This morning I woke up to watching live stream of hundreds of Auschwitz survivors celebrating the 70 year anniversary of the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Army.
I was raised in a country where bullet holes and mortar scars still mar the government buildings and apartment buildings. Where the Soviet constructed apartments in my neighborhood were built to provide an aerial view of the shape of the Hammer and Sickle. Where monuments marking mass graves of Jewish bodies stood not two miles from my home. Where during both World Wars, famine struck so harshly that even up until 2005, movies showing cannibalism were banned from theaters for fear of emotionally disturbing the older generation. Communism and Fascism have been ravaging the Ukrainian people since before most of us were ever born.
All we really so naive as to believe all that history is behind us when it is still so tangible? I have marched hand in hand with a Russian boy named Oleshka in Anti-Fascist protests in front of Ukraine’s Parliament building. A Russian boy who was fleeing conscription by the Russian army by sleeping in stairwells and on kitchen floors so they couldn’t track him. A Russian/Ukrainian boy who wore tight pants and rastafarian hats and loved all colors and nationalities with his whole heart. Who was beaten black and blue and called gayboy and niggerlover for simply walking down the street, on a weekly basis. The skinheads were making death threats to us daily. This boy was my brother and now I cannot find him.
The Fascists and Communists of our world are still very much alive and real. The Hitlers and Mussolinis and Stalins and Lenins may have been buried, but those men led armies of men who were brainwashed. Those men had sons who raised grandsons with the same hatred. The hatred and greed and disregard for human rights takes on new faces and names as time moves on. In our cozy modernly convenient bubble we have forgotten that there is a whole world out there of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters taking up arms to defend their rights. Russian boys are being sent home in unmarked boxes to their mothers with no explanation as to where they were or why. Russian Chechens are marching in the streets in SUPPORT of the terrorist hits in Paris, while in Paris women protest Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Terrorism isn’t restricted to places with sand or skyscrapers. Terrorism is described as “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Nowhere in that definition do I see “Exclusively sports turbans and full beards.”
This is not just a Ukrainian war. It will spread. All war does. Tyrants still exist.
Ukraine has been at war for over a year. The ethnic cleansing of the native Tatars in Crimea has already subtly begun and these families are fleeing by the thousands. Their men are joining the Ukrainian army to fight for their homes and businesses. History has begun to repeat itself. Open your eyes. Watch something besides the local news, read something besides the funny papers. Inconvenience yourself, I dare you.
Sarah Smith grew up in Ukraine where she moved with her parents who were serving as missionaries in 1992. She writes: “I was 4 and immediately immersed in the language and people. We moved back to the States when i was 18 and I have spent every day missing my Ukrainian home. I identify myself as American Ukrainian because that is where my heart will always call home. My happiest moments were spent on Khreschatyk and Maidan. The Ukrainian people are my people and always will be.”
The new year has brought more misery to Ukraine. Separatist fighters, supported by Russian troops, have launched attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk. Diplomatic efforts have made no progress toward a settlement — or even toward firming up a cease-fire that has all but collapsed. The West, including the United States, needs to get serious about assisting Ukraine if it does not wish to see the situation deteriorate further. That means committing real money now to aid Ukraine’s defense.
Following the intervention by regular Russian army units in eastern Ukraine in August, a cease-fire was hammered out in Minsk on Sept. 5. Observance of the cease-fire terms has been piecemeal at best, with regular shelling across the line of contact.
After a December lull, fighting picked up again this month. The leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic recently said he will take all of Donetsk. The next day, separatists, possibly augmented by Russian troops, rocketed the city of Mariupol, killing some 30 civilians.
Moscow has done nothing to promote a peaceful settlement. It did not withdraw its weapons, nor did it secure the Ukraine-Russia border, as it agreed to do in Minsk. Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to deny that his forces fight in Ukraine — even as Russian television shows soldiers in action wearing Russian insignia.
By all appearances, the Kremlin seeks to keep the conflict simmering to pressure and destabilize the Ukrainian government.
For the West, this issue goes beyond Ukraine. Russia has torn up the rule book that maintained peace, stability and security in Europe for almost 70 years, and it has now used force to change borders. If the West does not push back, it could face challenges, even armed challenges, from Russia elsewhere that will require far more costly responses.
To date, the United States and European Union have responded to Russia’s aggression with economic sanctions. These have inflicted serious damage on the Russian economy but have not yet achieved their political goal: turning Moscow toward a genuine negotiated settlement.
The United States has also provided military assistance to Kiev. But it amounts thus far to only $120 million and has been limited to nonlethal aid.
Washington needs to do more to get Russia to change course. That means giving the Ukrainian military sufficient means to make further aggression so costly that Putin and the Russian army are deterred from escalating the fight.
Eight former U.S. national security practitioners — the two of us, plus former U.S. representative to NATO Ivo Daalder, former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, former deputy undersecretary of defense Jan Lodal, former NATO European commander James Stavridis and former U.S. European Command deputy commander Charles Wald — have come together to issue the following recommendations for immediate action. (They will be released Monday in a report called “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do.”)
