Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Week Ahead: March 30 - April 5

April 2: World Autism Awareness 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.

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MONDAY, March 30:
Russia/Armenia: Russian parliament speaker Sergei Naryshkin visits Yerevan.

U.K./Afghanistan: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled Changing The Odds? Achieving Stability In Afghanistan.
TUESDAY, March 31: ​
Georgia/EU: Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili visits Brussels.
Kyrgyzstan/Germany: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev visits Berlin (to April 1).
Tajikistan: Serbian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman Ivica Dacic visits Dushanbe (to April 2).
WEDNESDAY, April 1: ​
EU: The European Central Bank Governing Council meets in Frankfurt.

Serbia/Slovakia​: Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic visits Bratislava (to April 2).

THURSDAY, April 2:
Azerbaijan: Baku hosts an International Travel & Tourism Fair (to April 4).
FRIDAY, April 3:
Russia/Slovakia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov makes a working visit to Bratislava.
SATURDAY, April 4:
SUNDAY, April 5:
Global: Western Christianity celebrates Easter holiday.

15 Years Of Putin

A political cartoon from Sergei Elkin for RFE/RL's Russian Service, marking the 15th anniversary on March 27 of President Vladimir Putin's first election victory, in 2000, nearly three months after Boris Yeltsin stepped down and named Putin his successor.

The Week Ahead: March 23-29

March 24: European Parliament holds a debate with Crimean Tatar Mejlis movement leader Refat Chubarov, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, and members of the Ukrainian parliament on Crimea’s militarization and security situation.

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, March 23:
Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev visits Vienna.
U.S./Iran/Russia: Wilson Center in Washington hosts a discussion titled Russian-Iranian Relations In The Shadow Of Ukraine.
TUESDAY, March 24: ​

Global: Tunis hosts the World Social Forum 2015 (to March 28).
Russia/Latin America: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Cuba, Columbia, Nicaragua, and Guatemala (to March 26).​
U.K./Russia: Chatham House in London hosts a discussion titled The Impact Of Sanctions On Russia's Domestic And Foreign Policy
WEDNESDAY, March 25: ​
EU/Kosovo: EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visits Pristina.
EU/Ukraine: European Parliament is scheduled to hold a vote on whether Ukraine should be granted up to 1.8 billion euros ($2.086 billion) in EU macro-financial assistance for economic and political stabilization and reform. 

U.S./Afghanistan: Wilson Center in Washington hosts a discussion titled Afghanistan: The Next Phase.

THURSDAY, March 26:
Council of EuropeJustice Ministers from the 47 Council of Europe member states meet in Brussels to discuss the reform of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) system (to March 27).
EU/Kosovo: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visits Pristina.
IranThe next round of nuclear talks between Iran and six major world powers -- the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China -- is scheduled to start.
Kyrgyzstan/EU: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev visits Brussels (to March 30).
U.S./Belarus: Freedom House in Washington hosts a discussion titled Belarus On The Eve Of A Presidential Election.
FRIDAY, March 27:
EU/Serbia: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visits Belgrade.
SATURDAY, March 28:
EgyptArab League foreign ministers meet for the annual Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh (to March 29).
World: Earth Hour - a global annual event where millions of people switch off their lights for one hour.
SUNDAY, March 29:
Russia/Armenia: Russian Parliament Speaker Sergei Naryshkin visits Yerevan (to March 30).

Uzbekistan: Presidential Election.

