Ukrainian Victory Day videos go viral

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A Ukrainian nongovernmental organization released two patriotic social advertisements dedicated to Victory Day on May 8. The videos gained popularity at once.

The videos come as a response to Russian propaganda that accuses Ukraine of sympathizing with Nazism and betraying the memory of World War II.

Ukrainian Victory Day social ad “Grandfather” with English subtitles.

In one of the videos, “Grandfather,” a young Ukrainian soldier, calls his veteran grandfather with congratulations on Victory Day. Afterwards, soldiers goes into battle. In the end, the slogan shows up: “We remember, we are proud, we will win.”

In the second video, “Grandmother,” a nurse from a war hospital, gives a similar call to her grandmother.

Ukrainian Victory Day social ad “Grandmother” with English subtitles.

Both videos are in Russian with Ukrainian subtitles. In the finale of the “Grandfather” video, the World War II veteran played by an actor says “Glory to Ukraine” to his grandson, also in Russian.

The ads were produced by Tabasco advertising company and Lime Lite Studio for the Information Resistance NGO. Directed by Israeli director Eli Sverdlov, the two videos gained 1 million views in just two days since the release date on April 27.

Actors Nina Antonova and Volodymyr Talashko played the roles of grandmother and grandfather. Both were are known for their roles in the Soviet war movies.

A filming crew of 60 people agreed to work for free to make the videos. The National Guard lent the vehicles, while the Kyiv-based Museum of Military History provided medals and costumes. Normally, a production of two such videos would cost more than $2 million, according to Volodymyr Yatsenko, the general producer of Lime Lite Studio.

Dmitry Tymchuk, lawmaker and coordinator of the Information Resistance NGO, explained that such videos needed to be created to have a response to Russian propaganda that has been denigrating Ukraine’s role in World War II.

“It is about the true attitude of the modern “banderivets” (followers of Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera), which we were named by Russian propaganda, to the memory of our grandfathers who stopped fascism,” Tymchuk said in a press release on April 27. “We appreciate their feat and will never forget it.”

How Putin’s ‘Kadyrov problem’ impacts Russia and Ukraine

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Vladimir Putin’s use of Ramzan Kadyrov brought a kind of stability in the North Caucasus – professions of loyalty by the latter to the former and an unprecedented grant of money and power by the former to the latter – but now the arrangement is breaking down both domestically and internationally; and the Kremlin leader faces some stark choices.

If Putin moves to sack Kadyrov, he may provoke another war in the North Caucasus, one that he may find it far harder to win this time around than last; but if he doesn’t, Putin will lose support from Kadyrov’s enemies in the Russian security services and suffer an even greater defeat as a result of his proposal that Kyiv adopt a Kadyrov approach to the Donbas.

In a commentary in “Kommersant,” journalist Maksim Shevchenko observes that Kadyrov’s directive to his forces that they should fire on anyone coming in from outside not only demonstrated that Chechnya is no longer really part of Russia but also prompted the Russian interior ministry to issue an unprecedented statement.

The Moscow ministry pointed out that calls like Kadyrov’s were impermissible. But it is perhaps understandable why Kadyrov issued one. Not only has there been the disagreement with Moscow over who was responsible for Boris Nemtsov’s murder, but there are indications that some Russian agencies have sent hit squads into Chechnya not to arrest Dadayev but to kill him.

Indeed, Chechnya’s ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev has pointed out that those going in to Chechnya have behaved in precisely that way. “The operation of the [Russian] siloviki reminds one more of the work of killers” than of law enforcement personnel. They wouldn’t have done this unless they were well paid or well-connected.

Someone is going to have to be replaced or back down, either the Russian interior ministry or the Chechen side. “It is evident,” Shevchenko said, “that the situation has taken a serious turn: Kadyrov is ready to retire.” Certainly, in the end, “either he will go or the leadership of the MVD.”

Which one leaves may depend entirely on Putin, but whatever he decides will have fateful consequences for his future.

Meanwhile, Yevgeny Kiselyov writes in a blog post for Ekho Moskvy, Putin’s “Kadyrov problem” has spread to Ukraine and affected how people there view their future, all in ways that are exactly the opposite of the ones Vladimir Putin has been hoping to promote.

“Only the blind,” he says “do not see that in real life, Chechnya has a level of independence which the late Dzhokhar Dudayev did not aspire to even in his most courageous dreams.” It has “in fact” stopped “living in the Russian legal space,” something that has consequences not only within Russia but internationally.

