Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A letter to my little friend (copy to V.V. Bonaparte)

A letter to my little friend (copy to V.V. Bonaparte)

The River Stix is to your bloody Red Kanawa what Hades is to the enraged juvenile delinquent fire setter animal torturer, Armstrong Creek vermin user-recruiter. Good old military school did not help you much, and your new doctrine will not help you much either. Grow up, already! Jump over your own stinky Kanawa (don't dig in mine). Stay away from Aden and cover you own Boomber Bottom!

Be a man! Join the platoon with all your sidekicks. Or else: you'll get a haircut, will be demoted to Sisyphus and will play your favorite Barracuda 24/7 in your solntsevo solarium. Think about it. 

Village People - YMCA OFFICIAL Music Video 1978

Uploaded on Sep 22, 2008
Village People - YMCA

Marc Bennetts: How Putin is priming Russia for nuclear stand-off with the West

Marc Bennetts: How Putin is priming Russia for nuclear stand-off with the West

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Earlier this month, as fighting raged in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and forces loyal to the Western-backed government in Kyiv, Dmitry Kiselyov, the pugnacious, middle-aged journalist who heads Russia’s main state news agency, gazed defiantly into a TV studio camera. “What is Russia preparing for?” he asked. As if in reply, the director cut to an ominous backdrop image of an intercontinental ballistic missile emerging from an underground launch silo.
National Post Graphics
National Post GraphicsCLICK TO ENLARGE: This graphic attempts to look at the number of immediately available nuclear weapons in the world; weapons that could at a very short notice — because that is the point — be used in a war.
“During the era of political romanticism, the Soviet Union pledged never to use nuclear weapons first,” Kiselyov told the audience of Vesti Nedeli, his current affairs show, one of the country’s most widely watched programs. “But Russia’s current military doctrine does not.” He paused briefly for effect. “No more illusions.”
There was nothing out of the ordinary about this reminder that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a “threat” to its statehood. Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, which has massive geostrategic importance for Russia, state-controlled TV has engineered an upsurge in aggressive anti-Western sentiment, with Kiselyov as the Kremlin’s top attack dog.
Last spring, as Washington warned of sanctions over Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Kiselyov boasted about his country’s fearsome nuclear arsenal. “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the U.S. into radioactive ash,” he declared.
VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty ImagesA pro-Russian separatist walks down a road near the eastern Ukrainian city of Uglegorsk on Sunday.
Kiselyov’s blood-curdling comments will have had the Kremlin’s implicit backing, analysts say. “This threat of nuclear war should be taken seriously,” said Sergey Markov, a political strategist. “In Russia, we believe that Ukraine has been occupied by the U.S. And that this occupation is not about democracy, or even money, but that it is the first step in a war against Russia. The U.S. is seeking to undermine our sovereignty, neutralize our nuclear potential, and steal our oil and gas. Under these circumstances, the danger of nuclear confrontation is very real.”
Some 5,500 lives have been lost in the almost year-long conflict in Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels in the east have carved out two self-declared “people’s republics.” The crisis was sparked by the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in what Kremlin officials say was a coup orchestrated by the U.S. In addition, President Vladimir Putin has spoken of what he called a “NATO legion” fighting alongside the Ukrainian army.
While there is no proof that NATO forces are in action in Ukraine, U.S. officials have suggested that Washington could supply weapons to Kyiv to assist its battered army. The proposal sparked a furious response: Viktor Zavarzin, of Russia’s defence committee, warned of the “irrevocable consequences” of such a move.
In turn, the West has accused Russia of providing both troops and weaponry to the rebels, a charge Putin has consistently denied.
A ceasefire thrashed out by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – the second attempt to bring peace to the devastated region – was set to come into effect Sunday at one minute past midnight.
Amid these tensions, Kiselyov is not the only one pushing the possibility of nuclear confrontation with the West. Russia’s Zvezda TV channel, owned by the defence ministry, has also been preparing its audience for the worst. “Russia and the U.S. are on the verge of nuclear war,” read a headline on its website last week. The article cited an analyst from the Moscow-based Politika think tank, Vyacheslav Nikonov, which said a nuclear exchange between the two former Cold War-era foes was increasingly likely because the U.S. wanted Russia to “disappear” as an independent country. “This is not in our plans,” he said.
AP Photo/Petr David Josek
AP Photo/Petr David JosekUkrainian government soldier walks atop of his armored vehicle on the road between the towns of Dabeltseve and Artemivsk, Ukraine, Sunday.
Russia has the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with 8,400 warheads compared with a U.S. total of 7,500. A day after last week’s peace talks in Belarus, Russia’s nuclear forces staged large-scale exercises, soon after navy nuclear combat drills in the Arctic. All of which causes concern in the West. Michael Fallon, the U.K. Defence Secretary, said earlier this month that he was worried Russia had “lowered its threshold” for the use of nuclear weapons, while “integrating nuclear with conventional forces in a rather threatening way.”
The prospect of nuclear war is also being talked up by pro-Kremlin movements. In a clip posted online last month, a Kalashnikov-wielding member of the Moscow-based, pro-Kremlin National Liberation Movement (NOD) vows global nuclear devastation in the event of the defeat of Russia’s interests in Ukraine. “If we lose, we will destroy the whole world,” intones a young NOD activist named Maria Katasonova. She sweeps a circle with her arm, and the screen is filled with a virtual image of an explosion as the planet is consumed in an atomic inferno.
“Russians will not sit by and watch as their country’s sovereignty is threatened by the U.S.,” Katasonova told The Sunday Telegraph last week. “If our country is in genuine danger, we really will use nuclear weapons.”
AP Photo/Petr David Josek
AP Photo/Petr David JosekMen are seen outside of an apartment building that was damaged in recent shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the town of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine, Sunday.
Katasonova is a follower of Alexander Dugin, a hardline nationalist thinker who has called for the destruction of the U.S. Dugin – described as “Putin’s brain” by the respected U.S.-based Foreign Affairs journal – is something of a fanatic. He combines political activities with occultism, and often speaks of his belief that the world must be “brought to an end.”
WikipediaRussian nationalis Aleksandr Dugin.
So what’s going on? Is Moscow really preparing its people for the unthinkable – nuclear confrontation? Or is all this simply North Korean-style bluff and bluster? How many minutes are left until the Kremlin’s doomsday clock strikes midnight?
“It is, of course, a disgrace and an embarrassment to my country that such things are being said on national television,” said Lev Ponomaryov, a veteran human rights activist and Soviet-era dissident. “But statements about nuclear war are mainly for domestic consumption. In particular, they are directed at the more radical, nationalist members of society – those who have been fighting as volunteers in Ukraine, or support the rebels there.”
While Putin denies that regular Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine, he has hailed the hundreds, if not thousands, of apparent volunteers who have travelled to what the rebels call “Novorossiya” – “New Russia.” A number of these fighters have become folk heroes back home; in particular, Igor Strelkov, the ultra-conservative enthusiast who spent much of last year commanding rebel forces in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
“I think these people frighten the Kremlin even more than they scare me,” said Ponomaryov. “The authorities are afraid that they could one day turn their weapons against them, and the government will do anything to keep them on side.”
State television’s war rhetoric is not confined to the nuclear. In recent days, one Kremlin-run channel has discussed how long it would take for Russian tanks to “reach Berlin,” while in east Ukraine, bloody and bruised government soldiers were abused by a notorious rebel commander in front of Russian television cameras.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images Igor Strelkov.
But state-run media’s fever-pitch, anti-Western TV programming is not only pandering to the radicals, it is also creating them. “Nationally televized broadcasts, such as those presented by Dmitry Kiselyov, have scared people, and led to increased hostility in society,” said Lev Gudkov, who heads the independent, Moscow-based Levada-Center polling agency. “We have seen a drastic change in the collective consciousness of the Russian people over the last year or so.”
The figures are startling. The number of Russians who believe their country and the U.S. are now mutual enemies has increased tenfold in a year to 42 per cent, according to an opinion poll. The total professing a negative attitude to the U.S. has almost doubled.
The statistics are backed by everyday incidents, from the racist image of a banana-munching President Barack Obama laser-beamed on to the wall of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, to the T-shirts with slogans hailing Russia’s nuclear missiles, on sale across the country.
“Of course I don’t want an atomic war with the West,” said Yegor Denisov, a twenty-something computer programmer. “But we have to defend ourselves from our enemies. And this,” he said, gesturing at the ballistic missile on his newly bought T-shirt, “will help us do that.”
AP Photo/Petr David Josek
AP Photo/Petr David JosekUkrainian government soldiers take a rest on the road between the towns of Dabeltseve and Artemivsk, Ukraine, Sunday.
Although state media broadcasts have clearly had a pernicious influence on society, putting the country on a war footing and boosting Putin’s approval ratings, Peter Pomerantsev, a U.K. journalist who worked in Russian TV in the 2000s, believes they are mainly intended for a Western audience.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty ImagesRussian television journalist Dmitry Kiselyov.
“I wouldn’t take these statements about nuclear war literally,” said Pomerantsev, whose book,Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, dissects the Kremlin’s media manipulation tactics. Talk of impending nuclear conflict is “one of Putin’s mind-benders,” part of what he called an attempt to convince the West that the former KGB officer is this “crazy, unpredictable” leader whom it would be advisable not to push too far.
But the lines between fantasy and reality can all too often get blurred.
“There is always the danger that games somehow slip into reality – you start off playing with these narratives, and you end up stumbling into a real conflict,” said Pomerantsev.
The Kremlin’s masters of reality have uncorked the atomic genie. It is to be hoped they show the same aptitude when it comes to putting it back in the bottle.
VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty ImagesPro-Russian separatists ride an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) near the eastern Ukrainian city of Uglegorsk on Sunday.
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Putin Fires Medvedev Ally as Kremlin Rift Grows

