Russia is swimming in oil

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Russian oil giant Rosneft has dumped on us northerners once again. It’s unlikely that anyone apart from the locals would have heard about the pipeline which burst on the outskirts of Nefteyugansk if not for photos of the aftermath on social media.

The pictures were taken by Andrei Seleznyov, a light aircraft pilot; and the local media, swiftly followed by national TV and press, picked them up after they appeared online on 27 June.

Burst pipes

The burst had in fact taken place several days before on 23 June. The pipeline, lying along the bed of a channel at a depth of around three metres, burst at a point about a kilometre outside town, covering a four hectare area of water with a one-millimetre-thick iridescent film.

This, at least, was the estimate of the damage made by inspectors from Russia’s environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, who visited the site on 2 July, accompanied by the deputy CEO of the Rosneft subsidiary responsible for the pipeline, as well as two independent observers.

According to the Environmental Ministry, the real extent of the spill was in fact impossible to assess. High water levels led to the further dispersal of oil, some of which ended up on the channel’s banks and in the gardens of neighbouring houses. Environmental officers are confident that floating booms will prevent the oil flowing into the nearby massive river Ob, but the real size of the slicks, both in rivers and on dry land, will become clear only after the lifting of gale warnings in the area.

For the moment, no one will even hazard a guess at the overall scale of the disaster – apart, that is, from Rosneft’s vice-president Michael Leontyev, who combines his day job with a Kremlin spin doctor role.

From Leontyev’s office in Moscow, the spill appears localised, even minimal: ‘the leak was very small, but later, heavy rain carried some of the oil into a reservoir.’ This claim conflicts with a statement from the Emergencies Ministry, reported on regional TV, according to which it flowed out of the reservoir again, but the volume of the spill was still unknown.

Leontyev’s response to this was that ‘it was no longer oil’ but some undefined ‘film’ that would not be easy to remove, but could be cleared within a week.

The clean-up is postponed

Leontyev and his company didn’t, however, finish the job in a week. On 3 July, the Emergency Ministry’s regional team, which was also involved in the clean-up, told TASS news agency that the operation had been postponed until 7 July because of the bad weather – the technology used to clear oil spills requires high air temperatures.

A week later, a new date of 20 July was announced. The emergency team told TASS that ‘much of the work has been done’, and indeed, by that point, 118 cubic metres of oil had been removed. Fifteen floating booms, with an overall length in excess of four kilometres, had been installed to prevent further dispersal of the oil. But, probably due to the continuing high water levels, the process took longer than expected, and on 22 July there was still no further news from either the Emergencies Ministries or Rosneft.

On 21 July, the news agencies announced that two senior Rosneft managers had been sacked. There was no reference to whether this was connected to the oil spill.

The residents of Nefteyugansk, and indeed the whole region of Khanty-Mansiisk, have been more down-to-earth in their assessment. Unsurprising: they’re closer to the disaster than the political commentators.

In the words of one blogger: ‘now they’re not just flooding us, but flooding us with oil. There’ll be no more bathing, no more fish; nothing will grow in our gardens.’ The public mood is generally one of fury, with the occasional burst of irony: ‘Putin the Great has kept his promise: Russians are swimming in oil. Even the Emirates can’t match it.’

Stanislav Meshcheryakov, deputy head of the Department of Industrial Ecology at Moscow’s Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, thinks that it will take Rosneft several years to clean up the contaminated area (if it were actually to try).

‘I don’t know how much oil ended up in the river, and how much on its banks,’ Mescheryakov told ‘But it will affect the entire food chain, from microorganisms through small crustaceans eaten by fish. And people will also catch the oil-contaminated fish’.

Meshcheryakov believes that the floating film of oil will deprive fish of oxygen and that they will lose their food supply: ‘we can clean the banks using synthetic microorganisms. But in one place there will be 5% oil per m², and in another, 50%. The microorganisms will deal with the 5% areas in one season, but larger concentrations will require two or three, which will be very costly’.

A region covered in oil

Leontyev is right in saying that nothing unusual has happened in Nefteyugansk. For Rosneft, it is a perfectly normal situation.

It is not just Russian sources that put the company at the top of the accident league. Greenpeace and global statistics confirm it – Rosneft is responsible for 10,000 oil spills a year. An inspection conducted by Rosprirodnadzor three years ago concluded that it accounted for 75% of leaks in the Khanty-Mansiisk region of western Siberia, where Nefteyugansk is situated.

After a visit to the area in 2012, Environmental Minister Yuri Trutnev wrote that ‘the earth is practically covered in oil. It was not a question of finding contaminated areas – we had a problem finding any unpolluted ones. There are oil rivers, oil lakes, oil ponds – all the carelessly spilt detritus from accidents’.

In 2013, Rosneft consolidated its position as king of the spills: the regional environmental watchdog reported that its subsidiaries were responsible for 2,188 accidents (95% of all pipeline bursts in the region). There are as yet no statistics available online for last year and this, but if you search online for ‘Rosneft, accidents’, you will find numerous results.

Rosneft is also active in other regions. Sakhalin Environmental Watch, a non-governmental organisation, was immediately able to bring me up to date on spills at oil wells owned by a Rosneft subsidiary on this far eastern edge of Russia.

On 7 May this year, an internal pipeline burst at the Mongi oilfield in the Nogliki district. The oil leaked into the Nelbutu River, which flows into the central part of Nyisky Bay on the Sea of Okhotsk. The spill is a mere 200-300 metres away from the Dagi Springs, a popular tourist destination and regional natural park. Local people are saying that the oil has seriously polluted not only the river but also a part of the bay; and both Rosprirodnadzor and the Emergencies Ministry have been informed.

The previous day, another spill had been discovered, at the Ekhabi Vostochoye oilfield belonging to the same Rosneft subsidiary in the Okhinsky district of the island of Sakhalin. The oil had been leaking since March, and it is still unclear whether its source has been located.

Several thousand square metres of oil-polluted soil have also been found on both banks of a creek that flows into Ekhabi Bay – also on Sakhalin, which has only a narrow outlet into the Sea of Okhotsk. The oil is continuing to flow into the creek, and from there, into the bay. Here, any accurate assessment of the extent of the pollution is hindered by the fact that the oil is spreading out under a thick layer of snow.

Sakhalin Environmental Watch suspects that the oilmen have not informed any government agencies of this spill, and so they have themselves reported it to the public prosecutor’s office, the Emergencies Ministry and Rosprirodnadzor. In 2010 and 2012, there were a number of similar leaks and spills in the district. And one notable incident took place last year, when the news website reported that ‘in Nizhevartovsk, oil might start coming out of your tap; there has been a spill next to the water intake from the reservoir.’

