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Putin Open to Provocation-Free Dialogue With Ukraine’s Zelenskiy – Kremlin

Sputnik – 08.04.2019

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to discuss any pressing issues with the Ukrainian presidential hopeful, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, if such a dialogue is free of provocations, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

“In general, Putin is always open for dialogue, except for the situations when [Kiev] is trying to couple this dialogue with various provocations, sabotage and so on. In such cases, Putin’s reaction is very clear, unequivocal and decisive,” Peskov said.

Ukrainian frontrunner Zelenskiy said Sunday he was ready for talks with Putin on the Donbass conflict in the presence of Western powers.

Ukrainian presidential hopeful Zelensky has won first election round with 30.24 percent of votes, final results of the ballot count revealed, while Poroshenko has gained 15.95 percent of votes.

April 8, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

US Ambassador to NATO: We Will Guarantee Passage of Ukrainian Warships Through Crimea Waters

If you want a war with Russia, that’s how you start one

By Marko Marjanović | Check Point Asia | April 4, 2019

The not-very-smart lady who last October put Russians “on notice” that US was looking at “taking out” Russian intermediate-range missiles in a pre-emptive strike, is at it again. This time she is promising NATO will guarantee Ukrainian Navy ships can pass through the Kerch Strait between mainland Russia and Crimea, which since 2014 Russia considers along with Crimea its own territory.

It is as much as saying NATO will guarantee Ukrainian army can return to Crimea. There isn’t any doubt either than Hutchinson is talking about Ukrainian warships (Russians do not interfere with the passage of merchant ships) seeing she says this is specifically in response to the November crisis where Russians prevented Ukrainian Navy vessels from making the passage:

“I think that we have been working on a package to present to the foreign ministers, and it is a package that beefs up the surveillance, both air surveillance as well as more of the NATO country ships going into the Black Sea to assure that there is safe passage from Ukrainian vessels through the Kerch Straits, the Sea of Azov,” she said.

The US representative commented that at present “more attention is needed to guarantee that these waters are liberated” and that the countries in the region are “free from Russian interference”.

Russia has been deploying defensive weapons in Crimea, but Crimea is part of Ukraine,” Hutchison remarked.

“It is very important that the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Georgia feel at home in the Black Sea zone, both in the water and on land,” she said, adding that the package of measures is a response to November’s Kerch Strait incident.

It is unacceptable that Ukrainian sailors are being held in prison in Moscow. We must ensure that we have the ability to restrain Russia’s aggression,” she remarked.

The truth is that NATO can guarantee no such thing, if the Kiev government organizes another attempt to force the entry without filing a request with the Russians, the Russians will fire once again. But it is reckless to talk as if NATO intends to organize or back such an attempt.

The Russian reaction was sheer disbelief somebody could be so saying something so stupid and inflammatory:

“In a negative light,” he [Putin’s spokesman Peskov] said when asked how Kremlin viewed such statements. “We do not understand what that means.”

It is worrying that Americans have some many people in important positions who do not comprehend the consequences of what they are proposing.

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 3 Comments

Joe Biden’s past strong-arming in Ukraine is coming back to haunt him

RT | April 2, 2019

It isn’t just unwanted kissing threatening Joe Biden’s bid for presidency, his past strong-arming of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor probing a company his son sits on the board of is also rearing its head again, the Hill reports.

The former vice president boasted at a January 2018 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) meeting that he had threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk into firing prosecutor Viktor Shokin in March 2016. Biden said he gave them a six-hour deadline to fire him or he would pull $1 billion in US loan guarantees. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” he said.

While Biden’s boast implied the US threatened the Ukrainian government in a single day, Ukrainian officials say the pressure was applied over months, starting in 2015.

The Hill reports that Ukrainian officials revealed that Shokin had been conducting a wide-ranging corruption probe into natural gas firm Burisma Holdings at the time. Biden’s son Hunter, a lawyer, former hedge fund president and Washington lobbyist, was a member of the board and, it has since been revealed, appeared to receive a series of payments from the gas company.

Shokin confirmed to the Hill that he had plans to conduct “interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden,” before he was fired.

The investigation into Burisma largely stopped when Shorkin was fired, but in 2018, after Biden had made his comments at the CFR, the current general prosecutor, Yury Lutsenko, started to look into the Burisma case again. He discovered members of the board and Rosemont Seneca Partners had obtained funds for “consulting services,” he told the Hill.

Lutsenko said some of the evidence he has could interest US authorities.

Burisma paid over $3 million to an account linked to Hunter Biden’s investment firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners, between April 2014 and October 2015, financial records filed in an unrelated Manhattan federal court file revealed.

Rosemont Seneca Partners usually received two transfers of $83,333 a month (amounting to $166,000) from Burisma, and on the same days, the account then paid Hunter one or more payments ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The Ukrainian probe into Burisma had identified Hunter and his business partner Devon Archer, who had also been appointed to Burisma’s board, as potential recipients of the money Burisma sent to Rosemont Seneca.

When Hunter was appointed to the board in 2014, some raised concerns of a conflict of interest, in light of Biden’s previous comments urging Ukraine to not be as dependent on Russia for gas. Burisma is a private company headed by former Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch banker Alan Apter. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski sits on the board.

April 2, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | , | 2 Comments

The Many Reasons to Believe Vasily Prozorov’s Testimony About Ukraine’s Role in Downing MH-17

Former Ukrainian intelligence officer Vasily Prozorov’s testimony will likely be dismissed by Western governments supporting Kiev, but there is plenty of evidence to back his claims.

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | March 27, 2019

KIEV, UKRAINE — A former top official in Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), who recently fled the country, has given explosive testimony regarding the involvement of the Ukrainian government in the 2014 downing of the MH-17 passenger plane. The incident, which killed all 283 passengers and 15 flight crew members on board, had been blamed on Russia by Ukraine’s government, the United States and much of Western media.

In addition, the former official, Vasily Prozorov, told a group of international reporters that Ukraine’s controversial Azov Battalion, known for its Neo-Nazi ideology and symbolism, ran and maintained secret prisons in contested areas of Eastern Ukraine where there is fighting between pro-government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Prozorov, who has sought asylum in Russia, also accused the United States and the United Kingdom of training an SBU division that returned to Ukraine to conduct terrorist attacks in the Donbass region, which has been the site of a civil war since the overthrow of Ukraine’s government in 2014 in a U.S.-backed coup.

Prozorov’s identity was kept secret until the press conference began, in breaking with standard protocol. Prozorov then introduced himself, stating that he had been employed by the SBU from 1999 to 2018, but — after the U.S.-backed coup in 2014 — had contacted Russian intelligence and began working undercover in the central office of the SBU. He does not describe himself as a defector, as he stated that his allegiance remains with the Ukrainian people while the allegiance of those who came to power with U.S. assistance in 2014 has long been suspect.

Prozorov then noted that, soon after the coup and before the civil war between Western and Eastern Ukraine had begun, the SBU — at Kiev’s behest — had begun to plan combat operations in the East and that the government had requested that plans be made that would result in mass civilian deaths among ethnic Russian populations, who were to be labeled as “accomplices to terrorists.”

The former SBU officer also detailed how the post-coup SBU had established secret prisons where prominent dissidents of the U.S.-backed government were interrogated, tortured and even killed. One of those prisons, located at an airstrip in Mariupol, was nicknamed “the Library” and Prozorov compared it to a “concentration camp” and showed images of severely beaten detainees he claimed had been imprisoned at the site. The former SBU officer also stated that SBU’s decisions, in regards to the black-site prisons and other areas, were often “led” by foreign advisers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The SBU’s use of torture in Ukraine’s civil war has been well-documented even though the SBU blocked UN efforts to probe its extent.

In addition, Prozorov asserted that the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, a militia that was incorporated into Ukraine’s Interior Ministry as a component of the country’s National Guard, also operates its own prisons in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zones in Eastern Ukraine. The Azov Battalion receives funding from the government of Ukraine as well as from the U.S. government and has also received weapons from the Israeli government.

Insights into the MH-17 downing

Prozorov’s most shocking statements were related to the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, or MH-17, which was promptly blamed on Russia by the post-coup Ukrainian government, the United States and much of the Western world. Prozorov stated, noting first that it was his personal opinion based on his experiences, that the Ukrainian government had been an “accomplice to the Malaysian MH-17 flight disaster.”

He continued, stating:

The amazingly prompt reaction of the Ukrainian leadership was the first thing that made me feel suspicious. My unequivocal opinion was President Pyotr Poroshenko and his press-service had prior knowledge of the affair. Secondly, hostilities had been underway for several months by then, but the airspace over the area was not closed.”

He also noted that his efforts to learn more about the circumstances of the disaster within the SBU from a senior officer were met with the following reply: “Don’t poke your nose into this business, if you don’t wish to have problems.” However, Prozorov noted that “some information has leaked out in the end, though.”

He then concluded:

On the basis of my own analysis I can speculate who was an accomplice in the crime and who was involved in concealing evidence. In my opinion, there were two men involved – the current deputy chief of the Ukrainian presidential staff Valery Kondratyuk and chief of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s intelligence directorate, Vasyl Burba.”

Valery Kondratyuk, left and Vasily Burba, right

Prozorov’s full conference can be watched here (in Russian). A summary with English subtitles can be watched here.

