Russia Daily Brief for May 16, 2015



May 16, 2015

Russia Daily Brief for May 16, 2015

By J.Hawk

This is the 41st edition of the Daily Brief, which covers stories trending in the Russian social media. To view other editions of the RDB, click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.


Russian government declares the economic crisis is over

 Russian economy shrank in Q1 2015 at an annual rate of 1.9%, less than the Ministry of Economy and Development estimate, and far less than World Bank and IMF predictions. While Russia’s economy is not expected to stage a strong recovery in 2015 (some predict Q2 might be worse than Q1), there’s consensus 2016 will be a year of growth. The main problem facing Russia’s economy at the moment is the drop in consumer demand caused by ruble devaluation which made imports too expensive, therefore a lot depends on the effectiveness of the import substitution strategy.

Kerch Wormhole Bridge construction begins

 It’s ON! Many more photos at the link.

Ministry of Economic Development proposes ending purchases of foreign software by state institutions

 Duma is working on a law that would limit purchases of foreign software, but MinDev wants to go one step further and ban it altogether for state agencies. There are two reasons for this initiative, which is supported by the Russian IT community. One is that Microsoft, for example, earns $1 billion a year from its business in Russia, business which could go to Russian software firms. The other is that dependence on foreign (in other words, US) software is a political vulnerability because technical support and upgrades can be easily cut off by sanctions, and even when it is not cut off, there’s always the danger of NSA-inserted spyware.

Vasserman: The West finally understood that pressuring Russia will get it nowhere

 Anatoliy Vasserman is a relatively well known Soviet, and currently Ukrainian, engineer, writer, and political advisor. In his view, the US fears a close economic partnership between Russia and China because it would spell the end of the dollar. Moreover, the West can’t exert pressure on Russia the same way that it can on, say, Libya or Syria–by sending in mercenary terrorists and/or bombers. Commenting on recent developments, Vasserman said that Poroshenko’s pledge to retake the Donbass Airport was inconsistent with the US-promoted notion that Ukraine was a helpless victim of Russian aggression–however, Poroshenko’s words and behavior are inconsistent with how a “victim” ought to look and act, which meant that relatively minor statement meant for a specific narrow domestic audience became a source of embarrassment for the US.

Putin relieved the fifth governor in a week

The latest victim is Sergey Sitnikov of Kostroma Region, who will remain in his post until the elections. Peskov explained the recent dismissals in terms of a desire to test whether the governors in question still have the trust and confidence of the regions they govern by having them run in special elections. The five dismissed governors will remain in their posts until the election decides whether they are replaced or returned.

Kurganets uses a control column similar to that of Sony PlayStation

The Kurganets carries a crew of three, plus 8 infantrymen. The MOD plans to launch its production as early as 2016. Its controls were purposefully designed to be readily mastered by young soldiers who grew up playing video games.

Russia will strengthen its military assets based in Crimea

The move is motivated by stepped up US activity in Eastern Europe. 

 US business found sanctions loopholes

US business is against the sanctions regime and it making that unhappiness felt by lobbying Congress and executive agencies to carve out exceptions for their own joint projects with Russia firms. And it is often succeeding.

Expired Mistrals, offended Yatsenyuk, and lonely Obama

Recent days have seen what appears to be a major upheaval in international politics, one that created both winners and losers. The latter include Angela Merkel, who for the longest time could not decide whether to attend the Victory Parade, ultimately opting for a compromise that only diminished her stature. Yatsenyuk’s rather pathetic comments on Kerry’s Sochi visit (discussed elsewhere in today’s RDB) made him appear, well, the way he is in reality, namely as a talking head with little influence over or even knowledge of international political reality. Obama stumbled in his attempt to reassert control over his unruly Middle-Eastern puppets when the King of Saudi Arabia pointedly declined to attend the Camp David summit. Hollande is stuck with the Mistrals because, remarkably, the Russian side appears to have been quite prudent even at the time of signing the contract because according to its terms France can’t dispose of the ships without Russia’s approval. Which once again gives Russia the upper hand in the negotiation. And the dollar is pretty much where the RCB wants it to be–around 50 rubles to a dollar, a rate that facilitates import substitution and allows the RCB to expand its reserves. 

