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  • REUTERS Aug 30, 2016 12:38pm EDT
    Ukraine 'very close' to getting next IMF loan tranche: FinMin

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is very close to releasing a tranche of aid that would unlock around $2 billion in extra money, Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk said on Tuesday.

    A $17.5 billion bailout program has helped Ukraine pull itself out of two years of economic recession caused by a separatist conflict in its industrial east. But a third tranche has been delayed since last October due to political upheaval and patchy reform progress.

    "We are very close and that's important for us because its an important signal for the markets, for investors and it unlocks other financial support," Danylyuk told Reuters in an interview in Berlin where he was due to meet his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble.

    Danylyuk declined to be more specific on the timing of the tranche, originally envisaged worth $1.7 billion but now expected to be around $1 billion. But he said that once the IMF had released it, the Ukraine would receive $1 billion for the budget which would be guaranteed by the United States.

    In addition, there would be other financial assistance of 600 million euros and some loans for purchasing gas.

    Months of political infighting have held up IMF-backed legislative changes aimed at limiting the power of vested interests and modernizing the economy.

    Danylyuk said the launch of an e-declaration system to improve transparency of the income and assets of public officials, linked to the IMF deal, would go smoothly after some problems this month.

    "On Sept. 1 this system will be launched fully, which is in line with all our international obligations. And, what is more important, which is in line with our ambitions," he said.

    Asked about what the effect would be if the IMF did not release the tranche, Danylyuk said he was not worried.

    "We would have some payments which are due, which we could pay. We have no problems with that at the moment. The most important issue is that ... we need a decision of the board that our cooperation continues and that we are working as partners to implement reforms which are important for Ukraine."

    Danylyuk said the Ukraine government was committed to implementing a wide-ranging reform agenda. First, an energy reform must be completed, including the full market liberalisation of the gas sector from April followed by a market reform of the electricity market.

    Other priorities include overhauls in Ukraine's health and education systems, as well as a budget reform.

    "We need (reforms) on a number of issues, we can't just do one reform a year," he said. Ukraine 'very close' to getting next IMF loan tranche: FinMin | Reuters

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    • REUTERS Erik Kirschbaum & Andrea Shalal BERLIN Aug 30, 2016
      Merkel admits mistakes made in Germany, EU with refugee crisis

      Germany and other European Union countries turned a blind eye to the refugee crisis building on its external borders for too long, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a German newspaper interview to be published on Wednesday.

      Merkel, who has faced criticism in Germany for launching her policies of welcoming refugees a year ago, also told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Germany and the EU will need patience and endurance in dealing with migration of people to Europe.

      "There are political issues that one can see coming but don't really register with people at that certain moment - and in Germany we ignored both the problem for too long and blocked out the need to find a pan-European solution," she said.

      Merkel made the comments in an unusually self-critical analysis that appeared to be timed to the one-year anniversary on Wednesday of her now-famous statement "wir schaffen das", or "we can do this", when asked about the rising tide of refugees.

      Her conservative party is expected to take a beating in two regional elections next month in part due to her refugee policies.

      She said Germany, which has taken in most of the more than 1 million refugees from the Middle East and Asia who arrived in the EU in the past year, had let Spain and other EU border countries deal with the refugees on their own.

      "Back then, we also rejected a proportional distribution of the refugees," she said.

      Merkel said Germany had not supported models such as the Frontex European border agency that would have impinged on the sovereignty of the EU member states. "We said we would deal with the problem at our airports since we don't have any other external EU boundaries. But that doesn't work."

      The three-term chancellor said refugees will be a long-term issue.

      "We didn't embrace the problem in an appropriate way," she added. "That goes as well for protecting the external border of the Schengen area," she said, referring to the EU's passport-free and frontier-free zone.

      Merkel said the EU needed to improve cooperation with and dramatically increase development aid to countries in Africa as well as Turkey and other troubled regions.

      Merkel said Germany had long been content to focus on other problems after years of welcoming refugees from the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. "I cannot deny that," she said.

      She admonished German politicians to express themselves in moderate terms and not participate in the current ratcheting up of rhetoric about threats.

      A number of Germans had always had a certain racism toward foreigners and were willing to commit violent acts for that cause, but that tendency had grown over the past year, she said.

      The German leader, the daughter of pastor, also cautioned against equating all migrants with terrorists. "It's simply incorrect to say that terrorism came only with the refugees," she said. "It was already here in myriad forms and with the various potential attackers that we have been watching." Merkel admits mistakes made in Germany, EU with refugee crisis | Reuters

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      • Russia’s War in Ukraine: The Medals and Treacherous Numbers
        BELLINGCAT August 31, 2016
        Translations:

        The war in eastern Ukraine is known under multiple names; most often formulations similar to Ukrainian civil war or Ukrainian conflict are still used to describe the war. The implied characteristic as solely internal Ukrainian conflict is heavily disputed and an active Russian participation is widely accepted. While there is now plentiful evidence documenting a direct and decisive participation of Russian servicemen and the Russian armed forces in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since summer 2014, it is however not possible to support the various claims about the size of the Russian involvement using public available information.

