Sunday, April 20, 2014


Twitter Meme Mocks Russian Claims Over Slovyansk Shoot-Out

Ukraine's ultranationalist Right Sector group has poured scorn on allegations that the business card of one of its leaders Dmytro Yarosh (pictured) was found at the scene of a shoot-out near Slovyansk. It seems a large portion of the Internet community has also scoffed at the claim. (file photo)

If Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, wasn't known to the world before, he is well on his way now. 

Yarosh shot to fame overnight, literally, after the Russian news site Lifenews claimed his business card was found at the scene of a deadly shoot-out at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed outrage over the attack, saying it was a "provocation," which showed that Kyiv was not implementing the agreement struck this week in Geneva that called for a de-escalation of the crisis.

Russian media blamed the attack on Ukrainian nationalists, providing the business card as evidence. 

Right Sector has denied any involvement in the shoot-out, in which at least three people were killed.

In an interview with Ukraine's Channel 5 television station, Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskyy said the Kremlin "staged an act of provocation." He also noted that the business cards were reportedly found in "completely burned-out vehicles," a claim he said was "completely absurd."

Whatever the case, an Internet meme was quickly born, with mocking images of Yarosh's black-and red business card bearing his name, phone number, and e-mail address being tied to many of the world's biggest mysteries.

The meme eventually earned itself its own Twitter account and a search hashtag #ВизиткаЯроша with numerous tweets and retweets posted in several different languages. 

We compiled some of the better examples:

Alexander Fodorov: Yanukovych didn't return because now you need Yarosh's business card to enter the Ukrainian border.        

Paul Bardar: JK Rowling has begun writing a new book: Harry Potter and Yarosh's Business Card

Feeling depressed? Anxious? Lonely? Yarosh's business card will help you! Say "no" to depression!

Ilya Ogurtsov: It's known that Doctor Who uses Yarosh's business card to get anywhere he wants.
-- Farangis Najibullah

Hitler Issue Lands Kazakh Magazine In Hot Water

Kazakh celebrity magazine "Zhuldyzdar Otbasy-Anyz Adam" came under fire this week after its latest issue, dedicated to Adolf Hitler, hit the newsstands.

Tabloid-style celebrity magazine "Zhuldyzdar Otbasy-Anyz Adam" ("The Family of Celebrities-Legendary People") has come under fire in Kazakhstan after devoting its latest issue to Adolf Hitler.
Kazakhstan's State Agency for Communications and Information said on April 18 that is investigating the magazine for possible violation of the country's constitution and the law against "inciting social, national, tribal, racial, or religious hatred."
While the 52-page Hitler issue provides the usual biographical information and photos from the Nazi leader's life, it appears to have stirred up authorities' ire by including some flattering assessments of Hitler and his role in history.
"Hitler Isn't A Fascist" reads the headline of an article by Kazakh civic activist Naghashybai Esmyrza.
"For me, Hitler is a great personality," Esmyrza writes.
"I accept that Hitler was a dictator but he fought for the future of his country. He wanted to make people's lives better.... Hitler was criticized for experimenting with people in concentration camps. It's true he did those experiments. But that was nothing compared with what the Bolsheviks did."
The magazine has not yet responded to criticism over its Hitler issue, which was published just a few days before the Nazi leader's 125th birthday.
However, chief editor Zharylkap Kalybay had previously announced on his Facebook page that he was going to devote one of the magazine's issues to Hitler, and asked for readers' comments and questions.
On his Facebook account, Kalybay drew comparisons between what he described as growing nationalism in Russia and similar sentiments in Germany under Hitler.
He also mentioned parallels being drawn between Hitler and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Are Putin and Hitler's activities similar in some ways?" he wrote. "We are trying to find the answer."
The private, Kazakh-language, 25,000-circulation magazine is popular across the country. 
Its success and survival is attributed to staying clear of politics and political families.
The magazine's previous cover photos included well-known Kazakh actor Asaneli Eshimov, French Emperor Napoleon, and characters from a Kazakh love poem, Kozy-Korpesh and Bayan Sulu.
While the magazine has always played it safe by distancing itself from politics, chief editor Kalybay is no stranger to controversy.
Kalybay was briefly arrested in 2013 over a row aboard a "Skat" airlines plane, where he demanded that stewardesses speak only Kazakh with him.
The editor was accused of hooliganism, and spent three days in jail.

-- Farangis Najibullah and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

Iranian Students Crash Nuclear Party

RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Former Iranian presidential candidate and nuclear negotiator Said Jalili surfaced this week at a Tehran technical university to lecture students on the benefits of nuclear power. But video of the event shows that the hard-liner's message was drowned out by opposition-minded students.

Billed by Amirkabir University as a "nuclear celebration," the event was headlined by speakers Jalili and the former chairman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydun Abbasi. 

Basiji students filled the front rows, waiting for their chance to raise posters and banners critical of the softer approach Tehran has taken in international nuclear negotiations under new President Hassan Rohani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. 

But pandemonium broke loose when students in the back disrupted the event by calling for much more openness at home and abroad. RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports that the students sang songs and shouted slogans as Jalili tried to address the students, and chanted messages of support for the release of opposition leaders Mir Hussain Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011. 