Claims well-supported by independent reporting

Though some may be quick to dismiss Prozorov’s testimony as “Russian propaganda,” many of his claims fit with independent reporting on the Ukrainian conflict. For instance, in regard to Prozorov’s claim of “black site” prisons, the SBU denied the UN access in 2016 to many detention centers in Mariupol — where Prozorov says “the Library” prison is located — and Kramatorsk. The SBU claimed that it blocked the UN inspectors access in order to protect “government secrets.” The UN had first tried to access the areas after several human-rights groups had found credible evidence of torture taking place at facilities in the area.

Prozorov’s claims that the post-coup SBU had made plans to murder ethnic Russians in the Donbass are also supported by publicly available evidence. For instance, when the civil war began, the Kiev-based government stated its intention to specifically target civilians in order “to clean the cities.” In 2016, then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who has been called “Washington’s man in Ukraine,” called pro-Russian civilians in the region “subhumans.” In an interview aired by the U.S.-funded, pro-government Ukrainian news channel Hromadske TV, a Ukrainian journalist aligned with the government asserted that the contested region was home to 1.5 million people “who are superfluous” and “must be exterminated.” With such sentiments having been openly stated by prominent politicians and journalists aligned with the current government in Kiev, Prozorov’s assertions seem hardly unreasonable.

US Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Robert Ashley, right, meets with Vasyl Burba, Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine. Photo | Defence Intelligence of Ukraine

In regard to Ukraine’s alleged role in the downing of MH-17, it is worth noting that past reports by late American investigative journalist Robert Parry described in detail how the “independent” MH-17 investigation was almost completely dependent on information from Ukraine’s SBU in piecing together the event. According to Parry:

[This control by the SBU, combined with its past obstruction of the UN torture probe],suggests that the SBU also would steer the JIT away from any evidence that might implicate a unit of the Ukrainian military in the shoot-down, a situation that would be regarded as a state secret which could severely undermine international support for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev. Among the SBU’s official duties is the protection of Ukrainian government secrets.”

In addition, one of Parry’s sources maintained that the CIA had, like Prozorov, found evidence that Ukraine’s government had indeed been “an accomplice” to the MH-17 incident:

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the CIA’s conclusion pointed toward a rogue Ukrainian operation involving a hard-line oligarch with the possible motive of shooting down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official plane returning from South America that day, with similar markings as MH-17. The source said a Ukrainian warplane ascertained that the plane was not Putin’s but the attack went ahead anyway, with the assumption that the tragedy would be blamed on the pro-Russian rebels or on Russia directly.”

Another reason Prozorov’s testimony should not be outright dismissed as propaganda is the fact that he pushed back on previous Russian media reports involving U.S. infiltration of the SBU. When asked by a reporter if he could confirm reports that foreign military officials, including Americans, occupied their own floor at SBU headquarters, Prozorov adamantly denied those claims, stating that after 2005 there were CIA officials present in SBU headquarters but that the practice had been discontinued. He stated that U.S. intelligence officials regularly visited SBU headquarters after the 2014 coup but were not based in the building.

Thus, while Prozorov’s testimony will likely be dismissed by mainstream Western media outlets and Western governments that support Kiev, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that many of his claims — including his most shocking — deserve careful consideration, not outright dismissal. Indeed, were Prozorov a defector from a country currently at odds with the U.S. — be it Russia, Venezuela or Iran — it is highly likely that mainstream media would repeat and his promote his claims regardless of their veracity. However, because he has sought asylum in Russia, his recent statements are unlikely to gain international traction merely because of where he is now located, in spite of the evidence supporting many of those statements.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism

March 27, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Washington told Ukraine to end probe into George Soros-funded group during 2016 US election – report

RT | March 27, 2019

An NGO co-funded by George Soros was spared prosecution in 2016 after the US urged Ukraine to drop a corruption probe targeting the group, the Hill reported, pointing to potential shenanigans during the US presidential election.

Bankrolled by the Obama administration and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC) was under investigation as part of a larger probe by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office into the misallocation of $4.4 million in US funds to fight corruption in the eastern European country.

As the 2016 presidential race heated up back in the United States, the US Embassy in Kiev gave Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko “a list of people whom we should not prosecute” as part of the probe, the Hill reported. Ultimately, no action was taken against AntAC.

Lutsenko told the paper that he believes the embassy wanted the probe nixed because it could have exposed the Democrats to a potential scandal during the 2016 election.

A State Department official who spoke with the Hill said that while the request to nix the probe was unusual, Washington feared that AntAC was being targeted as retribution for the group’s advocacy for anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine.

AntAC wasn’t just the benefactor of well-connected patrons – at the time it was also collaborating with FBI agents to uncover then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine. Manafort later became a high-profile target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian collusion, and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for tax fraud and other financial crimes.

Lutsenko divulged in an interview with the Hill last week that he has opened an investigation into whether Ukrainian officials leaked financial records during the 2016 US presidential campaign in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

While AntAC may have failed to help the FBI find the Russia collusion smoking gun, the group’s activities constitute yet another link between the anti-climactic Russiagate probe and Soros, a Democrat mega-donor who bet big on Hillary Clinton taking the White House in 2016.

In 2017, the billionaire philanthropist siphoned money into a new group, the Democracy Integrity Project, which later partnered with Fusion GPS to create the now-infamous Steele dossier.

Spokespersons for AntAC and the Soros umbrella group Open Society Foundations declined to comment on the Hill’s scoop.

Ironically, the prosecutor general who had preceded Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, resigned under pressure from Washington – which accused Shokin of corruption.

Virtuous US officials continue to make similar demands of Ukraine’s justice system. Earlier this month, Washington urged the Ukrainian government to fire its special anti-corruption prosecutor, again over accusations of administrative abuse.

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

REFLECTIONS ON PUTIN AS A LEADER AND ON THE WORLD SITUATION IN WHICH HE WORKS

By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 6, 2019

There is an immense amount of criticism of Putin, especially coming from America, most of it empty criticism which ignores realities and genuine analysis. For the more thoughtful, it represents only the stink and noise of propaganda, and not honest criticism in its true sense at all.

In politics, and especially in the direction of a country’s foreign affairs, there are certain behaviors, ideas, and attitudes which mark out a person as exceptional. I think there can be no doubt, Putin is just such a person, and I am very much inclined to say, the preeminent one of our time. Frankly, compared with Putin’s skills, Donald Trump comes off as a noisy circus act, a sideshow carnival barker, and not an appealing one. He has an outsized impact in the world only because he represents the most powerful country on earth and has embraced all the prejudices and desires of its power establishment, not because of the skillfulness of his actions or the insight of his mind. Obama made a better public impression, but if you analyze his actions, you see a man of immense and unwarranted ego, a very secretive and unethical man, and a man who held no worthy ideals he promoted. He was superficial in many things. And he was completely compliant to the power establishment, leaving no mark of his own to speak of.

Putin is a man who advocates cooperation among states, who argues against exceptionalism, who wants his country to have peace so that it can grow and advance, a man lacking any frightening or tyrannical ideologies, a man who invariably refers to other countries abroad, even when they are being uncooperative, in respectful terms as “our partners,” a man who knows how to prioritize, as in defense spending, a man with a keen eye for talent who has some other exceptional people assisting him – men of the caliber of Lavrov or Shoygu, a man who supports worthy international organizations like the UN, a man who only reluctantly uses force but uses it effectively when required, a highly restrained man in almost everything he does, a man who loves his country and culture but does not try foisting them off on everyone else as we see almost continuously from American presidents, a man with a keen eye for developing trends and patterns in the world, a man with an eye, too, for the main chance, a man whose decisions are made calmly and in light of lot of understanding. That’s quite a list.

The differences between recent American leaders, all truly mediocre, and Putin probably has something to do with the two counties’ relative situations over the last few decades. After all, if the support isn’t there for someone like Putin, you won’t get him. Russia’s huge Soviet empire collapsed in humiliation in 1991. The country was put through desperate straits, literally its own great depression with people begging or selling pathetic trinkets on the streets. And America made no real effort to assist. Indeed, quite the opposite, it kicked someone who was down and tried to shake all the loose change from his pockets. Out of Russia’s desperation came a man of remarkable skills, a rather obscure figure, but one who proved extremely popular and was obviously supported by enough powerful and important people to employ his skills for the county’s recovery and advance.

Putin showed no weakness or flinching when dealing with some of the extremely wealthy men who in fact became wealthy by stripping assets from the dying Soviet Union, men who then also used their wealth to challenge the country’s much-needed new leadership. He was, of course, excoriated by the United States, but to the best of my understanding, he did what was necessary for progress. The results are to be seen in a remarkably revitalized Russia. Everywhere, important projects are underway. New highways, new airports, major new bridges, new rail lines and subways, a new spaceport, new projects and cooperative efforts with a whole list of countries, new efforts in technology and science, and Russia has become the world’s largest exporter of wheat. Putin also has committed Russia to offering the world grain crops free of all GMOs and other contaminants, a very insightful effort to lock-in what have been growing premium markets for such products, even among Americans.

