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  • Former Foreign Minister of Poland: Putin could cease support for Assad if given Ukraine
    UAWIRE ORG October 31, 2016 12:23:19 PM

    The former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radosław Sikorski, suggested that the crisis in the Russian economy could force the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to offer a substantial agreement to the new President of the United States. Vladimir Putin could refuse to support the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, if the United States let him have Ukraine.

    Sikorski believes that such an exchange would be possible because the Middle East has always been a priority for the United States.

    “That what Putin dreams of, sort of a Yalta-2. The chances for the implementation of such a scenario are minimal, but Russian leadership may have such plans,” Sikorski believes. The former Minister also added that the ascendance of Donald Trump to the White House would be necessary for this. The U.S Presidential elections will take place on the 8th of November.
    UAWire - Former Foreign Minister of Poland: Putin could cease support for Assad if given Ukraine

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    • Ukrainians Shocked as Politicians Declare Vast Wealth
      VOICE OF AMERICA KYIV Oct 31, 2016

      An anti-corruption reform requiring senior Ukrainian officials to declare their wealth online has exposed a vast difference between the fortunes of politicians and those they represent.

      Some declared millions of dollars in cash. Others said they owned fleets of luxury cars, expensive Swiss watches, diamond jewelry and large tracts of land - revelations that could further hit public confidence in the authorities in Ukraine, where the average salary is just over $200 per month.

      Officials had until Sunday to upload details of their assets and income in 2015 to a publicly searchable database, part of an International Monetary Fund-backed drive to boost transparency and modernize Ukraine's recession-hit economy.

      Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who last week likened the declarations process to jumping out of an airplane, revealed that he and his wife had a total of $1.2 million and 460,000 euros in cash and a collection of luxury watches. The database also shows that Groysman, a former businessman and provincial mayor, is not alone in preferring to keep much of his money out of Ukraine's banking system.

      Reuters calculations based on the declarations show that the 24 members of the Ukrainian cabinet together have nearly $7 million, just in cash.

      The declarations of two brothers in President Petro Poroshenko's faction, Bohdan and Yaroslav Dubnevych, show holdings of over $26 million, also in cash only.

      "When the Economy Ministry says that in some areas around 60 percent of the economy is in the shadows, then this is accounted for by the volume of cash registered by civil servants, officials and lawmakers," said Taras Kachka, deputy executive director at George Soros's International Renaissance Foundation. "This is a reflection on the state of our society."

      Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, who declared $1 million in a bank account and a further $500,000 in cash, said officials' decision to hold cash pointed to a mistrust in the banks that many Ukrainians could relate to.

      "Of course to EU countries it seems uncivilized that people hold cash," he said. "But it is linked to the fact that the banking system could, let's say, be doing better. This is a problem for many Ukrainians who lost their savings in the bank."

      A $10,000 bottle of wine

      The online declaration system is intended to represent a show of good faith that officials are willing to open their finances up to public scrutiny, to be held accountable, and to move away from a culture that tacitly allowed bureaucrats to amass wealth through cronyism and graft.

      However, the public reaction has been one of shocked dismay at the extravagant lifestyles conjured up by many of the disclosures.

      "We did not expect that this would be such a widespread phenomenon among state officials. I can't imagine there is a European politician who invests money in a wine collection where one bottle costs over $10,000," said Vitaliy Shabunin, the head of the non-governmental Anti-Corruption Action Center.

      Opposition bloc lawmaker Mikhail Dobkin's declaration included 1,780 bottles of wine and an antique copy of Russian novel Anna Karenina worth at least $5,500.

      Roman Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service, disclosed that he and his wife owned Swiss watches, diamond jewelry, fur coats, fine porcelain and crystal glassware, an assault rifle and cash in euros and dollars worth $2.2 million.

      The declaration of Oleh Lyashko, the head of the populist Radical party who has styled himself as a representative of the common man, showed he rented a house and land in Kyiv's most exclusive district and his household had cash worth the equivalent of over $1 million.

      Other forms give an insight into particular hobbies and interests of Ukraine's elite.

      Ihor Hryniv, the head of Poroshenko's faction, has a collection of icons dating from the 14th century and several works by Ukrainian impressionist masters.

      Lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk declared an array of antique weapons, including a 16th century Turkish scimitar, an English broadsword and a Nazi SS dagger.

      Many senior politicians filed their forms in the last two days before the deadline, resulting in a crescendo of surprise and anger on social media over the weekend.

      "I personally feel unwell. Or rather, like someone who has been beaten and is therefore unwell. I had no illusions about our political and official elite. But all the same, what's come out is beyond the pale," Roman Donik, a volunteer to Ukraine's frontline troops, said on Facebook.

      The average Ukrainian citizen has been hit hard by the economic crisis that unfolded in the wake of the 2014 pro-European 'Maidan' uprising and subsequent pro-Russian separatist conflict.

      The national hryvnia currency has plummeted to 25 to the dollar from 8 in 2013 and energy tariffs have soared under the IMF-backed economic reform program.

      The latest revelations will likely add to public dissatisfaction with the current leadership's progress on reforms. A September poll showed that only 12.6 percent would now vote for Poroshenko's faction, down from 21.8 in the last election. Meanwhile support for populist and opposition parties has risen.

