Category Archives: News & Views

Mikheil Saakashvili: “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa.”

The indomitable corruption of Odessa:

Saakashvili is only forty-nine, but has accomplished more politically, and can drop more names, than the previous three US presidents combined. He became president of Georgia in his thirties, turned the country around, was nearly assassinated with his good friend George W. Bush, stared down Vladimir Putin, and became a Ukrainian citizen to join the effort to transform Eastern Europe’s sleeping giant.

He supported the Euromaidan from afar then was recruited by President Petro Poroshenko, a university pal. Months after becoming an adviser, Saakashvili convinced Poroshenko to appoint him as governor of Odesa oblast to reshape the corrupt port. For less than one year, he ruled with an iron fist and began cleaning up port operations, then suddenly announced his resignation in a typically dramatic fashion. At a press conference, he accused Poroshenko of supporting “corrupt clans in the Odesa region.”

He is unusually forthcoming as an interviewee. “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa. We proved that it was possible to operate customs without corruption. Some people miss this. But we only accomplished 5 percent of what we wanted to do.”

Poroshenko, he added, has missed his chance to transform the country. “This is because he spends most of the time running his businesses. They cannot be combined. They’re part of the old system. He is part of the old system,” he said.

Nonetheless, Saakashvili is committed to Ukraine’s struggle. “This is selfish because if I can help build two difficult countries that would be an achievement. I’m optimistic. Georgia was worse when I took over than Ukraine is now, and you can see the difference,” he said. “Ukrainians by nature don’t accept authoritarianism, and are more law abiding and today they are more ready for change than Georgians were in 2003.”

Ukraine is also on his agenda because it is the lynchpin to liberating the entire region from Putin. “Russia’s going to explode, but it depends on Ukraine. If it does well, then Putin explodes,” he said. “The plan was to take the east, destroy Ukraine’s army, sabotage its government, and leave it in ruins. Now [Putin] can only wait for its collapse. That’s why Ukraine must grow economically.”

A Russian nationalist’s argument against Putin and against modern Russia.

Not particularly well written, but it’s from an important vantage point.

Read the article here:

Or my excerpts below.


According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, adopted in 1993 (shortly after the shooting of the then parliament from tanks), the state is a federation built on an ethnic basis, which is reflected in the territorial structure: of the 85 regions, 27[2] are “homelands” for ethnic minorities of Russia – thus ensuring the representation of their interests at the state level. “Own” regions are possessed by the Tatars, Chechens, Yakuts, Buryats and many other peoples of Russia.

Where, then, is the “Russian Republic” – a region representing 80% of the population of the whole country? There is no such region, there are only denationalized “krays” and “oblasts”, which are “regions for all”. Maybe there is a state body authorized to defend the rights of Russians at the federal level? Again, no. The federal government represents the interests of all citizens of Russia, regardless of nationality.

In the text of the Constitution of the Russian Federation there is not even a mention of the Russian (in the ethnic sense) people, as in any other law of the Russian Federation.

Thus, ethnic Russians (~ 80% of the country’s population) even legally do not have any relation to the Russian Federation.

. . . . Any attempts by the Russians to create such an organization are suppressed as manifestations of “extremism.”

. . . .

Vladimir Putin clearly indicated his position on the “Russian question” yet in the middle of the 2000s, calling the adherents of the slogan “Russia – for Russians”[3] “jerks and provocateurs”[4], and the struggle “with anti-Semitism, like … with any nationalism and chauvinism, – the basis of our domestic policy[5]”. In addition, such slogans as “Russian power for Russia” and even “Russian, do not drink!”, “”Russian” – means “sober”” [6] are officially considered extremist in Russia.

Thousands of Russian citizens – primarily nationalists – are in prison under “political” articles.

. . . .

The Russian Federation is a growing Islamic, Asian state

The Muslim holidays of Uraza-Bairam (the Arab Eid al-Fitr) and Kurban-bairam (the Arab Eid al-Adha) are other important for understanding the essence of modern “RFia” holidays. . . .

As it is easy to guess, these holidays have a national scope in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin congratulates Muslims with them every year (in 2015 he did it being in the mosque and reading aloud the Qur’an [1]). At the same time and in the place same significant words sounded: “Russia is the successor to the Golden Horde!”[2]. Residents of the currently rapidly Islamizing Russia can hardly argue with this statement.

. . . .

The Islamist “finger up” (“Allah is One”) – this gesture is now considered a good form in this military unit.

. . . .

Chechnya – that produces almost nothing, the real “economic hole” of Russia, – due to multi-billion subsidies from the state budget [6] is, however, much richer than most regions of the Russian Federation – Spending huge money on contruction of chic (quite tasteless) buildings or on one of the most expensive Russian teams – “Terek”. Kadyrov, in turn, lives as a small sheikh – with his palaces, army and hundreds of luxury cars.

It has long been obvious: Putin is afraid of Kadyrov.

In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked the richest families in Russia [7]. We will quote it, indicating the ethnicity of the families:

the Rothenbergs (5,55 млрд USD) – Jews;
the Gutserievs (4,85 млрд USD) – Ingush (the North Caucasus);
the Ananjevs (4,6 млрд USD) – Russians;
the Sarkisovs (2,7 млрд USD) – Armenians;
the Shaimievs (2,3 млрд USD) – Tatars;
the Mutsoyevs (1,52 млрд USD) – Yezidis (the North Caucasus);
the Magomedovs (1,4 млрд USD) – Avarians (the North Caucasus)
the Bazhaevs (1,24 млрд USD) – Chechens (the North Caucasus);
the Aminovs (1,12 млрд USD) – Jews;
the Zubitskys (0,7 млрд USD) – Jews.

. . . . A separate issue is the gradual expansion of China in the Russian Far East, which is supported by the Russian authorities. In addition to several islands on the Amur River, simply “donated” to the PRC during the years of Putin’s rule, the Kremlin took even more significant steps in this direction: in 2015, 115,000 hectares of agricultural land in the Trans-Baikal region were given to the Chinese for rent for 49 years. In addition, in the same Trans-Baikal region, for the same 49 years, 1,844,407 hectares of forests adjacent to the state border with China were leased for cutting by the Chinese [8]. For the sake of the Chinese expansion in the Far East, the Government of Russia specifically developed the concept of “territories of advanced development”, which provides, in particular, the possibility of importing foreign workers to such territory without any restrictions.

‘Young Russians Love Putin, State Ownership and Socialism,’ Poll Finds

Those aged 17 to 34 favor socialist values more than liberal ones by 28 to 20 percent, and 73 percent of this cohort favor state ownership of major enterprises. Only 17 percent believe they should be privately held.

At the same time, young people in Russia are far more inclined to say that “Russia now is moving in the correct direction” (69 percent) than are their elders, only 33 percent of whom agree with that statement, according to a recent Levada Center poll. And perhaps most striking of all, only 18 percent of young Russians say the country is moving in the wrong direction.

A former double agent says Russia has changed the way it recruits spies — and the FBI is playing catch-up

the way the Russians now make initial contact with a potential asset is often perfectly legitimate, Jamali said. They start with “walking through the front door” and asking for access before assessing “whether you’re a viable candidate for recruitment.”

A Russian spy ring uncovered by the FBI in 2013 that involved three Russian citizens who posed as a banker, a Russian trade representative, and a UN attache is a good example of the way Russian espionage has evolved, Jamali said.

Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, met the spy posing as a UN attache, Victor Podobnyy, at an energy conference in 2013. He and Podobnyy stayed in touch for the next few months, according to court filings.

Page, who runs an energy firm called Global Energy Capital, provided Podobnyy with information about the oil and gas industry that he has said was not sensitive or classified.

Jamali said, however, that “once [the Russians] decide to recruit you, it’s a process of slow, careful relationship-building.”

“They work on moving that relationship from overt to covert, largely by pinpointing what their target’s motivation is,” Jamali said. “So I had to figure out what the Russian profile is for someone who would be motivated to spy for them and build a caricature around that profile so that I would seem legitimate. In my case, it was money and ego.”

Jamali said that he “negotiated with the Russians very hard about money to make them believe that was my biggest motivation” in working with them.

“That’s what they believe Americans are after, above all else,” Jamali said. “That and ego-stroking.”

Jamali said he thought former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s pattern of belatedly reporting his contact with foreign agents “raised a red flag” because it indicated that Flynn might be vulnerable to exploitation by foreign intelligence services.

Ukraine to launch big blockhain deal with tech firm Bitfury

kraine has partnered with global technology company the Bitfury Group to put a sweeping range of government data on a blockchain platform, the firm’s chief executive officer told Reuters, in a project he described as probably the largest of its kind anywhere.

Bitfury, a blockchain company with offices in the United States and overseas, will provide the services to Ukraine, CEO Valery Vavilov said in an interview on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s blockchain initiative underscores a growing trend among governments that have adopted the technology to increase efficiencies and improve transparency.

Blockchain is a ledger of transactions that first emerged as the software underpinning digital currency bitcoin. It has become a key global technology in both the public and private sector given its ability to permanently record and keep track of assets or transactions across all industries.

Ukraine and Bitfury are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday, Vavilov said.

Though Vavilov said he was unable to estimate the cost of the project, he said it was the biggest government blockchain deal ever so far. It involves putting all of the Ukraine government’s electronic data onto the blockchain platform.

“A secure government system built on the blockchain can secure billions of dollars in assets and make a significant social and economic impact globally by addressing the need for transparency and accountability,” said Vavilov.

There are other countries that have started blockchain programs, but they are smaller in scope involving one or two sectors, such as land titles and real estate ownership. Countries that have launched blockchain programs include Sweden, Estonia, and Georgia.

PornHub – loudly blocked in Russia, and then quietly unblocked

“PornHub had been unblocked in Russia” – quite a good example of window dressing by today’s Russia. First they pompously ban a popular porn site in the country and scream as loud as possible about moral values, and then – silently return everything as it was.

I make a similar point in my essay about Russian propaganda. They work like hell to achieve headlines, but seem indifferent to reality.

Ukraine’s Garbage Wars

Foreigners trying to grok #Ukraine’s internal politics should pay attention to the garbage wars currently underway.

Apparently Poroshenko-Groysman attempting to weaken possible challenger Lviv mayor Sadovy, by blocking city’s garbage disposal needs.

Much higher approval-rated Sadovy not completely innocent. Over the years, rejected many Western sanitation companies b/c no bribes.

Syria’s Assad Expresses Support for Putin on Ukraine

In a message addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad expressed his solidarity, on behalf of the Syrian people, with Putin’s efforts to “restore security and stability in the friendly country of Ukraine”.

Assad stressed that Putin’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine is legitimate and adheres to the UN’s objectives that aim “to create a balanced and transparent world based on respecting the sovereignty of countries and the right of peoples to decide their destiny,” reported SANA.

Assad described the Russian leadership’s stance as a “wise policy” in the face of “coup attempts against legitimacy and democracy in favor of the terrorist extremists”. He reiterated Syria’s commitment to Putin’s “rational approach” which he described as supporting “the right and truth” and applauded Russia for “saving the world from dangerous events”.