The military, which badly declined after the fall of the USSR, has been receiving new and remarkable weapons, the products of focused research efforts. New high-tech tanks, artillery, ships, and planes. In strategic weapons, Russia now produces several unprecedented ones, a great achievement which was done without spending unholy amounts of money, Russia’s military budget being less than a tenth that of the United States. Putin’s caution and pragmatism dictate that Russia’s first priority is to become as healthy as possibly, so it needs peace, for decades. Few Westerners appreciate the devastating impact of the USSR’s collapse, but even before that, the Soviet empire had its own slow debilitating impact. Russia’s economic system was not efficient and competitive. The effects of that accumulated over many years. The USSR always did maintain the ability to produce big engineering projects such as dams and space flight, but it was always sorely lacking in the small and refined things of life that an efficient economy automatically sees are provided.

The new strategic weapons are an unfortunate necessity, but the United States threatens Russia as perhaps never before with the expansion of NATO membership right to the Russian border, something breaking specific American promises of years back. And it has been running tanks all over Europe and then digging them in them right at the frontier just to make a point. It has deployed multiple-use covered missile launchers not far from the border which may as easily contain offensive intermediate-range ground-to-ground nuclear missiles as the defensive anti-missile missiles claimed to be their purpose. And it has torn up one of the most important nuclear-weapons treaties we had, the INF Treaty, pertaining to intermediate-range missiles. Intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe give the United States the ability to strike Russia with little warning, their ten-minute flight path compares to a roughly thirty-minute flight path for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from America. These are extremely de-stabilizing, as are the counter-measures Russia felt it must take, Russian intermediate-range nuclear missile aimed at European centers. Everyone eventually recognized that, and that’s why the treaty was successfully completed. Europeans appreciated no longer becoming the immediate battlefield in a nuclear war.

But relations with the United States have now entered a new world, and it is not a brave one. America’s power establishment has assumed new goals and priorities, and in those, Russia is not viewed well, despite its new identity as a nation ready to participate and peacefully compete with everyone, a nation without the kind of extreme ideology communism was, a kind of secular religious faith. Despite its readiness to participate in all Western organizations, forums, and discussions, it is viewed with a new hostility by America. It is arbitrarily regarded as an opponent, as an ongoing threat. As I discuss below, America, too, has been kind of in a decline, and the response of its leadership to that fact involves flexing its muscles and extracting concessions and privileges and exerting a new dominance in the world, a response not based in economic competition and diplomatic leadership, a response carrying a great deal of danger.

And, very importantly, its response is one that involves not only bypassing international organizations, but, in many cases, working hard to bend them to its purposes. There are many examples, but America’s treatment of the UN has been foremost. It has in the recent past refused for considerable periods to pay its treaty-obliged dues until it saw changes it unilaterally demanded. It has dropped out of some important agencies completely, most notably UNESCO. In general, it has intimidated an international organization into better accommodating American priorities, including very much imperial ones opposed to what the UN is supposed to be about. And it has used this intimidation and non-cooperativeness to influence the nature of leadership at the UN, the last few Secretaries-General being timid on very important matters and ineffective in general. That’s just the way America likes them to be now. A harsh Neocon like Madeleine Albright won her government-service spurs at the UN by engineering the departure of an unwanted Secretary-General.

Promoting coups is not a new activity for the United States. There is a long postwar record, including Iran’s democratic government in the 1950s, Guatemala’s democratic government in the 1950s, and Chile’s democratic government in 1973. But the recent coup in Ukraine represented something rather new, a very provocative activity right on a major Russian border. It was also against an elected government and in a country which shares with Russia a history and culture going back more than a thousand years to the predecessor state of Kievan Rus. Yes, there are resentments in Ukraine from the Soviet era, and those are what the United States exploited, but the country was democratically governed. In any event, staging a coup in a large bordering country is a very serious provocation. You can just imagine the violent American reaction to one in Mexico or Canada.

The new, post-coup government in Ukraine also made many provocative and plainly untrue statements. The ineffective, and frequently ridiculous, President Poroshenko kept telling Europeans that Russian troops and armor were invading his country. Only his brave army was holding the hordes back. He was literally that silly at times. Of course, none of it was ever true. American spy satellites would quickly detect any Russian movement, and they never did. In an effort to put the wild claims into perspective, treating them with the contempt they deserved, Putin once said that if he wanted to, he could be in Kiev in two weeks. Undoubtedly true, too. Well, the statement was taken completely out of context, treated as a threat by America’s always-faithful-to-the-narrative press. Journalism in the service of government policy – all of it, from the most elevated newspapers and broadcasters to the humblest. And I think that nicely illustrates the absurdity of events in Ukraine and the way they have been used.

The United States paid for the coup in Ukraine. We even know how much money it spent, five billion dollars, thanks to the overheard words of one of America’s most unpleasant former diplomats, Victoria Nuland. The idea was to threaten Russia with the long Ukrainian border being put into genuinely hostile hands. Never mind that the government driven from office with gunfire in the streets from paid thugs was democratically elected. Never mind that many of the groups with which the United States cooperated in this effort were right-wing extremists, a few of them resembling outright Nazis, complete with armbands, symbols, and torchlight parades. And never mind that the government America installed was incompetent, not only sending Ukraine’s economy into a tailspin but promptly igniting a completely unnecessary civil war.

The large native, Russian-speaking population (roughly 30% of the country) is completely dominant in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Those two regions partly turned the tables by seceding from Ukraine with its government which early-on worked to suppress historic Russian-language rights and carried on a lot of activities to make those with any Russian associations feel very unwelcome. It’s a deliberately provocative environment, and, as we all know from our press, not a day goes by in Washington without anti-Russian rhetoric and unsupported charges. While Washington greatly failed in this effort, it nevertheless succeeded in generating instability and hostility along a major Russian border. It also gained talking points with which to pressure NATO into some new arrangements.

In the case of Crimea, it is important to remember that it has been Russian since the time of Catherine the Great. It only was in recent history that Crimea became part of Ukraine, and that happened with the stroke of a pen, an administrative adjustment during the days of the USSR, the very USSR the people now running Ukraine so despise, rejecting almost everything ever done, except for the administrative transfer of Crimea apparently. Just one of those little ironies of history. The people who live in Crimea speak Russian, and they did not welcome the new Ukrainian government’s heavy-handed, nationalist, anti-Russian drive around Ukrainian language and culture, necessarily a narrow, claustrophobic effort since the late USSR was a multi-national and multi-lingual state, and given Crimea’s much longer-term history as part of Russia. Even during Crimea’s recent past as part of Ukraine, Russia continued to maintain, under lease, its major naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, so the connections with Russia have been continuous.

In virtually every newspaper story you read and in places like Wikipedia on the Internet, you will see the word “annexation” used to describe Crimea’s relationship with Russia. It simply is not an accurate description, but its constant use is a very good measure of America’s ability to saturate media with its desired version of events. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from an unfriendly new Ukraine, and they voted to petition Russia’s admitting them as part of the country. How can you call the results of free and open votes annexation? Well, only the same way you can tell the twice-elected President of Venezuela that he is not President and that another man, who did not even run in the election and administered the oath of office to himself, is the President. This is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland stuff that comes as part of America’s new drive for dominance. It simply paints the roses red. What is claimed to have happened in Crimea provides the only support for charges of Russian aggression, the laying on of all kinds of sanctions, and running around all over Europe tearing up road surfaces with tanks. This is the atmosphere within which Putin must work, trying to maintain as many sound relationships with Europe as he can, and he actually has been quite successful. A number of prominent European politicians, especially retired ones who aren’t under the immediate pressures of politics and relations with America, have voiced support for Russia. Some have even visited Crimea by invitation and toured. And Russia’s major new gas pipeline into Europe, Nord Stream 2, proceeds despite constant American pressure against it. It is at this writing 70% complete. The Europeans cannot just abandon their long-term ally, the United States, even though I’m sure they understand the illusions and false claims of the current situation. The United States also retains considerable capacity to hurt Europe financially, so they rush into nothing, but I believe there can be no doubt that American words and actions have significantly weakened old and important relationships. No one likes being lied to, and they like even less having to pretend lies are truth.

Putin has been more cautious in the case of the secession of another Russian-speaking portion of Ukraine, an even larger one in population and in economic importance, the Eastern portion called Donbass. The people there declared two republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and they petitioned to be admitted as part of Russia. But Russia does not officially recognize them although it has sent large volumes of aid as they were besieged by the new Ukrainian government. The government of Ukraine started a small civil war in the region. Russia supports the Minsk Accords, which it helped to write, accords to reunite the region with Ukraine but which require Ukraine to grant a degree of constitutional autonomy to the region. This is a reasonable approach to ending the conflict, but it is not easy to implement. It is not something looked favorably upon by Ukraine’s right-wing extremists who push the government hard, having even threatened it at times. The entire business has been mired in difficulties from the start. Ukraine displayed remarkable military incompetence in this civil war against a much smaller opponent. It tried to increase the size of its forces with conscription in the West of Ukraine, but the number of no-shows and run-aways grew embarrassingly large. And, of course, none of this even needed to happen had the new government’s policies been sensible and fair in the first place. But you got no pressure from the United States over fairness. It is merely content to have caused a lot of difficulties on Russia’s border. And there is the matter of the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines’ Flight MH-17, which my study of the circumstances suggests unequivocally was an act by Ukraine, whether accidental or deliberate. The United States has pushed hard to have this blamed on Russia, so as to not discredit its installed Ukrainian government, but the facts, as we know them, simply do not support that conclusion. The United States has shamefully pressured a NATO member, Holland, not even a central party to the event, to conduct a long and tortoise-paced investigation of the crash. It has ignored key evidence, and all of its interim conclusions can readily be seen as couched in the kind of suggestive but inexact language criminal lawyers advise their clients to use in court. What we see in Ukraine, is government incompetence, almost uniformly in all its activities, and again there is no concern expressed by the United States about all the difficulties – economic, military, and social – its efforts have caused for the Ukrainian people.

