Friday, December 19, 2014

Putin Jokes That Journalist Who Survived Stroke Was Drunk

Vladimir Mamatov’s sluggish delivery of his question to Putin during the press conference was the result of two strokes he survived.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has regularly used his annual news conference to deploy colorful metaphors and one-liners while projecting an image of wry self-assurance. 

But this tack took a wrong turn at this year’s event on December 18 after Putin teased a journalist for his slurred speech, joking that the man was drunk.

As it turns out, reporter Vladimir Mamatov’s sluggish delivery of his question to the Russian leader was the result of two strokes he survived. 

“He suffered two strokes and one concussion. His speech is somewhat impaired,” Irina Aleksandrova, director of the Kirov newspaper “Reporter,” was quoted by the radio station Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei as saying.

Mamatov took the microphone midway through the press conference to lament the difficulties that Kirov producers of kvas, a traditional Russian fermented beverage with a negligible alcohol content, face in getting their products on the shelves of major supermarkets. 

“It appears you’ve already been nipping at the kvas,” Putin quipped, eliciting laughter among the hundreds of journalists gathered in the crowed. 

Putin continued to needle Mamatov after the journalist noted that kvas made by a Kirov-region company is “very good.” 

“I can see that,” Putin said, sparking another round of chuckles from the crowd. 

Putin went on to ironically inquire whether the kvas in question is indeed alcohol-free. 

Putin moved the exchange onto more serious ground, touting kvas as a fine traditional Russian alternative to Western-produced beverages like Coca-Cola, and he promised to try to help Kirov kvas-makers find their place on the broader Russian market. 

Several journalists in the crowd and Russian news agencies initially appeared to believe Mamatov was drunk as well, including Russia’s state-owned international news network RT. 

Mamatov appeared to take Putin’s teasing in stride, telling the Kremlin-friendly tabloid that he was “ready for the president’s jibes.” 

“Furthermore, I knew that the president would react like that to my question and think that I’m tipsy,” Mamatov said. “I have a very positive opinion of the president.” 

-- Carl Schreck

Video Russian TV Explains Health Benefits Of Racism

A scene from "Live Healthily." The text reads, "Don't offer drinks to members of the Mongoloid race."

You always want to avoid drinking with somebody during the holiday season. Maybe it's that politically incorrect uncle of yours. Or maybe it's a nagging in-law.

The well-known host of a health show on Russian state-run First Channel has another suggestion: shun those whom she calls "people of the Mongoloid race." But it's for their own protection, of course.

The segment, titled "whom not to drink with on New Year's" begins with Yelena Malysheva, host of the program "Live Healthfully," inviting an audience member up on stage.

A man named Shukrat, who identifies himself as an Uzbekistan native, is met with hearty laughter when he explains that he "wouldn't want to drink with the police or the Federal Migration Service." 

Then Malysheva gets into the meat of her presentation, noting that Russians are "a white race, a Slavic one " and "now we will talk about what race not to drink with on New Year's."

And just so there are no misunderstandings, she adds, "There is no discrimination here, just an understanding of the physiology that makes every race different."

Shukrat then cuts in, noting that he "grew up in the Soviet Union, so I'm not a nationalist" and "can drink with black people and all people, to be honest."

Malysheva reiterates that "when we talk about who not to drink with this New Year's, we do not mean to cast scorn on anyone. We're talking about the threat to their own health."

She then turns to Dmitry Shubin, a "doctor" on her team and asks him to explain who not to drink with.

"In the interests of safety, one shouldn't drink -- no, not shouldn't but mustn't -- drink with people who come from the Mongoloid race," Shubin says, using a term to describe Asians that can be seen as derogatory. This group, he explains, includes Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and others in the Russian Far North.

Perhaps worried there may be confusion, Malysheva, using her fingers to press her own eyes together, explains that these "Mongoloids" can be identified by their narrow eyes and round facial features.

Just in case it still isn't clear, she exhibits a slideshow of Asian-looking faces to avoid when in the presence of alcohol. 

Asian face used to demonstrate "Mongoloids" on the First Channel program "Live Healthfully."
Asian face used to demonstrate "Mongoloids" on the First Channel program "Live Healthfully."

Shubin then explains the reasoning: Asians have a "genetic defect" that prevents them from properly metabolizing alcohol.

To demonstrate, he gives Shukrat and Malysheva liver-shaped containers, which are each apparently filled with black liquid (they don't actually show what's in Maysheva's container before the experiment). As they both pour alcohol into their respective livers, Shukrat's remains black. Malysheva's becomes clear.

"Mongoloid: people with narrow eyes and crescent-shaped faces -- [for them] alcohol is toxic," Malysheva says, pointing to the fake liver a perplexed-looking Shukrat is holding. "And so the first people you should never drink with on New Year's are representatives of the Mongoloid race. It is bad for them"

Research has shown that some people of East Asian descent -- about one-third according to one expert -- have a gene that causes difficulty in breaking down alcohol that could lead to long-term health consequences.

