Russian Blogosphere Survey for April 16, 2015


April 16, 2015
Russian Blogosphere Survey for April 16, 2015
By J.Hawk

This is a daily Fort Russ feature. To access earlier editions, please click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.

Azov Regiment Structure

The unit’s official name is 18th Special Purpose Regiment “Azov” of the Ukraine National Guard, military unit number 3057. Its core consists of a special purpose detachment of 1300 troops (one parachute company, one mobile company, one assault company, one combat support company, one ATGM battery, one AT gun battery, artillery battalion, air defense battery, one tank company, one escort company, one reconnaissance company), supported by a patrol battalion (250 troops), a rifle company (150 troops), and a K-9 unit. Its weapons include T-64 tanks, BMPs, BTRs, towed 122mm D-30 howitzers, 120mm and 82mm mortars, ATGMs, RPGs, small arms. It is a remarkably well equipped formation, comparable in terms of numerical strength to a regular mechanized brigade of the UAF, but since it is manned by volunteers, its combat effectiveness no doubt considerably exceeds it, so much so that the Azov is the most effective military unit in Ukraine today. It is also subordinated directly to the National Guard Main HQ, and not to any regional directorate. Azov is furthermore the collection point for most of the foreign volunteers fighting on the junta’s side. Since much of its manpower comes from militant soccer hooligan organizations, it has extensive contacts with similar organizations in the West which gives it a certain ability to raise funds abroad.

“And if you don’t agree…there will be less” (about Ukrainian debt restructurization)

To make long story short, Yaresko is…unhappy…with Western creditors who evidently don’t understand Ukraine’s complex situation and are unwilling to entertain any notion of debt restructurization. So she’s resorting to threatening them with…what, exactly? A default?  It would seem that the Western creditor attitude is that, restructurization or not, Ukraine will default, period, end of story. Therefore what’s the point of restructuring? It would only weaken one’s post-default legal position re: Ukraine’s assets abroad that might be seized and auctioned off for the purpose of repaying the creditors. One is tempted to conclude that the only reason IMF gave Ukraine the first tranche is to postpone the default until Ukraine is not vitally necessary as a gas transit state, in hopes that whatever chaos the default causes will have sorted itself out by the next winter.

 Excepting Exceptionalism 

 Russian political analyst Vladimir Fadeyev argues that the crisis in Ukraine not so much changed the make-up of the international system as revealed changes that have already happened within it but have not been revealed until the crisis brought them to the surface. And what the world saw surprised many. The US inability to isolate Russia, the rallying of other countries around Russia (most notably the BRICS) indicates that much, possibly most of the world (not even excepting Europe) is ready to move past the model of international system built on the principle of US exceptionalism. The aspect of US exceptionalism that is most resented is its frequent intervention into the internal affairs of other countries, to the point that the US does not even pay lip service to the norm of state sovereignty, even though such interventions have caused untold loss of human life and fostered regional instability in many parts of the world. However, for the first time in many years the US adventurism was met by a major power response, with Russia’s leadership saying loudly that which so many in the world have already been thinking for a long time. This makes it likely that Russia will play a major role in crafting the rules of conduct in the new multi-polar international system.

Russia abstains on Yemen

This is a mystery that will take some time to unravel. Russia abstained during a vote at the UNSC on a resolution supporting Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and a ban on providing weapons to the Houthi rebels. Theories?

Ukrainians entering into fictional marriages with Moldovans for the sake of visa-free entry into the EU

Moldovans have visa-free access into the EU already, which means there is a lucrative business in getting Ukrainians into fictional marriages with Moldovans in order obtain a Moldovan passport. Still, it’s not exactly an easy path into the EU–the service will cost you $2000, and even then you will still have to wait three years to obtain a Moldovan passport. The fact that people are willing to go through that indicates they must not expect Ukraine to be anywhere near Europe in three years’ time…

Schengen countries are refusing visas to Ukrainians

Finland leads the pack, having increased the rate of visa refusal by a factor of 3.3 since last year, but the rest of the pack is not far behind. I mean, let’s face it: if you were Ukrainian, would you want to go back? Official statements notwithstanding, EU governments know perfectly well that Ukraine is in its death throes, and the concern about a massive wave of refugees hitting countries which already have high unemployment rates is starting to affect their policies on many levels.

Russian language as a cause for dismissal

The combination of difficult economic situation and the official encouragement to seek out “lifestyle separatists” is leading to a genuine witch-hunt atmosphere in which even speaking Russian may become a cause for dismissal. A waitress in Chernigov was dismissed after she spoke to a customer in Russian, a customer which promptly lodged a complaint against her with the management. Fearing “patriotic Ukrainians”, management dismissed the waitress and even offered month-long Ukrainian language courses to the remaining wait staff. 

Chronicles of an economy in a dive, pt. 12

Yaresko warns (threatens?) that default may be imminent, while at the same time Kolomoysky’s PrivatBank is receiving stabilization loans from the NBU. This peculiar situation is forcing yet another downgrade of Ukraine’s credit rating. Moreover, in spite of the 30% basic interest rate, the NBU has not been able to conquer inflation (an indication that the Ukrainian government is simply printing money these days), therefore the interest rate will stay where it is. The apparent flooding of the market with freshly printed hryvnya probably the reason Austrian economists are predicting the hryvnya will undergo another round of sharp devaluation in the near future. All of this is hitting Ukraine’s consumers very hard. In addition to utility payments expected to reach 9 thousand hryvnya in the near future, the prices of fruit and vegetables in Ukraine increased by an average of 25% in the last two weeks alone. And if Russia succeeds in depriving Ukraine of its gas transit status (which it intends to do by 2019), Ukraine will lose another $3 billion in annual income. 