Putin and his foreign minister are now talking about the need to fight ISIS, Kiselyov says. “Mr. Putin, on the one hand, hypocritically expressing concern about this same ISIS; on the other hand, has cynically proposed to German Chancellor Merkel” that she suggest to Kyiv that it deal with the “DNR” and “LNR”as he has dealt with Chechnya.

That proposal was “not some kind of abstraction but a fully concrete attempt to impose on European leaders ‘the Chechen model’ of resolving the situation in Ukraine.” Although it was made last November, Kisilyov says he “fears that it has not been buried.” Kadyrov’s recent actions raise a dangerous specter.

“The Orthodox-Stalinist khalifate” which might arise if the Europeans were to try to force the Ukrainian government to accept it would create “in the center of Europe” a force that “in the short term would eclipse any ISIS.” But even before that, the very possibility is driving more and more Ukrainians to view NATO membership as their only real choice.

Polls show that support in Ukraine for that step is growing daily, Kiselyov says, adding that “of course, from a poll and even from a referendum” about this and “the real entrance of Ukraine” into the Western alliance “is a distance of enormous size. But the beginning has occurred,” and for this, the commentator says, “enormous thanks to Putin” and his man Kadyrov.

A Soldier Back To Civilian Life Will Ask Himself: “Why Should I Fight For Him?”

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Both the state and Ukrainian society should pay more attention to the psychological rehabilitation of ATO soldiers. Cristian Jereghi, documentary film director and also a volunteer soldier in “Kievan Rus” battalion spoke in an interview with Radio Liberty. Cristian Jereghi is the Creative Producer of the “ATO Area: Returning” documentary, which aims to draw attention to the issue of social support for soldiers.

– “ATO Area: Returning” – a project for which you and your team are collecting money. The goal – to make social videos which will turn public attention to the issue of psychological and social rehabilitation of military personnel after their return to civilian life. How do you plan to do this? How do you make your video or social commercial really draw attention to this problem? In general, this question of the psychological rehabilitation of fighters, how much public attention is there on it?

“Since the fighters returned from Afghanistan, the problem has actively been supressed.”

– For the past 20 years Ukraine has not taken part in any military conflicts; I think everybody knows that. Since 1989, the year in which fighters returned from Afghanistan, the problem has actively been suppressed. There weren’t sufficient full scale rehabilitation programs. To this day, among those who returned from Afghanistan – and we know this problem because we talked a lot with them on Maidan – some never returned to a normal life, so far. Something was never fully healed, there are some incidents and conflicts with society. It is a very important issue, in our opinion, based on the international experience of countries with troops involved in armed conflict, which helped soldiers return and adapt to civilian life.

In order to do this, we have formed a team which includes foreign experts – specialists from America and Europe – in terms of Analytics, Anthropology and Psychology etc., to break down the problem into components. We are trying to figure out how the message was sent by the media and how it was delivered to both the soldiers and society. We joined forces with an initiative launched by Tatyana Rychkova, Assistant to the Minister of Defense, one of our most famous volunteers and one of the first volunteers’ movement leaders in Ukraine since Maidan.

– According to your observations, which countries have coped successfully with this challenge? Generally, can this problem be solved successfully?

– The problem is that, for example, there is no institution in Ukraine today that would have a clear understanding of the fact that a great deal of military personnel does have the post-traumatic stress disorder (what is popularly called the “Afghan syndrome”). The statistics and analysis in this area are very fragmented.

There is no single governmental program. If you pay attention to the experience of countries which have already come across this, we can see, for example, that in America, Britain and France, state and private initiatives have always supported the media campaigns underlining the consequences.

“Post-traumatic disorder is only part of the problem. There are the civilians who somehow got trapped in a war zone or were there.”

This is an issue not only for fighters. Post-traumatic disorder is only part of the general problem. For example, apart from the soldiers who are fighting, there are the civilians who somehow got trapped in a war zone or were there. Over time, the integration into society of all these people is no longer as simple as it looks.

This matter brakes down in even more parts. These are the fragments of a single, complex issue for which, we believe, we are not ready. All of us went to war unprepared for it. Now, during the war in Eastern Ukraine, we are doing our very best to mitigate those effects that arise after the military conflict.

– What is the target group of the video? Would that include all citizens or just those who make decisions at state level? Obviously, this requires some governmental program or direct governmental intervention in the matter.

Ideally, there is no question that there should be a single state governmental program, rehabilitation centers for the psychological support of soldiers and their families as well as support programs there, in the combat areas. More specific, there should be direct instructions for the commanders on how to explain to the soldiers. Psychologists should be appointed to the units. This, again, is going on a circuit that exists and has been used successfully in the world.

“Abroad, after battle, they have something called , when either the commander or a psychologist examines the situation. Soldiers speak out and free themselves of it.”

In the Soviet Union there was no thought given to this. Treating the soldiers as expandable staff is the essence of the system which we are, in the long run, trying to eradicate. Abroad, for example, always after the battle there is such a thing as “debriefing”- when either the commander or a psychologist assigned to the unit examines the combat situation. The soldiers who took part in it, speak out and free themselves of it so that it doesn’t remain in the subconscious, as a horrible image. On the front you see terrible images. Somebody whom two minutes ago you embraced and talked to, who was for some time your best friend, you now see that person killed and another one, usually after shelling, suffering from terrible injuries. Doing things the right way, taking the correct preventive measures, it’s also part of the whole approach.

“The soldiers are reluctant, they say . They get angry when someone talks to them about this. .”

In response to your question, I will sum it up: first, such media programs (we are not talking about journalism, because not everyone who comes back from there is willing to read the news or watch TV) – it is important to persuade the military, each of those who went through it, that there is nothing wrong in reaching out for help. Because it’s a taboo in this society. You call on a physician for help when you are injured, don’t you? But, say, after stress, if you have some kind of a program in your head which doesn’t allow you to communicate with people – here this issue is taboo. The soldiers are reluctant, they say “why should I go?”. They get angry when someone talks to them about this. “How come that I am going to a psychologists or psychiatrists? I am not mentally ill”. This is a taboo, a social taboo.

– Generally, do soldiers, let’s take for example the “Kievan Rus” battalion, get psychological help? Do the volunteer psychologists come directly to the front line to talk to the soldiers?

– They are definitely coming. But, again, this is not a single program, but a volunteers’ initiative. For example, the commander of “Kievan Rus” battalion, captain Andriy Yanchenko – he is one of the few commanders who really cares about this problem and really knows the issues. And even so, without governmental support- which he, of course, as a commander does have- his hands were tied when it came to helping the soldiers: when the fighting would begin, he would be a little bit preoccupied, to say the least.

“Most of them, thanks to this assistance, still feel better than those who did not receive it. You can see it in their eyes.”

If you are asking for a specific example of a battalion, at the “Kievan Rus” we had volunteer psychologists who provided some moral and psychological support to the soldiers. I must say that now, meeting with the guys who have been out of the Debaltsevo surrounding, most of them, for example, thanks to this assistance, still feel better than those who did not receive it. You can see it in their eyes. They are not closed up, they continue communicating, they don’t drown their grief in alcohol and, generally, are more adapted. They did not go through the stage of demoralization; now they are ready to return to the front – with only a small proportion of preventive measures being taken by the battalion commander and the psychologists who were at that time on the front with the soldiers.

– More on the current issues of social campaigns. For example, Veteran Vision Project, which is a private initiative. In the US, student Devin Mitchell travels the country and takes photographs of soldiers who have returned from the front. One of the problems highlighted by his photographs is a suicidal tendency amongst the veterans. Should a social campaign be that shocking in order to reach its goal?

– There are different ways in which to awaken consciousness in people in society. To generate a response, to raise this issue in the media sphere, make people talk about it. Yes, this is one of the ways, to make some shocking campaign. But, then again, you should take into account the specifics of the society, the specific mentality. For the average American, there are some techniques which are more comprehensible, familiar and will deliver the best message of a social product.

“Our society is in shock, as much as it could be.”

With Ukrainian society is important to take into account that this year was extremely tough: there was Maidan, there was a morally depressing Crimean defeat, the occupation of Crimea and after that a constant tension in the ATO area. Our society is in shock, as much as it could be. Now it is important to deliver some messages to that part of society which does not spend all its resources and efforts on those who are indifferent towards what is happening in the country. This is very important.

There is a group offering military psychological help at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kiev. Perhaps this information will be useful for someone, it’s a free service. We asked the priest Father Sergei, who works in this group, about the specific problems faced by soldiers after returning to civilian life.

