Sunday, October 2, 2016

Russia Blogs Review

Russia Blogs

The 1937 Pushkin Jubilee and Stalinist Culture 

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Jon Platt is an assistant professor in the Slavic Languages and Literature Department at the University of Pittsburgh where he specializes in Pushkin, literary theory, Soviet culture, and Russian contemporary art and poetry. He recently published Greetings, Pushkin!: Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) .
Sebadoh, “Rebound,” 4 Song CD, 1994.

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Vladimir Mayakovsky

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He was born the last of three children in Baghdati , Russian Empire where his father worked as a forest ranger. His father was of Ukrainian Cossack descent and his mother was of Ukrainian descent.

The US presidential debates are just solidifying the narrative about Russia

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The US presidential debates are just solidifying the narrative about Russia

Based on the outcome of the first presidential debate, it appears that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is willing to discuss any substantive changes to America’s Russia policy

Based on the outcome of the first presidential debate, it appears that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is willing to discuss any substantive changes to America’s Russia policy.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands during the presidential debate on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo: AP
It should have surprised no one that little was said about Russia during the first presidential debate on Sept. 26 between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and billionaire businessman Donald Trump. While there was a brief exchange over cybersecurity and an even briefer exchange over Russia’s role in the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, it appears that neither candidate wanted to tackle the difficult issue of future U.S.-Russia relations.
Two more live televised presidential debates are scheduled before Americans go to the polls on Nov. 8 to decide who will replace U.S. President Barack Obama. But anyone expecting something substantive or new about U.S.-Russian relations over the next five weeks should expect to be disappointed.
Clinton is likely to push a familiar narrative that, at best, Donald Trump’s business relationships with Russia put his judgment in question or, at worst, make him a pawn of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump is likely to say little more than he admires the no-nonsense style Vladimir Putin has embraced.

Also read: "US elections: Pointing the finger at Russia"

Debate moderators or journalists on the campaign trail might use the recent spat between the U.S. and Russia about no-fly zones in Syria to get the candidates to discuss how the former Cold War adversaries must come together to find a lasting solution to the crisis in that Middle East nation. Their answers will most likely be predictable, however. Clinton almost certainly will list both nations, the other states in the area and the U.N. as vital to solving the problem, while Trump’s reply would hint at strong military action, whatever the consequences.
Polling data also will become an important factor in what the candidates say before Election Day. The electorate appears to favor Clinton, though her advantage often depends upon the polling agency, the type of voter surveyed and the precise wording of the questions they are asked. If her lead were to increase in October, she could turn down the intensity of any attacks on Trump and instead begin to speak as if she were the next president. Should that happen, more precise policy plans could be articulated.
However, recognizing that Americans remain more concerned with the economy at home and terrorism anywhere, Russia (except in the context of ISIS and Syria) could be an afterthought.

Recommended: "The Cold War mentality and the US presidential campaign"

One of Clinton’s first acts as Secretary of State was a meeting with Russian officials, in which the now famous “reset” button was presented. Considering how President Obama has moved from wanting to engage Russia to talking about it in mostly negative terms, one of her first actions as president might be to determine whether another “reset” is needed. No gimmicky button would be included in any overture in 2017 and that’s because the stakes are higher.
A President Clinton would want firm answers to the suggestions that the Russian government is engaged in state-sponsored hacking, including targeting U.S. political and economic interests, and demand to know how Russia will work alongside the U.S. as a real partner in addressing the Syria crisis.
Both Americans and Russians will be interested in the responses she gets.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.
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The complexities of arming Ukraine with lethal weapons

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The complexities of arming Ukraine with lethal weapons

Debates: Top experts explain what is behind new U.S. political efforts to send defensive lethal arms to Ukraine and what might be the possible implications

