Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The Power Vertical

Podcast: Hybrid Warfare And Russia's New 'Great Game'

Armed pro-Russian separatists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic pledge an oath during a ceremony in Donetsk on June 21.
Armed pro-Russian separatists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic pledge an oath during a ceremony in Donetsk on June 21.

An invasion that's not quite an invasion. Operatives who aren't quite troops. Aggression no doubt, albeit aggression with plausible deniability.

We've been in this place before, although it didn't always make international headlines. We were here in the conflicts in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s.

We were here in the conflict in Moldova's separatist Transdniester province. We were here dramatically in the run-up to Russia's August 2008 war with Georgia.

And here we are again today, in Ukraine.

It's been called hybrid warfare, asymmetrical warfare, and ambiguous warfare. But warfare it is, and Russia appears to have perfected using it to achieve its geopolitical aims.

The Little Green Men are probably here to stay. Is there any way to counter them?

In the latest Power Vertical Podcast, we discuss this phenomenon and its implications. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows" and Merhat Sharipzhan, a senior correspondent and analyst with RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.

Enjoy...

Power Vertical Podcast -- June 27, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- June 27, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Ukraine,Russia,Power Vertical podcast,Hybrid Warfare

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Comments
     
by: George from: uk
June 27, 2014 17:27
Ref. Yanukovych and Crimea, what of the Crimea medals manufactured before he fled, check the dates imprinted on them, what was behind this?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 27, 2014 17:39
Well, the "Great Game" is much bigger of course than suggested above. What is happening right now is the formation of two global alliances. On the one hand, the traditional but decadent NATO states and their friends (US, UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Israel etc), who are losing influence globally and are hectically trying to save the remnants of the latter by trying to destabilize the states where they do not have influence (such as Venezuela, Libya, Syria or Ukraine).
On the other hand, you have the alliance between Russia and China with a number of smaller states who resist the attmepts of the US to impose their domination on them (such states as Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Ecuador, Cuba, the DPRK, Argentina and many other ones).
So, all in all, pretty much the same trend that one could have observed 100 years ago on the eve of WWI. And the armed conflicts in such failed states as Libya, Iraq or Ukraine are to be understood exactly through the prism of the confrontation between the two mentioned camps: the US desperately tries to achieve at least something in the Middle East and for this reason finances sunni islamic terror in such countries as Iraq and Syria. Russia (and China) do not want to allow the US achieve anything in this region and support the govts who fight against the sunni islamic terror.
In this context, starting the war in Ukraine serves the only US purpose: creating an area of permanent instability on the border to Russia to tie Russia's hand up in this specific area, and then to use the US ability to keep the conflict going (thus creating problems for Russia, obviously) and use it as a bargaining chip. For example, a US argument a couple of months from now may go, "we will stop supporting the Kiew junta in exchange for you (Russia) stopping to support the govt of Bashar in Syria".
So, this is the "Great Game". Transdnistria or Abkhazia are just peanuts in this context really...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 27, 2014 19:59
Thank you rferl for using my name for your brilliant post.
In Response

by: The False Evgeniy Wiensky
June 29, 2014 20:31
Now we have pretenders? Soon we will have our "time of troubles" here on the comment forum.
In Response

by: America NOT NWO Firster from: USA
June 30, 2014 00:48
Initially peaceful protesters backed by violent activists trained in Baltic states and Poland, with the Poles denying that Svoboda and Right Sector street fighters were trained at their top police academy outside Warsaw well before EuroMaidan:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38297.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDPJ-ucnyPU

Snipers (according to German TV) shooting both sides at Maidan including Berkut riot police who conveniently get away it all, according to Parubiy and Avakov who say they fled to Russia.

Red armband wearing 'pro-Russian provocateurs' who also conveniently escape on May 2, without a single Odessa rioter who fired or hurled a Molotov cocktail into the Trades Union Building getting arrested or indicted. Naturally pro-Maidan PR outlets forget all about the 'red armband wearers' since none of them got arrested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4dJRnI-X8Q

Anglophone Greystone mercs who aren't there despite Russia insisting it has intel that they're America's plausible deniability boots on the ground in Ukraine -- despite footage of Ukrainian National Guardsmen speaking perfect Italian or who can't speak Russian.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOw8O0JvW_I

Ads for English-speaking translators with Donbass Battalion that disappear:

https://twitter.com/NinaByzantina/status/483292841138225152

The Erik Prince aka the top military mercenary paymaster of Poland caught in a photograph with Turchinov outside Slovyiansk. Ukrainian aircraft/chopper losses over the Donbass to MANPADS that would likely be impossible to sustain without Polish, Lithuanian or other NATO operating country ground crews and even pilots. A Swedish speaking neo-Nazi named 'Mike' who 'volunteers' with the Azov Battalion. But of course there is no ratline for European fascists to fight on Kiev's side:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKfIn6iOh-E

There is only one way left to fluster the 'little green men' or have a chance in hell of Kiev retaining the Donbass within a federated state. But that would require the ability to unscramble the egg known as a Galicianized or Banderized Ukraine based on an eternal victimhood complex towards Russia and utopian views of what 'Europe' can offer Ukraine after it mercilessly looted and pillaged the PIIGS with no sane basis in economics. Both of which NATO and the US can't accept since they're out to hurt Russia not to save a completely broke, failed Ukraine.

