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Russian Who Went to Fight in Donbass Says He was ‘Not in an Army but in a Criminal Band’

April 19, 2015

Bondo Dorovskikh and fellow fighters in Donbass in 2015.

This confirms why Russian soldiers and Russian units have been brought in to fight in Ukraine.

The mercenaries, recruited from Russia, were untrained and ill-equipped.

Russian television was the recruiting tool, most Russian are heavily influenced by television and not the internet.

Paul Goble 

Staunton, April 19 – – Bondo Dorovskikh, a Russian businessman, volunteered to go to Ukraine to “fight fascism” and defend “the Russian idea;” but he says he rapidly discovered the situation in the Donbass was not as he had been led to expect and that he had been enrolled “not in an army but in a criminal band.”

His testimony on this point, given in a 3,000-word interview with Svoboda (Radio Liberty), provides both a frightening glimpse into the world of the pro-Moscow statelets in southeastern Ukraine and an encouraging indication that ever more Russians are appalled not only by what officials there are doing but also by what Moscow is saying.

“I really thought,” Dorovskikh said, “that Russia was in danger, that mercenaries were fighting there and trying to seize our country, that the Donbass is Russia’s advance post where we must stand and defend our interests. Only having crossed the border did we see literally within the first five minutes” that this was not the case.

Russian television exerted a powerful influence on him, the former volunteer says. Had it not presented its version of reality, he would never have thought of going to the Donbass to fight. Now, he said, he recognizes how distorted an account it offered and offers about events in Ukraine.

His recruitment to the Donbass cause was simple; indeed, he said he was shocked that there was no more checking about the people who signed up than there was. “More than that, there were cases when someone with a Xerox copy of documents” but not the real ones crossed the border.” Once in the Donbass itself, no one asked more than one’s name.

The organizers handed out guns without any particular checking of the abilities of those to whom they were given, Dorovskikh continued. They handed out the guns only on Ukrainian territory, but the division of volunteers into the various forces such as the Prizrak (Ghost) Brigade into which he went took place in Russia, in Rostov Region.

In that brigade,he said there were “several Russian cadres officers, but most of the band members were local people, with only ten to 30 percent consisting of volunteers from Russia. Some of the band members sold their weapons for cash; others apparently used them for the same end. But still others seemed very interested in learning how to fight.

Neither the hierarchies of the DNR or LNR were especially happy with independent battalions like the one he was in nor were the ordinary people in the areas in which they operated. One woman, for example, told Dorovskikh “We don’t need Putin; [and] we don’t want to be in Russia.”

Most of the people in his band, he continued, were indifferent to politics. Many of them had criminal backgrounds; and those that did devoted a great deal of time to searching out for former militiamen, perhaps for revenge. In all things, “they were far from politics” and were interested only in having an adventure or engaging in violence.

As far as the future is concerned, he said, “if Russia had not gotten involved, [the self-proclaimed republics] wouldn’t have happened. Russia is inclined to support this movement further and therefore the fighters will hold on for a long time yet.”

Dorovskikh said he “would advise people not to go to the Donbass. This is false patriotism. There is no Russia there. Instead, what is going on is real aggression. More than that, if you go, you will simply become part of a band.” Any volunteer would certainly not have anything to do with “defending the Motherland.”

Russians have been shown on television something that looks like the Great Fatherland War,” he said. But in reality, the conflict in Ukraine is “real aggression. We came to this territory, and the Russian authorities are supporting terror. If we hadn’t gone there, if Russia hadn’t gotten involved, there wouldn’t have been thousands of dead.”

“In general,” he concludes, “there wouldn’t have been any of this” in Ukraine.


Updated: Lukashenko pulls out of Victory Day parade in Moscow

April 19, 2015

Support for Russia is eroding.

Belarusian President to celebrate May 9 in Minsk instead

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has refused to attend Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Mocow on May 9.

Instead Lukashenko will take part in memorial events and lay wreths to the Unknown Soldier’s grave on May 7-8 in Moscow.

I do not support those politicians who promised to come in Moscow and then refused. The other situation is when you are busy at home,” commented Lukashenko.

US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already refused to attend the Victory Day commemorations, 70 years after the end of World War Two on May 9, in reaction to the Kremlin’s military intervention in Ukraine.

The Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un of North Korea are the most high-profile leaders to attend.

Kyiv Lists Russian Military Units Allegedly In Ukraine

April 19, 2015

98th Airborne Division

331st Airborne Regiment

Now that the units have been positively identified, and they have been located, it would be folly for them to attack as they are targeted.

These two mechanized brigades, airborne regiment and an airborne division can easily redeploy to their peacetime garrison locations. Doubtful, however, they can redeploy the entire unit within two weeks.