But doctors don't generally recommend that non-Asians take the matter into their own hands by excluding people of Asian ethnicity from social drinking.

In Russia itself, according to a recent study in "The Lancet" medical journal, a quarter of Russian men die before the age of 55 -- a rate far higher than the rest of Europe. And one of the chief causes is excessive alcohol consumption.

-- Glenn Kates

Children Of Soldiers: Pakistani Taliban's Brutal Justification Attempt For School Attack

A man in Karachi lights candles to mourn the victims from the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen on December 16.

There was nothing random about the Pakistani Taliban's targeting of a Peshawar army school for an attack. 

Part of a network of 128 schools that caters to military families and upper-middle-class Pakistanis, the campus was attacked as revenge for Islamabad's ongoing operations in North Waziristan, several Taliban spokesmen have said.

"We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females," Pakistani Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani said, according to the Reuters news agency. "We want them to feel the pain."

Yar Wazir, a Taliban commander, also tried to justify the attacks in an interview with the Daily Beast, claiming "the parents of the army school are army soldiers." 

Pakistan's security forces began their joint military offensive, named "Operation Zarb-e-Azb," in North Waziristan following a Taliban attack on Karachi's main airport in June. The Pakistani military says it has killed more than 1,100 Islamist militants there since.

LIVE BLOG: Pakistan School Attack As It Happened

Pakistani Army schools are thought to offer better services than standard public schools, which are frequently overcrowded and understaffed.

The schools are also generally protected by security, but several witnesses reported seeing the militants scaling a fence before storming the compound, located in northwestern Peshawar. 

The Taliban's attempts to use the school's military ties as a defense for the attack, which killed at least 141 people -- almost all of them children -- has been met largely with scorn. 

Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel-Prize-winning 17-year-old who was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, called the attack a "senseless and cold-blooded act of terror."

"Those were my kids," Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said before calling for a three-day period of national mourning.

He said the attacks had strengthened his resolve to defeat the Taliban.   

-- Glenn Kates

The Week Ahead: December 15-21

December 18: The third anniversary of the death of former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

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 15:
EU: European Parliament's plenary session opens in Strasbourg (to December 18).

EU/Ukraine: Brussels hosts an EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting.
TUESDAY, December 16:
Kazakhstan: Independence Day.

EU/Ukraine: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visits Kyiv.
Montenegro: Brussels hosts a EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference.
Serbia/China: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Belgrade to attend the third leaders' meeting of China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.
WEDNESDAY, December 17:
EU/Middle East: MEPs are scheduled to vote on a resolution on whether Palestine should be recognized as a state
EU/Moldova: European Parliament holds discussion in Strasbourg and vote on the autonomous trade preferences for Moldova.
Iran: France, Russia, China, U.K., U.S., and Germany (P5+1 group) are scheduled to resume nuclear negotiations with Iran in Geneva.
Iran: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visits Tehran.
Ukraine: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a state visit to Poland (to December 18).
THURSDAY, December 18:
EU: A meeting of the European Council begins in Brussels (to December 19).​
Czech Republic: The third anniversary of the death of Vaclav Havel, Czech poet, playwright, dissident, and first president of postcommunist Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic.
Serbia/France: Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic visits Paris, meets with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
FRIDAY, December 19:
Croatia/Turkey: Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic visits Ankara.​
Russia/Serbia: Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic visits Moscow, meets with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
SATURDAY, December 20:

SUNDAY, December 21:

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

Donetsk Snapshot: The Frightening Rise Of Denunciations

With so many armed men patrolling the streets, it's easy to end up in a separatist jail in Donetsk. (file photo)

DONETSK, Ukraine -- The website of the pro-Kyiv authorities in the eastern city of Donetsk features the photographs of dozens of local residents that have disappeared and are believed to be in the custody of the pro-Russian separatists that control parts of southeastern Ukraine around both Donetsk and Luhansk.

There are many ways to end up in a separatist jail -- being caught outside after curfew, failing to produce acceptable documents, or simply arousing the suspicion of one of the many masked men patrolling the streets with automatic weapons.

And, increasingly, one can end up there as a result of the old Soviet-style method of denunciation. More and more cases of people detained "under the testimony of neighbors" are being uncovered.

In October, a document appeared on social media that purported to be a denunciation form from the separatist authorities of Donetsk that people could use to report about "a citizen who is not worthy of occupying the honored position of a citizen of the DNR [Donetsk People's Republic] and needs to be isolated" and who "carried out illegal activities not in correspondence with the general policies of the Donetsk People's Republic and the interests of our country."

The photographed document accused a local whose name was obscured of insulting two DNR functionaries, calling for the "physical destruction" of the DNR leadership, and "offending those who support the idea of the DNR."

At around the same time, another denunciation raised eyebrows in Luhansk. In this instance, it came from the separatist, self-proclaimed "culture minister," Irina Filatova. 

"I ask you to take measures to detain and punish according to martial law Yelena Vladimirovna Krasnovskaya...," Filatova says in a letter. She goes on to claim that Krasnovskaya "performed rituals" at a city cemetery that were intended to "weaken the statehood of the Luhansk People's Republic [LNR] and bring harm to the health of its citizens." 

"According to the testimony of neighbors, she supports the Kyiv junta and is set against the LNR and Donbas," the denunciation continues. "I request that you investigate the incendiary activity of Ye. V. Krasnovskaya and determine a just means of punishment, including execution by shooting according to the regime of martial law."

Last month, a businesswoman from Donetsk named Svitlana Matushko told RFE/RL that she spent one week in captivity in Donetsk after a man she had been dating denounced her for allegedly reporting on separatist militia positions to the Ukrainian military. 

Ukraine's Interior Ministry recently released a statement from a Donetsk resident identified only as Dmytro, who told of a 27-year-old neighbor who got into a dispute with another neighbor over some money that she borrowed. 

The conflict led to a loud argument in front of the building one day in July, Dmytro claims, in which the woman's father sided with the neighbor and asked his daughter to repay the debt.

"On the next day, two cars without license plates pulled up to our building," Dmytro's statement reads. "The woman got out of the first car and some guys from DNR got out of the second. After a little while, they brought out the neighbor and the father in handcuffs, pushed them into the back of the cars and drove off. We didn't see them again."

Dmytro adds in his statement that he supports the DNR, although the incident in his building disturbed him.

Such occurrences appear to have eerie echoes of the Stalinist era of terror in the former Soviet Union, where preemptive accusations were commonplace. 

Wendy Goldman, a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University and author of "Inventing The Enemy: Denunciation And Terror In Stalin's Russia," argues that the tactic played a major role in intensifying and spreading fear and repression under Stalin.

In a 2011 interview about her book, Goldman argued that "ordinary Soviet citizens participated widely and actively in the Terror."

"These behaviors were motivated by genuine belief in alleged enemies, by fear of exposure or attack, and in many cases by both," Goldman said. "Faith in and fear of the state operated at the same time and often were intertwined in the responses of the same person. Many of the strategies that people used to protect themselves increased the risk to others and help spread the terror."

--  Ilya Trebor, with contributions from Robert Coalson

Video The Kremlin's Top 75 Lies About The Ukraine Crisis

"It's part of their war effort," says host Sam King. "It's their first line of offense against other countries. It's more than propaganda."

The folks at are committed to uncovering untrue or misleading information being disseminated by Russian media about the crisis in Ukraine.

And now StopFake has published a video (below) that runs down the Top 75 lies and untruths of 2014.

"Obviously, when you see these, you'll see there's a purpose behind all of these deliberate attempts from the Kremlin to spread disinformation about the war in Ukraine," says the video's host, Sam King. "It's part of their war effort. It's their first line of offense against other countries. It's more than propaganda."

StopFake says most of the cases cited find Kremlin-back media companies using old or mislabeled photographs to create false reports.

We'd like to hear your favorite Kremlin untruths about the Ukraine crisis. They can be examples cited in the video or perhaps ones that have not received a lot of attention.

Just leave your favorites in our comments section.

The Week Ahead: December 8-14

December 10: World Human Rights Day.

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, December 8:
EUEconomic and Financial Affairs Council meeting begins in Brussels (to December 9).
EU/Ukraine: Representative of the President of Ukraine on Crimean Tatar Affairs Mustafa Dzhemilev holds a press conference in European Parliament in Brussels.

Georgia/Georgia: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visits Tbilisi (to Decemebr 9).
Serbia: Belgrade hosts the OSCE Roma and Sinti Youth Conference (to December 9).
UzbekistanConstitution Day.

World: Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons opens in Vienna (to December 9).
TUESDAY, December 9:

Balkans: Brussels hosts a conference titled "Balkan Revival: Kick-starting stalled policies."
Eastern EuropeEuropean Policy Center (EPC) hosts a conference in Brussels titled "Security Challenges and Conflict Resolution in Eastern Europe."
Georgia/Russia: The 30th round of Georgia-Russia talks starts in Geneva (to December 10).
Slovakia: Bratislava hosts a meeting of V4 Group prime ministers (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland).
Syria/Iran: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem visits Tehran.
Ukraine/Singapore: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visits Singapore (to December 10).

WEDNESDAY, December 10:
THURSDAY, December 11:
Ukraine/Australia: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visits Sydney (to December 12).

FRIDAY, December 12:

EU: Brussels hosts a Foreign Affairs Council meeting (to December 15).

RussiaConstitution Day.
TurkmenistanNeutrality Day.

SATURDAY, December 13:
Culture: Riga hosts the 27th European Film Awards ceremony.
SUNDAY, December 14:
Kazakhstan: A Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) prime ministers meeting opens in Astana (to December 15).

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

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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