First, the White House and Congress must commit serious money to Ukraine’s defense: $1 billion in military assistance this fiscal year, followed by an additional $1 billion each in fiscal year 2016 and 2017. Congress should not only authorize assistance, as it did in the Ukraine Freedom Support Act last year, but also appropriate funds.
Second, the U.S. government should alter its policy and begin providing lethal assistance to Ukraine. To be sure, most of the above funds would go to nonlethal assistance. For example, the Ukrainian army desperately needs counter-battery radars to pinpoint the source of enemy rocket and artillery fire, which cause about 70 percent of Ukrainian casualties.
But the Ukrainians also need some defensive arms, particularly light anti-armor weapons. The antitank missiles in the Ukrainian inventory are more than 20 years old, and a large proportion of them do not work. U.S. anti-armor weapons could fill a crucial gap.
Third, the U.S. government should approach other NATO member states about assisting Ukraine, particularly those countries that operate former Soviet equipment and weapons systems compatible with Ukraine’s hardware. If the United States moves to provide lethal assistance, we believe that some other NATO countries will do so as well.
Time is urgent. Spring arrives in three months in eastern Ukraine, and fighting could then achieve new intensity. We should help the Ukrainians deter that.
ST. PETERSBURG — Russian army conscripts are being tricked or pressured into signing up to become contract soldiers, human rights groups say — and their relatives fear that once they turn professional, they run the risk of being secretly dispatched to fight in eastern Ukraine.
Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, an NGO that battles to uphold the rights of Russian military personnel and their relatives, said it had received a number of complaints regarding a military unit in Kamenka, a village in the Vyborg district of the Leningrad region, around 100 kilometers northwest of St. Petersburg. Soldiers’ relatives called the organization’s hotline, submitted complaints by e-mail and also came to its offices to file written reports, the NGO said. No state agency has either confirmed or denied the reported information, and the Western Military District’s press service declined to comment immediately on the matter when called Thursday.
“When you see the news [about the conflict in eastern Ukraine] these days, it breaks your heart,” said Irina, who asked to be identified only by her first name to protect her identity and that of her nephew, who is serving in Kamenka and who she said refused to sign a contract when ordered to earlier this month.
“They were assembled together in a room and told to sign contracts,” Irina told The Moscow Times by phone on Tuesday.
“No physical force was used against them, of course, but there was psychological pressure. […] They were told, ‘If you sign the contract, you’ll be paid more.’ Obviously, they were not told it had anything to do with events in Ukraine.”
Another soldier’s father, who asked to be referred to only by his first name, Alexei, said his son, who was called up in June to perform his military service in Kamenka, signed up for the professional army in December.
“No explanation was given; he was told ‘You must sign it,'” Alexei told The Moscow Times by phone on Tuesday.
“He was on assignment in the Tver region for three months, and when they came back, that same day or the next, their squadron was assembled in a room, handed out contracts and told to sign them. They were promised that the contracts would only be valid for the same duration as their national service.”
According to Alexei, no pressure was exerted on the soldiers in his son’s case. “He just bought it, [they were obedient] like a flock of sheep, and signed everything.”
A written report from one of the parents of a soldier named Vladimir serving in Kamenka and submitted to the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg — which was added to the “foreign agent” list of NGOs by the Justice Ministry on Aug. 28 — says that he was “forced to sign a contract by means of threats and insults.”
Several e-mails from soldiers’ relatives sent to Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg and seen by The Moscow Times this week, with the senders’ names redacted, describe similar situations in Kamenka.
One says that a conscript who had signed an army contract found that his military ID contained no record that he was now serving on contract, while he and his fellow soldiers who had signed the contracts were told they would be sent on Feb. 9 for military exercises for three months to the Rostov region, which borders Ukraine.
Numerous reports have claimed that Russian soldiers have been sent across the border into eastern Ukraine to bolster the efforts of pro-Russian separatists fighting government troops there. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting that any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are there as volunteers.
Another e-mail alleges that an officer blackmailed soldiers into signing contracts.
“We were told that we would be labeled traitors of the motherland and shot if war breaks out. That they would alter our military records so that we would never be able to get a job,” the letter said. Another message, apparently concerning the same person, said that 10 other soldiers had signed contracts following the threats.
According to Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg spokesperson Alexander Peredruk, the shortest term for a service contract under Russian legislation is two years, so the soldiers were apparently deceived when they were told that they would not have to serve as professional soldiers any longer than they would have as draftees. Compulsory military service in Russia lasts for one year.
Aside from pressure, soldiers are also lured into signing contracts by promises of higher wages: at least 20,000 rubles ($295) a month for contract soldiers compared with 2,000 rubles a month for conscripts, Peredruk said. Other benefits include bonuses, accommodation in a hostel rather than in barracks, and days off over the weekend, he said.
Peredruk said the soldiers become easier to manipulate once they sign contracts, even if their status does not change much from a legal perspective.
“No one is told that they will go to Ukraine. Officially they go [south] for military exercises, and then it depends,” he said.