I'm probably wasting my time trying to publish this comment, since RFE/RL will delete whatever doesn't fit the Narrative.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 02, 2014 08:46
Eugenio did it in 2012, for couple of month, when Russian
and Belorussian assassins were poisoning and infecting my
mother and I didn't pay attention to this forums, he put such
comments that one would accuse him for being enemy and
a terrorist, which tried assassinate Putin and Obama and
destroy USA.
After each of such comments, he added another comment,
saying it is not him but I, Konstantin, wrote it under his
name - till my mother was bestially murdered 7/7/2012.
For two weeks I tried save her life in Prosvetarian Hospital,
being threatened my mother be killed as enemies of USA,
wile one of the spies, looking like big British skinhead,
always showing to some German-looking spy something on
internet monitor, as a prove that I was an enemy and my mother and we must be killed. Only after her murder by
nurses and doctors, all of Russian or Russian-Armenian extraction, I found what Eugenio and his accomplices did!
_______________________________________________
Whose mother Eugenio and his partners are going to murder
this time?
He and his partners likely doing it for restoration of Russian,
Austrian, German and British colonial empires.
I am against it, as they assassinating me since I was 4 years
old, in 1947, or at least since secret pact in 1954 among Prussians from Russia, Brits and Bechtel, in which this guys took part.
________________________________________________
By the way, Jewish Levite Lubavich took place in organizing
blackmail and murder of my mother and covering it up.
Just after that Queen of Brits gave them honorary medal!
Got Eugenio medal too, at least from Vienna imperial resurrect?
_______________________________________________
Long live the Queen!
I hope, if all around and under her say she is about to die,
from what I see as normal health elements of age and not too healthy diet and exercise, she would take my advise and with help of modern health science will outlive my mother far beyond 100!
Long live the Queen!
In Response

by: Mark brown from: USA
June 28, 2014 11:53
What a load of nonsense.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 01, 2014 14:19
Let start from Eugenio’s cacophony of “possible deny-ability”.
I heard it since 1950-th on streets from criminal ethnic Russians, melting with other Russian occupiers in non-Russian republics.
______________________________________________
He said "Great Game is much bigger”, as “formation of two global alliances”.
Russia would wish so, divide and rule!
However, game is even bigger than "much bigger"!
In 1954, in little place “Vaduluy Vody”, I happened to be an unwilling witness of pact, of guys like Eugenio, with British and Bechtel, whose son was kidnapped and exchanged for technology make a lot of small A-bombs, personally for ethnic Russia – bomb non-Russian nations - as conquering them to restore Russian colonial empire and repopulation, than divide World with Germany-Austria and Britain.
IT IS THE “GRAET GAME” OF ETHNIC RUSSIA AND GUYS LIKE EUGENIO ARE PLAYING, WITH BAG OF LIES FROM MOSCOW, VIENNA, BERLIN AND LONDON.
______________________________________________
He said “NATO states and their friends (US, UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Israel)” are “losing influence globally” and “destabilize the states (Venezuela, Libya, Syria or Ukraine).
JUST OPPOSTE IS TRUE!
RUSSIA, WITH WAITING FOR RUSSIAN SUCCES AUSTRIA, GERMANY AND BRITAIN, SEE USA AS BICON OF LIGHT THAT PREVENT THEM TO CONQUER THE WORLD, RESTORE SERFS AND REPOPULATE IT BY VARAG, PRUSSAK, NORMAN AND SATRAPS, BABILONIAN SNAKES.
_______________________________________
He said “alliance between Russia and China” and some
“smaller states” resist “US domination on them (Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Ecuador, Cuba, the DPRK, Argentina).
JUST OPPOSITE IS TRUE!
ALL THIS ALLIES OF RUSSIA ACCEPTED RESTORATION OF EMPIRES, OR JUST USEFULL TO RUSSIAN AGGRESSION, OR PROPAGANDA, OR BOTH.
China encouraged by Russia.
See movie about an emperor that united China, where all other kings with their provinces killed themselves, for one united
Great Empire – it is what Russia wants, all nations kill themselves - so that Great Russia breed in their place!
____________________________________________
USA MAKES ERRORS, BECAUSE RUSSIAN PROXIES,
PROMOTED BY BRITISH, GERMANS AND AUSTRIANS,
CONTROLL USA MEDIA, PRESS, THINK-TANKS AND MANY GOVERNMENT OFFICES WITH APARATUS OF VIOLANCE.
THEY MADE USA START IRAK WAR, KILL HUNDREDS
OF THOUSANDS OF MUSLIM, OPEN THEMSELVES FOR
JIHAD, CHANGE IT BY SUPPORTING "MOSLEM SPRING",
TURNING ON STABLE COUNTRIES OR ONE RACE
DESTROYING ANOTHER, LIKE CAUCASIANS IN SYRIA,
OR SUNNY IN IRAK, OR PUSHTUN IN AFGHANISTAN...
THEY STILL MAKING ERRORS, AS MANIPULATING THEM
IMPERIAL RESURRECTION TRASHING THE WORLD...