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Putin and Medvedev
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, March 27, 2014. Ekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Pool/Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially dismissed one of his ten advisors, 52-year-old Sergei Dubik, according to a statement posted on the Kremlin’s official website today, after a briefly-worded notice to do so emerged online yesterday.
No reason has been publically given for Dubik’s dismissal, as Russian daily newspaper Vedomostireports that the Kremlin was not available to comment on the issue when the notice was posted yesterday, however the paper highlights Dubik’s close ties to current prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, during his time as president between 2008 and 2012.
According to his public profile, Moscow-born Dubik has had a long career as a civil servant, his work spanning the start of Putin’s presidential administration in 2001, when he undertook several junior positions as an assistant or deputy of the president’s then-advisors.
In 2009, after Dmitry Medvedev briefly replaced Putin as president with the latter becoming prime minister, Dubik was promoted to Medvedev’s chief of staff and the civil service, taking on the duties of chief secretary of Medvedev’s anti-corruption commission in 2010.
Vedomosti has reported that as of last night’s sacking, a civil servant closer to Putin, Oleg Plohoi, is slated to take on Dubik’s anti-corruption duties, while Russia’s state owned agency Itar-Tass reported that Putin has no immediate replacement for Dubik in his position as advisor. Instead the Russian president will simply operate with nine advisors as opposed to ten.
Vedomosti, which is partly owned by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, also reports Dubik was “practically removed” from duties pertaining to corruption, long prior to today’s announcement, as soon as Putin returned to power in 2012.
The publication often works with a network of insider sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, frequently leaking sensitive information about the Russian establishment before it’s released officially.
According to Newsweek Europe’s Russia Correspondent Anna Nemtsova, Dubik’s sacking is part of a larger rift between Putin’s conservative backers such as Igor Sechin known as ‘the siloviki’ due to their prior service in military or federal intelligence in the USSR and his more liberal allies such as Medvedev.
"The so called ‘siloviki’ wing of the Kremlin don't like prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and do everything to push his friends out of the administration,” Nemtsova says. “Dubik's career developed parallel to Dmitry Medvedev's.”
“He has been losing his posts and positions several times recently. It is very likely that Oleg Plohoi will be responsible for fighting corruption in the Kremlin. Some Kremlinologists also predict that Putin's old friend Victor Ivanov, current head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service will replace Dubik in the administration.
“Ivanov is also close with Rosneft boss Igor Sechin - if he comes to work in the Kremlin, Sechin's positions will become even more powerful."
Both Putin and Ivanov worked in Russia’s military intelligence - the KGB - while Sechin reportedlyjoined military intelligence as a translator.
The U.S. and EU currently has personal trade sanctions imposed on all three of them, preventing them from holding foreign assets, as relations between the West and Russia have deteriorated since Putin’s annexation of Crimea from the territory of Ukraine last Spring.
Neither Medvedev nor Dubik have had personal sanctions placed on them.
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The American Education of Vladimir Putin

