the world will have “a completely new picture of the Russian soldier” who is prepared to destroy someone simply because he is an ethnic Georgian and not an ethnic Ossetian. And “we will receive a completely new picture of a Russian general, a new Eichman, who led this ethnic cleansing.”

                  Finally, Portnikov says, the world will gain “a completely new picture of the Russian president who sent his forces to commit genocide.” And even if that turns out to be “not Putin but Medvedev, this fact “will not have particular importance. In the dock of the Hague court, all these people should sit next to each other.”

                  Not surprisingly, Russian officialdom has reacted with alarm and anger, announcing that Moscow plans “a review of its relations” with the court given that it had expected greater consideration. Translated from diplomatic language, that means the Russian authorities aren’t going to cooperate in this investigation.

                  But that too may not matter: if the court finds that officials engaged in the crime of ethnic cleansing, it can issue an order for their arrest and call on governments of the world to arrest at first opportunity those so charged and to dispatch them to the Hague for judgment. Hague court seems set to find Moscow guilty of ethnic cleansing in Georgia, Portnikov says -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                  • Russian proxies violate Donbas truce 27 times on Sunday
                    31.01.2016 | 20:58 UNIAN

                    The combined Russian-separatist forces have violated the truce in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, 27 times on Sunday, January 31, according to the press center of the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) headquarters.

                    Kremlin-backed militants continue shelling the Ukrainian positions, sometimes using the weapons that are banned under the Minsk peace agreements, the press center reported in its update on Facebook based on information as of 18:00 Kyiv time on January 31.

                    In particular, the enemy intensified fire on the Ukrainian positions near the town of Krasnohorivka in Donetsk region, which was shelled with the use of 82mm and 120mm mortars and heavy machine guns, the ATO HQ said.

                    The militants also used grenade launchers and heavy machine guns to shell Ukrainian troops near the villages of Opytne and Pisky, close to the ruined Donetsk airport. The ATO forces near the village of Novhorodske in Donetsk region were also under attack – the militants used grenade launchers of various systems and an infantry combat vehicle.

                    The positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the towns of Avdiyivka and Mariynka and the village of Verkhniotoretske in Donetsk region and the village of Troyitske in Luhansk region were also under enemy fire.
                    Russian proxies violate Donbas truce 27 times on Sunday : UNIAN news

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                    • Israel - Ukraine: Support impossible to ignore. Punctuation matters.
                      29.01.2016 | 21:30 UNIAN Kostyantyn Honcharov

                      The advice to look out for the Israel’s experience has been the most prominent one since the start of hostilities in eastern Ukraine. However, despite somewhat similar relations with its own neighbors, Israel is in no rush to support Ukraine.

                      Despite the fact that Ukraine is likely ready to take advantage of not only Israel's experience in conducting large-scale anti-terrorist operations, but also of the weapons that Israel could supply to strengthen the Ukrainian army, the main object interest, the Israeli drones, remains a distant dream for Ukraine.

                      Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Eliav Belotserkovsky in his recent comments to UNIAN said that "Ukraine and Israel have very good prospects in many areas, and we will implement them to the maximum." However, he refused to specify how real is the possibility of strengthening military-technical cooperation between the two countries. According to him, this topic is not for media discussion.

                      "We fully support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, is the consistent position of Israel ... We stay one hundred percent in support of Ukraine’s integrity, but at the same time, we cannot jeopardize our relationship with Russia," said the diplomat.

                      In fairness it should be noted that, while declaring support for Ukraine’s integrity, Israel does not endorse anti-Russian sanctions, and a number of Israeli companies continue their trade with the Russian-annexed Crimea. However, according to the Ambassador, the Israeli government cannot point to private companies, what they should or should not do. "We have a clear position on Crimea - we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Our task is to bring to their attention that it is punishable. We do not give advice to private companies," said Belotserkovsky.

