Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia / Strategy Ad Hoc Media Update (24)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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  1. Dominant NATO reports around the Military Schengen program to improve strategic mobility of NATO forces to the East – this is developing much the flavour of the Roman Empire period, highways and walls to keep the barbarians out;
  2. Multiple reports on Russia’s new strategic weapons programs, following a recent brief by Gen Gerasimov;
  3. A great many reports on the fallout from the Russian election, and Putin, some very interesting, especially the work by Russian analysts on Russian politics, culture and its descent into the abyss;
  4. Many reports on the Kemerovo tragedy and the truly contemptible response by Russian government and political entities – human life is genuinely treated as valueless in Russia, as it was during the Soviet and Tsarist periods;
  5. Protests and arrests on the 100th anniversary of Belarus’s declaration of independence;
  6. Major protests in Moldova demanding the country’s unification with Romania, Putinist Dodon claims Western provocation;
  7. Middle East mayhem continues, Iran, Syria, Yemen, plus Russian support of Talibs in Afghanistan. Notable the US warned off Russian troops about to attack US positions in Syria;
  8. Interesting analyses on the future stability of Russia and China, Nord Stream II arguments continue with Germany (i.e. SDP) sold despite it breaching EU policies, Muslim immigration debate in EU, Russian meddling Balkans, anti-Semitism in UK politics;
  9. Many reports on the  “devil incarnate” John Bolton, RT nixed in DC, Gen Breedlove on Russian influence, Manafort et al and other Russian meddling reports;

NATO / EU / Russia Reports

Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears | TheHill

Russia and China are outpacing the United States in the development of super-fast missile technology, Pentagon officials and key lawmakers are warning.

NATO Braces for Putin’s Next Military Move in Eastern Europe

“U.S. leaders and their European allies are unprepared for the ways in which Putin is poised to wage war in Ukraine and the Baltics,” a report for the Institute for the Study of War says.

How Putin meddles in Western democracies – Russia’s dirty tricks

IN THE late 1980s, as Mikhail Gorbachev launched perestroika, Russia made peace with the West. It was possible to believe that each would give up trying to subvert the other with lies and cold-war conspiracy theories.

NATO Moves Toward Readying More Troops to Confront Russian Threat – WSJ

Europe has more than a million troops in its armies, but military planners fear those ready for rapid deployment in a conflict with Russia would only be counted in the thousands. NATO, at U.S. urging, is working to change that.

With NATO, EU sets out plan to enable faster troop movement across Europe

The European Union announced a plan on Wednesday to enable military personnel and equipment to be moved more quickly across Europe, which NATO sees as vital in the event of a conflict with Russia to overcome border delays and bridges too weak for tanks.

‘Military Schengen’ for EU

The Schengen-style approach is seen as crucial by NATO, in case of conflict with Moscow

UAWire – As tensions with Russia rise Europe decides to equip roads and bridges to accommodate tanks

The European Union plans to facilitate the movement of soldiers and military equipment between individual member countries. These measures are …

EU outlines plans for ′military Schengen zone′ | News | DW | 28.03.2018

The EU wants to streamline military movements across the bloc and make infrastructure more suitable for military use. The plan has been dubbed a “military Schengen,” a reference to Europe’s passport-free travel zone.

EU plans to upgrade roads to move armies faster | Euronews

Plans afoot to make it easier and faster to transport troops and equipment across Europe, in case of conflict

Countering Russian Aggression in the Twenty-First Century – Modern War Institute

Over the past year, the United States has dusted off its international relations textbooks from the Cold War era and prioritized “revisionist powers” like the Russian Federation and China in terms of reshaping its military strategy and doctrine. The 2008 Russia-Georgia War, nearing its ten-year anniversary, is worth reexamining to understand how these “revisionist powers” will fight in the twenty-first century.

UAWire – US warns Turkey about consequences of buying S-400 missile systems from Russia

If Turkey buys the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia, the USA will block a deal to sell the fifth generation F-35 fighter aircraft, claimed the Head of the Turkish Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Volkan Bozkir after his visit to the USA. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quotes him as saying, “Congress has a desire to link the issue of Turkey’s purchase of Russian systems with the sale of F-35s.” He added that “the senators are not saying this openly, but during conversations with their advisors, such a signal was received.” According to Turkish National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, the deliveries of F-35 aircraft to the country will begin next year and but that issue is unrelated to the purchase of the anti-aircraft missiles. The contract with the Russian Federation involves the sale of four divisions in the amount of $2.5 billion to Ankara, with more than half of the amount being covered by a Russian loan. The deliveries are expected to begin in March 2020.

UAWire – Latvian Parliament passes bill prohibiting high schools from teaching in languages of national minorities

The amendments to the Latvian Law on Education, involving the abolition of bilingual education in schools, have undergone the third and final reading in the Saeima or Latvian Parliament. According to Delfi news portal, 58 deputies voted in favor of the bill while 18 voted against it. It must now be approved by the President. The plans of the Ministry of Education and Science indicated that transferring to a new model of education will begin in the 2019-2020 academic year and will be completed in 2021-2022. Preschool education should remain bilingual. From 1st to 6th grades, 50% of subjects will be taught in Latvian language. From 7th to 9th grades, 80% of the educational process will be held in the state language. From 10th to 12th grade classes will only be taught in the national language. The only exception is the lessons where the minorities’ representatives study their native language and literature. According to the information of the Latvian Ministry of Education, 3.6 million euros will be allocated for this reform in 2018-2020.

Poland Signs Nearly $5 Billion Deal To Buy Patriot Missile System

Poland has signed a $4.75 billion deal with the United States to buy Patriot air-defense missile systems as it seeks to beef up its forces amid increasingly aggressive moves by Russia in the region.

Poland to buy US Patriot missile systems amid Russia standoff with West over spy poisoning – CBS News

&quot;It's a lot of money, but we also know from our historical experience that security has no price,&quot; President Andrzej Duda says

Poland, United States sign $4.75 billion deal on Patriot missiles

Poland signed the largest weapons procurement deal in its history on Wednesday, agreeing with the United States to buy Raytheon Co’s Patriot missile defense system for $4.75 billion as it modernizes its forces to face a bolder Russia.

UAWire – Russian warplanes intervene into NATO’s Arctic exercise

The Russian newspaper Izvestia reports that Russian Anti-Submarine Aviation recently detected NATO’s submarines carrying out tactical drills in …

Trump to Host Summit Marking Baltic Independence Centennial

Business, trade, energy, national security, and cultural partnerships to top agenda, according to White House official

Take the fight against Putin into space, urges RAF chief | News | The Times

Britain’s armed forces must be ready to fight states such as Russia in space, the head of the Royal Air Force said last night.Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said that if Moscow were willing to launch a chemical weapons attack on Salisbury it could defy international rules against using cyber

Russia conducts first post-Soviet training flight via North Pole – Europe –

The Arctic is estimated to hold more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia

Russian Military Chief Lays Out the Kremlin’s High-Tech War Plans – Defense One

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and a willingness to strike the enemy’s non-military targets will figure in the country’s future strategies.

UAWire – Russian Ministry of Defense says Russia has additional new weapons that were not mentioned by Putin

Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said on Russia-1 TV that the Russian Army has access to many latest weapons systems though they have not been revealed yet. “The Supreme Commander-in-Chief does not disclose everything that we have in our arsenal. It is necessary to correctly evaluate the performance of our Supreme Commander-in-Chief [Putin] and determine correctly the goal setting. The announcement and publication of these new weapons systems was not aimed at saber rattling or the beginning of another arms race.” Interfax quoted Borisov as saying. According to him, “This is a warning to the world that in today’s conditions it is impossible to achieve a one-sided advantage and that to dominate such a dangerous area as an arms race is impossible.” Borisov also added, “There will always be some kind of counter meausre to new challenges.” In his message to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that an active testing phase of the new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile has begun in Russia. It will replace the world’s largest strategic missile, the R-36M Voevoda. Putin also said that Russia now has hypersonic weapons, nuclear submarine drones, combat lasers and a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

UAWire – German experts: Nearly all Putin’s weapons still on drawing board

Germany’s Federal Academy for Security Policy has analyzed the capabilities of the Russian army. According to Deutche Welle, following the …

UAWire – Russian expert: Russian Army is no match for American military power

A Doctor of Military Sciences, and the Deputy President of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, first rank captain Konstantin Sivkov, compared the capabilities of Russia’s and the US’s sea, air, and land forces. The article written by the expert was published by the Military Industrial Courier newspaper. “In terms of aircraft carriers, the American fleet is 12 times more powerful than the Russian one (Kuznetsov aircraft carrier is only half as powerful as its American counterpart in terms of combat potential), with regard to cruisers – 6.5 times, destroyers – fivefold, and multipurpose nuclear submarines – fourfold,” the expert writes. In his opinion, the Russian Navy is superior to the US Navy when considering non-nuclear submarines and coastal ships (corvettes, small missile ships, and boats for various purposes). “However, Russia’s superiority in this area is more than compensated by the fleets of US allies, in particular the NATO countries,” Sivkov said. “In the aerospace sphere, the comparison does not get better. In terms of military aircraft (fighters, bombers, ground-attack aircraft), the US Air Force and Navy are almost four times more superior than Russian Air Force and naval aviation. The latter is inferior to the American one by about two orders of magnitude. Taking into account the support aircraft, the overall quantitative superiority of US aviation is almost eightfold,” the expert believes. Sivkov notes that although Russia has decent weapons, for example, the fifth generation Su-57 fighter, they are not enough to achieve superiority over the United States. The expert also noted the inferiority of Russia in comparison to the US in terms of the number of ground forces, as well as adopted army high precision weapons. “And from this point of view, it is appropriate not to decrease military production and the volume of the state defense orders, but to increase it. The Ministry of Defense request for 30 trillion rubles ($525 billion) for a new state arms program seem to be very modest,” Sivkov summarized. In February 2018, Sivkov proposed the creation of a $210 billion thermonuclear mega-rocket designed to eliminate the asteroid threat, and also presented his vision of Ukraine’s role in a possible US-Russian war. In November 2017, he advised Russia to deploy non-conventional nuclear weapons in response to the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Also Russia, Sivkov believes, should create super-powerful warheads capable of “initiating catastrophic geophysical processes in the US, for example, the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.”

A US-Russia nuclear arms race? Where?

Much to disarmers’ chagrin, the U.S. and Soviet leadership rarely, if ever, developed and deployed a nuclear weapon system only because the other side had it.

This is How Bad Russia Wants Hypersonic Weapons | The National Interest Blog

The Russians are likely prioritizing the Avangard because of the Kremlin’s fear the future American missile defenses could undercut Moscow’s retaliatory second strike capability.

Russia Halts Years of Work On Ballistic Missile To Pay For Hypersonic Weapons – The Drive

Less than a month after announcing a flurry of new strategic weapons, the Kremlin has effectively canceled one for the foreseeable future.

UAWire – Kremlin: Russia has created cruise missile carrier groups in all strategic directions

Russia has already established carrier groups for long-range air, sea, and land-based cruise missiles in all strategic directions, as announced by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and first Deputy Defense Minister, during a press conference at the Military Academy of the General Staff, writes RIA Novosti news agency. All these facilities, as the head of the department specified, are “capable of fulfilling containment tasks in strategically important regions.” Attention is being paid to the development of precision weapons, Gerasimov noted, “in order to make [arms] more effective.” According to the General, Russian specialists were able to “improve the system of comprehensive enemy defeat” after acquiring “the experience of the latest local wars, and in particular operations on the territory of Syria.” On March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about new Russian weapons during his annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly. During the address, the President demonstrated the launch of the Sarmat strategic missile, as well as the launch of nuclear-powered cruise missiles.

New Russian intercontinental cruise missile may endanger US national interests – Defence Blog

New Russian subsonic intercontinental cruise missile endanger vital U.S. national interests in pan-European and Asian region. The Burevestnik (Stormbringer in English) or “Unstoppable” as it was named in Western media, is an intercontinental cruise missile designed to attack a variety of important enemy targets, such as command posts, missile defence bases, and radars. It is a new type of strategic weapons that do not use ballistic flight paths on the way to the target. The main purpose of the new cruise missiles is the suppression of the operational bases of the probable enemy and the destruction of interceptor-based missile defenсe systems or group of ships with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defenсe System. The missile has an intercontinental range in excess of 10,000+ kilometers (probably close to 20,000 kilometers) and may be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

Here’s Why Russia’s ‘New’ Tu-160M2 Could Be NATO’s Worst Nightmare | The National Interest Blog

This is a new plane–with an old look.

Russian state media released video showing modern “plumbing” laser gun – Defence Blog

Russian-language state-owned broadcaster “Russia 24” released a new propaganda video, showing testing of new laser weapon station in “plumbing” version. Russia’s state media has released video footage showing tests of new laser weapon system, also in the video was spotted new laser gun turret equipped with drain-waste and chimney pipes. According to a local source, this is one of the first prototypes of the new laser weapon system. During the testing, the Russians used preexisting materials and for this reason the prototype equipped with drain-waste and chimney pipes for the protection of sensitive elements of the new system.

Russia carries out military drills involving feared anti-aircraft missiles after EU leaders vow to expel Vladimir Putin’s diplomats – Mirror Online

The Russian Ministry of Defence unveiled a video showing troops involved in exercises with the feared S-300 missile systems – on the day pressure intensified over the Salisbury spy scandal

UAWire – Russia to dispose of Topol ballistic missiles

Russian state-owned corporation Roscosmos has posted an online public procurement application for the disposal of nine intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) Topol RS- 12M. The maximum contract price is 9.78 million rubles ($170,000 USD). Lot includes the disposal of the missile parts, sale of the obtained materials and disposal of illiquid waste. The contractor must have a valid license for the dismantling of military equipment, the Russian Armed Forces security clearance with access to classified information and license to work with precious metals. According to the application, it’s possible to get 1.8 kilograms of gold, 42 kilograms of silver, 45 grams of platinum, more than 16 tons of ferrous and 13 tons of non-ferrous metals from the utilization of nine rockets. Funds from the sale of the metals should be transferred to the federal budget. The work must be carried out at the ICBMs Disposal Centre at Votkinsk Machine Building Plant in Udmurtia. Ballistic missile RS-12M Topol was put into production in 1984. For 10 years, the Votkinsk plant produced about 400 missiles of this type, then the production of Topol was stopped and the plant was engaged in the production of a more advanced ICBM – Topol-M. In recent years, the number of RS-12M in the Strategic Missile Forces is rapidly declining. In 2010, 171 Topol missiles were in operational but at the beginning of 2018 only 36 of them were left.