“For instance, if we recall the story of [20-year-old contract soldier] Anton Tumanov, he originally went [to the Rostov region] for military exercises and somehow ended up on the territory of Ukraine, where he was killed [in August]. … Officially, Russia is not involved in any combat action [in Ukraine], and if anybody goes there, they supposedly do so voluntarily; no one has the right to order them there by law, regardless of whether they are conscripts or contract soldiers.”
Raising the Alarm
Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy for the liberal Yabloko party in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, wrote a formal letter on Jan. 23 to the Western Military District’s military prosecutor Artur Yegiyev.
In his letter, Vishnevsky wrote that a number of parents of soldiers believe that their sons may be sent to Ukraine after being transferred to the 138th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. Vishnevsky asked Yegiyev to look into the reports and to take measures to prevent soldiers from being pressured into signing contracts, as well as from being sent to participate in combat action in Ukraine.
“Everything seems to indicate that what is happening in Kamenka is not an isolated case,” Vishnevsky told The Moscow Times on Tuesday.
“I received similar reports from the north [of Russia]. We are talking about people being forced to sign contracts, about soldiers being dispatched to Ukraine, and moreover we are talking about how they [senior military personnel] then get sent coffins from there and write some totally crazy causes of death on the death certificates, such as a training grenade exploding in their hands.”
Vishnevsky added, however, that he had yet to obtain any documented proof to back up the claims made in the phone calls and conversations.
“It’s obvious that people won’t give their names because they are scared, but I am waiting for at least some concrete facts, names and numbers of military units, so that I can file a formal appeal,” he said.
In Pechenga, a village 170 kilometers west of Murmansk in Russia’s extreme northwest, about 70 soldiers were reportedly coerced in November into signing contracts, the Murmansk region’s Soldiers’ Mothers legal counsel, Irina Paikachyova, told The Moscow Times by phone on Wednesday.
According to Paikachyova, the soldiers were promised that they would be free to terminate their contracts without any penalty after serving for three months, and were then sent “to the south,” after which they were allowed to go home for a brief unofficial vacation before returning to their unit in late January.
However, she said, the contracts have not been terminated, and the soldiers reportedly continued to live and serve in the same conditions as conscripts — with the exception that for the two or three months that they were away from their barracks, they allegedly received 25,000 rubles a month.
Paikachyova said that their assignment could have included combat action in eastern Ukraine.
“This is how they put it, word for word: ‘We were ***there***, too,'” said Paikachyova.
Fear of Reprisals
Lyudmila Ivakhnina of the human rights advocacy organization Memorial in Moscow said that pressuring conscripts to sign professional contracts appears to be a “massive” practice in Russia. Speaking to The Moscow Times by phone Thursday, Ivakhnina said that few human rights groups are prepared to publish information about the issue out of fear of reprisals being taken against the soldiers whose relatives turn to them.
In addition, human rights groups themselves do not feel safe, Ivakhnina said, citing pressure on activists who reported the deaths of Russian soldiers allegedly killed in Ukraine.
Lyudmila Bogatenkova, head of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee in Stavropol, was detained in October and charged with embezzlement after passing on information about nine contract soldiers reportedly killed in Ukraine to the Presidential Human Rights Council. And Pskov-based Yabloko lawmaker Lev Shlosberg was attacked and badly beaten in August following his report about a secret funeral for soldiers from the 76th Guards Air Assault Division at a cemetery near Pskov.
As a result, of five organizations that have reported — via human rights advocacy channels — cases of conscripts being forced to sign contracts, three asked not to be named in the media, Ivakhnina said.
However, when soldiers are persistent and not afraid, they have a chance of winning, even if only one case of legal action being taken over forced contract signing is known in Russia so far, she said.
A soldier from Perm — referred to in a report by the regional ombudsman as Private K. for his own safety — was pressured to sign a contract after completing his compulsory military service in August. Instead, he left his military unit based in Tula and reported the situation to Perm ombudsman Tatyana Margolina and received legal assistance in filing a lawsuit against his unit. In October, he won his case when the Tula Garrison Military Court ruled that the actions of his commanders had been illegal.
MINSK — Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says his country “does not rule out” quitting the Eurasian Economic Union (EES), an instrument for Russian influence in the former Soviet Union, if agreements in it are not kept.
Speaking at an annual news conference on January 29, Lukashenka said “trade wars” within the bloc are unacceptable and pointed at an ongoing standoff between Moscow and Minsk over food imports and exports.
Lukashenka emphasized that Belarus and fellow EES member Kazakhstan have always pushed to preserve the “purely economic” status of the grouping, seemingly suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use it as a political lever.
“We, and especially Kazakhstan, have always ruled out any political nature for the union,” adding that the two nations had rejected the idea of a common visa regime for that reason.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine has caused concern among its neighbors.
Ukraine’s military has lost control of the Donetsk airport, and the rebels have launched another offensive. Fortune could yet smile upon Kiev, but as long as Russia is determined not to let the separatists fail, Ukraine’s efforts likely will be for naught.
As I pointed out on Forbes.com, “Only a negotiated settlement, no matter how unsatisfying, offers a possible resolution of the conflict. The alternative may be the collapse of the Ukrainian state and long-term confrontation between the West and Russia.”