Putin’s adroit handling of the coup in Ukraine, frustrating many of America’s aims without getting Russia involved in conflict, determined Washington to further stoke-up anti-Russian feeling in Europe. You must always remember that NATO does represent a vehicle for the peaceful American occupation of Europe, Europe being an important economic competitor and potentially a major world power. The obsolescence of the original arguments for NATO – the threat of the USSR and the massive Red Army, now both long passed into history – had the potential to see America eventually lose its occupying perch in Europe.

Russian-threat hype added force to recent efforts over the last decade and a half to have inconsequential new states admitted to NATO, some of them having the attraction of borders with Russia and lots of simmering old anti-Soviet hostilities. Certainly, countries like Estonia or Latvia bring neither military nor economic strength to the organization. Other small states, such as Slovenia or Slovakia or Montenegro just fill holes in the map of Europe, so NATO is a contiguous mass. The small states are in fact potentially a serious drag. But for America, they were attractive new members because they are so grateful about being asked “to play with the big boys.” Their votes as part of the organization effectively dilute the influence of the larger, older states, such as France or Germany, who sometimes disagree with the United States, and some of whom have been developing new relationships with modern Russia. The entire series of American activities in Europe after the disappearance of the USSR represents absolutely nothing constructive, indeed, quite the opposite.

As I mentioned, America, too, has been in a kind of decline, but absolutely nothing resembling what Russia experienced. America’s establishment has come to realize that over the last couple of decades it is in a relative decline. It went from producing, after WWII, about forty percent of what the world used to twenty-something percent, and all signs point to the trend continuing. America was waking-up from an extended fantasy – a period when fluffy notions like “the American Dream” were embraced as real, a period explained by the simple fact that, after the war, all of America’s serious competitors had been flattened. America was waking to a time when those competitors were coming back and a time when fierce new competitors were rising. The “Dream” part of the advertising slogan, “the American Dream,” became all too apparent.

During that period of unique prosperity and power following WWII, a good deal of America’s leadership became what people who have been given too much often tend to become, spoiled and corrupt, unable to make good decisions in many cases, indulging in god-like notions of the planet being run for their benefit, and always, steadily leaving behind their own people’s welfare for imperial concerns abroad. The entire ethic of the New Deal period evaporated, and by the 1990s, a Democratic President like Clinton could actually make a speech bragging about “ending welfare as we know it.”

The people who really run the country, its power establishment, fixed on a new strategy to address uncomfortable realities. That strategy involves using America’s still great military and financial power to dominate international affairs in a more obvious and palpable way than ever. Dominance became an openly-discussed theme, as it rarely was before, in the hope, over time, of squeezing concessions and advantages from others to regain or at least hold on to its global position. This is an openly aggressive posture that has been assumed. No more pretense of being a nice guy. And it was actively promoted by a new political faction in Washington, the Neocons, a group who share certain interests and see America’s use of power as serving those interests. They have been open advocates of using military force to get things you want, and they hold many important and influential posts. Perhaps their greatest common interest is the welfare of Israel, and they see an America perceived as aggressive best serving Israel’s security.

It is important to note that while Russia maintains excellent relations with Israel – Putin has been visited often by Israel’s Prime Minister – nevertheless, by virtue of its sheer size and geographical location and military power, Russia is seen as a barrier to America’s more unrestrained use of power. “Russia” is almost a dirty word for many of America’s Neocon faction and for many Israelis. Russia’s recent decisive assistance to Syria in fighting gangs of terrorists introduced and supported from outside was viewed about as negatively as is possible. That is a war Israel wanted President Assad to lose, and it secretly gave a great deal of assistance to the terrorists. It was hoping to secure a permanent hold on the Golan, grab even another slice of Syria as a buffer for its illegal residents in Golan, all while seeing one of the region’s leaders it most dislikes eliminated. It worked closely in the effort with Saudi Arabia’s murderous Crown Prince, and America oversaw and encouraged all aspects of a dirty war to topple a legitimate government which has remained fairly popular with its people despite years of agonizing conflict and endless dishonest American claims about such matters as chemical weapons. Assad is seen as a defender of the rights of Syria’s diverse religious groups, including its many Christians.

So, there is a built-in powerful negative towards Russia in Washington power circles for which there is no clear possible remedy or correction, and, indeed, no matter how reasonably Putin behaves, his country faces this opposition. For some American politicians, and very notably Hillary Clinton, this has proved a handy tool, Clinton long having been a close-to fanatical supporter of Israeli interests. The fact has earned her a great deal of campaign funding and other support over the years. Clinton’s ego also just could not take the fact that she lost the election to the leader of “the deplorables,” as she once called Trump’s supporters, so in dark claims of Russian interference, supported by absolutely no proof whatsoever, she protects her ego. And long before election day, Clinton had a hand in exploiting attitudes about Russia in another way. She is known to have paid, at least in part, for the fraudulent Steele Dossier commissioned from an ex-British spy. It was used to try to discredit Trump over Russian connections.

This dislike for Russia by the Neocons and other boosters of resurgent American power really is what is at the heart of America’s current Russophobia obsession, not any threatening actions by Russia. It becomes a kind of vicious circle with new accusations piled on all the time by various actors each with their own motives, and it is clearly quite dangerous.

So, these are the positions of the two countries today, Russia having risen quite impressively from the depths under a remarkably able leader, extremely popular and well-supported by powerful elements of its society, versus America, now in a much different kind of decline than what Russia experienced, led by an establishment group with rather less-than-honorable intentions and with a political system virtually designed to produce no real leaders who might interfere with establishment plans.

Putin is further supported from the outside by the rising colossus of China, one of the great miracle stories of our time. In the past, the two countries have not always been friends, and America, in the time of Nixon, actually worked at playing one off against the other. But that is no more. The American establishment’s intentions for China are too clear. It is virtually reneging on many old promises such as those around Taiwan being an integral part of China, it is treating China as an unwanted competitor, accusing it of every nefarious activity you can think of to impede its economic progress and demanding trade concessions as though China had been an unfair competitor rather than just a new, more successful one. America is now attacking in every way possible – from questioning motives and methods to trying to generate opposition by participants – China’s unprecedented and magnificent global enterprise, the Silk Road Project, a project dwarfing the great canals of the past and destined to bring new prosperity to all participants through trade. It hardly represents a positive attitude to oppose and impede it.

Putin is exactly the kind of man to quickly recognize and embrace a project like that. Russia is also rushing to help China greatly increase its supply of natural gas from Siberia’s immense reserves in order to decrease its dependence on coal. The first great new pipeline is almost finished.

So, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both highly intelligent leaders, have a great many weighty common interests in working together as never before. America’s new policies have been a driving force in bringing them together, and there is no reason to expect any diminution in that force. Recent American international behavior requires others to accept what Putin likes to call America’s “exceptionalism,” its position first and above all other nations, its self-granted privilege of not having to play by the same rules as everyone else – its status of “the indispensable nation” as one of America’s more arrogant diplomats put it not very long ago – and it requires that from two major, proud, and ancient societies which cannot possibly grant it.

America’s dependence on its gigantic military and security establishment represents a serious long-term weakness in many ways, even though it provides the very foundation of the American establishment’s new strategy for dominance. Empires, after all, while benefiting the privileged segments of a society, are a drag on most of their citizens, depriving them of many benefits, including the simple, important benefit of good and caring national government. America spends more than ten times as much as Russia on its military. China, compared to not many years ago, has increased its military spending greatly, but for a country with such a huge economy, second only to the United States and likely to overtake it before long, it still spends less than a quarter of what the United States does. And America does not even have the money to pay for its atrociously large military. It borrows the money, and who do you think pays the stream of interest payments for those massive borrowings? You’d be right if you said all of its ordinary, tax-paying citizens without privileges. They also are “on the hook” for the ultimate negative economic consequences of all this debt and borrowing.

Of course, from a world perspective, America’s military represents an ongoing threat to peace and security, much the opposite of what is claimed for it inside the United States. Great standing armies have always represented threats, and here is the greatest standing army in history. Many historical analyses hold them largely responsible for such terrible conflicts as WWI (a war whose outcome made WWII inevitable also). When such power is at hand, the temptation to use it is constant, and its very presence distorts all attitudes and decisions. Many of America’s own Founders understood that, but it has been forgotten by the contemporary American establishment in its relentless pursuit of empire and influence.