NATO provided Russia with new telephone numbers for the “hotline”

Neither side so far took the initiative to call the other… 

US Congress supports ending financing the START treaty

 This is semi-big news, because what that move does not mean the US would leave the treaty. Financing is needed only for verification activities, but an end to the verification regime pretty much renders the treaty moot at best and raises the possibility of unfounded and unverifiable accusations of cheating at worst. In order to restore the funding, Obama Administration would need to officially state that no part of Ukraine is under Russian occupation.

A Maidan activist sentenced to four years by a court in Crimea

Aleksandr Kostenko was convicted for unlawful possession of firearms and the inflicting of minor bodily harm. Prosecutors argued he was one of the individuals who threw cobblestones at Berkut militiamen during the Maidan demonstrations in Kiev. 

Navalnyy’s party has ceased to exist

The Ministry of Justice withdrew the Party of Progress accreditation because the party failed to establish official presence in at least half the subjects of the Russian Federation within 6 months of accreditation, as required by law.


Yatsenyuk admitted committing genocide on the Donbass

 What a maroon! During his escape visit to France, a French journalist asked Yatsenyuk when Kiev will stop committing genocide. To which Yatsenyuk replied “when Putin fulfills Minsk Agreements, stop violating international law, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I think maybe Yatsenyuk internalized the neo-Nazi ideology to such an extent he forgets that genocide is actually a Pretty Big Deal in the non-Banderite universe.

Basurin: UAF are torturing prisoners

DPR estimates UAF are holding at least 1500 people prisoner, many of whom are subjected to cruel treatment in order to extract war crimes confessions. The prison in Mariupol is especially notorious, with recorded cases of prisoner deaths.

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DPR receives first humanitarian cargo from Switzerland

Fifteen trucks with humanitarian aid from Switzerland arrived in Makeyevka after passing through a UAF checkpoint which inspected the cargo. 

Gubarev wants into the Rada

Gubarev said that if Lavrov and Kerry fates decide that DPR remains part of Ukraine as an autonomy, he is prepared to defend its interests as a member of Verkhovna Rada.

Volnovakha today

Volnovakha, a town about 60km north of Mariupol which was the site of the infamous destruction of a passenger bus a few months ago, was visited by a Voice of Sevastopol reporter, who noted that the local population’s sentiments are very much in favor of being part of the DPR. They view UAF soldiers there not as liberators but as occupiers and even terrorizers. They do seem to have plenty of money, though, which they spend on local businesses. The money seems to come from the checkpoints around the city, which enable the soldiers to collect a large bounty in bribes from drivers passing in both directions. While the bus appears to have been destroyed by a directional landmine, the rocket bombardment that preceded the bus’s destruction may well have been launched by a rival UAF unit that wished to take over control over the checkpoint in order to tap into that source of revenue. 


Economic miracle promises are crashing against reality

The article points out that Yatsenyuk promised that while 2014 would not be all that great for Ukraine’s economy, in 2015 it would be sucked into a black hole return to growth.  Well, that ain’t exactly happening, and if anything, the economy’s collapse has accelerated. While in 2014 the economy shrank by 6.8%,  so far this year the rate of collapse has been twice as large (it may be that the winter campaign dealt the economy a mortal blow). Nobody really knows what to expect this summer. IMF injections of cash have not reversed the process and, what is more, the country is slipping from under Kiev’s control as nearly half of all economic transactions are now done unofficially, so as to avoid paying taxes.

“It’s so horrible, you can’t even stand the smell” — Ukrainian army food on video

Here’s what the UAF gets fed when there aren’t any sensitive NATO stomachs and noses around. The soldier explains that he (and the rest of the unit) got served canned sardines boiled into a stew (!), served over rice. I’m being overcome with nausea even as I’m typing this… And I like sardines!

Vandals destroyed memorial to the victims of Odessa terror

Video at the link. Unknown individuals destroyed the flowers, candles, and photographs of the 48 victims that were placed by a wall near the Labor Union House in Odessa only three days ago. 

UEFA Disciplinary Committee accuses Dnepr fans of racism

Its fans had the bright idea to hang a huge Azov Regiment banner during a match with Napoli that was held in Kiev. Since Dnepr won that one, the next game will be against Seville…in Warsaw.