Ukraine’s most fervent advocates assume anyone not ready to commit self-immolation on Kiev’s behalf must be a Russian agent. However, there are numerous good reasons for Washington to avoid the fight.
1) Russia isn’t Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.
While the Obama administration has resisted proposals for military confrontation with Moscow, a gaggle of ivory tower warriors has pushed to arm Ukraine, bring Kiev into NATO and station U.S. men and planes in Ukraine. These steps could lead to war.
Americans have come to expect easy victories. However, Russia would be no pushover. In particular, Moscow has a full range of nuclear weapons, which it could use to respond to allied conventional superiority.
2) Moscow has more at stake than the West in Ukraine.
Ukraine matters far more to Moscow than to Washington. Thus, the former will devote far greater resources and take far greater risks than the allies will. The Putin government already has accepted financial losses, economic isolation, human casualties and political hostility.
3) Alliances should enhance U.S. security, not provide foreign charity.
It’s impossible to blame Ukraine for wanting the West to protect it. But it makes no sense for the allies to do so. Adding Ukraine to NATO would dramatically degrade U.S. security by transforming a minor conflict irrelevant to Washington into a military dispute between America and Russia.
4) Security guarantees and alliance commitments often spread rather than deter conflict.
NATO advocates presume that membership would dissuade Russia from taking military action. Alas, deterrence often fails. In World War I alliances become transmission belts of war.
5) U.S. foreign policy should be based on the interest of America, not other nations.
The greatest distortion to U.S. foreign policy may come from ethnic lobbying. There’s nothing wrong with having affection for one’s ancestral homeland, like Ukraine. But U.S. foreign policy should be designed to benefit America, not other nations.
Some advocates for Kiev argue that Ukraine deserves support since France helped the American colonists win their independence. But France intervened in the American Revolution because Paris believed it was in France’s interest to weaken Britain. Going to war with Moscow would offer Americans no similar benefit.
6) It’s Europe’s turn to act.
If Ukraine matters geopolitically, it is to Europe. But most NATO members continue to shrink their militaries. It is time Europe did the military heavy lifting.
7) A negotiated settlement is the only solution.
Unfortunately, weaker parties often must make accommodations. During the Cold War, Finland maintained its domestic liberties by not antagonizing the Soviet Union.
The world is similarly unfair to Ukraine today. Military victory is unlikely. Stalemate threatens Ukraine with economic crisis.
The allies hope that sanctions will force Russia to concede. But Vladimir Putin won’t retreat voluntarily.
Massive public discontent could spark a popular revolution. However, foreign penalties more often cause people to rally around their governments. As of last month, Putin’s popularity was at 85 percent.
Moreover, the prospect of Weimar Russia should cause Ukrainians and their friends in the West to be careful what they wish for. A Russia in crisis likely would not be democratic and docile.
Moscow could say no. If so, it is better to find out now than to do so only after suffering through an extended Cold War lite.
The Ukraine-Russia conflict is an unnecessary tragedy. Thankfully, the ongoing battle doesn’t much threaten America. However, the only ending in something other than disaster is likely to come through negotiation. Instead of acting as a belligerent party, Washington should focus on shaping a diplomatic solution.
This is my second attempt to post a post in English. And this is much more less of a humiliation than Europe just had. And again, this is translation. Aaaaand again this is about Ukraine.
There is a war in Ukraine.
Translation is from a tv show, the presenter of which is Mr. Edmundas Jakilaitis. I think he’s famous enough here in Lithuania. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that Europe is humiliated and I have repeated it for a fourth time.
Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, said that in his interview to Mr. Edmundas Jakilaitis. And professor is much more famous in Lithuania and even in the world. Check Wikipedia.
There is more things he told during this show:
[…]And West, sorry for that, would load their pants, would step in that load and would stay there unconcerned and shiny.[…]
[…]Humiliation which is accepted by West. They are treated as fools. Russia talks to them as to fools.[…]
[…]So if they do not even dare to respond to these escalations with bigger sanctions, than it’s more than capitulation. It’s suicide. It’s West’s suicide.[…]
[…]He suggest to let him poo on the table. People around are surprised: how’s that? We said, that you cannot poo on the table! And one, which did poo on the table, says: where’s evidence? Get your experts commission…[…]
English mine of not is very good still. But I did what I can. I think you must read it, must hear it.
I’ve translated whole interview for you and put it as captions:
If you do not have the time for videos – check the transcript below:
Good evening, this is “Dėmesio center” (“In the spot light”)
We’re going to discuss International situation after increased aggression against Ukraine.
What measures could stop Putin’s aggression?
That’s what we’re going to talk on “Dėmesio centre” with politician Vytautas Landsbergis.
Good evening, professor.
EU governments heads been instructed to discuss new possible measures against Russia on planned meeting this Thursday in Brussels after renewed violence in Eastern Ukraine.
Would prime ministers dare to suggest new sanctions? How do you think? What these could be in your opinion?
Firstly we must strike-out word “possible”. “We’re going to discuss new sanctions” – that would be clearer? Isn’t?
However there is no any clarity at all. They often say: “if russians…” – of course, they doesn’t say “russians” – they are polite. But in reality – it’s russians.