(will continue)


by: PermReader
June 28, 2014 17:04
These permanent talkings remind me the anecdote about the theorist who have easily explained the one experimental curve but casually turned it over.When he was told about the mistake he have easily explained the turned over curve agan.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 29, 2014 15:58
Iraq takes delivery of Russian fighter jets - http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/06/iraq-takes-delivery-russian-fighter-jets-201462944837214478.html
Just as I was saying: In Iraq the US promotes sunni islamic terrorism with the purpose of removing the pro-Iranian govt of Nuri al-Maliki. Whereas Russia (and Iran) supplies the shia govt of al-Maliki with weapons in order to successfully resist the US-Saudi destabilization attempt. This is the Great Game and the US is going to lose it...
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 02, 2014 09:19
What an march of cannibals-termites-lies of Eugenio!

USA overslept Chaldean South Iraq expanding new empire,
being misguided by Russian controlled USA think-tanks
and propaganda of imperial resurrection, forgetting about
Sunny Arabs in Iraq.
That become a good soil for the "Halifat" army, that started in
1990-th in South Russia, as policy of Russia expanding terror;
Later used by Russian-German-British imperial resurrecting
"archeologists" and rewriting origins of nations "race-war"
Russia against genuine Caucasian majority in Syria;
Than after "Muslem Spring" stumble into Russian base interests and USA understood that the Russians turned the tables again and cooled down, "Halifatists" ran into trouble.
So they moved to Iraq, where injustice for Sunny Arabs presented an opportunity to apply themselves.
Probably Russian, German and British imperial resurrect knew
about it.
The sale by double-face "Starviatnik", Russia, to Iraq of planes
prove not her position - they are hooligans of "gadit'" to everybody, than move through may-ham, like in hokey, driving with their behinds washer into opponent gate -
usually it is USA gate - last hope to save the World from races of imperial Neanderthals, lead by Russia-"naipodleisha",
and their mechanics, like Eugenio.



In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 02, 2014 15:02
Consti, your insightful comment has been too short this time. Please explain your thought at some more length :-)).

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 29, 2014 16:44
Very frankly, judging by today's (Sunday) rally on the Maidan in Kiew, it does look like "Ukraine" is moving at full speed in the direction of an armed confrontation - and this time in Kiew itself. Por - as apparently an adequate person - realizes that "Ukraine" stands no chance of winning the war against the people of Donbass (supported by Russia). And this is the major reason for which he announced the current truce.
But the Right Sector smart guys seem to be completely out of their minds and absolutely want to (judging by their speeches on the Maidan today) continue dragging "Ukraine" into more military confrontation in which it can only lose.
So, at the end of the day - and as long as Por seems to keen on continuing with the ceasefire - the Right Sector will end up trying to depose him the same way they did with Yanek, which will turn Kiew into another Beyrouth, after which the rump "Ukraine" will desintegrate into a conglomerate of de facto independent regions.

by: Mamuka
June 29, 2014 20:30
If the oligarchs and industrialists in Russia were not firmly under the control of Putin (or at least in collusion with him), they might object to these neo-imperialist adventures which could cost them money. In the West, the wealthy power brokers enjoy influence over their goverments, so the situation is reversed: Berlin, Paris, and the mysterious "City of London" prevent decisive action against Moscow for fear of losing money.

Speaking of money, I think that as soon as Putin recoups his losses from Sochi (or as soon as his co-oligarchs are made whole), the expenditures will resume again. Look how much Misha got out of a much smaller pool of oligarchs in Georgia. I do not think that money is a problem for the Kremlin, not when they have decided at the highest levels to pursue a policy. Instead of "managed democracy," perhaps we should call this "managed capitalism."

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 01, 2014 06:53
An addition to your "article" on "desenchanted Russians" who move to Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine and other failed states: it appears that some 400 Russian marines were so desenchanted with the situation that they moved to the French shipyard of Saint-Nazaire with the purpose of getting trained there by French military instructors in order to learn how to use the French-made large troop-transporting ships (Mistral) that France is about to deliver to Russia this year already. Guess in which direction these ships will be transporting the Russian troops :-)).
VIDEO: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/06/30/actualidad/1404128492_250951.html
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 01, 2014 09:26
VIDEO: 'US fighting alongside ISIS': Direct American role in strengthening jihadists? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jElMqi2AFD8&feature=youtube_gdata_player
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 01, 2014 16:16
PHOTO: here you will find a picture of the French Mistral ship that will be delivered to Russia by France this coming October - http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/russen-sollen-wladiwostok-in-saint-nazaire-kennenlernen-13021031.html
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 02, 2014 15:07
VIDEO: RAW: Russian Sukhoi jets land in Baghdad to boost fight against ISIS - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnXPQsUn8Ak&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

16:08 October 17, 2014

NEW POWER VERTICAL BLOG

I just posted a new piece on the Power Vertical blog: Putin's Class of 2014.

The iPhone-toting hipsters hanging out in their trendy downtown Moscow office are just the high-profile part of the Kremlin's new youth strategy.

Founded in November 2013, the youth group Set -- which means "Network" in Russian -- has organized patriotic fashion shows and film festivals, created an alphabet for schoolchildren that highlights the regime's accomplishments, and painted murals in seven cities on October 7 to mark Russian President Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday....

