Monday, December 22, 2014

Tell Putin You're Sorry!

"Dear President Putin and Russian People, please accept our apologies for the behavior of our governments and media," the letter, translated into 19 languages, begins.

Are you a citizen of a Western country who is sick and tired of your government's warmongering in Ukraine? Are you fed up with Western media's constant lying about Russia? Don't you just wish you could apologize to Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Well, relax. Now you can.

An online petition called "Dear Putin" allows anybody in the world with an e-mail address to sign an open online letter of apology to the Kremlin leader.

"Dear President Putin and Russian People, please accept our apologies for the behavior of our governments and media," the letter, translated into 19 languages, begins.

"Western nations, led by the United States, seem determined to start a war with Russia. A sane person would recognize the terrible consequences of such a war and would do everything in their power to avoid it. In fact it appears that this is exactly what you are doing. In the face of an endless stream of lies and provocations you have managed to keep Russia from being drawn into a nuclear war."

The petition was posted on the website and is available in 19 languages. The website's origin is unclear. The site has no contact details and it has been circulated mainly via Russian social networks. But it has received ample attention in the Russian media.

"Europeans ask for Vladimir Putin's forgiveness," read a headline for a story about the petition in the Russian government's official newspaper, "Rossiiskaya gazeta," on September 11.

LifeNews, the hugely popular tabloid connected to Russia's security services, also carried the story on September 11, writing, "The resource is gaining popularity."

According to the website, more than 55,000 people had signed the letter as of December 4. Among the purported signatories are citizens of the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Australia, the United States, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Paraguay, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and -- oddly -- Russia.

The authenticity of the signatures is impossible to verify since all one needs to do to sign the petition is to provide a name, country, and e-mail address.

In addition to lauding Putin as a man of peace and blaming the United States for trying to start a nuclear war, the petition also assails the Western media for blaming Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and condemns Western governments for supporting "neo-Nazis" in Ukraine.

"Why are you the target of these lies and provocations? The pathological criminals of the West are pushing for war with Russia because they need an external enemy," the petition reads.

"As long as the people are focused on 'Russian aggression' they remain unaware of those truly responsible for the decline of the American economy and social system. In Europe, with its history of brutal wars sparked by arrogance and greed, European leaders have undergone a complete moral collapse and have naively fallen into line behind the USA's policy of imperial aggression."

-- Tom Balmforth

Video Iranian Woman Busts A Move, Hopes Not To Get Busted Herself

A young woman has defied Iranian law by dancing wildly on a subway train without her hijab covering her hair.

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 01.12.2014 13:57

A woman dancing on a subway train may seem innocuous enough.

But in Iran, a deeply conservative country where the government dictates citizens' clothing and behavior, dancing in public is strictly forbidden. 

One unidentified woman in Tehran defied those strict laws by recording herself dancing wildly on a subway train. The young woman broke a second law because she was in public without a hijab -- an Islamic head scarf -- covering her hair. 

In the minute-long clip, which has gone viral, the young woman dances up and down a women-only subway carriage. Another woman holds a mobile phone to record, while many in the carriage try to ignore her. 

The woman initially has her hijab on, but it slides down over her shoulders as she busts her moves to a song by British pop group Little Mix. 

The footage was posted to the Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women Facebook page on November 25. The post has accumulated over 32,000 likes and nearly 13,000 shares.

The Facebook page, which has more than 700,000 likes, is “dedicated to Iranian women inside the country who want to share their ‘stealthily’ taken photos without the veil,” according to the page information. 

The page is run by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist who left Iran to pursue her studies in Britain and now lives in the United States, according to Britain’s “Independent” newspaper. (In the interest of full disclosure, Alinejad is also a freelance contributor to RFE/RL's Radio Farda.)

“I was scared to publish this video at first,” Alinejad told the newspaper on November 27. “I waited for a while and then I saw it online on another personal page and I saw that it was public. Then I published it because the face was not shown and because the girl was trying to keep to keep her scarf on."

In another convention-defying video clip posted online recently, a young woman in a T-shirt and jeans walks along a street in Iran with her head uncovered.

The clips come after a group of young Iranian men and women was punished for dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” which they recorded and then uploaded to YouTube. 

The three men and three unveiled women were given suspended prison sentences and received 91 lashes each. The arrests attracted international condemnation from rights groups and led to a social media campaign calling for their release. 