“If russians would continue their advance – then maybe, something, sometime we would do…”
But Russians advancing! All the time!
And they are very happy about the fact, that they could maybe… would possibly… do something.
It means that they are ok with the fact, that russians attack Ukraine. And russians are planning to continue their attacks.
They even told that they are going to occupy Mariupol (Ukrainian city) throught their puppets. They are even going to occupy Kyiv… They are definitely going to say that.
And West, sorry for that, would load their pants, would step in that load and would stay there unconcerned and shiny.
Some of our sources says, that they wait for Germany word. France suggests to increase sanctions only for separatists (no sanctions for russians). There is even an optimistic scenario, which says, that they would extend the list of persons and extend the list of so called “sectorial sanctions”. That would ban Russia’s economy sectors from any foreign.
And one more thing: everyone is waiting what Greece would do. United and solid agreement between states is needed and situation is very unclear…
And for the Greece. Let them go. And suddenly there is no any problem. Let them go to Putin’s Luhandonia, or let them institute some kind of Atentonia…
But that’s just some kind of statements…
An attitude, which considers: to do or not to do something – is so much pathetic.
That had to be considered long time ago: “what to do? Is this enough?”
And if situation becomes worse. And it is being made worse (regardless to lies of Lavrov or others). Situation being made worse and it is done by Russia, which attacked Ukraine. Ukraine, which i associated member of European Union.
European Union should have a responsibility. Other vice we may say: “Why we took such country? Do you see how much that trouble is?
And Putin continue with his hypocrisy (through its Peskov): “Ukrainians got into trouble”.
But maybe European Union got into trouble? It’s been told similarly: “this is their fault. They’re seduced our girl. And now girl suffers.” Let them say: “We didn’t seduce your girl. She goes here by herself. She has the right. And you – you’re beating her! We’re going to protect her now”. Would we protect her or not? – They didn’t tell that yet. And that’s all. Crussians. (Mr. Landsbergis said “trusai” not “cowards”. This is made-up word, which consists of “Russians” and “cowards”: “Coward-russians” – being afraid of russians maybe)
It is publicly considered a possibility to ban Russia from interbanking “SWIFT” system. That would mean total Russia’s finance system isolation. They won’t manage to create new system from a scrach by themselves or with China maybe. That would cease Russia’s international trade.
But no one dares.
What should Kremlin do so West would dare to present long-term or maybe short-term sanctions, which would be definitely effective? How do you think?
What I should suggest to Kremlin? Or should I suggest to West: “Wait, while Kremlin would do something… Relax and sit on your potty, while they do not do that”?
That’s not an attitude, which is required. One newspaper wrote correctly: “Ukraine defending herself from Moscow invasion”. That’s how it is: they are defending themselves from Moscow’s from Russia’s invasion.
Another newspaper: “where separatists would stop?”. You may think that some separatists suddenly appeared just now. They’re going somewhere… No one knows where they would stop…
Putin would tell them where to stop. You need to ask Putin: “Putin, where are you going to? So we could prepare ourselves: we would let you take this and that… Why torture people? You torture them sadistically. No one knows when or where you would stop…”
Western democracy looks very pathetic. It could be told very simple: “Russia should stop it’s war against Ukraine”. That would be only the words. But these would be said.
Russia should stop. If russia won’t stop its actions… Of course, Lavrov would continue to lie: “here’s not we; we are not there…” – put this into your poo box.
Let’s talk facts: you’re in the war. Thousands of your invasion troops, your “Grads” (rocked propelled explosions), your heavy war machinery beats and kills people!
There is even aviation already.
This is out of common sense… Some high representative may say: “they went into the marked and both these weapons, there’s everything you can buy there…”. Who are they? Who gave them money. This is Lie. Abasement… Humiliation… Humiliation which is accepted by West. They are treated as fools. Russia talks to them as to fools. And they are nodding their heads and even consider: they’re accepting their terminology – some kind of “separatists”. What kind of separatists we’re talking about? How they separated themselves? Because Janukovich fled? There were no any separatists before.
Everyone sat at their corners and everyone was happy. But then, suddenly other people changed government’s direction and they can even cease corruption! – This is really bad. There is no any clear statement. There is no any clear position. War is war. False war – “hybrid war” and some other strange words… This is high grade falsification! This is liar’s war. They don’t just make ware – they are even lying, that they’re at war. This is a part of the same war – the same aggression.
And then, after you state, that Russia is at war against Ukraine, should you agree on something? Or you just capitulate?
And if West capitulates by not even responding to Kremlin escalation of provocations… And provocations being escalated. Provocateurs enjoy very much the sight of another side trembling in the face of these provocations escalation. So if they do not even dare to respond to these escalations with bigger sanctions, than it’s more than capitulation. It’s suicide. It’s West’s suicide.
But West has measures. The same, already mentioned ban from “SWIFT” system. Biggest Russian bankers announced yesterday, that if that would happen, then they would expel America’s ambassador from Moscow at the same second and so on…
Oh, that so scary! Mr. Jakilaitis, its terrifying! Haven’t you already started to tremble?
No, I hadn’t…
Why? But that’s so scary…
So how would you explain this unwillingness to take effective measures? There must be effective measures?
