Russia Daily Brief for May 14, 2015



May 14, 2015

Russia Daily Brief for May 14, 2015

This is the 39th edition of the Daily Brief which provides an overview of stories trending on Russian social media. To view other editions, click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.


Aleksey Pushkov: The US acknowledged for the first time that Kiev is not abiding by Minsk Agreements

Pushkov is right on the money here. Kerry did something no Western leader had done before. Pushkov also noted that the US has a two-tiered policy in play, with one set of sanctions (the sectoral economic ones) imposed over the Donbass issue, and another (personal sanctions on Russian leaders and on Crimean businesses) over the Crimean issue. Pushkov believes the Crimea sanctions are likely to continue for a while longer, even as the US realizes that Crimea has irreversibly become part of the Russian Federation.

Russia and the US partitioned Ukraine

Ukraine is becoming spare change in the relationship between the two major powers. The article raises three possibilities as to Kerry’s motives: a deal on Syria, preventing closer Russia-China relations, and calming the waters before the 2016 presidential election.

US media discuss Kerry’s visit to Sochi

No breakthrough, but at the same time the tone was markedly different. Kerry did not even criticize Russia’s planned sale of S-300 air defense systems to Iran, only noted this might not be the best time to do so. NYT, in particular, writes that “page has been turned” on attempts to isolate Russia. 

Vladimir Putin: “New weapons shown at the parade must enter production as soon as possible”

Kerry is gone, tomatoes, potatoes, and all, so it’s back to business as usual.

Vladimir Putin instructed that the Ratnik individual equipment suite be supplied to the military 

 The Ratnik is a comprehensive equipment suite which includes advanced personal communications and targeting systems. It has been undergoing tests for a number of years.

Rogozin: the T-14 may receive a more powerful weapon in the future

The weapon in question is a 152mm cannon that was already tested on the T-95 project that was not accepted into service, but which pioneered the layout and some of the technologies used by the T-14. 

Forbes: “Turkish Stream” forced the EU to take both Russia and Turkey into account

 The Turkish Stream pipeline is the foundation for the possible Eurasian Energy Union, whose market power would rival that of OPEC, and whose emergence would greatly complicate EU’s own energy strategy. Moreover, Turkey today is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, which covers about 60% of that country’s needs.

NATO to reconsider its relationship with Russia

It’s back to business as usual for Kerry as well, or is it? Let’s not forget that Kerry’s criticism of Poroshenko’s stated intent to retake the Donetsk Airport was the first time any Western leader actually criticized Ukraine for anything.

US Department of Defense and intelligence services want to end the ban on Russian rocket engines

 National Intelligence Director Clapper and SecDef Carter (that’s him on the photo above, even though he looks like a clapper…) wrote a joint letter to the Chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee asking for the ban to be lifted. They are concerned that the RD-180 stockpile will run out, endangering US ability to maintain access to outer space.

 Turkey’s Prime Minister referred to the annexation of Crimea as “unlawful” and called for supporting Ukraine

Davutoglu’s statement may have had a hidden meaning, because he also called for preventing the Crimean Tatars from becoming isolated, but the only thing that’s isolating them right now are the Western sanctions against Crimea. That would provide a neat face-saving way out of the sanctions regime–humanitarian reasons. The West is a sucker for humanitarian reasons.

 US Dollar fell below 49 rubles

It’s not going to stay there very long, as the RCB seems to be pursuing a “weak ruble” policy to stimulate import substitution. But it is a good opportunity for the RCB to expand its currency and gold reserves…

Night Wolves lease 266 hectares of land near Sevastopol to create a sporting center

It will be used to stage extreme sports competitions.  The land, which belongs (or maybe used to belong…) to a Ukrainian oligarch Vadim Novinskiy, was leased at a 99.9% discount, a reflection of the Night Wolves’ privileged NGO status, but also in recognition of the non-commercial status of the enterprise.

New car market hits a new low

132 thousand new cars were sold in Russia in April, a record low number over the last 10 years. However, experts believe that the market has bottomed out.