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"The problem you Americans have in dealing with us is that you think you understand us, but you don't. You look at the Chinese and you think: 'They're not like us.' You look at us Russians, and you think, 'They’re like us.' But you're wrong. We are not like you."
Over the past few years, top-ranking Russians have repeatedly delivered versions of the admonition above to American interlocutors. We’ve been told that it comes originally from Vladimir Putin. That makes sense. Putin is a former intelligence officer. And what the warning expresses, with typically Putin-esque bluntness and political incorrectness, is a maxim shared by U.S. intelligence officers: Beware of seeing false mirror images. Do not assume your adversary will think and act the same way you would in similar circumstances. You will likely misread him if you do.
Despite a new ceasefire, Russia and the West remain at risk of uncontrolled escalation over Ukraine, and in such situations little can be more dangerous than misreading your adversary. So Putin is right: Washington shouldn’t “mirror-image” him, and U.S. leaders shouldn’t assume that he will interpret events and words as they might. But one neglected question is that of how Putin interprets the United States. Has he followed his own advice—or does he assume Americans, including President Obama, will act and react as he would? Does he even care about how Americans think, what their motives and values are, how their system works? What does Vladimir Putin actually know about the U.S. and about Americans?
As it turns out, very little.
* * *
Because of his KGB history, Vladimir Putin is typically accused in U.S. media of harboring an anti-American, Cold War view of the United States, and of blaming the United States for bringing down the Soviet Union. But there is little evidence of any anti-American views in the early phases of Putin’s public life. As deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s, he did not accuse the United States of destroying the Soviet Union. Instead he publicly laid blame for the collapse of the U.S.S.R. on the miscalculations of Soviet leaders and their mishandling of reforms in the 1980s. His more negative views of the United States, and its perceived threat to Russia, seem to have hardened later in the 2000s, over the course of his interactions and relationships with two American presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

There is no reliable record of Putin’s interactions with Americans or his thoughts on the United States during key phases of his life: his youth in Leningrad, his KGB service, his period in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office, and his pre-presidential years in Moscow. When Putin went to Leningrad State University in the early 1970s, only a small number of American exchange students were there. But Putin did not study English, and he would have had limited opportunity to socialize with the American students outside the university. During his early KGB service in Leningrad in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States was filtered through the world of counterespionage and global developments of the time; Americans seemed dangerous and unpredictable.
The early 1980s were years of heightened Cold War confrontation. After a period of détente, the United States had again become a clear and present danger for the Soviet Union. Based on their analysis of U.S. defense budgets, global U.S. military exercises, American and NATO air probes near sensitive Soviet borders, statements by top White House and Pentagon officials, and increased operations by the CIA in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Kremlin leadership was thoroughly convinced that the United States posed a real military threat.
March 1983 brought a full-scale war scare, just after U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced the proposed development of a missile-defense system to shield the United States from a Soviet nuclear strike. Soviet leader Yuri Andropov lashed out against those plans and raised the specter of a nuclear holocaust. On March 8, 1983, Reagan made his famous “Evil Empire” speech about the dangers posed to the United States and its way of life by the Soviet Union. In September 1983, the situation deteriorated further when Soviet warplanes intercepted and shot down a civilian South Korean Airlines plane, KAL 007, in the mistaken belief that it was a U.S. spy plane.
In the Soviet Union, top leaders terrified themselves and their population with memories of World War II, and specifically of Adolf Hitler’s surprise 1941 attack on the U.S.S.R. As Benjamin Fischer, an analyst and scholar at the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, noted: “For decades after the war, Soviet leaders seemed obsessed with the lessons of 1941, which were as much visceral as intellectual in Soviet thinking about war and peace.” Andropov and his colleagues put the KGB on full alert in the early 1980s in response to the lessons they had learned from the Soviet intelligence failures of World War II. It was around that time that Putin entered the KGB Red Banner Institute in Moscow, where Soviet paranoia about the United States and fears of a nuclear war undoubtedly framed the tone and content of his instruction.
* * *
Putin was posted in Dresden, East Germany, by the time Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan began a process that would put the tensions and war scares of the early 1980s behind them. He was too low in the KGB rankings to have much interaction with any top-level espionage targets, which would have included Americans. Until he came back from Dresden in 1990 and began working for the mayor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin may have never met an American in any personal context.
By contrast, his position as St. Petersburg’s deputy mayor in charge of external relations offered Putin many opportunities to interact with Americans, in a very different atmosphere from that of the 1980s. After 1991, the Soviet Union was gone, and Putin and the rest of the mayor’s team were trying to figure out how to run the city and make its economy competitive again. American and other Western politicians, as part of a U.S. effort to forge a new relationship with the Russian Federation, openly courted Putin’s boss Anatoly Sobchak, the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin seemed to respond well to the overtures.
U.S. businesses that moved into St. Petersburg had to deal directly with Deputy Mayor Putin who, according to John Evans, the U.S. consul general in St. Petersburg at the time, was always helpful in resolving contract disputes between U.S. and Russian businesses. Within the city’s U.S. and Western business community, Putin was seen as “pro-business.” He gave no impression whatsoever of any anti-American or anti-Western views.
The St. Petersburg connection also gave Putin an important entry point into the United States. In 1992, Sobchak co-chaired a bilateral commission on St. Petersburg with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It is not clear how much direct contact Putin and Kissinger had at that time. But Kissinger would become an important interlocutor for Putin when he became president later on. Putin has admitted that the source of his initial interest in Kissinger was the former secretary of state’s early career in World War II military intelligence. As a renowned scholar with an academic career and numerous books to his name, Kissinger could provide a sounding board for ideas about geopolitics. He could interpret the United States and the West for Putin. And he could explain Vladimir Putin to other influential Americans. But beyond Kissinger, Putin has had few representative Americans to rely on for insights into how the U.S. political system works and how Americans and their leaders think.
The two key presidential aides in charge of overseeing critical aspects of relations between Moscow and Washington for most of the 2000s—Sergei Prikhodko and his deputy, Alexander Manzhosin—spoke English, but to our knowledge neither had any experience of living or working in the United States. Otherwise, Putin’s “go-to guys” for the United States within the Russian government and the Kremlin have been Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister and former representative to the UN in New York, who speaks fluent English, and Yury Ushakov, a personal presidential advisor and former Russian ambassador to the United States. Putin’s lack of fluency in English has limited his own ability to have direct contacts except through interpreters or others who can act as connectors and conduits. Nor has he shown any particular curiosity about America beyond its leaders and their actions.
* * *
By 1994, the U.S.S.R.’s military alliance, the Warsaw Treaty Organization, had collapsed along with the rest of the Soviet bloc, but NATO was still going strong, and Eastern European countries were knocking on its door seeking new security arrangements. Five years later, the issue of NATO and NATO enlargement came to play a significant role in Putin’s professional life and his ascent to the presidency.
Putin was head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the post-Soviet successor to the KGB, when the alliance went to war in response to Yugoslav military atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo, which was still part of Yugoslavia. The intervention took place a mere two weeks after NATO had admitted Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The United States did not secure the usual authority from the United Nations to intervene. NATO warplanes bombed Belgrade, and NATO forces, with American troops in the lead, then moved into Kosovo to secure the territory and roll back the Yugoslav military. As Putin put it in a speech 15 years later: “It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real [military] intervention.”
NATO’s Kosovo campaign was a turning point for Moscow and for Putin personally. Russian officials interpreted the intervention as a means of expanding NATO’s influence in the Balkans, not as an effort to deal with a humanitarian crisis. They began to revise their previous conclusions about the prospects for cooperating with NATO as well as with the United States as the leader of the alliance. As Putin noted in a March 2014 speech, the experience left him with a rather harsh view of Americans, who, he said, “prefer in their practical politics to be guided not by international law, but by the law of force.” The Americans had, as they would on numerous occasions, “taken decisions behind our backs, presented us with accomplished facts.”
* * *
In August 1999, Putin was appointed prime minister, and his immediate concern was Chechnya, where separatist violence was spilling over the border and into the rest of Russia. The considerable high-level Western attention to, and criticism of, the second outbreak of war in the republic stoked Russian fears of NATO or U.S. intervention in the conflict. In the United States, for example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor in the Carter administration, and retired general Alexander Haig, a former secretary of state in the Reagan administration who had also served in top positions in the U.S. military and in NATO, helped to set up an advocacy group to demand a diplomatic solution to the war and policies to protect civilians caught in the conflict. Given the Soviet leadership’s neuralgia about officials like Brzezinski and Haig in the 1970s and 1980s, this group was viewed with alarm in Moscow. Russian political figures saw the risk of the Americans and NATO intervening in Chechnya to protect civilians, just as they had intervened in Kosovo.
Putin’s response was to write an op-ed in The New York Times in November 1999, in an early foray into international PR. He explained that Moscow had launched its military campaign in Chechnya to respond to acts of terrorism. He praised the United States for its own strikes against terrorists, noting that “when a society’s core interests are besieged by violent elements, responsible leaders must respond” and calling for the “understanding of our friends abroad.” The general message was conciliatory. Putin clearly hoped that the constructive atmosphere that had framed his interactions with Americans in St. Petersburg could be restored in some way.
After September 11, he appeared convinced that Washington would come to see things from Moscow’s perspective and would recognize linkages between al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and terrorists in Chechnya. In a press conference in Brussels on October 2, 2001, Putin asserted that terrorists took advantage of “Western institutions and Western conceptions of human rights and the protection of the civilian population ... not in order to defend Western values and Western institutions, but rather ... in a struggle against them. Their final goal is annihilation.” All states would have to clamp down politically at home, as well as improve military postures abroad, to deal with this problem. Based on Russia’s experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Putin offered the United States concrete assistance in rooting out al-Qaeda.
If Putin and the Kremlin hoped to create an international anti-terrorist coalition with Washington modeled on the U.S.-Soviet World War II alliance against Germany—one that would give Russia an equal say with the United States—that hope went unfulfilled. As Georgetown professor and former U.S. government official Angela Stent has pointed out: “When countries form partnerships forged out of exigencies such as the 9/11 attacks, the shelf life for these alliances is usually short because they have a specific and limited focus.” The U.S.-Soviet anti-Nazi alliance itself, she wrote, “began to fray as the victors disagreed about what would happen after Germany surrendered, and the Cold War began.”
In the aftermath of 9/11, Putin was mystified by the actions of his U.S. counterparts. In the absence of countervailing information, Putin initially saw American failure to respond to his warnings about the common threat of terrorism as a sign of dangerous incompetence. In a series of speeches just after September 11, Putin said he “was astonished” at the Clinton administration’s lack of reaction to his warnings of a terrorist plot brewing in Afghanistan. “I feel that I personally am to blame for what happened," he lamented. “Yes, I spoke a great deal about that threat. ... Apparently, I didn’t say enough. I didn’t find the words that could rouse people [in the U.S.] to the required system of defense.”
The 2003 U.S. intervention in Iraq convinced Putin that the United States was up to no good and looking for pretexts to intervene against hostile regimes to enhance its geopolitical position. Putin and his intelligence officials knew that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was bluffing about his possession of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). After the invasion of Iraq, and the U.S. failure to find any WMD, a comment attributed to Putin was passed around European diplomatic circles: “Pity about the WMD. I would have found some.” In other words, the U.S. intelligence services and government were beyond incompetent—if you’re going to use a pretext, do your homework; make sure it's a good one.
The opinion Putin and his security team seem to have formed over this period—that the United States was not just incompetent but dangerous, and intent on inflicting harm on Russia—was strikingly at odds with the conclusion in the United States that the collapse of Soviet communism meant the disappearance of the military threat from Moscow. As in the 1980s, U.S. officials had a hard time believing that Russia could genuinely see the United States as a threat. As a result, Washington made decisions that were consistently misinterpreted in Moscow—including a second major NATO enlargement in 2004.
* * *
The color revolutions in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004 further darkened Putin’s view of U.S. activities. For Moscow, Georgia was a tiny failed state, but Ukraine was a smaller version of Russia. In Putin’s view the Orange Revolution demonstrations in Ukraine in 2004, and their scale, could only have been orchestrated from the outside. This was especially the case when the color revolutions became conceptually tied to the Bush administration’s “Freedom Agenda” and its efforts to support the development of civil society and the conduct of free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq—two countries that the United States had invaded and occupied.
The color revolutions, Putin argued in his March 2014 speech, were not spontaneous. The West inflicted them on a whole array of countries and people. The West, Putin argued, tried to impose a set of “standards, which were in no way suitable for either the way of life, or the traditions, or the cultures of these peoples. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom—there was chaos and the outbreak of violence, a series of revolutions. The ‘Arab Spring’ was replaced by the ‘Arab Winter.’”
Russia's 2008 war with Georgia marked the end of Putin’s relationship with George W. Bush and his administration. The Obama administration came into office shortly afterward, intent on a “reset” that seemed to address Putin’s main stated desire for Russia to be approached by the United States with pragmatism on issues of mutual interest and importance. But once again, Putin and the Kremlin took their policy cues from U.S. actions rather than words.
U.S. offers of modernization partnerships to boost bilateral trade and help secure Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization were combined with bilateral presidential commissions for human rights and civil-society development. The repeal of Cold War-era restrictions on U.S. trade with Russia was accompanied by the introduction of a new raft of sanctions in the form of the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which targeted a list of Russian officials who had been complicit in the death of a crusading Russian lawyer. Disagreements with the United States and NATO over interventions in the civil wars that erupted in Libya and then Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings marred U.S. and Russian cooperation on negotiating with Iran over the future of its nuclear program. Putin was especially angered by the violent death of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi at the hands of rebels who found him hiding in a drainage pipe during an attempt to flee Tripoli following NATO’s intervention in Libya. In Putin’s interpretation, the 2011-2012 Russian political protests were just part of this one long sequence of events, with the hand of the West barely concealed.
On September 11, 2013, on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Putin returned to a public format that he had not used since 1999. He again wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, directed at the American public and calling for U.S. caution as it contemplated a military strike on Syria. The tone was anything but conciliatory. The prose was bold, not cautious. Putin observed: “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’”
With this op-ed, Putin effectively declared that his American education was complete.
By 2013, as the crisis in Ukraine began to unfold, Putin’s view of America had become dark indeed. As he concluded in his March 2014 speech: “Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We constantly propose cooperation on every critical question, want to strengthen the level of trust, want our relations to be equal, open, and honest. But we have not seen reciprocal steps.” Limited by a lack of direct contacts with the United States, and driven by his perception of the threat it posed, Putin believed that he had been rebuffed or deceived at every turn by the West.

This post has been adapted from a new, expanded edition of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.
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Putin's 'hands-on management': How the Russian leader makes it personal

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Moscow — Regarded from the West, Russia’s political system may seem something like an inscrutable sphinx, with a big – perhaps smiling – Vladimir Putin face on it.
But Russia is a diverse society of 145 million people, with many sectoral interests and a full spectrum of views. When government policies change, the economy dips, and tensions mount with the West, different groups of Russians are affected in varying ways.
The Kremlin, which sits atop that potential volcano, has managed to bring all interests into alignment over the past decade and a half. But how President Putin has managed to navigate the past stormy year while maintaining an 80 percent public approval rating is a huge mystery.
Somehow the Kremlin manages to juggle, on a daily basis, the clashing interests within what Russians call the “elite,” meaning the tycoons, generals, industrial managers, regional officials, and public intellectuals who tend to be the primary movers and shakers in Russian society.
It is a very disparate crowd jockeying for Putin’s ear.
Members of the military-security establishment, collectively known as siloviki, tend to be anti-Western hawks who favor tougher, authoritarian government. The ultrawealthy “oligarchs,” including many Putin cronies, have major debts and business interests in the West, and are squirming amid the current crisis. In addition, thousands of influential local officials administer the country’s 85 far-flung regions and must get approval for almost anything they want directly from Moscow authorities. Beyond that, intellectuals who inhabit academia and regularly appear in the mass media still enjoy some sway.
The system favors the Kremlin, which tends to be the ultimate mediator between competing interests. It has been able to make its decisions without public scrutiny; even those directly involved have no idea with whom else Putin and other Kremlin officials may be consulting.
“One of the instruments of Putin’s rule has been to sideline organizations that express any collective will. He meets people as individuals, talks and deals with them on a personal basis,” says Andrei Piontkovsky, a longtime Kremlin critic and expert at the official Institute for Systems Analysis in Moscow.
“This system has a name: ruchnoye upravleniye [roughly “hands-on management”]. Because everything goes directly through Putin, this forces them to be individually loyal to him. It is the secret of his success, but it is also a very vulnerable system. It resembles more a style of mafia control than the workings of a modern state,” he says.
The balance that Putin has maintained is a remarkable achievement since Russia has no legislation to enable what Americans call “lobbying.” The Kremlin actively discourages any big sectoral organizations that seek to represent special interests. Almost all influence is exerted on a completely informal basis, usually meaning private arrangements with Putin and his officials.
“For about 20 years we’ve been trying to get a law adopted that would institutionalize lobbying and make it transparent,” says Igor Yurgens, a longtime advocate for private business. “We still don’t have one. If you look at lists of influential ‘lobbyists’ published in the press, you will find private interests side by side with top officials – something that sounds like nonsense or even heresy in the US. But this is the system we have. It’s very mixed, and it has no set rules.”
Yevgeny Minchenko, a Moscow political scientist who’s published the closest thing to a map of how political influence percolates through the Kremlin, says the balance is shifting now that the Putin-era prosperity is fading and various sectors of the elite are feeling pain – or sensing opportunity – in different ways. And, he says, new actors could appear.
“Nobody has had to consider public opinion as an independent force for quite a while, because people were generally satisfied,” he says. “But if economic decline continues, it would be unwise to count on the public remaining quiet.”
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Putin's pals: Who is helping steer the Kremlin now?

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Moscow — The West’s response to Russia’s alleged military aid to Ukraine’s rebels has been based on the idea that the biggest influence in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle are the so-called oligarchs. Hurt the business elite that stand beside Mr. Putin, goes the theory, and you pressure the Russian president himself.
And the oligarchs are reportedly hurting, as Western sanctions – given extra bite by plummeting oil prices – have eaten away at their fortunes. Financial analysts put the damage in the billions of dollars, with no respite in the offing.
So why have the Ukrainian rebels been pushing their offensive and talking of building a 100,000-strong reserve army to bring the fight to Kiev?
The reason, according to some accounts, is that it is not the oligarchs who hold Putin’s ear now. Rather, it is Russia’s military-security establishment, collectively known as the siloviki, who are shaping the Kremlin’s foreign policy.
“The role of what we call the defense-industrial complex is rising rapidly in Russian society,” says Alexander Golts, an independent military expert. “It’s not just the armed forces, but also the [80,000-strong] interior troops, the Federal Security Service [FSB], police, and other security organizations. The key narrative of the siloviki, that Russia is surrounded by enemies and must defend itself from external aggression and internal subversion, has become the main theme on nightly TV broadcasts.”
And that changing of the guard must shape how Western decisionmakers respond as Ukraine teeters on the edge of war, the Middle East seethes amid fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Europe frets over how much to sanction the Kremlin.

The inner circle

For most Russia-watchers, understanding what Putin is thinking – and who is shaping it – is a matter of rumor, guesswork, and the arcane art of reading Kremlin tea leaves.
Alexander Dugin, a prominent right-wing scholar and founder of the anti-Western “Eurasian” school of political philosophy, would seem an appropriate person to ask to explain Moscow’s worldview. He has often been named by Western Russia-watchers as the main intellectual influence behind Putin’s worldview. After Russia annexed Crimea last year, amid a tidal wave of patriotism, Foreign Affairs magazine went so far as to label Mr. Dugin “Putin’s Brain.” If anyone knows how the inner-Kremlin circuits are wired, he should.
But Dugin says he never enjoyed special access, and whatever input he had was shut down last summer when he and other “patriots” were fired from their jobs and pushed aside. “Anything anyone tells you about how Putin decides things is either disinformation, or error,” Dugin says.
Yet knowledge of who gets Putin’s attention these days has serious implications for Western policy as relations with Moscow spiral to depths not plumbed for a generation. Consider the stir created recently by former Putin adviser Sergei Markov, who told journalists that the composition of Putin’s inner circle has shifted radically over the past year, with wealthy pro-Kremlin oligarchs – whose financial well-being depends on good relations with the West – being shunted aside and replaced bysiloviki.
If true, that could mean that Western sanctions policy, which sought to pressure Putin into changing course in Ukraine by squeezing his rich cronies, may have actually accelerated the militarization of Russian society and stiffened the Kremlin’s resistance to making any compromises over Ukraine.
“At the moment, the sanctions regime helps those who stand for a strong state sector,” says Igor Yurgens, a longtime advocate for private business. “When you do not have a flow of capital from outside, it hands the advantage to state corporations and those who stand for a strong state. It’s that simple.”

Day of the siloviki

Experts have been pointing out for some time that the influence and share of national wealth enjoyed by Russia’s Army and security forces have been expanding for much of the Putin era, and may be spiking as Russia slides into an increasingly ugly confrontation with the West over Ukraine.
Russia’s post-cold-war rearmament program began nearly a decade ago, but went into high gear after Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 for an unprecedented third term as president. This year Russia’s military budget is $80 billion, a 30 percent increase over last year. By order of Putin, military spending is exempted from the across-the-board 10 percent cut in government spending mandated amid the current economic crisis.
Now, leading Russian hawks, including members of Putin’s inner circle, regularly express views in the mainstream media that might have been considered marginal just a few years ago. For example Nikolai Patrushev, former chief of the FSB and current secretary of the Kremlin Security Council, recently gave an extended interview to the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, in which he claimed that the West had “dusted off” its old blueprint for destroying the USSR and was actively applying it against Putin’s Russia.
The group’s ranks include current FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, a career KGB officer, and the head of the powerful Interior Ministry, Vladimir Kolokoltsev. Perhaps the best-known silovik is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who, aside from Putin himself, is one of Russia’s few genuinely popular public officials. Mr. Shoigu is well regarded largely for his competent management of the Ministry of Emergency Situations – Russia’s version of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – which he headed from the early 1990s until 2012.
And the rise of the siloviki isn’t just about a handful of generals and intelligence apparatchiks, says Mr. Golts.”With their families, they number about 10 million people, strategically placed,” he says. “Taking care of them is probably more important than the stated goals of rearmament and modernizing the military, which are probably largely unattainable anyway. This definitely plays a role in skewing Russian politics” toward more militaristic and nationalist viewpoints.

Political survival at stake

“Putin these days surrounds himself with the commanders of state structures, and they bring this mentality of a beleaguered nation that must defend itself at any cost,” says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow. “This is not so much about the money as it is about politics.”
Though Putin’s approval rating still exceeds 80 percent among the Russian public, the Kremlin knows that won’t last forever, says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. “Our government is worried. Putin knows that internal troubles can blow up in Russia very quickly,” Mr. Mukhin says. “A lot of attention is being given to police reform, strengthening security systems, with the goal of nipping revolution in the bud.”
Most analysts say Putin probably believes that the West is out to overthrow him, perhaps with a “colored revolution” like the one that unseated Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych a year ago, and that he is ramping up internal security forces and granting them broader powers to track down and squelch subversion.
But even so, the siloviki are not a monolith, says political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko. “You should remember that the siloviki are not united; there is no siloviki union that represents them. In practice, they compete with each other for influence with the Kremlin, and this gives Putin a lot of scope to play them off against each other.”
Others argue that focusing primarily on the role of the siloviki in shaping Kremlin policy ignores the still-important role of the oligarchs, who will now be tasked with rebuilding Russia’s economy to sidestep sanctions and tap new sources of investment and growth. “Putin is known to be a good manager,” says Nikolai Petrov, a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “He will move to restore the balance between the different groups that are close to him. He needs them to help formulate new policies to minimize the economic losses and neutralize the political trends that could threaten his power.
“He’s a rational player, and he’s very interested in his own political survival.”
[Editor's note: This article includes material published last month by The Christian Science Monitor.]
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Here's who backs Putin in Europe — and why

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putinReutersRussian President Vladimir Putin reacts after peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 12, 2015.
Populist parties of both right and left, many pro-Russian, did well in last May's European elections, taking between them a quarter of the seats. This has raised fears of a coherent pro-Russian block forming in Strasbourg.
In Greece, the now-ruling radical-left Syriza party leans towards Russia. On February 11th Nikos Kotzias, the new foreign minister, went to Moscow--his first visit to a foreign capital outside the European Union.
Syriza is cool on sanctions against Russia, and opposed to expanding them. Another left-wing, broadly pro-Russian upstart is Podemos in Spain, which leads in the polls. Its leader has accused the West of double standards in dealing with Russia.
France's National Front, the foremost right-nationalist party, openly admires Mr Putin. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has made several trips to Moscow.
econThe Economist
It recently accepted a EUR9.4m ($10.6m) loan from First Czech Russian Bank, a lender with indirect links to the Kremlin. It is said to be the first tranche of a EUR40m loan (a huge sum for the party, if true). Ms Le Pen says it was turned away by Western banks.
Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, which won 20% of the vote in parliamentary elections last April, is avowedly pro-Russian.
In 2013 its leader described Russia as the guardian of Europe's heritage, contrasting it with the "treacherous" EU.
Its most controversial figure, Bela Kovacs, a member of the European Parliament, has lobbied on behalf of Russian interests and supported the invasion of Crimea.
But Fidesz, Hungary's ruling party, once fiercely anti-communist, has also been cultivating closer Russian ties.
In July the prime minister, Viktor Orban, said he was striving to build "an illiberal state" within the EU.
There have also been rumours, less well substantiated, of Russian support for British and Italian parties, including the anti-EU UK Independence Party.
And UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, has called Mr Putin the world leader he most admires--at least as a political operator.
There is, however, scant evidence that Europe's populist parties, FN apart, have accepted Russian money--though it is hard to be sure, given their opaque finances. Anton Shekhotsov, an expert on fringe parties, thinks that the loan to the French party is the exception rather than the rule. He points out that the Kremlin, in the past at least, preferred to provide "fees" to individual politicians than financial support to their parties.
Russia has already found a use for its European friends: to legitimise (to some) its dodgy elections. A motley crew of populists were flown in to give ringing endorsements of the Crimea referendum and the election in the Donbas, organised by separatists. Among them were Mr Kovacs and Aymeric Chauprade, an adviser to Ms Le Pen. Russian media falsely portrayed these lackeys as official, independent election observers.
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This article originally appeared at The Economist. Copyright 2015. Follow The Economist on Twitter.
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Vladimir Putin will keep pushing because he can see we are unprepared