        Given the nature of open source evidence, it is near impossible to provide an exact number of Russian servicemen participating in the fighting in eastern Ukraine only relying on this type of information. The open source research done by @Askai707 and InformNapalm strongly suggest that – at minimum – hundreds of Russian servicemen were involved in the fighting so far. The most direct evidence could be provided by the Russian bureaucracy. However, such an information is also most likely a Russian state secret and not publicly available. Other information, similar to official statistics, would also allow an estimation of the number of involved Russian servicemen. Such information is available in previously published individual cases of Russian servicemen.

        Previous published analyses identified Russian servicemen who published imagery of awarded medals. This imagery is valuable because most of the higher Russian medals have a consecutive numbering, explicitly stating the number of medals awarded so far. Therefore, imagery from two medals awarded at different dates allows us to calculate the number of awarded medals between both dates. Awards of four medals are analyzed in this report. It is possible to demonstrate that the number of awarded medals, compared to the years before 2014, suddenly and strongly increased in 2014 and 2015. The large number of awarded medals “For Distinction in Combat”, 4300 awards between 07.11.2014 and 18.02.2016, strongly suggests larger combat operations with active Russian military involvement in this period. In sum, the data suggests that more than ten thousand medals of all four considered types were awarded in the considered period. Therefore, it can be directly concluded that:

        Thousands of Russian servicemen participated in 2014 and 2015 in combat operations and were awarded with medals for their actions in these operations.

        Because of the evidence presented in preceding reports documenting the presence of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in eastern Ukraine and its participating in the fighting, and because it is a rather unrealistic assumption that every Russian serviceman participating or involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine has been awarded with one of the discussed medals, it is possible to conclude:

        ---Most likely far more than ten thousand Russian servicemen participated in combat operations in eastern Ukraine.
        ---Most likely tens of thousands Russian servicemen participated in or contributed to the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

        In sum, the findings of this report support the claims that thousands of Russian servicemen were active in eastern Ukraine. With these findings, it is also possible to strongly increase the lower data-based estimate of Russian servicemen involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine using only open source information. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-a...erous-numbers/

        FULL REPORT https://www.bellingcat.com/wp-conten...sNumbers-4.pdf

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        • The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore
          The Morning Vertical, August 31, 2016

          In most countries, the revelations in opposition figure Ilya Yashin's new report, The Criminal Party of Russia, which alleges close ties between the ruling United Russia party and organized crime, would be a sensation. In Vladimir Putin's Russia, they pretty much describe business as usual.

          As political analyst Vladimir Pastukhov notes in a piece featured below, the dynamism and longevity of the Putin regime is partially the result of a fusion of the formal institutions of the state with informal networks of officials and criminals. In this system, Putin is both the head of state and the godfather of the mob. Or as Pastukhov puts it, "Both the prince of light and the prince of darkness."

          So it is hardly a shocker that Russia's ruling party is infested with criminals.

          IN THE NEWS
          Opposition figure Ilya Yashin has published a new report accusing Russia's ruling United Russia party of having close ties to organized crime.

          A Russian man wanted by the United States for alleged money laundering and illegal arms sales has left Armenia after being briefly detained in Yerevan.

          Russia has questioned a report by the United Nations that blames Syrian government forces for two chlorine gas attacks and said the UN Security Council cannot use the conclusions to impose sanctions.

          Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected reports in U.S. media that Russia may have been involved in hacking into online voting systems in the United States ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.

          Dozens of Chechens are camping in Belarus at the border with Poland, complaining that they are "refugees" who are being prevented from entering the EU-member country by Polish authorities.

          A court in Russia has jailed a Russian man for fighting against Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk.

          The Kremlin has announced that Putin will visit Japan in December as Moscow and Tokyo strive to ease tensions over disputed islands.

          IKEA has warned it could delay planned investment in Russia after a court ordered it to pay millions of dollars in damages in a long-running legal dispute. The Morning Vertical, August 31, 2016

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          • RADIO FREE EUROPE August 31, 2016
            Kremlin Dismisses U.S. Suspicions Russia Hacked Into Online Voting Systems

            Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected reports in U.S. media that Russia may have been involved in hacking into online voting systems in the United States ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.

            Peskov said on August 30 that the reports were "absolutely unfounded" and "unsubstantiated," and that "as a whole, we don't consider it necessary to pay attention to this in any way."

            U.S. media reported on August 29 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found two U.S. states' online voting systems had been hacked and was urging all states to increase computer security before the election.