      The anti-corruption agency says it will now start verifying the declarations, but with over 100,000 forms submitted, it is unclear how thorough the process can be. Ukrainians Shocked as Politicians Declare Vast Wealth

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      • Italian delegation to occupied Crimea: between politics and business
        EUROMAIDAN PRESS Anton Shekhovtsov 2016/10/30

        On 14-16 October 2016, an Italian delegation consisting of 18 politicians and businessmen visited Crimea illegally annexed by Russian from Ukraine in March 2016. The political part of the delegation was largely represented by regional politicians from far right parties such as the Northern League (Lega Nord) and Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), but the delegation also featured one politician from the left-wing populist party Free Alternative (Alternativa Libera). The business part was represented by the leaders of the Italian companies Albrigi, Brescia Hydropower, Cantina di Soave, Scandiuzzi Steel Constructions, and Veronesi.

        This trip was, to a certain extent, a follow-up of the Second Yalta International Economic Forum that took place in Crimea in April 2016. The forum was co-hosted by the EU-sanctioned “Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov and Andrey Nazarov, co-chair of the All-Russian Civic Organisation “Business Russia” (Delovaya Rossiya) which is a union of businessmen working in non-energy sectors of Russian economy. It was the “Business Russia” organisation that officially invited and paid for the trip of the Italian delegation, and Nazarov was their main host in Crimea in October.

        For Russia, the conference in Yalta in April 2016 was important for two reasons.

        1. First, the sanctions introduced by the West against Russia effectively barred foreign companies from investing in businesses in Crimea to pressure Russia into returning the annexed republic to Ukraine.
        2. Second, by inviting European participants to the conference, Russia aimed to show that European businesses were interested in investing in Crimea and there were ways to pursue their interests.

        As could be expected, among the participants of the Second Yalta International Economic Forum one could see far right politicians coming from the Northern League, Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs), Bulgarian “Attack” (Ataka), Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland), Polish “Change” (Zmiana), and the Japanese Issuikai organisation. At the conference, they unanimously condemned anti-Russian sanctions and, therefore, received extensive coverage in the Russian state-controlled media.

        One of the leading Italian participants of both the Yalta conference and Crimean visit in October was Stefano Valdegamberi elected to the Veneto regional council on the personal list of the Northern League’s member Luca Zaia.

        In May 2016, Valdegamberi initiated a resolution calling on Rome to recognise Crimea as part of Russia and to lift anti-Russian sanctions. The resolution, which was not legally binding, was adopted by the Veneto regional council in May 2016, while similar resolutions were adopted during summer 2016 by the Lombardy and Liguria regional councils. Despite the efforts of Valdegamberi and his right-wing populist colleagues from other councils, none of these resolutions had any impact on the Italian authorities.

        During his October visit to Crimea, Valdegamberi talked about the sanctions again and even declared that Ukraine had to compensate for the “economic losses” of the Veneto region allegedly inflicted by the EU’s Crimea-related sanctions.

        It is interesting that several politicians from the Northern League, with which Valdegamberi is associated, have served as mouthpieces of Russian propaganda since 2014: Claudio D’Amico “monitored” the illegal referendum in Crimea; Gianluca Savoini, the spokesman for the Northern League’s leader Matteo Salvini, is president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, which functions as a Russian front organisation in Italy; Salvini himself appeared in the Russian State Duma in October 2014 wearing a sweatshirt saying “No sanctions against Russia”.

        Like the conference in Yalta, the visit to Crimea in October had a clear propagandistic goal aimed at legitimising the Russian annexation of Crimea and showing that Crimea was not internationally isolated.

        To that end, Roberto Ciambetti, the Northern League’s member and president of the Veneto regional council, signed – together with the EU-sanctioned “Chairman of State Council of the Republic of Crimea” Vladimir Konstantinov – a joint statement on the development of interregional cooperation.

        A member of the Brothers of Italy and a member of the council of the city of Padua Marina Buffoni signed – together with Simferopol’s “mayor” Viktor Ageyev – an agreement proclaiming Padua and Simferopol twin-cities and announcing the intention to boost economic development and bilateral business contacts. Free Alternative’s member Tancredi Turco promised to continue his work aimed at persuading the Italian authorities to lift the anti-Russian sanctions. While he was sceptical over the efficiency of his efforts, Turco expressed his hope that the political situation in Italy might change in case Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who supports the Ukraine-related anti-Russian sanctions, lost the constitutional referendum planned for 4 December 2016.

        However, the economic aspects were perhaps the more important part of the visit to Crimea.

        Nazarov claimed that two contracts were to be signed during this visit. One contract apparently entails the construction of a 5-star hotel in Simferopol; the second one covers the joint purchase of a Russian magazine on architecture, construction and design by the “Business Russia” organisation and Italian businessmen. While it is not yet clear whether the contracts have indeed been signed or who exactly could have signed them from the Italian side, it is known that the participant of the delegation Fulvio Scandiuzzi is CEO of Scandiuzzi Steel Constructions, which is the only Italian company that had any relation to construction among those represented during the trip to Crimea.

        While it is not yet clear whether the contracts have indeed been signed or who exactly could have signed them from the Italian side, it is known that the participant of the delegation Fulvio Scandiuzzi is CEO of Scandiuzzi Steel Constructions, which is the only Italian company that had any relation to construction among those represented during the trip to Crimea.

        Nazarov also announced the start of a joint production of a new wine brand that would be officially launched at the Third Yalta International Economic Forum planned for April 2017. He also claimed that there were offers to develop production of turkey meat.

        These plans clearly reflected the structure of the business part of the delegation: Cantina di Soave (represented by its president Attilio Carlesso) is a wine producing company, Albrigi (represented by its owner Stefano Albrigi) produces plants for processing and storage of liquid foods, and Veronesi (represented by its co-owner Marcello Veronesi and a senior manager Antonio Nicodemo) is engaged in farming.

