Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DNR Ready For Limp Bizkit And Its 'Hot Dog Flavored Water'

Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst reportedly loves the idea of living in Crimea, luring creative American talent there, and making the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 a star in the entertainment industry.

Anna Shamanska

Fred Durst, frontman for the U.S. rock band Limp Bizkit and self-professed admirer of Russia and Crimea, just may get the chance to put his show on the road in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR).

The American-born rocker has broadcast his desire to obtain a Russian passport, and has reportedly written about his intention to show the world what a great guy Russian President Vladimir Putin is.

The founding member of Limp Bizkit -- voted by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the worst bands to emerge from the 1990s -- reportedly loves the idea of living in Crimea, luring creative American talent there, and making the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 a star in the entertainment industry.

Now, according to separatist news agency reports, the "culture ministry" of the self-proclaimed DNR has sent the band a formal invitation to perform. 

The invitation apparently came in response to a statement made by Eduard Ratnikov, organizer of Limp Bizkit's Russian tour, who told Donetsk News Agency that the band might consider coming to separatist-controlled eastern Ukrainian cities in 2016. 

"We talked to the band about adding [the cities] to the next tour, and in general the guys say that they will consider proposals of those inviting them and maybe include Donetsk and Luhansk in this schedule," Ratnikov said.

The organizer added that Limp Bizkit had not swung through the disputed region during its current eastern European tour because "the roads are bombed and there are shell craters, so trucks with equipment can't pass quickly."

But if conditions are right, it seems, residents of the hotly disputed Ukrainian territory can look forward to rocking to songs from Chocolate Starfish to Hot Dog Flavored Water and perhaps even the upcoming album Stampede Of The Disco Elephants.

Calling all you "hot mommas, pimp daddies, and people rolling up in caddies" -- it's time to get Rollin' in the DNR. 

Durst And 'Crimea's Great Future'

In a September 1 interview with the Russian RockFM radio station, Durst, whose third wife Ksenia is a Crimean native, said he wouldn't mind obtaining a Russian passport.

"If you have connections with the relevant authorities that could assist me to get one, share them," he told the interviewer.

Durst later appealed directly to administrators of Crimea, Izvestia reported on October 8. According to the pro-Kremlin daily, the musician wrote a letter suggesting that if he were granted a Russian passport he would be able to live in Crimea for six months at a time. There he would shoot movies and television shows that would push Russia to a "high level in this business."

Durst reportedly wrote that he wanted to be a part "of the great future of Crimea and Russia" and guaranteed that "other creative Americans from film and show business" would follow him to Russia.

Limp Bizkit reached its peak of popularity in the West in the early 2000s, but Durst and his band appear to enjoy a large following among Russians -- and even the Russian government. 

In his recent letter to the Crimean authorities, Durst reportedly made clear his fondness for the Russian president.

"I think that President Putin will understand what kind of person I am, having looked into my eyes ,and will know that he has an ally that can help in many things," Durst wrote, according to Izvestia. "I am sure that we can do many important things together and it will help Russia, and it will help people all around the world to understand that Putin is a great guy with clear moral principles and a nice person."

Perhaps Durst sees someone in Putin -- something he often sings about on stage in Limp Bizkit's cover of The Who hit Behind Blue Eyes:

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
And no one knows
What it's like to be hated
To be fated to telling only lies

Or not. Whatever the case, Russian officials in Crimea appear anxious to hear from Durst to further discuss the possibility of cooperation.

"All the proposals that he puts forward, I am sure, will be met with enthusiasm in Crimea," Sergei Strelbitsky, Crimea's so-called minister of resorts and tourism, told Izvestia.

Russian Firewood Initiative Raises A Burning Question

A charity drive to collect donations for firewood for poorer households has set the Russian Internet alight.

Anna Shamanska

A simple Russian-language Google search for "Russian gas supplies" ( retrieves headlines about Russia being the only country "able to provide Ukraine with gas," about "Europe being unable" to cope without Russian gas, and about Russian preparedness "to provide gas for Ukraine's occupied Donbas."

Russia is, after all, the world's second-largest producer of natural gas.

So some in the country reacted with incredulity to a Russian TV report about a charity in Tver, some 200 kilometers north of Moscow, which is collecting donations to buy firewood so that 116 village households can survive the winter. 