Lavrov explained who the “f***ing lunatic” was

Commenting on the origin of the story that Lavrov responded “who are you to f***ing lecture me” to British Labour Party (former) head Miliband during a heated exchange on some issue or another, Lavrov said that the incident never took place. Instead, it was Miliband who in 2008, shortly after returning from a visit to Georgia, told Lavrov that Saakashvili was “some kind of a lunatic.” So now you know. Though, come to think of it, it’s hard to believe Lavrov encountered only one f***ing lunatic during his long diplomatic career.

Domestically-produced salmon will appear in Russian stores

Russia produced farm-raised salmon before, but it purchased the spawn from Norway. Now there is an effort to establish in Russia the full production cycle for salmon. The first wholly “homegrown” salmon are expected in stores in 4-5 years.


Pushilin explained how to avoid WW3

The recipe happens to be a simple one: Ukraine must not join any blocs or alliances. Other conditions listed by Pushilin included the official status of the Russian language in eastern Ukraine and the establishment of local militias, which presumably means legalizing DPR and LPR armed forces under Ukrainian law. 

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 DPR agreed to hold elections in accordance with OSCE standards

This information was published on the Donetsk News Agency website as part of proposed legislature to govern elections. DPR has two conditions: Kiev must end ATO and enact a law on special status of the Donbass. Also, hell must freeze over and pigs should acquire flying skills.

The Donbass: Hong-Kong or Abkhazia?

The author of this rather lengthy analytical piece, Svyatoslav Knyazyev, argues that the Donbass may well become something akin to Hong-Kong if Minsk-2 is fully implemented, as it would mean far-reaching autonomy (a veritable “one country, two systems” arrangement, as in the PRC) within a decentralized Ukraine, which in turn would foster economic development. The main concern is with the Kiev government which doesn’t want to see that kind of an outcome. For many members of the Kiev elite, keeping Donbass beyond the pale of Ukrainian law and society means relegating it to the status of Abkhazia, which it views as a more effective means of eventually asserting control over the region. Judging by the recent developments in Sochi and in Europe, it would appear that even the US and the EU would prefer the Hong-Kong outcome rather than the Abkhazia one, because that would also mean continued tension in the Russia-West relations which the West would rather try to avoid.

Renewed fighting on the Donbass

Low-level engagements took place in all the usual places: Shirokino, Donetsk Airport and nearby towns, Stanitsa Luganskaya. The level of shelling of the Airport and Gorlovka is also on the increase. DPR intelligence indicates UAF moving tanks, rocket artillery, armored vehicles, and even mobile hospitals closer to the line of separation.


Panic in Kiev: Putin won, Kerry agreed to confederalize Ukraine

At least that’s the opinion expressed by Transcarpathian oligarch and Rada deputy Viktor Balrog Baloga on his facebook page. The exact quote is as follows: “We can already say with all certainty that Moscow got what it wanted–Europe and the US, Merkel and Kerry, sat down to talk on Putin’s turf and in accordance with Putin’s rules. That’s all because Kiev thought it was a chess game in which there is plenty of time to make a move. But here both Moscow and Brussels are checkmating us. Therefore they have adopted a solution which satisfies Moscow, Brussels, and Washington, but is absolutely not appropriate for Ukraine. They treated us as an object, not as a participant. We will be faced with a fait accompli, and won’t care about our opinion. How will that happen? Through the new constitution. Everything is being done to make sure it passes smoothly through the Rada.” Is Baloga being a concern troll? Decentralization of power to the regions in practice means decentralization to him.

 Nuland is flying to Kiev. Poroshenko is being prepared for capitulation? 

Nuland will spend two days in Kiev, starting with May 14. The official reason for her trip are discussions on implementing Minsk Agreements.  We’ll see whether she actually works for Kerry, or whether she’s pursuing an independent agenda, in which case her trip to Kiev would be with the intent to sabotage whatever Kerry accomplished in Sochi. Which would not be hard to do–all she needs to do is convince Poroshenko to resume fighting.

Poroshenko will ask Merkel for businessmen, not peacekeepers

 While Yatsenyuk is in Paris seeking asylum talking to Hollande, Poroshenko dropped in on Angela Merkel and crushed her. It is believed that for the first time he won’t be raising security issues, but rather economic ones. Given Ukraine’s low investment attractiveness, one has to wonder how much of Ukraine’s economy Poroshenko would have to give away to attract German investment. Though on the other hand Poroshenko’s bargaining position is not as weak as it might seem, since he can blackmail European leaders with the threat of resumed fighting on the Donbass. Kerry’s warning to Poroshenko may have been a recognition of that possibility.