But the rise of Set is just one side of the story. The other aspect of the Kremlin's youth strategy is stealthier -- and much more consequential.

Over the past 18 months, Putin has been quietly bringing a new cadre of officials to Moscow, reshaping the rank-and-file bureaucracy in his own image.

You can read it all here.

AND A NEW POWER VERTICAL PODCAST COMING SOON

We're in post-production for the new Power Vertical Podcast: Ukraine's Loyal Russians

A country divided between a Ukrainian-speaking west and a Russian-speaking east. An irreconcilable schism forged in history and set in stone. Lviv vs. Luhansk; Orange vs. Blue.

It's long been a truism that Ukraine was hopelessly split. It's a truism repeated endlessly by the Kremlin's propaganda machine -- and one used by Vladimir Putin to justify his Novorossiya project.

But it's a truism that the majority of Ukraine's ethnic Russians -- in cities like Odesa and Mariupol in the south to Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia in the east to Kharkiv in the north  -- are proving false. Most of Ukraine's ethnic Russians, it turns out, are loyal Ukrainian citizens.

Joining me are Andreas Umland, a professor of Russian and Ukrainian history at Kyiv Mohyla University and Natalya Churikova, Senior Editor of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. It's in post-production now and will be up soon.

 

13:25 October 17, 2014

AFTERNOON NEWS ROUNDUP

Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:

RUSSIA-WEST RIFT PERSIST AFTER DIFFICULT UKRAINE CRISIS TALKS

By RFE/RL

Italy's prime minister said he was "really positive" about the prospects for a solution to the Ukraine conflict after a meeting attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European leaders, but the Kremlin suggested deep rifts remained after the "difficult" talks and accused Western officials of inflexibility.

"In general, I am really positive after this meeting," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said after the talks over breakfast during a Europe-Asia summit that was overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine, where deadly fighting persists in the east despite a cease-fire between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Putin, in the spotlight and under pressure from the West to do more to bring peace to Ukraine, said the meeting -- attended by Putin and Poroshenko as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and outgoing EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso -- was "good, positive".

But his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, gave a grimmer account.

"The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, an exchange of opinion is in progress," Peskov told reporters.

He said some participants displayed "a complete lack of desire to take an objective approach" to the Ukraine crisis, which Russia blames on the European Union, the United States, and the pro-Western government that gained power in Ukraine after the ouster of a president sympathetic to Russia, Viktor Yanukovych, In February.

Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say Russia has supported the rebels with troops, weaponry, and propaganda after illegally annexing the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 3,660 combatants and civilians since April and driven Moscow's ties with the West to post-Cold War lows, prompting punitive sanctions against Moscow and a Russian ban on many foods from the EU, its biggest trading partner for years.

The breakfast-table talks came hours after lengthy Putin-Merkel meeting that stretched past midnight and failed to resolve what the Kremlin said were "serious differences of opinion about the genesis of the internal Ukrainian conflict as well as about the causes of what is happening there now."

Western leaders have rejected Russia's denials of involvement and said Moscow must see to it that a cease-fire and steps toward peace agreed on September 5 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, are implemented.

"It is obviously above all Russia's task to make clear that the Minsk plan is adhered to," Merkel told reporters on October 16. "Unfortunately, there are still a lot of shortcomings but it will be important to look for a dialogue here."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Putin assured the other leaders at the breakfast that Russia does not want a divided Ukraine or a frozen crisis.

Kremlin critics say Russia has supported the cease-fire and plans for peace because the September 5 agreement followed rebel gains that left the separatists in control over large portions of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, giving Moscow a lever to influence its France-sized neighbor and keep it destabilized - and out of NATO - for years to come.

Putin and Poroshenko were to meet with Merkel and Hollande later on October 17.

Putin, who basked in attention at a military parade in mostly Slavic, Orthodox Christian Serbia on October 16, set the stage for tense talks in Milan by warning in Belgrade that a dispute with Kyiv over natural gas could jeopardize Russian supplies to Europe via transit nation Ukraine this winter.

He said Europe faces "major transit risks" to gas supplies from Russia.

Blaming Kyiv in advance for any possible cuts in supplies to Europe, Putin said that if Ukraine siphons gas from transit pipelines to the European Union, Russia will reduce supplies in the amount of the "stolen" gas.

Russia raised the price it charges Kyiv for natural gas after Yanukovych was ousted by street protests he had touched off last November by scrapping plans for a deal tightening ties with the EU and turning toward Russia instead.

In June, Russia halted gas supplies meant for domestic consumption in Ukraine when Kyiv failed to pay the higher price.

Russia is the EU's biggest external gas supplier, providing about one-third of the gas consumed there, and previous price disputes between Moscow and Kyiv have led to supply cuts that have chilled Europeans in wintertime.

Some government officials said the Western leaders would ask Putin to explain the threat of gas supply cuts.

Merkel and Poroshenko held talks earlier on October 16, and Poroshenko said he received "a great demonstration of support for Ukraine" from the German leader.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin also met with former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whom he referred to as Putin's "old friend."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he spoke briefly to Putin and asked him for "maximum cooperation" over the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in July.

More than half of the 298 people killed were Dutch citizens, and many in the West suspect the plane was shot down by the separatists with a missile system provided by Russia.