                      Russian blackmail

                      Former Consul General of Ukraine in Istanbul and Edinburgh, chairman of Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation Bohdan Yaremenko believes that in Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Israel is guided by nothing else but its own national interests. According to him, Israel is trying to maintain a position that would support Ukraine's territorial integrity, at the same time carrying out no practical measures to implement their position. This may be related to Russia’s policy of blackmail against Israel. "Russia has warned Israel that these, or other, steps against the Russian interests will be “compensated” with supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and others, providing Israel’s adversaries with weapons that can change significantly the security situation in the region, destabilizing it," said the diplomat.

                      The expert names Russia’s military intervention in Syria among other destructive actions of the Russian Federation, which threaten the security of Israel. "Destabilization of Syria threatens Israel's security. Russia understands the futility of direct threats to the U.S., and bullies its allies instead, trying to create a split between them. Using threats against European countries, Russia "hints" that they should better move away from the U.S. The same is with Israel. Russia uses destabilization in Syria to put pressure on Israel so that it does not make certain steps, including, in favor of Ukraine," he said.

                      However, the diplomat believes that, despite Russian pressure on Israel, Kyiv should further seek to strengthen military-technical cooperation with Tel-Aviv because there are such opportunities. Bohdan Yaremenko is positive that, if Ukraine is interested in such cooperation, it must consistently and persistently pursue its policy of gaining access to resources and technologies. As a result, it will actually happen at a certain stage, the diplomat believes. "Russia’s pressure will not forever remain the main argument... The water wears away the stone: Ukraine should pursue attempts to achieve its goals, without any public announcements," said the expert.

                      Geopolitical dynamics

                      In turn, the political scientist, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadim Karasyov, notes that Russia, regardless of the position of Israel on Ukraine, may continue supplies of military equipment and weaponry to Israel’s enemies. However, Tel-Aviv’s careful line of conduct in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a justified position from the point of view of the country’s national interests. "Israel is in the shade, because Israel needs stability in the Middle East. The geopolitical dynamics of the region is very volatile, it is risky, that is why Israel is interested in stabilizing factors and influences. It is no coincidence that Israel, just like the United States, which is also interested in regional stabilization, has to coordinate and cooperate with Russia in the Middle East – not on a full scale, but nonetheless, at the level of intelligence and military agencies. In Syria, in particular," the expert says.

                      According to Karasyov, the key factor of policy in the Middle East is military prowess. And, despite becoming an "economic dwarf," Russia still remains military superpower, "a military giant." As a result, Israel must be alert to monitor relations between Russia and Iran, Russia and Syria; the possibility of Russian supplies of anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria or Iran... Thus, according to the analyst, the role of Russia in the Middle East is incomparably greater and more important for Israel than cooperation with Ukraine.

                      "As there is no Middle East policy of Ukraine as such, the country can’t be a player in a big game, which is getting into a full swing in the Middle East, and will largely shape the image of the 21st century, not only in this region but also in the world’s geopolitical dynamics... Israel should take into account Russia's interests, so it has been balancing between the Russian and Ukrainian viewpoints, without taking anyone’s side entirely," says Karasyov.

                      "There are 8 million people living in Israel, surrounded by Arabs, numbering more than 100 million people. The country is forced to maintain a careful diplomatic line and conduct cautious foreign policy, including toward Russia," he says.

                      Simple “gesheft”

                      Taras Chornovil, a political analyst on international affairs, does not rule out that one of the reasons for the lack of support for Ukraine in Israel may be internal pressure. "There is an internal problem. Israel is a country of immigrants... A huge number of people living in Israel are originally from Russia and Ukraine. But the latter have never perceived themselves as citizens of the Ukrainian state, and despite the fact that they have always been in certain opposition to the Soviet regime, they are still a bit nostalgic for the Soviet Union," says the expert.

                      The expert adds that, as a result, the people who were skeptical about Ukraine as an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union "made great careers." "And today, they are not only voters but also members of parliament, ministers... and they seriously affect the foreign policy of Israel," he says.