            The FBI's Cyber Division sent out an alert this month after Illinois and Arizona reported breaches. The alert comes as U.S. intelligence officials increasingly worry that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may attempt to disrupt the presidential election.

            Cybersecurity experts say recent breaches at the Democratic National Committee and elsewhere in the Democratic Party were likely carried out by people within the Russian government. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

            State voter databases typically include voters' names, home addresses, and other identifying information.

            Yahoo News reported on August 29 that Illinois's online voter registration system was shut down for 10 days in late July after hackers downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters.

            The Arizona attack was more limited and involved introducing malicious software into the voter registration system, Yahoo said.

            Concerns about election computer security prompted U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to recently offer to help states make their voting systems more secure. Kremlin Dismisses U.S. Suspicions Russia Hacked Into Online Voting Systems

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            • The Power Vertical Brian Whitmore Aug 21, 2016
              The Daily Vertical: War Games And Head Games
              The Daily Vertical: War Games And Head Games

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              • XINTERSECTION Olga Irisova 19 August 2016
                Where did the Russian “democrats” disappear to?
                25 years ago thousands of Russians took it to the streets, choosing democracy. Today, they are a part of Putin’s “majority”

                Outside observers might be surprised with the metamorphose of Russians’ consciousness and how quickly the society striving for democratic transformation in the 1990s has turned into a society that supports Putin’s authoritarian politics completely. Where did the people, who 25 years ago, in August 1991 stood for the ideas of freedom, protesting the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) in Moscow, Leningrad (that a few weeks later became Saint-Petersburg), Novosibirsk, Tyumen, Nizhny Novgorod and in other Russian cities, go?

                It is more or less clear what has happened to the politicians and para-political figures: some switched to the opposition, turned to the “dark side”, left the country, or became the “systemic liberals”. It is a bit more complicated with the “average” Russian – why did he suddenly give up on democratic ideals? The answer to this questions, in my opinion, stems from the fact that the belief that Russia had a significant amount of pro-democratic (and especially pro-liberal) minded people in the 1990s is simply wrong.

                According to the polls of the time, in the 1990s, the orientation on rapprochement with the West, or even integration of Russia into the western world, development of the nation based on western model was widespread. The ideal future of Russia was seen as the state with market economy, democratic institutions and human rights. But these moods reflected the desire for a quick change rather than inherent worth and understating of democratic principles. Democracy, for the majority of Russians was not a goal, but rather a synonym of western prosperity. That is why it is not surprising that any method of achieving the desired change (read – better life conditions) was acceptable, and the democratic dreaming following the political will of the state turned into anti-westernism, a desire to come back to state planning, distribution in the economy, and to fence off the “hostile” outer world.

                In the case of Russia, the provider of Russians’ sudden enrichment was the global market, the dynamics of energy prices. But since the period of high oil prices occurred during Putin’s first two terms it formed a false causation in the mass consciousness – Putin was solely responsible for the economic leap forward. Thus, it was Putin personally who, according to a great deal of Russians, satisfied the demand for change that existed in the 1990s. Using what means – democratic or not – is irrelevant. It is then no surprise that the events of August 19-21 of 1991 – coup attempt and thousands of people on the streets ready to protect democracy (of course in the way they understood it) – turned out to be unwanted for the formation of political identity of post-soviet Russians and were excluded from public discourse. This is proven by the Levada-center’s data, according to which, back in 2001 Russians still considered the coup attempt as the key event of 1991, while today it is the least popular answer.

                One needs to take a closer look in the question of those that in 90s considered themselves democrats and “westerners” and today form part of the so-called Putin majority. There are three groups among them:

                Passive subordinates (temporizers)
                The biggest in numbers and least politically determined, this group is characterized by the “mimicry” the “majority”. Catching the Perestroika winds, they superficially accepted the democratic rhetoric and pro-western moods. When the discourse changed and pro-Kremlin media actively started to introduce “The West as an enemy” image, as well as the idea that Russia has to develop differently from the West via its own path, they changed their views. This model of social adaptation, aimed at contiguity to “majority” is a direct legacy of the Soviet era where it was universally feared to have an opinion different from the officially approved one as it could trigger the interest of the government, leading to undesirable consequences.

                Contemporary propaganda actively uses this deeply-rooted fear in the mass consciousness behavioral pattern, appealing to the majority, to the herd instinct – a technique that among Clyde Miller’s “7 sins of propaganda” is known as “Bandwagon”. The media constantly highlights the support of the government by the majority of population, portraying the few who oppose the government as servants of foreign states. This is why it is not surprising that are only a few people willing to join the oppressed “objectors”.

