Russia Daily Brief for May 20, 2015



May 20, 2015

Russia Daily Brief for May 20, 2015

This is the 44th edition of the Daily Brief which covers news stories trending on Russian social media. To view other editions, click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.


Europe is not a partner to either Russia or US, but prey

 This is a translation of a German DWN article which argues that the EU, for all its latent power, is reduced to a role of an observer. One hardly hears of Merkel anymore, Hollande is wondering whether to sink the Mistrals, all the while Kerry and Lavrov are having a good time in Sochi, cutting deals without any European powers being present. While Nuland may have her disagreements with Russia, when it comes to the EU Nuland merely articulated that which the Russians are thinking anyway. The reason for EU’s weakness is mainly political–it is still only a collection of states fighting among one another for relative advantage, including cutting side deals with Russia or the US if they believe it will help them gain an edge over their EU neighbors.

Rosneft wants its shareholders to authorize authority to secure loans worth 10 trillion rubles

The request suggests Rosneft has secured, or is in the process of securing, an attractive source of financing (China???), and is in process of laying the groundwork for signing appropriate contracts. Given the scale of the investment, it is likely linked to Rosneft’s earlier stated desire to develop own deep-sea drilling technologies.

 Where do we find a new Beria?

Roskosmos is indeed suffering from a systemic crisis, one that was acknowledged by Dmitriy Rogozin, but the causes appear to be mainly associated with the management. All too many MBAs and lawyers rather than actual “rocket scientists” occupying key posts, combined with an absence of a tight centralized control over the many components of the state corporation. The author points at Rosatom as a successful example of a state corporation, and raises the question of who has what it takes to carry out the necessary corporate reforms.

The Roskosmos law near-unanimously adopted by the Duma

Beria was not long in coming.

Lavrov asks to “draw conclusions” from Kerry’s failure to mention Crimea at Sochi

Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Kerry did not raise the matter of Crimea with either himself or Putin. Conclusions…drawn.

Lavrov: DPR and LPR ought to remain part of Ukraine

More conclusions drawn. Lavrov emphasized that Russia’s position has always been what it is right now, namely that LPR and DPR ought to remain parts of Ukraine though on special rights, as provided for by Minsk Agreements. Lavrov also said that Poroshenko ought to be supported, since he is the country’s president, and also that the EU is still failing to recognize the degree Ukraine has become radicalized and fallen under the sway of neo-Nazis. Lavrov singled out Poland’s president Komorowski for special treatment, saying that the law glorifying OUN-UPA was signed into law when Komorowski was in Kiev with an official visit.

Russians accused of terrorism by the SBU answer Novaya Gazeta questions

The two appear to be under the influence of anesthesia, and what does Novaya Gazeta ask them, with an SBU colonel present in the room? Whether they are Russian Army soldiers.

Representatives of EU, OSCE, and Amnesty International visit Russians captured on the Donbass

It’s a regular media circus. Russia wants them sent home, SBU threatens to put them on trial on terrorism charges, while the Ukrainian MOD wants to exchange them for 400 UAF prisoners of war.

 SBU publishes interrogation videos of the two captured Russians

Judging the videos, those don’t appear to be interrogations, but rather written statements read in front of the camera, with an occasional prompt from the “interrogator.” These two are most likely former Russian servicemembers who came to the Donbass as volunteers, and they read the statements that were placed in front of them because the alternative was being tried on terrorism charges. One wonders whether they might be under the influence of drugs of some sort, judging by their rather listless behavior.

Captured Russian volunteers were tortured

 LifeNews points out that the cast on Yerofeyev’s arm appeared later, and does not appear to have anything to do with his combat wound which he sustained to the opposite shoulder.

The propagandists’ misstep

Note the bandage on the prisoner’s left forearm that is not in evidence on the top photo.

Russian Embassy is demanding access to Russians held by the SBU

International agreements provide for detained foreign nationals’ right to contact their diplomatic representatives, but so far Ukraine has not abided by these provisions.

Exchanging the two Russians for Savchenko: Peskov’s reaction

Peskov’s reaction was that he had no reaction because these things need to be coordinated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Which suggests they are in fact considering that kind of a swap. It was also announced that Russia’s Association of Special Operations Veterans turned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a request to facilitate the return of the two detainees, which indicates the two are veterans of the Russian special operations community.

Russian mobile ICBM conducts a pontoon bridge river crossing

It’s a training vehicle rather than an actual ICBM, but still very impressive.

Lavrov: “Only Japan has doubts concerning the outcome of WW2”

Lavrov was commenting on Japan’s insistence that it recover the territories it lost following WW2, including the Kuril Islands. Lavrov pointed out that the Article 107 of the UN Charter which Japan also ratified prohibits such claims from being made. That Japan is making such claims indicates it is pursuing a revisionist, even revanchist, foreign policy.

 Russian oppositionists dream of riding into Russia on NATO tanks

The article is a translation of a Daily Signal broadcast which describes how many Russian oppositionists have set up shop in Kiev, established ties with the SBU, and are hoping to make a return trip on NATO tanks, which is actually an exact quote from one of the oppositionists. 

