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Reports: Russian Interior Ministry Official Shot Dead

The head of the Russian Interior Ministry‘s construction department has reportedly been shot dead in Moscow.

The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified law-enforcement official as saying that Nikolai Volkov was killed on March 27.

Volkov was the head of the Interior Ministry’s Renovation and Construction Department.

The Interfax report said police believe the motive was robbery, suggesting that the killing was not directly related to Volkov’s job.

Source: rferl.org

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Garry Kasparov: Vladimir Putin Takes a Victory Lap While Barack Obama Helplessly Watches

putin-obama

Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.

Garry Kasparov writes: With the Middle East in chaos and a belligerent Russian regime stoking the turmoil, the dueling speeches at the United Nations on Monday by presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin might have offered new insight. What the world saw instead was entirely predictable.

“The images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself.”

Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must
recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every
51jUYNkqdIL._SL250_listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

[Order Garry Kasparov‘s bookWinter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped” from Amazon.com]

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

obama-frown-white-background

“Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall.”

The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia. His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Mr. Putin’s only remaining gambit is to claim that he is defending Russian greatness while surrounded by enemies (whom that he is an expert at creating). With his offensive in Ukraine sputtering along, new fronts were needed. He has found them in Syria and at the U.N.

putin-buzz

“The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia.”

In this light, the much-hyped private meeting between Messrs. Obama and Putin was the biggest possible prize. The only statement to come out of the meeting was that the U.S. and Russia would consider working together against Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Not that Mr. Putin cares about cooperation, as long as his goal of preserving Bashar Assad’s murderous dictatorship in Syria isn’t interfered with.

“His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.”

Yet the images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself. As soon as the first pictures were taken, the meeting became a great success for Mr. Putin, and another self-inflicted defeat for American foreign policy—and for stability and democracy in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] My Life as a Pro-Putin Propagandist in Russia’s Secret ‘Troll Factory’

Putin_Lyudmila

 writes: When Lyudmila Savchuk heard about the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov earlier this year she was shocked and saddened.

Yet within hours of Mr Nemtsov’s death, Ms Savchuk and her colleagues were going online to pour bile on the former deputy prime minister and claim he was killed by his own friends rather than by government hitmen, as many suspect.

“I was so upset that I almost gave myself away,” she said. “But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.”

The “007” role that Ms Savchuk refers to is her own extroardinary one-woman spying mission, which appears to shed intriguing light on the propaganda machine that props up the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.

Video by Dmitri Beliakov, edited by Juliet Turner

Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of “internet operators” in a secretive “troll factory” called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia’s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin’s hometown.

Ms Savchuk’s job was to spend 12 hours a day praising the Kremlin and lambasting its perceived enemies on social networks, blogs and the comment sections of online media.

The trolls’ task, reminiscent of the black arts of Soviet disinformation, was to attack any opponent of the Russian authorities, be it dissenting politicians, pro-European Ukrainians or even Barack Obama – who was branded a “monkey” because of his black skin.

“We had to say Putin was a fine fellow and a great figure, that Russia’s opponents were bad and Obama was an idiot,” she recalled.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

All along, however, Ms Savchuk was copying documents and making clandestine video footage about the “factory”, gathering evidence in the manner of a Cold War spy. Or, as she prefers to see it, a Victorian sleuth. “I was really inspired by detective novels and Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch,” she told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview last week.

Ms Savchuk says she was sacked in March after leaking her information about Internet Research to a local newspaper. Now she is out in the open and leading a campaign against the firm, which is allegedly run by a Kremlin-connected businessman.

“I want to get it closed down,” she explained. “These people are using propaganda to destroy objectivity and make people doubt the motives of any civil protest. Worst of all, they’re doing it by pretending to be us, the citizens of Russia.

The "Internet Research Co" building in St Petersburg (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

The “Internet Research Co” building in St Petersburg (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

In an attempt to expose the practices of Internet Research, Ms Savchuk is suing the company for breaches of labour law because she never received a contract and was paid in cash.

The story of her time as a troll is a rare and piercing insight into Russia’s attempts to skew the truth and flood the internet with political innuendo.

She worked from January 2 to March 11 at the building of Internet Research at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg, which insiders say is still operating as a “troll factory”.

Working two days-on, two-days off, its army of bloggers – who are thought to number several hundred – spew out thousands of posts a week.

[Read the full text here, at Telegraph]

At her interview, Mrs Savchuk says, she pretended to be “a housewife with no real views” when she was asked if she sympathised with Russia’s opposition. She “cleaned” her pages on Facebook and Vkontakte (a Russian equivalent) in advance – the interviewers asked to see them – and replaced posts about her campaigns as an eco-activist with recipes.

Ms Savchuk talking to The Telegraph (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph)

Ms Savchuk talking to The Telegraph (Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph

“The first thing we would do each day would be to turn on the proxy server to hide our IP addresses,” said Ms Savchuk. Then the operators would start to receive “technical assignments” – written descriptions of themes they should raise in their blogs and comments, with key words to be included.

The bloggers are kept under tight control – their email is subject to checks and their workplace monitored by CCTV. Failure to reach quotas invokes a fine, as does a poorly scripted post. Ms Savchuk said she and others were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Read the rest of this entry »


REPORT: Vladimir Putin ‘Neutralized’ by Stealth Coup; Health Rumors Intensify

Putin-DailyMailUK

For MailOnlineWill Stewart reports: Vladimir Putin is ‘alive’ but ‘neutralised’ as shadowy security chiefs stage a stealthy coup in Moscow, it was claimed last night.

Former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev was behind the plot, claimed chairman of the pro-Kremlin national Islamic Committee, Geydar Dzhemal.

  • Vladimir Putin is supposed to hold public meetings on Monday
  • The Russian leader has not been seen in public for the past nine days
  • Putin reportedly met the head of the Supreme Court on Friday for talks
  • However, the video is now believed to have been taken from file footage

There have been no confirmed sightings of Putin for nine days, while in the febrile atmosphere engulfing Moscow a convoy of large trucks parked outside the Kremlin fueled rumours of a flit by the president.

In fact, the lorries close to St Basil’s Cathedral were more likely connected to a nationalist celebration of the first anniversary of the return of Crimea to Russia – seen by Putin’s supporters as his ultimate masterstroke.

Despite this, bloggers likened it to Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych’s treasure-grab as he fled into exile just over a year ago in Kiev.

“There are allegations that a security official closer to Kadyrov ordered the Nemtsov murder, and that the FSB and Interior Ministry in Moscow have full proof.”

‘I think that Putin is neutralised at the moment, but of course, he is alive,’ said Dzhemal, seen as a Kremlin loyalist.

FLASHBACK: Wax figure of Vladimir Putin Attacked by Topless Feminist

‘He is under the control of the power-wielding agencies, who have, in my opinion, organised a coup d’etat.’

“His slaying has triggered bitter factional infighting in the Kremlin, which includes talk of defence and security service generals seeking to replace Putin.”

Recent pictures of Putin supposedly working during a nine day absence from public sight was ‘playing for time’ by the plotters, he claimed.

fem-putin

MORE: Topless Feminist Stabs Wax Putin in France, Wax Figure in Critical Condition

‘My information is that Patrushev met Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Pyatigorsk on 11 March and tempted him over to his side.’

“I think that Putin is neutralised at the moment, but of course, he is alive. He is under the control of the power-wielding agencies, who have, in my opinion, organised a coup d’etat.”

— Dzhemal, a Kremlin loyalist

He also pointed to a recent visit by Patrushev – head of Putin’s security council – the US.

The visit came despite sanctions barring visits by most senior Russian officials.

‘I think he was offered something there that he failed to reject,’ said Dzhemal on Georgian TV channel Rustavi-2.

trucks-kremlin

Several large trucks were parked near Kremlin Square fueling rumours connected with Putin’s absence

flowers-kremlin-Putin

Putin has not been seen in public for nine days which has caused certain consternation in Russia

Putin failed to reappear again on Saturday – the ninth day without a confirmed sighting – as his Chechen enforcer suggested the Russian strongman is in danger of being overthrown.

“With feverish speculation in Moscow over Putin’s health and whereabouts, and claims of a bitter power struggle in his entourage which could even trigger an attempted coup, the head of Chechnya spoke emotionally of people ‘trying to harm the president of Russia – and Russia itself’.”

Ramzan Kadyrov – a devout Muslim whose security apparatchiks are seen as being behind the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov – said he would remain devoted to the Kremlin leader ‘whether he is in his position or not’.

This came amid a claim that pictures issued by the Kremlin on Friday of Putin meeting Supreme Court head Vyachevslav Lebedev may date from 2011. Read the rest of this entry »


Did Vladimir Putin Pull a Don Draper?

putin-don-draper-shrug

Despite Peskov’s best efforts, the theories about what could be behind Putin’s mysterious absence have continued to swirl

Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t been seen in public since March 5, and depending on whom you ask, he’s either dead, has had a stroke, has cancer, is being overthrown in a palace coup, or, contrary to his spokesperson’s denials Friday, has been out of the public eye because he has fathered a lovechild.

“Information that a child has been born to Vladimir Putin is not true,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Forbes Russia. “I am planning to appeal to people who have money to organize a competition for the best journalistic hoax,” he added.

MadMenOcean2

Speculation on Putin’s whereabouts began when he canceled a high-level trip to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and then several other meetings this week, including the signing of a treaty with South Ossetia and an appearance at a meeting of top brass at the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence service. Putin’s absence has sent the Russian Twitterverse and media into overdrive, sparking the trending hashtag  #ПутинУмер (Putin Died), as well as a cottage industry of theories — some absurd and others more believable believable — to explain what is keeping the usually omnipresent Russian president from the public eye.

Peskov, meanwhile, has been on the offensive, steadfastly denying the Russian rumormill — often with colorful details. After shooting down rumors about Putin’s ill-health earlier this week on the radio station Ekho Moskvy, Peskov added that “his handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it.”

draper-underwater

Yet despite Peskov’s best efforts, the theories about what could be behind Putin’s mysterious absence have continued to swirl. The Kremlin’s website has been posting photos of the Russian president attending meetings during his physical absence, but the Russian news outlet RBC investigated Putin’s schedule and found discrepancies. According to RBC, the meeting with the governor of the northwestern region of Karelia, reported on the official site as having taken place on March 11, had actually occurred a week earlier, and a Karelian website had actually already written about it on March 4. On Thursday, the Kremlin claimed that Putin spoke on the phone with  Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. Sargsyan’s website issued the call with an identical transcript.

On Friday, the Kremlin issued three images showing Putin in a meeting with the head of the Supreme Court in Moscow on Friday. The state television channel, Rossiya 24, also aired video footage of the meeting. However, the dates of those photos have not been confirmed, and the footage have not been authenticated. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Where is Putin?’ Rumors and Questions as Russian Leader Drops Off Radar

Russia-Putin

Whispers in Moscow about a leader’s health are nothing new

Moscow (AFP) – Where is President Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin was forced Thursday to insist the Russian leader was in good health as rumours swirled online over his week-long absence from the public eye.

“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy.”

— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Putin was last seen in public on March 5 when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, ever since he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan this week, Russians have grown increasingly curious about what their usually omnipresent leader is up to.

The 62-year-old nurtures a fit, tough-guy image and rarely takes time off.

Grand_Kremlin_Palace,_Moscow

“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.

“As soon as the sun comes out… and it starts smelling of spring, people start getting delusions.”

— Dmitry Peskov, to Echo of Moscow radio station

Putin also postponed a meeting to sign an alliance agreement with the leader of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, and did not show up at a meeting of the FSB security agency.

Peskov said the agreement with the rebel region may be signed next week and that Putin’s attendance at the FSB meeting was not planned.

He said Putin was busy with Russia’s economic crisis and has “meetings constantly, but not all meetings are public.”

Asked if Putin’s handshake remains firm, Peskov laughed and said: “It breaks your hand.” However he evaded a question on when Putin would next be seen on television. Read the rest of this entry »


Foreign Policy: Nine Former Gitmo Detainees Return to Battle in Last Six Months

Gitmo-Getty

The nine individuals who most recently returned to the battlefield were all released during the George W. Bush administration. During the Bush administration, Guantánamo had a recidivism rate of 20.7 percent, with 110 of 532 individuals released returning to battle

Elias Groll Between July and January, nine former inmates of the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, returned to the battlefield to carry out terror attacks or join insurgencies around the world, according to a new report by the U.S. intelligence community.

“The new study was compiled by the Director of National Intelligence, in collaboration with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency…”

The report, an assessment of recidivism rates at the prison that was first reported by Vice, presents a macro view of the rate at which detainees at the controversial detention facility  have returned to battle after their release. In total, 100 of the 603 individuals released from Guantánamo are confirmed to have once more picked up arms to engage in either insurgent or terrorist activity, amounting to a recidivism rate of 17.9 percent. Of those 100, 17 are dead, 27 are in custody, and 56 remain free. Another 74 individuals are suspected but not confirmed to have returned to the fight.

Image: U.S Continues To Hold Detainees At Guantanamo

“…Its release comes amid a continuing debate about whether to close the prison. Large segments of the American population oppose doing so, even though it’s continued operation has been used as a recruitment tool by terrorist organizations and widely condemned by U.S. allies and human rights group alike.”

The new study was compiled by the Director of National Intelligence, in collaboration with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. It defines “terrorist” or “insurgent” activity as “planning terrorist operations, conducting a terrorist or insurgent attack against coalition or host-nation forces or civilians, conducting a suicide bombing, financing terrorist operations, recruiting others for terrorist operations, arranging for movement of individuals involved in terrorist operations, etc.”

Mullah Abdul Rauf

“Last month, U.S. forces in Afghanistan killed a former Guantánamo detainee and former Taliban commander who had been operating as a war lord in southern Afghanistan and had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The militant, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was released from Guantánamo in 2007.”

Its release comes amid a continuing debate about whether to close the prison. Large segments of the American population oppose doing so, even though it’s continued operation has been used as a recruitment tool by terrorist organizations and widely condemned by U.S. allies and human rights group alike. The prospect that a released prisoner might once more pick up arms against the United States now hangs over the effort to shut the facility. Read the rest of this entry »