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President Trump’s failed 2016 effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow marked the culmination of 30 years of interest by Mr. Trump in establishing a foothold in Russia and nearby Ukraine. Here is a look at Mr. Trump’s business record regarding Russia.
www.wsj.com | 11/30/18

How in the world did we get two spinoffs out of “Rocky IV”? Granted, it’s not the most pressing question on your mind as you watch the agreeably paint-by-numbers “Creed II,” the inevitable sequel to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 hit. “Creed” reignited the “Rocky” franchise with the story of the late Apollo Creed’s outside-of-marriage son Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan as a brooding young man contending with the legacy of a champion he never knew.

But it is a bit of a head-scratcher that the worst entry in Sylvester Stallone’s initial series — in which Rocky Balboa’s fight against Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) was really jingoistic America versus a cartoon Soviet Union, which was really aging action star versus bulked-up newcomer, but which was REALLY Stallone’s terrible direction pummeling the crap out of Eisenstein’s theory of montage — also sowed the seeds for its newfound appreciation and reworked survival. Apollo’s death in the ring against Drago happened, after all, in “Rocky IV,” and now the Drago matchup returns to animate the son’s story in “Creed II,” where filmmaker Steven Caple, Jr. takes over the reins from the now hotter-than-hot Coogler.

Dads and sons (and one daughter) are all over the place in “Creed II,” enough to make one wonder why its release wasn’t tied to Father’s Day. Screenwriters Juel Taylor and Rocky-universe originator Stallone, working from a story by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker, dip into no fewer than five instances of emotionally fraught cross-generational relationships, including Ivan Drago (a returning Lundgren) shaping his bruiser of a boy Viktor (slab-like Romanian pugilist Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) to be Adonis’s new competitor for the heavyweight title, Rocky (Stallone) dealing with his own self-imposed distance from grown son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), and a reminder that even Wood Harris’s character has the trainer DNA of Tony Burton’s coach role from all the “Rocky” movies.

Watch Video: New 'Creed II' Trailer: Michael B Jordan Takes on the Fight of His Life

Picking up three years after the previous film, “Creed II” starts in the Ukraine, where Viktor Drago, under the watchful eye of his daddy, is crushing an opponent in a dankly lit arena, a muted-palette callback in Kramer Morgenthau’s cinematography to the hidden-away Mexican bouts that introduced us to Adonis’s undiscovered boxing prowess in “Creed.” In America, meanwhile, Adonis’s sterling career under Philly’s favorite son has finally earned him a heavyweight title bout, even if it hasn’t fully prepared him to handle the nerves of proposing to singer girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

While “Creed” struggled to fit Bianca’s outspokenness and independence into its masculine-centered narrative, the budding-family moments between Jordan and a more fully-involved Thompson have the lived-in, real-couple appeal that animated the Rocky-Adrian relationship in the franchise’s early days. Sometimes the familiarity that comes with a sequel — especially with good actors — can be a blessing in short-handing a dramatic tone.

Also Read: Thanksgiving Box Office Preview: 'Wreck-It Ralph,' 'Creed' Sequels Expected to Top Originals

What the story beats of these movies are built around, though, are the fights. When a savvy promoter (Russell Hornsby, “The Hate U Give”) publicly airs the notion of Apollo Creed’s son truly proving his worth by fighting the spawn of the brute who dealt his father a death blow, everyone’s triggered. Adonis’s sense of righting a tragedy is inflamed, while Bianca and his mother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) know they can’t convince him not to fight him but show plenty of worry in their tone. Only Rocky, still scarred by the fact that he couldn’t save his friend’s life 30 years ago, pushes back, refusing to coach him. Adonis preps without him, and in the way of all “Rocky” movies, a clock-cleaning gives way to healing, reflection, reunion, music-scored training (this time in the desert) and an avenging comeback.

The Drago storyline, meanwhile, renews Lundgren’s granite menace and accented threats {“Moy son will br-r-reak yorr boy”), but with the added psychology of Ivan as a disgraced, forgotten national hero abandoned by Viktor’s mother, which also means the return of Brigitte Nielsen. That Lundgren finally gets to give a real performance is, one supposes, an improvement — Caple’s direction of this material is in line with Coogler’s low-key, indie vibe — but we’re still talking a movie series almost proud of its emotional predictability.

Watch Video: Ivan Drago Comes to 'The Late Show' to Crush Stephen Colbert

And yet Jordan remains a model of dimensional ferocity, laced with the right vulnerability. And Stallone is Stallone is Stallone; is he really going to change up the mumbly, heartfelt galoot act eight films in? Or the platitude-go-round he calls writing? The variations on the same what-are-you-fighting-for dialogues throughout “Creed II” are almost impressive in their shameless repetitiveness.

Which leaves the canvas battles, and they faithfully meet today’s standards for performance realism, camera kinetics, editing rhythm, and body-blow sound design while thankfully avoiding the oily sheen Stallone favored in the ’80s. The truth is that “Rocky IV” and “Creed II” sharing the same cinematic universe requires supreme suspension of disbelief. But taken as descendants of the original, “Rocky IV” is the delinquent you never talk about, while “Creed II” at least knows how to keep the family business humming.