Lvov without water due to debts

It’s not just ordinary citizens who have trouble keeping up with growing utility costs. Utility companies use electricity too, and if they (for example, Lvov’s water utility) don’t pay their bills, they too can be cut off from electricity supply, depriving a large part of the city of running water. The water utility is now reduced to delivering water using roaming truck cisterns, while Lvovians are forced to suffer the inconvenience of having to go out in the street and carry water back to their apartment in pails, bottles, whatever they have at hand. Further complicating matters is the fact that the water utility can’t pay its bills because its customers have not been keeping up with their water bills–a vicious circle of debt and insolvency.


The portrait of Sergey Vladimirovich Kutsenko, a lone retiree whose home was destroyed by shelling in August 2014, and who now lives in a shelter, surviving solely on humanitarian assistance from Russia.

The Brainless One has spoken

Since it’s difficult to keep track of all the Brainless Ones among the current Ukrainian “elite”, today it’s time to honor Semenchenko and his recent epiphany that Yanukovych was a more conscientious leader than what passes for leadership in Ukraine today, which steals on an unparallelled scale. Semenchenko did not volunteer any details as to what he proposes to do about it–he’s probably just disgruntled he’s being kept too far away from the trough.

Russia ready to take back the monument to, and the remnants of, General Vatutin

Lieutenant General Nikolay Vatutin was the commander of the First Ukrainian Front until he was killed in April 1944 in an ambush by UPA Ukrainian nationalists–this is by far and away the most significant military operation ever undertaken by this organization. He was buried on the territory of Ukrainian SSR and there is a monument to his memory in Kiev. However, given the anti-Russian and pro-nationalist bent of the current Ukrainian authorities, the keepers of Vatutin’s memory fear that his grave and monument are liable to be removed or desecrated, and therefore want it transferred to Russia. The Russian Duma has already voted in favor, and the Voronezh city authorities are prepared to host Vatutin’s remains in their city, since he commanded the forces which liberated the city from the Wehrmacht. 

Today the Russian government begins to implement the first phase of the State Family Policy Concept

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 The first phase covers years 2015-2018, while the second will cover 2019-2025. The “policy concept” is a set of 65 measures aiming at increasing birth rates, making parenthood less financially burdensome, and improving the welfare of children born into poor families as well as orphans. The policy has managed to survive the budget cuts forced by the economic crisis, suggesting it is a very high priority for the Russian govenrment.
“Russian Helicopters” reports financial results for 2014

 The consortium’s overall income income in 2014 was 170 billion rubles, or 21% more than in 2013. The company’s profitability had doubled in comparison with 2013, reaching 20.7 billion rubles. Fully half of Russian Helicopters’ products are for export markets. 

Sevmash signs a contract to service India’s Vikramaditya

 The Vikramaditya began its career as Admiral Gorshkov, the fourth, final, and heavily improved ship of the Kiev-class. While it was originally armed with long-range anti-ship missiles and carried vertical take-off Yak-38 fighters and anti-submarine helicopters, the Sevmash conversion adapted it to operate Mig-29K fighters using the “ski-jump” at the end of the flight deck, at the expense of the heavy missile battery which was removed. It is the Indian Navy’s most capable aircraft-carrying ship currently in service. It hoisted India’s flag in November 2013.
Russian gymnasts win medals in Italy

 The Italian round of World Championships in Artistic Gymnastics resulted in Yana Kudryavtseva (on the photo) winning the gold medal, and her compatriots Margarita Mamun and Aleksandra Soldatova winning silver and bronze, respectively. When it comes to individual events, the three Russian gymnasts won 8 out of 12 possible medals.

“Sakhalin-1” completes the deepest drilling on the Chaivo field

The Rosneft-owned Orlan drilling rig pictured above completed a drilling operation to a depth of 13.5km. The Sakhalin-1 field is one of the first continental shelf fields to be exploited by the Russian Federation. In addition to Rosneft, a number of foreign firms participate in the project, including ExxonMobil.

Russian Special Operations Troops receive Tigr-SpN

This variant was developed with the particular needs of spetsnaz troops for whom this is not simply a support vehicle, a vehicle that’s expected to directly into harm’s way. They praise the vehicle’s maneuverability, comfort, and improved armor protection in comparison with the regular Tigr, and in some ways its level of protection compares favorably to the BTR-80.

New photographs of Admiral Grigorovich

Three photos at the link. At the moment the frigate is awaiting trials on the Baltic Sea, but its permanent station will be Sevastopol, where it is expected already in September of this year.

The Russian VMF adopts Fizik homing torpedo

The Fizik (sometimes referred to as UGST, or universal deepwater homing torpedo) is a thermal 533mm acoustic-homing/wire-guided torpedo carrying a 300kg warhead to a range of 50km. It can attack both surface and submarine targets, and it will replace the electric USET-80 torpedoes which are the standard armament of Russian submarines. 

Irkut Corporation is promoting its aircraft in Latin America

Irkut is attending the LAAD-2015 arms expo in Rio de Janeiro, emphasizing the suitability of its Su-30 and Yak-130 aircraft for Latin American conditions. Three Latin American countries have reportedly expressed interest in the Su-30.

A detailed atlas of the Russian Empire, 1860

Just what the title says–some pretty detailed scans of the entire atlas can be found at the link.

Moscow during a solar eclipse

A big photo gallery. The bottom line: Moscow is a beautiful city, whether the sun is shining or not!

Moscow, 1942

 Another photo gallery, from a less happy time. The bottom line: Moscow is a beautiful city, whether bombs are falling or not…
Shipboard cats: fluffy but tough

A gallery of cats who serve as “second crews” on various Russian Navy ships.

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