Video Ukrainian Oligarch Tears Into RFE/RL Journalist

Ukrainian oligarch and politician Ihor Kolomoyskiy

One would expect Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians to be made of sterner stuff.
Billionaire oligarch and Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskiy, however, lost his cool in the late-night hours of March 19-20 when a reporter from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service -- together with other journalists -- asked him why he had just spent six hours with a group of armed men in the headquarters of the state-owned Ukrtransnafta oil-transit company.
The question by journalist Serhiy Andrushko sent Kolomoyskiy into an expletive-filled rant in which he urged RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, to go looking for Russian saboteurs rather than tracking his movements. The profanity-laced tirade lasted more than a minute and was caught on video.
On March 19, the supervisory board of Ukrtransanafta, in which Kolomoyskiy's PrivatGroup holds a 42 percent stake, dismissed the board chairman and Kolomoyskiy associate, Oleksandr Lazorko. 
This followed a decision by Ukraine's parliament to lower the necessary quorum for shareholder votes at state-owned companies, from 60 percent to 50 percent.
Kolomoyskiy called the actions a "corporate raid." 
WATCH: Ihor Kolomoyskiy's tirade (in Russian, no subtitles)
The governor, who also provides funding for pro-Kyiv battalions, may also have been upset with Andrushko and Radio Svoboda because of a video report published on March 12 that outlines Kolomoyskiy's manipulation of his political ties to benefit his business interests.
In one exchange from last year shown in that report, Andrushko asks why Kolomoyskiy has Ukrainian, Israeli, and Cypriot passports when Ukrainian law forbids dual citizenship.
"In the constitution it says dual citizenship is forbidden," Kolomoyskiy says. "But triple citizenship is not forbidden."
Ukraine's state Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information has called on Kolomoyskiy to apologize to Andrushko, saying he violated his oath as a public servant and the rant showed "signs of obstruction of journalism." 
In a statement, RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic condemned Kolomoyskiy's "verbal attack."
"It is a violation of all international standards and decency that a public official would verbally abuse a journalist," he said. "It is also reckless and potentially dangerous. We also condemn the outrageous accusations made against RFE/RL, whose job is to serve the public interest by providing independent, unbiased, and accurate reporting to the people of Ukraine."
-- Robert Coalson, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service 

The Week Ahead: March 16-22

March 21: International Day of Nowruz.

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, March 16:
EU: Brussels hosts an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
EU/Moldova: Moldovan Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici visits Brussels, attends EU-Moldova Association Council meeting.
Russia: The UN Human Rights Committee meets to review Russia (to March 17).​
Ukraine: OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors travels to the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine (to March 20).

Ukraine/Germany: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visits Berlin.

U.S./IranU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Lausanne for talks to secure an agreement on Iran's controversial nuclear program. 

TUESDAY, March 17: ​
Russia/Georgia: The 31st round of regional peace talks between Georgia and Russia starts in Geneva (to March 18).
Ukraine: Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland visits Kyiv (to March 18).
WEDNESDAY, March 18:
Armenia: EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visits Yerevan.​
U.S./Azerbaijan/Turkey: Freedom House in Washington hosts a discussion titled Independent Media And Civil Society In Turkey And Azerbaijan.
THURSDAY, March 19:
EU: EU leaders meet for the European Council to discuss further orientations in view of building an Energy Union (to March 20).
Iraq: Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visits Moscow (to March 20).
U.S./Ukraine: The Wilson Center in Washington hosts a discussion titled The War In Ukraine: The Roots Of Russian Conduct.

FRIDAY, March 20:
SATURDAY, March 21:
SUNDAY, March 22:

The Internet Thinks Putin Is Dead

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen in public since March 5.

And with little further information to go by -- his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said simply that there is "no reason to worry" and "everything is fine" -- some have naturally assumed the most drastic possible thing that could have happened is what did happen. 

"Putin umer" or "Putin has died," is now trending on the Russian Internet.

There's also a website that allows users to ask, "has Putin died?" (the automated response varies with responses like: "No, he's alive" and "No, that's not why it stinks in Moscow.")

And perhaps because people find the very notion rather unlikely, social media users have been trying to imagine what a world without Putin -- or a heaven with him -- might look like.

It's likely that he would have a mass funeral just like Vladimir Lenin, but would Putin be presented in his favored bare-chested uniform?

Would the outpouring of grief on state TV channels match the level of emotion shown when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died?

And who would reach out to him first in heaven? Perhaps his longtime friend and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez?
-Hello, Putin, is that you?
-Yes, and who's this?
-It's Chavez. Want to meet up?

But if Putin really were at death's door, would he really show up for his final meeting on time? (The Russian president is notoriously almost always running late)

Translation: It's already nearing noon...and still no Putin!

And after all, dying isn't really in his interests.
-Putin can't die.
-It's not profitable.

Really though -- is this something to even joke about?

Besides, his press secretary, Peskov, has said despite his disappearance from public view he's still "holding meetings all the time" and even "breaking hands" along the way.

-- Glenn Kates

'Crimea' Filmmaker's Propaganda Dreams Come True

Andrei Kondrashev

The filmmaker behind a Kremlin-backed program making headlines for its revelations about Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine is on the record asserting that propaganda and journalism are indistinguishable.

