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Kirov: Kremlin-Watchers Find Eerie Parallel In An 80-Year-Old Murder

March 2, 2015
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Sergei Kirov — Stalin’s Nemtsov?

By Daisy Sindelar

On December 1, 1934, a killing took place that would set the stage for one of the blackest chapters in Soviet history.

The victim was Sergei Kirov, the popular head of the Leningrad Communist Party and one of the few men who could stand toe-to-toe with the increasingly powerful Soviet leader, Josef Stalin.

Stalin was never officially tied to the crime. But he used the murder as a pretext to unleash the Great Terror, eliminating thousands of political opponents by blaming them, directly or tangentially, for Kirov’s death.

Aleksandr Orlov, a member of the Soviet secret police who claimed responsibility for organizing Kirov’s death, wrote, “Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin’s former comrades.”

Eighty years later, Russia-watchers see eerie parallels between Kirov’s death and the January 27 murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Like Kirov, he was charismatic and handsome. Also like Kirov, he was seen by some as a more palatable alternative to the person in power — in Nemtsov’s case, Vladimir Putin.

Observers were quick to notice the echo of Stalin’s words and deeds in Putin’s reaction to Nemtsov’s death. Putin, too, has decried the killing as a provocation and assumed direct control of the investigation.

Some are now wondering if Nemtsov’s murder will be followed by another Great Terror — a period when the Kremlin’s remaining detractors will be systematically neutralized.

“The question now becomes whether Kremlin leaders imagine that they can take the country down a similar path of isolation and ultimate destruction,” writes Russia scholar Karen Dawisha in an opinion piece for “Or more likely, is the Kremlin thinking at all, or just allowing the terrible logic of this system they have created to unfold?”

So far, the Kremlin has cited a various range of potential culprits in Nemtsov’s murder, nearly all of them “outsiders” — the United States, Ukrainian nationalists, Islamist extremists.

Similarly, Viktor Kravchenko, a Soviet-era dissident, noted that “the first accounts of Kirov’s death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners — Estonian, Polish, German, and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking [the gunman] with present and past followers of…dissident old Bolsheviks.”


Lithuania Moves to Replace Russian Gas With U.S. Supplies

February 28, 2015

Issei Kato / Reuters Litgas said Friday it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Delfin LNG, a developer of the United States’ first offshore gas liquefaction project.

OSLO — Lithuanian liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer Litgas has signed a preliminary agreement with a U.S. supplier, looking to lessen the Baltic nation’s dependence on Russia.

Litgas said Friday it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Delfin LNG, a developer of the United States’ first offshore gas liquefaction project.

U.S. LNG exporters are looking to the small Baltic states and Poland as hopes for a boom in Asian demand for cheap North American natural gas wane.

Delfin LNG LLC is developing an offshore liquefaction and export facility in Louisiana with a total export capacity of 13 million tons of LNG per year (about 18 billion cubic meters of natural gas).

Subject to regulatory approval, the project will be constructed in phases, and is expected to start in 2019.

The MOU is not binding in terms of selling or buying LNG, Litgas said.

Last year, Litgas signed a five-year contract to buy 0.54 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Norway’s Statoil, and received the first commercial LNG cargo at the end of December via a floating LNG import terminal opened last year.

Another LNG cargo is expected to arrive on Saturday, and a further three are planned before October.

Lithuania’s import terminal next to the Klaipeda port has a total import capacity of 4 bcm of natural gas (2.9 million tons of LNG) compared with annual consumption in the Baltic states of 4-5 bcm.

Poland plans to open a new 5 bcm per year LNG import terminal at the Baltic port of Swinoujscie later in 2015, and it is expected to import initially LNG from Qatar.


February 28, 2015

November 1998: Less than four months after Putin took over takes at the KGB, Galina Starovoitova, the most prominent pro-democracy Kremlin critic was murdered.

The politician, who was State Duma deputy at the time, was shot to death in the stairwell of her home in central St Petersburg in what appeared to be a ‘politically motivated’ attack.

March 2000: Putin was elected as leader and Russian ordered attacks in Chechnya. Opposition leaders, especially those who reported on the conflict in Chechnya were killed.

Reporters Igor Domnikov, Sergey Novikov, Iskandar Khatloni, Sergey Ivanov and Adam Tepsurgayev were all killed in 2000 alone.

April 2003: Sergei Yushenkov, co-chairman of the Liberal Russia political party was gunned down at the entrance of his Moscow apartment block.

Viktor Yushchenko (left), anti-Russian candidate for the presidency of the Ukraine, was poisoned by Dioxin in 2004 and Galina Starovoitova, the most prominent pro-democracy Kremlin critic, was shot in 1998

He had been serving as the vice chair of the group known as the ‘Kovalev Commission’ which was formed to investigate charges that Putin’s KGB had planted support for the war in Chechnya.

July 2003: Yuri Shchekochikhin, a vocal opposition journalist and member of the Russian Duma and the Kovalev Commission contracted a mysterious illness.

