Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Ukraine / Russia Ad Hoc Media Update (92)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Six analyses on the INF and START – three point out Russia has cheated. Pastukhov on Russia’s self destructive and frozen foreign policy. SECSTATE Pompeo starts European tour to explain some ground truths to wayward NATO nations. UK SECDEF Williamson argues for a tougher approach in dealing with Muscovy’s excesses. NATO SECGEN argues for retaining US nuclear weapons in Europe. Baltics updates, and Poland procures HIMARS.

Nordstream 2 update – US Ambs Richard Grenell, Carla Sands and Gordon Sondland write very incisive OpEd for DW and spell out many realities being wilfully ignored in the Bundestag – the SDP may well be mesmerised by Russian money, but it is indeed a very poor trade for Germany.

In Russia, reports that Russia’s “arsenal of autocracy”, RosOboronExport, is exporting large volumes of weapons, but not receiving payment for delivered goods due to CAATSA sanctions. RosKosmos on how Russia will built a moon colony in 2032 – will the Russian Federation still exist then? Two reports on the ever deeper alienation of Belarus from Muscovy.

Donbas and Crimea updates. AFU plans to quadruple the number of live fire IADS EXs, and focus on rapid deployment and mobility. Sea Breeze EX to be expanded in 2019. Poroshenko on the upgrading of a brigade of T-64B MBTs.

Hungary’s effort to produce captive voting ethnic Hungarian citizens inside Ukraine collapses into hundreds of cases of citizenship fraud. Politics and election updates. Reuters on the Mr. Jones famine movie, that will bury the fraudulent Duranty for all times. Charges laid in the Handziuk murder case – a corrupt senior bureaucrat in Kherson has been arrested. Election update – excellent FP essay by Hockenos.

Update on the persecution of Witnesses in Russia – Navalny argues it is part of a larger campaign against Protestant churches that are seen to have similar numbers of committed churchgoers to the ROC – effectively confirming earlier reports from Russia that official ROC size numbers are mostly fakery.

Kay Bailey Hutchison | If the I.N.F. Treaty Dies, Blame Russia – The New York Times

Since 1987, a treaty with Moscow to limit midrange missile deployment has boosted trans-Atlantic security. But Russia has been cheating, and is fielding missiles banned by the compact.

Dr Peter Pry | Gathering nuclear storm threatens US, world | TheHill

Washington elites still are largely asleep to the fact of Russian nuclear superiority and its terrible implications.

Dr. Mark B. Schneider | Does Russia Have 2-to-1 Advantage in Deployed Strategic Nuclear Weapons? | RealClearDefense

Every year in November and December the Russian government releases substantial information about the Defense Ministry’s yearly accomplishments and its plans for next year. A main focus of the…


[Dr. Lubkin is an internationally regarded expert on electronic warfare and pilotless aircraft. He is the EW Editor of Defense Science, and was the originator and head of the Israeli unmanned vehicle pro- gram during the early 1970s. (He is also an AtE subscriber.) I be- lieve this letter is of fundamental importance for both for US stra- tegy and for US diplomacy. P.B.] Regarding Sam Cohen’s letter of 29 February on the INF, may I make a few additional points. The essence of magic, disinformation and diplomacy is misdirec- tion. A good negotiator, like a good magician, relies on misdirection to obtain his desires. And when the opposition is eager to obtain an agreement to practically anything at all, and is a politician totally ignorant of modern technology, it is pathetically easy to get him to agree to crippling disadvantages that he does not even imagine exist. Like good magicians, the Soviets and their surrogates raise our false concerns about moving SS-20 warheads to SS-25 rockets, and thus achieving no reduction in megatonnage, merely a modernization of their delivery systems which is paid for by American capabilities. But like any good disinformation, this concern is just an illusion. Although the INF agreement is titled “Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces”, the important provision is not about nuclear forces at all. “Nuclear” is the distractor. After all, the Soviets are neither stupid nor insane. They have given up nothing at all, and have gained some advantage in a nuclear war that neither they nor us will ever fight. The nuclear exchange is trivial, however, and is merely the decoy. The real objective is the agreement to ban all cruise missiles having ranges between 300 miles and 3300 miles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The INF Treaty bans not only missiles, but anything which flies, has no pilot, and can fly between 300 and 3300 miles. These are pre- cisely the weapons which could stop a Soviet invasion of Western Eu- rope in a few days, with very few losses on our side. And the Pentagon takes the INF prohibition seriously enough to have a very restrictive effect on US development of these devices. (Other countries are not so inhibited.) The basic scenario is outlined in my article “The Offensive De- fense” in the July 1987 issue of “Defense Science and Electronics”. It has been studied extensively at the Pentagon and the Kremlin, and lately the Offensive Defense and its implications have been the sub- ject of many briefings by myself and Zot Barazzotto. Many of us have been promoting the idea of armed unmanned aircraft for the past fif- teen years, and we are finally getting the message through. The message is that a few tens of thousands of armed UAVs (Un- manned Aerial Vehicles), each costing perhaps a thousandth of the cost of an Advanced Tactical Fighter or a B-2, could force an invading Soviet Army into total gridlock. Each of the UAVs would typically carry a few dozen offensive weapons capable of destroying trucks, trains, helicopters, airplanes and radars — all the infrastructure of a modern army. The ATF boosters claim that a $50 million fighter, with full support, is needed to penetrate Soviet defenses to destroy enemy airfields. But the airfields can be denied to the enemy for days by a $50,000 drone, dumping five hundred pounds of explosive gravel on the runway and then crashing into anything convenient. The designs are there, far more sophisticated, yet simpler, than the Cessna that Matthias Rust flew unchallenged to Moscow. The weapons exist, the sensors exist, the tactics exist, not only to cause grid- lock in Poland, but sanity in Qum and moderation in Moscow. What is lacking is understanding in Washington of what can be done and the will to work for the survival of civilization, not for the deepening of troughs. Si vis pacem, para bellum. Yale Jay Lubkin The Real Peace Movement Dunkirk, MD

Killing the INF Treaty was a Gift to Russia | The National Interest

The decision to withdraw from the INF was not based on a military necessity, but a political one.