        The Western Crimea-related sanctions naturally remain a significant obstacle for foreign investments into the Crimean economy, and this was acknowledged by yet another participant of the delegation, director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Veneto region Gian Angelo Bellati. However, the Russians have long been discussing how Russian and non-Russian businesses could circumvent the sanctions, so it is important for relevant Western institutions to monitor closely the relations between European and Crimea-based businesses with regard to potential violation of the sanctions regime.

        Members of the Italian delegation:

        1. Stefano Albrigi (owner of the company “Albrigi Srl”).
        2. Stefano Bargi (Lega Nord Emilia e Romagna).
        3. Gian Angelo Bellati (director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Veneto region).
        4. Fabio Bosio (owner of the company “Brescia Hydropower S.r.l.”).
        5. Marina Buffoni (Fratelli d’Italia).
        6. Attilio Carlesso (president of the company “Cantina di Soave”).
        7. Roberto Ciambetti (Liga Veneta–Lega Nord).
        8. Jari Colla (Lega Lombarda-Lega Nord).
        9. Alessandro Gonzato (journalist).
        10. Antonio Nicodemo (a manager of the company “Veronesi”).
        11. Roberto Penazzi (?).
        12. Alessandro Piana (Lega Nord Liguria).
        13. Luciano Sandonà (Lista Zaia/Liga Veneta–Lega Nord).
        14. Fulvio Scandiuzzi (CEO of the Scandiuzzi Steel Constructions Spa).
        15. Luciano Soldà (?).
        16. Tancredi Turco (Alternativa Libera).
        17. Stefano Valdegamberi (Lista Zaia/Liga Veneta–Lega Nord).
        18. Marcello Veronesi (owner of the company “Veronesi”).
        19. Manuel Vescovi (Lega Nord).

        The Italian delegation was accompanied by Robert Stelzl, an Austrian and an employee of Ewald Stadler, the leader of the fringe right-wing populist Reformkonservativen party.
        Italian delegation to occupied Crimea: between politics and business -Euromaidan Press |

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        • More than half of Russians oppose ban on baby boxes
          MEDUZA Source RIA Novosti
          07:54, 28 october 2016

          More than half of Russians do not support a ban on baby boxes, according to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation.

          Around 55 percent of survey participants are against the ban, with 25 percent of them believing that baby boxes offer a "chance to save the lives of abandoned children." Around 18 percent of those surveyed believe that children will be disposed of by other means if baby boxes are banned.

          The bill to ban the use of baby boxes was submitted to the Duma by officials Elena Mizulina and Oleg Mikheev. The bill provides for those who install baby boxes to by held liable, promising either a fine of 5 million rubles "approximately $79,400) or up to 90 days imprisonment. The bill was aimed at defending so-called “family values.”

          Baby boxes (or baby hatches) are receptacles into which people (typically mothers) can place their newborn children in order to anonymously abandon them in a safe place. These children are then found and cared for. Mothers who have left their children in such devices often have a chance to have the child returned to them following a DNA test. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/10/28...-on-baby-boxes

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          • Russian Academy of Sciences head refuses to endorse stripping Minister of PhD
            MEDUZA RIA Novosti
            07:40, 28 october 2016

            Vladimir Fortov, the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, refused to endorse the statement of a group academics and academy members who had called the PhD thesis of Russia's Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky a "pseudo-scientific" work. The academy head has, instead, asked that the dissertation be sent for reassessment at the country's Ural Federal University.

            "They signed [that document] individually. In no case does it represent the opinion of all of the Academy of Sciences. [The Academy] has over 2,000 members," said Fortov in an interview with news agency RIA Novosti.

            Ministry spokesperson, Irina Kaznacheeva told newspaper RBK that the actions of the academics seemed to be politically and ideologically motivated, as if ordered. She did not specify who exactly the "client" could be.

            In an interview with news agency Interfax, Kaznacheeva drew attention to the fact that the majority of the academics who had made the statement were not historians. "It is not quite correct ... [for] specialists in different fields of scientific research to accuse a doctor of historical sciences of pseudoscience. This does not sound convincing," she said.

            --Academics and academy members had published a statement on Medinsky's dissertation in newspaper Kommersant on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2016. The statement was signed by 24 people, all part of an association of researchers who oppose the reform of the Academy of Sciences.
            --In April 2016 a group of scientists appealed to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation to deprive Medinsky of his doctorate status, having uncovered "mistakes" in his dissertation. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/10/28...inister-of-phd

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            • Russia promises to destroy chemical weapons stockpile ahead of schedule
              MEDUZA Source Interfax
              05:32, 28 october 2016

              Russia will complete the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles by the end of December 2017, that is one year ahead of schedule, stated the head of the country's Federal Department for Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, Colonel-General Valery Kapashin.

              "We will complete the destruction of our chemical weapons stockpiles in December [2017] ... The decision has been made," said Kapashin.

              --Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in December 1997. At that time, the Russian Federation declared that it was in possession of 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. The country began destroying its chemical weapons stockpiles in December 2002 as part of a federal target program. In 2016, 2.7 billion rubles (approximately $42.9 million) were allocated to this program.
              --At the end of May 2016, Kapashin said that Russia has only 6.5 percent of its chemical weapons remaining and up for destruction.
              --According to the obligations undertaken by Russia as a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Conventions, the country is required to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles by 2020. https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/10/28...ad-of-schedule

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              • Former Russian Defense Ministry employee sentenced to 12 years for treason
                MEDUZA Interfax
                08:31, 27 october 2016

                A Moscow municipal court has found former employee of Russia's Defense Ministry Andrey Belyaev guilty of treason. He has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

                No details on the Belyaev case have been disclosed. The trial was held behind closed doors and the investigation classified as "top secret".