UAWire – Russia begins exercises with the Iskander missile systems in Stavropol Krai

An Iskander missile unit arrived at one of the testing grounds in the Stavropol Krai to participate in exercises with the Iskander-M tactical …

The workers of the Internal Security Agency of Poland detained a Russian spy –

Russian spy detained in Poland

Interview: US and Russia Have Entered a ‘Phase of Enormous Danger’ – The Wire

The New START treaty is set to end in 2021, but no substantive nuclear arms talks are underway.

Russia / Russophone Reports

Vladimir Pastukhov | Three presidential cards. Putin won the elections not through tricks, but politically, by offering the country a course

Putin won more than elections – he won the battle for the “collective unconscious” of the Russian people.

Three presidential cards – To Inform is to Influence

“(S)at down like a needle” really means ‘sat down on a needle’, as in ‘injected like an addict needs a drug’.  I had a bunch of Russian speakers respond to my question about that saying.   Basically, Putin feeds an addiction that the Russian people have to how he presents information.  If you’re confused about the…

The end of Putin will come because of the “black swans”, which he himself let loose

Slava Rabinovich on mass expulsion of Russian diplomats and Putin’s “black swans”. An unprecedented scandal with Russian diplomats, expelled by many countries, including Ukraine ( because of the poisoning of retired GRU officer Sergey Skripal and his daughter on the British territory ), as well as nightmarish events in Russia itself (such as the death of dozens of people in the SEC “Winter Cherry “in Kemerovo ) will be included in a series of events, which ultimately will have fatal consequences for the regime of Vladimir Putin. About the “black swans”, which will lead to the collapse of the current government in Russia, “Apostrophe” told Russian financier and blogger Slava Rabinovich. In world diplomacy, I do not remember a single case that such a number of countries would send out so many diplomats of one particular state. And how is this state, which is spoken publicly by this step, that it has become an outcast country, is going to actually fight with the whole world in response mirror measures? I just can not imagine. And in Soviet times, diplomatic scandals and expulsions flashed. This numbered dozens (if not hundreds) of people, with the same UK. But for this to happen – coordinated with dozens of countries at the same time actions against Putin’s Russia – this is an unprecedented story. But it is as unprecedented as the attack of Putin’s OPG in the UK using chemical poisoning substances of mass destruction. Therefore, we are in a territory that is not known not only for the times of post-Soviet Russia, but, apparently, during the times of Soviet Russia. Each of such events (like deportation of diplomats or a tragedy with a fire in Kemerovo , the “Apostrophe”) does not have a separate, terminal, final, fatal meaning for Putin’s OPG. But, first, all these events are added up and have a cumulative total effect. And at some point, someday, it will reach a critical mass in order for television-smothered people who are still unable to build an elementary cause-and-effect relationship in their head, eventually began to see it. Secondly, Putin’s OPG will definitely be removed from power at some point. We do not now know how, but we know for sure that the regime of Putin’s organized crime group is not eternal, it will ever end. And he, most likely, will fall because of some confluence of different circumstances described in the theory of “black swans” – because of any unpredictable events that converge at one point.

UAWire – Peskov: newly elected Putin is different from the previous one

Vladimir Putin, as the new president of Russia, has a clear vision of the country's future development and is different from Putin that the …

Putin’s Dictatorship — and Antisemitism | Jewish & Israel News

Share Share On Facebook Tweet Share On Twitter Print Print Article Email Email This Article March 29, 2018 11:34 am 0 Putin’s Dictatorship — and Antisemitism avatar by Anna Borshchevskaya Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Yuri Kadobnov / Pool via Reuters. In an NBC interview aired on March 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the 13 Russian nationals that the US indicted for election interference may not be ethnically Russian: “Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked,” he said. Since then, many have commented on Putin’s statement, but most missed the main point. Putin most likely made the statement for cynical and pragmatic reasons. In the context of the upcoming March 18 presidential election, he was rallying support and reinforcing the “besieged fortress” anti-Western narrative. Some rightly pointed to a major point that got lost in translation. In English, the word “Russian” can mean either an ethnic Russian or a Russian citizen — there is no distinction. In Russian, the word “russkiy” means ethnic Russian, and “rossiyanin” means Russian citizen. Russian Jews are considered citizens of the Russian Federation, but not ethnic Russians. Thus, a Ukrainian, a Tatar, or a Jew would be a “rossiyanin,” but not a “russkiy.” March 29, 2018 3:14 pm 0 Hamas Mobilizes 30,000 Terrorists for Two-Day Military Drill Despite a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Hamas carried out a two-day, large-scale military drill in Gaza earlier this week… Putin’s comment came towards the end of the interview– after Megyn Kelly asked about election interference three times; Putin provided a number of other explanations before suggesting it could have been “Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews.” Throughout the interview, Kelly used the word “Russians,” but the translators sometime translate the word to Putin as “rossiyane” and sometimes as “russkiye.” This context casts doubt on the idea that Putin’s comment was antisemitic for antisemitism’s sake alone. But don’t let him off the hook just yet. If anything, Putin knows how to play the media — domestically, and internationally. More to the point, he strategically uses the word for an ethnic Russian or a Russian citizen depending on the circumstance to subtly influence the listener. A far more obvious example is his March 2014 Crimea annexation speech, when he defined nationality by language and ethnicity. For the former KGB man, the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. He spent years trying to understand what mistakes led to this collapse. Putin doesn’t seek the return a Communist ideology, even though he routinely invokes Soviet symbolism –indeed he tends to look further back into Russia’s tsarist past — but in this context, he seeks great power status, and views the West as Russia’s main adversary. Putin came to believe that among the mistakes that led to the Soviet Union’s collapse were its anti-Jewish policies. They led to the refusenik movement that connected with Western elites and resulted in Western pressure, and led among other things, to the passage of the powerful Jackson-Vanik amendment that pressured the Soviet Union on its human rights policy. More broadly, these efforts helped expose the true evil of the Soviet regime, and that there was no moral equivocation between the West and the Soviet ideology. The lesson Putin drew is that a more pragmatic policy is to neutralize the Jews. Thus, Putin appears to have done more for the Jews in Russia than any other Kremlin leader. Yet a degree of antisemitism always underpinned his regime. To give but a few examples, senior members of his United Russia party have periodically make antisemitic comments. Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in November 2016: “If you want to know what will happen in America, who do you have to talk to? You have to talk to the Jews, naturally.” The most prominent opposition party Putin allows is the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by a known antisemite Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was among presidential candidate year. Such antisemitic undercurrent was always useful to Putin. By comparison, he appears as a far better, saner alternative. At the same time, it helps bolster his anti-Western narrative, rallies nationalism, and appeals to both the far right and far left. Thus, it is doubtful that Putin’s comment during the NBC interview was innocent or accidental — Putin is too aware of the messaging attached to using such language. Indeed, he first mentioned Ukrainians in his comment, as the Russia-Ukraine crisis rages on. The March 18th presidential election was a manipulated sham with no real competition a predetermined result. As part of this sham, the Kremlin cared about appearance of legitimacy. This year, it worked especially hard to rally support and ensure a high turnout. Putin’s comment could have been a part of these efforts. Anna Borshchevskaya is the Ira Weiner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Vladimir Putin: The Making of a Despot |

On March 18, Vladimir Putin secured his fourth term as Russian president.

Stably Instable – Putin’s Reelection Will Not Stop Social Change in Russia, – Dr. Stefan Meister –

Vladimir Putin has governed Russia for eighteen years. An entire generation of young Russians has only ever experienced him at the helm of their country. Yet, it is just this generation that Putin is losing touch with as he has been seeking his power base mostly in the conservative, small-town and rural majority. Putin’s reelection will not shield his government from the social change that Russia is facing – and it is this change that the West should set its hopes on

Podcast: So, What Happens Next?

We witnessed something last weekend. It may not have been an election, at least in the way we understand that word. But we seem to have witnessed a watershed moment. Because March 18 appears to have been about more than going through the motions of securing a fourth term for Vladimir Putin. It appears to mark the end of an era in which Russia went through the tedious motions of pretending it is a democracy — managed, sovereign, or otherwise — and the dawn of something else. So, what happens next? On this week’s Power Vertical Podcast, we look at the fallout from Putin’s reelection in Russia and beyond. Joining from Moscow will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the book Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia.

Carl Bildt | Putin’s Pyrrhic victory

Vladimir Putin’s re-election to a fourth term as Russia’s president was a foregone conclusion. The Kremlin undoubtedly orchestrated ballot-box stuffing and other measures to ensure that Putin received at least 70 percent of the vote across all regions.

Will Putin follow in Brezhnev’s footsteps? | Russia News | Al Jazeera

What should Russia and the world expect in the next six years?

Russia: six more years of repression | openDemocracy

Hello, Generation Putin – The New York Times

Vladimir Putin is installing a cohort of young, loyal technocrats in a bid to assure that his regime will endure without him.

The Russian (S)election | Columnists |

Perhaps Vladimir Putin was using his experience meddling in U.S. elections to meddle in his own. Putin “won” re-election on March 18 with about 76 percent of the vote, not

Vladimir Putin’s ‘secret’ past revealed in new book | World | News |

RUSSIA’S intelligence service reinvented Vladimir Putin’s past to hide the fact that he came from a broken home, claims Russian author and friend of murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Be wary of this man – The Blade

Election shows Russians embrace Putin, reject the West | TheHill

Putin got a solid mandate from the Russian people, and it is important to understand why.

Why Russians in New York and Amsterdam Voted for Putin (Op-ed)

Consciously or not, Russian expats long for the protective arms of the motherland

Putin might be cheering Russia’s economy but a major strategy overhaul is needed to keep it firing

After his recent election victory, president Vladimir Putin revealed the focus of his fourth term.

And Now What? Russian Foreign Policy in Putin’s Fourth Term | European Council on Foreign Relations

Moscow has undergone a lively debate on the future course of its foreign policy – which may now become obsolete by the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. This was a strange Russian election, even by that very odd standard. It marked less the end of a competition for office than the start of post-election struggles. Now the process of shaping the post-Putin era will start in earnest. So, what does the start of the new struggle for post-Putin Russia mean for Russia’s foreign policy? It is very much an open question. The events of recent years have shattered quite a few foreign policy assumptions in Moscow. The Russian leadership did not expect the West to introduce strong sanctions after Crimea and to stick with them for years. Then, it expected China to compensate for lost Western investments. It expected Hillary Clinton to win the US elections and become a tough anti-Russian president. Then it expected Donald Trump to become a soft Russia-friendly president. It expected the EU to collapse under the weight of its own in internal contradictions at the wake of Brexit. It expected Ukraine to collapse under the weight of its unreformed economy, corruption and unruly political passions. It expected the settlement in Syria to be a lot easier. Alas, the world turned out to be more unpredictable and complicated than many Russians thought. These failed predictions have occasioned a lively foreign policy debate in Moscow – on the meaning of Donald Trump, on the fate of the European Union, on what to expect from China, on what next in Syria and Donbas.

Vladimir Putin, beyond Western tolerance – Washington Times

History teaches us, better than modern politics, what Vladimir Putin’s election victory, by a reported 76.1 percent, means for Russia &mdash; and the world. The portent is not promising. It is downright foreboding, and calls for redoubled vigilance.

UAWire – Putin’s cousin elected to Gazprom board

Gazprom’s Board of Directors has elected Mikhail Putin as a Deputy Chairman of the company for a period of five years, Interfax reports, citing  …

UAWire – Putin asks Russians ‘to be patient’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a live broadcast on Russian federal television on Friday that citizens of Russia should not expect that all the problems that have arisen in the country, particularly in its economy and social spheres, will be resolved immediately. “You, Russian citizens, are right to speak about low incomes, faults with the healthcare system, housing, utilities and other things as well,” Putin said, stressing that after winning the election he feels “a need to address directly” those who supported him and gave him 76% of the vote. “We need to make a real breakthrough,” acknowledged the president. But it will not come immediately. “Of course, I would like the matters that citizens raised to be addressed as soon as possible….but promising to solve all these things immediately, right away, to make the necessary changes simply overnight, would be an absolutely irresponsible thing to do,” Putin said.

UAWire – Kremlin accuses the West of interference in Russian presidential elections

Chairman of the Council of the Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs Andrey Klimov stated that the Council of the Committee has information …

Putin remains overwhelmingly unpopular in U.S. | Pew Research Center

Just 16% of Americans see Vladimir Putin favorably, with more Republicans than Democrats holding that view.

This is what the U.S. can expect from Putin 4.0 – MarketWatch

In the Russian president’s fourth term, don’t be surprised to see signs of stability.

This Sexy Former Miss Russia Is One of Vladimir Putin’s New Faves – Maxim

Vladimir Putin just made a gorgeous blonde model named Victoria Lopyreva the official ambassador of the FIFA World Cup.

As Stalin Lay Dying

With “The Death of Stalin,” Armando Iannucci the perfect subject match for his brand of high political satire. Is it too good to be true, or not true enough to be good?

