Sunday, April 26, 2015

Russian Ultranationalist Dugin Sparks Outrage in U.S. With Texas Lecture

Kremlin-connected anti-Western ideologue Aleksandr Dugin speaking at a rally in support of Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine.

Russian nationalist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin is banned from entering the United States for backing separatists in Ukraine. But thanks to the Internet and an American white supremacist, he’s set to beam his anti-Western views into the halls of a public university in Texas.

And Ukrainian-Americans are not happy about it.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is calling on Texas A&M University to refuse to host an April 29 online lecture to be delivered remotely by Dugin to a venue on its campus in College Station, Texas.

“We condemn Dugin’s xenophobic worldview and are surprised that a U.S. university would provide a venue for his hate speech,” Andrij Dobriansky, a spokesman for the New York-based advocacy group, told RFE/RL. “We hope the university reconsiders after hearing the outcry.”

The planned lecture is titled “American Liberalism Must Be Destroyed” and is being organized by Preston Wigginton, a Texas white supremacist with ties to Russian ultranationalists. 

In 2007, Wigginton attended an anti-immigrant Russian March demonstration in Moscow and received cheers from the crowd after telling them that “Slavic and European peoples” must “unite to fight this invasion of the third world.” 

He was also denied entry into Britain in 2009, a decision the British government explained as an effort to “prevent those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.” 

The United States slapped sanctions on Dugin in March, citing his role as a leader of the Eurasian Youth Union, which Washington says has “actively recruited individuals with military and combat experience to fight on behalf of Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

“This group and its leaders are being designated for being responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in its statement announcing the sanctions

In his Facebook announcement for the event, Wigginton described the Dugin as a “Kremlin insider and an informal adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” 

Dugin does indeed have Kremlin connections, though his actual influence on Russian government policy is unclear. 

A petition has been launched asking Texas A&M’s interim president, Mark Hussey, not to host Dugin’s lecture. 

Texas A&M is clearly not thrilled that its facilities will be used for the event. But university spokesman Shane Hinckley told RFE/RL that Wigginton reserved the space in compliance with the rules and that Texas A&M “supports the First Amendment rights of speakers even when their judgment and actions are morally reprehensible.”

"Neither this event nor its message are promoted or endorsed by Texas A&M University,” Hinckley said in emailed comments. “Mr. Wigginton is a private citizen who reserved space generally available to the public to host events of its own choosing.”

--Carl Schreck

Video We're Live-Streaming System Of A Down's First-Ever Performance In Armenia

Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 23.04.2015 16:27

The Grammy Award-winning rock band System of a Down is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire with a free concert on April 23 in Yerevan's Republic Square.

It's the first performance in Armenia for the Southern California band, whose four members are all Armenian-Americans. It's the concluding show on the band's Wake Up The Souls Tour.

The band has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and won in 2006 in the Best Hard Rock Performance category for "B.Y.O.B."

UDPATE: The performance has ended. Thanks for watching.


'The Enemy Will Not Pass': Russian TV Runs Blockbuster Trailer For Putin Phone-In

Putin conference

Spring has come and with it Vladimir Putin's annual phone-in session, complete with its Hollywood-style trailer.
Russian television aired the promotional clip ahead of the April 16 event, during which the Russian president fielded questions from across Russia in a televised event that typically lasts about four hours.

Russian TV Airs Promo For Putin Q+Ai
April 16, 2015
Russian TV issued a slick promo video ahead of President Vladimir Putin's live TV question and answer session. The session is one of a handful of annual televised events that Putin uses to bolster his image, reassure Russians on the state of the economy, and send signals about foreign policy.

Putin begins the 45-second clip by pledging that "the enemy will not pass."
Russia's annexation of Crimea, he says, showed that people are "full of determination to fight for their land."
The video pictures Putin inspecting a navy ship, paying tribute to fallen World War II soldiers, and shaking hands with several world leaders -- all of them non-Western -- to a dramatic soundtrack reminiscent of action movies.
A deep-voiced narrator chimes in with slogans such as "the most burning issues" and "answers to the challenges of our times."
The trailer contains the customary snub to the United States, with Putin dismissing accusations that it behaves aggressively by wryly claiming the United States has military bases "across the entire globe."
A video collage also shows him appearing to stare down his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama with a smirk.
The clip ends with Putin thanking adulating crowds for their support. 

You can find the video as it appears on state TV (without subtitles) here.

-- Claire Bigg

Russian TV Hijacks Nazarbaev Family Photo

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (center) poses with his family in November 1992.

When a photo of a traditional Tajik family flashed on screen, viewers of a popular Russian TV series may have recognized an iconic image of the Kazakh presidential family.

