Originally posted on TIME:
(MINSK, Belarus) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the warring parties in the Ukrainian conflict have agreed on a cease-fire beginning midnight on Saturday and a division line for withdrawing heavy weapons.
After 15 hours of talks in the Belarusian capital, Putin said agreements had been signed, one declaring the cease-fire, the other to implement it.
Meanwhile, both rebels and government troops reported fighting across eastern Ukraine.
A ceasefire will begin in eastern Ukraine on 15 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced.
“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” he said following marathon talks involving Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well the leaders of France and Germany.
French President Francois Hollande said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.
via BBC News
Russian Bombers More Aggressive Near U.S. Territory
Sam LaGrone reports: While Russian military aircraft have stepped up their activity everywhere from the North Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea in the last year they have also been spotted more frequently closer to the U.S. territory in the Arctic, the head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) told USNI News on Tuesday.
In particular – flights of Tupolev Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ Bombers have increased recently NORTHCOM’s Adm. Bill Gortney said.
“They’ve been very aggressive – under my NORAD hat – for us in the Arctic. Aggressive in the amount of flights, not aggressive in how they fly.”
Since the March seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by Russian forces Moscow has significantly stepped up air patrols in Europe, Asia and near the Americas.
The flights extend as far North as the edge of American air space near Alaska and as far South as U.S. holdings in Guam.
In December, two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets intercepted a two Bears near the Beaufort Sea entering a U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Read the rest of this entry »
Pentagon 2008 Study Claims Vladimir Putin Has Asperger’s Syndrome: ‘An Autistic Disorder Which Affects All of His Decisions’Posted: February 4, 2015
Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since early 2014, when Russian annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine
WASHINGTON — Ray Locker reports: A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome, “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions,” according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.
Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,” wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal “that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality.”
The 2008 study was one of many by Connors and her colleagues, who are contractors for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), an internal Pentagon think tank that helps devise long-term military strategy. The 2008 report and a 2011 study were provided to USA TODAY as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Putin’s ‘neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy…the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality’.”
– Brenda Connors, expert in movement pattern analysis
Researchers can’t prove their theory about Putin and Asperger’s, the report said, because they were not able to perform a brain scan on the Russian president. The report cites work by autism specialists as backing their findings. It is not known whether the research has been acted on by Pentagon or administration officials.
The 2008 report cites Dr. Stephen Porges, who is now a University of North Carolina psychiatry professor, as concluding that “Putin carries a form of autism.” However, Porges said Wednesday he had never seen the finished report and “would back off saying he has Asperger’s.”
Instead, Porges said, his analysis was that U.S. officials needed to find quieter settings in which to deal with Putin, whose behavior and facial expressions reveal someone who is defensive in large social settings. Although these features are observed in Asperger’s, they are also observed in individuals who have difficulties staying calm in social settings and have low thresholds to be reactive. “If you need to do things with him, you don’t want to be in a big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace somewhere quiet,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Christopher Walker is executive director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Robert Orttung is assistant director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.
Christopher Walker and Robert Orttung write: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity appears to resist the laws of political physics. Despite the price of oil sinking below $50 a barrel and the Russian economy falling into a tailspin, Putin’s approval ratings hover above 80 percent, seemingly defying gravity.
“The cream of Russian society is voting with its feet, leaving a stultifying, ever more corrupt environment for greener pastures that allow them to productively apply their talents.”
But the numbers should not be taken at face value.
Deeper scrutiny is especially important because the more Putin’s sky-high popularity ratings are mentioned, the more they become accepted wisdom. Western news media and political analysts frequently report on them without providing critically needed context.
“All of this should tell us something. Today, the Kremlin must work far harder than it has to manufacture regime support. Its fiercer propaganda and harsher repression suggest that the Russian population is less willing to accept Putin. To compensate, the state apparatus has been shifted into overdrive.”
First, Putin’s popularity has been achieved in an information vacuum. An informal set of censorship rules, actively enforced by the Kremlin, makes it virtually impossible to discuss important issues and question official actions through the mass media. Today, independent voices rarely reach into Russian living rooms over the airwaves. In recent months, the government has tightened its noose, pressuring even outlets serving niche audiences, such as the news Web site Lenta.ru, the newspaper Vedomosti and the Moscow station TV Rain. Meanwhile, feverish state propaganda feeds Russian television audiences an unchallenged and delusive flow of information designed to show the country’s leaders in the most positive light while blaming problems on “fascists,” “foreign agents” and “fifth columns.”