“The soldier comes home and often sees a different situation. The first feeling is of injustice, because they fought and gave their lives and now they feel purposeless – from the government and the people around.” (Priest Sergei)

Priest Sergei, deputy head of the Synodal Department of Charity and Social Ministry of the UOC -KP : “The soldier comes home and often sees a different situation. The first feeling is of injustice, because they fought and gave their lives, and now they feel purposeless – from the government and the people around. Some are proud of them but others do not seem to care. He feels contempt, this is a signs of post-traumatic stress disorder: feeling unneeded. To his family he seems a different person and he may feel they don’t love him the same way. He may become aggressive, he might cry in his sleep, he could become easily irritated, or abuse alcohol. Often, most soldiers do not realize this is happening within themselves. They see that something wrong happens around, but they don’t recognize their own shortcomings.”

– Do you see now that the government is moving in the right direction on this issue ? Or does it currently remain at the level of private initiative?

– In our country, as in other countries, private initiative helps to spread awareness within the cultural sphere. I would, of course, like to see interest among government officials. I would like to see a state structured program that would include both preventive measures and actual work with consequences.

“More than a hundred thousand people took part in the ATO.”

As for the previous comment, it’s absolutely true, that the problem is not limited to military personnel. In the near future we will face the problem again, the longer the fighting will go, the more it will grow, and gain momentum. After all, more than a hundred thousand people took part in the ATO. Additionally, about one third of the population is related or closely related to them.

“There will always be this psychological collision when a fighter returns to peaceful life: The other one always has an inner excuse.”

Every time a fighter returns to peaceful life and sees a person who didn’t go to war, there will always be this psychological collision: “How come? Why should I fight for him?” The other one, who didn’t go to war, always has an inner excuse and will be showing that resistance. It is the routine interaction of people- a taxi driver, a security guard etc. Until time heals that, it’s going to be quite an issue and we are about to run into certain harsh and critical situations.

– Do veterans expect recognition for their heroism by citizens or do they expect from their government a form of social-economic support as a form of appreciation? And as to the citizens, what form should the recognition take?

“There is an active core of support, such as those who meet returnees at the train station. But then he or she faces domestic issues and a general misunderstanding.”

– Usually, people do not expect any kind of gratitude from the government. And even some military compensation for injury, for example, the majority of veterans see it as an unexpected surprise from the state – as well as any awards or recognition of combatants. The issue lies in gratitude from ordinary people, which is often not seen. Yes, there is an active core of support, such as those who meet returnees at the train station and bid farewell to those departing. But afterwards when the veteran is returning to the home-front he or she faces domestic issues a and general misunderstanding of their experience. This leads to serious conflicts.

– A colleague described a situation of being on the subway when a veteran came aboard and people were silent. Perhaps someone would like to say something but they do not know whether it is appropriate or not. Should people publicly express their gratitude or is it more expected to be left to family and friends and those who are in direct contact with veterans?

“When you are driving a military car and ordinary people on the street express their support, it helps.”

– Certainly among family a veteran can expect much talk about the war. And it’s much easier to talk with their colleagues, those who were there to discuss some issues than with civilian people. However, occasionally receiving friendly gestures while driving a car or the occasional honk, is appreciated. Especially, for example, in Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast when you are driving a military car and ordinary people on the street express their support. This is very helpful, working to support one’s internal state. Unfortunately, in reality, when you go on the subway people try to look away because they either do not know what to say, or they have some inner conflict; perhaps feeling guilty by the presence of a man in uniform.

– Loss of faith in yourself, marginalization, alcoholism, suicide, development of clinical disease – are all possible consequences of post-traumatic syndrome if left untreated. Do you currently see such problems among your comrades?

“The man who was on the front has high demands for justice.”

– We’ve known such problems since Maidan-times. Only I would not formulate it as “marginalization”. The man who was on the front has high demands for justice. However, faced with sharp conflict at household level, it is not so much a matter of marginalization as it is an issue of struggling to adapt socially. After all, on the front-line problems were solved by force. This could result in incidents such as the military who returned from the front, ran into a group of aggressive people and threw a grenade at them. It is not marginalization but a mismatch of the level of danger and perception. That increases the distance between the military and society, to which he returned.

– Do soldiers receive any psychological training before they are deployed to the front? When you joined the volunteer battalion or before being sent East, did you have any psychologists working with you?

“Traditionally, you are trained to kill, but not prepared to live with the impact afterwards.”

– It should be noted that, for example, battalion “Kievan Rus” became one of the first, but not the very first. At that time there was no experience. It was a territorial defense battalion, half of whom were Maidan participants; and they did not receive psychological training. Unfortunately, yes, there have been destructive processes among those mobilized. This complicated the subsequent return to the battalion after the first rotation, as well as their problems with society. Traditionally, you are trained to kill, but not prepared to live with the impact afterwards. Psychologists were not working with the battalion back then. Now they are actively working which includes preventive work, particularly with those units being prepared for the most active fighting. Like airborne troops,those who actively stay on the front-line.