                From court documents, it is only known that the defendant was a retired colonel and had a residence permit in Sweden. The court deprived Belyaev of his Russian military rank, his Swedish residency permit, and his Swedish driving license. His Mitsubishi car was also confiscated by the state.
                --Belyaev's arrest was announced in December 2015. At that point he was the 20th person accused of treason in Russia since the start of the year, at least amongst those known to the media.
                --In Russia, cases of treason and espionage are usually classified as "secret" and their details were not disclosed.
                https://meduza.io/en/news/2016/10/27...rs-for-treason

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                • Protection and rescue of own citizens are the most important tasks of any state. It is believed that the United States boasts the highest standards in this regard, being ready to deploy aircraft carriers anywhere in the world to secure the release of its citizens. The criterion is citizenship, rather than any political preferences or the state of their residence back in their homeland. It does not matter, whether it’s Texas or Alaska.
                  UNIAN Roman Tsymbaliuk 31. Oct 2016

                  It’s not so well in Ukraine’s case. And it's not that the country has no aircraft carriers. On the one hand, over the past two and a half years, the country has well learned the Kremlin’s bloody lesson, having already paid a price too high. Ukraine has learned to defend itself by all means available. On the other hand, millions of citizens of Ukraine living in Crimea and in the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions bordering with Russia are forced to live under occupation anyway. There are no effective mechanisms of assistance to these Ukrainians. Neither there are any reliable data on their life conditions. Ukrainian journalists don’t cover the life in the occupied territories, while local residents receive no TV signal from government-controlled Ukraine. No one really knows what’s happening there. It is horrifying to see how certain Ukrainian politicians start drawing conclusions and making them public, based on propaganda-driven bias. Recently, the Ukrainian Facebook community was hit by a wave of angry comments under the images of thousands of people in Donetsk who came to a pompous funeral of Russian mercenaries.

                  Some of the most "intelligent and patriotic" MPs said they did not want to share the country with such people, naturally suggesting to "get rid" of Donbas. However, in order to get rid of something, this something must be in your possession. Today the occupied Donbass can be called anything but Ukraine. No one seemed to take their time to consider that the “extras” for the funeral were largely the workers from the so-called public sector who were simply forced to attend. A technology well-tested by the Party of Regions was applied when "foremen" were appointed to monitor the attendance. Skipping the event would mean layoff.

                  There are nearly 3 million Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine right now. It would be foolish not to recognize that some of them were happy to turn sides and collaborate with invaders. But it certainly would be a crime to abandon all of the Donbas residents. The experience of the liberated town of Slavyansk shows that once the Russian tricolor mast is pulled from the central tower, the whole city gets repainted in Ukraine’s yellow and blue colors.

                  There is a very similar pattern in the issue of releasing Ukrainian political prisoners from Russian prisons. The reason is simple. Many believe that Ukraine was "burned" with the release of Nadia Savchenko. Indeed, it took an enormous effort to get Nadia back home. The long process of liberation of the Kremlin prisoner resulted in an actual creation of the image of Ukrainian Jeanne d'Arc, who was blunt enough to flip off her captors right from the cell. Many admired her defiance and courage, contemplating Nadia as the future Ukrainian defense minister or even the president. While in prison, Savchenko became a people’s deputy and received the country’s highest awards. Upon her return to Ukraine, the process of her de-heroization hit warp speed and there came major disappointment. Perhaps, there is a demand for a messiah in the Ukrainian society, some hero who would come and magically save Ukrainians. Meanwhile, the main mistake is to forget that the goal of all these efforts and the enormous media support is the liberation of the Ukrainian citizen, whatever their name is.

                  Once back home, she can exercise her right to say anything, she has the right to closely cooperate with people who appear questionable to many. In turn, the Ukrainian voters also have the right to never again vote for her, or for the party, which once put Savchenko on top of its electoral list. And even if this whole story stinks today, it does not mean that the Ukrainian state can leave any Ukrainians in the Russian prisons.

                  Here’s what happened: the latest arrested Ukrainian in Russia was a journalist Roman Sushchenko. However, many politicians in Ukraine are very cautious in their statements in his defense. There is a similar approach to other Ukrainians behind bars in Russia. Indeed, what if they suddenly show themselves as the "agents of the Kremlin" after their release, or what if they’ll not be patriotic enough, or say something not very pleasant to the current authorities?.. Rehabilitation of Ukrainian citizens following the occupation or the Russian dungeons is a long and complex process. It is a challenge for the whole society. People should not create idols and put them on a pedestal, not to feel the bad aftertaste later. Not everyone can be the real heroes, but they are still citizens of Ukraine.

                  Not giving up on Ukrainians - news about social life | unian | UNIAN

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                  • Cold War may become reality as tensions between Russia, West mount - Analyst
                    UNIAN 31. Oct 2016

                    Ukrainian political expert Oleh Belokolos has shared with Ukraine Today his view on NATO's response to the Russian aggressive policy and Kremlin's role of a world security violator.

                    The analyst believes the current tensions between the West and Russia and, though not on the same scale as they were in 1970-80s, as well as the overall security situation prove the Cold War 2 is becoming an accomplished fact, Ukraine Today reports.

                    "To say frankly, the security situation in Europe remains unpredictable. And this appears to be Putin's policy. He would like to use this tool for blackmailing the neighboring countries: to say something but not completely 100 percent, just leaving a lot to the imagination to create a scare. In this way, it makes his policy unpredictable, though efficient for himself", Oleh Belokolos says.

                    Recently, Norway announced its intent to authorize the deployment of more than 300 U.S. troops in the country for the period of 2017 as a trial period. It actually represents a significant shift from the peacetime policy of prohibiting the posting of foreign troops in Norway of any other NATO member, which shares a border with Russia.