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www.thewrap.com | 11/16/18
Russia's sanctions against 322 Ukrainian citizens and 68 companies come as a serious blow to the economy of Ukraine. The sanctions block non-cash funds, securities and property on the territory of the Russian Federation. They also prohibit the transfer of Ukrainian capital out of Russia. However, the Russian authorities have not sanctioned the Ukrainian oligarchs, who finance the war in the Donbass. Ukraine's top Russophobes - President Petro Poroshenko, oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Rinat Akhmetov do not appear on Russia's black lists either. Has Russia struck a serious blow on Ukraine indeed? We asked this question to experts.
The Kremlin froze the Russian assets of a broad cross-section of Ukraine’s political and business elite, saying it was responding to Kiev’s moves.
www.nytimes.com | 11/1/18
Russia imposed economic sanctions against 322 Ukrainian citizens and 68 companies. The Kremlin hopes that the sanctions will help normalise Ukraine's relations with Russia. The decree to impose sanctions against Ukrainian natural persons and legal entities was signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to counteract unfriendly actions against Russian citizens and organisations.Russia will thus freeze bank accounts, securities and property in Russia for individuals and legal entities of Ukraine. In addition, it will not be allowed to withdraw capital outside Russia. The sanctions apply to judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 8th convocation, major Ukrainian entrepreneurs, officials of the presidential administration of Ukraine, heads of executive bodies and large Ukrainian companies, legal entities controlled by Ukraine's largest businessmen.Russia's sanctions will in particular affect Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko, the leader of the Batkivshchyna party Yulia Tymoshenko, former head of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev, chief military prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios and the son of Ukrainian President, businessman Alexei Poroshenko. The sanctions will also be imposed on chemical company Ukrhimenergo, located in the Luhansk region.Russia may lift the sanctions in the event Ukraine lifts its sanctions against Russia. Reportedly, however, Russia's sanctions list does not include Ukraine's wealthiest man Rinat Akhmetov, whose fortune was evaluated at $5.5 billion according to Forbes magazine. Akhmetov's key industrial assets are concentrated in the Donbas, from where he comes. His companies provide electricity and heat to most of Ukraine's settlements.The list of Russia's sanctions against Ukraine does not include Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman. The sanctions will not affect businessman Igor Kononenko - Poroshenko's right hand and his main business partner. Poroshenko's confectionary holding Roshen does not appear on the lists either. Introducing retaliatory measures against Ukraine, the Kremlin expects Kiev to show political will to normalise relations with the Russian Federation sooner or later, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters.When asked about the absence of Ukrainian president on Russia's black lists, Peskov said that presidents usually are not included on sanctions lists as it would be off the scale, Putin's official spokesman said. Ukraine imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian citizens after Russia reunited with the Crimea in 2014. Ukraine has been expanding its restrictions against Russia afterwards. In May 2018, the list contained the names of 1,748 Russian individuals and 756 legal entities. They are Russian MPs, Russian political parties, businessmen and their companies.
In Ukraine, oligarch Oleksandr Onyshchenko is a wanted man. For a while it looked like he'd find refuge in northern Germany. He promised investments and big equestrian games in return. But the plan didn't work out.
www.dw.com | 9/18/18

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, has been sent to jail after a federal judge revoked his bail following new obstruction charges, according to The New York Times.

Manafort had previously been allowed to post a $10 million bond and remain at home while awaiting his September trial for charges that included money laundering and false statements. Last week, the Times reported special counsel Robert Mueller filed two new counts against Manafort for tampering with witnesses, arguing he violated the terms of his bail.

The new indictments accused Manafort and his business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik (who was also indicted), of contacting two witnesses in an effort to persuade them to testify that Manafort never lobbied in the United States for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The pro-Moscow president fled to Russia in 2014, the Times reported.

Also Read: Paul Manafort Indictment: Read the Complete Charges Against Former Trump Campaign Chief

Manafort was initially indicted last October in Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Manafort, along with his long-time associate Rick Gates “acted as unregistered agents of the government of the Ukraine,” for which they generated “tens of millions of dollars,” according to that initial indictment. “In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities through approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.”

According to CNN, the indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading statements related to the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. None of the charges related directly to the Trump campaign.

On Friday, Trump weighed in on the news on Twitter. “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!”

Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018

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www.thewrap.com | 6/15/18
On the eve of his first visit to Austria, Vladimir Putin gave a lengthy interview to Austrian television channel ORF.The interviewer, Armin Wolf, was interested not only in issues of Russia's foreign policy, but also in domestic political plans of Vladimir Putin harbours. It is worthy of note that, as the Austrian journalist said, there were no prohibitions from the Kremlin concerning the topics of the interview. Armin Wolf was least interested in details of the possible mutually beneficial cooperation between Moscow and Vienna, although this was the reasons for the interview to take place. Contrary to the general trend set by the United States, Austria did not expel Russian diplomats in connection with the so-called "Skripal case.""Austria and Russia have long had very good and deep relationship. Austria is our traditional and reliable partner in Europe. Despite all the difficulties of previous years, with Austria, we have never interrupted our dialogue in politics, security and economy," Putin said, adding that the two countries have many common interests.However, Wolf wanted to find out why the Russian administration was working closely with Austrian nationalist parties that are critical of the European Union. The question contained an allusion to Russia's alleged intention to split the European Union. Putin had to patiently explain obvious things to the Austrian reporter:"We have no goal to divide anything in the European Union, we are interested in the prosperous EU, because the European Union is our largest trade and economic partner, and the more problems the European Union has, the more risks and uncertainties we have to deal with," Putin said. Of course, the Austrian journalist could not but ask Putin about "Russia's interference" in the presidential election in the United States. The journalist asked the Russian president about activities of the Internet Research Agency, aka the "troll factory", which is associated with Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin. The journalist persistently tried to get Vladimir Putin to confirm the thesis that the man who is commonly referred to as the "chef" because of his restaurant business, could influence the elections in the US, because he had very close ties with the Russian government. Putin had this to say in response to this question: "There is such a person in the United States, Mr. Soros, who interferes in all affairs throughout the world, and I often hear our American friends saying that America has nothing to do with it as a state. Rumour has it that Mr. Soros wants to shake the euro, the European currency, and this is already being discussed in expert circles. Ask the US State Department why he wants to do it. You will be told that the US State Department has nothing to do with it as this is a personal matter of Mr. George Soros. Here, we can say that this is a personal matter of Mr. Prigozhin. This is my answer to you. Are you satisfied with this answer?"Putin did not give a direct answer to the question of why he has not been able to have a meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump lately. "The pre-election campaign for the Congress is getting started, and the presidential election is not too far away, attacks on the President of the United States continue in different directions. I think that this is the first thing," the Russian leader said explaining the reason why he has not been able to meet Donald Trump lately. Armin Wolf asked a question about the possibility of a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea. According to Vladimir Putin, "this is a terrible assumption," because the DPRK is a close neighbour of Russia, and one of Pyongyang's nuclear test sites is only 190 kilometres from the Russian border."We are pinning great hopes on a personal meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, because mutual claims have gone too far," Putin said.Putin had to answer biased questions about the relations between Russia and Ukraine. He tried to explain Russia's position in detail, but the Austrian journalist tried to take the conversation in another direction.For example, speaking about the MH17 disaster, Armin Wolf dogmatically stated that the passenger plane was shot down with a missile of Russian origin and assumed that it was about time Russia should admit that officially. "If you have some patience and listen to me, then you will know my point of view on this issue, okay?" Putin replied, adding that, firstly, Ukraine has Soviet-made weapons and, secondly, Russia is not allowed to access the materials of the investigation, even though Ukraine can access it. The journalist continued by saying that "everyone already knows where the missile came from." Putin responded: "Malaysian officials have recently stated that they did not see Russia's involvement in the terrible tragedy. They said that they had no evidence to prove it. Don't you know about this?"Armin Wolf continued with a question about Russia's alleged military interference in the Crimean events from 2014."Russian army units have always been present in the Crimea. Do you want to just ask questions all the time or do you want to hear my answers? The first thing that we did when events in Ukraine began...but what kind of events were they? I will now say, and you will tell me yes or no. It was an armed coup and seizure of power. Yes or no, can you tell me?"The journalist mumbled that he was no expert on the subject of the Ukrainian constitution. Explaining how the Crimean peninsula escaped from Ukraine's rampant nationalism and reunited with Russia, Vladimir Putin switched to German in an attempt to convey his message to the Austrian journalist. "What should happen so Russia returns the Crimea to Ukraine?" the journalist asked."There are no such conditions and there cannot be. You have interrupted me yet again. If you had let me finish, you would have understood my point. When the unconstitutional armed coup took place in Ukraine, when power was seized by force, our army units were deployed in Ukraine on legal grounds - there was a Russian army base there. There was no one else there. But there were our armed forces there."The journalist was ready to interrupt Putin again, so the president had to say: "Seien Sie so nett, lassen Sie mich etwas sagen." ["Will you please be so kind and let me proceed."]. Then he continued:"When the spiral of unconstitutional actions in Ukraine started twisting, when the people in the Crimea started sensing danger, when whole trains of nationalists started arriving there, when they  started blocking buses and automotive transport, the people wanted to defend themselves. The first thing that came to mind was to restore their rights that had been received within the framework of Ukraine, when the Crimea was granted autonomy. This is what kicked everything off, and the parliament started working on the process to determine its independence on Ukraine. Is this strictly prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations? No. The right of nations to self-determination is clearly stated there," Putin said."The annexation of the Crimea was the first incident, when a country in Europe annexed a part of another country against its will, which was perceived as a threat to neighbouring states," the journalist interrupted Putin."You know, if you do not like my answers, then you do not ask any questions, but if you want to get my opinion on questions, then you have to be patient," Putin said. "The Crimea gained its independence as a result of the will of the Crimeans in an open referendum, rather than as a result of the invasion of Russian troops. You are talking about annexation, but do you call annexation a referendum held by the people living on this territory? In this case, one should call Kosovo's self-identification an act of annexation too," Putin said. Wolf tried to develop the Crimean question by drawing a parallel with events in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.Putin replied: "Yes, Al-Qaeda's radical groups did want to alienate those territories from the Russian Federation and form their caliphate from the Black to the Caspian Sea. I do not think that Austria and Europe would have been happy about it. Yet, the Chechen people themselves came to an entirely different conclusion in the elections, and the Chechen people signed an agreement with the Russian Federation."When talking about Syria, the journalist claimed that Russia was defending a regime that was using chemical weapons against its people."You said that everyone proved that Assad had used chemical weapons. Yet, our specialists say the opposite, and it goes about the Douma incident, which was used to strike a missile blow on Syria after it was assumed that there were chemical weapons used in the city of Douma," Putin said adding that the OPCW was invited to investigate those events."Instead of waiting for one or two days and giving the OPCW an opportunity to work on the spot, a missile attack was conducted. Please tell me: is this the best way to resolve a question of objectivity of what was happening there? In my opinion, it was an attempt to create conditions that wold make investigation impossible," Putin said. As for Russian domestic affairs, the Austrian reporter asked only a couple of questions about low salaries and the number of the poor."Since 2012, Russia has gone through a number of very difficult challenges in its economy. That was not only because of so-called sanctions and restrictions, but also because prices on Russian traditional export goods had halved. It affected Russia's GDP budget revenues, and ultimately, people's incomes. Yet, we have preserved and strengthened the macroeconomic stability in the country," Putin said. Armin Wolf also asked Putin about his plans for the future, as well as about the Russian opposition. "Some say that you have turned the country into an authoritarian system, in which you are the czar. Is this true?" the journalist asked."No, this is not true, because we have a democratic state, and we all live within the framework of the current Constitution. Our Constitution says that a president can be elected for two consecutive terms. After two legitimate terms of my presidency I left this post, did not change the Constitution and moved to another job, where I served as the prime minister. Afterwards, I returned in 2012 and won the election again," said Putin.The Austrian journalist was very interested why opposition activist Alexei Navalny could not participate in the elections. Wolff also wanted to know why Putin prefers not to call the blogger's name in public."We have a lot of rebels, just like you, just like the United States," Putin replied. "We do not want to have another, second, third or fifth Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia. We do not want people like Saakashvili on our political scene. Russia needs those who bring positive agenda, who know, and not just designate problems, and we enough of them, just like you have in Austria, just like in any other country," Putin added. Wolf continued insisting that Navalny was not given an opportunity to run, and people could not even take a look at the candidate. "Voters can look at any person they want because the Internet is free for us. No one shut him away. The media is free. People can always go out and say something out loud, and this is what various political figures do. If a person acquires some sort of electors' support, then he becomes a figure which the state must communicate and negotiate with. Yet, if their level of confidence is 0,01, 0,02, 0,03 percent, then what can we talk about? This is just another Saakashvili. Why do we need such clowns?" Putin said. "My presidential term has just begun, it's only a start, so let's not put the cart before the horse. I've never violated the Constitution of my country and I'm not going to do that," the president said answering a question about his plans for the future. At the end of the interview, the journalist asked Putin a very unusual question that, as it seems, no one has ever asked the Russian president before. The question was about Putin's so-called "alpha male photos," on which he posed semi-naked. According to the journalists, it is unusual for a head of state to publish such photos for the general public."Well, thank God, you said semi-naked, and not naked. If I'm having a holiday, I do not think I should hide in the bushes, there's nothing bad about it," Putin said. Later, Armin Wolf shared his impressions of the interview with the Russian president. He said that the Russian president was a very artful and complex interlocutor. Wolf added that he was impressed with Putin's quiet voice most. "As a matter of fact, my expectations were justified. Judging from what we see on television, Vladimir Putin is not very tall, I knew it, we all know what he looks like, but there's a thing that really struck me. He has a rather sonorous voice, but he speaks very quietly, especially before and after the interview, and even quieter when he speaks German. You have to concentrate a lot to understand him, because he has a very quiet voice. This struck me most in such a powerful man," said the journalist.
President Donald Trump is now openly interfering in the criminal investigation of his campaign by peddling a baseless conspiracy theory, Seth Meyers told viewers on Late Night. Trump’s legal problems get worse every day. Most recently, his personal attorney Michael Cohen set up a secret shell company to make hush payments to porn stars and allegedly took money from Ukraine to arrange a meeting with Trump in the White House. Now it looks as if one Cohen's business partners…
deadline.com | 5/24/18
Berlin and Moscow both support building the controversial gas pipeline, but Kyiv is opposed. Economy minister Peter Altmaier is commuting between capitals to find a compromise. Miodrag Soric reports from Moscow.
www.dw.com | 5/16/18
Russia will not be the only country to use the Crimean Bridge which President Putin is opening today, on May 15. Ukraine and European countries will be able to use the bridge for profitable transit to Asia, Senator Sergei Tsekov of the Republic of Crimea said. On May 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the opening ceremony of the automotive section of the Crimean Bridge - a super 19-kilometre-long construction from mainland Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. The state contract for the construction of the bridge provided for the launch of the automotive section in December 2018, but the first stage of the project has been delivered six months ahead of the deadline. For motorists, car traffic on the bridge will be opened on May 16 at 05:30 MSK. Local residents - Crimeans and Kuban residents - will be the first to drive through it.Sergei Tsekov, Senator from the Republic of Crimea, a member of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, told Pravda.Ru that the bridge has established direct connection with Russia. "Crimea has now been linked to Russia. This gives us additional opportunities in economy, social sphere, logistics," the official said. Indeed, the construction of the bridge to the Crimea removes the transport blockade of the Crimea, which will be broken completely when the railway section of the bridge is launched in 2019. "This is a major event for the country after Russia's reunification with the Crimea," Sergei Tsekov said in an interview with Pravda.Ru.According to the senator, Russia has showed itself as a highly developed technological country having built the bridge. Russia used state-of-the-art technologies for the construction of support structures installed deep into the seafloor. This bridge is not only the longest one in Russia, but also in Europe.Sergei Tsekov is convinced that the bridge will be protected accordingly from saboteurs. A special service will be established to protect both the surface and the underwater elements of the bridge. "The bridge is important for both the Crimea and Russia. It is important for Ukraine, it is important for Europe, and I am confident that over time the bridge will be used by various economic structures of Ukraine to transport products to the territory of the Crimea. When the relationship between  Ukraine and Russia becomes normal - and it will become normal -  both the territory of the Crimea and the bridge itself will be used for the transit of goods from Ukraine and Europe to Asia. Therefore, the opening of the Crimean Bridge is a landmark event in the life of the European community," the official told Pravda.Ru. The construction of the Crimean Bridge, connecting the Crimea and Russia's Kuban region, began two years ago. The bridge is 19 kilometres long: 11.5 km on land and 7.5 km across the sea.  The bridge across the Kerch Strait consists of parallel road and railway sections. The bridge has four lanes, the maximum speed of movement is 120 kilometres per hour. The railway consists of two paths. The estimated speed of passenger trains along the bridge is 120 kilometres per hour, the speed for freight trains is 80 kilometres per hour.Lyuba LulkoPravda.Ru Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
The SWIFT system, which ensures the transfer of financial messages between all banks of the world, will not disconnect Russia despite Western sanctions. In the political conflict between Russia and the West, SWIFT takes a neutral position, SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt said. The SWIFT system will thus stay neutral in the conflict between Russia and the West and will not disconnect the country from the system of financial payments because of the sanctions, CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt said at the SWIFT business forum in Moscow, RBC reports. "The question of disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT financial reporting system is not worth it, and our position remains unchanged: we are a neutral party that provides for the interconnection of users and whose purpose is to service the global financial industry," Mr. Leibbrandt said. SWIFT declared its neutrality back in 2014, when the question of disconnecting Russia from the system was raised for the first time following the coup in Ukraine and Russia's reunification with the Crimea. "Our mission is to be a global and neutral service provider," the company said in a statement back then. The European Parliament and the EU Council discussed such a possibility against the backdrop of sanctions in connection with the Ukrainian crisis, but the SWIFT management considered Russia's possible disconnection highly challenging to the reputation of the company and stressed that it would not make such decisions under the influence of political pressure. Nevertheless, the West still believes that disconnecting Russia from the interbank messaging system is possible. In August 2017, the Russian National Commercial Bank (RNCB) and Tempbank were disconnected from SWIFT, after the owner of the relevant software refused to cooperate with them because of US sanctions. RNCB, which works in the Crimea, said that the move would not affect its work as the bank operated only inside Russia. In January, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich acknowledged that disconnection from SWIFT could create great problems for the Russian banking system. If it happens, he said, Russian banks would have to switch to an outdated technology, but Western companies would face serious problems too. In early April 2018, the United States adopted a new package of anti-Russian sanctions, which has become the most stringent one since 2014. Shortly thereafter, Washington announced its readiness to prepare new sanctions in the near future to punish Russia for supporting the Syrian authorities. It was said that Moscow was getting ready for a series of tough measures, including disconnection from SWIFT. The financial reporting system itself is based in Belgium and does not comply with US law. However, chances for Washington to succeed in cutting Russia off remain high.To counter such a threat, Russia has been developing its own analog to SWIFT that would be used inside the country. The system is called the Financial Communications System of the Bank of Russia (known for the Russian initials as SPFS). On April 13, Roste? (State Corporation for Assistance to Development, Production and Export of Advanced Technology) announced that it was switching to SPFS. SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. The system was established in 1973. Today, SWIFT unites more than 10,000 banking and financial organisations in 210 countries and processes about 1.8 billion messages a year.Pravda.Ru
The coverage of the Russian presidential election in the Western press predictably reflects the poor knowledge of the Russian reality and the Russian mentality. Of course, Western journalists make their materials for their internal consumers, but their conclusions clearly indicate that the West has not come even a little bit closer to its ultimate goal to either destroy or remake Russia and its people. The first thing that catches the eye in all analytical articles is the assumption about Vladimir Putin overtaking Stalin in terms of political longevity. "Putin's victory will take his political dominance of Russia to nearly a quarter of a century, until 2024, by which time he will be 71. Only Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruled for longer," Business Standard wrote. This assertion implicitly draws parallels with the Stalin era, which in the West is commonly referred to as "fascist." In addition, Putin is criticised for his "irrepressible" desire for power. Such an assumption may produce an impression on Western readers (although the growth of popularity of Mussolini, Salazar and Franco in corresponding countries breaks all records), but Russia has long learned to separate flies from meat chops and look at Stalin's figure dialectically. On the one hand, yes, he was a dictator, who killed too many, but on the other hand, he was a politician who turned the Soviet Union into an industrial power, who was intolerant of corruption, who attached first priority to Soviet family, culture and education.As for political longevity, it is the people of Russia who elect Putin, in contrast, for example, Germany, where Angela Merkel has been elected by a handful of elites for 20 years already. Which option is more democratic? The second thing that attracts one's attention about the coverage of the Russian presidential election in the West refers to opposition activist Aleksei Navalny. "Putin's main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated. Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote," FoxNews said. Putin responded very well to the above: "This, apparently, speaks about the preferences of the US administration in leaderships of other countries. It says whom they would like to see in the country's leadership ... In this sense, they've lost. It would be better if they kept silent," Putin said in January at a meeting with media executives. Indeed, the persona Navalny is clearly too far from being somewhere near Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov.Thirdly, Western journalists say that the Russian authorities used the administrative resource to ensure a high turnout. FoxNews quoted a 20-year-old woman named Daria Suslina and Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman, who were terrified of the "pressure.""They are using everything: schools, kindergartens, hospitals - the battle for the turnout is unprecedented," said Roizman, one of the rare opposition politicians to hold a significant elected office," FoxNews reports. It is important to note here that the administrative resource did not call to vote for Putin - people were encourage to go and VOTE, and these are two totally different things. Fourthly, Western journalists buy into the idea that the reason for Putin's victory is his ability to play on the desire of the Russians to rebuff the West in Syria, in Ukraine and everywhere else. Moreover, they assert that this "tsarist chauvinism" is brought up on the ill interpretation of friendly intentions of the West to sow democracy in "bad countries." Western media rightly conclude, though, that British Prime Minister Theresa May, when trying to consolidate the British on the eve of Brexit and being unable to see a log in her own eye, played into Putin's hands with the case of Sergei Skripal.Responding to all the bullying is not the prime goal for the Russian authorities. The ultimate goal is to make people happy with their lives in Russia, editor of Atlantico.fr website Jean-Marc Sylvester wrote.Fifthly, a lot has been said about violations. Anton Troianovski wrote on pages of The Washington Post that the Russian authorities had arranged a massive spectacle from the Arctic to the ISS to show the scale of popular support without saying a word about numerous fakes that came from Navalny's supporters. The author gives an original interpretation to the voter turnout in the Crimea claiming that the Crimeans had been persuaded that without Putin the Crimea would fall into the abyss of war and gay marriage. Finally, the presidential election in Russia has convinced the West that the latter must not back down in front of such a "chauvinistic", "racist", "intolerant", etc. country as Russia. Australian television channel ABC in the person of Jennifer Mathers believes that Russia uses a wide range of hidden tools of intelligence and special services and neglects the rules of civilised behaviour. "If the West really is coming to the end of its patience with Russia, it could make Mr Putin's next six years as president a lot less comfortable," she wrote. Robert Kuttner at the Huffington Post expands on the idea and suggests cutting Russia off the banking system, prohibiting Russians from buying real estate in the West, restricting their entry to Western countries.Italian journalist and politician Giulietto Chiesa told Pravda.Ru that all attempts to put pressure on Russia and the Russians were doomed to failure, because the elections showed the unity of the Russians around their president. The Russophobic hysteria in the West is not going to abate in the coming days, months and years, the journalist believes."The West believes that it should break Russia, because Russia violates its rights. These are plans for many years to come. I'll tell you frankly: they need to be afraid of the strong Russia, and there is no other way to win," Chiesa said.What is troubling is that Western analysts do not understand why Trump came to power, and why Putin can still retains it. Today's middle-class Americans live worse than their parents lived, but in today's Russia, the younger generation lives better than their parents used to live. Above all, however, the Russians have always put the national idea above material well-being.Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova)Pravda.Ru Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he learned about the hijacking of an aircraft only a minute before the start of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The hijackers, Putin said, wanted the plane be redirected to Sochi. Later it turned out, however, that it was just a stupid joke of a drunk passenger. Putin shared the story in a documentary by Andrei Kondrashov, which was published in social networks.According to Putin, "somewhere in the middle of the way, an aide-de-camp gave me the phone with  one of the heads of the operational headquarters for ensuring the safety of the Olympic Games on the line. He reported that a plane had been hijacked. The plane was bound to Istanbul from Ukraine, but the hijackers wanted it to land it in Sochi.""The same chief of the security staff called again some time later and said that it was a drunken joke, that the aircraft was flying to Turkey and would be landing there soon," Putin added. Also in the documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the tragedy with the Kursk nuclear submarine. According to him, the sinking of the Russian submarine occurred because of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the Russian army at that time."After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had enormous difficulties in the economy, in the social sphere, and in the army too. Of course, all that could not pass the army by," the president said in an interview for the documentary simply titled "Putin." The tragedy of the Kursk submarine came as a manifestation of the general state of affairs in the Armed Forces.Putin said that he had hardly sworn in as president after elections by the time when the Kursk sank and did not even know that there were large-scale military exercises taking place in the Barents Sea."The Minister of Defence called me and said that we lost the submarine, but the sub was found, and they were going to work on that question. It was not clear that something tragic was happening there, but then, of course, all that unfolded in full," Putin recalls. Given the state of the Russian army back in those years, "there was nothing surprising about the tragedy." At the same time, he said that it was a colossal tragedy.The cause of the tragedy had been established: an explosion occurred in the torpedo compartment, a fire broke out, ammunition detonated, and the hull of the submarine practically popped. "And, of course, this can not be forgotten," the Russian leader said.He also said that after the tragedy, he decided to talk to submariners' relatives in order to support them and assure them that the submarine would be retrieved from the bottom of the sea. Putin also said that he had been warned against attempts to raise the boat from the seafloor, but he insisted, because he had given a promise.The Russian nuclear-powered submarine missile cruiser Kursk sank in the Barents Sea on August 12, 2000, during naval exercises. All 118 crew members were killed.In a part of the documentary about Syria, Putin spoke about the heroic feat of corporal Denis Portnyagin, who, in an unequal battle with terrorists in Syria, was ready to explode himself not to be captured."Not only did he repulse an attack of terrorists. There were only four or five of them (Russian military men - ed.) - a group of special operations forces that were engaged in finding targets for our aircraft. There was an unexpected attack of militants, the regular army pulled back, some units of the Syrian army did too, but the Russian group stayed and they took the battle," Putin said. According to Putin, in that battle with terrorists on August 16, 2017, the commander and the second officer were wounded, and corporal Portnyagin took all the combat work on himself and repelled several attacks. He requested help and prepared himself for self-destruction not to be taken captive."Moreover, he drew the fire upon himself and gave precise instructions. Our artillerymen managed to cut off the terrorists with the help of mortar fire, then our aircraft struck, and after that another group of special operations forces approached them, and all were taken out to safety," the president said.He noted that there are many of such people in the Russian army - the ones who are ready to fight in an unequal battle. "They are heroes, of course. If they are not heroes, then who? I know that there are many such people in our armed forces," Putin said.Corporal Denis Portnyagin was awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation in late 2017.Pravda.Ru

It’s not just your wallet, watch or Louis Vuitton purse that thieves have their eye on now.

As the popularity of bitcoin skyrockets across the globe, crooks have pivoted to getting their hands on your virtual currency as well. Six-figure holdups have become routine now, according to a New York Times report, with one Russian tourist being blindfolded and forced to transfer $100,000 in bitcoin last month while in Thailand.

The relative obscurity of cryptocurrency transactions — payments are sent to digital “wallets” that correspond to a lengthy numerical address, rather than a username — adds an extra layer of protection for the perpetrators. It also makes returning the stolen money to the victims a tall task.

Also Read: Millennials Ride the Bitcoin Rollercoaster: 'I Just Did It Kind of Blindly'

“For this, the advantage of bitcoin is that it’s hard to verify,” a Thai police investigator told the Times. “We asked the victim how to track it since they know bitcoin better than us. We asked them how to check the receiver. They said there is no way. It is hard to do.”

Similar attacks have become more commonplace. Weeks earlier, the head of a bitcoin exchange in Ukraine was held hostage for $1 million. In December, a man in New York City was kidnapped by a “friend” until he forked over a $1.8 million ransom in Ether, the second-most popular cryptocurrency. And last fall, a Turkish businessman was forced by an armed gang to give away his passwords to his digital wallets — with the thugs making off with about $3 million in cryptocurrency.

The rise in cryptocurrency prices in the last year has been followed by a spike in cryptocurrency robberies, and many “crypto rich” people are still grappling with how to best protect their investments. Some have set up a “duress wallet,” or small lump of money, to throw perps off the scent of their bigger nest egg. Others, like Jameson Lopp, told the Times they’ve set up security cameras and bought automatic weapons to safeguard their investment.

Also Read: 50 Cent Is a Bitcoin Millionaire

“If you are rich and you own real estate, or stocks or a sports team, somebody can’t mug you and take your sports team away,” Lopp told the Times. “Having liquid crypto assets makes you much more attractive for that type of criminal attack.”

Read the full NYT report here.

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www.thewrap.com | 2/19/18

Over five haunting films set in his splintered, morality-challenged Russian homeland, Andrey Zvyagintsev has become a die-hard master at capturing spaces both beautiful and desolate, images of the recognizable world — nature, buildings, people — that also teem with a sense of something absent. That feeling is given explicit purpose in his latest breath-taker, “Loveless,” a quietly harrowing drama about a shattered marriage that finds itself under the spotlight again due to the most awful of circumstances: the sudden disappearance of the couple’s young son.

After his last two dissections of modern Russia — the class-divide tale “Elena” and the corruption saga “Leviathan” — Zvyagintsev takes a more people-focused than system-exposing approach this time to laying bare his country’s psychological fault lines.

Marriages have been used before as prisms of a wider critique. But “Loveless” has a careful alchemy of psychological acuity and societal insight that imbues nearly every shot (a close-up of a face, an epic vista, a tension-filled pan) with a gathering insight into the ripple effects of turning private miseries into petty wars.

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A wintry tableau of snow-covered woods opens the film before it imperceptibly shifts to autumn as we shadow 12-year-old Alexey (Matvey Novikov) as he makes his way home from school along a tree-lined river. Moviegoers familiar with Zvyagintsev’s oeuvre might be reminded of the director’s debut film, “The Return,” which chronicled a boy’s coming of age across a variety of unforgiving landscapes.

The eerie calm is interrupted, though, by what awaits Alexey in the high-rise apartment where he lives: coarse sniping between his viper-tongued mother Zhenya (a glamorously unpleasant Maryana Spivak) and exasperated father Boris (Aleksey Rozin, exquisitely forlorn). The divorcing pair’s corrosive insults are a poisonous cloud of hate, one that doesn’t spare the son they consider as much of a burden as each other.