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians Far More Imperialist Now than They were in Soviet Times, Historian Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 29 – Russians today are “much more imperialist than they were in the last years of the USSR, Vladimir Melikhov says; and in the pursuit of empire, they are prepared to sacrifice their freedoms, a loss that means that “it is completely possible that the present-day Russian Federation will share the fate of the USSR.” But even before that happens, the Cossack historian tells Vyacheslav Puzeyev of the After Empire portal, the attitude of Russians has made absolutely impossible the formation of democratic institutions and federalism for all nations within the country’s borders, including the Cossacks ( “If there are no democratic institutions such as freedom of speech, division of powers or an independent judicial system, how can one speak about any federation?” Melikhov asks. And given their absence, neither the Cossacks nor any other people can hope for a real republic. If the country disintegrates before democracy arrives, “in place of one dictator, there could be 85.” Consequently, a Cossack Republic for the time being must remain “a project of the future,” he continues. “It will become possible only on the basis of real federalism and stable institutions of self-administration. When power in various regions will belong to their population and not to governors and mayors appointed ‘from above, then real change will occur.” Melikhov has been persecuted by the Russian government for his efforts in the media and as an organizer of two memorial museums to enlighten the Russian people about the real nature of the Cossacks. The authorities over the course of a decade have brought him to court 500 times in the hopes he will stop. But Melikhov says he has no plans to do so, adding that the repression he has been subject to in itself shows “what a dictatorship leads to.” The powers that be crack down on him because they see in his work on the history of the Cosssacks under the Soviets a reflection of the earlier oppressors of his nation. The Soviets committed genocide against the Cossacks, but the post-Soviet regime is seeking to destroy the Cossack tradition by turning everything upside down, presenting Cossacks as the invariable supporters of the Russian state, as simply a social stratum rather than a nation, and as harshly authoritarian rather than freedom loving, the historian says. They are thus destroying the Cossacks in a new and dangerous way even as they present themselves as supporters of the neo-Cossacks in Russia today, Melikhov says. Most of these new Cossacks know nothing about the traditions of the real Cossacks but simply have failed at life, want to play act, and to win points from the regime. “Historically,” he says, “the Cossacks evolved as a separate ethnic group, quite different from other ethnic groups in the Russian Empire. It had its own democratic institutions … and therefore if one speaks about the rebirth of the Cossacks, one must above all speak about the rebirth of this political culture which arose over centuries.” Melikhov concludes: “The Cossacks always were independent and self-sufficient in the organization of their own lives and never counted on the powers for assistance. They were masters of their own land, but today few understand these terms,” and the Russian government wants to keep it that way lest the Cossacks become a model for others.

Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia | News | The Guardian

The long read: Under Vladmir Putin, gangsterism on the streets has given way to kleptocracy in&nbsp;the&nbsp;state

Craters in Arctic caused by Russian attempts to exploit gas reserves | Daily Mail Online

Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, from the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow claims financial gain from natural gas is driving explosions of bizarre Arctic craters.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: If Only Beria had Succeeded Stalin, Things Would’ve Been So Much Better, Some Russians Feel

Paul Goble Staunton, March 26 – One of the more unusual and simultaneously amusing and disturbing developments in recent Russia history has been the revisionist treatment of Stalin’s notorious secret police chief Lavrenty Beria, with some Russians presenting him as the best and certainly most underrated of Stalin’s comrades in arms at the end of his life. Now, the Russian7 portal which regularly runs stories about various personalities and events in Russian and Soviet history has weighed in with a lengthy article suggesting that the Soviet Union and indeed the world would have been far better off if Beria rather than Khrushchev had succeeded Stalin ( The portal’s Taras Repin argues that on Stalin’s death, there were only four real pretenders for his position: Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov and Bulganin. But Beria because of his control over the force structures was “the real head of the country” in the first weeks after Stalin’s passing. Using his position, Beria replaced the interior ministers and the heads of interior ministry offices “in all union republics and in a majority of the regions of the RSFSR,” and they in turn installed people loyal to Beria and his position in subordinate posts, Repin continues. Beria also organized an amnesty for most prisoners and ended several cases against political prisoners., Even more radically, he took steps intended to “liquidate the collective farm system and broaden the rights of all the republics within the USSR” and supported “a rapprochement between the USSR and the West.” Had he used his police powers against his opponents, he might have set himself in place to rule for years. “Many contemporary historians,” Repin says, “suppose that with the death of Beria, we lost a talented and active figure. They are certain that socialism under Lavrenty Beria would have continued to develop ‘successfully and harmoniously’ and the construction of a communist society in the USSR would have become completely real.” Beria biographer Sergey Kremlyev argues that the USSR has good prospects in the 1950s and that a Malenkov-Beria regime with Beria being the power behind the throne would have changed the entire future of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev might have retained a place in the Politburo but without a significant power base. Further, the historian says, “had Beria remained in power, then the entire history of the planet could have developed according to an entirely different scenario: one not defined by militarization and capitalization but by the construction of a worthy and just community of toilers.” Many give Khrushchev credit for overthrowing the cult of Stalin, but in fact, Repin says, Beria took the lead in that, having ended the doctors’ plot Stalin had initiated and releasing all those who had been falsely charged. “All of them were rehabilitated in the course of a two-week period.” , “ Many are “certain” that if Beria had remained in power he would have reviewed and overturned the cases of all those who were repressed; and some argue that he would have promoted democracy by giving passports to the peasants, something the Soviet leadership didn’t do until the 1970s, and giving the soviets a dominant role in economic life. One of the reasons Khrushchev gave in 1956 for removing Beria from the leadership in 1953 and ultimately ordering his execution was the fear of the other communist leaders that Beria intended to split apart the USSR by supporting nationalists in the republics at the expense of those who looked to Moscow. But Beria had few chances to survive in any case, and they would have depended on his acting more like Stalin toward his opponents than he was willing or able to do. According to one human rights activist, the spirit of Stalinism was still too strong in 1953 for Beria to achieve his goals. Consequently, Nikita Petrov, the vice president of Memorial says, when Beria did not act as Stalin had, the others acted against him in a “completely Stalinist” manner.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Insistence Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are One People Leading Some Russians to Deny Any Commonality, Ishchenko Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 24 – Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are not three nations by one is increasingly leading not only Ukrainians and Belarusians but many Russians as well to deny they have anything in common, according to Ukrainian commentator Rostislav Ishchenko. That this should be so among Ukrainians and Belarusians is perhaps not surprising and has certainly attracted comment, but that such a view is spreading even among activists supporting Putin’s other ideas on “the Russian world” is, Ishchenko says, and has some dramatic implications for the future ( Russians who reject Putin’s idea about the commonality of the three East Slavic people have “invented for themselves a certain mythical ‘former Russia’ ‘the golden age’ of which saw the triumph of justice on its territory,” he says. “in opposition to this ideal mythical Russia of the past, present-day Russia is declared to be not Russia and contemporary Russians not Russians.” Russians who reach that conclusion set themselves apart “not only from Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalists but also from radical Russian ones” who insist that Russia must “ingather” the other Slavic territories in order to be true to itself. Rejecting the commonality of the three means rejecting that idea as well. “Why is this important?” Ishchenko asks rhetorically. “Because in the course of the development of political processes, the former imperialists and internationalists of Ukraine have come to the very same conception which their ideological opponents profess by recognizing the existence of clearly existing distinctions between various groups of the Russian people.” “More than that, it has turned out that from their point of view, this conception not only doesn’t contradict the conception of a single Russian World but can be used for a completely correct description of one of its versions.” Ishchenko points out that “if one and the same conception can be used by ideologically different and even opposed trends for the development of their theories, if besides this it does not contradict obvious facts, this means that there is in some grain of truth.” And that makes possible a new kind of conversation among the groups that wasn’t possible before. Many may be inclined to dismiss this new position of some Russian nationalists as a vulgar misreading of the past, “but the most vulgar political formulations as a rule are a simplified version” for the masses of a most sophisticated version of the past; and in the course of his long article, Ishchenko offers a reading of Eurasian history to support that idea. Some will find what he says persuasive. Others will reject it. But the fact that this is being discussed among Russians now opens the way to the recognition of ever more people in the Russian Federation that Ukrainians and Belarusians and hence Ukraine and Belarus are genuinely distinct nations and countries. And to the extent that happens, Russians on the one hand and Ukrainians and Belarusians on the other will have a far better chance to live in peace with each other and perhaps just as important with themselves.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Immigrants, Currently Russia’s Only Source of Population Growth, Declining in Number, Experts Say

Paul Goble Staunton, March 28 – Immigration is now “the only source of population growth” in Russia, and the numbers of immigrants are falling, according to data in the latest monitoring report prepared by the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service ( In 2017, net immigration amounted to 211,900 people, the smallest number of this category since 2010. And now that Russians are again experiencing fewer births than deaths, that means the population of the country will grow only slowly at best and may in fact decline in the coming years if immigration falls further. Given the Kremlin’s obsession about size and its extensive rather than intensive approach to economic development, that trend has serious consequences for the economy, society and the political system as well, given the role immigrants play in all three spheres and the money the Russian regional governments take in from selling permission to immigrants. Ukrainians continue to form the largest share of immigrants, but their numbers declined sharply between 2016 when 118,800 immigrated and 2017 when only 47,700 did, a decline responsible for much of the fall off the report focused on. CIS countries and especially the Central Asian ones continued to dominate, providing more than 90 percent of the total. Migrants continue to move to the major cities and their environs, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Krasnodar kray. They have played an especially large role in boosting the population of the second capital, where migrants formed 92 percent of the population increase in 2017, 44 percent more than a year earlier. Temporary migration into Russia has also declined, although the numbers officially registered in this category have not fallen as much. Most foreign workers in Russia are as before “citizens of the countries of Central Asia, whose share of all foreign migrant workers has been increasing, with all-too-obvious social consequences. Up to now, the report says, Russia’s regional governments have not seen a decline in income from the sale of patents which immigrant workers are required to have. Indeed, there has been an increase in their income from this source over the last three years but only because officials have worked harder to enforce the law and have raised prices as well.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Will Kaluga Oblast Decision Elevating Rights of Ethnic Russian Majority Become a Model? Nationalists Hope So

Paul Goble Staunton, March 25 – In December 2017, the Kaluga Oblast authorities issued a decree which for the first time in recent Russian history supported a strengthening of the rights of the ethnic Russian majority, an action that Russian nationalists are celebrating and hope will become the basis for a decree or law for the entire Russian Federation. The 3500-word decree issued “quietly and without PR” represents, one Russian commentator argues, “yet another step away from ‘European values’ toward a normal existence and is thus one of the most important preconditions for the restoration” of the rights and privileges Russians lost in 1917 ( Since December, this decree (full text at has not attracted much attention not only because of the election campaign and the usual obscurity of a predominantly ethnic Russian region like Kaluga but also because it includes traditional language about guaranteeing everyone’s rights regardless of ethnicity. But the Katyusha commentator says that the key provision of the document is that it calls for taking account of and guaranteeing “the rights of the ethnic Russian people as a national majority,” something most recent Russian documents on nationality policy have been careful to avoid in their talk about a non-ethnic Russian civic nation. Now the election is over and Moscow’s tilt away from Europe is ever clearer. As a result, the Kaluga document is attracting attention, all the more so because there are indications that the Kremlin may soon redefine nationality policy in radical ways ( and The Kaluga document gives Russian nationalists many other things they want in addition to this symbolic shift: it calls for preventing the formation of ethnic ghettos, it says that ethnic Russians should be given preferential treatment as immigrants, and it explicitly rejects multi-culturalism, saying that is a source of conflict rather than concord. “This is really a breakthrough,” the Katyusha commentator says. “What is needed for the normal existence of various peoples in a single state? If you listen to the Europeans, a very great number of things are necessary and above all the elimination of any identity of the local population and the destruction of traditions.” “But as almost 20 years have shown, this path is a dead end, which has led to a crisis in Europe,” but people there can’t escape it because under the terms of “global liberalism,” there is no other way and they are condemned to follow it. “Everyone who doesn’t agree is an enemy of democracy and humanity.” “There is another approach,” and it is one that Russia appears to be moving towards, the Russian commentator says. “Like no European nation, we have our own experience of peoples living together who aren’t slaughtered like Indians or enslaved like Negroes.” “Today, Russia has become the world brand namely of this – traditional – approach to the resolution among other things of the inter-ethnic issue,” he continues. One can thus only welcome the decision of the Kaluga authorities and hope that its choice will be “only the beginning of history.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: The Russian State has Lost the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Russia’s Muslims, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 29 – The editors of Moscow’s Novaya gazeta decided several years ago to investigate the value systems of the three most Muslim republics in the North Caucasus – Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya – in order to determine which sources of influence are most important for people there, the paper’s Olga Bobrova says. In order to make the study more scientific, the editor continues in a report published yesterday, the paper included in its team two prominent researchers on the region, Denis Sokolov and Akhmet Yarlukapov, as well as a group of sociologists from the TSIRKON polling agency ( “However, already in the course of work, it became evident to us,” Bobrova says, “that the tendencies we had uncovered were typical not only for the republics of the North Caucasus but also for the rest of Russia, for the Middle Volga, for Siberia and for the millionaire cities.” Indeed, for anywhere there are groups of Muslims. What the study is talking about then, she continues, is “the future of Russia. The researchers interviewed 147 residents of the three republics, asking them questions about their attitudes toward practices of daily life ranging from the consumption of alcohol to polygamy and from respect for Islamic organizations as opposed to the secular institutions of the Russian government. The group operated on the assumption that everyone in the region was affected by three value systems – adat, the traditional rules of societies there; shariat, the more formal laws of Islam; and secular law – with some age cohorts more affected by or loyal to one than others, Bobrova says. In addition to many intriguing specific findings such as the desire to keep guns in households, opposition to alcohol, and support for polygamy especially among the young, the paper reached two overarching conclusions: those normative systems based in Islam have greater influence than do civic institutions, and young people are the chief promoters of that trend. These findings, Bobrova says, “have colossal significant for the state.” In essence, they mean that before our eyes, the state has measured its forces against another normative system; and it has lost out to it.” Ever fewer Muslims look to the state and its institutions; and ever more look to Islam and its. “It is interesting,” she says, “that processes analogous to those which are taking place in the Caucasus are occurring in other regions … where Muslims are represented in large numbers. Small Tatar cities, Volga villages, and suburbs of large Russian cities are turning to Islam. People are donning the hijab and enrolling in Arabic language courses in the medrassah.” Even more worrisome for some Russians, “in these courses,” the journalist says, “you encounter an enormous number of ethnic Russian converts. Similar processes are typical for prisons as well: The Russian zone is rapidly being Islamicized. And this is all one phenomenon: people are losing faith in the government and search for a more reliable jurisdiction.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: In Russia Today, Risings and Coups are Possible But Not a Revolution, Analysts Say

