Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Week Ahead: September 8-14

September 9: The European Union is expected to formally adopt a fourth wave of sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, September 8:
EU/Ukraine: European Parliament hosts a press conference with Ukrainian pop singer Ruslana in Brussels.
MacedoniaIndependence Day.
TUESDAY, September 9:
EU: The European Union is expected to formally adopt a fourth wave of sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
Tajikistan: Independence Day.
WEDNESDAY, September 10:
OSCE: Prague hosts a meeting of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum (to September 12).
U.S./UkraineJohns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosts a discussion titled "The Ukrainian Crisis in Historical Perspective."
THURSDAY, September 11:
EU/Ukraine: European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defense hosts a discussion on the security situation in Ukraine.
Iran/Kazakhstan: Iranian President Hassan Rohani is scheduled to visit Astana.
MoldovaNext round of 5+2 talks on the Transdniester conflict settlement, involving representatives of Moldova, Transdniester, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, plus the United States and the European Union, is scheduled to begin in Vienna (to September 12).

Ukraine: The 11th Yalta Annual Meeting titled "New Ukraine, New Europe, New World Building And Defending," organized by the Yalta European Strategy (YES), opens. (to September 13).
UkraineEU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fuele, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso visit Kyiv (to September 12).
FRIDAY, September 12:
EU: Representatives of Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine meet in Brussels for a ministerial meeting to discuss the implementation of Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union.

Tajikistan: Dushanbe hosts the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit (to September 13).

Iran/TajikistanIranian President Hassan Rohani visits Dushanbe, attends the SCO summit. (to September 13).

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

Sex, Torture, And Chechnya: New Depardieu Movie Hits Russian Theaters

Gerard Depardieu

Gerard Depardieu, the famous French actor-turned-Russian-citizen, hit Russian theaters on September 4 with a new movie whose producer says highlights the "extraordinary redevelopment" of Chechnya in Russia’s restive North Caucasus.

"Viktor," starring Depardieu and British actress Elizabeth Hurley, was shot in Moscow and Chechnya last year. It purports to be a revenge film with Depardieu, speaking English as a Frenchman, taking on the criminal underworld that killed his son.

The film has secured an apparent endorsement from Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who posted pictures on his widely followed Instagram last year with Hurley, Depardieu, and a kitten.

With the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and government largesse from Moscow, Kadyrov has presided over the redevelopment of Chechnya following two devastating wars in the republic between Chechen separatists and Russian federal forces.

Kadyrov’s reign, however, has also been marked by numerous reports of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and extrajudicial killings and torture.

The trailer for "Viktor" features a lingerie-clad woman wielding a pistol, as well as multiple scenes of torture:


Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 82 cases of torture in a 2006 mission by Kadyrov’s forces. A former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, has accused Kadyrov of personally torturing him and others by giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.

Kadyrov, who has repeatedly denied such accusations, gave Depardieu the title of honorary citizen in May 2013 and keys to a five-room apartment on the 27th floor of an elite apartment building in Grozny.

Putin hand-delivered a Russian passport to Depardieu in January 2013 after the actor got into a public spat with French President Francois Hollande over a surtax on millionaires.

The French actor has registered to live in Saransk, Mordovia, about 650 kilometers east of Moscow.

-- Luke Johnson

Russian Photographer In Ukraine's Fate Still Unclear, Despite Cryptic 'RIP' Tweet

Russian photographer Andrei Stenin, who reportedly went missing in eastern Ukraine in early August

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 03.09.2014 05:19

UPDATE: The Russian media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya has confirmed that photographer Andrei Stenin is dead, saying in a statement that medical experts had concluded a body found in a burned vehicle outside Donestk was that of Stenin.

The fate of a Russian photographer who disappeared nearly a month ago in eastern Ukraine remains a mystery despite scattered claims that DNA testing confirmed Andrei Stenin was dead.