Historic legacy – or excuse

Meanwhile, Mikhail Leontyev explains his company’s trail of environmental destruction with suitable spin:

‘We had these wonderful oil companies such as Yukos and TNK-BP, with businesslike owners whose aim was to make as much money as possible, so they paid little attention to infrastructure. This is our historic legacy. This is why we have all these unfortunate oil leaks and spills, but we are fighting back. It’s no big tragedy’.

The truth of this statement can be gauged by the following: Environmental Ministry statistics for 2012 show that the company which spent the most on environmental compliance was TNK-BP (26.1 billion roubles, or £292.7m), while the company that spent the least (8.6 billion roubles less, to be exact) was Rosneft.

It was the downfall of Yukos that gave Rosneft its opportunity a decade or so ago. In 2003, Yukos’s owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on a charge of fraud, and in 2005, he was sentenced to a lengthy prison term. When the company’s assets were seized by the government and auctioned off, Rosneft, a small state-owned company at the time, was able to acquire most of them at a fraction of their value. By 2005, Rosneft had become Russia’s second-largest producer of oil and gas. In 2013 it acquired its rival TNK-BP as well.

The spectre of Yukos still haunts the bureaucrats of Khanty-Mansiisk. Last winter, Nefteyugansk suffered a series of breakdowns in its utilities, leaving many residents without heating.

But the main problem, according to Ura-ru, is not burst pipes. The local residents’ taps produce not water, but a cloudy, greasy substance, and sometimes even a black liquid bearing a distinct resemblance to crude oil. The regional and municipal authorities say that the problems go back to the time when Yukos practically owned the town.

The locals, however, are sceptical: in a letter to Vladimir Putin, they wrote ‘our water quality has been deteriorating year on year for a decade now. Our tap water is not only undrinkable; we cannot even wash in it’.

Rosprirodnadzor has now opened an administrative case against Rosneft for violating regulations governing bodies of water, which may lead to their contamination and obstruction. If found guilty, the officials in charge may face a fine of 30-40,000 roubles (£320-430): the official monthly salary of Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin is 500-700 times that sum.

The investigation of the incident is now in the hands of the Khanty-Mansiisk public prosecutor, whose press officer Inga Snatkina told me: it is still too early to talk about the extent of the damage or who is responsible for it. The results of the investigation, she says, should be known by the end of July.

The 4th Armor Division is Ready to Wade

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Our friends found a photo of unloaded equipment on the train station of Neklinovka (village of Pokrovskoe, Rostov Oblast, Russia) in a Russian soldier online profile. At first glance this is a common picture – another train with military machines is unloaded at the Ukrainian border. But our attention was drawn by the hull numbers covered with paint and the ‘Brod’ [Wade] system tubes attached to the tanks.

About the tube

This is the ‘Brod’ system for T-80U tanks. This box is the attachable air filter which protects the gas-turbine engine on the move from dust and dirt and is used for wading low depth water obstacles. The box is attached to the tank turret and rotates with it. It fully covers the air system when the tank is on the march, meaning when barrel is turned to the right then the box is placed above the air system right in the middle.

Tank identification

This is not T-72 tank since the exhaust pipe is missing on the engine section level on the left side. And T-64 tank underwater driving system (UDS) has a different construction of the tube attached at the turret rear side. Also T-64 is lacking the placeholder for the air-scoop intake.
The UDSs for the 2nd generation tanks T-64, T-72 and T-80 were designed separately. Most attention was paid to reducing the time needed for crossing a water obstacle. It is known that the average time needed is around 15 to 40 minutes depending on the type of a machine. Partly this task was solved by installing the ‘Brod’ system on T-80U and T-80UD tanks which allowed crossing a water obstacle up to 1.8m deep without any preparation. Taking into account that such obstacles may happen pretty often on a battlefield, installation of this system makes tanks more autonomous.
Also we should not forget that T-80 tank can cross a water obstacle without external exhaust pipe, and a tank with just an air pump tube attached can wade a 4m water obstacle. The whole set of tubes is stored behind a tank.

The photo was uploaded by a Russian serviceman of the 4th armor division (Western Military District, military unit No. 19612, Naro-Fominsk, Moscow Oblast, Russia).

According to Wikipedia the 4th division is equipped with T-80U tanks which corresponds to the tank identification information above.

Having analyzed the photo we could identify the exact location where it was taken – the Neklinovka train station at the village of Pokrovskoe.

If you look closely at the painted out tank hull number then you can see that the first digit is 3, the second one is not clear, and the third one is clear to be 5. So we get a tank with number 3*5. The helmet of our crewman has number 302, so the tank with the same number is not far from him. Also one of the photos of his comrades shows us a tank with number 38*. The picture was made in February, 2015, most likely in a garage of military unit No. 19612 in Naro-Fominsk. Numeration of some T-80U tanks of the 4th division can be found on Russia MD site (in Russian).

Let us remind you that recently a train loaded with T-80U tanks was spotted in Samara. Also we disclosed the Russian T-80 tanks which were moved from Naro-Fominsk to the Ukrainian border.

The uncontrolled section of the Russian-Ukrainian border in Luhansk Oblast has an extended water obstacle – the Siverskyi Donets river. It serves as a natural barrier to the Russian forces intrusion through the whole occupied territory. We have received signals about the pontoon ferries set by Russian troops for several times (in Russian), but wading the water obstacles is also a fast and convenient way of troops moving to the operation side. With time we will see where the 4th armor division appears the next time.

Captured Russian officer Starkov explained how and how many Russian soldiers get recruited to fight in Ukraine. Full transcript of the video.

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Security Service of Ukraine posted a video of interrogation of the Russian officer Starkov who was captured by the Border Guard Service of Ukraine on July 25 at Ukrainian checkpoint. See Russian army officer captured on Ukrainian checkpoint near Donetsk with a truck full of ammo. Starkov explained the process of how he was recruited to continue his service in Donetsk and confirmed that there are about 2,000-3,000 regular Russian army soldiers on the territory of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions who coordinate pro-Russian rebels military forces on all levels. As soon as Russian officers arrive to separatists controlled territory they get docs on fake names and don’t have anything with them that can identify them as Russian army soldiers. After he was captured his family in Russia disappeared and phones got blocked.

Below you can see the video of his interrogation and the transcript in English.

Ukrainian officer: Do you remember any of your passport data?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, sure, I remember.

Ukrainian officer: Tell me.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Passport series 2203 and number 080912, issued on December 9 2002, by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Bor city in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Every commander in a brigade has… there is local head and he has Russian adviser.

Ukrainian officer: Who makes decisions and who gives orders?

Russian Maj. Starkov: In general, locals do. Initially, we didn’t sign any document, we make locals to sign everything, we say you are in charge here, so you sign it, I just advise you how to do it.

Ukrainian officer: And only commander of brigade or some higher ranked commander? What kind of units hierarchy.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Battalion, Division… there are advisers… there are 3 advisers… So there is Commander of Battalion, Chief of Staff and Deputy Head Commander for weapons. So there are 3 officers in each Division, each Battalion they are present there.

Ukrainian officer: Guys who arrive from Russian Federation are they volunteers? You say and we know it is by order. There is an order and you go like on a business trip?

Russian Maj. Starkov: They don’t go like on a business trip, they don’t get paid daily for that. You get official position in 12th Command in Novocherkassk city (military unit created in 2014 as part of Southern Military District the Commander of 12th Command is Col. Bakhtiyar Nabiyev since July 25, 2014, see You get assigned to certain military unit. And when you arrive there, they tell it to you as a fact, that you are not going to serve in Novocherkassk and that you will continue your service in Lugansk People’s Republic or in Donetsk People’s Republic.

Ukrainian officer: So they tell that to you as a fact?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, before that they don’t tell us anything, and everything that is related to Ukraine is seriously top secret.

Ukrainian officer: And what is the motivation? Money? Or you are able not to obey the order?

Russian Maj. Starkov: 1st when they recruit people there everybody have their own circumstances. My situation was like this. For 12 years I have been serving in Taiga where there were only 4 houses, a school and a kindergarten… The closest village was 7 km away, a town was 45 km away, big city was 90 km away.

Ukrainian officer: There are only 15-16 buildings in that village where you were?

Russian Maj. Starkov: There are 4 5-storey houses…

Ukrainian officer: Go on…

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was applying many times to get transferred. They were telling me stay, how we can do without you, you can’t leave, just stay for another year… And recently I got a phone call and say that they are looking for a candidate on a position of the head of R.A.W. supply service. (R.A.W. is abbreviation of Rocket and Artillery Weapon – in Russian it is “Р.А.В.”). I asked them where? They told me to Novocherkassk city, Southern Military District. I said I agree. Seriously? They say yes sure! I said you were rejecting me so many times and here you are looking for a candidate, sure I will go there.

Ukrainian officer: Who called you, your commander?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, that was the Head of HR. So he said, OK, write a report. I wrote the report and sent it by fax… and after to months I got an order that I am assigned to 12th Command in Novocherkassk city.

Ukrainian officer: And what it means “12th Command”?

Russian Maj. Starkov: This is Reserved Command created in Novocherkassk that control….

Ukrainian officer: That covers Ukraine?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes…

Ukrainian officer: How many Commands like that are there around Russia?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I don’t know.

Ukrainian officer: Did you go alone or with the family?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was going alone.

Ukrainian officer: Alone…

Ukrainian officer: Have you been promised that later you will be able to bring your family there?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, nobody promised that.

Ukrainian officer: And when did you arrive to Novocherkassk?

Russian Maj. Starkov: March 3.

Ukrainian officer: 2015?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: So you arrived there and went to the next destination?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, same day we got instructions, all day there were telling us different stuff, frightening us. In the evening they got us together and were saying like ‘you are going to that unit and you are going to that unit’

Ukrainian officer: What was the rank of the person who was telling you that? Who was commanding you, who was giving you instructions?

Russian Maj. Starkov: We were instructed by the head of HR, his rank was Colonel, the Chief of State Secrets Protection service and somebody from FSB (Federal Security Service)…

Ukrainian officer: Do you remember the last name of that Colonel?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Nobody was telling us their last names…

Ukrainian officer: But they were in the uniform?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, in uniform.

Ukrainian officer: And what insignia they had?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Insignia of the 12th Command.

Ukrainian officer: Insignia of what type of troops? Construction battalion, artillery? You said there was a Colonel. What type of troops?

Russian Maj. Starkov: He has his rank marked on his shoulder straps… but can’t say exactly now what kind of troops.

Ukrainian officer: You are Major Officer.

Russian Maj. Starkov: There were crosses on his chevrons of 12th Command.

Ukrainian officer: That is some kind of cross?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And as for lieutenant Colonels you don’t remember?

Russian Maj. Starkov: One was from marine Corps in black uniform.

Ukrainian officer: And were there people who refused to go?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, there were 3 men who refused. Immediately commander started to bully them saying like ‘you graduated from military school, what for do you wear officers shoulder straps and now you refuse to obey the order… do you refuse to obey the order of the Minister of Defense’. They said ‘no we will not, we will not go’. They were taken away immediately. They didn’t go with us. And I don’t know what happened to them after that. More likely they were simply fired.

Ukrainian officer: And who were they? Do you know their names?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, nobody knows anyone there. Because they take 1 man from different units in order they don’t know each other…

Ukrainian officer: Do you distinguish somehow citizens of Russian Federation among locals? You see each other anyway? Tell us how you distinguish them.

Russian Maj. Starkov: 1st of all mentality, how they communicate. If he is an officer you see he’s an officer, he’s always shaved very clean, the uniform is clean and ironed, his boots are polished. If this was your daily routine for years, that can’t be taken away from you.

Ukrainian officer: Did you see a lot of men like that, your colleagues?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And what do you think there are many Russians who are serving there?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Sure there are a lot of them there. I think if you take all together Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, that would be about 2-3 thousands.

Ukrainian officer: What is the structure of command in DPR-LPR? What do you know? You are not a simple officer, you are Major officer. You were communicating with others, going to the trips for ammunition.

Russian Maj. Starkov: You can describe the structure like this: the Chief of the Corps is Russian General.

Ukrainian officer: The Chief of what?

Russian Maj. Starkov: The Chief of the Corps. This is the Army Corps, this is in DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic).

Ukrainian officer: What is the last name of the Chief?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I don’t know that.

Ukrainian officer: So you think that is Russian General?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, we know and everybody that is Russian General. And what his name or callsign is I don’t know. Because we didn’t have access there, we only had access to our service and in order to get there you would need to apply for special pass.

Ukrainian officer: And the pass that you had that was only for access to your unit?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, only to my unit. And who I was meeting, the highest rank was Deputy Chief for ammunition, that is the Deputy of the Commander.

Ukrainian officer: And what was his rank?

Russian Maj. Starkov: He is lieutenant Colonel.

Ukrainian officer: Russian?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. Russian lieutenant Colonel. I told you his last name already. Ryshkovich.

Ukrainian officer: Ryshkovich?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And how ammunition gets there? Ah, you already told us, from there…

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: So there is Chief of the Corps who is Russian General and he has Deputies.

Russian Maj. Starkov: He has Deputies, Deputies have different services… and brigade… the services of brigade are under services of the Corps. The system is like that.

Ukrainian officer: The commander of your brigade who is he? What do you know about him?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Local, Colonel Tikhonov, full name Tikhonov Mikhail Gennadiyevich, callsign ‘Tikhon’.

Ukrainian officer: And what is the main task. What your brigade is responsible for? What is its name?

Russian Maj. Starkov: 5th separate local Infantry Brigade, military unit #08805

Ukrainian officer: What is in there? What kind of weapon, how many men? About 500 right?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, there are 2497 men. And all of them are divided into units. There is management, command, services.

Ukrainian officer: What was your position?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was on a position of the head of R.A.W. supply service. (R.A.W. is abbreviation of Rocket and Artillery Weapon – in Russian it is “Р.А.В.”)

Ukrainian officer: Of all that brigade?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. My task was to keep records of all weapon that brigade had, control how it is given to men, transferred, write-off, control ammunition, keep records of rockets, ATGM, because there were no records before that. Everything was given here and there without control.

Ukrainian officer: What was the procedure of changing your name? I see that all your colleagues are not under their real names. Was that an order from the command? Tell us about that.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. The procedure of changing name was like that. When we arrived to the brigade, we got accommodated, in the evening we had a meeting where we were given application forms to put full name and callsign. They said we had to fill that with fake names as a cover.

Ukrainian officer: For your legend?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, because we are not here. And such person doesn’t exist. Because we are advisers we don’t sign documents, so we had to do so.

Ukrainian officer: You know about 2 GRU soldiers who were detained before?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, I saw them in the news.

Ukrainian officer: Yes, we have them safe according to witness protection program. Have you heard news about them? Do you know that…

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, they were refused, same with me.

Ukrainian officer: What are your feelings about that?

Russian Maj. Starkov: How… the country doesn’t need me… I will not be exchanged… 2 days ago my family was taken away and nobody knows where, there is no way to get in touch with them now.

Ukrainian officer: How do you know that?

Russian Maj. Starkov: We were trying to call them on the phone, all phone numbers are blocked, of all my relatives. I called to a friend of mine. My family was on vacation now. I called to my friend who lived nearby where they were, he went there and there was nobody home. I called him later and asked to go back in the morning. He went there in the morning again and the neighbors told him that they left 2 days ago. And nobody knows where they went, my wife, her mother and my children. Where they went I don’t know and why they left… They had tickets for August 1 or 2 to go back home where they live.

Ukrainian officer: If you had a chance to address to your colleagues, friends, your fellow soldiers, address to those who service here and came from Russia, what would you tell them?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Well… I said already. It’s not worth coming here. Not worth a tinker’s damn. They lie to us, they make money on us. 12th Command gets ranks and just want to keep their positions, it’s a total fraud. 12th Command comes here just for few days, they get daily payments for that and medals of Kutuzov and Zhukov. And we just stay here as meat. We don’t do anything, everybody put pressure on us here and want something from us. And it’s not clear who we train and what we teach them. If your eyes would open, everything would be completely different. If I knew the situation here before, I would never come here. Search for any way in order not to get here.

The Newest Electronic Warfare Systems ‘Borisoglebsk-2′ are Noticed at the Border And in the ATO Zone

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Using the hidden war as a cover, Russia not only utilizes the outdated weaponry, equipment and ammunition, but also actively tests new weapon samples and military systems. Air defense, communications, and electronic warfare (EW) systems are commonly used by the Russians ‘on vacation’ and ‘miners’ who fight in Donbas. Another OSINT investigation is dedicated to ‘Borisoglebsk-2′, the latest Russian system of electronic suppression which is the technical basis of EW units in tactical formations. The complex is designed for radio intelligence and suppression and works with HF, UHF, terrestrial and aircraft radio channels, mobile terminals and trunked radios on tactical and operational-tactical command levels.

Andrewrostov, a Rostov (Russia) resident, wrote a post about his trip via M-4 ‘Don’ highway (Moscow – Voronezh – Rostov – Krasnodar – Novorossiysk) on July, 25, 2015. The pictures of military equipment on civil trucks grabbed our attention. These are the exact coordinates where the equipment was noticed – 47°17′37″N (47.293614) 39°51′21″E (39.855788).

Having consulted by military experts we could identify the found objects. These vehicles are parts of the EW complex RB-301B ‘Borisoglebsk-2′.

For reference:

The EW complex ‘Borisoglebsk-2′ was tested for the first time in 2009-2010, and was planned for the serial production in 2011.

The Southern Military District of Russian Federation got the first eight RB-301B systems in 2013. The competition for the best EW crew was held on the Kalinovskyi training site (Republic of Chechnya, Russia) in July, 2014. 6 modern ‘Borisoglebsk-2′ complexes were involved. These systems were also used during tactical trainings at the ‘Burduny’ training site (Eastern Military District, Republic of Buryatia, Russia) in September, 2014. It was planned to supply 6 more complexes to the Russian army in 2015.

In the beginning of 2015 this complex began its service at the motorized rifle command of the Eastern Military District located in Burytia. The motorized rifle command of the Southern Military District (Republic of Chechnya, Russia) got such systems in June, 2015.

Note that we could identify the command point by the Russian blogger pictures. The vehicles seem to be brand new, the new ZIP boxes can be seen on caterpillar belts – all this allows us to assume that this command point is the R-330KVM command point of the ‘Borisoglebsk-2′ complex.

Some clarifications about the identification

The ‘Mandat’ complex (the Soviet ancestor of ‘Borisoglebsk-2′) had a R-330K command point based on 2 ‘Ural’ trucks. There is also ‘Piramida’ complex which is based on MT-LBu tracked vehicle, but it has totally different equipment attached. That is why the noticed command point we identify as the one from ‘Borisoglebsk-2′ complex, since it fits all the criteria.

It is worth mentioning that similar vehicle was seen in Luhansk on March, 31, 2015, and it was false taken as 9S737 ‘Ranzhir’ command point.

There is another outstanding detail of the object noticed in Luhansk: the machine is equipped with guard plates for swimming; also the road is dry but the vehicle has wet spots above its caterpillar belt. It may indicate that the command point was transferred to Ukraine not through a border point but by crossing the Siverskyi Donets river.

Even earlier, on February 3, 2015, the R-330KVM vehicle was noticed in Bryanka (Luhansk Oblast). It was moving from Alchevsk towards Bryanka. An eyewitness made the photo from his window so we had to crop it to avoid the source location identification. In the picture we can see that the swimming shields are attached and the last section of the telescoping mast is extracted – it seems that the vehicle is changing its location.

Taking into account the date and place of this command point appearance we can state that it took part in Debaltseve capturing in February, 2015. And since other unique machines (like the latest radio station R-166-0,5, in Russian) were seen during that operation, we can assume that Russia uses the full range of non-lethal weapons in the war against Ukraine. Talks about war trophies are senseless – Russian army got all this equipment only in the last several years and it was never in service in the Ukrainian army.

Getting back to the pictures of the army equipment on the civil trucks we should mention that such way of transportation was used not for the first time. For example, the case of MH17 crash contains photos of the ‘Buk-M1′ missile system transported by Volvo FH-13 truck, which was later seen at the militants’ armor vehicle base in Snizhne. The struggle of the Russian-separatist forces to use civil trucks may be caused not only by their desire to mask weapon transportation facts but also by low reliability of the army trucks which periodically cause the road incidents.

Nato Belligerence Endangers Us All

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It is the US drive to expand eastwards which lies at the root of the crisis in the former Soviet republic, argues JEREMY CORBYN – and it’s time we talked to Russia

Tomorrow will see a four-way meeting take place as Russia, the United States, the EU and Ukraine discuss ongoing tensions in the latter country.
But while the endless drama of meetings, lurid statements and predictions and mass demonstrations catches the world’s eye, something more significant and fundamental is taking place in international politics.

As the US moves into relative economic decline, China’s expansion and Russia’s huge energy reserves and location are moving the politics of the world to a different place.
Russia and China have reached a momentous agreement to sell gas and do business in either of their own currencies – but not in dollars.

As with Iraq’s 2002 move from dollars to euros, the new means of exchange downgrades the US dollar as the international currency of choice, but now on a far bigger scale.

The broad historical sweep since the end of the Soviet Union showed two decades of unipolar US power. But now the resurgence of Russia and the enormous economic power of China are ending that.
The history of conflicts since 1990 is grim. Hot wars took place in the Gulf, in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all involving the US and Nato.

The period saw the European Union cement its relationship with Nato, and more recently the US shift its military focus to the Asia-Pacific region as it now sees China as its main rival.
The EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe.

The US remains overwhelmingly the military superpower. It seized opportunities in 1990 and in 2001 to increase its military spending and develop a global reach of bases unmatched since the second world war.

The expansion of Nato into Poland and the Czech Republic has particularly increased tensions with Russia.

Agreements Gorbachov reached before the final demise of the Soviet Union and subsequent pledges that Ukraine’s independence would not see it brought into Nato or any other military alliance appear to have been forgotten by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his increasingly bellicose statements.

Indeed, a huge joint exercise is planned for this July between Nato and Ukrainian forces. This can only make an already dangerous situation even worse.

On Tuesday night the Stop the War Coalition hosted an extraordinarily well-informed public meeting on the crisis at the Wesley Hotel in Euston, London.

Jonathan Steele, a former Guardian Moscow correspondent, outlined the situation expertly, noting that coverage has been dominated by two Hs – hypocrisy and hysteria.

While there were democratic forces in the Maidan protests motivated by falling living standards and corruption, there were also far-right nazi groups involved.

The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.
Stop the War officer and long-term anti-war activist Carol Turner pointed out that the sanctions against Russia are confused and controversial, largely targeting individuals, while the effect on Germany of any broader-reaching economic sanctions would be huge.

And already Gazprom has increased the price of its exports to Ukraine.

The overall issue is still one of the activities and expansionism of the post-1990 United States.

Turner referred to statements made by the US in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. In an article in the International Herald Tribune of March 9 1992 Patrick Tyler of the New York Times outlined the new strategy by which US defence secretary Dick Cheney was preparing for expansion – and many future conflicts.

Tyler wrote that “the classified document makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower, whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behaviour and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging US primacy.”

The author of this strategy, Paul Wolfowitz, specifically divested it of any role for the United Nations, which had been used to provide a mandate for the Gulf war of 1990-91 while the Soviets were preoccupied with their state falling apart.

The plan was never to remove nuclear strike aircraft from Europe or reduce the role of Nato, despite the end of the Warsaw Pact.

“We must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine Nato,” Wolfowitz warned.

Wolfowitz wanted to make arrangements in eastern Europe similar to those in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia had been armed as an ally for regional wars. Now it is acting as a US ally in the Syrian conflict.

On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion. But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.
And there are huge questions around the West’s intentions in Ukraine.

The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.
We have allowed Nato to act outside its own area since the Afghan war started. The Lisbon Treaty binds the EU and Nato together in a mutual alliance of interference and domination reaching ever eastwards.

The long-term effect of the behaviour of US Secretary of State John Kerry, backed by the EU and the British government, is to divide the world. An ever-growing and more confident Russia-China bloc will increasingly rival Nato and the EU, meaning a new cold war beckons.

Would it not be better if when the four powers sit down together they looked at agreeing on a neutral, nuclear-free Ukraine, the possibility of de-escalating the crisis and cut out the hypocrisy of feigned moral outrage from a country that has invaded many others, has military bases scattered worldwide and whose arms industry has made billions from the death and destruction of so much life in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Peace campaigners in Britain need to look at the dangers of the mutual defence agreement with the US and the way it ties us into all their strategies. We also need to look at the role of Nato overall.

The Nato summit due in Newport, Wales, in September is a good opportunity for us to express our opposition to the strange notion that expanding a nuclear alliance east makes us safer.
It does not. It makes the whole world infinitely more dangerous.

Did Swedish Vikings really found Kyiv Rus?

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Scandinavians closely connected to creation of medieval state centred on today’s Ukrainian capital

According to most official histories, the great medieval state of Kyiv Rus was founded by a group of Viking trader-adventurers who were invited to bring law and order to the potentially prosperous but disordered and chaotic lands of far eastern Europe. These Viking state-builders are believed to have originally come from Sweden, which would make the Swedes the first expat managers in Ukrainian history and a very early precursor of today’s EU assistance programmes and foreign-born ministerial appointments. The alleged connections between medieval Ukraine and Viking Sweden certainly make for an intriguing tale, but how much of it is true?

Business Ukraine magazine sat down with Ukrainian historian and archeologist Fedir Androshchuk to discuss the Kyiv Rus-Swedish connection. Mr. Androshchuk, who is a research fellow at Stockholm’s Museum of Swedish History, has spent much of his adult life investigating the ties between Scandinavia and the early medieval Kyiv Rus state. He explains that our knowledge of the origins of the Kyiv Rus state is heavily dependent on a very small number of surviving documents – none of which are contemporary in nature.

Inviting the Vikings

Conventional understanding of the foundation of the Kyiv Rus state comes almost exclusively from the ‘Tale of Bygone Years’, which is an ancient chronicle composed in Kyiv in the early twelfth century – nearly 300 years after the events which are traditionally depicted as the starting point of Kyiv Rus history. The ‘Tale of Bygone Years’ is the sole source of the legend that the state’s Viking founders were ‘invited’ to establish a government in the region. This invitation allegedly came from the tribes living in what today make up parts of Belarus and European Russia. The chronicle claims that these rival tribes had grown tired of their endless infighting and decided to seek outside help, addressing the Vikings thus, “our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us.”

These claims sound suspiciously like the work of apologist historians seeking to retrospectively justify the aggressive expansion of the Vikings into eastern Europe. There are very few historic examples of groups voluntarily ceding their sovereignty in the manner, and many believe the claims of an invitation being issued are convenient way of explaining the growing influence of the Vikings.

This ‘invitation’ narrative was first brought to the attention of conventional historians during the eighteenth century, when a number of German and Scandinavian academics began trying to translate and decipher the few surviving documents relating to the ancient Rus state. Mr. Androshchuk says that the ‘invitation’ interpretation has always been opposed by sections of Russian academia, who have long regarded claims about the Scandinavian origins of Kyiv Rus as demeaning and belittling to Russian imperial pride. It did not help that when the claims first surfaced in the mid-1700s, Imperial Russia was still wary of Swedish ambitions in the region and sensitive to Scandinavian pretentions due to the relatively recent Great Northern War, which had culminated in the Swedish defeat at the 1709 Battle of Poltava in modern-day Ukraine. “These contemporary geopolitical considerations helped to politicize the issue, and the debate continues to this day,” explains Mr. Androshchuk.

Archeology offers evidence of close ties

While arguments continue to rage over the exact role of the Vikings in the creation of the Kyiv Rus state, the available historical and archeological evidence amply demonstrates the existence of deep ties between Kyiv Rus and Scandinavia. Mr. Androshchuk points to the discovery in the twentieth century of Viking artifacts at Kyiv Rus era burial sites throughout modern-day Ukraine, and says that in Sweden there have been similar finds that suggest close ties of kinship and trade. He explains that there is now an emerging consensus among European historians that Kyiv Rus actually came into being as a coherent state far later than previously thought, and probably dates from the time of Volodymyr the Great in the final decades of the tenth century. Nevertheless, he confirms that evidence abounds of a strong Scandinavian presence in the region stretching back at least a further 100 years. “We know that the Vikings were here from some time in the ninth century and were engaged in trade and military functions. Arabic chroniclers have provided numerous accounts of their presence,” he offers, pointing out that the term ‘Rus’ may itself derive from the Old Norse word meaning ‘the men who row’. One Frankish chronicle from the same ninth century period goes even further, referring to a ‘Rus’ presence in the region which is specifically said to have come from modern-day Sweden.

Meanwhile, in Sweden itself, discoveries of Kyiv Rus jewelry and household items point to the extent to which the Swedish warriors and traders of the time where connected to the lands of modern-day Ukraine. Mr. Androshchuk highlights the example of the royal Viking city of Sigtuna, where Kyiv Rus necklaces and ceramics have been uncovered. Sigtuna was also the childhood home of the Swedish princess Ingegerd Olofsdotter, who would become the wife of celebrated Kyiv Rus ruler Yaroslav the Wise.

The exact role of the Swedish Vikings in the creation of the Kyiv Rus state remains the subject of a debate that will probably never be satisfactorily resolved. With Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all laying claim to the legacy of the Kyiv Rus civilization, long-standing claims that European outsiders were the principle state-builders during this formative period have gained renewed political potency. Nevertheless, there is no doubting the fact that the ties binding Sweden and Ukraine are profound and stretch back for over a thousand years.

COUNTERING KREMLIN DISINFORMATION: Frenchman joins English-language Ukraine infowar

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Olivier Vedrine hopes new chat show can help introduce ‘the real Ukraine’ to global audiences

Over the past eighteen months, Ukraine has frequently found itself outgunned by Russia in the international information war raging over the country’s future geopolitical trajectory. This has been due in large part to a relative lack of English-language media platforms providing international audiences with information from a specifically Ukrainian perspective. However, the number of Ukrainian English-language TV projects continues to grow as Ukrainians recognize the importance of getting their message out to the wider world.

The latest addition to this growing segment is UA Tea Time, a weekly TV chat show that airs via satellite to over 30 countries as part the Ukrainian national public broadcaster’s embryonic English-language service. The show, which began recording in July, is the brainchild of Ukrainian showman Sergey Velichanskiy and his French co-host Olivier Vedrine.

Inspired by Euromaidan

Mr. Vedrine has been a Kyiv resident for the past three years and is an outspoken advocate of the country’s European choice. After having first come to Ukraine in order to establish a university, he then found himself gripped by the Euromaidan protest movement. He now combines his educational initiatives with a consulting role on EU integration at Ukrainian law firm Proxen, and activism in support of Ukraine’s efforts to assert its independence from the Kremlin. This admiration for Ukraine’s European aspirations was one of the driving factors behind Mr. Vedrine’s decision to enter the infowar arena. He explains that he was also motivated by an awareness that the country is still struggling to be heard by many in the international community.

The Frenchman is no stranger to the inner workings of European institutions, serving as a member of the Academic Council at the Assembly of European Regions. He is well aware of the knowledge deficit regarding Ukraine that persists among many senior European powerbrokers, and seeks to use his new chat show role as a means of introducing international viewers to ‘the real Ukraine.’ “We want to show the public that there’s much more to Ukraine than the current conflict. It is important to promote the emerging generation of young Ukrainians who are embracing European values, and to demonstrate that Ukraine is in the process of transforming itself. It will be a long journey, but I want to promote the idea that Ukraine is on the road,” he says.

Ukraine is not Russia

One of the key messages Mr. Vedrine identifies is a disarmingly simple one – Ukraine is not Russia. He argues that international audiences struggle to understand the current crisis in Ukraine because a large percentage continue to subscribe to the misconception that Ukraine was ‘always’ part of Russia and only recent began attempting to assert its independence. “Ukraine and Russia share the same historic roots but their pasts diverged a long time ago,” the Frenchman opines, pointing to the democratic traditions of the Ukrainian Cossacks before contrasting this with Russia’s long embrace of authoritarianism.

Mr. Vedrine, who has relatives in both Russia and Ukraine, has spent considerable time in Russia and boasts of a deep affection for Russian culture. He says his Russian friends have branded him a Decembrist in response to his support for Ukraine’s Euromaidan Revolution, but he remains adamant that he is no Russophobe. “I am not anti-Russian – I am anti-Putin,” he says. “I would love to see Russia integrate into Europe, but it needs to do so on the basis of European values, not authoritarian values.”

Kyiv as freedom focus

Mr. Vedrine likes to compare today’s Kyiv to London during WWII, when the British metropolis became a haven for those fleeing occupied Europe and established itself as the de facto world capital of freedom. He says he is convinced that the Ukrainian capital is now well on its way to becoming the focal point of a free Russia, and looks forward to hosting what he terms as ‘free-thinking Russians’ on his new chat show. The Frenchman feels that the unique position Kyiv occupies in Russian culture makes it the ideal place to offer up intellectual alternatives to the ‘Russian World’ as championed by the Putin regime, and says that the city’s unrivalled seniority within Russian history means that it would be impossible to ignore. “Kyiv is the mother city of all Russian civilization – everything came from here,” he opines. “Kyiv is their past, and it can also be their future.”

European values in Ukraine

The big challenge now will be finding an audience for his message. Ukrainian media platforms tend to lack the international reach of their Russian counterparts, while many Ukrainian media initiatives also struggle to engage wider audiences beyond those with a personal interest in Ukrainian issues. While acknowledging these challenges, he says his goal is to reach past the limited confines of traditional Ukraine-watching circles and introduce the country to new audiences. “We aim to become a platform for the new Ukraine and a place where the values being embraced by today’s Ukraine can be debated and defended. I remain convinced that European values hold the key to the future of Ukraine. These values are universal but they must be defended and cannot flourish without support.”

After intensive shelling from terrorists side thousands of Ukrainian people cut off from gas, houses burnt.

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Last night Ukrainian city Stanytsia Luhanska located on government controlled territory of Lugansk Region got under intensive shelling starting from 9 pm till 10 pm. Pro-Russian terrorists of so-called Lugansk People’s Republic used mortars and grenade launchers to fire at residential areas.

As a result of the shelling gas pipe on Moskva-Donbas was damaged. 1569 houses got cut of from gas supply. Right now the repair team is trying to fix the pipe. There was no information about wounded yet. Just the previous night on July 27 4 houses were destroyed and it’s not possible to restore them, they burnt to the ground.

At the same time another house was destroyed in Troitske village after it was shelled from a mortar. Nobody got hurt, two dogs who were securing the house got killed.

Looking at destroyed houses in Stanytia Luhanska you can understand that terrorists of so-called Lugansk People’s Republic decided burn the town to the ground and they don’t care about people and destruction. I wand those animals to hear me: all what is done by you and by your puppeteers will get back to you in a much bigger scale, don’t even doubt that.
– George Tuka, the head of Lugansk Region.

Putin’s ratings and Ukraine

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According to Russian journalist Alexander Sotnik, Putin is a professional liar who himself does not really believe that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” Sotnik shared these and other views on Putin and Russia with during a recent interview.

You spend a lot of time speaking with ordinary Russian citizens. How do you explain what appear to be Putin’s sky-high ratings by European standards?

In authoritarian countries opinion polls are the first to disappear. Then the opposition media goes away. The opinion polls are conducted according to orders, to support those in power. This does not mean that Putin does not have support. But it is different. Putin is supported by those who are fortunate. These are very different kinds of people — starting with officials and oligarchs and ending with law enforcement and FSB people. They represent about 34%. Those who simply don’t care are at 45%. These people are silent. And then there are up to 20% of those who under certain circumstances would be ready to protest in order to bring about changes in the country. These numbers are fluid. They change according to the situation and the background information.

Is a high rating somewhat on the order of a “self-fulfilling forecast”? Does this mean that Putin is inevitable?

The authorities, naturally, need high ratings. The task of the pollsters is not to study public opinion but to create it. If you had a high rating you would probably hold honest elections. Why would you need to put a spoke in the wheel of the opposition? Why control the media? If 89% of Russia’s citizens support Putin then he has nothing to fear. But at the Kremlin they understand perfectly that these 89% do not exist. Putin is incapable of dialogue. He has never been a public politician. He has been a creature of intrigues and secret services. They helped him get into the presidential office. And he has decided to stay there.

What about his TV performances?

It’s a production. These are peculiar meetings of specially selected people with the president. Putin answers the questions that he poses to himself.

Propaganda in large doses and for a very long time is dangerous for a human being. How does one live in such conditions?

The Kremlin constantly needs to increase the dose. Because at some point everything can come to an end. Here they showed the crucified boy. In a month they will need something more fraudulent. It needs to be more and more fake and there simply isn’t enough creative talent. Right now we are close to a state where propaganda will cease to work at all. Moreover, stability on the TV does not coincide with the lack of stability in the supermarkets.

Elections in the Russian Federation are a profanity. When the opposition says that it is necessary to participate in elections it looks like an attempt to enter a non-existent building. What elections in Russia?

But the task of the opposition is to participate in the elections. If not, what do they do?

The Russian opposition needs to go out among the people, meet with the people, explain. But it is harmful to participate in the current “elections” because this legitimizes Putin’s regime. This is precisely what Putin wants — the continuation of his rule. The idea that the state will not collapse yet or he will not die.

How can one combine the irreconcilable in the same propaganda: the Ukrainian language is fictional, but the Ukrainization of Crimea took place. Ukraine is a non-existent country, but there is Ukrainian military in the Donbas?

Our propagandists are not very creative people, since a talented person will not work as a propagandist. There is absolutely nothing they will not do. I was reading a magazine for gardeners in the Moscow subway when I saw a headline “let’s attack the ukrops” (literally “dill,” a derogatory term for Ukrainians — Ed.). Words lose their original meaning and sense. There is no use looking for logic here.

When Putin says that the Ukrainians and Russians are one people, does he really believe it?

No, I’m sure he does not believe it. But he needs to remain in power to survive. Putin’s words do not matter. He is a professional liar. In 1999 he won as the successor to Yeltsin. He never debated with the other presidential candidates. He always appeared alone. Since then everything he says or does is subordinated to one goal: to remain in power.

How important is the fear factor among the elite and larger society when it comes to the preservation of Putin’s presidency?

The more that Putin is afraid, the more aggressively he behaves. The Kremlin is afraid because if they lose power, they will lose money, freedom, and, for a number of them, their lives. This is why they are ready to blackmail the world with a third world war. And they have been blackmailing the Russians for a long time. Putin and his circle are terrorists who have seized a country with 140 million people and vast natural resources.

The killing of journalists and politicians occurs in many countries, but they are very frequent in Russia. Will the spiral of repressions and killings increase?

As long as Putin and his circle are in power they will kill. Everything depends on the level of the person to be killed. If it is the level of a Boris Nemtsov, the go-ahead must come from Vladimir Putin. A person belonging to the so-called Yeltsin “family” could only be killed with Yeltsin’s go-ahead. No Kadyrov, Ivanov or Patrushev could have given such as order (to kill Nemtsov — Ed.) even in a nightmare. Putin was the first one to break the non-aggression pact that had been signed at the beginning of his presidency. It is no wonder that later the frightened (Anatoly) Chubais called on everybody to stop. He understood perfectly who he had in mind when he said “everyone.” The elite is in shock now because it doesn’t know what else to expect from Vladimir Putin.

Is this a signal for the “family”?

It’s a signal for everyone. It goes like this: whatever you do I will remain president. If someone needs to be killed, I will kill.

Does Putin have an exit strategy for leaving government?

After he admitted that Crimea was seized on his orders, after the downed Boeing and the murder of Boris Nemtsov, there is no way for him to leave power.

Most Russian experts say Putin will be around for a long time.

There is one thing that is above Putin — the system of government. If he needs to remove it for self-preservation he will remove it. I have the impression that this day is approaching. There are a few preconditions in place. First, Putin is a world outcast. Second, the sanctions. Third, the Litvinenko case in London. The fourth precondition is the Boeing investigation. Fifth, the price of oil. All this is sticking together as in a snowball. Putin is not Atlas — it is becoming more difficult for him to hold up this state of affairs. This is a threat to the system and to Russia as well.

Is the war in Ukraine beneficial for Putin in prolonging his reign?

No, but he does not know how to get rid of it. Vladimir Putin is still the strategist. Right now he doesn’t know what to do, so he does nothing. I have the impression that he no longer has much control

What leads you to think that there is a search for a successor in the Kremlin?

The problems looming over the country need to be addressed somehow. And the system needs to protect itself. I understand that this is like a cancerous tumor in the body that eventually will destroy it and die itself. But at this stage it needs to save itself. I am confident they are calculating all this in the Kremlin.

Putin must have at least some kind of exit strategy for the war with Ukraine?

If he withdraws from the Donbas, many of those fooled by the propaganda will consider him a traitor. Some of them will have to be physically captured or destroyed. The second factor is that the Russian TV viewer has already been manipulated to accept only the order “forward to Kyiv, to Berlin or Paris.” The third factor is that a segment of his circle will consider him weak.

What are the most realistic options for Russia’s future?

There is a bad option. Russia will come out of the Putin era very weak and will have to spend a long time rebuilding the state institutions that have been destroyed. And a very bad option. The Russian Federation will not remain within its current borders.

Who Will Build a Better Future for Russia?

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An old college friend whom I have known for more than 20 years is planning to leave Russia for good in early September.

Like clouds gathering before a storm, both close and distant acquaintances are increasingly talking about leaving Russia. Announcements to that effect are already trickling in, and they threaten to become a heavy downpour soon.

However, it is unlikely to become an ongoing flood of emigrants: In the quarter-century since the fall of the Iron Curtain, only a little more than 10 percent of all Russians have traveled abroad — even including the massive numbers that have visited Egypt and Turkey. In fact, only a minority of them plan to leave Russia forever.

My parents, who have been abroad, are constantly advising me — someone who travels abroad regularly — to move away, that Russia has no future for us or for our children. At the same time, they putter around their dacha every summer weekend and clearly show no desire to ever sell it and leave.

And yet that steady trickle of departing friends comes like the steady beating of raindrops on the rooftop in Moscow’s drizzly July. The fact that relatively young and educated people are leaving the country is already enough to convince even the uninformed that something is wrong in Russia.

I still clearly remember the day when I first learned that people sometimes leave the country. It was Sept. 1, 1991: Soon after the abortive coup attempt in Moscow took place, I began my penultimate year at high school only to learn that our Russian teacher had emigrated. Even as teenagers we understood her rationale for leaving: The dramatic political events unfolding meant that our old lives had ended and that insecurity and uncertainty were on the rise.

By contrast, those who are now considering leaving lack a clear-cut picture of exactly what is happening in the country.

People consider leaving due to three main concerns: that the economy will collapse, that deepening authoritarianism will either cause the system to fail or take everyone else down with it, and that the rising generation will enjoy few prospects.

There are so many unpredictable factors and worsening indicators that it seems unlikely parents will manage to properly educate their children or help them to lead productive and secure lives in Russia.

Nobody knows just how bad things will get with the economy. However, it is clear to most that the ruble is likely to suffer another sharp devaluation like the one that occurred in late 2014 and that more troubles will follow. And yet, members of that segment of the population most likely to emigrate still earn higher salaries in Russian than they are likely to earn if they were to move abroad.

In fact, the cheaper ruble is dampening emigration ambitions for many Russians. A cup of coffee at the airport costs the same $5 as before, but it now requires twice as many rubles to buy it. On the other hand, apartment rental fees in Moscow have not doubled, leading many property owners — accustomed to using that income to live overseas while maintaining jobs in Russia — to return home, sometimes with the added problem of having lost their cushy jobs.

It is one thing to escape Moscow’s depressing winters with the help of vacations to eternally sunny Southeast Asia, but quite another to relocate overseas permanently. However, some might risk a possible drop in income and make the move anyway, either because they dislike the political uncertainty at home or, to the contrary, anticipate an inevitable increase in authoritarianism.

It is customary to argue that the authoritarianism in today’s Russia is just window dressing compared to Soviet-era, and especially Stalinist practices. In fact, Russians respond very passively to such developments as the clash that occurred on May 6, 2012 between police and demonstrators who were protesting the falsification of election results or the current crackdown on nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign funding.

People tend to view such things as they would a foreign war. They might sympathize with the innocent victims and yet believe that, since they themselves do nothing but drink their coffee and read their newspaper, the problem won’t affect them. According to that logic, only crazy alarmists could compare the trickle of today’s political excesses with the flood of abuses that characterized the Great Terror of the 1930s.

However, the terror of the 1930s also began with a trickle. Russians have only superficially examined that national tragedy and have never really given it a proper ethical or legal evaluation. Where is the guarantee that the authorities’ decision to charge a 75-year-old physicist with high treason for having contact with foreigners will not open the floodgates of repression, eventually turning the current trickle into a flood?

Another common misconception is that, although the ruling regime is admittedly imperfect — and the Crimean adventure might really have some connection with the weak ruble and problems in the real estate and labor markets — trying to replace it might only lead to something worse, perhaps even a more rigidly autocratic regime.

Strangely, many people choose to remain in Russia despite their belief that the country has no future as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in power — even though a blind person could see that this regime greatly differs now from what it was two, three and especially five years ago. Those people contend that although the future is bleak, as long as things are more or less moving along, there is no reason to worry.

These are all reasonable and logical arguments. However, few people think about the fact that the current situation is that same negative future that my Russian teacher and others foresaw 25 years ago, and that even then threatened to reach such lows as to make it necessary for us, her students, to leave the country as well.

Many people intuitively saw it coming even then, but felt it was easier to just go along with the flow than to live and act and in such a way as to bring about a different future, one that would make it worthwhile to stay in Russia and not emigrate.

We Russians have brought about this future ourselves, and we continue on even now in the same direction. Each person has their own pain threshold that would justify a decision to leave, but when the very social group that might have transformed Russia for the better decides to opt out, it begins to resemble players who turn over the game board when they realize they have little hope of winning.

I have no one to blame but myself. I am one of those who simply stood by as events reached this stage, and I am one of those who constantly thinks about leaving. My one concern is that it might not prove so simple to build a better future elsewhere if we lacked the skill and tenacity to do it here.