Opinion | No Winner in a New Arms Race – The New York Times

Are the United States and Russia entering a dangerous new era of unchecked nuclear weapons development?

world war 3: Russia warns US against missiles in Eastern Europe following INF withdrawal | World | News |

ONE of Moscow’s most influential diplomats has pledged to do ‘everything’ in his power to stop the US from deploying missiles close to its border.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow’s Foreign Policy has Ceased to Evolve and Entered Pereiod of ‘Clinical Death,’ Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 8 – Those seeking to trace an evolution in Russian foreign policy over the last five years are deceiving themselves, Vladimir Pastukhov says. Since the Maidan in Ukraine, it “has ceased to evolve and become both dogmatic and unimaginative” employing “one and the same” approach regardless of the issue involved. The London-based Russian political analyst drew that conclusion unwelcome for many in the West who constantly hope for and even expect evolution in Moscow at a conference of the Henry Jackson Society this week, the title of which – “The Evolution of Russian Foreign Policy” — was suggestive of exactly the opposite ( Russian foreign policy reached this state, Pastukhov says, after passing through two earlier stages which involved real changes but led to the current state in which Russian foreign policy has no independent role beyond being a mouthpiece for a country that is in fact at war with the world. The first phase, which lasted approximately from 1992 to 2002, was “an era of ‘the diplomacy of heightened expectations.’” The Russian political class at that time was convinced that the West owed it an enormous debt simply because Moscow now called itself “’the best friend of the West.’” Moscow expected the West to make all kinds of unforced and unanswered concessions simply because Moscow said that it was no longer the enemy of the West but its friend, an untenable position given that the West had its own interests and understandings that were very much at variance with those in Russia, Pastukhov says. The West started from the assumption that the USSR “had lost the Cold War and had passed from the political scene because it couldn’t withstand the economic competition from the Western democracies.” That isn’t how people in Moscow saw things at all, the Russian analyst continues. Instead, in Moscow, most people thought and still think that “the USSR and in the first instance Gorbachev and then the democrats who inherited power from him did the West an enormous service, by disarming and ‘unmasking itself’ by virtue of its own good will.” In this view, the West owed Russia a lot. That “cognitive dissonance” meant that this era could not last. “The turning point became the Balkan crisis, the quintessence of which was the well-known turning around of Primakov’s plane over the Atlantic.” At the time, this was viewed by the West as an effort by Moscow “to save face” rather than a more fundamental change of course. In fact, it was something far more fundamental and laid the groundwork for “all the basic elements of Putin’s foreign policy,” Pastukhov argues. The second post-Soviet phase of Moscow’s foreign policy lasted from 2002 to 2012 and can be described as “the era of ‘diplomacy of grievances,’” one in which the Russian leadership took the view expressed in the formula “’if you do not want to respect us from good will, we will force you to respect us by force.’” As Kremlin aid Vladislav Surkov put it, the world had entered into a new period of “global competition of Russia and the West.” That formulation matters, Pastukhov says, because during that period the Russian leadership was speaking “only about competition and not about war.” “Russia began to carry out a policy of resistance and containment against the West, copying its own policy of Cold War times. The turning point of this period can be considered Putin’s Munich speech and the war in Georgia,” which showed that Russia no longer felt compelled to stay within frameworks established by others. The latest phase of Moscow’s foreign policy began about 2012 and continues to this day. “I would call this diplomacy without complexes, diplomacy which is ashamed of nothing and which fears nothing, and one which has nothing to lose besides its press releases,” Pastukhov suggests. At the base of this policy, he continues, “lies the almost Khrushchevian thesis ‘We will bury you.’” Translated into present-day language, this means that we do not fear you and will fight with you as equals despite the risks and future consequences. All that you didn’t give us, we will now simply take by ourselves.” Those behind this policy have experienced the dashing of expectations of the past and the disappointments that the mere expression of grievances did little to salve. “In the depth of their souls, they suppose Gorbachev was guilty in everything and that everything would have looked entirely different if the USSR had continued to speak with the West in the language of force.” Now, these people want to restore that world, a world of “open confrontation with the West.” And as a result, “Russian diplomacy today is the diplomacy of wartime.” It has lost its flexibility and strength and become simply a servile cover for military actions, a shift perhaps especially surprising given the undoubted abilities of Sergey Lavrov. But at present, Pastuhov concludes, neither Lavrov nor his institution “play any essential role in the definition of Russia’s foreign policy course.” Indeed, after the Salisbury poisonings, it is “senseless” to speak about Russian diplomacy “as a policy and as an art.” It is simply a technical device for the Kremlin’s “’war party.’” “This is the clinical death of Russian diplomacy,” the London analyst says, “and to pull it out of this state will be possible only after a change in the overarching paradigm of the political development of Russia. Most probably, it will be necessary to elaborate the foreign policy of ‘the Russia of the future’ from square one.”

Pompeo Begins Central Europe Trip With Focus On Russia, China

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has begun a five-nation European tour that administration officials say will focus on opposition to the growing influence of Russia and China in Central Europe.

British Defense Chief Urges Bolstering Military Post-Brexit, Warns Russia Of ‘Costs’

Britain’s defense minister says the country should bolster its military capabilities after Brexit and warned that Russia should be aware that actions deemed unacceptable by the West will “come at a cost,” according to a text seen by Reuters.

Post-Brexit UK should be ready to use ‘hard power’ – defence minister | Reuters

Britain should be ready to use military force to support its global interests after Brexit, defence minister Gavin Williamson will say on Monday, adding that the boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred.

Post-Brexit UK should be ready to use ‘hard power’, defence minister says – media – news world | UNIAN

Britain should be ready to use military force to support its global interests after Brexit, defence minister Gavin Williamson will say on Monday, adding that the boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. Williamson will highlight close U.S.-UK military links and echo Trump’s call for NATO countries to increase their spending, citing a need to better handle what Williamson called Russian provocation.

Stoltenberg calls on NATO not to abandon nuclear weapons –

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on the NATO countries, and in particular Germany, not to abandon the programs on the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe. He stated this to the Berliner Morgenpost. “This nuclear participation is important for NATO. And I urge as many Alliance partners as possible to participate in this nuclear integration, including Germany,” said Stoltenberg. At present, there are about 20 B-61 nuclear bombs in Germany, each of which is three to four times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. They are located at the Air Force Base in Büchel, in Rheinland-Pfalz land. The exact number of nuclear weapons is unknown, and even the fact of the deployment of the nuclear bombs on the territory of the bases has not been officially confirmed.

NATO fighter jets to conduct training flights in Estonian airspace – news world | UNIAN

The German Air Force’s Eurofighter jets will perform low-altitude training flights in Estonian airspace next week. Since late August of 2018, German fighter jets have been guarding the skies over the Baltic countries.

UAWire – USA deploys more than a dozen combat helicopters in Latvia

As part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, thirteen UH-60 Black Hawk and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters have been deployed in Latvia to strengthen security in the region, reported the Latvian Defense Ministry. The helicopters were deployed at a National Armed Forces airbase in Lielvārde. Also, about 150 US military serving in the 3rd Battalion of the First Aviation Brigade have arrived in the country for 9 months rotation. The US personnel will maintain the helicopters and will train the Latvians in their use.