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In the case of Libya in 2011, Britain and France acted decisively, but never answered the famous General David Petraeus request: “Tell me how this ends”. Today Libya, a short boat trip from Europe, is a major exporter of Islamist revolutionaries, and any miscreant country thinking of giving up its nuclear weapons programme looks at the fate of Colonel Gaddafi and orders more centrifuges.
There is a lack of prescience. I have searched the published National Security risk assessments since 2010, for example, and have not yet found the word “Russia” in any of them. Last month, Russian bombers probed the skies a few miles south of Bournemouth.
People who deal with the NSC today say that it resembles an “incident room”. The urgent takes precedence over the strategic. Now we are about to have a general election, and all the political parties want to keep the subject of defence and national security out of the discussion.
Why should this be? Obviously money has something to do with it. “We don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do,” says the famous song, “we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.” Well, we haven’t now. We have only 19 surface ships and 82,000 soldiers. Mr Cameron hints that, if he retains office, he will cut defence spending even further. Which is funny, since Britain was instrumental in getting Nato members to commit two per cent of their GDP to defence spending at the Nato summit in Wales last September. Rory Stewart, the chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, wants to make Mr Cameron put that commitment into his party’s manifesto.
One should not criticise the Government for bringing some order to the mad game of defence spending. Every government department should have rigorous financial control. The disgrace is those that are not subject to this: we “ring-fence” our international development budget and actually boast that we do not let the aid be spent on helping British national interests.
But the gap between what we say about our Armed Forces and what we do with them is embarrassing. I am sick of hearing politicians call them “heroes”. Nigel Farage was at it in this paper on Thursday, with the silly suggestion that every one should be given a National Service Medal. Our sentimental, compensation-obsessed, all-must-have-prizes culture is turning them into victims, when they should be victors. We deny them the means to win.
Consider these words: “Policy which is mainly aspirational sounds like a shepherd boy whistling to keep himself company at night. Only the wolves benefit – they have ears to hear.” They come from an essay by Sir Mark Allen, one of the most senior former officers of MI6, published just after the formation of the NSC. The West is the shepherd boy and the wolves are certainly benefiting. (One piquant example is the fact that Sir Mark has for some years been relentlessly pursued by NGO and Islamist “lawfare” over the anti-terrorist service he did for this country.)
It is not that we do not have a national security strategy. It is that we’re not sure we mean what it says. In electoral terms, this is defended by the alleged fact that the public put the subject about 20th on their list of importance. I seem to remember that the economy did not rank high in voters’ priorities in 2007. So our leaders did not bother either. More than seven years of pain have followed.
I have spoken recently to several commanders, ex-commanders and “securocrats”. I wanted to know what the symptoms of a well-functioning national security strategy are. Operations, they say, should be the last of it. Preparedness and will, evidenced steadily over time, forestall attack. Enemies look for the lack of both, and then strike. They got it wrong – luckily – in the Falklands and Kuwait. But they only struck because we had sent out the wrong signals.
Often, though, they read us all too well. Putin has established that the West won’t do much for Ukraine and now he calculates that the same applies to newish frontline members of Nato, such as the Baltic states. So he will keep pushing “asymmetrically” – a cyber-attack there (there was one on Estonia quite recently), protests by “independent” pro-Russian mobs, military manoeuvres, probing flights and submarines, energy stoppages; now and again, a little killing. The euro is such a mess that the entire EU has lost sight of its own security. He notices, and is being absolutely charming to Greece.
The same applies in other parts of the world. China observes that the US no longer gives cast-iron guarantees of Japan’s security, so it pushes a bit more. Egypt, shocked by how President Obama let down his allies during the Arab spring, recently gave a hero’s welcome to Mr Putin. And so on.
What we need – and what Britain, with our global reach, was once very good at – are long-term relationships of trust. The Americans call this Phase Zero, setting yourself right with places where you might end up having to conduct operations – the Gulf, for example. A unique counter-cultural success of this sort is the new British military base in Bahrain, which the Bahrainis themselves considered worth building to get us back east of Suez. Such relationships help trade, contracts, diplomacy, education, and help us understand long-term problems. As one commander puts it: “Islam is not going to go away. Either they’ll kill us or give us lots of money.” It’s worth getting it right.
How serious are we? One small piece of evidence arises from Mr Stewart’s question to the Ministry of Defence last November: how many people in the Armed Forces receive the government allowance given for Level 4 (degree-level) foreign language attainment? The answer, for Arabic speakers, was none. I wonder how many speak fluent Russian.
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ДНИ.РУ ИНТЕРНЕТ-ГАЗЕТА ВЕРСИЯ 5.0 / Главу ДНР подстрелили в Дебальцево

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17:34 / 17.02.2015 ДНРДонбассЗахарченкоУкраинаГлава самопровозглашенной Донецкой народной республики получил ранение в ногу при зачистке города. Захарченко был доставлен в перевалочный госпиталь, откуда его вывезли в Алчевск.
Александр Захарченко. Фото: GLOBAL LOOK press/Senkar Tomas
Руководитель самопровозглашенной Донецкой народной республики был ранен в бою. Александр Захарченко получил ранение в ногу в ходе зачистки города Дебальцево. Неприятный инцидент с главой республики произошел в то время, когда он перебегал проезжую часть одной из центральных улиц во время интенсивного обстрела из стрелкового оружия, сообщает LifeNews.
Захарченко получил ранение в лодыжку. Охрана главы ДНР оказала ему первую помощь, перетянув ногу жгутом. Затем он был доставлен в перевалочный госпиталь, откуда его вывезли в Алчевск. Жизни Александра Захарченко ничего не угрожает. Специалисты сообщают, что ранение он получил легкое. Во время транспортировки глава ДНР находился в сознании.
Ранее сообщалось о том, что военные действия в Дебальцево ведут армии двух самопровозглашенных республик – Донецкой и Луганской. Ополчению удалось взять под контроль 80% всей территории. По данным ДНР, около 120 украинских военнослужащих сложили оружие и сдались в плен. Ранее министр обороны ДНР рассказал, что в городе еще остались разрозненные группы – от пяти до десяти солдат ВСУ, которые пытаются воевать, перебегая от здания к зданию. Представитель ведомства отметил, что в ближайшие несколько суток, может быть, даже сегодня Дебальцево будет зачищено и передано под контроль армии ДНР и ЛНР.
Отметим, что вместе с Захарченко сегодня пострадал и глава ЛНР Игорь Плотницкий. Дни.Руписали, что под обстрел силовиков попал глава Луганской народной республики Игорь Плотницкий. Однако даже это не заставило его пересмотреть отношение к выполнению обязательств по выполнению минских договоренностей. "Я вчера ночью был на передовой, и наши танки, артиллерия выходили. Фактически мы еще вчера вечером начали выполнять свои обязательства", – сообщил Плотницкий.

Despite Ukraine Cease-Fire, Battle for Railroad Town Continues

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Pro-Russian separatist fighters with an armored personnel carrier on Tuesday in the village of Nikishine, southeast of Debaltseve, Ukraine.

Ukraine: Rebels Take PoWs After 'Seizing' Town

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The Russian-backed separatists claim to have taken control of 80% of Debaltseve, a key transportation hub.