Among the chants were "Free Musavi and Karrubi," and "Free political prisoners!" All in all it took 45 minutes for things to quiet down enough for the lecture to proceed.

Raw video footage of scene was posted on April 14 on the Facebook page of the news website "Setade Salam":

Czech Hotel Owner Stages One-Man Protest Against Russia

Tomas Krcmar next to his hotel in Ostrava

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- As far as hotels go, the Brioni Boutique is pretty nondescript.

Except, of course, for the neatly printed note on its door with the following message: "As of March 24, 2014 we refuse accommodation to citizens of the Russian Federation because of the annexation of Crimea. Our apologies to all decent citizens of the Russian Federation. Your Brioni Boutique hotel."

The hotel's owner, Tomas Krcmar, said he decided to bar Russian citizens as an act of protest against Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and out of frustration at what he considers the EU's and the Czech Republic's weak response to the move. 

"As long as Russia stops in Crimea, the EU is ready to sweep the whole thing under the carpet and continue in a business-as-usual manner, so as to get rid of an uncomfortable headache," Krcmar, who has a Ukrainian grandmother, says. 
“If one’s memory is too short to learn lessons from what happened in 1939, then at least try recalling 1968 or Georgia in 2008 for that matter," he adds, referring to Nazi and Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Critical of society's passivity, Krcmar decided to take a one-man-stand. 

“As long as we are seen unable to take any pain, Russia translates it as our weakness. It is in their strongman mentality," he says.

But he adds that he is under no illusions that his lonely protest will change anything.
Krcmar's sign
Krcmar's sign

And with just under a million Russians visiting the Czech Republic last year, Krcmar guesses it will probably cost him some money in the end as well. 

"I am fully conscious of the fact that my boycott of Russian tourists will hurt my pocket more than anyone else’s," Krcmar said, adding that about 10 percent of his guests are Russian citizens. "I know my attitude will inflict losses on me but I am prepared to live with it for a year or two."

In theory his boycott might cost Krcmar more than just a 10 percent drop in revenues. It might be illegal.

Czech legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, age, sexual orientation and a number of other grounds. 

The Czech Ombudsman's Office says as long as a hotel offers its services on a public domain -- such as being online and visible outside -- Krcmar's decision may no longer be treated as his private choice and could, in fact, constitute discrimination.

But the law's wording leaves some wiggle room: it only punishes discrimination on the basis of one’s ethnicity, not citizenship.

One way or the other, Krcmar seems unfazed by any potential consequences. 

"I am not afraid at all. No way anyone can corner me with all sorts of lame tsk-tsking," he says, adding he has already received several angry and even threatening e-mails following his boycott announcement.

Krcmar says, nonetheless, that he is prepared to bear the cost until the EU toughens its stance against Moscow. 

"I don’t mean a war -- no one needs it -- just something less fearsome than all that polite talk from Brussels. I don’t know what that could be -- they are the ones to do the job," he says. 

"I think Russia should be isolated as it has no place in Europe. Until politicians make a move, I’m doing it my way."

-- Andrius Kuncina

Video Russian TV On Ukraine's Mysterious Injured Protester: He's Schizophrenic

Andrei Petkov as he appeared in the original NTV report broadcast on April 13.

Depending on which Russian government broadcaster you watched, Andrei Petkov (aka Petkhov) was either a German mercenary financing unrest in Ukraine or a peaceful pro-Russian patriot who was pummeled by radicals.
Now, NTV, which is owned by the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, has explained the contradiction: the international man of mystery suffers from schizophrenia.

 In a dramatic segment that aired on April 13, NTV claimed that the channel had "inadvertently become hostage to a grand hoax" and accused the Western media of exploiting a mentally ill man to discredit Russian journalists.

The revelation about Petkov's alleged mental state followed a YouTube video that went viral last week comparing separate interviews he gave to NTV and Rossia 1 television from what appears to be the same hospital bed.

WATCH: NTV's Follow-UP Report On Andrei Petkov
In one interview, he tells NTV that he is a German mercenary who ferried in 500,000 euros for the Maidan protesters but was beaten up during a melee sparked by Ukrainian ultranationalists in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.
Rossia 1 says he is a pro-Russian protester assaulted by "radicals" bussed in by the Ukrainian government.
The YouTube video of the two Petkovs has racked up more than 450,000 views and was picked up widely by Russian bloggers, who gleefully mocked what they called crude state propaganda.
WATCH: The Two Petkovs  
But in the April 13 follow-up report, NTV interviewed a man who claimed to be Petkov's brother, and said his brother has schizophrenia.
"He has this every spring," he said. "The man is not bad, good or evil. He is simply mentally ill."
Petkov's mother died in the 1980s, and he took the loss hard, NTV reported. He also never worked or traveled abroad as he claimed in his first interview with the channel, NTV said.
But Petkov was close to the protests in Mykolaiv and was injured, NTV said, adding that he woke up and imagined himself as a German millionaire. He even learned German from old records, according to the report.
NTV caught up with Petkov for a follow-up interview from the same hospital bed. He did not deny fabricating his story.

"But you must understand that I have a concussion, I have a disability, I have a gunshot wound to the head, I have a concussion, I do not sleep," he said. "I do not sleep, I cannot sleep for weeks, and when I cannot sleep, I start to get weird."
--Luke Johnson

The Week Ahead: April 14-20

Signatures adorn a Boston Marathon poster near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston.

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.

MONDAY, April 14:

Azerbaijan/Iran: Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visits Tehran (to April 15).

EU: European Parliament's Plenary Session opens in Strasbourg (to April 17).

EU: Luxembourg hosts a EU General Affairs Council meeting.  

Iran/UAE: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visits Abu Dhabi (to April 15)

Moldova/Poland: Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti visits Warsaw (to April 15).

UK/Russia: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled "Putin and the Oligarch: State and Big Business in Russia."

U.S.: The 2014 Pulitzer Prizewinners and Nominated Finalists announced in New York.

WorldStockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) publishes its report on recent trends in military expenditure

TUESDAY, April 15:

Russia and Belarus conduct joint military exercises in the Vitebsk region of Belarus (to April 18).

NATO: NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove is scheduled to present a U.S. plan to redeploy assets in Europe as a response to the Ukraine crisis.

Russia: The prime ministers of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan meet in Moscow to discuss the Eurasian Economic Union foundation treaty.

Russia/China: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Beijing.

U.S.: The first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 264 more to be marked.

WEDNESDAY, April 16:

Russia/Georgia: Prague hosts another round of talks between Russia and Georgia on the normalization of bilateral ties. 

THURSDAY, April 17:

: U.S. Senator John McCain is due to visit Chisinau

Russia: A televised live question-and-answer session with Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to be held.

Russia/CSTO: St. Petersburg hosts a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Parliamentary Assembly meeting.

Ukraine/Russia: Top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union are scheduled to hold talks in Geneva on resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

FRIDAY, April 18:

: Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun visits Dushanbe (to April 20).

SATURDAY, April 19:

Kyrgyz and Tajik prime ministers are expected to meet over border issues.

SUNDAY, April 20:

Azerbaijan: Shamkir hosts an international chess tournament in memory of Vugar Gashimov (to April 30).

World: Christians worldwide celebrate Easter Sunday.

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

Reports Of Umarov's Death Have (Often) Been Greatly Exaggerated

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov during a video statement in which he claims responsibility for the suicide bombings in the Moscow subway in March 2010.

He's been killed and come back to life more times than a zombie in a B movie.

On April 8, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announced what they called the "neutralization" of Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov, the alleged mastermind of the horrific 2004 Beslan school massacre and one of Russia's most-wanted men.

Notice that they didn't say Umarov had been "killed."

Even Russia's Interfax news agency was quick to point out that Umarov's body has not yet been found.

"That is why today it is more proper to speak about the 'neutralization' of Umarov's activities," Interfax quoted a source close to the situation as saying.

Interfax is right to be cautious. They themselves erroneously reported Umarov's death in 2009. But not only Interfax. RFE/RL, too, has reported Umarov's ultimate undoing over the past few years.

Here's a rundown of some (if not all) of Umarov's brushes with death:

June 8, 2009 -- Umarov is reportedly "severely wounded" in a special operation conducted by an adviser to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Interfax quotes a source in Russian law enforcement that Umarov has been killed.

"Tests are being made on the remains to make a final identification," Interfax quotes the source as saying.

July 3, 2009 -- A man purporting to be Umarov calls RFE/RL from an undisclosed location in Chechnya to say he is alive, uninjured, and planning future attacks. He says his fighters will attempt to avoid attacks on civilians, while saying that he regards civilians as legitimate military targets.

March 18, 2010 -- RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reports that Umarov is dead, killed in a gun battle on March 10 near Chechnya's border with Ingushetia. The report is based on a phone call made to RFE/RL by a man identifying himself as a Chechen militant and who was known as a reliable source by the Caucasus Service. 

April 7, 2011 -- Umarov purportedly telephones RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service to say that that rumors of his death are, once again, greatly exaggerated. Umarov laughs off Russian media speculation that he is terminally ill, perhaps with diabetes, saying he is "absolutely healthy" and that the Russian authorities "should expect news from me soon," before the telephone connection is cut.

December 18, 2013 -- Kadyrov tells journalists in Moscow, "I officially state that Umarov is long dead." Hours later, a video of Umarov, believed to have been filmed in autumn 2013, is posted on YouTube.

January 28, 2014 -- Kadyrov is quoted by "Izvestia" as saying that he believes Umarov is dead, having been gravely wounded in a security operation sometime in late 2013.

February 18, 2014 -- Israeli scholar Avrom Shmulevich says that Umarov was poisoned last fall while visiting an insurgency winter base in Chechnya.

March 18, 2014 -- A pro-Islamist militant website says Umarov has "become a martyr," but gives no details.

April 8, 2014 -- Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announces the "neutralization" of Umarov's "activities" earlier this year. FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov does not elaborate.

Standing by for the phone call from Umarov.

-- Grant Podelco

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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