                At the same time, we can’t be certain how honest “temporizers” are about their support of the regime – they vote in the way that they are told and even reply to the sociologists’ questions using the known templates of what is acceptable as an answer. One thing we know for sure is that if the Kremlin’s propaganda machine falters tomorrow, the voices of the discontented are heard, and it becomes evident that they are not merely a tiny bunch of “foreign agents”, but a considerable mass of economically disadvantaged Russians, the following day these “passive subordinates” could very well join them and recall the moods that dominated in the 1990s. This possibility was perfectly demonstrated by the head of socio-cultural research at Russia's Levada-Center Alexei Levinson, describing his meeting with a perestroika times focus group. According to him, upon their first meeting (early democratic days) democratic views prevailed - people were eager to join the market and were hopeful about the future of the country. Years later, meeting with the very same people, Levinson has noticed considerable changes. Instead of democratic views came the grandpowerness rhetoric, instead of self-respect came the damning of the “enemies”. This story is quite typical, but is very rich and revealing. Addressing Levinson’s surprises “turned grandpowerness acolyte” replied the following: “Well, you know, the time is different now. But we will return to that time and we will start thinking the same way again”. This phrase has pretty much everything that any Russia observer needs to know about the Putin’s “majority”.

                Internal migrants
                Contrary to the previous group, internal migrants are more skeptical about the developments in the country. They are potential oppositionists that have for one reason or another chosen the strategy of avoiding active political involvement. Many authors (for example Pomerants in “Notes of an Ugly Duckling” and Cohen in “Symbolic Construction of Community”) characterize an internal migrant as a person that disapproves of the politics of the state but wears the “mask of solidarity” with the majority on public. This definition, in my opinion, is relevant for the states with well-functioning repressive mechanisms such as Stalin’s USSR or Nazi Germany. In today’s Russia, it is enough to avoid a certain number of issues (not to cross a line, as the editors of certain outlets put it) – there is no demand for demonstration of absolute loyalty yet. That is why an internal migrant of Putin’s Russia is different from the Soviet one – he does not pretend to love the regime, he only stresses the indifference to politics in general and the desire to work on his own quality of life rather than the affairs of the state. Among this category certain beliefs prevail, such as “politics is a dirty business”, “everybody steals”, “everybody lies”, “one can’t change the system, thus one should work on individual well-being” (73% are convinced that they can’t affect the situation in the state, while 99% of Russians feel responsible for their families). Most of the time, these people stop following the news altogether, prefer not to discuss political matters with family and friends, since it would only increase their inner discontent, but they are not ready to protest publically. The bottom line is that their public silence plays to the Kremlin, amplifying the visibility of public consensus.

                The disappointed
                The disappointed in democracy and liberalism are the victims of their own overestimated expectations and substitution of meanings. For them it seems that choosing a western direction of development meant everything would magically be made great. In reality, the 90s brought a series of banking crises, a considerable number of Russian citizens had their salaries delayed for months, and 1998 brought one of the heaviest economic crisis. All of that was attributed by the “disappointed” to the consequences of democracy and liberal freedoms. For an outside observer it would be clear that liberal democracy was only proclaimed, but not institutionalized. Later on, using loyal media, political scientists and public figures, Putin was able to definitively discredit the liberal discourse, connecting it to the worst associations from the 90s - widespread crime, anarchy, impoverishment, and more. In recent years, propaganda has created and spread the belief that the liberal cannot be a patriot of Russia, attacking individual liberals as the enemy. This idea became popularalized, merging with the previously crafted negative evaluation of the “liberalism” of the 1990s. Compared to “temporizers” and “internal immigrants”, the “disappointed” are the actual active Putin supporters who truly believe Moscow’s propaganda myths. It is unclear though, how strong their faith is going to be should another economic collapse happen. It seems that their loyalty is assured with a guarantee of a minimal level of stability. These guarantees cost a lot to Moscow. Meanwhile the Kremlin coffers are drying up...
                Where did the Russian “democrats” disappear to? | Intersection

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                • UT UKRAINE TODAY Aug. 31, 2016
                  EU set to prolong sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

                  Sources told RFE/RL that the decision will be taken ahead of the deadline without much discussion

                  European Union ambassadors appear set to prolong asset freezes and visa bans against 146 individuals and 37 entities that, according to the EU, are responsible for actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity, RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak has reported from Brussels.

                  EU sources have told RFE/RL that the decision to prolong the measures by six months will be taken ahead of a September 15 deadline without much discussion.

                  The targets of the sanctions include companies in Crimea and various battalions formed by the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, as well as Russian politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Dmitry Kiselyov, a state media executive and presenter whom many regard as the Kremlin's chief propagandist.

                  The sanctions were first introduced in March 2014 after Russia's seizure and illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

                  The EU's economic sanctions that target Russia's energy, military, and financial sectors are up for renewal on January 31.

