Category Archives: Eastern Europe Awakening

Transnistria Explained from the Russian Side

By Evgeny Norin, a Russian historian focused on Russia’s wars and international politics

The uprising in Transdniester was a monument to human stupidity and idealism

The current crisis in Ukraine, in which Russia has recognized the rebel republics in the Donbass, looks unusual, but this is not a new story for the post-Soviet space. Something similar to the events happening in the Donbass today took place in 1992, and the enclave that then arose still exists.

The unrecognized territory, formally part of Moldova, was formed as a result of a short war, which was simultaneously absurd and cruel. That war contains many parallels with the current conflict – including even the personal stories of many of its participants.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was accompanied by a series of armed conflicts. Some have gone down in history as examples of insane, unbridled violence, comparable only to conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. However, a strange little war in the Transdniester region stands out among them.

This is a barely discernible area on the map, stretching north to south along the Dniester River on the border of Ukraine and Moldova, about 200 kilometers long and only about 20 across. At the end of the Soviet era, it had a population of about 680,000. Before the collapse of the USSR, Transdniester had been a sleepy land where almost nothing happened for many decades.

In 1992, a conflict raged there for several months, when rebels made up of Russians and Ukrainians took up arms against the government of the newly independent Moldova. Despite its very small scale, this war became a kind of prologue for the entire bloody history of post-Soviet armed conflicts.

Transdniester became part of Russia during the imperial era of the Romanov dynasty. The wars between Saint Petersburg and the Ottoman Empire brought the Russian Empire vast expanses of land north of the Black Sea. Under Catherine II, the border passed just along the banks of the Dniester River, and it was then that the future capital of Transdniester, the town of Tiraspol, was built. A decade and a half later, Russia recaptured Bessarabia from the Turks – the eastern part of the ancient Moldavian principality, whose territory formed the basis of present-day Moldova.

These lands lived more or less peacefully as part of the Russian Empire. The roots of the current problem stretch back to the events of 1917. As a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, Moldova became part of Romania, but Transdniester remained with the Soviet Union. The USSR assumed the implicit role of collector of Russian imperial lands, and Transdniester was singled out as a Moldovan autonomous region for political purposes. Following the events of World War II, Moldova was annexed by the USSR, and Transdniester was included in its composition.

The problem was that Transdniester was a very specific region for Moldova. Its economic structure was very different from the rest of the republic. Unlike agrarian Moldova, Transdniester was primarily an industrial area. Despite it accounting for just 17 percent of Moldova’s population and very small portion of its territory, by the late Soviet period, its industry provided 40 percent of the republic’s GDP and up to 90 percent of its electricity.

Another major difference was in the region’s ethnic composition. The majority of the Moldovan population were Romanian-speaking Moldovans, related to the their neighbours in Bucharest. However, in Transdniester, the majority of the population was made up of Slavs – Russians and Ukrainians. For obvious reasons, Moldovan nationalism, which came with a revival of ties with Romania, did not find any support in Transdniester at all. In the industrial Russian-speaking and Slavic region, pro-Soviet views remained popular even during the crisis that led to the collapse of the USSR itself.

As long as the Soviet Union remained strong, none of this was a problem. For the USSR, ethnic nationalism was unacceptable. The peoples were fused together by ideology – at least officially. However, by the end of the 80’s, the USSR was torn apart by a variety of difficulties. In particular, the national issue had reemerged with a vengeance. During a time when the USSR was experiencing an array of internal problems, the popularity of Soviet ideas was rapidly losing popularity, while nationalist populism was gaining strong momentum among the peoples living on the outskirts of the USSR.

RT
Armed conflict between Moldova and the unrecognized Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (March 2 – August 1, 1992). © Sputnik / A. Shadrin

The Soviet project had encouraged the creation of a stratum of intellectuals and managerial personnel in national republics, as it was part of socialist ideology, with its internationalist ideas. However, this now made it possible to create turnkey states: under Soviet rule, the USSR’s ethnic republics had managed to rebuild industry and create more or less functioning national bureaucracies. Meanwhile, the national intelligentsia educated by the USSR could adapt its ideology to support the idea of seceding from the Soviet Union.

Finally, another important detail: the Soviet 14th Army was based in Transdniester. Though its complex of military facilities were more akin to giant arsenals than a full-fledged combat-ready contingent, there were enough weapons to arm one. Furthermore, there were many retired officers living in Transdniester who kept in touch with each other and formed a fairly influential ‘corporation’ in the region.

Transdniester ceased to be a quiet picturesque corner of the USSR by about 1989, when Moldova was experiencing a surge of nationalism and ethnic romanticism. The leaders of the emerging state dismissed its Soviet past, on the one hand, but, on the other, were actually part and parcel of the Soviet intelligentsia, with its vague ideas about how states function in the West. Naturally, this also affected their views on how a nation that has just achieved statehood should build relations with its citizens.

The beliefs of these people ranged from sincere fanaticism to a desire to play the national card to score political points. They included, for example, Mircea Druk – who expressed nationalist convictions back in the heyday of the Soviet Union but was, in fact, a typical representative of the Soviet nomenklatura who revelled in the role of a privileged official. Another leader of the Moldovan independence movement, Mircea Snegur, was also originally a party careerist, but the collapse of the USSR opened the way for him to transform himself from an ordinary regional official into the leader of a small and poor, but separate state.

A separate problem was presented by the idea of reunifying with Romania, to which the Moldovans are close in blood and language. Though these views might have been popular in ‘native’ Moldovan society at that time, such a future was categorically unacceptable for Transdniestrians.

It was the extreme radicalism and extreme naivety of the event’s participants, along with an unwillingness to compromise, that led the issue to escalate into civil confrontation, and eventually war.

It all started in 1989, when a draft law was introduced in Moldova on the adoption of the Moldovan language as the only state language, and its transition to the Latin alphabet. This decision was made based solely on the nationalistic feelings of Moldovan ultra-patriots, without any attempts to sound out the public on the issue.

In Transdniester, the situation was particularly difficult. On the one hand, people were frightened by the increasingly harsh nationalist rhetoric, and, on the other, far from everyone in the region spoke Moldovan. A strong sense of solidarity had already developed among Transdniester’s population, and workers from large industrial enterprises and retired military personnel were well united. In the same year, they formed the United Council of Labor Collectives (UCLC), which represented the interests of Transdniester as a whole.

In the summer of 1990, Moldova (now the Republic of Moldova) declared independence. And on September 2, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic was already proclaimed at the Congress of deputies of Transdniester. It was headed by an ethnic Russian named Igor Smirnov – the son of a school principal and a journalist, who had worked in industry all his life. Though he had lived in Transdniester only since the 80’s, Smirnov was the director of an electrical plant in Tiraspol and was already well-known in the region.

Transdniestrians were motivated by several considerations. On the one hand, given the newly proclaimed Moldovan government’s clumsy actions and its rhetoric, in particular, people were afraid of discrimination by nationalists. On the other, many people wanted either to preserve the Soviet way and order of life, or vice versa, wanted financial concessions for Moldova’s most economically important region.

RT
A soldier of the Transnistrian Army marches with a Kalashnikov and a Soviet Union’s belt during the 10th Transnistrian independence ceremony in the non-recognized Republic of Transnistria September 2, 2001 in Tiraspol, Moldova. © Yoray Liberman / Getty Images

However, in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, they had already taken the bit: the romantics there considered all autonomy projects nothing more than an insurrection staged by mutineers. So, the confrontation took shape.

On one side of the barricade were the Transdniestrians – ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who held pro-Russian or even Soviet beliefs. On the other remained the bulk of Moldovans, who embraced nationalist ideas.

In reality, the situation was much more complicated. Among the Transdniestrians, there were many Moldovans with socialist views, or who simply joined the militia for friends and neighbors. And among the Moldovan security forces, there were many Russians who remained due to career prospects or out of loyalty to the new state.

The Soviet 14th Army, which was headquartered in an ancient 16th-century fortress in the city of Bender, was an important ally of Transdniester from the very beginning. In the chaos that accompanied the collapse of the USSR, it essentially stopped taking orders from Moscow. Though some of the officers hesitated, many actually sympathized with the Transdniestrians, especially those whose families lived in Moldova.

The real war was hampered by a lack of weapons, but there was a huge quantity left over in the country’s warehouses. Consequently, both of the forming sides pillaged the Soviet warehouses. Moldova created its own armed forces, initially on the basis of volunteer detachments and police. In Transdniester, they formed their own militia and Republican Guard.

At first, the Moldovans tried to solve the problem simply. Smirnov was abducted while in Ukraine, probably with the knowledge of local special services. However, the confrontation had not yet reached the level of a real war at that time, and the rebel leader was released after he threatened to turn off the lights in Moldova, since its electricity came from Transdniester.

However, it was clear that real battles could be looming on the horizon. Volunteers from Russia and Ukraine came to Transdniester, often with opposite political beliefs – from communists to monarchists. The Russian Cossacks, revitalized amidst the Soviet collapse, also sent an unusually large number of volunteers who stood out with their archaic uniforms and violent temperament.

The local militia also included many of the kinds of characters who come to the fore precisely in an era of anarchy. The most striking of these was Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Kostenko, a Soviet army officer and Afghan war veteran. He had retired from the army because of his difficult temper to become one of the first private entrepreneurs in the city of Bender by the early 90’s. Amidst the escalating conflict, Kostenko formed his own Republican Guard battalion and became famous as an insanely brave and, at the same time, very cruel man, who paid no heed to his superiors. Opinions about him varied. In Bender, he was seen by some as the city’s main crime fighter and, by others, as its main crime boss. In any case, even his enemies noted his bravery, and even his friends reproached him for his ferocity. He quickly established contacts with former colleagues who helped his squad get hold of weapons. Many detachments were created in a similar way, with officers in the Soviet 14th Army actively participating in the formation of the militia with tacit permission of the army’s commander, Gennady Yakovlev.

In 1990, the USSR was already in its death throes, and war was breaking out in Transdniester. The first blood was shed in the town of Dubossary, which is located in the geographical center of the republic. On November 2, 1990, Moldovan police tried to enter the town and met a hostile though unarmed crowd. One of the policemen lost his nerve and opened fire, and three people died. The police themselves did not expect this course of events, but the killings provoked horror and outrage. The war began to take on a life of its own. Up to that time, recruits had been entering the militia in neither a torrent nor a trickle, but now people in the city went en masse to enlist in detachments.

The Moldovans’ plans were simple and quite logical – to force their way across the Dniester River via bridges and cut Transdniester in two.

Not far from Dubossary, there was a small sculpture on a hill depicting a pioneer playing a bugle. Trenches were dug under this trumpeter, and it was used as an orientation point when shooting. By the end of the fighting, the plaster boy, whipped by shrapnel and bullets, looked like a real symbol of the turning point between epochs.

However, neither side had a regular army, and, instead of a blitzkrieg, both Moldovans and Transdniestrians fought in the trenches for months. This war differed from the trenches of the First World War, however, in that both sides were poorly prepared and lacked heavy weapons, which prevented effective combat. Another notable difference was that it took place amidst beautiful southern surroundings.

In general, many fighters perceived the coming war as a paramilitary picnic. Soldiers and militiamen often came to the front with canisters of wine, sometimes with girlfriends, and enthusiastically photographed themselves in uniform with their weapons. One fighter recalled that huge cherry trees grew in the neutral zone, which the enemies often climbed to pick while exposing themselves to the line of fire. But then they enjoyed the harvest for which they had risked their lives.

Sometimes these picnics were interrupted by truly fierce battles, however. The Moldovans tried to break through the front, while the militia constantly raided the warehouses of the 14th army, taking away weapons and ammunition. Sometimes, the attendants even asked the raiders to tie them up or beat them a little so that they could honestly say the equipment had been stolen from them.

RT
State flags of Russia and Transnistria fly in the wind on the eastern border with Ukraine, on September 12, 2021. © Sergei GAPON / AFP

During the time that these bloody picnics lasted, the USSR collapsed, but that changed little for the combatants. The Moldovan side failed to break through the front around Dubossary. One huge factor was that few people in Transdniester or Moldova really wanted to fight. And while the militias were defending their own homes, the Moldovans lacked such motivation. There was no serious reason for this war, and few people wanted to die in it. As a result, the fighting was sluggish.

By the summer of 1992, the Moldovans decided to change the direction of the offensive. This time the target was the city of Bender. Unlike nearly all of the rest of Transdniester, this city is situated on the west bank of the Dniester, so the river did not need to be crossed. On the contrary, the bridge across the Dniester was behind the city’s defenders. In addition, it is a large city by local standards, with more than 140,000 inhabitants, and the key base of the 14th army was located there, which meant it had both an arsenal and a strong contingent of Transdniestrian supporters.

All of these reasonable considerations pushed the Moldovan military to a general battle. However, everything did not go according to plan, and the ministers and generals subsequently placed responsibility onto each other. In the end, many tried to pin the blame on President Mircea Snegur, who, in turn, claimed he knew nothing about the fighting.

Oddly enough, the Moldovan police department continued to work in Bender, mostly defending themselves. However, on June 19, they arrested a major of the Transdniestrian Guard, who was carelessly moving around the city accompanied by only a driver. A spontaneous battle broke out in the city and the police station was surrounded. At that moment, a group of Moldovan troops was approaching Bender, while graduation parties were just taking place in city schools. Later, Moldovans were reminded of the extremely inopportune timing of the attack.

The assault on Bender immediately turned into an incredibly chaotic fight on the streets. The Moldovans managed to break through to the bridge over the Dniester, while Transdniestrian militias tried to force their way into the city from the eastern shore. The Moldovans deployed field guns and began shooting at vehicles trying to get onto the bridge. It all looked like a battle from the Napoleonic era, with cannons firing directly at vehicles and tanks trying to drive into Bender.

Interestingly, this battery was commanded by an ethnic Russian colonel named Leonid Karasev, who lived in Moldova and had been imbued with the ideas of local patriotism. He personally fired a cannon when the young recruits got scared. Meanwhile, on the eastern shore, the Cossacks, having drunk a lot, jumped into cars and literally leaped over the bridge under fire, capturing the battery in hand-to-hand combat. Karasev survived, but the guns were lost. Later, they were driven around Bender covered with graffiti reading something in the spirit of ‘I won’t shoot anymore.’ Reinforcements eventually began to stream into Bender from the eastern bank, while soldiers and officers supporting the Transdniestrians, many of whom had families in the city, began to ‘desert to war’ from Bender’s fortress. In order to join the battle, it was enough to walk out of the gate.

