April 26, 2015
Russian Blogosphere Survey for April 26, 2015
This is a nearly-daily Fort Russ feature. To view earlier editions, please click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.
This article is a preview of the President film to be shown in Russia on Sunday, and deals with some of the matters Putin discusses in the film. The disappointment has to do with the West’s inability to live up to its own promises at the end of the Cold War, and its failure to observe the norms of international law and human rights that it claimed to uphold. Putin notes that the gap between rhetoric and reality grew worse over the 1990s, so much so that virtually every leader who felt sympathetic toward the West (and Putin counts himself among them) became disappointed in the West. Putin is also quoted as saying he is against Stalinist methods of governance, saying it would be irresponsible to subject the country to that kind of an ordeal again. That attitude is not surprising, considering that Putin experienced the down side of the Stalinist, five-year-plan, command economy, one party system that was never really reformed, and which led to the downfall of the USSR.
The three myths, outlined by Natalie Baldwin in her article for OpEd News (can anyone find an original?) are as follows: Russian economy is collapsing, Russians are fleeing the country (or want to), and Russians want to become just like Americans, except in fur hats. In actuality, Baldwin points out, none of those are true, and moreover Russia is its own country whose unique identity was shaped by harsh northern climate and the history of effective resistance to repeated invasions.
Apparently it’s coming along swimmingly. Argentina (to follow up the report in yesterday’s blog survey) has decided to procure nuclear power stations from Russia (though no contracts have been signed yet), which is a sign of a long-term pro-Russian orientation by that country, since a nuclear power plant is a long-term investment because its maintenance and fuel depend on a good relationship with the supplier state. Already today about 20% of Argentina’s energy is produced using Russian turbines, and that proportion is set to increase with the provision of nuclear power plants. Russia, in turn, is interested in expanding the imports of Argentina’s agricultural products. Fitzmorgen also sheds additional light on Zeman’s recent (and reported in an earlier blog survey) statement that the EU will ultimately join Russia, by noting that Zeman was commenting on the undesirability of the TTIP trade pact with the US, and arguing that the EU would be better off to establish closer ties to Russia.
Donald Tusk, who until very recently was Poland’s Prime Minister, also said that there are very few European supporters of the idea of arming Ukraine, and moreover a program of military aid is outside of the EU’s sphere of responsibility.
DPR head Aleksandr Zakharchenko said heavy weapons are being returned to their original positions in order for the NAF to be able to return fire in the event of future incidents such as the UAF attacks around Peski, Donetsk Airport, and Spartak, not to mention the ongoing fighting around Shirokino. Zakharchenko also said that Kiev has not fulfilled a single aspect of the Minsk Agreements, a statement which may well be intended as an ultimatum directed at Kiev. Because if Minsk Agreements continue to be violated by Kiev, then what?
Boris Rozhin (a.k.a. Colonel Cassad) is undecided whether the video purportedly showing the crucifixion and burning alive of a Novorossia militiaman that was revealed by Cyber-Berkut is genuine or not. On the one hand, Rozhin points out that it’s not as if there have been no cases of torture by the various neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine’s official service (see photo above for an example–more at the link). Moreover, given the reputation of Cyber-Berkut, it seems unlikely that the organization would engage in spreading of false information. On the other hand, Rozhin acknowledges it’s possible Cyber-Berkut got trolled by a pro-Kiev organization, which deliberately posted a fake clip so as to discredit CB:
The final possibility is that the clip is genuine, and the trolling claim is intended to depict the real video as a fake spread as misinformation. Keep in mind, however, that Novorossia media have fallen for fakes spread by the UAF before. The most notable was the story of a Novorossia nurse by the name of Sasha Serova being brutally murdered by the UAF, accompanied by a photo of…US porn star Sasha Grey (which is what the name Serova can mean). Therefore one has to approach such stories with particular care.
Artyom Kuzmin, a 20-year-old inhabitant of Yoshkar-Ola, was named as a soldier from the 331st Parachute Assault Regiment who was taken prisoner by the UAF on the Donbass. However, Artyom is not in the military (though he intends to sign up in two years), and has never been in the military, though these technicalities evidently did not prevent the UAF from claiming he was captured while fighting on the Donbass.
To make long story short: Poroshenko visited a training area and made several bombastic statements that would, frankly, make Mussolini blush. To wit: the UAF has fully reconstituted itself and represent one of the most powerful armed forces in all of Europe, all thanks to the amazing success of fully integrating and preparing the 4th wave of mobilization in the space of…2 months. Having said that, Poroshenko added that the UAF would not strike first, only that it was ready to defend Ukraine. That could mean several things: one, Poroshenko is aware of the weakness of the UAF and is trying to mask it with his bluster, hoping that it deters Novorossia. Two, Poroshenko is not aware of the weakness of the UAF (I very much doubt Muzhenko stopped blowing smoke up his boss’ posterior) and just might think an offensive operation (following a suitable provocation or a false flag attack of some kind) is a reasonable option at this time. I’m leaning more toward the first option, especially since Poroshenko is still being kept on a short leash by the EU which has made it clear quite forcefully (and to the point of deterring even the US from arming Ukraine) that it does not wish to see an escalation.