                  EU sources told RFE/RL that those sectoral sanctions will be discussed at a Brussels summit of EU leaders in October.
                  Russia Sanctions: EU set to prolong sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

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                  • UT UKRAINE TODAY Aug. 31, 2016
                    Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania to adopt condemn Russia's invasion of 1939 (video)

                    Ukraine's Parliament Chairman initiates joint cooperation between Kyiv and Warsaw to avoid further misinterpretations

                    Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania are set to publish a joint declaration on Soviet invasion to Poland on September 17th, 1939. The initiative belongs to the Chairman of Ukraine's Parliament Andriy Parubiy. During his meeting with Marek Kuchciński, the Marshal of the Sejm in Poland. The functionaries of both countries claim two imperialistic regimes of USSR and Nazi Germany unleashed the war in Europe killing thousands of Ukrainians, Poles, and Lithuanians.

                    Ukraine promises to evaluate the scale of the Volyn' tragedy, previously recognised as genocide. In July the Polish Sejm adopted a resolution setting July 11th as the National Day of Remembrance for victims of the massacre. According to the text of the document, "citizens of the Second Republic were brutally murdered by Ukrainian nationalists".

                    Parubiy stresses both Poland and Ukraine are willing to launch a joint evaluation of the contradictory historical events in order to avoid any further discordances.

                    Andriy Parubiy, Chairman of Ukrainian Parliament: Mr Marek Kuchciński strongly supported me in my initiative to adopt a joint resolution. Tomorrow I am set to meet with my Lithuanian colleague who is anticipated to join us. The unity of three countries must help withstand new threats, as well as overcome some minor contradictions in historical interpretation. Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania unite: Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania to adopt condemn Russia's invasion of 1939 (video)

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                    • Three more danger signs regarding Putin’s intentions in Ukraine
                      EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/08/30

                      Whether Vladimir Putin will launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the near future or simply continue to engage in destabilizing saber-rattling to undermine Kyiv and distract Russians from their problems at home in advance of the State Duma elections and the international community from his actions is far from clear.

                      One survey of regional experts found no agreement on what the Kremlin leader may do next, instead concluding that with Putin, “it is possible to expect almost anything” given that he has made surprise and unpredictability the centerpieces of his approach to policy making.

                      But in the last 24 hours, three developments represent a further ramping up of tensions by the Kremlin, adding to those it has already put in place as a result of the new military maneuvers and the involvement of large parts of the civilian authorities in them. They thus deserve to be taken seriously even if they do not necessarily point to an expanded war.

                      First of all, the Kremlin’s favorite polling agency, VTsIOM, reported today that ever fewer Russians are paying attention to events in Ukraine and ever fewer back the regime’s support for the “DNR” and “LNR,” with some Russian analysts saying that Russians no longer view this conflict as “’the victory of good over evil.’”

                      Given how central that trope has been in Putin’s propaganda effort, it is entirely possible that he might think that a new round of aggression would refocus Russian attention on Ukraine and mobilize support for himself. It is unthinkable, given his nature, that he would back down and even implicitly acknowledge his errors and crimes.

                      Instead, this result almost certainly pushes Putin in the direction of redoubling his bets either in Ukraine or somewhere else.

                      Second, Sergey Markov, a Russian analyst with close ties to the Kremlin, says that the US is planning to commit aggression in Ukraine both to undermine the G-20 summit in Beijing and to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump.

                      Accusing Russia’s opponents of planning to do what Moscow in fact is planning to do is a standard operating procedure in the Orwellian world of Kremlin propaganda. And Markov is consistent not only with that trope but with another: he says that “Russia’s fate and to a large extent the fate of the world” is being decided in the Donbas.

                      And third, the Russian media are giving enormous play to reports from Kyiv that the Ukrainian army is mobilizing and that secret orders to that effect have already gone out to regional commanders.

                      Kyiv “is afraid of provocations. Where one will take place, in Crimea or in the Donbas is still not clear,” according to sources in the Ukrainian defense ministry cited by the Ukrainian media and replayed in the Russian media and a Ukrainian response that the Russian outlets are treating as suggesting that Ukrainian forces may advance.

                      That is part and parcel of the Markov line, but there is another aspect to this report that Moscow is playing up. The Polit.ru portal quotes Georgy Zhizhov of the Center for Political Technologies as saying that there is no need for Ukraine to mobilize because there is no threat, exactly the kind of calming message that an aggressor would put out before acting. Three more danger signs regarding Putin's intentions in Ukraine | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                      • ‘The Chechen War isn’t over’
                        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Paul A. Goble 2016/08/31

                        Moscow, Grozny and many in the West like to say that the Chechen war is a matter of history, but Madina Magomadova, the leader of the Mothers of Chechnya, points out that “the Chechen war isn’t over” because no war ends until the last victim is buried and its horrors pass from the memories of those who experienced it.

                        The Russian service of Radio France International features a remarkable interview with Magomadova, whom the station identifies as “virtually the last person” still living in Chechnya who “is ready to express an opinion different from that of the official point of view of the local authorities.”

