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Struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine
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The Daily Vertical: The Ghosts Of August 1939 (Transcript)

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 12:08

Brian Whitmore

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

It happens every August, almost without fail.

As the summer winds down, you can count on the annual controversy about the events and repercussions of August 1939.

Every August, the ghost of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — the specter of the Soviet Union’s collaboration with Nazi Germany — comes back to haunt Europe.

And this year was no exception.

To mark the anniversary of the pact on August 23 — which the European Commission has proclaimed a Day Of Remembrance For The Victims Of Totalitarian And Authoritarian Regimes — Estonia, which currently holds the EU Presidency, held an informal ministerial conference in Tallinn on The Heritage In 21st Century Europe Of The Crimes Committed By Communist Regimes.

Now, one would think that this wouldn’t be controversial.

Especially given the fact that tens of thousands of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians were deported to the gulag and thousands died under the Soviet occupation.

But controversial it was.

The European Parliament’s United Left-Nordic Green group accused Estonia of politicizing its EU presidency.

The Greek justice minister boycotted the event, saying it revives the climate of the Cold War.

This all, of course, is music to Moscow’s ears as the Kremlin has gone to extraordinary lengths to airbrush the memory of the Hitler-Stalin pact — and airbrush the memory of Soviet repression — from history.

Shortly before the conference in Tallinn, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Poland’s foreign minister of historical “forgery” and “insulting remarks” for saying something that is indisputably true: that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany jointly invaded Poland.

It’s been nearly eight decades since August 1939. But the ghosts of that fateful month still haunt Europe.

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

Categories: World News

Russian Disinformation: Everywhere? Nowhere? Neither?

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 20:31

In America, debate over the reach of Moscow propaganda heats up and scrambles political alliances

By Steven Yoder, for Codastory

Russia is a character in most U.S. political debates today, and the violence in Charlottesville the weekend of August 11 was no different. By Monday John Schindler, a columnist for the conservative outlet The Observer, was attributing the racist rally in part to Russian meddling. Schindler pointed to march organizer Richard Spencer’s various ideological ties to Moscow and warned of ominous possibilities: “There are no publicly known cases of American right-wing radicals receiving terrorist training from Russian intelligence, but this may only be a matter of time.”

“Preposterous — the author is a known conspiracy theorist,” replies Sean Guillory, founder of the Russia Blog Podcast and a Russia expert who teaches courses at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russia and East European Studies. (Guillory points to a Vox article in May charging that Schindler is among a group of commentators who constitute a “fake news bubble” on Russia.) Guillory views thinking like Schindler’s as an enormous exaggeration of Russia’s soft power. “Maybe in Eastern Europe, but not here,” he says. “They have RT and Sputnik. We have Ironman.”

That’s part of an intensifying U.S. debate over the importance of Russian disinformation in domestic politics. What’s at stake is the direction of the U.S.-Russia relationship — and time will tell whether it’s salvageable or beyond repair, say Russia experts.

At the most visible level, it’s an intramural argument among media personalities and politicians within the same political families. On the left, liberal Peter Beinart argues that progressives like Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald are letting their opposition to U.S. militarism blind them to the reality of Russian interference. On the right, Fox News analyst Ralph Peters and Fox News host Tucker Carlson got into a bitter on-air exchange when Peters compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler and accused Carlson of “cheering for” Putin.

To complete the circle, Greenwald bolstered his case by inviting Carlson onto his podcast and Carlson did the same by inviting Blumenthal.

What’s at stake is the direction of the U.S.-Russia relationship — and time will tell whether it’s salvageable or beyond repair

But since the election, bona fide Russia experts also have been battling over the extent of Russian influence. “We know that for years Russia has engaged in what they themselves call an ‘information war’ against perceived enemies of the Putin regime… designed to sow division, cause problems, and undermine the legitimacy of more liberal figures in those parties and systems,” says Theodore Gerber, who directs the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says an “overwhelming majority” of Russia experts and scholars agree with that view. “There are a few renegade so-called experts who dispute that… but I think they’re a very small minority in the profession,” he says. Another Russia scholar agrees. “I don’t think it’s much of a debate,” says Alice Nakhimovsky, professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies at Colgate University.

On the other side is Ellen Mickiewicz, a public policy professor at Duke who has studied Russian media and says the disinformation threat is exaggerated. For example, a report by the U.S. director of national intelligence in January on Russian meddling in the U.S. election gave a prominent role to Russia-sponsored network RT as a platform for Russian messaging. But in a post on an academic site, Mickiewicz notes that RT has “miniscule audience numbers.” (Indeed, RT didn’t make a 2015 list of the most-popular 94 cable TV channels.)

The last U.S. election heightened the stakes among experts in the disagreements over Russia’s role. Eugene Huskey, William R. Kenan chair at Stetson University, says that inside academic circles most of the Russia specialists and scholars take the position that Russia’s influence on domestic affairs is pernicious. “This is a guess, but I think most of my colleagues…are quite angry about what sort of intervention Russia has exercised in our domestic affairs,” he says.

But he too says there are exceptions, the most prominent being Stephen Cohen, a leading scholar of Russia and the Soviet Union. Cohen argues that the hunt for Kremlin ties is part of an effort to launch a new Cold War.

The disagreements have gotten unusually personal at least once. A meeting of the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies last November featured a discussion among Cohen, Stanford Russia scholar Kathryn Stoner, and two other Russia experts. By the end, Cohen and Stoner were exchanging “death stares” and Cohen had charged that there was no real U.S. debate over Russia policy and that all of his enemies were “McCarthyists” who were keeping him from speaking out. That’s according to one who was there, Russia scholar Yuval Weber, Daniel Morgan Graduate School—Kennan Institute Fellow.