A fellow Russian photojournalist claimed on September 2 that Stenin's remains have been identified, after he disappeared while covering fighting between pro-Kyiv and pro-Russian forces.

Another report, on the Russian FlashNord website, quoted the separatist "Donetsk People's Republic" as saying genetic tests had confirmed that remains found more than a week ago were Stenin's.

But Stenin's employers at news agency Rossiya Segodnya (also known as RIA Novosti) said they had no confirmation of Stenin's death. "We are awaiting the final results of genetic testing in the near future," Rossiya Segodnya Director-General Dmitry Kiselyov was quoted as saying.

The case has particularly alarmed Russians and international observers due to suggestions -- including by a Ukrainian official -- that Stenin, who was on assignment at the time, had been taken into custody by Ukrainian security forces.

Russian colleague and self-described "good friend" Vasily Maksimov (@vasilymaximov) announced Stenin's purported death via Twitter.

"Andrei Stenin's remains identified, it seems," Maksimov said. "RIA will soon let you know. Unfortunately, I no longer doubted this outcome. RIP."

The pro-Kremlin @Novorussia_ru feed also claimed Stenin's death had been confirmed, although it offered no attribution for the information.

The reports set off a wave of expressions of mourning for Stenin on social media.

Rossiya Segodnya had launched an online campaign in August featuring the #FreeAndrew Twitter hashtag.

Reports more than a week ago suggested Stenin's remains had been found along with the bodies of two other people, in some cases with accompanying photographs of a burned-out car said to have been found on the road between Snezhnye and Dmitrivka.

The leadership of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic reportedly claimed at the time that equipment and other evidence at the scene indicated one of the bodies was that of Stenin.

Speculation over who might be responsible for Stenin's disappearance fueled ongoing debate in a conflict in which all sides have been criticized for their treatment of journalists.

Stenin had been working in areas of eastern Ukraine where some of the most intense fighting was taking place between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Many of his photographs showed the brutal realities of war and were shot while he was traveling with pro-Russian fighters. They included images of a captured Ukrainian soldier digging a grave for comrades, locals affected by the fighting, and pro-Russian fighters in combat or on leave

In the bitter media environment of war-torn Ukraine, some had accused Stenin of working for Russian security forces. But no evidence of such ties has been produced publicly.

Reporters Without Borders had said it was "very concerned" over Stenin's whereabouts in the days after his disappearance:

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about Andrei Stenin, an experienced war photographer working for the past few months in eastern Ukraine for Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian news agency formed in 2013 from the merger of several state-owned news outlets. Stenin has been missing since 5 August, when Rossiya Segodnya reported his disappearance. Reporters Without Borders urges anyone holding him to make it known, and to release him at once.

A RIA Novosti source said on 8 August that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was holding him near the southwestern city of Zaporozhye but a local SBU spokesman denied this and the Ukrainian government has yet to respond to requests by Rossiya Segodnya and local NGOs such as IMI for information. Representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk said Stenin may have gone to Shakhtarsk, in the Donetsk region, where all communications are cut.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said four days after the disappearance that efforts were under way to find Stenin. "The relevant agencies are taking measures to bring the journalist back home because the life of any of our citizens, including journalists, is the top priority in such situations, of course," Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

On August 12, a RIA Novosti report quoted an aide to Ukraine's interior minister as saying Stenin had been "arrested."

"He [Stenin] was arrested by our security services," Anton Herashchenko, an aide to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, said in an interview with Baltkom radio. "We think that Andrei Stenin may be guilty of aiding terrorists."

But Herashchenko subsequently complained he'd been quoted out of context and said he had no information about Stenin's whereabouts.

On August 20, he added that the Ukrainian National Security Service (SBU) "is not holding this man either."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, called for Stenin's "immediate release."

"This dangerous practice of detaining and abducting media workers is unacceptable and must end," Mijatovic said. "I call on those responsible to stop targeting journalists for carrying out their work."