Debates: Top experts explain what is behind new U.S. political efforts to send defensive lethal arms to Ukraine and what might be the possible implications.
In this photo taken on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, a sniper rifle is placed in front of Ukrainian flag in the village of Marinka, near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Photo: AP
On Sept. 21 the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the “Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act.” Basically, this bill lays the groundwork for the supply of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. To become a law, though, it still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by the U.S. President. However, it’s the latest signal that U.S. politicians have not forgotten about Ukraine.
Many experts are now debating whether or not sending lethal weapons to Ukraine will lead to an escalation of the conflict and whether or not such a move will increase tensions between Russia and the West.
With that in mind, Russia Direct talked to prominent experts about what is behind this new U.S. policy initiative, what are the prospects of the bill becoming a law, and whether it will lead to instability or stability in Ukraine.
Nicolai Petro, Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, former diplomat in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs in the U.S. Department of State and at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow
The easiest acts to pass in the U.S. Congress are those that are perceived as gaining political points domestically, while incurring no additional cost internationally. In the minds of most U.S. congressmen, this is such a bill. The reference made at the outset, in Section 101, to the precedent of U.S. non-recognition for the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia into the U.S.S.R. is very telling. For nearly fifty years the non-recognition doctrine was given lip service, but had no perceptible impact on U.S.-Soviet relations, which moved smoothly between containment and detente throughout the Cold War. Given this mindset, I assume that the bill will pass the Senate unanimously.
However, I believe it will not have any perceptible impact on the crisis. The Ukrainian government is attempting to avoid implementing the political parts of the Minsk Agreements until it gains control of the border. This violates both the spirit and the letter of the accords, which lay out a specific set of confidence-building measures that the government in Kiev must take beforethe transfer of border control. But this does not mean that the Ukrainian military is ready to launch an assault on the rebels. The issue is not one of weaponry, but that Russia can, with minimal effort, provide sufficient support to prevent such an assault from succeeding. 
Lethal weaponry (as if there were any other kind) does not therefore affect the relationship of forces in any fundamental way. If anything, it puts the present government in a new bind. The party of war in Kiev will be more insistent in asking: If the Ukrainian Army now has the military weapons it asked for, why is it still not attacking?
I expect Russia to maintain its present level of support to Eastern Ukraine, since the proposed bill does nothing to alter the status quo. At the same time, it will denounce the bill as potentially destabilizing.
Andras Rasz, Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
The very discussion about the possible supply of Ukraine with lethal military assistance has not been new at all. However, it is important to see that the debate has always been going on only aboutdefensive weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, and not about offensive ones, like tanks or ground attack airplanes. Hence, no one intends to empower Ukraine with the ability to actually launch attacks on Russia-backed separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine, or Russian forces in Crimea.
Also, it should be noted that this bill is not a binding one. It is still up to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. President to decide further whether to approve it or not.
If the decision will be taken to supply defensive lethal weapons, it may actually contribute to the de-escalation of the war in the Donbas. The reason is that, so far, Russia-backed separatists clearly have had military-technological superiority in terms tanks, artillery, infantry weapons, as well as electronic warfare equipment.

Also read: "What are the prospects of a new OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine?"

