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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

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.

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A serious rift in the church could have big consequences in Ukraine, Russia and Greece. | 10/19/18
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.
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. 
Svyatoslav I. Vakarchuk, Ukraine’s favorite musician, sang the protest anthems for two popular uprisings and is now considering a run for president. | 9/14/18
The people of Russia have probably lost hope for an opportunity to show influence on the fate of their country, even though the Constitution of the Russian Federation gives such powers to the people. Alas, the elections held in Russia on September 9 prove this thesis. Let's consider the most significant expression of people's power at the elections - the turnout. In many regions of the country, the turnout was "sadly low" and could barely catch up with the results of the previous similar elections. It appeared, though, that the turnout would be high, especially in light of the recent decisions that the government and the parliament have made with regard to the pension reform in Russia. It was believed that many voters would come to the elections to vote against some candidates and cast their votes in favour of others. However, the main outcome of the September 9 elections in Russia was voter apathy and mistrust. Shortly before the vote, millions in Russia signed petitions in protest to the initiative of the government to raise the retirement age. However, all those petitions went straight into the bin, parties supported the reform and then everyone could watch Putin's weak and inconclusive speech on TV. On September 9, about 60-70 percent of the Russian population simply decided not to execute their civil duty and preferred to ignore the vote. As Mark Twain once said, "if voting made a difference, they wouldn't let us do it." According to many experts, the election campaign of 2018 has set a record since 2013 in terms of the withdrawal of party lists from elections to regional parliaments and deputies. Eight lists had been withdrawn by September 2. The election struggle was not for votes, but for a possibility to get into the right lists.For example, the lists of Yabloko party were withdrawn from the elections to  regional parliaments in the Yaroslavl Region, the lists of Rodina party - in the Trans-Baikal Territory, Communists of Russia - in Kalmykia, the Party for Justice - in Yakutia and Great Fatherland Party - in the Nenets Autonomous region.As for individual candidates, the story is quite sad here too as all prominent candidates who posed competition to authorities were withdrawn from lists as well. For example, Maxim Suraykin, the head of Communists of Russia party, was removed from the election of the mayor of Moscow. Another candidate, Mikhail Balakin, was forced to defend his right to run at court.One way or another, but the elections have come to an end, and their final results are to be announced within the coming days. One can say for sure that the voting went without scandals and mass violations but under the condition of voter apathy. What does the Kremlin get after the September 9 elections? The Kremlin gets the candidates elected by only a third of Russia's population to continue to "express the will of the people" (under the Constitution) by raising taxes, managing the social sector in regions and implementing the pension reform. Meanwhile, Western publications dream about the day, when Russia falls into Ukraine's abyss of chaos as a result of a coup, in which active minority rises to topple the regime, while passive majority does not interfere. Russia's most recent elections, alas, have shown the growth in the share of passive majority that was supposed to rule the country through elections, but instead stopped trying and ceased to believe in such an opportunity. Most importantly and unfortunately, this is not just a signal or a message - this is the alarm. The political situation in Russia grows more critical while staying outwardly calm. On September 9, the Russians went to the polls to elect MPs, governors (in 22 regions), five mayors, including the mayor of Moscow. Sixteen regions held elections to regional parliaments, while campaigns to municipal legislative assemblies were held in several cities. All in all, the elections were held in 80 Russian regions.

Steven Seagal has been appointed as a “special representative” to improve relations between Russians and Americans, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced this weekend.

According to a CNN translation of the ministry’s announcement, Seagal has been hired to “promote the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interaction in the field of culture, art, public and youth exchanges and more.”

Also Read: This MSNBC Contributor Cited 9/11, Pearl Harbor and Kristallnacht to Assess Trump-Putin Summit

Seagal, whose mother was born in Vladivostok and who became a Russian citizen in 2016, is reportedly a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a 2013 interview with Russian international television network RT, Seagal said he considered Putin to be “one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader, alive today.” He has also praised Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and has been banned from entering Ukraine for five years with the government there labeling him a security threat.

The Los Angeles Police Department is currently investigating Seagal for a sexual assault case from 2005. Several women in Hollywood, including Jenny McCarthy and former James Bond actress Rachel Grant, have accused Seagal of sexual offenses, all of which the actor has denied.

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Trojan malware is among today’s most frequently deployed cyber threats, with two of the latest variants, Quasar and Sobaken being used primarily for government and corporate espionage. Additionally, Vermin, an open-source, Remote Access Trojan or RAT has been targeting victims in Ukraine, while DanaBot—a new banking Trojan—targets users in Australia. “These new RATs support 24 [&hellip
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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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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.

No one is spared in “Donbass,” director Sergei Loznitsa’s scathing look at the (still ongoing) war in eastern Ukraine. The film is just as harsh on us the viewers as it is any of its venal characters — who get saddled with names like “Fat Woman” and “Ugly Man” in the end credits.

No is one is spared — and no one is safe. And as if to make that point crystal clear, the director sometimes repeats whole sequences and introduces jarring bouts of violence that hadn’t happened the first time through, as if to remind us that no gets out of this bloody conflict alive.

Now don’t go harping about spoilers – there is, simply put, no real way to spoil what is essentially a narrative-free travelogue through a bruised and bloodied corner of the world. The only recurring character is the war; the script’s conflict is the real-world conflict itself, and the so the movie functions as a series of interlocking vignettes inspired by real-life amateur videos from the warzone.

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Here’s a bunch of soldiers raiding a poor granny’s bag for sausages; there’s a well-off government employee trying to convince her mother to leave a refugee shelter; watch out for the German journalist trying to report while under heavy fire.

Loznitsa and his band of both amateur and professional actors find different tones and registers for the various sequences, with some playing as dark comedy and other as battlefield horror shows. One memorable interlude plays like the director’s 2017 Cannes entry “A Gentle Creature” in miniature, following a poor sap as he goes to reclaim his stolen car and falls deeper and deeper into a bureaucratic black hole. With that one, the film wants to prime us for outrage.

Though this film and its predecessor share certain thematic similarities, what’s most striking is how utterly different they look and feel from one another. While “A Gentle Creature” had a dreamy, almost hallucinatory visual style, “Donbass” is bathed in the harsh light of inexpensive digital cameras. Such an aesthetic U-turn is par the course for Loznitsa, who seems to have a film ready for every major festival and often toggles between genres and styles, working just as much in documentary as he does in narrative fiction.

Also Read: Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' Loses Amazon as US Distributor, Wins Court Fight to Screen as Cannes Closer

While much ink has been spilled about what director was and wasn’t chosen for Cannes this year and who would or wouldn’t show up, Loznitsa makes for an interesting case. The director played in the main competition last year but opens Un Certain Regard this year, a move that to some would seem like a step down.

But it doesn’t come across as a demotion or any kind of slight. “Donbass” is a more challenging, perhaps less fully rounded work, but it remains the uncompromised vision of a high-level international auteur. There’s always room that in Cannes.

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Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' Loses Amazon as US Distributor, Wins Court Fight to Screen as Cannes Closer

Cannes Report, Day 1: 'Everybody Knows' Premieres, Cate Blanchett Shines on the Croisette

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Politics of Ukraine take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the parliament. Scholars have described Ukraine's political system as "weak, fractured, highly personal and ideologically vacuous while the judiciary and media fail to hold politicians to account". Ukrainian politics has been categorised as "over-centralised" which is seen as both a legacy of the Soviet system and caused by a fear of separatism. Maryinsky Palace, residence of the Ukrainian President. JPG The Mariyinsky Palace, residence of the President of Ukraine. Verkhovna Rada Ukrainy. jpg The building of the Verkhovna Rada. Government Building. JPG The Cabinet of Ministers building. Ústavní soud Ukrajiny. jpg The Constitutional Court.

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