-- Frud Bezhan

The Week Ahead: December 1-7

December 5-6: French President Francois Hollande makes an official visit to Kazakhstan.

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, December 1:
Afghanistan/NATO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah visit Brussels, meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Georgia: The 15th Tbilisi International Movie Festival begins (to December 7).
Turkey/RussiaRussian President Vladimir Putin visits Ankara, meets with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

U.S./IranWilson Center in Washington hosts a discussion titled "Iran Nuclear Extension: Key to Deal or an Empty Room?"
U.S./RussiaBrookings Institution in Washington hosts a discussion titled "Putin and Russian Power in the World: The Stalin Legacy."
U.S./UkraineHeritage Foundation in Washington hosts a discussion titled "The Battle for Eastern Ukraine."
Uzbekistan/U.S.: Tashkent hosts U.S.-Uzbekistan annual bilateral consultations (to December 2).
TUESDAY, December 2:
EU: Former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky joins the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee for a debate on the human rights situation in Russia.
Kazakhstan/Turkmenistan: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev visits Ashgabat.
Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev visits Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar (to December 8).
NATO: Brussels hosts a NATO foreign ministers meeting.
WEDNESDAY, December 3:
Afghanistan: British Prime Minister David Cameron and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani host international donors' conference on Afghanistan in London (to December 4).
GlobalTransparency International releases its annual Corruption Perceptions Index report. 
Russia/Sudan: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov makes an official visit to Sudan.
THURSDAY, December 4:
Global: Freedom House publishes its Freedom on the Net 2014 report.
OSCE: Basel hosts an OSCE Ministerial Council meeting (to December 5).

U.S./Kazakhstan: Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington hosts a discussion titled "Kazakh security policy and its position as a vanguard for East-West cooperation."

FRIDAY, December 5:
Kazakhstan/France: French President Francois Hollande makes an official visit to Astana (to December 6).

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

Kazakhstan Moves To Ban 'Illegal' IS Video Showing Training Of Kazakh Children

A grab from the video, titled "Race Toward Good," released via the Islamic State militant group's Al Hayat website, showing Kazakh nationals, including children, in training in Syria.

Kazakhstan has banned new Islamic State (IS) video that shows Kazakh nationals, including children, participating in training exercises in Syria, according to Kazakh and Russian media reports.

The 15-minute video, titled "Race Toward Good," was released on November 22 by IS's media wing, Al Hayat.

In response to the video, the Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office issued a statement on November 24 saying that it was taking legal steps to prevent access to the video, to deem it illegal, and to prohibit its distribution in Kazakhstan, citing the country's Communications Law.

The video "showed Kazakh citizens residing in Syria and involved in fighting with a terrorist organization. An investigation showed that the content of the video is aimed at the promotion and justification of terrorist activity," the statement said.

"According to Kazakh law, propaganda and justifications of terrorism are prohibited. In order to avoid legal consequences, the Prosecutor-General's Office warns of the need for the strict observance of the law and urges [people] to refrain from disseminating the banned film or individual scenes from it," the statement added.

The video, which has English, Russian, and Arabic subtitles, invites viewers to "meet some of our newest brothers from the land of Kazakhstan" and shows a group of Kazakh nationals taking part in a training camp. A Kazakh militant then explains in Russian that these men are new recruits to IS.

Later in the video, another Russian-speaking masked militant describes what he says is a sniper training camp for the "jamaat [military group] of Kazakh brothers."

The militant says that the Kazakh militants are being trained to use different types of rifles.

Significantly, none of the militants shown in the sniper training class are wearing masks, showing that they are not concerned about their identities being known. 

The video also shows Kazakh children, who are also part of the jamaat, being taught in a school. Their Kazakh teacher explains in Kazakh that in Kazakhstan, children were "raised on the methodology of atheism...the kuffar [infidels] poisoned our minds."

The children are also given military training. One of the children is interviewed in Arabic and says that when he grows up, he will be "the one who slaughters you, O kuffar [infidels]. I will be a mujahid [jihad fighter]."

Another screengrab from IS video titled "Race Toward Good," showing Kazakh children and adults in training in Syria.
Another screengrab from IS video titled "Race Toward Good," showing Kazakh children and adults in training in Syria.

A Significant Message From IS To Kazakhstan

This message -- that IS has attracted fresh recruits from Kazakhstan -- is a significant one. 

The release of the video coincided with an announcement by Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) Chairman Nurtai Abykaev, who said that there are about 300 Kazakh nationals fighting with IS, of which 150 were women. This figure is apparently based on a video published on the Internet in November 2013, which showed a group of about 150 Kazakh militants who said they had joined IS. The militants said that they had brought their wives and children with them.

By releasing a video that specifically claims new Kazakh recruits have joined IS, the extremist group is implying that the KNB's figure of 300 militants -- the November 2013 figure -- is likely higher.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

The Week Ahead: November 24-30

November 25-27: Czech President Milos Zeman visits Tajikistan.

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, November 24:
Belarus/EURepresentatives of Belarus and the European Union hold talks on visa liberalization and readmission in Brussels (to November 25).
Europe: Vienna hosts the Central European Initiative Summit.

EU: European Parliament's Plenary Session opens in Strasbourg (to November 27).

Kazakhstan/Czech Republic: Czech President Milos Zeman visits Astana (to November 25).
Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan: Uzbek President Islam Karimov visits Astana (to November 25).

TUESDAY, November 25:
Bosnia-HerzegovinaStatehood Day.
Tajikistan/Czech Republic: Czech President Milos Zeman visits Dushanbe (to November 27).
The Vatican: Pope Francis is scheduled to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
WEDNESDAY, November 26:
Russia/Syria: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem visits Moscow (to November 27).
THURSDAY, November 27:
Russia/CoE: Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland visits Moscow (to November 29).
Ukraine:  EU's new neighborhood and enlargement negotiation commissioner Johannes Hahn visits Kyiv (to November 28).

FRIDAY, November 28:
The Vatican/TurkeyPope Francis visits Ankara and Istanbul (to November 30). 
SATURDAY, November 29:
SUNDAY, November 30:

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

Eight Tweets That Show How The Maidan Is Being Remembered Differently

People brought flowers to Independence Square on November 21, 2014, in memory of those killed during the antigovernment protests that started one year ago.

On November 21, 2013, Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayyem called on Ukrainians to come to Kyiv's Independence Square -- the Maidan. He did so in a tweet.

The tweet, and an accompanying call on Facebook, helped draw protesters to the center of Kyiv to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych abrupt decision to back out of a deal sealing closer ties with the European Union.

In his tweet, Nayyem asked people to meet in the square at 10:30 p.m., to dress warmly, and to bring umbrellas, tea, coffee, and friends.

One year later, Yanukovych is living in Russia after fleeing Ukraine, Russia has annexed Crimea, parts of eastern Ukraine remain under the control of pro-Moscow separatists, and Ukraine has a new government that faces daunting economic, political, and military challenges.

And the seminal event of the Maidan remains as divisive as ever on Twitter, where some pro-Ukrainian accounts are posting remembrances of the event, while pro-Russian tweeters are marking it with memes and trolling.

From the account @MaidanHistory:

From @euromaidan: "As we once wrote: Maidan now."


From the @EuromaidanPR account:


From blogger Taras Revunets (@ukroblogger):


Pro-Kremlin tweeter Konstantin Rykov (@rykov) posted, "Anniversary of the Maidan. The game looks at an ominous prophecy," adding a link and a screenshot to an online game of Ukraine in a civil war in 2017.

From the @anti_maydan account:

What did Maidan give you?

Faith in a better tomorrow!

But why do you need poverty tomorrow?

From @RussiansForward:


"Congratulations Ukraine on the anniversary of the Maidan," this tweet reads. "Thanks Maidan for Crimea."

The picture says,"They froze, they starved, they died, but nonetheless they stood up for the long-held dream of Crimeans to live in Russia." 

And finally this from Mark Sleboda, a "political analyst" for the Kremlin-funded network RT:


-- Luke Johnson


RFE/RL Discussion: Who Is Islamic State?

Even if you missed the live broadcast, you can still watch our video discussion of the methods and activities of the brutal militant group Islamic State (IS). 

This edition of RFE/RLive features Joanna Paraszczuk, author of RFE/RL's Under The Black Flag blog, which provides daily news and analysis about IS in Iraq and Syria and examines the response to the group in the Arab world, Iran, and across the former Soviet Union.

She was joined by RFE/RL Regional Broadcasting Director for Iran and Iraq Mardo Soghom to talk about who controls IS, whether it functions under a unified command, and whether its leading personalities are indeed the masterminds they appear to be.

Watch it here:

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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