Hundreds of people have been killed since the cease-fire, with fierce fighting focusing on the devastated Donetsk international airport and shelling reported in the city of Donetsk and elsewhere almost daily.

Ukrainian military officials said three soldiers were killed and nine wounded on October 16.

NATO said it has not yet detected "significant" movements of Russian troops in a region near the border with Ukraine back to their home bases, as the Kremlin said Putin ordered last week.

A NATO spokesperson said "there is still a large and capable force sitting on the border of Ukraine, and heavy equipment still has to be pulled back [from the border]."

(With reporting by Reuters, AP, TASS, Interfax, and AFP)

GEORGIAN PM SAYS NO PROGRESS NORMALIZING RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW

Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili says attempts by Tbilisi to normalize political relations with Russia have thus far been unsuccessful.

Garibashvili said in Tbilisi on October 16 that the Georgian government had done "all it could" to improve bilateral relations with Moscow has only achieved progress in the economic sector.

The premier's Georgian Dream party took power two years ago pledging to engage with Moscow.

Garibashvili made his comments one day after Russia announced it would sign an "alliance and integration" treaty with the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.

The treaty would create a "common defense infrastructure" between Abkhazia and Russia while forming joint law-enforcement structures and a more integrated economic space.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili issued an "emergency statement" on the treaty on October 15.

Moscow recognized Abkhazia as an independent state after a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

(Based on reporting by Interfax, AFP, and TASS)

RUSSIA DETAINS TWO JOURNALISTS OVER WORKSHOP

Russian officials temporarily detained and then banned two American journalists from conducting an investigative-journalism workshop in St. Petersburg.

The men were found by a court on October 16 of violating Russian visa regulations and released after several hours.

Randy Covington, a professor at the University of South Carolina, and Joe Bergantino of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting were detained by immigration authorities while conducting the first of a two-day workshop for 14 Russian journalists.

St. Petersburg's branch of the Federal Migration Service said the men's activities "did not correspond" to the purpose of their trip to Russia.

Officials said they could no longer teach the workshop but were free to leave Russia as scheduled.

The New England Center for Investigative Journalism said the men had tourist visas and had already held a workshop in Moscow.

(Based on reporting by AP and "The Boston Globe")

18:00 October 16, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

Some items from RFE/RL's Newes Desk:

PUTIN WARNS EUROPE OF GAS CRISIS THIS WINTER

President Vladimir Putin has warned that Europe faces "major transit risks" to natural gas supplies from Russia this winter.

Putin told reporters in Belgrade on October 16 that if Ukraine siphons off natural gas without permission from transit pipelines to the European Union, Russia “will consecutively reduce the stolen volume at the cost of supplies."

Putin made the remarks ahead of talks in Milan on October 16 and 17 with EU leaders and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Russia raised the price it charges Kyiv for natural gas after Ukraine's pro-Russia Preident Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February, then halted gas supplies to Ukraine in June when Kyiv failed to pay the higher price.

The price standoff is the third between Moscow and Kyiv since 2006.

Russia is the EU's biggest gas supplier, providing about a third of the gas consumed there.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP)

U.S. HELSINKI COMMITTEE DECRIES RUSSIAN ATTEMPT TO CLOSE MEMORIAL RIGHTS GROUP

By RFE/RL

The U.S. Helsinki Commission says Russia’s attempt to liquidate Memorial, the country's oldest and best-known human rights organization, is “an obvious attempt to silence the voice of its own conscience.”

“It is very troubling that an organization founded by [Soviet dissident] Andrei Sakharov to address the crimes of the Stalinist era now has become the target of a new wave of repression,” the commission’s chairman, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, said in an October 16 statement.

Russia's Justice Ministry on October 10 appealed to the country’s Supreme Court to close Memorial, which comprises more than 50 bodies nationwide. The reasons for the request were not made public.

Created in the 1980s by Soviet-era dissidents, Memorial has served as a tireless rights watchdog and important source of Soviet-era records for a quarter century.

PUTIN VOWS TO SUPPORT SERBS ON KOSOVO

Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged continued support for Serbia on the divisive issue of Kosovo during a state visit that mixed meetings with officials with attendance at a military parade.

Putin is the guest of honor at Serbia's first military parade in some 30 years as Belgrade marks the anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis by partisans and Soviet Army troops in 1944, a celebration Serbia moved forward four days to accommodate Putin's schedule.

The visit highlights Serbia's delicate balance between the European Union, which it is seeking to join, and relations with Russia that are rooted in history and religion but encompass economic and geopolitical interests.

Russia angrily criticized the NATO bombing of the rump Yugoslavia in 1999 and has backed Belgrade's opposition to independence for mostly ethnic Albanian Kosovo, defying the United States and preventing Kosovo from getting a seat at the United Nations.

Putin promised Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic that Russia would stand firm over Kosovo, saying the Kremlin's stance was "a position of principle that is not to be subjected to any adjustments."

"We supported Serbia in the past and we intend to continue supporting it in the future. In Russia friendship is not an object of trade-offs," Putin said.

Nikolic said Serbia "sees in Russia a great ally and a partner and Serbia won't compromise its morals with any kind of bad behavior towards Russia."