Second, Putin’s political repression makes certain that only the bravest and most self-sacrificing individuals challenge his rule. Emerging opposition leaders are either removed, smeared or co-opted before they gain sufficient popularity to present a threat. A popularity figure of 80-plus percent simply tells us that Russians cannot conceive of an alternative to Putin. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian Air Force SU-27 Cockpit Detail
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin
Russia Says Mohammed Cartoon Publication Illegal: ‘One Cannot Laugh at the Feelings of the Faithful’Posted: January 16, 2015
Russia is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country, but is also home to a sizeable Muslim minority
Russia’s media watchdog on Friday warned publications that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was against the country’s law and ethical norms following the Charlie Hebdo attack in France.
“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries.”
“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries,” said the media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor.
“Disseminating caricatures on religious themes in the media can be considered insulting or humiliating to the representatives of religious confessions and groups, and qualified as inciting ethnic and religious hatred.”
– Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media and communications watchdog
The publication would also violate the Russian media and anti-extremism laws, the watchdog said, adding that it was asking Russian media to “refrain from publishing caricatures that can be seen as a violation”.
The watchdog published the statement as a response to the ongoing debate on the “legality of publishing caricatures depicting religious objects of worship which affect feelings of religious people.”
“It further said Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page was an ‘unacceptable response’ to the shooting, because one ‘cannot laugh at the feelings of the faithful’.”
Many newspapers and magazines around the world reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked by Islamist gunmen on January 7, leading to the deaths of 12 people.
Although Russia’s leadership extended its condolences to France, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the unity march staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin commentators and Muslims accused the cartoonists of provoking the attack. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Bird reports: The value of the ruble isn’t the only thing that is vanishing in Russia. A Moscow hedge fund chief executive has disappeared, along with all the money in the firm’s accounts.
That’s according to a stunning feature in The Wall Street Journal. Kim Karapetyan, 29, the youthful founder of Blackfield Capital CJSC, has disappeared, much to the dismay of his staff, which didn’t know until a group of men charged into the firm’s plush offices.
From The Journal:
The firm’s employees didn’t know anything was amiss until mid-October, when three men charged into Blackfield’s offices in an upscale complex along the Moscow River in central Moscow, said people who were there.
The men, who didn’t identify themselves, said they were looking for Blackfield’s 29-year-old founder, Kim Karapetyan, according to the people who were there.
But Mr. Karapetyan wasn’t in the office that day or the next, when senior executives explained to the staff of about 50 that there was no longer any money to pay their salaries, said one former senior executive and ex-employees. The executives disclosed that all the money in the company accounts — some $20 million, including investor cash — was also missing, they said. It couldn’t be determined whether investors were from Russia or other countries.
“Our CEO just … disappeared,” said Sergey Grebenkin, one of the firm’s software developers, in an interview.
No attempts to contact or find Karapetyan were successful, and he is still MIA. The company’s website brags that its “systematic investment process helps avoid human-factor, cognitive-biases, and emotional-trading errors,” but the CEO running away with all your money seems like a fairly big human error. Read the rest of this entry »
STICKIN’ IT TO THE MAN: ‘I refuse to comply with the requirements of my illegal detention under house arrest. The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors’Posted: January 5, 2015
Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Defies House Arrest
Navalny received suspended sentence on 30 December for embezzling money but was not released from house arrest
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday he would no longer comply with the terms of his house arrest and had cut off his monitoring tag.
Navalny, who led mass protests against Vladimir Putin three years ago, was handed a suspended sentence on 30 December after being found guilty of embezzling money in a trial that led to his brother being jailed on similar charges.
“It is stupid to brag, but I am the first person in the history of Russian courts to be sitting under house arrest after the verdict.”
He was placed under house arrest almost a year ago during the investigation but said in a blog that he was perhaps the only person in Russian legal history to be kept under house arrest after being sentenced.
He said he should have been released after sentencing in late December but instead was being held pending the publication of the verdict on 15 January – a situation that even the police did not know how to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »
The Navalny brothers were found guilty of embezzling 26.7 million rubles ($470,000) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok and stealing more than 4.4 million rubles ($80,000) from a processing company between 2008 and 2013.
Critics have called the charges politically motivated. Alexei, an anti-corruption blogger and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has maintained his innocence.
The judge on Tuesday gave Alexei a suspended sentence of three years and six months while Oleg was sentenced to prison for the same amount of time.
Alexei yelled angrily as the sentence against his brother was read in the courtroom.