UAWire – Estonia to install radar towers with cameras on border with Russia

RIA Novosti reported, with reference to the press service of the Police and Border Guard Board of Estonia, that Estonia will install three radar towers with cameras on the border with Russia along the Narva River. As noted by the head of the Bureau of the Estonian integrated border guard department Egert Belichev, it will make possible accurate overview of what is happening on the border water in a radius of 16 kilometers. “Modern surveillance capabilities will also allow to quickly direct guards to areas where fishermen are in distress at a boundary body of water or any illegal actions,” Belichev said. The purchase of radar systems is financed from the Estonian state budget. It is planned that in the future new security equipment will appear along the Narva river.

Poland announces purchase of HIMARS rocket systems from US – Radio Poland

Poland’s government on Sunday announced the planned purchase of 20 HIMARS artillery rocket systems from the United States for USD 414 million as part of a military modernisation drive.

UAWire – Poland to buy American HIMARS missile systems

On Sunday 10 February, the Polish government will formally announce its acquisition of US-produced High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems ( …

Poland announces purchase of HIMARS rocket systems from U.S. – media – news world | UNIAN

Poland’s government on Sunday announced the planned purchase of 20 HIMARS artillery rocket systems from the United States for US$414 million as part of a military modernization drive. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak on Sunday hailed the deal as an important part of efforts to upgrade Poland’s armed forces.

UAWire – US ambassadors to Europe warn of dangers of Nord Stream 2 pipeline

American diplomats are urging European countries to revise their Gas Directive and to adopt amendments that would extend the EU’s regulations to companies from third countries, including the Nord Stream 2 project. The US ambassadors to Germany, Denmark and the EU, Richard Grenell, Carla Sands and Gordon Sondland, wrote about this in an opinion article for Deutsche Welle. “The EU should revise the Third Energy Package’s Gas Directive so that the bloc’s laws also apply to projects like Nord Stream 2. Why should non-EU companies, like Gazprom, be allowed to distort competition in Europe’s gas market while being held to a lower standard than EU companies?” the diplomats write. The authors of the article note that Nord Stream 2 is not merely a project to supply the European market with gas – it is also designed to spread Russia’s influence. The more dependent the EU is on Russian gas, the greater the risk to the EU itself and to all western countries on the whole, they believe. “The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will heighten Europe’s susceptibility to Russia’s energy blackmail tactics. Europe must retain control of its energy security. Make no mistake: Nord Stream 2 will bring more than just Russian gas. Russian leverage and influence will also flow under the Baltic Sea and into Europe,” the US Ambassadors warn. The diplomats stress that European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as most EU member-states, are willing to support the amendments to the Gas Directive, but that support from Germany and France is critical to getting the revisions enacted. On Friday 8 February, the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels was set to discuss the possibility of granting the chairperson of the Council of Europe a mandate to negotiate with European Parliament about changes to the Gas Directive, RBC reported, citing two anonymous sources. The goal of the discussion was to unite the various EU institutions’ positions on the directive and ratify a new version of it on the ministry level. If the amendments are made, the EU will have the right to block the construction of Nord Stream 2. The European Commission proposed the changes in 2017, and the motion was later supported by European Parliament. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, France is planning to oppose Germany’s plan to exempt Nord Stream 2 from the general restrictions governing the gas sector in Europe. Berlin was initially planning to block the amendments to the Gas Directive with the support of Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, Athens and Nicosia, but if France decides to join the other camp, it could jeopardize the plan. Nord Stream 2 is a project to construct two new gas pipelines from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, with a total length of more than 1,200km and a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. At present, the project is about 30% complete, with 500 km of pipe already laid. The first line is scheduled to be finished in November this year, and the second by December.

Ambs Richard Grenell, Carla Sands and Gordon Sondland | Guest contribution: EU must retain control over energy security – DW (German Language)

On Friday, the EU wants to vote on Nord Stream 2. In a guest contribution for Deutsche Welle, the US ambassadors in Germany, Denmark and the EU are calling for a vote against the controversial pipeline project. At present, a dozen European countries with three quarters of their natural gas needs depend on Russia. This makes US Allies and partners vulnerable, Moscow can turn off the gas to their liking. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly shown how he uses the Russian gas supply as a weapon – in 2006, 2009, 2014 and most recently in March last year, when he blocked the gas flow to the neighbors. The fact that the EU is dependent on Russian gas poses risks for Europe and the West as a whole – and makes us all more insecure. Nord Stream 2 would further increase Europe’s vulnerability to Russian blackmail in the energy sector. But Europe needs to retain control over its energy security. Because do not be fooled: Nord Stream 2 will deliver more than just Russian gas. Russia’s power and influence will spread through the Baltic Sea to Europe. And the pipeline will allow Moscow to further undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and stability.

UAWire – EU diplomats warned about Russian and Chinese spies in Brussels

The European Union External Action Service (EEAS) warned European diplomats and military about espionage by Russian and Chinese intelligence …

Hundreds of spies in Brussels – A warning is given before entering some of the restaurants | Europäische Union: Russische und chinesische Spione in Brüssel – WELT

The “European capital” Brussels is apparently full of spies. Hundreds of Russian and Chinese agents were installed there. A security service has warned diplomats against entering certain pubs in the EU neighborhood. The internal security service of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels has warned European diplomats and military officials against espionage by Russian and Chinese intelligence services. According to the security service are “about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies in the European capital,” said EU diplomats WELT with reference to the information.