I think this story by da_dzi is an example of the rumors which are inevitable in the fog of war. In this instance, it concerns the recurring story that Poland has decided to supply Ukraine with its PT-91 tanks (T-72M upgraded with French thermal imagers and fire control computers, plus reactive armor of domestic Polish manufacture). But the details of the story are simply implausible. For starters, Poland does not have 300 PT-91s to supply (only slightly more than 200 were ever delivered to the Polish military), and they are not sitting in some “wartime reserve”, as the story purports, but are assigned to high-readiness armored and mechanized brigades, which means that any such transfer could not be done secretly, and moreover would instantly cause a massive scandal in Poland, not to mention the EU as a whole. Not to mention that, after the upset Bandera-worship has caused in Poland, no Polish politician could get away with doing something like that. So no dice. The story started innocently enough–some Ukrainian defense plant expressed readiness to upgrade 300 stored T-72 tanks to “NATO standards”, which in practical terms meant readiness to accept funding from the Ukrainian MOD.
This surely clarifies as a Freudian slip on an epic scale, and gives some credence to Starikov’s interpretation as to what Poland’s objectives in Ukraine are. So the Polish government issued a booklet which showed Ukraine…divided into two countries along the Dnepr river line. The Ukrainian government delegation that happened upon these booklets was…suitably impressed.
US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul gave an interview to the
Ukrainian Pravda in which he said that Ukraine would get Ukraine back if
it implemented economic reforms and fought corruption more effectively,
and thus demonstrated that life in Ukraine is better than in Russia,
which in turn would attract Crimea back toward Ukraine. Shorter Michael
McFaul: You ain’t never getting it back.
The director of the Kiev-based Expert Advice analytical center, Iskander Khisamov, announced at a conference that the management of the main Ukrainian media outlets receives daily instructions on what topics they should cover, and how they should be covered, including actual quotas. This is not a wholly new practice in Ukraine–president Kuchma likewise issued directives concerning press coverage, but Poroshenko’s practice is taking it to a new level.
The Elbrus-4 was developed by design bureaus of the Unified Toolmaking Corporation, which in turn is part of the state-owned Rostekh which specializes in developing high technologies with an eye to import substitution. The products named in the article include the Elbrus-401 desktop computer and Elbrus-4.4 server, which are likely intended to replace Western equivalents in applications where any NSA “backdoors” or spy devices would be, umm, highly undesirable.
There are no fewer than 20 icebreaking vessels currently under construction or on order for the Russian commercial shipping fleet. This list includes both conventional and nuclear-powered vessels.
The reason is very simple: Ukraine is far more dependent on imported consumer items than Russia, and far less capable of replacing them through internal manufacture. The dire shortage of dollars which is the side effect of the NBU’s rigorous currency control regime will ultimately have the side effect of emptying Ukraine’s store shelves, in the opinion of the head of the Ukrainian Association of Retail Suppliers.
The dates are April 29, May 4, and May 7. Expect another flood of photos from the blogosphere’s Armata addicts.
The Krasnodar is the fourth of six large diesel-electric submarines (modified Varshavyanka class) or under construction for the Russian Navy at the Admiralty Yard in St. Petersburg.
It’s the first of six frigates under construction at the Yantar Yard in Kaliningrad, and intended for the Black Sea fleet. More photos of other ships under construction at Yantar at the link.
Your daily Armata fix.
Russian paratroopers on a training exercise on Arctic floating icepack. More photos at the link.
Altogether there are 300 thousand “kontraktniki” in the Russian military today. They fill the junior leadership positions (i.e., sergeants), but also represent nearly the entire complement of certain branches of service, including the Airborne Forces and the Submarine Fleet. Kontraktniki serve longer terms, and enjoy higher pay and benefits than the draftees. At the same time, criteria for kontraktnik selection are higher.
The Chechen unit represented Russia at the competition, and won the first prize thus breaking the Chinese string of victories.
The first photo showing the vehicle’s rear–the first Russian wheeled APC with a rear access door.
Igor Korotchenko takes advantage of his access to the Victory Parade rehearsals and takes many photos of contemporary Russian military uniforms, marveling at the improvement in their quality and practicality over the last few years.
For the first time in modern Russian history–they did march in the 1946 parade, I believe. Right now there are 11 official Cossack Voyskos (militias) in the Russian Federation. The Kuban Voysko, the largest of them all, counts 150 thousand members.
Actually, the tank happened to drive over a vehicle in which the Azov soldiers were traveling, leaving them bloodied but alive.
Generally speaking, one would not associate a WWII-era T-60 light tank with a pair of spokesmodels, but “this is Russia,” after all.
A Red Army veteran gets to drive a T-34/85 medium tank after a break of seventy years.
The famous Red Army–US Army first contact on the Elbe took place 70 years ago today. Many more photos at the link.
The “Tank City Star” was assembled on the Revolution Square by 3500 people. An impressive show!
The Ukrainian news web site Korrespondent headline says: “Putin stole a bottle of water from the president of Argentina.”
Alas, he did not drink it all by the time he was caught.