Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Russia’s Natural Gas Sales Plummet: Is Russia Captive To European Buyers?

The received wisdom is that Europe cannot offend Russia because it depends so much on Russian natural gas. We have this backwards. It should be: Russia cannot offend Europe because it depends too much on sales of natural gas sales to Europe. Despite efforts to conceal the decline, Gazprom’s 3rd quarter sales to Europe declined 15 percent and fell to zero for Ukraine. Cash-strapped Russia can ill afford such losses.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

1 AM December 16. Russia Became A Banana Republic

Russia’s central bank waited until the early morning hours to raise its interest rate from 10.5 to a whopping 17 percent to encourage citizens to hold rubles and foreigners to buy rubles. Rather than building confidence, markets interpreted the move as panic. By late afternoon, it took an unprecedented 80 rubles to buy one dollar. Despite its vaunted reserves, the mighty Russia gives the appearance of a Latin American banana republic, dependent on one product, with a collapsing economy and declining living standards that can no longer support Vladimir Putin’s expensive foreign adventures or keep alive his social compact with the Russian people.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Battle For The German Soul: The Russia/Ukraine Narrative

Putin’s propaganda machine is fighting a desperate PR battle, at home and abroad, for control of the narrative of its war against Ukraine. The Republican victory in the U.S. mid terms has consolidated America’s anti-Russian narrative as evidenced by the Senate’s passage of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which supplies lethal weapons to Ukraine. Even more ominous is the finding of the Levada Center that only 5-6 percent of Russians are prepared to sacrifice for Putin’s Ukraine ventures. If anyone is to shoulder a burden, it should be Putin and Company, Russians say. These setbacks make the battle for German public opinion even more crucial, a battle that is now being conducted on the front pages of the German press.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Naïve, Dangerous, And Ill-Informed Proposal: Peace In Ukraine By Appeasing Putin

Two Washington policy wonks propose an appeasement policy that would doom Ukraine and give Putin a huge victory over the West, while offering no tangible benefits. Their “win-win-win” policy is based on a fundamental lack of understanding of the Kremlin.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trolls Peddle An Alternate Universe to Save Putin’s Regime

Germany’s Angela Merkel described Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a phone conversation, as “living in another world.” Like Merkel, we, who write on Russia’s War on Ukraine, have all had our rude introduction to Putin’s “other world.” In his parallel universe, the aggressor is the victim, strangers appoint themselves “premiers” of non-existent “republics,” hundreds of soldiers mysteriously perish in border exercises or “on vacation,” a certified nationally elected government is a “neo-Nazi junta,” and hundreds of tanks and heavy weapons crossing borders are optical illusions.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Confused Survey Says Two Russian Energy Giants Top Google And Apple In Corporate Transparency

Transparency International ranks Russia’s two state-owned energy giants in the middle of the top 124 world companies for “transparency” because both have adopted detailed anti-corruption rules. The rankings do not ask whether these companies actually comply with their rules. Stock market valuations show the nonsensical nature of the Transparency International rankings. Investors are not willing to bet on the Russian energy giants because they are non-transparent on the most important risks, and they operate as instruments of Kremlin domestic and foreign policy. As such, they must pay the price for Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine and elsewhere.

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Berlin and Washington: The Political Battles That Could Decide Ukraine’s Fate

Ukraine’s fate may depend upon the battle within Germany’s ruling coalition over its policy towards Putin’s Russia. In the United States, the new Republican Senate will battle the Obama administration over weapons for Ukraine. Powerful factions in each country believe that concessions to Putin will bring a diplomatic solution. They ignore the adage: Peace through strength. Putin will agree to a real diplomatic solution only if Ukraine is able to defend itself. In the meantime, Ukraine is justified in concluding that it has been abandoned by those allies whose battle it is fighting without their assistance.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

At G20, Will Sanctions Or Casualties Deter Another Russian Invasion?

Contrary to Vladimir Putin’s assurances that “Ukraine is not our business,” Russia has suffered fifteen to twenty thousand dead and wounded on the Ukrainian field of battle, in addition to  declining living standards, economic isolation, and the expensive subsidization of occupied  Ukrainian territories. As the Kremlin continues to send  troops and weapons into Ukraine for its Novorossiya ventures, Putin should receive a frosty reception at the G20 meetings in Australia. But the costs of lost lives and treasure may deter him more than threats of increased sanctions and other punitive measure by a united front of Western leaders.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kremlin Uses Semantics To Walk Back Recognition of Donbass Elections Before The G20 Summit

The Kremlin is attempting a shopworn gambit to avoid further sanctions and shield Putin from world opprobrium at the G20 conference. Putin declares he does not recognize the illegitimate Donetsk and Luhansk elections. Instead he respects them. What difference do such semantics make, and does he take the West for fools? What greater recognition is there than to supply troops, tanks, missiles, and other heavy weaponry to those so-called republics whose elections you “respect?”

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why The Republican Mid-Term Victory Can Change The Balance In The Russian-Ukraine War

Barack Obama can scarcely veto a bi-partisan pro-Ukraine bill. He can no longer refuse to supply weapons to Ukraine because of his “long-standing concern that arming Ukraine would provoke Moscow into a further escalation that could drag Washington into a proxy war.”  The Kremlin has nothing more to escalate other than an outright attack on Kiev or a NATO country.