That Cohen is a lightning rod in the Russia controversy isn’t new. He draws media attention because he’s in New York City and because his wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, is editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, for which Cohen writes often. But Huskey says that doesn’t necessarily reflect his following among Russia scholars. “He has enormous authority in the field…he has a platform,” says Huskey. “But I wouldn’t say he’s the leader of a movement — I haven’t seen people supporting him.” Nakhimovsky agrees: “I would say he’s way, way off of the mainstream,” she says. “He’s had a distinguished career—when someone with that kind of serious credibility comes out the way he has, it’s unsettling for people in my field.”

And his role in Russia issues nationally goes back to at least the seventies, when he led other liberal Russia scholars to break from the dominant narrative and propound a view of the Soviet Union less as totalitarian than simply inefficient and corrupt, says Huskey.

It could “only be a matter of time” before evidence emerges of Russian intelligence giving terrorist training to the American right-wing, wrote John Schindler for “The Observer.”

Today the institutional muscle is on the side of those who think Russia’s influence is widespread. Huskey says that the section of the political spectrum from moderate Democrats to moderate Republicans have come down on the side of stopping alleged Russian interference. That explains why in July, high-level former staffers to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush united to launch the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Run out of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, it includes an online dashboard that monitors the messaging of 600 “linked” Twitter accounts that it says reflect “Russian messaging priorities.”

But the debate over Russian influence probably isn’t clearly winnable because it’s so hard to measure. Even the German Marshall Fund’s J.M. Berger — who works on the Alliance for Securing Democracy project — seemed to acknowledge how blurry are the lines in a series of August 8 tweets: “…it’s a mistake to think everything you see trending in a Russian influence network was workshopped in St. Petersburg. Often they’re just boosting somebody else’s signal,” he wrote. And apart from the facts of the case, Weber says the debate follows a historic pattern — during periods of intense polarization, Russia is “the canvass on which we fight our battles.” For example, during the 1980s a partisan battle was waged over U.S. foreign policy and the validity of the peace movement, says Weber. Today it’s Trump. In both cases, Russia is the the backdrop.

But this time around there are reasons the divide over Russia’s role has shredded the traditional political map, splintering the right and left. On the right, some are attracted by Putin’s presentation of the country as a guarantor of Western cultural and religious values on issues like combating Islam and gay rights, says Huskey. Some conservatives see those having been eroded over the years by the Obama administration and mainstream Republicans. Guillory says that conservative view of Russia as protector of Christian nations goes back further — to the late 1800s, when Russia was still engaged in a series of wars with Muslim Turkey.

On the left, those who have diverged — people like Cohen and Greenwald — are motivated by a longstanding critique of U.S. foreign policy, says Weber. For them, “what Russia has done — both in its Soviet guise and its contemporary format — is offer a state that’s willing to stand up to the United States,” he says. Their critique also is motivated by their suspicion of the role of U.S. intelligence agencies — the “deep state” — in allegedly manipulating foreign policy, says Huskey.

What’s at risk in the ongoing argument? A lot, says Huskey. The focus on Russian meddling crowds off the front page a lot of important issues on which the U.S. needs to work with Russia, like policies on the Middle East, nuclear weapons and the Korean peninsula.

And Weber says the debate likely has tilted the politics of the Russia relationship permanently. Because Trump is seen as favoring Moscow, Russia is now a domestic issue. “Think of all the debates we’re having on race relations, health care, all of it — there’s nothing that isn’t tied to Donald Trump.” As Trump falls into increasing disfavor among politicians of both parties, so does Russia: “I think the next President, whether he or she is Democrat or Republican, is going to be genuinely Russo-phobic and genuinely hawkish on Russia,” says Weber.

By Steven Yoder, for Codastory

Artwork by Alessandra Cugno.

Steven Yoder covers a range of U.S. domestic policy issues, and his work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The American Prospect, Quartz, and elsewhere.
Categories: World News

Facing facts: Why the Great Famine in Ukraine still matters today

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 16:27

By Edward Lucas, for CEPA

The Holodomor happened almost a century ago. It’s legacy still shapes contemporary conflict.

Was the Holodomor a genocide? No, says modern Russia, echoing the Soviet Union; Stalin killed lots of people, and the fact that so many millions of them were Ukrainians is beside the point.

For Ukraine, by contrast, the mass murder of millions by the Communist regime in the Kremlin is both a historical fact and a defining feature of modern statehood. Stalin was not just trying to uproot the peasantry across the old Tsarist empire (pious, traditional and inherently anti-Soviet) but also especially needed to attack Ukrainian national identity, which threatened the whole basis of the supra-national Soviet Union.

The new book Red Famine by Anne Applebaum (full disclosure: one of my oldest and dearest friends) is an exemplary account of both the mass murder of the Ukrainians in the early 1930s, and of the historical arguments that have raged about it ever since.

Without giving away too much about the book, I would only point out at this stage that Applebaum is already the acclaimed author of two definitive histories of the past century. “Gulag” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for its meticulous, scholarly—but also heart-rending—account of the Soviet system of slave labor camps. “Iron Curtain” in 2012 chronicled the postwar Soviet seizure of power in what we used to call “Eastern Europe.”

Both books attracted a lot of sniping from other commentators: Applebaum was a “cold warrior” (as if that were a bad thing). She compared Soviet crimes with those of Nazi Germany, and found some similarities. She criticized Western historians who, whether from naïveté or self-interest, had soft-pedaled their criticism of the Soviet system.

I suspect that “Red Famine” will prompt similar ire. Its first review by Sheila Fitzpatrick, an Australian scholar of Stalinist Russia, wrote in the London Guardian that the book exemplified the difficulty many in the left-liberal academic mainstream have in coping with competition. Fitzpatrick is furious that her own book is not included in Applebaum’s bibliography. She asserts, bafflingly, that “Red Famine” is based on no original research, and that the extensive references to archival sources are just a juvenile form of showing off. Most strikingly, she is determined to interpret Applebaum’s scrupulous analysis of the historiography of the Holodomor as a rejection of the idea that it was indeed a genocide.