RT
Transnistrian cadets of the Suvorov military school visit an Orthodox church during the Alexander Nevsky Memorial Day in the town of Bender on September 12, 2021. © Sergei GAPON / AFP

The battle for Bender could have been much more destructive than it turned out to be in reality, as a significant part of the town is occupied by industrial facilities, and it was hot and dry outside. Trains hauling fuel were stuck at the station, and the city’s grain elevator was stuffed with dried sunflower seeds. Fires broke out immediately and threatened to completely destroy the city.

Bender was saved thanks to the incredible efforts of its fire service. Fire brigades arrived even from Chisinau, from the opposite side of the front. Firefighter Vyacheslav Chechelnitsky recalled that he had to go out on about a dozen calls every day. Formally, the combatants were ready to let the firefighters do their work, but in practice, both sides consisted of paramilitary militia detachments, volunteers and, at best, police, whose nerves quickly gave way.

In addition, the artillery hitting the city often missed their targets or simply fired at squares. Therefore, many fire vehicles returned from calls literally riddled with damage, and firefighters often crawled to the fires with their hoses. However, by the end of the fighting, the firefighters could be proud of themselves: Bender was saved from the fire. Vyacheslav Chechelnitsky paid a terrible price for this triumph, as his brother Igor, also a firefighter, was killed by mortar fire while extinguishing a burning dormitory.

There were chaotic street battles in the city for several more days. Meanwhile, serious changes were made to Russia’s policy. The 14th Army, once Soviet, was formally transferred to the Russian armed forces, and now the war in Transdniester became Moscow’s problem.

Subsequently, General Alexander Lebed, who was in good standing in the Russian army at the time, arrived in the republic incognito to find out what is happening in Transdniester. He came to an obvious conclusion: there was bloody chaos in the city, and the 14th army was actually out of control, fighting independently and spontaneously.

Lebed began by restoring order in the rear and arresting the looters and bandits who were coming out of the woodwork. Then, on the night of July 2, he organized a short, but very intense artillery bombardment of the advancing Moldovan troops. With his experience as a Soviet general, Lebed despised the Transdniestrian rebels, who he saw as anarchists, while he considered the Moldovan military with their nationalist government fascists and promised to “find them a place on the whipping post.” However, the actual object of both his threats and attacks turned out to be the Moldovan army, as it was the more active party.

The war ended very abruptly. In fact, Lebed used the 14th army as a sledgehammer to beat anyone who did not want to stop the fighting. Among those who were not happy about the cessation of hostilities was the charismatic rebel chieftain Lieutenant Colonel Kostenko. Kostenko had managed to acquire a lot of enemies during the war, including his own superiors, to whom he did not obey in principle. The rebel leader was intercepted on a highway at night and killed. Subsequently, he turned into a kind of ‘king under the mountain’, a local legend, who apparently sometimes goes to his own grave. However, if we exclude the legends, then we still have to admit that this 20th century Robin Hood is dead.

The conflict in Transdniester had reached complete deadlock. Although it turned out to be bloody, with a total of up to a thousand people dead, including about 400 civilians, it was clearly a ‘war without a cause’, and the parties were able to listen to reason. To this day, Transdniester has not completely severed ties with Moldova. Though the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic has never been officially recognized, its economy and social infrastructure are functioning. Rebel leader Igor Smirnov became president, and remained so until 2011, when he lost an election. Though he was often accused of corruption, it is worth noting that he calmly handed over his powers when he could not win the vote.

Veterans of Transdniester traveled to other wars in the former USSR. One of the most extraordinary of these was Igor Girkin, later known under the pseudonym ‘Strelkov’. He came to Transdniester as an ordinary rebel armed with his own manual loading World War II rifle, having just graduated from the Historical and Archival Institute in Moscow. This restless man fought in Bosnia on the side of the Serbs, then in Chechnya on the side of the Russian army, and, in 2014, he led the rebels in eastern Ukraine for several months in a war that has much in common with Transdniester’s. Ironically, there, he had to face Ukrainian nationalists in battle who, like himself, had fought in Transdniester on the side of the rebels. The biographies of many of the war’s participants are similar. Some fought for idealistic reasons, others out of pure love of adventure, participating in battles in the Balkans, Abkhazia, Ossetia, and Chechnya – in short, all the wars and conflicts resulting from the collapse of the USSR.

After the war, the status of Transdniester itself turned out to be ambiguous. A small Russian peacekeeping contingent remains in the republic to this day, providing work for many of its residents. But the republic has gained no international recognition.

However, it is striking that, compared to other hot spots, the hostilities between the parties in Moldova have been kept to a minimum. Nowadays, Transdniestrians and Moldovans often successfully maintain personal ties and economic contact. Although Transdniester very strictly defends its autonomy, it has managed to refrain from destroying ties with the state from which it separated. Fortunately, nationalist ideas began to rapidly lose popularity in Moldova after the war.

The problems of Transdniester and Moldova today are similar – they are poor provincial republics. However, if we talk specifically about the armed conflict, this war turned out to be one of the most deeply frozen in post-Soviet space.

The war in Transdniester is a real monument to both human stupidity and idealism. War is a human tragedy, but many of its participants remember Transdniester as the most romantic of their wars. This Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic has preserved itself, and although its socialist orientation has changed to a Russian one, or even a kind of fusion of Russian irredentism and Soviet nostalgia, it continues to exist, and the Moldovan side is not disposed to solve the conflict by force.

The Great Russian Restoration: The Military Establishment Factor

by Rolo Slavski via The Occidental Observer

I have resisted the urge to write much about the actual war in Ukraine up to this point for several reasons.

First, I am not a military expert, although I have spoken to several retired military men to get their take on the situation since the start of the conflict. This is made easier by the fact that I come from a military family.

Secondly, I saw Russian military dominance and victory a foregone conclusion and still do. This was always a war for the Russian politicians to lose, not for the Ukrainian military to win.

Thirdly, I do not believe that anyone has any real inside information on Russian troop movements and strategic goals. The Ministry of Defense has kept a very tight lid on that sort of thing. Therefore, all we really have to work with is speculation based on Telegram and Twitter videos and reports from embedded journalists. Or, we rely on the reports of Western intelligence agencies, which do not have a good track record.

We should instead consider Putin’s goals going into this war. The most obvious factor to consider is the fact that Putin has no political future should he fail to achieve his objectives in Ukraine. One way or the other, he needs a victory of some sort or another to hang his hat on. This is perhaps the best metric that we have for figuring out what Putin’s intentions are in Ukraine and since this series of essays is focused on internal changes occurring in Russia as a result of the showdown with the West, we should consider what exactly Russian civil society is demanding from Putin.

First and foremost, the so-called “Atlanticist” faction, which seems to a euphemism for Jews and their puppets as far as I can tell, did NOT want Putin to intervene in Ukraine. He did so anyway. And he did the same in Crimea, Syria and Georgia. Now, many of the most prominent Atlanticists have fled the country. In other words, there is no proof whatsoever that Putin is willing to bend to their demands when it comes to Russia’s security and so, we can safely disregard the opinions and demands of these people and their supporters in Moscow and St. Petersburg because it is quite clear that Putin has already done so.

The largest block in society is what we can broadly call the “Patriots.” They come in all ideological shades and stripes — some are red flag-waving Communist nostalgists, others prefer the black, yellow and white aesthetics of the Russian Empire. Most simply fly the red, white and blue of Russia and have no ideology to speak of other than what we can understand as generic patriotism. They all support the military operation in Ukraine, but they have various goals that they want the intervention to achieve. These people make up 80+% of Russian society and we know this because Putin’s approval rating has soared into the 80s because of the military intervention. The hardliners want an incorporation of the entire territory of Ukraine into the Russian Federation, but are willing to settle for everything east of the Dniepr. The majority of patriotic Russians just want a victory in Ukraine, and have no idea of what exactly that will entail. Liberating the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and reincorporating them into Russia while giving the Ukrainian army, the “Nats-bats” (mercenary “nationalist” militias), and Zelensky a good thrashing is good enough for them. Russia’s official stated goals in this conflict are just that, simply phrased another way: the “de-nazification” and “de-militarization” of Ukraine and the liberation of Donetsk and Lugansk. To achieve this limited victory, all Putin has left to do is to dislodge the Ukrainian army in the East, where they were massing up to attack the DNR and where they are hunkered down in their fortified positions now.

But let’s examine the military operation in greater detail for a moment. If we’re going to speculate on Russia’s military plans and objectives, we have to focus on the facts and not on the narratives that we can spin based off these facts. For example, we know for a fact that the Russian army reached Kiev within the first three days of the conflict. Now, was this a feint or part of a psychological operation to get Kiev to surrender, or an attempt to prevent a planned Ukrainian offensive on Donbass by splitting the Ukrainian army or the first stage in a preparation to storm the capital and cut the head off the snake? Here, we can only speculate.

We can also add to our speculations that there may have been an attempt to activate Russian assets within the city and take it from within. Russian bloggers are speculating that this was the Russian plan for Kharkiv, which failed to materialize for one reason or another. In fact, there are rumors that Kharkiv’s officials feigned surrender only to lure Russian troops in and then open fire on them, leading to a similar repeat of the Grozny ambush during the Chechen wars. I hesitate to hang my hat on this claim, but it strikes me as having a ring of truth to it. After all, what was the Russian plan for taking the cities if they refuse to bomb and then storm them into submission? Clearly, negotiating with the officials and activating sleeper agents within the cities would be a far more cost-effective method of taking these cities. If that is the case, Russian spooks and diplomats failed spectacularly in Kharkiv, Kiev, and Mariuple.

More facts: the Russian military plowed through the Ukrainian in-field defenses and parked themselves outside these cities or simply went around them. No immediate storming occurred. While they surrounded these cities and continued their targeted destruction of the Ukrainian military, a bloodbath began in these cities targeted at Russia-sympathizers and officials who spoke up about entering negotiations or surrendering ending up being assassinated by the SBU and the “Nats-bats.”

So: were the Russians planning on taking all of these cities but failed because their sleeper cells were poorly prepared/neutralized? Or was the Ministry of Defense and Putin telling the truth when they said that they weren’t interested in taking territory or these cities but simply in knocking out Ukraine’s military potential and liberating the DNR and LNR?

Choose your own narrative as you see fit or wait until the dust settles. Either way, we simply don’t know the answer yet.

Back on the home front, Putin hasn’t even called up Russia’s reserves. Young men are NOT being drafted to go fight in the Ukraine. Again, this is another fact. What does it tell us? That the war is not popular? Hardly. Not only do we have the polls to prove that the war is, in fact, popular, but we have Western media lamenting the fact that this is the case. Why then not call up the reserves? Perhaps because they were deemed unnecessary for the goals of the operation. This indicates that the goals of the operation were limited, does it not?

And now a few words on the Russian Ministry of Defense.

We can start with Anatoly Serdukov, the former minister of defense. Serdukov was one probably one of the least qualified ministers of defense in Russian history. He was widely reviled and hated by the officer corps in the military and his replacement with Sergei Shoigu was seen as a much-awaited step in the right direction. In the 90s, Serdukov was a furniture salesmen (fine, a general director) in St. Petersburg and it was widely believed in military circles that he was as corrupt as they came. For example, his significant other got caught with millions of dollars in her bank account. There was also regular run-of-the-mill corruption associated with his five-year reign which ended in 2012, such as the use of military resources to build roads to oligarchs’ villas and the like. I suppose one could make the argument that there was no proof of direct embezzlement, but he ended up getting sacked for involvement in corruption all the same. The silver lining was that no one in the West could take Russia seriously with him at the helm, and so NATO relaxed. It was around this time that President Obama declared Russia a regional power and declared that a pivot to China was the path forward for ensuring US hegemony in the world. Russian patriots believe that Serdukov was partially to blame for this insulting demotion from superpower status. Most notably, the army during this period was drastically cut as part of a money-saving campaign that was branded as an anti-corruption effort.

With Sergei Shoigu taking over in 2012, Russia slowly began reinvesting in the military. Shoigu, like many other Russian public figures, was considered a legacy of the Yeltsin kakistocracy that once ruled the country. That being said, he demonstrated actual competence during his time in political office and his time at the Ministry of Emergencies — a rare trait in the Russian government over the last 30 years, to be sure. All that being said, he is not, strictly speaking what the military circles would consider to be a true-blue military man. There are rumors circulating now that he is about to be sacked, which are largely the result of him having dropped out of the public eye since March 11 of this year. Shoigu is widely known as a media enthusiast who enjoys putting himself in front of the cameras, which also lends credence to the rumors. I was hesitant to bring them up or give them any credence, but these rumors aren’t being promoted solely by the Ukrainians and Russian Liberals, but by Russian military men, who would like to see him replaced with one of their people, and ideally, a man with actual combat experience from either the Afghanistan or Chechen campaigns.

Firing Shoigu would be bad PR for the Kremlin now, but in terms of improving Russia’s military capabilities and continuing Russia’s move away from the legacy of the 90s, it’s really not the worst thing that could happen — in fact, military circles would rejoice at the news. This is also partially why the military experts and veteran officers have been so critical of the war effort so far. Russian military people believe that this war is being fought with political considerations in mind, and not as a strict military operation. Clausewitz once famously said that war is a continuation of politics by other means and that has certainly been the Kremlin’s approach to this operation. But now, having exhausted the possibility of taking Ukraine without any major bloodshed through other, more political methods involving diplomacy or subterfuge, the only way forward is to fall back on old-fashioned military force. The Russian army has abandoned Kiev and several other cities and is concentrating in Donbass to surround and destroy the hunkered down Ukrainian army. This is not exactly good news for Russia’s foreign policy and her political ambitions. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are going to die now. Civilians will die as well. Relations with Ukraine will never be the same.

But, internally, this is not the worst possible outcome by any means because what the politicians bungled, the military men are being called in to fix now. This will translate into an increased share of power and prestige for the Russian military establishment within the country. A deeply conservative, militaristic and “old-school” faction is about to start flexing its muscles in Russian society now. This is not too dissimilar to the situation that existed in Tsarist Russia and the USSR, where the military was very much involved in politics and formed a hardcore conservative bulwark in society. This is simply a part of Russia’s pre-Yeltsin political tradition. In contrast, in much of the West, the military simply doesn’t have much to do with internal politics as an institution. But, in many other nations in the world, the military either significantly influences politics or simply runs the country outright. Remember: Post-Soviet Russia was run by a coalition of the office of the Presidency, the Federal Security Service, and the Oligarchs. If all goes well, the power vacuum caused by the shutdown of many oligarchs in recent months will be filled by the military.