And I say: they are “crussians” (made-up word from “cowards” and “russian”). Their are afraid. And it is clear to me that all these Lavrov, Pescov and their chief’s statements has one and exactly the same content and it is repeated all the time. Words are different, but content is the same: you are fools and cowards.
And they are ok with that. They listen to the legends and jokes… But all these things has the same meaning: “you are fools and cowards”.
War in Ukraine became less popular and receives less of the media’s attention. How do you think – why? Say: one Japan’s citizen assassination, which was executed by Islamic state “ISIS”, received much more world’s media’s attention than 30 Ukrainian citizens murders in Mariupol. How do you think why?
This is the great hypocrisy: there could be a million people, who could go and say “I’m Charlie”… Where’s this millions of people, which could come and say: “I’m kindergarten of Mariupol”? No. Let them beat this kindergarten. Because there is uncle Putin behind this. So we bend. And that’s it. This is the great hypocrisy. And… Weakness of spirit, or absence of backbone.
If we’d talk about the situation in the same Donbas: head of organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have stated yesterday, that mission work is impossible, as it is blocked. There is no any reliable information up there. Except NATO or Ukrainian inteligence, but this is not public information. World’s society doesn’t know what’s happening there essentially …
OK. But did World’s society knew about Stalin’s camps? About the shootings of demonstrations of workers? There is still the same since Stalin in Cherkessk. And you cannot get any reliable information. Do you think there is no such? Shouldn’t we react somehow to that? Russia continues to isolate itself. You won’t have any information. You’d see satellite, ruined, beaten cities and that would be your information.
You can listen to Kiselov or Peskov if your understanding is so primitive… But there is another thing which is even worse than lack of information: take disinformation as an information. Blind kitten struggle to open their eyes. I’ve made a presumption some when somewhere in Kaunas: “maybe these kittens opened their eyes, but then, suddenly they got scared, they closed their eyes and pretended that these didn’t opened it at all – it’s much more comfortable that way. Oh yes, it is.
There was an discussion yesterday in Lithuania regarding EU ambassador to Russia, regarding Mr. Vygaudas Ushatskas “basketball diplomacy”: it seems like he did played a basketball with Putin’s administration head Ivanov. How would you evaluate this situation? This activity?
I’d like to evaluate that as EU attitude: if EU wants to respond to Russia’s attacks at all with something… War attacks by using some kind of separatists with masks, or without masks, green or orange – doesn’t matter. Russia attacks. Attacks associated member of EU. How EU responds?
Ambassador can be withdrawn from this basketball match. They could show at least some sign of any kind…
What this ambassador does there if this behavior with the Europe is accepted?
However, maybe it’s worth to have that kind of person, who can get or deliver information.
But who knows… Firstly information, which we get from liars is not an information anymore.
And lie is not an opinion.
He should go to Ukraine and get that information up there. Of course he’s not allowed to do so. He’s representative for Russia. But he can come to the border. Or even look around and take care of some cemetery, where thousands of Russia’s troops are buried, which were broth there… Why Putin put them there?
There is a way to do some actions and movements. But we’re talking here not very seriously. We talk paradoxes.
But seriously: there should be some actions. Diplomacy, which is right now is actions diplomacy. Putin told us long time ago: they’re talking and I’m doing.
And that continues. They continue to talk. They did something a little and get scared of that – haven’t we done to much?
You know, a hen, which running from a rooster and bucucking loudly. One asks: “why you’re so scared?”. “I’m afraid if I’m not running to fast” – she responds.
U.S. position could be more intense. Isn’t?
What you mean “could”?
Republicans have a majority in congress now. And their position is much stronger than democrats.
And yes. Republicans decided that president may provide some aid by providing some weapons. Or something similar…
President doesn’t do that.
Yes. And that’s all. Republicans sits tight blocked. Same as Security Council is blocked by Churkin.
I don’t want to align U.S. president with Churkin, but situation is very similar.
Would you forecast long and lasting war in current situation? As many observers does?
The war would last as long as Ukraine would hold on. Their determination – especially volunteers, which scared Putin much: he’s even started to hallucinate America’s legions. He’s hallucinating. Ms. Merkel told us long time ago, that he’s not adequate.
Who knows what he can do on his trips, scared of America’s legions, which are beside mausoleum in Moscow. What can you say. There’s another hallucinations of some legions, who eat rice form their rice dish.
There is one choice: to respect or not to respect yourself. Putin suggest not to. He suggest to let him poo on the table. People around are surprised: how’s that? We said, that you cannot poo on the table! And one, which did poo on the table, says: where’s evidence? Get your experts commission…
I wrote a joke once. About snow: “is it really snowing? Get your commission. We think that it doesn’t snow at all”. We get exactly the same signals from Moscow: there is nothing, it’s not us… They get their weapons in weapon marked. What do you want from us?
And they are listening. They do not understand, that their sayings mean the same thing: you’re fools and cowards.
Against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, 85 percent of Russians said they still support President Vladimir Putin’s actions at the helm of Russia, the Levada Center independent pollster revealed Wednesday.