– Nevertheless, I would like to note that you are a Russian citizen. In February you asked President Poroshenko to grant you Ukrainian citizenship. In which stage is this process?

– It’s true. Currently the last formalities for legal procedure are almost completed. I hope that in the near future this issue will be resolved. Of course, because of my status, it’s hard. As long as you are not a citizen, you cannot deal with these issues formally, it is more on the level of a private initiative.

– You filmed documentaries about Maidan and also were in Crimea at the beginning of the occupation by Russia. How is it possible that you ended up in a volunteer battalion to fight for Ukraine?

“For some certain reasons I left Russia. I came here and defined Ukraine as my new home.”

– It’s very simple. I always have the same answer to this question, because there is no other option. For some certain reasons I left Russia. I came here and, relatively speaking, I defined for myself, Ukraine, Ukrainian borders, as my new home. Then came Maidan and these events. In Crimea I witnessed Russian annexation, in full violation of all agreements, both diplomatic and public. I could see for myself how it happened. I then talked with my friends from Russia and saw the results of Russian propaganda on society. I could see this dramatic change in society’s consciousness.

The occupation of the Crimea was relatively bloodless, except for a few cases. Then Russia began supporting separatism in the East …I went to Donbas, before and after the confrontations, as Slovyansk’s and Kramatorsk’s district centers and others were captured by Russian special forces operations. I spoke with locals, some of which, at that point, had not formed into militia groups but had established checkpoints. I witnessed this process. I saw there was lumpenization and marginalization. Simply speaking, as it has always been within Russian politics, to provoke instability among the very poor. Specifically, Russia supported and worked to incite those who had a very low standard of living.

When the first signs of paramilitary involvement and conflict with Russia appeared in the Donbas, it was a natural step for me to join the battalion. Moreover, to join under a commander with whom I had been with in Maidan from the beginning.

– Do you see an end to this war?

– A difficult question. It is difficult to guess the time and the date when the anti-terrorist operation in the Donbas will officially end as we are not prophets. Even the best analyst is unlikely to say exactly when it’s over.

“Our task now is to prepare for the consequences, to prevent an all-out crisis.”

Our task now is to prepare for the consequences. We are working to soften the possible fallout in order to prevent an all-out crisis in society in addition to the economic situation. To prevent a destructive processes that will lead to destabilization and might make Ukraine appear as too much of a liability for integration into the European community and foreign investors. In order to have investments in Ukraine we have to ensure our current heroes do not descend into becoming criminals as it happened in the 1990s, when veterans of military conflicts could not find means of adapting to society and without assistance through social programs, eventually turned to crime.

I should add that in the near future, at the end of the month will be a conference of NATO in Kiev, on issues of post-traumatic syndrome in the military. Just NATO countries are familiar with this problem. And I hope that we will establish cooperation.

Just recently we met with military attaches of various countries which have diplomatic missions here. We discussed with them the problems we are facing. Because even at non-political, non-economic level, the areas of philanthropy, art community, social initiatives of Europe, America, United Kingdom, and France are interested in seeing Ukraine stabilized. After this war subsides, Ukraine will remain a prospective partner for Europe.

Joe Biden: Ukraine is fighting for its future on the battlefields of the East and in the halls of power in Kyiv

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The United States of America stays committed to supporting Ukraine, said the Vice President of the United States on the International Support for Ukraine Conference. “We stand by the brave people of Ukraine and your military as you defend your soil against Russian aggression. Russia today is occupying Ukrainian land, sending Russian troops, Russian-hired thugs and mercenaries, Russian tanks, Russian missiles into Donbas. This brazen attempt to redraw the boundaries of Europe by force threatens Ukraine and our shared aspiration for a Europe whole, free, and at peace,” underlined Joe Biden.

He strengthened the help the US Government has afforded to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, especially emphasizing security assistance and financial help. John Biden also reminded about the US humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. “Two days ago we announced an additional $18 million in humanitarian aid, bringing our total to $43 million since this conflict began,” informed the U.S. Vice President.

The USA also provided in total 1,45 billion in financial aid, of which $450 million were provided in assistance since the start of the war – namely after the annexation of Crimea, in addition to a $1 billion loan guarantee in 2014. In 2015, the U.S. government plans to support Ukraine with additional $1 billion loan guarantee that will be finalized in the coming days, according to Joe Biden, and a further $1 billion at the end of the year if Ukraine continues the path of reform.