                      In addition, in his opinion, many Israelis have strong economic ties with Russia, besides the mental links. "Many Israeli businessmen have certain contacts and ties in Russia. However, those who want to do business in Russia are subject to certain control and remain under certain influence. They know that their business may either be closed down, strangled, or appropriate conditions for normal activity and special preferences may be introduced. They just need to create certain political influence in Israel in return," he said.

                      In addition, Israel's position regarding the anti-Russian sanctions is affected by the fact that the economies of the countries that have adopted restrictive measures in economic relations with Russia, also suffer. "Of course, Israel does not want to incur losses. Although the margin of safety of the Israeli economy is sufficiently high, and the country would have survived these losses not worse than any European economy. But what is the point of suffering losses because of a problem which Israelis perceive as distant and alien? Especially considering that Ukraine is not able to offer anything in return for Israel anti-Russian sanctions, while Russia can repay in some way for non-introduction of such sanctions. Therefore, a simple ‘gesheft’ comes into play," he says.

                      In this regard, considering that it’s Ukraine that needs Israel more than Israel needs Ukraine, the official Kyiv should think hard, what mutually beneficial joint projects we could offer Israel.
                      Israel - Ukraine: Support impossible to ignore. Punctuation matters. : UNIAN news

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                      • Famous scientist and volunteer arrested in separatist Donetsk
                        KYIV POST Oksana Grytsenko Jan. 31, 2016 16:17

                        A wave of arrests started in a separatist stronghold Donetsk last week after someone blew up a local statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in a city center on Jan. 27, damaging its pedestal.

                        The Russian-backed separatists captured a renowned Ukrainian historian and religious scholar Ihor Kozlovsky in his Donetsk apartment, Tetiana Sosnovska, head of Ukraine’s National Museum of History reported on her Facebook page based on talks to his wife.

                        Kozlovsky had to stay in Donetsk to care for his bed-ridden son. After breaking into his flat, the combatants took away the papers of apartment ownership and Kozlovsky’s private collection of antiquities, Chetvertaya Vlast (Fourth Power) web-site reported based on talks with his relatives. It added Kozlovsky has been kept in a basement since then. The incident occurred between Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, the reports said.

                        On Jan. 29 the Donetsk militiamen also arrested an activist Marina Cherenkova, head of a local initiative Responsible Citizens, formed in June 2014 to support the needy people remaining in the embattled city. Enrique Menendez, also a member of the initiative, reported this on his Facebook page saying that Cherenkova was captured by representatives of the so-called MGB, the security forces of the self-proclaimed republic based in Donetsk.

                        “There are different rumours about her accusations and prospects of her release,” Menendez said. He added his arrest was also possible.

                        The Responsible Citizens cooperate with the charity foundation of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, and other charities helping to residents of Donbas. Earlier in January, the separatists already briefly detained four members of this group when they were unloading the blankets sent by the Doctors Without Borders.

                        Donetsk journalist Oleksiy Matsuka, who had to leave the city for his pro-Ukrainian position, reported in the interview with Hromadske TV that the separatists also recently raided the Donetsk flats of representatives of Taras Shevchenko’s Prosvita cultural group. He believes the separatists started the purges to prevent the social protests because of the economic hardships of living in rebels-held Donetsk.

                        Matsuka said the blow up of Lenin’s statue could be done by separatists themselves just to find the reasons to start the raids of the activists still remaining in Donetsk.

                        The separatists set a curfew from 11 pm by 5 am in the city and promised to completely restore the Lenin’s statue in a week.
                        Famous scientist and volunteer arrested in separatist Donetsk

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                        • An indefensible public defender system How Russia’s state-appointed attorneys help prosecutors get convictions
                          MEDUZA Vera Chelishcheva Moscow 26 January 2016 Part 1

                          More than 70 lawyers from 19 regions of the Russian Federation have signed a petition demanding that the country's system of state-appointed defense lawyers be reviewed and reformed. Free public attorneys are available in many countries around the world, offering legal defense to people who can't afford hired representation. In Russia, however, they have effectively become part of the law enforcement system. In fact public defenders help prosecutors get convictions. In a special report for Meduza, journalist Vera Chelishcheva (of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta) investigates how Russia's state-appointed attorneys actually work.
                          No appeals, please
                          The criminal proceedings against Svetlana Davidova—a woman who was accused of treason in March 2015 and later acquitted—provides a glimpse into the work of free, state-appointed defense lawyers.

                          Davidova's appointed defense counsel, Andrei Stebenev, not only failed to object to her arrest, but he also gave a statement saying there were sufficient grounds to bring the case against her.

                          Then, Stebenev let lapse the allotted period for appealing her arrest. It was only then that Davidova—just an ordinary person living in Smolensk, not versed in the finer points of Russia's legal system—finally dismissed her public defender.

                          Davidova's new lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, managed first to obtain her release (with her pledge to remain in country), and then got a court to throw out the case, due to insufficient evidence. The Moscow Chamber of Lawyers soon stripped Stebenev of his license, concluding that he had not adequately fulfilled his obligation to assist his client.

                          Unfortunately, Davidova should consider herself lucky. Seventy-three-year-old Yuri Soloshenko, the former director of the defense company Znamya who was accused of spying for Ukraine, was literally denied access to his private attorney, Ivan Pavlov, whom Soloshenko's sons hired to defend him. Police investigators simply blocked Pavlov from visiting Soloshenko in jail, forcing him to accept the services of a court-appointed lawyer, who rarely appeared or did any work. Soloshenko was told that adding a new lawyer to the case “could drag [it] out” while he remained behind bars.

                          As a result, Soloshenko refused the services of private counsel, completely admitted his guilt, and was sentenced in a closed courtroom on October 14 to six years in a high-security prison. He has since submitted an appeal for clemency.

                          Moscow State University student Varvara Karaulova is charged in connection with her attempt to join the Islamic State. All of the testimony needed for the investigation was given under the advisement of her state-appointed lawyer. The events in the case followed an already well-rehearsed formula: Karaulova’s relatives signed agreements with several private attorneys, but, for undisclosed reasons, they were not allowed to meet their client. Most of the investigation took place without the private attorneys' input, which will clearly have significant consequences for her sentencing.

                          The lawyers’ community finally lost its patience after the case of Dmitri Buchenkov, who was recently charged in the so-called Bolotnoe Affair. He was arrested on December 2, 2015, under suspicion of involvement in unrest during an opposition rally in Moscow in May 2012. The day after his arrest, his family enlisted the services of lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina, but she was unable to make contact with Buchenkov, who was refused his right to a phone call, and his relatives did not have the investigator’s number. Buchenkov was assigned a court-appointed defense attorney, who first didn't challenge his client's arrest, instead of requesting other terms from the judge. After the arrest, he informed Buchenkov’s relatives that any appeal of the court’s decision would have to be handled by their hired lawyer, as he had no desire to do it himself.

                          It was after this example in particular that several well-known lawyers—more than 70 from 19 regions of the Russian Federation—signed an appeal to the Council of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers, calling attention to the increasingly common practice of state investigative bodies violating people's right to good legal defense by forcing them to use corrupt lawyers. The same appeal was sent to the Moscow Chamber of Lawyers. “We’ve encountered a situation where, no court—not even the Constitutional Court—no prosecutor, and no investigator is in any way interested in the observance of the constitutional right of detained persons to their defense,” says one of the petition’s initiators, the head of the international human rights group “Agora,” Pavel Chikov. “It means that there is nobody to fall back on, anywhere in our law enforcement system. We have to come together ourselves. Our task is to lay out precise regulations for public defenders. We want to set the bar high enough that they can’t surpass it. [Every sanction] up to and including the threat of losing their status, that is the most grave punishment for them.”

                          The lawyers’ Code of Ethics states that the quality of free, court-appointed defense should not differ from a reliability standpoint from the quality provided by private attorneys.

                          In practice, an institution that was created to help lower-income citizens (with its analogue in countries around the world) has become an appendage of Russia's state prosecutors. Especially when it comes to controversial political cases, the only thing separating public defenders from the police is that they don't wear uniforms. Courts maintain the appearance that suspects' rights are being observed, but the confessions that detained persons give in the presence of their appointed defenders frequently leave committed lawyers in horror.

                          Looks like you've already got a lawyer
                          According to the code of criminal process, if someone detained has no lawyer, then the detective, investigator, or judge calls—as a rule—to the nearest bar association to ask the director to appoint a defender for the course of any investigation and the court hearing. The head of that association distributes appointments between its members. They do not have the right to refuse these case assignments.

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                          • Part 2

                            By law the public defender, upon taking the case, is compelled to ask relatives of the accused whether they have hired anybody else. If not, then the investigator or judge gives power of attorney to the court-appointed defender.

                            “The thing is, like Lenin said—‘the form is all correct, but the reality is a mockery,’” says Vladimir Gorelik, the chair of the Moscow firm Gorelik and Partners. “The defendant with state-appointed counsel finds himself in a kingdom of crooked mirrors. It’s as if he's got a lawyer, but in fact that lawyer's support for the interests of his client in the case is either faked or altogether absent.”

                            According to jurists, in practice investigators appoint the defender themselves, without waiting for the detained to choose. More than likely, the defender and investigator have worked together on previous cases, and the chosen lawyer is known to “play ball.”

                            “Each investigator has the cards of lawyers ready to serve by appointment on his desk, and they tend to have a comfortable working relationship,” says Andrei Grivtsov, former state investigator and now a partner with Zabeida, Kasatkin, Saushkin, and partners. “For the investigator, this comfort means the [appointed] lawyer is on call to take part in all investigative or processual meetings at any time, including the middle of the night, and is not going to take an active stance for the defense or appeal any rulings. Ideally, he’d simply sign all the documents without even looking.”

                            Any lawyers who might take a more active role—and inconvenience the prosecution—investigators simply stop appointing.

                            “One of the partners in my firm, Aleksandr Zabeida, started his career in exactly this position: state-appointed defender. He never conceded to the position of the prosecution, and as a result he was invited to work as court-appointed defense no more than once by each investigator,” explains Grivtsov.

                            For cases being pursued by Russia's Federal Security Service or the Main Investigative Directorate, there is a genuine, closed caste of appointed attorneys. Even well-known, experienced lawyers acknowledge that in this regard “the situation is unique and not altogether clear.” They admit that these cases are staffed by people with “particular” or even “affectionate” relationships with investigative or state security bodies.

                            Yet another huge problem relates to the difficulty privately retained counsel faces in quickly joining a case. If the person under arrest claims to have his own lawyer or asks to be in contact with relatives, this creates additional headaches for the investigator. The latter is primarily concerned with expediting as much as possible, to suit procedures that mandate two-day arrests.

                            So for the investigator, it is easier to file the necessary materials when they can write, “The contracted defense lawyer didn’t show up after all, and a public defender had to fill in for the initial stages,” though the attorney could be standing just outside the door in a police station or investigator's office at that very moment. Attorneys have to call the investigator personally to have them come out and let them in. Frequently, it’s impossible to get through, or the investigator’s colleagues say he is “busy and it’s unclear when he’ll be available.”

                            Lawyers surveyed by Meduza confirm that this is the general policy, officially sanctioned from on high.

                            Disappointed in the profession
                            The lawyers who work in unison with law enforcement agencies tend to be people who long ago became disillusioned with their profession, and now treat it with cynicism. Andrei Grivtsov suggests this disappointment comes to many as a result of the prosecutorial bias that is characteristic of the existing system of criminal investigation. Verdicts vindicating defendants are so rare that many lawyers work years on end without winning a case.

                            For that reason, some lawyers—seeing no point in contesting the actions of the investigator—choose the simpler path: collaborating and signing off on any necessary documents.

                            Aleksei Miroshnichenko, a lawyer and formerly Moscow's chief bailiff, remembers that defenders in Soviet times were happy to pull on-call duty, as it was a way to find new clients. The well-known lawyers bought their way out of this, which helped lawyers new to the job. It was these on-duty attorneys who defended suspects as necessary, on the basis of requests from courts and investigators. In practice, the lawyers simply cast lots to see who would get a client, but even then some investigators tried to mold themselves narrow, reliable circles of “close” lawyers. But this was significantly more complicated back then because an appointed lawyer had to come from a nearby region (not from the other side of the city). Otherwise it would look too suspicious.

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                            • Part 3

                              Many Meduza sources further tied the low-quality work of public defenders to the mass influx of former police officers, prosecutors, and investigators into the legal profession, where they easily find a common language with their former colleagues.

                              Many of these lawyers have earned the nickname “fixers.” Investigators can be sure they’ll encounter no problems whatsoever with them.

                              “In provincial regions, friendship with the investigator is an indispensable precondition to get anything done,” says Aleksandr Trifonov, an expert with the legal service “Already back in 2010, I was surprised to find that all of the officers at a district police station carried the cards of one and the same lawyer—literally, they all had his card.”
                              Who are these people?

                              Highly-qualified and active lawyers generally shy away from work as state-appointed defenders on criminal cases. They are already in high demand, busy working under contract with clients.

                              The call for work as public defender usually goes to specialists who maintain certain relationships with investigators and judges—to attorneys who don’t have an active or well-paid practice of their own.

                              Since such lawyers aren’t receiving compensation from their clients, they tend to be passive, even poorly acquainted with the case materials. Most of their work boils down to giving a single piece of advice to their their defendants: confess your guilt and they’ll give you a reduced sentence.

                              “These people are even worse than the employees of the law enforcement agencies,” says lawyer and bankruptcy specialist Aleksei Nikolaev. “After all, the suspect needs at least somebody they can trust, some help they can depend on. And the state seems to be providing that kind of help—free of charge, even—when in fact the accused gets the inescapable stab in the back.”

                              State-appointed lawyers frequently serve as a kind of middleman between investigating authorities and the suspect in a case, conveying to their client through one channel or another financial propositions in exchange for softer sentencing or other preferential treatment. Another Meduza source, lawyer Suren Avanesian, adds that such defenders understand the situation perfectly: if they demand the observance of their client’s rights, then they won’t be invited back the next time by the investigator and they’ll lose their main source of income.

                              What they're paid
                              Compensation for the work of appointed lawyers is designated by government resolution and orders of the Ministers of Justice and Finance. For one working day, public defenders are due no less than 275 ($3.50) and no more than 1,100 rubles ($14). For particularly sensitive cases (for example, those under statutes for treason, espionage, or terrorism), maximum wages increase to 1,200 rubles ($15) per diem. Nighttime work draws a double rate. Time spent is measured in days during which a lawyer was occupied with fulfilling case duties. If the lawyer spent just one or two hours on matters under investigation, then it counts as if they worked the entire day.

                              In addition to the state budget, pay for the labor of appointed attorneys also comes from the distribution of funds from within the legal community. Lawyers unwilling to work by court appointment pay a designated monthly contribution from their private fees to pay lawyers who serve as public defenders.

                              According to attorneys, working a single case in the pretrial phase can produce significant earnings—$5,000 and up (all the more so, if it’s a complex case with a preliminary investigation that drags out over nearly a year). Moreover, lawyers that work well with investigators cash in from amassing as many cases as they can for themselves. And it doesn't seem to bother these defenders very much how these cases turn out.

                              How much they're valued
                              As Pavel Chikov told Meduza, the authors of the appeal to the Federal Council of Lawyers tried not to generalize, given that public defenders—like privately retained lawyers—vary. Both groups include some people with integrity and others are less honorable. “As lawyers we accept this sad fact like the saying ‘there’s a freak in every family.’ They are traitors to the profession, but there are still not so many of them. The situation must be observed dispassionately,” he says.

                              According to Chikov, there are many who worked in their time as public defenders among the signatories of the appeal.

                              Other jurists who signed the petition also say that labeling appointed defenders as an “arm of the investigation” is an oversimplification. They claim that lawyers would only openly and directly act in the interests of the investigator when participating in a direct conspiracy with clear material implications, in which the corrupt lawyer more often than not needs to convince their client that it is against their own interests to obstruct the investigator.

                              Such a lawyer might also serve as a spy for the investigator, passing along information given by their client in confidence.

                              “These situations are the most repugnant, as they represent a direct betrayal and discredit the community of lawyers,” says Aleksei Miroshnichenko. “Yet in the grand scheme of things they aren’t all that common. And it’s not like the participation of a traitorous lawyer is a necessary precondition in all, shall we say, ‘bought’ cases. The investigators can fabricate it all even without them.”

                              The view from the inside
                              The protocol for appointing state attorneys in Moscow courts differs somewhat from that of preliminary investigations. Judges do not call upon specific lawyers they know, but simply send a message to the chamber of lawyers without participating in the selection of a convenient candidate.

                              “The Tverskoy district court has an enormous workload," one public defender told Meduza. Its territory includes a long list of agencies, police branches, facilities, and services. “Accordingly, requests from investigators regarding pretrial restrictions or extension of arrest terms are reviewed here; it’s a tremendous volume. Consider this example: the court gets a petition from the investigator about extending the arrest of a suspect who has hired a defense lawyer. The judge informs this contracted lawyer that the petition will be reviewed in court within seven days. At the allotted day and time, he appears in court to find that the accused still hasn't arrived from the detention facility, as the same car transports several suspects to various district courts, getting stuck in Moscow traffic en route. Let’s say instead of 11 a.m., they are only delivered at 2 p.m. For that reason, the judge hears other cases involving other people, and the whole schedule breaks down. The contracted lawyer sits for several hours waiting. And, in addition to this, he has other cases slated for hearings. So he leaves court, having waited for nothing.”

                              As a result, the hearing takes place much later and with an appointed defender who can’t simply get up and leave (this is forbidden under Russian law). This attorney is also reluctant to participate in a case about which he knew nothing until just a few hours earlier. The scheme that then unfolds is quite simple: the court-appointed lawyer files a motion stating the case cannot be reviewed without the hired lawyer. The judge denies the motion on the grounds that the hired defender was duly informed of the time and place of the case under review, and then he makes his ruling: an extension of the suspect's pretrial detention. The rights of the accused, in this manner, are left without any real defense. It is only later, upon appeal, that the privately retained counsel might contest the decision.

                              “Take effective measures”
                              Lawyers who work under private agreements consider it vital on principle to rule out the possibility that investigators could choose lawyers at their own convenience.

                              In their appeal, they call for the adoption of a practice of electronic, randomized assignment of cases amongst lawyers from each chamber assigned to a given investigative organization.

                              Similar rules are already being instated in a few lawyers’ chambers in some regions throughout the country. Moreover, they say, the system could be designed such that the investigator contacts the association in real time, with an available lawyer sent their way within 30 minutes.

                              That way, the lawyers who signed the petition are certain, personal relationships between an investigator and defender can be ruled out.

                              The Federal Chamber of Lawyers has confirmed that it received the appeal from the group demanding better regulation of the work of public defenders. “We are in touch with the Council’s Secretariat,” says Pavel Chikov. “They say they intend to deal with Dmitri Buchenkov's [Bolotnoe Delo] case, as well as more generally with other similar complaints.”

                              The chamber did indeed commit to opening disciplinary action against the defender assigned to Buchenkov, but that seems to be the most the chamber can do on its own initiative. Their press release in response to the lawyers’ appeal concludes with a call to the heads of Russia's investigative agencies and courts to “take effective measures to rule out the possibility of cooperation between dishonest representatives of those institutions and the lawyers they appoint.”

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                              • U.S. Fortifying Europe’s East to Deter Putin
                                NY TIMES MARK LANDLER & HELENE COOPER FEB. 1, 2016

                                WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.

                                The White House plans to pay for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, several officials said Monday, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million. The weapons and equipment will be used by American and NATO forces, ensuring that the alliance can maintain a full armored combat brigade in the region

                                Though Russia’s military activity has quieted in eastern Ukraine in recent months, Moscow continues to maintain a presence there, working with pro-Russian local forces. Administration officials said the additional NATO forces were calculated to send a signal to President Vladimir V. Putin that the West remained deeply suspicious of his motives in the region.

                                “This is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official said. “This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor.”

                                It is not clear how Russia will react to the fortified military presence along NATO’s eastern flank. Since the signing of a cease-fire agreement last year, Mr. Putin’s government has tried to ease tensions with the West. Officials said the Russian government was eager for the United States and Europe to roll back economic sanctions, which suggested that it would not escalate tensions over the new military commitments.

                                But outside analysts were surprised by the magnitude of the increase in military funding for Europe, which is part of an overall budget request of $580 billion for the Pentagon. Mr. Obama, according to a defense official, is also going to ask Congress for a 35 percent increase — $7 billion — to fight Islamic State militants.

                                Some analysts said the increased funding and deployments would certainly rattle Russia. Among the countries where the equipment and additional forces could be deployed are Hungary, Romania and the Baltic countries, Pentagon officials said.

                                “This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow,” said Evelyn N. Farkas, who until October was the Pentagon’s top policy official on Russia and Ukraine. “It’s a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”

                                While the increase in funding for Europe is significant, the administration is proposing that the money come from a separate war-funding account that is meant to pay for operations in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the continued American military presence in Afghanistan. That means it is a one-time request, not necessarily a continuing commitment built in to budget requests beyond 2017, officials said.

                                “It’s a way to get around the budget caps” imposed on the Pentagon, said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

                                But, Mr. Harrison added, the budget workaround may not succeed in reassuring fretful Eastern European allies because it leaves the decision on what do about future military spending in Europe for the next administration.

                                “If you want to be reassuring to our allies in Europe,” he said, “you’ve got to show you’ve got a future plan.”

                                Administration officials said the new investments were not just about deterring Russia. The weapons and equipment could also be deployed along NATO’s southern flank, where they could help in the fight against the Islamic State or in dealing with the influx of migrants from Syria.

                                “Initially, we were focusing on reassurance,” said one of the senior officials, who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal military planning. “But while that was happening, we were stepping back and asking how to address the changed environment in a more programmatic and consistent way.”

                                Still, there is no doubt the primary target of the funding is Russia. Administration officials said that two years after its annexation of Crimea — an annexation that neither the United States nor its European allies recognize — it was imperative to send Moscow a message that NATO will do all it needs to do in order to stand behind Eastern European members worried that they could be next.

                                Russia has invested heavily in its military, transforming a cumbersome, Soviet-style army into a lighter, more flexible force, with the ability to carry out rapid interventions. That, combined with Mr. Putin’s willingness to use the military to expand Russia’s influence outside its borders, necessitated a stronger deterrent force, officials said.

                                “Applying this budget to Europe fulfills promises we’ve made to NATO on the collective defense of the alliance,” a senior defense official said Monday. “But it also shows our commitment and resolve to individual countries to which we will be putting a persistent rotational presence of forces to demonstrate our resolve in their, and our, collective defenses.”

                                He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the budget.

                                The official said the Pentagon wanted a “heel to toe” rotational troop presence in Eastern Europe, meaning that there would always be the equivalent of a brigade in the region. Under a 1997 agreement known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act, both sides pledged not to station large numbers of troops along their respective borders.

                                Administration officials said they were confident that the new deployments would not be seen as breaching that agreement. In any event, Poland and the Baltic States argue that Russia’s incursion in Ukraine was a clear violation of the act, and that NATO should no longer abide by it.

                                Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Brussels two weeks ago at a NATO defense meeting, where Eastern European countries again expressed concerns about Russia. In particular, representatives from the Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have been asking for a big statement of American military support, officials said.

                                “This is a message that we see what they’re capable of, and what their political leadership is willing to do,” said another senior administration official, in a reference to Russia.

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