Paul Goble Staunton, March 25 – Just as they have so often before, liberal Moscow commentators have suggested the protests in Volokolamsk over trash dumps are going to be the beginning of a revolution, Arkady Babchenko says. They did the same with the drivers’ strike over Plato, the farmers’ protests in the Kuban, and the environmentalists in the North Caucasus. But in no case have the protests and risings lead to a revolution because in Putin’s Russia there can be risings but not revolutions. Those who argue otherwise simply do not understand their own people. Russians are angry about many things but that doesn’t make them revolutionaries, the Russian commentator says ( The Volokolamsk demonstrators rejected the idea of calling in Navalny or any other political leader: they don’t want to make their protest political lest they be crushed and Putin’s rating among them is 67 percent, a figure close to the Kremlin leader’s real rating throughout the country, Babchenko continues. “The country has changed. The Reich has crystallized. Ein Folk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer. Trash is trash but Putin is Putin. The flies are separate and so is Crimea.” They will focus on petty local problems but as for everything else, “they are for Putin and Crimea is ours and against the radicals.” According to Babchenko, “there isn’t going to be any revolution here: not a revolution of the farmers, not a revolution of the miners, not a revolution of the trash collectors. Here there will be only risings.” Things will have to get a lot worse for that to change. As long as oil is 70 US dollars a barrel, Putin can sleep without fears” of any revolution. But if revolutions are out at least for the time being, some analysts are suggesting that a palace coup is not only possible but imminent. US-based Russian commentator Andrey Piontkovsky for one says that regimes like Putin’s end “only via a palace coup. Power isn’t changed” there via elections (—andrey-piontkovskiy/17582). Such coups, however, don’t happen often except ‘as a result of serious geopolitical defeats,” Piontkovsky continues. In Putin’s case, the size of his “depends on the decisiveness of the West,” not in its use of military means something no one is interested in but rather in the display of economic power, something the West has an enormous advantage. But while coups in such regimes as possible, they are less likely when those who might want to remove Putin to save themselves recognize that they might very well be swept away if they were to try to “’overthrow’” him. Unless they become convinced that won’t happen, they will stay at least outwardly loyal, and even a coup in this case will be relatively unlikely.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Popular Support for Putin’s Military Buildup ‘Patently Exaggerated,’ Sociologist Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 27 – Vladimir Magun, one of Russia’s leading sociologists, says that “the sympathies of the population for increasing the military might [of Russia] are patently exaggerated” and that “in fact, the majority of the population is for ‘butter’ rather than for ‘bullets.’” Many among the commentariat believe that Vladimir Putin’s build up enjoys enormous popularity among the population, the sociologist says; but polls show that is increasingly not the case. Most would sacrifice some military glory in order to have a better life, something they say would win Russia more support ( In a March 2017 poll, Magun notes, 56 percent of Russians said they would prefer to see their country be one with a high standard of living even if that meant it could not be “one of the strongest countries in the world,” while 42 percent made the opposite choice. And even at the time of the Crimean annexation, the two drew equal shares, 47 and 48 percent respectively. On the one hand, these figures reflect the fact that the way the Levada Center asked the question required Russians to think about the costs of pursuing either of these goals. In the absence of such linkage, Russians like others will give greater support to both, not seeing the one as a tradeoff. The Russian political elite is “far more militantly inclined” than is the Russian population. Other sociologists have found that “the elite is more anti-American than the masses and that in a choice of ‘the economy of military force,’” with “representatives of the elite also more strongly tilting toward military force than those of the Russian population as a whole.” Among these other scholars if V.V. Petukhov of the Moscow Institute of Sociology who presents his findings in an article “Foreign Policy Orientations of Russians in the Context of Contemporary Challenges and Threats” in the collection Russia and the World (in Russian; Moscow, 2018), pp. 87-93 at That article has now been summarized on Pavel Pryanikov’s Tolkovatel portal. What he says challenges the received opinion of many in Moscow and the West about what ordinary Russians want as opposed to what Putin and his comrades in arms do (

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin May Soon Make ‘Veterans of Hybrid Wars’ New Symbol of Russia’s Future, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 22 – With the passing of the World War II generation, few of whom now remain, Vladimir Putin appears ready to make “veterans of hybrid wars” a new symbol of the idea that Russia today is “a besieged fortress” and that it must restore the lost empire not as a communist project but as a nationalist one, according to Vadim Shtepa. Shtepa, a Russian regionalist living in Estonia who edits the After Empire portal, says that possibility reflects both the use of “warrior internationalists” at the end of Soviet times who did their “international” duty in Afghanistan and elsewhere and the rise of hybrid forces since 1991 ( In addition to the deployment of “official Russian ‘peacekeepers’” in conflicts on the post-Soviet space, the regionalist says, Moscow has made use of “entirely new unofficial Russian units which have called themselves ‘volunteers,’ ‘Cossacks,’ or otherwise,” Shtepa says. And such groups have a very different ideology. “As a rule,” he continues, “in place of communist ideology, they profess Russian nationalism and ‘Orthodox values.’ Formally these units aren’t subordinate to Russian force structures, but in fact, there have been unofficial mercenaries which allow involving in military operations defense and interior ministry retirees who haven’t found a place in ‘civilian life.’” The neo-Cossacks who have appeared in recent decades are part of this, and they are particularly valuable from the Kremlin’s point of view because they represent a movement that has arisen from below rather than one that it all too obviously created from above, thus allowing Moscow to present them as an expression of the Russian popular will. In the case of the Chechens, Moscow has overseen the transformation of those who fought against Russia in the 1990s into warriors of the empire of a kind that recalls the Savage Division of the late imperial period whose soldiers defended the imperial state rather than advanced the interests of their own nations, Shtepa says. In the course of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its occupation of portions of the Donbass, the regionalist expert says, “the Kremlin has demonstrated a characteristic technology of its aggressive actions: they are carried out not by cadres of the Russia army but by anonymous ‘little green men’ without identification,” allow the Kremlin to say “’they aren’t there.’” All this, he argues, is part of “an imperial revanchism” that seeks to extend the borders of Russia to include the former Soviet space but on the basis of “a different ideology” and “a different technology.” Instead of communism as the basis, Moscow wants this to be about “an imperial consciousness” arising from below “as “‘the will of the people.’” “For the support of militarist attitudes, the ideology of ‘a besieged fortress,’ and Russia’s opposition to the West, the Kremlin already for long years has cultivated the theme of victory in World War II, having transformed May 9 into the chief state holiday de facto,” Shtepa argues. But with the passing of its veterans, the Kremlin needs replacements. “’Veterans’” of its hybrid wars are the obvious candidates, the regionalist writer suggests, not only because of their age – most are middle aged or younger and thus very much alive – but also because they have already participated as “volunteers” in Putin’s project of restoring a Russian empire. According to Shtepa, “any empire, beginning with the Roman, has drawn its militarist legitimacy from a cult of veterans. Therefore, it is probable that in the course of the next Putin term will appear a growing propagandistic ‘heroization’ of participants” of various hybrid formations, with the Kremlin taking credit for their work rather than holding itself apart. At least some of these “veterans” will be integrated into some kind of “’new patriotic elite,’” in order to replace any remaining people with “liberal and pro-European views.” That is because, Shtepa concludes, “the militarization of mass consciousness is the only ideological and psychological resource available for supporting a Kremlin-centric empire.”

‘People here believe all journalists are biased’: reporting from Putin’s Russia | World news | The Guardian

The Guardian’s outgoing correspondent Shaun Walker discusses the challenges of covering Moscow, and his hopes for his new beat – Budapest

This Is the Russian Special Forces Unit No One Talks about—until Now. | The National Interest Blog


Searching for Memory of the Gulags in Putin’s Russia | The New Yorker

Masha Gessen writes about a new book she wrote with the photographer Misha Friedman, about Russia’s fading memory of the Gulags.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ukrainians in Russian Far East Aging, Using Russian but Retaining Identity, New Study Finds

Paul Goble Staunton, March 27 – Because of tsarist-era resettlement policies, ethnic Ukrainians formed significant parts of the population in many parts of what is now the Russian Federation. The largest and most important, known as “the Green Wedge,” existed in what is now the Russian Far East. At the time of the first Soviet census in 1926, ethnic Ukrainians formed more than a third of the population there, and well over 40 percent in rural areas. They retained their language and many of their distinctive cultural institutions, but in recent years, the community has declined ( The period since the end of the Soviet Union has seen the decline in the numbers of the community and its attachment to language accelerate, with the share of ethnic Ukrainians in Primorsky kray falling from 8.2 percent in the 1989 census to 2.5 percent in the 2010 enumeration and with fewer of them speaking their language than ever before. But few have been able to investigate this group in any detail. Now, a Kazan Tatar scholar, Renat Temirgaleyev, has remedied that with an important new article tracing the recent history of the Zelenyi klin Ukrainians in the Moscow journal Demograficheskoye obozreniye ( His basic conclusions about the fate of the ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Far East since 1991 are as follows: · The decline in the number of people in the Russian Far East identifying as Ukrainian is not the result of Ukrainian flight to independent Ukraine. Rather it reflects the passing of the older generation there and the assimilation, at least linguistically, of younger age groups, something almost inevitable given the absence of new immigrants from Ukraine. · Over the last century, the share of ethnic Ukrainians has declined more sharply in the Russian Far East than in the Russian Federation as a whole, a reflection of the absence of contacts with the core Ukrainian community in Ukraine. · The Ukrainians in the region have always been more rural than the ethnic Russians: they reached the 50 percent level of urbanization only in the 1960s, decades after the ethnic Russians there did; and they remain less urbanized. That may be why even with the loss of language, some continue to identify as Ukrainians because of ties with particular villages. · The Ukrainians of the Russian Far East have an average age almost 20 years greater than that of ethnic Russians there, an indication that the once thriving “Green Wedge” is likely to disappear in the coming decades unless the Russian or Ukrainian governments adopt radically different policies.

Ukrainian Journalist Pleads Not Guilty At Russian Espionage Trial

Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, whom Russia has charged with espionage in a case seen by rights activists as politically motivated, has entered a not guilty plea as his trial began in Moscow.

As Verdict Nears, Russian Historian Says ‘I Am Not Guilty’ Of Child Pornography

Russian historian and activist Yury Dmitriyev, who is being tried on child-pornography charges, says he maintained his innocence in his final statement to the court ahead of a verdict.

#MeToo in Russia – To Inform is to Influence

The case of Leonid Slutsky, a member of the State Duma of Russia, accused by three female journalists of sexual harassment, is bringing worldwide attention. The New Yorker has an excellent article about the current and past history of Russia and sexual harassment.  Russia Finally Gets Its #MeToo Moment. NPR has full coverage about #MeToo in Russia, How One…

Peskov Compares Actresses Who Complained Of Sexual Abuse To ‘Prostitutes’

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has described actresses who say they were sexually harassed by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as “prostitutes,” and suggested they …

Prison Terms Sought Over Arson Attack On Film About Tsar

Prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to sentence three members of an ultraconservative group to prison for an arson attack apparently aimed to prevent the screening of a movie depicting an affair …

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Volokolamsk Protests Show Real Nature of Russian Political System, Yekaterinburg Analysts Say

Paul Goble Staunton, March 26 – Protests by residents in Volokolamsk about a dump in their neighborhood and the reaction of the authorities to those protests provide like an x-ray a picture of the real as opposed to declarative nature of the Russian political system, according to the editor of Yekaterinburg’s PolitSovet news portal. That picture shows, they say, that government agencies do not see themselves as representatives of the people to whom the population has delegated powers to act but rather as a kind of alien, occupying force that acts for itself and only under compulsion “negotiates” with the people ( Everyone has seen the pictures of the crowd attacking the local officials who it turned out did not initially find anything to say in response. “A few hours later,” the editors say, “the authorities all the same reacted to the protest,” first by firing the head of the district and then by forming “a social staff which will be involved in resolving the trash problems.” That body – and it could have been called a committee or something else – includes representatives of the protesters, members of the Social Chamber, human rights activists, ecology ministry officials, and the governor’s special representative for ecological issues, they continue. “And so what do we see? The authorities are creating a special organ … to which representatives of local residents who have certain demands are invited to take part.” In fine, the editors continue, what they have come up with is “something like a negotiating group between two sides in conflict.” That points to two conclusions about “how the Russian authorities work and how they conceive themselves” and their relationship to the population. On the one hand, “not one of the existing institutions which are supposed to allow for feedback between the authorities and the people works.” Not the parliament, not the social chamber, not anything. Instead, “at critical moments,” the powers that be have to come up with an “extraordinary” measure to do what the ordinary ones are not. And on the other, all this shows that “the authorities from the outset do not consider themselves to be representatives of the people,” from whom their powers are supposed to derive. Instead, “they conduct themselves like external administrators who solve their own tasks and problems” instead of those of the people. “When the subordinates suddenly refuse to be subordinate … then the authorities first fall into a stupor and begin to conduct themselves” not as representatives of the people but as “an alien force” which attempts to calm things down by conducting negotiations with those who oppose them. As a result of this point of view, PolitSovet says, there is now “a negotiating group in which there are representatives of two alien and conflicting sides – the authorities and the people.” And that in turn, the editors suggest, creates problems “not only for the population but for the authorities.” “The people need them so that the bureaucrats will know about the demands of the people and the authorities in turn need them so that in meeting with the people they will not be hit in the face. But in Russia,” unfortunately, “up to now the reverse is what is taking place.”

New Protest Held Against Volokolamsk Landfill Near Moscow

About 1,000 people have protested again in Volokolamsk, some 100 kilometers west of Moscow, demanding the closure of a landfill that has been leaking toxic gas that harmed dozens of children this w…

Chief Of Rights Group’s Office In Daghestan Attacked

The head of a regional office of one of Russia’s biggest human rights group has been severely beaten in an attack condemned by Amnesty International and that the group, Memorial, said was linked to…

Russia Accuses U.S. Of Trying To Bar Its Wrestlers From World Cup Event

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Washington of trying to bar Russian wrestlers from an upcoming competition, in a move it says makes the United States unfit to host such international sport…

Russian girl who shames politician becomes internet star – The Washington Post

A little girl in pink has become an internet hero in Russia after making a menacing gesture at the governor of the Moscow region as he sought to calm a protest over a toxic landfill whose emissions have sickened dozens.

Exits Blocked and Alarms Disabled in Deadly Russia Mall Fire – The New York Times

Panicked people were unable to escape the blaze in Siberia, officials said. At least 64 people were killed, many of them children.

Fifa investigates alleged racist abuse of France players by Russia fans | Football | The Guardian

Fifa is investigating alleged racist abuse directed at French players by Russia fans during France’s 3-1 friendly win in St Petersburg

Russian Police Admit Cutting Off Hands But Deny Involvement In Mysterious Discovery – LADbible

Fifty-four hands were recently discovered near the border with China, but Russian authorities say they don’t belong to them

Russia blows up Soviet-era landmark in World Cup city | Russia News | Al Jazeera

‘No one seriously believes that the city needs such a symbol.’