Witnesses said he complained about fatigue, and red blotches began to appear on his skin. They said: ‘His internal organs began collapsing one by one. Then he lost almost all his hair.’

June 2004: Nikolai Girenko, a prominent human rights defender, Professor of Ethnology and expert on racism and discrimination in the Russian Federation is shot dead in his home in St Petersburg.

July 2004: Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition Forbes magazine, was shot and killed in Moscow.

Forbes reported that at the time of his death, Paul was believed to have been investigating a complex web of money laundering involving a Chechen reconstruction fund and the Kremlin.

Former spy Alexander Litvinenko (pictured) was killed in 2006, leading to a clouding of relations between London and Moscow.

Former spy Alexander Litvinenko (pictured) was killed in 2006, leading to a clouding of relations between London and Moscow.

September 2004: Viktor Yushchenko, anti-Russian candidate for the presidency of the Ukraine, was poisoned by Dioxin.

September 2006: Andrei Kozlov, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, who strove to stamp out money laundering was shot and killed in Moscow.

November 2006: Former spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed in 2006, leading to a clouding of relations between London and Moscow.

The 43-year-old had been an officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, but he fled to Britain where he became a fierce critic of the Kremlin.

October 2006: Anna Politkovskaya, author of countless books exposing Russian human rights violations in Chechnya and articles attacking Vladimir Putin as a dictator was killed in Moscow.

She had written: ‘I have wondered a great deal why I have so got it in for Putin. What is it that makes me dislike him so much as to feel moved to write a book about him?’

January 2009: Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer, was shot after leaving a news conference less than half a mile from the Kremlin in January 2009.

He was appealing the early release of Yuri Budanov, a Russian military officer convicted of killing a young Chechen woman.

July 2009: Leading Russian human rights journalist and activist Natalya Estemirova was abducted in front of her home in Grozny, Chechnya, taken across the border into Ingushetia where she was shot and dumped in a roadside gutter.


Russia’s media watchdog unblocks Navalny’s website

February 28, 2015

February 28, 18:32 UTC+3
The access to the website was restricted in line with the Prosecutor’s Office’s request starting from January

MOSCOW, February 28. /TASS/. Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor has unblocked Alexey Navalny’s website, the watchdog’s press secretary Vadim Ampelonsky told TASS on Saturday.

The access to the website was restricted in line with the Prosecutor’s Office’s request starting from January. “We received a notification that all unlawful information was removed from the site,” Ampelonsky said.


Ukraine: Azov Battalion fighters defend Mariupol

February 28, 2015

27 February 2015 Last updated at 13:22 GMT

After two days without casualties had raised hopes that the truce might hold, the Ukrainian authorities have announced the loss of three servicemen in the east of the country.

Although the fighting has died down in recent days, there are still fears that this unpredictable conflict could flare up – especially in the city of Mariupol, about 20 kilometres from rebel-held territory.

This strategically important city is being defended not only by regular Ukrainian army troops but also by fighters who swear allegiance to the Azov Battalion.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes is in Mariupol and has been watching them train as they prepare to take on the pro-Russian rebels.

Moscow preparing revolts in major Ukrainian cities, Poroshenko ally says

February 28, 2015

Separatist rally in Kharkiv on 20 March 2014

Article by: Paul Goble

Having been slowed by Ukrainian resistance and hope to use the Minsk Accords to avoid new sanctions, Moscow is planning to spark uprisings in major Ukrainian cities in March and April before beginning a major military attack on the country in May, according to Yuri Lutsenko, head of the Poroshenko fraction in the Verkhovna Rada.

He says that the operations up to now were Plan A, the risings Moscow is seeking to organize in Ukrainian cities is Plan B, and a major new Russian aggression against Ukraine is Plan C, and he suggests that Plan B has a real chance because of the unhappiness of some in Ukraine with Kyiv’s policies.

Some may be inclined to dismiss this as nothing more than a reflection of Ukrainian fears and part of an effort to get the West to provide additional support, including defensive arms, but there are there important reasons why that would be a mistake.

First, as the “Novaya gazeta” document highlights, Moscow has been making plans about Ukraine for years, and consequently, it is almost certain that Russian officials or those like Malofeyev near the Kremlin have come up with plans like Lutsenko describes and that Ukrainians have learned about them.

Second, using urban revolts as a means of undermining the power of Kyiv and allowing Moscow to expand its influence in Ukraine is absolutely consistent not only with the ideas of hybrid war but reflects something else: taking any Ukrainian city, even Mariupol, would be extremely difficult by military means alone.

Such actions would likely require the use of massive artillery shelling or bombing, with the resulting massive loss of life that would have the effect of attracting the world’s attention to the brutality of the Russian advance and the heroism of Ukrainian defenders. Organizing a fifth column within cities is thus an attractive option for Russian military planners.

And third, and perhaps most compelling is the fact that the most horrific means Moscow has been willing to employ – such as state terrorism against the civilian population in Kharkiv – have been signaled well in advance to all who have paid even the most cursory attention to Russian news outlets.