                    Meanwhile, Finland has also strengthened its military ties with the US. This month, Finland and the US signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact.

                    Like other countries in the Baltic region, Sweden has been alarmed by increased Russian military activity. In fact, Sweden and Finland this year made a decision to upgrade relations with NATO. For example, on May 25, 2016, Swedish lawmakers formally backed an agreement that allows the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to easily operate on Swedish territory during training or in the event of a conflict or other crisis.

                    Britain is sending hundreds of soldiers and hardware to Russia's borders as part of a huge military deployment. A total of 800 troops, drones and tanks are moving to Estonia next spring, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon recently said.

                    "In a sense of Russia's national interest, it used to have a more or less friendly security environment. Right now, Moscow has a hostile environment along the borders from Murmansk to Caucasus. And of course, it's not even in Russia's core interests. Some experts including Russian are concerned about the unpredictable policy of today's Kremlin leadership", Oleh Belokolos says about Putin's aggressive policy which has led to uncertainty at the Russian Western border.

                    As the analyst states, the Cold War is back, at least in Europe. And this will be a major trend for the years to come.
                    https://youtu.be/5v4Qe40cDw0

                    Read more on UNIAN: Cold War may become reality as tensions between Russia, West mount - Analyst

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                    • Hungarian media probe Russian ties of local neo-Nazi gang Members of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU (Main Intelligence Agency) were in contact with the MNA ("Magyar Nemzeti Arcvonal", Hungarian National Front), a neo-nazi organization, index.hu reported.
                      UNIAN 29. Oct 2016

                      According to the sources, even Russian diplomats have participated in the airsoft drills organized by the gang of Győrkös, of which the Hungarian intelligence services and military counter-intelligence also knew, according to index.hu.

                      The National Bureau of Investigation ("Nemzeti Nyomozó Iroda", the Hungarian FBI) was supposed to search István Győrkös’s house earlier this week, but when the officers showed up at his home the 76-years-old man opened fire at them, and a 46-years-old police officer died in the shooting immediately.

                      Russian diplomats and members of the Russian military intelligence, the GRU have been around the Hungarian militant subculture for years, albeit not only around MNA. This started well before the eruption of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The Russians were trying to do it in a smart, less ostentatious way.

                      Events and activities like relic hunts (of WWII weapons) and flea markets related to that proved to be useful occasions for establishing and maintaining such relations.

                      In most cases, radical people and groups used by the Russians do not even know that they are being indirectly manipulated and influenced. The most ideal ones are the wacky, useful idiots because they are the easiest to influence and to convince them to commit violent actions.

                      The GRU has units not only for regular intelligence tasks, but for special operations too (like diversion and deep intelligence penetration): the so-called "little green men" appearing without identification in Crimea were also partly from this agency. Spetnaz, the notorious Russian elite military formation was also founded by the GRU.

                      As several “advisers” of the KGB sat in the building of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ III/I Directorate, i.e. the Hungarian socialist civilian intelligence, the 2nd Directorate of the General Staff of the Hungarian People’s Army (MNVK) – the Hungarian military intelligence – operated through a similar symbiosis with the GRU. After the democratic transition, the 2nd Directorate of MNVK was succeeded by the military intelligence of the democratic Hungarian republic, the Military Reconnaissance Office (KFH), while the Military Security Agency (KBH) became the successor of the Soviet-inspired III/IV Directorate of the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 2012, Orban’s government integrated the military intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies, establishing the Military State Security Agency from KFH and KBH.

                      A foreign intelligence officer active before 1989 said to Index.hu that in the Socialist era, there was an extraordinarily high level of cooperation between the Soviet and Hungarian agencies which is regarded as unthinkable today.

                      Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó stated in an interview in August to Index.hu that he has no knowledge of foreign diplomats having been expelled from the country due to espionage since 2010, and “surely not” after him taking office in 2014. The attitude of the Hungarian government is unique, since news about Russian spies masked as diplomats being declared as persona non grata in other countries of the region, for instance in Romania or the Czech Republic, could be heard on a yearly basis.

                      However, the issue didn’t emerge in Hungary, not even in the case of Béla Kovács’s alleged spy activities, who, if he really was spying for the Russian, did not conspire with himself alone. “As far as I know, the expulsion of Russian or other foreign diplomats was out of question. I wasn’t even asked whether I would suggest any similar action or not” – said Szijjártó to Index.hu, and he also claimed that “the current Russian ambassador is the second one since I am the foreign minister, but we didn’t touch upon the issue with any of them.”

                      The Czech counter-intelligence (BIS) has disclosed its yearly report in September, according to which the Russian services were the most active in the previous year (again), as they have been in every year since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine. The report states that their primary goal is to spread Russian disinformation and propaganda in the Czech media and internet, to subvert the unity of NATO and EU, and to increase Russian influence over the Czech energy sector.

                      The Hungarian counter-intelligence agency (Constitution Protection Office) on the other hand, does not issue similar reports anymore. Specific statements about Russian activities in the country are made mainly by politicians, however, the validity of these statements cannot be checked. For instance, former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany recently talked about that according to his knowledge, there are 600-800 Russian secret agents operating in Hungary, twice as much as under his administration.

                      Hungarian media probe Russian ties of local neo-Nazi gang

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                      • It looks like Russia hired internet trolls to pose as pro-Trump Americans
                        BUSINESS INSIDER Natasha Bertrand Jul. 27, 2016, 8:23 AM

                        Russia's troll factories were, at one point, likely being paid by the Kremlin to spread pro-Trump propaganda on social media.

                        That is what freelance journalist Adrian Chen, now a staff writer at The New Yorker, discovered as he was researching Russia's "army of well-paid trolls" for an explosive New York Times Magazine exposé published in June 2015.