Despite Serbia's desire to become a member of the European Union, ties between Belgrade and Moscow have become stronger since the EU started imposing sanctions on Russia for the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Criticizing sanctions the United States and European Union have imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine in an interview on the eve of his visit, Putin told the Serbian daily "Politika" that isolating Russia was an "absurd, illusory goal" and attempts to do so would hurt Europe's economy.

In a pointed reminder of Russia's nuclear might, Putin said: "We hope our partners will realize the futility of attempts to blackmail Russia and remember what consequences discord between major nuclear powers could bring for strategic stability."

Putin used the visit to promote South Stream, a Russian gas pipeline project that that the EU has suspended in member states.

Serbia has recently indicated it will not start building South Stream. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said last week "it makes no sense" to start without an agreement on the pipeline's legality between the EU and Moscow.

"It is necessary to unblock the situation with South Stream," Putin said. "I am convinced that this project will make a palpable contribution to Europe's overall energy security. Everyone wins from this: Both Russia and European consumers, including Serbia."

The European Commission released a report on candidate countries earlier this month that warned Belgrade's plans to build a portion of the pipeline and its refusal to follow the EU's lead on sanctions against Russia could jeopardize Serbia's bid for EU membership.

Serbia has recently indicated it will not start building South Stream. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said last week "it makes no sense" to start without an agreement on the pipeline's legality between the EU and Moscow.Serbia has recently indicated it will not start building South Stream.

Putin told "Politika" the pipeline project would bring Serbia more than 2 million euros in new investment and "substantially strengthen the country's energy security."

Putin's warm Serbian welcome may contrast with greeting he faces hours later at an October 16-17 Europe-Asia summit in Milan, where he will meet Western leaders angry over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis.

NATO says Russian has sent troops and weapons to help pro-Russian separatists fighting government forces in a conflict that has killed more than 3,660 people in eastern Ukraine since April, including 298 passengers and crew abroad a Malaysian jet shot down there in July.

Putin said the importance of the liberation anniversary events could not be overestimated.

"Seventy years ago, our peoples together crushed the criminal ideology of misanthropy that threatened civilization," he said in the interview.

In a veiled swipe at the United States, he said "it is important today that people in various countries, on various continents remember what terrible consequences certainty in one's own exceptionalism can bring."

Putin said he hopes for peace in Ukraine but suggested Ukrainians whose protests toppled a president sympathetic to Moscow in February presented a Nazi-like threat.

"Unfortunately the vaccine against the Nazi virus ... is losing its potency in some European states.," he told "Politika," adding: "particular concern on this score is prompted by the situation in Ukraine, where there was an anticonstitutional coup d'etat in February whose driving forces were nationalists and other radical groups."

In comments to RFE/RL's Balkan Service, Vucic pointed to the complications his country is facing as it balances its foreign policy between the EU and Russia.

"We are not part of the EU and nobody asked us about sanctions against Russia so why should we have to accept them now?" Vucic asked.

Vucic said Serbia respects what EU stands for and what EU membership offers but rejects Brussels' recent habit of telling Belgrade about changes it must make to be admitted.

However, he told reporters last week that Serbia's "strategic goal is not in question – Serbia is on the EU path."

That may not always be evident to the naked eye.

In anticipation of Putin's visit, shops around Belgrade have been selling T-shirts with Putin's face printed on them.

"Nothing better could happen to us," Belgrade resident Vukan Baricanin, a retired economist, said of Putin's visit. "Putin is a famous personality. He turned a country that was on the verge of bankruptcy into a world power."

But Dragan Sutanovac, Serbia’s defense minister between 2007 and 2012, denounced “a desire for idolatry in regard to Putin.”

(With reporting by TASS, Reuters, AFP, AP, and Interfax)

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR AGAINST 'PUTIN PUB' IN BISHKEK

By RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Andrei Krutko, has protested the new "Putin Pub" restaurant in Bishkek.

Krutko said late October 15 that naming "a dubious drinking site" after "our president" is "unethical" and therefore he asked Bishkek authorities to remove the commercial banners and billboards advertising the pub.

Krutko added that he would do everything possible "either to shut down the place or to make it change its name."

Last month, Bishkek authorities removed all billboards and banners in the city that advertised the "Putin Pub."  

The billboards carried a black screen with white and black silhouetted portrait of the Russian President Vladimir Putin in a circle with the name of the restaurant -- "Putin Pub," below.  

(With reporting by "Vecherny Bishkek")

17:35 October 16, 2014

UKRAINE CALLS ON ITS CITIZENS TO DITCH VKONTAKTE

VIa slon.ru:

Ukraine's Security Service has urged Ukrainians not to use Russian social networks.

Markiian Lubkovsky, an adviser to the Interior Minister told the television channel "112 Ukraine" that the site "VKontakte" is an "element of pressure and influence." 

"We urge all Ukrainians, all of our citizens to be careful not to use these networks, because they are now part of the information war against Ukraine," he said.

Read it all here. And a big h/t to Kevin Rothrock for flagging.

 

17:25 October 16, 2014

TARGET: VEDOMOSTI

According to a report in Bloomberg, Kremlin-connected oligarchs are plotting to take over "Vedomosti," one of Russia's few remaining independent newspapers -- one that has been a pathbreaker in the field of economic journalism and data-driven investigative reporting.