This figure has remained steady since November after peaking in October with a five-year high of 88 percent.
Only 15 percent of Russians said they do not support Putin as Russia’s president, according to the study.
In addition, 55 percent of respondents said that domestic affairs are moving in the right direction, while 27 percent said the opposite.
The poll also shed light into respondents views on the trustworthiness of Russia’s leaders.
Asked which official they believed to be most trustworthy among Russia’s ruling elite, 62 percent named Putin, 27 percent named Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, 18 percent chose Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and 12 percent chose Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has received widespread criticism for his republic’s human rights record, scored 5 percent of the vote.
Asked which politicians were the least trustworthy in Russia, a surprising number of opposition activists who are not in fact politicians were chosen. While a few professional politicians, such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Boris Nemtsov, ranked among the least trustworthy, many respondents named activists such as socialite-turned-journalist Ksenia Sobchak and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The poll was conducted among 1,600 people with the margin of error not exceeding 3.4 percent.
The Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny recently said that were it not for Western economic sanctions, Russian tanks would already have swept west to the port city of Odessa, occupying a huge swath of Southern Ukraine and cutting off the rest of the country from the Black Sea. He’s probably right, yet it won’t count for much if Ukraine’s government doesn’t take advantage of the respite sanctions have provided by changing course.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has in recent weeks rekindled the war in Eastern Ukraine, and it’s important to understand the role that Ukrainian actions have played in this. It’s equally important to recognize that sanctions can’t defeat Putin; they can only make him more cautious and open to a settlement.
It was just last September that Putin initiated the Minsk cease-fire agreement, halting his tanks after they had reversed many of the gains Ukraine’s military had made against Eastern separatists over the summer. And it’s a fair assumption that Europe’s threat to impose heavier economic sanctions influenced his decision to stop his advance.
Putin had demonstrated that Ukraine’s military simply isn’t capable of standing up to Russian regulars, and that his tanks could indeed roll on to Odessa if he chose to give the order. In return for stopping, though, he expected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to sue for a political settlement of the conflict, beyond the localized Minsk cease-fire.
Instead, Poroshenko had Ukraine’s parliament rescind a law that had committed the country to military neutrality and announced its formal intention to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This was a serious misstep that made a return to war all but inevitable. If one thing is clear in this contest, it is that Putin will not — and politically cannot — make peace without some form of public assurance that Ukraine won’t join NATO.
Another step Ukraine took after the Minsk deal was to build a defensive line around separatist territory. This it had to do. The city of Mariupol, the first stop on any Russian road to Odessa and Crimea, had been left defenseless before last summer’s Russian assault, and the Ukrainian government had a duty to remedy that. Nevertheless, the place where Ukraine’s military chose to dig in said a lot about whether its goal was purely to defend itself, or also to prepare to retake rebel-held areas by force. The decision to hold on to Donetsk airport at any cost, despite having agreed at Minsk that this would fall on the rebel side of the cease-fire line, suggested the latter.
Next, Ukraine trumpeted its efforts to resupply its forces with new weaponry from NATO members, including the U.S., which sent radar systems for guiding responsive fire at enemy artillery positions. This set the clock running for Putin to begin an assault before Ukraine’s military could be rearmed and retrained.
So it was that, as early as October, Russian armor was heading back into Ukraine. The rebels announced an offensive to take Mariupol and other towns, and it looked as if the war would start again. Collapsing oil prices intervened, and by November the front was relatively quiet again.
Yet this was unsustainable. Putin had still not blocked Ukraine from turning West. What’s more, he looked weak. And to make matters worse on that front, U.S. President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, portrayed him as defeated:
Mr. Putin’s aggression, it was suggested, was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
As fantasies go, this was right up there with George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” boast after the initial invasion of Iraq. Putin hadn’t given up. And if Obama had the first inkling of Putin’s character, he would understand that the best way to push him to attack is to boast of beating him.
So Ukraine and its partners lost an opportunity this winter, even if it’s impossible to know whether Putin would himself have been willing to make the compromises needed for a settlement. It’s also hard to know how far Putin will let his tanks go this time. If he believes there will be no more sanctions, or decides it’s worth weathering them, Russian forces could take Mariupol, build a land corridor to Crimea or make the final push to Odessa.
Alternatively, he might merely help the rebels take the key positions — such as the Donetsk airport, the Debaltseve rail junction and the Luhansk power station — which they need to make their territory survivable, and then give Poroshenko another chance to sue for peace.
This is Putin’s war. He contrived it when his ally Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power in Ukraine, and he largely controls it. Yet so long as the U.S. and NATO aren’t willing to fight Russia over Ukraine (and they shouldn’t be), they should help Poroshenko understand that this conflict can end only with a settlement that involves politically painful Ukrainian concessions.
Such was the terrible squeeze that Georgia existed in for nearly two decades. Once Russia had secured control over separatist territories in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it could demand a political settlement on its terms. When Georgia refused and tried to resolve the problem militarily, it was crushed. (NATO did not come to the rescue.)