Russian Policewomen Can Knock Anyone Out With Their Beauty (PHOTOS) – Sputnik International

These women could easily become models due to their good looks, however, they prefer to wear police uniforms rather than take part in beauty pageants. Here are the most gorgeous policewomen, who’ve become an inspiration for thousands of social media users.

Russia’s Shadow Economy Goes Cashless Under State Bank’s Watch – Bloomberg

Russia’s shadow economy, which employs almost every other worker in the country, is finding a refuge in the most surprising of places.

Russia fire: Huge blaze engulfs tower block in Grozny, Chechnya | World | News |

A HUGE fire in Gronzy, Russia, has engulfed a tower block, sparking the panicked evacuations of more than 200 people.

Homes Hit, Residents Evacuated As South Siberia Snowmelt Triggers Flooding

The government of Russia’s Republic of Tyva in southern Siberia says the region has been hit by floods triggered by melting snow.

Two Dead In Russian Region Hit By Massive Flooding

Two men have died in Altai Krai after the Siberian region was hit by severe flooding triggered by melting snow.

Viktor Kalashnikov, Son Of Weapons Inventor, Dies At 75

The son of the man who invented one of the world’s most well-known firearms, the AK-47 assault rifle, has died at the age of 75.

Funeral For A Cosmonaut: The Death Of Yury Gagarin

Yury Gagarin died 50 years ago, on March 27, 1968, less than seven years after he made history by becoming the first person to fly into space. During what should have been a routine practice flight, Gagarin’s MiG-15UTI fighter plane crashed near the town of Kirzhach outside Moscow, killing him and co-pilot Vladimir Seryogin. On March 30, 1968, thousands of mourners gathered in Moscow’s Red Square for the funeral of a national hero.

The Daily Vertical: …And Thanks For All The Fish (Transcript)

OK, so basically I have some bad news and I also have some good news. The bad news is that this is my last day at RFE/RL after 11 terrific years that I am deeply grateful to my colleagues and to RFE/RL management for. And that means that this will be the last time I will address you from this studio. This is the last Daily Vertical that you will see in this particular format — but more on that in a minute. Over the years, I have tried to give you my honest and unvarnished take on events related to Russia and its neighbors. And yes, I have been critical of the current Kremlin regime — that’s no secret. But I’ve been critical for a reason. WATCH Today’s Daily Vertical I’ve been critical because I see Vladimir Putin’s regime establishing the same kind of autocratic, oligarchic, and kleptocratic governance that has prevented the Russian people from realizing their potential for centuries. And I believe that the well-being of the Russian people matters. I’ve also been critical because I see the Kremlin pursuing a clear agenda aimed at undermining the sovereignty of its neighbors and preventing them from achieving their aspirations. And I believe that the fates of the Ukrainians, the Georgians, the Moldovans, the Estonians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, and those of all of Russia’s neighbors matter. So now for the good news. Next week, I begin my new job as a senior fellow and director of the Russia Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C. And thanks to RFE/RL’s generosity, I will retain the Power Vertical brand name and take it with me to CEPA. So the Power Vertical will indeed continue in video, audio, and text formats. I will also keep the Power Vertical Twitter feed and Facebook fan page.

The Power Vertical, March 30, 2018

We got started following the castling in the autumn of 2011. We picked up some steam with the Bolotnaya protests. And for nearly seven years, we have tried to make sense of things like the Pussy Riot case, the rise of Aleksei Navalny, the Russian annexation of Crimea and intervention in the Donbas, and Vladimir Putin’s hybrid war on the West. It’s been a wild ride and it has never been dull. And in the farewell Power Vertical Podcast for RFE/RL, we take a look back and talk about what we’ve learned. Joining me, as ever, is longtime co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the book The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia. Enjoy…

Kemerovo fire spoils Vladimir Putin’s election celebration – Washington Times

As the Kremlin basked in the afterglow of President Vladimir Putin’s re-election victory, a devastating fire touched a long-dormant nerve in the Russian people.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: If Russian Presidential Elections were Held Now, The Results Would Be Different and Both Putin and the People Know It, Blogger Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 28 – In the wake of the Kemerovo fire and Putin’s less than stellar response, it is quite clear that if Russia’s presidential elections were held today, their results would be very different and that both the powers that be and the Russian people are aware of that fact, according to Crimean blogger Aleksandr Gorny. And because that is the case, the Russian people are “ready to take up their pitchforks” against those in power; and those in power are concerned only about their own survival and pleasing those above rather than those below them, he says, arguing that Kemerovo will leave “an indelible stain” on Putin for the next six years ( How far things will go in the direction of or even to the point of a merciless Russian revolt and its likely subsequent suppression will depend, Gorny says, on the decisions the Kremlin leader makes in the coming days or “more precisely” on those he is likely going to be “forced to accept.” And this is the result not just of the Kemerovo fire, he continues. “Tragedies periodically occur but to everything there is a limit. In recent days a feeling of darkness and despair has been growing. Protests in Volokolamsk, the tragedy in Kemerovo, the scandal with Slutsky, and the reactions of the Duma, the Kemerovo officials, and the foreign diplomatic boycott – all this which at first glance looks to be quite unrelated has common roots.” “This is the deepest systemic crisis, which our basic rights as citizens are being violated and when the powers are losing the sense of reality … and aren’t able to control the situation among their own fucking fat cats.” And still worse, it has become obvious that those in power “at all levels” consider the people “an electoral swamp” and “journalists as servants.” One can only be put off by Putin’s meeting with officials because it becomes obvious that all of them are only “trying to save their own skins.” And Russians can see that “the corporation ‘Untied Russia’ and Co. have seized not only the State Duma but all of Russia” in order to turn it into “their feeding trough.” According to Gorny, the Duma needs to be prorogued, the emergency services ministry needs to be reformed from top to bottom, judicial reforms need to be implemented, lustration needs to be carried out, “and the long bloody work for the restoration of the country” needs to begin. “I do not know what the result of presidential elections would be if they were conducted now after these scandals and tragedies,” the blogger says. “But they would be significantly different. The powers understand this and namely they, thank God, have not decided now to prohibit spontaneous, unsanctioned meetings and acts of protest by citizens.”” Gorny says he “does not want a revolution, but Vladimir Putin must in short order restructure the system or else there will be a revolt against the existing system of power, which will overthrow him personally along with others. We are a step from this; the next step will be into the abyss” (stress supplied). For the moment, Russians still believe in Putin even if they do not believe in anyone else. But as the system decays, he too is thus at risk, the blogger suggests. “Russia,” he says, “wake up!”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Is Kemerovo Going to Be the Khodynka Field of Putin’s Last Term?

aul Goble Staunton, March 27 – On May 30, 1896, just four days after the coronation of Nicholas II as emperor, nearly 1400 Russians were trampled to death in Moscow’s Khodynka field. Instead of making an immediate appearance that might have calmed the situation, the tsar at the urging of his suite put in an appearance at a ball given by the French ambassador. The next day, after most of the dead had been cleared away, the new tsar and his wife did go to the field, they visited some of those who had been hospitalized; dismissed some lower-ranking officials who they felt were to blame, and they offered assistance to the families of those who had lost relatives there. But in many ways, as history would show, their moves came too late. That event, as gruesome as it was, did not immediately provoke either a rising or a revolution, but it undercut the personal loyalty Russian subjects had long had for their tsar, something Nicholas II himself felt, and thus opened the way for the revolutions that ultimately cost Nicholas not only his throne but his life. One cannot help recalling that tragedy in the wake of the Kemerovo fire. Once again, the ruler did not rush to the scene, only changing his “schedule,” according to his press secretary. And once again, Russians asked “where is Putin?” and “why isn’t he with his suffering people? ( Once again, the Kremlin ruler came but only after some Russians had begun to call him “the president of catastrophes” and showed their lack of faith in anything his officials or even he had to say about what had occurred ( and Once again, when he finally showed up and declared the day of mourning others had already announced (, the new tsar showed that in his system — just like in that of Nicholas II’s — officials don’t answer to the people but only to the president ( And once again, a preventable tragedy shows that the Russian regime can only change officials rather than systemic policies, that the population feels increasingly distant from its rulers and that the opposition at least for the moment is prepared to unite against the regime happened ( and Moreover, just as slightly more than a century ago, this event is not going to lead to any immediate revolution; but it is going to cast a shadow on Putin’s last term, one in which ever fewer people will put their trust in his regime or even in him. And as such, the horrible fire in Kemerovo may very well come to be remembered his Putin’s Khodynka field, an omen of what may lie ahead.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ten Observations about Kemerovo and Russia’s Future Not to Be Missed

Paul Goble Staunton, March 28 – Russian commentaries yesterday and today have been focused almost entirely on the Kemerovo fire, the way in which Vladimir Putin and his regime have responded, and the likely consequences of the fire and the response on the future of Putin and the Russian Federation. Many of these commentaries deserve more extended treatment than Window on Eurasia can provide, but in order that some of the most important arguments and conclusions aren’t missed, below are ten observations that appear especially insightful or indicative about the crisis Russia finds itself in. They are:

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ever More Russians have Reached Their Breaking Point, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 28 – More than the tragedy of the Kemerovo fire, the response of the authorities at all levels to it has brought Russians to the breaking point, Vladimir Pastukhov says, and that in turn means that the relationship between the powers that be and the population will never be quite the same again. Almost every Russian has experienced that sense of disconnect with and anger at those who rule the nation at some point or other, the London-based Russian historian says. For himself, it came at the time of the Chernobyl accident in April 1986 when he was a university student in Kyiv ( It was not the terrible Saturday when the fourth bloc of the Chernobyl atomic power plant blew up, Pastukhov says. Rather, it was the following Monday when he saw in the streets members of the communist nomenklatura going about in gas masks, things that the Soviet rulers were not giving to the people as a whole. “On that day,” the historian says, “I buried the USSR together with ‘perestroika.’” Something similar is happening among Russians today. “The authorities of course aren’t responsible for every explosion, fire or accident, and it is senseless to seek a direct link between the tragedy and Putin.” Such tragedies happen everywhere, in dictatorships and democracies, in rich countries and in poor. And “all these tragedies in human terms are similar to one another,” Pastukhov says, “but each set of powers that be responds against the backdrop of tragedies in its own way. The Russian authorities traditionally have conducted themselves in such circumstance in the worst possible way and thereby “transform tragedy into a PR-farce.” “The most important political document of this tragic week,” he continues, has been “the stenogram of the conference of ‘the siloviki’ with Putin” It reflects not only the essence of what has occurred in Kemerovo but the essence of the Putin regime and the entire Putin era in Russian history – when the former turned to Putin as “’Comrade President.’” That one remark showed that at that table were people who are “stuck in the past century” with all its failings. “The powers that be lose points not from the tragedies themselves because those happen and will unfortunately happen again but from their response to them. They suddenly in a concentrated form shows in a specific case all that has long been their moral-political content, their lack of talent, deceitfulness, heartlessness, greed and helplessness.” They did not see how the people around them were responding to the tragedy, but those people saw and for many it was the first time and thus a defining moment the powers that be “with different eyes” than they had ever looked through before. For them as for himself at the time of Chernobyl, it marked the final break with rulers like that. Again, the authorities don’t bear specific responsibility for this disaster, but they do bear indirect responsibility because by their attitudes and actions they have created a situation in which “such tragedies have become the norm of Russian life.” The powers have set a standard of behavior which “millions of subjects” have copied to ill effect. Putin’s regime has tried to function with two different legal orders, one for the elite and one for the population. But “a legal order either is and is common for all or it isn’t also for all. And in this is the chief internal contradiction of that social model which the Kremlin over the course of almost 20 years has attempted to impose on Russian society.” The Kremlin leader’s conception of statehood isn’t new. It is the old and discredited form of rule in which those near the top can do whatever they like regardless of laws and rules while those down below are expected to obey those laws and rules to the letter and without question, Pastukhov continues. But this system doesn’t work. “The higher powers that be corrupt the lower and together with it the whole people” because “it is impossible to combine favoritism and totalitarianism not to speak of democracy,” the historian says. “In Russia each bull thinks he is permitted to do everything that Jupiter is allowed” and acts accordingly. “The power vertical is one of the greatest Russian utopias,” Pastukhov says. “Already Gogol noted that in Russia first they put one official in charge of controlling another and then they have to find a third who will control the actions of the first two. That in fact is the essence of the power vertical.” According to the Russian historian, “Putin has created a system through which no administrative signal passes because at each following step, it gives rise to its own ‘untouchables’ for whom now law has been written let alone rules for ensuring the security of buildings.” “The tragedy in Kemerovo is the apotheosis of legal nihilism imposed from above. In a country where the Constitution is not observed, rules from the ministry of emergency services aren’t going to be observed either. The legal order rots from the head; but judging from the stenogram of the meeting with Putin, it will be cleansed from the other end.” Ever more Russians can see this, and ever more of them are breaking with the Putin system just as Pastukhov did with the Soviet one at the time of Chernobyl.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kemerovo Disaster Fits into a Larger and Even More Tragic Russian Pattern

Paul Goble Staunton, March 26 – The horrific fire at the mall in Kemerovo that has already claimed upwards of 70 lives is but the latest in a series of such disasters ranging from plane crashes and sunken submarines to fires and floods that represent a sad punctuation on Russian life ( But adding to the horror of such events is the way Russian officials, media and most commentators treat them. First, officials arriving at the scene show they have no real plans as to how best to respond ( Then, the media play down the disaster until the Kremlin gives an alternative signal or the disaster becomes too big to ignore ( And even before all the victims are recovered and identified, Russians begin to ask the inevitable question — “who is to blame?” ( — all too often offering candidates other than officials and businessmen who have failed to live within the rules. So far in this case, some in the Russian media have suggested tabloid-style that somehow the British government is to blame, picking up on the enemy of the week in Russia today ( Others have gone even further blaming this all too human tragedy on the abstract but evil forces of capitalism ( Of course, there have been more thoughtful responses; and one of these, by opposition politician Gennady Gudkov, merits attention because he focuses less on the specific facts of this case, many of which have yet to be identified and instead offers three reasons why such disasters keep happening in Russia ( “Trade centers, hospitals, homes for the elderly, fires and other objects burn in Russia and will continue to burn,” he says. “The causes are well-known: total corruption, the economic crisis and the lying of officials. In a word, the typically ugly work of the current authorities in Russia. Corruption means builders can buy their way out of having to install necessary safety devices; the economic crisis means that the owners of these facilities are forced to cut corners in order to try to make ends meet; and official lying means that no one knows in advance just how ill-prepared fire fighters are. If they did, they might act; but they don’t — and don’t. Tragically, there is one more way in which this latest disaster is likely to be all its predecessors: it is unlikely to produce any real changes. Leaders will promise to do something, but they have always done that – and over the last two decades, Russians have learned that there is another disaster waiting to happen ( And that is not just the opinion of pessimists. Sergey Yepishin, the head of the Moscow Institute of Industrial Security, said in the wake of the Kemerovo disaster that there is every reason to believe there will be more fires and deaths even though prompt and obvious actions could prevent many of them from happening (

Siberian Fire Victims Buried As Russia Holds Day Of Mourning

The first funerals have been held for victims of a devastating fire at a shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, as Russia observed a day of mourning for those killed — many of them children — in the March 25 blaze.

Putin’s Grim Reality: Public Fury Over Children’s Deaths in Mall – The New York Times

The Russian president visited Siberia to demand an inquiry into a fire there that killed at least 64 people. Thousands protested nearby.

‘Clearly Orchestrated’: Russian Official Calls Protest Over Deadly Fire A Bid To ‘Discredit’ State

A senior Russian regional official says a demonstration in response to a Siberian shopping-mall fire that killed dozens of children was part of an effort to discredit authorities.

‘Vultures’ And ‘Self-Hype’: Russian Officials See Ulterior Motives In Public Outrage Over Deadly Fire

Russian officials have suggested that demonstrations and outrage in response to a Siberian shopping-mall fire that killed dozens of children are a cynical ploy by political opportunists.

‘A Whopping Day’s Salary’: Russian Governor’s Donation To Fire Victims Triggers Scorn

The governor of the Siberian region where a shopping-mall fire killed dozens of children has drawn fresh scorn after his administration announced he donated one day’s salary to a victims’ fund.

As Russia Mourns Victims of Mall Fire, Some Chant, ‘Corruption Kills!’ – The New York Times

Funerals began for the 64 victims in Kemerovo, many of them children, while outrage mounted over a perceived lack of official accountability.

Thousands Protest After Deadly Russian Mall Fire; Putin Vows To ‘Punish The Guilty’

Thousands of people have demonstrated in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, demanding answers and calling for the regional government’s resignation as grief mixed with anger after a fire at a busy shop…

The Morning Vertical, March 27, 2018

Protesters in the Siberian city of Kemerovo held signs with slogans like “Corruption Kills” and “Tell The Truth” in the aftermath of a deadly fire this weekend in a shopping mall that killed at least 64 people — many of them children. In the town of Volokolamsk earlier this month, angry residents clashed with government officials after dozens of children were taken to the hospital due after breathing gas leaked from a garbage dump. Throughout last year, long-haul truckers continued their protests against a road tax that would benefit Vladimir Putin’s closest cronies. The Achilles heel of the Putin regime will probably turn out to be localized protests like these in which ordinary Russians begin to connect the dots between rampant corruption and their own standard of living, their safety, and that of their children.

Putin Vows Full Probe on Visit to Site of Deadly Mall Blaze – Bloomberg

Vladimir Putin told relatives of the scores killed in a shopping-mall fire in Siberia that those guilty for one of the deadliest blazes in recent Russian history would be brought to justice.

Putin Says Deadly Mall Fire In Central Russia Due To ‘Criminal Negligence’ : The Two-Way : NPR

Thousands gathered in Kemerovo to protest the official response to the blaze, which reportedly killed dozens of children. Four people have also reportedly been detained for questioning.

Kemerovo Fire Victims Charge Emergency Crews With ‘Inaction’

Relatives of victims of the deadly Kemerovo shopping-center fire in Russia’s Siberia region have filed official complaints with prosecutors alleging that “inaction” by fire crews and others c…

Detained Business Owner Believes Minority Teenagers Started Kemerovo Mall Fire

“I believe that it was arson,” Nadezhda Suddenok, the director of the company that rents the mall’s top two floors was cited as saying in court by the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Tuesday. Suddenok, who was arrested as a suspect in the wake of the tragedy, claimed that a group of people aged between 17 and 27 had been escorted out of the mall for harassing visitors in the month leading up to the fire. “These teenagers were of different nationalities, I can’t say which nationality exactly, but with a black beard, like those worn by [people] of the Chechen, Caucasus, nationality.” Suddenok went on to say that one young man “looked like a gypsy and we can describe him very clearly.” The detained company director denied claims that the doors of the mall’s cinema had been locked or that the alarm system was broken, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “There was not a single complaint. I didn’t know that there were any problems,” RIA cited her as saying.

Kemerovo fire: Russia crowd condemns officials over disaster – BBC News

At least 64 died in a Siberian shopping mall inferno and dozens are feared missing.

Kemerovo Fire: Putin’s Visit Does Little to Quell Anger – Bloomberg

A Siberian city is angry and grieving after a fire that killed dozens. So Putin paid a visit — and mostly ignored them.

Trapped in Russian Mall Fire, Children Said Farewell by Phone – The New York Times

Blocked exits prevented people from escaping the blaze at a mall in Siberia, officials said. At least 64 people were killed, many of them children.

Father Recounts Daughter’s Last Words During Kemerovo Fire

Thousands of people demonstrated in the Siberian city of Kemerovo on March 27 to demand answers and accountability after a fire at a shopping mall killed 64 people, including many children. The father of one victim addressed the crowd, describing the last phone conversation he had with his daughter who was trapped and overcome by smoke.

Forty-one children killed in Kemerovo shopping mall fire – relatives | UNIAN

Forty-one children have died in the fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) shopping mall in Kemerovo, Russia, according to lists of victims available at an emergency center set up by their relatives. The total number of the victims is reportedly 64 persons.

Kids Left Trapped In Russia Mall Fire Because of ‘Serious’ Safety Violations, Investigators Say

Investigators have blamed the tragedy on “serious violations” of safety procedures.

Russia fire: Children missing in deadly Kemerovo mall blaze – BBC News

An official says 41 children are missing after the blaze in Kemerovo, while 37 deaths have been confirmed.

Russians Question (Non?) TV Coverage Of Siberian Mall Fire

Russian state TV coverage of a deadly shopping-mall fire leads to claims Moscow did not want to highlight “bad news” — charges the Kremlin dismissed as “absurd.”

Russians Grieve As 64 Killed In Massive Fire In Siberian Mall

At least 64 people are dead and dozens have been hospitalized after a fire raced through a busy shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russian authorities say.

At Least 64 Dead In Shopping Mall Fire In Central Russia : The Two-Way : NPR

Authorities says some people are still missing after the blaze in the city of Kemerovo, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow.

Furious Locals Demand Resignations After Shopping Mall Fire Kills at Least 64 in Siberia

Angry residents in Russia’s coal-producing region of Kemerovo have demanded the resignation of local authorities whom they blame for Sunday’s deadly shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people. Forty-one children were among the victims of the fire that swept through the upper floors of the Winter Cherry shopping center in Kemerovo on Sunday afternoon, Interfax cited a list compiled by victims’ families as saying on Tuesday. Investigators have said that the mall’s fire exits had been illegally blocked and the fire alarm system had not functioned properly.

Central Asia / Caucasus Reports

Kazakhstan: Old Leader, New Foreign Policy Challenges

President Nursultan Nazarbaev can take some credit for guiding his country through often complicated regional relations for nearly three decades. But things are now in flux, and the Kazakh leader is in his twilight years. (The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.)

Belarus Reports

The Daily Vertical: A World That Could Have Been, But Never Was (Transcript)

Dozens of people arrested in Minsk at a public demonstration is hardly something that grabs our attention. This, after all, is pretty much par for the course in authoritarian Belarus. But this weekend, the dozens of people arrested in the Belarusian capital serve as important reminders of a world that could have been — but that never was. WATCH: Today’s Daily Vertical And those brave souls are also an important reminder that everybody hasn’t given up on that world. Because a century ago this year, as most of Europe’s empires crumbled in the aftermath of the First World War, some brand-new countries appeared in Europe. Some of them lasted and some of them didn’t. Belarus, of course, was one of the ones that didn’t. The dozens of people arrested in Minsk this weekend were commemorating the 100th anniversary of Belarus’s declaration of independence on March 25, 1918. The new Belarusian People’s Republic, of course, barely survived a year before it was forcefully absorbed into the Soviet Union. Like the new Ukrainian and Georgian states that also appeared on the scene in 1918 and suffered similar fates, most of the world forgot that it ever even existed. But it did exist. And the reason that they ceased to exist is that because of all of Europe’s empires that collapsed — or began to collapse — in 1918, only one, the Russian Empire, fought and succeeded in reconstituting itself in the form of the Soviet Union. And today, a century later, we are revisiting that history as Vladimir Putin’s regime seeks again to put that empire back together again. Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, the current war in Ukraine, and a small demonstration in Minsk this weekend are all reminders of the ongoing ambitions of Europe’s last empire — and the ongoing resistance to it.

EU Urges Belarus To Release All Activists Jailed On ‘Freedom Day’

The European Union has called on Belarus to immediately release all the opposition activists who were arrested at the weekend as they attempted to hold an unsanctioned rally in the capital.

Belarusian Police Arrest Opposition Supporters

Police have arrested more than 30 participants in a rally called on March 25 in downtown Minsk by opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich. The rally was not approved by the authorities. Belarusians in the country and abroad are rallying on March 25 to mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Belarusian People’s Republic, which was effectively taken over by Soviet Russia in 1919.

Dozens Arrested In Belarus As Opposition Marks ‘Freedom Day’

Dozens of people have been arrested in Belarus as opposition activists attempted to hold a rally in the capital, Minsk.

Belarusian foreign minister meets with Boris Johnson and Prince Michael – Royal Central

Poroshenko, Lukashenko discuss economic, cultural cooperation –

Poroshenko, Lukashenko discuss economic, cultural cooperation

Transnistria / Moldova Reports

The Daily Vertical: A Rebellion Below The Decks (Transcript)

Belarusians weren’t the only ones marking a centenary this past weekend. As dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Minsk while marking the 100th anniversary of Belarus’s 1918 declaration of independence, more than 10,000 people turned out in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. They were commemorating the 1918 unification of Romania and Bessarabia — a former province of the Russian Empire that covers parts of present-day Moldova and Ukraine — which took place a century ago today. WATCH: Today’s Daily Vertical They also called for the reunification of Romania and current-day Moldova. And they did so in the face of fierce opposition from Moldova’s pro-Moscow President Igor Dodon. Dodon urged his supporters to stage a counterdemonstration, and then he reportedly took to Facebook and called on police to intervene to prevent violence. Some 21 people were reported to have been arrested. But pro-unification sentiment appears to be picking up steam in Moldova, with more than 130 municipalities already having called for unity with Romania. This is just the latest data point in a growing trend that is largely passing under the radar. As we focus our attention on attempts by Vladimir Putin’s regime to put the Soviet Union back together again by stoking conflict in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and by courting clients to do his bidding, there is something else going on. There is a rebellion below the decks, most obviously in Ukraine and Georgia, but in Moldova and even in Belarus as well. And this rebellion is gaining momentum.

Moldovan Supporters Of Unification With Romania Gather In Chisinau

Thousands of Moldovan supporters of the country’s unification with Romania rallied on March 25 in the center of Moldova’s capital, Chisinau. Pro-unionist groups from Moldova, Romania, and expatriate communities organized the event. On March 27, 1918, Bessarabia — a region partially corresponding with modern-day Moldova — proclaimed a union with Romania, which lasted until 1940. Ethnic Moldovans and Romanians share the same language, but Moldovan President Igor Dodon strictly opposes calls for a merger of the two countries.

Chisinau Rally Marks 100th Anniversary Of Bessarabia-Romania Unification

Thousands of people have gathered in the center of Moldova’s capital ahead of the 100th anniversary of the unification of Bessarabia and Romania.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moldovans Rally for Unity with Romania and against Pro-Moscow President

Paul Goble Staunton, March 26 –Yesterday’s demonstrations in Belarus on the centenary of the Belarus Peoples Republic attracted more attention, but a 7,000- person demonstration in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau against that country’s pro-Moscow president Igor Dodon and for the unification of Moldova and Romania may be more significant. The meeting occurred on another centenary, that of the unification of Bessarabia with Romania in 1918. The organizers styled the event as “a Grand National Assembly,” and it featured sympathic Moldovan and Romanian politicians ( Former Romanian President Traian Băsescu led some 2000 people from Romania to take part in the demonstration. Participants signed a symbolic declaration about unity with Romania and held up both Romanian and Moldovan flags while shouting denunciations of Moldovan President Dodon. He took to Facebook to call on the police to prevent the escalation of this demonstration. According to reports, some 21 people were arrested despite the meeting being completely peaceful. The meeting follows and builds on the declaration of more than 130 Moldovan municipalities calling for unity with Romania. They represent “almost 20 percent” of all municipalities in the country, according to pro-unification leaders (

Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports

UAWire – U.S. troops prevent a confrontation with Russians in Syria

U.S. troops prevented a confrontation with Russian military in Syria similar to the one that resulted in the death of Russian mercenaries from a United States air strike in February. Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated this on Tuesday, March 27. “Russian elements” moved along the line of demarcation to the east of the Euphrates River, to the territory where parties can conduct operations,” Mattis said. However, he said that they came too close to the positions of U.S. soldiers. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, General Joseph Dunford, then contacted the chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, in connection with the incident, after which the Russians retreated. Mattis did not mention exactly when this happened, but on March 22 the Pentagon released a statement that Dunford and Gerasimov held talks about Syria and a number of other issues. Russian mercenaries moved around the area of Deir-ez-Zor in order to gather information about the combat positions of U.S. troops, reported AFP, citing its sources.

U.S. Almost Attacked Russians in Syria Again but Moscow Stepped in, Mattis Says

A top Russian general reportedly intervened to stop an attack from the U.S., preventing a repeat from last month in which many Russians were killed.

After Bolton Appointment, Iran Lawmaker Urges Closer Ties With Russia and China – The New York Times

The head of the Iranian Parliament’s foreign policy committee expressed concern the United States would take a tougher stance on Iran following John Bolton being named as national security adviser.

U.S. Strategy, the JCPOA Iranian Nuclear Arms Agreement, and the Gulf: Playing the Long Game | Center for Strategic and International Studies

Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.

Saudi Prince Calls for Stepped-Up Pressure on Iran – WSJ

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince called on the international community to squeeze Iran economically and politically to avoid a direct military confrontation in the region.

UPDATE 1-Iran should turn to Russia, China after Bolton nomination – senior MP

Iran should strengthen ties withRussia and China to counter a tougher U.S. stance expected afterPresident Donald Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as nationalsecurity adviser, a senior parliament member was quoted assaying on Saturday.

Death of a General: What Shaban Nasiri Reveals About Iran’s Secretive Qods Force

When Shaban Nasiri, 59, stepped on an improvised explosive device west of Mosul last year, he was barely known either to the Iranian public or to American experts on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). But Nasiri was a general with more than three decades of service and a founding father of the Guard

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Deny Giving Missiles to Houthis |

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards denied Tuesday Saudi accusations that Tehran has provided the Houthi movement in Yemen with ballistic capabilities, a day after a Houthi missile hit the Saudi capital, Riyadh….

Barrage of ballistic missiles target Saudi Arabia, killing 1 and wounding 2 others – CBS News

A spokesperson for embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia says &quot;seven ballistic missiles were shot … from within Yemen&quot; on Sunday

Saudi Arabia intercepts 7 missiles fired from Yemen, military officials say – CNN

Saudi Arabia says seven ballistic missiles were shot from Yemen into Saudi Arabia on Sunday and they were all intercepted.

The Aviationist » Videos Show Malfunctioning Saudi Patriot Missile Fired To Intercept Houthi SRBM Hitting Capital City Riyadh Instead

Saudi Patriot PAC-2 SAM battery in Riyadh fired MIM-104C Surface to Air Missiles at a Burkan 2-H SRBM (Short Range Ballistic Missile) in the night between Mar 25 and 26, 2018. The SRBM was reportedly intercepted by one of the SAMs (at least 7 according to journalist Babak Taghvaee were launched) but at least two of them failed: one hit a resindential area (at the time of writing the number of casualties/fatalities is unknown), whereas another one exploded mid-air shortly after launch. Videos of the two malfunctioning MIM-104Cs are emerging on Twitter.

The Aviationist » Houthi Rebels Released FLIR Video Of Attempted Shoot Down Of UAE Air Force F-16E/F Block 60 Jets Over Yemen

A composite video that includes FLIR footage allegedly showing the attempted shoot down of what should be (based on claims) a flight of two F-16E/F Block 60 of the UAE Air Force flying over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa has emerged on Mar. 27. The video shows unidentified missiles being fired at night, whereas the FLIR footage shows the F-16s releasing flares to evade the incoming missile(s). The second part of the clip (with a timestamp dating the incident to Mar. 26 around 21.27 LT) is quite similar to the one released at the beginning of January, when a RSAF F-15 Eagle was targeted (by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number air-to-air missiles to be launched from pick-ups) and allegedly shot down. At that time the video was alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a Flir Systems ULTRA 8500. The clip released yesterday is also filmed from the right side of the aircraft and shows the aircraft maneuvering (note: 4 minutes before the missiles approaches the alleged UAE Viper), releasing flares and flying through or close to clouds of debris or extinguished decoys. Then you can clearly see the missile narrowly miss the F-16.

U.S. Support for Saudi Military Operations in Yemen | Center for Strategic and International Studies

Since 2015, the United States has provided intelligence, military advice, and logistical support to the Saudi Arabia–led military intervention in Yemen. U.S. stated goals for this assistance are to restore the UN-recognized government of Yemen and preserve Saudi territorial integrity from incursion by Yemen-based Houthi rebels. Deepening Iranian support for the Houthi rebels has also reinforced U.S. concern for Yemen’s trajectory.

Syria has continued developing nuclear program, Arab site says – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

‘Der Spiegel’ first reported suspicious site near Lebanese border in 2015.

UN under fire for giving Russia coordinates of Syrian hospitals in ‘high-risk’ strategy to stop attacks

The United Nations has come under fire for sharing the coordinates of hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria with Russia, only for one of them to be bombed days later.

bellingcat – Seven Years of War — Documenting Syrian Arab Army’s Armoured Vehicles Losses – bellingcat

UAWire – Human rights activists: Russia used napalm bombs during air strikes in Syria

Human rights activists accuse the Russian air force of bombing the Syrian city of Arbin, killing 37 civilians, Deutsche Welle reports. According to a twitter post by the Syrian humanitarian organization White Helmets on Friday, March 23, napalm bombs were used during the attack. The majority of victims were women and children, the activists noted. The White Helmets have repeatedly reported in recent days on the bombings committed by Russian aircraft in the Idlib area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reports that an incendiary bomb attack, presumably caused by Russian aircraft, was carried out on Arbin. Civilians sheltering from bombardment in shelters “suffocated and were burned” as a result of the attack, the human rights activists noted. Photographs and videos made by AFP reporters indicate an attack with phosphorous munitions. The use of such munitions in residential areas, the news agency notes, is prohibited by international law. The Russian Ministry of Defense denied the human rights activists’ reports that Russian military air forces have struck at residential areas of Eastern Ghouta and that they have used incendiary bombs. Arbin is located in Eastern Ghouta, near the Damascus region, where the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive more than a month ago. These battles have become the worst since the civil war began seven years ago, dpa notes. At present, government forces have managed to take control of 80% of the territory of Eastern Ghouta and break the territory remaining under rebel control into isolated areas.

Russia: Syria Now Controls Most Of Embattled Damascus Suburb

Syrian and Russian forces have evacuated most remaining rebels from eastern Ghouta and the government now controls 90 percent of the embattled Damascus suburb, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavro…

Syrian Army, Aided By Russia, Regains Control Over Most Of Damascus Suburb

Syrian rebel fighters have evacuated one enclave in eastern Ghouta and reached a Russian-brokered deal to leave another, enabling Syrian government forces to regain control over most of the embattl…

Syrian Army reduces East Ghouta pocket by 90 percent one month after launching offensive – Map update

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 A.M.) – Just a couple of days short of one month since launching its ‘Damascus Steel’ operation against armed rebel groups in East Ghouta and the Syrian Army has accomplished reducing the once highly-active zone of insurgency near the national capital by 90 percent. The latest development saw

Take a ride aboard NATO’s eye in the sky tracking Syria’s vast battlefield – 41NBC News | WMGT-DT

Syria war: France offers to mediate between Turkey and Kurds – BBC News

President Macron wants to help establish a dialogue between Turkey and Kurdish fighters.

Everyone Loves Israel Now – Foreign Policy

There’s much more to the Arab world’s newfound friendship with Israel than ganging up on Iran.

Israeli interceptors deployed against machine gun fire, not rockets – army

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield was launched on Sunday against Palestinian machine gun fire originating in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip, and not against incoming militant rockets, the Israeli army said.

Putin Meets With Qatari Emir To Discuss Syria, Business Deals

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the leader of the small Persian Gulf state of Qatar in Moscow on a day when scores of Russians were reported killed in a shopping mall fire and dozens of R…

Pentagon: Reports of US leaving Incirlik, Al-Udeid false – News – Stripes

The U.S. military denied news reports that it was preparing to abandon bases in Qatar and Turkey after issuing a flurry of Twitter posts from multiple commands Sunday.

Top U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Accuses Russia Of Aiding Taliban : The Two-Way : NPR

In an interview with the BBC, U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson has reiterated charges that the Kremlin is providing arms to the Afghan resistance. Moscow calls the accusation “idle gossip.”

Russian Envoy Rejects U.S. Charge Moscow Arming Afghan Taliban

Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan has dismissed claims by the Pentagon that Moscow has provided arms to the Taliban during its 16-year war against U.S. forces and the Afghan government.

Russia denies aiding Afghan Taliban in wake of U.S. general’s comments

Russia has rejected comments by NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan that it has been supporting and even supplying weapons to the Taliban, in a clash of words that underlines growing tension over Moscow’s involvement in the conflict.

Russian drone carrying COMINT payload crashed in Syria – Defence Blog

A Russian Granat-4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carrying communication intelligence (COMINT) payload crashed above Bosra, a town in southern Syria. According to the Syrian source, the Russian Granat-4 tactical UAV conducted signals and communication monitoring for reconnaissance and artillery spotting/targeting. Dron can detect the points of use of mobile phones, radio transmitters and transmit coordinates of enemy positions for an accurate strike. COMINT (communications intelligence) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, communications between people by phones or radio stations. The Granat-4 tactical UAV designed by Russian defence contractor Izhmash-Unmanned Systems. According to information, received from open sources, drone has has a maximum take-off weight of 30 kg, a maximum payload weight of 3 kg, a length of 2.4 m, a wingspan of 3.2 m, a cruising speed of 90 km/h, a maximum speed of 145 km/h, an operational range of up to 70 km, and a maximum flight altitude of 11,500 ft. A Granat-4 unmanned air system (UAS) comprises two UAVs, a set of replaceable payload modules, a starter, a charging and refuelling station for the UAVs, a ground control post on the basis of the KAMAZ-4350 truck with the 4350D-11 van-type body, two transportation containers, and a demountable catapult.

North and South Korea Set Summit, but Nuclear Omission Casts a Shadow – WSJ

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to meet his South Korean counterpart on April 27 in what will be just the third meeting between leaders of the rival states.

Turkey will ‘thwart games against it’ and see strong growth, Erdogan says

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey will achieve high economic growth in 2018 and will keep its door “wide open” to international investors.

Foreign Policy Reports

How Russia and China Could Come Unhinged – WSJ

Democratic triumphalism was wrong 20 years ago, but now authoritarianism may not be sustainable.

Succession plans protect nations. Putin and Xi just threw theirs out |

Without a plan for elevation the flaws of individual rulers are magnified by the anxiety of everyone else

Businessmen working in Russia and China told to avoid honeytraps 

Businessmen are being given a secret MI5 handbook to help them avoid being caught in &quot;honeytraps&quot; when working in Russia or China.

Western powers feel the heat as Russia standoff risks energy crisis

Behind the glass-paned curve, desks stand bare.

UAWire – European Parliament Deputy: Nord Stream-2 will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas

Gas has become not just energy, but a strategic weapon, that’s why the Nord Stream-2 project cannot be considered as a purely economic issue, as expressed by European Parliament Deputy, Elmar Brok, during the panel discussion “Ukraine: In the Grip of a Crisis?”, Ukrinform reports. “Gas is not just energy, it has become a strategic weapon. And when Putin holds energy and politics in his own hands, we say that this is purely an economic issue. Putin is laughing at this,” Brok said. He also noted that Russian Gazprom is allowed to do what is not allowed by European enterprises – to be a producer, a pipeline owner, and a supplier. Therefore, the European Commission is now trying to make the Russian company comply with the rules that apply to its European partners, he explained. The MEP reminded that Europe’s dependency on Russian gas already amounts to 37%, and this dependence will become even greater, approximately up to 45%. “At the same time, such countries as Ukraine, Poland, and others will be cut off, and we will be forced to redirect Gazprom’s gas that enters Germany to these countries. This is insane!” the politician said.

Germany approves construction, exploitation of Nord Stream II –

Nord Stream II AG company received the official permission to construct and use the namesake pipeline in Germany’s exclusive economic area

Nord Stream 2 gets all required permits in Germany | UNIAN

The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (BSH) “issued the permit for this approximately 30-kilometers-long route section in accordance with the Federal Mining Act,” according to the project’s press service. Nord Stream 2 AG on March 27 received the permit for the construction and operation of the pipeline system in the German Exclusive Economic Zone.

Nord Stream II aims to undermine Energy Union

The Gazprom pipeline simply does not have any commercial bearing. Rather, it undermines the functioning and effectiveness of the European Energy Union and circumvents Ukraine for gas transits – paving the way for further Russian strong-arming in the regio…

UAWire – Ukraine preparing to respond to Germany’s plan to help construct Nord Stream-2

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is preparing a response to Germany’s intentions to participate in the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, as stated in the comments to by the Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for European Integration and Deputy from Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Maria Ionova. “We have already discussed this issue (Germany’s permission to build Nord Stream 2) and I can say that on behalf of the parliament we will once again make a statement regarding this. However, I am convinced that this is not the end of the story with Nord Stream 2. There is no reaction from the European Parliament. Naturally, Germany’s position in this context is important but without the consolidated position of the EU, the implementation of this project is impossible,” she said. Ionova was at the talks in Geneva when she made the statement and she further assured the public that Ukraine would continue to raise the Nord Stream 2 issue during negotiations with their European colleagues. The first Deputy Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Fuel and Energy Complex, Nuclear Policy and Nuclear Safety and People’s Deputy from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, Olha Belkova added that the members of the committee have already approached NAK Naftogaz for more detailed information. “For now, we see information only from the company Nord Stream 2 AG itself, whereas last week the European Parliament decided that the project should comply with all norms of the third energy package. This means that the project itself can be implemented on terms that will never be acceptable for Russia. That’s why it’s early to [declare the issue resolved] when official statements are made only by Germany. We can talk about preparing Ukraine’s official response,” she told On March 21, the US notified the companies working with Nord Stream-2 about the threat of sanctions.

Brexit campaign was ‘totally illegal’, claims whistleblower – Channel 4 News

A Brexit campaigner has told Channel 4 News that Vote Leave cheated in the 2016 referendum by over-spending. But the prime minister’s political secretary says the allegations are “factually incorrect and misleading”, and outs the accuser as gay.

Brexit ‘Leave’ Camp May Have Broken Spending Rules, Observer Says – Bloomberg

The main group that campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, which included Boris Johnson among its advocates, may have broken campaign spending laws, according to the Observer newspaper, which cited comments by a whistle-blower.

Former Brexit volunteer alleges campaign ‘cheated’ – CNNPolitics

An individual who volunteered for a Brexit campaign effort said the organization broke the law, and in turn, is arguing the referendum vote “wasn’t legitimate,” according to the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News.

Ukraine’s victory over populists matters for Europe – Fukuyama – 30.03.2018 10:36 — Ukrinform News

Current democratic transformations in Ukraine are actually part of the global process of struggle for democracy with populism and authoritarianism, so the success of Ukrainians will be of great significance not only to Europe, but also to the world as a whole. Professor at Stanford University Francis Fukuyama Such said this at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday, March 29, an Ukrinform correspondent reported. “Ukraine is really at the forefront of a broad struggle for liberal democracy with various populists and authoritarian forces in the world right now,” he said. He stressed that Ukraine is an important country in Europe and Eurasia, but the impact of what is happening in the country is going to resound through other parts of the world. While describing the struggle for democracy in Ukraine, Fukuyama noted that the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2014 had failed, because, in his opinion, there was not sufficient appreciation of the need to develop institutions and there was not follow-up in terms of corruption and in terms of developing a state that could deliver effective services to its people. “As a result, unfortunately, Ukrainian civil society had to go through that whole process for a second time, with the Maidan Revolution of Dignity,” Fukuyama said. He said that the reason why this happened was, among other things, that Russia was investing so much time and effort trying to undermine that democratic experiment. “The success of that transition will matter for Europe, and it’ll matter for the world more broadly,” Fukuyama said.

Future of France, Germany policies on Russia’s issue –

France and Germany are the key figures in the European policy toward Russia; however, the approaches of these countries are slightly different and politically diversified as it is stated in ‘Beyond ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Putin’ article published by Think Tank. According to the article, the deterioration of the relations between Russia and the West has a historical and ideological background and numerous reasons, particularly the annexation of Crimea.

Beyond ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Putin | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.

Summary Attitudes vis-à-vis Russia expressed in the public sphere are heterogeneous, in France more so than in Germany. In both France and Germany, the general public is by and large skeptical of Vladimir Putin and his policies. The picture is more diverse in the political realm. In Germany, there (still) is an approach that might be qualified as “mainstream.” The French debate, in turn, is highly fragmented. In light of the two countries’ recent electoral campaigns, this study addresses the public debate in France and Germany regarding a number of key issues. It presents both dominant discourses, as well as those challenging them. The study thus offers insights into national debates generally unavailable to readers unfamiliar with the respective country’s political playgrounds or without the necessary language skills. Overall, foreign-policy discourses seem to be drifting apart in France and Germany. The German political establishment continues to emphasize multilateralism and a rules-based international order. In France, the 2017 presidential campaign has shown considerable differences between – and sometimes even within – political parties. These differences continue to exist, and are even likely to deepen. This development’s consequences for Franco-German dialog thus go beyond the question of how to deal with Russia.

Merkel ally defiant in row over Islam’s place in Germany

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Friday he would not change his views on Islam, striking a defiant note just two days after Chancellor Angela Merkel put him down for challenging the place of the religion in Germany.

Germany migrants: Plans to keep asylum seekers in ‘anchor centres’ – BBC News

The controversial plan will see asylum seekers kept in centres until their requests are processed.

Is the United Kingdom an Islamist Colony?

If the gang members were “Asian,” records were not kept. Such is the cowardice and criminal negligence of the police involved. These Sharia courts mean that the legal system of a foreign political ideology, Islam, has created a parallel legal system in

France: Toward Total Submission to Islam, Destruction of Free Speech

The French government and the French justice system claim to treat all religions equally, but they treat Islam as if it were “more equal than others” — able to enjoy special privileges. Those who criticize Islam — or who just show the results of

Australian envoy warns of UK elite’s ‘obsession’ with identity politics | Clacton and Frinton Gazette

Outgoing high commissioner Alexander Downer says there is a ‘serious disconnect’ with the public over immigration policy.

Carles Puigdemont Is Arrested in Germany, Drawing E.U. Giant Into Catalan Fight – The New York Times

With Spain renewing its efforts to arrest former Catalan officials, Europe may be about to become more embroiled in the conflict over independence.

EU Calls For ‘Calm, Wisdom’ As Serbia-Kosovo Tensions Heighten

The European Union has called for “calm, wisdom, restraint, and leadership” to prevail after the detention and expulsion of a senior Serbian government official by Kosovo authorities fueled frictio…

Serbian, Russian Presidents Discuss ‘Brutal Attack’ In Kosovo

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the “brutal attack” by Kosovar police against a senior Serb official earlier in the week.

UAWire – Serbian President asks Putin for advice over intensification of Kosovo conflict

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for advice regarding the intensification of the Kosovo conflict, …

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s anti-Semitism issue – BBC News

Why is Jeremy Corbyn facing protests over his attitude to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party?

Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K. Labour Leader, Was In Three Secret Anti-Semitic Facebook Groups

Jewish leaders condemn Jeremy Corbyn as a figurehead for anti-Semites after his membership of offensive groups is exposed.

The UK Labour Party is mired in an anti-Semitism crisis – CNN

On Friday, Jewish families around the world will gather to celebrate Passover and recount the exodus from Egypt.

The crisis between Jeremy Corbyn and British Jews has reached boiling point – Europe –

Corbyn’s support of anti-Semitic mural in 2012 has come back to haunt him, and the Jewish community has had enough of the Labour Party leader’s tolerance

Recently discovered diaries of ‘Polish Anne Frank’ reveal insight into Nazi occupation | Daily Mail Online

Renia Spiegel was just 18-years-old when the Nazis invaded Przemysl, a city in south-east Poland, and began to round up Jews. Her tragic story has now attracted huge interest.

US Domestic Policy Reports

For John Bolton, Russia is part of a new ‘axis of evil’ – The Washington Post

The incoming national security adviser wants President Trump to go on the offensive.

How John Bolton Views US Allies and Adversaries – Defense One

His 2007 memoir lays out the incoming national-security adviser’s worldview.

John Bolton Is Misunderstood – Defense One

The actual track record of Trump’s next national-security adviser offers cause for cautious optimism.

Bolton Pick Likely Makes Russia Sanctions Harsher – Bloomberg

A show of unity at the EU summit and Bolton’s appointment are steps toward harsher Western action against the Kremlin.

‘Kiss Up, Kick Down’: Those Recalling Bolton’s U.N. Confirmation Process Say He Hasn’t Changed – The New York Times

The five months in 2005 that the Senate took to decide whether John Bolton should go to the United Nations is the only extensive examination of his record.

UK police cordon off play area near former Russian spy’s home

British police placed a cordon around a children’s play area near the home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal who was poisoned with a nerve agent earlier this month in southern England.

Mattis on Bolton: “I hope that there’s some different world views” – CNNPolitics

Speaking publicly for the first time about President Donald Trump’s newly named national security adviser, John Bolton, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday that he looked forward to working with the former UN ambassador and that he hoped the two men held “different world views” to avoid “group think”.

Defense Sec. Mattis jokes that he heard Bolton is “devil incarnate” at first meeting – CBS News

The meeting was the first for the two as Bolton prepares to become national security adviser

Mattis jokes to Bolton: ‘I heard you’re actually the devil incarnate’ – CNNPolitics

Defense Secretary James Mattis decided Thursday that the best way to break the ice during his first ever meeting with President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton was with a joke.

Mattis predicts partnership with Bolton despite differences

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged Tuesday that he and President Donald Trump’s incoming national security adviser, John Bolton, have different world views but predicted they will develop a working partnership.

Jim Mattis says he is looking forward to working with John Bolton

Mattis on Bolton: “We’re going to sit down together. I look forward to working with him–no reservations, no concerns at all.”

John Bolton on: bombing Iran, North Korea, Russia and the Iraq War – CNNPolitics

John Bolton said on Thursday that his past policy statements are “behind me” and that, after taking over next month as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, “The important thing is what the President says and the advice I give him.”

Bolton Expected to ‘Clean House’ – Foreign Policy

The incoming national security advisor aims to ax dozens of White House officials as he dismantles McMaster’s NSC.

John Bolton Will Not End Well – Defense One

Wait until Trump starts working with this swamp veteran with bad press and Pentagon push-back who likes to name-drop Edmund Burke.

John Bolton Is a National Security Threat – Foreign Policy

John Bolton wants regime change in North Korea and Iran, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Give John Bolton a Chance – Foreign Policy

If you squint at Trump’s new national security advisor, you might see some silver linings.

Why didn’t H.R. McMaster get a fourth star? Pentagon theories fly

This story was updated at 9:53 a.m. on March 24, 2018.

The Failure of H.R. McMaster – The New York Times

The outgoing national security adviser could not contain his erratic boss. But his replacement is worse.

Russian News Service RT to Go Off the Air in the Washington Area – Bloomberg

Russia’s English-language broadcasting network RT will disappear from television screens in the nation’s capital at midnight Sunday.

Russia’s RT television network will go dark in Washington D.C. – Mar. 29, 2018

Come Sunday, D.C. area residents will have a harder time finding the Russian-government funded RT on their TV sets.

Jim Mattis Fires a Clear Warning Shot

In case you missed it, here’s the most important sentence in the recently released National Defense Strategy: “America’s military has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield.” These blunt words from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis encapsulate the key theme of the document, which conveys a powerful sense of urgency about what it will take to fight and win the nation’s future wars. The strategy sends an important inside message to the Pentagon, identifying what the services need to do in order to be fully prepared for the next big war. But it also sends an important outside message, to the American people, about the challenges that the nation may face in the future — and every person serving in uniform needs to help spread that message as widely as possible.

Moscow reacts to Washington shake-up – CEPA STRATCOM PROGRAM.

During the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Kremlin offered two primary explanations for why relations with the United States did not improve after the 2016 election. First, some Russian officials claimed Trump was unpredictable and thus a potentially unreliable partner (a concern that made many of them uneasy about candidate Trump during the U.S. presidential campaign). Second, though other officials welcomed Trump’s statements about the need for better relations, they blamed the Washington “Deep State” – the established U.S. foreign policy apparatus, which supposedly is “russophobic” and limits Trump’s freedom of action – for both sides’ inability to make that vision a reality. In recent months, Moscow’s frustration often was focused on former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Given Tillerson’s impressive business background in Russia and his warm relationship with Putin’s right-hand man, Igor Sechin, Moscow initially was delighted with Tillerson’s nomination. But he quickly emerged as a relatively hardline member of Trump’s cabinet, conditioning any improvement in the relationship on Moscow changing course in eastern Ukraine and Syria. Tillerson also consistently confirmed the intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Few officials or commentators in Moscow were disappointed, therefore, when President Trump announced on 13 March that Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. But there was little optimism the change would lead to better relations.

Former NATO Commander: Russia Wages Social Media War Against Fracking, Oil Pipelines

Retired Gen. Philip Breedlove (Screen Capture)( – Retired Gen.

Obama official: We could have stopped Russian trolls – To Inform is to Influence

Oh no, you couldn’t have. Not ethically, not morally, and certainly not legally in the public’s eyes. Not without a boatload of propaganda. Oops, I mean PR.  Yes, and the implication of this article is very clear. You could have deployed US Cyber Command assets and taken out their servers. You could have destroyed their…

How the U.S.-China Intellectual Property Dispute Could Play Out

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published by The Interpreter, which is published by the Lowy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan think tank based in Sydney. War on the Rocks is proud to be publishing select articles from The Interpreter. It may be chaotic and confused, but the Trump

Russia Says Will Challenge U.S. Steel, Aluminum Tariffs At World Trade Body

Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Viktor Yevtukhov has said Russia will challenge stiff new tariffs that the United States imposed this week on aluminum and steel imports before the Wor…

CNN poll: On Russia, Americans’ views are settled and partisan – CNNPolitics

American opinions on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election appears hardened and driven by partisanship, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS after a month rife with developments in the ongoing probe.

Global Markets Roiled On Fears Trump May Set Off Trade War, Military Conflicts

Global markets for stocks, bonds, and oil have been roiled by rising fears among investors that recent moves by U.S. President Donald Trump have raised the odds of a trade war as well as a U.S. mil…

Manafort’s man in Kiev – POLITICO

The Trump campaign chairman’s closeness to a Russian Army-trained linguist turned Ukrainian political operative is raising questions, concerns.

Manafort, Gates worked with Russian intelligence agent – Investigators | UNIAN

Documents filed by special counsel prosecutors reveal that former Trump deputy campaign chairman Richard Gates was knowingly working with an individual with ties to Russian intelligence during the campaign. These new details were revealed in a court filing about the upcoming sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked with Gates and Manafort.

Trump Campaign Aide ‘Talked Frequently’ With Person Linked To Russian Intelligence

A top campaign official for U.S. President Donald Trump had repeated communications during the final weeks of the 2016 presidential race with a business associate who was a former Russian intellige…

Has Paul Manafort’s Russia Cover Just Been Blown?

Alex van der Zwaan, a minor character targeted by Mueller’s investigation, could make history.

‘US Kalashnikov Probe is Another Act of Trade War’ – Russian Historian – Sputnik International

Federal authorities in the US are reportedly conducting an investigation into a gun plant in Florida that is supposedly run by people, who have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sputnik discussed the matter with the Russian historian and deputy chief editor of the “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” newspaper Vadim Soloviev.

Former FBI agent charged with leaking classified information

The U.S. Justice Department has charged a former Minnesota FBI agent with leaking classified information to the online news site The Intercept, Minnesota Public Radio reported on Wednesday.

U.S. to seek social media details from all visa applicants – Bloomberg | UNIAN

The State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers, vastly expanding the Trump administration’s enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors. Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types may be exempted from the requirements, the documents said.

U.S. to Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants – Bloomberg

The State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers.

Putin’s useful idiots: Massachusetts environmentalists fighting pipeline construction

At long last, we finally have evidence that someone has been colluding with Russia.

Russia wants to erect a statue in one North Carolina city. Result: a mini Cold War

Back in World War II when the U.S. and Russia were allied against the Nazis, hundreds of Soviet aviators were trained on the North Carolina coast as part of a secret spy project — but now, an effort to honor their mission has triggered a miniature Cold War in a small American city.

New Jersey City Officials Reject Plan To Honor Soviet Aviators

A plan to place a 13-foot bronze monument to honor Soviet World War II aviators in a local park has been rejected by officials in Elizabeth City, New Jersey.

North Carolina Town Accepts, Then Spurns Russian Gift : Parallels : NPR

Russia is offering to build a $1 million monument in Elizabeth City, N.C., honoring a World War II U.S.-Soviet joint operation. The city council at first said yes. Newly-elected members now say no.

That time World War II vets violently overthrew corrupt politicians in Tennessee | We Are The Mighty

When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from…

Pentagon: Trump, Mattis discussed using military dollars for border wall | TheHill