With no gas lines in some swaths of Russia, residents must heat their homes the old-fashioned way: by burning wood in their fireplaces or Russian ovens. According to the Give Firewood initiative, the sponsor of the project, one truckload of wood worth 5,000-6,000 rubles ($80-97) should be enough to heat a household for an entire winter.

Among villagers the charity says need help are elderly people who live alone, large families, and people with disabilities. "For those who live in a village and have no money to buy firewood, winter turns into a struggle for survival," claims the initiative's website.

A special report on Russia's state-run Channel One featured volunteers delivering the wood to elderly recipients. Some houses are in shambles, with walls covered in yellow stains -- apparently from humidity and age. One woman's monthly pension is equivalent to one truckload of firewood, so she says she has to save money throughout the year to heat the house in the winter. 

Russian government critic and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny said he initially thought a tweet about the story by Channel One -- a station that has given unflinchingly flattering coverage to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies -- must have been a joke.

"Somewhere in between news reports about the greatness of the country under the guidance of a wise ruler and about an entire population in union demanding to send troops to Ukraine and Syria, [the TV channel] is involved in this charity event," Navalny wrote on his blog

The opposition leader, whose investigations recently revealed a $620,000 pricetag on Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov's watch and the estimated cost of Peskov's purported honeymoon on a luxurious yacht, the Maltese Falcon, suggested an easier way for the government to help the needy stay warm in winter.

Navalny estimated that Peskov's watch could have bought 7,400 truckloads of firewood, and one week's vacation aboard the Maltese Falcon yacht could buy 5,200 truckloads.

Other social-media users reacted to the initiative with similar dismay.

"It is certainly cool, talking about the unprecedented power of Russia, as great as ever, despite there being a Give Firewood initiative," wrote a woman from Moscow.

Some Twitter users quipped that oil refinery Rosneft CEO and close Putin ally Oleg Sechin must be thinking about those elderly Russians right now. 

Others joked that the Russian president himself had it all under control and had "personally chopped 666,923 cubic meters of high-quality firewood." 

The Russian Twittersphere also pointed out that the country's military involvement abroad costs considerably more than the elderly residents of Tver and Smolensk oblasts require.

"The 'Give Firewood' initiative has already collected enough for 14 households! The rockets, launched from the Caspian Sea, cost enough [to provide] firewood for 200,000 households," tweeted one user

Many revisited a meme from last year:

"2014: Iskander [missiles] are not afraid of sanctions
2015: Give Firewood" 

A relatively common Russian conspiracy theory blames U.S. President Barack Obama for events in Russia and beyond, including inciting "color revolutions." He has also -- jokingly -- been blamed for stealing all the firewood from Russia's elderly.

"Give back the firewood, damn it," the woman in this photo demands. 

The original tweet of the report by state TV's Channel One about the initiative had 83 retweets. Navalny's calculation about how much firewood Russia's Peskov could buy instead of his watch and vacation had 726 retweets.

The Give Firewood website claims that only 14 impoverished households in Tver and Smolensk oblasts have enough wood to make it through the winter.

Video Moscow Statue Honoring Cinematic 'Thief' Is Stolen

Police say Yevgeny Leonov's Moscow statue was stolen and sold to a scrap-metal dealer.

Mike Eckel

There is no honor among thieves.

Statue thieves included, it seems.

Police in Moscow say they have arrested a group of men who last week made off with a bronze sculpture dedicated to a beloved Soviet actor who famously played a character reluctantly posing as the head of a gang of thieves.

The life-sized statue, depicting actor Yevgeny Leonov as the character known as "the docent" in the 1972 Soviet comedy Gentlemen of Fortune, was carted away sometime late on October 16 from its base in Moscow's MosFilm district, named for the famous Russian film studios.

Surveillance-camera footage purporting to show the thieves taking the statue away has been posted on YouTube.

WATCH: Thieves Steal A Statue Of Yevgeny Leonov

Moscow city police spokesman Andrei Galiakberov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying that, after police detained five men in connection with the heist, they discovered the statue had been sold to a scrap-metal dealer and cut up into pieces.

The thieves earned 40,000 rubles for the statue, about $640, police said. 

Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio reported that two more people were detained on October 17, and that the scrap-metal dealer stood to lose his license for receiving stolen goods. 

In Gentlemen of Fortune, Leonov plays a school teacher named Troshkin who is identical in appearance to a thief named nicknamed "the docent," or "the assistant professor." The docent and his gang have stolen a gold antique, and police ask Troshkin to go undercover into prison to find out from the docent's gang members where exactly the gold antique is stashed. 

To do that, the polite and soft-spoken Troshkin must get all sorts of tattoos and learn to speak and gesticulate like a gang member.

The statue, which went up in 2001, showed Leonov as the portly docent flashing a gang sign and covered in tattoos, including one reading "Life's become happier" -- a wry twist on a famous quotation by Stalin.

The sculpture's creator told Russian media that he would build a new statue, even though there isn't unanimous regret about its demise among Russia's cultural elite.

Stanislav Govorukhin, a film director who is now a pro-Kremlin member of Russia's lower house of parliament, told Ekho Moskvy that "from all the tremendous films made by this great actor, the image that ended up being chosen for this statue was not the most fortunate one: a gang-sign-flashing moron."

Oxford Geographers Anger Ukraine By Showing Crimea As Russia

Pedestrians in Moscow pass a mural showing a map of the Crimean peninsula in the Russian national colors with the words "Crimea and Russia." The Ukrainian territory was forcibly annexed by Russia in March 2014.


Territorial disputes are always a headache for mapmakers, and the geographers at Oxford University Press have jumped into the middle of the bitter argument between Moscow and Kyiv over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia forcibly annexed in March 2014.
Ukraine's embassy in London sent a letter to the distinguished publisher on October 13 complaining that the fourth edition of its Geography for Key Stage 3 textbook presents Crimea as a part of Russia.
The textbook further refers to a March 24 referendum in Crimea that has not been recognized by the international community. "The UK Government has condemned [the referendum] as illegal and repeatedly urged the Kremlin to stick to the (sic) international law and return Crimea to Ukraine," the embassy's letter states. It adds that a UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine's territorial integrity also rejected Russia's takeover of the region.
A spokesman for Oxford University Press told RFE/RL on October 15 that the textbook in question is intended for "students aged 11 to 14" and is based on "detailed research into the political, social, and economic situation at the time of publication," taking into account "the level of the students, the learning objective."
However, the spokesman added that Oxford University Press continuously reviews its publications "to reflect changes in circumstance and feedback from various sources."
"We will be changing the wording used on this matter and will also include the UN position," he said.
The Oxford textbook places Crimea on a par with Kaliningrad, formerly a part of Germany that was incorporated into the Soviet Union after World War II, describing both as "exclaves of Russia." However, the text describes Crimea as territory "which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014."
The brouhaha has attracted the attention of RT, Russia's state-controlled English-language media company. An RT report asserts that Oxford University Press "has apparently recognized Crimea as part of Russia under international law."
In what seems like a bid to throw oil on the fire, RT mischaracterizes the embassy's letter to Oxford University Press. RT writes that the embassy "dispatched a formal letter, urging the world's largest publisher to 'correct [its] mistakes immediately' as the textbook content 'misleads students.' Unless redacted, [Kyiv] threatens to escalate the issue into a 'dispute.'" 
In fact, the Ukrainian embassy's letter is far more diplomatic. "I hope that the recent edition of the textbook for students would be immediately updated and all mistakes corrected in order not to bring The Oxford University Press into disrepute."

Photogallery U.S. TV Host Conan O'Brien Dives Into Armenian Culture 'Headfirst'

TV Comic Conan O'Brien On Armenian Touri
October 14, 2015
U.S. TV host Conan O'Brien is in Armenia to film an episode of his late-night show with the help of his Armenian-American assistant, Sona Movsesian. O'Brien and his crew paid a visit to the genocide memorial in Yerevan, but he told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the show is avoiding any political commentary in favor of a mostly light-hearted travelogue.
WATCH: TV Comic Conan O'Brien On Armenian Tour
Karlen Aslanian

From herding sheep while wearing traditional clothing to experiencing modern life in the bustling Armenian capital, Yerevan, well-known U.S. television host and comedian Conan O’Brien says he's dived into Armenian culture headfirst while on a trip inspired by his ethnic Armenian assistant.

The 52-year-old TV personality is regarded as the longest-working of all current late-night talk show hosts in the United States, at 22 years.

A writer and producer for The Simpsons for two seasons, O’Brien later took over David Letterman’s position as host of Late Night in 1993. Since 2010, he has hosted Conan, another talk show, on the cable channel TBS.

O'Brien has been in Armenia since last week filming an episode of his show that will air in November.

O'Brien, who also shot an episode in Cuba a few months ago, says it was his longtime assistant who gave him the idea of visiting Armenia.

“This all happened because I have an assistant who I’ve worked with for five years, Sona Movsesian, and she is always very active on behalf of the Armenian community of Los Angeles in the United States, and she is always talking about Yerevan,” O’Brien said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

“A few years ago, she asked me to wear a Yerevan T-shirt and she took a picture of me wearing this Yerevan T-shirt, and she put it on Facebook...and a lot of Armenians saw it and were very excited. And I finally said to Sona: ‘Why don’t I take you to Armenia?’ because she has never been there before. And so that was the story behind the trip.”

O’Brien said they’ve had a lot of adventures around Yerevan and across Armenia during their four or five days of filming, getting immersed in local culture.

“I went to a lot of different places and had a lot of really fun interactions. We tried to explore as much of Yerevan and Armenia as we could in the time that we’ve been here. ... So I think people will be surprised at how much we actually accomplished while we were here. They’ll see that we really did dive into the culture headfirst.”

The American comedian said he has noticed a few things that seemed funny to him, such as the presence of the fast-food chain KFC.

“When you get to a place like Armenia, you’re so excited to be on the other side of the world, away from all the Western influences, all the stuff that we think may be not the best thing for the world, and then you see a KFC and you think: ‘Oh my God. Why? Why did they let KFC here?”

O’Brien says watching Armenian men walk with their arms interlocked was also very unusual.

“You don’t see that in the United States, and so when you first see it here, you think: Why are they doing that? But then, I think, that’s a great idea. So, I started walking with one of my producers. We started linking arms and I actually thought: ‘This is fantastic.’ We should adopt this in the West. It’s time for us to catch up.”

O'Brien said that while he knew that the country marked the 100th anniversary of what it calls the Armenian genocide this year, it wasn’t the reason he came at this time.

“But it certainly adds a lot of importance to the visit,” he said.

“I'm not an expert on world affairs. I know that it’s very complicated because of Turkey’s relationship with the United States and there's a whole geopolitical set of questions that are beyond me. But I take it from a very human, simple level, which is, I wanted to bring Sona here, and I wanted to experience her culture with her and meet her people with her," O'Brien said. "And you cannot come here and not go and visit the genocide memorial. It is an integral part of this country’s history and Sona’s history so ... It was very moving to go. ... I just thought, 'I don’t know what the politics are,' but I’m not gonna worry about that."

The World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks is considered by many historians and several nations as genocide. Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate the Christian minority.

Russian Officials Seek To Erase Opposition Party's Name From St. Petersburg's Map

St. Petersburg officials want to change the name of the city's Parnas district, partly because it shares its name with a political party founded by avowed Putin critics, including the assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov (pictured).

Carl Schreck

Liberal parties have been repeatedly written off the Russian political map during President Vladimir Putin's 15 years in power. Now his allies are trying to wipe the name of a prominent anti-Kremlin party from St. Petersburg's actual map.
Officials with the ruling United Russia party have asked the St. Petersburg legislature to rename the northern district of Parnas, in part because it shares its name with a party founded by avowed Putin critics, including the assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
District head Aleksei Cherezov told the Rosbalt website that local residents had complained that they did not know if the name "was linked to the political party Parnas."
City legislator Yevgeny Marchenko, meanwhile, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the name is "unpleasing to the ear" and that "a lot of Parnases have appeared," including "some party that doesn't win elections." 

Both officials noted that the move is not tied exclusively to the opposition party, whose full name is RPR-Parnas. Cherezov and Marchenko said a sausage factory of the same name had also baffled residents of the district, which was originally named after a manmade hill in the center of a park. 

The Parnas party's name is an abbreviation for its longer Russian name, The People's Freedom Party. Andrei Pivovarov, head of the party's St. Petersburg branch, said he believed the move was linked to local elections next year.
Marchenko, who represents an area within the Parnas district, "is trying to show his loyalty and relevance," Pivovarov told Rosbalt.
Earlier this year, the party agreed to join forces with opposition leader and anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny's Party of Progress ahead of national parliamentary elections in 2016.
The coalition tried to get on the ballot for regional elections held nationwide last month but was only allowed to run in the impoverished Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow, where it failed to win any seats.
Like other opposition parties and movements during Putin's reign, the Parnas-Party of Progress coalition accused authorities of bureaucratic shenanigans, smear campaigns, and vote rigging to ensure it would be trounced at the polls.
Following news of the push to rename the Parnas district, social media users proposed a range of new names for opposition political parties.
The St. Petersburg-based photographer Yevgeny Feldman suggested naming Russia's next opposition party "Lenin Street," since nearly every town, city, and village across the country has a street named after the founder of the Soviet Union. 

Dmitry Ratnikov, a St. Petersburg-based journalist, suggested outwitting the officials, who have proposed renaming the Parnas district Sergiyevskoye in honor of a Russian Orthodox saint.
"I propose renaming the party from Parnas to Sergiyevskoye in 2016,"

Another Twitter user suggested the party go all in:
"The next opposition party has to be named Moscow," he said.

A Perfect Day For Bombing: Russian TV Forecasts Favorable Weather For Syria Strikes

According to one Russian TV station, the weather in Syria is currently ideal for a bombing campaign.

Claire Bigg

As Russia presses ahead with air strikes in Syria, the Kremlin's push for domestic support for the offensive has spread to an unlikely area: weather forecasts.
On October 3, state-run television channel Rossiya-24 aired an exhaustive weather bulletin describing the current climatic conditions in Syria as "very favorable" for a bombing campaign.
"October in Syria is generally a propitious time for flights," said the weather presenter, standing against a backdrop detailing the average temperature, rainfall, wind speed, and number of cloudy days in October in the Middle Eastern country.
"Rain falls only once every 10 days and the most intensive rain, up to 18 millimeters, is usually observed in the north, where the operation by Russia's air force is underway," she continued. "But this cannot seriously affect the bombings."
According to the slick, three-minute forecast -- accompanied by Defense Ministry footage showing bombs hitting the ground and sending up huge plumes of smoke -- Syria's balmy autumn temperatures are also perfect for air strikes.
"Heat above 35 degrees is considered borderline for flights, and the thermometer rarely reaches this mark in Syria in October," the presenter said.
She went on to reassure viewers that the increased cloudiness brought on by the approach of winter should not derail the Russian strikes.
A graphic helpfully explained that the clouds usually lie between 4 and 10 kilometers above the ground -- higher than the "optimal altitude for bombings."
Russia abruptly began a campaign of air strikes in Syria on September 30, saying it is targeting Islamic State militants and other extremists in Moscow's biggest military offensive outside the former Soviet Union since that country fell apart in 1991.

'Wind Of Change'
The United States and its allies in a coalition that is bombing IS targets say many of the Russian strikes have hit more moderate opponents of Syria's government, and have expressed concern that Moscow's real aim is to prop up President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia has backed throughout a civil war that has killed some 250,000 people since 2011.  
There have also been reports of civilian casualties from the Russian strikes, which President Vladimir Putin has said would last "for the duration of Syrian Army offensives."
Weather-wise, the state TV report warned that there remains a threat of sandstorms -- which the Russian report pointedly said had occasionally paralyzed U.S. forces during the Gulf War.
The forecast, however, described sandstorms as a "rare occurrence" at this time of the year in Syria and predicted that Russia will be able to "end the operation quickly."
"Nature itself compels us to hurry," the anchor concluded sternly.
It's not the first time Russian television has infused politics into its weather forecasts.
In December 2013, weatherman Vadim Zavodchenkov blamed Kyiv's Euromaidan protests on the onset of winter during his forecast on Rossiya 24 and warned the demonstrators against "a sharp rise in acute respiratory viral infections in Kyiv."
In January 2014, he issued another health warning for the demonstrators, telling them they risked getting cancer from inhaling the toxic smoke from tires burning on the protest barricades.
In April, Zavodchenkov commented on the conflict in eastern Ukraine in thinly veiled remarks, saying "clouds were gathering in the sky" in that region and noting that "a cyclone triggered gusty winds -- perhaps a wind of change in Ukraine's Donetsk -- over the weekend."


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 transmission+rferl.org

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