Tag Archives: Russia

Russia’s Murderous Adhocracy

At the time of writing, Alexei Navalny is still fighting for his life, after apparently being poisoned as he left Tomsk. For many, this must have been a “Kremlin hit,” but the uncomfortable truth is that under Vladimir Putin, political murder is no longer a monopoly of the state.

It is certainly not impossible that the Kremlin was to blame. Given the authorities’ unease at scenes of people power at work in Belarus, worries over the protests in Khabarovsk and concern about a general tide of surly resentment at a national government that seems out of touch with the provinces, it could be that Navalny’s “smart vote” campaign and his work in the regions took him across that lethally invisible, unpredictably mobile line that defines the barely acceptable forms of opposition.

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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in Europe



The UK and US are starting a new Cold War with Russia and China – so what are these governments trying to hide?

The new Cold War launched by the West against China and Russia is escalating by the day. In a single week, the Kremlin has been unmasked trying to discover the secrets of Britain’s pursuit of a vaccine against coronavirus and revelations are promised about covert Russian interference in British politics. Boris Johnson made a U-turn on Huawei, announcing that it is to be kicked out of participation in the 5G network because it poses a threat to British security, though a curiously slow-burning one since they will only be evicted over seven years.

The US may put the widely used Chinese video app TikTok on a blacklist that would prevent Americans from using it. The administration is considering using the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act in order to penalise TikTok as “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to US security. President Trump says he is considering banning the app in response to the way China handled the coronavirus epidemic.

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Posted by on July 20, 2020 in Asia, North America


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Welcome to Chechnya: the harrowing film about the regime’s gay purge

Two terrified boys are forced out of a car by members of a gang who taunt them with the question: “Were you kissing?” A paving stone is dropped on to the head of a lesbian by one of her relatives. A man’s screaming is captured as he is raped. These “trophy videos” are the hardest thing to watch in Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge, a harrowing documentary about the persecution of LGBT people in the Russian republic. The videos were made by people who hunt down and and terrorise gay Chechens, with the backing of the government and security forces.

“The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, is waging a ‘blood-cleansing operation’ to eliminate all LGBT people,” says the director, David France, speaking by Zoom from his home in New York. Thanks to nationalism, religious fundamentalism and Vladimir Putin’s “gay propaganda” law, LGBT people have become scapegoats. As one of the gang members tells the boys in the car: “All our problems are because of people like you.”

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Posted by on June 23, 2020 in Europe


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Authoritarian governments are using coronavirus as an excuse to crush freedom of speech

Stop those non-humans who are writing and provoking our people,” says Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in an Instagram video. The non-humans he objects to are journalists who criticise the Chechen authorities for mishandling their response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Given Kadyrov has faced allegations of torturing and disappearing critics (which the leader denies), he leaves nobody in any doubt about how unwelcome journalistic questions should be dealt with.

The cause of his rage was an article in the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta by investigative journalist Elena Milashina, who cited Kadyrov as saying that people who spread the coronavirus are “worse than terrorists” and “should be killed”. As a result of these threats, Milashina wrote that people in Chechnya with Covid-19 were hiding their symptoms because they were too frightened to seek medical help.

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Posted by on May 25, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Russia is about to face its biggest test yet in Syria

An American reader tired of corona journalism sent me a plea this week: “There must be plenty of cruelty being unleashed by the gangsters-in-chief across the ‘Mideast’ that simply isn’t making it into the headlines,” she wrote. “Trump et al are either ignoring it or silently condoning it.”

I doubt if Donald Trump is ignoring it, but I do think he’s ignorant of it. And condoning is a bit of a long word for the current occupants of the White House. But here goes.

Russia, we are now led to believe, is losing ground in Libya as its most recent ally, the Libyan-American – and erstwhile friend of Washington – General Khalifa Haftar retreats from Tripoli, losing even the city of Sabratha to the “internationally recognised” government.

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Posted by on April 16, 2020 in Europe, Uncategorized


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Vladimir Putin Positions Himself to Become Russia’s Eternal Leader

To write about Russia for a living is, to an unavoidable degree, to be in the business of analyzing the thoughts, decisions, and machinations of one man, Vladimir Putin—which, inevitably, means often getting it wrong. The latest unexpected turn in Russian politics came on Tuesday, when, in a tragicomic bit of political theatre, Valentina Tereshkova, a former Soviet cosmonaut and a member of Russia’s parliament, stood to offer an amendment to the country’s constitution. The proposal put forward by Tereshkova, who was clearly put up to the job, was simple and brazen: to reset Putin’s time as the President to zero, granting him the chance to run again in 2024, when his current, fourth term is set to end. “Given his enormous authority, this would be a stabilizing factor for our society,” she declared.