An Obama rejection of Ukraine military aid puts him at odds with powerful Congressional foreign policy voices (Ben Nelson, Sander Levin, Jim Gerlach, Gerland Connoly, Robert Menendez, John McCain, Bob Corker, to name just a few), with American foreign-policy (Mike McFaul, Strobe Talbot, to name just two) and military (Generals Martin Dempsey, Philip Breedlove et al.) military establishment figures. A growing consensus agree with former CIA chief and defense secretary, Leon  Panetta, that we must give Ukraine “the means to defend itself.” Likely presidential candidate and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, also sees the anti-Putin writing on the political wall. She has described Putin as “a mortal threat to sovereign European countries and U.S. interests,” to whom we “have to stand up” and “encircle” and choke off his ability to be so aggressive.”

go to Forbes,com

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sham Election Proves Putin Does Not Want A Peaceful Solution In Ukraine

Sunday’s sham elections in Donetsk and Luhansk prove Putin does not want a peaceful solution for the Ukraine conflict. Rather, his goal is the defeat and humiliation of NATO and the U.S. Putin is prepared to risk new sanctions and world opprobrium, and a clear understanding of his intentions may wake up NATO and the U.S. Minsk peace process is dead, and Europe and the United States understand they must either fight back or capitulate.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

A Bad Gas Deal For Ukraine As Europe Looks After Its Own Interests

The BBC headline tells it all: Russia-Ukraine gas deal secures EU winter supply (via Ukraine). European officials also confirmed the message of the headline. Commission President Manuel Barroso triumphantly declared: “There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter,” and European Union energy chief, Guenther Oettinger, announced he was confident that Ukraine would be able to afford to pay for the gas it needed (Says who?). Where are Ukraine’s expressions of gratitude and relief? They are lacking for good reason.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ukraine Crosses Putin By Electing A Pro-Western, Non-Radical Parliament That Reflects The New Ukraine

Poroshenko got what he needed. His own bloc and that of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk received 44 percent of the votes. A surprisingly strong showing of the “Self Help” party headed by the pro-Western mayor of Lviv gives him a coalition of 57 percent of the votes – a governing majority in which all members share common policies towards the West and Russia.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stress Tests Conclude That Europe Can Call Putin's Energy Bluff And Win

The European Commission study suggests that Europe is in a position to call Mr. Putin’s bluff. Europe can ignore his threats to cut off countries, like Slovakia, Norway or Poland, which supply Ukraine with gas. Market forces will transfer gas to those most dependent on Russian gas under the market solution.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Letter That Obama Should Write To Putin On Ukraine--But Won't

President Obama’s failed reset and his weak response to Putin’s War Against Ukraine stuck him with a reputation of indecisiveness and naïveté, reinforced by cumulating foreign policy failures. Obama, unlike Angela Merkel, members of Congress of both parties, and, lately, Hillary Clinton, still appears to be late to understand Putin’s global threat and his goal to destroy NATO. With one intense bill-of-particulars against Putin, Obama coukd outline his plan to stop Putin’s expansionism before it is too late. Such a move could save the last two years of Obama’s presidency. Here is what Obama should say.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Putin’s Reaction To Sanctions Is Destroying The Economy And China Won’t Help

Things are not going well for Vladimir Putin. The price of oil and the ruble continue to fall. Top Russian officials admit that the economy is in big trouble, despite Putin’s denials. Likely presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has declared that Putin must be contained. Putin’s counter sanctions are making things worse. The most ominous sign, however, is that Putin is weakening the foundations on which his power is based. He is cutting off foreign investment by bailing out his friends, and he is breaking the social compact on which his KGB-Mafia state is founded.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Republican Senate Can Help Send U.S. Weapons to Ukraine

Congress, unlike the president, has understood and been shamed by the lament in Proroshenko’s speech to Congress: “One cannot win a war with blankets – or peace.”  Maybe our so-called dysfunctional Congress can actually do something. Poroshenko understood that Congress was Ukraine’s only chance. He thanked the U.S. Congress for its support of Ukraine, notably leaving out the president.

go to forbes,com

Monday, October 6, 2014

Putin's and Xi Jinping's fear of Maidan -- fear of the "rule of the corner."

Hong Kong will answer the question: Can a dictatorship operate according to a strict rule of law? These examples show the answer is no. Under a dictatorship, the dictator is the law. Hence there can be no rule of law. It is as simple as that.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

As Russia Intimidates Europe, Obama Fiddles On Energy Policy

Vladimir Putin watches the evening news from his Sochi villa: “In an election move, Barack Obama approved the Keystone pipeline and opened offshore public land to drilling. Mexico’s Pemex announced a 50 percent increase in production. Five LNG tankers docked at European ports today, including Riga and Klaipeda. Poland and Lithuania announced significant discoveries of shale gas. In a surprise move, Germany renounced its Energiewende and reopened three nuclear power plants. Russia’s Gazprom competed today with five other suppliers at the annual auction of natural gas contracts in Rotterdam.”