Facebook is blocking aggressive Ukrainian users

Mark Zuckerberg has caught the ire of many Ukrainian Facebook users during a Q&A session, to the point of facing accusations that Ukrainian Facebook accounts are actually moderated by Treacherous Putin administrators based in Russia.  Instead, Ukraine’s Facebook is moderated by an office based in Dublin, which looks out for posts promoting inter-ethnic hatred and calls to commit violence. Facebook also declined to open an office in Ukraine. Incidentally, that t-shirt looks suspiciously like Russian Army camo pattern…

Yatsenyuk not happy with the Lavrov-Kerry meeting in Sochi

The list of Things Yatsenyuk is Not Happy With continues to grow…Yatsenyuk
limited himself to saying that Sochi was not the best place for the
meeting to take place, and that he “trusted” Kerry voiced his support
for Ukraine to Putin and Lavrov.

Ukrainian MFA “temporarily” moved its office from Simferopol to Odessa

Not clear what that office actually did in Simferopol, but it’s yet another small sign of progress. 

Treason! NATO is demanding Ukraine enter into talks with DPR/LPR

The NATO summit in Antaliya included a declaration, issued by Stoltenberg himself in a pretty categorical terms, that called not only on DPR/LPR but also on Kiev to fulfill Minsk Agreements, including the law on special status and local elections whose results Kiev must recognize.

Ukrainians are mad: the first foreign specialist flees the Cabinet of Ministers

The first rat to flee the sinking ship foreign specialist to quit was Aleksandr Borovik, a German lawyer to accepted Ukrainian citizenship in order to become the First Deputy Minister of Economy. that was before he was publicly humiliated by Yatsenyuk for saying that at some point the West will need to see some results. Borovik’s departure blew up the Ukrainian internet, where Yatsenyuk was roundly criticized for allowing the situation escalate to such a degree.

US is leaving Ukraine because they realized Ukrainians can’t fight

Ukrainian Anti-Maidan  journalist Yuriy Kot argues that the 173rd Airborne didn’t go to Lvov to train the UAF but to inspect it, and the results of that inspection were uninspiring. The US learned that the UAF can’t, won’t, and doesn’t know how to fight. It is an assessment that rings awfully true, because the timing and scope of the US training mission suggested either a token effort by the US or, well, a desire to assess the UAF first-hand. It was evident from the start Poroshenko wanted to impress his US guests, so if these woefully untrained soldiers was the best that the UAF had to offer, it was hardly a military that could be entrusted with US weapons, no matter what the US Congress thinks of the matter. It seems like more than a coincidence that Kerry’s trip to Sochi took place shortly after news reports on UAF’s poor state appeared in US media.

Other Former Soviet Republics

Estonian reservist was frightened by Treacherous Putin unidentified drone

The unnamed reservist who participated in a military exercise claims his unit was being shadowed by a drone. 

The Rest of the World

China is preparing a dollar crash

 It might be more accurate to headline the article as “China is preparing for a dollar crash”, because the main point here are the Chinese gold reserves whose actual extent is unknown, but which is estimated at 30 thousand tons. China is not the only country in the world that’s hedging its bets in anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising its prime rate. In view of how fragile the US economy still is, merely raising the rate might trigger another global financial crisis.

NATO has nowhere to expand

The prospective NATO member states, such as Macedonia, Georgia, or Ukraine, simply don’t meet the criteria. They don’t have modern armed forces, they suffer from political instability, and they are embroiled in ongoing conflicts. Therefore the May 16-18 Budapest meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will likely come to naught.

US financier Jim Rogers: It’s time to realize the 21st century will be China’s

Rogers pointed out that China has become the world’s largest oil importer, surpassing the US in that respect, and that its economy will surpass that of the United States in other respects in due time, making China the dominant global power.

A “Macedonian Maidan” may become an obstacle to “Turkish Stream”

Lavrov commented on the unrest in Macedonia by saying that “we also can’t avoid the impression that there is a connection here.” The government of Macedonia is facing two threats all at once, the Albanian militancy that is being supported from elements in Kosovo who are pursuing the Greater Albania project, and internal unrest that is beginning to resemble the early stages of Maidan. Lavrov also said that “the EU understands perfectly well what is going on”, implying the US is somehow behind these processes. While the EU definitely does not want to see a “Greater Albania”, it’s not clear what the US position is. On the other hand, Kosovo Albanians may simply want a cut of the action, and the recent violence is just their way of getting attention.

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