April 15, 2015
Russian Blogosphere Survey for April 15, 2015
This is a daily Fort Russ feature. To access earlier editions, please click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.
There were several distinctive episodes, each fought by a UAF company combat team. The targets included Peski, Spartak, the Donetsk Airport, an attack on DPR positions northwest of Donetsk. Both sides have killed and wounded (the OUN Battalion left the corpse of at least one of its soldiers behind as it withdrew), as well as losses in armored vehicles. The front line remained essentially unchanged–earlier reports that the UAF succeeded in pushing NAF out of the outskirts of Peski proved incorrect.
UAF announced it lost 6 troops killed and 12 wounded in the most recent clashes. Contrary to initial reports (including by Boris Rozhin above) the frontline did shift by 1 kilometer in favor of UAF in the vicinity of Peski, as the UAF occupied previously neutral no-man’s land (a repetition of what happened in Shirokino). OSCE has noted the change, which represents a further violation of Minsk 2. NAF, in turn, is stepping up its reconnaissance activity (including using drones) and is deploying its 3rd Corps to the vicinity of Mariupol. Yurasumy also notes that the UAF are in no shape to try much of anything, due to demobilization and the fact that new replacements have not reached frontline units yet. In fact, it may well be the operations in front of Donetsk were carried out by “volunteer battalions” because they were the only battle-ready units still available, or possibly the “volunteers” want to trigger a big war that would only enhance their already considerable influence over Ukraine’s politics. But on the other side of the front line are four NAF corps consisting of largely battle-hardened veterans…
The Normandy Four foreign ministers met, evidently had something to eat, talked for four hours and…agreed on exactly nothing. Ukraine finds the idea of Russian or Russian ally peacekeepers unacceptable, Russia feels the same way about NATO peacekeepers, and there is concern on DPR/LPR side that the peacekeepers would be Kiev’s “camel’s nose under the tent”–once they start taking over security functions from LPR and DPR, it would make it trivially easy for Kiev to invite them out, then attack the weakened republics.
The incident occurred near the town of Shirokino. The wounded journalist Andrey Lunev was promptly given first aid by OSCE delegation members.
Yevdokiya Sheremetyeva (who blogs as Little Hiroshima) is a Russian humanitarian worker engaged in assisting the suffering people in DPR and LPR. Should anyone like to find out how to help her and others like her in carrying out her humanitarian work, she can be contacted through Facebook, or by email: [email protected]
“It’s a pity that Navalnyy Fund employees become useful only after trial.”
Georgiy Arbulov was convicted and sentenced for stealing a painting titled “Bad Good Person” by a well known Vladimir street painter Sergey Sotov. The painting itself has considerable political content: the “bad person” on the left is a money-loving egotist, while the good person is into modesty, justice, health, fairness, family, patriotism, respect for the elders.
The blogger Migan (who is also the author for the post I summarized above) cites Ministry of Justice data indicating that in 2014 alone, over four thousand NGOs received over 70 billion rubles in foreign funding. Given the example of Ukraine, Migan is concerned that the NGOs are being used to promote agendas harmful to Russia’s interests. While the Russian law requires NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as foreign agents with the Ministry of Justice, in fact only 52 have done so.
The still-unrepentant Maidan instigator Mustafa Nayyim (it’s enough just to have a look at his facebook page…) said last year he was not happy with his Rada deputy position because…one cannot live in Kiev on 5,000 hryvnya. Well, he got his concerns addressed at long last–the Rada voted to triple its salaries!
OK, so it’s not that Yatsenyuk, but a (somewhat different) one, the head of the Zhitomir regional administration under the Reichskomissariat Ukraina who was also named Yatsenyuk (you can just see his name at the bottom right hand corner of the image). A distant relative? A clone, maybe?
The US-funded Radio Freedom will also acquire a digital department, called DIGIM. It will include a youtube channel, the “Footage vs. Footage” project, the Rus2Web web site, but also a presence on Russian social networks, including VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, with the aim of “countering Kremlin propaganda.” Given the clumsiness of US propaganda efforts in the Middle East, I would not hold my breath. About $15 million have been allocated for the project.
UAF demobilization is in full swing, but the returnees from the war zone are having a hard time finding work. There is a shortage of jobs, the demobilizees tend to represent the less educated layer of society, and on top of everything they want to be paid more than the employers are willing. Ukraine had changed a lot, and for the worse, since they were sucked into the military, so they are coming to a country that is far less hospitable than they left a year ago. And after a year of relative social security (three hots and a cot!) in the military, having to fend for yourself is coming as something of a shock.
An unnamed Russian motorized rifle brigade is training to implement “peace compellence”, or forcible de-escalation of armed conflict between two warring parties. The exercise is taking place on the Roshchinsk training area in the Central Military District. The exercise includes a live fire component. Now, whom might they be thinking of compelling?
Glazyev is one of Russia’s sharpest critics of neoliberal capitalism, and a supporter of statism, namely direct government investment in economic development, especially in manufacturing. Regardless of whether his economic ideas are correct, he is right to argue that the West has been very effective in establishing the neoliberal, monetarist dogma all over the world and even gaining great many adherents in Russia. Moreover, he argues that the Russian Central Bank policy of raising rates to curb inflation is damaging Russia’s economy, which should “pull itself by the bootstraps,” as it were, and not hope to attract foreign investment. In effect, Glazyev represents Russia’s Plan B–for now, Russia is playing by the Western rules of business, but should there be an escalation of conflict, escalation of sanctions, the Russian government will turn away from Grefs and Kudrins and toward people like Glazyev.