But this is not reality television, apparently, because the photo has a striking resemblance to an iconic photo of the little-seen Nazarbaev family. Nazarbaev, as in the family of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Viewers of Lonely Hearts, a Russian TV show that airs across the former Soviet Union, were treated to a 30-second reunion with the Kazakh presidential family when an altered version of the 1990s-era photo was used to portray a Moscow street sweeper's family back home in Tajikistan.

Dovlat, a Tajik migrant worker, is sharing a lighthearted moment with the neighborhood heroine who has just saved him from a beating by Russian skinheads.

She asks him who he has left in Tajikistan, to which Dovlat responds, "Family...a big one." He then proceeds to pull a well-worn photo out of his jacket and identify various family members. 

"Here is my older sister," he says, pointing to Nazarbaev's wife, Sara Nazarbaeva.

Pointing to Nazarbaev's real-life grandson, he says: "Here is our little Rakhim."

"And here is my sister, Zulfia," he says as he points out Nazarbaev's oldest daughter, Darigha Nazarbaeva. "She works here as well."

Of the 11 family members pictured, the images of only two differ from the original photograph -- President Nazarbaev and Rakhat Aliev, his disgraced former son-in-law. All other faces -- those of Nazarbaev's wife, his three daughters, three grandchildren, and another son-in-law -- remain untouched. 

The original Nazarbaev family photo (right) and the altered sitcom family photo (click to expand)
The original Nazarbaev family photo (right) and the altered sitcom family photo (click to expand)

In the center of the photo, where President Nazarbaev should be, sits an older, bearded man wearing a traditional Tajik-Uzbek hat. Dovlat singles out the patriarch for special attention.

"And the most beautiful and handsome is him, our granddad, Rokhim-baba. He is 92," he says. "Yes, brides are still eager to marry him, you know. But he says, 'No money to pay kalym' and, therefore, he does not want to marry."

-- Merhat Sharipzhan

Video Vladimir Putin, Is That You?

Putin's 2008 Comments On Crimea, Before A Sharp Change Of Tacki
April 07, 2015
In an interview with Germany's ARD television in 2008, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow recognizes all of Ukraine's borders, and that there is no issue of ethnic conflict in Crimea. His comments, delivered shortly after Russia's military intervention in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, stand in stark contrast with Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
WATCH: In an interview with Germany's ARD television in 2008, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow recognize all of Ukraine's borders, and that there is no issue of ethnic conflict in Crimea.


What a difference a few years makes. Back in 2008, in an interview on German television, Russian President Vladimir Putin upbraided his host for asking whether Moscow had any designs on Ukraine and its Crimean Peninsula.

The conversation took place soon after Moscow's military intervention in Georgia and Putin was pointedly asked whether Ukraine, and particularly Crimea, could be next.

Putin, his temper flaring, said Russia recognized all of Ukraine's borders and, he added, there was no ethnic tensions at all in Crimea -- something the Kremlin emphasized as a key reason for its 2014 forced annexation of the peninsula.


Tags:Crimean crisis

Alleged Leaks Suggest Kremlin Spiked Navalny's 'Hollywood' Photo

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny embraces his wife, Yulia inside a court building in Kirov in July 2013.

It's no secret that the Russian government keeps state-controlled media on a tight leash. But a trove of text messages leaked recently suggest that the Kremlin's micromanagement of these outlets can extend even to decisions about which photos to run with a minor news story.
On the evening of April 16, 2014, the head of Russia's state-owned TASS news agency, Sergei Mikhailov, received a text message from a Kremlin official named Timur Prokopenko, according to an alleged transcript published by Shaltai Boltai, a shadowy anti-Kremlin group known for posting embarrassing leaks from Russian officials' electronic communications.
At issue, according to the transcript, was an apparently flattering photograph of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and his wife, Yulia, published by TASS earlier that day. The photo evokes "Hollywood and success," Prokopenko, 34, is quoted as saying.
"Why is the site doing this?" he allegedly adds.
Six minutes later, Mikhailov purportedly responds: "We'll fix it. Thanks."

Timur ProkopenkoTimur Prokopenko
Timur Prokopenko
Timur Prokopenko

Prokopenko, a former TASS correspondent and pro-Kremlin youth leader, was appointed deputy head of the Kremlin's domestic politics department in 2012 under Vyacheslav Volodin, a powerful first deputy chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin.
The authenticity of the text messages, among some 40,000 purportedly obtained from Prokopenko’s mobile phone records and published by Shaltai Boltai on March 31, could not be immediately verified. Nonetheless, hours before Prokopenko's purported exchange with Mikhailov, TASS published a report about claims that Navalny may have violated election laws in his 2013 mayoral bid by failing to declare property allegedly owned by his wife.
A preview image for that report retrieved from Russia's leading Internet search engine, Yandex, features a TASS file photo of the smiling Navalnys sharing a moment of levity after a 2013 court hearing in a corruption case that the activist called politically motivated.

A preview image (second from left) from the Yandex search engine for a TASS report that shows Aleksei Navalny sharing a moment of levity with his wife. This report now has a more somber image.
A preview image (second from left) from the Yandex search engine for a TASS report that shows Aleksei Navalny sharing a moment of levity with his wife. This report now has a more somber image.

The photograph currently included with the report is more somber, showing Navalny walking down a staircase as he shifts his eyes toward the camera above him. 
No cached link to the TASS report for that day could be found. But the news portal picked up the agency's story shortly after it was published and included the same TASS photograph that appears in the Yandex preview. 
Navalny commented on his blog regarding the alleged exchange between Mikhailov and Prokopenko.
"Turns out that [presidential administration officials] spend 5 percent of the time on villainy and falsifications, and 95 percent, pardon me, on crap," he wrote
Neither Prokopenko nor Mikhailov have publicly addressed their alleged exchange, and TASS's press office did not respond to an emailed request for comment in time for publication.
Navalny, 38, is serving suspended sentences on two financial-crimes convictions he and supporters say are part of a Kremlin-directed campaign of punishment for his political opposition and anticorruption crusade.
He has spearheaded investigations alleging corruption among allies of Putin and emerged from a wave of antigovernment protests in 2011-2012 as Russia's most prominent opposition leader.
Navalny’s strong showing against the Kremlin's Moscow mayoral candidate, Sergei Sobyanin, in 2013 hinted at weaknesses in the country's tightly controlled political system.
Navalny's wife and young children have figured prominently in his political career, regularly appearing with him in public and in his campaign materials. Putin, meanwhile, has aggressively shielded his two daughters from the public and has been divorced since 2013.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on April 1 that the presidential administration does not pay attention to the output of groups like Shaltai Boltai and that he doesn't think "many people read those publications." 
Nikolai Molibog, an executive with the independent news agency RBC, has confirmed that text messages between him and Prokopenko published by Shaltai Boltai were authentic.
Moscow-based journalist Yekaterina Vinokurova, however, wrote on Twitter that "a portion" of the text messages she purportedly exchanged with Prokopenko were "doctored."

-- Carl Schreck

Russian Trolls' Vast Library Of Insulting Images

Russia -- screen grab of Russian troll graphic database вштабе.рф

Ever wonder where the droves of Russian-language Internet trolls get those satirical graphics they deploy to smear Western and Ukrainian leaders? Turns out there's a website with a vast archive of images helping them pepper their posts with visual invective.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on April 2 that the website with the Cyrillic address вштабе.рф ("в штабе" translates from Russian as "in the headquarters") hosts thousands of these ready-made images for use by hundreds of paid trolls working for a secretive organization in St. Petersburg.

The images -- mainly crude mash-ups or regular photographs touched up with sarcastic and juvenile captions -- are largely aimed at heaping abuse on Western and Ukrainian officials or portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin as a suave alpha male of the international scene.

Many have racist overtones, like those that portray U.S. President Barack Obama as a monkey (bananas are a consistent motif in these images). Others show Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dressed in women's clothing or wielding sex toys.

One image uploaded on April 2 shows Poroshenko dressed in women's lingerie and sitting in front of a computer monitor beaming Obama's image, suggesting an erotic video chat.

"Video Conference About Receiving New Loans For Ukraine," the caption reads.

Guardian journalist Shaun Walker linked the website to the St. Petersburg troll factory based on an interview with a man identified as Marat, who says he worked there for two months before leaving what he described as demeaning working conditions, including fines for tardiness or veering from the pro-Kremlin and anti-West messaging dictated by the bosses.

In an interview with RFE/RL last month, Marat alluded to the role that these satirical graphics -- known as demotivators -- play in the St. Petersburg troll farm. "There's a LiveJournal department, a news department, a department where they create all sorts of images and demotivators," he said.

The website вштабе.рф was registered in Russia, though there are no public records linking it to a specific organization other than a Russia-based website registrar.

One online database, however, shows that it was registered on March 29, 2014, less than two weeks after Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea territory triggered U.S. and EU sanctions targeting the Kremlin.

Marat told RFE/RL that the bosses and workers at the St. Petersburg troll farm "throw everything they've got at Ukraine."

"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory
"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory

Marat is one of several alumni of this troll farm who have leaked details of the St. Petersburg operation to the media, including to RFE/RL. Several say they became disillusioned with the cynical politics of the job.

The folks at вштабе.рф didn't waste time after Walker's article appeared in The Guardian. Within hours, the site featured an image showing Putin and Obama's heads photoshopped onto two the bodies of two actors reading newspapers.

"The Guardian writes here that your trolls published cartoons about me. Aren't you ashamed?" Obama is shown saying.

Putin replies, "Only for you, Barack."

-- Carl Schreck

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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