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Russia Politics

Russia's government wants people to have a laugh - as long as it's at its opponents' expense, and not Mr Putin's. | 12/15/18
The Russian government is silent on how long the two nuclear-capable strategic bombers will stay in Venezuela, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decrying the collaboration between “two corrupt governments.” | 12/11/18
The three main contenders to succeed Angela Merkel as chairwoman of Germany’s largest political party have called for a review of a gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, potentially putting the party at odds with the chancellor’s government. | 12/6/18
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday lashed out against Ukraine and accused the government of playing a “dirty game” and setting up the naval incident that led to the seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships with the crew becoming as prisoners. | 11/28/18
The Ukrainian government on Monday imposed martial law for one month in parts of the country that are vulnerable to a possible military action from Russia, with the Kremlin saying it will trigger hostilities with pro-Moscow rebel-held east of the country. | 11/27/18
The German government has called on both Ukraine and Russia to de-escalate following a military crisis near the Crimean peninsula. Russia has seized three Ukrainian ships. | 11/26/18
For two years, Montenegrin officials have been pursuing the question of whether Russia secretly backed a coup to topple its government. | 11/23/18
Depression in Russian smaller cities continues rising, while state-run major corporations continue counting their profit. Nevertheless, most people in Russia are ready to endure any hardships. As they say in Russia - anything for a life without war. The psychology of the Russian person does not change and there is no leader who can change this. Real income of the population does not grow A study conducted by Romir public opinion research centre said that the volume of extra money in the average Russian household has decreased in October by 500 rubles or 2.2 percent as compared with September. Thus, the average Russian family has 22,000 rubles ($334) to spend after all bills are paid. Residents of smaller Russian cities with the population of 100,000 have suffered largest losses: 15,100 rubles of extra money a month, which marked a decline by 1,000 rubles as compared to September. The data suggests that the real incomes of most Russians do not grow, even though officials speak of the opposite. For example, German Gref, the head of Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, stated that Russian people started raising more loans and switched from savings to consumption. In reality, however, inflation and taxes eat the nominal growth of wages. Many Russians raise new bank loans to be able to repay the loans that they had raised before. Thus, a study by Equifix Bureau of Credit Histories said that overdue debts of the population to microfinancial institutions amounted to 35.4 billion rubles, which marked a record of 40.3 percent of the number of loans in the credit portfolio. The Duma and the government are too far from people Meanwhile, the government and the Duma continue making people's wallets thinner. Having raised the value added tax (the move that will raise prices in the country on all goods and services without exception), and the retirement age, the government proceeded to introducing a new tax on those individuals who take extra work (self-employed tax). To make matters worse, the government considers taxing "unhealthy food products" (such as sausages, for example) and introducing new insurance payments.Russians can get ready for mandatory real estate insurance, a rise in property taxes in connection with the transition to the cadastral base of valuation and so on. At the same time, however, the level of unemployment in provincial Russian cities has been on the rise lately. Such a state of affairs is supposed to disseminate protest sentiments in the country, the popularity of the ruling party is supposed to decrease too. However, most people still go to the polls to vote for United Russia. Nikita Isaev, director of the Institute of Actual Economics, told Pravda.Ru that there was economic growth in Russia. "It is formed in revenues from state corporations - oil and gas, banking, financial sectors, and so on. Most of the households that receive these revenues are concentrated in cities with a population of over one million. If we talk about a possible increase in population income, one does not talk about smaller cities and towns, where people survive," Nikita Isaev said. The state of affairs in Russia will get even more dangerous in 2019, the expert believes. "I traveled by car across Russia from Moscow to Sakhalin this year and talked to people from 29 regions. People told me that they were ready to make up with an increase in the retirement age, although it was not an unfair move on the part of the government. "They told me that they were ready to live for 6,000 rubles without social benefits and grow their food - they are ready for anything for a life without war. This is what the Russian people are all about - they are ready to endure everything at all times," Nikita Isaev noted."As our economic crisis is entering its fifth year, one has to admit that economic problems do not improve the situation. One needs a competitive form of economic and political structure, as well as the political will of the leader. Russia is so rich with natural and human resources, but Russia is also a part of the world that tries to defend itself from the cruel West," Nikita Isaev told Pravda.Ru.

A version of this story about “Donbass” first appeared in the Foreign Language Issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

The war in eastern Ukraine between the government and the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic is the subject of Sergei Loznitsa’s acidic and episodic film “Donbass,” part black comedy and part tragedy.

The film, which looks at the violence and corruption at every level of society, is Ukraine’s submission in this year’s Oscar foreign-language race. This interview with the prolific director, who has released three movies this year, is part of a series of conversations TheWrap had with the directors of contending films.

Also Read: 'Donbass' Review: Jarring War Film Reminds Us That No One Is Safe

I understand the film was inspired by YouTube videos.
SERGEI LOZNITSA: For the script, I did use some YouTube videos which I have seen. Or propaganda videos on the news. The rest are different episodes I heard from my friends who were there, who escaped from that territory.

And many of the people who played in my film have a connection — they were in that region and are now refugees of that war.

Why did you make it so episodic, with stories that don’t really connect?
It’s simple: I stole this idea from Buñuel. He made this film, “The Phantom of Liberty.” I wanted to describe society and describe the situation, and for that description I either have a protagonist who is a journalist, or I don’t need a protagonist. Because in all situation where I would like to be, what kind of person could be witnessing all these situations? Only a bird. So that’s why I just forget about protagonist. Situation is protagonist.

Or Ukraine is the protagonist?
Not Ukraine. This kind of disease. It’s not everywhere in Ukraine, this disease. This kind of destruction and dehumanization, where the human becomes an animal.

Also Read: Oscars Foreign Language Race 2018: Complete List of Submissions

The tone varies from tragedy to comedy to farce, but underneath it all is a real sense of anger at the violence and corruption that has enveloped this region.
Yeah, yeah, it’s true. It’s also very strange, from where this humor comes from. All this grotesquerie, the carnivalization of this situation, comes from situation itself. There are Russian soldiers lying about who they are, lying and playing a role. It reminds me of Molière.

And this kind of role-playing and hypocrisy applies a lot in recent politics. Our politicians try to hide who they are, and what they do is a performance. That happens all around the world — in America, in the election in Brazil. They elected a man because he was giving a performance, and that allowed him to say the kind of things you could never before say in a civilized society.

You make films constantly, alternating between documentaries and narrative features. Why so busy?
I like making films and I can do it quickly. So this year, I have “Donbass.” And I have “The Trial,” which is footage of Stalin’s trials from 1930 — it is a narrative, too, because the charges were fabricated and everyone in the courtroom, even the accused, knew they were giving a performance. And I have “Victory Day.” In Russia, the story of World War II is that they defeated Germany. They don’t talk about the United States or Great Britain or any other country. They celebrate it on May 9, and Russians have celebrations in Germany, which is very strange.

All of these films connect to each other — “Donbass,” “Victory Day” and “The Trial.” They connect with the topic: show, performance and theater unite all these films.