The 2024 question has lingered since the moment that Putin was most recently reëlected, in 2018; Russia’s current term limits dictated that he could not run again, and thus, to do so, he would have to cook something up. In January, with no warning, Putin dismissed the government and declared a need to revise the constitution, a process that most observers assumed would lay the groundwork for the next Putin epoch in Russian politics. Moscow was consumed with talk of a looming “transit” period. In typical Putin style, the particulars were left vague, to be decided later. Putin himself offered cryptic, contradictory hints about his intentions—too much detail would allow his rivals and foes, whether inside the palace walls or out on the streets, to prepare for whatever he had in store.

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Posted by on March 12, 2020 in Europe



Putin saves Erdogan from himself

At the start of their discussion marathon in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with arguably the most extraordinary diplomatic gambit of the young 21st century.

Putin said: “At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences over the death of your servicemen in Syria. Unfortunately, as I have already told you during our phone call, nobody, including Syrian troops, had known their whereabouts.”

This is how a true world leader tells a regional leader, to his face, to please refrain from positioning his forces as jihadi supporters – incognito, in the middle of an explosive theater of war.

The Putin-Erdogan face-to-face discussion, with only interpreters allowed in the room, lasted three hours, before another hour with the respective delegations. In the end, it all came down to Putin selling an elegant way for Erdogan to save face – in the form of, what else, yet another ceasefire in Idlib, which started at midnight on Thursday, signed in Turkish, Russian and English – “all texts having equal legal force.”

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Posted by on March 10, 2020 in Europe, Middle East


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Planning for a (Not So) Post-Putin Russia

Following the unexpected announcement of constitutional changes in Russia and the resignation of the government, the question of whether or not Putinism will end with President Vladimir Putin has instantly become rhetorical. The president made it clear in his state-of-the-nation address on January 15 that no one is going anywhere, despite the subsequent resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government, and swift replacement of the former with a low-profile technocrat, Mikhail Mishustin.

Putin’s casual suggestion that the status and role of the insignificant and until recently largely lifeless State Council should be enshrined in the constitution can only mean one thing: that Putin is preparing a new position for himself within that structure. If the State Council’s status gets a boost, the president could assume the status of national leader and head of that structure, which would carry out the role of a parallel presidential administration, or parallel government.

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Posted by on January 28, 2020 in Europe



Battle of the Ages to Stop Eurasian Integration

The Raging Twenties started with a bang with the targeted assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani.

Yet a bigger bang awaits us throughout the decade: the myriad declinations of the New Great Game in Eurasia, which pits the US against Russia, China and Iran, the three major nodes of Eurasia integration.

Every game-changing act in geopolitics and geoeconomics in the coming decade will have to be analyzed in connection to this epic clash.

The Deep State and crucial sectors of the US ruling class are absolutely terrified that China is already outpacing the “indispensable nation” economically and that Russia has outpaced it militarily. The Pentagon officially designates the three Eurasian nodes as “threats.”

Hybrid War techniques carrying inbuilt 24/7 demonization will proliferate with the aim of containing China’s “threat,” Russian “aggression” and Iran’s “sponsorship of terrorism.” The myth of the “free market” will continue to drown under the imposition of a barrage of illegal sanctions, euphemistically defined as new trade “rules.”

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Posted by on January 17, 2020 in Asia


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The climate crisis has sparked a Siberian mammoth tusk gold rush

Glancing into the 50-metre-deep hole the two tusk hunters smiled. Together, they heaved out a caramel-coloured mammoth tusk from the soil where it had been frozen for at least 10,000 years. Their dog, too, seemed to be interested in the find. “Because it’s been locked in the ice for that long it still smelled of the meat, it still smelled of the animal,” says Amos Chapple, who spent three weeks photographing mammoth tusk hunters at work in the Siberian region of Yakutia.

The tusk hunters cleaned their find with dry grass and quickly wrapped it in cling film to keep it moist and preserve valuable weight that would push up its price when it came to selling it. Then the precious cargo, along with two other tusks, went on a winding five hour speedboat journey down a river in northeastern Siberia. The 65kg relic was later sold for $34,000 (£26,800) to a Chinese dealer waiting in the tusk hunters’ village, earning them a total of around $100,000 (£77,000) in just eight days. Everything they left behind – mammoth skulls and bones – was consumed by the elements.

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Posted by on December 13, 2019 in Asia, Europe, Reportages


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