                        "A very interesting thing happened," Chen told Longform's Max Linsky in a podcast in December.

                        "I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don't know what's going on, but they're all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff," he said.

                        Linsky then asked Chen who he thought "was paying for that."

                        "I don't know," Chen replied. "I feel like it's some kind of really opaque strategy of electing Donald Trump to undermine the US or something. Like false-flag kind of thing. You know, that's how I started thinking about all this stuff after being in Russia."

                        In his research from St. Petersburg, Chen discovered that Russian internet trolls — paid by the Kremlin to spread false information on the internet — have been behind a number of "highly coordinated campaigns" to deceive the American public.

                        It's a brand of information warfare, known as "dezinformatsiya," that has been used by the Russians since at least the Cold War. The disinformation campaigns are only one "active measure" tool used by Russian intelligence to "sow discord among," and within, allies perceived hostile to Russia.

                        "An active measure is a time-honored KGB tactic for waging informational and psychological warfare," Michael Weiss, a senior editor at The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of The Interpreter — an online magazine that translates and analyzes political, social, and economic events inside the Russian Federation — wrote on Tuesday.

                        He continued (emphasis added):

                        "It is designed, as retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin once defined it, 'to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs.' The most common subcategory of active measures is dezinformatsiya, or disinformation: feverish, if believable lies cooked up by Moscow Centre and planted in friendly media outlets to make democratic nations look sinister."

                        It is not surprising, then, that the Kremlin would pay internet trolls to pose as Trump supporters and build him up online. In fact, that would be the easy part.

                        From his interviews with former trolls employed by Russia, Chen gathered that the point of their jobs "was to weave propaganda seamlessly into what appeared to be the nonpolitical musings of an everyday person."

                        "Russia's information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history," Chen wrote. "And its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space."
                        'The gift that keeps on giving'

                        From threats about pulling out of NATO to altering the GOP's policy on Ukraine — which has long called for arming Ukrainian soldiers against pro-Russia rebels — Trump is "the gift that keeps on giving" for Putin, Russian journalist Julia Ioffe noted in a piece for Politico.

                        "Life is still not great here," Ioffe reported from the small Russian city of Nizhny Tagil in June. "But it's a loyal place and support for Putin is high. In large part, it is because people—especially older people like [Russian citizen Felix] Kolsky—get their news from Kremlin-controlled TV. And Kremlin-controlled TV has been unequivocal about whom they want to win the U.S. presidential election: Donald Trump."

                        As such, the year-long hack of the DNC — discovered in mid-June and traced back to Russian military intelligence by the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike — would seem to be the archetypal "active measure" described by Weiss, adapted to modern technology to have maximum impact.

                        "The DNC hack and dump is what cyberwar looks like," Dave Aitel, a cybersecurity specialist, a former NSA employee, and founder of cybersecurity firm Immunity Inc., wrote for Ars Technica last week.

                        That makes sense given Russia's partiality to weaponizing information — and the digital era's abundance of hackers for hire.

                        The leak of internal DNC email correspondences revealing a bias against Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — by WikiLeaks, an organization founded by Russia Today contributor Julian Assange — has divided the American left and made the Republican Party look unified in comparison.

                        Trump's seemingly shady financial overtures to Russian oligarchs have since resurfaced, perhaps as evidence that the real-estate mogul or his top advisers may have had a hand in the hack that made his opponents look so bad.

                        As Ioffe noted in a later piece for Foreign Policy, however, Trump's own influence among high-level Russian figures may be overstated given the difficulty that he has had throughout his career in securing lucrative real-estate projects there.

                        It seems, rather, that Trump is more useful to the Russians than they have ever been to him.

                        Even if — and it's becoming increasingly unlikely — Vladimir Putin and his intelligence apparatus had nothing to do with the DNC hack, that the mere suspicion has come to dominate American media is a huge propaganda boon for the former KGB operative.

                        "The very fact that we are discussing this and believing that Putin has the skill, inside knowledge, and wherewithal to field a candidate in an American presidential election and get him through the primaries to the nomination means we are imbuing him with the very power and importance he so craves," Ioffe wrote.

                        "All he wants is for America to see him as a worthy adversary. This week, we're giving that to him, and then some," she wrote.
                        Russian internet trolls were being hired to pose as pro-Trump Americans - Business Insider

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                        • FT: Russia's renewed might rests on weak economic foundations Speaking at an annual conference near Sochi last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin once again railed at the U.S. for allegedly misusing its global hegemony of the past 25 years and shutting Russia out of creating the post-cold war world order, according to the Financial Times.
                          UNIAN 01. Nov 2016

                          There was also an implicit assumption in his speech: that as the U.S.-dominated world order dissolves into what Mr. Putin portrays as chaos, and Russia's rejuvenated military challenges it in Ukraine and Syria, Moscow can address Washington on equal terms, FT wrote.
                          Yet the gap between the image Mr. Putin portrayed at the 13th Valdai Discussion Club for invited foreign academics and journalists and the reality was exposed by a sobering assessment of Russia's economy by another senior official who spoke there without attribution. It was further emphasized by a draft budget the government submitted to Russia's parliament a day later — envisaging a 27% cut in defense spending next year.

                          The assumption that Russia is "back" as a global force ran through two days of Valdai brainstorming that proceeded Mr. Putin's appearance. John Mearsheimer, the University of Chicago's arch foreign policy realist, declared a rebirth of great power politics after the exceptional "unipolarity" since 1991, with the U.S., Russia and China as the big players.

                          Some experts rejected Mr. Mearsheimer's overall analysis, but none his contention that Russia was again a great power.

                          Mr. Putin even implicitly suggested Russia's (heavily stage-managed) democracy — which in September delivered a two-thirds majority for the pro-Kremlin party — was superior to America's. He lampooned western elections consisting of "nothing but scandals and digging up dirt — who gave someone a pinch, who sleeps with whom, if you'll excuse me."

                          He "portrayed Russia as being surrounded by systems that are increasingly divided, increasingly weakened, increasingly chaotic," said Piotr Dutkiewicz, a political scientist from Ottawa's Carleton University.

                          Yet the official who addressed Valdai on the economy, known as a liberal reformer, made it clear how Russia's ambitions clash with its capabilities.

                          While western sanctions imposed over Ukraine have exacerbated its problems, knocking up to 1 percentage point off annual growth in the past two years. The bigger issue is Russia's long failure to undertake structural reforms to reduce reliance on energy prices. Output, in constant ruble terms, has not grown since 2008.

                          Russia must grow by nurturing new industries outside the oil and gas sector that provided 60% of exports, the official said. It needed to offset a declining labor force with productivity increases. It must stimulate "innovative" technologies, which accounted for a much smaller proportion of its economy than in leading developed countries.

                          But all that needs investment — and private business is not investing because it sees Russia's future as uncertain. Russia's government invested more, proportionately, into innovation and research and development than Japan or China, the official said. But in those countries, the private sector invested three times more than the government; Russia's private sector invested less than its government.

                          The country needed reforms, he added, such as strengthening property rights and preventing corrupt officials from using courts to "squeeze" businesses.

                          And, he said delicately: "Russia needs a more peaceful foreign policy that will contribute to the development of the economy."

                          All that does not mean the world should not take seriously Russia's renewed military strength or readiness to use it — even if Mr. Putin insists Moscow threatens no one except terrorists. But it does raise questions about how long, without difficult reforms, Russia can sustain its military and nuclear modernization, and ability to project its strength.

                          The Russian leader has appointed former finance minister Alexei Kudrin to draw up a comprehensive reform plan for after the 2018 presidential election, expected to see Mr. Putin return for another six-year term.

                          But Mr. Putin has long been reluctant to countenance the kind of reforms Mr. Kudrin's team is likely to recommend. More competition and independent courts would, after all, threaten mechanisms his ruling circle relies upon to retain power.

                          Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, noted that the Russian president was strangely quiet about the economy in Sochi this year.

                          "The loud silence by Putin on the [Kudrin plan]," he said, "during an event for foreigners when he could have trumpeted reforms, bolsters reason for skepticism."
                          FT: Russia's renewed might rests on weak economic foundations

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                          • Nov. 1, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY
                            Air scandal between Belarus and Ukraine gains traction

                            Belarus allegedly confirms Ukraine's threats to scramble interceptors. SBU denies its involvement.

                            Belarusian media outlets have published a readout of the conversation between the pilots of a passenger airplane, flying from Kyiv to Minsk with 136 people on board, and an air traffic controller in the Ukrainian capital.

                            On October 21 Kyiv ordered the airplane, which had already taken off and was on its way to Belarus, to turn back.

                            The Belarusian side claimed the traffic controller had said interceptors would be scrambled if the pilots disobeyed the order. Ukrainian SBU security service denied the allegations.

                            The readout, published by Belarus Today news agency, reportedly confirms the version of the Belarusian side, although no audio confirmation has been provided as of yet. (source in Russian)

                            ‘Belavia-840, an order just came in: you must turn back to the Zhuliany airport. If you do not comply, military aviation will be scrambled for interception', the controller allegedly said, later stating the order for the plane to turn back was given by ‘the military commandment'.

                            A representative of the SBU, in turn, said in a statement that the institution hadn't threatened to use the jets.

                            ‘We emphasize yet again, we didn't give any instructions on the scrambling of the interceptors, didn't hold any dialogues with the pilots, and only asked to return the plane', the SBU spokeswoman Olena Gitlianska said in an interview with UNIAN.

                            As it turned out after the incident, the airplane was forced to come back, due to a foreign citizen on board who allegedly ‘posed a threat to Ukraine's national security'.

                            The man reportedly was Armen Martirosyan, known for his anti-Maidan statements.

                            Belarus demanded former apologies and compensation from Ukraine.
                            Kyiv-Minsk relations: Air scandal between Belarus and Ukraine gains traction

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                            • Oct. 29, 2016 UT UKRAINE TODAY
                              Death of Putin's ex-aide in US partly caused by heavy drinking - Reuters

                              Death of Mikhail Lesin on November 5, 2015 was ruled accidental, US authorities said

                              The death last year in Washington of Mikhail Lesin, a Russian media executive and former adviser to President Vladimir Putin, was accidental and caused partly by alcohol poisoning after days of heavy drinking, US authorities said on Friday.

                              Lesin, who was found dead in his hotel room on Nov. 5, 2015 at the age of 57, died partly from "acute ethanol intoxication," according to a statement by Washington's Metropolitan Police Department and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

                              While Lesin's death sparked rumors of foul play at the time, law enforcement officials said the Justice Department had no open investigation of the case. On the night he died, Lesin was scheduled to attend a Washington gala honoring Russian billionaire and philanthropist Pyotr Aven, according to Radio Free Europe. But he never showed up.