To read more of TheWrap’s Foreign Language Issue, click here.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscars Give More Power in Foreign Language Voting to LA Members (Exclusive)

How 'Dogman' Took a Revenge Story and Added a Touch of Buster Keaton

'Roma,' 'Cold War' Lead Academy's List of 87 Films in the Oscars Foreign Language Race | 11/18/18

So let me get this straight.

The wide-eyed billionaires who run Facebook previously claimed they were simply unaware of how their platform was being used by bad people to sway the U.S. presidential election, foment hate and division and contribute to ethnic cleansing abroad.

That’s what they said. But as it turns out, they were delaying. They were denying. They were — what’s the word for it? Oh yes: dishonest.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg 'Didn't Know' Facebook Worked With Opposition Research Firm

And they were watching their stock price — no doubt, very very carefully.

The New York Times’ five-byline, 4,000-word investigation, published on Wednesday, brings hard facts and reporting to the charade we’ve been watching for years.

“As evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled,” the investigation concludes, referring to founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

“Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view,” the Times wrote. “At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.”

Also Read: Facebook Drops Conservative Consulting Firm That Targeted Critics and Competitors

I’ve been ringing the bell about Facebook for some time, after watching in horrified silence as the platform — which once promised to create a business model to promote and support the creators of news content — turned out to be dishonest about that, too. No financial support was ever forthcoming for those who reported the news and partnered with Facebook to share it. It turned out to be the other way around — publishers have to pay Facebook to access their own subscribers — surprise!

Too bad for newsrooms being decimated quarter by quarter.

Also Read: The Confused Ethics of Mark Zuckerberg - Let's Definitely Not Judge Those Holocaust Deniers

All this rotten fruit falls from the same poisoned tree.

I always thought — and have written — that manchild-CEO Mark Zuckerberg was tone deaf about the serious responsibilities that come with creating and maintaining a platform used as a tool of mass communication among hundreds of millions of people. This summer I pointed out that his lack of a humanities education as a Harvard drop-out was a real problem. In his heart, it seems, he does not accept that his platform gives him massive responsibility. The lip service he has paid publicly was not convincing before Congress, or in interviews like the one this summer with Kara Swisher in which he defended Holocaust deniers’ right to share their lies on Facebook.

So why should we trust this latest remark? “To suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth, or that we were trying to hide what we knew, or that we tried to prevent investigations is simply untrue,” he stated today on a press call about Facebook’s latest content standards.

It is also disappointing to learn that Sandberg — beloved for her empathic air, her intellectual polish, her advocacy of women’s leadership — bought into this system.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Is Russia, Trump and Cambridge Analytica's Useful Idiot

According to the investigation, instead of digging into the alarming revelations of Russian meddling and fake news on the platform in 2016, she chewed out Facebook’s head of security Alex Stamos for embarrassing her in front of the board.

I am particularly offended that we learned in the article that Facebook  — shame! — lobbied “a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic,” and hired hired conservative opposition research experts to launch a counter-information campaign. Definers, the conservative group that reportedly wrote stories slamming Facebook critics, encouraged journalists to look into George Soros’s funding of those groups.

Facebook responded in a blog post: “Definers did encourage members of the press to look into the funding of ‘Freedom from Facebook,’ an anti-Facebook organization. The intention was to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, but supported by a well-known critic of our company. To suggest that this was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue.”

But overall, it turns out that Facebook was more worried about appearances and stock price than fixing how the platform was being misused to undermine democracy. It seemed more worried about appearing pro-Democrat than about whether Russia had burrowed its way into our country: “If Facebook implicated Russia further, [advisor Joel] Kaplan said, Republicans would accuse the company of siding with Democrats.”

I called a Facebook spokesman who said he was offended that I said his company’s behavior and statements suggest a betrayal of public trust.

“You’re conflating things in an unhealthy and unproductive way,” Tom Reynolds, of the company’s policy and communications team, told me. “These are important issues. It’s important to be precise.”

“During the spring and summer of 2016, we found Russian hacking activity, we alerted the government, and campaign committees,” he said. “When we learned things, we tried to disclose it as much as possible. Where we can, we share as much information as we can.”

He pointed to tweets by Facebook security chief Alex Stamos spreading the blame for 2016 around to news outlets who reported on the hacked emails.

I asked: Do you think Facebook has a trust problem?

“That’s for other people to decide on,” he said. “We are working around the clock to do a better job when it comes to content moderation, reducing hate speech, reducing bullying . Reduce the bad, amplify the good.”

An admirable goal, to be sure. | 11/15/18
The strategy of Vladimir Putin, in the difficult Libyan chessboard, has always been particularly silent. The Kremlin, after the fall of Muhammar Gaddafi, moved with caution, aware that the end of the colonel had a disastrous effect on the construction of the Russian strategy in the Mediterranean after the fall of the Soviet Union. But the West, which has made a hell out of that Libya, has not supplanted the other superpowers. After Gaddafi, another leader did not arrive, but the war exploded: civil and not. And in this quagmire, Russia has managed to transform itself into an increasingly dynamic and increasingly necessary actor. Italy knows it very well, since Giuseppe Conte [the now in Office Italian Prime Minister] went to Moscow to drag Russia to his side. by Lorenzo Vita Russia's politics in Libya
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a meeting with the administration of the Taliban* terrorist organisation in Moscow. Originally, the Russian government intended to have representatives of the government of Afghanistan involved in the talks. The latter, however, refused to talk to terrorists in the capital of Russia. Russia's Foreign Minister did not miss such an opportunity, though. After the meeting, a member of the Taliban,* Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, set out a hope that such meetings would take place in the future as well. Daria Mitina, ex-deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, granddaughter of the Prime Minister of Afghanistan in 1963-1965, shared her point of view on the subject of why the Russian government wants to conduct negotiations with terrorists. "Why does the Russian government negotiate with terrorists?""The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation has been trying to make representatives of the official government of Afghanistan and the Taliban* movement sit down at the table of negotiations for 20 years already. The Taliban* sees the government of Afghanistan as a puppet government controlled by the United States of America. Unfortunately, they have every reason to believe so, because Washington had provided every type of support to overthrow the Taliban* regime in Afghanistan. Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai took office with the help of the United States."Ashraf Ghani, the sitting head of state, came to power in a completely different way. He took office as a result of the official election that divided the country into two opposing camps. Ghani defeated incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah by a slender majority. It is believed in Afghanistan that the candidates won an equal number of votes and found a compromise to make Ghani the president and Abdullah - the prime minister."Nevertheless, the Taliban*, continues to believe that Afghanistan still remains in the hands of the United States. Today, the Taliban* takes more and more regions of the country under control, and Moscow is trying to make the parties to the conflict negotiate." "Still, it just so happens that Russia is negotiating with terrorists. How can it be possible at all?" "One can negotiate with anyone, even with the devil himself. The main thing here is the goal. If the goal is to resolve the Afghan issue and establish peace in the country, then the talks are perfectly justifiable. In this particular case, however, the story is quite complicated. Look at Russia's actions in Syria. Russia found there the terrorists with whom negotiations can be possible. During several years of its military presence in Syria, Russia managed to establish dialogue between the parties that used to kill each other before. Russia started the peace process in Syria, and nearly all territories of the Arab republic have been liberated from criminal groups. "In Afghanistan, everything is different, to put it mildly. Kabul believes that Russia wants to overthrow the current government in Afghanistan to put a representative of the Taliban* in power. Afghan officials do not accept the idea of Moscow's intention to negotiate with the Taliban*. The Taliban* is just like the Islamic State*, a local version of the movement. No one knows what the Taliban is going to do in the future - maybe the movement will decide to expand its sphere of influence. In general, Russia should view the Taliban as a real national threat."   *terrorist groups, banned in Russia
Austria's government said Friday that a retired colonel in the country's military is suspected of having spied for Russia for decades, a claim swiftly dismissed by Moscow. | 11/9/18

Two months ago, the Trump White House published its National Cyber Strategy. It was followed a few days ago with the release of its draft NSTAC Cybersecurity "moonshot."