Vladimir Putin awakes in a cold sweat. His gymnast girl friend assures him: Vova: It was just a bad dream. Vova  retorts in a foul mood: No, it

is not a dream. They can crush me if they get their act together.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ukraine is fighting on its own with little or no help from its feckless allies. Those who stand next in the line of victims understand the urgency of the situation. Others do not, if Obama’s remark at a recent fund raiser is accurate: “Geopolitically…what happens in Ukraine does not pose a threat to us.” That remark may go down in history along with Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” statement.

go to Forbes,com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

As The Sanctions' Noose Tightens, China Grabs Russian Energy Assets At Bargain Prices

When I wrote on August 28 that “Western sanctions are strangling the Russian economy,” I had second thoughts about using such strong language. Events of the last two weeks convince me, however, that I understated the case, especially with the introduction of new sanctions on Friday. The Russian economy faces a severe liquidity crisis, collapsing investment and a severe recession. Putin has jeopardized his “safe” European gas market and faces legal problems that he cannot avoid. His sanctions against the West have simply made his own people worse off.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Obama Takes On ISIS With Brave Words, Pinprick Strikes, And Phantom Allies

Obama’s war time strategies in Iraq and Syria and Ukraine have certain similarities. In both cases, it is others who are to do the heavy lifting. In Ukraine, the young Ukrainian forces must fight on their own with no real assistance from Europe and the United States, both of whom might have to sacrifice a tenth of one percent of their GDPs from their sanctions support. In Iraq and now Syria, at least there are a few Americans on the ground and there is American air power, but it is others who are to die – presumably in large numbers.

go to Forbes,com

Thursday, September 4, 2014

If The Wales NATO Summit Is Business-As-Usual, Putin Will Threaten NATO Itself

Germany may one day have to run to the Kremlin to get permission for major policies. As Germany goes, so goes Europe. This dark prospect may seem laughable to many, but we would have laughed a year ago at the prospect of the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Just a month ago we would have scoffed at a Russian invasion of Ukraine, myself included. We live and learn, I hope.
A word of advice to Ukraine. Do not panic. This is a roller-coaster ride. You are going downhill right now, but there will be an uphill phase later. One thing is sure. Putin will accept nothing other than complete capitulation and he will not stop with that.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Putin Demands Federalization For Ukraine, But Declares It Off-Limits For Siberia

When it comes to Russian regions, “what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.” If Putin had to share power with the regions, as most other countries do, he would lack the political and economic means to resurrect by force the Russian empire of which he dreams. If you do not believe me, I’ll show you below how Putin’s greatest nightmare—a federalized Siberia—would destroy his ambitions.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Ebenezer Vlad" and the Empty Aid Trucks

What was supposed to be a PR bonanza is ending up as another black eye for Vladimir Putin, the heralded chess master of world politics. 

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eyeball To Eyeball: Russian 'Humanitarian' Convoy Approached Unguarded Border With Ukrainian Tanks Moving To Meet Them

Mr. Putin’s humanitarian convoy is the equivalent of an arsonist who asks to be let through police lines carrying a bucket of water to douse the fire he set.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Was Aeroflot 2074 The Real Target Of The Russian Missile? Who Is "Upstairs"?

I have no special knowledge of whether or not Russia intended to shoot down Aeroflot 2074. I, like most others, hope it is not true. If true, we live in a highly dangerous world, in which a head of state, unconstrained by moral norms, will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. If true, Vladimir Putin, the unchallenged leader of an energy-rich, nuclear power, is willing to sacrifice 180 innocent Russian men, women, and children to further his own political goals. The order for such a plot would have to come from Putin’s desk. No rogue FSB-GRU operation of this magnitude is thinkable in Putin’s so-called power vertical.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Myth That Putin Saved the Russian Economy: The truth Is That He has Run It into the Ground

Although economists agree on little, they do know that there is not one modern example of a successful economy cut off from globalization. The old import-substitution models are thoroughly discredited. The success stories of the past half century – China, the Four Tigers, India, and Brazil – have succeeded by opening, not closing their economies. Well, Putin has assured his people that Russia is unique, but I doubt it can grow on its own reverting to old Soviet planned economy tricks. One of Russia’s most prominent economists put it this way: “It is a pure fantasy that something good can come of isolation.” Other sensible Russian economists, including the former dean of Russia’s top economics school, are already calculating the immense damage that sanctions will impose.

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Putin's Food Wars

The Western news media is already tallying the billions of dollars of costs French farmers and American cattle raisers face. No one thinks of tallying the costs to the Russian consumers, which are probably well in excess of the losses of the food producers from the unfriendly nations.
The Russian Internet is not stupid. It is full of pictures of empty grocery stores from Soviet times.

go to Ricochet

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview With Alexandra Dukhanina: Two Years House Arrest For Throwing a Rock in a Moscow Demonstration

Remember the then 18 year-old Moscow University student, Aleksandra Dukhanina, sentenced to two years strict house arrest for throwing a rock at heavily armed and padded riot police in the May 2012 protests against Vladimir Putin.
Aleksanra Dukhanina at her trial

Alexandra Dukhina arrested for throwing a rock

She has completed her sentence and talks of her two years of isolation in an interview entitled "What's It Like to Spend Two Years Under House arrest" that has been translated into English.

