Most people in the West make two fatal mistakes about Moscow ‘media,’ Yakovenko says

StopFake.org - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 07:36

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Most people in the West continue to make two “fatal” mistakes about the media in Putin’s Russia, Igor Yakovenko says. They assume that Russians who call themselves journalists are in fact journalists and that Russian propaganda is propaganda in the normal sense.

“Few in the West understand,” the Russian commentator writes, “what the world is dealing with in the form of the Putin regime and its information arm;” and because of that, they commit “two principled and fatal” mistakes reflecting their willingness to take the claims of Moscow’s representatives at face value.

On the one hand, Yakovenko points out, people in the West “continue to call employees of Russia media journalists, a practice that automatically converts any measures taken against them into limitations on free speech.” But these people aren’t journalists and thus should not be able to expect the respect given to real journalists.

“Not a single government media outlet in Russia and also not a single one which adopts a pro-Kremlin position, has any relationship to journalism,” and understanding that must be the basis for the adoption of an adequate response by Europe and the West more generally to what these Russians are doing.

He continues: “Not a single employee working [for Russian outlets] should be considered a journalist, and everything connected with the defense of freedom of speech has nothing to do with them.  This also relates to ‘experts’ who live in the studios of Russian talk shows” and spew hatred against the West, Ukraine, and the Russian opposition.

And on the other hand, Yakovenko says, people in the West need to recognize that “the content of the Russian media” is not propaganda. Those who call it that implicitly put it in the same rank with “political propaganda of any other direction,” including that offered elsewhere now or in the past.

But “the distinguishing feature of Putin’s information forces from such models as the communist or Nazi versions is that the propaganda of Goebbels and Suslov advanced a definitive ideology, albeit an anti-human one.” Each offered a certain “image of the future” and sought to win people over to its pursuit.

“In Putin’s Russia,” however, “there is no such ideology and no image of the future. There are not and cannot be any books entitled ‘Putinism.’ The Putin media simply destroys the foundations of all norms, moral, legal and scientific.  It simply sows hatred, lies, crudities and provocations.”

And “not having any positive program for humanity,” Yakovenko continues, “Putin and his media trade in threats and unpleasantness, using any problems in the world for efforts to destroy it, to sow hostility among people and thus allow them to continue to rule and steal in Russia.”

Unfortunately,” he concludes, “the world still doesn’t fully understand the nature of the threat it is confronted by in the form of Putinism.”  Failure to recognize another threat in the middle of the 20th century cost Europe and all humanity.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Fake news kicks into high gear in Czech presidential runoff

StopFake.org - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 06:26

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Czech President Milos Zeman in Sochi on November 21, 2017

By Alan Crosby, for RFE/RL

In the first round of the Czech presidential election earlier this month, Jiri Drahos was variously portrayed — without substantiation — as a pedophile, a thief, and a communist collaborator.

The smears were part of a string of unfounded allegations in social media and on websites suspected of dealing in fake news.

Now that the pro-Europe challenger’s campaign in a second-round runoff against incumbent Milos Zeman, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest allies in central Europe, is in full swing, the disinformation gloves have come off once again.

Within days of the start of the runoff, which will culminate in balloting on January 27-28, pro-Zeman websites and social media were sending out messages and publishing ads accusing the 68-year-old scientist of seeking to open the country’s borders to immigrants, playing on local fears of a possible influx of Muslim extremists.

“The deciding factor [in the second round] is expected to be the intensive disinformation campaign directed against Professor Drahos,” says Jakub Janda, deputy director of the European Values think tank in Prague.

Czech presidential candidate Jiri Drahos has makeup applied ahead of a debate in Prague on December 12

“We’ve already seen a growing number of attacks related to migration and his personal affairs, which is likely to intensify,” Janda adds.

Much of the focus has been on about 30 or so pro-Russian websites that have published a raft of conspiracy theories, slanderous articles, and anti-Western rhetoric against the United States as well as NATO and the European Union, both of which count the Czech Republic among their members.

Meanwhile, the sites consistently praise Zeman, who opposes immigration and is seen as pro-Russian.

Zeman won the first round on January 12-13 with 38.6 percent of the vote, compared to Drahos’s 26.6 percent second-place showing.

“I was expecting this type of lies and disinformation, common slander,” Drahos said in response to a wave of ads on January 18 that called him a “welcomer” in reference to wanting to increase immigration.

Drahos has repeatedly said during the campaign that he opposes quotas set by the European Union that would force member states to share asylum seekers, though he would accept a limited number if they met certain criteria.

Zeman, 73, has courted controversy since being elected four years ago by voicing antimigrant views, denigrating Muslims, and warming up to Putin at a time when Russia is unilaterally redrawing European borders and many in the West accuse Moscow of meddling in Western elections.

He once called the 2015 migrant crisis “an organized invasion” of Europe and has said that Muslims are “impossible to integrate.”

During the campaign before the first round of voting, attacks against Drahos from sites such as aeronet.cz questioned his character, accusing him of collaborating with the StB, the communist-era secret police, even though he had been given a clean lustration by Czech authorities affirming that he never worked with the police.

For his part Drahos, a political novice who has railed against Zeman’s “unacceptable stance” toward Moscow, says he long expected more of the same before voters head back to the ballot box because “Russia is interested in our elections.”

“My adversaries are hoping that if they ram down people’s throats [the false accusations] that I was an StB collaborator or a pedophile, it will stick with some voters,” Drahos says.

Jakub Janda

“I know Milos Zeman is coming with blows below the belt,” the soft-spoken chemistry professor adds.

Analysts have been warning for the past year about meddling, mainly Russian-backed, in the Czech election after suspected similar campaigns in votes in the United States, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

Moscow has long sought to hold sway in the Central European country and intensified its Czech efforts after the outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists sparked a backlash, according to the Czech Security Information Service.

Zeman’s pro-Kremlin comments and ties between Moscow and some of his senior aides have raised fears even further that Russia is making inroads with its influence.

Martin Nejedly, the president’s chief economic adviser, worked in Moscow and subsequently headed a subsidiary of Russian oil firm LUKoil until 2015, when it collapsed. The bankruptcy left the Czech state with a liability of more than $1 million, which LUKoil reportedly covered after Zeman warned that it could cost Nejedly his job at Prague castle.

Neither Nejedly nor another senior Zeman aide, Vratislav Mynar, has received full security clearance from Czech officials, reportedly in part over possible ties to Russia.

In response to disinformation fears, the Czechs set up the Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CTHT) last year. A unit inside the Interior Ministry, its agents look to combat terrorism and radicalization.

Several websites dedicated to rooting out fake news, such as popravde.cz, manipulatori.cz, and the VolbyDezinformace Facebook page, have also been set up to knock down erroneous reports.

But Josef Slerk, head of the Independent Journalism Foundation in Prague, warns that by the time fake news has been refuted, it may be too late.

“The biggest danger of fake news is the so-called ‘sleeper effect.’ From the beginning, we know it was from an untrustworthy source, but in a few weeks we will forget it and we will just say next time that we’ve heard it somewhere,” he said.

The attacks haven’t always flowed one way.

Zeman, who has the backing of the unreformed Communists and the far-right anti-EU and anti-NATO SPD party, has complained about allegations he is in ill health and will be unable to fulfill another four-year term.

The claims have been strongly rejected by the presidential office and Zeman’s own physician.

There have also been reports that some social media websites were spreading a hoax to Zeman’s voters that they did not have to vote since the incumbent president automatically advanced to the second round.

Some analysts are also skeptical about how much influence Moscow can really have on Czech voters.

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, says that while he believes the Kremlin clearly has a “favored candidate,” Zeman doesn’t need help mobilizing his base.

“Zeman is able to do that himself quite well,” according to Galeotti.

“At other times it [Russian disinformation] is quite good for mystifying, creating that situation where you have no idea what the truth is. But again, this is a situation where most people have had a chance to make up their mind about Zeman,” Galeotti told the Financial Times.

By Alan Crosby, for RFE/RL

Alan Crosby is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.

Correction: This story has been amended to fix the date of the runoff to January 26-27.

Categories: World News

Russian Military, Syrian Authorities Discussing Creation of Refugee Shelters - Sputnik International

Northwest Russia - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 04:07

Sputnik International

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MEDIA-OMV head sees Asian banks funding Nord Stream 2 - Presse - London South East (blog)

Nord Stream - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 00:28

MEDIA-OMV head sees Asian banks funding Nord Stream 2 - Presse
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MEDIA-OMV head sees Asian banks funding Nord Stream 2 - Presse - London South East (blog)

Nord Stream - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 00:28

MEDIA-OMV head sees Asian banks funding Nord Stream 2 - Presse
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Russians so overwhelmingly apolitical that poll numbers are meaningless, Kagarlitsky says

StopFake.org - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 00:14

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Given that 90 percent of Russian society is “apolitical,” Moscow commentator Boris Kagarlitsky says, “it is impossible” to say how much support Vladimir Putin or anyone else has. Indeed, asking that question under Russian conditions now is completely inappropriate.

This comment from the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements came in response to a question posed by Kazan’s Business Gazeta to a number of Russian and Tatar analysts as to how much support Putin really has in Russia and in Tatarstan.

Talking about the support Putin has “would be possible if there were other politicians in the country or in general if there were politics.” But “as there is no political life or political competition and as strictly speaking, alternatives to society aren’t offered or are in fact banned, then the level of support [Putin has] is impossible to assess.”

Others surveyed and their reactions include:

  • Mikhail Delyagin, head of the Moscow Institute of Problems of Globalization, says that “support and attitudes toward a candidate are completely different things.”  Many who are very critical of Putin are still inclined to support him. Thus, he has support but not necessarily approval. Putin has mastered “the art of appearing to be the lesser evil.”
  • Maksim Kalashnikov, a Moscow commentator, says that post-Soviet people “vote for whoever is ruling” and they are especially likely to do so if their rulers as Putin have done create the impression that there are no alternatives.  The incumbent president will get “more than half” of the votes without any effort. Boosting his figures to 70 percent will require playing games.
  • Aleksey Mukhin, the head of the Moscow Center for Political Technology, says Putin’s support is “on the order of 80 percent” but that the authorities won’t be able to carry out the elections with scandals of one kind or another. The opposition “and other forces” have the capacity to ensure that things won’t go smoothly.
  • Iskander Yasaveyev of the Higher School of Economics says that since Aleksey Navalny has not been allowed to be a candidate, the vote has no drama and participation will be much lower than many expect.  As a result, the Kremlin will do whatever it has to in order to ensure  that participation “on paper” is what it wants.
  • Fedor Krasheninnikov , a Yekaterinburg political analyst, says that apathy among Russians  is “very great” and that makes the likelihood of Putin getting “a firm 55 to 60 percent” of those who will vote somewhat impressive.
  • Rafik Mukhametshin, the rector of the Bulgar Islamic Academy, says that the people of Tatarstan will support Putin at roughly the same level as voters in the country as a whole, 70 to 80 percent.
  • Rkail Zaydulla, a Tatar dramatist, says that given what Moscow has done to Tatarstan in the past year, support for Putin should be “much lower.”  But “under our conditions, that won’t be the case.”
  • Azgar Shakirov, a Tatar actor, says that no one in Tatarstan will speak against Putin “because it is well known that he will win.  “I think that more than 50 percent of the population will vote for the current president,” if votes are counted accurately.   But the re-election of Putin “will not lead to any changes.”
  • Fauziya Bayramova, a Tatar nationalist, says that Putin has all the administrative resources he could want but “the dissatisfaction of the people is very great.” He’s been in power for a long time without serious progress at home and with policies that have made Russia an outcast in the world at large.
  • Renat Ibragimov, a Tatar singer, says that Putin could easily boost his support to “more than 70 percent” if he were to come out in support of changes in the law such as the introduction of progressive taxation.
  • Marat Bikmullin, head of Kazan’s Information Systems group, says that Putin has more than 50 percent support but that most of it comes from those with low levels of education, low incomes, and a propensity to watch Moscow television all the time.
  • Ildar Bayazitov, head of the Yardem Foundation, says that despite what has happened in the last year, “the support for Putin in Tatarstan will be higher than in Russia as a whole,” possibly about 80 percent in the republic and only just over 60 percent in Russia as a whole. “The national republics always give [incumbents] more support.
  • Rafik Abdrakhmanov, co-owner of the Tugan Avylym company, says that in his view, “the rating of Vladimir Putin has fallen” because of what the Kremlin leader has done to Kazan. He suggests Putin will get about 60 percent of the vote and that the elections will be marred by falsifications and protests.

By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Categories: World News

Nord Stream 2 Is A Game Changer For Gazprom - OilPrice.com

Nord Stream - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:00

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Further dramatic Europe-bound increases are unlikely until Nord Stream 2 gets onstream. The next few winters might not be as cold as previous ones; oil-pegged gas prices start to appreciate and demand is constrained by existing supply routes. Still ...

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The Latest: Russia Warned Kurdish Officials of Turkey Attack - U.S. News & World Report

Northwest Russia - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 21:18

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The Latest: Russia warned Kurdish officials of Turkey attack - Washington Post

Northwest Russia - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 21:11

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New Pentagon strategy looks to counter China, Russia - Baltic Times

Google News: --- Baltic Environmental - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 15:12

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Syria army says captured key military airport in northwest - Daily Mail

Northwest Russia - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 15:01

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Syria army says captured key military airport in northwest - The Daily Star

Northwest Russia - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 14:35

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Putin takes frigid religious plunge - Yahoo News India - Yahoo India News

Northwest Russia - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 08:27

Putin takes frigid religious plunge - Yahoo News India
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Moscow [Russia] January 20 (ANI): Russian President Vladimir Putin has stripped to his swimming trunks in freezing temperatures before immersing himself in icy waters of a lake in northwest Russia to celebrate the feast of Epiphany. Putin bathed in ...

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The Latest: Tillerson speaks to Turkey, Russia diplomats - Kansas City Star

Northwest Russia - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 23:48

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The Latest: Russia pulls troops from Syrian city under fire - Bryan-College Station Eagle

Northwest Russia - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 19:48

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The Latest: Russia pulls troops from Syrian city under fire - Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

Northwest Russia - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 19:47

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A group of prominent academics and human rights activists are urging the leaders of Russia, Iran and the United States to prevent Turkey from carrying out an offensive against a Syrian-Kurdish controlled enclave in northwest Syria. The group, including ...

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European Gas Struggles Leave Bulgaria In A Tight Spot - OilPrice.com

Nord Stream - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 19:03

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Northwest Russia - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 18:22

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Antisemitism and pro-Kremlin propaganda

StopFake.org - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 14:37

By EU vs Disinfo

“Most people know about, but few are willing to condemn, the strict taboo in the media, of criticizing Jews as a group, using that term. One cannot even criticize a small subsection of Jews, a miniscule percentage of the Jewish population, even when they richly deserve it”.

This, and a whole series of similarly anti-Semitic statements, was part of an editorial published on Monday in Moscow by the pro-Kremlin English language outlet, Russia Insider. The article, which ran under the headline “It’s Time to Drop the Jew Taboo,” attracted a wave of negative attention among observers of Russian media. How does it inscribe itself in the wider pro-Kremlin propaganda picture?

What is Russia Insider?

Russia Insider is a private, Moscow-based English language online media outlet, in which Western authors and commentators appear with criticism of Western governments and praise of the Kremlin. It presents itself as crowd-funded and run by a group of Western expats living in Russia who share a wish to make the Russian perspective on different issues available to audiences outside Russia. The author of the anti-Semitic piece is the outlet’s editor-in-chief, an American based in Moscow who appears as a commentator on RT (Russia Today). In a leak analysed by academic Anton Shekhovtsov, author of the book Russia and the Western Far Right, it is claimed that the outlet could be sponsored by the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who holds strongly nationalist views, allegedly sponsors rebels in Eastern Ukraine, and owns Russia’s largest nationalist media outlet, Tsargrad TV.

The Church and anti-Semitism in Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church is considered by many a strong source of nationalist sentiment in modern Russia; observers have seen the Church as central in building up an anti-Semitic narrative around the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the execution of Russia’s last Imperial family. But also leading Russian politicians have publicly expressed anti-Semitic views. Former talk show host, now Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, was on the record with anti-Semitic statements a year ago. Similarly, news host and Secretary of the Russian Civic Chamber, Valery Fadeev, voiced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, targeting French President Emmanuel Macron and his election campaign.

Endorsed by RT

Even if the anti-Semitic component in the propaganda is not initiated from the top of Russian authorities, but rather has its roots in some religious and other nationalist conservative circles, it is clearly tolerated by a government that normally does not shy away from trying to control the country’s information environment. Similarly, the systematic endorsement of the editor of an anti-Semitic outlet on the government’s international channel, RT, suggests that there is hardly more than an arm’s length between the two.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Vladimir Putin plunges into freezing water to mark Epiphany - Daily Nation

Northwest Russia - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 07:48

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Vladimir Putin plunges into freezing water to mark Epiphany
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