Journalists from both the pro-Russian and pro-Kyiv sides have gone missing or turned up dead since separatist-fueled violence escalated in early April. 

At least six other journalists have been killed this year in Ukraine.

-- Andy Heil

The Week Ahead: September 1-7

September 1: The North Ossetian town of Beslan marks the 10th anniversary of a school hostage taking that left 334 people people -- including 186 children -- dead.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, September 1:
Armenia:  The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Academy is scheduled to begin its work in Yerevan.
EU/Iran:  EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton meets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels to discuss a framework for renewed nuclear talks.
Russia: The North Ossetian town of Beslan marks the 10th anniversary of a school hostage taking that left 334 people people -- including 186 children -- dead. 
Russia/France: Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin visits Paris, meets with Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Anne Brasseur (to September 2).
UzbekistanIndependence Day.
Vatican: Rome hosts an interfaith soccer match aimed at promoting peace.
TUESDAY, September 2:
NATO: The Czech Republic hosts NATO military air exercise (to September 15). 
Turkey/Azerbaijan: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Baku.
U.S./Baltic StatesU.S. President Barack Obama visits Estonia, meets with Estonian President Hendrik Ilves, Latvian President Andris Berzins, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Tallinn.
THURSDAY, September 4:
Kazakhstan/SCO: Astana hosts a meeting of the chairmen of the Supreme Courts of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states.
Kyrgyzstan/CIS: A meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) interior ministers begins in Cholpon-Ata on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
NATO: The United Kingdom hosts a NATO summit in Wales (to September 5).
FRIDAY, September 5:
EU/Russia: EU agricultural ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the consequences of Russia's import ban.
Russia: The 10th Kazan International Muslim Film Festival opens in Tatarstan (to September 11).
SATURDAY, September 6:
Georgia: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to visit Tbilisi
SUNDAY, September 7:

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

A Few Brave Russians Protest Invasion Of Southeast Ukraine

Pictures such as this one of a lone man protesting against Russia's invasion of southeast Ukraine in Moscow on August 28 have been doing the rounds on social media

At 12:41 a.m. Moscow time on August 28, Solidarity Movement activist Dmitry Monakhov tweeted: "I am Russian. Not cattle. Not a killer. And I am not an occupier. I am ashamed that Putin is my president. At 9:00 I will go to Manezh against the war."  

Less than 24 hours later, his message had been retweeted some 3,000 times.  

He went to Moscow's Manezh Square on August 28, and said that Putin's actions were illegal under Section 353 of the Russian Criminal Code, which bans the planning of "aggressive war," according to the LiveJournal of Philipp Kireev, who witnessed the scene and uploaded photos of it to his blog. Monakhov called for the opening of a criminal investigation into Putin.  

The police came and detained him. An onlooker shouted, "Don't like this -- go away, this is our home and we're going to live here," according to Kireev. 

"I have been detained, I don't know what the charges will be," Monakhov tweeted at 9:35 a.m. Moscow time. As of the time of publication, he had not tweeted since.  

The protest was one of a few scattered on Manezh Square of lone people protesting Putin's actions. The Interfax news agency quoted human rights activists as saying that six people were detained on the square. 

Some of these sporadic protests were photographed and subsequently shared on social media:

'No War With Ukraine'

На Манежной площади в Москве проходят пикеты против войны России с Украиной

 'I Am A Citizen Of Russia Against The War With Ukraine" 

"No War"

Еще пикет

— Philipp Kireev (@mynameisphilipp) August 28, 2014

'War With Ukraine Is Suicide For Russia' 

Other top opposition leaders took to Twitter to protest Moscow's actions. 

The Twitter account of anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny, who is under house arrest and barred from using social media, tweeted out a blog post with a March poll from his organization showing a majority of Russians looking on a war with Ukraine negatively. 

Popular Russian opposition blogger Oleg Kozyrev tweeted a series of sarcastic observations. "The Kremlin destroying the Russian economy began with the economy of Ukraine," he said.

"Yes, in Russia we don't know how to build roads. Instead, we learned to bomb the roads of other governments."  He went on, "Why build a hospital in Russia, to be better than neighboring states, if you can just destroy the hospital of your neighbors."  

State media downplayed the new Russian front in Ukraine.

State-controlled NTV played NATO's statement that more than 1,000 Russian troops were on Ukrainian soil as an accusation without proof, and included a denial from Russia's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Channel One called it an "alleged 'Russian invasion'" and said that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's August 28 statement that Moscow had brought forces into Ukraine caused "a new spike in anti-Russian rhetoric in the Western media."  

-- Luke Johnson

The Week Ahead: August 25-31

India -- Parveena Ahanger, chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), addresses a demonstration to mark the International Day of Disappeared Persons in Srinagar, 30Aug2012

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

Follow Me on Pinterest

MONDAY, August 25:
Iran/Iraq: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visits Najaf, one of the holiest cities for Shiite Muslims.
Georgia/Austria: Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze visits Austria
TUESDAY, August 26:
Belarus: Minsk hosts a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well as officials from the European Union and the Eurasian Customs Union, which comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.
PACE: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Anne Brasseur makes an official visit to Prague (to August 27).
WEDNESDAY, August 27:
ItalyVenice International Film Festival opens (to September 6).
Romania: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania hosts a meeting of the foreign ministers of Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia in Bucharest (to August 29).
THURSDAY, August 28:

U.S.: Freedom House hosts in Washington a discussion titled "Empowering Human Rights Defenders in Exile."
FRIDAY, August 29:
EU: An informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers (Gymnich) begins in Milan under the Italian EU Presidency (to August 30).
Iran/Russia: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is scheduled to visit Moscow.
SATURDAY, August 30:
EU: EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss a number of key appointments to be made for top EU positions.
Ukraine: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visits Brussels.
SUNDAY, August 31:
KyrgyzstanIndependence Day.
MoldovaLanguage Day.
World: 2014 World Water Week begins in Stockholm (to September 5).

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

'Mustang Wanted' Claims He Raised Ukrainian Flag Over Moscow

The photo posted to "Mustang Wanted's" Facebook page, accompanying his confession

Ukrainian daredevil "Mustang Wanted" has claimed via Facebook that he's the person who painted the "seven sisters" spire in Moscow in Ukrainian blue and raised the Ukrainian flag overnight on August 19-20.

He suggests he will turn himself in to Russian authorities "in exchange for the release of a brave Ukrainian girl -- Nadya Savchenko," a reference to a Ukrainian military pilot who is in Russian custody after being kidnapped and handed over by separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The death-defying urban legend -- who also identifies himself as Heorhiy in the post -- published what appears to be a selfie from atop the painted Stalin-era star, painted blue and yellow, high above the Moscow riverbank.

He says on Facebook that he has photos and video evidence to prove his claim.

"It took me almost all night and I finished about 6 a.m.," he says.

He says his confession "is aimed at liberation of those innocent Russians accused of hooliganism and who have every chance of falling victim to the well-known fairness of Russian justice."

PROFILE: Kyiv's Most Fearless Man


Four young Russians who were said to have been carrying climbing gear were detained and accused of the overnight stunt, which quickly went viral and appears to have sparked a wave of Internet memes by people who disagree with Russia's actions in neighboring Ukraine.

The Ukrainian pilot, Savchenko, has been accused by Russian authorities of complicity in the killing during fighting in eastern Ukraine of two Russian journalists.

On Facebook, Mustang Wanted says he did the painting and "raised the flag of independent Ukraine" in "a fit of sincere patriotic sentiment."

He dedicates his stunt to Ukrainian Independence Day, which is August 24, and to "all the guys defending my homeland now! Glory to Ukraine!"

-- Andy Heil

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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