Aleksandra Dukhanina now

Here is the interview in full:

Aleksandra Dukhanina, a Russian activist and former student at Moscow State University, was just 18 years old when she was arrested at the Bolotnaya Square protests on May 6, 2012. Since then, she's faced the possibility of jail time and served two years under house arrest.
Now free, and happily married, she talks to Mumin Shakirov of RFE/RL's Russian Service about what it means to spend two years as a prisoner inside your own home -- a fate that other activists, including Aleksei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, are currently experiencing.
RFE/RL: What are the most important things you've learned as a result of your association with the Bolotnaya case?
Aleksandra Dukhanina: The only personal learning experience that I can share is how not to die of boredom during two years under house arrest. That's perhaps the only expertise I can offer to help those in similar situations.
Improvisation is the best way. I kept busy in a lot of different ways -- I can't even remember all of them now. But the main things were reading, drawing, exercising, and just talking with relatives. There are a lot of things to do, as long as you have an imagination.
I also learned patience. Probably there's a better word for it. I learned to be a little cautious. You learn that through dealing with the police. In terms of what everyday things I learned, it's hard to say.
RFE/RL: You've mastered a kind of diplomatic way of speaking. Or, rather, a legalistic way.
Dukhanina: Well, diplomatic is putting it a little too strong. Legalistic, probably, yes.
RFE/RL: Did you find yourself filled with a sense of hatred while you were imprisoned?
Dukhanina: Toward people. Not everyone. Toward particular people, I won't say who. Toward objects, no. My refrigerator, my desk, my linen closet -- those things never irritated me. [Laughs]
RFE/RL: When you're under house arrest, do you get annoyed just looking out the window, knowing all those things are off-limits?
Dukhanina: On the contrary, it's very nice that you at least know it's there.
RFE/RL: Even in prison, people are allowed to go outdoors every day. Even if it's just for an hour a day, a prisoner can breathe fresh air. Under house arrest you can't go out at all. How did you deal with that? Did you at least have a balcony?
Dukhanina: In terms of prison, it's really hard to call that the "outdoors." It's just a cement block, there's not even any dirt or grass. I doubt it helps anyone there. As for me, I didn't really have any way of solving that problem, I just set up my balcony in a very cozy way and sat there all day with a book.
RFE/RL: Can you talk about how people under house arrest come to resent their own homes, even when it might have once been a place they dreamed about living their whole lives? Do you begin to feel like your house is ruined for you, that living there is unbearable?
Dukhanina: No, that's absolutely not the case. For one thing, my house was just a place where I was waiting to go to prison, not prison itself. That's something else.
To the contrary, I fell in love with my home even more, because it was my fortress. I was very connected to it and ultimately it was very difficult for me to leave this fortress, to leave this comfort zone. It's nice at home, it's hardly something that could be ruined. Even if they tried, we'd just work until it was cozy and peaceful again.
RFE/RL: Did you have access to a computer?
Dukhanina: No, I was forbidden from using the Internet, as well as the telephone or any means of communication. The only people I was allowed to spend time with were relatives who are registered at this apartment.
RFE/RL: In two years, how many times did you go outside?
Dukhanina: Only when they took me to court. All of my movements were tracked by an electronic bracelet that I wore on my leg. At the courts I was always accompanied by someone from the Federal Penitentiary Service [FPS].
RFE/RL: Were you followed? Was a camera installed behind your door?
Dukhanina: At first, yes, I was paranoid that there were cameras and microphones behind every corner, that someone was following me. But gradually I realized that wasn't the case, that they didn't need that at all.
The bracelet had a device with two blinking lights that work only when I was located within a certain radius of 200 meters. If I left the apartment, for example, the lights would stop working. If they were blinking, I was within range. All very simple. There was no GPS necessary.
RFE/RL: Did the bracelet need to be recharged on a regular basis?
Dukhanina: No, not so often. It was wireless. There were maybe three or four glitches in the entire two years. They would just give me a new device, which, by the way, works even when you're taking a hot shower. As long as the bracelet fit you, everything was fine. It was worse when they gave you the wrong size and it was too tight or just uncomfortable. Then you had to figure out a way to deal with it.
RFE/RL: Could you go out to the entryway and walk around the house?