Andrei Kondrashev made the remarks to RFE/RL's Russian Service around the time he was embarking on the "full-length documentary" for Russian state TV whose promotional clips have garnered considerable attention in the past week.

In the spots for Kondrashev's program, titled Crimea: Path To The Motherland, President Vladimir Putin appears to contradict the Kremlin's insistence that it has not been a party to what Russian officials have repeatedly described as Ukraine's "civil war."

The clips have provided ammunition in the war of words over Russia's actions in Ukraine but offered few clues as to why Putin would choose to stray from the Kremlin's preferred narrative so far.

Kondrashev, a Rossia-1 anchorman, is a household name in Russia.

He told RFE/RL's Russian Service in May, when he was being decorated by Putin for his "objective" coverage of events in Crimea, that "Now any propaganda in the media is essentially journalism."

In discussing the Kremlin award, Kondrashev said, "Soldiers and officers receive awards for combat. It is an absolutely identical situation for us, because war is now moving to the area of journalism. This fact is absolute and you can't argue with it."

Russian State TV Anchor: 'Propaganda Is Journalism'i
|| 0:00:00
May 06, 2014
Andrei Kondrashov is one of 300 media professionals awarded by Russian President Vladimir Putin for their "objective" coverage of events in Crimea. Speaking to RFE/RL in Moscow, Russian state television's leading news anchor defended his award and said he saw no difference between journalism and propaganda. (RFE/RL's Russian Service)

He hinged his view on the argument that Russian television news "developed according to BBC and CNN standards." Citing a conversation with a like-minded German journalist, he argued: "Television journalism has transformed as a whole and the standards of media organizations that we once considered our models have shifted to an area that you call 'propaganda' today. We have simply adopted the same methods that they [BBC and CNN] use today."

Kondrashev's views dovetail with the "hybrid warfare" that Kyiv and Western critics accuse Russia of waging in the Ukraine conflict, ushering in the unrecognized Crimean annexation and continuing bloodshed as pro-Russian fighters battle pro-Kyiv forces in southeastern Ukraine. More than 6,000 people have died in the violence, according to the United Nations.

In the promotional teases, Russia's president talks of issuing an order to "start work to return Crimea to Russia" weeks before the referendum -- under occupation and with masked gunmen overseeing the voting -- which outsiders discounted but Moscow and its proxies used to justify Crimea's secession from Ukraine. Putin also describes organizing "a closed survey" that suggested three out of four Crimeans wished to join Russia. 

Putin long ago acknowledged that the armed "little green men" in Crimea that spearheaded the occupation were not "local militia," as he had suggested at the time, but Russian special forces.

There was no official announcement of the program's planned broadcast date, but Russian website Lenta suggested on March 11 that it would air on March 16, the first anniversary of the status referendum organized by Russian and pro-Moscow forces occupying the peninsula at the time.

Lenta also speculates about the identities of the four senior security and defense officials whom Putin purportedly told to "start work" on the "unification." It suggests they were "probably" Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Federal Security Service director Aleksandr Bortnikov, Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, director of military intelligence at the General Staff, and Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

It also notes a claim by Putin, repeated on Rossia-1's website, that the secret polling on unification with Russia that Putin ordered showed 75 percent support among Crimeans -- a figure well above that of opinion polls prior to the covert occupation of the peninsula, but considerably lower than the nearly 97 percent that occupation authorities claimed in the March 16 vote on independence.

Putin is quoted as explaining away discrepancies by suggesting it "became obvious to me that if we arrived at [the context of a possible unification] the level or number of those who would like this historic event to occur would be much higher."

Lenta concludes that one year after the unrecognized annexation of Crimea, unexplained "dark spots" remain in our knowledge of events there in late February and early March, ahead of that land grab. It adds admiringly that The Path To The Motherland will fill in those gaps "in the first person."

If the Rossia-1 program was indeed filmed "in an atmosphere of secrecy," as Lenta claims, the flood of headlines it has spawned comprises what critics of Moscow's Ukrainian moves regard as open secrets.

Asked about the program trailer, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "Certainly, what we've seen is consistent with the deceitful approach we've seen when denying Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine."

-- Andy Heil​

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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