The Strategy document was basically a highly nationalistic America-First exhortation that ironically bore a resemblance to China's more global two-year-old National Cybersecurity Strategy.

However, the Moonshot draft comes across as a Public Relations gambit meant to underpin the Strategy pronouncement by borrowing on the Von Braun project pitched to President Kennedy and implemented in the 1960s as the Apollo program. Apart from the rather ludicrous comparison, the draft itself serves up little more than another cybersecurity word salad found around Washington with six "strategic pillars" sprinkled on top. We are told that these pillars achieve "a more enduringly safe and secure Internet within the next 10 years [that] will require a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach." A "word salad" rendition of the draft is attached as an image.

These kinds of documents have appeared everywhere around the world over the past decade. Perhaps not unexpectedly, they all tend to have the same salad ingredients: Technology, Human Behavior, Education, Ecosystem, Privacy, and Policy. NATO has an extensive library of them.

And, almost every regional and global organization and intergovernmental body today have their own versions. The EU has several, and nearly two hundred Nation States at the ITU Plenipotentiary at the moment, are redrafting a bundle of them.

There is not much new in the NSTAC draft except the Moonshot packaging plus potentially creating a few new mini-government bureaucracies among existing government agencies to oversee the effort and lobby for additional funding. The last point — funding — figures prominently into the recommendations even as the document plainly offers nothing substantively new.

The report places considerable faith in "U.S. Government leadership" when the historical record in creating joint efforts like SEMANTECH and MCC have been problematic at best in sectors far less abstruse. Furthermore, as opposed to the UK's NCSC, the aversion within the U.S. to supporting its most valuable expert Information Assurance assets at NSA, creates an enduring institutional dysfunction. Additionally, scores of other national government agencies and thousands of companies and institutes scattered globally are pursuing similar well-funded initiatives that are largely unknown within the U.S. government, and with no ability to discover them and bring about convergence and harmonization.

What is most unfortunate is the model itself — which suggests there is some kind of achievable endpoint of cybersecurity. The complexities and dynamics of contemporary electronic components, code, and networks — coupled with business economics, adversarial incentives, legal constraints, and human foibles — result in an ecosystem where risk management and cyber-hygiene are the necessary courses of action.

On the positive side, the draft recommendations do harken back to a period when NSTAC hosted its own R&D;expert community and regular R&D;workshops. There are, however, several faux pax. While the draft repeatedly mentions that 5G is extremely important and that it will replace existing internets, it somewhat embarrassingly in the Glossary does not know where 5G work is done (i.e., 3GPP and NFV ISG) and that it is already being rolled out. The lack of engagement by U.S. government agencies in existing 5G industry technical developments has long been endemic.

More significantly, the report continues to push the politically motivated "open internet" when NSTAC was warned two decades ago by the DARPA Director who approved the TCP/IP platform development — that the "open internet" notion was flawed and meaningful cybersecurity is fundamentally impossible with open internets. Indeed, the dangers of open internets have come vividly home to roost over the past year courtesy of Russia's FSB and GRU.

Fortunately, the legacy DARPA internets are rapidly transitioning to a world of virtually instantiated network slices under a 5G aegis. While considerable attention is being devoted to 3GPP and related venues to security, it is unclear whether unknown and unforeseen vulnerabilities and attacks will not emerge.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 11/8/18
Sweeping accusations that the Kremlin tried to sway the 2016 U.S. election haven't chastened Russian trolls, hackers and spies — and might even have emboldened them. | 11/4/18

This case illustrates the fact that political, security, and financial negotiations may be as difficult as designing satellites and rockets for a would-be global Internet service provider.

OneWeb is investing billions of dollars in a constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) Internet-service satellites.

In 2015 they placed launch orders for 21 Russian-made Soyuz rockets.

In 2017, they formed a joint venture with Russian LEO satellite operator Gonets to develop the project in Russia. At that time, Gonets was a subsidiary of Roscosmos, the Russian State Corporation overseeing and implementing the Russian space industry. OneWeb had a 60% interest in the joint venture.

This week Reuters reported that OneWeb is relinquishing its majority stake in the venture — Gonets intends to increase its stake to 51 percent.

I wonder why.

Speaking at a conference in Moscow, Federal Security Service (FSB) official Vladimir Sadovnikov objected to the project for security reasons. He feared that "Some of Russia's regions would become totally dependent on a foreign satellite service" and added that Moscow had not received any conclusive evidence that OneWeb's satellites would not be used for intelligence gathering.

(He also revealed his ignorance by apparently not understanding the difference between Iridium and OneWeb).

I wonder if the security concern is genuine — OneWeb has decided to forgo inter-satellite links in favor of routing all traffic through a system of 40 terrestrial gateways, allowing a nation to know the path of traffic into and out of their territory. Are they concerned about the possible detection of sources of trolling and hacking?

Sadovnikov added a political dimension saying Russia favored setting up a similar network partnering with India, China and countries which he described as non-aggressive and China has pitched a 1,000 LEO satellite project to Russia.

An unnamed source at the FSB also mentioned politics, saying "OneWeb is an important project for Roscosmos and Russia's space industry, but national security issues come first. There are many doubts regarding that project, especially because of the sanctions against us."

Frequency is another stumbling block. OneWeb's request to receive a frequency band in Russia was refused and a source at the Ministry for Digital Development and Communications said they would be given permission after legal issues regarding the joint venture were completed. Given Russia's reputation, one can't help wondering whether the hangup has something to do with payoffs.

Another possibility is convoluted economic infighting within Russia. Gonets' Wikipedia page says it began as a Russian Federal Space Agency program, but in 1996 it was privatized and operated by Gonets SatCom, which was controlled by ISS Reshetnev. In 2017 Roscosmos acquired 80% of Gonets from ISS Reshetnev. Wikipedia is not a definitive source and I know nothing of the history of these organizations, but this sounds like it could be the kind of oligarchy-creation manipulation that occurs when state property is privatized. (The ownership of Cuban ISP Etecsa raises similar questions).

Perhaps there were management problems. Initially, launches of production satellites were planned to begin last May, then the date slipped to first quarter 2018. The current schedule calls for the launch of test satellites on February 7, 2019.