Dukhanina: Of course I didn't try that, but in theory it was possible, if that would have been within the radius. In those two years I didn't have a single violation; I was determined to create a relationship where they trusted me. The FPS was supervising me while I was under a suspended sentence, roughly speaking. And I managed to do it.
The fact that I didn't have a single violation worked for me at court. If a person in pretrial detention behaves perfectly, with no violations -- like Yaroslav Belousov, for example [who was sentenced to two years and six months in a minimum security prison] -- it's even noted in the sentence that detention officials vouched for his character. It was the same with me and the FPS.
RFE/RL: How did you manage to get married under house arrest?
Dukhanina: It's very simple. My beloved [Artyom Naumov] presented me with a ring through my aunt, it was just like "Romeo and Juliet." [Laughs] It's not that complicated. There's red tape, you need to receive permission from a judge, but it's really no more complicated than getting married in jail. We went to ZAGS, the marriage registry office; they gave me permission to go there by myself, unaccompanied. I was even allowed to stay out for two hours afterward.
RFE/RL: And then you and your husband parted ways and went to your own apartments.
Dukhanina: Yes. He wasn't registered to my apartment, so he wasn't allowed to be there with me.
RFE/RL: Did you meet him before you were put under house arrest?
Dukhanina: Of course.
RFE/RL: So your romance had started earlier.
Dukhanina: In principle, yes.
RFE/RL: So you only saw him once in two years -- at your wedding?
Dukhanina: Yes. Well, and then during my court hearings. But now I live with him, because immediately after the wedding we filed a petition saying that I could be registered at his house, since he was my official husband. And I had the right to do that and to move to his place. It worked the second time we filed.
RFE/RL: So how much time did you spend alone? And how much time were you under arrest together with your husband?
Dukhanina: A year and a year. One year alone, one with my husband. More or less.
RFE/RL: Those are two totally different lives!
Dukhanina: Of course. [Laughs] Though I can't say, despite what many people think, that being married somehow drastically changes a person. No, for me it was just a stamp in my passport that has some legal significance. We were sure that I would be sent to a penal colony, so for us, at least, it wasn't the stamp that was going to change something about our relationship.
RFE/RL: Don't be shy. When you have a husband, at least you have someone to take care of you.
Dukhanina: Well, I don't know.... In principle, I take care of myself. It's just having a person you love nearby. It's pleasant, it's good, it's warm. It's support, in any case. Just as I am his support.
RFE/RL: Did you fight?
Dukhanina: That happens to everyone....
RFE/RL: Even under house arrest?
Dukhanina: About little things, of course. That's true for everyone, I think.
RFE/RL: Your husband could leave, slam the door, and go out. You couldn't do that.
Dukhanina: Yes, sometimes I felt like it. But we didn't do that. [Laughs]
RFE/RL: Can you say that love is stronger when it's put under such extreme circumstances?
Dukhanina: I think so. I can't speak for everyone, but in my case, it's true. We've become so connected and intertwined that I simply think we don't have the right to abandon each other. It really brought us close, it strengthened us, tied our destinies together with a strong knot.
RFE/RL: Did you learn how to cook during your two years under house arrest?
Dukhanina: Why am I the one who should cook? [Laughs]
RFE/RL: When you lived alone, you probably cooked.
Dukhanina: I've always cooked. In principle, my family has never had specific gender roles, where the wife cooks while the husband is out tinkering in the garage.
RFE/RL: Did anyone -- lawyers, friends, supporters -- advise you to get pregnant after you got married as a way of shortening your sentence or avoiding prison altogether?
Dukhanina: Yes, and it was the most idiotic advice. It was extremely irritating. I was categorically against it, because it's an extremely unconscionable and selfish thing to do. We have millions of young mothers and pregnant women serving in prisons, and to hope for luck and leniency, sitting and wondering as you put an innocent life at risk -- it's just disgusting.
RFE/RL: Why did you go out on Bolotnaya Square?
Dukhanina: I went out because I wanted to support people who are small in number. To show that we exist.
RFE/RL: And why specifically were you placed under house arrest?
Dukhanina: It was Articles 318 and 212 [of the Russian Criminal Code], participation in mass unrest and use of violence against a public official. Article 212 -- the participation in mass unrest -- wasn't tied to anything specific, it's just a classic of the genre.
With Article 318, they accused me of throwing seven things, two of which hit a victim. The first time it was in the stomach, but he didn't feel anything because he was wearing a bulletproof vest. The second thing hit him in the shoulder, but he wasn't sure that it was me because he didn't see whether it was actually me who threw something. When he turned around he said I allegedly looked like I had just thrown something, so he assumed that it was me.
But the most interesting and annoying aspect of this story is that out of seven throws they have seven videos that allegedly prove my guilt. If you're attentive and logical, you can see that these are seven identical videos, filmed by different people from different angles, that are being treated as seven different incidents. I'm the only one who made it through with a suspended sentence -- three years and three months for both articles.
RFE/RL: You've been a civil activist, a defender of the Tsagov forest, a member of the Occupy Abai camp, where you ran a vegetarian cafeteria, an activist with the "Food not Bombs" movement. Are you going to continue to participate in activism, or is this chapter of your life over?
Dukhanina: I've already answered similar questions many times. Yes, I'll continue after my suspended sentence is served, as long as they don't create any other obstacles or inconveniences to threaten my freedom or the freedom of my loved ones.
RFE/RL: Do you have any plans to leave Russia once your suspended sentence is over?
Dukhanina: Forever? I don't know. On the one hand, yes, I'd like to. But on the other hand, I'd like to stay, because I understand that in any country there are things that are wrong, things that are bad.
RFE/RL: Do you have a profession in mind?
Dukhanina: I really want to become a dog trainer. Maybe it'll work out that I can become a veterinarian, but that's in the distant future. Who knows...
RFE/RL: So we can conclude that you love animals more than people?
Dukhanina: That's for sure! [Laughs] Much more, yes. 

For the July 2012 account, go to What Paul Gregory Is Writing About July 2012

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is Putin's Non-Denial An Admission That Russia Shot Down MH17?

Anti-corruption blogger and Putin opponent, Alexei Navalny, offers the following advice to Putin in a piece in Echo Moskvy:
“It seems to me it would be simpler if the separatists and Russia say the following: The aircraft was destroyed by armed forces operating in east Ukraine. No one planned this action. This was a tragic error. Such things happen but that does not make things easier. We share the grief and we are shamed. We will pay compensation to the victims’ families.”
Navalny offers this “simple solution” knowing Putin cannot take it. It would cost Putin his domestic support and humble him in the eyes of the world. It is also against his KGB training, which teaches always deny, deny, no matter what.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Times Report Casts Shame on Obama's Handling of Ukraine Crisis

The New York Times is noted for its access to the inner sanctums of the Obama administration. Four of its top reporters collaborated on its Pentagon Plan Would Help Ukraine Target Rebel Missiles, which elaborates the administration’s thinking on Ukraine. To the shame of many Americans, the Times report confirms that Vladimir Putin has sized up Barack Obama correctly. He does not understand Putin. He responds to strength with weakness.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Putin Responsible For MH17? Five Questions For Investigators On Russian Culpability

The Kremlin churning out MH17 conspiracy theories reminds me of a shyster lawyer defending a guilty murderer by deliberately planting seeds of doubt in the minds of jurors. The goal of Putin’s propaganda is the same: to suggest a one percent probability that someone other than Kremlin terrorists brought down the plane.
No matter how much smoke Kremlin PR specialists blow, they cannot deny the following facts concerning the MH17 crash at around 4:30 pm on July 17 over the east Ukrainian town of Snizhne:

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Monday, July 21, 2014

If Putin 'Mans Up,' His Regime Will Crumble

Feinstein may not understand that Putin’s “manning up” could spell the end of his regime and he can’t admit the truth. Instead, Putin will ramp up his appeals for peace (with the very thugs who shot down MH17, it is now clear), pledge full cooperation with international investigations, and then stonewall like crazy. Meanwhile, he will not let Ukraine go. As a Russian analyst notes Putin has “never admitted a single error” and “never made a single step backward” in his 15 year rule.  His KGB training requires him to double down, fight his way out, turn up the pressure, never admit, never retreat. He will continue his support of his proxies in east Ukraine and hope that the West’s attention span will be short.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why Putin Can Never Tell The Truth on MH17

If Putin were to admit the truth, it would confirm that Russia has supplied fanatical and in some cases possibly insane rebel leaders with advanced military equipment contrary to his assertions that Russia has nothing to do with the Ukraine conflict, other than wanting peace. Such an admission expands the Ukrainian conflict to the world stage. It is the first case of rebels, supplied by a major power with surface-to-air missiles, bringing down a passenger plane. A nightmare shared by the whole world has come true. Which rebel group in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, or the Gaza strip will be next? In this context, Putin is just as dangerous as al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, and the rest of this crowd.

go to Forbes,com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Smoking Guns: Russian Separatists Shot Down Malaysian Flight MH17

With respect to Putin, there are two interpretations: One is that he controls Russia almost single handedly with his noted vertical of power. If so, he must be held personally responsible for what his agents did. The second interpretation is that Russia is falling apart as mercenaries move themselves and heavy military equipment at will within Russia and across its borders.
Neither places Mr. Putin in an exactly favorable light. Let’s see how he squirms out of this.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Russian Escalation Imminent As Merkel Plays The Peace Card For Putin

Ukraine understands that Putin used the last cease fire to re-equip and fortify pro-Russian separatists. With Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation tightening the noose in Donetsk and Luhansk, by-stander Europe has no business pushing for a deal with“peace maker” Putin that he will never honor. For Putin, a cease fire is just a tactical trick to gain advantage.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Putin's Failing Ukraine Scorecard

My scorecard for the half year of hostilities shows that Putin is losing not only the battle for Ukraine but also his drive for the restoration of Russian empire. Unless the West pulls Putin’s chestnuts from the fire with itsincessant demands for a cease fire, the Ukrainian theater will go from bad to worse for Putin.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Russian Separatists Trick Journalists And Mothers Into The Line Of Fire

Putin’s propagandists must still be celebrating the Channel One reporter’s death. Their only regret is that one of the mothers was not the victim.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Putin Plays Peacemaker, But His Act Is Getting Old

Do not get excited about prospects for peace. What I wrote two weeks ago still holds. Russia and Ukraine remain miles apart and no peace is in sight. If anything, Poroshenko’s 14 point plan and Putin’s between-the-lines response leave the two sides, if anything, further apart.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Five Compelling Reasons For The U.S. To Offer Lethal Military Assistance to Ukraine

President Obama can hold off on biting sanctions on the grounds that he must persuade a reluctant Europe to come on board. He has no such excuse with respect to military assistance. Obama today can order the lethal military equipment delivered that will make the difference between defeat and victory. And it will be brave Ukrainians, not Americans, who spill their blood for a cause that the world community has judged as just. How about some leadership rather than following from behind?

go to Forbes,com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Miles Apart And No Peace In Sight

Putin and Poroshenko start from negotiating positions that are miles apart. As a successful businessman operating in a tough business climate, Poroshenko is accustomed to tough negotiations with obstinate partners. Whether he can stand up to Putin remains to be seen. Much depends on the cards he holds. If the West gives him the means for Ukraine to defend itself, he might just pull it off. Without that, he stands little chance.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Russian Terrorist Executes Two Hostages. YouTube has taken it down as disgusting (But the world should see)

The separatist military commander of the east Ukraine town of Gorlivka is shown, on a new video of his own making, executing two civilian hostages. Russian citizen Igor Bezler — nomme de guerre “Bes” or “Demon” — is shown on the video threatening that he will shoot eight captured military hostages unless the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchinov, frees a captured Russian agent.
Before giving the order to fire, “Demon” complains that he has waited three days for the hostage exchange and cannot wait any longer. Therefore, Citizens Budnik and Vasiushenko will be executed, he declares. “Demon” then gives the order to fire as he walks away casually. The video records the shots being fired and shows the victims falling to the floor. [Note: the link points to a story about the video that includes an embed of the video itself. It's no longer viewable, however, as it's been removed from YouTube].

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

As Russia Tramples Red Lines, Obama Clings To Fig Leaf

The United States and the European Union grasp for legalistic fig leaves to avoid enacting further sanctions. After all, we lack conclusive proof. Putin has plausible deniability. We should not jump to conclusions. It would be rude not to take the word of a head of state like Mr. Putin. Let’s threaten tough sanctions to make ourselves look good but let’s be sure not to use them. We are in sad shape indeed when it is up to Prince Charles (in his off-the-cuff characterization of Putin as Hitler) to blurt out the truth.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Putin Blinked. Nonsense From Thomas Friedman

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman writes that Putin has decided to behave himself due to the interrelatedness of the world economy and the threat of sanctions. His implication is that Obama's "slow and steady" worked. I wish Mr. Friedman would check his facts first. He claims Putin decided to "allow" the Ukrainian election, that he has withdrawn troops, and that he has accepted the results of the Ukraine election.  All false.

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My Rewrite Of the President's West Point Speech: Comments on Ukraine

The Ukrainian people have held their country together in the face of foreign aggression. It is they who fight on the front lines on our behalf and on behalf of international order, with minimal help from international institutions and the United States – without us firing a shot.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Russian TV Announces Neo Nazi Candidate in the Lead

Russian state TV reported (after the polls closed) that controversial far-right politician Dmytro Yarosh was leading Ukraine's May 25 presidential election; even though by all indications he wasn't even close. Displaying figures purportedly from Ukraine's official election website, Channel One announced that Right Sector leader Yarosh was comfortably ahead in the race, with more than 37 percent of the vote. The report was backed by a screen shot of the Ukraine electoral commission web site showing Yarosh’s substantial lead. The announcer acknowledged that the figures were radically different from exit poll data by four pollsters, which showed Poroshenko with an absolute majority.

Perhaps the strangest thing is how such obviously questionable figures could be broadcast on Russian national television. Yarosh ended up with one percent of the vote.

Ukrainian media reported shortly before the vote that the Central Election Commission website had been targeted by a cyber attack. Interfax news agency quoted Ukrainian officials as saying on May 26 the information about Yarosh's alleged lead "was prepared in advance" by hackers, and was "stored on Russian Internet resources." 

The Channel 1 report was wishful thinking. Yarosh has been vilified as the crazed Neo Nazi who controls the Kiev government. The Putin propagandists had hoped for a strong showing to prove Kiev’s radicalization. No such luck.

Maybe Channel 1 had no been clued in to the cyber attack.

A lesson for those who listen to Russian TV news: Don’t trust what you hear.

For the whole story, see Radio Liberty, Russian TV Announces Right Sector Leader Led Ukraine Polls, May 26.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Poroshenko Elected Ukraine President; Putin Dodges Promise To 'Respect' Results

Vladimir Putin "respects" (uvazhaet) both the illegal Donbass referendum of May 11 and the Ukraine presidential election of May 25. Which does he "respect" more. It now seems Putin can "respect" without accepting (prinimat') election results. Another sanction dodge by the master dodger, Vladimir Putin..

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why There Will Be Few Votes on May 25 in Donetsk

Summary of conversation with a colleague in Donetsk, living in the city center:

  1. Armed men closed down the district electoral commission. They destroyed voter rolls and voting equipment, burned the ballots, and locked the doors, warning polling officials not to return.
  2. Separatist forces are threatening to shoot anyone who shows up to vote.
  3. Even if someone wanted to vote, the polling stations are locked.
  4. Armed separatists are appearing at colleges and universities informing male students that they have been drafted and must report for duty.
  5. The police do nothing to prevent these activities. Looting and theft are growing day by day. Shots can be heard throughout the city day and night.
  6. There may be some polling stations open in the extreme west of Donetsk oblast. My colleague would be surprised if the total turnout is 10 percent.
  7. The self-appointed leaders of the self-declared Peoples republic of Donetsk will claim that the people of Donetsk have deliberately boycotted the presidential election, although they did vote in large numbers in the independence referendum
  8. Advice to the government in Kiev: These terrorists can only be removed by force. The sooner and more decisively the better.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Six Reasons Why Putin Seems To Have Lost In Eastern Ukraine

There is a growing consensus that Vladimir Putin has abandoned his campaign to take control of east Ukraine. The fog of war, such as the killing of nearly 20 Ukrainian soldiers yesterday, is obscuring the distinct turn in the tide. Putin’s goal has changed from dismantling Ukraine as a united state to destabilizing Sunday’s presidential election in the east. Ukraine has a chance for a third lease on life. It cannot afford to blow this chance by returning to its old ways of governing. Ukraine’s third lease on life will likely be its last if wasted.
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An Overlooked Damning UN Report on Human Rights Violations in Ukraine

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued its report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on May 15, 2014. Written in the bland blame-no-particular-side style of the United Nations, it nevertheless reads as an indictment of Russia’s “illegal” annexation of Crimea, of the human rights abuses ongoing in Crimea, and of the illegal destabilization activities in east Ukraine supported by Russia.