These reforms, deems Joe Biden, are crucial for Ukraine. He called Ukrainians to fight for their future in the halls of power in Kyiv, meaning that reforms must be accomplished. To this end, he welcomed Ukrainian reforms efforts, stressing the importance of fair and free elections, cutting wasteful gas subsidies, fight against corruption with the establishment of National Anti-Corruption Bureau, described by Joe Biden as independent.

Joe Biden warned Ukraine that it must keep on reforms: “Pass an antitrust bill, antitrust legislation. Keep working to reform the election laws to ensure that, as decentralization moves forward, local government is really representative and accountable.”

“Keep listening to your people—make sure that your work is transparent and that civil society has a voice in this process,” suggested the U.S. Vice President, acknowledging that this will make reforms more important for people.

“Russia fears Ukraine to be prosperous, democratic, independent and reform-oriented,” said Joe Biden, designating the importance of Post-Maidan reforms and the path towards European future of Ukraine.

“It’s hard to fathom how much has happened these past fifteen months—how much you’ve achieved. You’ve forced out a corrupt leader to win another chance at democracy; you’ve stood tall against Russian aggression, and you’re still standing tall; you’ve passed new laws to root out corruption; and you’ve held the freest, fairest, and most widely-monitored elections in Ukraine’s history. And so long as you keep faith with your commitment to build a more democratic, just, and prosperous Ukraine, you will never be alone,” summarized the U.S. Vice President in his video remarks.

Russia demands explanation from Poland after it denies entry to pro-Putin bikers

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Russia on Monday demanded an explanation from Poland as to why it denied entry to a group of Russian bikers commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Poland had said on Friday it would not allow the bikers club, which has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to cross into its territory.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it “decisively condemned” Poland’s decision to bar entry for the bikers and said the move could be considered sacrilegious, given the heroism shown by Soviet soldiers who fought against the Nazis during World War Two.

The Beginning Of The End For Putin? Real Reform Begins To Take Hold In Ukraine

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In just over a year, Ukraine has seen a political revolution, two elections (one presidential, one parliamentary), an economic collapse and a Russian invasion resulting in a “hybrid war” that has ravaged the country. Its new western-leaning government has struggled to maintain sovereignty as well as stability.

This past February, a new ceasefire was signed, which seems to be holding up for the most part. But even now, Russia, is beefing up its forces at the border, threatening a new offensive. By all accounts, the situation in Ukraine remains precarious.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his intention to destroy the country, even going so far as to deny that it is, in fact, a country. For those who are familiar with Putin’s regime, this is hardly surprising. A successful, vibrant and democratic neighbor on Russia’s border would only serve to remind his constituents how repressive and ineffectual his rule has become.

As I argued a year ago, the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration could bring down the Russian leader. Now, faced with a crumbling economy, rampant corruption and international isolation many believe that Putin is fighting for his political survival. Clearly, he cannot afford Ukraine to become a model for his disgruntled countrymen.

Yet for all his efforts, real reform appears to be starting to take hold in Ukraine. The Financial Times recently reported that the country is on “the right road.” Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has brought in an impressive array of technocrats, including foreigners and experienced business executives, such as the former General Manager of Microsoft Ukraine, to help make some much needed changes.

The new government took office at the end of last year and seems to be making progress. It successfully negotiated a $17.5 billion stabilization package from the IMF that, with additional contributions from the US and the EU, could reach $40 billion. It also recently introduced important reforms to its gas sector and plans to privatize thousands of state owned businesses, both key sources of corruption.

Putin gives the world his geography lesson: ‘All the former USSR is Russia’

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The 150-minute film “The President” about Vladimir Putin is mostly boring and predictable in that it insists that “without Vladimir Vladimirovich nothing in the country will work,” Kseniya Kirillova notes. But she points out that there are three “lessons” contained in the film that must not be ignored.

First, she argues, despite all the anti-Americanism he has promoted, Putin clearly indicates in the film that the model of the world order he would like to see is one in which Russia and the US would jointly decide all of the world’s “most important” geopolitical issues and divide up the world into “spheres of influence.”

While the Kremlin leader does not say so, this would be a return to what he now sees as the way the world worked between the Yalta and Potsdam conferences at the end of World War II and the time of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and one in which other countries, especially small ones, would have little or no voice about their fates.

