RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 2, 2014

TODAY: Lavrov denies military intervention as Ukraine accuses Russia of launching a great war; Putin says he could take Kiev in two weeks; ruble hits record low, tourism suffers; Russia turns to China in face of soured relations with West; McDonald’s charity in Russia may come under fire; Kremlin witch hunts.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has again denied that Russia would even entertain the possibility of military intervention in Ukraine, defying reports and accusations by sources all over the world, including Kiev itself. The latest comes from President Petro Poroshenko, who yesterday accused Russia of ‘direct and undisguised aggression; and his Defence Minister, who accused Russia of launching ‘a great war that, he predicts, will end in tens of thousands of deaths.  Lavrov says the main priority at this point is a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution of the crisis.  President Vladimir Putin said direct negotiations’ are the next key step, but he also boasted to Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper that he ‘could take Kiev in two weeks […] if I want’.  The ruble hit a new record low following allegations of Russia’s direct military involvement in Ukraine; and tourism in St. Petersburg is also suffering.  Is Kazakhstan next on Putin’s hit list?

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 1, 2014

TODAY: Putin calls for talks about eastern Ukraine’s ‘statehood’, and political organisation; U.S. calls for arming of Ukraine; E.U. to expand sanctions further; NATO announces new base locations;  Yabloko lawmanker beaten unconscious in Pskov; Ketchum still holds Russia account; Rosneft Arctic investment plans; Beslan ten years on.

In a new interview broadcast on Russian state television, President Vladimir Putin said he wants Kiev to enter talks with Moscow on ‘statehood’ and ‘political organisation for south-east regions of Ukraine, sparking fears that such a ‘vague and provocative turn of phrase’ heralds new, aggressive territorial moves; although his spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quick to deny that Putin was calling for a separate state or sovereignty: ‘The president was talking about inclusive talks’; Peskov also emphasised the official view of the crisis as ‘a domestic Ukrainian conflict’.  Putin also said that Moscow would not stand aside whilst people are ‘being shot at almost at point blank’ in eastern Ukraine.  Attending an event at a youth camp last week, Putin painted Ukraine as the unequivocal enemy, comparing its military’s actions in eastern regions to the Nazi siege of Leningrad during WWII.  Putin is now in Yakutsk, waiting to take part in a ceremony marking the beginning of construction on a gas pipeline to China.  U.S. officials at this point are in favour of arming the Ukrainian government, a bid to help it fight what it is now calling ‘a Russian invasion.  The E.U. says it will expand its current Russia sanctions by the end of the week.  NATO has announced the locations of its five new bases aimed at protecting against the threat from Russia.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 29, 2014

TODAY: Kiev, NATO say Russian troops have begun direct invasion; soldiers in eastern Ukraine are on ‘patriotic holidays’, says state television; Obama considers response, rules out military action; world leaders to hold emergency meetings; FBI investigation shows Russian hackers behind JPMorgan attack; Putin’s approval rating drops slightly; Rosneft privatisation plans unchanged.

NATO says Russia now has over 1,000 troops in Ukraine, calling the current situation ‘a severe escalation’.  Kiev says Russia has begun a ‘direct invasion’, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko citing deliveries of ‘huge loads of arms; and the Prime Minister called on Europe and the United States to freeze Russian assets in punishment until troops are pulled out. The Defense Ministry continues to deny the presence of Russian military units in Ukraine; viewers of state television in Russia were told that some Russian soldiers are fighting with rebels in eastern Ukraine – but that they were only there on ‘patriotic holidays.  The U.S. responded to the news by openly accusing Russia of sending combat forces into Ukraine, but fell short of using the word ‘invasion; President Barack Obama has ruled out military action, and is considering imposing further punitive economic measures.  In the mean time, Bloomberg wants to know why no anti-Russia sanctions as yet have targeted Gazprom.  The U.S. national security council, U.N. security council, NATO, and E.U. leaders are all holding emergency meetings this week.

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Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, and Robert Amsterdam

The flyer for the upcoming event in New Zealand on 15 September featuring Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, and Robert Amsterdam:

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 28, 2014

TODAY: Russia accused of launching new military offensive in Ukraine just days after optimistic meeting; troops may have been paid to join military operations in Donetsk, says Kremlin rights council; more McDonald’s restaurants closed in Moscow; Moldova celebrates new gas pipeline to independence; journalist Krutov beaten – again.

Ukraine accused Russia of launching a new ‘stealth’ military offensive in its eastern territory yesterday, importing more arms and seizing several villages.  This move comes in spite of conciliatory remarks made by President Vladimir Putin after his meeting with Petro Poroshenko earlier this week, leading the Obama administration to accuse Russia of lying about its intentions.  ‘The pattern has become a familiar one: Putin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea after saying he had no intension of doing so.’  German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from President Putin by telephone, emphasising Russia’s responsibility for de-escalation.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is not interested in ‘confrontation with the West.  Kremlin human rights council member Ella Polyakova speculates that Russian troops may have been paid $7,000 each to take part in military operations in Ukraine.  Russian courts are backing Rospotrebnadzor’s order to temporarily close three McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow for breaking sanitary rules, with Russian businessmen linking the crackdown to the Ukraine crisis and deteriorating relations with the U.S.; eight of the chain’s outlets have been closed across Russia in recent weeks.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 27, 2014

TODAY: Russian and Ukrainian Presidential talks see little progress, Putin threatens economic retaliation for EU alliance; NATO to beef up resources to defend against Russian aggression; imminent Russian recession spells bad news for global recovery; Sechin wins court ruling in defamation case; Russia releases Japanese whaling ship.

Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ended yesterday without a breakthrough in the peace process or a commitment to a ceasefire; Poroshenko described the talks as ‘tough and complex’, and demanded a halt of arms shipments from Russia to separatist fighters in Ukraine; Putin said the talks were positive, and vowed that Russia would ‘do everything for this peace process,’ but said that it was essentially up to Kiev to work out the conditions of a ceasefire.  By U.N. estimates, 36 people on average have been killed every day in Ukraine since the fighting began.  Putin warned Poroshenko against any further escalation of current violence, and again threatened economic retaliation for Ukraine’s accord with the European Union.  In any case, says the Guardian, a ceasefire ‘on its own would not be enough’, and there was apparently little agreement during the discussions.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 26, 2014

Detained-russian-troops-ukraine copy.jpgTODAY: Ahead of talks, Ukraine accuses Russia of opening new war front; Russian soldiers detained on Ukrainian soil; journalist covering Ukraine protests attacked. Navalny’s wife questioned; Moscow grants asylum to wanted Lithuanian banker; patriotism at the cinema.

Ukrainian security services have accused Russia of opening a new front after an armored column including 10 tanks entered the country’s south east from Russia.  The services also released video footage in which Russian servicemen are captured by government forces while fighting alongside pro-Moscow rebels.  The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that they are Russian but states that they entered Ukrainian territory by mistake.  Moscow’s hopes to send a second aid convoy to Ukraine have been met with disapproval by the U.S. Department of State.  Ahead of talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asserted that Russia is willing to use any form of diplomacy to end the conflict in Ukraine, ‘as long as there is a result‘.  ‘It would be a massive mistake to believe that Putin is approaching the summit in a mood to accept humiliation.‘  Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has dissolved parliament and announced early legislative electionsRead More »

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 25, 2014

angela_3015619bTODAY: NATO and Moscow at loggerheads over Ukraine; Lavrov proposes second aid convoy; Merkel doubtful as to possibility of resolution. Deputy Prime Minister reassures fast-food lovers; Mosow denies unauthorized entry into Finnish airspace; daredevils behind Ukraine flag tower stunt gain online support. 

Russia has angrily rebuffed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s scathing remarks about the ‘so-called humanitarian convoy‘ the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine, after he suggested it would ‘deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel‘.  Russian diplomats have been excluded from an upcoming NATO summit.  All 227 vehicles of the aid convoy have now returned to Russia; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow plans to send another.   Following talks between Angel Merkel and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, the German Chancellor has warned that upcoming hotly-anticipated talks between Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk are unlikely to yield a breakthrough.  In a tit-for-tat move over sanctions, Russia has banned several Japanese citizens from entering the country, a gesture Tokyo has called ‘very regrettable‘.  Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich has reassured hungry citizens that there are no plans to close down the Mcdonalds chain in Russia.  The Moscow Times has registered the reactions of disappointed diners to closures.

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 22, 2014

192239776TODAY: House arrest for Ukrainian star painters; transmission tower in Ukrainian makeover; Foreign Ministry vows it will send aid trucks in; Putin plans to expand influence of Russian media abroad. Avoiding Western food harder than it looks; prices rise; Russia seizes Japanese whaling ship. 

A Russian court has ordered that the four Muscovites who hung the Ukrainian flag from a Moscow tower should be placed under house arrest.  Two Russian daredevils have hung the Russian flag from a neighbouring tower in retaliation.  Six workers are being investigated after painting a Moscow transmission tower Ukrainian colours, which they maintain was not done on purpose.  The first trucks from the dispute-loaded Russian aid convoy to Ukraine have cleared customs in the country’s east.  The Foreign Ministry has expressed exasperation at delays to the convoy’s progress.  With opinions on Ukraine causing public divisions, the Moscow Times takes a look at the current state of Russia’s political opposition movement.  This article considers how Putin hopes that Russian media expansion in Europe will ‘illuminate abroad the state policies‘.  Read More »

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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 21, 2014

A man takes a "selfie" as he stands with a Ukrainian flag on a Soviet-style star re-touched with blue paint so it resembles the yellow-and-blue national colours of Ukraine, atop the spire of a building in MoscowTODAY: EU criticises Bolotnaya Square sentences; Ukrainian star at top of Moscow tower, work of ‘hooligans’; McDonald’s closures; agricultural sector will require billions amid import ban. VTB feels pain of Ukraine crisis; Ferguson continues to provide Foreign Ministry with ammunition. 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed disapproval at the ‘disproportionate‘ sentences meted out to Bolotnaya square activists earlier this week, since they ‘curtail the exercise of freedom of expression and of assembly in Russia‘.  Activists have re-painted one of Moscow’s Stalin-era Seven Sisters high-rises with Ukraine colours.  Initially charged with vandalism, the perpetrators of the paint job now face hooliganism charges, which could land them up to seven years in jail.  Russia has shut down four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow for alleged ‘sanitary violations‘ and will conduct checks at the fast food outlet in two more regions.  Russia’s government has apparently relaxed some of its bans on Western food to support its own agricultural industry; the agriculture minister says billions of dollars will need to be spent to ensure food supplies are ample.  Russia will now look to China and India for meat imports previously sought from the West.   Read More »

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