                        She points out that in the first post-Soviet Chechen war, which was begun by Boris Yeltsin, 150,000 people died; and in the second, which was launched by Vladimir Putin, “more than 350,000,” staggering figures for a nation that numbered only approximately a million at the beginning of the 1990s.

                        Because of the extreme violence of these two conflicts, Magomadova continues, many who died remain missing. To help find their graves, she and her colleagues in early 1995 established the Mothers of Chechnya organization. At the time, she says, “we couldn’t imagine that we would have to work for so long.”

                        But far more Chechens suffered than died, she says, putting their number at 99 percent of the Chechen population. “If none of theirs died or went missing, they nonetheless lost their homes and their property and became artificially-created people without residences [in Russian, “bomzhi”] and have not been able to recover even now.

                        “I do not think that the war has concluded,” she says, despite calls by people around the world not to focus on its horrors and despite efforts by the authorities to act as if the rebuilding of apartments and stores is enough. It won’t be over, as Suvorov said, “until the last soldier who died in the war is buried.”

                        And the powers that be in Grozny and Moscow aren’t interested in helping: “Up to now no commission to search for people and determine their fate has been established,” Magomedova says.

                        In her view, there should be a federal commission like the Truth Commission in South Africa; and until such a commission is set up and operates, until an exhumation laboratory is established in Grozny, “the war for those families who have lost loved ones will continue” long into the future.

                        The Mothers of Chechnya leader notes that “when we studied in school, we were told that the First Caucasus War lasted 25 years,” a seemingly impossible length of time. But now the post-Soviet Chechen War has lasted that long, whatever anyone says, “and for me,” she adds, “it has not ended.”

                        The government program for rebuilding Grozny is called “’No Trace of the War.’” It is supposed to remove everything that reminds people about the conflict. But that is impossible: “memory remains.” And so too do the ruins, if one goes as little as 2000 meters from the center of the city, one sees that the destruction has not been touched.

                        Kadyrov and his regime “have tried to hide the traces of the war in the center, but even if you don’t see them,” Magomedova says, “they remain in the consciousness of people, in their memories. They remain even in the memory of those young children who then were all of five or six. They remember everything.”

                        Magomadova is absolutely right that most of the world has “moved on” and no longer talks about the Chechen war, why it happened, and who is to blame. But there are some exceptions, including the work of a remarkable pléiade of young Russian historians who are now focusing on the conflict because they recognize that the present and future emerge from the past.

                        The conclusions of some of them are presented in a new 9150-word article on the Polit.ru portal entitled “Chechnya in Russia: Nationalism and Statehood?” Among the most interesting and intriguing of their findings are these:

                        --The Soviet system imposed a national identity based on language on many non-Russians who until that time had identified themselves primarily on the basis of religion or clans. The situation with the Chechens and Ingush represents a kind of exception because there is little difference in the languages of the two. But there is an important political one: “the Chechens decided to fight with Russia in the 19th century, but the Ingush did not.”
                        --“Perestroika was above all about de-institutionalization. The institutes of state power simply fell apart or even ceased to exist … Under these conditions, the Chechens were in a better position than the Russians even when they were in Russian cities because the Chechens could ‘resolve’ problems’” on the basis of earlier clan relations. The Russians, however, had to rely on the state, and so when the state collapsed, they were in “a very bad way.”
                        --The Soviet system set the stage for what has happened since 1991. In Tatarstan, Moscow allowed Tatars to take control of the key jobs, but in Chechnya, these remained in Russian hands. That meant that after 1991, the Tatar leadership consisted of people Moscow could work with, while in Chechnya, the Russians left and the new Chechen leaders were people Russians couldn’t find a common language with.
                        ---The post-Soviet Chechen wars, like the deportations earlier, “strongly changed the character of [Chechen] society, intensifying the anti-Russian component in Chechen identity.” And this had the effect not so much of strengthening Chechen national identity but of causing the Chechens to fall back on their earlier identities of religion and clan.
                        ---In Chechnya today, “for the first time in history a strong state, the Chechen Republic, has emerged. This is already not the Chechen-Ingush Republic or an Islamic state … but a state more or less limited to the Chechen nationality which is quite effective in that it really has a monopoly on legitimate force. The ideology of this state is Islam.’
                        ---The parade of sovereignties by the non-Russian republics in the Russian SFSR also played a role in developments after 1991. Had this movement, which was inspired by Gorbachev and Yeltsin albeit for different reasons, not occurred, Russian federalism and the Russian state would have become very different than they are.
                        ---Russia’s loss in the first Chechen war led other regions to pursue greater independence thus threatening the demise of the Russian Federation. Russia’s victory in the second war showed that Moscow was not prepared to tolerate that and also showed that most of the regional leaders outside of Chechnya were not prepared to do anything to block Moscow when it showed its willingness to use force.
                        ---Nonetheless, Moscow’s victory in the second war, while enormous as far as the rest of Russia is concerned, was less than complete in Chechnya itself. Russia did become a unitary state, but Russia’s relations with Chechnya have become personal, not federal. What is more important, Moscow is not in a position to change that.
                        ---The reason for that is simple, these Russian historians say: “The present-day Chechen state is stronger than the Russian one,” and both Moscow and Grozny recognize that fact.
                        ‘The Chechen War isn’t over’ | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                        • Russia’s Supreme Court rules that the USSR did not invade Poland in 1939
                          02.09.16 | Halya Coynash HUMAN RIGHTS IN UKRAINE