Second, in the film, Putin offered the clearest indication yet that not only does he consider the disintegration of the USSR the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the last century but views it in a way that is absolutely at variance with the facts, one that points to more trouble ahead for all of the former Soviet republics and occupied Baltic states.

According to Putin, “all of us had illusions: it seemed then that after the destruction of the Soviet Union and after Russia voluntarily – I stress this – voluntarily and consciously” gave up its “own territory, productive capacity and so on, with the departure of the ideological component which separated the former Soviet Union and the entire rest of the civilized world, than now the fetters would fall and ‘freedom would great us joyously at the entrance.”

Such ideas have been circulating in the Moscow elite for some time, Kirillova says, pointing to a recent essay by Pavel Kazarin who noted that “in the consciousness of many representatives of the Russia elite, Moscow did not lose ‘the cold war.’ More than that, in their opinion, the division of the Union took place not so much as a result of the collapse of the Soviet model… but rather as a result of the Kremlin voluntarily agreeing to join the club of western players.”

As a result, Kazarin says, “Moscow conducts itself as if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart, as if it had only been reformatted but with relations between the vassals and sovereign retained in their former state.” (For a discussion of Kazarin’s argument and its implications, see this.)

In “The President,” Putin goes even further and declares that “Russia voluntarily gave up its own territories,” Kirillova says, an assertion so sweepingly at odds with reality that it is important to remember what actually happened 25 years ago.

“In fact,” Kirillova observes, “the present-day Russian Federation exists in the very same border that the RSFSR had; that is there were no territorial changes in Russia itself in connection with the collapse of the USSR. The republics which acquired independence after 1991 were never part of the RSFSR.”
From this it follows, she continues, “when Putin speaks about the territorial losses of Russia, he is directly declaring that all the former union republics are Russian territories! Note bene: he designates them already not as ‘zone of influence’ … but as [his country’s] ‘own territory,’ from which Russia ‘voluntarily withdrew.”

That is simply an Orwellian retelling of what happened: In reality, “all the union republics, including even Ukraine and Belarus the closest to Russia, proclaimed their sovereignty in 1989-1990, that is, before 1991, and this phenomenon even received a name, ‘the parade of sovereignties.’”

There was nothing voluntary in Moscow’s response: It tried to crush Lithuania first by an economic blockade and then by the direct application of military force. But it failed to stop “the movement for exit from the USSR” that was “born in all the union republics.” As a result, after the failure of the August 1991 putsch, “the disintegration of the Union was inevitable.”

The Belavezha Accords of December 8, 1991, usually seen as the death certificate of the USSR simply put on paper what had already taken place, a reminder that “even when these republics were in the USSR, none of them called themselves ‘Russia’s own territory.’” That is a Putinism that goes back to tsarist times.

And finally third, Putin’s film underscored how isolated Russia is in the former Soviet space, not how much the peoples and countries of that territory continue to look to Moscow as Vladimir Putin suggests they should. The only foreign leader who gets a positive reference in the film is Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev.

One might have expected there to be some reference to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the leader of a country that is part of Putin’s union state of Russia and Belarus. But “obviously, the prospects of considering his country Russia’s territory do not generate any pleasure” with the Belarusian leader who has been distancing himself from Moscow over and as a result of Ukraine.

Putin’s “myth about the voluntary, carried out ‘from above’ demise of the USSR, which completely ignores the will of the peoples populating it, shows,” Kirillova concludes, “that the Kremlin has not drawn any conclusions from its collapse, and lessons which are not learned as is well known, have a tendency to be repeated.”

Roof Activist Known for Russian Stunt Goes to Fight for Ukraine

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A Ukrainian activist famed for his daring rooftop stunts and known by the nickname “Mustang Wanted” has gone to fight alongside Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian insurgents in the country’s east, according to pictures posted to his Facebook account over the weekend.

The information was confirmed by the press service of the Azov regiment of the Ukrainian army, Mariupol news website 0629 reported Monday.

Mustang Wanted shot to fame for a stunt in Moscow in which he climbed to the top of one of Moscow’s iconic Stalin-era skyscrapers and painted the star on top of it in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s national flag in a show of solidarity with Ukrainian troops.

He reportedly fled to Ukraine soon after Russian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of vandalism and hooliganism.

Russia in 1839 and 2015: has anything changed?

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The “dark wasteland of the Russian soul” and its manic desire to conquer world have deep roots. You can verify this by reading the book of the French Marquis de Custine “Russia 1839″.