Regardless of the motivation for restructuring the OneWeb/Gonets venture, there is a mismatch in the aspirations of a global ISP and nationalistic governments. This case illustrates the fact that political, security and financial negotiations may be as difficult as designing satellites and rockets for a would-be global ISP.

For background on OneWeb and other low-Earth orbit satellite Internet service projects, click here.

Gonets home page, 8/10/2018. It was removed earlier this week.
The Russian home page has also been removed. Last archived copy 4/10/18.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University | 10/27/18

Barack Obama has a message for President Donald Trump.

While campaigning for Democrats in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ahead of the midterm elections, the former commander-in-chief, 57, took a jab at the Trump administration and its number of indictments.

“They promised to take on corruption… remember that?” Obama said in a clip obtained by CNN. “They have gone to Washington and just plundered away.”

The father of two added, “In Washington they have racked enough indictments to field a football team. Nobody in my administration got indicted. So, how is it that they’ve cleaned things up?”

According to The New York Times, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team have issued more than 100 criminal counts against 32 people and three companies in the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

That number consists of four Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one man from California and a London-based lawyer, Vox reported.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and lobbyist Sam Patten were also under investigation. However, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax and bank charges and campaign finance violations. Patten also pleaded guilty to not registering as a foreign agent with his work for Ukrainian political leaders and has since agreed to cooperate with the government.

In July during a meeting with Congress, Trump said he accepted U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, adding that he has “full faith and support for America’s intelligence agencies.”

RELATED: Donald Trump Sides With Vladimir Putin Over Russia’s Cyber Attack on U.S. Elections: ‘A Good Competitor He Is’

He went on to suggest that others may have also tried to interfere in the election and doubled down on his claims that “Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election.”

He added that there was “no collusion at all” between his campaign and Russia. | 10/27/18

Facebook has removed a misinformation network with ties to Iran, the company announced on Friday.

The company said it took down 82 Pages, Groups and accounts that were spreading fake news aimed at users in the U.S. and U.K. “About 1.02 million” users followed at least one of these accounts, according to a blog post from Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. The misinformation campaign was identified and investigated by Facebook in the last week.

The accounts routinely posted on divisive topics in the U.S., including immigration, President Trump and Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem. Facebook shared several examples, two of which are included below.

Also Read: Facebook Hires Ex-UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as Global Affairs Chief

Content shared by misinformation network stemming from Iran (via Facebook)

On a call with reporters on Friday, Gleicher said the company has found no direct ties to the Iranian government at this point. “We can’t say for sure who is responsible,” he said. The deleted accounts spent less than $100 on advertising, according to Gleicher.

The latest removed accounts adds to the hundreds of accounts tied to Russia and Iran that Facebook removed in August. Facebook has also deleted hundreds of accounts coming from the U.S. that violated its policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” earlier this month. Facebook has been looking to weed out political misinformation ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November.

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Netflix, Facebook Hammered by Wall Street Stock Drop

Facebook, Google Hit With Lawsuits for 'Secret' Location Tracking

Oculus Co-Founder Brendan Iribe to Exit Facebook | 10/26/18

You know those DVDs that sit in a giant Walmart bin, where, if you’re so inclined, you can spend half an hour sifting for a $2 treasure? The kinds of movies usually dumped unceremoniously into theaters in January, and maybe if you’re going stir crazy you take a chance and find yourself happily surprised? “Hunter Killer” is one of those.

It’s not going to win any Oscars, or give “Halloween” a run for its money. And what it’s doing taking up valuable cineplex space in the fall is anyone’s guess. But sometimes there’s a pleasure to be had in finding one’s low expectations met and even surpassed. And since we’re already damning this one with faint praise, let’s push it further still: As Cold War submarine thrillers starring Gerard Butler go, you could do a lot worse.

South African director Donovan Marsh, who alternates between genre action like 2013’s “Avenged” and quirky indies like 2010’s coming-of-age tale “Spud,” keeps this ship afloat by embracing his challenges with a wry self-awareness.

Also Read: Gerard Butler Pulls Out of Saudi Arabian 'Hunter Killer' Premiere Amid Journalist Disappearance

Things do start off worryingly, with Butler’s Captain Glass barking out stilted orders after he’s brought onto a job under duress. Much to the horror of a bunch of extras in military uniforms, it seems a Russian sub has attacked the USS Tampa Bay, stationed in their waters.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Donnegan (Gary Oldman, who maybe hadn’t won his Oscar for “Darkest Hour” when he signed on?) wants to go right to the nuclear option. But he’s pulled back from the brink by Rear Admiral Fisk (Common, admirably solemn) and NSA analyst Norquist (Linda Cardellini, bored stiff), who believe something bigger is going on.

And this is where things get kinda interesting. Satellite images suggest that Russia’s Defense Minister Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy) has gone rogue, kidnapping Russian president Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) and orchestrating a violent government coup. His goal seems to be kick off World War III, so returning fire would just play right into his hands.

Also Read: Gary Oldman Reteams With Director Joe Wright for Amy Adams' 'Woman in the Window'

Instead, Fisk and Norquist bring Glass and a sympathetic Russian captain (the late Michael Nyqvist, “John Wick’) onto an American sub, while simultaneously planning a SEAL rescue (led by Toby Stephens, “Lost in Space”) of Zakarin. The aim is to get Americans out of immediate danger, expose Durov’s plan and avoid any further escalation. But there’s a lot riding on Glass’ steady hand: If anything goes wrong, his men will die, and America will be forced to fight back big time.

Screenwriters Arne Schmidt (“Chain Reaction”) and Jamie Moss (“Ghost in the Shell”) have adapted George Wallace and Don Keith’s novel “Firing Point,” and the movie feels like an airport paperback translated for the screen. The plot pulls you in, moves quickly, and falls apart upon the slightest inspection.

As soon as we start to get bored by people in a tiny cabin shouting about hydraulics, we’re already off to a daring rescue attempt or tracking a torpedo. Nicely kinetic camerawork from Tom Marais makes the most of Michael Duthie’s strong editing, which keeps us shifting between D.C., the land raid, and the ocean depths.

Also Read: Linda Cardellini to Star Opposite Christina Applegate in Netflix Dark Comedy Series 'Dead To Me'

Butler seems a lot more comfortable in this setting than he often does; it would be fair to call his performance “workmanlike,” which is a considerable upgrade from “disdainful” or “stiff.”

Also intriguing, for those who care, is the political message the filmmakers weave throughout. It’s not dove-ish, exactly, but it is unexpectedly pointed. A petulant leader holding an entire country hostage with his own narcissistic anger may feel like an old trope when it’s a Russian, but there are some unexpected hints that the parallel is not-so-secretly meant to hit closer to home. The U.S. president is played by a Hillary Clinton-like Caroline Goodall, and the most dangerous American character is Oldman’s John Bolton-esque hawk.

A militaristic B-movie heavy on action but light on faux-patriotic bombast? It seems fair to call that its own kind of treasure.

