Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia's Looming Ukraine Hangover

Too many shots of Strelkov?
Too many shots of Strelkov?

The nationalists are feeling betrayed and they're getting restless. The public is getting nervous about the costs of absorbing Crimea. The elite is getting jittery about the effect of sanctions. And the infighting among the siloviki over the spoils of war is intensifying.

After every party, comes a hangover. And as we all know, hangovers are no fun.

In the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss Russia's new normal in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Joining me are Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows"; Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine"Neprikosnovenny zapas"; and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies and author of "Sean's Russia Blog."


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 11, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 11, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Power Vertical podcast

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 11, 2014 18:13
all this is simply fantasy of RFE
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 09:23
What did you expect, Anonymous: Hillary told the RFE/RL to write a "story" on how Russia will have a "hangover" - so they have to write it. And if not, you know - the labour market is volatile :-)).
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 13, 2014 21:02
You know Hillary isn't in the government anymore? If you're going to have a conspiracy theory, try to at least keep an eye on who would be in charge.
In Response

by: Sasha from: Moscow, Russian Federatio
July 14, 2014 01:52
Sadly this is the reality of THE WORLD
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 15, 2014 15:10
Dear Anonymous, call it a conspiracy theory if you wish, but the ones in the US govt are not necessarily the ones who run the show in Washington DC. For example, the AIPAC has never been in the US govt, but - as anyone knows - these are the guys that pull strings behind all the Washington clowns, be it Hillary Clinton, sen McCain or Brian Whitmore.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 11, 2014 18:22
Aha, Russia is going to have a hang-over, Baschar al-Assad's days are numbered, George W Bush "accomplished" his "mission" in Iraq in 2003... Interesting and orginal stories...
What is happening in Ukraine now is the following: representatives of the Dnepropetrovsk clan are intensifying the massacre in order to distract the attention of the population from how this clan is eliminating its competitors from the economic arena (look, for ex., at Kolomoysky's call to "nationalize the possessions of those oligarchs who supports separatists").
In the meantime, this very clan is carring out hasty privatizations - in order to grab what remains in the state ownership (for ex., the Ukrnafta society - guess who will obtain it as a result of the privatization).
And normal people are already experiencing the beauties of this new life: hot water has been switched off for households in Kiew and Kharkiw, gas supplies to housholds have been cut by 30 % nationwide.
Welcome to this beautiful prosperous life that Victoria Nuland promised!
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 12, 2014 10:11
Real Problem for future of ukr
is when war will finish
and all this militias will be still existing and pretending to have their slice of cake .
Than ukr will be very near to somalia or libia .
Isn't a coincidence if julia Timoshenko is reported forming her own militia .
The future of ukr will be very similar to its past
When this land was in a permanent chaos situation
with bands of cosaks ridding all over the country
Good luck to people who lives in the country that don't exist
named ukraine
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 18:16
Hi, Anonymous, competely agree with your assessment that "ukr will be very near to somalia or libia". As far as Julia planning to form her own militia: only logical, just a "normal" security dilemma mechanism - once your neighbour starts forming a militia, you simply have to assume that he might use the latter to attack you and form a militia of your own in order to be ready to respond.
The critical moment will most likel be this coming winter: once Ukraine runs out of the gas it currently has, it will start stealing gas from the pipeline that channels the Russian gas to Europe. Russia will then switch off its gas supplies altogether, so Ukrainians will unfortunately have to sit in cold appts in the month of December. And it will simply be too late to take any measures at that point: the country (just as you said) will just desintegrate into a conglomerate of warring regions, so Russia will have a chance of picking and chosing the ones it wants to have.

by: Jack from: US
July 11, 2014 18:26
the whole story about Ukraine can be expressed in one sentence:
the Ukraine is such a dumpster even Putin does not want it

by: Mamuka
July 11, 2014 22:05
To paraphrase the American humorist Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of Putin's power may be greatly exaggerated.

If Putin's Russia does indeed have a hangover, I hope they do not try to find their pokhmelye in Georgia. As the podcast notes, something has to be done with all the armed men from the "People's Republics."

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 12, 2014 11:44
It becoming apparent that real "Separatists" are Russian professional secret armies, GRU-Spetcnaz, infiltrating not unlike battalions of Yamadaev, Timmerman and "Zapad", only fiasco of Russia that enslave and repopulate "Slavic World" make them more careful than in Abkhazia or S. Ossetia.
Not too careful.
They leave trail of kidnapping, torture and killings of prisoners and civilians.
They are at the brake of unleashing in open "Beslan" scale crimes, forged once by GRU.
They loosing hope to enslave again Ukrainians, at least in East Ukraine (Na koleni rab Hohol!), but they don't leave.
Why not?
Waiting order from Russia?
Staying as leverage?
What Russia wants?
To bargain for equal partnership of Ukraine with EU and Russia?
But it was offered by Ukraine from beginning!
Let's wait for coming negotiating of Ukraine, EU and Russia.
Still, why people have to be killed?
Are Russian leaders and GRU condemned their men to commit war crimes and be exterminated?
Or they still hope conquer Ukraine, to scream: "Na Koleni!"?
It went far enough - Russia becoming enemy of Caucasian Race and Human Civilization, including lured by Russian propaganda Slavs and Eastern Christians!

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 16, 2014 07:12
I have to offer new-old terminology to call evil of Russia.
Some used "Russkie bl..i" - unfair to good half of Russians.
Some used "Varyazhskie" - unfair to some Varags in
number of countries, or so they say, affiliating too by error.
Why not use well known name "double-faced Stervyatnik"
for Czarist Tyranny and "Bolshevik Stervyatnik" for red Tyranny?
Or simply "Stervyatnik" for any Russian tyranny, specially because they attempt to merge?
Or, if angry - "Pleshivyiy Stervyatnik"…

Ukraine was for 300 years betrayed, plundered-enslaved
by "pleshivyiy Stervyatnik".
East Ukraine had substantiall influx of Russian occupiers,
"holodomoring", bestially killing, squeezing and intimidating people, acting as stealing for Russia "tax" collectors, even in Soviet times.
"Stervyatnik" is a parasite-terrorist there: "Na koleny Hohol,"
as their bosses "Stervyatrniks" in Russia and formerly occupied republics, with their secret armies, including
"oboroten's" that destroy lives and property,
pining it on Ukraine.

Most of Ukrainians partially recuperated lately, not as
intimidated as Eastern Ukrainians, but still were plundered
by the same "Stervyatnik" and its influx till late Maidan
The attempt of Ukrainians be free from serfery,
when Yanukovich signed transfer of Ukraine as property
to Miller-Putin, infurriated "Sterrvyatnik" answered by bullets
and perpetual invasion by GRU-Spetcnaz.

West Ukraine at large is like most of Ukrainians, only they
have minorities of once parts of neighboring countries,
before WW2, including those that were fighting for free
Ukraine since Russian Revolution, but some of them
forced by "Stervyatnik's" hate and later Nazi Germany
fought on the wrong side of the Global war.
War criminals died in combat, the rest got amnesty,
however, when Stalin was put under house arrest in1947,
KGB and Army of "Stervyatnik" started force some of them
and their children snitch for "Stervyatnik" and even
act as pseudo-pro-Nazis - use it to blame Ukrainians for
trying be free.
Leaving aside national question, Ukraine must be
independent country and live in dignity.
West Ukrainians must be careful not to be used by invading
"Stervyatnik" as "Zhupel" for invasion.

Errors of CIS nations...
(Will continue)
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 04:40

All that enable Russia to do things to other nations was forged
by Russian ruling race (and its military), Varag-Prussak,
through history, last time since 1947-49, specially since
secret pact with Bechtel and Brits, 1954-56.
Old nomenclature in USSR was replaced by those that had no honor of independence of their nations, even it was limited in USSR.
New leaders are about the same, mind controlled by KGB-GRU.
It is why Russian imperial "Stervyatnik" so easy made one
after another leaders of Belorussia, Kazakhstan and some
others, including Yanukovich, sign agreement with Russia
to give-up as property land, industries, housing and people
and be serfs of Moscow.
It is why Ukraine's people protested.
Read bible!
Leaders of former USSR republics and E. European countries
weather installed, or misunderstand, or hypnotized by Russian
agencies, if they agree their nations vanish as property of Russia.

Friendship of non-Russian nations that built USSR property
was never sheared by ethnic ruling race of Varyag-Prussak.
They offer to Russia mutually beneficial trade and projects,
but Russia don't accept it.
Russia pressure them to be part of new Russian Union, with
repossession all they own by Moscow elite and becoming
also property, like serfs.
If not, they force them to be part of EU controlled by Germans,
blame them for it, invade, conquer and promise parts of E. Europe countries to Germany and Austria, according to 1954
pact, as it was in Czarist times.

It is where are all pre-planed by "Stervyatnik" errors.
Any nation must be free and live in dignity.
Any region of E. Europe and former USSR can as they wish
cooperate with each other as regional common wealth.
Regional Common Wealth or country can be part of larger
common Wealth, not necessary only one, like EU and CIS.
That would, with prudent legal agreements, make progress
much better that in former USSR, expanding possibilities
of human and other resources for mutual beneficial trade,
projects and assistance.
Russia sabotage it externally and internally.
They using stolen gas and oil to pipe it to partners in 1954
pact, resurrect colonial empires, to supply and addict them,
to ask them built in Russia industries, steal for elite of pact
partners billions, while conquering E. Europe and C. Asia.
Putin said they still need Ukrainian motors and rockets,
as security excuse for aggression.
But Russia refused for number of years buy it from Ukraine,
building similar plant by Germans.
What happened with it Putin? German project is just an outlet
to transfer stolen money, as was once "Villuy", built all too long
by Bechtel?
Ukraine always liked to trade with Russia and CIS, it is Russia
that blockade all neighbors, wile dancing on Bundfershaft with
imperial pact partners!

(Will continue)

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 04:44
CIS Leaders, knowing or not, don't state clearly their positions
internationally and publicly.
Russia installed provocateurs in all former republics.
Pro-Russian Yanukovich sold Ukraine to Russia - didn't work.
In Ukraine few KGB-GRU Russian occupiers agents played
"Bandera" - it didn't work, Maidan asked Lviv block them from
coming there.
Still Russian prepared propaganda unleashed lies about "Nazi
Ukraine invading Russia" - don't work.
It would be expected new President would be more clear on the issue of EU and Russia, but he still saying that Ukraine is Europe (as say Saakasahvili) and that they ended forever with their old soviet past.
It isn't clear even for me.
Who is hypnotizing them and why?
Are, ordered by Russian spies, they subconsciously mislead
West, for Russia to conquer the World?
Georgian, Ukrainian and other CIS nations were never
"Chakalka" bitch to lure World into crick full of Russian
Their leaders must state clear - they are independent nations
and want just trade and project with West and East.
They must say clear that security matters are threatened by
Russia and non-Russians ask for international assistance
only as minimal self-defense from Russian invaders, as it goes.
Will Russians withdraw from invaded countries?
Maybe not - but all World must be clear about the truth.
I don't think Russia, even its bloody "Stervyatnik", is mad
enough with whole truth known to the World drag the World
into Global war.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 18:28
by the way, guys, you might have noticed that Putin has just visited Cuba and Nicaragua and is heading to Buenos Aires where he will meet presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Once Russia has installed its ICBMs in South America, it seems to me that someone else is going to have a hangover :-)).
And as Che used to say: "Hasta la victoria siempre!"
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2014 05:10
And in the meantime, the BRICS (Brasil, Russia, India, China, S. Africa) will sign tomorrow (Tuesday) a treaty that will create a BRICS Development Bank that will rival with the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, WB) which will render yet another blow to the US hopeless aspirations of dominating the global finance. One more reason for someone to have a hangover...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2014 13:28
VIDEO: The Truthseeker: 'Genocide' in Eastern Ukraine (E43) -

by: American Tolerast
July 12, 2014 22:44
Vova's parting gift will be to make the civilized world miss his comparatively sane company, because now inevitably his successor will be a true believer in the Russian messianic-supremacy that, to him, is mere useful idiocy for pandering to the peasants. Then it will be time to hold open our doors for all gays, Jews, Muslims, liberals, and all other designated "untermenschen" who manage to escape the Eurasian killing fields with their lives.

Absolutely nothing good can come from the cultural abyss on Europe's eastern edge. In the 90s, we let a silver-haired drunk lull us into a false sense of optimism that Russia might someday be a proper neighbor and a cultured member of the world community worthy of respect. Putin corrected us, and for that alone we should be eternally grateful to him. If not eternally, than at least for two or three decades until Russia's next contraction when we again convince ourselves with that same soothing lie from 1917 and 1991, "They're different this time. They can be trusted now."

by: JLNancy
July 13, 2014 06:02
IMO one soundbite says it all > (Mark Galeotti) "...Kremlin would be pretty stupid..."

Yeah, it is.

So...imagine a scoundrel rapes and tries to murder his victim whilst folks sit around and *chat* re how humiliated this perp-on-a-pedestal will be when his *reputation* plummets.


Convince the victim, the victim's family and friends that they're supposed to CARE about such discussed sterile rationalizations.

Then persuade them that they have to politically and peacefully *negotiate* with that scoundrel (who's, also, suffering from a hangover). It'd be like talking to a head of lettuce.

*The party's over* mentality re Russia's crime is morally repugnant, asinine, arrogant and brutally stupid. NSFL

For Scoundrel Putin (and the current Putin pirates in eastern Ukraine), *crime pays*. Now, that's a bitch.

by: Anonymous
July 14, 2014 14:01

by: Michael Hammerschlag from: Kiev
July 16, 2014 01:28
Yes, indeed- I said Putin has unleashed titanic forces with his Crimean coup alone that would probably sweep him from power in 4-5 years. Now he is trapped with escalating and becoming more of a murderer + thug and reaping even more condemnation... and getting attacked by Russia's whack-job nationalist right for "losing the Donbass". When you breed Frankenstinian conflicts, you can't necessarily control them.

But your discussions are too sterile and lacking in moral outrage- another Maidan acquaintance of mine was just killed in the East, human rights Russian journo Andre Mirinov was a friend (killed w Italian photog by Sep mortars). For Ukrs it's not a geopolitical game- its life and death of a nation- one that had an empire 300 years before Moscow existed.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 16, 2014 12:21
You are absolutely right when you say that "For Ukrs it's a life and death of a nation" question, and the disintegration is, of course, going to be an inevitable consequence of the state failure process that was launched by the Euromaidan on November 21st last year.
As you see, Crimea has already successfully seceeded from Ukraine (I can imagine how happy people there are right now seeing what is going on in the rump-Ukraine).
Donbass is successfully fighting a war of secession of their own right now (the punitive action of the Kiew junta was launched more than 3 months ago (Apr. 15th) and they are nowhere close to accomplishing it.). By the month of November (in 3,5 months!!) Ukraine will have run out of the gas it currently has (according to Yats), Russia will have discontinued its supplies of natural gas to Europe throught the "Friendship" pipeline - so, people in Kiew, Lemberg and Dnipropertowsk will be sitting in their cold appts with temperatures of 20 below zero on the street.
What do you expect to happen to Ukraine then? Of course: a compelte economic collapse and the disintegration of the rump-state into a conglomerate of regions warring with each other.
And Russia will then jump it and pick up bits and pieces of what used to be known of Ukraine - the bits and pieces it needs, of course.
Alles gute, Michael, and liebe Grüße aus Wien! Don't forget to buy a stove that you can activate by burning wood if you plan to stay in Kiew this coming winter :-))!
In Response

by: JLNancy
July 17, 2014 07:56
ONLY a rhetorical question Eugenio etal LRT >

did the Russian Orthodox church (Third-Rome *morality*) or your own beloved mother that taught you to be such a viperous Russian troll...
or is it the: 8 hour shift, $36 a day with a cheap lunch thrown in (that one wouldn't feed a dog) job that make you a human being bereft of any Godly intelligence?

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



In less than a week, on October 27, Lithuania is scheduled to open its first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) import terminal at the port of Klaipeda. The terminal, which will begin receiving deliveries in early 2015, is a significant step toward changing the energy equation in Lithuania, the Baltic states, and ultimately in Europe as a whole.

Initially, Lithuania plans to buy enough LNG to cover about a quarter of its domestic needs. But once the terminal is operating at full capacity, and once Lithuania's pipelines to Latvia are upgraded, it will be able to supply 90 percent of the three Baltic states' natural gas demand.

Oh, and by the way, Lithuania's current supply contract with Gazprom expires at the end of next year.

And this is just one of the ways the gas game is changing. Poland is also building a LNG import terminal, which is scheduled to go online in mid-2015.

And as energy analyst  Wenyuan Qiu writes in "The Moscow Times" today, a steep rise in U.S. production has made it "functionally independent of offshore suppliers." As a result, "the closure of the U.S. LNG import market is forcing producers in the Middle East and Africa to look for customers elsewhere" leading to "downward pressure on prices" in Europe.

"Russia will remain an important European energy provider because its gas is relatively economic. But Russia's ability to leverage this resource as an instrument of foreign policy is diminishing," Qiu writes.




Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:


European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has announced substantial progress was reached in October 21 talks between representatives of Ukraine and Russia on gas supplies, but a final deal has yet to be agreed.

A summit held in Milan October 17 had produced hopes for a breakthrough, after Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and said they had reached a preliminary agreement on a gas price until March 31.

Oettinger said as part of tentative deals, Ukraine planned to purchase some 4 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia before the end of this year.

Oettinger also said Ukraine would pay $1.4 billion of its debt to Russia for gas supplies already received before the end of October and another $1.6 billion by the end of this year.

The head of Russia's delegation to the talks, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, said the price of gas for Ukraine would be $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, much lower than the $485 that Russia's state-controlled Gazprom was demanding just weeks ago.

However, the price, which was first announced by Poroshenko following his meeting with Putin on October 17, is still higher than the average of some $350 that Gazprom charges EU companies

Novak said that price would be in force from October 2014 until late March 2015 -- provided Ukraine pays in advance.

However, Novak added the EU should take responsibility for guaranteeing Ukraine pay its $5.3-billion debt for gas to Russia before the end of 2014.

Kyiv has asked the EU for an additional loan of $2.6 billion, but a spokesman stressed on October 21 that the request was not made in connection with the ongoing gas talks.

The EU has so far offered Kyiv loans totalling more than $2 billion.

Russia cut off gas deliveries tro Ukraine in mid-June, citing the $5.3-billion debt. However, Gazprom has not halted supplies transiting Ukraine en route to EU member states.

But Novak again ruled out Gazprom's agreeing to let EU states re-export its gas to Ukraine.

Oettinger announced another meeting would be held in Brussels on October 29.

Separately, the Kremlin said Putin and Poroshenko discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine among other issues during a telephone conversation October 21.

It didn't provide further details.

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


The independent Russian radio station "Ekho Moskvy" said it has been informed of an unscheduled inspection by the prosecutor's office.

The station's deputy chief editor Sergei Buntman said on October 21, "We received a document dated from yesterday (October 20) that said the main directorate of the Emergency Situation's Ministry" had requested the prosecutor's office to conduct an inspection of the radio station.

Buntman said according to the document, the inspection would start on October 22 and last for 20 working days.

"Taking into consideration days off, that means almost a month," Buntman said, and he added that the inspection should not affect the activities of the station.

Buntman said, "Of course questions arise about why this decision is taken so suddenly."

"Echo Moskvy" posted a copy of the document the radio station received that indicated the inspection was meant to determine if the station was in compliance with fire safety laws.

(Based on reporting by "Ekho Moskvy" and Interfax)


The Kremlin said the Russian and Ukrainian presidents stressed the importance of supporting the peace process in Ukraine and observing the ceasefire the country's south-east during a phone conversation on October 21.

President Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko also discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine after a tentative agreement reached in Milan last week on the basic terms of future supplies, the statement said.

It didn't provide further details.

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

Some progress was reportedly made toward resolving the issue of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine during last week's talks in Milan.

Poroshenko said a preliminary agreement had been reached on a price of $385 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of March -- $100 less than Russia had originally demanded.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, TASS, and


Russian investigators say the air crash that has killed the chief executive of French oil giant Total was caused “criminal negligence” by airport officials.

Christophe de Margerie and three French crew members died when his corporate jet collided with a snow-removal machine at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport late on October 20.

The Investigative Committee warned that several senior airport officials would be suspended, adding that investigators will assess the "actions and non-action" of management.

The snow plough driver has already been detained.

Investigators have said the man was drunk at the time of the accident, which his lawyer denied.

Total is one of the top foreign investors in Russia.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin "highly esteemed" Margerie's business qualities and his "consistent devotion" to developing bilateral Russia-French relations.

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


16:08 October 17, 2014


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.


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


Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:



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 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)


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


Some items from RFE/RL's Newes Desk:


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)



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.


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)


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'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.


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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