Businessmen close to President Vladimir Putin are preparing to acquire Vedomosti, the largest Russian newspaper outside the Kremlin’s control, three people familiar with the matter said.

Putin signed a law yesterday capping foreign holdings in media at 20 percent, meaning the owners of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, co-founders of the newspaper, must cut or sell their 33 percent stakes by the end of 2016. The third owner, Sanoma Oyj (SAA1V), is in talks to sell its Russian assets.

Under a plan backed by the presidential administration, an intermediary may be used to acquire all three stakes to make the deal more palatable politically before a group loyal to Putin buys the whole newspaper, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The eventual owner will probably be either Gazprom-Media, an affiliate of the state-run gas exporter, or companies linked to longtime Putin ally Yury Kovalchuk, they said.

“The Kremlin sees Vedomosti’s shareholders as foreign governments,” the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Tatiana Lysova, said in an interview. “The WSJ equals the U.S. and the FT the U.K. They want a Russian owner so they have someone to call.”

Read the whole piece here.

 

11:17 October 16, 2014

CRIMEA'S LGBT COMMUNITY FLEES IN FEAR

Simon Shuster has a dispatch in Time Magazine about the plight of the gay and lesbian community in Crimea after the Russian annexation.

For the gay community in Crimea, the most worrying piece of legislation was the Russian ban on “homosexual propaganda,” which Putin signed in 2012. Although the law is billed as an effort to protect Russian children from learning about “non-traditional sexual relationships,” its critics say the law encourages homophobia, signaling to Russians that gays are somehow inferior and should not be allowed to insist on their equality in public.

Since March, the new leaders of Crimea have embraced these principles with gusto. 

Read it all here.

11:12 October 16, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:

CRIMEA'S MOSCOW-BACKED LEADER ADMITS SOME TATARS MISSING

Crimea’s Moscow-backed leader Sergei Aksyonov has admitted that four Crimean Tatars are missing on the annexed peninsula.

Aksyonov said on October 16 that the missing Crimean Tatars had not been abducted, adding that some of them "had fought in Syria."

Aksyonov's statement comes amid media reports saying that several Crimean Tatars disappeared in recent days, some of them allegedly kidnapped by unknown men in military uniform.

At least three Crimean Tatar men have been found dead since Moscow's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in March.

Pressure on Crimean Tatars, the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group that largely opposed the annexation, has increased in recent weeks.

In mid-September, Russian authorities seized the Crimean Tatar assembly, the Mejlis, and searched homes of leading members of the Tatar community.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

IN PERM, RUSSIA TRIES MEMBER OF BANNED ISLAMIC GROUP

Six suspected members of a banned Islamic movement went on trial in the Russian city of Perm on October 16.

Local authorities say the defendants are members of an organization called Nurcular. The seventh member of the group has received a suspended one-year term in June.

In May last year several alleged members of Nurcular were arrested in Perm, near the Ural mountains east of Moscow; St. Petersburg; and the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

Nurcular was founded by Turkish Islamic cleric Said Nursi, who died in 1960.

It has been banned in Russia since 2008.

Authorities say it propagates the idea of creating an Islamic state on lands where indigenous peoples speak Turkic languages.

(Based on reporting by rapsinews.ru and Interfax)

RUSSIA TO SPEND RECORD AMOUNT ON DEFENSE IN 2015

Russia will allot some 3.3 trillion rubles (about $80 billion) from the state budget for defense spending in 2015, according to the chairman of the defense committee in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Vladimir Komoyedov told Russian news agency Interfax on October 16 defense spending for next year would be some $20 billion more than this year, but he added that his committee foresees slight reductions in spending for 2016 and 2017.

Komoyedov said the amount to be spent on defense in 2015 was some 4.2% of Russia's GDP.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on October 7 that Russia's defense spending plans needed to be "more realistic" in light of international sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

A three-year draft budget reportedly calls for a 5.3 percent cut in defence spending in 2016, the first reduction since 1998.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and FT)

PUTIN PRAISES SERBIA, LAMBASTES WEST AHEAD OF BELGRADE VISIT

By RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised Moscow's "Serbian friends" and lashed out at the West in remarks published ahead of a state visit to Belgrade on October 16.

Criticizing sanctions the United States and European Union have imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, Putin told the Serbian daily "Politika" that isolating Russia was an "absurd, illusory goal" and that attempts to do so could severely damage Europe's economy.

In a pointed reminder of Russia's nuclear might, Putin said: "We hope our partners will realize the futility of attempts to blackmail Russia and remember what consequences discord between major nuclear powers could bring for strategic stability."

Putin is to attend Serbia's first military parade in some 30 years as Belgrade marks the anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis in 1944, a celebration Serbia moved forward four days to accommodate Putin's schedule.

"Seventy years ago, our peoples together crushed the criminal ideology of misanthropy that threatened civilization," said Putin.

In a veiled swipe at the United States, he said "it is important today that people in various countries, on various continents remember what terrible consequences certainty in one's own exceptionalism can bring."

Putin did not mention the United States, but a speech in May in which President Barack Obama said he believes in "American exceptionalism" raised hackles in Russia.

The Belgrade visit is likely to shower Putin with positive attention before he faces Western leaders angry over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis at an October 16-17 Europe-Asia summit in Milan.

Soviet Army troops helped Yugoslav partisans liberate Belgrade and Serbian officials have welcomed Putin's decision to attend the parade.

More recently, Russia gave Serbia moral support by angrily criticizing the NATO bombing of the rump Yugoslavia in 1999 and backed Belgrade's  opposition to independence for mostly ethnic Albanian Kosovo, which has been recognized by the United States but not by Moscow and has been unable to get a seat at the United Nations.

The two mostly Slavic nations are linked by the Orthodox Christian faith and Russia has championed the rights of Serbs in ethnically mixed Bosnia.

"We have joint roots, language, faith, customs and culture," Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told Russian television before the visit. "In all wars we were always on the same side."

Despite Serbia's desire to become a member of the European Union, ties between Belgrade and Moscow have become stronger since the EU started imposing sanctions on Russia for the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Putin is due to meet with Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandr Vucic for talks on military cooperation and economic ties, including Serbia's participation in Russia's South Stream gas pipeline project, which the EU has suspended in member states.

The European Commission released a report on candidate countries earlier this month that warned Belgrade's plans to build a portion of the South Stream pipeline and its refusal to follow the EU's lead on sanctions against Russia could jeopardize Serbia's bid for EU membership.

In the "Politika" interview, Putin promoted the South Stream project, saying its implementation would bring Serbia more than 2 million euros in new investment and "substantially strengthen the country's energy security."

"It is necessary to unblock the situation with South Stream," Putin said. "I am convinced that this project will make a palpable contribution to Europe's overall energy security. Everyone wins from this: Both Russia and European consumers, including Serbia."

Putin said the volume of trade between Russia and Serbia had risen by 15 percent last year, to nearly $2 billion, and that he expects it to reach that mark this year.

In comments to RFE/RL's Balkan Service, Vucic pointed to the complications his country is facing as it balances its foreign policy between the EU and Russia.

"We are not part of the EU and nobody asked us about sanctions against Russia so why should we have to accept them now?" Vucic asked.

Vucic said Serbia respects what EU stands for and what EU membership offers but rejects Brussels' recent habit of telling Belgrade about changes it must make to be admitted.

Vucic pointed out that within the EU there are five countries that have not recognized the independence of Serbia's former republic of Kosovo.

However, he told reporters last week that "Putin will hear that Serbia is on the European path. We have other relations we are developing with the Russian Federation, but the strategic goal is not in question – Serbia is on the EU path."

That may not always be evident to the naked eye.

In anticipation of the Russian leader's visit, shops around Belgrade have been selling T-shirts with Putin's face printed on them.

People around the city pointed to the long friendship between Serbs and Russians as reason to welcome Russia's leader.

Belgrade resident Vukan Baricanin, a retired economist, welcomed Putin's visit.

"Nothing better could happen to us. Putin is a famous personality. He turned a country that was on the verge of bankruptcy into a world power."

But Dragan Sutanovac, who was Serbia’s defense minister between 2007 and 2012, denounced “a desire for idolatry in regard to Putin.”

Construction engineer Predrag Markovic saw it as natural that Putin would attend a celebration marking the liberation of Belgrade.

"We wouldn't mind if other leaders came too, but I think that Russia and the former Soviet Union were the most important in the liberation of Belgrade."

Slobodan Knezevic said Putin's attendance at the anniversary was appropriate.

"It is really a good that they invited the Russians and Putin. Serbia should thank them for many things. They were always helping us, but it doesn’t mean that we have to stand only by their side. But it is great that they invited them."

(With reporting by TASS, Reuters, AFP, and AP)

NATO COMMANDER SEES NO 'MAJOR' RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL NEAR UKRAINE

NATO's top military commander says the alliance has not seen "major movement" so far of Russian troops from a region bordering eastern Ukraine.

On October 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered about 17,600 Russian troops to return to their bases after what Moscow described as training drills in the southern Rostov region.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told AP news agency on October 15, “Now we will watch to see if there is delivery on the promise."

NATO has refuted previous Russian claims of troop withdrawals from the regions bordering eastern Ukraine, where separatists have been battling government troops since April.

Moscow has consistently denied Ukrainian and Western allegations that it has deployed Russian troops and heavy military equipment in eastern Ukraine to support pro-Russian separatists there.

(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NAVALNY ASSOCIATE'S HOUSE ARREST EXTENDED

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The house arrest of an associate of outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has been extended.

A court in Moscow ruled on October 15 that Konstantin Yankauskas's house arrest must be prolonged until December 10.

Yankauskas was placed under house arrest on June 11.  The previous term was to expire on October 17.

Yankauskas and two other Navalny associates, Nikolai Lyaskin and Vladimir Ashurkov, are accused of election-law violations and fraud related to  funding of Navalny's campaign for Moscow mayor last year.

Yankauskas calls the case politically motivated.

Navalny and his brother Oleg have been accused of stealing and laundering $756,500 from the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

Navalny, a leader of anti-government protests in 2011-2012, is also serving a five-year suspended sentence on a $500,000 theft conviction.

He calls all the cases against him politically motivated.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or