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Jennifer Esposito to Appear in Gary Oldman Supernatural Thriller 'Mary' | 10/25/18
Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered government support to efforts to open up Germany to U.S. gas, a key concession to President Trump as he tries to loosen Russia’s grip on Europe’s largest energy market. | 10/22/18
How credible are claims that candidates are being hacked in the run-up to the US mid-term elections? | 10/22/18

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired all North American rights from Participant Media to “Aquarela,” a Russian nature documentary that premiered at the Venice International Film Festival.

SPC also picked up all rights in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Scandinavia, South Africa, and India to the film and with plans for a 2019 release.

Russian director Victor Kossakovsky’s film looks at the transformative beauty and raw power of water. Water itself is the main character in the film, with Kossakovsky traveling between Russia’s Lake Baikal to Angels Falls in Venezuela and Miami during Hurricane Irma.

Also Read: Sony Pictures Classics Nabs Inspirational Documentary 'Maiden'

The film is also shot at a rare 96 frames-per-second as a means of capturing water’s force and visceral feeling in striking visual detail.

“For me, ‘Aquarela’ represents a personal journey that encapsulates every possible emotion – from joy and ecstasy to angst and awe – providing a unique lens that allows audiences to develop a deeper connection to the beauty and power of water in all its forms,” Kossakovsky said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful and excited to be working with Sony Classics; their track record for bringing thought-provoking and inspiring films like ‘Aquarela’ is unparalleled.”

The film reunites Michael Barker and Tom Bernard with Participant Media after having previously collaborated on last year’s Best Foreign Language Film winner at the Oscars, “A Fantastic Woman.” They also collaborated on documentaries “Merchants of Doubt,” “Standing Operating Procedure” “Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains.”

Also Read: Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 'Never Look Away' Ahead of Venice

The film is presented by Sony Pictures Classics and Participant Media together with Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Creative Scotland, BFI, Deutscher Filmförderfonds – DFFF, Medienboard Berlin – Brandenburg and Danish Film Institute, in association with Cactus World Films, Film, Aconite and Danish Documentary production, in co-production with Louverture Films and Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg in association with ARTE and Rio Negro Producciones and Ánorâk Film. “Aquarela” received additional financial support from Sundance Film Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, The Government of Greenland, Eurimages and RBB TV. Endeavor Content and Lionsgate International are handling international sales.

“Aquarela” is a UK, German and Danish production, directed by Kossakovsky, produced by Aimara Reques, Heino Deckert and Sigrid Dyekjær, and co-produced by Joslyn Barnes, Susan Rockefeller, Emile Hertling Péronard. Executive Producers include Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Mark Thomas, Isabel Davis, Sawsan Asfari, Maya Sanbar, Madge Bray, Matthias Ehrenberg and Frank Lehmann.

The deal was negotiated between Sony Pictures Classics and Endeavor Content on behalf of Participant Media.

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How New York Times Op-Docs Change the Way Film and News Media Intersect

Sony Pictures Classics Nabs Inspirational Documentary 'Maiden' | 10/19/18
A serious rift in the church could have big consequences in Ukraine, Russia and Greece. | 10/19/18
A plan to avert an offensive by the Assad government against the last major rebel-held area in Syria stumbled Monday when the main extremist group failed to leave a proposed buffer zone as part of a plan to demilitarize the region. | 10/15/18
In Western countries, they started talking about AIDS in 1989. In the USSR, AIDS was declared a disease of the degrading Western world. According to Soviet specialists, the appearance of such a disease in the Soviet society - a society of high morality - was out of the question. However, glasnost and perestroika did their work, and AIDS set foot on the Soviet land in 1988. The exposure of children in the town of Elista is considered to be the first contraction of the disease in the Soviet Union.The news about the appearance of the terrifying deadly disease started rumours about the intentional infection of people through infected needles. However, it turned out that AIDS had gotten into the Soviet Union long before 1988, but the information had been kept hidden from the public eye. But it turned out that AIDS was already known in the Union. But the information is carefully classified.Back in 1985, a citizen of the Central African Republic came to Moscow for treatment. He was diagnosed with AIDS at once. Doctors checked the people whom he had been in contact with and found two other cases of the infection. However, when all African students were examined, it became known that as many as 200 individuals staying on the territory of the USSR had AIDS.In 1987, AIDS was diagnosed in a Soviet interpreter, who had infected several of his partners, and those in turn had infected another 24 people.However, the Soviet authorities were trying to convince the population that normal Soviet citizens could not have the disease as AIDS was common only among drug addicts, prostitutes and homosexuals. The government started changing its mind after several children were infected with AIDS during blood transfusion. In 1988, Soviet newspapers wrote that 81 citizens of the USSR and 300 foreign nationals living in the country had AIDS. The complicated economic situation contributed to the rapid spread of the disease. In Soviet hospitals, doctors commonly used reusable tools. Such practices led to hundreds of cases of the disease in the country. By 1990, as many as 270 children had been infected with the deadly disease. After the information was made public, the Soviet Union was gripped with panic. Many would refuse to receive any hospital treatment, special AIDS centres would be set up, all incidents would be investigated, AIDS patients would be persecuted and demonized. In 1990, a law was adopted about anonymous testing and the prohibition of discrimination against patients.Soon the collapse of the USSR, the AIDS epidemic started spreading across the former Soviet Union by leaps and bounds. Today, there are more than 900,000 HIV-positive individuals in Russia
A month after Russia, Turkey and Iran came together in a last-ditch effort to avert a potentially catastrophic Syrian government offensive in Idlib, they appear to have succeeded in creating a buffer zone around the northern rebel-held province, defusing tensions in a major flashpoint region. | 10/14/18
The agreements of 300 years have been cast aside. Constantinople wants to break the spine of Orthodoxy and make Ukraine hostile to Russia forever. However, it is up to common people - Ukrainian Christians - to make their final decision. On October 11, the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate made the following decisions (briefly):1. To confirm the decision that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeds to provide autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine.2. To restore the stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kiev.3. To accept and consider the appeals from Filaret Denisenko and Macary Maletich for the annulment of the anathema imposed on them by the Russian Orthodox Church. The above-mentioned persons have been canonically restored to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their followers have been restored in their communion with the Church.4. To cancel the legal obligation of the Synodal Letter from 1686, which granted the Moscow Patriarch the right to appoint the Metropolitan of Kiev.5. To appeal to all parties involved to avoid the appropriation of churches, monasteries and other objects, as well as any other act of violence and retribution," so that Christ's peace and love may prevail."The above decisions have thus abolished the "legal obligations" from 1686 received after the reunification of Russia and Ukraine. It had taken the Russian Patriarchate 32 years to come to an agreement with Constantinople. The agreement turned out to be bad overnight. Church officials in Constantinople did not even bother to interview (not even covertly) their parishioners. Ultimately, the implementation of their decisions will depend on common people - Orthodox Christians of Ukrainian parishes.What do Orthodox believers and their pastors have to do in such a difficult situation? The main aspect in the teaching of Christ is love. How can one apply this aspect in general and in this particular case?1. Love implies unity. "Love your enemies," said Christ, but this is an incredibly difficult assignment. One must try to feel unity with those who started revising canonical communication from 300 years ago out of completely selfish interests. Before my eyes, there are dead bodies of those massacred in the Donbass and in Odessa. Those people who did it to them despise everything that is Russian and glorify Nazism. Yet, we are all "God's creatures" who want to live on planet Earth. One may also try to think of Divine providence in every human being that one may not understand at times. 2. Love implies compassion, sacrifice and understanding. Truth can not be on one side only. It's in the blood of Orthodox believers to have compassion and repentance. It is no coincidence that we pray for Ukraine, for the Ukrainians, we ask God to reason dissenters and Bartholomew. There was an attempt to come to an agreement with him (sacrifice), when Patriarch Kirill personally paid a visit to Fanar and tried to persuade them not to commit rash acts.3. Love implies self-esteem. This has always been a problem for the Orthodox. Sinfulness - this is the main impulse of Orthodoxy. We are all sinners, we all have the original sin, and we can never wash those sins away. Jesus Christ said: "The kingdom of heaven is within us." Christ's prayer is recited from the words "Our Father." It means that we are part of God, we are coming to him, and everyone has a part of Divine fire inside. Christ also said that he arrived not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Hence, Jewish moral laws "an eye for an eye" and "a tooth for a tooth" are still in effect.  Mercy often comes with a club. Yet, one should bear in mind that punishment should exclude venom.In this situation, self-esteem (if pastors of the Russian Church and the Ukrainian Church have it) should be expressed in explaining what Bartholomew violates and why he does that. There was a proposal made to anathematize him. Ukrainian parishes could also file lawsuits at secular courts to recognize as unlawful acts of interference of the Ukrainian state in affairs of the Church, because the state is separated from the Church. If Bartholomew gets into big politics and follows instructions from the USA, one must try to involve Russian politicians in the problem too.
The Parliamentary results were a blow to mainstream politicians and opened the way for a coalition government that could include a Moscow-friendly party. | 10/8/18
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday that the Russian-Turkish deal to avert a military offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib is a "temporary one" that prevented bloodshed but that his government's goal is to restore control over all of Syria. | 10/7/18
The Harmony party would be able to form a government in coalition with populist parties. | 10/7/18
I am Dmitry Sudakov, Pravda.Ru English editor. On October 3, Pravda.Ru took part in Reddit's AMA (Ask Me Anything) online conference, in which various people from around the world - policy-makers, representatives of the entertainment industry, and so on and so forth - log on to Reddit so that site visitors could ask them anything in real time. When an AMA moderator approached me, I accepted the offer without knowing what the whole thing would look like. I thought it would be good to participate in the event, because Reddit is such a popular platform in the West. I knew that an editor of a Russian newspaper would face some criticism, but I didn't expect it to turn into a storm of criticism. Scathing questions like "Do you like tea?" - "Yes, I do." - Can you identify the taste of polonium in it?" quickly evolved into name-calling with 'you pig' and 'you sick f***' being least offensive. The posters, who clicked on this AMA started asking questions proceeding from what their media feeds them every day and every hour. They have arranged a major anti-Russian hysterical party, in which they were screaming slogans and headlines from Western publications while calling me an utterly brainwashed individual. This has once again reaffirmed my belief in mass media being a major tool that influences people's minds like nothing else, albeit, unfortunately, in a negative way. Most of the posters, whom, as I believe, were US citizens, started reproducing all those things that the US government has been accusing Russia of for years now non-stop. They started throwing those accusations into my face claiming that Russia dismembered Ukraine and annexed the Crimea. They do not even try to think whether their government was behind the coup in Ukraine. They do not even question that - Russia invaded Ukraine. Period. Before that, Russia had invaded Georgia too. This is the ultimate truth for them. They do not even try to think that the Ukrainian government that came to power as a result of a coup is illegitimate, because their president Yanukovych was nearly killed and toppled illegitimately making sitting president Poroshenko just as illegitimate. Nevertheless, the international community is OK with that. They accuse Russia of Flight MH17 shoot-down even though no one has ever been able to find out yet who caused that tragedy. They do not even try to assume that it could be Ukraine, at least in theory. For them, Russia is guilty. They don't question that. The discussion quickly developed into a full-fledged anti-Russian hysteria at its finest. At one point I had the feeling like I was chatting to a bunch of journalists from Western publications, whose job is to defame and demonise Russia as much as possible. However, those were just people, common people from the United States of America, who, like everyone else, are busy with their daily routines, their work and family, etc. The degree of their aversion to Russia amazed me. In events like this, you try to say something, but you can say only a little, just a few basic things, but they still bounce back denied, misunderstood and criticised. I wanted to be friendly and never wanted to call anyone names in that discussion, but a lot of people took liberties and thought that they have the right to insult brutally. When I wrote in one of the comments that the friendship (if there were any) between Russia and the United States has been buried forever, most of the people did not find it regretful - they were happy about it. For them, Russia is still the empire of evil, sadly. I believe that many of those people would press the red button to nuke Russia if they had such an opportunity. Russophobes calling Russia homophobic - how funny is that? I wonder if they criticise their government. They mock and insult their president, this I know, but they do not seem to be able to question the things that the US government has been doing lately, committing acts of economic and political extremism against so many countries in the world. Barack Obama declared America an exceptional nation (who would have thought he would say such a thing!), which means, as one is led to believe, that the USA is above all others. Sounds like Hitler's "Deutschland über alles" slogan. This exceptional country kills thousands of people wherever US troops are deployed. They ravaged Iraq, Libya, Syria, terrorised Afghanistan and planted a puppet government there, and now they get really mad because they can't do the same to Iran (a nuclear innuendo might be involved). They do not care how many civilians get killed as they sow chaos in the Middle East. The more civilians, including children, die, the better the US feels. As Madeleine Albright said once replying to a question about half a million dead children - "The price is worth it."And, of course, the Americans despise Putin. They despise him for being a strong leader. They despise him for promoting and defending Russian interests. Some poster wished him to die. I guess they would be thrilled to see Russia dying too. I very well remember the time when the West was praising Russia and calling it a democracy as Russia was lying in ruins, while selling its wealth to the West for kopecks. This is what the West wants Russia to be - weak, weak-willed, obedient, controlled, ruined. All in all, Putin showed the West a middle finger to that, that's why they hate him in the first place. Will there be any understanding between Russia and the United States ever? Russian politicians still call their US counterparts "partners" while implying a completely different word. The rhetoric from US politicians gets increasingly twisted every day. All they do is threaten all who disobey, as if the world is their kindergarten. Is it supposed to be an empire of goodness? All empires fall sooner or later. Is the US empire in agony? What a mad world we are all living in. 
A Syrian rebel group said Sunday it would not pull back its fighters from front-line positions in the contested northwestern province of Idlib, where Russia and Turkey agreed to set up a demilitarized zone this month to avert an all-out offensive by Syrian government forces. | 9/30/18
Mercedes new aero package shocks Ferrari, but all is not lost in Russia - there's a first corner, and some politics, to navigate. | 9/29/18
Mercedes new aero package shocks Ferrari, but all is not lost in Russia - there's a first corner, and some politics, to navigate. | 9/29/18
On Wednesday, September 26, the Russian parliament, the State Duma, gave the second reading to the government bill on the pension reform. Officially, it goes about a move to improve the pension law. In fact, however, the authorities prefer not to talk about the "improvement" as it basically raises the retirement age in Russia. Three hundred and twenty-six out of 450 MPs supported the bill. Only 59 voted against it and one abstained. Here is some more food for thought in numbers. The ruling United Russia party counts 342 MPs. Obviously, their votes would be enough to approve the document. Communists come second - 42 MPs. LDPR is next with 39 MPs. Just Russia counts 23 deputies, two others are exempt from parliament factions. All the three opposition factions were originally opposed to raising the retirement age in Russia. However, 59 out of 104 opposition MPs voted in favor of the bill. Forty-five others did no find such an opportunity for themselves.Moreover, prior to the vote on the bill, the MPs approved nine of Putin's amendments to it. One of them lowers the retirement age for women from 63 to 60 years. After the vote, the leader of the United Russia faction, Sergei Neverov, noted with satisfaction that no one voted against president's amendments. "Presidential amendments were supported by representatives of all political factions in the State Duma: 385 voted for them, no one either abstained or voted against the amendments," the official said. "It is also very important that all factions without exception supported the ratification of the International Labor Organization Convention (415 votes for), and issues of medical examination of persons of pre-retirement age (419 votes for)," also noted Neverov.State Duma deputy from the Communist Party faction, Leonid Kalashnikov, explained the paradoxical behavior of his faction to Pravda.Ru. According to Communists, there is no paradox here - the faction cares about the people. "We believe that we can make people's lives easier, at least with the help of the draft law that we have here. We can not vote against it if these amendments suggest making people's lives easier. They do help in the draft. In general, we vote against the law about the pension reform. However, United Russia will adopt it anyway, so we vote to make people's lives easier, at least a little," Leonid Kalashnikov told Pravda.Ru. Also read: Putin: I don't like the idea of the pension reform
The Russian movement announced Monday that the Syrian government will be supplied with S-300 missile defense systems amid the downing of a Russian plane by Syria last week, a move the Trump administration calls a “major mistake.” | 9/25/18
The Russian government announced plans to send a powerful air-defense system to Syria, escalating tensions with Israel following the downing of a Russian war plane last week that the Kremlin has blamed on Israeli forces. | 9/25/18
Russia announced Monday that it will supply the Syrian government with modern S-300 missile defense systems following last week's downing of a Russian plane by Syria, a friendly fire incident that send regional tensions over the war-torn country soaring. | 9/24/18
Russia's opposition leader had just finished a 30-day sentence over planning anti-government protests. | 9/24/18
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday again blamed Israel for the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian government forces and said Israel appeared "ungrateful" for Moscow's efforts to rein in Iran-backed fighters in Syria. | 9/23/18
Thousands of people who were recently displaced by violence in northwest Syria have returned home following a Russia-Turkey deal that averted a government offensive on the last major rebel stronghold, Syrian opposition activists said Wednesday. | 9/19/18

