Ian Stuart Donaldson Skrewdriver

Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

The Syrian “chemical attack” crisis . . . Cui bono?

Thursday, April 6th, 2017
The US Deep State and its allies (particularly Great Britain, France, and Israel) are trying to demonize Assad’s Syria and its ally Russia by any means possible. The latest accusation

The Holodomor’s Bitter Harvest

Monday, March 6th, 2017
Recently someone sent me a link to the trailer of an upcoming movie entitled Bitter Harvest, a love story set against the backdrop of the Soviet-induced Ukrainian famine in 1931-32

“Regime change” bites American Establishment

Saturday, December 10th, 2016
From Reuters (10 December 2016): “The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine

A Statement: the shooting down of a Russian aircraft by Turkey

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
24 November 2015 Earlier today, Turkish F-16 aircraft shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber. The Turks claimed the Russian warplane was in Turkish airspace; the Russians say it was in

‘Battle of Stalingrad’ on display in Germany

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The items for the exhibition were chosen by the workers of the Bundeswehr Museum in Dresden. They include photos, weapons, uniforms, letters and personal belonging of soldiers of both Soviet and German armies.

The exhibition has a special stand, which allows visitors to compare the apprehension of the legendary battle by the people in Russia and in Germany.

The Battle of Stalingrad was a major and decisive battle of the Second World War in which Nazi Germany fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd). The battle took place between August 23, 1942 and February 2, 1943.


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Russia suspends new arms shipments to Syria

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Russia will not deliver new weapons to Syria so long as the situation in that country is unstable, an official at the body in charge of monitoring Russia’s arms trade said Monday, state media reported.

“Russia, as well as other countries, is concerned by the situation in Syria,” said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, RIA Novosti reported. “We are not talking about new arms supplies to that country.”

“Until the situation stabilizes we will not deliver any new weapons (to Syria),” said Dzirkaln.

He specifically said Russia would not supply Syria with Yak-130 aircraft. Russia has signed a $550 million contract for the delivery of three dozen such planes, RIA Novosti said.

Still, it was not clear whether the official was saying Russia would discontinue the delivery of all arms, or whether it was stopping just the supply of “new weapons.” The report seemed to leave open the possibility that Russia could continue to deliver some arms to Syria under existing contracts.

The move could be a major blow to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting to stay in control after more than a year of popular protests and a brutal government crackdown.

Russia has been the long-time principal supplier of arms to Syria since the days when it was the Soviet Union. The weapons sales have more than doubled in recent years. According to Congressional Research Service, Russia sold Syria $4.7 billion in arms from 2007 to 2010, compared with $2.1 billion from 2003 to 2006.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month the continued supply of arms from Russia has strengthened al-Assad’s regime, despite denials by Russian President Vladimir Putin that any munitions it was providing to Syria were being used against its own people.

Also last month, a shipment of refurbished Russian helicopters headed for Syria had to turn around and return to Russia after its British insurance company dropped coverage on the ship carrying the helicopters.

News of the suspended shipments comes the same day the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria said al-Assad has agreed on “an approach” to ending the bloodshed in Syria.

Kofi Annan made the statement after meeting with al-Assad in Damascus. He then flew to Tehran for meetings with Iranian leaders about the Syrian conflict.

Annan gave no details of the “approach” al-Assad agreed to but said he vowed to share it with the “armed opposition.”

Annan also said al-Assad “reassured me of the government’s commitment” to Annan’s six-point peace plan, brokered in March, which has done nothing to stop the deadly violence.

Syria said the two men discussed a recent gathering of world leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, aimed at taking steps to bring peace to Syria, “with emphasis on the need for dialogue to be among Syrians and led by Syrians” — a phrase emphasizing Syria’s resistance to foreign intervention of any sort in the conflict.

Later, Annan announced he was in Tehran “to discuss the situation in Syria” and “to see how we can work together to help settle the situation.”

Iran’s state-run Press TV said he planned to “hold talks with senior officials.”

Even as Annan was in Syria, al-Assad’s regime reported it had conducted live-fire training exercises that simulated a defense against foreign attacks. Throughout the 16-month uprising, the regime has blamed violence on armed terrorist groups involving people from outside Syria.

At least 41 people were killed Monday as the Syrian regime continued its crackdown, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria opposition group. It said at least 60 people were killed in fighting Sunday.

Monday’s violence included house-to-house raids and arrests in Daraa and “very intense shelling” in Homs, with helicopters flying overhead, the LCC said. Eighteen of the deaths were in Idlib, the LCC said.

Gruesome video from the town of Areeha in Idlib showed blood-soaked bodies being dumped onto pickup trucks amid apparent destruction.

A man is heard yelling, “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and calling the dead “victims of the indiscriminate shelling.”

As with so many other videos that have emerged from the conflict, it was impossible to know the full story behind the images.

Heavy gunfire also erupted Monday in the northern Lebanese state of Akkar near the border with Syria, the official Lebanese news agency reported. A number of shells fell inside Lebanese territory, it said.

CNN can not independently confirm reports of violence as Syria has severely limited the access of international journalists.

Syrian state-run TV, meanwhile, broadcast what it called “confessions of four terrorists who admitted to committing murder, rape, abduction and robbery, in addition to smuggling weapons and gunmen, in Homs’ countryside.” The so-called confessions aired Sunday, state-run news agency SANA reported Monday.

It said one of the terrorists “started off by being part of a group that attempted to incite people to protest, and his job was to transport protesters from mosques to squares in the town of al-Qseir.”

SANA reported that on Monday, authorities “clashed with an armed terrorist group” on the outskirts of Aleppo.

The United Nations says more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the violence in Syria. Opposition groups give an even higher figure.

The violence erupted in March 2011 when Syrian forces launched a brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, part of the Arab Spring that swept through several countries.

While members of the U.N. Security Council, which includes the United States, have called for an end to the violence and for al-Assad to step aside, efforts to adopt a resolution that would allow for aid to the rebels have been blocked by Russia and China, key Syrian trade partners.

Russia and China are strongly opposed to armed intervention, saying the outcome in Syria should be decided by its people.

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Putin: Keep Nazi Norms in the Past

Monday, June 25th, 2012

FM Avigdor Lieberman greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin at Ben Gurionairport. Putin immediately traveled to Netanya for a Holocaust monument unveiling. There, Putin said, ”The Soviet army put an end to the darkness of the Nazi regime,saving the Jewish nation and other nations. We must keep all forms of Nazism in the past. The Holocaust must not be denied. This would be a crime against those who fought and fell.”

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US Ex-Im Bank signs $1 bln pact with Russia’s Sberbank

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

The action comes as Russia is the verge of entering the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Congress is facing a vote on whether to establish “permanent normal trade relations” by repealing a 1974 provision that makes favorable U.S. tariff rates for Russia conditional on the rights of Jews to emigrate.

Major U.S. manufacturers such as Caterpillar and Boeing, seeing potential new sales to Russia when it enters the WTO, have been at the front of efforts to persuade Congress to repeal the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment.

“This MOU (memorandum of understanding) begins the process of joint cooperation between Ex-Im and Sberbank,” U.S. Ex-Im Bank President Fred Hochberg said in a statement. “We believe there are tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell into these markets.”

Sberbank’s chairman Herman Gref added it was the first time that Sberbank has signed “such a massive agreement” for cooperation with the Ex-Im Bank.

“This MOU opens new horizons for dynamic growth of trade, economic and investment cooperation between Russia, CIS (a loose association of former Soviet republics) and USA. We see great opportunities, especially for the aviation finance and leasing sector, and also for infrastructure and energy sectors, including both conventional and renewable energy,” Gref said.

The pact is intended to support up to $1 billion in U.S. exports for Russia through 2014 through a variety of U.S. Ex-Im Bank programs.

Those could include direct, medium- and long-term financing to Sberbank and guarantees and export credit insurance to third parties lending to finance U.S. export transactions.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment remains on the books even though Jewish emigration from Russia is no longer regarded as a problem.

Congress is under pressure to repeal the measure because WTO rules require members to provide each other their most favorable market access terms on a non-conditional basis.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Wednesday he expected the Russian Duma to soon pass final legislation to implement its WTO commitments.

That would pave the way for Russia to become a WTO member no later than August 22, he said.

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Russians protest against Putin despite pressure

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Thousands of Russians chanted “Russia will be free” in a march through Moscow on Tuesday to protest against President Vladimir Putin, shrugging off his tough new tactics intended to quash any challenge to his rule.

Protesters streamed down a leafy central boulevard in the first major rally since Putin was sworn in on May 7, saying they would not be deterred by police raids on opposition leaders’ homes and a new law stiffening fines for public order offences.

“Those who fought are beyond being scared,” said Valery Zagovny, a 50-year-old who served for the Soviet army in Afghanistan and was wearing the medals to prove it. “Let those behind the red-toothed walls of the Kremlinbe scared.”

Welcomed by a heavy downpour some joked had been orchestrated by the president himself, protesters waved flags and shouted “Russia without Putin” despite the absence of leaders who had been summoned to appear before investigators.

Leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov ignored his summons for questioning about violence at a rally on the eve of Putin’s inauguration, and led a group of marchers carrying red flags and chanting “Putin to jail!” and “All power to the people!”.

Helmeted riot police manned metal barriers along parts of the route, but the police presence was lighter compared with some earlier protests. Ilya Ponomaryov, an opposition lawmaker, said about 60,000 to 70,000 people had turned out, much higher than the police estimate of 18,000.