To give a few concrete examples: the OSCE monitoring mission spotted a TOS-1 Buratino launcher and the presence of T-72B3 tanks has also been documented many times. Meanwhile, it is actually the very Minsk II Agreement that confirmed the employment of the Tornado-S artillery system in the conflict. Ukraine has no equivalent to any of these very modern Russian-made weapon systems.
Taking into account their military-technological superiority, it is not surprising that separatist forces have been many times tempted to launch attacks against the positions of Ukrainian government forces, ranging from minor clashes and classic reconnaissance-in-force type of actions to operations involving several hundred troops, such as the attack on Marinka last summer.
At this point, strengthening the defensive capabilities of Ukrainian armed forces will probably act as a de-escalator, as it will discourage separatist forces from further attacks, thus from violating the Minsk Agreement.
Given that Russia is a fully rational actor, its answer to the decision to supply Ukraine with offensive weapons (if the bill gets passed) will consist of three interdependent components.
First, diplomatic protests will surely follow, which is quite natural. Second, a serious upsurge in the ceasefire violations is very likely, accompanied by growing casualties on the frontline. Third, intensive and targeted info operations are likely to be conducted both in the U.S. and other Western countries with the main objectives to blur the difference between defensive and offensive weapons, to establish a causality between the weapons shipped to Ukraine and the upsurge of ceasefire violations, and to frame the Ukrainian armed forces as a corrupt institution that might even sell their armaments. Thus, weapons supplied to Ukraine might end up in the wrong hands. Given that delivering the weapons and training Ukrainian forces to use them would take several months, there is sufficient time to conduct such info operations.
However, I would be surprised to see much else happening. The reason is that Moscow decision-makers are fully aware of two facts. First, improved Ukrainian defensive capabilities do not and will not endanger Russia’s firm control over the separatist territories. Second, no one intends to empower Ukraine with offensive capabilities necessary for regaining control over the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine with military force. All in all, supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine in fact will not endanger the present strategic status quo that is actually favorable for Russia.
Dmitry SuslovDeputy Director at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Program Director of the Valdai Club
There are several reasons behind this move; that is, the approval of the bill by the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress. One of them is the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton officially supports the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine and the approval of such a bill works to the advantage of Clinton’s electoral campaign.
I think that most likely, this bill will finally be approved by both the U.S. Senate and by the U.S. president. However, there are two very important points here. First, provisions on the supply of military aid in the U.S. have a nonbinding nature. And second, this bill is included in the U.S. budget’s proposal, which gives the U.S. Administration a choice either to sign the bill or to postpone adoption of the U.S. budget for the next fiscal year.
This is actually one of the favorite tactics of U.S. congressmen  to include some controversial issues they want to force through in the draft of the budget. Usually, to avoid difficulties in adopting the budget, everyone approves it. This is why this bill will ultimately get passed despite current Administration opposition to sending lethal weapons to Ukraine.
If such a decision is made, it obviously will lead to the escalation of the conflict. This approval by the U.S. House of Representatives sends a clear signal to the Ukrainian leadership that the U.S. is not united in its policy on Ukraine. On the one hand, there is the Obama Administration, which demands that Ukrainian President Poroshenko implements reforms and threatens Ukraine with anti-Russian sanctions lift if it does not fulfil its obligations. On the other hand, there is another party represented by Hillary Clinton and the Congressional majority, who advocate for a tougher policy towards Russia, for more sanctions and for sending lethal weapons to Ukraine.
In this situation, the Ukrainian leadership understands this division within the U.S. political establishment and sees the unpopularity of the Obama Administration’s policy on Ukraine. This understanding keeps Kiev from meeting demands of the current U.S. administration, as it is waiting for Hillary Clinton to win the Oval Office and to change the current Ukraine policy.
A Ukrainian soldier guards OSCE observers near the village of Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, April 19, 2015. Photo: AP
As for Russia, in case such a bill becomes law, it increases risks of the military escalation in Ukraine, more anti-Russia sanctions from the U.S. and total collapse of the Minsk Agreements –all of which are significant risks. The Minsk Agreements in today’s form suit Russia entirely but do not suit Ukraine, which is why it seeks ways to annul them and to renegotiate them on more favorable terms.
Given that, Russia first of all needs to ramp up its interaction with the Obama Administration, so that it increases the pressure on Kiev. Secondly, Moscow should step up its work with the Europeans, with France and Germany primarily, as they demand that Ukraine implement the Minsk Agreement in its current form as soon as possible. That is why Russia needs the Europeans to send a clear signal to Kiev that they are not happy with such a change.
And lastly, Moscow should start working more actively with Hillary Clinton and her team to explain to them that, in case the decision to send lethal weapons to Ukraine is made, they are risking that they will find themselves isolated as even their European allies are not going to support them. And the same should be relayed to Poroshenko.
Petr Kopka, Head of Research Programs at the Center for Operational Strategic Analysis in Ukraine
The decision of the U.S. House of Representatives to approve the “Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act” is sort of a legislative legalization of the U.S. Ukraine policy, which has been conducted over the past two years. When the U.S. president will sign the bill, the law will formalize and guarantee continuous support of Ukraine in its fight against external aggression. Exactly these motives lay behind this bill. Therefore, the U.S. legislators view it as a guarantee for continuity of the U.S. policy towards Ukraine.

Recommended: "The perils of arming Kiev"

The fact that the bill was co-authored by 40 congressmen from both the Democratic and Republican parties and was unanimously approved suggests that the U.S. Senate will also approve it. Besides, the external conjuncture is very favorable for such a bill to be passed. Given the recent MH-17 report and recent Russian military actions in Syria, the Senate will hardly reject a bill that is unfavorable for Russia.
As for the U.S. President, I believe that either the current or the future president will sign the bill anyways. The main U.S. paradigm of countering Russia's aggressive foreign policy will remain under any political circumstances.
As for Russia, it has practically nothing to oppose to this bill, mainly, because it has already passed a lot of bills on hybrid warfare and defense of the “Russian world” through the Russian State Duma including by military means.
Besides, both Crimea and Donbas resemble more and more a suitcase without a handle. This is why, despite the fact that it sounds quite paradoxical, such bills as the Ukraine Act can be used by Russia to fix its own mistakes if it properly influences its citizens.
Susan Stewart, Senior Associate, German Institute for International and Security Studies (SWP Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik)
The question of providing lethal weapons to Ukraine has been on the agenda for months, if not years. On the one hand, it is possible that such weapons could act as a deterrent to Russia, if that country’s leadership should be considering an escalation of the fighting in the Donbas or even a military push further into Ukraine. On the other hand, there is legitimate concern that introducing more weapons into the picture would increase the likelihood of further violence and death. Raising the costs for Russia of further military action does seem likely to serve as a deterrent.
However, if the lethal weapons (and possible training measures associated with them) are provided only by the U.S., then the probability of a proxy war (or the perception of one) is greater than if the weapons are provided by a broader contingent of states. This is especially true since Russia is particularly sensitive about being seen as the equal of the U.S., in military as well as other realms.
For this reason, and also in order to retain coherence in the U.S. and EU approaches, it would be preferable for Western actors first to agree that countries will provide weapons (or refrain from doing so) according to their own criteria, and second, to ensure that a variety of states are involved. On the time dimension, it seems unlikely that the introduction of additional weapons would result in an immediate escalation of hostilities, since both sides are relatively content with the status quo, and Russia in particular is waiting for the outcome of the U.S. (as well as the French and German) elections in the hope of a constellation of Western leaders more favorable to the Russian agenda on Ukraine and more broadly.
Nonetheless, increasing the number and military potential of the weapons available heightens the danger of more intense fighting and a higher number of casualties if the war should heat up again at a later date.
Vyacheslav Sutyrin, Senior Associate Fellow at the State Academic University for the Humanities (Russian Academy of Sciences)
The fact that the U.S. House of Representatives approved this bill on Sept. 21 is more proof of U.S. support for Ukraine against the growing understanding that the Minsk Agreements do not work. However, this decision alone does not guarantee the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine. It does not have a binding effect and in the end, the U.S. president will make the final decision.
Besides, the wording used in the Act, especially when it talks about the supply of the lethal weapons, is quite vague. The notion of “lethal defensive weapons,” which sparked much of the discussion, is used only in the General Statements of Policy section. Moreover, this Act does not propose any additional funding, saying “no additional funds are authorized.”

Also read: "The West ignores the Ukraine crisis at its own peril"

This is why, this bill is more likely to be some act of deterrence or containment. In addition, it is an attempt to prove that Kiev is not responsible for the failure of the Minsk Agreements. At the same time, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden recently warned that Europe might make Kiev responsible for the collapse of the agreements.
We also should not expect weapon deliveries to start any time soon. Firstly, it is a strategic pause now because of the U.S. presidential elections, the outcome of which is hard to foresee. Secondly, supplying lethal weapons  even defensive ones  to Ukraine might spoil the U.S. image and can further legitimize Moscow’s support for the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
As for the Russian response, there is nothing yet to respond to, as there were no real steps made by the U.S.
Stefan Meister, Head of the Program for Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia, Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, German Council on Foreign Relations
I think that such decision of the U.S. House of Representatives shows that the U.S. Congress has its own time schedule, and this schedule is not always linked with the president’s policy. The U.S. congressmen use the period before the elections  a time when Obama decides almost nothing and try to bring their interests through and push the topic.
However, there will be no support by the U.S. president, who is not interested in the supply of lethal weapons. The U.S. Senate might be more inclined to support the House of Representatives’ decision, but I am not sure. Everything depends on the new U.S. president with regard to this issue. Before this person is in position, nothing will change fundamentally.
In terms of possible consequences if the bill ultimately receives the approval of the Senate, I think it will have just a limited impact, because only the new U.S. president might change the situation fundamentally. I think the latest MH17 report and the proof that Russia was involved for downing Flight MH17 might play a more important role in escalating the situation. But I don't see at the moment any interest on any side to escalate the conflict.
As for Russia, I don't think Moscow wants to escalate the situation, because it is in a wait-and-see mode. That means I expect a strong statement, but no fundamental change.
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Next stage in Russian economic development is in the Far East

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Next stage in Russian economic development is in the Far East