Security expenses are hard to compare, so much is secretive, but the United States with its 17 separate national security agencies and such a vast enterprise as the NSA’s new archipelago of facilities stuffed with hi-tech gear and supercomputers which spy on and record every American plus others would put any other country out of the competition. Again, the demands of the American establishment utterly compromise the interests of the country’s own citizens at large. Indeed, now in security matters, ordinary Americans have been pretty much reduced to a herd, each with an identifying tag stapled to his ear.

Russia’s democracy may be quite imperfect, but America’s – what it had of one, it never from the beginning identified itself actually as a democracy – has been transformed into plutocracy with an elaborate window-dressing simulation of democracy, an arrangement in which the state’s resources are committed to its privileged class and the advance of empire. And, as I’ve written many times, you can have a decent country or you can have an empire, but you cannot have both.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Russian oil expert detained at Kiev’s request in Greece, lawyer calls arrest ‘politicized’

RT | March 3, 2019

A Russian national has been arrested in Greece and faces extradition to Ukraine on tax-crime charges. His lawyer said he is being persecuted for supporting the former Ukrainian president who was ousted in a Western-backed coup.

Evgeny Kalinin, a Russian energy expert, was arrested by the Greek authorities at Athens International Airport on Thursday, his lawyer, Yannis Rahiotis, told Sputnik.

Kalinin is a well-known oil industry expert, Rahiotis said, noting that his client was on a routine business trip to the country at the time. Kalinin appeared in court on Friday, when he was sent to prison until Ukraine’s extradition request is delivered to Athens.

According to Rahiotis, Kalinin faces unspecified tax-crime charges, which allegedly arise from his past work as a top executive in Ukraine’s oil company.

Kalinin served as vice president of TNK-BP Commerce, a Kiev-based company that specializes in producing and selling crude oil products in Ukraine and Russia, until 2011. The company, which was founded in 2003, also operates a network of gasoline and filling stations in Ukraine.

While the essence of the charges Kalinin is facing are not yet clear, Rahiotis believes they are politically motivated. The lawyer pointed out that Kalinin’s name has been included in a database of the notorious Ukrainian website Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper). The ultra-nationalist site contains a blacklist of ‘traitors’ who it says must be dealt with. On the list, Kalinin has found himself in the company of such big foreign political names as former German chancellor Gerhard Shroeder, who was added to the ‘hit-list’ in November, prompting the German Foreign Ministry to reprimand Kiev for not taking down the website.

“This case is a political one. Kalinin is included into the Mirotvorets list. He is being persecuted because he was a supporter of former president Victor Yanukovich,” Rahiotis said.

Russian diplomats have been in contact with Kalinin, and have been providing him “with all necessary consular assistance,” the Russian Embassy in Greece said, as cited by Sputnik.

Kalinin’s arrest has already drawn condemnation from a senior Russian lawmaker.

The deputy head of the Russian Senate Defense and Security Committee, Franz Klintsevich, has said that by playing into the Kiev’s hands, Athens is undermining its centuries-old relationship with Russia, which has traditionally been an ally.

“It’s still not late to stop. Russia will do everything to free Evgeny Kalinin,” he wrote on Facebook.

Another State Duma MP, Natalia Poklonskaya, argued that Kalinin’s arrest is likely to be politicized and exploited in the ongoing Ukrainian presidential campaign. She also warned Greece against becoming a pawn in a third party’s hands by simply following formal legal guidelines.

March 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

The Hunt for Konstantin Kilimnik

By Deena Stryker – New Eastern Outlook – 24.02.2019

Since 2014, the US has been accusing Russia of having ‘invaded’ Ukraine. Yet the latest story being repeated by the news media transforms an interesting proposal by a Ukrainian national to bring peace to that country into a devious attempt to have sanctions on Russia removed!

It was months ago that Rachel Maddow first mentioned the name of Konstantin Kilimnik, without mentioning why, specifically, that he had a plan to bring back Ukraine’s ousted President Yanukovich to head the Donbas. Merely quoting Kilimnik as saying ‘This is about my country’ Maddow implied he was a Russian, in what was to become a long series of misinterpretations and obfuscations.

A youngish Ukrainian who worked for Paul Manafort’s PR firm, Konstantin Kilimnik figured the Russian-speaking Donbas’s refusal to recognize the Kiev government could be ended by installing the country’s former pro-Russian President, whom the US deposed, in the breakaway province, the Minsk Agreements (I and II) laboriously crafted by the West having failed to heal the rift.

If he were an American, Kilimnik would be referred to as a patriot, but instead his only moniker is ‘having ties to the GRU’, that is being assumed because of the fact that he received language training in Russia’s Military University of the Ministry of Defense. Having become proficient in English, Kilimnik got a job working with the American Paul Manafort, who was trying to teach that President, Viktor Yanukovich to become a public figure. When, in 2014, Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s Secretary of State replaced Yanukovich with a government that relies on virulent anti-Russian fascist militias (among other things, they burned 200 opponents live), the Russian-speaking Donbas refused to recognize the new government and President Putin looked the other way when ‘volunteers’ crossed the border to help them repulse Kiev’s attacks.

(This policy is consistently referred to by the US media as Russia ‘invading’ Ukraine, hence US sanctions…). When Donald Trump ran for President, Kilimnik’s boss, Manafort, became the head of his campaign, and managed to scotch a Republican Party plan to deliver arms to Kiev for use against the Donbas.)

While the press endlessly details accusations against Manafort (known as a high-flyer wearing exotic clothes), it never mentions his protege’s goal: to secure American backing for a plan that would bring peace to Ukraine. Recently, for the first time, the BBC’s Katy Kay mentioned that plan on MSNBC. But without spelling it out, she allowed her colleagues to remark that it could result in the sanctions the US imposed on Russia being lifted. The US is not interested in bringing peace to Ukraine after five years of strife, but only in pursuing its goal of replacing Vladimir Putin with a more compliant Russian President, among other things, via sanctions for its ‘behavior’ vis a vis Ukraine.

When President Trump rightly points out that the majority Russian-speaking population of Crimea voted by 90% to rejoin Russia in a referendum, the media comments that he knows nothing about foreign affairs. Five years after the events, the American public is unlikely to remember — if it ever knew — that 90% of Crimeans are Russian. Not one in a hundred thousand knows that Catherine the Great wrested Crimea from the Ottoman Turks in the eighteenth century, building a big naval base in Sebastopol to give Russia a warm water port. (In the US it would be an impeachable offense if the president were to allow a hostile government to lay its hands on such a crucial asset.)

The latest chapter in the federal case against Manafort involves the ‘revelation’ that he met with Kilimnik in a New York bar during the campaign, providing him with polling data about the up-coming election, Trump having probably indicated to Russians in or around the government that he would be open to relaxing the sanctions imposed by Obama.

The laudable desire to bring peace to Ukraine has been turned into a crime in order to prove that Trump is appeasing Russia — either in return for money-laundering facilities or a future tower in Moscow. Washington cares not a whit that Ukraine — whose Western aspirations it supposedly backs — will continue in a state of low-level civil war for the foreseeable future.

P.S. Just in: Ukraine’s US installed president Petro Poroshenko just had an article added to the constitution stating that it is the duty of the government to ensure that Ukraine simultaneously enters the EU and NATO, so that NATO can not only camp on Russia’s European border, but in neighboring Ukraine as well.

February 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Meet Pierre Omidyar, billionaire patron of US regime change operations, neocons & activist media

Pierre Omidyar speaks at a ‘Technology For Citizen Empowerment and Human Rights’ panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, September 23, 2010 © AFP / Brian Harkin
RT | February 22, 2019

Amid the US push for regime change in Venezuela, RT speaks with investigative journalists who looked into the eBay founder and self-described “progressive” billionaire Pierre Omidyar, a major patron of regime-change operations.

An ongoing series in MintPress News, written by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal, is a rare look into the projects undertaken by the “progressive philanthropreneur,” who has been praised by the liberal interventionist establishment for following in the footsteps of George Soros but attracts far less media attention.

“Part of the reason for doing this investigation was to inspire more scrutiny of Pierre Omidyar,” Rubinstein told RT. “There are mountains of newsworthy bits of information about many of the organizations he funds, but the sad reality is that it would require a team of at least half a dozen journalists working overtime to fully make sense of it all.”

Detail of a chart showing the connections between Pierre Omidyar and various media outlets, foundations, activists and outfits. ©  MintPress News

The second part in Blumenthal and Rubinstein’s series, published Wednesday, took a particular interest in Omidyar’s ties to organizations promoting “regime change.” In Ukraine, it was a TV station (Hromadske) that backed what turned into a violent 2014 coup against the government in Kiev. In Zimbabwe, Omidyar money funded a “cultural activist network” that campaigned for the ouster of President Robert Mugabe in 2017. And in the Philippines Omidyar is backing The Rappler, a news site opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte that is developing surveillance technologies like a “mood meter” of the audience to capture – and channel? – “non-rational reactions.”

Not progressivism but power

Omidyar is not doing this on his own, either, working hand in hand with US Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

“He has the money and – for one reason or another– the desire to participate in such destabilizing policies,” Rubinstein told RT, noting that the billionaire’s embrace of such projects makes him “the perfect private partner for the US government” in seeking regime change abroad.

How does a self-described progressive find himself riding the horse of regime change? This is one of the questions Rubinstein and Blumenthal hope further research will answer. Their digging has found Omidyar’s money behind the Alliance for Securing Democracy and The Bulwark – projects led by NeverTrump neoconservative Bill Kristol that push “Russiagate” and carry the torch of interventionism.