After tolerating the biggest protests of his 12-year rule while seeking election, Putin has signaled a harsher approach to dissent since the start of his new term as president.

In power since 2000, Putin easily won a six-year term on March 4 after four years serving as prime minister.

His mantra of ensuring stability finds deep support among the elderly and many outside the cities, as have his strong measures against the protesters, accused by some of his backers of being spoilt urbanites financed by foreign powers.

But opposition leaders say Putin’s heavy-handed tactics show that the former KGB spy is deeply worried by the protests that have undermined his once iron-clad authority.

On Friday, he signed a law increasing fines, in some cases more than 100-fold, for violations of public order at demonstrations, despite warnings from his human rights council that it was an unconstitutional infringement on free assembly.

Police and investigators raided the apartments of Udaltsov, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and socialite Ksenia Sobchak on Monday, seizing computer drives and discs, photographs and other belongings as armed guards stood outside.


“The authorities are in a panic,” Udaltsov told reporters.

“They are trying to conduct primitive, repressive actions, but I am sure they’ll only achieve the opposite effect. These sorts of searches annoy and outrage people, and people in even greater numbers take to the streets.”

Many protesters are middle-class city dwellers who have benefitted from the oil-fuelled boom Russia has experienced during Putin’s years in power but want more of a say in politics and fear his prolonged rule will bring economic stagnation.

They have turned to an opposition which is still in its infancy, lacks a clear leader and looks unlikely to topple Putin, still Russia’s most popular politician, any time soon.

Mikhail, 34, an athlete from Moscow, barely contained his anger while he watched the march.

“These people here are idiots. All those who think these protests can change something and bring something better than Putin to power are idiots,” he said.

“I don’t know of anyone more adequate and better equipped to rule our nation and take it out of the crisis if necessary.”

Pro-Kremlin rallies were planned later on Tuesday, and Putin looked calm as he presided over an awards ceremony in an ornate Kremlin hall.


Police largely left big winter protests alone but began to crack down after Putin’s election, beating protesters at the rally on May 6 and repeatedly dispersing groups trying to set up Occupy-style camps since then, briefly detaining hundreds.

They have detained 12 people over violence at that protest on charges punishable by more than a year in jail, and the latest summonses seemed to carry the implicit threat that opposition leaders could potentially face similar charges.

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UEFA charges Russia for fan violence

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

UEFA charged the Russian football association on Saturday after fans were filmed fighting with stadium stewards after a European Championship match.

UEFA also is seeking more evidence to investigate reports of ”alleged abuse directed at Czech Republic players” during Russia’s 4-1 win in Wroclaw on Friday.

”UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Football Union of Russia for the improper conduct of its supporters,” it said in a statement.

Anti-racist experts appointed by UEFA to monitor matches reported Saturday that fans verbally abused Czechdefender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is black.

UEFA’s disciplinary panel will review the case against Russia – using ”security reports and available images” – on Wednesday.

The alleged improper conduct relates to ”crowd disturbances, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners,” UEFA said.

Four stewards at the Euro 2012 stadium in Wroclaw were hospitalized and later discharged after being attacked by Russia fans, city police said.

Online footage showing fans punching the security staff in a stadium concourse area. One steward was punched to the ground and then kicked before the fans walked away.

Earlier Saturday, UEFA released a statement calling it ”a brief and isolated incident involving a small group of around 30 fans who attacked a handful of stewards.”

Police and a witness who took video footage said the Russia fans became aggressive when stewards tried to capture a man who had thrown firecrackers toward the pitch.

Monitors from the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) fans’ network reported to UEFA that Russia fans also displayed a nationalist ”Russian Empire” flag.

The symbol was one ”we take as evidence of far-right sensibilities,” FARE executive director Piara Powar told The Associated Press.

A Russia team spokesman, Nikolai Komarov, said the federation declined comment on details of the reported incidents.

However, Komarov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview: ”The federation has many fans. You don’t have control over them all.”

UEFA rules make national football bodies responsible for the actions of team supporters.

The 16 competing countries at Euro 2012 would likely be fined by UEFA before facing possible expulsion from the competition for repeated offenses.

Four years ago, UEFA fined Croatia 20,000 Swiss francs (then $19,600; ?12,450) for its fans’ neo-Nazi flags and chants during a Euro 2008 quarterfinals loss against Turkey in Vienna, Austria.

No arrests were made Saturday, but police said they had examined security footage and have photos of 12 of the people involved in the attack on the stewards. Police said this information was being given to Polish border guards and Russian authorities in an attempt to capture the men.

In a separate incident in central Wroclaw, four Russians were detained for questioning for allegedly beating up another Russian, who was hospitalized, another Wroclaw police spokesman, Krzysztof Zaporowski, said. The man was treated and later discharged.

The suspects were under the influence of alcohol and police would question them later, Zaporowski said.

In the Ukrainian city of Lviv, a fight broke out between about 10 supporters of Russia and Ukraine outside the football fan zone after Russia beat Czech Republic 4-1, police spokeswoman Svitlana Dobrovolska said.

About six Russia fans waving the black, yellow and white flag of the Russian empire and four supporters of the Ukrainian team dressed in the national colors of blue and yellow grappled and punched each before police intervened to stop the fight. The fans were separated, told to behave and released, Dobrovolska said.

”It was nothing serious,” she said.

Tensions are high between the two ex-Soviet neighbors as Ukraine seeks to move out of the shadow of its former imperial master and forge closer ties with the European Union.

A potentially volatile clash between Russia and Poland looms in Warsaw on Tuesday – a Russian national holiday when fans plan to march from the city center to the stadium.

Powar expressed concern at nationalist flashpoints, even if Warsaw city authorities deny Russia fans permission to go ahead.

”There is a feeling that the Russians will do it anyway,” he said. ”We have got a lot of people out and we will be looking.”

Powar said Polish feelings were agitated by Russia basing its players in a Warsaw hotel neighboring the country’s presidential palace, close to a shrine commemorating the Smolensk air disaster.

Poland’s then state president, Lech Kaczynski, was among 96 people who died on April 10, 2010, when their plane crashed in Russia. Conspiracy theories persist in Poland that Russia was complicit in the crash.

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Over 2,600 Foreign Workers Arrested in Sting

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Foreign workers sit in a dormitory in the Moscow region.

More than 2600 foreign nationals who were in violation of migration law were detained in Moscow during an operation by immigration authorities, the Federal Migration Service said Tuesday.

The “Illegal-2012” operation was carried out by the FMS in tandem with law enforcement agencies all across the country from May 10 to 31, FMS spokesperson Zalina Kornilov said, Vesti reported.

Kornilov said the agency worked with police to check food production facilities including meat-processing plants and restaurants, as well as clothing shops, factories, construction sites, residences and other industries.

At one dormitory for foreign workers, 62 of the 253 foreign nationals living there were in the country illegally, she said, ITAR-TASS reported.

About 500 of those were arrested have already been deported from Russia as part of the operation, which Kornilov said has already resulted in fines totaling 20.7 million rubles ($620,000).

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Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Background: This is a two-sided Nazi election flyer from 1932, directed to communists. It was for the Prussian state elections of that year, and is a strong appeal for communists to leave their party and join Hitler. “List 8” refers to the Nazi position on the ballot. There were as many as 30 parties listed on the ballot. Each had a list number.

1932 Election Flyer
We are hungry and on the dole, we lack food and jobs. We have bitter wives at home, and children whose every wish we must deny, or discontented parents, brothers and sisters.

It has been this way for months, years; how long can it go! One week follows another. Everything stays the same, conditions get worse, never better.

Things are the same for us as they are for you.Does it have to stay that way? No!

It really is not necessary. A condition that people have caused can be changed by them too.

You trust Russia. You have been fighting for your idea for years. What has happened? You have 3/4 of a million fewer votes than in September 1930. Despite the need, despite the misery! Do you really believe that your cause can lead us to better times, that your wavering, aimless leadership that has been wrong so often in the past can actually win? Do you believe that Russia will help?

Would it not be better to help ourselves!? For the German proletariat to help itself?

We Nazis help each other.He who has something to eat shares it with him who has nothing. He who has a spare bed gives it to him who has none. That is why we have become so strong. The election shows what we can do. Everyone helps! Everyone sacrifices! The unemployed give up their wedding rings. Everyone gives, even if it is but a penny. Many small gifts become a large one. Ten million 10 pfennig coins are a million marks. We don’t need any capitalists, the lie that you are always told. We do it ourselves, and are proud of it.

We all help and sacrifice, because we believe in our idea and our Führer.Without our party program, we would not have become so large and strong. We believe in our program because it says that our leaders have pledged to carry it out, even if it requires the sacrifice of their own lives.

Nazi Election Flyer Adolf Hitlerwrote the program, and we know that he will hold to it.Help build the people’s state! It doesn’t matter where you came from, we are interested only in what you can do, and in your character.

We want to fight. We oppose current conditions!

We want to escape this misery!

That is why we fight today’s system!

That is why we want to rule Prussia!

Help us! We can do it!

Enough! Things have to change!

National Socialist
(The Hitler Movement)
List 8!



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Putin Decision To Skip G8 Arouses Speculation On Motivations

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Vladimir Putin’s decision to skip next week’s meeting of the G8 at Camp David has set off speculation on how this decision should be interpreted.

The most pessimistic reading is that this is a deliberate snub and represents a continuation of the anti-Western policy that permeated Putin’selection campaign. It essentially meant that the Obama administration’s reset policy with the Russians had reached a dead end.

In commemorating the Russian victory over Nazi Germany with a parade involving a 100,000 participants, Vladimir Putin defended an assertive Russian foreign policy, claiming that since Russia had borne the brunt of the Second World War, it was entitled to take the lead in strengthening global security.

Putin has indicated on several occasions that he views certain Western policies, such as intervention in Libya, as undermining world security. Putin is going to attend the G 20 summit in Mexico, a framework in which the United States, Canada and Western Europe have a less preponderant position then within the G8.

The official explanation from the Kremlin is that Vladimir Putin was too busy deciding the makeup of the Russian government.

This explanation was downgraded, because the cabinet is officially the business of the Prime Minister and former President, Dmitry Medvedev.

There may be reasons for skepticism, but this is not a good one. The Russian system is modeled after the French system. In Russia, the Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of both the president and the majority in the Duma in the same way that a French Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of the president and the National Assembly. When the president’s party in both countries has a legislative majority, the president, rather than the prime minister, determines the makeup of the cabinet.

Another explanation is that Vladimir Putin anticipated criticism at the G8 over his handling of the opposition and therefore it was preferable to send Dmitry Medvedev off to the conference, because as the good cop in the tandem, he would provoke less criticism.

Another explanation is suggested by the Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, who wrote about Putin’s return to the Kremlin for the British Telegraph. According to Lukyanov, the Russian leader is a person who disdains long diplomatic meetings and prefers dealing with businessmen where everything is  concrete and to the point and protocol is kept to a minimum.

Putin may therefore have considered a G8 meeting to be a total waste of time, particularly when the G8 members themselves are unsure about the economicdirections that they are taking. It is better to let Medvedev enjoy the dinners andspeeches while Putin attends to the real business.

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Putin flexes muscle in shunning US-hosted G8 talks

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Of all the signals and symbols that shapeRussian foreign policy, this one seemed particularly blunt: Vladimir Putin, in one of the first decisions of his new presidency, will shun a Group of Eight summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The May 18-19 visit was to have been Putin’s first foreign trip since he returned to the Kremlin on Monday, a chance to begin putting U.S. ties back on track after a growth in tension over missile defence, Syria and Russia’s presidential campaign.

Instead, Putin is sending his junior partner, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and a message that as long as he is in charge, Russia will not bend to Washington’s will when its interests are at stake.

“I think the signal he wants to send to America … is that agreements with America will be built on a balance of the strategic interests of America and Russia,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank. “Russia will not make any unilateral concessions.”

It is a message Putin has repeated, from an inauguration-day decree on Monday in which he said Russia would demand U.S. respect to a warning on Wednesday against modern-day violations of sovereignty, delivered before tanks and missiles trundled across Red Square to mark the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.

More starkly, the military chief of staff said last week that Russia could launch pre-emptive strikes against future NATO missile defence facilities in Europe if sufficiently threatened.



The warning indicated Putin will hold out U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield as a big barrier to better relations and, specifically, to Kremlin approval of deeper nuclear arms cuts.

Washington says the shield is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia. Moscow maintains that it could give the West the capability to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, upsetting the strategic equilibrium between the former Cold War foes.

Putin has made clear Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, will seek to undercut U.S. global might and oppose what he says is unjustified, destabilising U.S.-orchestrated interference in the affairs of sovereign states, including Syria and Russia itself.

The public reason for Putin’s decision to skip the G8 summit was the need to focus on appointing a new cabinet.

With liberal and conservatives close to the Kremlin wrangling over cabinet posts and policy direction, Putin – by staying home – may be eager to pose for a domestic audiences and show he is not weakened by the biggest protests of his 12 years as Russia’s paramount political leader.

“Foreign policy … will play the role of a servant to Putin’s domestic agenda,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an author and expert on Putin. “And his main goal domestically is to preserve the status quo and survive.”

After the anti-American atmosphere that prevailed during his presidential campaign, in which Putin accused the United States of stirring up protests, it might look strange to his supporters to make Washington his first foreign destination.

Relations have been strained by the treatment of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, architect of Obama’s “reset” of Russian ties, who has been portrayed by Russian media as a troublemaker out to incite revolution.

Instead, Putin’s first trip abroad could be to China in early June, symbolising that he is looking eastward – to the former Soviet states of Central Asia and beyond.

His first meeting with Obama as president is likely to come on neutral territory in Mexico, where the Group of 20 nations gathers in June.



For reasons both political and personal, Putin will be far more comfortable at the broader G20 than the mostly Western G8, where he feels out of place, like “a white crow”, Trenin said.

His big-power friends from his previous presidency from 2000 to 2008 – France‘s Jacques Chirac, Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder and Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian leader who attended his inauguration on Monday – are gone.

Obama and the rest will instead once again meet Medvedev, who presented a warmer face to the West in his 2008-12 presidency and clicked with Obama, from their signing of the 2010 nuclear arms limitation treaty known as New START to chummy talk at a “cheeseburger summit” that same year.

By contrast, Obama’s breakfast meeting with Putin at his residence outside Moscow in 2009 featured a monologue in which the then-Russian prime minister listed his complaints about the United States at length.

While it seems like a serious snub, the last-minute substitution of Medvedev for the G8 meeting could have an upside for Obama, whose likely Republican opponent in the November election has said he is nowhere near tough enough on Russia.

The United States has criticised the Kremlin over the detentions and violence against Russians protesting at Putin’s return to the presidency, and two prominent opposition leaders will still be in jail when the G8 meets.

Obama “has no need to be photographed with Putin right now – as it is, the Republicans criticise him as a Russian puppet. So in this case it happens to suit everybody,” Fyodor Lukyanov, edit of Russia in Global Affairs, said of Putin’s decision.

“It is a strange, unusual step (to avoid the G8 summit), however – but Putin is a master of such steps. We’ll get used to it.” (Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Mark Heinrich)

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Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Nikolai Smolensky is the controversial 25-year-old known as “baby oligarch“. In 2004 he bought iconic British sports car maker TVR for an estimated £15m, only to announce the plant’s closure two years later with big job losses. Aleksander Smolensky, his father, is an oligarch of classic 1990s vintage who is no less controversial. The bank he once controlled – SBS-Agro – collapsed during Russia’s financial crisis in 1998, leaving thousands of ordinary Russians without their life savings. Smolensky Sr last appeared on Forbes’ rich list in 2004 when he was estimated to be worth £123m. The 51-year-old is married, and Nikolai is his only child. While many ordinary Russians were ruined by the 1998 crash, Aleksander Smolensky somehow bounced back and created a new bank that his son briefly chaired before it was sold on to another prominent oligarch for £110m. Smolensky Jr is an alumnus of British private schools and divides his time between his native Moscow and his adopted London. He is estimated to be worth about £50m.

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Saturday, May 5th, 2012

In 1967 Viktor Rashnikov was a humble fitter in a workshop in one of the Soviet Union’s biggest steel plants. Nearly 40 years later, he chairs the company’s board and has an estimated personal fortune of £2.9bn, making him Russia’s 16th-wealthiest individual. The 57-year-old Rashnikov and a group of like-minded managers are thought to control 99 per cent of the shares in the iron and steel works in Magnitogorsk, Siberia. The mill is Russia’s largest steel producer and one of the most glittering jewels in the country’s industrial crown. The plant achieved legendary status during the Second World War when it churned out half of all Soviet tanks and ammunition. Little is known about Rashnikov except that he was born and bred in Magnitogorsk and still lives there. He enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin, loves ice hockey, and is married with two children. He worked his way up from the workshop floor to become the plant’s general director in 1997. Since then he has resisted hostile takeovers and blackmail to become one of the country’s wealthier oligarchs.

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The Russian Resistance Movement

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The Russian Resistance movement had a major impact on the course of the war on the Eastern Front. Those who fought in the Russian resistance movement are better known as ‘partisans’. In the immediate aftermath ofOperation Barbarossa in June 1941, people in certain parts of Russia saw the Germans as liberators from the tyranny of Joseph Stalin as opposed to an evil invading conqueror. When the numerous atrocities against the people of western Russia started, attitudes changed and many turned to the resistance movement as a way to help defeat Germany.

The partisans in Russia invariably fought in terrain that the Germans found impossible to patrol and control. The bulk of the partisans operated from and were based in the Pripet Marshes – a vast area of bog land four hundred miles to the south-west of Moscow. As the Germans advanced towards Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, asBlitzkrieg steamrollered all before it, the death squads of the SS started their grim work. Many thousands of Russians joined the partisan groups in the marshes and attacked the German Army in the rear as it advanced east. The forests of Belorussia were also a major centre for partisan activity. Both the forests and the marshes had one similar feature – they were all but impossible to police. Those in the partisans knew their home territory and such knowledge gave them a huge advantage over the better armed and equipped Germans.

In May 1942, a Central Staff was set up in Russia to direct the activities of the partisans. By July 1943, the number of partisans fighting against the Germans was estimated at 142,000. They operated as far a field as Lake Peipus in the north to the Crimea in the south. In August 1942, the Central Staff called the work of the partisans unsatisfactory and ordered an increase in activity against the Germans. In the same month, the Central Staff also ordered a full amnesty for all who had collaborated with the Germans. The partisans had been utterly ruthless with any collaborators they had caught. However, the Central Staff wanted all Russians in the west to work as one unit – and the treatment of collaborators and suspected collaborators was a de-stabilising element within the area.

Partisans engaged in classic guerilla activity – hit and run tactics. Strategic targets were selected and attacked – with the attackers drifting away into the night. For the Germans, chasing them into forests or marshland was a demoralising task – and invariably fruitless. As a result, the general population of western Russia was targeted by the Germans. Civilian blood was spilt in retaliation for partisan attacks. However, the more civilians were targeted, the more people joined the partisans. The Germans created what was effectively a vicious circle. They had to do something, but they could not find the partisans to punish. By punishing the innocent, the Germans were simply converting more to the cause of the partisans. By the autumn of 1941, the Bryansk Forest, covering an area of 125 miles by 40 miles, had only an estimated 2,500 partisans there. Within 12 months, the figure had greatly increased – though any figures given out by the government were always open to interpretation as partisan figures were frequently used for propaganda purposes.

The importance of the partisans to the Russian war effort can be seen by the fact that Stalin ordered that the Central Staff had to ensure that the partisans in the west were well equipped. Though some units clearly had to improvise, many of the larger units, such as the Kovpak and Saburov brigades in the Bryansk Forest, were equipped to a level where they could take on the Germans. Though supplies could never be guaranteed on a regular basis, guns, rifles and ammunition were usually well supplied. While the number of official partisan detachments increased in 1943 from 661 to 1,06, the number of radio sets made available to the partisans increased from just 217 to 300. However, many partisan units were self-contained, so communication outside of their locality was never a major problem – especially as Stalin had ordered that partisan leaders did not have to await for orders from above or confirmation of orders. Explosives were also short supply – so the partisans learned to recycle the explosives from unexploded shells.

The impact the partisans had on the Germans was huge. The damage done to military property, communication and supply lines was a major factor in the Germans inability to sustain its war effort in the east. The impact the partisans had on morale is probably impossible to calculate.

“So far we have managed to reach Minsk. Our motor column had to make six stops owing to damaged bridges and four times we were stopped by enemy rifle and machine-gun fire. The stop between Slinim and Baranovichi was particularly long for we were ordered to repair a big bridge there, which had been destroyed by the guerillas about two hours before our arrival. We hardly made 20 kilometres when we ran into heavy fire which was fearful indeed and this went on until we got out of the forest. As a result four men were killed and three were wounded in our vehicle. After Minsk, our column split up and we went different ways. We proceeded on foot. We did not stop fighting these invisible men until we got to the front. In the proximity of Berezino we fought a real battle with them. As a result our company lost 40 men.”Corporal Gran, German 445th Infantry Regiment

The brutality handed out to each other if caught knew no limits. However, this did not stop young people wanting to join the partisans. New recruits needed to have their loyalty tested first. To start with any new recruit was not allowed a weapon. He or she did menial jobs around a partisan group’s base. if at any stage, they were thought to be disloyal, they were shot as was their family. The family home would also be burned to the ground. Such brutality sent a very clear warning out to those who might have been bought off by the Germans.

After the start of the German retreat after the Battle of Stalingrad, the Germans went straight into the stronghold of the partisans. Attacked by the Red Army in the rear and partisans in front of them, the German Army had a fearful time during its retreat. The Germans attempted to take on the partisans especially in the Bryansk Forest. Up to 60,000 German soldiers were sent into the forest to seek and destroy partisan strongholds. Their mission was a failure. But this was a classic example of the partisans sucking away from the main battlefield, troops who could have been doing their duty elsewhere.

As parts of western Russia were cleared of their German occupiers, the partisans dealt with those who they believed had collaborated with the Germans and had remained unpunished up to that point. Any woman who had given birth to a child fathered by a German was arrested and handed over to the secret police. Few of these women ever returned to their towns/villages.

In July 1943, the Central Staff announced its ‘rail war’. The partisans were ordered to all but destroy the rail network of western Russia. Between February 1943 and July 1943, there was a three-fold increase in attacks on railways – 1,460 attacks in July alone, averaging just under 50 attacks a day. Forty-four bridges carrying rail lines were destroyed as were 298 locomotives. Such targets were vital if Germany was to be strangled of supplies and the ability to move any supplies around. Hence why the Central Staff ordered that whatever was left should be destroyed.

Any figures associated with the partisan movement in Russia have to be treated with caution as commanders in the field often greatly exaggerated their successes in an effort to please Moscow. However, the Central Staff that controlled partisan activity stated that in just two years, the partisans in Belorussia had killed 300,000 German soldiers, attacked rail lines 3000 times, destroyed 3,263 bridges, 1,191 tanks, 4,097 lorries and 895 store rooms.

“We entered a gloomy wilderness in our tanks. There wasn’t a single man anywhere. Everywhere the forests and marshes are haunted by the ghosts of the avengers. They would attack us unexpectedly, as if rising from under the earth. They cut us up to disappear like devils into the nether regions. The avengers pursue us everywhere. You are never safe from them. Damnation. I never experienced anything like it anywhere in the war. I cannot fight the spectres of the forest.”Friedrich Buschele, killed by Byelorussian partisans.

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The Polish Resistance

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The Polish resistance movement was very active in World War Two. Up until the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, the Poles had two enemies – Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. Both had attacked Poland in September 1939. Germany’s attack on Russia took one of these enemies out of the equation for now. Poland’s resistance movement could concentrate all its resources on a common enemy.

Poland was the principal focus of military transport for the Germans after June 1941. The country acted as a conduit for the front in Russia. Therefore, there were many targets for the Polish resistance movement and from June 1941 to December 1941, they destroyed 1,935 railway engines, derailed 90 trains, blew up three bridges and set fire to 237 transport lorries. However, such a success came at a cost as the reprisals by the Germans was savage in the extreme. In fact, so extreme was the German reaction, that the Polish resistance all but ended its work for about 10 months in 1942. SOE in London could not effectively assist the Poles because the distance was simply too great for SOE to overcome.

As in Czechoslovakia, the resistance movement in Poland was fragmented by politics. A government in exile existed in London but a “Union of Polish Patriots” was formed in Moscow in direct competition to the London government. During 1942, Polish communists were dropped into Poland to set up the “Worker’s Party”. This was to include a resistance movement called the “People’s Guard”.

The response in London was for Chief-of-Staff General Sikorski to reorganise the resistance movement in Poland that was loyal to the exiled government. It was inevitable that both would clash. Matters were not improved when the Germans found the bodies of 4,500 Polish officers at Katyn Wood. The Russians were held responsible for this and their refusal to allow an enquiry by the International Red Cross only confirmed to non-communists in Poland that Stalin’s government was responsible for these murders.

However, the non-communist Polish resistance force had to accept the inevitable – Russia would get to Poland before the Allies. The AK (Armia Krajowa) was led by General Bor-Komorowski after June 1943 (its previous leader, Rowecki was arrested in that month) and he drew up a plan to accommodate Russia’s advance. His plan was that the AK should continue with its policy of sabotage and intelligence gathering. This intelligence would go to both the Russians and to Britain. In January1944, the AK actually got hold of parts of a V1 and sent them to London. While Russia and the Allies continued to launch major attacks on the retreating Wehrmacht, the AK used diversionary guerrilla attacks to split the Germans military resources. The final part of  Bor-Komorowski’s plan was called “Rising”. It was for a general uprising throughout Poland led by the AK. The final part of the plan was never fully implemented primarily due to the speed of the Russian advance. However, whenever, the Red Army came across units of the AK movement, it disarmed them. For the Russians, it was of much greater value for the ‘People’s Guard’ to have the upper hand within Poland.

By the spring of 1944, the Polish resistance was thought to number 400,000. The government in exile played a key part in running the non-communist resistance in Poland – far more freedom than any other government in exile within Britain was allowed. The Polish resistance was very well organised and at one time there were over 100 radio stations broadcasting in occupied Poland.

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Monday, April 30th, 2012

Poland has shared the tragic fate of Hungary. The men who dominated Poland in the years just after WW2 were the Jews, Mine, Skryesiewski, Modielewski, and Berman. The first three are of cabinet rank, while Jacob Berman’s official position was that of Under-Secretary of State – a minor office, Yet it was actually Jacob Berman who was the undisputed boss of Poland. Berman, a product of the Warsaw ghetto, had lived in Russia, and was installed as dictator over Poland when the Russian armies took over the country. He preferred to work behind the scenes as much as possible – a device frequently used to hide the Jewishness of communism, Poland’s Jewish bureaucracy was perhaps the largest of any Iron Curtain country outside of Russia proper. Although Jews comprised less than 3% of the total population behind the Iron Curtain, they occupied virtually every position of authority.

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Putin rival exhalts in mayoral victory

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

In a sign that Russia’s ruling party will face greater challenges as President-elect Vladimir Putin begins his third term in the post, an independent candidate supported by the opposition won a landslide victory in a weekend mayoral election.

The preliminary results announced Monday in the runoff election gave Yevgeny Urlashov, a charismatic 44-year-old lawyer, about 70 percent of the vote in the city of Yaroslavl, about 150 miles north of Moscow. He defeated a local tycoon from Putin’s United Russia party.

“My victory proves beyond any doubt that people are tired of rule by the corrupt bureaucracy and that they want changes,” Urlashov said in a phone interview Monday. “They are fed up with the imitation of democracy imposed from the above.”

Urlashov’s victory was overseen by several hundred election observers from Moscow, representing independent agencies and opposition parties.

Observers noted that it was a tough campaign for the winner. Urlashov was largely denied time on local television. Threats made by phone, email and other sources were a constant feature of the campaign. In late February, shortly before the first-round vote, the car of a key campaign aide was torched.

Shortly after the first round, in which Urlashov beat the runner-up by a significant margin but fell short of the required over 50 percent mark, a lawsuit was filed seeking to disqualify the front-runner on a technicality.

Two weeks before Sunday’s vote, ruling party candidate Yakov Yakushev was appointed deputy mayor. The next day the mayor went on leave, making Yakushev the city’s acting chief.

“Yakushev’s men went on house-to-house canvassing compelling residents to cast their ballots in favor of the United Russia candidate, offering people 200 rubles (the equivalent of $7) per vote,” said Andrei Chekanov, regional coordinator of the opposition Solidarity movement.

“There are so many scoundrels in power here and we trust Urlashov to purge them out,” Lyubov Bogova, a 42-year-old cook at a downtown Yaroslavl kindergarten, said in a telephone interview. “It should come as a lesson to the Kremlin that Putin has his last chance to set things straight in the country.”

Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008 and has been prime minister over the past four years, received 54 percent of the vote in Yaroslavl during last month’s presidential vote, 10 percentage points less than he got nationwide.

Urlashov’s election suggests that Putin and his team may have increasing difficulty controlling elections in the provinces outside of Moscow, a pro-Kremlin political expert said.

“The Kremlin remains the biggest player in the market of provincial elections, but to preserve its leadership it needs to make its policy more efficient as the threat of opposition and independent figures coming to power in the provinces is growing,” said Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency for Political and Economic Communication, a Moscow-based think tank. “As the predictability of these processes continues to dwindle, Putin will face a tougher time in office than before.”

For his part, Urlashov said there are signs that Putin is distancing himself from the ruling party, which appears to be losing popularity.

“I am grateful to the Kremlin for not interfering in the Yaroslavl mayoral vote,” Urlashov said. “As the United Russia is sinking deeper and deeper into oblivion, it is time for Putin to become the president of the entire people rather than of a large group of corrupt officials.”


Following a series of protests that have rocked the country in recent months, parliament last month passed a law making it easier for political parties to register.

In February, a measure allowing direct elections of regional governors was passed in the first reading. The Kremlin decided not to wait for that bill to become a law and in recent weeks replaced several governors in key provinces.

“The recent opposition rallies scared Putin, though not enough,” said Gennady Gudkov, an opposition leader and deputy chairman of the Security Committee in the lower house of parliament. He promised that the opposition’s struggle for change would intensify after Putin’s inauguration.


Putin’s reaction to the results in Yaroslavl was not known Monday. However, his spokesman discounted suggests from Urlashov and others that Putin should become a president for all Russians.

“With the 64 percent of the national vote in his favor, Vladimir Vladimirovich is already the president of the entire people,” press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/02/4385435/putin-rival-exhalts-in-mayoral.html#storylink=cpy


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Polish prosecutor says there is no evidence 2010 plane crash was assassination

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Poland’s top prosecutor says no evidence to date supports theories that a 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski was an assassination.

Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet was reacting Thursday to comments made a day earlier by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a conservative party leader and the late president’s twin brother, who suggested the plane crash in Russia was intentional.

Seremet, who oversees a Polish investigation, said in an interview on TVN24 that “we did not find any evidence that the cause of the crash was an assassination.”

Polish and Russian reports have pointed to fog and pilot error as the main causes of the crash, which occurred at an airport near Smolensk, western Russia, killing Kaczynski and 95 others on board.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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British spies stumped by Charlie Chaplin mystery

Friday, February 17th, 2012

They foiled plots and cracked Nazi codes, but Britain’s spies were unable to solve the mystery of Charlie Chaplin‘s birth.

Although the entertainer is celebrated as one of London’s most famous sons, newly declassified files reveal that Britain’s MI5 domestic intelligence service found no records to back up Chaplin’s claim that he was born in the city on April 16, 1889.

Uncertainty about Chaplin’s origins linger to this day – a mystery Chaplin himself may have helped to nurture.

The previously secret file, released Friday by Britain’s National Archives, shows that MI5 investigated the silent film star in the 1950s at the request of U.S. authorities, who had long suspected him of communist sympathies. MI5 historian Christopher Andrew said the FBI‘s red-hating chief, J. Edgar Hoover, privately denounced Chaplin as “one of Hollywood’s parlor Bolsheviks.”

To the spies’ surprise, there was no record of the performer’s birth.

“It would seem that Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned,” MI5 concluded.

Chaplin’s life is a Dickensian rags-to-riches story. Raised in London in a family of music-hall entertainers, he moved to the United States in 1910 and became one of Hollywood’s first megastars with his shabby, bowler-hatted everyman persona, the Little Tramp.

He was a box office sensation in movies such as “The Gold Rush,” “City Lights” and “The Kid,” but his left-wing friends and activities alarmed the FBI, which began tracking the actor in the early 1920s.

In 1952, as fears of Soviet infiltration raged in the U.S., American authorities asked MI5 to investigate Chaplin’s political allegiances and personal background, including a long-standing rumor that Charlie Chaplin was an alias and the performer’s true name was Israel Thornstein.

But British spies could find no trace of him in the birth records at London’s Somerset House under Chaplin, Thornstein or Harley, his mother’s stage name.

The spies also checked French records amid rumors that he might have been born in the town of Fontainebleau – but that, too, drew a blank.

Elsewhere in the file, agents speculate that Chaplin might have Russian roots. There was an allegation that he had once spoken of “going back to Russia.”

“This might refer to paying another visit, or it might denote his origin as Russia,” noted senior MI5 officer W.M.T. Magan, speculating that Chaplin might have come from a Jewish family fleeing pogroms at the end of the 19th century.

Film historian Matthew Sweet said rumors about Chaplin’s roots had been swirling well before the 1950s. The French claim stemmed from a fan magazine article from the 1910s that suggested Chaplin was born while his performer mother was on tour. The idea he was Jewish appears to have been an assumption by some fans that came to be widely believed. Chaplin did little to correct the record.

“The borderline between fact and fiction about celebrities was much less clearly policed than it is today,” Sweet said.

MI5 seemed content to let the mystery of Chaplin’s birth remain. British agents were skeptical of American claims that the star was a communist threat, with John Marriott, the head of MI5’s counter-subversion branch, calling the U.S. allegations “unreliable.”

“It is curious that we can find no record of Chaplin’s birth, but I scarcely think that this is of any security significance,” he wrote in 1952.

The U.S. thought differently and Chaplin was refused re-entry to the United States in 1952. He settled in Switzerland and lived there until his death in 1977.

The dossier shows MI5 continued to track Chaplin for several years. It contains newspaper clippings about the actor, snatches of conversation from suspected radicals who knew him and letters sent from Russia to “Comrade Charly Chaplin” via the communist magazine Challenge.

But by 1958, MI5 had concluded Chaplin was not a threat.

“We have no substantial information of our own against Chaplin, and we are not satisfied that there are reliable grounds for regarding him as a security risk,” the agency noted. “It may be that Chaplin is a Communist sympathizer but on the information before us he would appear to be no more than a ‘progressive’ or radical.”

Nonetheless, a taint of impropriety lingered. Files released in 2002 showed that the British government blocked a knighthood for Chaplin for nearly 20 years because of American concerns about his politics and private life – he was married four times, twice to 16-year-old girls. He eventually became Sir Charles Chaplin in March 1975, two years before his death at age 88.

Chaplin’s origins remain cloudy, although the 1891 census records the then 2-year-old as living in south London with his mother and elder brother Sydney.

Evidence unearthed last year added another layer of mystery.

In a locked drawer of a bureau left behind after Chaplin’s death, his family found a letter from a man in England named Jack Hill. It claimed Chaplin had been born “in a caravan (that) belonged to the Gypsy Queen, who was my auntie” in a Roma community near Birmingham in central England.

Chaplin had alluded to Roma roots in his autobiography, writing that “Grandma was half-Gypsy. This fact was the skeleton in our family cupboard.”

Sweet said the letter was not proof of Chaplin’s birthplace but evidence he cultivated the mystery of his origins.

“It is very widely accepted that he was born in London in 1889, but the piece of paper just isn’t there,” Sweet said.

“That letter is not proof that he was born in a Gypsy encampment. It is proof that he was terrifically attracted to the idea of that story, enough to keep the letter and lock it away and think of it as something important.

“The idea of the mystery of his own birth is something that he quite enjoyed, I think.”

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Europe Must Not “Make Assumptions” On Russia, Expert Exclaims

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Political scientist Oscar Aubert, an expert on West Europe, Russia and CIS, has said that the scenario in Russia is different to the Arab Spring, stating that Europe “should not apply the same standards to Russia as it has done to the Middle East.”

Aubert said, in a recent article said: “We Europeans can easily take for granted simple and clear clichés. For example, we took the revolutionary events in Egypt last year at the instigation of our media for the revolt of educated youth and middle class against the corrupt military despotism.
“But today, looking at the results of parliamentary elections, we see that the “revolutionary youth” got only 7 seats out of 508. The winners were two blocks of Islamist parties, which main bodies are the Freedom and Justice Party (based on the organization “Muslim Brothers” banned in many countries) and the Light Party (representing radical Islam of the Salafi persuasion).
“Religious fundamentalists have in total more than 70% of the votes, while European observers today prefer to call “Muslim brothers” moderate Islamists, which is justified only in comparison with Salafis … secular and liberal parties gained only 15%.
“General democratic elections summed up last year’s “revolution on the Tahrir Square” in which France’s sympathy of Egypt was completely on the side of the rebels, but President Hosni Mubarak experienced strong pressure exerted in order to make him resign. Did Egypt become closer to the West? Did the security of Israel, the only truly pro-European government in the Middle East, strengthen? Did a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem appear? Did the threat from Islamic terrorists to France and our citizens decrease? A repeated sullen “no” is a consequence of that thoughtless joyful “yes” that we shouted a year ago to greet “the Arab Spring”.

“The Europeans can hardly imagine a situation in which the radicals completely dominate the political spectrum while the liberals are marginalized. But this is the democratic choice of the Egyptians and we have to accept it.
“If we can learn from our mistakes we should not show the same light-mindedness when it concerns Russia. Today the majority of French political observers describe the situation in Russia in terms of a confrontation between pro-European democratic-minded young people and conservative authoritarian regime which relies on the older generation that feels nostalgic for Soviet times. And more often such understandable for Europeans political figures as the leader of the party “Yabloko” Grigory Yavlinsky, Yeltsin’s former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, the former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov are named among leaders of the protesters.
“Indeed, they and their supporters are present at the protest rallies. But, going back to the parallels with Egypt, this reminds us of El Baradei, the former Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who with a small group of supporters was regularly broadcast a year ago in the European media as the leader of the Egyptian opposition. However according to the December poll his president rating was 4%.
“The overall rating of the three above-mentioned Russian liberals is even lesser. But the real hero of the street opposition is the radical nationalist Alexei Navalny who feels comfortable enough to speak in front of a crowd of skinheads raising their hands in a Nazi salute. The second most popular hero of the protest movement is the radical leftist Sergei Udaltsov who differs from Navalny by his internationalism. These two leaders are united by the slogan of a large-scale redistribution of property – “from oligarchs – to the Russian people” in Navalny’s wording and “from oligarchs – to working people” in Udaltsov’s interpretation.

“It is not surprising that outnumbered liberals feel uncomfortable at the joint meetings of protest, especially when the nationalists obstruct speakers with Jewish roots.
“In a face-off with ultra-nationalists and radicals Vladimir Putin is guided by the formula of Pyotr Stolypin, a popular historical figure in Russia, Prime Minister (1906 – 1911), a reformer and a fighter against the Revolution, who died tragically at the hands of a militant: “They need a great upheaval, we need a great Russia!”. And this slogan (in different variations) allows Putin to consolidate successfully his supporters.
“We in France need stable Russia – an ally and partner of the EU. In the word combination “great Russia” some Europeans hear the imperial notes that, taking into account our historical experience, can cause certain concern. But the phrase “a great upheaval” in the case of Russia is, indeed, Europe’s nightmare.”

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12 held in London after day of Syria protests

Sunday, February 5th, 2012


A dozen protesters have been arrested amid violent scenes at the Syrian embassy in London as the United Nations failed to agree a resolution despite a new wave of killing by the Damascus regime.

Scotland Yard said six people were arrested on suspicion of public order offences this afternoon when a chanting crowd used missiles to smash several of the building’s windows.

It came hours after five were detained for storming the embassy in protest against the brutal crackdown of the Syrian uprising and another on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

Tensions were fuelled by an assault by Syrian security forces against the southern city of Homs overnight which was reported to have killed upwards of 250 people.

Angry scenes in central London were mirrored in cities across Europe and the Middle East – including Libya and Tunisia where Arab Spring uprisings have already succeeded in removing regimes.

Tunisia announced that it would withdraw its recognition of President Bashar Assad’s leadership and expel the Syrian ambassador.

But the Homs bombardment, the bloodiest episode so far in the 11-month battle between Assad and pro-democracy protesters, did not unlock a diplomatic stand-off over UN action.

Britain accused China and Russia of encouraging Assad’s “killing machine” after they vetoed a draft resolution aimed at ending the violence and securing a peaceful transfer of power.

Intense lobbying at a rare weekend session of the UN in New York failed to end the two countries’ resistance – sparking bitter international condemnation.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the twin veto was “an hour of shame” for the UN and that Russia and China had sided with the regime over the people of Syria and the Arab League.

“Their approach lets the Syrian people down, and will only encourage President Assad’s brutal regime to increase the killing, as it has done in Homs over the past 24 hours,” he said.

The draft resolution, tabled by Morocco, did not impose sanctions or open the door to military action and contained nothing that warranted opposition, he said.

It repeated conditions set down by Arab League foreign ministers last month for a Syrian-led political transition in which Assad would delegate his powers to a deputy.

Mr Hague said the assault on Homs – which has been at the centre of the pro-democracy protests – was “all the more chilling” as it came on the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre.

Around 20,000 people died in the 1982 operation by the Syrian army – then under the orders of president Hafez Assad – the father of the present leader.

The UN says around 6,000 people have died so far in the latest crackdown and Mr Hague said 2,000 had died since the last time the two countries exercised the veto.

“How many more need to die before Russia and China allow the UN Security Council to act?”

Russia and China were condemned in a series of outspoken attacks by the other members of the Security Council – the US saying it was “disgusted”.

The UK’s ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said: “They have failed in their responsibility as permanent members of the Security Council and they have done so on the most shameful day of the Syrian killing machine’s 300 days of repression.”

A crowd of around 150 tried to storm the London embassy in the early hours and a similar-sized crowd demanding the closure of the diplomatic post and throwing missiles returned later on.

As passions flared, protesters climbed on top of barriers before police reinforcements arrived in large vans and the demonstrators were driven back across the road.

After some confusion and a brief confrontation with officers who had their sticks drawn, the group was penned in behind barriers across the road from the embassy.

At least one police officer was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The British Foreign Office condemned the violence and said security was being reviewed by Scotland Yard which would take “appropriate action to ensure the safety of the building”.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell joined the calls for the Syrian ambassador to be expelled.

“It is intolerable that we allow the Syrian ambassador to remain in London after this latest massacre of civilians by his government,” he said.

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Russian Antiracism Campaigner Beaten, Persecuted on the Eve of February 4 Demonstrations

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Human Rights First calls on the Russian government to promptly investigate the recent attack on Philip Kostenko, an activist who works at the Anti-Discrimination Center “Memorial” in Saint Petersburg. This morning, Kostenko was beaten by two men who followed him through a park, where they pushed him to the ground and started to beat him. One of the attackers called the victim by name before the assault. Kostenko waited for an ambulance at the scene before proceeding to a local hospital.

“We call on the authorities in Saint Petersburg to thoroughly investigate this case, including the extent to which it was in retaliation for his activism. They should also hold the perpetrators accountable. The fact that this incident took place one day before the scheduled opposition demonstrations across Russia suggests that the attackers may have wanted to prevent Kostenko’s participation in tomorrow’s protest actions,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre.

Kostenko has also been subject to persecution and monitoring by the authorities—including by the police unit responsible for  combating extremism and hate crime— for his legitimate opposition and human rights activities.

In mid-December 2011, Kostenko was singled out by police during nonviolent post-parliamentary election protests, arrested, and given the maximum 15-day administrative sentence for public disorder. On December 22, his sentence was extended another 15 days—the maximum allowable—at a hearing heavily influenced by a representative from the police’s antiextremism unit. The judge in that hearing refused to allow Kostenko to defend himself before extending the sentence.

Kostenko still faces administrative charges and is due to appear in court in mid-February. His colleagues and lawyers maintain the activist is innocent of these charges and is being persecuted because of his opposition activism and human rights work.

Racism- and nationalism-related issues remain a hot topic in Russia. Just this week, a major court battle ended positively when the Supreme Court upheld the verdict against the members of the Borovikov-Voevodin gang from Saint Petersburg that was responsible for dozens of murders, including the ethnographer Nikolai Girenko, a nine-year-old Tajik girl, and an African student.

“The court case against Philip Kostenko is an example where police monitor and go after peaceful activists, instead of concentrating their full attention on the real ‘extremists’—the violent neo-Nazi gangs who until recently have operated with relative impunity in murderous racist attacks on those perceived to be ‘foreigners,’” concluded LeGendre. “The police must recognize and affirm that violent hate crime is the problem, and not activists like Kostenko who, in fact, work to confront racism in Russia.”

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Russia’s reform law not likely to change anything

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

The end-of-December, multi-thousand people demonstration in Moscow against the fraudulent parliamentary election has fizzled out.

But the hot spots could still reignite.

The tens of thousands of mostly young, middle-class Muscovites who demonstrated Dec. 24 preferred to stay home and celebrate rather than to continue with their protest against the rigged election that retained parliamentary control for the ruling United Russia party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin, on the other hand, took heed and kept working, at least those responsible for the political reform draft that was presented to the public last week.

Presented by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is yielding the presidency to Mr. Putin — Russia‘s de-facto ruler — in March, the draft changes Russia’s election laws in a way that at a glance appears to be a major concession to the demonstrators.

Consider this:

● The draft law makes it easier to form new parties. Now it takes just 500 people to form one. It used to require at least 45,000 documented signatures to register a new party and 150,000 for it to run in parliamentary elections.

● Should a party gain at least 30 percent of the vote in at least half the constituencies, it would automatically get half the seats in the Duma, the lower house of the parliament, which would be more than enough to control it.

What is more, the draft law appears to reverse one of Mr. Putin’s major accomplishments — the abolition of election of provincial governors. Now the governors are supposed to be elected once again.

And finally, the draft law postulates independence of the judiciary.

So the Kremlin has tried to prepare itself for the eventuality that a follow-up demonstration scheduled in Moscow on Feb. 4 draws large crowds.

The new whip indeed looks rather like a carrot.

However, all the draft law would do once it is enforced is make it easier for the Kremlin to manipulate the political system while maintaining appearances.

First, in Russia, unwanted parties are routinely refused registration; the pro-forma lowering of the threshold does nothing to change this practice.

Moreover, with more parties, it would be easier for the Kremlin to buy or force the votes it takes to keep the ruling United Russia party in control of the parliament, because with more parties splitting the vote, it would take fewer votes to qualify for the parliamentary majority.

Second, the draft postulates that governor candidates have to be cleared by the president, effectively preventing a viable opposition figure from running for governor.

Lastly, nothing in the draft indicates that the independence of the judiciary doesn’t remain just an empty declaration.

However, the good thing is that the December demonstration has impressed the Kremlin to consider any political reform at all.

This may inspire at least some of the young professionals of Moscow to keep the pressure up and may even result in the emergence of a viable liberal opposition.

Unfortunately, so far those who appeared to have the ear of the majority of the December demonstrators sound like die-hard Russian chauvinists.

Clearly, as long as this continues to be the case, the role the United States and its European allies can play in the support of the liberal elements within the Russian protest movement is very limited.

The White House and the State Department would be wise to tread very carefully. Any loud pronouncements in regard to what may or may not become the Russian Spring could be used by the Kremlin and the Russian chauvinists for their own interests.

Mike Sigov, a former Russian journalist in Moscow, is a U.S. citizen and a staff writer for The Blade.

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Russia marks 68 years since lifting Nazi siege of Leningrad

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Today Russians mark the 68 years since the lifting of the Nazi siege of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg).

According to various estimates, from 600,000 to one million people died of starvation, froze to death or were killed in artillery shelling during the siege. Because of the blockade, it was possible to take people or goods to or from Leningrad only by air or via Lake Ladoga.

President Dmitry Medvedev has offered congratulations to the Great Patriotic War veterans and the residents of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region on the anniversary of lifting the blockade. He pointed out the courage of the city defenders and residents, whose staunchness, inflexible will and faithfulness to their Motherland set an example for the rest of the world.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has, for his part, laid a wreath at the Piskariov Memorial Cemetery, where the remains of 420,000 Leningrad residents who died during the siege are buried

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Russia row over Nazi massacre site in Rostov-on-Don

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

A row has erupted in Russia over the replacement of a Holocaust memorial plaque in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don which named Jews as victims.

In August 1942 Nazi German troops murdered at least 27,000 people at Zmiyevskaya Balka, regarded as the worst Holocaust atrocity in Russia.

More than half the victims were Jews, the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) says.

A new plaque does not mention Jews, but “peaceful citizens of Rostov-on-Don and Soviet prisoners-of-war”.

The RJC, a secular foundation representing Russian Jews, says it will take legal action over the unauthorised decision to replace the former plaque, which spoke of “more than 27,000 Jews” murdered by the Nazis. That plaque had been put up in 2004.

According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Centre in Israel, 15,000-16,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in Rostov-on-Don from August 1942 to February 1943.

In the Soviet Union memorials commemorating victims of Nazi massacres spoke of “Soviet citizens” rather than “Jews”.

Violation admitted

The former plaque mentioning Jews has now been put in the Zmiyevskaya Balka memorial hall, Rostov’s Deputy Culture Minister Valery Gelas told Moscow Echo radio.

He admitted that the rules for historical memorials had been broken, but said the new plaque would remain and “we’ve done all we can”.

He said the wording was in line with historical research and data presented to the Rostov cultural authorities.

RJC president Yuri Kanner said the site was “Russia’s Babi Yar” – a reference to the notorious Nazi mass shootings of Jews near Kiev during World War II.

He said it was important to specify exactly who was shot at Zmiyevskaya Balka, pointing out that in law the Nazi slaughter of Jews “is considered a separate crime, with separate prosecutions”.

“There could have been refugees from Poland, not necessarily Soviet citizens, it’s not a question of citizens,” he told Moscow Echo.

He said he did not believe the plaque decision was a case of anti-Semitism, rather that it was a local official’s “attempt to do something to please somebody”.

A Communist MP on the Russian parliament (Duma) committee for nationalities, Tamara Pletneva, said it was time to “forget our bitterness and live in peace”.

“The memorial should commemorate all the war victims… the Soviet Union saved Jews, Russians saved Jews… so why single out Jews? We shouldn’t single out any ethnic group.”

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Muslims, Jews Reject ‘Orthodox Church Party’ Idea

Saturday, January 21st, 2012


The leaders of Muslim and Jewish groups in Russia have responded to a recent call to form an Orthodox Church party by rejecting all religion-based parties.

Chairman of the Russian Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations Zinovy Kogan and Deputy Chair of Russia’s Union of Muftis Farid Asadullin on Friday condemned the proposed formation of an “Orthodox” party, voiced earlier this month by Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin.

“The law does not allow parties based on religion, but no one will ban the formation of an Orthodox or Christian party if there is no formal mention of it in the title,” Father Chaplin wrote in the recently opened Orthodox Politics blog.
“Let us recall that Christian Democrats in the European Parliament refer to themselves as the European People’s Party and the moderate Muslim party in Turkey as the Justice and Development Party.”

“The Church is positive about the prospect of setting up Christian or Orthodox parties or in-party groups, but it won’t provide them with exclusive support or bless them.” Chaplin said.

But Kogan and Assadulin disagreed. “This proposal… seems provocative,” Assadulin said at a press conference at RIA Novosti.

The idea may resurface after March presidential elections in Russia, he went on, adding that “the political landscape” is too vague for a serious discussion.

“I do not back the idea of creating a Jewish party… I back the idea of setting up a secular association of Jews – religious and non-religious,” Kogan said.

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School Children Win Tolerance Contest Using Nazi Symbol

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A group of 14-year-old schoolchildren won a school tolerance contest in St.Peterbsurg, using a team name containing the Neo-Nazi symbol 14/88, St.Peterbsurg’s Ekho radio station reported.

On November 16, a school in Russia’s second largest city, St.Petersburg, held a competition marking International Tolerance Day, the school’s deputy principal, Tatiana Vasilenko told the radio station.

Later the pupils uploaded a photo of their contest award certificate onto the Internet. It features the name of the team written in big italicized lettering, containing the numbers, St.Peterbsurg’s Ekho said.

The numbers 14/88 have Nazi-linked connotations to followers of right-wing extremist groups – 14 stands for a 14-word slogan coined by the U.S. Nazi, David Lane, who was a member of the white separatist organization The Order, while “88” represents “Heil Hitler” since the letter H is the eighth letter of the Latin alphabet.

Vasilenko, who was in charge of the competition, confirmed that she had not properly controlled the contest.

“It seems that none of the school’s staff understood it [the meaning of the slogan]. The fact that the teachers didn’t notice it is a catastrophe,” Dmitri Dubrovsky of the St.Petersburg Ethnography museum told the radio station.

He added he was pleased other people did not notice the symbol either, Dubrovsky said.

There is no information about whether the school or the pupils will be punished.

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Is Russia covering up real cause of plane crash?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

‘Tis the season for media list-mania, and (true confession) I always am mildly surprised upon viewing Top 10 story lists to find that I’ve forgotten some humdingers. Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011?

OK, I didn’t really forget The Associated Press‘ top story of the year, but somehow it receded rapidly into the past, possibly because bin Laden’s death barely dents our future. A world without Osama bin Laden is a better place; the jihad, however, continues.

In fact, given a tally of my own columns, jihad is the top story of 2011, just as it has been since at least 2001. Not that the media see it that way, of course; they see the spread of Islam’s law and call it “diversity” in the West or “Arab Spring” in the Middle East. They are blind to its implications, they apologize for its depredations and, in general, they commit professional malfeasance by misrepresenting the facts. Then again, at least they cover it.

The same isn’t true for the following story, which I submit is the great unsolved mystery of 2011. What really happened in the forest at Smolensk, Russia, when a Polish aircraft carrying Poland’s national leadership crashed in April 2010, killing all 96 people on board, including Poland’s president and first lady?

The answers Russia presented in its 2011 crash report are wholly unsatisfactory. Indeed, the Moscow-controlled crash investigation seems to have been designed to suppress or tamper with evidence to exonerate Russia of all responsibility for an accident, or any guilt for a crime. Like a tired rerun of an old horror movie, the Russian pattern of investigation into the 2010 Smolensk crash is the Russian pattern of investigation into the 1940 Katyn Forest massacre.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of that fateful flight by those Polish leaders, now deceased. They lost their lives trying to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn, the mass murder of 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia killed by Stalin in 1940 to make way for a pro-Soviet, communist Poland. After Nazi German troops discovered their graves in 1943, Stalin denied responsibility for this crime against humanity. Roosevelt and Churchill let him, thus joining in a Big Lie; Stalin’s successors lied about it until Boris Yeltsin came along in 1995. The 2010 anniversary was to be a public, ceremonial Russian admission of guilt. That those who cared so much about Katyn were killed — and quite possibly assassinated — nearby is one of history’s darkest ironies.

The Russians assert that Polish pilot error, supposedly induced by pressure to land from the Polish president himself, caused the crash. Poles, particularly those associated with the late president’s conservative Law and Justice party, see something far more sinister. In this worst-case scenario, Russian air controllers incorrectly informed Polish pilots they were on the proper glide path when that wasn’t true. On purpose? If so, the world has witnessed mass assassination of a government. And done nothing.

I don’t claim to judge the evidence. But it’s clear an impartial investigation is warranted, due to a Moscow-run investigative process marked by irregularities. These include the red flag that Russia has refused to return the black boxes of the Polish plane to Poland. Other irregularities, as summarized in a November 2011 Polish document known as the Smolensk Status Report, include the fact that crash evidence was crudely destroyed (including by bulldozers), tampered with and lied about. (Russian investigators claimed no radar video recording existed, for example, but then cited it in the crash report.) The document notes that some Russian pathological reports on victims included descriptions of organs that had been surgically removed before the crash.

A glaring discrepancy concerns the cockpit voice recording (CVR). To prove the pilots were under third-party pressure to land, the Russians reported that a Polish crew member twice says “he will go crazy” if the plane doesn’t land. Both the Polish Investigation Committee and the Polish Prosecutor’s Office publicly contended that no such statement was made and that the Russians altered the CVR to create the statement.

In 1952, Congress investigated the Katyn Forest massacre and proved Soviet guilt; in 2010 and 2011, there were calls in Congress for an independent investigation into the Smolensk crash. Such an investigation is urgently required in 2012, and not only to solve the mystery of a vexing crash. We must find out whether the West has once again been party to a Big Lie out of Moscow.


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Russian diplomats against praising Nazi collaborators

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The Russian embassy in the Estonian capital Tallinn has sharply criticized Estonia’s plans to introduce a law which would proclaim all Estonians who fought against the Soviet Union during WWII “fighters for freedom”.

The Estonian government’s plans to adopt such a law were revealed by the country’s Defense Minister Mar Laar in a newspaper interview.

Russia is worried that if the law is adopted, Estonians who collaborated with German Nazis will be also proclaimed fighters for freedo

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Anti-Putin protests draw tens of thousands

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of Russians jammed a Moscow avenue Saturday to demand free elections and an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin‘s 12-year rule, in the largest show of public outrage since the protests 20 years ago that brought down the Soviet Union. Gone was the political apathy of recent years as many shouted “We are the Power!”

The demonstration, bigger and better organized than a similar one two weeks ago, and smaller rallies across the country encouraged opposition leaders hoping to sustain a protest movement ignited by a fraud-tainted parliamentary election on Dec. 4.

The enthusiasm also cheered Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader who closed down the Soviet Union on Dec. 25, 1991.

“I’m happy that I have lived to see the people waking up. This raises big hopes,” the 80-year-old Gorbachev said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

He urged Putin to follow his example and give up power peacefully, saying Putin would be remembered for the positive things he did if he stepped down now. The former Soviet leader, who has grown increasingly critical of Putin, has little influence in Russia today.

But the protesters have no central leader and no candidate capable of posing a serious challenge to Putin, who intends to return to the presidency in a March vote.

Even at Saturday’s rally, some of the speakers were jeered by the crowd. The various liberal, nationalist and leftist groups that took part appear united only by their desire to see “Russia without Putin,” a popular chant.

Putin, who gave no public response to the protest Saturday, initially derided the demonstrators as paid agents of the West. He also said sarcastically that he thought the white ribbons they wore as an emblem were condoms. Putin has since come to take their protests more seriously, and in an effort to stem the anger he has offered a set of reforms to allow more political competition in future elections.

Kremlin-controlled television covered Saturday’s rally, but gave no air time to Putin’s harshest critics.

Estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from the police figure of 30,000 to 120,000 offered by the organizers. Demonstrators packed much of a broad avenue, which has room for nearly 100,000 people, about 2.5 kilometers (some 1.5 miles) from the Kremlin, as the temperature dipped well below freezing.

A stage at the end of the avenue featured banners reading “Russia will be free” and “This election Is a farce.” Heavy police cordons encircled the participants, who stood within metal barriers, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Alexei Navalny, a corruption-fighting lawyer and popular blogger, electrified the crowd when he took the stage. He soon had the protesters chanting “We are the power!”

Navalny spent 15 days in jail for leading a protest on Dec. 5 that unexpectedly drew more than 5,000 people and set off the chain of demonstrations.

Putin’s United Russia party lost 25 percent of its seats in the election, but hung onto a majority in parliament through what independent observers said was widespread fraud. United Russia, seen as representing a corrupt bureaucracy, has become known as the party of crooks and thieves, a phrase coined by Navalny.

“We have enough people here to take the Kremlin,” Navalny shouted to the crowd. “But we are peaceful people and we won’t do that — yet. But if these crooks and thieves keep cheating us, we will take what is ours.”

Protest leaders expressed skepticism about Putin’s promised political reforms.

“We don’t trust him,” opposition leader Boris Nemtsov told the rally, urging protesters to gather again after the long New Year’s holidays to make sure the proposed changes are put into law.

He and other speakers called on the demonstrators to go to the polls in March to unseat Putin. “A thief must not sit in the Kremlin,” Nemtsov said.

The protest leaders said they would keep up their push for a rerun of the parliamentary vote and punishment for election officials accused of fraud, while stressing the need to prevent fraud in the March presidential election.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among those who sought to give the protesters a sense of empowerment.

“There are so many of us here, and they (the government) are few,” Kasparov said from the stage. “They are huddled up in fear behind police cordons.”

The crowd was largely young, but included a sizable number of middle-aged and elderly people, some of whom limped slowly to the site on walkers and canes.

“We want to back those who are fighting for our rights,” said 16-year-old Darya Andryukhina, who said she had also attended the previous rally.

“People have come here because they want respect,” said Tamara Voronina, 54, who said she was proud that her three sons also had joined the protest.

Putin’s comment about protesters wearing condoms only further infuriated them and inspired some creative responses. One protester Saturday held a picture montage of Putin with his head wrapped in a condom like a grandmother’s headscarf. Many inflated condoms along with balloons.

The protests reflect a growing weariness with Putin, who was first elected president in 2000 and remained in charge after moving into the prime minister’s seat in 2008. Brazen fraud in the parliamentary vote unexpectedly energized the middle class, which for years had been politically apathetic.

“No one has done more to bring so many people here than Putin, who managed to insult the whole country,” said Viktor Shenderovich, a columnist and satirical writer.

Two rallies in St. Petersburg on Saturday drew a total of 4,000 people.

“I’m here because I’m tired of the government’s lies,” said Dmitry Dervenev, 47, a designer. “The prime minister insulted me personally when he said that people came to the rallies because they were paid by the U.S. State Department. I’m here because I’m a citizen of my country.”

Putin accused the United States of encouraging and funding the protests to weaken Russia.

Putin’s former finance minister surprised the protesters by saying the current parliament should approve the proposed electoral changes and then step down to allow new parliamentary elections to be held. Alexei Kudrin, who remains close to Putin, warned that the wave of protests could lead to violence and called for establishing a dialogue between the opposition and the government.

“Otherwise we will lose the chance for peaceful transformation,” Kudrin said.

Kudrin also joined calls for the ouster of Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov.

Putin has promised to liberalize registration rules for opposition parties and restore the direct election of governors he abolished in 2004. Putin’s stand-in as president, Dmitry Medvedev, spelled out those and other proposed changes in Thursday’s state-of-the nation address.

Gorbachev, however, said the government appears confused.

“They don’t know what to do,” he said. “They are making attempts to get out of the trap they drove themselves into.”

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11 people including an Armenian killed by Russia’s skinheads in 2011

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

June 01, 2011 | 13:26

Eleven people, including an Armenian, were killed and at least 55 were injured in racist and neo-Nazi attacks in Russia in 2011.

Monitoring results by Russia-based SOVA center show that at least nine people were affected in May, one of them, citizen of Armenia, was killed in Moscow region.

The list posted on website of Russian Justice Ministry involves 22 racist and neo-Nazi organizations.

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Neo-Nazis in Moscow demand deportation of non-Slavic migrants

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Hundreds of neo-Nazis have gathered in Moscow to protest Kremlin policies in the violence-ridden Caucasus and to call for the forced deportation of non-Slavic migrants from Russia. Approximately 300 demonstrators, including activists from banned and unregistered groups espousing white supremacy, waved red and white banners with the eagle of Nazi Germany on them and shouted “Long live Russia! Let’s stop feeding the Caucasus!”

The Associated Press reports that the mountainous, predominantly Muslim Caucasus region is the home to hundreds of ethnic groups including Chechens, who have conducted two separatist wars against Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. According to political scientists, the Chechen conflict has involved the commission of violence against civilians by both militant Islamists and Russian forces and has led to a rise in neo-Nazism and xenophobia in Russia. The conflict is also said to be the cause of growing ill-feeling among people from the Caucasus against ethnic Russians and the government in Moscow.

Roughly 70 000 neo-Nazis are currently active in Russia. At the start of the 1990s there were only a few thousand of them.

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