                          http://khpg.org/files/photos/1472776109.jpg
                          Russia’s Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Perm blogger Vladimir Luzgin for reposting a text which states that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. The Supreme Court’s ruling came on September 1, 2016, the 77th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, 17 days before the anniversary of the Soviet invasion from the east.

                          Henry Reznik, the well-known lawyer who was representing Luzgin, commented that the Supreme Court has discredited itself through this ruling and promised to appeal further. He added that an application to the European Court of Human Rights was simply demanded.

                          As reported here, 37-year-old Vladimir Luzgin was convicted in July this year by the Perm District Court and fined 200 thousand roubles. The charge was under Article 354.1 of Russia’s criminal code (‘rehabilitation of Nazism’) and concerned Luzgin’s repost of a text on his VKontakte social network page entitled ’15 facts about Bandera supporters, or what the Kremlin is silent about’.

                          The Russian prosecutor initiated the criminal proceedings against Luzgin because of the following paragraph in the repost:

                          “The communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland, sparking off the Second World War. That is, communism and Nazism closely collaborated, yet for some reason they blame Bandera who was in a German concentration camp for declaring Ukrainian independence”.

                          Russia’s Supreme Court has now agreed that this paragraph constitutes “the public denial of the Nuremberg Trials and circulation of false information about the activities of the USSR during the years of the Second World War”.

                          It is hard to know what is most shocking in all of this. A prime contender must be Alexander Vertinsky, dean of the History Faculty of the Perm Humanitarian-Pedagogical University. He proved willing to appear for the prosecution and claim that the paragraph really did contain “statements that do not correspond with the position accepted at international level”.

                          There are also two Russian courts willing to agree that since the Nuremberg Trials did not mention the Soviet invasion, that the information was ‘knowingly false’. With the Soviet Union as conquering state largely calling the shots at Nuremberg, it was highly unlikely that Soviet collaboration with the Nazis and its invasion would get a mention.

                          The rulings are extraordinarily cynical. Whatever was said at Nuremberg, any genuine historian will confirm that the Soviet Union invaded what was then Poland on September 17, 1939.

                          To deny this is absurd when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols which carved up Poland between the Soviet Union and Germany have long been in the public domain, and can be read about in any history book.

                          Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this is that the Perm ‘historian’, the courts, the prosecutor are doubtless well aware of the historical facts. Luzgin has more than likely been prosecuted for revealing inconvenient facts, and they have all proven complicit in this cynical travesty.

                          The bill outlawing something dubbed ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’ has been in force since May 2014. It claims to be aimed at opposing the glorification of Nazism and distortion of historical memory. The renowned Sova Centre disagrees and believes its aim is to prohibit historical discussion.

                          In parallel with its military aggression against Ukraine, the Kremlin has been trying to reinstate the Soviet narrative about the Second World War in which details of the first almost 2 years during which the Soviet Union was Hitler’s ally are blurred, and the collaboration justified.

                          At a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 10, 2015, Putin defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, claiming that the Soviet Union was being left to face Hitler’s Germany by itself. Russia’s culture minister Vladimir Medinsky called the pact a "colossal achievement of Stalin’s diplomacy."

                          Then on September 20, 2015, Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela Vladimir Zayemsky claimed that the Soviet Union did not invade Poland on Sept 17, 1939 and that it was in fact Poland, not the USSR, that collaborated with Nazi Germany. He wrote that “the alleged invasion by Soviet forces of Poland in 1939 is a lie” and went on to claim that although Poland was the first victim of WWII, it tried to be “Hitler’s faithful ally” in the period before the War. “It was Warsaw’s pro-fascist stand which made a treaty of cooperation between the USSR, Czechoslovakia and France impossible”, he alleged. The same offensive attempts to rewrite history were presented by Russia’s ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev a few days later, speaking on Polish television.

                          Andreyev claimed that the Soviet invasion on September 17 had not been an act of aggression, but a defensive act to ensure the security of the USSR.

                          This is exactly the narrative that the Kremlin has been pushing to try to justify Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.
                          Russias Supreme Court rules that the USSR did not invade Poland in 1939 :: khpg.org

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                          • US Sanctions More Russian Individuals, Firms Over Ukraine
                            VOICE OF AMERICA Isabela Cocoli Sept 1, 2016

                            The United States on Thursday announced additional sanctions aimed at Russia over its continuing support for Ukraine's rebels and the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

                            The Treasury Department said in a statement that it had designated 37 new individuals and companies operating in Crimea and Ukraine for the sanctions list.