CBS TV Studios is final negotiations to adapt former FBI director James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” into a miniseries, an insider with knowledge of the negotiations told TheWrap.

The project will be penned by “Captain Phillips” writer Billy Ray and comes from Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout and Shane Selerno’s The Story Factory. Kurtzman recently signed a new five-year overall deal with CBS TV Studios, where he is spearheading CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery” and overseeing development of the new series based on Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

The potential miniseries could air on either CBS All Access, CBS broadcast network or Showtime.

Also Read: Bob Woodward's 'Fear' Breaks Publisher Sales Record in Its First Week

The book, which was released in April by Flatiron Books, gets its title from president Donald Trump’s alleged desire for Comey to give him a loyalty pledge. Comey was first appointed FBI director by former president Barack Obama in 2013, and was fired by Trump less than a year into his presidency.

The book shares Comey’s never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

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Syria welcomed Tuesday the Turkey-Russia deal declaring a demilitarized zone around Idlib province but vowed to keep up its campaign against "terrorism," either through military action or reconciliation deals with the opposition. | 9/18/18
Russia's military on Tuesday said one of its aircraft with 15 people on board was shot down by Syrian government missiles and blamed the Israeli Air Force for pushing its Il-20 jet into the line of fire of Syrian missiles. | 9/18/18
The leaders of Russia and Turkey on Monday announced that a deep demilitarized zone will be established in Syria's Idlib region, the last bastion of anti-government rebels where fears had been high of a devastating offensive by government forces. | 9/17/18
The second round of gubernatorial elections in Russia's Primorsky Krai (the Far East) will go down in history of Russia's political life. During the elections of the governor of the Primorsky region, one of the candidates was winning the vote by a significant margin. All of a sudden, it turned out that the winner of the race has lost the election. The advantage of Communist candidate Andrei Ishchenko over acting governor Andrei Tarasenko was not striking, but it was larger than the number of uncounted ballots. In other words, if all the uncounted ballots had been added to Tarasenko's favor, Ishchenko would have still remained the winner. However, the announcement from the Central Electoral Commission made after counting 99.03% of the ballots said that acting governor Andrei Tarasenko won the election having left his rival only 0.5 percent behind. The head of the CEC, Ella Pamfilova, stated in the morning that her department would not rush to finalise the results of the elections in Primorsky Krai. If any violation are found, the results of the second round of the vote are likely to be canceled, she said, urging the supporters of the two candidates to file complaints.The candidates themselves accuse each other of fraud and falsification?. For example, representatives of regional authorities claim that the team of communist candidate Andrei Ishchenko  delayed the entry of disadvantageous ballots into the electronic GAS "Vybory" system to overblow  a scandal afterwards. Ischenko's supporters claim that his opponent was "given" several tens of thousands of votes.At first, Andrei Ishchenko called to put up tents and threatened to go on a hunger strike. He changed his mind later after he talked to Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Russian Communist Party.  Instead, Ishchenko invited his supporters to come to the building of the administration of the Primorsky region every day at 6:00 p.m. and stay there till late at night. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky suggested his own solution to the problem. "Gubernatorial  elections in Russia are absolutely unnecessary and nerve-racking. There is no real competition, because candidates of one and the same party take all posts anyway. It is the president who should directly appoint the governors, because they represent the executive power. However, the head of state can appoint representatives of different parties as governors. If a representative of the pro-government party fails, he then appoints a representative of the parliamentary opposition. This would preserve governance and let the steam out," Zhirinovsky wrote on his social media page. Gubernatorial elections were abolished in Russia from 2004 till 2012, when governors were approved by legislative assemblies on the basis of proposals from the president. Afterwards, gubernatorial elections were reinstated. Gubernatorial elections will be held in Russia in Khakassia, Khabarovsk and Vladimir regions on September 23. One can hardly imagine a situation that can eclipse the one in the Primorsky region. Anton KulikovPravda.Ru Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
Andrei Kostin, the head of VTB Bank, shared his plans for the future of foreign currency in the Russian Federation. During the Eastern Economic Forum, Kostin, who is ranked one of Russia's most prominent bankers, suggested legal addresses of Russia's largest holding companies should be transferred under Russia's jurisdiction. According to him, foreign registrations of Russian legal entities makes the fulfilment of subsequent tasks more complicated. Kostin pointed out the need to place Eurobonds on Russian platforms and abandon the primary depository in the form of Euroclear. Many experts believe that such suggestions would take Russia towards self-isolation.The head of VTB also pointed out the need for all participants of the stock market to adhere to "unified rules." Some assumed in Russia that Mr. Kostin thus wanted to punish the Americans for the sanctions that they had imposed on him. In a nutshell, Andrei Kostin offered President Putin a plan to refuse from the US dollar. The plan is not very original: Kostin suggests making Russia an outcast country, in which dollar settlements would be excluded. Iran and Venezuela had taken such measures for their economies some time ago, but neither Iran nor Venezuela have showed an economic breakthrough yet. Quite on the contrary, the two nations suffer from declining national currencies and a plethora of restrictions. Some suggested Mr. Kostin could go to Venezuela or Iran to learn a few lessons there. Earlier, Andrei Kostin caused quite a stir in Russia, when he said that Russian citizens' dollar deposits could be converted at market value into rubles.Experts were more restrained in their assessment of Kostin's suggestion. Maksim Shein, the chief investment strategist of BCS, told Pravda.Ru that it makes no difference what currency banks choose to return deposits to clients - the most important thing is to have foreign currency deposits converted into rubles at market value.  The problem of Andrei Kostin's statements and reactions to them is about the radical presentation of such information. It is clear to all in Russia that the national market will grow increasingly national and ruble-oriented against the backdrop of sanctions and Russia's course to economic sovereignty. Mr. Kostin tries to hold common people accountable for the economic crisis in the country. Many people in today's Russia still remember the attitude to foreign currency in the USSR. However, the Soviet Union used to have a developed social system. All the recent moves of the Russian authorities in relation to the retirement age indicate that Russia is taking a sharp liberal turn in economy. Currency restrictions do not fit into liberal reforms. Clearly, Russian banks need to develop and grow under the conditions of economic and financial restrictions, especially when President Putin talks about the need for a major economic breakthrough. The people, however, are not happy about the fact that the breakthrough is going to be made at their expense. This gives rise to panic and scathing comments about Mr. Kostin and his suggestions. It is wort mentioning that the amount of transactions signed within the scope of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok totalled nearly three trillion rubles. Perhaps it is too early to put a cross on the Russian economy and expect dark years to come. Also read: Russian government prepares to get rid of US dollar in economy
When almost all the protesters at recent anti-government rallies across Russia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets. | 9/14/18
Turkey sent in military reinforcements Thursday to beef up its positions inside Syria's last rebel bastion Idlib, activists reported, even as the Turkish defense minister said Ankara is still trying with Russia and Iran to prevent a humanitarian tragedy in the case of a threatened Syrian government offensive. | 9/13/18
Viktor Zolotov, the chief of the Russian National Guards (Federal National Guard Troops Service), published a video address to opposition activist Alexei Navalny. In his address, Zolotov called Navalny out in a duel and promised to make a "juicy meat chop" out of him. The video comes as Zolotov's reaction to the recent investigation conducted by Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) into the procurement of foodstuffs for the Russian National Guards at inflated prices."With respect to me, you had insulting, slanderous reflections, and it's not customary for army officers to forgive that," Zolotov said in the video message posted on the YouTube channel of the Russian National Guards on September 11. "From time immemorial, the scoundrel would be punched in the face and summoned to a duel," he added. "Mr. Navalny, no one stops us from returning at least part of those traditions, I mean demanding satisfaction, I simply challenge you to a duel - to a ring, tatami, you name it, where I promise to make a fine, juicy meat chop out of you," Viktor Zolotov said sitting in front of the camera. It is worthy of note that Zolotov had earlier served as a security guard for President Putin. Zolotov also promised to trample on Navalny and use him as a door mat. "If, Mr. Navalny, you ever again speak in an insulting or slanderous tone about me or my family members, I promise you that before I step over you and use you as a door mat, I will arrange a show for the entire staff of the National Guards," said Zolotov.It is worthy of note that Viktor Zolotov challenged Navalny at a time when the latter is serving his 30-day arrest in Moscow and has no way to respond.In his video address, the director of the Russian National Guards recalled another investigation conducted by Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund  - about the property of Zolotov's family. The report, published in 2016, evaluated Viktor Zolotov's property at 663 million rubles."I'm not a poor man indeed. Unlike you, when you were just learning to sit down on a pot, I had served in the army, worked at a factory production, was, by the way, an outstanding communist worker, and later engaged in business activities," the military man said. Earlier, officials at the Russian Guards called Navalny's investigation of the purchase of food products for the agency "falsified and provocative." "The deliveries of food and the provision of food services for the troops of the National Guard of the Russian Federation is carried out by an organisation appointed by the government of the Russian Federation in accordance with the current legislation," Zolotov said.We would like to note here that Alexei Navalny's team continues investigating into a variety of "corruption schemes", while all of those investigations have a zero degree of effectiveness. Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund had conducted investigations into "cases" of Dmitry Medvedev, Yuri Kovalchuk, Igor Shuvalov, Igor Sechin, Vyacheslav Volodin, Alisher Usmanov and others. Many of them sued Navalny and won the trials. Mr. Zolotov could follow in their footsteps and do the same. It appears that someone at the top let Alexei Navalny become such a principled oppositionist to release the steam of people's discontent. Navalny himself profits from creating his image of a person, who unmasks others. In fact, however, he is a competent narrator of "scary" stories, a populariser, who wants to be the leader of Russia's opposition, if not president. Many in Russia found Viktor Zolotov's address to Navalny ridiculous. "We have no doubt about the wonderful physical shape of Mr. Zolotov, but we do have doubt of whether he is a man of a high intellectual level," bloggers write on social media. 

The politics of Russia take place in a framework of a federal semi-presidential republic. According to the Constitution of Russia, the President of Russia is head of state, and of a multi-party system with executive power exercised by the government, headed by the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President with the parliament's approval. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, while the President and the government issue numerous legally binding by-laws. Since gaining its independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Russia has faced serious challenges in its efforts to forge a political system to follow nearly seventy-five years of Soviet rule. For instance, leading figures in the legislative and executive branches have put forth opposing views of Russia's political direction and the governmental instruments that should be used to follow it. That conflict reached a climax in September and October 1993, when President Boris Yeltsin used military force to dissolve the parliament and called for new legislative elections. This event marked the end of Russia's first constitutional period, which was defined by the much-amended constitution adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1978. A new constitution, creating a strong presidency, was approved by referendum in December 1993. With a new constitution and a new parliament representing diverse parties and factions, Russia's political structure subsequently showed signs of stabilization. As the transition period extended into the mid-1990s, the power of the national government continued to wane as Russia's regions gained political and economic concessions from Moscow. Although the struggle between executive and legislative branches was partially resolved by the new constitution, the two branches continued to represent fundamentally opposing visions of Russia's future. Most of the time, the executive was the center of reform, and the lower house of the parliament, State Duma, was a bastion of anti-reform communists and nationalists.

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