Merkel said Germany’s relations with Ukraine are “outstanding”

She also said the two sides are exchanging views “with great intensity”. A phrase which has more than one possible meaning, including one of confrontation. Especially since she also talked about ceasefire violations without identifying the responsible parties.

 Poroshenko compared Russia to Nazi Germany

He made the comparison in a column he wrote for the EUobserver.  He also compared Donbass to the Sudetenland. Although, at this stage, does anyone really care about what he has to say?

EUobserver: Kiev’s European ambitions met Berlin’s resistance

 Berlin is apparently putting brakes on the EU aspirations of Eastern Partnership member states, which include Ukraine. Moreover, Berlin is on the opinion that any free trade arrangement between Kiev and the EU ought to be coordinated with Moscow. This position represents a retreat from the original ambitious goals of Eastern Partnership (the first summit of which was held in 2009) which is a reflection of EU’s expansion-weariness and Russia-wariness.

Radio Freedom accuses Poroshenko of abuse of power

The story deals with a shady land deal that Poroshenko participated in and which he, in his capacity as president, covered up. A minor story, to be sure, but the hits just keep on coming. And consider the source… Et tu, Obama?

NATO warns Ukraine

Foreign ministers of NATO member-states issued a joint statement on the first day of the NATO summit in Antaliya not only ritually condemning Russia, but also warning Ukraine against any moves to escalate the situation. Baltic states, in the meantime, are continuing to push for increased NATO presence on their territory, something that NATO doesn’t seem eager to do either. 

NATO will take Ukraine under its wing

Catchy headline, but nothing so far that’s come out of the NATO summit suggests any major changes. Stoltenberg simply assured Ukraine of continued support and left it at that. There are indications that NATO will hold more exercises in Central Europe and may even increase the size of its high-readiness forces to 30 thousand troops.

Rada pushing for Avakov’s ouster

Specifically it’s the Rada committee on corruption, headed by Borislav Bereza. The move was officially motivated by Avakov’s shielding of a corrupt senior MVD official. Independent observers are viewing it as another move by Poroshenko against Yatsenyuk’s allies.

Rada deputy calls Donbass militia “heroes”

This act of bravery belongs to the former mayor of Lisichansk Sergey Dunayev, who is now a member of the Opposition Block.  Dunayev accused the Kiev government of transforming Ukraine into an IMF colony and provoking armed resistance on the Donbass.

Saakashvili and McCain become members of Poroshenko’s advisory council

They are supposed to help him with plunder reforms, together with several other political has-beens including the former PM of Sweden Karl Bildt who’s renowned for his anti-Russian position. No word on whether this is an honorary post or something of substance. 

UAF will be pressed into concrete

ATO press service announced tests of a MOS-2 prototype (the acronym stands for small firing installation), a Soviet-era design that was intended for protection of Soviet missile bases. Now they are intended for the planned lines of UAF fortifications. Yet another indication that the UAF’s armored vehicle shortage is too severe to be easily overcome, if ever.

Other Former Soviet Republics

Estonian secret services are trying to establish who was walking around Narva carrying a nuclear bomb DPR flag

There were similar sightings in Tallinn as well.  Treacherous Putin, no doubt…

The Rest of the World

Polish citizen may get two years in prison for anti-Ukraine banner

He was one of the “pseudo-fans” who hoisted a banner proclaiming “We’ll retake Lvov and kill Banderites” at a rugby match between the two countries’ national teams.  He is being charged with encouraging inter-ethnic hatred, though I am unaware of any prosecutions for hoisting anti-Russian rhetoric.

Meanwhile in Macedonia: The country may be doomed

The recent battle that cost the lives of 8 Macedonian police and 14 militants for the cause of Greater Albania continues to reverberate.  There are street demonstrations against the government (a quarter of the two-million population are ethnic Albanians), two ministers have resigned, and to make things worse the West is beginning to accuse Macedonia of violating democratic values, which is always the prelude to something worse because it’s a de-facto green light to anyone who wants to overthrow the government in the country which was so designated by the West. 

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