Any genuine Russian restoration will have to involve the restoration of the prestige of the military — its reintegration into political life and it’s re-elevation within civil society. Much depends on the success of the Russian offensive in the Donbass.

Russia Is Regaining Its Sovereignty Thanks to the Sanctions Imposed by the West

by Rolo Slavski via The Occidental Observer

Below I present the abridged version of an interview that I conducted with Andrei Tsiganov in St. Petersburg on March 30th.

Mr. Tsiganov is a political activist in Russia. You may not have heard of him personally, but it far more likely that you have heard of some of the activity that he and his organization have been engaged in. In his own words, Mr. Tsiganov is engaged in a lawfare campaign against Liberal forces in Russia and while there are other conservatives operating in Russia, his organization appears to be the largest and most effective, with some actual victories to their name. The much-derided (in the West) anti-LGBT propaganda law passed in Russia was largely the work of him and his organization and the work of Duma Deputy Vitaly Milonov, who became the face of the law.

Recently, Tsiganov was active in the fight against the COVID clampdown in Russia, filing lawsuits and providing an alternative perspective to the WEF with the help of his media resource “Katyusha”, which is quite popular in Russia. As an aside, the Covid hysteria has largely been dropped in Russia as a result of the military operation in Ukraine and Mr. Tsiganov has much to say on this topic, so I hope that we can revisit it with him in depth in the future. This time though, we spoke mostly about the state of the Russian government and the media situation in Russia and the sweeping changes that are occurring in civil society. Tsiganov and his people are a fairly good representative of the views and positions of the large patriotic bloc in Russia, which generally wants the government to adopt a more conservative, sovereign position in its national policies, foreign policy and cultural program.

I hope you enjoy it.

Me: Mr. Tsiganov, what is happening within Russia? The shakeups that we have seen in the last weeks are historic, no? Is Russia finally fed up with Liberalism?

Tsiganov: First and foremost, it is important to understand that there is a stark difference between the “deep nation” and the traitor class — the usurpers of Russia’s financial system, its media, and its culture-creators. Many of these traitors have left the country in recent weeks. True patriots don’t abandon their country. We can also refer to these people as “foam” — the foam on the top of the water. In other words, the foam is leaving the country. Alternatively, these people can be thought of as the sores on the Russian body. Many of them are non-Russians, but all of them are people who do not identify with Russia at all. They just used Russia to earn some money, temporarily. This is a positive cleansing process that is occurring now. We should be very thankful for it. Things would have been better had the West imposed sanctions on Russia earlier.

Take Anatoly Chubais as an example. He was one of the most prominent Liberal western agents. It’s a very good sign that he left. He was part of the pro-Western cultural elite in Russia. However, I hesitate to even use such words to describe him because neither he nor the people like him can be considered “elite” or particularly cultured for that matter. Unfortunately, we have to consider the possibility that some of them have may come back. For example, Vladimir Pozner [Channel 1 TV presenter] returned and thinks that he will be able to adjust to the new reality. His show is back on the air. Ivan Urgent [late night show entertainer who fled to Israel] also said that he might come back.

In the meantime, Konstantin Ernst [Channel 1 CEO] has had charges brought up on him. You have to understand, Channel 1 was pushing anti-Russian news on a state channel.

Me: How so?

Tsiganov: Well, they invited many liberal people, people from the pro-West camp, onto their shows and PR’d them. Take Morgenshtern, as an example. This is an entertainer that popularizes drug use to the youth. The government recently kicked him out of the country.

Me: So the poster stunt on Channel 1. Are you saying it was staged?

Tsiganov: It was a deliberate provocation by Ernst. He refused to apologize. It was done to send a message to Putin. The audience for this was the West — the message was written in English, after all. Western media jumped on it. The woman with the sign had a lawyer sitting by ready. It was also a shot fired off Putin’s bow to demonstrate that Ernst and his operation did not approve of his actions in Ukraine.

Me: I see. What changes would you like to see occur within Russia?

Tsiganov: Well, in the constitution it says that ideology as such is banned. Modern Russia was created as a post-ideological country by the West. But the Russian people need an idea and there is now an attempt to create something new. The closest that we have to this is the National Safety Plan put together by the military where a first attempt was made. Several theses were voiced such as the necessity of defending the traditional view of family and fighting back against the anti-Russian historical narrative that is being promulgated in our schools. A second such document came out recently as well: the Project for the Defense of Traditional Values. This document provides guidelines for what projects are allowed to be funded with government money and what people can be allowed to sit in the government by proposing a loyalty test for ministers and bureaucrats. Much is still in the air and depends on the concepts, programs, and ideas that are eventually adopted. But the key point here is that nothing has been adopted yet because of the chinovniks (bureaucrats) refusal to implement it. Take, for example, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. This is a Western creature through and through. His whole mindset is Western. He uses neoliberal models in his policies and programs. The entire government is in panic because of this; they don’t know how to do things outside the liberal operating protocol, which is being jettisoned now.

Over the last 2 years, Mishustin has been instrumental in pushing for and implementing the “cyber gulag” and for increasing the cooperation of the Russian government with the World Economic Forum. Mishustin went so far as to open the Center For the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Mishistin’s entire operation is staffed by graduates of the Higher Economic School and employees of Sberbank. [NOTE: The Higher Economic Schools is one of the pre-eminent forces within Russia pushing for neoliberal reforms since the 90s.] These people are Western-educated and, more importantly, they believe in the Western consensus on everything from governmental policy, economic policy, and social issues. Mishustin and his cronies have formed what they themselves refer to as the “cyber spetznaz” and have passed all these laws without the consent of the Russian people. Our Minister of Digital Transformation says that robots make the best administrators — this is the mentality of the man who wants to totally reform our system of governance. Strange as it may sound, Europe and America have better cyber protection laws on their books. No such protections exist in Russia. Luckily, Mishustin and his people have failed to realize their plans because of the war.

Mikhail Mishustin

Me: Pardon me for the direct question: is the current situation good for you and people who support your position?

Tsiganov: This is a war against the West and Western values. Furthermore, Russians are unlike many other peoples because they are pro-big state. The Russian people hope that the government will go to war for them against the Liberal class. People with our values are to be found in the military and the ranks of the FSB [Federal Security Service]. There are lots of patriots in the administration of the president as well. The war has shown us who is who. People in the government thought that it was possible to come to a compromise with the U.S. And now this has changed. This has created more room for internal maneuver for Putin and his allies.

Me: Why did it take Russia so long to do something about Western propaganda on the internet? Pro-Russian content is routinely banned off all social media sites, and it is impossible to put a pro-Russian narrative out on the internet. What was the plan? At least they’re talking about “cyber sovereignty” on the state channels now.

Tsiganov: First and foremost it is necessary to understand that Russia has no plans — only the Soviet Union had plans. [NOTE: Here he means the Soviet 5-year national plans and such.] That being said, Putin tried to create a “Runet” [a program aimed at furthering Russian sovereignty over the internet in Russia]. But the money was diverted and squandered on the digitization plan promoted by Mishustin and his so-called cyber spetznaz. 150 billion dollars were allocated from the budget and only 11 billion went to internet sovereignty projects. The rest went to various digitization schemes based on Western models.

Another silver lining to the current situation: Kaspersky has come out and said that Russia has lost 200,000 programmers. [NOTE: I am not sure that this number is accurate, but scores of big city dwellers have indeed fled Russia. Programmers who have stayed have been discussing the phenomenon on their channels. I personally know several that moved to Poland and Latvia for what it’s worth.] This means that Mishustin’s cyber gulag plan will fall through — he no longer has the political cachet or the cadres to pull it off. That being said, Russia could still create a sovereign internet if the political will was there. We have the talent and resources to do so.

Now, the US considers the internet its sovereign territory and treats it as such. It is part of the US cyber-strategy plan. There is no such thing as a free and universal internet. Do you know who actually does have a sovereign internet?

Me: China?

Tsiganov: Yes, China. Only China has developed a sovereign internet. The project was completed in the fall of last year thanks to a law on servers which effectively banned the transfer of data across borders. This is the way to do it. The Russian government needs to undertake big projects, like China does, not rely on the so-called invisible hand. Sergei Glazyev talks about this — the Minister of Eurasian Integration. But the people who ran Russia relied on the Liberal way of doing things — allowing private, foreign capital decide what gets invested into and how for the last 30 years. As you know, many of these people have fled the country now. Consider the absurdity of the situation: the Alphabet company controls a large part of Sber [an important bank]. And Alphabet runs Google. We can’t have this. We can’t have our enemies controlling our internet.

Me: What will happen next? What measures do you expect in the coming weeks and months?

Tsiganov: The government will now be forced to lean on the patriotic base in the country because the Yeltsin-era people and the various Western-educated technocrats can’t be trusted. They can’t even mobilize the country should Russia need to transition to a war economy. I expect Youtube to be closed down soon. We have the necessary resources and professionals to implement a sovereign “Runet.” All that we lacked was the political will. I hope that we now have a chance to do what should have been done years ago. People with our values and positions finally have a chance of rising up into government positions that will be vacated as the cleanings continue in the government, media.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer

Who is Taking Control of Russian Counter-Sanctions?

By John Helmer, Moscow via John Helmer
@bears_with

The first Moscow casualties of the US and European plan targeting President Vladimir Putin and triggering Kremlin regime change have been revealed in the release over the past ten days of three presidential decrees and a half-dozen implementing orders from the Russian prime ministry.

The breaking news is that there are no casualties — but one rumour of one casualty circulated by the spokesman of the president, Dmitry Peskov, in order to deny it.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, the state news agency RIA-Novosti published the headline, “The Kremlin knows nothing about the rumours of Nabiullina’s resignation, Peskov said.” He was referring to the Governor of the Russian Central Bank (CBR), Elvira Nabiullina, who has been in the job since 2013.

The 10-line report went on: “’No, we don’t know about that. The president has repeatedly assessed [favourably] the work of the Central Bank,’ Peskov said, answering a question from journalists whether the Kremlin is aware of the alleged resignation of Elvira Nabiullina from the post of head of the Central Bank and how the president assesses the work of the Central Bank. Earlier, Peskov said that Putin repeatedly praised the work of the Central Bank in general and its head Elvira Nabiullina in particular.”

Until Peskov issued this denial, there was no trace of a rumour in the Russian media that Nabiullina was thinking of resigning, or that the Kremlin had decided to remove her.

There has been active public criticism of Nabiullina’s decision to raise the Central Bank lending rate to 20%, and her apparent unpreparedness to combat the US sanctions, which have frozen more than $450 billion in Central Bank currency reserves, and cut Russia’s leading banks from the SWIFT transaction system.

Leading the attack on Nabiullina has been Sergei Glazyev, the former Kremlin economic adviser and now the minister in charge of macroeconomic policy at the Eurasian Economic Commission. Glazyev has been joined by Mikhail Delyagin, an economist and State Duma deputy. They have accused Nabiullina of “aiding the enemy”.

“If our country is a sovereign state,” Delyagin said on television on March 4, “then why is Ms. Nabiullina still the head of the Bank of Russia, and not under investigation? We have people in jail for economic crimes, and yet a person who has already caused the economy to crash in 2014 and is going to do it for the second time feels just fine at her freedom.”

What can be detected in the series of Putin decrees and orders by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is that a group of officials led by Mishustin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Federal Security Service Director (FSB) Mikhail Bortnikov, have taken charge of the new scheme to restrict Russian debt repayments to creditors in countries listed as hostile. This group is known as the Commission for Control of Foreign Investments (CCFI). According to Mishustin’s order No. 431-r of March 6, 2022, Nabiullina is not a member.

On February 28, the Kremlin issued presidential decree No. 79 for “special economic measures in connection with the hostile actions of the United States of America and those who joined them.” This required the domestic retention of 80% of foreign currency earned in Russian export of goods, services, patents, rights and intellectual property.

This decree also banned Russian residents from making foreign currency loans to non-residents offshore. These have been one of the favourite forms of capital outflow used by Russian bankers to strip domestic assets, defraud their banks, and launder the proceeds through chains of companies they control in havens abroad. The biggest Russian fraudsters abroad – Sergei Pugachev, Boris Mints, and Vadim Belyaev – have all used these schemes; they have been granted asylum by the governments of France, the UK, and the US.

Left: Boris Pugachev: through his Moscow bank he stole $1 billion directly from the Central Bank. He lives in France. Centre: Boris Mintsstole about $850 million from two banks under Central Bank supervision; he is living near London; Right: Vadim Belyaev of New York, who looted Otkritie and National Trust banks of about $3 billion.

On March 1, Putin signed a fresh decree, No. 81, titled “On additional temporary measures of an economic nature to ensure the financial stability of the Russian Federation.” This extended the ban over offshore transactions in foreign currency to loans, credits, transfer of shares, bonds and other securities, and the sale of real estate. This has been the oligarchs’ channel for borrowing from US and European banks against the security of shares in their Russian companies to buy palatial homes, motor yachts, art collections, racing cars, football clubs, charitable endowments, and other self-promotions.

The new decree is not quite a ban, however. The measure has created a “special procedure” of state control on “the basis of permits issued by the Government Commission for the Control of Foreign Investment in the Russian Federation and, if necessary, containing conditions for the implementation (execution) of such transactions (operations)”. This commission has now replaced the Central Bank, which had been in charge of the Russian capital outflow until now. The commission can now stop the outflow of cash and capital; or it can look the other way as the Central Bank has done.

On March 5, presidential decree No. 95 followed. This created the “Temporary Procedure for Fulfilling Obligations to Certain Foreign Creditors”. The western financial press and the US Treasury have reported the headline; they have missed the small print. For the next six months, this measure blocks all debt repayments in foreign currency by Russians to creditors based in hostile states. This is not exactly a total ban nor is it a debt default.

Instead, the Russian debtor is required “to send to a Russian credit institution an application for opening in the name of a foreign creditor or a foreign organization entitled, in accordance with its personal law, to record and transfer rights to securities (foreign nominee holder) in respect of which obligations are fulfilled, an account of type C intended for settlements under these obligations.” This account must be in roubles.