“If partnering with the neocon think tank guru who was a main conduit for US government messaging in the lead-up to the Iraq War is ‘progressive’ then I think it’s time we retire the term,” Rubinstein told RT.

He believes that Omidyar is not driving the regime-change agenda, but going along with it in “the perfect alliance of convenience.”

“If you’re looking for a coherent ideology that permeates through each of Omidyar’s investments, it’s not progressivism: it’s power… and power lies with empire,” Rubinstein said.

More specifically, Omidyar is looking to manage all areas of modern life, from journalism and transportation to banking and finance and government administration, journalist Yasha Levine, author of ‘Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet,’ told MintPress.

To him it’s not just about running a single service, but integrating things together to give technocrats, business executives and government officials a God’s-eye view of the world – to manage and control society more efficiently.

The role of Omidyar and other billionaires – who would be called ‘oligarchs’ if they were Russian but keep being presented as ‘philanthropists’ in the West – in influencing media and politics around the world is woefully under-examined, Rubinstein and Blumenthal argue.

Controlled or ‘responsible’ opposition?

Part of the problem is that Omidyar funds a wide range of media outlets through foundations, nonprofits and other cutouts, and many journalists who consider themselves independent or progressive aspire to work at Omidyar-backed Intercept, famous for publishing (some of) the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

“All of the media ventures funded by Omidyar have one thing in common: their slickness,” Rubinstein said, noting that the “cutting edge design, high production values, and the esoteric portrayal of the process of reporting” all contribute to creating the image of Omidyar-backed outlets as the “responsible opposition” in contrast to outlets with a more shoestring budget.

While Intercept editor Glenn Greenwald has been sharply critical of US foreign policy and the ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory, other writers at the outlet have “carried water for al-Qaeda in Syria” and pushed Russiagate, said Rubinstein.

He described as “incredibly troubling” the fact that The Intercept has rolled out only a portion of the Snowden documents, de facto making them serve the agenda of Omidyar and his First Look Media rather than be responsibly released to the public, as Snowden intended.

February 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of Truth as We Know It – Or Knew It

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | February 21, 2019

The claim (or admission) by the BBC journalist Riam Dalati that the alleged sarin attack on Douma in April 2018, was staged was received by the Russian embassy in London with glee. “Remarkable that the British MSM chose to ignore it’, whoever it was at the embassy wrote. ‘No breaking news, no articles, nothing.’

Remarkable? Not at all, given the endless track record of the media in ignoring news that does not suit its agenda. The real interest lies in the fact that an insider has owned up. His personal opinion only, according to the BBC, which along with the rest of the media, had taken the initial version of the alleged attack for granted, thus setting Syria up for the cruise missile strike by the US, Britain, and France which soon followed.

‘I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged,’ Dalati wrote. Well, enough of the evidence has already been produced to prove that. As for the sarin, in July 2018, the OPCW (Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons) put out an interim report indicating that whatever was used at Douma was not sarin, but most probably chlorine.

The next question is ‘used by whom?’ Again the evidence suggests that the yellow gas cylinders shown in the media propaganda blitz were not dropped from an aircraft but planted at the scene by the ‘activists’ who faked the whole episode.

The OPCW now seems to be reaching the point where it will release its full report. What it might contain opens the doors to endless speculation. It has already indicated that it found traces of chlorine and it may point an accusing finger at ‘the regime’ but without having the proof that it did it.

So expect something ultimately inconclusive, i.e. there is evidence of chlorine having been used, the Syrian regime might have used it but we really can’t say, leaving enough room for western governments to argue that they were right to bomb on the basis of the facts that were known at the time and for E. Higgins and company to argue that their version has not been disproved.

With Idlib, the last redoubt of the takfiris in Syria, now the focal point of political maneuvers and possibly military action, any credibility given by the OPCW to the accusations against the Syrian military might encourage the takfiris to try again, most likely in Idlib province, the location of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaikhun in April, 2017. Without having the proof, the US launched a missile strike against a Syrian air base by way of retaliation.

Another faked attack would give the US and its law-breaking friends the pretext needed to disrupt or forestall any Syrian military campaign to drive the takfiris out of Idlib, which, far from having quietened down following the ‘de-escalation’ agreement reached by Turkey, Iran and Russia, is now an even hotter hothouse of takfiri activity.

The main group, Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) basically still Jabhat al Nusra/Al Qaida in Syria despite the name change, and its allies have routed their ‘moderate’ enemies and taken control of between 70 to 90 per cent of the province, including Idlib city, which lives under a harsh form of sharia law.

The HTS collective has tens of thousands of armed fighters on call. So does the rival Turkish-supported National Liberation Front. The entire province is awash with arms and armed groups refusing to adhere to any agreements drawn up in Astana or Sochi and saying they will fight to the last.

Along with the fighting men are the civilians, the families of the takfiris and the normal civilian population of the province who are helpless in the face of the violence and intimidation all around them and the scheming of powerful actors far from the scene.

At present nothing is clear. The US is apparently planning to withdraw troops from northern Syria but has not withdrawn them. Erdogan and Putin have met to discuss what the US is up to, as well as the situation in Idlib and Turkey’s desire to set up a buffer zone running 460 kms and 32 kms deep along the Syrian border (on the Syrian side).  Russia and Iran have so far refused to support the idea.

The buffer zone would be set up against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), aligned with Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ‘terrorists’ in the view of the Turkish government but not in the eyes of the US, which, of course, has been using the Kurds in pursuit of its own strategic interests

Turkey has recently been committing itself to the territorial and political integrity of Syria, raising an obvious question: if this is the case, why did you make such strenuous attempts to destroy both over the past eight years?

The US is on the brink of defeat in Syria. Not just defeat but defeat by Russia, which is why Trump’s plan to withdraw is facing furious criticism at home by neocons who want more war, somewhere, anywhere, and ‘liberals’ who hate Trump and will buy into almost anything that brings him down.  In their views on Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and now Venezuela the two groups are indistinguishable, even if they also affect to hate each other.

Idlib will be liberated sooner or later. If the takfiris are insisting that they will fight to the last drop of their blood that is because they have nowhere else to go. The foreigners among them can’t go back to their own countries. Turkey does not want them on its side of the border although, as the Syrian Kurds claim, it might allow them to move into Afrin, occupied by the Turkish army in March 2018.  As fighters or police, they would have their uses. What happens to them when Afrin is finally returned to the hands of the Syrian state is an issue for the future.

But back to Douma. Was the district being bombed at the time a chemical weapons attack was alleged? Of course, it was. It had been taken over by one of the most murderous takfiri groups in Syria, Jaysh al Islam, and the army was shelling Douma to drive them out. What government and what army would not be constitutionally bound to do the same?

Douma was not under siege by the Syrian army, as the corporate media kept telling the world.  It was being held hostage by a murderous armed group, for which the presence of civilians, deterring the army from a full-on ground military assault, was a prized asset. Civilians died in the shelling but the most likely cause of the breathing difficulties suffered by those given genuine medical treatment was smoke and dust inhalation. Jaysh al Islam and the White Helmets converted their distress into a chemical weapons attack and then ran around a clinic spraying water over everyone to prove the point.

The arguments will continue over the provenance of the yellow cylinders that gave Eliot Higgins something else to do. These were normal industrial gas cylinders that had been filled with chlorine which could only be released if someone opened the valve with a monkey wrench or if the valve had opened on impact.  That a Syrian military helicopter would drop these cylinders in the hope that somehow the valve would open or break on landing is surely nonsensical.

The valves were intact so how the chlorine could have got out of the cylinders without someone manually opening them remains unexplained by those making the claim that the cylinders were dropped from a helicopter. There was no evidence of anyone in the house where the cylinders were found having been affected and as someone has observed, even the chickens running around nearby were unharmed. In short, the whole scenario screams one word: fake.

One thing not to be forgotten is that when the takfiris finally were pushed out of Douma, a makeshift chemical weapons factory, complete with how-to-make instructions and receipts for the machinery and chemical compounds received, was found underground in an elaborate network of tunnels.

Neither the factory nor the tunnels, nor the brutal nature of the takfiris holding Douma, or their previous crimes, including their previous alleged use of chemical weapons were items for show or discussion in the media.

Neither was the story one of armed fanatics taking over a district close to a national capital and holding its citizens hostage. Neither was the story one of foreign governments and the armed groups they were supporting besieging an entire country. The facts were reversed so that it was the Syrian government and army laying siege to its own people and killing them with chemical weapons.

Over the past eight years, the propaganda onslaught by these governments and the corporate media has been total. No authoritarian state or dictatorship could have done a better hatchet job on public opinion but these arch manipulators of public opinion are self-described liberals.

Therein lies their advantage. The citizens of an authoritarian state don’t believe their government or their media in the first place but western media consumers still cling to the illusion of a free press guarding their interests and are thus sucked in all the time. ‘Free for whom?’  and ‘Whose interests is the media really guarding?’ are questions that are rarely asked except by seekers after truth pushed to the margins of public debate.