In a devastating camera reveal, Zhenya flings a door shut behind her after a bathroom break like a fighter returning to battle, only to show Alexey hidden behind it in darkness, silently weeping over all he’s heard.

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We then get extended glimpses into Zhenya’s and Boris’s separate lives, which makes it painfully clear how their need to escape their marriage conveniently leaves out any consideration of Alexey. Boris, employed in sales at a large business, lives in fear the breakup will get him canned by his ultra-Christian boss. His new girlfriend Masha (a perfectly cast Marina Vasilyeva) is his ex’s opposite: devoted, insecure, affectionate. She’s also pregnant and ready for domestic bliss, a sign that Boris sees the rapid starting of a new family as the most convenient way of erasing a broken earlier model.

Zhenya, meanwhile, a phone-addicted salon manager who cherishes her well-maintained sexiness away from home, treasures the cosmopolitan life that comes with her wealthy, older, divorced new beau Anton (Andris Keishs). He lets her complain about her life, and she feels protected instead of challenged.

But one day, arriving home after an overnight with Anton, Zhenya realizes she hasn’t seen Alexey in over a day. He’s declared missing, triggering a succession of law enforcement types and volunteer searchers, who turn Zhenya’s and Boris’s post-split bliss avoiding each other into the worst kind of reunion: a real-time, dread-filled reminder of their self-consumed negligence.

Also Read: Oscars Gender Gap: Docs, Foreign Language Films Still Way More Likely to Have Female Directors

The search’s main coordinator (Alexey Fateev) has little time for the pair’s bickering, his full-throttle dedication to finding a boy he’s never met — organizing teams, making flyers, scouring buildings both inhabited and abandoned — like a gift neither parent deserves.

Sure, it’s allegorical, the themes of dereliction and venality in Zvyagintsev’s and co-screenwriter Oleg Negin’s scenario squaring nicely with a sense that Russia is hopelessly splintered and tolerant of moral rot. Even the moment in which we’re most sympathetic to the brittle woman Zhenya has become requires sitting through a scene of emotional awfulness with her own terrible, estranged mother. A recluse who distrusts everyone, her own invective — knowing her grandson is missing — illuminates the cycle of psychological abuse and recriminations that led Zhenya into a doomed marriage/motherhood to begin with.

Elsewhere in the film, snatches of news reports can be heard, about media-driven apocalyptic paranoia and war in the Ukraine, and these aural details point to a society ill-equipped to handle crises, but perhaps okay with conflict as a constant so long as it’s elsewhere.

But as bleak as Zvyagintsev’s compositionally powerful imagery can get — decrepit edifices, dark rooms steeped in misery, and lonely, colorless expanses — the sheer force of the search that dominates the second half, even when Zhenya and Boris are at their most vulnerable, suggests a persistent humanity in even the most hardened of worlds.

As “Loveless” lets its pitiful protagonists ebb as marital drama figures snatched from their self-serving personal freedom narrative (in their respective last scenes, both flash-forwards, they look hollowed-out), what lingers is the cumulative might of an all-out quest to find a lost (runaway? kidnapped?) kid. For a movie about a nightmare, that unadorned depiction of a collective good in others seems like, perhaps, a tinge of hope.

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www.thewrap.com | 2/15/18

The economy of Ukraine is an emerging free market, with a gross domestic product that fell sharply for the first 10 years of its independence from the Soviet Union and then experienced rapid growth from 2000 until 2008. Formerly a major component of the economy of the Soviet Union, the country's economy experienced a deep recession during the 1990s, including hyperinflation and a drastic fall in economic output. In 1999, at the lowest point of the economic crisis, Ukraine's per capita GDP was about half of the per capita GDP it achieved before independence. GDP growth was first registered in 2000, and continued for eight years. In 2007 the economy continued to grow and posted real GDP growth of 7%. In 2008, Ukraine's economy was ranked 45th in the world according to 2008 GDP (nominal) with the total nominal GDP of 188 billion USD, and nominal per capita GDP of 3,900 USD. However Ukraine was greatly affected by the economic crisis of 2008 and as a result the World Bank expects Ukraine's economy to shrink 15% in 2009 with inflation being 16.4%. The second Tymoshenko Government had predicted GDP growth of 0.4% in 2009, and a slowdown in inflation to 9.5% (also in 2009), although the overwhelming majority of economists considered this forecast to be excessively optimistic. A 15.1% decrease in Ukraine's GDP took place. Inflation slowed in July 2009 and stayed at about 8% since. In 2008 the hryvnia (Ukraine's currency) dropped 38% against the US dollar, eclipsed only by the Icelandic krona and the Seychelles rupee. The hryvnia recovered in 2010 (strengthened 0.5% against the dollar) after weakening as much as 49% in the 14 months through August 2009. There was 3% unemployment at the end of 2008; over the first 9 months of 2009, unemployment averaged 9.4%. The final official unemployment rates over 2009 and 2010 where 8.8% and 8,4%. Although according to the CIA World Factbook in Ukraine there are "large number of unregistered or underemployed workers". The Ukrainian economy recovered in the first quarter of 2010. Ukraine's real GDP growth in 2010 was 4.3%, leading to per capita PPP GDP of 6,700 USD.


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