This decree also put a stop to Russians leaving the country in private jets with suitcases full of dollars or Euros. Russian citizens will be allowed to travel out of the country with no more than one suitcase containing $10,000 in cash at once, or several suitcases containing less but no more than $10,000 for the next six months, possibly longer. The exit of Euro cash is totally prohibited.

Click to read how Suleiman Kerimov, owner of Uralkali, the potash producer, and Polyus Gold, Russia’s leading goldminer, flew his cash to Nice to buy villas along the French coast until his arrest by French prosecutors, read this. For the favour Nabiullina has subsequently shown Kerimov in the bailout of Vozrozhdenie Bank, looted of about $2 billion by the Ananiev brothers, read this. The Ananiev brothers live under Cyprus and British protection, and also of the Guardian and Financial Times newspapers.

Decree No. 95 means that instead of defaulting in dollars or Euros to creditors in the hostile states, Russian debts must be settled “to a foreign nominee holder by transferring funds in roubles in an amount equivalent to the value of obligations in foreign currency and calculated at the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation established on the day when the corresponding payment was made by the debtor to the account of type C of a foreign nominee holder opened in the Russian depository in the amount equivalent to the value of obligations in foreign currency and calculated at the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation established on the day.”

In short, hostile state creditors are to be repaid in these rouble bank accounts from which the creditors must collect their money – if they can. Putin told Mishustin he had two days in which to gazette the list of hostile states. The list was issued the same day as order No. 430-r.

Source: http://static.government.ru/

The hostile states include all the well-known offshore cash hideouts – New Zealand for Pugachev, the UK for Mints, the US for Belyaev, as well as Cyprus, the British Channel Islands, British Gibraltar, British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Here they are.

Source: http://static.government.ru/

Missing from the list of hostile states, and thus permitted for Russian debt repayment in their currencies are the independent islands of the Caribbean; the states of Central and South America (including the havens of Belize and Panama); the African states; the Arab states and Iran; the Asian states, including Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Laos, and China; and the independent Pacific island states including the Philippines, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, New Guinea, Timor and Vanuatu.

While these decrees and orders acknowledge the Central Bank (CBR) as playing an administrative rule and rate-setting role, the real power to run the system, deciding which targets will be sanctioned, and how, has been moved from the CBR to the Foreign Investment Control Commission (CCFI).

In a fresh order from the prime ministry dated March 7, the government has listed the current membership of the Commission.

Source: http://government.ru/info/44751/

Administered by the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS), the CCFI was originally intended to regulate foreign penetration of strategic sectors of the Russian economy. In design this was comparable to the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS); for details of how CFIUS has been used to strike at Russian investments from palladium mining to steel mills in the US, click to read.

This is how the Russian commission began in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, the commission staff provided limited information about how many cases the secret chamber had reviewed; how many foreign investments had been approved, how many rejected. Early in 2021 the commission claimed that since 2008 it had reviewed 280 applications and rejected 23 – fewer than one in ten..

Until now the CCFI was restricted to capital flowing into Russia from abroad. For that reason, it was of primary concern to the espionage, security and defence agencies. That’s the reason FSB director Bortnikov and Defence Minister Shoigu have been members for a decade. The CFIUS in Washington has operated in much the same way, combining secret intelligence with equally secret corporate lobbying.

Russian capital outflow has depended on a very different power structure. Over the past thirty years the capital lost to Russia has totaled more than a trillion dollars; for details, click to read.

No modern state or European empire has made a state policy of such profligacy.

The Russian government official who created and ran this system of dometic capital destruction has been Alexei Kudrin (lead image, front row, left). He was also a Kremlin official under Anatoly Chubais when the oligarch system was created by Chubais (back row, left), then chief of staff for President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, in order to save Yelstin and steal the election of 1996. Under Putin since 2000, Kudrin, a Latvian by origin, was finance minister until 2011; he is currently head of the state auditor, the Accounting Chamber. Chubais, who is Jewish through his mother, has directed the privatization of the state electricity system under Putin, and then Rusnano, the state high-technology investment holding. He is currently Putin’s representative for international climate negotiations.

The two of them have been favoured by the US Government to take over the Kremlin; they still are. For the Chubais archive, read this. For the Kudrin file, click here.

Nabiullina’s career has been promoted by the two of them, and by their common ally, German Gref, currently head of Sberbank; click for his file. In Russian political shorthand, this group are the liberal reformers of the Yeltsin period; the pro-American and anti-military faction of the Putin period. They are among the most distrusted political figures in the country, according to the polls, which have ranked them together and close behind Alexei Navalny. They are unelectable.

As Kremlin appointees, however, they have dominated economic advice to Putin, protected the offshore capital exports of the oligarchs, and argued to cut the defence and security budgets. In effect, this group of officials has fought to prevent the accession of Crimea in 2014; to sabotage the rebuilding of Russia’s strategic and tactical deterrents to US and NATO attack; and for fear of the financial consequences from Washington and Brussels, to stop the Ukrainian military operation. About this, so far they have said nothing in public.

A search of the Russian individual sanctions list at the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has found “no result” for Chubais, Kudrin, Nabiullina, and Gref.

Source: https://sanctionssearch.ofac.treas.gov/

By contrast, Shoigu, Bortnikov, Glazyev and Delyagin have all been sanctioned by the US.

The Nabiullina group have been fighting to keep their power, and preserve the oligarchs’ advantages. A March 4 order from the prime ministry created their rival to the CCFI. The text of the order No. 417-r calls it the “subcommittee on improving the sustainability of the financial sector and individual sectors of the economy in the face of sanctions”. Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov (no US sanction) is to chair this group which includes several of the ministry and Kremlin officials who are also members of the CCFI. Nabiullina is a member; Shoigu and Bortnikov are not.

Source: http://static.government.ru/

Also included in this new group are Alexander Shokhin (lead image, back row, extreme right), who heads the oligarch lobby group known as the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs; and Igor Shuvalov (back row, 3rd from left), the first deputy prime minister for business support between 2008 and 2018. Shuvalov, currently head of the state Vnesheconombank (VEB), was sanctioned by Washington last week, along with five of his personal companies, his wife Olga, his son Yevgeny with his company and jet, and his daughter Maria and her company. Shuvalov has also just been sanctioned by the British government and a freeze imposed on his apartments neighbouring on Whitehall and Downing Street. Read the Shuvalov archive here.

In the war between the Moscow committees, there are already casualties from the friendly fire of the hostile states.

That’s the Way to Fight Back! Boycott!

via RT

Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg fans are disgusted by the laws

Russian football fans are protesting that football stadiums are “not prisons” after announcing that they will be shunning their beloved clubs’ matches in opposition to controversial new fan ID requirements which are due to be introduced in summer 2022.

Politicians moved in December 2021 to adopt the third and final reading of the bill to bring in the new system, which will reportedly cost around $10.5 million to implement, on June 1.

Supporters have already carried out protests including mass premature departures from matches over the plan, which includes measures to restrict them to buying tickets via a portal system that will hold their data.

Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow’s vast Fratria group has announced an immediate boycott of games in response, with followers of reigning champions Zenit St. Petersburg and Rostov, who used to be managed by national team boss Valeri Karpin, said to be following suit.

“We are united in our position. We refuse to accept the rules imposed on us: passports, identifiers and the fan ID law,” Fratria said in a statement, suggesting that supporters who attend games in the league, domestic cup, European competitions and other games where a mandatory ID system is applied will be considered traitors.

“Our boycott starts from now and will last until the complete repeal of the adopted law.

“The boycott applies to all fan associations, organizations and teams that identify themselves with Spartak, Moscow, Russia, the CIS countries and the whole world.

“Not a single law, not a single document and not a single official can deprive a fan of his sacred right: to be close to his club, to be part of its history, to consider the stadium and sector as his home, to openly express his emotions and opinions.

“In our blood, our ideology was, is and will forever remain the main principle – the support of our team.

“At any time, despite the results, restrictions, pressure from law enforcement agencies and other circumstances, we remained close to Spartak.

“However, the current situation and repressive innovations do not leave us the opportunity to make a decision other than this – difficult, but balanced and the only right one in the current situation.”

Individuals could be denied a Fan ID or have their documentation and permissions frozen for public order offenses at matches in Russia and abroad.

Shortly before the bill was passed, an incident at CSKA Moscow saw more than 400 fans detained by riot police after dozens of people set off flares.

Security personnel blocked an entire section of supporters from leaving in an attempt to identify those responsible following the mysterious hacking of stadium CCTV cameras, with fans said to have been led into waiting police vans hours after the final whistle.

Backers of the bill, such as politician and three-time Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina, have argued that it needs to be implemented in order to identify people acting unlawfully and ensure people are safe inside stadiums.

Critics of the legislation have included RPL side Ural’s president, Grigory Ivanov.

Ilya Gerkus, a former president of Lokomotiv Moscow, reportedly called the boycotts “logical based on the dynamics of the situation” because he felt that law-makers had not carried out sufficient discussions with fans.

“This is the correct and almost the only acceptable reaction,” he told RIA. “Now we are waiting for the response of the sports authorities, their words and actions.

The Fratria vowed to continue supporting Spartak by any means available to them beyond attending games.

“The emotions of the sector, the crowded roaring stadium and tens of thousands of hearts beating in unison have always been the most important part of life for us,” they said.

“We consciously give up what was so dear to us in the name of one single goal: to protect the rights of everyone who considers themselves a fan.

“So our position is stated. Everyone who identifies with football must make their choice.

“The system will not stop – having got rid of the fans, having cleared the active sectors from the ‘objectionable’, its mechanism will ruthlessly start in a new direction.

“The law aimed at providing a ‘comfortable and safe environment for football’ will not only destroy the essence of fanaticism and its emotions, but will also cynically – without explanation and in violation of the presumption of innocence – deal with anyone who does not fit into the rules dictated by it, [including] ordinary fans, visitors to the ‘family sectors’ and VIPs.

“We declare that everyone who decides to ignore the declared position and stay at the stadium will no longer be able to look into the eyes of thousands of comrades-in-arms with honor and dignity.

“Anyone, regardless of his status and regalia, having crossed the line of the stadium at the time of our boycott, will momentarily cease to be part of the great Spartak movement and leave our ranks forever. A stadium is not a prison. Football for fans.”

One fan on social media joked: “So to go to football you need a ticket, a QR code, Fan ID showing your location, an agreement from the police, the blessing of the church, a written undertaking not to leave and permission from your wife.”

The protests could have a noticeable impact in the stands: Zenit’s Gazprom Arena home has 68,000 seats to fill at full capcity, while Spartak’s Otkritie Arena can hold 45,360 supporters.

Fan ID systems were used in Russia at the 2017 Confederation Cup, the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 matches held in the country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Interview with Solovyov

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Live YouTube channel, Moscow, December 27, 2021

https://www.mid.ru/en/press_service/minister_speeches/1792420/

Vladimir Solovyov: We are like three-winged birds. The Russian Foreign Ministry operates on three fronts: on the first one, it communicates with our American partners, the second one is NATO, and the third are the Europeans, no matter what they call themselves (the OSCE is a bit more than just the Europeans). What matters the most to us in the extremely challenging dialogue at this stage? We launched it using methods that are totally at odds with the customary ways of Russian diplomacy. This approach proved to be very effective. Which of these fronts has the most importance?

Sergey Lavrov: What matters the most, as President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said, is that there is less empty talk, so that they don’t water down our proposals in endless discussions, which is something the West knows how to do and is notorious for. These diplomatic efforts must yield results. Even more importantly, these results must be achieved within a determined timeframe. We did not put forward any ultimatums. However, engaging in never-ending talks during which the West once again will make ambiguous promises, and will then definitely double-cross us down the road – we do no need that. In this context, the United States is our main negotiating party. It is with the United States that we will hold the main round of talks right after the New Year holidays.

Speaking on NATO’s behalf, its Secretary General and Chair of the Russia-NATO Council Jens Stoltenberg proposed holding a Russia-NATO Council meeting right after that, the very next day. Of course, they did so at the initiative of the United States. This organisational structure reflects the projects we have submitted and presented to the United States and NATO for review. I am referring to the Russia-US treaty on security guarantees and a Russia-NATO agreement on limiting risks and threats on the European stage (hopefully, not a stage of military operations). These documents set forth specific proposals. You have seen them. They present our vision of NATO and the Russian Federation, with its allies, making their respective armed forces less of a threat.

Vladimir Solovyov: Who will lead the talks?

Sergey Lavrov: An interagency delegation with the participation of the Foreign Ministry and the military. There is no lack of understanding on behalf of the United States. As for NATO, we have warned them that since they have put all the military-to-military initiatives on hold since 2014 and reduced our contacts to sporadic telephone calls to the Chief of the General Staff, the conversation will make sense only if the military are directly involved. Our delegation will include high-ranking army representatives. We asked the other side to confirm whether they will do the same. We are waiting for their reply.

Vladimir Solovyov: Overall, NATO has been acting in quite a strange manner. By and large, we don’t talk to them. There are virtually no contacts. They expelled our representatives. The ties have been severed almost entirely. Jens Stoltenberg’s statements caused an international crisis. He said that if need may be, NATO would be ready to deploy its military infrastructure to the east of Germany. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko answered him, which caused an outpouring of criticism against him.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, Jens Stoltenberg has a Nordic mentality. He makes quite simple statements. Yes, this is true.

Vladimir Solovyov: How will you deal with him?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not be dealing with him. I would like to repeat that we have proposed a Russia-NATO agreement. It will not be necessarily drafted at the Russia-NATO Council, although this is not impossible either. We will not be dealing with Jens Stoltenberg, who is, technically, executive manager of the NATO Secretariat. We will be negotiating with the top members of the bloc, primarily the United States. It is logical that US President Biden reacted to our initiative days after we advanced it. He mentioned the negotiators: the United States plus the four leading Western countries. This provoked an outcry from the other NATO members, including Ukraine, which said that it must take part in the talks. What matters to us is not the form of our contacts with NATO, but the essence of the talks. First of all, they must be held professionally and responsibly in the military-to-military format.

Vladimir Solovyov: NATO is an amorphous organisation. They say they cannot do anything without a consensus decision.

Sergey Lavrov: That is none of our business. It is their internal matter. We do not care about the Washington Treaty, including Article 5, which stipulates collective defence. If NATO were a defence alliance, as Stoltenberg has been shouting from the rooftops, it would not have expanded eastward. NATO has become a purely geopolitical project aimed at taking over the territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the Soviet Union. This is what it is doing now. And we cannot sit on our hands when they are approaching “the doorstep of our house,” as President Putin has said.

Vladimir Solovyov: What about the declared right of each country to choose their allies independently? They are using this argument all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: They are just trying to prop themselves up. It is an unscrupulous attempt made through foul means to use a document that is based on compromise. Not a single “brick” can be removed from that compromise without bringing it down. This is what they are doing. Even the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe says that all states are free to choose their own security arrangements, including the alliances they join. But it also says that while doing this they must respect the principle of indivisible security.

Vladimir Solovyov: That is, as Vladimir Putin has said on the gas issue, “they lie all the time”?

Sergey Lavrov: They are telling half-truths, which is probably worse that outright lies, because they are trying to present their position as legally faultless. But legal is not a term that can be used in this case. All these documents, including the Paris Charter and the documents of the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul are political pledges. And the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act is a political document as well. All these political commitments made publicly at the highest level not to strengthen their security to the detriment of others’ security and not to deploy substantial armed forces have been destroyed systematically many times over, including during the five waves of NATO eastward expansion carried out contrary to their pledges, as President Putin has pointed out. Therefore, this time we demand – this is the only option – legally binding security guarantees. Trust but verify.

You have mentioned the OSCE: that organisation’s striving to posture itself on the international stage is a separate subject. Back in 1975, when the Helsinki Final Act of the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed, US President Gerald Ford said solemnly and even pompously: “History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow – not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.”

Vladimir Solovyov: That’s wise.

Sergey Lavrov: The very truth itself, I would say. All our actions are guided by this legacy of one of the great American presidents.

Vladimir Solovyov: At the same time, Jens Stoltenberg keeps claiming that NATO never promised Russia that there would be no eastward expansion, alleging that he heard this from Mikhail Gorbachev. I showed this video to Mikhail Gorbachev, who tells me: “What do you mean there were no promises? What about James Baker? On February 9, 1990, he gave me this promise. We had this conversation, there are written records, and the transcripts are available.” For these people, nothing matters unless there is a paper trail. Did they promise us that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO? The Americans keep repeating this narrative all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, they did. Only recently, I read the memoirs of a British diplomat who was involved in the talks, including on the reunification of Germany from a NATO perspective, on having no nuclear weapons to the east of the line where they were deployed at the time. He says that yes, they honestly promised that there would be no expansion of NATO, but this was not what they meant. They were driven by the historical opportunity to build a new Europe free from confrontation and so forth. This is what Zbigniew Brzezinski told one of his colleagues in all honesty: “We tricked them.”

Vladimir Solovyov: Under Boris Yeltsin, Russia did not demand any written commitments either. On the contrary, during a visit to Poland we agreed…

Sergey Lavrov: This is all that there was to our relations with the West when the Soviet Union was coming apart and we were building new relations between us. President Vladimir Putin has mentioned this many times. There was an unprecedented level of trust and an enormous desire to be friends, if not allies, as Vladimir Putin likes to say. However, we now see that all this was a mistake. You cannot take anything these people say on trust.

Vladimir Solovyov: The person who used to head the Russian Foreign Ministry, and is now a retiree living in Florida – his surname is Kozyrev – made a bombastic statement that at this stage Russia must join NATO. How come Russia does not want to be part of the family of civilised nations?

Sergey Lavrov: For many Russian politicians, primarily those in the opposition, the West is an undisputable ideal, an unchallenged leader to be followed in everything. For them, there is nothing bad about the West, and they fail to notice the damage the West causes around the world when it destroys countries and shatters their statehood. Some just want to fall into line with what is going on. Why look overseas to Florida? I read about this every day. The Presidential Executive Office provides us a digest of publications from the Russian media, including Meduza, Republic, and Novaya Gazeta. What they write…

Vladimir Solovyov: Didn’t Mikhail Bulgakov say: “Don’t read…”

Sergey Lavrov: But this is not about the communist…

Vladimir Solovyov: It’s basically the same thing, just the other way around.

Sergey Lavrov: Quite a while ago it struck me that just as in the Soviet times, I learned to understand what an article is about by simply reading its headline. You can now treat many media publications this way. For example, the Republic or Novaya Gazeta tend to extol the West in their articles. A prominent Russian opposition figure wrote on what the West tried to portray as a crisis this past spring on the border with Ukraine, when we were holding regular exercises (there was much talk about it at the time around the world). But the exercise came to an end, and the troops returned to the places of their permanent deployment. This is how this was presented: “See, Putin got scared. He got a phone call from Joe Biden, and immediately withdrew the troops.” The writer is a serious person who used to be part of our political establishment and was viewed as an interesting character. By the way, he took part in several shows of yours. Novaya Gazeta then published a long article titled “The fate of an outcast. Where will the Russian foreign policy take us.” Of course, this was about the stubborn Russian Federation unwilling to come to terms with its diminished international role. It lost the Cold War, and that’s all there is to it. You must show more modesty after that. You lost, so stay where you are. The historical comparisons in this article included post-WWII Germany and Japan. They lost, accepted this fact, and received a “wonderful democracy” in return. These are the words of a former deputy foreign minister from the time you have mentioned. By the way, he worked a lot on the Kuril Islands during the talks with Tokyo.

Vladimir Solovyov: No surprise there.

Sergey Lavrov: There is no shortage of revelations of this kind. Treating the West as the holder of the ultimate truth is quite a serious matter.

#27

Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Solovyov Live YouTube channel, Moscow, December 27, 2021 (continued)

https://www.mid.ru/en/press_service/minister_speeches/1792420/

Vladimir Solovyov: Many people had the same mistaken beliefs. At the very beginning of his presidential term, Vladimir Putin said that Russia did not object to different NATO accession terms, ones that would be equitable and partner-like. Are they offering such terms to us? Is there any possible situation when Russia could join NATO?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not. I cannot imagine such a situation because the entire process does not revolve around NATO and the European Union. It revolves around the fact that the West does not want any rivals with a more or less comparable level of influence on the international stage. This explains the hysteria regarding the rise of China. Well, China has risen because it accepted global economic and financial rules of the game, introduced by the West. Acting in line with this globalisation and Western rules, it has outplayed the West on its own field. Today, Washington and Brussels are demanding that all regulations of the World Trade Organisation be changed, and the WTO overhauled. They are saying openly that the United States and Europe should work on this and that all others should not even think about this. We will tell you in due time what you need to do. I don’t even see any ideology here. President Putin has repeatedly said that this is not so much an ideology as it is a struggle for influence.

Vladimir Solovyov: Napoleon said that war is all about geography, first and foremost. And politics is all about geography, first and foremost.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, that’s right.

Vladimir Solovyov: Does this mean that we are enemies? Does it mean that NATO sees us as enemies, and that it simply wants to destroy us?

Sergey Lavrov: This life and geography can take on the form of adversity. But it can also be rivalry or competition. I believe that if the West was ready for fair competition, it would be an optimal way out of the current confrontation.

Vladimir Solovyov: Then it wouldn’t be the West anymore.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, it wouldn’t be the West anymore. They now want to change the rules of globalisation and the World Trade Organisation because China is leading the way under these regulations. China will become the largest power by 2030, in terms of all parameters, if it retains the current pace….

Vladimir Solovyov: Since we are talking about the WTO, now we are hearing how shameful it is that they imposed sanctions but, instead of dropping on our knees in tears, we dared to retaliate with our own measures. They have actually calculated how much money we owe them.

Sergey Lavrov: The WTO is not involved in this.

Vladimir Solovyov: But they complained to the WTO.

Sergey Lavrov: The World Trade Organisation must follow its own procedures. Right now, it is pretty much paralysed. The dispute resolution body was essentially inactive and did not work until recently. When China inundated this body with completely substantiated and fair complaints against the United States and its unfair competition practices, the United States took advantage of procedural ploys and started blocking any new appointees to this body. As a result, it could never meet the quorum requirement.

Vladimir Solovyov: Now Europeans have addressed them. They are saying: “What are you doing, Russians? You caused us enormous damage.” Even though we had warned them. Joe Biden twisted their arm, admitting that Europe did not want to impose sanctions. And now it turns out that we were telling the truth.

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t even have to discuss this matter. It was a shameful act on behalf of the European Union. I feel sorry for the politicians who decided to publicly make this kind of statements complaining against Russia. It is simply beyond the pale.

Vladimir Solovyov: Everybody was saying: “Who do the Russians think they are? The economy is practically invisible. How dare they write to the Americans with their demands?” Everybody who looks up to the West as if it were the sun without spots claimed they would not even speak to us or deign to read our proposal. “Who do you think you are? You are about to be eaten for breakfast.” At the same time, as you said, Americans did not say no. They are studying it carefully. Certain topics have been outlined for the dialogue to happen right after the holidays, very soon. Who will represent Russia in this dialogue? And who will represent the United States? It seems that the Americans are not unanimous on this matter and there are discrepancies in Jake Sullivan’s stance and in Anthony Blinken’s comments and views (they may be stylistic discrepancies, but they seem to exist).

Sergey Lavrov: We will announce that. I can say that the representatives will be from the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry. We are aware of the Americans’ plans. They are aware of ours. I think these plans will become public shortly.

Vladimir Solovyov: Are we preparing for these talks every day?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been ready since the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Solovyov: Although not all of us happened to be pioneers.

Sergey Lavrov: Joking aside, national security and the problems that President Putin highlighted did not appear yesterday, and there is to need to establish a special research institute to study them. A large group of professionals are dealing with them, and it is this group that will be put in charge of preparing our position, holding the talks and evaluating their results. As President Putin said yesterday in the ‘Moscow. Kremlin. Putin’ show, we will assess these talks and determine the measures we need to take on the basis of a report prepared by professionals.

Vladimir Solovyov: Speaking about professionals, the Americans are angry that we have made the issue public. They continue to say that they would like the talks to be held quietly. On the other hand, they say that they have their complaints as well. At the same time, different people who have recently held senior positions, such as Michael McFaul, who had been appointed US Ambassador to Russia but acted as the ambassador of Ekho Moskvy, which explains his ineffectiveness, is saying that Russia must be forced to return Crimea and pull out of Donbass. In other words, they want to crown Alexey Navalny and to divide the country. Are we waiting for a list of demands, which will turn any talks into an absolute farce, or do we understand that this will not happen?

Sergey Lavrov: President Putin explained why we announced our initiative publicly, and the Foreign Ministry has already commented on that. We are aware of the Western ability to backpedal on any uncomfortable issues. When the sides play fair, the diplomatic practice provides for meeting to submit proposals and waiting for the other party to counter them with their own proposals. The proposals are studied, following which negotiators get together to coordinate a common basis that is subsequently formulated as a document. But this only happens when both parties want to come to an agreement. In this case, we suspect that if we use the traditional method they will backpedal on the main element of our proposals, our unconditional demand that NATO will not expand eastward any further. It is a matter of concern not only and not so much in the West. Our non-systemic opposition and even some parliamentary opposition groups are pointing out the violation of all diplomatic norms. You have mentioned Ekho Moskvy. A prominent radio host (who is living outside Russia, as far as I know) has said recently that this is a diplomatic faux pas, and that decent people don’t do this.

We are waiting for the Americans to respond to our proposals. We will definitely work based on the President’s clear and unambiguous instructions.

Vladimir Solovyov: An evasive answer.

Sergey Lavrov: Why?

Vladimir Solovyov: It has only increased my anxiety. It is alarming when the diplomatic department uses such terms as military and military technological response.

Sergey Lavrov: The President of Russia mentioned “military-technical reciprocal measures.”

Vladimir Solovyov: Yes, but Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that military and military technological…

Sergey Lavrov: The President of Russia said “military-technical measures.” As I have already said, he emphasised during your show that our choice of response measures would depend on the report presented by our military professionals.

Vladimir Solovyov: President Vladimir Putin once said that sometimes, when listening to Sergey Lavrov, he catches himself thinking that it is Sergey Shoigu who is speaking… I do understand that the times are tough. As we prepare to talk to the United States, we are probably seeking to anticipate their moves, right? This is a very serious and challenging issue.

Sergey Lavrov: We need to see what they have to offer first. At the end of the day, everything will be on the table. I read in a Russian media outlet (the Republic, or Novaya Gazeta) that Russia “piled up” too many demands: give us this, and do not go there, and do not deploy anything there. But is Russia ready to take any reciprocal steps? All talks are about having the partners sitting on opposite sides of the table meet each other halfway. People who write this forget an essential thing: we have long done our part, and probably even more than we had to. They, in turn, have come so close that they are just a step away. We need to start from where we were in 1997. If we need to meet each other halfway, this means that we still can move slightly to the left.

Vladimir Solovyov: Wandering off to the left in Russian is synonymous to having an affair on the side. This is a dangerous thing to do. Or our pivot to the left can take us all the way to communism.

Sergey Lavrov: It is every man’s right to get it outside.

Vladimir Solovyov: But where will this take us? What if they adopt a “sanctions bill from hell,” just as one of the participants in my show has said: “They have no phone lines up there in heaven, so calling from hell is all they can do.” Kamala Harris has woken up and promises sanctions like we have never seen… Will we turn into North Korea? Will people be unable to travel abroad? Vladimir Putin will not be able to do his shopping on Champs Elysees, as the German Defence Minister promised him. I can picture Vladimir Putin on Champs Elysees, surrounded by Cossacks. She was probably referring to the early 19th century. Still, this is quite an unpleasant situation. They are putting pressure. Does this mean that the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union are back?

Sergey Lavrov: Sometimes all these misgivings regarding the Russian Federation are nothing more than hysteria. Not all suffer from it. I do not see any hysteria of this kind among prominent, reputable leaders. I have mentioned the Geneva meeting between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden several times already. They had a serious conversation on specific steps and understood very well that we have diverging views on key matters. Still, they talked to each other as serious, adult people and seasoned politicians, and at the end of the day, managed to outline directions for dialogue. We have not had such dialogue for many years.

People in NATO are not “serious adults.” The alliance sought to revive communication channels between Moscow and Washington, but at the same time moved to sever these ties. Jens Stoltenberg expelled eight people. We are now limited to 10 employees, including technical staff. We cannot have anyone beyond this number in Brussels. We cannot work this way. There are people who understand the need for dialogue no matter the circumstances, but there are also those who think otherwise. You have mentioned Michael McFaul. I can name quite a few other people, including both former and current officials in the Baltic states and Poland (I am not even speaking of Ukraine). They respond to anything Russia does in a hysterical manner and without even trying to get to the bottom of the issue, see it as we see it, or hear our arguments. Sometimes, this hysteria reminds me of our opponents as portrayed by the Kukryniksy cartoonists. Many are those who want to reach these heights and stay there. I do hope that our Western partners show common sense. Despite all the electoral upheavals and the consequences they lead to, as we can now see in Germany where you have a hedgehog and a timid deer pulling the same sledge, mature politicians are always needed.