“This huge empire that suddenly appears in front of me to the east of Europe, that Europe, where society suffers in poverty of each recognized authority – this empire makes an impression on me of a revolt of the dead. I think that I am among the nations of the Old Testament, and I pause in horror mixed with curiosity, before a laboratory of antediluvian monsters,”
wrote the French nobleman in a letter from Russia in 1839. He was prompted to go there by the frustrated proto-democratic republican France, he believed that the absolute power of the empire was better than chatter and democratic debate. So he went with the hope of magic and returned from the Russian Empire with these words:

“Anyone who gets closely acquainted with tsarist Russia will be happy to live in any other country. It is always good to know that there is a state in the world in which happiness is impossible.”
This book (curious readers can find it in different languages ​​on the Internet; in English here) does not lose relevance today. Finally, it should be recognized that each generation opens it for itself, right after its publication it became a bestseller in France, and the Russian censorship just as promptly banned it (notably the Russian government then began a campaign to discredit the Marquis of Custine in Europe, for money, [paid] and through a network of agent’s promotional materials published in the leading European media – all that just like now, right?). Later Herzen [Aleksandr Herzen was a Russian writer and thinker known as the “father of Russian socialism” and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism – translator] wrote of “Russia in 1839″: “Without a doubt, this is the most interesting and brightest book written by a stranger on Russia.”

It was especially relevant to the Ukrainian soul which in its own skin knew the “beauty” of life under the Russian boot. After World War II Dontsov [father of Ukrainian nationalist ideology from Melitopol, south-eastern Ukraine – translator] addressed comments from the Marquis of Custine book in which he often emphasized that the USSR under Stalin and Khrushchev were different from that Imperial Russia described by the Frenchman in name only. After all, it was Custine himself who captured this main characteristic of Russia:

“The Russians have only names, but there is nothing in reality – a country of facades.”
The “Potemkin-ite” essence of the Moscow empire, which was cleverly illustrated for the strangers eyes, was captured by the French traveller in just three months of travel.

Today it is the turn of our generation to open the striking relevance of the Marquis of Custine’s observations. It appears that nothing has changed, so this book can and should be given Ukrainian officials, MPs, military and foreign politicians, Western negotiators and the “useful idiots” of Putin’s regime in the West. Is it not it worth it to read the current opinion, written 175 years ago:

“All I can tell you, is that from the time I was in Russia, I see a black future of Europe. (…) Why is Russia so dependent on feeling itself a severe threat to Europe? To influence European policy? (…) Russia sees in Europe prey that through our [Europe’s – translator] divisions, sooner or later, will be given to the wolves. “
Following Herzen and Dontsov, I must admit that I have not read a book better and wiser about Russia in which would be so subtly captured the essence of the criminal and brutal Russian soul. Every subsequent generation, opens “Russia in 1839″ by the Marquis of Custine for themselves – and can be horrified by the relevance of these travel notes. This book helps eliminate unnecessary illusions and dispels the smokescreen put out on European eyes by the Kremlin propaganda machine – and leads to the conclusion that with a deceitful Russia it makes no sense to agree about anything, you can only win against it and force it to respect our rights.

And finally the Marquis de Custine:

“At the heart of the Moscow people there is disorderly ambition; this ambition knows no bounds, it can only poison a depressed soul, and it is powered by the misfortune of an entire nation. This nation is essentially aggressive and bent due to poverty; in its lowly roots it cherishes a hope to extend tyranny and dominance over others; [the acquisition of] fame and wealth that it hopes will divert its mind from the shame in which it exists, and to wash off its wicked donation (forfeit) of social and personal freedom, the slave on its knees dreams of world domination.”
An observation of Russia from 1839! And nothing to add.

Russia Seizes Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s Candy Factory

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Russian authorities have seized the assets of a confectionery factory owned by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Russian city of Lipetsk in order to block their sale, parent company Roshen said on Tuesday.

Since March 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and pro-Russian rebels rose up in eastern Ukraine, the Lipetsk plant has been raided by armed police, boycotted and accused by Russian politicians of supporting extremism.

“It is safe to say the Russian side is deliberately taking all possible steps to prevent the company selling its assets in Russia,” Roshen said in a statement. It said it would appeal against a decision by a Russian court to seize the assets, which it valued at 2 billion rubles ($39 million).

Poroshenko, nicknamed the Chocolate King, promised when he was elected last May to sell Roshen, which takes its name from the middle two syllables of his surname and had pre-crisis annual sales of $1.2 billion.

However, the eastern conflict and resulting economic crisis are likely to have complicated the sales process and no deals have yet been announced.