                              After reviewing video footage and evidence gathered during an investigation of Lesin's death, Washington's chief medical examiner concluded he died "as a result of blunt force injuries to his head, with contributing causes being blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities, which were induced by falls, with acute ethanol intoxication," the statement said.
                              Alcoholism in Russia: Death of Putin's ex-aide in US partly caused by heavy drinking - Reuters

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                              • Vladimir Putin’s Campaign to Seduce, Subvert and Screw Over Western Democracies—Including Ours
                                The Kremlin has the message and the cash to sweet talk every segment of the Western population, and we’re falling for it.
                                THE DAILY BEAST Christopher Dickey & Erin Zaleski 10.30.16

                                PARIS—The golden domes would look at home on Moscow’s Red Square. There are five of them, onion-shaped and glistening in the sun, each one bearing a cross—potent symbols of the Russian Orthodox Church. But here in front of them flows the Seine River. Behind them rises the Eiffel Tower. Down the street is the French foreign ministry, known as the Quai d’Orsay.

                                That much you can see.

                                What French and other Western intelligence agencies have been concerned about as they watched the building go up over the last six years is what you don’t see when you look at the just-inaugurated Holy Trinity Cathedral and Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center.

                                https://www.instagram.com/p/BLgkhYTBRfg/
                                #oniondomes and #eiffeltower #today in #paris #france - the domes belong to a brand new #russianorthodox #church #complex that #putin was supposed to inaugurate next week, but #french #president #hollande promised him an icy reception entirely dominated by discussion of #warcrimes - so Putin decided to wait a bit.

                                An inter-ministerial note on the state of France’s intelligence agencies cited by Hénin observed that the cathedral domes, made of composite materials, could hide sophisticated listening devices, and since the “cultural center” enjoys diplomatic immunity, there’s no obvious way to get inside to look.

                                According to other sources, the French are now employing active countermeasures, just in case, and several Western embassies and enterprises have checked to make sure there is no line of sight contact between them and the domes.

                                It’s a strange spectacle, an obvious outpost of Mother Russia, even if all its aspects are benign, which was assumed to be the case when then-President Nicolas Sarkozy approved its construction in 2010. But since then, “benign” has become a word hard to associate with the Kremlin. So when Russian President Vladimir Putin was supposed to open the center here this month, the current French president, François Hollande, said he wouldn’t attend, and if he talked to Putin at all, his office declared, it would be about war crimes in Syria. Putin decided to postpone his visit more or less indefinitely.

                                Perhaps this seems like crazy neo-Cold War paranoia. High-tech spookery hiding behind onion domes on the Left Bank? Yet almost anything seems possible at a time when Putin has been using every conceivable means at his disposal to extend Russian influence and disrupt or discredit Western democracy in Europe, and, indeed, in the United States.

                                If there is a new cold war chill, it’s coming from the east. Putin, faced with a badly flagging economy and potential domestic discontent, is actively preparing his people for nuclear Armageddon, while in the United States, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, an avowed admirer of Putin’s “leadership,” warns that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s talk about standing up to him will lead to “World War III.”

                                As The Economist pointed out last week, inside Russia,“The two main pillars of the Soviet state, propaganda and the threat of repression, have been restored.” The infamous KGB, which was humiliated and broken up 25 years ago, “has been rebuilt as the main vehicle for political and economic power.” Meanwhile, “reactionary restoration at home has led to aggression abroad,” with hybrid warfare against Georgia and Ukraine, and intimidation of the little Baltic states. All this even as Moscow has “attempted to undermine Euro-Atlantic institutions, backed right-wing parties in Europe,” and, as the The Economist, too, avers, “tried to meddle in America’s presidential elections.”

                                If Putin’s aggressive stratagems are a fairly recent revelation to Americans (or, at least, those Americans willing to pay attention), the basic tactics are old news in France and much of the rest of Europe, where Moscow has been active for a long time helping to underwrite with money and propaganda the wave of populism sweeping the Continent.

                                For nearly a decade, Russia has established ties with far-right parties in Eastern Europe, including Hungary’s Jobbik, Bulgaria’s anti-EU Attack movement, and Slovakia’s far-right People’s party.

                                The Eastern European far-right parties have returned the love, whether by supporting the 2008 Russian war against Georgia or by vocalizing support for Putin, as the Bulgarian Attack party has. In 2012, Attack’s leader, Volen Siderov, even popped over to Moscow to ring in Putin’s 60th birthday. Siderov also threatened to withdraw his party’s support from the coalition government if it supported further sanctions against Russia, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

                                However, in recent years Russian influence has been moving west. In a 2014 report, the Budapest-based research institute Political Capital argued that Russia’s meddling in political affairs of the European far right has become a “phenomenon seen all over Europe.” And earlier this year, The Telegraph reported that American intelligence agencies were planning a review of secret Russian funding of several European political parties. The specific parties weren’t named, but it is believed that European far-right groups such as Jobbik, the Northern League in Italy, and Greece’s Golden Dawn are among those to be investigated for having received Russian cash.

                                Most conspicuously, in 2014, after Russia took the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and fueled a wider war in the east of that country, provoking heavy international sanctions, one prominent member of Marine Le Pen’s National Front went as an observer of the dubious Russian-Crimean referendum and pronounced it “legitimate.” A few months later, a Kremlin-controlled bank found €9 million ($10 million) to loan the cash-strapped Front, and at the beginning of this year the party treasurer admitted he was looking for another €27 million from the movement’s friends in Moscow.

                                Considering all this, one senior Western intelligence official told Hénin the idea that the domes of the new Russian Orthodox cathedral on the Seine are covers for electronic eavesdropping is “the stuff of fantasy!” But that’s only because the Russians have so many tools at their disposal in France and the West. The cathedral complex “is much more symbolic,” said the official. The Russians would have to be “absolutely stupid to install a listening capacity there,” he said. Vladimir Putin’s Campaign to Seduce, Subvert and Screw Over Western Democracies—Including Ours - The Daily Beast

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