Vladimir Solovyov: So we will not turn into North Korea in terms of being fully isolated from the West, prohibiting travel and deliveries of goods?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot answer for crazy people – this is where they are pushing the Western countries. I have not seen people of this kind calling the shots in the West, at least for now. I cannot vouch for crazy people trying to whip up hysteria in the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland. I am certain that even if this unbelievable scenario does materialise in one way or another, we will find an answer.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin recently had a conversation with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel. Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, who was appointed to this position at about the same time as I was, has been saying publicly during our conversations that sanctions do not make any sense. Still, there are those who fail to see that every day Russia proves its ability to resolve all the issues it faces and will not change the way it lives and what it believes just because the West “got angry” and blocked access to technology. The MC-21 plane did take off, even if it happened 18 months later than planned.

Vladimir Solovyov: Won’t the internal political situation devolve as well? People are apprehensive. If we start looking for enemies…

Sergey Lavrov: Russia will become a besieged fortress? I am sure that Russian leaders have no such plans. President of Russia Vladimir Putin always reiterates, in his remarks, his commitment to expanding opportunities for the unimpeded development of society and democratic principles.

Vladimir Solovyov: Who is a democracy now? Is it us, or the countries that hold “forums for democracy,” and choose convenient partners? Russia and China are not invited, labelled as authoritarian states.

Sergey Lavrov: This is immaterial now. Who is a democracy and who isn’t. At least for me, these terms have lost their meaning. You mentioned the Summit for Democracy convened by US President Joe Biden. If you look closely at the list of participants, they were not even selected according to the criteria of what is called American democracy, what they consider exemplary for democratic states. The overwhelming majority are those who unquestioningly follow the US policy line. Plus a few others that have their own approach but want to have good relations with the United States. In fact, everyone wants to have good relations with other countries; it all depends on the price.

Now plans have been announced to promote the Summit for Democracy next year, to establish an organisation. This is an overt bid to develop an alternative to the UN, suggesting the old members are behind the times, conservatives and retrogrades, while they are forward-looking trailblazers carrying the “beacon of freedom.” It is going to be another attempt to move the decision-making centre from universal platforms, where one needs to argue their position to their own platforms, where no one really disputes what they say. This means truth is unlikely to be born there.

Vladimir Solovyov: You know the United States very well. When we put forward our demands, when we say, let’s stop seeing each other as enemies, we are actually suggesting they change the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed by Congress and the Senate. We understand that this is not even up to the President.

Sergey Lavrov: We aren’t saying this.

Vladimir Solovyov: We are proposing that we stop seeing each other as enemies.

Sergey Lavrov: But that’s different. We have never asked anyone to lift the sanctions. We will never humiliate ourselves like that.

Vladimir Solovyov: I mean, not seeing us as enemies means changing their laws. But Joe Biden cannot come to an agreement with either Congress or the Senate.

Sergey Lavrov: We have never asked them to stop seeing us as enemies. We said we believe that neither Russia nor the United States have any compelling reasons to be enemies.

Vladimir Solovyov: Diplomats are polite people. But this still reads as “they have designated us as enemies at the legislative level.”

Sergey Lavrov: We aren’t going to dangle after them, asking them to abolish these laws.

Vladimir Solovyov: Joe Biden will sign this, but Congress and the Senate, united in their anti-Russia policy line, will ask him why he signed it, kind of like what happened with the Iran nuclear deal.

Sergey Lavrov: It is impossible to guarantee. Vienna negotiations should resume before the end of the year (now that the Catholic Christmas holidays have ended). Iran has made its return to the deal conditional on several requirements. Along with lifting the sanctions against Iran, Washington would have to faithfully fulfil its obligations under the deal and not interfere with any economic projects implemented by Tehran and its foreign partners if they fully comply with the deal. In addition to that, Iran proposed stipulating that the United States can never again withdraw from the agreement they would restore. The Americans said they couldn’t do this, exactly for the reason you mentioned. What you just said is absolutely true. Many sanctions against Russia, including CAATSA and the act to support economic stability and democracy in Ukraine, and whatever legislation that has been approved by Congress is not subject to change by the President and his administration. Considering what is happening there now, the anti-Russia bacchanalia is working as a unifying factor. I believe we need to forget it for the sake of pride and pragmatism, and concentrate on making our own composite wings for our aircraft and other things. We already produce enough food to meet our needs.

Vladimir Solovyov: They are not capable of delivering on their obligations. A Russian border guard or a Russian military base is a real guarantee that NATO won’t spread to the East. You can’t just keep coming closer. That is what the Americans are doing it: first, they move the military infrastructure and then present it to us as a fact of life.

Sergey Lavrov: This is precisely the red line. Anyone with ears will hear. Same with the eyes. President Vladimir Putin stated this in no uncertain terms.

Vladimir Solovyov: They are talking about Russia’s military build-up near the border with Ukraine. They aren’t sure how many troops. It’s either 94,000 or 120,000. They aren’t sure about the distance, either, whether it is 200 km or 400 km. I asked the former Ukrainian ambassador how many Ukrainian troops are there and how close they are to our border. He said it was irrelevant, because we are devils incarnate.

Sergey Lavrov: While they are angels incarnate. It doesn’t surprise me. The gall of adopting the current positions of the West and NATO. The Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine are clearly stirring it up. We are on our territory. President Putin made it exceedingly clear for our friends during the news conference, asking them to imagine that what we are now witnessing on the western borders of the Russian Federation was unfolding near the US border with Mexico or Canada.

Ukraine is being loaded up with weapons. They are boasting about the $2.5 billion in ammunition and systems, including offensive weapons, supplied since 2014. It was reported that anti-tank Javelin systems and ammunition worth of another $100 million were supplied in October-November. I do not rule out the possibility of them planning to stoke militaristic sentiment in order to start a small war and then blame Russia and impose new sanctions with the goal of undermining our ability to compete. Just yesterday I read in the news that someone in Europe asked why they should wait until one starts and suggested that the sanctions be imposed preventively, and if there are no hostilities, lift them. Clearly, no one will ever lift them.

Since we are discussing the situation in Europe, a few words about the EU are in order. Federica Mogherini headed EU diplomacy in 2016. She spearheaded a policy towards Russia which was based on five principles. It was approved and acted upon. One of these principles was to break our neighbours away from the Russian Federation. There was a need to “work” with our civil society (we know what this means). The main principle was that the EU will normalise relations after Russia fulfills the Minsk Agreements. Anyone who read them will know that this is a case of political schizophrenia.

Ms Mogherini left office after her term expired, and her successor Josep Borrell is now heading the European foreign policy service. I have known him for a long time now since he was the Foreign Minister of Spain. He came to us and said that he wanted a new constructive policy towards Russia. After his visit to Moscow, he took significant heat simply because we provided clarifications about Alexey Navalny and everything else, including Germany and Europe’s role in inflating this lie, the failure to present any facts or answer elementary questions, including the questions that the opposition asked in the German parliament. The questions were clear and straightforward, while the previous German government’s attempts to walk away from honest answers were utterly shameful. When Josep Borrell finished drafting a new initiative, the European Council chose to leave “Federica Mogherini’s five principles” in place (whereby Russia “must” fulfil the Minsk Agreements) and solemnly proclaimed a new approach which is to “push back, contain and engage.” I pictured the moves. Pardon me, but this is political Kama Sutra.

Vladimir Solovyov: You have to explain it again and again. You explained this to a countless number of US Secretaries of State, who seemed to begin from scratch. Now you will need to teach European diplomats. For example, it turns out that nobody can read. Like in the case of the Minsk agreements, when the whole of Europe claims that Russia is not a guarantor but a party to the conflict. This is the Ukrainisation of European and US politics.

Is there any use in talking with the Ukrainians about anything? I am referring to the political establishment. It is no longer possible to comment on the fuss created by Vladimir Zelensky and Pavel Klimkin, who pretends to be a foreign minister, even if he goes by a different last name now. I sometimes think that while he has many faces, Klimkin’s essence never changes.

Sergey Lavrov: It really is bad. Vladimir Zelensky, who ran for the presidency as Vasily Goloborodko from the Servant of the People comedy television series, who was progressive minded and called for liberating people from the oligarchs, for respecting the rights of Russians and other national minorities, and, most importantly, for bringing peace to Donbass, doesn’t differ much from Arseny Yatsenyuk. When he was prime minister, he travelled abroad, where he spoke about building a wall with barbed wire and a ditch, a project everyone soon forgot about. And Yatsenyuk referred to the people of Donbass as subhumans.

Vladimir Solovyov: Subhumans, this is what he said in his address.

Sergey Lavrov: Zelensky said in a recent interview, “Well, these are species.” And a little earlier, he, the President of Ukraine got emotional and said, “if anyone in Ukraine feels like a Russian, they should go to Russia.” He said that, and no one in the West, in any European capital or in the United States, has commented on that outrageous statement.

Vladimir Solovyov: He described as “species” those against whom the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine adopted sanctions.

Sergey Lavrov: That is, nearly everyone in Donbass.

Vladimir Solovyov: He was asked, “That is, you think they are not human?” And he replied: “Do you think they are? No, they are species.”

Sergey Lavrov: In principle, he is a “big democrat.” Those who are analysing the developments in Ukraine point out that he is waging a war against the oligarchs by adopting an unprecedented law that permits political solutions to deal with opponents on the right, as well as the left, like Viktor Medvedchuk.

We have asked our Western colleagues many times to comment on these developments. Their comments are funny. In October 2021, a Ukraine-EU summit was held in Brussels, where Russia was referred to as the aggressor and a party to the conflict, while Ukraine was patted on the back for implementing the Minsk agreements. Moreover, they demanded that Russia ensure the operation of economic enterprises in Donbass and supply electricity and water to territories not controlled by the Ukrainian government, so that their residents can enjoy the same rights as people in the rest of Ukraine. If Russia does this, the EU will give priority support to the economic revival of these territories after their reunification with their “homeland.” This is what they said in no uncertain terms.

Another interesting fact: after a meeting between Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Zelensky, a statement was not issued by the Ukrainian press secretary, but by the German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert, who said that the parties were unanimous on the necessity of implementing the Minsk agreements, and that their unity will continue to determine their position in the Normandy format and on the Ukrainian crisis. In other words, Germany has accepted Kiev’s interpretation, or rather distortion of the Minsk agreements. It is a revealing statement.

We later asked the French about talking with Donetsk and Lugansk, as provided for in the Minsk agreements. They replied that they did not see anything in them that would stipulate consultations with “separatists.” This is exactly what they said. When we told them that three television channels had been closed on Zelensky’s orders in violation of Ukraine’s commitments within the framework of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and UNESCO, they replied that the decision was made in accordance with Ukrainian law.

Vladimir Solovyov: And what are we supposed to discuss with them?

Sergey Lavrov: This is how it works out. They are now advancing from all directions and requesting a Normandy format meeting. They are moving to advertise the so-called ten steps, included in the Normandy format in early December 2021, they have submitted a draft version to the United States and the Contact Group. This is simply a mockery of common sense. They are demanding that a ceasefire be quickly introduced.

Vladimir Solovyov: Whom are they urging?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia and Donbass.

Vladimir Solovyov: They should urge themselves.

Sergey Lavrov: In July 2020, it was agreed not to retaliate immediately in the event of any attack, but to calm down a bit, think it over and notify superiors. President of Russia Vladimir Putin commented on this. The republics issued the relevant orders the very next day when all this was agreed upon. Kiev issued no order and only made a statement distorting the gist of the agreement (I will not go into details). They urged Kiev several times to formalise the agreement in accordance with the law. This was eventually done. But later on, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny openly said that this was not right, and that every field commander personally decided whom to fire on and when. There are many bandits and “volunteer battalions” in the region, and it is easy to imagine what kind of people we are talking about.

Vladimir Solovyov: Add to this foreign private military companies…

Sergey Lavrov: And, finally, several days ago, they issued some half-baked balancing act of a statement. The document implies that they intend to fulfil this agreement, no matter what. I regularly watch Russian news reports from the Donbass section of the demarcation line. Numerous civilian facilities are hit, civilians are being killed, and people live under the constant threat of shelling. I listen to my partners who start talking about “separatists” and saying that they should be “reined in,” that they should not provoke Ukraine and shell its territory. And I ask them why there are no journalists working on the western side of the demarcation line. They only show this section when a helmeted Vladimir Zelensky sporting a flak vest arrives for his latest acting job, and that’s it. It’s a shame.

When the migrant crisis was in its hot phase, Polish authorities did not allow journalists to work from the Polish section of the border, although journalists were quite eager to go there. This has something to do with freedom of speech and access to information. Nor do Ukrainian authorities want any journalists to work in the western section of the demarcation line because this would dispel the myth that self-defence fighters have shelled everything to the ground and wiped out civilians.

Vladimir Solovyov: How can someone speak about the Minsk Agreements and demand that they be fulfilled if Russia reads the Minsk Agreements differently from the other parties?

Sergey Lavrov: We read them literally as they are.

Vladimir Solovyov: Yes, but we are the only party that reads them literally as they are. The Americans, French and Germans support Ukraine’s stance.

Sergey Lavrov: Still, the Americans are taking a different approach. During the meeting between the US President and the Russian President in Geneva, Joe Biden said that they want to help fulfil the Minsk Agreements and they do not want to interfere in the existing formats (which they also did not do when Donald Trump was president: there was a parallel dialogue between Vladislav Surkov and Kurt Volker) but they are ready to help. Joe Biden said that he understands that fulfilling the Minsk Agreements entails granting a certain degree of autonomy.

Vladimir Solovyov: But Vladimir Zelensky did not understand him. Is this why US media are now pressuring Zelensky? He is facing strong criticism from the media, which was not the case before.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes. Vladimir Zelensky acts recklessly quite often. They are afraid of this recklessness because simple foolishness (which the Western media are increasingly pointing out) may start a conflict that nobody needs.

Vladimir Solovyov: The UK said honestly that if anything starts in Ukraine they will leave immediately.

Sergey Lavrov: Evacuation. What else are the armed forces for?

Vladimir Solovyov: They will leave fast.

Sergey Lavrov: About the Minsk Agreements. It is the height of cynicism when our stance is presented as Russia’s attempt to interpret the Minsk Agreements in its own way and demand that Kiev fulfil Russia’s interpretation.

Vladimir Solovyov: But who hears us?

Sergey Lavrov: Everybody. They just pretend they do not.

Vladimir Solovyov: If they are pretending what should be our next step? De facto, we do not want any meetings with them. We tell them to do what they committed to doing.

Sergey Lavrov: God is truth.

Vladimir Solovyov: I often hear people say this, especially people in the military: “God is not power. God is truth.”

Sergey Lavrov: Because Alexander Nevsky was not only a diplomat but a military commander as well.

Vladimir Solovyov: Does it mean we will keep telling the truth consistently?

Sergey Lavrov: We must absolutely insist that the Minsk Agreements not be violated.

Vladimir Solovyov: Can we impose sanctions on the other parties? Russia has not even imposed a proper package of sanctions on Ukraine. Even when we announce them, we do not adhere to them.

Sergey Lavrov: That is a separate matter. Russia does not support sanctions. What is happening now is that diplomacy, the culture of dialogue and compromise are being completely replaced. Whenever the West does not like something, they go for sanctions and the European Union apes America’s methods.

Vladimir Solovyov: We are also looking for new measures. Russian diplomacy has become aggressive and offensive this year, as we have wanted it to be for a long time. You shifted away from your signature polite and ironic style and toward a much more forceful way of asserting Russia’s position. You released correspondence with your Western partners to catch them in a lie.

Sergey Lavrov: It is not an aggressive manner.

Vladimir Solovyov: I mean, compared to traditional diplomacy. You no longer restrain yourself from saying it like it is.

Sergey Lavrov: We never really restrained ourselves before. We were rather firm about the things that, as we believe, must be fundamental in negotiations between Russia and the West.

Vladimir Solovyov: But the Minsk agreements can collapse. How long are we going to wait patiently?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia is not interested in this. We are not going to destroy them, but if someone else does, they will have to accept the consequences.

Vladimir Solovyov: That is, Russia will agree to meet in some version of the Normandy format?

Sergey Lavrov: Provided that they stop any funny business with us. This is what our partners are doing now, allegedly working with Kiev to persuade Ukraine to fulfil the agreements from two years ago. Everyone agrees to meet before they implement the Paris Summit decisions. We say, you implement the decisions first, and then we meet, because the other way around, the decisions of the Paris Summit and other leaders’ meetings will be completely devalued.

Vladimir Solovyov: Is this Russia’s position now? Not a step back?

Sergey Lavrov: Not a step back from the Minsk agreements. We have already taken a few steps back. First, even the Minsk agreements were a concession on our part. It was with great difficulty that we persuaded Donetsk and Lugansk to sign them, because it meant giving up eventual independence if the Minsk agreements are to be followed to the letter. Secondly, the Steinmeier formula was another huge concession, but we agreed. It was debated, and Petr Poroshenko refused to sign off on any special status before the elections there, cynically saying that if they elect the wrong person, why give them special status. It is revealing how a person treats their signature under the Minsk agreements. The formula implied that the status would be agreed in advance, and would take effect on election day, in a preliminary format, and become permanent from the date the observers release a final report confirming that the elections were honest and fair. This is all fine.

Vladimir Solovyov: Will you meet with the German Foreign Minister at some point?

Sergey Lavrov: I had a short telephone conversation with her.

Vladimir Solovyov: Will she come here?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes. We invited her. She said she would come.

Vladimir Solovyov: Did the conversation go well? She had made some harsh statements before.

Sergey Lavrov: We are polite people, despite what you have been saying about Russian diplomacy lately.

Vladimir Solovyov: Polite yet persistent.

Sergey Lavrov: When Vladimir Putin instructed me to represent the President of Russia at the G20 summit, I had a chance to talk to Olaf Scholz who accompanied Angela Merkel. She made such an unusual gesture – invited him to meet the G20 members.

Vladimir Solovyov: But he has a different position.

Sergey Lavrov: The German system of governance has its own idiosyncrasies. I have read their programme concerning relations with Russia. It affirms the deep and diverse nature of ties with the Russian Federation, and interest in constructive cooperation. But then there is also the “annexation,” Crimea, civil society, human rights, added into the mix. An inherently eclectic programme by definition. We’ll see. It will all depend on the specific steps.

Vladimir Solovyov: We seem to be ramping things up again. Sometimes I have an urge to just say, guys, come on, it’s New Year’s. Let’s party.

Sergey Lavrov: What are we ramping up, exactly?

Vladimir Solovyov: No, not us. Everything that is happening around us.

Sergey Lavrov: They don’t celebrate the New Year. They had some champagne on December 25, and on January 1, they take a stroll along the river maybe and that’s that. Our holidays begin on December 25 and end on January 13.

Vladimir Solovyov: We party on a grand scale.

Will the year 2022 be peaceful? Will it be a year of diplomacy or could it be a year of war?

Sergey Lavrov: I hope it will be a year of diplomacy (as if it is our choice). A results-oriented diplomacy that brings together the key countries with influence over the most important matters, determined to actually reach an agreement, not drag feet endlessly.

Thousands Protest Vaccine Tyranny in Bucharest, Romania

Massive crowds have flooded the streets of Bucharest, protesting against vaccination passports, curfews for the unvaccinated, and other newly introduced restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in Romania.

An estimated 15,000 people gathered in University Square and Victory Square outside government offices in Bucharest on Saturday, chanting ‘Freedom without certificates’ and ‘Down with the government.’

The latest round of restrictions came into effect on Sunday, limiting access to entertainment venues, as well as introducing weekend curfews for unvaccinated individuals.

Authorities also issued mask mandates for indoor and outdoor public spaces in areas with more than six coronavirus cases per 1,000 residents, including the capital.

Romania, which is home to some 19 million people, ranks second-lowest for vaccinations across the 27-member state EU bloc, with less than 28% of the population vaccinated with two doses. On Tuesday, Romania began ‘recommending’ a booster jab, and sought to make vaccinations mandatory for doctors and other healthcare staff.

With a total of 1.24 million officially recorded cases and some 37,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, Romania has seen a sharp spike in new infections over the past weeks, as authorities fear hospitals will soon run out of intensive care units.

Meanwhile, in France, some 48,000 people hit the streets for the ninth consecutive weekend of protests. Rallies began in mid-July after President Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced a system that made presenting a vaccination certificate or negative Covid-19 test obligatory for those wishing to visit a restaurant, theater, cinema, or shopping mall, as well as those traveling on long-distance trains.

 

Isn’t It Time to Finally Stop Using the Term ‘Post-Soviet’?

By Paula Erizanu via Calvert Journal

On paper, the term post-Soviet manifests in the image of a lone concrete bus stop on a windblown steppe or the harsh lines of a decaying brutalist tower block. The phrase itself has been around since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, but culturally, it pinpoints a specific moment in the 2010s: when the likes of Russian fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy burst onto the catwalk with streetwear collections dripping in Soviet references. Rubchinskiy’s very first fashion collection, 2008’s Empire of Evil, riffed on US President Ronald Reagan’s infamous Cold War-era speech, which condemned the Soviet Union’s “totalitarian darkness”. The designer was just one of many creatives and brands attempting to capture Eastern Europe as “poor but sexy”: fetishising the Soviet dream — rather than its reality — while capturing its own unique street culture.

Yet although it is a touchstone in the West, the term “post-Soviet” is rarely used in the 15 independent countries that once made up the former USSR. Despite a seven decade-long attempt to create a single “Soviet people”, almost all of the countries that gained their independence in 1990 and 1991 re-embraced their formerly suppressed national identities. Today, they are simply very different countries: from digital-first EU-member state Estonia, to isolated, one-party dictatorship Turkmenistan. New borders put a halt to the cultural exchanges and communication that linked these states during the Soviet era. Although some countries remain closer than others, it is globalisation and the internet that now forge artistic and creative connections in eastern Europe and Central Asia. Today, Moldovans are likely to know more about American culture than about developments in the neighbouring Ukraine — not to mention “far away” places like Kazakhstan.

Thirty years on from the fall of the USSR, it’s contentious whether we should be using the term “post-Soviet” to refer to these countries at all. The phrase might have been appropriate to understand these young states in 1995, when they were navigating the route from the socialist Soviet empire to independent, capitalist nations. But the wild 90s are long over — and all of these countries have transformed into new and very different entities. Does it still provide any key insights, or is it time to drop the term?

For many, perhaps the greatest issue with the term “post-Soviet” is its little-acknowledged imperialist undertones. Despite asserting itself as an internationalist project with equal republics, the Soviet Union continued the imperialist aggression of Tsarist Russia, from its invasion of the socialist democratic Georgia in 1921, to the occupation of the Baltic countries and my own native Moldova (then known as Bessarabia) during the Second World War. These annexations were swiftly followed by forced Russification, state-organised famines, countless deportations, and ethnic engineering, paired with a centralised industrialisation plan. In my own family, my grandfather, living in a northern Moldovan village, lost both his father and three of his siblings to famine in 1946-1947: newly-installed communist party representatives came into their house and cleared crops stored for the winter in order to send them elsewhere. Our story is not unique — there are countless such family stories across Moldova and Ukraine. Amid this pain, slowly yet insidiously, individual national cultures were also steamrollered. Local intelligentsia were executed, while artists were expected to conform to Moscow’s vision.

While Western empires are starting to be held accountable for their colonial past, Russia has barely acknowledged its imperialism as a source of oppression for other people. On the contrary, the Kremlin celebrates the Soviet past as proof of Russia’s role as a great power, whether by promoting a one-sided view of the Second World War as the “Great War for the Defense of the Fatherland”, or reviving the cult of Stalin. The term “post-Soviet” perpetually links countries that were once part of the USSR back to their former oppressor, stopping them from reclaiming their own identities.

“What we call the ‘post-Soviet legacy’ often takes roots in Russian domination before the Soviet time,” Ukrainian journalist, Maksim Eristavi, tells me. Born in Zaporizhzhya, an industrial town in eastern Ukraine, bordering Donbas, the 35-year-old says that researching western empires across the world helped him understand “post-Soviet” conflicts, such as the ongoing fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in Donbas as a “colonial” war. “Russian colonialism has had different stages, but they still share one DNA.”

“I am technically part of the first “post-Soviet” generation. But I would never use that term to self-identify”

Born during the 1992 Russo-Moldovan war in Transnistria — whose bombs my mother could hear from the maternity ward in Chișinău — I am technically part of the first “post-Soviet” generation. But I would never use that term to self-identify, despite my curiosity over Soviet history. I feel Moldovan and Romanian, the latter representing the pre-Soviet heritage of Moldovans, which was suppressed during the USSR. While I feel connected to Eastern European culture more generally, Romanian is my native tongue; it is Romanian culture, as it is expressed in Moldova, which primarily formed me. Western and Russian cultural influences are also widely felt, to different degrees, through music, media, and religion. But, like Eristavi says, it is Russian rather than Soviet influence that had dominated Moldova through the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, since the 1990s.

Ensuring that a country has a strong “post-Soviet” identity has also been a way for Russia to maintain power over its former colonies. One such example is the breakaway republic of Transnistria, which became part of the USSR in 1924 — 20 years before the rest of Moldova. Today, the region clings to a vision of itself which is very much focused on its Soviet past. Monuments dating back to the former regime are omnipresent. Soviet-era language policies also have a very real contemporary impact. During the Soviet era, officials banned Romanian books in Moldova, changed the country’s alphabet from Latin to Cyrillic, and promoted the idea that Moldovans spoke a separate, “Moldovan” language rather than Romanian. Today, despite the fact that Transnistria’s population is a third Ukrainian, a third Russian, and a third Romanian, the lingua franca there is Russian, and Romanian-language schools are constantly harassed by the breakaway government in Tiraspol. Censorship and authoritarianism are still strong, perpetuating close ties with Moscow and animosity towards Chișinău. Russian troops remain in Transnistria to this day, despite the fact that the Kremlin signed international treaties to withdraw them.

Yet for some generations formed during the Soviet era, the term “post-Soviet” still bears relevance and personal meaning: as an important cultural influence, career set up, and as a turning point in their lives. Uzbek novelist and poet Hamid Ismailov was born in 1954 in Tokmok, in Soviet Kyrgyzstan. He believes that all people who lived in the USSR as adults are, by definition, post-Soviet. “Until people like myself, who lived in the Soviet Union, are still alive, we are ‘post-Soviet’, because part of us is Soviet,” he says. “We might hate it but we lived through it and our life will be dictated by our Soviet heritage anyway. When we die, the term will completely disappear.” This lived experience means that Soviet culture and the Soviet system inevitably informs their creative work, whether that is in the shared humour and references from Soviet-era comedies, or the traumas of totalitarianism and censorship.

Indeed, one of the major themes linking and uniting artists from across the former Soviet space is dealing with the baggage that imperialism and oppression left behind. In its bid to create “homo Sovieticus” — a new “Soviet people” — communist officials would often repress “bourgeois” or “national” cultures. Today, scores of artists are working to reclaim this long repressed heritage, whether in fabrics, fashion and photography, like Belarusian Masha Maroz, or in painstakingly-engineered collages, like Kazakhstani artist Saule Suleimenova. In many ways, it is this work that has become a real “post-Soviet” — or rather, “post-colonial” — cultural project, rather than any streetwear show.

Even Ismailov, however, warns that the term “post-Soviet” can be misleading. Within his generation, people will often have a Soviet identity in addition to their Uzbek, Estonian, or Ukrainian one rather than a pan-regional “post-Soviet” heritage. “Compare the Baltic states, for example, to Central Asian countries: there are gradations in how Soviet these places remain today,” he says. “The further we go into the future, the more different these countries will become.”

Of the 15 countries that once made up the USSR, perhaps Russia is the only country still fully embracing its Soviet heritage. To a large extent, identifying as the inheritor of the Soviet Union is serving the Kremlin’s narrative of Russia as a great power. The cultural legacy of the Soviet Union can be felt in the censorship of films and book covers that challenge Soviet-era narratives, the rise of the cult of Stalin, or the show trials of cultural figures. Yet, ironically, the term “post-Soviet” itself does not get embraced by the Kremlin’s cultural — or political — circles. Instead, it gets used by young Russian urbanites who are at odds with the authoritarian climate of their country and use the term “post-Soviet” as a “cooler” way to mean contemporary Russian, explains Russian artist Anna Engelhardt.

Soviet imperialism is also shaping modern Russian culture in other, less obvious ways, and very differently to their unequal partners across Central Asia and eastern Europe. Just like in the West, where families from formerly colonised states came to London or Paris to seek better opportunities, millions of people from former Soviet republics migrated to Russia after the fall of the USSR. “It’s like a divorce in a patriarchal family,” Ismailov says. “Initially you think the divorce is between the husband and wife but there are kids, a house, this and that — it’s much more complicated. If you have used and abused colonies, then these colonies will require payback [of some kind].”

This migration is now leaving a mark on Russia’s cultural scene. Tajik-born singer-songwriter Manizha represented Russia at the 2021 Eurovision performance. Her track, Russian Woman, promoted an inclusive, multi-racial, feminist take on Russian womanhood — and yet she was targeted for xenophobic attacks. Uzbek-Korean designer J.Kim produces blistering collections from her base in Moscow. Zine Agasshin is at the cutting-edge of Russian beauty, and caters exclusively for people of colour. Russia’s non-Slavic minorities, also long maligned by the Soviet authorities are making their presence felt anew. In literature, too, Moscow-born Alisa Ganieva and Kazan-born Guzel Yakhina, reflect on their Dagestani and Tatar heritage to great success on the Russian literary scene.

The question remains as to how much of this trend should be defined as a post-colonial legacy, a post-Soviet legacy, or both. The conversation is complicated by the fact that discussing post-colonialism remains taboo in Russia. “Figures like Manizha and Tatarka tackle issues of cultural representation, which is important,” says Engelhardt, “but they don’t engage with the role of the state in perpetuating this colonialism. As soon as you discuss racism, colonialism, and orientalism while living in Russia and not abroad, it becomes dangerous.” Engelhardt focuses on Russian colonial practices in her art, but works under an alias for safety reasons. She learnt at school that Russian imperialism had stopped in the 19th century, and that the Soviet Union liberated indigenous peoples — leaving her and her friends in shock when conflicts such as those in Chechnya and Donbas broke out.

Her work has led her to avoid the term “post-Soviet” and to urge others instead to be more specific in their language when talking about the problems and identities of individual countries. But she would also like to see a change in how we see and use the word “Soviet” itself. Ideally, she says, the world would not see the Soviet Union first and foremost as an ideological project that “fell apart” due to economic woe, but also as a colonial empire that many peoples fought to topple — indeed, in my native Moldova, the process that led to the country’s secession from the USSR is called “the national liberation movement”.

Of course, any push for specificity will throw into harsh light one of the reasons why the term “post-Soviet” has become so ubiquitous in the cultural sphere: global inertia and ignorance. Eastern Europe and Central Asia is still a part of the world that many reporters, critics, and curators know little about, pushing many to cling to the wide, comforting strokes of all-encompassing terminology. Correcting this lack of knowledge is the main mission behind The Calvert Journal, although we know that the term we use to refer to the region as a whole — the New East — is not without its problems.

Ultimately, while the term “post-Soviet” lingers, we need to acknowledge that many of the people celebrating 30 years of independence from the USSR are also marking an anti-imperialist struggle.

While acknowledging the Soviet past, “post-Soviet” conceals the ongoing struggles of former republics, and their pre-Soviet heritage and history. More importantly, the phrase is a burden which holds nations back while trying to shape their own different presents and future. Thirty years following independence, it’s time to drop the use of this term to a minimum — and see each of these 15 independent countries on their own terms.

Belarusian President Lukashenko Says IMF Offered A Billion USD Bribe To Impose Covid-19 Lockdown

by Joaquin Flores

Now we see another dimension to the German push to remove Belarus President Lukashenko!

Armstrong Economics –

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said last month via Belarusian Telegraph Agency, BelTA., that World Bank and IMF offered him a bribe of $940 million USD in the form of “Covid Relief Aid.” In exchange for $940 million USD, the World Bank and IMF demanded that the President of Belarus:

• imposed “extreme lockdown on his people”
• force them to wear face masks
• impose very strict curfews
• impose a police state
• crash the economy

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko refused the offer and stated that he could not accept such an offer and would put his people above the needs of the IMF and World Bank. This fact can be verified using most search engines.

Now IMF and World Bank are bailing out failing airlines with billions of dollars, and in exchange, they are forcing airline CEOs to implement very strict policies such as forced face mask covers on everyone, including small children, whose health will suffer as a result of these policies.

And if it is true for Belarus, then it is true for the rest of the world. The IMF and World Bank want to crash every major economy with the intent of buying over every nation’s infrastructure at cents on the dollar.

SUA, război pe două fronturi. România unde e?

SORIN ROŞCA STĂNESCU
Miscellanea

În prezent, Statele Unite se află în plin Război Rece atât cu China, cât şi cu Uniunea Europeană. Câştigă sau pierd. Dar cert este că luptă pe două fronturi. Aceste două războaie reci sau, dacă vreţi, asimetrice, sunt în esenţa lor economice, dar au o miză mai largă, de natură geopolitică. Iar pretextele pentru declanşarea lor, deşi par diferite prin enunţurile făcute, sunt şi ele tot o expresie a unei confruntări economice la scală globală. Ceilalţi jucători majori, Turcia, Rusia şi China încearcă din răsputeri să rămână şi să culeagă roadele de pe margine.

În timp ce România a trecut pragul psihologic de 1000 de victime ale pandemiei, iar Guvernul se laudă că defilează pe “platou” şi că stă mai bine din acest punct de vedere decât celelalte state europene, ignorând situaţia încă şi mai bună a statelor est-europene, la nivel global au loc schimbări profunde. Care în mod inevitabil ne vor afecta. Economic, politic şi militar.

Pentru a începe cu sfârşitul, voi prezenta două ipoteze. Ce se va întâmpla în curând, când o confruntare majoră între Statele Unite şi China va determina celelalte state să se poziţioneze? Ce va face România? România e de presupus că va rămâne loială parteneriatului strategic cu Statele Unite. Ceea ce o plasează în tabăra anti-China. Un moment dramatic. Un moment în care va trebui să ne facem că uităm un gest istoric al Chinei, în principiu de neuitat. În 1968, atunci când Moscova ameninţa să invadeze România, după modelul invaziei din Cehoslovacia, China a ameninţat Uniunea Sovietică că, într-o asemenea situaţie, va declanşa un război împotriva acestui stat. Şi şi-a masat trupele la frontieră. Ca să nu mai vorbim de anul 1996. An în care România a fost la un milimetru să intre în încetare de plăţi. Iar China din nou ne-a salvat. A garantat pentru România. Suntem parteneri strategici cu Statele Unite, dar în acelaşi timp membri ai Uniunii Europene cu obligaţii, dar nu şi cu drepturi depline. Iar prima şi cea de-a doua preşedinţie a lui Klaus Iohannis ne plasează în postura de vasali loiali ai Germaniei. Ce se întâmplă în momentul în care criza politică, economică şi militară dintre Statele Unite şi Europa escaladează şi se transformă într-un război asimetric? Unde se va plasa România? Iar, în continuare, detalii despre cele două războaie anunţate.

Congresul Statelor Unite îl împuterniceşte pe Donald Trump ca, într-un interval rezonabil de timp – am înţeles 60 de zile – să decidă în funcţie de comportamentul Chinei dacă recurge la sancţiuni economice. Sancţiunile înseamnă nici mai mult nici mai puţin decât blocarea conturilor deţinute de societăţile comerciale chinezeşti în Statele Unite, indisponibilizarea bunurilor imobile, precum şi interzicerea prezenţei pe pământ american a unor demnitari chinezi. Miza este uriaşă. Bunurile mobile şi imobile care ar putea fi sechestate au valoare de câteva mii de miliarde de dolari. Pretextul acestei ameninţări fără precedent lansate împotriva Chinei este pandemia de coronavirus. China este silită să prezinte rapoarte şi informaţii convingătoare, care să demonstreze că nu este implicată nici intenţionat şi nici din neglijenţă în generarea şi răspândirea virusului. Ceea ce nu se va întâmpla niciodată. Niciodată asemenea rapoarte, chiar în ipoteza în care ar fi făcute cu toată bună credinţa, nu vor fi socotite suficient de convingătoare. La fel cum nici anchetele desfăşurate pe teren în Irak şi la capătul cărora nu a fost descoperită nicio probă cum că Saddam Hussein producea arme chimice şi biologice, nu au împiedicat Statele Unite să meargă până la capăt cu ameninţarea, să invadeze Irakul şi să-l execute pe Saddam Hussein. Statele Unite au intenţia să meargă până la capăt în acest război cu China, întrucât dubla criză, generată de pandemie şi de contracţia severă economică, pune Washingtonul în situaţia de a căuta bani acolo unde banii există. Iar China, care de câţiva ani s-a plasat pe primul loc în lume din punctul de vedere al Produsului Intern Brut, devansând Statele Unite şi, în acelaşi timp, înregistrând constant o creştere economică şi având o bună balanţă comercială cu celelalte state, dispune de uriaşe lichidităţi. Statele Unite având o gaură sub forma datoriei publice de aproape 30 de mii de miliarde de dolari. În acelaşi timp, Statele Unite au totuşi cea mai performantă armată de pe glob. După dispariţia Uniunii Sovietice, America nu are practic rivali pe măsură din perspectivă militară. Pretextul pandemiei este numai bun pentru a tranşa o rivalitate Washington-Beijing, care a depăşit punctul critic. Şi ca să mă fac mai bine înţeles, voi mai face precizarea cred extrem de importantă că diplomaţia de la Beijing s-a schimbat radical, devenind treptat în ultimii doi ani extrem de agresivă. China nu-şi mai ascunde puterea. Dimpotrivă, o etalează şi şi-o afirmă. Fapt care nu poate decât să irite la culme Washingtonul.

Ce va face România, în calitate de aliat strategic al Statelor Unite? Va îngheţa la rândul ei bunurile mobile şi imobile deţinute de China în România, bunuri care au o valoare semnificativă? Sau va urma calea trasată de Germania? Dar care este această cale? Oficial, Uniunea Europeană, dominată de Germania, contrazice Washingtonul şi ajunge la concluzia că, în ceea ce priveşte pandemia, China nu a trecut linia roşie. Nu a încălcat regulile jocului. Nu se face vinovată de răspândirea virusului în mod intenţionat sau din neglijenţă. Această poziţie este diametral opusă celei afrmate de Washington. Numai că Berlinul joacă totuşi la două capete. Serviciul secret german, unul dintre cele mai eficiente servicii secrete din lume, ajunge la o concluzie diametral opusă. Şi face scăpat un raport secret, care conţine probe ce incriminează China. Asta înseamnă că, la rândul său, Berlinul se poate suci. Şi când se suceşte Berlinul, se suceşte Europa întreagă. Şi, sub acest aspect, diplomaţia de la Bucureşti, ca şi Guvernul, ca şi preşedinţia sunt luate prin surprindere. Astfel încât orbecăie, fiind incapabile să stabilească o politică fermă în logica şi în interesul României.

Încă şi mai complicat este diferendul de natură militară în care, din nou, România îşi prinde urechile. Vă amintiţi? Donald Trump l-a bătut pe umăr pe Klaus Iohannis şi, la schimb, România a decis pe loc ca mai multe miliarde de dolari să meargă în direcţia industriei de armament din Statele Unite. Chiar la sfârşitul anului trecut, printr-o operaţiune fără precedent în istorie, România a plătit în avans echipamente militare americane, pe care nu le-a primit nici până acum. Parteneriatul militar româno-american merge brici. În toate teatrele de război. Dar şi în ceea ce priveşte războiul invizibil. Ca semnal că aşa stau lucrurile, iată, Mircea Geoană, e drept, un personaj extrem de apropiat – şi nu numai emoţional – de Statele Unite, a devenit numărul doi în NATO. Din poziţia de secretar general adjunct. Dar în ce constă pe acest plan războiul SUA-UE?

Acest război are o miză geostrategică, dar în esenţă este tot de natură financiară. De mai mult timp, Germania promovează o apropiere de Rusia şi, în acelaşi timp, o distanţare politică faţă de Statele Unite. Aceasă distanţare, căreia i s-a raliat şi Franţa, a împins până la urmă Uniunea Europeană la decizia de a nu mai suporta via Statele Unite costurile apărării militare a continentului. Şi astfel UE a intrat în scenariul creării unei armate proprii. Pornind de la un buget iniţial de 13 miliarde de euro. În paranteză fie spus, acest buget pare a fi acum compromis de criza economică. Dificultăţile, dincolo de costurile finale, care vor fi uriaşe, sunt din această perspectivă extrem de mari pentru Uniunea Europeană. Să ne gândim numai la faptul că, în timp ce Statele Unite au numai 30 de sisteme de armament, Uniunea Europeană are 178 şi că toate aceste sisteme ar trebui compatibilizate între ele. Uniunea Eurpeană are 17 tipuri de tancuri de luptă, în timp ce Statele Unite au standardizat un singur tip. Iar bomboana pe coliva noii armate europene este pusă de Brexit. Plecarea Marii Britanii, care este principalul aliat geostrategic al Statelor Unite, poate arunca în aer acest proiect, la care totuşi Germania nu vrea să renunţe. În aceste condiii, asupra Bucureştiului se exercită numeroase presiuni, până la un punct încununate de succes, astfel încât banii pentru achiziţiile de echipamente militare să fie deturnaţi către industria europeană de armament. Din nou Bucureştiul, lipsit de o diplomaţie şi de o viziune coerentă, rămâne în corzi. În bătaia vântului. În definitiv, ce vom face atunci când acest război rece între Uniunea Europeană şi Statele Unite se declanşează pe toate fronturile de luptă? Vom continua să rămânem aliaţi fideli ai Statelor Unite sau vom arunca în aer, de dragul Berlinului, un proiect româno-american, pe care l-am construit cu sacrificii şi trudă în ultimii 30 de ani?

Aşa că întrebarea din titlu rămâne deschisă. SUA este în război pe două fronturi. Va câştiga şi într-o parte şi în cealaltă? Va câştiga doar într-o parte? Sau va pierde ambele războaie, transformându-se în imperiul cel mai scurt din istoria lumii? Şi unde se plasează până la urmă România? În care dintre tabere? O întrebare grea, cu răspunsuri dramatice!