All that is quite wrong. Applebaum and her research assistants scoured the archives for primary sources. The book quotes them in great detail—even when accompanying references to secondary sources—because Russian propagandists habitually claim that the Ukrainian famine is exaggerated or even invented.

Moreover, Applebaum is also quite explicit in her argument that the artificial famine exactly fits the original definition of “genocide.” The Soviet Union lobbied hard after the war to exclude political killings, precisely because the Kremlin worried that its habit of exterminating its opponents en masse might be covered by the original definition.

Applebaum’s book could not be more timely. It is being published just as the able Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s special envoy to Ukraine, says the United States is “seriously considering” sending lethal weaponry to the authorities in Kyiv.

The two issues, of war and famine, are intertwined. The regime running Russia lies blatantly and systematically about its treatment of modern Ukraine, which it has invaded, occupied and dismembered. And the same regime lies blatantly and systematically about its predecessors’ barbarity in Ukraine. That is shocking enough. What is even more remarkable is that so many outsiders prefer in both cases to quibble about details, rather that focus on the real issues at stake: imperialism now, and mass murder then.

By Edward Lucas, for CEPA

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or Center for European Policy Analysis.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this piece placed the author’s characterization of Professor Fitzpatrick’s criticism in quotation marks. Sorry.

Categories: World News

StopFake #146 [ENG] with Matt Kriteman

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 14:04

The latest edition of StopFake News with Matt Kriteman. Among the disinformation debunked this week: Ukrainian independence is a sham! Nothing has been achieved in 26 years; High tech and innovation are finished in Ukraine; the he Health Ministry is wreaking medical genocide in Ukraine;and; Ukrainian veterans who fought in the Donbas are not allowed entry to Poland.

Categories: World News

Is Russia losing the information war?

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 08:48

By Donald N. Jensen, for CEPA

Nikolay Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council, warns that the use of foreign data technology by state structures could cause infrastructure servicing the state to one day be blocked from the outside. Speaking 16 August in the city of Ryazan, he said “the omnipresent use of foreign information technologies and telecommunication hardware creates prerequisites for information leaks and lowers the level of information security to the point of risking stoppages in technological processes and remote blocking of infrastructure which services the state.”

Patrushev noted that while in the past, major world powers demonstrated their technical superiority to their adversaries, now competition in this sphere has been transformed into “massive and systematic influence with predetermined destructive objectives.” An example of this influence was the massive WannaCry ransomware cyber attack on the information resources of the Russian Federation and other nations in May and June of this year.

Patrushev has warned before about the increasing threat of cyber attacks against Russia. In February, he stated that the main goal of these attacks was to disrupt hardware—including the networks that service the Russian segment of the internet—and to obtain classified information through clandestine deployment of various means of computer surveillance. At that time, he also said Russian state entities and companies had been hit more than 52 million times by cyber attacks in 2016—three times more than the previous year. Also in February, Patrushev said at a regional conference that Russian security agencies have evidence that foreign secret services have intensified their efforts to destabilize Russia. He also outlined threats such as radical and xenophobic groups, radical propaganda on the internet and the growth of xenophobia among the younger generation.

Patrushev is a key member of Vladimir Putin’s security community, which helps the Russian president conceive, shape and execute foreign policy decisions. The group’s worldview presents international relations in terms of a never-ending struggle for dominance and influence among a few powerful countries. Its animus against the United States—which the Kremlin regards as its chief adversary—runs deep. Analyst Tatiana Stanova pointed out in a trenchant article published 16 August, the day of Patrushev’s remarks, that this community—often called the siloviki—includes the leadership of the FSB, the National Guard, the Security Council and the Defense Ministry, including the apparatus of the Security Council and the General Staff, as well as some people in the Presidential Administration. She argues that this powerful group is responsible for the Kremlin’s information policy. It is Putin’s main source of information, and it exercises its influence in part through its informational-analytical function. Its members do not offer conceptual solutions to problems, only priorities. Their first priority is security, the definition of which seems to steadily expand.

Having entered information warfare with the West in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Russia has massively stepped up its activities in the field, both domestically and abroad. Information operations are generally considered unrestricted, according to Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center, and are conducted with no holds barred. Internationally, Russian propaganda seeks to highlight and exploit problems and conflicts in the adversarial camp, undermining the confidence of Western peoples in democracy and U.S. leadership. Domestically, information warfare focuses on mobilizing popular support by presenting Russia as a country under attack from the West for standing up for Russian national interests. The widespread concern in the West about Russian information operations suggest that the Kremlin has had some success in achieving its first objective, though there have been setbacks.

Convincing the Russian people that their country is under attack has been more problematic. A public opinion survey on Russia’s foreign policy priorities released this week by the respected Levada Center found that about half of Russians said that ensuring a “peaceful and secure existence” for Russia is most important (59 percent); 49 percent favored restoring Russia as a great power without whose voice critical issues cannot be solved. However, these results have barely changed in the past year and in the latter case are significantly lower than a decade ago. Just as in 2016, there is relatively little backing for “expanding the boundaries of Russia’s influence in the world (14 percent compared to 13 percent in 2016, but down from 21 percent in 2007). Support for maintaining friendly relations with “the most developed countries”—presumably including the United States, is almost twice as high (27 percent in 2017) as for enlarging Russia’s global role.

By Donald N. Jensen, for CEPA

Categories: World News

The Daily Vertical: Best frenemies forever (Transcript)

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 11:27

Brian Whitmore

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

They’re arguing about milk. They’re quarreling about customs. And they’re squabbling about ports.

For two countries that are supposed to be close allies, who are part of a “union state,” and who are about to hold massive joint military exercises, Russia and Belarus sure do seem to be bickering a lot.

As Russian troops arrived in Belarus for next month’s Zapad-2017 war games, Russia banned some Belarusian dairy products.

Vladimir Putin also publicly pressured Belarus to export its refined petroleum products via Russian ports, rather than those in the Baltic states, as Minsk prefers.

And Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka used a recent interview on the Kremlin-controlled Rossia-24 state television channel to lash out at Moscow over the behavior of Russian customs officials and border guards.