UAWire – Russia not getting paid for arms shipments

Russia has started making arms shipments without receiving payment due to the US sanctions that prohibit dollar transactions for Russia’s defense-related export company, Rosoboronexport, reports. The Russian Federal Customs Service’s (FCS) final statistics for 2018 appear to indicate that some of Russia’s weapons are being sold abroad for free, according to a review by Raiffeisen Bank analysts. By the end of the year, Russia’s export revenue had grown by 25.8% to $443 billion, which is nearly entirely due to the jump in the prices of oil, gas, and oil products, which account for two thirds of the Russian economy’s earnings. Physically, the country’s exports grew by a total of 4.8%, with machines and equipment contributing the most (2 percentage points). In this category, which includes military equipment, the FCS recorded an 11.1% increase in export shipments. However, paradoxically, these shipments yielded virtually no additional revenue. “The significant growth in the sale of machines and equipment (especially in conjunction with the significant decline in the export prices for them) looks unusual. One possible explanation is that the equipment, especially the military equipment, is being delivered at low prices or even for free,” Raiffeisen Bank concludes. Rosoboronexport has been under US sanctions since November 2017. Since the start of January last year, the US Treasury Department has had the right to impose sanctions on any organizations that are involved in “significant deals” with the Russian defense-industry complex. This includes both the buyers and the banks that facilitate the transactions. At the start of 2018, the US State Department estimated that the US had managed to block 20% of Rosoboronexport’s deals (approximately $3 billion worth). Over the course of the year, the effect of the sanctions grew more intense. India, which was the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons in the 2000s, stopped paying Rosoboronexport for its active contracts and refused to sign new ones, for example, to buy fighters and S-400 aerial defense systems. Payments from the Indian government stopped arriving in April 2018, a source in the Russian defense-industry complex told Vedomosti. Indian banks started blocking the transactions out of fear of falling under secondary sanctions, which the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) stipulates for all parties involved in dealings with Rosoboronexport, even indirectly. Russia did not receive a cent for the eleven Su-35 fighter jets it sold to Indonesia. Due to the sanctions, Russia had to agree to receive batches of palm oil, crumb rubber and other Indonesian goods in exchange for the fighters, which are the closest thing Russia has to 5th generation aircraft. According to Jane’s, in 2018 Russia earned $8.48 billion from weapons sales, coming second only to the US ($32.75 billion). By 2020, Jane’s predicts that Russian weapons will lose roughly 17% of their current market share, with sales falling to $6.85 billion. Russia could lose its position as the world’s second largest weapons exporter to France, whose earnings could grow to $6.96 billion by selling Rafale fighters to India and Qatar, and due to the increased demand for helicopters.

UAWire – Russia plans to land on the moon in 2031 and build a lunar base in 2034

Russia’s first manned expedition to the moon will take place in 2031. Russia aims to send astronauts to the moon every year, RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a document by the Russian Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash), a subsidiary of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. According to the explanatory note of the document, the first expedition crew will conduct astronauts’ activities on the moon and implement tasks set by the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2032, Roscosmos plans to send a moon-car to the Earth’s satellite, a heavy lunar rover allowing astronauts to move. The second expedition is expected to “test vehicles on Moon surface”.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Man in Minsk Denounces Belarusianization as Almost ‘De-Russification,’ Rex News Agency Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 10 – A pro-Kremlin Russian nationalist portal is celebrating the fact that yesterday, Mikhail Babich, Moscow’s ambassador in Minsk, said that Belarusianization is a threat to the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers and that there is only “a thin line” between that and “de-Russification” ( This is the first time a Russian official of that rank has taken that position, one that has been urged by the Regnum news agency and many other, the Rex portal says. And that is a most welcome development, the portal continues, although it is one that will certainly outrage Belarusian nationalists. This new and tougher line, the portal says, is reflected in Babich’s statement that the tax dispute between Minsk and Moscow cannot be resolved in any way that undercuts the responsibilities of the two as members of the Eurasian Economic Community. That means Moscow’s position is unchanged and that Minsk must back down. Belarusian outlets have taken note of this new toughness from Moscow’s man in Minsk, but they are not nearly so pleased about it (

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Point Man in Belarus Now Working on Four Fronts, Politburo2 Telegram Channel Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 8 – Most discussions about Russia and Belarus at the present time focus on global questions ranging from “will Putin move to annex Belarus?” to “will Lukashenka turn to the West and be accepted if he does?” But the Politburo2 telegram channel offers a useful corrective focusing specifically on the agenda of Putin’s point man in Belarus. That man is Mikhail Babich, who is both Russian ambassador to Minsk and special representative of the Russian president. Since arriving in Belarus, the telegram channel says, Babich has focused on the nuts and bolts of economic cooperation and worked to overcome the inertia in relations between the two parts of the union state ( It sometimes seemed before his arrival, Politburo2 says, that no one was paying particular attention to the Union Treaty and its provisions. But thanks to Babich’s work, that is no longer the case. Unfortunately, the telegram channel says, the increased activity of the West in Belarus means that the Russian representative has had to expand his agenda. Specifically, Politburo2 says, Babich and his mission are working on “four fronts:” 1. “Opposing the expansion of the West and its ‘soft power.’” 2. “Interacting with Belarusian elites and Alyaksandr Lukashenka personally” by “explaining Russian positions and dispelling numerous myths.” 3. “Reforming the media and information agenda of Russia relative to the Republic of Belarus because in too many cases, Russian media materials have had a negative impact on Belarusian public opinion.” 4. “Overcoming the inertia of the Russian bureaucracy and opposition from the side by participants of shadowy schemes.” Babich’s “main resource,” the telegram channel says, is ‘the high degree of trust’ he enjoys from Putin and his opportunities to speak directly” with both presidents. But given the legacy of the past, Politburo2 continues, there is a great deal of work to be done and no reason to assume that everything will be solved right away.

Militants launched nine attacks on Ukrainian troops in Donbas in last day

Militants launched nine attacks, using weapons banned under the Minsk agreements three times, on positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) area in Donbas over the past day. — Ukrinform.

Nine attacks against Ukraine army in past day: no losses, one terrorist destroyed, – JFO center

11.02.19 10:09 – Nine attacks against Ukraine army in past day: no losses, one terrorist destroyed, – JFO center Feb. 10, Russia occupation forces violated the ceasefire nine times employing weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements three times. View news.

JFO: Ukraine reports nine enemy attacks in Donbas in past day – news war | UNIAN

Russian-led forces mounted nine attacks on Ukrainian troops in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in the past 24 hours. The Ukrainian side says no one was hurt in the attacks.

Russian proxies in Donbas open fire three times at positions of Joint Forces Feb 10 – report – news war | UNIAN

From day-start to 18:00 on Sunday, February 10, Russian occupation forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas fired three times at the positions of the Ukrainian troops, according to the Joint Forces’ press center. No Ukrainian army casualties have been reported from the start of the day.

Ukrainian troops destroy IFV of Russian proxy forces in Donbas (Video) – news war | UNIAN

Officer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Anatoly Stefan aka “Stirlitz” has posted a footage showing Ukrainian troops destroy an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) of Russian-backed militants at Svitlodarska Duha bulge in Donbas, eastern Ukraine. An enemy infantry fighting vehicle is reported to have been eliminated in the strike.

Russian-led forces’ dugout destroyed in Donetsk region, four killed – Ukrainian officer (Video) – news war | UNIAN

Four members of the Russian-led forces were killed and another three were wounded.

Ukrainian serviceman goes missing in Donbas

A serviceman of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, who may have sustained concussion, has gone missing in the area of hostilities in Donbas, the brigade’s press service reported on Facebook on Sunday, February 10. — Ukrinform.

“DPR” armed forces allege they capture Ukrainian soldier in Donbas – news war | UNIAN

The armed forces of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), designated by Ukraine as a terrorist organization, have said they captured a Ukrainian soldier. The terrorists do not provide any additional information.

UAWire – Ukrainian Border Service: pro-Russian militants use laser weapons in Donbas

The Ukrainian State Border Service reported that Ukrainian border guards once again saw evidence of the use of laser weapons by pro-Russian militants in the Donbas. “Starting 10 pm on February 8th until 4 am on Saturday, in the area of the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint, border guards providing protection to the road corridor recorded light purple beams from the temporarily occupied territory every two to three minutes,” says the message. The State Border Service stated that due to the terrain of the area where the militants are located, as well as the dangers of the use of optical and thermal imaging devices, precise locations could not be determined. It is noted that the State Border Service for the Ukrainian Joint Forces has repeatedly recorded similar cases. Thus, from 2016-2018, five on-duty servicemen of the Kramatorsk border detachment received eye injuries. They were observing pro-Russian forces using optical instruments.

UAWire – Russian media: ‘DPR representative office’ opened in Verona, Italy

Russian media reported the second “representation” of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” (DPR) in Italy, which opened in Verona,  …

Point of no return in destruction of Crimean cultural heritage is passed – expert

A point of no return in the destruction of some monuments of the Crimean cultural heritage, in particular the Bakhchisaray Palace, has already been passed. — Ukrinform. “A point of no return has already been passed with regard to the Bakhchisaray Palace as its material artifacts were dismantled, rebuilt, re-filled, the roof was replaced with other materials. I have no idea where the materials for restoring the 300-year-old beam can be found today,” well-known Crimean Tatar ceramist Rustem Skibin, who worked in Crimea until 2014, said in a commentary to Ukrinform. He also told that the archaeological excavations were being carried out on the peninsula, but the fate of the possible discoveries was not known. “In addition, there are questions about the archaeological excavations carried out there. We do not know the fate of what they find. It is unknown what they take away, leave, document. The international organizations are not present there,” the ceramist told. To save the Bakhchisaray Palace in the occupied Crimea, Ukraine now decides the issue of its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List and at the same time in the list of the sites under threat.

Sea Breeze 2019 exercises to be held in three Ukrainian regions

On February 11, the main conference on planning of the US-Ukraine Sea Breeze 2019 exercises kicked off in Odesa. — Ukrinform.

The intensity of the training of air defense units this year will increase significantly – Ministry of Defense

The number of combat training activities with the air defense units in 2019 will increase significantly. This applies primarily to the units of anti-aircraft missile forces that form the basis of the “air shield” of Ukraine. The Commander of the Air Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine declare that this is due to threats from the Russian Federation, which continues the militarization of the occupied Crimea and charges more and more aviation weapons at airfields near the borders with Ukraine. – We are forced to constantly increase the combat capabilities of units of anti-aircraft missile forces, – said the head of the anti-aircraft missile troops of the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Colonel Yuri Stavsky. – This year, the units of ZRV will continue to receive restored and upgraded complexes of various modifications of the type “S-300”, “S-125” and “Buk”, while the defense industry enterprises continue to work on the creation of domestic SAMs that will replace the outdated Soviet-made weapons. According to Col. Yuriy Stavsky, in the command of the kind considerable attention is devoted to personnel training. In particular, the combat experience gained during combat operations in the East is actively being implemented, combat training plans are being improved, formats, plans and scenarios of exercises are changing to meet current and future challenges. – Priority attention is traditionally given to combat shooting. We plan to hold even more extensive training than last year. We are talking about firing with the combined “Buk-M1” and “S-300P” anti-aircraft missile regiments. The “three hundred” batteries will be called up to the area of ​​the execution of training and combat tasks suddenly, with regular armaments and military equipment. Of course, the situation will look more than realistic. And this is the main task, – said the head of anti-aircraft missile troops. In general, in 2019, four live firing exercises are planned for Buk-M1, S-125, S-300P / PT / V1. More than 150 hundred different combat training activities will be held, such as command-and-staff, tactical exercises, regular duty training, etc. All of them will take place against the backdrop of the created environment, as close as possible to combat. In addition, ZRV specialists will participate in the testing of new missile weapons and will conduct pilot launches of anti-aircraft guided missiles within the framework of research work. It should be added that the first firing of anti-aircraft missile systems will take place this month at the Yahorodlik landfill.

Ukroboronprom shows upgraded T-64 tanks

Kharkiv Armored Plant, part of the state-owned Ukroboronprom concern, continues to strengthen the Ukrainian army with modernized T-64 tanks, the concern’s press service has reported. — Ukrinform.

Kharkiv tank factory upgrades over hundred T-64 MBTs, – Ukroboronprom –

Kharkiv tank factory upgraded over a hundred of T-64 main battle tanks made in 2017. The press service of Ukroboronprom, the state-run defense enterprise reported this on Monday. ‘Better combat capacity, modern thermal sights, encrypted digital communications, means of satellite navigation and new dynamic protection’, president Petro Poroshenko posted on Facebook. According to Ukroboronprom, the number of upgraded T-64s is quite enough to re-arm a tank brigade. The Kharkiv-based company continues to modernize the basic models of T-64s to this new level. The modern night vision systems are set on the modernized tanks, without the need to change the power supply system of the vehicles; that, in turn, significantly save time and costs for successful integration of these systems. Thanks to the high-quality spare parts, the tanks are highly resistant to extraneous lights. They are resistant to these even if the enemy uses the infrared-range lights. The sight system includes thermal sights that provide detection, recognition and elimination of the target, using the MBT’s 125 mm cannon – at any time of day, under all types of weather. The upgraded T-64 also boasts a new system of dynamic protection that considerably increases the level of protection of the vehicle, allowing deflection of all kinds of up-to-date anti-tank shells.

Петро Порошенко – 100 T-64B MBTs Upgraded by Kharkiv Tank Factory (HD VIDEO)

The best combat capabilities, modern thermal imagers, secured digital communications, satellite navigation and a new dynamic protection – all of this was gained by our tankers thanks to the specialists of Ukrainian defense. State Enterprise “Kharkiv Armored Plant” has modernized more than 100 T-64 samples in 2017. These machines are enough for the rearmament of a whole tank brigade. Our goal is to reorient ourselves to the production of new weapons and the transition to NATO standards.

Hungary opens 370 criminal cases against Ukrainians for citizenship fraud – news politics | UNIAN

Chief Prosecutor of Hungary Péter Polt has said the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office has already opened 370 criminal cases against Ukrainians who illegally obtained Hungarian citizenship. Charges on 156 cases have already been filed, the news portal reported. It is reported 60 investigations are currently under way, while 32 cases are still at the initial stage. In general, court decisions were taken on 108 cases, two of them are not yet final. According to Polt, the investigation began when it turned out that the applicant had obtained citizenship without knowing the Hungarian language, or when the language exam was passed by another person. Earlier, Chairman of the Democratic Coalition liberal political party in Hungary Ágnes Vadai called on the Prosecutor General’s Office of Hungary to probe into the facts of the illegal obtaining of Hungarian citizenship by Ukrainian citizens. Several politicians from the Democratic Coalition reported there were many Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country who were allegedly prepared to falsify election results in the country. As UNIAN reported earlier, the Consulates of Hungary stopped issuing Hungarian citizenship to Ukrainians in the territory of their diplomatic missions in Zakarpattia region and in Kyiv.

Main challenge for Ukraine in future is to maintain high rates of economic growth – WB

The main problem for Ukraine in the future will be to maintain high rates of sustainable economic growth rather than to achieve high rates of economic growth in the short run. — Ukrinform.

Ukraine’s foreign exchange reserves amount to over $21 bln – president

The international foreign exchange reserves of Ukraine amount to more than USD 21 billion. — Ukrinform.

President Poroshenko promises to facilitate development of IT industry

At present, the IT industry accounts for 4% of Ukraine’s GDP, and it needs to be developed. — Ukrinform.

Ukrainian invention produces drinking water from air in Dubai’s smart park. Photos

Ukrainian innovative project Smart Oasis has installed a construction, which produces drinking water from the air, in the Al Mamzar Smart Park in Dubai. — Ukrinform.

Conference ‘History of Heavenly Hundred’ held in Washington. Photos

The United States Congress hosted the conference “History of the Heavenly Hundred” on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the death of the Heroes of Heavenly Hundred, the participants in the Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014 in Kyiv, Ukraine. — Ukrinform.

Sushchenko serving his term in place of exile of Polish patriots – Ukrinform director

Ukrinform journalist Roman Sushchenko, illegally convicted in Russia, is serving his prison term in the Kirov region of Russia, which used to be a traditional place of exile of Polish patriots. Ukrinform Director General Oleksandr Kharchenko said this in Warsaw on Monday at the opening of an exhibition of drawings by Sushchenko, which he created for more than two years in prison, an Ukrinform correspondent said. “I do not know how well-known for the Polish audience is the fact that our [colleague] Roman Sushchenko is serving an unjust term somewhere near Kirov. But let us recall the old, pre-revolutionary name of this city, those lands – Vyatka, Vyatsky Krai. One of the traditional gloomy places of exile of the Polish patriots who fought for Poland’s freedom during bloody encounters with the empire,” Kharchenko said. He illustrated this idea by the stories of Polish writer, historian and politician Marian Karol Dubiecki and Polish artist Michal Andriolli, who lived in exile in Vyatka in the 1860-1870s, as well as a journalist from the times of the Second Polish Republic, Stanislaw Cywinski. After the introduction of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet invaders sent him to Vyatlag, the Vyatsky camp from the great Stalin’s Gulag, where he died in the spring of 1941. “When you look at the drawings of Roman, feel his light yen for freedom. Feel also the common features of our history, Ukrainian and Polish. The history of the invincible struggle for freedom, in which we had and have one common enemy,” Kharchenko said, addressing the Polish audience. Ukrinform’s Paris-based correspondent Roman Sushchenko was illegally detained on September 30, 2016 in Moscow, where he arrived on a private trip. On October 7, 2016, he was charged with “espionage.” Russia’s FSB claimed that Sushchenko is a member of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The latter denied this allegation. On June 4, 2018, the Moscow City Court sentenced Sushchenko to 12 years in a high-security penal colony. The Supreme Court of Russia upheld the verdict on September 12.

Poroshenko meets with creators of “Cyborgs” movie –

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has met with filmmakers of the “Cyborgs” movie on February 10. The President wrote on his Facebook. The meeting was held in the house of Ahtem Seytablayev, the director of the movie, and his wife Ivanna Dyadyur, the film’s producer. “Such a warm meeting with sincere and kind people would be remembered for the whole life. All the conversations with such people are dedicated to the urgent topics: war, Crimea and Donbas reintegration, the prominent future of Ukraine, the art, especially during the war. It was very interesting to find out about some episodes of the filming process as well as to sing our Ukrainian songs,” the president wrote.

Rousing ghosts: Ukraine famine film warns Europe | Reuters

Fading memories of 20th century horrors are leaving European society less resilient to similar evils that could lie ahead, Polish director Agnieszka Holland said at the premiere of “Mr Jones”, her film about the 1930s Ukrainian famine. Holland, who during a decades-long career has made films about the Nazi Holocaust and Communist tyranny in eastern Europe, pointed to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union as a sign lessons from the past were being forgotten. “I think that the experience of World War Two, the Holocaust, gave to Europe especially some kind of vaccination out of fear that things like that can happen again, but it evaporated in the last few years,” she told reporters at the Berlin Film Festival before her film was presented on Sunday. The film, one of 17 competing for the festival’s Golden Bear award, tells the story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who escaped the gilded cage of 1930s Moscow to discover that the facade of a thriving Soviet economy rested on Ukrainian corpses. The famine of 1932 and 1933, when leader Josef Stalin killed millions by diverting train-loads of wheat to prop up the Russian heartlands, still burdens ties between Russia and Ukraine, which is fighting a war against Moscow-backed separatists in its east. Holland said the story of Jones, who risked his life to tell the world of peasants eating tree bark and orphaned children eating their own siblings in Ukrainian villages, was especially important in an age of “fake news”. Written by Andrea Chalupa, a New Yorker of Ukrainian descent, the film contrasts Jones’s heroism with his more successful rival Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), whose initial compromises become lies as the New York Times correspondent seeks to preserve his status as doyen of Moscow society.

Creators of ‘Mr.Jones’ film urge Russia to release Sentsov –

The production team of ‘Mr. Jones’ film participated in Berlinale. Before the film was premiered, they called on the Russian government to release political prisoner Oleg Sentsov, who currently serves time at a penal colony in Labytnangi, northern Russia. Ukrinform news agency reported that. ‘Watching this movie today, I thought of our colleague Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian director, and his compatriots, political prisoners kept in Russia. We thought of them when working on this film. We will not forget them’, director Agnieszka Holland said. Before the film was screened, the team held a flash mob right at the red carpet of the festival, holding ‘FreeSentsov’ and ‘Freedom of speech is not a crime’ banners, as well a Sentsov’s images. Ukrainian activists joined the action. “Mr. Jones” tells the little-known story of Gareth Jones, a young British journalist who traveled to the Soviet Union in 1933. He wanted to tell the world about the appalling reality of the communist regime, Stalin and the government-induced famine in Ukraine. His efforts are frustrated not just by the Soviet censors, but other Western journalists ignored him as well. Jones’ story helped to inspire George Orwell on creating the novel “Animal Farm.”

Chief Prosecutor Lutsenko: Kherson Regional Council’s head charged with assassination of activist Handziuk – news ukraine | UNIAN

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has said Chairman of Kherson Regional Council Vladyslav Manger was served with charge papers as an organizer of the assassination of Kherson activist Kateryna Handziuk. Earlier, Manger suspended his membership in Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party.

Kherson official, intermediaries agreed on $5,600 for Handziuk’s murder – prosecutor general

Head of Kherson Regional Council Vladyslav Manher has agreed on the amount of $5,600 with intermediaries Oleksiy Levin and Ihor Pavlovsky for organizing and committing an acid attack on activist Kateryna Handziuk, investigators say. — Ukrinform.

High-Ranking Regional Official Suspected In Ukrainian Activist’s Death

The head of Ukraine’s Kherson regional parliament is suspected of organizing the killing of anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk last year, prosecutors say.

Manher to be taken to Kyiv Pechersk District Сourt for bail hearing, searches being held at his place of residence, – Sarhanс

11.02.19 12:58 – Manher to be taken to Kyiv Pechersk District Сourt for bail hearing, searches being held at his place of residence, – Sarhanс Head of the Kherson regional council Vladyslav Manher has been served with charge papers as a suspect in arranging Kateryna Handziuk murder. He will be taken to Kyiv Pechersk District Court for bail hearing. View news.

Manher served with charge papers as suspect in Kateryna Handziuk murder. DOCUMENT

11.02.19 11:20 – Manher served with charge papers as suspect in Kateryna Handziuk murder. DOCUMENT Head of the Kherson regional council Vladyslav Manher has been served with charge papers as a suspect in Kateryna Handziuk murder. View news.

Batkivshchyna party expels Manher suspected of instigating Kateryna Handziuk murder. DOCUMENT

11.02.19 10:59 – Batkivshchyna party expels Manher suspected of instigating Kateryna Handziuk murder. DOCUMENT Kherson regional bureau of Batkivshchyna party has expelled head of the Kherson Regional Council Vladyslav Manher from the party. View news.

Handziuk’s murder: Deputy Head of Kherson Regional State Administration dismissed –

Yevhen Ryshchuk, Deputy Head of Kherson Regional State Administration, was dismissed from his post during the investigation of the murder of ex-Kherson Mayor Advisor Kateryna Handziuk, as Andriy Hordeyev, the Head of the administration, reported on Facebook. “I have approved Yevhen Ryshchuk’s statement on temporary removal during the investigation of Handziuk’s murder,” he wrote. Earlier, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko stated that the Head of Kherson Regional Council Mangera was served with charge papers concerning organizing the murder of Handziuk. On November 4, it became known that Kateryna Handziuk died at age of 34. She was doused with sulphuric acid in July this year. According to preliminary information, her death was caused by blood clot’s detachment.

Paul Hockenos | You Only Wish You Had Ukraine’s Democracy – Foreign Policy

Despite attacks from abroad and corruption at home, Ukrainian democracy isn’t failing—it’s thriving. n November 2018, Russia captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels and imprisoned two dozen crew members in the Sea of Azov, which treaties safeguard for both countries. Yet international disapproval of the aggression against Ukraine—only the most recent in Russia’s five-year assault on the country—was tempered by the knee-jerk response of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko called for the nationwide imposition of martial law the next day, which seemed to confirm the dire reputation of the country’s democracy. To many observers, Poroshenko’s request seemed less aimed at shoring up Ukraine’s military than exploiting its fragile institutions to ensure his own re-election in a vote scheduled for March 31. It was cited as the latest evidence for the common belief that Ukraine is really no better nor different than authoritarian Russia and thus not worth the democratic world’s concern. More instructive than Poroshenko’s proposal, however, was what happened next. The Ukrainian parliament refused to rubber stamp the martial law request, instead passing a much watered-down version designed to last only 30 days. The parliament also twisted Poroshenko’s arm, forcing him to publicly commit to holding the election on schedule. Ukraine’s reputation in the West largely remains that of a basket case—a country whose desire to integrate with the West, and specifically the European Union, far outpaces its reality. That reputation is wrong. Ukraine isn’t a failing state or a hopeless Potemkin democracy—it’s a country, though war-torn, firmly on the path of making good on the 2014 Maidan Revolution and, under reasonable conditions, succeeding as a European country in good standing. To be sure, Ukraine is beset by a variety of problems. State institutions remain hampered by inefficiency and corruption, much of the population remains preoccupied by nationalist fantasies of outright victory in the ongoing border war with Russia, and hardly anyone believes in Poroshenko’s democratic bona fides. And yet Ukraine’s steady progress and growing momentum toward democracy are irrefutable. In the five years since its revolution, Ukraine’s accomplishments rival those made by any of the Central Europeans in the same time span since 1990. They are even more impressive given the country’s partial occupation by the Russian military in Crimea. Ukraine has made notable strides in its fight against corruption, its most formidable scourge and a key instigator of the 2014 Maidan protests. The deeply rooted problem persists, but Ukraine’s reformers have been relentless and creative in combatting it. Parliament has passed new legislation and designed independent institutions to combat corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the High Anti-Corruption Court, for example, should be operational by spring. NABU and the court are essentially parallel structures that will pursue corruption cases outside of normal judicial channels. (Ukrainian prosecutorial offices are notorious for their own corruption and for blocking anti-corruption cases.) Run by the indefatigable Artem Sytnyk, NABU has 635 cases under investigation, 176 cases in court, and 25 convictions. The biggest fish are all still at large, but Sytnyk is optimistic that Ukraine’s high court, with independently vetted and chosen judges, will break the logjam NABU faces in the national court system. The Ukrainian parliament has also passed ambitious reforms in health care, environmental protection, and tax law, while cleaning up the state-owned gas company, shutting down sham banking schemes, and creating a transparent electronic system for state procurement. A Ukrainian think tank calculates that just the gas sector and tax reforms have saved the state $6 billion, nearly 6 percent of GDP. These focused efforts are even more remarkable considering that Ukraine is under nonstop assault by its nuclear-armed superpower of a neighbor, militarily on its eastern borderlands but also in a propaganda war engineered in Moscow to paint the country as a failed and illegitimate state. The Sea of Azov now constitutes another front, and there is no sign that Russia is stopping there.