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Duma adopts a law on undesirable foreign organizations

The law quite simply bans organizations which undermine the country’s security, defense capabilities, and political system from operating in Russia, and prohibits Russian government organizations and commercial entities from collaborating with them everywhere else. The Prosecutor’s General office will have the power to place organizations on that list, after consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Russia may impose sanctions on countries supporting Nazism

 The Federation Council called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop a set of measures to be used at countries that are rehabilitating fascism and national socialism. These measures would entail both personal and trade sanctions.

Former Deep Purple soloist tells about the dangers of performing in Sevastopol

Joe Lynn Turner says he was being discouraged from appearing in Sevastopol by people who said it would threaten his career and make it more difficult for him to perform in Europe, but he went ahead anyway and is enjoying his stay in the city.

SBU accuses Night Wolves of financing LPR and DPR

Aleksandr Zaldostanov thus joined a long list of Russian celebrities against whom the SBU has launched criminal cases.

Polina Gagarina crushes Eurovision competitors

Gagarina has something of an unfair advantage over most Eurovision contestants in that she can, for lack of a better word, sing. She easily advanced to the final round of the contest.


A decision on principle reached in Minsk

 A meeting of the Minsk contact group resulted in an agreement to carry out a general prisoner exchange by the two parties. Other aspects of Minsk Agreement implementation are still to be discussed. No word if the exchange will cover the two Russian citizens recently taken prisoner.

Kiev has its doubts concerning the Donbass

 Judging by the tone of ongoing expert discussions in Ukraine, Kiev is coming around to the idea of letting go of the Donbass for purely pragmatic reasons. There is an emerging consensus that Ukraine  does not have the money or military might sufficient for the task of conquering and then rebuilding the region. In addition, if the current situation persists it will threaten the territorial integrity of what remains of Ukraine.

“It is impossible to establish Novorossia without a big war”

A leader of Nikolayev anti-junta movement Yego Kvasnyuk used these words to agree with the earlier statements by DPR Foreign Minister Kofman that for the time being Novorossia project was closed. Kvasnyuk also pointed out that nothing Kofman said indicated Novorossia was scuttled for good, and that he also implicitly ruled out the possibility of a “little Novorossia” consisting of only LPR and DPR. 


Rada authorizes the government to introduce a Russian debt moratorium

Time will tell whether the government will take advantage of the law because it amounts to declaring a selective default that would not sit well with Ukraine’s other creditors. Moreover, contrary to what the headline says, the law covers all foreign debt subject to restructuring–including issued by Western creditors. IMF ain’t gonna like that…

Yatsenyuk: “Creditors should help Ukraine not with words but with a kick in the pants  billion dollars”

Yatsenyuk also said that Ukraine will pay its debts but on its own terms. IMF ain’t gonna like that…

IMF is not commenting on Ukraine’s debt moratorium threat

I believe that’s IMF’s way of saying “I’ll pretend I did not hear that.”

Poroshenko Block deputy calls Yatsenyuk “the head of the Ukrainian mafia”

Poroshenko Block, as usual the last one to find out.  IMF knows that already, and doesn’t like it…
Lutsenko: “After the moratorium either a default or a deal with creditors”

Unless Ukraine is bluffing default it is, then. Creditors probably realize that if they roll over now, they’ll be expected to roll over in any future Ukrainian stand-off.

“Klichko, shame on you!”

A four-minute video at the link. These types of demonstrations are becoming a regular occurrence in Kiev.

Leonid Slutskiy: “A visa-free regime with Ukraine is a nightmare for the EU”

The last thing the EU wants is the Right Sector on the streets of Berlin or Paris (of course, they are perfectly OK on the streets of Kiev…), says Slutskiy, which means the visa-free regime is not something they are willing to entertain just yet. 

US Army Europe commander praises Ukrainian soldiers’ discipline and experience

General Ben Hodges strikes again. I suspect we’ll see more of him in the weekly humor section.

Other Former Soviet Republics

Baltic States’ Judases are selling out their own people

 The language is probably a little harsh, but overall the thrust of the article is correct: the West uses the time-honored technique of co-opting local elites. Most of the Eastern European leaders (including even Angela Merkel) started out as Communists, but they joined the party not out of a desire to help others but from sheer political opportunism and thirst for power. Today their concern is not the well-being of their own countries but rather a cushy job somewhere in Brussels which can be theirs for the taking provided they implement certain “reforms” in their countries…

The Rest of the World

Syria is modernizing old Soviet tanks

T-55 tanks still in Syria’s arsenals are being equipped with Kontakt reactive armor and other improvements to make them less vulnerable to modern anti-armor weapons. Though the article doesn’t report it, the equipment necessary for the modernization likely arrived in Syria via the “Syria Express” twice-a-month runs by the Russian Navy’s amphibious assault ships.

Russian embassy in Damascus comes under fire

It came under mortar fire which did not cause any casualties. 

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