Meanwhile, rather than showcasing unity between Moscow and Minsk, the upcoming Zapad-2017 war games seem to be highlighting their differences.

Belarus appears to be bending over backwards to make the exercises as transparent as possible and to reassure Minsk’s Western neighbors that they won’t be used as a platform for mischief.

Russia appears intent on using the war games as a psyop.

The ongoing discord between Minsk and Moscow is a stark barometer of the widening gap between Russia and its neighbors.

Because, let’s face it, Belarus ain’t Ukraine and it ain’t Georgia.

It’s a Russian client and it’s pretty safe to say that it won’t be seeking NATO or EU membership anytime soon.

In fact, it’s often said that Russia wants to turn Ukraine and Georgia into Belarus.

Well, Belarus already is Belarus. And the fact that its relations with Moscow are so persistently rocky speaks volumes.

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

Categories: World News

Surge in fake news now being spread by mirror sites imitating the Guardian, al-Jazeera and the Atlantic

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 10:44

A fake news article purporting to have come from Le Soir. Photograph: Handouf

By Codastory

A collection of fake news websites imitating al-Jazeera, the Atlantic, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir and others have recently cropped up online, according to the Guardian (also included in the list of fake sites.) The “doppelganger” websites have domain names extremely similar to the news organizations they imitate however the fake articles are pushed out over social media and other websites that are often Russian, the Guardian writes.

One story published in a fake Le Soir in February said that Saudi Arabia was funding Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign and another in “the Guardian” this week quoted Sir John Scarlett, a former head of MI6, as “falsely claiming that the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 was instigated by British and US intelligence agencies to destabilise Russia.”

Read the full article at the (real) Guardian.

By Codastory

Categories: World News

Kremlin scare tactics in Latvia

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 09:02

By Mārtiņš Kaprāns, for CEPA

At the beginning of August, Russian state-owned TV channels Perviy Kanal (PK) and NTV reported extensively on the idea of imposing international sanctions on Latvia and Estonia for allegedly supporting neo-Nazi activities. On 9 August, a PK news program stated that members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are “preparing a resolution condemning torchlight processions, marches of SS veterans and other dubious events, which now take place annually in Estonia and Latvia. They even suggest imposing sanctions against these countries.” The draft resolution was prepared by European United Left-Nordic Green Left, a minor party and the most radical left political group in the European Parliament (EP).

PK journalist Anatoly Lazarev drew parallels between neo-Nazi practices and commemoration of the Latvian Legionnaires (see starting from 00:33)—a misleading comparison covered in previous CEPA briefs. Lazarev also likened neo-Nazis activities to the torchlight processions organized across the country on Latvian Independence Day to celebrate the Republic of Latvia’s proclamation on 18 November, 1918. Framing Riga’s torchlight procession as a neo-Nazi practice is a somewhat new element in the Kremlin’s attempts to portray Latvia as being sympathetic to Nazi ideology. In fact, both the Legionnaire commemoration and the torchlight procession in Riga are private initiatives that have nothing to do with praising Nazi ideas or symbols.

The PK news story also aired the opinion of Manuel Ochsenreiter, who helped to reinforce the journalist’s argument that the EU Parliament will not accept the proposed resolution. “You can be a radical neo-Nazi, a radical liberal and even a pedophile,” Ochsenreiter stated. “But as long as you are on the geopolitically right side in the eyes of the West, that is, you stand on the pro-NATO, pro-American side, neither the European Union nor the United States will have any objections toward you” (see starting from 02:25). PK presented Ochsenreiter, who is frequently interviewed by Kremlin media, as a political scientist, but actually he is editor of Zuerst!, a radical German right-wing magazine.

Both PK and NTV, which are highly popular among Latvia’s Russophone community, aired the opinion of Andrey Mamikin, a Latvian member of the European Parliament who often advocates Kremlin policies. Yet Perviy Kanal presented Mamikin as a political scientist (see starting from 01:48), whereas NTV labeled him a journalist (see starting from 00:16). Mamikin argued that if the resolution passes, the EU could theoretically punish Latvia or Estonia for commemorating the legionnaires. Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee, told the Kremlin news agency Sputnik that passage of the resolution would help restore historical justice.

Both news stories also criticized a NATO video on the Baltic “Forest Brothers” that appeared in July—a topic covered in previous CEPA briefs. PK and NTV mentioned the NATO video as evidence of Western tolerance towards the revival of Nazi ideas and attempts to rewrite Baltic and world history. NTV journalist Vadim Glusker concluded by saying the resolution aims to fight against the production of such videos (see starting from 01:24). This criticism is more and more often also voiced through a claim that NATO uses far-right sentiment in Baltics to urge war with Russia. Remarkably, such unsubstantiated statements mimic criticism of actual Kremlin support for far-right and far-left radicals in Europe.

Although pro-Kremlin media outlets—particularly after Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan uprising—have consistently challenged EU authority, they also tend to use the European Parliament and other world bodies such as the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and international courts to legitimize the Kremlin’s positions and geopolitical goals. For example, they often accuse Baltic governments of discriminating against ethnic Russians and attempting to rewrite the history of World War II. Russia’s state-owned media does this by using marginal pro-Kremlin MEPs from Latvia, such as Andrejs Mamikins or Tatjana Ždanoka, and elsewhere to help create the impression that the entire European Parliament supports the Kremlin’s claims. Even so, the European Union has avoided following such strategic narratives. This has sparked criticism from Moscow and weakened Baltic Russophone trust in the EU. Yet Russia and local Russophone activists keep exploiting European and other international arenas to gain recognition for their efforts to portray the Baltic states as non-democratic and neo-Nazi.

By Mārtiņš Kaprāns, for CEPA

Categories: World News

Russian Media: Ukraine-EU Summit Complete Failure

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:45

Summit failure, a most dire summit, a summit that ends in zilch – this is how scores of Russian media described the EU-Ukraine summit that took place in Kyiv last week. Focusing on what they called the growing disagreements between Ukrainian and European politicians and the lack of a final communique, Russian media generally concluded that the summit ended in disaster.

Website screenshot

Website screenshot

Russian site Vesti called the summit the biggest failure since such summits began 19 years ago. called the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement which is now ratified by all members of the EU and Ukraine long suffering and said that EU officials only talked about corruption during the summit. Ukraine and the EU have reached a dead end in their relations announced, and this can quickly lead to cooling in the relationship. The absence of a final summit communique revealed fundamental differences between members of the European community, declared RIA Novosti, Moskovskyi Komsomolec proclaimed that Ukrainian diplomacy has exhausted Europe, Life news announced that Ukraine’s  European aspirations ended in a scandal and Russian Defense Ministry’s organ Zvezda said the EU Ukraine summit ended in zilch.

Website screenshot

Despite the fact that the meeting did not produce a final communique, the EU presented quite a different picture of the summit.   European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Ukraine had taken more steps in the last three years than in the previous twenty and should be proud of what it has achieved. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the absence of a final statement was insignificant in light of what has been accomplished. Politico pointed out that while the summit celebrated Ukraine and the EU’s growing closeness, it also highlighted points of tension between the two sides.

The European online newspaper EUobserver pointed out that the summit was first and foremost about deepening ties between Ukraine and the EU as the Association Agreement has now been ratified by the European Union  and is already being implemented, resulting in a 17 percent trade increase in the first quarter of this year compared to early last year.


Categories: World News

Fake: There Is No Ukrainian Independence, No Achievements in 26 Years

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 19:12

Russian pro-Kremlin media generally roll out a larger than normal amount of fakes to mark Ukraine’s August 24 Independence Day holiday. This time Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti decided to question the very essence of Ukrainian independence, in an “analytical” article filled with manipulation, innuendo and hostility. RIA regular Nyura N. Berg claims that Ukraine’s independence is an empty shell and the country has shot itself in the foot by choosing a pro-Western path.

Website screenshot

Ukraine’s economy without Russia is nothing, Berg writes, resorting to the well-worn Russian propagandist trope about what happens to countries that decide to leave the bosom of Mother Russia. Berg uses traditional Russian propagandist arguments in her article, claiming that Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union will cost the country its fertile black soil, forests and agriculture. Once an industrial giant, Ukraine is fast becoming a village, Berg writes, the country is a vassal of the US, where American politicians call the shots and regularly come to Kyiv with new orders. And under the terms of IMF loans, “Ukraine is carrying out reforms that are similar to Dr. Mengele’s experiments”.


StopFake has debunked many of these tendentious claims about Ukraine’s economy and its cooperation with the IMF, , along with other Russian claims that Ukraine, formerly an industrial giant, is fast becoming a village.

An analysis conducted by Deutsche Welle shows that for Ukraine, the Russian market was a road to nowhere, trade conflicts with Kyiv were common practice for the Kremlin well before the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas. Furthermore, according to Ukraine’s Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, the country’s exports to the European Union, Ukraine’s largest trading partner are growing at a stable rate.

Another deliberately erroneous claim that Nurya Berg posits in her fake analysis for RIA Novosti, is that the government’s policies are causing a shortened lifespan and overall shrinking of the Ukrainian population and the education system is cultivating “an aggressive hatred of everything Russian and propagating nationalistic nonsense about birthright”.

World Bank data shows that the average life expectancy in Ukraine is increasing and Ukraine’s Institute of Demography and Social Research reports that while in 2015 there were 11 live births per 1,000 Ukrainians.

Website screenshot


The European average for 2015 was 10 births per 1000. As for hatred of all things Russian and nationalistic birthright, Ms. Berg is clearly talking about the Russian education doctrine, as there is no such in the official Ukrainian education plan.

Website screenshot

And finally about that vassal business. Berg writes that US Defense Secretary Mattis “personally oversaw a military parade in a foreign country, as is customary in sovereign and independent states”. It is unclear if it is Mattis’ presence that elicited such bilious ire from Ms. Berg, or the fact eight other defense ministers and deputy ministers came to Ukraine’s capital for the celebration and military units from their countries (Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Montenegro, Estonia and Great Britain) marched in the same parade with Ukrainian forces.

Categories: World News

Russian news outlets fined for sharing profane rap battle video

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 16:02

Rap artists Oxxxymiron and Slava KPSS Screenshot Youtube

By The Moscow Times

Russia’s media watchdog Roskomonadzor announced on Monday it was bringing fines against six news outlets for sharing a video of an expletive-ridden rap battle between Russian rappers Oxxxymiron and Slava KPSS.

Six outlets including the RIA Novosti news agency and the opposition-leaning Dozhd television channel will be forced to pay 50,000 ruble ($850) fines for violating laws on broadcasting profanity. An additional 26 media outlets that shared links to the video are to receive warning letters.

The video, uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 6, features a rap battle between veterans Oxxxymiron and Slava KPSS in St. Petersburg. With more than 10 million views in 24 hours, the video took the Russian internet by storm and even provoked divisive reactions from high-profile politicians.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny praised the performance on Facebook, referring to it as “postmodern poetry,” while Russian MP Gennady Onishchenko compared the scenes to a street brawl.

In 2014, Vladimir Putin signed a law into effect that prohibits the use of profane language in the public sphere, including in written, televised and radio broadcasted media as well as in films, theatrical productions and concerts.

By The Moscow Times


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Russia’s media watchdog Roskomonadzor announced on Monday it was bringing fines against six news outlets for sharing a video of an expletive-ridden rap battle between Russian rappers Oxxxymiron and Slava KPSS.Перевести

Roskomonadzor — нет перевода. [—] . Смотрите также:

Categories: World News

Fake Guardian Article On ‘Collapsing Russia’ Plan Finds Receptive Audience…On Russian State TV

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 14:49

The fake article in question appeared on August 12 on a website faithfully mimicking the actual Guardian site

By Carl Schreck, for RFE/RL

A fake article attributing explosive claims about Russia to the former chief of British intelligence was quickly debunked last week after it appeared on a site that looked nearly identical to that of the British newspaper The Guardian.

But that didn’t stop one of Russia’s most famous television personalities from citing the fake article, which included fabricated quotes — often in clunky English — attributed to former MI6 head John Scarlett about an alleged secret plan aimed at “collapsing Russia.”

Vladimir Solovyov, the host of one of Russia’s most popular political talk shows, opened a discussion by citing the claims in the hoax article during the August 20 broadcast of Sunday Evening, his weekly program.

The show aired at least five days after a Guardian spokesman confirmed it was “a fake story…on a fake site purporting to be The Guardian” and two days after a Guardian article quoted experts saying they suspected “Kremlin supporters” were to blame.

“An interview was published — some say it’s true, some say it’s not — that says a rather noted former English spy says that their plans after the [2008] war in Georgia were the following: seize the Caucasus, use the Caucasus to break apart Russia, and use radical Islam as a weapon,” Solovyov said.

WATCH: Solovyov’s comments can be seen around the 12:30 mark.

It was quite a stretch for the TV and radio host, who has been granted high-profile interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to suggest there was some debate about the veracity of the quotes attributed to Scarlett.

The fake article in question appeared on August 12 on a website faithfully mimicking the actual Guardian site and using a URL that, on first glance, could be mistaken for the real one used by the newspaper. (The hoax site used a Turkish character in place of the ‘i’ in the publication’s actual URL,

The fabricated quotes attributed to Scarlett lay out an alleged British-U.S. conspiracy to use the rise of Mikheil Saakashvili, the pro-Western former president of Georgia, in 2003 and a “fictitious quarrel between Ukraine and Russia” as part of a strategy for Russia’s “re-disintegration.”

Days after it was published under the headline Former MI6 Chief Admits Defeat To Putin On The Russia Fragmentation Strategic Plan, the hoax was debunked by The Guardian.

TV host Vladimir Solovyov: “These days it’s difficult to verify practically any facts”

Then word of the deception appeared in Russian on the Kremlin-loyal national broadcaster Ren-TV’s website on August 15, just hours after it published a report suggesting Scarlett had given the interview to the actual Guardian.

The only outright defense of the fake article publicly proffered by any of the parties involved came from an individual who claimed to have translated the hoax into Russian.

“Seems like the Guardian has two websites –, a real one and a fake one — and they did it themselves,” BuzzFeed quoted the individual as saying in its investigation into the hoax.

The BuzzFeed investigation found that the fake article was linked to other fabricated articles — also translated into Russian — that were made to appear as if they were published by prominent foreign media outlets.

Solovyov was quickly called out for lending credence to the fake Guardian article after his August 20 program aired, including in an article in the popular Russian daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets headlined: Solovyov Passed Off Fake Interview As Real Plan To Break Up Russia.

Aleksei Kovalyov, the proprietor of Noodle Remover, a project that debunks fallacious Russian media reports, regularly tracks anti-Western articles of dubious veracity and origin that are translated and picked up by prominent Russian news outlets.

Kovalyov, who is also critical of what he sees as overzealous attempts to blame the Kremlin for political discord in the West, wrote in an August 21 blog post that the fake Guardian article “was thrown out there specifically” so that people “like Solovyov can lie about it on television.”

Solovyov, for his part, took to Twitter to defend himself from critics who pilloried him for citing the hoax article.

“These days it’s difficult to verify practically any facts,” he wrote in an August 21 tweet. “Referencing it, I expressed doubt. This gave viewers a chance to check it out for themselves and decide.”

Сейчас практически все факты сложно поверить. Ссылаясь , я высказал сомнения. Тем самым дав зрителям возможность самим проверить и решить.

— Vladimir Soloviev (@VRSoloviev) August 21, 2017

By Carl Schreck, for RFE/RL

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Monitor. August 23, 2017

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 13:56

Weekly Update on the Kremlin Disinformation Efforts

The Obama administration was warned about the Kremlin’s subversive activities in 2014. In light of these revelations, the fact that the United States failed to take any serious action to pre-empt the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere with its electoral process is all the more serious. According to Politico, the administration had sufficient intelligence indicating that the Russian government sought to disrupt Western democratic systems, but either did not believe that the Kremlin had the will and capacity to reach the United States, or decided that it would be too risky to antagonize the Russian Federation.

Ukrainian separatists sentence blogger for 14 years. The so-called military court in the “Luhansk People’s Republic” sentenced two Ukrainians to 14 and 12 years respectively for “state treason” because they were involved in spreading negative information on the Internet.  According to Halya Coynash, one of the “traitors” might be Edward Nedelyaev, a blogger from Luhansk.

Wanted: Chief Adviser for the Creative Content Support Fund

The European Endowment for Democracy in Brussels is looking for a Chief Adviser to assist the EED in setting up a new independent media initiative – the Content Fund. If you have an inclusive leadership style, experience with management, understand the media environment, have a good working knowledge of the Eastern Partnership countries, and speak fluent Russian, you can submit your application until Tuesday 5 September 2017. You can find more information here.

Putin’s Champion Award

Our Expert Jury consisting of Jessikka Aro, Peter Kreko, Nerijus Maliukevičius, Anton Shekhovtsov and John Schindler regularly votes on the dangerousness of several candidates you can nominate via e-mail or Twitter.

The 15th Putin’s Champion Award Recipient is:

Leader of the German political party FDP

Christian Lindner

For supporting the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy by suggesting that Germany shall accept that Russia has illegally annexed part of Ukraine.

Dirk Vorderstraße, CC 3.0

The Expert Jury ranked his Putin-supportive job with


(out of 5) mark.

The rating signals how much the recipient contributed to the interest of the Putin’s aggressive regime. It is calculated as an average of ratings assessed by the Expert Jury of this Award.

You can find more details about the award and the former recipients here.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion

Active measures: Russia’s key export;

by Jolanta Darczewska and Piotr Żochowski, published by OSW – Centre for Eastern Studies

Read the full study here.

The special services have always played a crucial role in the Soviet Union and in modern Russia, and have become notorious for serving the interests of their country by employing so-called “active measures”, which include a variety of methods ranging from propaganda or espionage to actions involving violence. Nowadays, we can very well observe how Russia is using active measures to achieve its geopolitical goals, which is why it is important to have both the historical perspective and current information about Russian covert mechanisms.

As for the present situation, we can understand a lot about the role of the of the so-called “force sector” in Russia and its methods by analysing Russian strategic documents. Very important here is the notion of the aggressive West that perpetually violates Russia’s vital interests. While in the 1990s, more “superficial” topics were emphasised, at present the civilizational and spiritual threat is in the foreground: the West is considered to be a threat to Russian culture and traditional values. The idea of the West as a threat grants the special services the role of defenders and justifies many of their actions. Today’s active measures focus more on the information space, aim mainly to create crises in other countries, and are primarily being conducted in most European countries.

Good Old Soviet Joke

An American is visiting the Soviet Union. He’s taking a train from Leningrad to Kiev and listening to his handheld radio when a Soviet man leans over to talk to him.

“You know, we make those better and more efficiently here in the Soviet Union,” he says.

“Oh?” Says the American.

“Yes,” the Soviet man responds. “What is it?”

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

Shashi Jayakumar from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore advocates for local NGOs, the private sector, and academia to start researching and preventing the threat of subversive hostile influence before it increases.

In her article for oDR, Daria Skibo maps out the environment in Russia under the Foreign Agent law and highlights how NGOs are preventing the situation from worsening through cooperation and solidarity.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Think-Tank, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against liberal-democratic system.

Categories: World News

Fake: Ukrainian Veterans Not Allowed In Poland

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:42

Two months ago StopFake debunked a fake claim that Poland would not allow entry to Ukrainian veterans who fought against Russian forces in the Donbas.

Using a forged tweet attributed to Polish Undersecretary of State Renata Szczęch, claimed that as of June 11, Ukrainian veterans would not be allowed to enter Poland. A Polish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told StopFake that the tweet was a fake and Poland was not introducing any such restrictions on Ukrainian veterans. She also pointed out that the fake was published around the time when the EU visa free regime for Ukrainians was going into effect and was most likely meant to sow uncertainly and confusion about the new EU rules.

Two months later the fake has returned from the dead. The source of this fake’s resurrection is notorious Ukraine loathing MP Vadim Rabinovich, who repeated this untruth during an interview with the pro-Russian channel 24/365 and somehow managed to connect it to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Rabinovich claims that by recognizing the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a Ukrainian guerilla movement that fought against both the German and Soviet occupation regimes, Ukraine has made an enemy out of a most trusted European friend.

Rabinovich is a member of the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc in the Ukrainian parliament, a group largely made up of former members of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s discredited Party of Regions.

Website screenshot

The Balkan version of the Komsomolskaya Pravda website also published this fake story as well as an English language Donbas separatist site, owned by former Yanukovych ally and Regions Party member Oleg Tsaryov.


Categories: World News

StopFake #145 [ENG] with Luc Chenier

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 17:22

The latest edition of StopFake News with Kyiv Post CEO Luc Chenier. Among the disinformation debunked is a story a fringe American web site claiming that the US supports right radicals and fascists in Ukraine, we set the record straight on the Ukrainian navy which is definitely alive and kicking and deforestation in Ukraine, who’s doing it and who’s lying about it.

Categories: World News

Almost 50 Percent of Russians Consider Geopolitical Dominance Top Priority

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 09:34

Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS

Russians consider it less important for their government to promote cooperation than to re-assert Russia’s position on the world stage, a recent survey conducted by the independent pollster Levada Center shows.

The poll published on Thursday showed that 59 percent of respondents think that Russia’s foreign policy goal should be to promote a peaceful and safe existence for the country.

Forty-nine percent, however, considered the main priority to re-establish Russia’s authority “as one of the most influential countries in the world, without which not a single important question can be solved.”

Almost one-quarter of respondents, 21 percent, said they considered the Kremlin’s most important task to resist European and U.S. influence. Another 14 percent considered it important to “expand Russia’s borders.”

Only 27 percent of those questioned thought it was most important to maintain positive relations with more advanced countries and 21 percent upheld cooperation with other countries on conflict zones and combatting terrorism as a priority.

The survey allowed respondents to choose multiple answers.

The poll was conducted between June 23-26 among 1,600 participants in 48 regions.

By The Moscow Times

Categories: World News

The Daily Vertical: Lukashenka the ‘good cop’? (Transcript)

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 13:20

Brian Whitmore

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

So it appears there will be a degree of transparency in next month’s massive Zapad 2017 war games after all.

Scores of observers from NATO and non-NATO countries, as well as from the OSCE and the Red Cross have been invited to attend Russia’s largest military exercises since the Cold War.

Regular briefings are taking place. And efforts have been made to reach out to — and assuage the fears of — neighboring countries such as Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states.

But here’s the thing. Those efforts are not coming from Russia.

They’re coming from Belarus, which will participate in the exercises and host their largest component.

This is partially out of self-interest. There has been much speculation and anxiety in Minsk that Russia will use the exercises to tighten its grip on Belarus, perhaps stealthily leaving troops behind.

Moreover, Belarus does not want to be drawn into a conflict between Russia and NATO — and wants to distance itself from any attempt to use the exercises as a psychological operation to unnerve the West.

Ever the gamer, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka wants to keep his options open and play both sides.

But that said, it is also highly unlikely that Lukashenka would reach out to the West the way he has without at least tacit consent from Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

Which raises the question of whether Russia and Belarus are simply playing the old good-cop-bad-cop game with the West.

But, if that is the case, what does it say about the Putin regime when it uses the likes of Lukashenka as its “good cop”?

By Brian Whitmore, for RFE/RL

Categories: World News

Fighting the American ‘occupation’ of Romania

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 12:55

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

The injection of anti-West narratives in online media and social platforms has become business as usual in Romania. The country’s pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem now includes fringe religious, nationalist or “anti-system” groups that adopt narratives concocted in Kremlin-sponsored laboratories. One such narrative describes the negative effects of Romania’s NATO membership and alliance with the United States. But in certain political contexts, these narratives get amplified in mainstream media by credible or popular voices, expanding their target audience beyond any credible expectations of the Russian propaganda machine.

A new wave of anti-Americanism made its way into Romania in early July, after the government acquired the Patriot defense system. As a report published by a Bucharest research group shows, the fiercest attacks came from mainstream opinion leaders, journalists and politicians—lending the pro-Kremlin propaganda machine a hand in spreading its anti-Western, anti-American disinformation to a broader audience than it could ever reach through its own channels.

Recent illustrations of such contamination of the mainstream media space are worrisome. High-visibility personalities not associated with the pro-Russian propaganda machine often become multipliers of Kremlin-generated stories, such as those about foreign interference (by George Soros, the United States, the European Union, etc.) in Romania’s domestic affairs and the hijacking of Romania’s national interests by its Western partners. Mainstream politicians like social democrat Liviu Plesoianu become endorsers of narratives that benefit the Kremlin and hurt Romania’s Western outlook. Others fall prey to propaganda themselves and spread the same narratives that Sputnik News can harness to make its disinformation campaigns more credible.

The Patriot story offered Russian propaganda a new boost in reviving the main anti-American elements: Romania is a U.S. vassal or colony; NATO and the United States put Romania in danger and make it a target for Russian self-defensive actions; Romania cannot make decisions for itself, and its foreign and domestic policies are directed from abroad; leaders in Bucharest are sold to foreign powers; Romanians not only suffer from increased insecurity, but also poverty as resources are shifted to defense rather than social needs. In all these instances, the United States is portrayed as the invader, as a very suggestive map posted on Facebook shows. On the contrary, Russia is surrounded and forced to react to the aggression.

A peculiar but older narrative criticizes the relocation of nuclear warheads from Turkey to Romania. Its proponents have recently renewed this story in order to spread fear and reinforce the idea—commonly used in the Patriot case—that Romanian authorities are making deals or are forced to accept deals in a non-transparent way that will put Romanians in danger. Knowingly or not, conspiracy websites such as those predicting Russia will start World War III also offer a breeding ground for propaganda and fear-mongering. Apart from the panic-laden articles and commentaries, humor also is utilized to ridicule U.S. troops and Romania’s submissive attitude.

All these themes are systematically inserted in various media or Facebook pages and are likely to find enough fertile ground among average Romanians. Such interpretations of Romania’s relations with allies will sound familiar as Romanians who were exposed to similar narratives in the 1990s, when a famous slogan was “We won’t sell our country!” They also offer a good trigger for so-called mainstream opinion leaders or influencers to reactivate some of the anti-West skepticism of the early post-communist transition years to support their populist or nationalist political agendas. This should sound an important alarm—not necessarily about the consistency of Russian influence in Romania, but rather about the unpreparedness of legitimate media to pre-empt it by instituting better filters and offering average Romanians responsible and soundly documented journalism.

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Kaitlyn V. Klein

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

Corina Rebegea is Director of the U.S.-Romania Initiative and Fellow-in-Residence

Categories: World News

Pro-Kremlin tabloid TV network is reportedly shutting down and laying off all staff

Sat, 08/19/2017 - 11:13

By Meduza

The pro-Kremlin television network Life, owned by Aram Gabrelyanov’s “News Media,” will shut down on August 18, company sources told the news agency TASS. The news website FlashNord confirms that the tabloid TV station will close down and lay off all its staff today.

On August 16, citing Gabrelyanov himself, the news agency RBC reported that Life’s television network was planning major cutbacks and abandoning its production of news stories, but would still remain on the air.

The Life television network launched in September 2013. Aram Gabrelyanov says he invested as much as $30 million in the project, planning to develop a TV station that would resemble SkyNews.

By Meduza
Categories: World News

Fake: Ukraine’s Navy Ceases to Exist

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 17:05

Russian pro-Kremlin site ran a story this week claiming that Ukraine’s former naval commander had announced that the country’s fleet had ceased to exist. once again resorted to one of their favorite modus operandi, pulling phrases out of context and drawing false conclusions that satisfy the anti-Ukrainian agenda of servile Russian media.

Website screenshot, Russian Defense Ministry television channel Zvezda, Zhurnalistskaya Pravda and others quickly followed suit.

Website screenshot

Here’s what really happened.

During Radio Liberty’s Your Liberty talk show, former Ukrainian naval commander vice admiral Serhiy Hayduk stated that the state of Ukraine’s navy is critical. “If we don’t start paying attention to this multifaceted operation of ships, land and air forces, they will go beyond their expiration date and cease to exist as such” Hayduk said. Ukraine does not have a Naval Doctrine; there is no naval development strategy in place, no state program of shipbuilding, the vice admiral pointed out. If you don’t have a doctrine how can you protect national interests and promote the navy, he asked.

Another guest of the Radio Liberty program was the Ukrainian naval spokesman Oleh Chubuk who pointed out that Ukraine’s fleet deteriorated significantly after the annexation of Crimea, where the fleet was originally based. He pointed out that Ukraine is rebuilding its naval infrastructure and improving its naval combat and troop capability.

Website screenshot

According to Ukraine’s 2016 White Book, an annual military activity and development report compiled by the Defense Ministry, the Ukrainian navy has added a new armed to its naval arsenal, introduced a new mobile communications system and is in the process of modernizing its frigate the Sahaydachnyi. The Navy is conducting joint training of personnel with NATO forces.

Website screenshot

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak has declared 2017 the year of the Navy, making this segment of Ukraine’s armed forces a priority for expansion and development.


Categories: World News