The report recognizes that Ukraine has taken the steps called for by the Geneva Agreement of April 17 with respect to constitutional changes, decentralization, and amnesties.

The report comes down hard on armed groups that illegally seize and occupy public and administrative buildings and proclaim “self declared” regions and commit human rights abuses, such as abductions, harassment, unlawful detentions, in particular of journalists.

The report notes warns: “In eastern Ukraine, freedom of expression is under particular attack through the harassment of, and threats to, journalists and media outlets. The increasing prevalence of hate speech is further fuelling tensions. Both these factors are deepening divisions between communities and exacerbating the crisis. All parties must take immediate steps to avoid incitement and radicalization.” (I don’t know of threats to journalists, kidnappings, and harassment of journalists by the Ukrainian side, so the report must refer to Russia’s agents).

The UN report also calls for investigations of the tragic loss of life in Odessa (which Ukraine has already agreed to) and the loss of life during the Maidan demonstrations.

The report calls for transparent, fair, and democratic presidential election on May 25 but reports arbitrary restrictions, conflicts and incidents, which impacts and curtails their ability to campaign with voters.

Although a clear indictment of Putin’s Russia and its proxies, skeptics can argue that no one pays particular attention to the pronouncements of the United Nations. I would beg to differ. The United Nations is an important instrument of Putin’s power and authority. He uses his veto power on the Security Council to veto important votes that he deems are contrary to his interests (such as the condemnation of the Crimean annexation).

Whereas we might not take the United Nations that seriously, Putin must.  It is a shame that this report has received so little attention in the media.

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Unauthenticated Document Planning the Retreat of Russian Special Forces from East Ukraine

We have reason to believe that the self-appointed leaders of the self-proclaimed Peoples Republic of Donetsk (PRD) understood quite well the message of the May 11 referendum. Less than 12 hours after the polls closed, the PRD military commander, Colonel Strelkov alias Strelok (real name Girkin), purportedly issued alarmed instructions to a restive, unsupportive east Ukraine, beset by lawlessness and chaos, from which the Russian “volunteers” might have to flee.

The purported order came into the hands of MediaUkraine. A copy is attached. We do not know if it is authentic, but the words and message are consistent with past pronouncements by Strelkov.

The order purported from Strelkov (as translated by me despite its rather bad grammar and twisted syntax) reads as follows:

Military Order to the Self Defense Forces of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, Slavyansk 07:00 12.5.2014

The events from 09.05 to 11.05.2014 and the results of the referendum conducted on the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts reflect only the partial achievement of established goals. The work is made more complex by a series of issues, based on the fact of cases of uncontrolled marauding in Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, the unauthorized use of firearms, military supplies, and materials, the low level of support for actions for the self defense of the local population.

Based on the above, I ORDER:        

1. The distribution of weapons, military equipment, financial resources, narcotics, and alcohol [my itals] will be handled exclusively by the forces of self defense (without the participation even of loyal local activists).

2. Actions aimed at the destabilization of the situation must be clearly coordinated with the staff.  Eliminate acts of uncontrolled looting and marauding.

3. Actions of intimidation (torture, demonstrative punishment of Ukrainian activists including those armed) can be carried out only with the agreement of representatives of Russian mass media [my itals]

4. Increase the intensity of  actions to discredit Ukrainian authority and attribute responsibility for the terrorization of the population of  Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts by ultranationalist pro-Ukrainian organizations “Right Sector" and ”Svoboda” to the Ukrainian government.

5. Prepare and present before 09:00 15.05.14 to the staff plans for the departure of forces for the Russian Ukrainian border [my itals]. The departure will be prepared and guaranteed by the special services of the Russian Federation.

Signed by the Coordinator of forces of self defense of the Donetsk Peoples Republic.
I.I. Strelkov (Strelok)

The Strelkov document was  published on the internet by Press Ukraini. It is going viral on the Russian-language internet.  

If authentic, Strelkov’s May 12 order points to a collapse of law and order in the Slavyansk region, low levels of public support for the self-proclaimed separatist leadership, an unwillingness to join self-defense forces, and an admission that locals are being supplied alcohol and narcotics to encourage anti-Ukraine activism. Indeed, Ukrainian forces have reported drunken oppositionists, and mobs of demonstrators appear either drunk or high.

Point 3 of Strelkov’s order is either garbled or an instance of unexpected candor. It orders that torture or demonstrative (pokazatel’ny) punishment of pro-Ukrainians, armed or otherwise, must be cleared with the Russian (Rossiisky) mass media (SMI). Point 3, therefore suggests coordination between the pro-Russian leadership and Russia’s media to insure either proper staging of news, to prevent unwanted images of Russian abuses from being captured by the wrong cameras, and to lay responsibility for acts of terror at the feet of pro-Ukrainian extremists.

The Strelkov document is consistent with the growing consensus that Putin is abandoning his campaign to take over significant parts of east Ukraine.

The game appears to be over. I would not be surprised if Putin uses Strelkov and his unsavory gang as scapegoats, claiming they were out of his control all the time.