In the new Russia Direct report, top experts explain why Russia needs to retool its approach to reinvigorating its Far East. They also give advice to potential foreign investors in the region

In the new Russia Direct report, top experts explain why Russia needs to retool its approach to reinvigorating its Far East. They also give advice to potential foreign investors in the region.
Vladivostok during the Eastern Economic Forum in early September 2016. Photo: RIA Novosti
In an effort to make Russia’s pivot to the East a success, the Kremlin is doing its best to attract investment to the distant regions of Siberia and the Far East.
Vladivostok, as they see it, has every chance to become one of the centers of business, trade and innovation in the Asia-Pacific region. But how realistic are those plans? Given the current economic crisis, how might Moscow be able to attract substantial investment to the Far East region? How will such factors as the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) influence Russia’s ambitious trade projects in the region?
The new Russia Direct report, titled “Crossing the Bridge to the Far East,” brings together prominent experts from Russia and abroad to help answer these questions and  find out what factors the government in Moscow should take into account as it plans the next stage of Russian economic development.
Alexander Gabuev, senior associate and chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, starts by analyzing the obstacles and difficulties facing Russia’s pivot to the East and shares his take on what the Chinese and U.S. trade initiatives – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and TPP, respectively –  might mean for Russia in the region.
“What the Kremlin lacks is a strategy, which would include a detailed mission statement of both the Asian dimension of Russia’s foreign and economic policy, as well as the role it wants the Far East to play,” he writes.
Paul Lirette, senior economist at the Warsaw-based Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE), raises another important point. Given the challenges related to integrating into the Asia-Pacific market, any pivot needs to take into account any potential changes in Russia’s relations with the West. In short, will Russia still be as interested in Asia if Western sanctions are lifted?
With the Far East also being one of the most sparsely populated territories in Russia (with just over 6 million people), the issue of immigration also becomes quite important. Given the low domestic response to a government land giveaway program and the growing number of Chinese immigrants, there is a real threat of tension if immigration rises, Lirette argues.
A key pillar of Russia’s turn to the East is energy and there are already a number of ambitious projects being developed and discussed. Konstantin Simonov, director general of the National Energy Security Fund, outlines Russia’s difficulties in satisfying the demand of the Asian energy market and names concrete projects that are already being implemented with the participation of partners from China, Japan and the West.
Energy cooperation is key to ensure that Russia’s political influence in the region grows. As Simonov writes: “Without common business interests, political cooperation will be in limbo. Yet if economic projects will extensively develop, it will be easier to find a common ground in politics.”
Ben McPherson, energy policy analyst with the Brussels Energy Club, also adds that the political situation is one of the factors that potential investors must take into account. Ambitious projects, such as the “energy super ring” aimed at connecting the energy grids of Russia, Japan, China, South Korea and Mongolia, are unlikely to be implemented without the cooperation between the governments of the region.
The report also features exclusive interviews with the Eurasian Development Bank’s chief economist Yaroslav Lissovolik; the general director of the Far East and Baikal Region Development Fund, Alexei Chekunkov; and the president and CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, Alexis Rodzianko. These prominent economists and practitioners share their views on the factors affecting investment activity not only in the Far East, but also in Russia in general. They also explain why Russia’s Far East might become one of the global centers for technological innovation and intellectual property.
Not many are familiar with the fact that Russia and the U.S. once successfully cooperated in Siberia and the Far East, boosting trade between the countries and encouraging visits from America’s West coast to Russia’s Eastern regions. The overview of this positive period in Russia-U.S. relations is provided in the report by professors from the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow and the European University at St. Petersburg – Victoria I. Zhuravleva andIvan Kurilla.
They touch upon the historical significance of the Trans-Siberian railway for Russia-U.S. cooperation, the ambitious plans to connect Chukotka and Alaska  that were never implemented, and the significant media coverage that Siberia received in the U.S. a century ago.
How will the TPP influence Russia’s pivot to the East? What are the opportunities for Russia’s Far East to cooperate with America’s West Coast? Download the report and find out.
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What the world has learned from MH17

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What the world has learned from MH17

No matter the eventual outcome of the investigation into the Malaysian Airlines crash, the catastrophe has already done much to cast doubt on some of the world’s most deeply held beliefs about right and wrong