It is understandable that Ukraine doesn’t want a super-sized Abkhazia or South Ossetia in Eastern Ukraine, but it is also too late to stop Russia from creating one. The longer Poroshenko pretends to his people that Ukraine can seize Donestsk and Luhansk back by force, the bigger Ukraine’s Abkhazia will become and the more lives, sovereignty and wealth Ukraine will lose.
U.S. missile defense “cannot stop” Russia’s nuclear weapons, a top minister said, in an apparent reversal of Moscow’s policy of slamming U.S. anti-ballistic missile capability as a dire threat to Russian security.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s military-industrial complex, boasted of unspecified breakthroughs in Russian military technology during a talk show on the state-run Rossiya 1 television channel on Sunday night.
“We will not disclose those technical details to anybody,” Rogozin said, according to comments quoted by Interfax news agency. “But I can tell you one thing: The work conducted today on combat missile technologies … shows that neither the current, nor even the projected American missile defense system could stop or cast doubt on Russia’s strategic missile potential.”
U.S. missile defense has long been a sore point between Moscow and Washington. The United States in 2009 scrapped plans for missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech republic and switched focus to sea-based capability in part to mollify Russian opposition.
Russia had insisted that missile defense is a threat to its own security — a view aggressively advocated by Rogozin during his stint as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.-led NATO alliance from 2009 to 2011. The United States — and Western military analysts — maintained that the system is designed to protect it and its European allies from Iranian missiles, and that Russia was not a target.
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, asked at an April Senate hearing whether the United States should strengthen missile defenses in Europe in response to Russia having “invaded” the Ukrainian peninsula.
Even as Russian leaders proclaim the impossibility of isolating Russia and their own unwillingness to see it happen, Russia’s movement toward self-imposed isolation is gaining momentum, despite official statements to the contrary. As this country’s aggressive and omnipresent state propaganda turns increasingly anti-Western and anti-European, Russian officials and ordinary citizens have begun building a new Iron Curtain.
The media learned a few days ago that the Education and Science Ministry sent a letter to the rectors of a number of Russian universities in anticipation of a visit to those institutions by Vygaudas Usackas, the ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Russia.
What’s more, the letter advised rectors to take pre-emptive action by explaining the official position of the country’s leadership on foreign policy issues — especially with regard to Ukraine and Crimea — before the students meet with the ambassador.
The rectors were instructed to “neutralize the position of the EU” regarding the justification of imposing sanctions against Russia and regarding the ideas that Russia had “annexed” Crimea or had “violated the norms of international law.”
The letter describes the activities of the EU Delegation in Russia as primarily subversive in nature and in language typically used by the Federal Security Service, or FSB.
It analyzes the schedule of Usackas’ working trips to “European schools in the region” as part of program by the delegation to develop its educational program, and even asserts that the EU is working against Russia’s position by cooperating with “the segment of civil society under its sponsorship.”
The letter asserts that the European Union’s subversive activity primarily targets youth.
For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the federal center is issuing ideological guidance to universities, this time concerning highly controversial issues on which specialists normally hold diverse points of view.
Does this mean that all university scholars specializing in international affairs and international law must now toe the official line — which, by the way, only two years ago stated that Crimea unquestionably belonged to Ukraine, and now contends just the opposite?
The Education and Science Ministry’s letter reflects not only an attempt to dictate policy to universities — institutions that, by definition, should serve as centers of independent thinking and research — but also the leadership’s fear of alternative viewpoints and arguments that question their actions in any way.
It would seem that if Russia’s actions are absolutely right, if the majority of the population supports the authorities and if leaders control a powerful and sophisticated propaganda machine, then the EU ambassador and his infrequent visits to provincial universities can do little harm.
However, such anxiety reveals that leaders are actually in a very weak position and that their arguments concerning the Ukraine crisis are equally dubious.
As head of the EU Delegation in Russia, Usackas has already sent a letter to Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov requesting a meeting and an explanation of the ministry’s position concerning the delegation’s contacts with Russian universities.
His puzzlement is understandable. After all, with EU-Russian relations at a nadir, Usackas is trying hard to develop relations in those areas that are not subject to mutual constraints.
At the same time, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin warned that Russia might consider withdrawing from the Council of Europe if Russia’s parliamentary delegation is deprived again this year of the right to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
However, despite the serious and acute Ukraine crisis, nobody in the Council of Europe has raised the question of excluding Russia from the organization.
Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1998 and ratified more than 50 of its conventions, including the important Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Russia is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and more than 1,000 Russian citizens have managed to defend their rights in that court, thereby obtaining compensation from the state and exerting a humanizing influence on Russia’s courts, prisons and laws.
Naryshkin himself expressed the hope that Russia would not end up withdrawing from the Council of Europe.
However, that possibility cannot be ruled out, also in part because of the recent ECHR decision in favor of Yukos shareholders and the large number of cases the court has agreed to hear concerning demonstrators imprisoned for their participation in the Bolotnaya Ploshchad protests and the arrests of anti-corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny and his supporters.
If Moscow deepens its confrontation with the West and withdraws from the very European organizations that are pushing it toward making necessary institutional reforms, it will itself undermine this country’s fundamental and long-term national interests and close the road to what it needs most of all — modernization.
A Blog collecting news about Ukraine and Russia…..from Australia