Сегодня утром (9.30 утра) Алексей Навальный был госпитализирован с диагнозом «острая аллергическая реакция»: сильный отек лица и покраснение кожных покровов. Источник аллергической реакции не определён. За всю свою жизнь Алексей никогда прежде не испытывал аллергической реакции>>
At least 1,074 arrests were made at the banned rally, officials say, while monitors reported 1,127 detentions.
Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has called the demonstration a “security threat”, and promised to maintain public order.
Anger is widespread among opposition supporters at the way the city is run and the ruling United Russia party.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed for 30 days on Wednesday after calling for Saturday’s unapproved demonstration.
Mr Putin was on a trip to the Baltic Sea on Saturday for a dive in a submersible. “There are a lot of problems on Earth, so to diminish their amount one has to go up and deep down,” he remarked.
What happened this Saturday?
Last Saturday, more than 20,000 Russians took to the streets, demanding fair elections, and dozens were arrested.
It is unclear how many people turned up for the new unauthorised rally on 27 July but the numbers seem to have been sharply down.
According to police, about 3,500 people gathered, including about 700 journalists.
Police in riot gear pushed back the crowd from barriers surrounding the mayor’s office in central Moscow, hauling off detainees to police stations.
A number of protesters could be seen bleeding while at least two members of the security forces reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.
A powerful message to the regions?
Oleg Boldyrev, BBC News, Moscow
No -one was under any illusion that the large gathering would impress authorities into letting people express themselves peacefully. This rally went very much the same way others have done – arbitrary detentions, standoffs, crowds breaking off into the side streets.
The question is whether the anger over not being able to nominate a candidate – even for lower-level, city elections – would galvanise Muscovites into bigger, sustained expressions of dissent. After all, there are lots of residents not happy with the way Moscow government and Mayor Sobyanin run the city, or respond to popular concerns.
Certainly, the would-be candidates, most of them seasoned anti-Putin activists, are hoping that the resentment will linger. That is exactly why policy handlers in the Kremlin are desperate to put a lid on it.
With both Mr Putin’s ratings falling and the United Russia party deeply unpopular, chanting crowds in the capital may send a very powerful message to other regions preparing to hold their elections.
How did we get here?
Local elections usually attract little attention in Russia.
The Moscow authority does not control the city’s budget or choose key official appointments, and previous votes have passed without major protests or press interest.
But this year some Muscovites are infuriated at what they see as brazen attempts to disqualify independent politicians from running.
Many candidates managed to meet the threshold but the electoral commission ruled some signatures ineligible, saying they were unclear or the addresses provided were incomplete, and barred the candidates from taking part.
Opposition groups say the authorities had no reason to rule them ineligible – claims that electoral officials denied. “We have no reason to doubt our experts,” commission member Dmitry Reut said, according to media reports.
Election candidate and opposition leader Dmitry Gudkov tweeted that the council had “died under Putin”.
“The last illusion that we are able to participate legally in politics has disappeared.”
Some newspapers also denounced the raids. Novaya Gazeta ran the headline Moscow City Terror on Friday, while Vedomosti said authorities were using force to suppress the protest “having failed to counter it with political means”.
After a wave of police searches & detention of opposition activists in Moscow, one Russian paper today claims that “political terror in Russia is flourishing” & warns that “one day the terror will rebound on those who started it.” #ReadingRussia
Some believe the demonstrations could actually benefit the local authorities by reducing turnout.
“Young opposition supporters will not come to the polls, while the older generation whom the authorities are counting on vote out of habit,” Denis Volkov, an expert at independent think tank Levada Center, told the BBC. “The authorities will orient themselves towards them.”
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
UK Denies Sending Any Mediators to Iran as Rouhani Says Ready to Negotiate
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 – 10:30
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, 14 February 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Britain has not sent any representatives to Tehran, a British source said after Iranian media reported that a mediator had been sent to discuss the freeing of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran.
“We are not aware of any representatives being sent as mediators to Iran,” a British diplomatic source said.