A rather unofficial and subjective rating by the famous Russian blogger Varlamov (an erstwhile Maidan supporter who seems to have come around). Pskov tops the list, followed by Gelendzhik (“the cleanest city in Russia!”) and Kaliningrad (which shows how far the city has come along in recent years). Fourth and fifth place are taken by Black Sea cities of Novorossiysk and Sochi, then Syktyvkar, Groznyy (“rich, expensive), Yekaterinburg, Petrozavodsk, Vladimir (“history”), Kirov, Kazan, Khanty-Mansiysk, Vladivostok, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yuzhnyy Sakhalinsk, Simferopol (“a little sad last year, but good prospects”), Yaroslavl, Pyatigorsk, Tula, and Krasnodar. So many cities, so little time! Oh, and the list of cities in which Varlamov would never want to live: Novosibirsk (“dirty, shacks, fences, wild drivers”), Ufa (“the dirtiest city in Russia”), Cherkessk (“its a mystery to me: how is it possible to live there at all?”), Tver (“hopeless”), Omsk (“one of Russia’s poorest cities, with no prospects for improvement”), Makhachkala (“dirty, inhabitants who don’t care about their own city”), and Adler (“Hell-ler”, since “Ad” in Russian means “Hell”).
23 people were killed, over 100 hospitalized, and 1200 homes destroyed in wildfires that swept through Khakassia in recent days. The video is an aerial survey of the damaged area.
This is the story of Oleg Sirota, a Russian computer engineer who was inspired by Russia’s ban on EU food imports to start his own agribusiness (more photos at the link). In order to get it just right, he traveled to Europe to see how cheese is made in Italy and Switzerland, and he expects to have a production line going before the sanctions are lifted, which he expects to happen in only a few years.
Several deadlines are just over the horizon. The IMF will re-evaluate its relationship with Ukraine on June 15. Ukraine’s Gazprom discount will expire on June 30. Moreover, in June the EU will hold a summit whose agenda will include the question of continuing sanctions against Russia, and it is expected that by summer the effects of low oil prices will begin to have a very perceptible effect on the US fracking operations. All of that places Ukraine in a rather difficult position, because the country is obligated by the IMF to seek debt restructurization with its creditors (including Russia). To make matters worse, it’s far from clear that the IMF credits were actually used in accordance with IMF rules–in addition to the usual oligarch cut, there are reports Ukraine is using the money to procure weapons and equipment. Even Western publications like Forbes are warning that Ukraine’s debt bomb is about to explode, and given the skittishness of Western investors when it comes to “emerging markets,” this is enough to scare off investment in the country.
“If you make a joint out of the new Ukrainian history textbook, you don’t even need to put any pot in, you’ll get high from the pages alone.”
The T-90MS is the export variant of the T-90AM which incorporates many of the innovations that were developed with the T-14 in mind. There are news reports that the existing T-90A tanks will be upgraded to the T-90AM standard.
The Aleksandr Nevskiy is the second Project 955 Borey ballistic missile submarine to enter service, after the prototype Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Each submarine carries 16 Bulava multi-warhead ballistic missiles with 10,000km range. The third submarine of the series, Vladimir Monomakh, is undergoing tests. The Russian Navy expects to receive a total of 8 Borey submarines by 2020.
The “fat Mig” on the photo is a Mig-29SMT of the Russian VVS. It is a “second generation” Mig-29 which can be distinguished from the first generation by the larger “hump” behind the cockpit, the in-flight refuelling probe on the side of the fuselage, and lots of other invisible goodies “under the hood”, so to speak. The “third generation” Mig-29 is under development as Mig-35.
Sergey Fyodorovich Mosin was born on April 14, 1849. A Russian Army artillery officer, he was eventually assigned to the Tula Arsenal, where he designed the famous Model 1891 Mosin bolt-action magazine rifle, an all-time classic design which served Russia very well through many wars over the course of more than half a century. The rifle’s “three-line” nickname is derived from its caliber, 7.62mm, or .3″.
An extensive photo report of a “road trip” by a Pobyeda [Victory] car owner club to Bulgaria to pay respects to Soviet soldiers who fought for the liberation of that country from Nazi rule. The Pobyeda is a classic cult car in Russia these days:
Some very impressive modeling and “kit-bashing” skills on display on this diorama (more photos at the link). Operation Unthinkable, incidentally, was one of Churchill’s misbegotten brainchildren–a project for an offensive against USSR in the summer of 1945, relying on the reconstituted and rearmed Wehrmacht–the modeler seems to have other ideas, though…
Dean Conger visited the Soviet Union in 1977 and he took many, many photos during his visit. Quite a trip down memory lane.
A huge exposition (the link above will take you to a massive collection of photos Russian blogger Varlamov took at the exhibit) put up in Moscow at the VDNKh, in the Ukraine pavillion, showing the reality of the war on the Donbass. The next stop (for the exhibit, not the war): Europe.