The brothers were also ordered to pay a fine of more than 4 million rubles ($70,000) to the Multi-Profile Processing Company. Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, the first reviews began to trickle in for the comedy The Interview, which depicts a shambolic attempt to assassinate the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Unfortunately, they were less than enthusiastic. One critic called it a ‘non-stop sledgehammer … bereft of satiric zing’, while the Hollywood industry paper Variety called it an ‘alleged satire that’s about as funny as a communist food shortage’.
“Trains could crash, pipelines explode, the financial markets risk going into meltdown, the National Grid might crash, hospitals could fall dark, cash dispensers might go dead and ordinary life might come grinding to a halt. Last year, the People’s Liberation Army’s Shanghai-based cyber unit was caught hacking into major American corporations such as the nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric and the United States Steel Corporation.”
Even the film’s makers probably imagined that having earned back its budget from its target audience of American teenagers, their picture would soon disappear into well-deserved obscurity.
Climb-down: Randall Park as North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un in The Interview, which has been pulled from release after Sony Pictures was hacked and confidential material leaked across the Internet
Terrorists:Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju remembered the three year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il. If North Korea was to launch a cyber attack it could bring the West to its knees in 15 minutes
How wrong they were. For it now seems certain that The Interview will go down in history not as an indictment of Hollywood’s obsession with the lowest common denominator, but as a chilling symbol of the future of international conflict.
When, two days ago, the film’s parent company Sony announced it was cancelling its Christmas Day release, the decision was widely seen as an abject surrender to foreign pressure.
All week, North Korean hackers have been leaking secrets found in Sony’s emails, from insider gossip about the star Angelina Jolie to the script of the next James Bond film.
In an attempt to shore up wavering cinema chains who were uncertain as to whether to screen the film, Barack Obama recommended that ‘people go to the movies’.
But as pressure mounted, it became clear Sony’s American bosses lacked the courage to stand up to Kim Jong-un’s cyber bullies. And when the hackers issued a terrifying warning to American audiences, telling them to ‘remember September 11, 2001’, Sony simply lost its nerve.
Thus, The Interview has vanished from the schedules, and it seems unlikely it will ever return.
In the meantime, Hollywood figures have been queuing up to denounce Sony’s decision as an awful setback for free speech. ‘Today, the U.S. succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished bedrock principle,’ said the director Judd Apatow.
The actor Rob Lowe went further: If Sony had been in charge of the Allied war effort in World War II, he said, then the Nazis would have won.
In many ways the story could hardly be a better metaphor for American foreign policy in the past few years.
After almost a decade of reckless, ham-fisted over-stretch under George W. Bush — typified by this month’s appalling revelations about the CIA’s torture programme — the U.S. has turned inwards.
Obama’s policy in Syria and Ukraine has been a shambles, his attitude to Russia is dithering and pusillanimous, and he seems entirely bereft of ideas about how to fight back against the jihadists of Islamic State. Read the rest of this entry »
Steps to restore ties with Cuba are certain to meet resistance by some groups, particularly the Cuban community in South Florida that remain staunchly opposed to the communist leadership in Havana
Brian Murphy reports: The United States and Cuba will begin talks to normalize relations, including opening an embassy in Havana and putting to rest one most enduring Cold War standoffs, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The landmark initiatives appeared to be set in motion by a surprise prisoner swap that freed American contractor Alan Gross after five years in custody in Cuba. In exchange, the United States would release three Cubans jailed for espionage, the Associated Press reported.
President Obama was expected to make a statement on Cuba at noon. At the same time, Cuban President Raul Castro was scheduled to address his nation about relations with the United States, Cuban state television reported.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) December 17, 2014
Possible moves to close the rifts would mark a significant moment in Western Hemisphere politics.
The United State has maintain various sanctions against Cuba for more than five decades and enmity between Washington and Havana has played a role in affairs across the world — from snubs against the United States from Cuba’s allies in Latin America to the hero’s welcome given to then-President Fidel Castro during a visit to Tehran in 2001.
“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
– Senator Marco Rubio
At the moment, the United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations, but allow interest sections to handle outreach.
The U.S. official said Gross departed Cuba on a U.S. government plane earlier Wednesday. He was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Gross, 65, was detained in December 2009 while setting up illegal Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Read the rest of this entry »
A rare photo of Vladimir Putin from when he worked as an informant for Starsky and Hutch. pic.twitter.com/yf7UxfBMqf
— Andre Golo (@AndreGoLow) December 9, 2014
This post was endorsed and approved by our non-attorney spokesperson, Vladimir Putin
MOSCOW—James Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.
In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.
“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”
Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Scariest Voice in the World? Russian Sports Fan Lets Loose Animal Roar to Support Her Team, Terrify HumanityPosted: November 25, 2014
On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »