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Rethinking Putin: A Talk by Professor Stephen Cohen 

Rethinking Putin: A Talk by Professor Stephen Cohen  | Russia | Scoop.it

In this brief talk, delivered on 2 December 2017 aboard The Nation’s annual cruise, Professor Cohen tries to revise popular perceptions of Vladimir Putin as a leader by putting him in historical and contemporary context. Cohen begins with an assessment of the mostly derogatory perceptions of Putin common in the West. Who and what Putin has actually been as Russia’s leader for eighteen years is a difficult question because, as good biographers and historians understand, we still lack essential materials, including memoirs and archival documents. Against this incomplete background, Cohen sketches out some basic issues that he thinks future scholars will consider and no doubt debate. 


As Cohen emphasizes at the outset, Putin has been among the most consequential national leaders of the twenty-first century. That fact alone suggests we should carefully consider Putin’s role at home and abroad to date. Cohen hopes that his undertaking here might stir informed and civil discussions of this intensely controversial subject.

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With Russians feeling besieged, some give Putin a loaded title: vozhd 

With Russians feeling besieged, some give Putin a loaded title: vozhd  | Russia | Scoop.it

Russians, too, seem to increasingly view their long-time leader as something much more than a standard politician, though the image some are reaching for is not that of a czar. The word that keeps cropping up is vozhd, an ancient term imbued with mythic connotations that signifies a chieftain who stands above history, one who embodies the enduring will of the entire nation.  

     In the not-too-distant past, the term was embraced by Joseph Stalin as the core of his adulatory “personality cult,” but was eschewed by his successors. The term’s reemergence in Russian discourse appears to be due to the sense of ongoing crisis brought about by the confrontation with the West, which began in earnest four years ago with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has escalated ever since. 

     Even as Putin was being reelected last month with his biggest margin ever, a war of words was raging between Moscow and London over the attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal with allegedly Russian-made nerve gas. Sochi, Soviets, and czars: How much do you know about Russia? “Before, he was simply our president, and it was possible to change him,” tweeted Margarita Simonyan, head of the English-language RT television network, following the election. “Now he is our vozhd. And we will not let that be changed.” 

     A similar thought was earlier voiced by the Kremlin’s then-deputy chief of staff, Vyacheslav Volodin, as the current East-West crisis was heating up. “Today there is no Russia if there is no Putin,” he told an assembly of Western scholars and journalists in late 2014. “Any attack on Putin is an attack on Russia.” There is even a current popular song by the rock group Rabfak entitled “Putin is Our Vozhd.”  

     As Putin looks to place Russia on a stable long-term basis when his fourth and likely final presidential term ends – perhaps by changing the constitution to reinvent his own political role – the fact that some of his strongest supporters are adopting the vozhd label must be an irritating distraction – or, just maybe, a temptation. Vozhd can have benign usages, signifying a preeminent leader in almost any field, such as a vozhd of science or literature. 

    But in the modern political sense it is inextricably linked with the all-encompassing mass “personality cult” of Stalin in the 20th century, and its echoes bring back all the tortured and still very controversial memories of those times. The Stalinist notion of vozhd implied an infallible leader, one who navigates the shoals of history on behalf of his people, and who is to be trusted and obeyed implicitly.

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Protests Over a Noxious Landfill Outside Moscow Are Turning Into a Political Time Bomb

Protests Over a Noxious Landfill Outside Moscow Are Turning Into a Political Time Bomb | Russia | Scoop.it

Throughout Volokolamsk, a small town 100 kilometers outside Moscow, dozens of other families were rocked by the same emergency. Over the course of the day, more than one hundred children sought treatment. They all cited that same noxious gas that residents said left them feeling dizzy, nauseous and, in some cases, covered in rashes. 

     Residents have been protesting the nearby Yadrovo landfill, the source of the potent gases, for more than a year, demanding that it be shut down. After children were acutely affected last week, their frustration boiled over and protests exploded into violence directed at regional officials.

    “The government used to ask us to tighten our belts,” said Sergei Gayvoronsky, 65, next to the landfill. “Now they have our belts around our necks. They are choking us.” 

     According to local activists, the town’s problems began two years ago and have grown as the Yadrovo dump is increasingly overburdened with waste. It now regularly leaks gases that, according to local officials, resulted in abnormal levels of nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide earlier this month. 

    Many point to the June 2017 closure of the Kuchino landfill in Balashikha, another Moscow region town, as the reason the Yadrovo landfill has become so overburdened. 

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The Latest: UK: New Russian expulsion order 'regrettable'

The Latest: UK: New Russian expulsion order 'regrettable' | Russia | Scoop.it

 Russia expelled 59 diplomats from 23 countries on Friday and said it reserved the right to take action against four other nations in a worsening standoff with the West over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.
     Russia said it was responding to what it called the baseless demands for scores of its own diplomats to leave a slew of mostly Western countries that have joined London and Washington in censuring Moscow over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
     A day earlier, Moscow ordered the expulsion of 60 U.S. diplomats and the closing of the U.S. consulate in St Petersburg, Russia's second city, in retaliation for the biggest ejection of diplomats since the Cold War.
     Preparations appeared to be under way on Friday to close the St Petersburg mission down, with a removals truck making repeated journeys to and from the consulate which took delivery of a large pizza order for its staff.
     Russia summoned senior envoys on Friday from most of the other countries that have expelled Russian diplomats and told them it was expelling a commensurate number of theirs.

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Why Russian Tragedies Are Doomed to Repeat 

Why Russian Tragedies Are Doomed to Repeat  | Russia | Scoop.it

The tragedy in Kemerovo in which at least 64 people died — most of them children — is essentially a second Beslan. Although many fewer people died in Kemerovo than in the 2003 hostage crisis, this tragedy was caused not by terrorism, but by gross negligence on the part of Winter Cherry mall employees and administrators, with possible complicity on the part of the safety inspectors.
     Once again, the very state bodies tasked with protecting the public from life-threatening negligence on the part of businesses and individuals have failed in their primary duty. Society pays for this in the currency of human lives and yet is unable to exercise any control over those entrusted with ensuring their safety.
     According to available information, the fire at the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo claimed the greatest number of lives of any fire apart from the tragedy at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm in December 2009, in which 156 people were killed.
     There, too, patrons were unable to escape because emergency exits were blocked. They inhaled noxious fumes as buliding materials burned that had been banned for use. Major breaches in safety procedures also cost the lives of 238 miners in Kemerovo between 2007 and 2010.
     The investigation has only begun into the Winter Cherry fire, but the available evidence suggests that a number of people are to blame for the deaths.
     The fire alarm and fire-suppression systems reportedly failed, and the alert system was disabled. Judging by surveillance camera footage, the initial burst of flames, fire and thick smoke spread through the building within seconds, and no one is seen organizing an evacuation.

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Could enemies sabotage undersea cables linking the world?

Could enemies sabotage undersea cables linking the world? | Russia | Scoop.it

 Russian ships are skulking around underwater communications cables, causing the U.S. and its allies to worry the Kremlin might be taking information warfare to new depths.
     Is Moscow interested in cutting or tapping the cables? Does it want the West to worry it might? Is there a more innocent explanation? Unsurprisingly, Russia isn't saying.
     But whatever Moscow's intentions, U.S. and Western officials are increasingly troubled by their rival's interest in the 400 fiber-optic cables that carry most of world's calls, emails and texts, as well as $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions.

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Never Apologize: A Russian Bureaucrat’s Creed 

Never Apologize: A Russian Bureaucrat’s Creed  | Russia | Scoop.it
Hundreds of large shopping malls went up all over the country during Russia’s fat years in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. These centers of Western-style consumption and entertainment were a revelation for many in the former industrial Soviet cities. One could enjoy a meal, watch a movie, leave children to play, and go shopping, all in one glittering place. People loved it, and it felt so safe, too, with all the others doing the same. 
     Many children who played in the center’s activity zone were bused from nearby small towns to spend a fun Sunday. Dozens of them were watching “Sherlock Gnomes,” a recent computer-animated Hollywood flick, when they died. The shock of this presumably safe environment turning into a deadly trap struck deep.   
     In dread, people recounted on social media their weekly trips to identical shopping behemoths all over the country, realizing how precarious it all was. Playgrounds often located at top floors that are hard to evacuate, the doors to staircases often shut to prevent people from leaving without enough shopping done, the brazen neglect of security rules, the manipulation for gain, the local officials usually owning stakes in these profitable businesses, the local authorities’ fear and awe of the visiting leader, not of the grieving public—it all went on display this week. 
     The way regional dignitaries behaved when Putin confronted them on Tuesday was both familiar and shocking. It is not every day that an exchange between trembling, scared bureaucrats and their paramount nemesis is broadcast to wide audiences. “I am asking for your personal forgiveness for what has happened on our territory,” Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev told Putin. Tuleyev, 73, was reelected as governor with almost 97 percent of the vote in 2015.           The one thing he had to say about his voters was that those of them who took to the streets to express their grief and indignation were “troublemakers.” Those protesting were an “opposition force” who speculated in people’s feelings, Tuleyev said. “Young man, are you trying to use this tragedy to hype yourself [piaritsa, derived from PR, was the word used in the Russian original]?” Kemerovo deputy governor Sergei Tsivilyov asked a man standing in front of him, to which the man replied: “My entire family died.” That was Igor Vostrikov whose wife, three young children, and sister died in the fire at the mall. 
      Later the deputy governor Tsivilyov went down on his knees and asked people standing around him on Kemerovo’s central square for forgiveness for the authorities’ failure to prevent the deaths of their loved ones. This was the human in him fighting his way out of the armor he has to wear as a Russian civil servant. His initial reaction was how Russian officials are schooled to react to any unauthorized bottom-up activity. Gleaned from Russian officials’ behavior during the latest tragedy and during countless other emergencies, the most important articles of Russia’s bureaucratic faith would be as follows: A threat can only originate from an external source that is outside the boundaries the Russian state controls (foreign agents, extremists, etc.). 
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State Department: Russia shouldn't "be acting like a victim"  

State Department: Russia shouldn't "be acting like a victim"   | Russia | Scoop.it

Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that that U.S. "reserves the right to respond" after Russia announced a retaliatory expulsion of U.S. diplomats. Nauert said Russia has decided to "further isolate itself diplomatically and economically." 

     While the U.S. wasn't surprised by Russia kicking out 60 U.S. diplomats, it's "unjustified" she said, adding that Russia "should not be acting like a victim."

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Russia Is in the Middle East to Stay

Russia Is in the Middle East to Stay | Russia | Scoop.it

Since Moscow’s demonstration of strength (with Iran’s help) in Syria, the Russians have asserted themselves as a credible alternative to the Americans with traditional U.S. allies. With arms sales, economic deals, and diplomatic maneuvering, Russia has been effective in pulling Turkey and Egypt away from the United States, though not completely, and closer to Russia’s orbit. 

     Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow last October—the first ever visit by a Saudi king—to talk oil prices and hedge against American retrenchment. And now that the United States is the world’s leading producer of petroleum, there is likely to be more cooperation between the Russians and the Arab Gulf states in an effort to ensure that global oil prices are favorable to their interests. Even the Israelis have repeatedly beaten a path to Moscow over the last few years in hopes of persuading Putin to look after their interests in Syria.
     This is a solid record of achievement. In the span of less than a decade, the Middle East has gone from a region in which the United States was overwhelmingly predominant to one that Washington and Moscow contest. In Syria, the Russians have demonstrated political will and staying power. This is more important than, for example, the size of Russia’s economy, which has been used as an indicator of Moscow’s weakness. To believe that Russian power is ephemeral risks instilling ideas and assumptions about the world that breed complacency. Washington needs the exact opposite.
     So, what should the United States do about Russia in the Middle East? Before doing anything, policymakers must recognize reality: The Russians are not going away, they have a strategy to weaken the West, and it starts in the Middle East. Moreover, Moscow no longer has the ideological baggage of communism, making it easier for it to make inroads in the region.

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Nick Orazi's curator insight, March 29, 6:44 PM
This article talks about how invested Russia is in the middle East. The article talks about the reason why they are invested. While showing the different countries in the middle east that are involved with Russia. The main reasons why Russia is involved is wanting more territories and to push American friendly countries out.
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'Don't Decommunize This!'

'Don't Decommunize This!' | Russia | Scoop.it

 Mosaics became Soviet officials' public art of choice after 1918, when leader Vladimir Lenin realized the giant public paintings he had originally envisioned to decorate his "utopian" cities would fade away in the brutal winters of the U.S.S.R. Here a Soviet-era mosaic rests on a post office in the abandoned town of Pripyat, near Chernobyl.
     Following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the subsequent violence in the Donbas, most of Ukraine’s overtly communist murals were removed during the “decommunization” process that began as a spontaneous street movement that was signed into law in 2015. (Reuters photo)
    Most of Ukraine’s mosaics are made from pieces of opaque colored glass, called smalto, that hold their vibrance through any weather. The smalto for the mosaics that dot cities across the former Soviet Union was produced in eastern Ukraine.

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Spy poisoning: Nato expels Russian diplomats

Spy poisoning: Nato expels Russian diplomats | Russia | Scoop.it

Nato is expelling seven Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack in the UK. The international security organisation's chief said the move would send a message to Russia that there are "costs and consequences" for its behaviour. 

     Twenty-six countries have expelled Russian envoys in the past two days, in solidarity with the UK. They all believe Russia was behind the poisoning of two people in Salisbury. Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned on 4 March in the southern English city, and investigators say a military-grade nerve agent was used. 

     Russian has denied involvement. Speaking in Brussels, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said he would also deny pending accreditation for three Russian staff, and would reduce the size of Russia's mission from 30 to 20. 

     Nato made a similar move in 2015, in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Before that, there were 60 Russia personnel at its Belgium headquarters.

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Wess Mitchell: Russia has shown 'pattern' of aggressive behavior 

Wess Mitchell: Russia has shown 'pattern' of aggressive behavior  | Russia | Scoop.it

 Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said Monday that Russia has shown a pattern of aggressive behavior that the administration will not tolerate.
    “The Russian government has not been helpful in recent days with the United States, the international community in our efforts with North Korea. More broadly, I think there is a pattern of more aggressive Russian behavior worldwide,” Mr. Wess said on Fox News.
    He said President Trump’s congratulatory call to Russian President Vladimir Putin is protocol and doesn’t have any greater meaning. The administration expelled 60 Russian intelligence officials Monday and closed the consulate in Seattle after an attack on a former double agent in England. The nerve agent attack was linked to Moscow officials.

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Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, US General says

Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, US General says | Russia | Scoop.it

 Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, the head of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan told the BBC in an exclusive interview.
     In the interview, Gen. John Nicholson criticized Russia’s “destabilizing activity” and said that Russian weapons were being smuggled across the Tajikistan border and into the Taliban’s hands.
     “We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of ISIS [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Nicholson told BBC News. “This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimize the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”
     “We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he added. “We know that the Russians are involved.”
     Nicholson said Russia’s involvement with the Taliban is newly founded, and that Russia has conducted a number of exercises with Tajikstan and left equipment behind, which ends up in the possession of the Taliban.

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Russian Authorities Threaten to Take Away Teacher’s Children Over Hunger Strike

Russian Authorities Threaten to Take Away Teacher’s Children Over Hunger Strike | Russia | Scoop.it

 Russian municipal authorities have reportedly threatened to take away a local art school teacher’s children after she protested against low pay. 
     Yoshkar-Ola art school teacher Yekaterina Sokolova went on a hunger strike in mid-March after her salary was cut by more than half, from 27,000 rubles to 15,000 rubles ($263), the local 7x7 news website reported. Teachers in Russia earned an average 34,921 rubles per month nationwide last year, while teachers in the republic of Marii-El, where the city of Yoshkar-Ola is located, earned 22,387 rubles.
     In an interview with 7x7 published Saturday, Sokolova alleged that the school’s new leadership is misusing President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 executive orders promising to increase the incomes of health care, education and research professionals by 2018. 
     Yoshkar-Ola city hall officials threatened to seize Sokolova’s two underage children, the RFE/RL news website affiliate Idel.Realii cited the head of a local teachers union as saying Monday. 
     The outlet reported that the local human rights ombudsman was unable to solve the disagreement, while the deputy mayor and the school’s director had “simultaneously taken sick leave."

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'Anyone Would Do The Same': Tajik Shopkeepers Save Lives In Kemerovo 

'Anyone Would Do The Same': Tajik Shopkeepers Save Lives In Kemerovo  | Russia | Scoop.it

 "It was just an ordinary day and I was at work in our store at Zimnyaya Vishnya," Farzon Salimov recalls. "Suddenly, my nephew, who works at the shopping center, called me and said a fire had started on the fourth floor."
     Within minutes the scene at the mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo became chaotic, with smoke and fire filling the building and prompting visitors to run for safety. In the end, 64 people would lose their lives in the March 25 fire.
     "First, we helped the customers in our shop to get out of the building," Salimov told RFE/RL's Tajik Service by telephone. "Then I saw that there were so many people gathered near the escalators, unable to get out through the main door."
     Salimov, a native of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, owns a business on the second floor of the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall where he and four other Tajik workers sell shoes and clothes.
     "There were many women, children, and elderly among the crowd stuck there," Salimov told RFE/RL on March 28. "The five of us helped them to get out of the building through our shop and by another door."

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Claim: Russian airline returns US citizens to India because of skin color 

 Five Indian-American passengers trying to make a connecting flight in Moscow during a return trip to New York were forced to go back to Delhi, India instead, according to a racial discrimination report filed on March 22 against Russia’s Aeroflot Airlines.
     The claim, submitted by Muslim Advocates, stated that the five United States citizens were “subjected to grossly discriminatory treatment by Aeroflot Airlines in January 2018.”
     “What should have been a routing return flight home turned into a harrowing ordeal after Aeroflot staff steadfastly refused to allow American customers who were or who were perceived to be a South Asian descent to return to the United States, ‘deporting’ them instead to India – all while providing customers on the same flight who were or who were perceived to be white Americans with accommodations and connecting flights to America,” the complaint alleges.
     The five passengers were returning home on Jan. 7, 2018 from a trip to India, but upon landing in Moscow, their connecting flight to JFK was canceled due to bad weather. That’s when the problems started.

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The More the West Pressures Putin Over Spy Poisoning, the More Russia Believes Him

The More the West Pressures Putin Over Spy Poisoning, the More Russia Believes Him | Russia | Scoop.it

 The games of the 2018 World Cup and local corruption scandals were the main topics this week in Nizhny Novgorod, one of Russia’s five biggest cities. All tickets for this summer’s FIFA test game have already sold out. The city hardly cares about the nerve agent used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal in England—spies, Moscow, and London are too far away from the Volga River, still locked in ice in late March.
     Nobody seems too upset here about dozens of Russian diplomats being kicked out of more than 20 countries around the globe. Conflicts cannot last forever, locals say—by June, this diplomatic war will calm down and the newly built stadium on the picturesque bank of the Volga River will be filled with football fans.
     When it comes to President Putin’s public support, Nizhny Novgorod is not any different from most Russian cities. Earlier this month Putin won his biggest election victory: Nearly 77 percent of the public voted to re-elect Putin for his fourth term. In his victory speech, Putin said that Skripal’s case in London and the diplomatic scandal helped his popularity.
     Russians know that most officials are corrupt. A few days before Election Day, Nizhny Novgorod Mayor Oleg Sorokin was arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe of around $1 million. But no matter how criminal Putin’s allies appear, how poor international policy might seem, Putin’s popularity does not fade away.

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RT Ceases Broadcasting in Washington After Being ‘Thrown Out,’ Chief Editor Says

RT Ceases Broadcasting in Washington After Being ‘Thrown Out,’ Chief Editor Says | Russia | Scoop.it
The Kremlin-run RT news network will go off the air in the U.S. capital because of its “foreign agent” status in the country, its chief editor has claimed.

RT’s American branch was ordered to register as a “foreign agent” in the U.S. last fall following allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The channel will be taken off air after two Virginia-based digital stations that carry RT alongside other international broadcasters disappear from screens this Sunday, a year after they were auctioned off by their parent organization.
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The Kremlin's Reckless Self-Image Problem 

The Kremlin's Reckless Self-Image Problem  | Russia | Scoop.it

 If a self-image problem sounds like a stretch, try deep resentment and anger spurred by the loss of power and international stature. I think those disturbing emotions are present in Russian President Vladimir Putin's April 2005 lament that the USSR's demise was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the (20th) century."
     Harsh historical comparisons to past Russian glory also shame today's Kremlin -- which Putin commands.
     In their eras, Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union were Great Powers -- big shots with global sway. In 2018, however, Russia is no longer the terrifying Soviet Union with an iron grip on its eastern European and Central Asian empire, but an embittered remnant of that Cold War colossus. Putin's Russia has immense regional military power and its abundant natural resources (like oil) are economic leverage, but it also has a host of economic, demographic and institutional problems that possessing nuclear weapons and ICBMs won't mitigate or solve.
     As a result, Russia lacks the global heft and respect of a genuine first-class Great Power.
     Putin's Kremlin needs time to restore Russian primacy. Unfortunately, it has not chosen productive cooperation and economic integration with post-Cold War Europe and North America.
It has chosen a more belligerent and dangerous route to world power.
     This week, the AP reported Secretary of Defense James Mattis told the Pentagon press pool that the March 4 attempted assassination of a former Russian intelligence officer living in Britain showed "Russia has chosen to be a strategic competitor, even to the point of reckless activity..."

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In the Wake of a Fatal Fire in Russia, Official Numbness and Online Trolling Stoke Outrage 

In the Wake of a Fatal Fire in Russia, Official Numbness and Online Trolling Stoke Outrage  | Russia | Scoop.it

 On March 25th, a large shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo burned down and killed over 60 people —  many of whom were children. In the days and hours that followed, the city’s residents have heavily criticized the regional and city administrations for their botched crisis management, and the first responders for what they feel was a slow response.
     As these residents take to the streets and the internet, the online Russian bot machine, geared as it is towards domestic conversations, has focused on downplaying the residents’ outrage and shifting blame away from state officials.This campaign also reflects the dismissive and often heavy-handed treatment state officials have been doling out to the families of the deceased.
     As opinions heat up, both on the streets and in the online sphere, many feel that the use of online trolls has lead to an environment of misinformation and mistrust.
     The fire seems to have started near a children’s play area and quickly spread, trapping many people including dozens of other children who were in the mall’s movie theater. As reported in Meduza, a Latvian-based Russian news website, the families of those still trapped in the blaze stood in disbelief as the first responders took a seemingly long time donning their gear, dissuading distraught onlookers from going into the mall to rescue their children. 

     Though this last point is, perhaps, a standard procedure to prevent untrained individuals from subjecting themselves to further risk, people were nevertheless angry. However, they saved most of their anger for the regional and city leadership.

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Russia boots diplomats, closes consulate over nerve agent fight  

Russia boots diplomats, closes consulate over nerve agent fight   | Russia | Scoop.it

Tit-for-tat, as expected

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, to the foreign ministry Thursday where he was informed Russia is expelling 60 U.S. diplomats — the same number as the U.S. expelled stateside — and will close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, per the AP. 

     Russia will take similar action in the 25 other countries that expelled Russians, expelling 150 diplomats in total.

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What’s Next for Russia’s Relations With the West?

What’s Next for Russia’s Relations With the West? | Russia | Scoop.it

Q: Some EU countries have expelled Russian diplomats while some haven’t. How divided is the bloc on Russia?
A; The EU has never been of one mind about how to handle Russia, but nobody has made any money in the past four years betting that the Europeans would lift sanctions. To the contrary, again and again EU policy has remained united even though many members have disagreed with it. They were willing to put aside their differences, to follow the lead of the Germans, and to listen to the United States.

     If anything, what we’re seeing now is a deepening of that unity. After all, this week’s expulsions are a show of solidarity with a country that is leaving the EU. And the Poles, who have lately been somewhat estranged from Europe, apparently took a leading role.
     And after a year in which Europeans wondered where the United States was headed, we’ve seen a strong show of support from Washington to stand together against Moscow. Quite apart from the expulsions themselves, all this is a real warning sign to Putin that his policies are not working. 

Q: Where do you see Russia’s relations with the West headed?
A: It’s wrong to think that this is a breach that can’t be healed. Many European leaders want to keep relations with Moscow from becoming too hostile. There’s always a détente wing among the Social Democrats in Germany. A new Italian government will want to patch things up, even ease sanctions. Southern Europe in general is more sympathetic to Russia than the north. And, as long as Trump remains president, American policy will be unpredictable.
     All the same, there is a new suspicion of Putin among most Western governments and a greater conviction that he’s more of a problem than a solution.

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What does the expulsion mean for Russia’s spies?

What does the expulsion mean for Russia’s spies? | Russia | Scoop.it

As well as the sheer volume of suspected spies expelled from multiple countries, one of the most significant moves may be the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, said to be because of its proximity to a submarine base and to the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which has a large chunk of its global workforce in the area.
     President Trump has ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, which stands near a US Navy submarine base
These consulates can play a significant role in espionage since they act not only as a base for intelligence officers, but also potentially as a home to communications interception equipment.
     The impact may not be quite the same as the Cold War though. One reason is cyberspace. In the past, the only way for Moscow to gather intelligence or steal secrets was through human intelligence or intercepting communications, but now it can reach out using its effective cyber-operators to steal secrets and gather non-classified material remotely.
     This is not a total substitute for the human intelligence provided by agents - and the two often combine in practice - but it does offer a new avenue. Cyberspace may also offer a route for Moscow to strike back against the countries that have expelled its officers - perhaps not just by stealing secrets but by carrying out "active measures", "influence operations" and even sabotage online in a way which was not possible in the past, but is now.

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Might Makes Might

Might Makes Might | Russia | Scoop.it

The spy evictions announced Monday are meant to punish Russia, and send a warning as to the bad and dangerous behavior that has become state policy in Moscow. As practically everyone knows, the Russians poisoned one of their former spies, and the man’s daughter, in England. The Russians deny their culpability; but, then, they deny everything prejudicial to their goal of restoring to Russia a measure of greatness and pride. 

     Normal people would suppose long-distance murder attempts — for whom no one else could possibly be blamed but the Russian secret service, controlled by Putin — represents something other than national greatness. But the Russkies, no longer a power of the first rate, will take what they can get. And to think! — the U.S. got in on the action; not just got in on it — helped to lead it. 

     The diplomatic expulsions, coupled with Bolton’s ascent to influence within the administration, not necessarily will but certainly might influence expectations as to American behavior in the face of serious challenge. It is a sad fact of history and human nature — yet a fact all the same — that the expectations of outsiders depend on what they think they have reason to expect; namely, the kind of behavior they’ve seen before. 

     Weak behavior in the past points to weak behavior in the present. So with strong behavior: the more so as underestimating the strong can be infinitely more dangerous than low-rating the weak.

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INTERVIEW: Londongrad rocked by spy scandal

 Andrei Yakunin, son of the former boss of Russian Railways (RZD), is successful fund manager, he studied for an MBA in London and then signed up to a scheme run by the British government to attract highly skilled workers that gave him a residence permit.
     “Investors are based in the UK and in 2007-2008 everything that was happening in finance was happening in London,” says Yakunin. “It's where the money is.”
     The current spy scandal has affected expat Russians and those living and working in London are trying to be stoical about the current fracas.
     “There are a lot of professionals living in London and people in these occupations are hoping there will be no drastic impact. If you compete on the international market then you are sought after in Hong Kong, New York, Moscow and London. You apply your skills and knowledge in these geographies and can move. But I hope that it doesn't come to that,” says Yakunin.

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DEAD: MMM's Sergei Mavrodi, Behind the Hype

DEAD: MMM's Sergei Mavrodi, Behind the Hype | Russia | Scoop.it

One of Russia’s most famous crooks, Sergei Mavrodi, died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 62. A symbol of the “Wild 90s” which followed the Soviet Union’s collapse, Mavrodi persuaded millions of Russians to put their savings into his MMM pyramid scheme — convinced at least in part by MMM’s memorable television ads featuring everyman Lyonya Golubkov that became the first post-Soviet meme. 

      After trying his hand at being a State Duma deputy, in 1996 he ran for president. In 2003, he was arrested and sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison for fraud. 

     The article below was originally published on Aug. 6, 1994. It was written by Steve Liesman. 

     It was like a scene from The Wizard of Oz. When the curtain was pulled and the wizard revealed, Sergei Mavrodi, head of the MMM empire, turned out to be less than a daunting sight. Not very tall and a little pudgy in the jowls, the reclusive man at the controls of Russia's largest financial scandal surfaced this week as a shrewd moneymaker who likes butterflies and red foreign cars, but lived a lifestyle that seems a pale shadow of the image of high-flying biznesmeni. 

     While he ran a scheme that raked in billions of rubles and recently was rated the sixth wealthiest man in Russia, Mavrodi lived spartanly in a single room of his spacious but shabby apartment on the Moscow River. Boxes of dried insects, butterflies and a dead bat mounted under glass hung on the walls. 

    The only overt signs of his wealth were several foreign cars parked in his apartment complex's driveway and a $60,000 satellite dish that a reporter from the daily Segodnya newspaper spied in his apartment.

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