A commander might appear, stating “Here we are”, but I challenge them to show their unit in the background, in formation – within one week. If not, Russia, you’re busted.

Members of the 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (Russia) in Ukraine

Ukraine’s army chief of staff has listed for the first time some of the specific Russian military units alleged to be fighting against Kyiv alongside pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Viktor Muzhenko, in an interview published by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on April 18, said, “Regular Russian army troops are still in Ukraine” despite a cease-fire agreement signed in February which ordered the withdrawal of foreign fighters from the front line.

Russia has repeatedly denied claims by Kyiv and the West that it is arming and sending troops to help separatists who have gained control of parts of the east.

Muzhenko named the Russian army’s 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, the 8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, the 331st Airborne Regiment, and the 98th Airborne Division.

He said he had “proof” that Russian regular troops had fought in three clashes in the east in February, including a fierce battle for the rail hub of Debaltseve, which is now controlled by the separatists.


ISIS Sends a Message

April 19, 2015

What Gestures Say About Today’s Middle East

A Syrian living in Jordan gestures during a protest in Amman, October 2011. (Majed Jaber / Courtesy Reuters)

Amasked man brandishes a severed head in one hand. In the other, he raises an index finger, a commonly understood symbol for the number one.

His name is Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, a failed London rapper turned jihadist, a British militant fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State. British authorities suspect him of murdering American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley. In August, Bary posted a gruesome picture — from a different killing — on his Twitter account for the world to see.

The curious thing was not the head Bary held in his left hand — however ghoulish the trophy — but the gesture he made with his right. For followers of ISIS, a single raised index finger has become a sign of their cause, and it is increasingly common in photographs of militants. Some have even gone so far as to call the symbol “the jihadi equivalent of a gang sign.”

The Middle East and its upheavals are no strangers to gestures. Over the past year, a variety of groups, ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the Kurds in Iraq, have used at least four distinct hand signals. These symbols communicate complex political messages that Western observers have largely ignored. That lapse is certainly understandable: next to a severed head, the number one is easy to overlook.

Yet gestures — in particular ISIS’ index finger — should demand far more attention. They are an important means by which regional groups communicate their core messages to viewers down the street and observers thousands of miles away in Europe and the United States. To understand the ideologies such groups aim to export, one needs to understand the symbols they use.

ISIS fighters in Syria, July 2014.

ISIS fighters in Syria, July 2014. (Youtube)


Gestures are as old as politics itself. They became especially important, however, with the advent of mass media in the twentieth century. Consider what is perhaps the best-known example: Adolf Hitler’s fascist salute. In a single gesture, Hitler communicated the power of National Socialism, the obedience of German crowds, and his own role as a supreme leader. And because pictures of him saluting were printed in newspapers around the world, the symbol reached billions.

Each subsequent advance in media technology has made it easier for political messages to reach mass audiences. But the Internet changed the rules of the game, democratizing the entire process of image making. Today, anyone with a cell phone can broadcast an image in an instant — which is exactly what Bary did.

When ISIS militants hold up a single index finger on their right hands, they are alluding to the tawhid, the belief in the oneness of God and a key component of the Muslim religion. The tawhid comprises the first half of the shahada, which is an affirmation of faith, one of the five pillars of Islam, and a component of daily prayers: “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

It is no surprise, then, that the shahada features prominently in ISIS’ public image. The group’s black flag bears the vow’s words in white Arabic script (as does Hamas’ and even Saudi Arabia’s). And Muslims have long associated a single index finger with the shahada in a variety of contexts, ranging from daily prayers to conversions.

But for ISIS, the symbol is more sinister than a mere declaration of monotheistic beliefs. As Salafi jihadists, members of the group adhere to a fundamentalist interpretation of tawhid that rejects non-fundamentalist regimes as idolatrous. In other words, the concept of tawhid is central to ISIS’ violent and uncompromising posture toward its opponents, both in the Middle East and in the West.

When ISIS militants display the sign, to one another or to a photographer, they are actively reaffirming their dedication to that ideology, whose underlying principle demands the destruction of the West. If rank-and-file soldiers are aware of the precise theological implications of their sign — and it would be no surprise if they are — that would be a sobering comment on their deep-seated opposition to pluralism.

The gesture is equally important for what it means to Westerners, most of whom cannot read Arabic. By raising their index fingers, militants send an easy-to-understand message of the group’s goals of theological supremacy and military hegemony. When potential ISIS recruits in London, New York, or Sydney see the symbol on Twitter, they can grasp the scale of ISIS’ ambitions and its underlying aims. At some visceral level, less-radicalized viewers understand that it means dominance.

If ISIS has the solitary finger, its opponents have the so-called V-for-Victory gesture, popular among Iraqi soldiers and the Kurdish militia. Originally devised by the British Broadcasting Corporation as a sign of the Allied powers during World War II, the V has been used in the Middle East since its creation in 1941. At various moments in history, a wide array of groups has appropriated the symbol, among them Palestinian terrorists, Iranians who took part in the failed “green revolution,” and Egyptians in Tahrir Square.

As the diversity of its devotees suggests, the V has less rigidly defined political dimensions than the raised finger. It is a general symbol of defiance, protest, and self-expression without intellectual meaning. (The V is so generic, in fact, that supporters of ISIS have also displayed it in photographs.) But in some ways, the use of the V cuts to the core of what the opposition to ISIS is all about — a collection of factions with differing aims and worldviews bound together only by a fear of the Islamic State. Whereas ISIS’ followers are unified by fundamentalist ideals, its opponents are not equally united.

A Kurdish woman making a victory sign in Turkey, December 2009.

A Kurdish woman making a victory sign in Turkey, December 2009. (Umit Bektas / Courtesy Reuters)


ISIS and its opponents are not the only groups in the region making use of gestures. Two other symbols have been visible in the region over the past year, and they provide important context for ISIS’ index finger signal.

One gesture emerged when Hamas operatives kidnapped three Israeli teenagers last July. Palestinians celebrated the news by jubilantly thrusting three fingers in the air, one for each of the hostages Israel would have to ransom by releasing convicted terrorists from jail. Called the “three Shalits,” after the IDF-soldier-turned-hostage Gilad Shalit, the symbol quickly spread across the Arab world via social media, in many cases with young children posing for the camera and proudly showing three fingers.

As with ISIS’ signal, this new gesture’s intended message was easy to comprehend: ordinary Palestinians supported Hamas and its tactics. However, where Western media has been slow to identify the significance of ISIS’ sigil, the Israeli press and some U.S. media outlets quickly highlighted the meaning and implications of the “three Shalits.” At one level, the difference in responses is not surprising: the pro-Hamas symbol appeared across the West Bank and was a more immediate concern to Israel, physically and politically, than ISIS’ gesture seems to be to the West.

The second symbol, championed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was widespread a year ago, but has since begun to disappear. Last summer, Mohammed Morsi, who was president of Egypt, clashed with the country’s army in a contest that ended with his fall from power. In one incident, the army killed hundreds of Morsi’s followers at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. The word Rabaa means “four” in Egypt, and the Brotherhood quickly adopted a four-fingered hand gesture as its symbol.

In rallies from Cairo to Istanbul, Brotherhood supporters held up yellow signs with a Rabaa hand-gesture printed in black, wore Rabaa buttons, and made the signal with their own hands. It was an attempt to remind Egyptians and the world of the Army’s massacre and shift the narrative away from Morsi’s failed democratic promises.

Since the Egyptian army deposed Morsi, it has worked hard to quash the Rabaa,banning the country’s Olympic athletes from making the gesture in Sochi this past winter. The Brotherhood’s supporters, meanwhile, have tried to keep it alive, hosting a worldwide “Rabaa day” this past August. The army’s efforts seem to be paying off, as the gesture and its underlying message are petering out somewhat from the international stage. If the Rabaa is a bellwether for the health of the Muslim Brotherhood, don’t bet on the group returning to power any time soon.

For governments in the West, the Rabaa should raise an important question: When ISIS’ index finger reaches their shores, do they follow the Egyptian model of suppression? Or do they honor principles of free expression? Dilemmas of free speech, of course, are nothing new. European authorities have grappled with a similar question with regard to the so-called quenelle, an anti-Semitic gesture that resembles a reversed Hitler salute. French officials have taken a hard line, attempting to bar the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who invented the quenelle, from performing in the country. The French Football Association has disciplined soccer players for displaying the quenelle in matches. But it seems that attempting to suppress the gesture has been far from effective, turning Dieudonne into a martyr for free expression.

A Morsi supporter waves a flag bearing the Rabaa, May 2014.

A Morsi supporter waves a flag bearing the Rabaa, May 2014. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Courtesy Reuters)

Middle Eastern gestures, meanwhile, have already made their way west. In some cases, they have met with censorship: Facebook took down a public group that encouraged users to upload photos expressing support for kidnappings carried out by Hamas with a three-fingered salute. If any gesture were to be banned, it would be the raised index finger, which already cropped up at a pro-ISIS rally in The Hague at the end of July. However, measures to criminalize ISIS’ hallmark would, as in the case of the quenelle, likely backfire, turning ISIS supporters into victims of censorship.

At the very least, Westerners need to become more attuned to what the gesture means. It is doubtful that most Dutch citizens understood the radical ideas behind the raised index fingers in The Hague, and one could say the same of publics in other Western countries. Their continued ignorance will only make it more difficult to evaluate the threat ISIS poses in the Middle East.

ISIS’ single raised digit, so seemingly inconsequential at first blush, is a statement about the group’s diametric opposition to a liberal world order. Its use is all the more troubling in the hands of Western-born Jihadists with the passports to travel outside the Middle East. Indeed, those who underestimate the dangers posed by the Islamic State need look no further than the index finger, which makes ISIS’ ambitions all too clear.


Putin extends unexpected peace offering to U.S. in media interview

April 19, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin, second left, flanked by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, third left, visits the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/ RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, second left, flanked by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, third left, visits the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/ RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)BY PAIGE WINFIELD CUNNINGHAM | APRIL 18, 2015 | 2:43 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needs to work better with the U.S., in a Saturday interview with Russia’s state-backed television station.

The words were unusually diplomatic from Putin, who has blamed the U.S. for the crisis in Ukraine and accused it of trying to dominate world affairs. While acknowledging the two countries’ major disagreements, Putin said there’s also room to work together, in an interview first reported by Reuters.

“We have disagreements on several issues on the international agenda,” Putin told the state-run Rossiya channel. “But at the same time there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together.”

“I mean general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic. We have a common agenda,” he added.

Putin’s comments come as relations between Russia and the U.S. have been declining. Putin still insists he isn’t providing support to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, instead blaming it on a Western-backed uprising against former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. More than 6,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since last April.

Russian troops and equipment, including heavy artillery, have been identified by Western intelligence sources as operating in the eastern areas that have seen the most serious fighting.

Two days ago in a major television interview, Putin depicted his country as a victim of mistreatment by the U.S. accused it of treating other world powers as “vassal states,” while claiming Russia “doesn’t see anyone as an enemy.”

“The main condition is to have respect for Russia and its interests,” Putin said in that interview, which featured call-in questions from viewers and aired across Russia.

At the same time, both countries say they back a truce brokered in February in eastern Ukraine. That peace deal called for a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and reforms to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.

The truce has been broken repeatedly, with rebel forces making major advances around the Donetsk Airport in recent weeks.

The government of Ukraine has repeatedly asked the U.S. for military assistance, including especially modern arms and real-time intelligence, but President Obama has balked at providing anything other than on-lethal help.


Putin warns Israel not to sell arms to Ukraine

April 19, 2015

I disagree that Russia’s economy is the reason they are selling S-300s to Iran.

I believe Russia is provoking the situation, trying to poke a stick in the US’ eye.

Alternatively, Russia is attempting to control weapons sales to Ukraine, calling it “counterproductive”.

Yes, counter to what Russia wants.  Counterproductive to Russian plans.

Go, Israel, go. Yay, Israel!

Reported Israel retaliation for S-300 delivery to Iran would be ‘counterproductive,’ Russian president tells his state-run media

April 19, 2015, 9:11 am

Russian President Vladmir Putin warned Israel Saturday against a “counterproductive” sale of weapons to Ukraine, in response to his own divisive decision to supply the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

“It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice,” the Russian leader said. “It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate.” But, he warned on Russian state-run media, “It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims — and the outcome will be the same.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Putin Thursday in a failed attempt to convince the Russian president to refrain from selling the system to the Iranians.

Israeli media reported last week that Israel was mulling arms sales to Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s resolve to go through with a delivery of the S-300 system to Iran.

“Putin stressed that the S-300 missile system is purely defensive and will not pose threat to Israel or any other country in the Middle East,” the Kremlin said in a statement, according to Sputnik.

Netanyahu may head to Moscow to meet with Putin in person and urge him again not to go through with the supply to Iran, Channel 2 reported.

Putin defended his decision to sell the system to the Iranians, saying Russia’s 2010 ban against it was voluntary and not connected to other sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

US officials say the sale is more a sign of Russia’s economic woes and less a desire to cause controversy in the West.

Russia has found itself under a mounting series of sanctions from the West since it annexed Crimea last March and was then accused of supporting militants fighting Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine.

“It actually does indicate that Russia’s willingness to engage in a controversial transaction like this one is an indication of how weakened their economy has become,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

“It isn’t a particular surprise that Russia may be pretty desperate to generate some income,” Earnest told reporters.

Iran has said Russia could deliver sophisticated missile systems to Tehran this year.

US President Barack Obama said Friday he was surprised that Russia’s suspension of missile sales to Iran “held this long.”

Obama noted that Putin had previously suspended the sale “at our request. I am frankly surprised that it held this long, given that they were not prohibited by sanctions from selling these defensive weapons.”

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.


Russia: Gay Men Beaten on Camera

April 19, 2015

Putin hates Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders.  Perhaps fear is a better word?

Russia is homophobic.

Some Russians act to serve their Supreme Orthodox Midget KGB boss and hunt down gays and lesbians.

As someone on Facebook just remarked, perhaps Russians are overcompensating?


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