As Kseniya Kirillova points out in this week, “Putin’s supporters threatened terrorist actions in Ukraine already last fall.” Now, one can see that those were not idle threats however often many dismissed them.

The journalist reports that in September, pro-Moscow opponents of a Ukrainian-American march in Seattle in support of Ukraine, said that the West should not be supporting “terrorists” in Ukraine but that if it continued to do so, then “terrorist actions” will be directed against Ukraine.

Specifically, the pro-Moscow activist said: “If Luhansk and Donetsk aren’t enough for you, then we will also organize terrorist acts in Ukraine against you.”


ISIS’ propaganda backfires as it loses ground

February 28, 2015

Raed Omari

Friday, 27 February 2015

For almost two weeks, news reports from the battlefields in Iraq have been noting tough times for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Preparations for the ground assault against the terrorist organization and the successes on quality targets by the U.S.-led airstrikes all seem to be marking an emerging decisiveness on ISIS in addition to prophesying a curb to the group’s expansion as the first step towards its elimination.

It is as if the war on ISIS has really entered a new phase. The Iraqi forces, backed by the tribes, al-Hash al-Shaabi, the Kurds and the coalition’s air coverage, have been reported as regaining the upper hand on the battlefield. It was no doubt the tremendous impact of ISIS’ Hollywood-inspired videos, showing its unsurpassed brutality, that made many people around the world forget about the reality of the al-Qaeda-sprung militants. It was to my utmost shock that I once was told by an European professor: “ISIS seems [as though it is] going to control the world!” That was perhaps not the impression of my European friend but of many people who were watching with shock how ISIS is expanding and gaining ground very rapidly with no army to stop them. Such an impression is what ISIS’ propaganda machine has been trying to spread.

The image that wherever ISIS goes no one can stop it is no longer in place. ISIS is now being defeated, cornered and hurt

Raed Omari

The world’s focus for a considerable period of time has been all placed on ISIS’ cluster-like expansion in Syria and Iraq. Little attention has been given to the news reports about ISIS’ defeats first in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala, Anbar’s al-Baghdadi town and before that in the Syrian town of Kobane. The recapture of Kobane by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, backed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the coalition’s air coverage, was the best proof of ISIS’ actual status: an armed militia – not a state or organized army – that can be defeated, cornered and curbed if elements of conventional war are in place. By this I mean, air coverage, ground troops, logistic and technical supports, military plans and, more importantly, the will.

Self-styled entity

Let’s not forget that ISIS is a self-proclaimed and self-styled entity. All the images about its strength have been constructed by the group itself through horrific videos and testimonies of citizens living in its strongholds. These witnesses may have been forced to say what they said about ISIS. Or they might be members of the group itself. Someone may disagree with me here citing ISIS’s capture of Iraq’s second largest city of Mosulin June last year. But there was actually no war in Mosul. The purely Sunni city was captured because the Iraqi army decided not to fight ISIS, full stop. The fall of Mosul was in brief not the result of ISIS’s strength but had to do with the socio-political situation of Iraq. Iraq’s ex-premier Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian policies, the marginalization of the Iraqi Sunnis, the agony, wrath and “poverty” of the ex-officers of Saddam Hussein’s dismantled Baath army, coupled with the terrorism of the Shiite militias, were the major reasons behind Mosul’s fall.

The image that wherever ISIS goes no one can stop it is no longer in place. ISIS is now being defeated, cornered and hurt. If the Iraqi forces, now equipped with U.S.-manufactured weapons, continue their march on ISIS-held territories, the group will be forced to withdraw northward and westward to Syria to be faced with the FSA that Washington has recently pledged to train and equip. This withdrawal has already begun but still within Iraq, media outlets has reported recently, talking about the intensified coalition airstrikes obliging ISIS fighters to pull out to Iraq’s al-Qaem province on the border with Syria.

For some reason, watching a video the group has recently released, I had the feeling that ISIS is now trying to fix its tarnished and widely-abhorred image. In that video, there was an ISIS member, speaking “politely” and “quietly” with no black mask on or AK-47 assault gun on his side or shoulder. The man was justifying the terrorist organization’s burning alive of Jordanian Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Definitely under the shock of the angry response of Jordanians – all Jordanians – and also the world on the brutal and barbarian execution of Moaz, this bearded man was helplessly trying to fix the “no way-to-repair” harm to ISIS’ image caused by the pilot’s burning alive and other barbarian acts.

ISIS could have secured some reputation and, maybe acceptance, if it only fought Syria’s sectarian regime and showed mercy to the Sunni communities. ISIS, which calls itself the “Islamic State,” could also have secured a good image if it dealt with the prisoners it held either according to Islamic law or the international law which stipulates decent treatment of prisoners of war, let alone civilians. But violence, torture, brutality and horror are basic ingredients of ISIS’ deviant ideology. ISIS is now perceived worldwide and also in Islamic countries as a terrorist organization and that is not going to change.


Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Last Update: Friday, 27 February 2015 KSA 08:36 – GMT 05:36

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