The UK is in a tense standoff with Tehran over British authorities’ seizure of an Iranian tanker in early July and Iran’s detention of a UK-flagged ship in the Gulf last week.
Wednesday’s denial came as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran is ready for “just” negotiations but not if they mean surrender.
Rouhani seemed to be referring to possible negotiations with the United States.
US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions on it, but has said he is willing to hold talks with Tehran.
“As long as I have the responsibility for the executive duties of the country, we are completely ready for just, legal and honest negotiations to solve the problems,” Rouhani said, according to his official website.
“But at the same time we are not ready to sit at the table of surrender under the name of negotiations.”
Amid soaring tensions in the region, Trump said in late June that he had called off strikes against Iran at the last minute in response to the destruction of a US drone.
A series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region, as well as Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in retaliation for Britain impounding one of its own vessels in Gibraltar, have turned the area into a powder keg.
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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ordered an overhaul of the process for granting Ukrainian citizenship, in response to a Russian decree expanding the number of Ukrainians who can apply for fast-track Russian passports.
Zelenskiy’s office said early on Thursday, just a few hours after the Kremlin published Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order, that the foreign ministry would simplify the procedure for certain groups to attain Ukrainian citizenship.
Those who suffer from human rights violations and constraints on freedom in their home countries, and ethnic Ukrainians “from friendly powers” willing to help Ukraine’s development, would be eligible for fast-track passports, Zelenskiy’s office said.
It did not explain which countries are considered to be friendly.
“The President made this decision because of… an order by President Vladimir Putin introducing a simpler procedure for granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians,” the statement said.
Putin’s order added to the list of those who can apply for fast-track Russian passports Ukrainian citizens who were registered as permanent residents of government-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as of April 2014.
That is the date at which a military conflict with Russia-backed separatists started.
“Such a step by the Russian Federation creates additional obstacles on a path to de-escalation of the conflict, and the reintegration of the Donbass region,” the statement said.
Moscow’s move comes ahead of a Ukrainian parliamentary election on Sunday, when opinion polls suggest the Russia-friendly Opposition Platform party may emerge as the strongest opponents of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People group.
Five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region have killed 13,000 people despite a ceasefire signed in 2015. Zelenskiy has said he will do everything in his power to end the conflict.
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About an hour ago I posted an article from the Chicago Tribune Newspaper written by Rex Huppke that I hope you have read. Today in Washington D.C. our elusterus President is going to throw a shindig to celebrate, himself. Of course this farce is being paid for with taxpayer funds, hopefully you are not surprised by being stuck with the bill or that this whole event will be about himself. Back on January 20th or 2017 when he was sworn into Office he stiffed the city of D.C. with the 52 million dollar overrun which he still has not paid. This so called military parade will do things like tear up the roads and bridges but thats okay, we get the honor of paying for it. Donald Trump has made a lifetime out of not paying his bills, why should this be any different? Even the current and former leaders of our military are against this ego trip but Mr. Trump is in love with, well, himself mostly, but he has stressed several times how he likes the military parades that only Dictators Like Mr. Putin and Kim Jong Un throw and the people should also only show up if they are smiling and waving, at himself, like they do in Russia and North Korea. If I am wrong about this parade being about ‘the Donald’ I will publicly apologize to you tomorrow. In the meantime, happy fourth of July folks, I hope that you and your loved ones are able to have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday, or should I say “Donald dimwit day’?
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OSAKA, Japan — They were having a good time. Like old friends reuniting, they warmly shook hands, smiled and chatted amiably. And then President Trump brushed off Russia’s interference in American democracy with a joke as President Vladimir V. Putin chuckled.
The first encounter between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin since the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reported that Russia conducted a “sweeping and systematic” operation to sway the 2016 election proved more convivial than confrontational. Rather than challenge Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump treated it as a laughing matter.
In the process, he triggered a fresh furor over his accommodating approach to Russia and brought back old questions that have haunted him since he took office. Angry at perceived challenges to his legitimacy, he has long dismissed or at most grudgingly accepted the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia sought to help his campaign.
But while Mr. Trump once hoped to leave the investigation behind and finally recalibrate the Russian-American relationship, he instead put the issue back in the spotlight as House Democrats prepare to question Mr. Mueller on camera next month.
As he sat down on Friday with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of an international summit in Japan, Mr. Trump was asked by a reporter if he would tell Russia not to meddle in American elections.
“Yes, of course I will,” Mr. Trump said.
Turning to Mr. Putin, he said, with a half-grin on his face and mock seriousness in his voice, “Don’t meddle in the election, President.”
As Mr. Putin smiled and tittered, Mr. Trump pointed at another Russian official in a playful way and repeated, “Don’t meddle in the election.”
His appointment with Mr. Putin came amid a busy visit for the annual Group of 20 summit meeting. His talks with President Xi Jinping of China, aimed at defusing a costly trade war, were the most eagerly awaited. As the two men opened their meeting on Saturday morning, Mr. Trump said that “we’re getting a little bit closer” to a deal that he thought could be “monumental and great for both countries.”
In keeping with his unpredictable streak, Mr. Trump caught many diplomats and even his own advisers off guard by publicly inviting North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to meet him this weekend at the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea. Mr. Trump was already scheduled to fly to Seoul on Saturday afternoon and pay a no-longer-secret visit to the DMZ on Sunday, but no preparations had been made for a meeting with Mr. Kim.
The levity with Mr. Putin, however, dominated his first full day in Osaka and came at a time when the Kremlin leader has felt emboldened on the world stage, flexing Russian muscle in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and even South America. In an interview published just hours before the meeting, Mr. Putin celebrated the rise of the populist right in Europe and the United States and declared that traditional Western-style liberalism “has become obsolete.”
Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, among other leaders, at a photo shoot on Friday.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
Mr. Trump did not dispute Mr. Putin’s view and seemed almost to share it. As reporters and photographers entered their meeting room to set up cameras and microphones on Friday, the American president offered the sort of disdain for journalists sure to resonate with an authoritarian like Mr. Putin.
“Get rid of them,” Mr. Trump said. “Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”
“We also have,” Mr. Putin insisted in English. “It’s the same.”
In fact, Mr. Putin has made a hallmark of his nearly two decades in power a takeover of major news outlets. Russia’s relatively few independent journalists often come under intense pressure and, in some cases, have even been killed.
It fell to other leaders gathered in Osaka to volunteer the rebuttal to Mr. Putin’s worldview that Mr. Trump did not. “What I find really obsolete are: authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. “Even if sometimes they may seem effective.”
The bonhomie between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin came in sharp contrast to Mr. Putin’s frigid meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, their first since a former Russian spy living in her country was poisoned by agents that Britain has traced to Russia. Stiff and severe, Mrs. May refused to smile or exchange pleasantries as she sat down with Mr. Putin. Aides later said she upbraided him behind closed doors over the poisoning, calling it a “truly despicable act.”
Mr. Trump’s friendlier session touched off another domestic backlash like the one he endured after their last official meeting in Helsinki, Finland, last year when, standing at Mr. Putin’s side, the president challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies about the Russian election operation and credited the Kremlin leader’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial.
“As Robert Mueller said, Russian interference in our democracy should concern every American,” Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “But not the president, apparently, who thinks it’s a joke.”
Former President Jimmy Carter, who at times has been sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s complaints about media coverage, responded sharply on Friday to the president’s comments in Osaka. Going further than some Democrats, he even suggested that the president did not genuinely earn the office.
“I think a full investigation would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016,” Mr. Carter said at a conference sponsored by the Carter Center. “He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”
That assessment goes to the heart of Mr. Trump’s resistance to taking the Russian interference more seriously, according to his advisers. In his view, the intense focus on the matter is mainly a partisan effort to undermine his legitimacy as president.
And he has argued that there was nothing wrong about accepting incriminating information about an election opponent from a hostile foreign power, saying recently that “I’d take it” and did not necessarily see a need to call the F.B.I.
Mr. Trump during the summit’s opening plenary session on Friday.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
“It’s a great honor to be with President Putin,” Mr. Trump said as they sat together. “We’ve had great meetings,” he added. “We have had a very, very good relationship. And we look forward to spending some pretty good time together. A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship.”
Mr. Putin said they would discuss trade, disarmament and other issues. “All this will be built on a very good relationship that will be between us,” he said. “I think that the results of this meeting will be excellent.” Russian officials later reported that Mr. Putin had invited Mr. Trump to visit Moscow next spring for the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and that the American president seemed positive.
The White House summary of the leaders’ meeting indicated that they talked about Mr. Trump’s proposed three-way arms control agreement with China, as well as about disputes in Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine. The summary made no mention of election interference, nor anything about two Americans who have been arrested by the Russian authorities on disputed charges.
Likewise, it said nothing about an international investigation this month that pointed to Russia in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board. International prosecutors have indicted three men with ties to Russian military and intelligence agencies in the destruction of the passenger jet and implicated, without charging, a senior aide to Mr. Putin.
Nor did the summary indicate that the leaders talked about Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships and two dozen sailors last November, events that prompted Mr. Trump to cancel a scheduled meeting with Mr. Putin, and that remain unresolved. When a reporter asked about the ships and sailors on Friday, the president said, “We haven’t discussed them.”
While Mr. Putin did not address the election issue with reporters on Friday, he scoffed at the idea of Russian involvement during an interview before flying to Osaka. He advanced the same line of argument that Mr. Trump does: that he won in 2016 because he was in better touch with Americans.
“Russia has been accused, and, strange as it may seem, it is still being accused, despite the Mueller report, of mythical interference in the U.S. election,” Mr. Putin told The Financial Times. “What happened in reality? Mr. Trump looked into his opponents’ attitude to him and saw changes in American society, and he took advantage of this.”
He complimented Mr. Trump’s political skill. “I do not accept many of his methods when it comes to addressing problems,” Mr. Putin said. “But do you know what I think? I think that he is a talented person. He knows very well what his voters expect from him.”
Following the interview, however, the Kremlin pulled back Mr. Putin’s rejection of liberalism, saying he was “still very close to the ideas of liberalism.”
“We agree completely that authoritarianism and the rule of oligarchs are obsolete,” Dmitri S. Peskov, his spokesman, told reporters. “ At the same time, if authoritarianism exists somewhere, this is a question of the people of these countries. We should not judge them and change the regime and government in these countries.”
Andrew Kramer, Ivan Nechepurenko and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting from Moscow.
Ukrainians on Sunday overwhelmingly voted to make a comedian their next president — ushering in a new era of politics in the struggling country.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a famous comedian who portrayed Ukraine’s head of state for years on a popular comedy show, defeated the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, who had been in power since 2014.
According to exit polls, Zelensky won a staggering 73 percent of the vote. Poroshenko conceded the race not long after polls closed.
It’s all quite the rise for an ordinary guy who, well, played an ordinary guy-turned-president on television.
Zelensky — or “Ze,” as he’s more popularly known — has no prior political experience and hasn’t offered a detailed blueprint for how he would govern. But he struck a populist, anti-corruption message during the campaign that clearly resonated with millions of Ukrainians suffering from poverty and government graft. That, plus his previous celebrity, made him a formidable force during the Eastern European country’s election.
The big question now is if he can follow through on his promises to stamp out undue oligarch influence in Kyiv and turn Ukraine’s economic fortunes around. After all, the comedian has no prior political experience and didn’t offer a detailed governing blueprint during the campaign.
Clearly, though, Ukrainians believe Zelensky embodies the change they hope he can bring to a struggling nation.
“There’s been a desire for a new face for a long time,” Melinda Haring, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, told me before the election. “It was clear the people wanted someone without the same baggage and connections to political dinosaurs.”
Ukraine’s struggles led to Zelensky’s rise
Experts say Zelensky’s remarkable story stems from Ukrainians’ dissatisfaction with decades of failed political leadership.
“After almost 30 years of electing to the presidency either relatively pro-Russian or officially pro-Western candidates from the economic and political elite, Ukraine remains one of the poorest nations in Europe,” Andreas Umland, an expert at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, wrote for the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank on April 16.
“Ukrainians just want a normal standard of living,” Haring told me, but “Ukraine has gotten poorer as Poroshenko has gotten richer.”
Since Poroshenko, who once led the very successful company Roshen, took power in 2014 corruption only worsened as the government’s ties to oligarchs have strengthened. That made it harder for Ukraine to attract foreign investment and help the country’s economy rebound.
In February, Ukraine’s finance minister said that if the country grows at the same economic rate for 50 years — a big if — Ukraine will have the same economic strength as Poland. That, to put it mildly, isn’t an optimistic outlook it may take a half-century to become a European economic success story.
So while Poroshenko got high marks from many for pushing back against Russia’s invasion of parts of Ukraine’s east and south, a record he touted throughout the election, experts said that counted for very little.
“Poroshenko either misread the voters or thought his campaign themes — army, language, and faith — would carry the day,” Steven Pifer, the US ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, told me on Thursday. “It looks like he greatly misjudged the electorate.”
Voters clearly wanted to hear new ideas for a new Ukraine, and that meant stemming the country’s rampant corruption and kick-starting the nation’s sputtering economy.
Poroshenko was such a symbol for Ukraine’s old ways that it was almost funny. Enter a comedian.
Zelensky represents what Ukraine wants to be
Zelensky, 41, made his name on Servant of the People, a comedy program that you can watch on Netflix in the US. It follows the life of Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, an everyman schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president and takes on the nation’s oligarchs.
The actor wants to do the same thing — but now in real life.
It’s probably not surprising that such an unconventional candidate ran an unconventional campaign. He held few big rallies and rarely spoke to the press. Instead, he mainly toured the country with comedy troupes to perform in skits and make audiences laugh, experts told me. But he leveraged social media to directly connect with voters and make his pitch.
Not much is known about his foreign policy except that he is mainly pro-Western, wants Ukraine to enter the European Union, and would seek NATO membership for his country — all positions that didn’t separate him much from Poroshenko.
There are two big worries Ukrainians still have about Zelensky, however. The first, of course, is his inexperience. But Ukrainians have shrugged that off in the past, though, like when voters in Kyiv voted in 2014 to make former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko their mayor.
The second, and more important, is just how close he is to a Ukrainian oligarch: Igor Kolomoisky.
Zelensky’s show appeared on Kolomoisky’s TV channel, and the billionaire has long been a Poroshenko rival. Some worry that the comedian may simply be a tool of another Ukrainian fat cat trying to wield power, a charge Zelensky denies.
But those concerns didn’t dissuade Ukrainians from choosing Zelensky on Sunday. And so now a Ukrainian comedian who entered an election to take on the entrenched corruption in his country will be the next president. It sounds like a joke, but it’s reality.
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Damn, thats a hard statement. I had forgotten about this headline, I think it is from about two weeks ago. I have to think before I continue this article. Think about it for a moment, your talking about a Man, a Person, dying. I am not a fan of some actions that Mr. Putin has made since He has been in power. I believe that if all the People of Russia had free information, they would have no interest in big bad bloody wars, especially Nuclear Wars. Then again, this question must be directed at any Country that Is Nuclear.
President Putin could, along with President Xi Jinping of China, these two men could, if they so chose to, could pick a date, like Christmas Day or New Years Eve to start WW3 against the West. Russia cuts off all oil going through Federation States into Western Europe. China fully takes HK, Taiwan and all of the South China Sea. Having each others back, work together and they own at least two thirds of the world as long as they didn’t strike the U.S. directly, yet. If they look at our President as being weak, in any way, they have a lot to win, little to lose.
So, back to the beginning, if you were a Citizen of the Great Nation of the People of Russia and you found out these things, these what if’s, were true, could you, would kill him? Do you hear the term 1 for 1,000? How about 1 to save a hundred million? All I can say to this is, I thank G-d, that I am not G-d.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)
Does Putin Want WW3?
Analysts predict an ‘imminent’ surge in conflict between Russia and Ukraine in and around the Black Sea.By Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security WriterDec. 12, 2018, at 10:23 a.m.More
Ukrainian Admiral: Putin Raising Likelihood of WarMore
Russian President Vladimir Putin may be planning to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, onlookers say.ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/POOL/TASS
RUSSIA APPEARS POISED to escalate hostilities in Ukraine, according to a new analysis – signs of an uptick in the broader war that the country’s top naval officer says is directed exclusively by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It is extremely centralized power in Russia. Everything is in the hands of Mr. Putin,” Ukrainian Vice Adm. Ihor Voronchenko tells U.S. News.[
Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors and seamen on Wednesday remained in Russian custody following a November encounter between the two countries’ navies and security forces in the Black Sea. Russian ships have also blocked access to the Black and Azov seas, limiting Ukraine’s ability to use critical commercial ports and raising the specter of war following four years of simmering conflict.
“I can say with 100 percent probability, all command and control in this operation was run from Moscow. Not Rostov, not Crimea. Everything was given instructions by Mr. Putin,” Voronchenko says.
“Russia will likely escalate militarily against Ukraine imminently,” Catherine Harris and Mason Clark, members of the Institute for the Study of War’s research team, wrote in a Tuesday analysis.
“Russia likely perceives the lack of a unified NATO response to Moscow’s aggression in the Sea of Azov as an opportunity to escalate against Ukraine and elsewhere in the future,” they wrote. “None of the responses are likely sufficient to deter Putin, whereas the disagreement itself will likely embolden him.”
Russia has moved ground units nearer its border with Ukraine in recent days, according to the ISW report, and deployed new ships to the Black Sea under the auspices of preparing for training exercises. It has also reportedly begun a propaganda campaign designed to alarm the populations in Ukraine about a Western attack.[
Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander and head of U.S. armed forces in Europe, was scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, in Azerbaijan on Wednesday “to promote military predictability and transparency.”
Voronchenko says Putin appears frustrated and surprised because the Russian leader does not understand why Western countries have responded so intensely to these particular events.
“Now he is extremely nervous, and he’s like a rat in the [corner] of a dark room. He doesn’t know what to do,” the admiral says.
Voronchenko says he has been in email contact with at least one of the detained sailors, who said this week that his morale remains high, though he’s tired of listening to the Russian music his captors offer.
One of the captives was reportedly supposed to begin training to command one of two retired U.S. Coast Guard cutters that Ukraine received in September to add to its modest fleet of naval vessels. Bohdan Nebylytsia was a cadet at the Ukrainian naval academy in Sevastopol, Crimea, when the strategic peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014 – a move Western countries say was illegal. He was among those who refused to side with the Russian occupiers, a spokeswoman at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., says, adding that he sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the Russian flag-raising ceremony.
Voronchenko met with defense officials at the Pentagon on Thursday and was scheduled to meet Navy Chief of Staff Adm. John Richardson on Friday to discuss a new naval strategy Kiev released earlier this year and to plan for countering the threat posed by Russia.
“The U.S. government continues to work closely with our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to support Ukraine in its pursuit of a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the ongoing Russian aggression, including Russia’s recent unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon says. “DoD leaders will reiterate the U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, as well as the right of its vessels to traverse international waters.”
The new strategy focuses on modernizing the Ukrainian navy and coastal defenses and coordinating with NATO for exercises in and around the Black Sea.
“These steps and others, I think, demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment, and we are currently considering additional ways the United States might assist Ukraine to further develop its maritime capacity,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said at a security conference in Kiev on Nov. 29.Updated on Dec. 13, 2018: This story has been updated with additional details about meetings between U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
Rally against online censorship in Kaliningrad, Russia. Sign reads: “Respect the Russian constitution.” Photo by Alexandr Podgorchuk, Klops.ru. (CC BY 4.0)
A 2017 law regulating online activity and anonymous speech went into effect in Russia at the beginning of this month.
The law “on information and information technology” stipulates what content search providers are legally allowed to show. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor, known as the “censorship ministry”) already maintains a registry of banned websites, created in 2012. The list of banned sites range from online gambling to extremist material and information on the use of narcotics. Search engines are now prohibited from showing these sites in their search results.
To facilitate the implementation of the registry, Russian agencies created the Federal State Information System to act as a bridge between the registry and search providers. These search providers are now legally mandated to connect to this system through an API so that banned websites will automatically be filtered out. Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine has connected to the API, but Google has so far not compliedwith these new requirements, which may leave it subject to a petty fine (by Google’s standards) of up to 700,000 rubles, or about USD $10,000.
The law also dictates when and how a user can anonymously use the internet, such as through VPN (Virtual Private Networks) software that allows users to mask the origin of their traffic through servers in other countries, thereby avoiding locally-based content restrictions and censorship.
Google has been censoring search results in Russia on the basis of local laws for quite some time. Links to popular Russian torrent sites disappeared over a year ago from both Yandex and Google as Roskomnadzor deemed the sites illegal. As RuNet Echo reported earlier, Google has also been accused of over-complying with censorship requests from the Russian government, such as removing YouTube videos posted by opposition figure Alexey Navalny, and most recently, blocking a controversial rapper’smusic video.
Several years ago, Google moved some of its servers to Russia in accordance with laws compelling companies to store their data on Russian citizens on Russian soil. With some servers now in Russia, the authorities have a more direct means of forcing the company to comply with local law.
Users have long suggested using VPNs to go around these types of measures, but the law’s provisions took this into account as well: VPN providers must block the sites, or face being blocked themselves. But this may be easier said than done. The Russian government banned Telegram earlier this year, but the app is still up and running and being used all across Russia without a VPN. Similar attempts to block VPN services could meet limited success, due to their decentralized infrastructure. This leaves the threat of a fine as the most salient option at Roskomnador’s disposal against VPNs and search providers that do not connect to the new federal system.
While the proposed fine may seem paltry from the perspective of massive tech companies like Google, sources close to Russian tech operations have said that amendments are in the works to drastically increase fines. Rather than capping the fines at 700,000 rubles, the new rules allegedly peg the fines at 1% of the company’s earnings.
While regular internet users don’t have to worry about such excessive fines, they too could soon face other repercussions for anonymously using the internet. Roskomnadzor has spearheaded new rules that require messaging apps to identify users based on their mobile provider. This in effect ties a user’s phone number to their personal identity.
Apps like Signal and Telegram pride themselves on allowing a user to communicate practically anonymously if they so wish. By obligating such apps to verify a user’s identity with their service provider, the Russian government is attempting to crack down on dissent and what they see as criminal activity. Telegram voluntarily registered with Roskomnadzor in 2017, which makes them liable under the new law. Signal does not keep servers in Russia and may run the risk of being banned there for non-compliance with the rule, but it also has a relatively small user base in Russia.
The ability to communicate anonymously on messaging apps makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes. The government’s current decree is a necessary step in creating a safe communication environment for both citizens and the state as a whole.
In many instances, the ability to post content online anonymously is a major draw for users. Being able to express an opinion or expose injustices without using one’s identity is now more important than ever, seeing as how people have been facing criminal chargers simply for posting memes.
And the consequences of de-anonymizing a user have been seen in various scenarios. After last month’s suicide attack at an FSB (Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency) office, the administrator of an anonymous Telegram channel was arrested for spreading messages glorifying the attacker. It is unknown if Telegram cooperated with law enforcement to expose this user, but if messaging apps start to follow these new rules, more prosecutions can be expected along with an outright drop in dissenting voices online.
These new laws and rules, along with the plethora of other laws regulating the collection of online users’ data, make it difficult to use online platforms to voice discontent in Russia. At a time when both online and public spaces face increasing limitations on expression in Russia, further restrictions should worry Russians and non-Russians alike. Though individual users can take measures to protect their accounts, such as using two-factor verification, there is little they can do to protect themselves from backdoor transmission of their data to the authorities.