The worst excesses of the takfiris – Islamic State beheadings, the throwing of people off the roofs of high buildings, the drowning of caged captives in a swimming pool and the burning of a Syrian soldier – had to be reported because they were indescribably inhuman and could not be ignored but the mundane terrorism of groups just a cut below the Islamic State in barbarity was either underplayed, ignored or blamed where possible on the Syrian military.

In the eyes of the media these groups were not terrorists but rather the ‘opposition’ or ‘rebels’ standing up to the ‘regime,’ its barrel bombs and its chemical weapons attacks, all of them, the best evidence suggests, launched by the takfiris with the intent of incriminating the Syrian government and bringing on a US-led air war.

Roughly about the same time as Riam Dalati was uttering his truth on his tweet, a Berlin-based outfit calling itself the ‘Global Public Policy Institute’ was putting out a report on chemical weapon use in Syria entitled ‘Nowhere to Hide: The Logic of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria.’

This ‘institute’ counted the number of such attacks in Syria, 336, of which number it attributed 98 percent to the ‘Assad regime’ and the rest to the Islamic State. The fact that it uses the word ‘regime’ to describe the legitimate government of Syria is the first tell-tale sign of where this report is going to lead.

The next is the sources of information, ‘our friends and partners,’ as the GPPI calls them: the Syrian Archive, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Mayday Rescue, the White Helmets, the Syrian Network of Human Rights, the VDC (Violations Documentation Centre) and Human Rights Watch, every single one of them fully engaged in propaganda attacks on the Syrian government if not actually embedded (like the White Helmets) with the takfiri groups.

The 47 pages of this report are beautifully laid out. The graphics and maps are meticulously done. As a school project, the GPPI would get 10 marks for presentation but nothing for content.  On the basis of ‘evidence’ coming from such tainted sources, what makes the authors think that any reasonably well-informed person could believe their claims, and how is it that well-established German charitable foundations can hand over money for the production of such garbage?

The Syrian crisis has spawned an industry of parasites, feeding off its agony. There is no shortage of money for anyone smart enough to harvest it by giving the media what it wants and setting themselves up as a conduit for government propaganda. There is a market for lies and deceit and the laws of supply and demand being what they are, the demand is being met.

There is a truth here about the media that needs to be said. It was never truly independent, never the watchdog of the people’s interests in all seasons but it was arguably a lot better than what it has become. The explanation for this state of affairs lies partly in the death of the independent proprietor and the monopoly corporatization of the media. The proprietor’s or the board’s interest is now immeasurably greater than those of the independent owner who used to wander around the editorial floor once a week to make sure everything was ok and the staff was happy.

The corporation is global, not local, with interests that the small independent owner would hardly be able to comprehend because the leading newspaper or the television station is usually just one small part, and mostly a lesser part, of an empire that spans communications in all its branches. Conflict of interest, affecting news presentation, is inbuilt.

If the newspaper has value, it lies in its use as a weapon against or for a government depending on what the government is willing to give in return. Rupert Murdoch is the past master in using the media this way.  Even if they lose money, he will keep his flagship papers going.

In the past 20 years, we have seen an abrogation of journalistic integrity for which it is hard to find a parallel in modern history. The Vietnam war was launched and maintained on the basis of lies but it did not take long for journalists to emerge who challenged the official narrative and exposed it for what it was. Compare this with Iraq and the way the media ran with the official narrative on ‘weapons of mass destruction’ from the beginning until the very one, when not one could be found.

Seymour Hersh was the leading example of journalistic integrity in Vietnam (which is not to minimize the reporting of others in the small group exposing the official lies) and, amazingly enough, is still the leading example half a century later.

For his audacity in challenging the accusation that the Syrian government was responsible for the apparent chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus in August 2013, and showing that it was the so-called rebels, supported by outside governments, who were most probably responsible for this atrocity, Hersh was pushed to the margins of mainstream journalism in his own country and eventually out of it altogether.

*(Seymour Hersh)

Syria is only part of a broad mosaic of ill intent, however.  It was attacked in the first place because it was a strategic ally of Iran. Russia’s twin successes, in deflecting US penetration of Ukraine and making the Americans look stupid in Syria, was followed by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. There was no proof then and there is no proof now but the same empty accusations are being repeated by the same columnists, anchors and talk show hosts all the time.

We are now facing a multi-pronged assault on truth in which governments and the corporate media are partners. On both sides of the Atlantic, they have lined up against the renewed primary enemy, Russia, wherever it is and whatever it does.

Russia lost the Democrats the US elections. Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine.

Russia saved the Syrian dictator from defeat. Russia is supporting the dictator Maduro. Russia trades with Iran. Russia does not regard Hizbullah and Hamas as terrorists as we do. Russia does not give open-ended support to Israel but rather regards it as a primary fomenter of disorder in the Middle East.

Russia poisoned the Skripals, of course. Skripal senior was a former double agent, double-crossing Russia while working for British intelligence. There is no obvious reason why Russia would want a washed-out former spy dead but of course, it had to be Russia that daubed the door handle of his house with Novichok. There was no proof, but who else could it be but Russia, and if you say ‘British intelligence,’ setting up a new round of Russia-bashing, then wash your mouth out with soap.

Mysterious Russian figures turn up in Salisbury. The British government says they are agents, stopping off at the Skripals’ house to put a few drops of Novichok on the door handle before sauntering off down the main street to look into the window of a shop selling collectibles and rare stamps.

They seemed to be enjoying themselves. They seemed in no hurry at all to get away from the scene of the crime and take the first plane back to Moscow, but isn’t that exactly the way well-trained Russian agents would behave?

Somewhere along the way they dropped what was left of their Novichok into a rubbish bin, cunningly concealed in a hi-tech perfume bottle, Nina Ricci, ‘Premier Jour.’ Enough still left to kill 4000 people, said the newspapers, but failing to kill the Skripals and killing only poor Dawn Burgess, who pulled it out of the bin and apparently sprayed or dabbed herself with some.

We don’t really know who these Russians were and what they were doing in Salisbury but we need proof, not accusations and suppositions, and the British government does not have it.  We can reach conclusions on the basis of what we know or think we know but the lies told by the British government over the attack on Iraq in 2003, plus the death/murder of the UN weapons inspector David Kelly five months after the war was launched, are sufficient reasons not to believe or trust anything this government says.

This new cold war is drifting steadily towards the brink of a hot one. The US is confronting Russia through missile bases, economic sanctions and interference in the politics of states around Russia’s borders.

Trump has just announced the withdrawal of the US from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, accusing Russia of breaching it and saying ‘we will move forward with developing our own military response options.’

In fact, Russia had already accused the US of violating the treaty.  In May, 2018, the US/NATO opened a missile base in Romania where, Russia claimed, the US had simply transferred the launchpad for the Aegis integrated naval weapons system, which utilizes Tomahawk cruise and intermediate range missile banned by the INF treaty, from sea to land.

These missiles have a range of 300-3400 miles and their apparent positioning in Romania was naturally regarded as a direct threat by Russia.

The withdrawal of the US from the INF and Trump’s threat that the US will ‘move forward’ by developing its own options raises the apprehension in Russia that the US will station other cruise and intermediate range missiles in Europe once it finds willing partners.

In his state of the union address, Putin said that such missiles could reach Russia in 10 to 12 minutes and warned of a symmetrical response, if the US deployed them in Europe, directed not just at the US but at the states hosting its missiles.

To those contemplating such measures, he said: ‘Let them count the speed and range of our missiles. That is all I ask.’

It is not just Russia that the US is threatening, however, but China. If China held naval exercises off the US or British coasts the world would quickly be facing another 1962 Cuba crisis, only much more dangerous, but the US and Britain give themselves the right to hold such exercises off the Chinese coast in the South China Sea.

As for Venezuela, the US has reverted to the crude gunboat imperialism of the late 19th century (not that gunboat imperialism ever went away). ‘Do what we want or else’ is the message sent to Maduro and the Venezuelan people. What the US wants is the resurrection of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, and the complete domination of Latin America, including open access to its resources.

In essence, the imperialism of the 21st century is the same as the imperialism of the 20th or the 19th centuries. In the 1940s and 1950s the people of Asia, the Middle East and Africa struggled to lift the yoke of occupation, economic domination and the plundering of their natural resources off their necks. In the third millennium, they are still struggling, especially in the Middle East and Latin America.

The members of the ‘western’ collective fight among themselves but always fall into line when the alpha dog barks at them. Considerations of right and wrong, law, ethics, morality and justice are irrelevant. The alpha dog has barked and the pack must obey. Riam Dalati’s exposure of media deceit is interesting but still a mere detail on a very large and dirty canvas as the ‘west’, its governments and its media, tries to maintain control of a world fast slipping from its hands.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

February 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia remains Ukraine’s key trade partner despite Kiev’s claims of cutting economic ties

RT | February 20, 2019

Despite years of mutual trade restrictions, Russia remained Ukraine’s biggest trade partner in 2018, according to data published by the State Statistics Service of Ukraine.