 No matter the eventual outcome of the investigation into the Malaysian Airlines crash, the catastrophe has already done much to cast doubt on some of the world’s most deeply held beliefs about right and wrong.
People pray for the victims of  the MH17 flight at a church in Kuala Lumpur, July 18, 2014. Photo: AP
Another phase of the investigation into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has come to an end. On Sept. 28, the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team gave a press conference in which it presented evidence showing that the plane was shot down with a Russian Buk missile system that had been transported across the Russian border to separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine and later returned to Russia.
It would seem that the MH17 story is moving towards its logical end. The only thing left to do is to identify the people who were directly involved in this war crime and bring them to justice. The list of suspects has already been drawn up, and the investigative team promises to finish its work by 2018 and remit the case to the courts.
As the investigation continues, however, it has become clear that this investigation is unlikely to come to any reasonable conclusion. From what we already know, it appears that the investigation will result in charges against Russian citizens — and not just ordinary citizens, but people from the military and political elite. The probability of such people actually appearing before a court in the foreseeable future is close to zero. This reality, however, is unlikely to stop the investigators nor change the position of the relatives of those who died in the crash, who demand that the guilty be punished.
Regardless of how the investigation plays out, it can be said even now that the crash of MH17 and its aftermath have brought serious changes into our understanding of law and justice. Doubt has been cast on previously indisputable truths, and things previously thought unquestionable are now approached with skepticism. Here are few such statements:
1. “Guilt can be proven”
It is well known that Russia has consistently denied any and all evidence presented associating it with the crash of MH17. Unlike a typical suspect, Russia is able to resist succumbing to the burden of evidence, no matter how obvious it may seem to an outsider. No matter how sophisticated the investigators are in their methods, Russia always finds a simple response to neutralize the accusations brought against it.

Recommended: "A year after MH17: The lessons for Russia"

This time, for example, just days before the Joint Investigative Team’s press conference, Moscowpresented the “raw data”, supposedly taken from Russian military radars, to the investigators. Analyzing this information will take some time. Yet it is highly likely that the new data will be rejected by the Dutch investigators as false.
Every time the investigation team tries to close the case for good, Russia pulls another 
“evidence” card from up its sleeve, questioning the allegations presented. There is no doubt that a whole deck of these cards has been stacked away for the years to come.
2. “The perpetrators can be punished”
Russia has already vetoed the establishment of an international tribunal on MH17. Clearly, there are many other ways to establish a UN Security Council tribunal, and this process can be launched formally.
But in order for any verdict to be implemented, there should be an enforcement mechanism, and there is no such mechanism against a nuclear power. As a result, if a court is established and asentence is handed down, enforcing it would prove impossible, and that, among other things, would undermine the authority of the court and the countries that established it.
3. “By denying what is evident, Russia will find itself isolated internationally”
As indicated by recent political practice, leaders of countries facing a choice between morality and pragmatism are more likely to choose the latter. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been universally banned from the international stage following the events in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
And even having good reason to believe Russia’s involvement in the crash of the Malaysian airliner has not stopped the governments of leading Western powers — not to mention countries in other parts of the world — from doing business with Russia and even trying to establish military coalitions with it. It would be very unlikely for a verdict from an international tribunal, no matter how harsh, to change this reality.

Also read: "The MH17 tragedy has become a geopolitical game"

Additionally, Russia is continually working to cast doubt on the proceedings through its infromation campaigns, claiming that the international investigation, which is being conducted without Russian representatives, was conceived with the aim of exerting political pressure on Russia. In the climate of growing international skepticism towards the U.S. in particular and the West in general, such a position has found support and understanding with many people across the globe.
4. “By denying the obvious, the Russian government will lose its authority inside the country”
This statement is even more dubious than the previous one. The Kremlin has had no difficulty convincing large numbers of Russians that external attacks against the government, regardless of the reasons behind them, amount to attacks against the country as a whole. There is no doubt that a large amount of work is going on inside the country to convince the Russian people that their country had nothing to do with the crash of MH17 and that Ukraine is to blame.
The Russian government doesn’t even care if this point of view prevails — it only needs to put forward enough conspiracy theories and ordinary people start believing that it is impossible to get to the truth and that Russia is not involved in the tragedy.
5. “The truth is stronger than lies, and good will triumph over evil"
With all the challenges of investigating the MH17 crash and bringing the perpetrators to justice, many people have invoked morality as a last resort, assuring themselves and the people around them that the truth will prevail eventually and those who have done evil will be punished.
It might be the case, but the MH17 investigation has once again demonstrated that one should not expect the moral code to function in the world of politics and international relations the way it does in everyday life. The desire to hold the perpetrators accountable is in direct conflict with Russia itself — a great power and a great civilization — which stands in the way of justice.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.
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Medvedev: Russian government to work on a project basis

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New structure will prioritize proposals that show the most potential

Lavrov and Kerry discuss Aleppo and North Korea 

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U.S. initiated the phone conversation

Old model of Russian economic growth exhausted itself - Central Bank head 

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Russia's new model of economic growth should be based on investment

RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 30, 2016 

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TODAY: US and Russia continue to lock horns over Syria and nuclear weapons; Merkel presses Putin on Syria and Ukraine; Rosneft sues RBC for libel; new OPEC limits are unlikely to alter Russia’s production; former Yukos head funding media startups; abortion under fire.
The Kremlin says it has no intention of steering course in Syria, dismissing US calls for temperance.  The US State Department is warning that Russia risks becoming enmeshed in Syria for the foreseeable future if the civil war continues; the New York Times says Putin is turning Russia into ‘an outlaw nation’.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry is accusing the Pentagon of nurturing an aggressive nuclear strategy that puts Russia under threat, interpreting recent comments by Ash Carter as an intention to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons.  Oleg Kashin argues that the invasion of Ukraine was the turning point in Russia’s foreign policy, and that western leaders must address the Ukrainian crisis if they want to make any headway on Syria.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with President Vladimir Putin about both Ukraine and Syria, urging him to address the ‘catastrophic humanitarian situation’ in the latter, and discussing a very shaky ceasefire in the former.
Oil giant Rosneft is suing the RBC news outlet for almost $50 million in libel damages.  Analysts see no risks to Russia’s oil production in OPEC’s oil production limits, and may in fact allow Russia to increase yearly output even further; indeed, it is under debate whether the OPEC plan will affect prices at all, given that non-member states are keeping production levels where they are.  Energy Minister Alexander Novak says this is certainly the case for Russia.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of oil giant Yukos, is funding online media startups through his pro-democracy group, Open Russia, in a bid to support communication ‘that considers itself independent from the government’s support’.  According to an economist cited by Kremlin-backed news organ Sputnik, the lifting of Western anti-Russia sanctions would be counterproductive for the Russian economy, because they are improving competition with European imports. ‘We would like the sanctions to continue for another five years.’  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says intelligence services in Russia areconstantly engaged in anti-terrorism activities.
The Soviet Union was the first state in the world to legalise abortion, but the practice is coming under new attack in Russia, backed by the Orthodox Church which is seeking a ban on the service.  At the same time, a possible withdrawal of support for the controversial service of baby boxes could lead to an increased number of abandoned infants.  The BBC reports on Russia’s plan to give citizens a free hectare of land in the Far East in a bid to spur small-business development; so far only 8 applications (out of 880) have succeeded.
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a visitors’ book at Russian writer Leo Tolstoy estate museum in Yasnaya Polyana outside the city of Tula, Russia September 8, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin
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Former Prime Minister to Become Putin’s Right-Hand Man

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(Moscow Times – – Mikhail Fishman – September 29, 2016) Boris Yeltsin reportedly first spotted Sergei Kiriyenko, then a young businessman from Nizhny Novgorod, during a boat trip on the Volga River in July 1994. Nearly four years later, Yeltsin would shock the political establishment by appointing him prime minister. Plucked from relative obscurity at the age of just [...]

Khodorkovsky’s Group To Support Media Startups

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(RFE/RL – – September 29, 2016) A pro-democracy group founded by exiled Kremlin critic and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has launched a project to fund online media startups. Open Russia said on September 29 that the goal of the project was “to create communication channels within the part of the Russian society that considers itself independent from the government’s [...]
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Can the U.S. and Russia Still Work Together on Syria?

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Can the U.S. and Russia Still Work Together on Syria?After the recent breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria and the escalation of the Russian bombardment of Aleppo, asked three experts, one in Russia, one in the United States and one in the Middle East to comment on the question: can the United States and Russia Still Achieve Something Together in Syria? Русский

Russia and the Downing of MH17

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Russia and the Downing of MH17There will be no closure to the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 until those who gave the order to down it are identified.

As New Cold War Heats Up, Russia Preparing to Go It Alone?

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There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before. – Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet) Brief History Lesson Leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II, Japan was reliant on trade with the … Continue reading 

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Updated OOB Notes 

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Here are some updated Russian OOB notes.  These contain considerably more data points than the last iteration from 2014.


Shamanov’s Replacement? 

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Izvestiya reports today that General-Lieutenant Andrey Serdyukov is set to replace General-Colonel Vladimir Shamanov as commander of the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV).
Shamanov, who will turn 60 in February, has commanded the VDV since early 2009.  But he could continue to serve beyond 60 at the president’s discretion under Russian law.
General-Lieutenant Andrey Serdyukov
The 53-year-old General-Lieutenant Serdyukov has been serving as first deputy commander and chief of staff in the Southern MD.  He reportedly played a key part in the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
A presidential decree on the personnel change has not been issued, but Kremlin press-secretary Dmitriy Peskov did not deny plans to elevate Serdyukov when asked by Izvestiya.
Russian media sources have reported that Shamanov’s retirement post will be a seat in the new State Duma and chairmanship of its Defense Committee.  Readers will recall that Shamanov is a member of the president’s United Russia party and served as governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast.


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Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders - STRATFOR

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Monitoring the Pulse of World Leaders
While the health status of world leaders can certainly affect state or regional stability, in some cases, health concerns could even reverberate internationally. In Russia, for instance, VladimirPutin's consolidation of power sets up a situation where ...

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Vladimir Putin's prodigy: Chechnya's warlord Ramzan Kadyrov - Daily Star

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Daily Star

Vladimir Putin's prodigy: Chechnya's warlord Ramzan Kadyrov
Daily Star
Vlad's lad: Meet Putin's 30 something hardman prodigy Ramzan Kadyrov who wrestles crocs. HE'S the baby faced tyrant who counts convicted rapist Mike Tyson as his friend and keeps man-eating lions and tigers as pets in his playboy palace.

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The Russians are not coming; they're already here - The Hill (blog)

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The Russians are not coming; they're already here
The Hill (blog)
The high-tech warfare capabilities and intrusions into corporate and nongovernmental systems is clearly on display as a rapidly modernizing Russian military invests in aerial systems and communications that threaten global peace and security ...

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В Грузии по экс-министру обороны и члену его избирательного штаба открыли огонь - ТАСС

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В Грузии по экс-министру обороны и члену его избирательного штаба открыли огонь
ТБИЛИСИ, 2 октября. /Корр. ТАСС Тенгиз Пачкория/. Неизвестный злоумышленник открыл огонь в направлении бывшего министра обороны Грузии, кандидата в мажоритарные (одномандатные) депутаты от Горийского избирательного округа Ираклия Окруашвили. Инцидент ...
В Грузии произошло покушение на экс-министра обороны Окруашвили
В Грузии совершено покушение на экс-министра обороныГазета.Ru
В Грузии напали на бывшего министра обороны Ираклия ОкруашвилиКоммерсантъ
Российский Диалог -РИА Новости Украина -КП в Украине -Левый берег
Все похожие статьи: 28 »

Boris Johnson: Russian complicity in war crimes precludes Syria talks 

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Foreign minister tells party conference that Aleppo bombings make it impossible to begin peace negotiations
Russia is deliberately aiding the bombing of hospitals in Syria, committing war crimes that will make it impossible for peace negotiations to begin, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham on Sunday, Johnson condemned the “continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo”.
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Rory Stewart: global order out of control as Russia 'swaggers' - The Guardian

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The Guardian

Rory Stewart: global order out of control as Russia 'swaggers'
The Guardian
He also suggested that, faced by a swaggering Russia, there was little that “poor old” John Kerry or President Obama can do in Syria in the final few weeks of their administration. He suggested different strategic questions could be asked if Hillary ...

October 2, 2016

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A look at the best news photos from around the world.

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Pope Encourages Religious Tolerance in Azerbaijan

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From: AssociatedPress
Duration: 01:34

Pope Francis arrived in Azerbaijan for a 10-hour visit on Sunday. Azerbaijan, the second largest Shiite Muslim nation after Iran, has a tiny Catholic population - fewer than 300 Azeris are Catholics. (Oct. 2)
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