                            "Russia continues to provoke instability in eastern Ukraine despite its Minsk commitments," said John Smith, acting director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, in charge of levying sanctions.

                            "Treasury stands with our partners in condemning Russia's violation of international law, and we will continue to sanction those who threaten Ukraine's peace, security and sovereignty," he said.

                            According to the Treasury, the move followed the recent extension of European Union economic sanctions, and that together these steps demonstrated "continued international unity in opposing Russia's actions in Ukraine."

                            Russian companies, including construction firms PJSC Mostotrest and SGM-Most, were added to the U.S. list for their assistance in construction of a bridge from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

                            Russian engineering firm OMZ OAO was sanctioned for its connections to Gazprombank, which was itself sanctioned in 2014.

                            Several subsidiaries of Russian gas giant Gazprom were also added to the sanctions list.

                            Newly listed was CJSC ABR Management, an asset management firm closely linked to already-sanctioned Rossiya Bank, often called the personal bank of President Vladimir Putin and members of his closest circle.

                            Six officials of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine were entered into Treasury's list as well.

                            The U.S. also sanctioned 11 Crimean officials, including top ministers.

                            Russian officials have said in the past that sanctions levied over its actions in Ukraine have undermined efforts to resolve the conflict.
                            US Sanctions More Russian Individuals, Firms Over Ukraine

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                            • Putin has provoked US to take steps that threaten Gazprom, his own ‘purse,’ Portnikov says
                              EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/09/03

                              In advance of the G-20 summit in China, both Moscow and Washington have sent powerful signals of their intentions. In hopes of forcing the West to put pressure on Kyiv and to cut back or lift sanctions on Russia, the Kremlin increased its military presence not only near the Ukrainian border but in Syria, Vitaly Portnikov says.

                              But those aggressive moves instead of intimidating the West have had exactly the opposite effect, the Ukrainian analyst says.

                              Instead of backing down in the face of Russian pressure, the United States has signaled that it is now prepared to take an even harder line than it has in the past and even to threaten Putin’s “purse” – the gas giant Gazprom.

                              In a comment to Ukraine’s Gordon News Agency, Portnikov says explicitly that “the US has sent a signal that in principle Putin can lose control of his purse, Gazprom,” because the new sanctions the US is planning to counter Russian aggression will “seriously hurt this company and all its projects including those in Europe.”

                              That possibility, now very real thanks to the expansion of the sanctions regime announced by the US this week is something both Putin and those who want a more conciliatory policy toward Moscow “must take into consideration.”

                              All the sanctions that the “civilized world” has imposed on Russia “are having a cumulative effect,” Portnikov argues, because they are weakening the Russian economy and hence the Russian regime which depends on the Russian economy for the money it needs to carry out all of its projects.

                              Especially in their new format, when they will hit Russian firms as well as imports, “will inevitably achieve their goal” of forcing the regime to change course or to collapse. “After the destruction of the regime in Russia,” Portnikov continues, “Ukraine can play a significant role in the development of civil society in its neighbor.” Putin has provoked US to take steps that threaten Gazprom, his own 'purse,' Portnikov says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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                              • Ukrainian War far more dangerous for Russia than even the Chechen War, Nevzorov says
                                EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2016/09/03

                                By fighting against separatism in Chechnya two decades ago, Aleksandr Nevzorov says, Moscow was at least promoting its interests in blocking the spread of national liberation ideas to other parts of Russia. But by invading Ukraine and promoting separatism, it has sent a message that may come back to haunt it in Russia itself.

                                Commenting on the 20th anniversary of the Khasavyurt Accords, the Russian journalist says that Russia lost its “unnecessary” war in Chechnya in which tens of thousands of people died. Today, he continues, it is conducting yet another absolutely senseless war but one still more dangerous for Russia.”

                                The reason the war in Ukraine’s Donbas is more dangerous for Russia than the Chechen war was is because now Moscow rather than its opponents are fanning the flames not just of separatism but of “[ethnic] Russian separatism.” And from there, this kind of separatism can easily shift to the territory of the Russian Federation.

                                Nevzorov says that “the Donbas tragedy shows that Russia didn’t learn anything from the Chechen experience,” perhaps evidence that the current leadership is incapable of learning from anything that it does.

                                And he points out in conclusion that “in the Donbas, Moscow set for itself ambitious tasks, but everything ended with the seizure of ‘a few petty little towns and settlements which were able to separate [from Ukraine] at the price of an enormous number of victims and much suffering for all.” Ukrainian War far more dangerous for Russia than even the Chechen War, Nevzorov says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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