Medvedchuk confirms Russia supplies weapons to Donbas

11.02.19 14:48 – Medvedchuk confirms Russia supplies weapons to Donbas Putin’s associate and Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk has confirmed that Russia supplies “DPR-LPR” fighters with weapons. View news.

Medvedchuk in “Maga” TV program on 112 Ukraine – I am sure that we can reach peace, – Medvedchuk –

Viktor Medvedchuk was a guest in “Maga” TV program on 112 Ukraine. In particular, the politician explained why he is back in politics: “It would not be correct to say that I have not been in politics before. There was a “Ukrainian choice” public movement. The policy is power. I have not been in power since 2005. I have left on January 21, 2005, after Yushchenko was elected president. And, by the way, not really going [to be involved in politics] today. Speaking about the “Opposition Platform – For Life” and its participation in parliamentary elections, this question is open for me today. I am ready to do it, but I have not decided for myself to what extent I am ready to do it… I understand that there are things that could be done only by me. Not because I am the smartest or the most prepared person here. This is because I have such opportunities. Let us take away the knowledge, intelligence, communication as a resource, as a filter of opportunities. I have been trying to achieve some kind of result since May 2014. I feel and I am sure that we can reach peace. We can negotiate on peace. And I understand everything: here are those barriers, related to me, and the actions of the authorities, consciously or unconsciously, interfere with this. But I still think that this must be completed. This must be accomplished due to only one goal: I live in this country, I am a very wealthy person, I could live in any other country. But I am not going to do this fundamentally. This is my country, my parents are buried here, my family lives here, we feel well here, and most importantly, I feel great here. I understand everything that can happen to me, I understand all the risks and dangers, but I will continue. Not for hype”.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses Because Russian Orthodox Rapidly Losing Ground to Protestants, Navalny Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 10 – The Kremlin is attacking the Jehovah’s Witnesses not only because the Witnesses seek to avoid contact with the state but also and perhaps even more importantly because “the Russian Orthodox Church is actively losing parishioners who have in massive numbers going over to Protestant denominations,” Aleksey Navalny says. This is particularly the case in Siberia and the Urals, the Russian opposition figure says; and things have reached the point that “the number of Protestants and Orthodox in Russia are currently approximately equal” ( If current trends continue, Navalny said on his Navalny Live Internet channel and the Russian Orthodox church continues to focus on business rather than faith, then it will soon be the case that the number of practicing Protestants will exceed the number of Orthodox who attend church on a regular basis. That suggestion is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Only about two percent of all Orthodox attend church services regularly, a total of less than two million. Protestant groups, given the hostility the state and Moscow Patriarch show to them, are not that numerous, but their members, estimates range up to two million, are quite committed to their churches. Ironically, he continues, at the very moment when the Russian powers that be were handing down a six-year prison sentence to Jehovah’s Witness leader Dennis Cristensen, “the witches of Russia were assembling to support Vladimir Putin and curse his enemies.” (On that event, see The people in the Kremlin, Navalny says, are now immersed in occultism and even “regularly consult with shamans and astrologers.” The current powers that be, he concludes, “are all mad, who have lost any link with reality. They’ve gone completely bonkers.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Even Judge Appeared ‘Uncomfortable’ Sentencing Jehovah’s Witness to Six Years for Extremism,’ Rights Activist Says

Paul Goble Staunton, February 8 – People of good will in Russia and around the world are horrified at the six-year sentence handed down by a Russian court against a Jehovah’s Witness for supposed “extremist activities. Indeed, Valery Borshchev says, even the judge who delivered the verdict seemed “uncomfortable” connecting Dennis Christensen’s actions with extremism. The Moscow Helsinki Group leader made that observation at a roundtable organized by the Rosbalt news agency on this case. He described the Orel trial as “a shocking show,” adding that he had “the sense that the judge experienced discomfort” connecting saying prayers and discussing the Bible with extremism” ( Even more outrageous, the activist continued, was the judge’s linking such calm religious activities to some notional effort to “overthrow the constitutional order.” There is no way to connect them, Borshchev says, except by ignorance and brute force. Putin was right to call extremist cases against the Jehovah’s Witnesses “complete rubbish.” But Putin’s words aren’t guiding the government in this regard – and perhaps they never were intended to so. Some 115 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been subject to criminal prosecution already, and “about 50” more are facing trials on charges like those brought against Christensen, Yaroslav Sivulsky, the representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He added that it was especially painful for him to see Russia going back to Soviet practices. His own father was sentenced to seven years in the camps for producing religious samizdat. Christensen now will be in jail “only because he considers his faith true,” a judicial act if anything even worse than the one that swept up his father, Sivulsky said. As a result of this kind of “jurisprudence,” the Jehovah’s Witnesses leader said, “every individual [in Russia] can be thrown into jail.” There are 175,000 Witnesses in Russia, and already “about 5,000 have been forced to flee Russia. “We do not want to leave, but we do not want to sit in jails because we believe in God and consider our religion to be true.” Borshchev said that in his view, the Russian powers that be are going after the Jehovah’s Witnesses because Witnesses prefer to keep to themselves and not interact with the government and because the headquarters of the Witnesses are in the United States. Roman Catholics have their HQ in Rome, and so other faiths should be worried about persecution as well. All other participants in the roundtable agreed. The Christensen case establishes a dangerous precedent and can be easily extrapolated to others if they do not band together to secure his release and ensure that no more judges will have to be uncomfortable because they had to read out such sentences. In short, Russia is facing a Pastor Niemoeller moment. And it is one that those who experienced the end of the Soviet system did not expect would come again to their country. Vladimir Raykhovsky, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council noted that in 1991 Russians recognized that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been the victims of unjustified repression. “What has changed since that time?” he asked rhetorically. “Have the Jehovah’s Witnesses become different than they were? No, this is one of the most conservative organizations which does not change its principles. In April 2017, they were liquidated by the Supreme Court only because of their propaganda of religious superiority and exclusiveness.” “In reality,” participants at the roundtable said, “the Jehovah’s Witnesses are often accused of religious ‘snobism.’ But as was noted at the press conference, in general, all believers consider their faith true and that of others not very much so (and Orthodox here are no exception.).” Consequently, all believers have reason to fear the fall out from this one case.