Sales of Russian produce to Ukraine saw 12.3-percent year-on-year growth to US$8.1 billion. That makes Russia the biggest Ukrainian supplier, leaving China, Germany, Belarus, and Poland far behind. At the same time, the Russian market remained a major destination for Ukrainian exports. Ukraine sold $3.7 billion worth of goods to Russia, marking a 7.1 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Moscow suspended the free trade zone deal with Kiev shortly after the Ukrainian government signed an association agreement with the EU. Ukraine was automatically included on Russia’s counter-sanctions list against the EU, introduced by Moscow in 2014 in retaliation to European penalties over re-unification with Crimea and Russia’s alleged military involvement in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

In 2015, Ukraine imposed sanctions on a wide range of food imports from Russia, including meat and fish, coffee, dairy products, chocolate and confectionery, grains, cigarettes, beer, and many others. Last year, Kiev added fertilizers to its endless list of restrictions. In December, the Ukrainian authorities extended the measures for another year. The country also introduced sanctions against several individuals and entities.

In response, Russia banned the import of more than 50 Ukrainian goods, worth $510 million. The Kremlin announced that the restrictions can be lifted if Kiev gives up its own restrictions targeting specific Russian goods.

Despite bilateral restrictions, trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine has been increasing in recent years, with Russia enjoying a significant trade surplus.

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

The Ukrainian Election: When No News Is Bad News

By Dmitry BABICH | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.02.2019

As the Ukrainian presidential election, scheduled to take place on March 31, draws ever closer, Western politicians are going out of their way to protect it from “Russian meddling.” This protection, which became a sort of peculiar Anglo-Saxon sport in the United States and the UK, will figure highly on the agenda of the meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers on February 18, slated for a discussion of the coming Ukrainian election. A naïve reader of the Western press might wonder why the president of the “newly Westernized” Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has an approval rating of just 14%, trailing the comedian Vladimir Zelensky with his 21.9% and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with her 19%. Obviously, some “meddling” must have taken place…

A COUNTRY THAT’S A THREAT TO ITSELF

Upon a closer look, however, the Ukrainian election appears to be more in need of protection from its own forms of Ukrainian extremism and what to the untrained eye might appear to be idiocies, rather than from any meddling from the Russian side. Suffice it to present a brief list of the recent suggestions and real policy moves (some of them coming from the very top echelon of government) which were made in the heat of electoral hysteria. Not surprisingly, most of these suggestions and moves are tied to Russia.

Presidential candidate Vitaly Kupryi simply suggested that Ukraine should officially declare war on Russia, obliging president Petro Poroshenko to announce an immediate mobilization and to use a special law to start moving troops against the “aggressor.” Since Kupryi is a deputy in the Supreme Rada (the Ukrainian parliament), his draft bill, which enjoys the support of a group of equally belligerent deputies, has been officially registered and waits to be reviewed by parliamentarians. Until now, the Supreme Rada has demurred from traveling along this somewhat suicidal path, preferring other, longer, more oblique routes toward a catastrophe. Last week, the Rada made Ukraine’s road towards NATO and the EU legally binding through another special law, altering Ukraine’s constitution, where the neutral, non-bloc status of the country had been enshrined since the 1990s. The parliamentarians also continued working on a draft bill, which makes “denial of Russian aggression against Ukraine” (that is, stating the truth that the war in the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine is a civil conflict) a criminal offence, punishable by several years in jail. The leading candidate, acting President Petro Poroshenko, has not allowed his parliament to outpace him in belligerent idiocies. He declared the visits by Russian citizens of the Russian-speaking Crimean peninsula to be “heinous crimes — breaches of the Ukrainian border,” which should all be punished by several years in Ukrainian jail. (6.8 million Russian tourists visited Crimea in 2018 alone, so theoretically Poroshenko could land Ukraine into the Guinness Book of World Records as the country with the highest potential prison population).

FAKE CHOICE: “EITHER PUTIN OR POROSHENKO”

As for “Russian meddling” in the elections, some of the candidates, including Poroshenko, are manufacturing this “meddling” themselves, by continuously campaigning not for Ukraine, but rather against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. For example, Poroshenko’s campaign ad, which was unveiled on the day his candidacy officially launched on January 29, showed a Photoshopped image of the acting Ukrainian president confronting his Russian colleague, with the caption: “Either Poroshenko or Putin.”

The reason why Poroshenko continuously tries to redirect the attention of voters away from the country’s real problems and toward Russia’s ostensible “invasion” is obvious. “Ukraine’s catastrophic economic situation does not leave Poroshenko any room for self-promotion. Economically, this candy billionaire, who became rich working in all the governments, from Kuchma’s to Yanukovich’s, turned up to be rather helpless,” says Mikhail Pogrebinsky, the head of the Kiev-based Center for Political Research and Conflict Studies.

In the last quarter of the year 2018, the average income of a Ukrainian household was 9,400 hryvnas (about $350). This prompted the IMF to declare Ukraine the poorest country in Europe: Ukraine has even bested Moldova for this dubious honor, a nation that was previously at the top of the poverty rankings with an average salary of $375. Oleg Lyashko, a flamboyant nationalist candidate from Ukraine’s Radical party, accused Poroshenko of “taking us to Europe via Africa.”

A SAD END FOR THE FOREIGN “SAVIORS”

No wonder Poroshenko stopped talking about fighting corruption and introducing Western standards of state management, the two pillars of his plans for Ukraine at the beginning of his presidency in 2014. The “parachuting” of foreign specialists into the government (the Georgians Mikheil Saakashvili and Alexander Kvitashvili, the Lithuanian national Aivaras Abromavicius, as well as an American citizen, Natalie Jaresko) ended in dishonorable resignations, coupled with scandals and mutual accusations. When he quit, former Minister of Economy and Trade Abromavicius and former Governor of Odessa Saakashvili accused Poroshenko’s entourage of far-reaching corruption, much worse than the practices under the former president, Viktor Yanukovich. It is interesting to note that both Saakashvili and Poroshenko’s first prosecutor general, Vitaly Yarema, initially justified violent protests against the “corrupt” Yanukovich in 2013 and 2014, when 38 policemen were killed by the US-supported “peaceful protesters” from Maidan. But they both now acknowledge that “corruption schemes have become even more intricate and harmful” for society today compared to the Yanukovich era. Not surprisingly, Yarema was fired days after making such statements.

“The rule of oligarchs over the economy and the extortion of bribes from citizens by state officials have not diminished since Yanukovich’s rule,” writes a popular Kiev-based blogger and political expert Viktor Datsyuk. “What is even worse, the greediness of the ruling elite destroyed the ‘oligarchic consensus’ that had existed in Ukraine for years.” In Datsyuk’s opinion, this may lead to a new Hobbesian “war of all against all” in Ukraine.

SUBMISSION TO THE WEST AS THE NEW CONSENSUS

Upon a closer look, again, a certain “oligarchic consensus” still exists in Ukraine, and that consensus is based on the total submission of the local oligarchs to the “overseers” of Ukraine, who operate from Washington and Brussels.

At the peak of the presidential campaign, Ukraine simply exploded with anger when Poroshenko refused to obey a ruling from Kiev’s administrative court. The court removed Ulyana Suprun from her office — an American of Ukrainian descent, the last of the “foreign specialists” still operating in the Ukrainian government with an American passport. Legally, the ruling of the court was correct: Suprun has been “performing the duties” of the country’s health minister without being officially appointed in due course and in violation of a law that prohibits non-citizens of Ukraine from occupying government positions.

“I gave her citizenship through my own decree,” Poroshenko said, brushing off questions about Suprun NOT relinquishing her American citizenship, as required by the Ukrainian law.

The last time the Western elite was so up in arms to protect a “foreign specialist” inside the Ukrainian elite was in 2017, when Poroshenko suddenly canceled his own decree granting Ukrainian citizenship to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president. At the time, Saakashvili was in Western Europe, but somehow he made his way back to Ukraine through a border checkpoint inside a crowd of supporters in September 2017, and was met “by chance” on the Ukrainian side of the border by the heads of influential Rada factions Yulia Tymoshenko (the “Fatherland” party) and Andrei Sadovoy (from the Samooborona, or “Self-Defense” movement). Somehow, the border checkpoint was also visited at that moment by Valentin Nalivaichenko, the former head of the fearsome Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

They all embraced Saakashvili with grim faces, not quite in keeping with a miraculous and “spontaneous” breakthrough across the heavily guarded border.

A few months later, when Saakashvili somehow fell out of grace with his Western supervisors and was evicted from Ukraine by Poroshenko’s special forces via a chartered flight to Europe, his “friends” Tymoshenko and Nalivaichenko did not lift a finger in his defense.

THE INEVITABLE INCUMBENT

Obviously, after the US and the EU allowed Poroshenko to eject Saakashvili from Ukraine without punishment, it became clear that they had no other serious alternative to Poroshenko. Most likely, they will “allow” Poroshenko to win, using the hugely negative public image of Tymoshenko (70% of Ukrainians do not want to see her as their president under any circumstances).

As for the people who are suggesting realistic alternatives to the current disastrous course, they are being stigmatized as “Russian agents” or, worse, “Putin’s friends.”

This is not a situation in which no news is good news, though. Poroshenko’s continued hold on power in Ukraine means the continued threat of another war in the Donbass, the persecution of political opponents, and dispossession and the loss of legal status for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. So, Poroshenko should not complain, when, as he himself told journalists, Vladimir Putin refused to take his phone call. “I did not want to help Poroshenko in his electoral campaign,” Putin explained. He had a good reason to say so.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment