There Is a Dark and Dangerous Forest Behind These Burning Trees…

Source

 • JULY 14, 2020


Roughly half-way through the year 2020 it is becoming pretty obvious that there are a number of major developments which almost got our total attention, and for good reason, as these are tectonic shifts which truly qualify as “catastrophe” (under the definition “a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth“). These are:
  • The initiation of the global collapse of the AngloZionist Empire.
  • The immense economic bubble whose ever-growing size is the best predictor of the magnitude of the huge burst it will inevitably result in.
  • The implosion of the US society due to a combination of several and profound systemic crises (economic collapse, racial tensions, mass poverty, alienation of the masses, absence of social protections, etc.).
  • The COVID-19 (aka “it’s just like the seasonal flu!!“) pandemic which only exacerbates all the other major factors listed above.
  • Last, but not least, it is hard to imagine what the next US Presidential election will look like, but one thing is certain: by November we will already have a perfect storm – the election will only act like a battery which will feed even more energy into this already perfect storm.
To be sure, these are truly momentous, historical, developments whose importance cannot be over-stated. They are, however, not the only very serious developments. There are, in fact, several areas of serious political tensions which could also result in a major explosion, albeit a regional one “only”!
I will list just a few, beginning with the most visible one:

Turkey

Erdogan is up to no good. Again. What a big surprise, right? Every time I hear somebody writing something about Erdogan the dreaming of becoming the sultan of a new Ottoman Empire, I tend to roll my eyes as this is a cliche. Yet, there is no denial that this cliche is true – the neo-Ottoman ideology is definitely alive and well in Turkey and Erdogan clearly wants to “ride that horse”. So let’s list some of the things which the Turks have been up to:
  1. Syria: The Turks have clearly been dragging their feet in northern Syria where, at least according to the deal Erdogan made with Putin, the “bad terrorists” should have left a long time ago and the key highway should have been under the joint protection of the Russian and Turkish forces. Well, Turkey did some of this, but not all, and the “bad terrorists” are still very much present in northern Syria. In fact, they recently tried to attack the Russian Aerospace Forces base in Khmeimim (they failed, but that is still something which the Turks have to answer for since the attack came from a zone they control). Protecting terrorists in exchange for promises of immunity from their attacks has been tried many times in the past and it has never worked – sooner or later the terrorist groups always slip out of the control of their masters and even turn against them. This is now happening to Turkey.
  2. Libya: The Turks are also deeply involved in the Libyan civil war. In fact, “deeply involved” does not give enough credit to the Turkish military which used Turkish-made drones with devastating effectiveness against the forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, the commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (which is backed by both Russia and Egypt). Only the prompt (and rather mysterious) deployment of Russian air defenses and a number of unidentified MiG-29s succeeded in eventually bringing down enough Turkish drones to force them to take a pause. The Egyptians have made it clear that they will never allow the so-called “Government of National Accord” to take Sirte or any land East of Sirte. The Libyan Parliament (of East Libya) has now given Egypt the official authorization to directly intervene in Libya. This makes some kind of Egyptian intervention an almost certain thing.
  3. Hagia Sophia: And just to make sure there are enough sources of tension, the Turks have now declared that the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul will no longer be a museum open to all, but a mosque. Now the CIA-puppet modestly known as “His Most Divine All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch” Bartholomew should be the most vocal opponent to this move, but all he can do is mumble some irrelevancies (he wanted to go down as the Patriarch who patronized the Ukrainian schism and, instead, he will go down in history as the Patriarch who did nothing to prevent the Ottomans from seizing one of the holiest sites of the Orthodox world. Truth be told, he probably could not have prevented that (Erdogan’s move is entirely due to upcoming elections in Turkey) – but he sure could have tried a little better. Ditto for the head of the Moscow Patriarchate (and, for that matter, the Russian government) who expressed stuff like concern, or dismay, of some form of condemnation, but who really did nothing to make Erdogan pay for his move.
What the Turks just did is a disgrace, not only for Turkey itself which, yet again, proves that the Ottoman version of Islam is a particularly toxic and dangerous one. It is also a disgrace for the entire Muslim world which, with a few notable exceptions such as Sheikh Imran Hosein, has done nothing to prevent this and, if anything, has approved of this move. Finally, this is a disgrace for the entire Orthodox world as it proves that the entire worldwide Orthodox community has less relevance and importance in the eyes of the Turkish leader than the outcome of local elections. Russia, especially, would have the kind of political muscle needed to inflict all sorts of painful forms of retaliation against Turkey and yet Russia does nothing. This is a sad witness to the extreme weakness of the Orthodox faith in the modern world.
Add to this all the “traditional” sources of instability around Turkey, including the still unsolved (and unsolvable!) Kurdish issue, the tensions between Turkey and Iraq and Iran, Turkish low-key support for anti-Russian factions in the various former Soviet Republics and the constant confrontation with Greece).
Turkey remains one of the most dangerous states on the planet, even if most people remain unaware of this. True, in the recent years Turkey lost a lot of its power, but it still has plenty of formidable assets (including a very strong domestic weapon systems manufacturing capability) which it can use for a vast spectrum of nefarious political and military interventions.

Egypt

Egypt is another country which regularly makes some headlines and then disappears from the public’s radar. Yet, right now, Egypt is faced not with one, but with twopossible wars!
  1. Libya: as I mentioned above, should it come to an open clash between Turkey and Egypt in Libya, there could be a rapid horizontal escalation in which initial military clashes in Libya could turn into clashes over the Eastern Mediterranean and even possible strikes on key military objectives in Turkey and Egypt. The only good news here is that there are a lot of major actors who do not need a shooting war in the Eastern Mediterranean and/or the Middle-East. After all, if it came to a true military confrontation between Turkey and Egypt, then you can be pretty sure that NATO, CENTCOM, Greece, Israel and Russia would all have major concerns. Besides, it is hard to imagine what kind of military “victory” either Turkey or Egypt could hope for. Right now the situation is very tense, but we can hope that all the parties will realize that a negotiated solution, even a temporary one, is preferable to a full-scale war.
  2. Ethiopia: Egypt has a potentially much bigger problem than Libya to deal with: the construction by Ethiopia of the “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam(GERD)” on the Blue Nile river. While nobody really knows what the eventual impact of this dam will be on Sudan and Egypt, is is pretty clear that a civilization built along the Nile river will face a major threat to its way of life if the way the Nile river flows is disturbed in a major way (which this dam will definitely do).
Of the two possible conflicts I mentioned above, it is the second one which has me most worried. At the end of the day, neither Turkey nor Egypt will get to decide what happens in Libya which is mostly a kind of multi-player “chessboard” where “big guys” (US, France, Russia) will eventually decide the outcome. In the case of the dam in Ethiopia, the local actors will probably have a decisive say, especially since both sides consider that this is an existentially important issue for them.
If you look at a map of the region, you will see that the distance between the Egyptian border and the location of the dam on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan is a long one (about 1’200km or 745 miles). Should it come to a military confrontation between the two countries, this distance will pretty much decide the shape of the warfare we shall see: mainly air and missile strikes. The main problem here (for both sides) is that neither side has the kind of air force or missiles which would allow it to effectively strike the other country. This, however, could change very rapidly, especially if Russia does sell 24 of its advanced Su-35 multi-role air superiority fighters to Egypt, and even more so if Russia throws in a few capable air-to-ground strike missiles into the package (the delivery of the first Sukhois appears to be imminent). Then there is this “minor detail” of Sudan being stuck between the two combatants: Khartoum simply cannot look away and pretend like all is well if two of its major neighbors decide to fight each other over Sudanese airspace.
In theory Egypt could also try to mount some attack from the Red Sea, but right now the Egyptian Navy does not pack the kind of punch which would allow it to effectively strike Ethiopia (especially with Eritrea in between the Red Sea and Ethiopia). But that could also change, especially since Egypt agreed to purchase the two Gamal Abdel Nasser (ex-Mistral) class amphibious assault ships and helicopter carriers which, while not ideal, would definitely boost the Egyptian’s command and control capabilities, especially if the Egyptians succeed in deploying AWACS and strike aircraft (rotary or even light fixed wing V/STOL) on these ships. In practice, however, I think that the Egyptians could engage these ships much more effectively in Libya than they would in the Red Sea (especially since these ships are poorly defended against missile strikes).
Finally, not only is the GERD defended by decent air defense systems (along with a few decent, if aging, air force aircraft), a dam is a pretty hard target to disable: it is big, strong, and has a large volume which, by itself, also contributes to the “hardness” against attacks.
So there are reasons to hope that a conflict can be avoided, but it will be very hard to get the two sides to agree to compromises on issues which both sides see as vital to their national security.

The Ukraine

Yes, the Ukraine. Again. This insanity which began with the Euromaidan has not stopped, far from it. In fact, ever since the election of Zelenskii the Ukraine has become something of a madhouse which would be outright hilariously comical if it wasn’t also so tragic and even horrible for millions of Ukrainians. I will spare you all the details, but we can sum up the main development of the past months as “Zelenskii has completely lost control of the country”. But that would not even begin to cover the reality of this situation.
For one thing, the war of words between Trump and Biden over the Ukraine-gate has now “infected” the Ukrainian political scene and each side is now busy with what is known locally as “black PR”: trying to dig up as much dirt against your opponent as possible. Zelenskii is so weak that, amazingly, the previously almost totally discredited Poroshenko has now made a strong comeback and thereby acquired the support of a lot of influential nationalists. The latest incredible (but true!) “informational bomb” was set off by a member of the Ukrainian Rada, Andrei Derkach, who released a recording of Joe Biden and Poroshenko discussing the pros and cons of organizing a terrorist attack in Crimea (see here for details about this amazing story). This makes both Biden and Poroshenko “sponsors of terrorism” (hardly a surprise, but still). Other “juicy” news stories about the Nazi-occupied Banderastan include Zelenskii possibly fathering a kid with an aide and the brutal attacks on the members of a small (but growing) “Sharii” opposition party which the authorities not only ignored, but most likely ordered in the first place. It is not my purpose here to discuss all the toxic intricacies of internal Ukronazi politics, so I will only look at one of the major dangers resulting from this dynamic: there is talk of war with Russia again.
Okay, we have all heard the very same rumors for years now, and yet no real and sustained Ukrainian attack on the LDNR or, even less so, Crimea ever took place (there were constant artillery strikes and diversionary attacks, but those remain below the threshold of open warfare). But what we hear today is a little bit different: an increasing number of Ukrainian and even Polish observers have declared that Russia would attack this summer or in September, possibly using military maneuvers to move forces to the Ukrainian border and attack. Depending on whom you ask, such an attack could come from Belarus and/or from central Russia – some even worry about a Russian amphibious operation against the Ukrainian coastline and cities like Mariupol, Nikolaev, Kherson or Odessa.
The Ukronazis are truly amazing. First they cut off all the electricity and even water from Crimea, and then they declare that Russia will have to invade to retake control of the water supply. The notion that Russia will solve Crimea’s water problem by peaceful and technological means is, apparently, quite unthinkable for the Ukronazi leaders. In the real world, however, Russia has a comprehensive program to comprehensively solve Crimea’s water problems. This program has begun by laying down water pipes, improving of the irrigation system of Crimea, the use of special aircraft to trigger rain and might even include the creation of a desalination plant. The simple truth is that Russia can easily make Crimea completely independent from anything Ukrainian.
And just to make things worse, the head of the Ukrainian Navy (which exists on paper mostly) has now declared that a new Ukrainian missile, the Neptune, could reach as far as Sevastopol. The problem is not the missile itself (it is a modernized version of an old Soviet design, and it is slow and therefore easy to shoot down), but the kind of “mental background noise” that this kind of talk of war creates.
From a purely military point of view, Russia does not even have to move any troops to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces: all Russia needs to do is to use its powerful long-range stand-off weapons and reconnaissance-strike complexes to first decapitate, then disorganize and finally destroy the Ukrainian military. Russia’s superiority in the air, on the water and on land is such that the Ukrainians don’t have a chance in hell to survive such an attack, nevermind defeating Russia. The Ukrainians all know that since, after all, their entire military could not even deal with the (comparatively) minuscule and infinitely weaker LDNR forces (at least when compared to regular Russian forces).
Still, the Ukrainians have one advantage over Russia: while this would be extremely dangerous to try, they must realize that, unlike in the case of their attacks on the Donbass, should they dare to attack Crimea, President Putin would not have any other option than to order a retaliatory strike of some sort. Any Ukrainian attack or strike on Crimea would probably fail with all the missiles intercepted long before they could reach their targets, but even in this case the pressure on Putin to put an end to this would be huge. Which means that it would not be incorrect to say that whoever is in power in Kiev can force Russia to openly intervene. This means that in this specific case the weaker side can have at least some degree of escalation dominance.
Now the Ukraine definitely cannot achieve strategic surprise and is even most unlikely to achieve tactical surprise, but, again, the actual success of any Ukrainian strike on Crimea does not require the designated targets of the strike to be destroyed: all that would be needed, in some plans at least, is the ability to do two things:
  • Force Russia to openly intervene and
  • Choose the time, place and mode of attack most problematic for the Russian side
Finally, I would suggest that we look at this issue from the point of view of the AngloZionist Empire: in many, if not most, ways, the Banderastan the West created in the Ukraine has outlived its utility: the USN won’t get a base in Crimea which is now lost forever (it is now one of the best defended places on the planet), Russia has not openly intervened in the civil war, the Ukronazi forces were comprehensively trounced by the Novorussians and in economic terms, and the Ukraine is nothing but one big black hole with an ever growing event horizon. Which might suggest to some in the US ruling elites that to trigger a losing war against Russia might be the best (and, possibly, only) thing their ugly creation could do for them. Why?
Well, for one thing, such a war will be bloody, even if it is short. Second, since the Russians are exceedingly unlikely to want to occupy any part of what is today the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, this means that even a total military defeat would not necessarily result in a complete disappearance of the current Banderastan. Yes, more regions in the East and the South might try to use this opportunity to rise up and liberate themselves, and should that happen Russia might offer the kind of help she offered the Novorussians, but I don’t think that anybody seriously believes that Russian tanks will be seen on Kiev or, even less so, Lvov (nevermind Warsaw or Riga). So a military loss against Russia would not be a total loss for Banderastan and it might even yield some beneficial dynamics to whatever consolidated Ukronazi-power might come out from such a conflict. Actually, should that happen I fully expect the Ukronazis to declare a kind of jihad to liberate the Moskal’ -occupied Ukraine. This means that the initial bloodbath would be followed by a festering low to medium level military conflict between Russia and the Ukraine which could last a very long time and also be most undesirable for Russia.
During my studies I had the honor and privilege to study with a wonderful Colonel of the Pakistani Army who became a good friend. One day (that was around 1991) I asked my friend what the Pakistani strategy would be during a possible war against India. He replied to me: “look, we all know that India is much stronger and bigger than Pakistan, but what we all also know is that if they attack us we can give them a very bloody nose”. This is exactly what the Ukrainian strategy might be: to give Russia a “bloody nose”. Militarily, this is impossible, of course, but in political terms any open war against the Ukraine would be a disaster for Russia. It would also be a disaster for the Ukraine, but the puppet-masters of the Ukronazis in Kiev don’t care about the people of the Ukraine anymore than they care about the people of Russia: all they want is to give the Russians a big bloody nose.
In summary, here is one possible scenario which might result in a regional catastrophe: whoever is in power in the Ukraine would begin by realizing that the project of an Ukronazi Banderastan has already failed and that neither the EU nor, even less so, the US is willing to continue to toss money into the Ukie black hole. Furthermore, clever Ukie politicians will realize that neither Poroshenko nor Zelensii have “delivered” the expected “goods” to the Empire. Then the East-European US vassal-states (lead by Poland and the Baltic statelets) also realize that EU money is running out and that far from having achieved any real economic progress (nevermind any “miracle”), they are also becoming increasingly irrelevant to their masters in the EU and US. And, believe me, the political leaders of these US vassal-states have realized a long time ago that a war between Russia and the Ukraine would be a fantastic opportunity for them to regain some value in the eyes of their imperial overlords in the EU and US. To people who think like these people do, even an attempted Neptune strike against Sevastopol would be a quick and quite reasonable way to force Putin’s hand.
Lastly, we can now look at the situation in Russia

Russia

One would think that following the massive victory the Kremlin has achieved with the vote on the changes to the Russian Constitution, the political situation in Russia would be idyllic, at least compared to the sinking Titanic of the “collective West”. Alas, this is far from being the case. Here are some of the factors which contribute to a potentially dangerous situation inside Russia.
  1. As I have mentioned in the past, besides the “official” (pretend) opposition in the Duma, there are now two very distinct “non-system” oppositions to Putin: the bad old “liberals” (which I sometimes call the 5th column) and the (relatively new) “pink-nationalist” Putin-haters which I christened, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I admit – as a 6th column (Ruslan Ostashko calls them “emo-Marxists“, and that is a very accurate description too). What is so striking is that while Russian 5th and 6th columnists hate each other, they clearly hate Putin even more. Many of them also hate the Russian people because they don’t “get it” (at least in their opinion) and because time and again the people vote with and for Putin. Needless to say, these “5th and 6th columnists” (let’s call them “5&6c” from now on) declare that the election was stolen, that millions of votes were not counted at all, while others were counted many times. According to these 5&6c types, it is literally unthinkable that Putin would get such a high support therefore the only explanation is that the elections were rigged. While the sum total of these 5&6c types is probably not enough to truly threaten Putin or the Russian society, the Kremlin has to be very careful in how it handles these groups, especially since the condition of the Russian society is clearly deteriorating:
  2. Russia has objective, real, problems which cannot simply be dismissed. Most Russians clearly would prefer a much more social and economically active state. The reality is that the current political system in Russia cares little for the “little man”. The way the Kremlin and the Russian “big business” are enmeshed is distressing to a lot of Russians, and I agree with them. Furthermore, while the western sanctions did a great job preparing Russia for the current crisis, it still remains true that Russia does not operate in such a favorable environment, revenues are down in many sectors, and the COVID19 pandemic has also had a devastating effect on Russian small businesses. And while the issue of the COVID19 virus has not been so hopelessly politicized in Russia has it has in the West, a lot of my contacts report to me that many people feel that the Kremlin and the Moscow authorities have mismanaged the crisis. So while the non-systemic opposition of the 5&6c cannot truly threaten Russia, there are enough of what I would call “toxic and potentially dangerous trends” inside the Russian society which could turn into a much bigger threat should a crisis suddenly erupt (including a crisis triggered by an always possible Ukrainian provocation).
  3. More and more Russians, including Putin-supporters, are getting frustrated with what they perceive as being a lame and frankly flaccid Russian foreign policy. This does not necessarily mean that they disagree with the way Putin deals with the big issues (say Crimea, or Syria or the West’s sabre-rattling), but they get especially frustrated by what they perceive as lame Russian responses against petty provocations. For example, the US Congress and the Trump Administration have continued to produce sanctions and stupid accusations against Russia on a quasi-daily basis, yet Russia is really doing nothing much about that, in spite of the fact that there are many options in her political “toolkit” to really make the US pay for that attitude. Another thing which irritates the Russians is that arrogant, condescending and outright rude manner in which western politicians (and their paid for journalists in Russia) constantly intervene in internal Russian matters without ever being seriously called out for this. Sure, some particularly nasty characters (and organization) have been kicked out of Russia, but not nearly enough to really send a clear message Russia’s enemies.
  4. And, just to make things worse, there are some serious problems between Russia and her supposed allies, specifically Belarus and Kazakhstan. Nothing truly critical has happened yet, but the political situation in Belarus is growing worse by the day (courtesy of, on one hand, the inept policies of Lukashenko and, on the other, a resurgence of Kazakh nationalism, apparently with the approval of the central government). Not only is the destabilization of two major Russian allies a bad thing in itself, it also begs the question of how Putin can deal with, say, Turkey or Poland, when Russia can’t even stabilize the situation in Belarus and Kazakhstan.
To a large degree, I share many of these frustrations too and I agree that it is time for Putin and Russia to show a much more proactive posture towards the (eternally hostile) West.
My problem with the 5th column is that it is composed of rabid russophobes who hate their own nation and who are nothing but willing prostitutes to the AngloZionist Empire. They want Russia to become a kind of “another Poland only further East” or something equally insipid and uninspiring.
My problem with the 6th column is that it hates Putin much more than it loves Russia, which is regularly shows by predicting either a coup, or a revolution, or a popular uprising or any other bloody event which Russia simply cannot afford for two main reasons:
  1. Russia almost destroyed herself twice in just the past century: in 1917 and 1991. Each time, the price paid by the Russian people was absolutely horrendous and the Russian nation simply cannot afford another major internal conflict.
  2. Russia is at war against the Empire, and while this war remains roughly an 80% informational/ideological one, about 15% an economic one and only about 5% a kinetic war, it remains that this is a total, existential, war for survival: either the Empire disappears or Russia will. This is therefore a situation where any action which weakens your state, your country and its leader always comes dangerously close to treason.
Right now the biggest blessing for Russia is that neither the 5th nor the 6th column has managed to produce even a halfway credible political figure who at least appears as marginally capable of offering realistic solutions. A number of 5th columnists have decided to emigrate and leave what they see as “Putin’s Mordor”. Alas, I don’t see any stream of 6th columnists leaving Russia, which objectively makes them a much more useful tool for outfits like the CIA who will not hesitate to infiltrate even a putatively anti-US political movement if this can weaken Russia in general, or Putin personally.
Right now the Russian security services are doing a superb job countering all these threats (including the still very real Wahabi terrorist threat) all at the same time. However, considering the rather unstable and even dangerous international political situation, this could change if all the forces who hate Putin and what they call “Putinism” either join forces or simply strike at the same time.

Conclusion

There are, of course, many other potential flashpoints on the planet, including India, Pakistan and China, the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Korean Peninsula and many others. Thus the above is only a sampling of a much larger list.
The huge changes taking place before our eyes are real, and they are huge. But we should not follow the lead of the corporate media and focus on only one or two “hot” topics, especially not when there are plenty of very real dangers out there. This being said, there is no doubt that what will happen in the next couple of months inside the United States is by far the biggest and most important development out there, one which will shape the future of our planet no matter what actually happens. And I am not referring to the totally symbolic non-choice between Biden and Trump.
I am referring to how the US society will deal with a virulently anti-US coalition of minorities which hate this country and everything, good and bad that it stood for in the past. Right now the US elites are committing national suicide by not only failing to oppose, but also by actively supporting the BLM thugs and everything they stand for: BLM & Co. remind me of Ukronazis whose main expression of national identity is to hate everything Russian – the BLM thugs do the same thing: their entire worldview is pure hatred of the hetero White male and the western civilization; and just as the Ukies regale each other with stories about the “ancient Ukrs” the BLM folks imagine that they will somehow turn the US into a type Wakanda before expelling (or worse) all those who are not willing to hand over their country to roaming gangs of illiterate thugs.
While Russia has to face the potential of internal violence, the United States is already facing a dangerous and violent insurrection which is likely to become much worse as the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic fully explodes. So far, the effects of this crisis have been somewhat tempered by a combination of 1) political denials about the nature of the threat (“oh, nonsense, it is just like the seasonal flu!“) 2) the mass distribution of money (which has only helped temporarily) 3) the existence of a huge financial bubble which will only make matters worse, but which temporarily can create the illusion that things are not nearly as bad as they really are.
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. This is true. It is also true that the collapse of the Empire has now created several vacuums which will be filled by new actors, but there is no guarantee at all that this transition will be peaceful. So while we are watching some very big trees burning, we should not forget that behind these trees there is a big forest which can also burn, possibly creating a much bigger forest fire than the trees we see burning today.

Ukraine’s Toe-hold in Europe

June 26, 2020

Ukraine’s Toe-hold in Europe

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

The open support given by the entire western media and political establishments to the regime now ensconced in Kiev should give cause for concern, but of course it doesn’t. After all it would not do to profess open backing for a staged coup by neo-nazi militants orchestrated and paid for by EU and US through non-government channels. Of course the CIA was involved but only in one of its various front organizations, to wit, the National Endowment for Democracy. This was the prototype ‘colour revolution.’ This process has been exhaustively delineated as follows:

In Ukraine, the demonically violent riots of 2014 were orchestrated by the US; that American agents in both private and public sectors were involved in organizing the “grassroots” campaign designed to destroy what was left of the country are now well known. The same exact script has been played out in Serbia, Georgia, Syria, Iran, Libya, the Gulf states, Turkey (briefly), China, parts of Central Asia and even Armenia. Not all were successful.

In Ukraine, State Department hack Geoffrey Pyatt brought US cash to begin the campaign against the democratically elected President, Yanukovic. Radio Free Europe and the western-controlled Ukrainian media (especially the Kiev Post) began promoting rumours of a “Russian invasion” based upon the obscure issue of Kiev’s desire to join the European Union. George Soros created the “Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre” as both government and private cash went to building a protest movement. The veto of a European Union Association deal was important to the elites in New York, though probably almost totally unknown to Ukrainians, hence, the “spontaneous rebellion” began with that.

The method of public-private manipulation of media, imagery and even language in these cases is well known and several important monographs have been published about it. Yet, over and over again, the organizers of this claim that the “revolutions” are “spontaneous.” over and over again, academics and talking heads – the “instant experts” created by the System – repeat the official line.

In general, the western elite mobilizes urban, privileged elements of the population, uses their own organizers and media personnel, and create riots through the building of local organizations. They are granted cash, equipment, technology, ideology and even leaders with a script to follow. Violence is encouraged and all manner of suitable provocations are provided. A handful in the west point to the fact that a) the trajectory is identical in each case; b) way too many of the protest signs are in English and c) there is no clear ideological mission.

Corporate media then report that this obscure part of the world was run by a “terrorist” that also was a “tyrant.” For the left, the System will say that the government under siege was “conservative” and occasionally “a right-wing military regime.” For the right, they will say that the government in question was “opposed to American interests” or “harbouring terrorists.”

In many cases, hundreds or more are killed. Ostensible and official enemies of the US are financed and armed. A new government takes over that immediately “privatizes” all assets that made that country a target in the first place. Constitutions are rewritten and the penal code revised to ensure no US agent is prosecuted. Afterwards, the government in question is impoverished and without legitimacy. The assets of the state have been liquidated and bought up by western conglomerates based on the “principles of the free market and the rule of law.”

Strange people are seen in cabinet posts having names without much connection with the ethnicity in question. The IMF and World Bank give dire warnings about government policy and yet, give billions that they know will never be paid back or utilized properly. Within a few months, major media begin slowly leaking documents that in fact, the protest were organized by the CIA and that the “revolution” was a failure.

As more time goes by, stories related to this “revolution” nonchalantly speak of the “popular and spontaneous revolution against the tyrant” as if it is obviously true. After several years, almost everyone spouts the original line without criticism, almost with media reports that it was all staged. The American talking head and pseudo-intellectual then carries a conceptual conflict within him that makes any real rebellion against the system psychologically impossible.

This is precisely the nature of the “Colour Revolution” from Tienanmen Square to Kiev.’’ (1)

Thus the situation in Kiev by 2014 was ripe for a colour revolution. But politics in the Ukraine can only be understood by reference to its history and ethnic and cultural make-up – a make-up criss-crossed by lasting and entrenched differences. The country has long been split into the northern and western Ukraine, where Ukrainian is the official and everyday lingua franca, and the more industrialised regions of the east and south where a mixture of Russian speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians reside. Additionally, there has long been Hungarian and Romanian settlement in the west of the country, Transcarpathia and Bessarabia, and a particularly important Polish presence in Galicia, whose unofficial capital, Lviv, was once the Polish city of Lwow. The Russian Orthodox Church is the predominant form of Christianity in the East, – but this has recently broken up as a result of the Ukrainian branch which has seen fit to rebrand itself as the Ukrainian wing of the Orthodox church – generally speaking, however, in the west the Christian tradition tends towards Roman Catholicism.

Politically the Eastern and Southern Oblasts (Regions) which includes the cities and centres of heavy industry, Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhe, Nikolayev, Kherson, Simferopol (Crimea) and Odessa, have tended to tilt towards Russia whilst the western regions have had a more western orientation. This has traditionally been reflected in the electoral division of the country. There is no party which can be considered ‘national’ in this respect, except ironically, the old Communist party, which of course is now banned. The major regional parties have been the Fatherland party of Yulia Tymoshenko (since renamed) and the former head of government, Arseniy Yatsenyuk – now departed – as well as the ultra-nationalists predominantly in the west of the country, and the deposed Victor Yanukovic’s Party of the Regions in the East (now defunct) along with its junior partner in the coalition, the Ukrainian Communist Party.

However, what is new since the coup in February 2014 there has been the emergence, or rather the re-emergence, from the shadows of ultra-nationalist (fascist) parties and movements, with both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary (i.e., military) wings. In the main ‘Svoboda’ or Freedom Party, and the paramilitaries of ‘Right Sector’ (Fuhrer: Dimitry Yarosh) who spearheaded the coup in Kiev; these have been joined or changed their names to inter alia the Radical Party, and Patriots of the Ukraine; this in addition to the punitive right-wing militias, such as the Azov Battalion responsible for numerous atrocities in the Don Bass. It should be added that many of these militias have been integrated into the military and armed police, including the Azov Battalion.

Suffice it to say, however, that these political movements and parties did not emerge from nowhere.

This far-right tradition has been historically very strong in the western Ukraine, an area which was one-time part of the Polish empire but incorporated into the Ukraine by Stalin in 1945. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was first established in 1929 and brought together, war veterans, student fraternities, far-right groups and various other disoriented socially and political flotsam and jetsam under its banner. The OUN took its ideological position from the writings of one, Dymtro Dontsov, who, like Mussolini had been a socialist, and who was instrumental in creating an indigenous Ukrainian fascism based upon the usual mish-mash of writings and theories including Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, and Charles Maurras. Dontsov also translated the works of Hitler and Mussolini into Ukrainian.

The OUN was committed to ethnic purity, and relied on violence, assassination and terrorism, not least against other Ukrainians, to achieve its goal of a totalitarian and homogeneous nation-state. Assorted enemies and impediments to this goal were Communists, Russians, Poles, and of course – Jews. Strongly oriented toward the Axis powers OUN founder Evhen Konovalets (1891-1938) stated that his movement was ‘’waging war against mixed marriages’’, with Poles, Russians and Jews, the latter which he described as ‘’foes of our national rebirth’’. Indeed, rabid anti-Semitism has been a leitmotif in the history of Ukrainian fascism, which we will return to below.

Konovelts himself was assassinated by a KGB hit-man in 1938 after which the movement split into two wings: (OUN-M) under Andrii Melnyk and, more importantly for our purposes (OUN-B) under Stepan Bandera. Both wings committed to a new fascist Europe. Upon the German invasion in June 1941, the OUN-B attempted to establish a Ukrainian satellite state loyal to Nazi Germany. Stepan Lenkavs’kyi the then chief propagandist of the OUN-B ‘government’ advocated the physical destruction of Ukrainian Jewry. OUN-B’s ‘Prime Minister’ Yaroslav Stets’ko, and deputy to Bandera supported, ‘’the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating Jewry to Ukraine, barring their assimilation and the like.’’

During the early days of the rapid German advance into the Soviet Union there were some 140 pogroms in the western Ukraine claiming the lives of between 13000-35000 people (Untermensch, in fascist terminology).

Below is what real anti-semitism looks like. The picture was taken in Lviv (Capital of Banderistan) In June 1941 shortly after the German invasion and during the pogrom which killed in excess of 2000 Jews in the city. The terrified half-dressed Jewish woman is running for her life being pursued by a cudgel-wielding mob of Banderist thugs.

In 1943-1944 OUN-B and its armed wing the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainska povstanska armia – UPA) carried out large scale ethnic cleansing resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands; this was a particularly gruesome affair in Volhynia where some 90000 Poles and thousands of Jews were murdered.

The UPA were part of an ethnic cleansing operation carried out in Nazi Germanoccupied Poland by the North Command in the regions of Volhynia (Reichskommissariat Ukraine) and their South Command in Eastern Galicia (General Government) beginning in March 1943 and lasting until the end of 1944. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. UPA’s methods were particularly savage and resulted in 35,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 25,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, for the total of between 76,000 and 106,000 casualties.

The killings were directly linked with the policies of the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose goal as specified at the Second Conference of the OUN-B on 17–23 February 1943 (or March 1943 according to other sources) was to purge all non-Ukrainians from the future Ukrainian state. Not limiting their activities to the purging of Polish civilians, UPA also wanted to erase all traces of the Polish presence in the area. The violence was endorsed by a significant number of the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy who supported UPA’s nationalist cause. The massacres led to a civil conflict between Polish and Ukrainian forces in the German-occupied territories, with the Polish Home Army in Volhynia responding to the Ukrainian attacks.

The campaign of the UPA continued well into the 1950s until it was virtually wiped out by Soviet forces. It should be remembered in this context that also in play was the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician)  which  was a World War II German military formation made up predominantly of military volunteers with a Ukrainian ethnic background from the area of Galicia  later also with some Slovaks and Czechs. Formed in 1943, it was largely destroyed in the battle of Brody, reformed, and saw action in SlovakiaYugoslavia and Austria before being renamed the first division of the Ukrainian National Army and surrendering to the Western Allies by 10 May 1945. The remnants of this force were given entry into both the US and more particularly Canada where they are a significant political force today.

It should be said that during this early period Bandera himself had been incarcerated by the German authorities up until his release in 1944, since unlike Bandera they were not enamoured of an independent Ukrainian state but wanted total control. Bandera was only released at this late date since the German high command was endeavouring to build up a pro-German Ukrainian quisling military force to hold up the remorseless advance of the Red Army. Also pursuant to this it is also worth noting that during this period the 14th Galizian Waffen SS Division, the military Ukrainian collaborationist formation established by none other than, Heinrich Himmler, which was formed to fight the Soviet forces, and yet another being the Nachtingal (Nightingale) brigade; this unit was integrated into the 14th Galizian in due course. It is also interesting to note, that every year, and up to 2014 a commemoration ceremony including veterans of this unit takes place with a march through Lviv. The flag of this unit is not dissimilar to the auto-car Peugeot logo, the standing lion, and can be seen at ultra-nationalist rallies as well as football matches involving Lviv Karparti FC, particularly fixtures in involving Shaktar Donetsk. There is also the annual torchlight demonstration through Kiev every 2 January in commemoration of Bandera’s birthday by some 20000 of his followers. This parade had all the makings of Nazi triumphalism, all very reminiscent of Leni Riefensthal German filmmaker and Nazi sympathiser. There are also numerous statues of Bandera across Ukraine, and since the 2014 coup even street names bearing the same name. Significantly the UPA was to receive political rehabilitation from the Kiev Junta, with Bandera declared a hero of the Ukraine and the UPA rebranded as ‘freedom fighters.’ One particularly splendid statue of Bandera stands proudly in Lviv, lovingly adorned with flowers.

Other novel attractions the capital of Banderestan – Lviv – include ‘Jewish themed restaurants’ one such is Kryivka (Hideout or Lurking Hole) where guests have a choice of dishes and whose dining walls are decorated with larger than life portraits of Bandera, the toilet with Russian and Jewish anecdotes. At another Jewish themed restaurant guests are offered black hats of the sort worn by Hasidim. The menu lists no prices for the dishes; instead, one is required to haggle over highly inflated prices ‘’in the Jewish fashion’’. Yes, it’s all good clean fun in Lviv. Anti-Semitism also sells. Out of 19 book vendors on the streets of central Lviv, 16 were openly selling anti-Semitic literature. About 70% of the anti-Semitic publications in Ukraine are being published by and educational institution called MUAP (The Inter-Regional Academy of Personnel Management). MAUP is a large, well-connected and increasingly powerful organization funded from outside anti-Semite sources, and also connected to White Supremacist groups in the USA and to David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

(It is perhaps one of the ironies of history that if the Zionists in AIPAC and the Washington neo-con think tanks, and the Labour Party Friends of Israel, were so concerned about anti-Semitism, they might try looking for it in Lviv. They wouldn’t have to search very far.)

Present day neo-Nazi groupings in Ukraine – Svoboda (Freedom) party and Right Sector – have been the direct descendants from the prior ideological cesspool. Heading Svoboda is Oleh Tyahnybok. Although these are separate organizations Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector. The Social-Nationalist party as it was formerly known chose as its logo an amended version of the Wolfsangel, a symbol used by many German Waffen SS divisions on the Eastern front during the war who in 2004 a celebration of the OUN-UPA, stated in 2004, that ‘’they fought against the Muscovite, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.’’ And further that ‘’Ukraine was ruled by a Muscovite-Jewish mafia.’’ Tyahnybok came under pressure from the then President, Yuschenko, to retract his inflammatory statements, which he did, but he then retracted the retraction!

Given the fact that Svoboda was, apart from its stamping grounds in the west, making little national electoral headway, it was essential to clean up its image and deny its Nazi past. But this was always going to be difficult since the members of such groups cannot help the unscripted outbursts and faux pas which they tend to make and which reveals their true colours. For example, following the conviction and sentencing of John Demjanjuk in 2011 to five years in jail for his role as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp, Tyahnybok travelled to Germany and met up with Demjanjuk’s lawyer, presenting the death camp guard as a hero, a victim of persecution ‘’who is fighting for truth’’.

And so it goes on. We can therefore infer that this organization is inveterate fascist. More disturbing Svoboda has links with the so-called Alliance of National European Movements, which includes: Nationaldemokraterna of Sweden, Front Nationale of France, Fiamma Tricolore in Italy, the Hungarian Jobbik and the Belgian National Front. More importantly Svoboda held several ministerial portfolios in the Kiev administration, and Right Sector swaggers around Kiev streets with impunity, and/or are being drafted into a National Guard to deal with the separatist movements in the east, or to beat down anyone who doesn’t conform to their Ayran racial and political ideals.

One would have thought that this mutating revolution in the Ukraine would have drawn attention of the centre-left to the fact that fascism had gained a vital beachhead in Europe, and that the danger signals should be flashing. But not a bit of it; a perusal of the Guardian newspaper quickly reveals that their chief concern has been with a non-existent ‘Russian threat’. One of their reporters – our old friend, Luke Harding -described Right Sector as an ‘’eccentric group of people with unpleasant right-wing views.’’ Priceless! This must rank as the political understatement of the century. In fact, the Guardian was simply reiterating the US-imposed neo-conservative foreign policy. But naturally, this is par for the course. The bald fact of the matter is that there is a de facto alliance between the genuine anti-semites, not only in Ukraine but in the Baltics also, who are now allied with Zionists in the war against the emerging Eurasian bloc.

The Nachtingal (Nightingale) brigade, took part in a three-day massacre of the Jewish population of Lviv from 30 June 1941. Roman Shukhevych was the commander of the Nachtingal and later, in 1943, became commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the “Banderivtsy”) or UPA armed henchmen of the fascist Stepan Bandera, who after the war pretended that they had fought both Nazis and Communists. Members of the division are also accused of having murdered some 800 residents of the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka and 44 civilians in the village of Chłaniów.

Stepan Bandera statue in Lviv

Ukraine today is in a sorry state; the poorest country in Europe only kept alive by an IMF drip-feed. The economic and social ramifications of the 2014 coup will be observed insofar as the full weight of the neo-liberal economic policies has been foisted on the Ukraine, courtesy of the IMF. This was already apparent in the early 80s but the trend accelerated after the coup. The standard IMF/WTO Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) a package of ‘reforms’ and ‘fiscal consolidation’ (I just love these IMF euphemisms) consisted of cuts in government expenditure, accompanied by extensive liberalisation of product and labour markets, together with abandonment of exchange rate control and capital flows. These policies along with political instability have had, among other things, a disastrous effect on population growth. Ukraine’s population was 52 million in 1992 and the decline started in that year. By 2016, this figure had fallen to 42.5 million, its 1960 figure, and was accelerated since the coup of 2014. The current Fertility rate stands at 1.3. Any figure less than 2 will mean a shrinking population. The death rate has also increased, along with mass migration with some 2 million Ukrainian guest workers decamping to Russia and Poland in search of work. This is a slow-motion demographic calamity.

Moreover, none of the economic indicators carry any hope of a long-term revival. The fact of economic disaster as measured in various statistics is, however, unmistakable: 2018 figures indicate per capita income languishing at US$3113.00 (compared to Angola US$3437.00). Debt as a % of GDP minus-2.15 Angola 2.19. Trade Balance for Angola stands at 25.3% Ukraine’s trade balance stands at -7.41% as a percentage of GDP. Unemployment stands at (officially at least) 10%, and in terms of external trade the current account has not been positive since 2003, those glorious days which gave rise to the ‘Orange revolution’. Finally, there are the rating agencies who provide the following ratings for Ukraine’s sovereign bonds– Moody’s B3, S&P B, Fitch B. B means below investment grade if we are being polite, junk bonds if we are not. (3) The currency – the hryvnia, exchange rate against the British pound is £1 = 34, hyrvinia. When I was last in Ukraine (2012) you would get only between 8 and 12 hyrvnia for a £. Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe being pushed down to bottom by the next basket case above, Moldova. Welcome to the Sunflower Republic.

All of this in spite of the IMF’s loans and its unilateral debt forgiveness of the Ukraine’s outstanding sovereign debt to Russia which had become due. In doing this the IMF infringed its own constitution. As Michael Hudson explains:

‘’The IMF broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine: (i) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the “No More Argentinas” rule, adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan to that country). (ii) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions). (iii) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally (iv), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF’s austerity “conditionalities.” Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.’’

This was obviously a political decision made by an organization which is supposed to be politically neutral.

NOTES

(1) Matthew Raphael Johnson – Euro-Maidan – Liberal Capitalism – and the Ukrainian Fiasco – 08.06.2016

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

April 22, 2019

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for Glavnoye with Olga Belova programme on Zvezda network, Moscow, April 21, 2019

http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3622162?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB

Olga Belova: Mr Lavrov, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today. Thank you for your time. We are recording this interview on the eve of the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, so if you would allow me, we will begin with this subject, since it is currently making headlines. Against this backdrop we cannot fail but to recall the events that took place five years ago during the 2014 election in Ukraine. Since then the question of whether Russia had to recognise the outcome of the 2014 election resurfaces from time to time in the public space. What will happen this time around? Does recognising this election make any sense? We understand all too well that Russia has many formal and moral reasons to break up all contacts with the Ukrainian authorities.

Sergey Lavrov: Five years ago when the presidential election was called in Ukraine, it happened in the aftermath of an armed and anti-constitutional government coup that, for some reason, was carried out within a day after the signing of an agreement between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich. Moreover, foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France assumed the role of guarantors under this agreement that was also proactively backed by the US. But the next morning the opposition announced on Maidan Square that they had seized power and had formed a government of victors. This is when they began splitting their people apart. This agreement was signed on February 21, 2014, and if we recall its text, the first paragraph sets forth the need to form a “national unity government.” Instead, they established a government of victors, and started treating everyone else like losers. They put forward multiple requirements that ran counter to the interests of a significant part of people in Ukraine, including minorities such as Russians and Russian speakers. All this brought about serious problems and triggered a referendum in Crimea as a response to the threats made by nationalists to expel Russians from the peninsula and attempts to take over the Supreme Council building by force.

Let me mention one more event. In mid-April, that is before the election was called, but after the referendum in Crimea, Geneva hosted a meeting attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, yours truly, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and then acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshitsa. At this meeting we agreed on a one-page declaration, and its key provision consisted of supporting the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to implement federalisation, that is to decentralise the country with the involvement of all regions. A representative of the new Ukrainian government that came to power in Kiev following a coup signed this document, guaranteeing federalisation with the involvement of all regions of the country.

But this commitment was instantly forgotten. Against this backdrop, when people started to state their intention to run for president, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko was saying on every street corner that he was a “president of peace” and would settle the conflict in a matter of two or three weeks. It is for this reason that Western capitals, Paris and Berlin, urged Russia to refrain from making a statement rejecting the election outcome. We did refrain in order to give them a chance.

In early June 2014, President-elect Petr Poroshenko met with President of France Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, when they all attended celebrations of the allied Normandy landings. The very fact that Vladimir Putin took part in this meeting, proposed by France and Germany, attested to Russia’s commitment to peace in Donbass and protecting the rights of those who were firm in their refusal to accept an armed coup. We proceeded from the premise that Petro Poroshenko was primarily elected for this promise to resolve the problem peacefully. With this in mind, I would refrain from stirring up the past on this particular matter.

By the way, during the Normandy format meetings that followed, Petr Poroshenko proved that he was not a “president of the peace,” and was forced by the developments on the ground to sign the Minsk Agreements. Russia also believed that it was unacceptable for him to consistently fool his people, while also lying to his curators abroad, since they were irritated by Poroshenko “getting out of hand.” I am talking about the Europeans represented within the Normandy Format, namely France and Germany. When the Minsk Agreements were signed everyone let out a sigh of relief, considering that this created a clear path to peace, especially since the UN Security Council approved the Minsk Agreements, thus implementing them into international law. However, in this sphere as well Petr Poroshenko proved to be very apt in dodging responsibility, turning for protection to the US administration which does not encourage Ukraine to abide by the Minsk Agreements. The Europeans found themselves in an awkward situation.

This was a look at the past, but coming back to your question, we have seen electoral programmes released by Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky. We see how they approached the run-off. I have the impression that what matters the most for them at this point is to attract voters by some kind of a constructive agenda in order to secure victory. This is what their efforts are all about. I would rather not draw any final conclusions on what Vladimir Zelensky’s policy will look like if he is elected president, which is a done deal as far as observers are concerned. I would refrain from paying too much attention to declarations coming from his campaign. We have to wait for the second round results when they will have to deal with real things instead of campaign slogans and propaganda. Only then will we understand what this person as president thinks about the millions of his compatriots who speak Russian, love the Russian language and culture and want to live according to their values and the values of the winners in the Great Patriotic War, instead of being guided by values that extoll Roman Shukhevich, Stepan Bandera and other Petlyuras.

Olga Belova: You said we need to wait for the president-elect to take actual steps. Everyone realises that it is imperative to sit down and talk no matter what happens. What should Kiev’s first actions, statements and steps be so that, to use your words, Moscow “gives them another chance” to a peaceful resolution of the situation?

Sergey Lavrov: Most importantly, the new or old government should be able to talk and reach agreements and to respect international law and Ukraine’s international obligations. Such obligations include an international legal instrument which is the UN Security Council resolution, which approved the Minsk Agreements. A direct dialogue between Kiev, on the one hand, and Donetsk and Lugansk, on the other hand, lies at the core of these agreements. This will be the key to success. To reiterate, we heard about the plans to continue the settlement in the election statements, in particular, on the part of Mr Zelensky and his staff, but this time with the involvement of the United States and Great Britain and without direct dialogue with the proclaimed republics − DPR and LPR.

When contenders for a post make such statements, they will then be somehow tied in with such a position in the future. I hope that life will make them realise that there’s no alternative to implementing the Minsk Agreements and, in any case, that there’s no alternative to direct dialogue with the people who represent an enormous part of your nation, if you still consider them to be such, of course.

Olga Belova: We see that so far no one has been talking to them, and there’s no direct dialogue with the republics. Recently, the DPR published the foreign policy concept which shows a certain dualism: on the one hand, there’s a commitment to the Minsk Agreements and, on the other hand, the Republic of Donbass recognises itself as an independent state. What does Moscow think about the dualism of this document? What is your vision of the future of that region following the elections?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see anything unusual here, because these republics proclaimed sovereignty five years ago, in May 2014, responding to what we just talked about, namely, radical nationalists who came out with strong anti-Russian statements and launched an attack on the language, cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities. It started a long time ago. These republics responded by declaring independence. Let’s remind our Western colleagues, if they ever take any interest in these unpleasant facts from recent history, that these republics did not attack the rest of Ukraine. The rest of Ukraine declared them terrorists. This, of course, is a stunning phenomenon in modern diplomacy and politics.

The rest of Ukraine was represented by the putschists who seized power in Kiev and launched an attack on millions of their fellow citizens demanding that they submit to illegal authorities. So, as I understand it, independence was simply reaffirmed in these doctrinal documents adopted in Donbass. But after this independence was declared five years ago in May − returning to what we think about the then elections and the election of Poroshenko solely because he proclaimed that his goal was immediate peace and an immediate agreement on resolving the Donbass problem by way of talks, Russia talked these republics into agreeing to a political process.

Political and diplomatic efforts were interrupted by the military actions of Kiev, which did not respect the truce and ceasefire agreement. There was the August offensive which ended badly for the Ukrainian armed forces and, most importantly, claimed a huge number of human lives, followed by the January offensive in Debaltsevo. Only after receiving a rebuff, did Petr Poroshenko sit down at the negotiating table. That’s how the Minsk Agreements were signed.

I was in Minsk and saw how the leaders of the four countries spent 17 hours at the negotiating table taking short breaks, mostly talking between themselves, and sometimes inviting us as experts to clarify certain fine points. It took considerable effort to convince the leaders of the DPR and LPR who were present in Minsk to give the go-ahead to the Minsk Agreements. We did it. We convinced them to once again demonstrate their willingness, even determination, if you will, to achieve peace with the rest of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the way the current Ukrainian authorities see our efforts is disappointing. Despite provocations, we will push for these agreements to be implemented. We are a country that is capable of reaching agreements.

Olga Belova: That is, if I understood you correctly, Moscow is still capable and willing to continue to influence the leadership of these republics? Are we going to push them to sit down and talk as best we can, or not? I’m asking this because the leaders of the republics have made it clear that they have parted ways with Kiev.

Sergey Lavrov: You said there was a dual decision to reaffirm independence and commitment to the Minsk Agreements. To a certain extent (I will not frame it in terms of a percentage), this is the result of our influence on them and our call for them not to follow the example of the Ukrainian authorities which break down and trample upon their own promises. We will continue to exert this influence. We have long been calling, above all, the Germans and the French, to realise their responsibility for Kiev’s behaviour, because the Minsk Agreements involve, above all, proactive steps on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. The Contact Group is the only format where Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev sit down at one table with the representatives of the OSCE and Russia. It took an inordinate amount of effort to create it, primarily because Mr Poroshenko began to back pedal shortly after the Minsk Agreements had been signed, and refused to maintain direct dialogue with the republics. But we forced our Ukrainian colleagues do that. Although in practical work − the Contact Group meets every month −  and even more often than that the Ukrainian government outwardly sabotages everything that was agreed upon, be it security, separating forces and means, the political process, coordinating the formula for conducting elections or providing this region with a special status in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. There is an open and blatant sabotage. We need to understand how the election results will affect the Ukrainian delegation’s activities in the Contact Group, and what kind of people will be delegated there.

Olga Belova: Indeed, now everything depends on how the presidential election will end, including the situation in the Kerch Strait, which was endlessly brought up in the first part of the campaign, before the first round. How harshly are we ready to respond if another provocation is made, especially considering that NATO has declared its readiness to support Ukrainian warships if they undertake another breakthrough?

Sergey Lavrov: Morally and politically – maybe they will support it. But I do not see a situation where NATO ships will join these adventurers for a military provocation. I do not foresee such a situation, and, considering the information that we have, I have reason to believe that this has already been decided at NATO.

Olga Belova: So all the support they will be getting is just words?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably, as it was the last time, a condemnation, and once again they will come up with some new sanctions. As we have said many times, we have no problem with Ukrainian warships passing from the Black Sea to their ports in the Sea of ​​Azov. The only condition is to comply with the safety requirement for navigation along the Kerch Strait. It is a complex stretch of water, which is quite shallow and doesn’t go in a straight line and requires compulsory pilotage as well as coordination when it comes to the weather conditions. All ships — and there are thousands of them — stop at the entrance to the Kerch Strait, report to the channel operators, pilotage, recommendations, and, depending on the weather forecast, move on to the Sea of ​​Azov, as was done before Ukraine’s warships last November. They passed smoothly without any incidents.

In November 2018, Petr Poroshenko, obviously during the election heat, tried to create a scandal to have reason to appeal to the West again, complaining of Russia harassing him, and insisting on more sanctions. He is better at it than many others. So the warships tried to secretly pass through the Kerch Strait, trespassing into our territorial waters – the part that was Russia’s territorial waters even before the referendum in Crimea. What they did actually boiled down to probing the limits of those who ensure the security of the Kerch Strait and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

I must note that among the numerous arguments our opponents seem to forget is the fact that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea actually implies a so-called unimpeded passage through the territorial waters of a foreign state, including military vessels, subject to several conditions. One of them is the mandatory fulfillment of security requirements, which in this case was grossly violated. The second is that a coastal state cannot allow military ships to maneuver through its territorial waters. That is, you either pass complying with the rules or you violate the Convention. What they did was military maneuvers, trying to hide from our border guards. This much is clear to all without exception. I have no doubt about it.

That we have nothing to hide can be confirmed by a very simple fact.

In mid-December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to allow German specialists to observe the process to better understand what the hitch was and to study the conditions for passing through the Kerch Strait. Vladimir Putin immediately agreed. We reaffirmed the agreement and asked for their names and dates that would suit them. They made a pause, and then suddenly my colleague, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said at a meeting in January when I reminded him of this that they wanted to bring French experts along.

I said that was new, but I was confident that our President would also agree to French specialists being on this study tour. But after some time, the Germans sent us the concept of their visit, which was not a single visit at all but involved establishing a kind of permanent observation mission, which would be associated with the OSCE mission in Donbass, and would also include Ukrainians. All of them would be staying in our territory doing I do not know what.

Olga Belova: You mean they actually wanted to come and stay there?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they certainly wanted to stay. The Germans are usually very punctual and precise people. When Angela Merkel asked Vladimir Putin whether their experts could come and see, he said yes… Apparently, after that, they consulted with their big brothers.

Olga Belova: So they just thought it would be a good reason to enter and station their ships there?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, but this is an absolutely hopeless story. At the same time, I can assure with all responsibility that if the Germans and the French still have an interest in visiting and seeing it firsthand, so as not to rely on the gossip that the Ukrainian side spreads, they are very welcome.

Olga Belova: You believe that Russia will not directly clash with NATO ships in the Kerch Strait because NATO will not have the courage to sail there.

But there is another place where Russian interests clash with those of its Western partners, which is Venezuela. Will Washington decide to stage a military intervention there? What do you think of this? If yes, how far is Russia ready to go in this region? Are we prepared for a direct and tough stand-off in the region that would culminate in a peace enforcement operation against those who don’t want this, provided that all legal formalities are complied with?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t want to bring up this scenario. I am convinced that Washington does not yet completely understand that its line regarding Venezuela has become deadlocked. They believed that the people of Venezuela would rebel against the incumbent government from the very outset, that they would be disappointed with the government’s inability to ensure the normal operation of the socioeconomic sector. Our Western colleagues took care of this: The United States froze the Venezuelan oil company’s accounts, and the United Kingdom impounded the country’s gold reserves. They hoped to stifle Venezuela using economic methods. When the crisis was in its early stage, they also organised humanitarian relief aid deliveries and tried to cross the Venezuelan border. Obviously, that was a very cheap show. Yes, they said all the options were on the table, but they obviously expected a blitzkrieg. However, they admit that no blitzkrieg took place. Indeed, the country faces a very complicated economic situation which was complicated and continued to deteriorate even before all this began. We repeatedly advised the government of Venezuela, at its request, how to launch economic reforms. Quite possibly, someone did not like this, and they also decided to halt this process, so as to prevent the situation from working in favour of the Maduro government. They decided to further stifle Venezuela by economic and financial methods. When the blitzkrieg petered out, when it became clear that the people of Venezuela had their own pride and a feeling of national dignity, when they became obviously insulted by a situation when, speaking from abroad, US Vice President Mike Pence noted that he was appointing Juan Guaido as Acting President, one should be very far from historical experience while hoping that the people of Venezuela would “swallow” this.

Today, when the Americans continue to say that all options are on the table, I don’t doubt the fact that they are assessing the consequences of an audacious military undertaking. It is highly unlikely that anyone in Latin America will support them. To the best of my knowledge, they are counting on one or two countries. I have no doubts, and I know that the Latin Americans have a great feeling of personal dignity. This would pose a challenge to all of them, all the more so as a righteous rejection of such a dictate has been accumulating for several months already, especially when the Americans de-mothballed the Monroe Doctrine and said it was quite appropriate to use this doctrine in the current situation.

On April 17, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States was bringing its own version of freedom to the region. And what version of freedom does the region prefer? Would you like to ask them how they perceive their own freedom?

I hope very much that a line which stipulates talks and which is conducted by Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay and the Caribbean Community will prevail. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro is ready for such talks, and he has repeatedly confirmed this in public. Juan Guaido emphatically and ostentatiously refuses, comprehending Washington’s support and counting on this support alone. It appears that he has copied the bad example of President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko who also behaved in the same way with regard to the need for conducting a national dialogue that would involve all political forces, and he hoped that Washington would shield him whatever the situation.

Olga Belova: Washington says it is bringing freedom to the region. But what is it that we are bringing to the region?

Sergey Lavrov: We want international law to be respected in the region as well as in the world at large. This means that states build their relations via dialogue and a balance of interests takes shape. This also means that we listen to each other and want to negotiate mutually beneficial security, economic and humanitarian projects as well as projects in any other spheres, where countries and peoples operate. Our relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) rest precisely on this basis. We are finalising talks with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR). There is an agreement with the Central American Integration System (CAIS) and a number of other sub-regional organisations.

We have even-handed and good relations with practically all the Latin American countries. We don’t force anyone to do things we would like to get as unilateral advantages. The entire US policy towards Russia comes down to the US ambassador in any country visiting, with envious regularity, government agencies and demanding that they don’t receive Russian delegations, nor send delegations to Russia, nor trade with Russia, nor buy anything from Russia, particularly military products, and the like.

You can’t conceal information in today’s world. We learn this the moment these “visits” occur, the more so that the Americans are not particularly hiding the fact. They publicly say: Don’t communicate with Russia. It is Russia along with Iran and Cuba that are to blame for what is going on in Venezuela. They demand that not a single Russian soldier be found in Venezuela because the US wants it this way: no one located outside of the Western Hemisphere has the right to be there at all. Our explanation that the Russian military are performing contractual obligations servicing military equipment that was supplied on fully legitimate terms way back in the 2000s are simply disregarded. The fact that the US military and other NATO personnel – Britons and Canadians – have filled Ukraine is not mentioned. It looks like they proceed from logic suggested by the saying “What is allowed to Jupiter, is not allowed to the bull.” This is rotten logic, very much so, and it will not help our US colleagues. I am quite hopeful that they will come to understand this. Yes, within some historically very brief period preceding the next electoral cycles in the US, they are likely to reap certain benefits because they are brazenly putting pressure on countries that are unable to resist them. But in the long term, increasingly more countries will proceed from the assumption that America is just an unreliable and impolite partner that is abusing its influence in the world. The UN Charter insists on sovereign equality of states. We build our relations precisely in this way.

I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that the United States has recently added a frontal attack on Orthodox Christianity to the arsenal of its policy towards Russia. Given that the Russian Orthodox Church was a world Orthodoxy leader, the crazy gamble involving the conferral of autocephality on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known today as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a gamble undertaken by the Istanbul Patriarch Bartholomew, has been – we have enough facts to claim this – inspired and supported by Washington. Today Washington is engaged in tough diplomatic action as it works with other Orthodox Churches that have refused to support the Istanbul Patriarch’s self-willed decision. Its aim is to somehow make them recognise what has happened. This unceremonious and gross interference in church affairs is at odds with all diplomatic norms and international law in general. And this is deplorable.

We would like the United States to be a decent member of the world community. We are open to dialogue but their approach to relations is highly utilitarian and selfish.

They suggest that we and the Chinese cooperate with them when it comes to Afghanistan and North Korea because they are unable to operate successfully on their own there. And we accept this because a settlement in Afghanistan, on the Korean Peninsula and in Syria, on which we can communicate usefully, is also in our interests. We don’t dig in our heels and say that we will not negotiate on these issues if they don’t want to discuss other ones. Our position is more pragmatic. Russia is ready to work with all influential parties who see eye to eye with us and can help to achieve a settlement.

But generally their policy towards Russia is based solely on the wish to make us accept their unilateral domination and renounce international law. This is deplorable and cannot last ad infinitum. The Americans will be unable to sustain this course for long. They are antagonising a huge number of countries. So, it is in their best interests to come back to square one and start talking to all countries respectfully. Currently, they are doing this arrogantly, something that cannot help their interests.    

Olga Belova: We do need to talk, but so far talking to these Western partners of ours has been quite challenging. There is a saying: Those who do not want to talk with Sergey Lavrov will have to deal with Sergey Shoigu. This echoes what you have been saying. In your opinion, who is the main guardian of peace now, the military or the diplomats? What enables Russia to maintain parity: state-of-the-art armaments or the power of words? Who has priority at present?

Sergey Lavrov: When the Soviet Union was being dissolved, pro-democracy forces both here in Russia and in the West were ecstatic. There was a theory whereby the factor of strength in international relations was no longer relevant now that the bipolar world order was no more, the Cold War became a thing of the past, ideological differences faded away and we all came together on a strong democratic footing. This euphoric state persisted for several years. The situation was far from rosy of course, but as you may remember, in the 1990s Russia was young and proactive in its commitment to working with the US and NATO, all but deciding to join the alliance. However, disillusionment came very quickly. It dawned on everyone that behind the veil of these beautiful words the West meant only one thing: Russia was to give up on using the factor of strength in its policy, while the West would continue relying on it. Why was NATO still around after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved? How come we did not come together within the OSCE to transform it into a pan-European, Euro-Atlantic organisation without any western or eastern variants in order to address all questions without exception based on consensus? It did not happen. Of course, the plan they nurtured was to use Russia’s weakness in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to achieve an overwhelming military and strategic advantage.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this on numerous occasions. It became clear to us that our positive attitude towards the West was not reciprocal. The West continued to push NATO further east in violation of all possible promises, moving its military infrastructure to our borders, and there was no end in sight, especially when the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty. At this point, everything was clear. Decisions were taken, paving the way to the development of the weapons the President presented during his address last year to the Federal Assembly. Of course, it is highly regrettable that in today’s world no one will talk to you, unless you have a strong army and cutting-edge weapons.

Olga Belova: Has it become easier to talk?

Sergey Lavrov: When I was appointed to this post, the situation was already beginning to change. However, I would not say that talking was a challenge before, and that now things are easier. Unfortunately, the US, as our main partner, labelled Russia its “high-priority adversary,” as you have said. Later the US backtracked, and propelled China to this position. Later Russia was again on the list, and after that we were accompanied by China and Iran. They want to set their policy straight. They want to be in total control, but have yet to understand how this can be done. Sanctions work in some cases, but definitely not with Russia. They will not work with other countries that respect their history and identity.

We have no problems talking with the Europeans when it comes to relations with each specific country. There are challenges in our dialogue with NATO, since the US decided to convene meetings of the Russia-NATO Council with the sole purpose of lecturing us on Ukraine and other matters or criticising us for allegedly violating and dismantling the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. We do not intend to attend any meetings of this kind in the future. If they want to have a serious conversation, they have to convene a Russia-NATO Council meeting at the military level. The outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, General Curtis Scaparrotti, recently voiced regret over the lack of military-to-military interaction with Russia that existed even during the Cold War. Better late than never. Let us hope that his successor in this position is receptive to this advice. This is what we hope for.

We have a very good dialogue with each country of the European Union. Yes, we sometimes happen to disagree. We have problems with the Baltic countries, with Poland, but we are ready to talk about them. Especially because the Baltic states are our neighbours, and we have good trade and investment cooperation in business. There are also security issues, because NATO is pushing its units into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It is too close to our borders. At the same time, NATO is moving away from implementing the understandings we reached following the initiative of President of Finland Sauli Niinisto concerning flight safety over the Baltic. We responded to it; our military proposed ideas that would help allay concerns. It is possible to talk with everyone. On a bilateral basis, even the Baltic countries show interest: President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid has visited Moscow. We are talking in a neighbourly way about what we can do so that people can live comfortably and there would be no security concerns. But the collective platforms – NATO and the EU – are dominated by mutual responsibility: the Russophobic minority in the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, punishing us for supporting the will of the people of Crimea. This position of the European Union is now extended every six months, and no one can do anything, although individually, they assure us that the majority already understands that this is a dead end and something needs to be done. We are patient people, but as long as the EU as an organisation is not ready to restore all the mechanisms of our strategic partnership – we used to have summits twice a year, a ministerial council that oversaw more than 20 sectoral dialogues, four common spaces … All that was frozen because someone decided to try to “punish” us. Funny, honestly.

We are always open to honest, equal and respectful dialogue both through the military and through diplomatic channels. We have a very good tradition with a number of countries, in particular, with Italy and Japan, the 2 + 2 format, when Sergey Shoigu and I meet with our colleagues, the four of us. This is a very interesting format. It enables us to consider security issues through the prism of diplomacy and vice versa – purely military issues in foreign policy. We had such formats with the Americans and the British – but they froze them on their own initiative. But with the Italians and the Japanese, we continue these processes.

Olga Belova: I seem to understand why they froze them. Because when you two come to the negotiations, it’s simply impossible to resist you in such a duo.

Sergey Lavrov: Oh, don’t say that. We are modest people. Modest and polite.

Olga Belova: You’re modest and polite – but are you ready to give everyone a second chance, as with Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: Some do not need to be given a chance – they already rely on their national interests, not on what some foreign brother tells them. But if someone digs in their heels and expects an apology from us – well, we have nothing to apologise for. Our actions are guided by international law, and the UN Charter. We respect the right of any nation to determine its own future. This also applies to the rights of national minorities, in Crimea or anywhere else. We are always ready for dialogue.

“THEY JUST WANT ME IN PRISON”: MINT PRESS CONTRIBUTOR EVA BARTLETT INTERVIEWS JAILED UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST KIRILL VYSHINSKY

Russian-journalist-Ukraine_edited-1

The Ukraine courts are still dependent on political authorities, and the special service is used to carry out political schemes and to fight inconvenient points of view and dissent, rather than to protect national security.” — Imprisoned Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky tells Eva Bartlett.

 –by Eva Bartlett, February 25th, 2019, Mint Press News

KHERSON, UKRAINE (Interview) — Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky has been imprisoned by Ukraine since his May 2018 arrest on yet unproven allegations of “high treason” and of conducting an “information war” against Ukraine in his role as chief editor of RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency.

To date, Vyshinsky has not been allowed a trial, the Ukrainian authorities instead repeatedly prolonging his pre-trial detention and delaying his right to justice.

In November, 2018, I spoke with journalist Vladimir Rodzianko about the case of Kirill Vyshinsky. In our interview, Rodzianko explained Vyshinsky’s May 2018 arrest, Vyshinsky’s work as an editor, the absurdities of Ukraine’s accusations against Vyshinsky, and the lack of outcry on his imprisonment.

Through intermediaries, I was later able to interview the imprisoned journalist, via email. While his replies came at the end of 2018, my intermediaries just recently were able to provide a translated transcript of Vyshinsky’s words.

More recently, I went to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky’s defense lawyer, Mr. Andriy Domanskyy. That interview will be published in the near future. While conducting the interview with Mr. Domanskyy on February 19, he received a phone call from the Kherson Court informing him that during the February 21 pleading, the court would limit the time during which Vyshinsky and Domanskyy could read the case files–case files amounting to 31 volumes.

Below is my correspondence with Kirill Vyshinsky.

EB: What do you believe was the motivation for the Ukrainian authorities to arrest and detain you?

KV: My detention and arrest represent an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year. How? First, my arrest was used to stoke another scandal involving a story about “terrible Russian propaganda.” I’m a journalist, a citizen of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and my arrest can be explained as part of the fight against “Russian propaganda.”

Second, from the very first hours of my detention, without a trial and even before pre-trial restrictions were set for me, high-ranking Ukrainian politicians started talking about the need to swap me for a Ukrainian convicted in the Russian Federation. Swaps are a favorite PR topic of the current Ukrainian government, which, in the past five years, has been unable to accomplish anything to benefit the country’s economy, achieve peace in Ukraine, or resolve the civil conflict in Donbass. This government did nothing to improve the well-being and safety of its citizens, so it was looking for other ways to score electoral points. Anti-Russian hysteria and PR around a prisoner swap is one such way.

EB: Had the Ukrainian authorities harassed you prior to May 2018?

KV: Nothing happened before May 2018, this is what amazes me! Accusations
against me in the case investigated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) are connected with posts on the website that I run dating back to the spring of 2014.
The posts were made in the spring of 2014. According to the SBU, they represented a threat to the national security of Ukraine, but they remembered them only in 2018! And this is despite the fact that the SBU and Ukraine’s Ministry of Press and Information (another supervisory authority) have been regularly publishing lists of websites that were a “threat to national information security,” while my website was never listed!!

And then, in May 2018, I was arrested.

EB: The authorities accuse you of “treason”. How would you counter this? What had you been covering in Ukraine?

KV: I believe that accusing me of treason is false and absurd. None of the posts they are using to incriminate me are under my byline. These texts were submitted by our contributors, who shared their point of view on the developments in Ukraine in the spring of 2014, when the referendum was held in Crimea, and everything was just getting started in Donbass. All these materials are from the Opinion and Point of View sections, and each of them is followed by a disclaimer that “the author’s views do not necessarily represent those of the editorial board.”

From the vast number of texts that were published in the spring of 2014, the SBU picked only about 15 that they deemed “treasonous.” They simply ignored other texts with other views posted on our website and accuse me of conducting “special operations.” Again, they accuse me of conducting an “information war” for the mere fact that we posted a variety of opinions on our website. What does the fact that I impartially let people speak in support of Maidan or against it have to do with special operations?

As for the events that I covered, ours is a news website, and we post many texts on social and political issues. None of the texts that are included in the SBU files were written by me. I’m accused of providing an opportunity to speak about the situation in the country to people whose opinion is inconvenient for official Kiev. That’s all there is to it.

EB: How did your coverage of the proposed autocephaly for a ‘national Ukrainian church’ influence your detention?

KV: This is the most absurd accusation! This is the only episode from 2018. We posted a news piece on our website, in which Ukrainian political scientist Dmitry Korneychuk expressed skepticism about the possibility of granting autocephaly [a form of self-governance exceeding basic autonomy] to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The same news piece included the point of view of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has argued for the need for autocephaly!! It was a classic piece of journalism providing two points of view, for and against, where the reader has to decide which one is more credible.

However, the SBU believed that posting this material was part of my personal war against the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church!! I read this text out more than once in court. In it, the view “against” autocephaly takes up 11 lines, whereas the case “for” autocephaly is laid out in 17 lines, and I’m being accused of conducting a special operation against Ukrainian autocephaly!

EB: How have you been treated in prison? Do you have access to doctors? How has your health been since in detention? Are you allowed visitors and if so, under what conditions?

KV: I consider the prison conditions to be tolerable by Ukrainian standards, although access to medical care is quite limited. The prison medical unit was downsized, and I had to wait for a specialist doctor appointment for months. To alleviate acute neuralgia pain, I was given …diphenhydramine! It’s like treating acute heart pain with vitamin C. It won’t make things worse, but it doesn’t do much to help, either.

I feel pretty good right now, but this is definitely not due to the prison medicine but to the efforts of my lawyers and the medications they passed me. Once a month, my father comes to see me. We talk through a phone, separated by a glass partition.

EB: How many times has your trial been delayed? What were the reasons given for the delay? Do you feel that you will be given a fair trial?

KV: The issue is not about adjourned hearings, but the fact that the SBU keeps extending the investigation all the time, citing the need to conduct some kind of expert analysis in addition to the one that is already filed in the case. That is why I have been in jail for seven months now. The charges are absurd, the evidence does not include any text that was written by me, but the SBU is acting upon a political order issued by the Ukrainian authorities, which is to keep me in prison while the authorities try to net some political dividends from my arrest. It has nothing to do with justice. They just want me in prison.

EB: Have any international bodies supporting journalists, or any international human rights organizations, been in contact with you about your imprisonment?

KV: Yes, the UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Red Cross office in Ukraine visited me. Representatives of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] mission regularly attend my court hearings in order to stay up to date on my case. Several international journalism organizations — such as the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Press Club Brussels Europe — my colleagues from Russia, and many friends spoke in my support, and I thank everyone so much! I am counting, primarily, on moral support and the ability to get as much information out about my actual case as possible, as opposed to what is published in the Ukrainian media at the behest of the SBU.

EB: Do you have any message you’d like to convey about this entire ordeal?

KV: My main takeaway from the past six months is huge disappointment in the level of political power in Ukraine and the state of its judicial system. Despite declarations about Ukraine’s “European choice,” the courts are still dependent on political authorities, and the special service is used to carry out political schemes and to fight inconvenient points of view and dissent, rather than to protect national security.

Kirill Vyshinsky
December 26, 2018, Kherson Detention Center
See also:

Vladimir Rodzianko On Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, Detained in Ukraine

Media Ignores the Plight of Kirill Vyshinsky: A Russian Journalist Imprisoned Without Trial in Ukraine

Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda

December 19, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, December 17, 2018

 

Question: Mr Lavrov, we met with you in the same format one and a half year ago.

We began by stating that the foreign policy situation surrounding Russia at the time was growing alarming. But you assured us that there would be no war because the Russian leaders were absolutely against it. Our partners, as you said, were certainly not interested in it either. Now, one and a half year later, we can see no improvements. On the contrary, things are growing increasingly alarming. Some of our listeners even feel scared. Others compare the current situation with the late 1930s. One of the readers even asks: “Please be honest and say what we should expect? Will we be attacked?”

Sergey Lavrov: There are comparisons that go farther back into history. Both in this country and elsewhere, there are figures who predict that a situation will arise resembling that on the eve of World War I. They are referring to the pent-up antagonisms existing in Europe, including, by the way, in the Balkans. But it is my strong, firm conviction that the politicians in the key countries cannot allow a big war to happen. The public opinion and the nations themselves will not let them. I hope that the parliaments in each Western country will also display maximal responsibility.

But I absolutely agree that tensions are being fomented in an unprecedented way. We see international agreements collapsing. Not so long ago, the United States unilaterally disrupted the ABM Treaty. We had to adopt measures that would prevent this extremely negative event from undermining strategic stability. Next in line is the INF Treaty, which Washington believes to be outmoded, while accusing us of violating it. In so doing, they are hinting in no uncertain terms that they would like to extend the restriction identical to that assumed by the USSR and the United States to China and a number of other countries, including North Korea and Iran.

We are categorically against this initiative. We are in favour of keeping the INF Treaty. The entire international community has repeatedly recognised it as a cornerstone of international security and strategic stability. Today at the UN, we will make a second attempt to submit a General Assembly resolution in support of preserving this Treaty.

Apart from that, we have presented the US with our concerns regarding how it implements this Treaty. These concerns are based on concrete facts and developments in the military technical sphere, specifically the deployment of a US military base in Romania and deployment plans for Poland. We hear statements by our US colleagues that the only way to save the Treaty is to destroy the 9M729 missile, which Russia has allegedly developed with a range exceeding the limit imposed by the Treaty. In response, Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu, following similar steps at the expert level, has officially suggested that he and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis meet and start a professional discussion. The US did not even reply or at least formally acknowledge the receipt of the invitation. Possibly, if they had done this, they would have had to explain why they are evading a professional discussion and continue to act in the notorious “highly likely” style, as though wishing to say that what remains for us is to repent because we are allegedly to blame for everything.

While we are on this subject, I would like to say this. I have no doubt that US President Donald Trump was sincere when he said during his election campaign that he wanted good relations with the Russian Federation. Regrettably, the consequences of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton have caused a tsunami in US domestic political life, primarily because the so-called system elites have felt uncomfortable. They saw the current developments as something that was putting power within reach of ordinary voters. Since then, no one has ever corroborated with facts the repeated charges of Russian meddling in the US elections, hacker attacks on the Democratic Party and other US agencies, etc.

Let me note that this Russophobia, as we are convinced, is to a decisive degree linked to the internal political infighting [in the US]. The United States, no matter who would advocate good relations with Russia, sees us as a rival as it does China. It is not accidental that for the lack of facts proving our “sins” against US democracy, the Russophobic campaign has brought no results whatsoever.

In recent days, the US propagandists have pitched in at China. In their view, China is already the “chief hacker” undermining the mainstay of US society. It is regrettable that the interests of the international community, global strategic stability and international security are being sacrificed for the sake of domestic political squabbles. But we will always be ready for dialogue. Even under these circumstances, we never refuse to take part in a professional discussion in areas where our partners are prepared to consider the existing threats and problems in an equal and honest manner.

After a long break, yet another round of talks on fighting terrorism has been held. Our security services are in contact on a number of other issues, including Syrian settlement, the North Korean nuclear problem and Afghanistan. We maintain regular enough contacts, even though we are not always on the same page.

Question: They write, with such friends, who needs enemies?

Sergey Lavrov: We have this proverb in Russian.

Question: When we mentioned the growing tension in the world, we actually meant Ukraine. The Kerch Strait incident is going too far. We also had in mind Donbass, where almost every day they are expecting an attack. Why do we compare poorly to Ukraine, according to the opinion of the world community?

Ukraine has assumed a clear ideological position: Russia confronts us, so we fight Russia, defending ourselves, and so on. We – Russia – are declared the enemy. Soon our church, our priests may become great martyrs, because we do not know what will happen to them. Some get imprisoned, and criminal cases are brought against them. Then, there might be a religious war, we have already gone this far. With the situation so aggravated, we still hold a sluggish, relaxed position, when Ukraine has openly declared us an enemy, and introduced martial law. Why don’t we declare Ukraine a Nazi regime? We have a lot of evidence: the new law on the Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army recognising Hitler’s rabble as heroes. This has already been proven. Why do we not explicitly declare that Nazism is a rabid dog one doesn’t talk to, but shoots? This would give us a moral trump card in the global community. This would not be a conflict with Ukraine, which has declared us an enemy and has already declared martial law, but a fight against the Nazi regime. The Ukrainian people are not our enemy. The enemy is the Nazi regime. Why not declare it directly?

We are putting our diplomats who remain there at risk (our readers write about this). Why not withdraw the Embassy from that country?

Many people ask us when Russia will recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.

Sergey Lavrov: We are not at war with the Ukrainian regime, which has all the features of the Nazi and neo-Nazi. The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine who live in Donbass are fighting it.

Question: Then maybe we should break off the relations with them? How can we have a relationship with the Nazi regime?

Sergey Lavrov: We have relations with the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian state is much more important for us than the regime that came to power thanks to the West betraying all norms of international law and international behaviour.

The Ukrainian people have nothing to do with it. The overwhelming majority, I am sure, wants peace in the country, wants to get rid of this shameful regime and return to normal relations with the Russian Federation. For that, the internal problems of Ukraine will have to be resolved, of course. They are much wider, and much deeper than just the DPR and the LPR. As a reminder, it all happened because the West has committed criminal connivance, I should say. Back in February 2014, the European Union, through the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland, and France, guaranteed an agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. The next morning, the opposition destroyed that agreement. Neither France, nor Germany, nor Poland, nor the United States, which did not sign the document, but actively supported it, lifted a finger. They did not even apologise to those who had hoped that the agreement would lead to a peaceful settlement.

Three days later, Dmitry Yarosh who led all the military operations on the Maidan, publicly stated (it was his official statement and is still available) that “Russians should not be in Crimea, because they will never glorify Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevych and will never think in Ukrainian.” Therefore, he said, Russians in Crimea “must either be destroyed or expelled.” After that, unrest began among the Crimean people. When Yarosh later tried to organise an attack on the Supreme Council, it erupted in a protest, which led to a referendum and eventually to the decision to return Crimea to the Russian Federation.

Now we are obliged to fulfill the Minsk Agreements.

Question: They collapsed long ago. You spoke about this 18 months ago. Nobody remembers that now, except Donbass.

If you come to the village of Zaitsevo, where every household has buried someone, and if you mention the Minsk Agreements, I don’t know what they will do to you. They honour them, and the fact that they are being killed on a daily basis – is that Minsk Agreements as well?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements, and I also said that back in 2016. The UN Charter has also been violated many times, and it has also malfunctioned on many occasions. But we must not give in to panic. Are you suggesting that we recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics?

Question: Yes, of course.

Sergey Lavrov: And then what?

Question: After that, we would defend our territory, recognised by us, and we would help our fraternal peoples.

Sergey Lavrov: Do you want to lose the rest of Ukraine? Do you want to leave it at the mercy of the Nazis?

Question: As I see it, we should go to war against the Nazi regime because they declared martial law against us, they have called us enemies, and they attack our ships.

Sergey Lavrov: We will not go to war against Ukraine, I can promise you that.

Question: What should be done about the church?

Sergey Lavrov: You suggest recognising the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and declaring war (I don’t know how you imagine that Russia would attack Ukraine). That would just amount to a nervous breakdown and weakness. If we want to preserve Ukraine as a normal, adequate and neutral country, we must ensure that people living in Ukraine have a comfortable life. I disagree with your position if you want the rest of Ukraine to celebrate the creation of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as well as the birthdays of Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera, rather than May 9, as their national holidays. The Minsk Agreements formalise the principle of Ukraine’s decentralisation and the use of the Russian language where Russian-speaking people want to speak it. Today, this regime is moving to wreck its own constitution, which guarantees the rights of the Russian language, as well as its international obligations; but this does not mean that we must abandon all Ukrainians who are governed by this regime to their own devices.

Question: Why don’t we officially recognise it as a Nazi regime, and why don’t we say that we will not have any dealings with it because it is impossible to have dealings with Hitler?

Sergey Lavrov: This is an appealing position. Somewhere in the village of Zaitsevo people will probably rejoice for a week if we now sever all relations with this regime. And what will happen next? After that, you will need to explain why progressive and civilised humankind lost Ukraine.

We want to keep it. Today, we have the right under international law to demand this from Ukraine and, most importantly, from the West, which now controls Ukraine.

Question: What do you think of the OSCE’s work in that region? Its representatives are coming here while in fact working against us, spying against the Donbass defenders and communicating their information to Kiev. After the OSCE visits a town or a village, they become subject to strikes. It is a known fact. The OSCE is never on our side.

Sergey Lavrov: First of all, it is not true that the OSCE brings shells to their targets. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is indeed under very serious pressure – mainly from pro-Western Ukrainians; but the mission is also susceptible to our influence and is gradually making steps in the right direction, although it takes a while to be pushed first. I will give you an example. We have been asking the SMM to stop writing such things in their reports as “this week, so many strikes took place, so many civilian facilities were destroyed, there were so many civilian casualties”, but to specify from which side of the contact line [the strikes came], which victims and what kind of destruction. A year ago, with great difficulty, we managed to get the OSCE to write its first report on this matter which said that the eastern side of the contact line – where the self-defence forces are living and defending themselves – account for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties and destruction in the civilian sector.

Ukraine tried hard to stop this report, to stop it from being published. But it failed. The OSCE eventually did what it was supposed to do and the required statistics became publicly available.

We have one more concern regarding our Western partners (who, I believe, discredited themselves in this Ukrainian story starting in February 2014, when they failed to compel the opposition to fulfil the agreement with the government). This, in fact, has to do with the media. You, for example, go to Donbass. Our television crews are working at the contact line 24/7 to show the frontline from the perspective of the self-defence forces. When our Western partners claim that the self-defence forces are to blame for all the clashes and attacks, that they provoke them, we show them our journalists’ work, which is always available on air and is broadcast repeatedly on the news. We ask them: if they are so sure that the Ukrainian government is acting in the right way and they want to show the truth to international audiences, then why are there no Western journalists working on the western side of the contact line the same hours as our journalists? There were a couple of cases when, I think, BBC reporters travelled there for a few days and, by the way, filmed a rather objective report (perhaps this is why this practice was stopped).

They can’t wait for us to break off the relationship with Ukraine and withdraw from the Minsk Agreements. Just like after the coup of February 21, 2014, they will wash their hands of them and say, “so it died” – meaning they are not bound by anything. It will be a huge mistake.

Question: If President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko now sends troops to Donbass or warships to break through the Kerch Strait, what will we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I am sure that there will be provocations. The day before yesterday we heard Petr Poroshenko speak at a show called Unification Council for Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Actually, he has never stuck to the diplomatic language before, but this time he crossed all lines imaginable and unimaginable. I have never heard such rudeness from a leader who considers himself a politician. He seemed to actually lose control a few times. Apparently, something is happening to him. But this is not my problem.

Commenting on the martial law he wanted to introduce for 60 days, then 30, first across the country, then only in Russian-speaking areas, where he has a very low popularity rating (it is low enough everywhere, but there he is not popular at all, and does not even enjoy minimum understanding), Poroshenko said they would not extend martial law unless there are armed provocations along the contact line in Donbass or, as he put it, “on the administrative border” with Crimea.

The 30-day martial law expires on December 25. We have information (official Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has mentioned this more than once) that Ukraine has concentrated around 12,000 troops and a large amount of equipment on the contact line. American, British and, apparently, other instructors are actively helping them. An American drone regularly patrols the area. We have reported this. According to additional information that we tend to believe, in the last ten days of December, President Poroshenko is planning an armed provocation on the border with the Russian Federation – Crimea.

He will get a response. He won’t find it funny, I can assure you.

This is our country, our border, and we will not allow him to try in any way to defend “his interests” as he sees them and violate those rights that the Crimeans have defended in full accordance with international law. Moreover, according to our information, he is discussing this provocation on the border with Crimea with his Western curators and “trustees.”

According to our data, which seem credible, he is advised to maintain low-intensity hostilities to support the ongoing outcry in the propaganda space about “Russians attacking Ukraine” and “Russians need to be further sanctioned,” but in no case should military operations be allowed to reach a phase to elicit a full-blown response. Nasty, petty provocation. Our respective services take all necessary measures to prevent such excesses from happening.

Question: I would like to talk about Russian-US relations again. Mr Poroshenko is behaving boorishly, but I think he is emulating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made unacceptable comments about the Russian Government after our bombers arrived in Venezuela, telling us how we must spend public funds.

As for President Donald Trump, he doesn’t seem to know his own mind. You said he was really willing to meet with President Vladimir Putin. He said when boarding the plane for the G20 summit that he was looking forward to a face-to-face with President Putin. But when he disembarked in Argentina several hours later, he said he had called off the meeting. He did an about-face, as the saying goes. Maybe they really don’t want to conduct a constructive dialogue with us?

Sergey Lavrov: They are extremely pragmatic people. They want to talk when this can benefit them, especially now that the business mentality is taking a hold in US foreign policy.

This is a very short-sighted position, because it can help you get something today but will undermine your long-term positions and harm your strategic interests. The Americans live in two-year cycles. Every two years they need to show everyone that they are tough guys who can do what others can’t, and that everyone else is soft.

Look at the unilateral sanctions that have been imposed not only on Russia or China but also on some of the US allies. The United States continues to threaten others with sanctions and imposes new sanctions simply for violating a US law that prohibits trade with Iran. There are no such laws in France or Germany. But when their companies engage in business that is perfectly legal from the viewpoint of their own legislation or international law, they are forced to pay billions of dollars in a deal that would allow them to work in the United States. This is racketeering.

There are also sanctions that concern settlements in US dollars. In  the near future before the next elections, these sanctions may benefit US companies, weaken their rivals and increase employment in the United States, but in the long run they will undermine trust in the dollar. This will harm the fundamental interests of the US because many countries are thinking of reducing their dependence on the dollar.

Question: Do the Americans see this danger?

Sergey Lavrov: Analysts possibly do. But politicians think in the moment, they want to win the election, and they don’t care what happens afterwards.

As for Mr Pompeo, it’s a long time since we met. I think he is no longer involved with US policy towards Russia. But both of us understand that we need to meet and to talk.

As of now, US foreign policy has been clearly delegated to John Bolton. He has come to Russia several times. He has met with President Putin and his counterpart, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. I have held rather lengthy talks with Mr Bolton. There is a kind of dialogue.

We have not met for a long time at the level of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State. The last time was in New York in September, when the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council held a traditional meeting. But it was not a bilateral meeting. Our deputies and department directors hold meetings, although the Americans often pull stunts and cancel meetings with barely a day’s notice. But as I said, we don’t hold on to grudges.

Question: Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Because a grudge is a heavy burden to carry.

Question: Well, a grudge is, indeed, a heavy burden to carry. For example, what is Russia doing in the Council of Europe, where it has no right to vote? Why does such a sovereign state as Russia submit to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Why don’t we withdraw completely from such organisations, where we don’t play any role at all? We can use this money to build schools. What are we doing there? And how much do we pay to the European Court of Human Rights?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t pay anything to the European Court of Human Rights. We pay for its decisions. Do you know what percentage of our payments to the ECHR has to do with Russian courts’ decisions on payments to our citizens that the Russian Treasury violates and withholds the payments?

Question: In that case we must get back to our own problems. Why are we running to foreigners for help?

Sergey Lavrov: As you probably know, we are now facing a situation that we are actively discussing: the future of Russia’s Council of Europe membership is in question. There is no doubt that our decision to join this organisation was sincere and met the country’s interests. You should discuss this matter with judges, representatives of the Supreme and Constitutional courts and the Ministry of Justice. A huge set of laws that make life easier for Russian citizens and protect their life and rights was passed during our cooperation with the Council of Europe and as a result of our perception of the practices that could be applied to Russian legislation. Russian citizens are forced to apply to the European Court of Human Rights after a Russian court has ruled that the state must pay them. If the state has failed to pay a citizen in compliance with a Russian court’s ruling, do you think that therefore he or she does not deserve this payment?

Question: Of course, they deserve them. But instead of taking the case to a foreign court, we need to sort things out at home. What is your opinion of this?

Sergey Lavrov: In some cases, we were unable to rectify the situation without the ECHR. I will tell you more: Russia is now by no means the main client of the European Court of Human Rights.

We make an overwhelming majority of payments under Russian courts’ decisions.  Please keep that in mind.

Question: Are we going to leave the Council of Europe?

Sergey Lavrov: To show that we don’t care?

Question: If they don’t take us seriously, yes, we should show them that we don’t care.

Sergey Lavrov: No, we shouldn’t do that. Instead we should have a sense of dignity.

Speaking of the Council of Europe, we have no right to vote only at the Parliamentary Assembly, which would be an unimportant body if it weren’t for its function to elect judges, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

No one has deprived us of any rights at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is a regulatory, rather than consultative, body.

Today, we are trying to convince the Council of Europe that this situation cannot last indefinitely, and that, under the Council of Europe Statute, all member countries have equal rights at all its bodies. The incumbent Secretary General’s legal findings state that the PACE decision runs counter to the Council of Europe Statute and should therefore be modified.

We have repeatedly explained to our colleagues that there can be no halfway decisions here. They tried to assuage our concerns by proposing to reinstate our right to elect officials, including judges, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights, but to withhold all other rights for the time being. We emphatically rejected this offer.

The moment of truth will come in June, when the new Council of Europe Secretary General will be elected. If we don’t take part in this election, it would send a message that the Council of Europe is losing its importance for us as an organisation that does not respect the principle of equality.

Question: You mentioned dignity. As I see it, our dignity is being trampled in various situations.

Poland has destroyed many monuments to Soviet soldiers. Actually, 600,000 of our boys were killed there. Why doesn’t Russia give an appropriate response in line with diplomatic traditions?

Do you want to hit our monuments? In that case, we will send bulldozers to Katyn, and we will demolish your monuments if you touch ours.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you serious?

Question: Absolutely. Why can they wreck our monuments?

Sergey Lavrov: I wish you were not serious. I was hoping this is a joke.

Question: Unfortunately, my colleague is voicing a common opinion that is expressed by our audiences. What can you say on this score?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe this position has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity or Christianity in general.

Question: Are they acting like Christians?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not.

Question: So, where is our symmetrical diplomatic response? You do something nasty to us, and we will reciprocate. Where is our dignity?

Sergey Lavrov: Our dignity tells us that we must be above all this, and that we must never descend to the level of these neo-Nazis.

Question: We are always above that. We were above it in the Skripal case too.

But what about the Skripals? Where is our consul? Where is Yulia Skripal? Local lawyers ask me why our consuls are not suing to see Yulia Skripal – dead or alive. After all, she is a Russian citizen. The West operates only through courts. The state should sue and demand access to Yulia Skripal. All conventions are on our side. Why are we being so sluggish?

Why don’t we sue, when British Prime Minister Theresa May accuses our President of having committed murder? We could hire Swiss lawyers and sue. Could it be that there are things we don’t know and an action of this sort is being pursued?

Sergey Lavrov: If you followed our Ministry’s reports, including the information delivered by the ministry spokesperson at her briefings, you would have a somewhat different picture of what is happening.

We have been acting in full conformity with international law, because English law is of no help in this case. There is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which makes it mandatory for the British government to grant us access to a Russian citizen. Sergey Skripal is an arguable case because he has dual citizenship, but Yulia Skripal is only a Russian citizen.

Question: But we can apply to the British court, can’t we? Lawyers in the UK explained this to me. And Swiss layers also said we could apply to the British court for the Russian citizen to be delivered to us or at least in order to arrange her meeting with a Russian consul.

Sergey Lavrov: No court will help us. There is an international obligation, the Vienna Convention, which is absolutely irrevocable. And we will demand that it is obeyed.

Question: What stage are the talks at now?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not yet through with the courts. Let me remind you how we tried to deal with the Litvinenko case, when [Litvinenko] was also allegedly poisoned.

The court did not want to prove anything. The court just made the investigation secret and conducted it in a format that banned the demonstration of security service documents.

In this instance, when we demanded information on the Skripals that was linked, among other things, to the British exploiting the Skripal theme at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, we got an official reply to the effect that this issue was related to British security. For this reason, it is not subject to any disclosure or London’s meaningful reply.

Question: But international law has precedence over their law, hasn’t it? Does the Vienna Convention have precedence?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes it does.

Question: Can’t we achieve anything through the courts?

Sergey Lavrov: We will continue to press for a meeting with our citizen.

Question: But isn’t it their minister who said that Russia should “shut up and go away?”

Sergey Lavrov: He (the UK Defence Secretary. – Ed.) is a man whose oversized amour propre is superimposed upon an inferiority complex. I saw his colleague too, and it is very sad that the UK assigns foreign ministers of this sort to handle foreign policy.

He contacted me when five ministers of foreign affairs of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council were meeting in New York. The five of us were just sitting around a table. After that he went out and started saying that he had challenged me on 12 counts and accused me of everything.

Question: What did you say to him in response?

Sergey Lavrov: I didn’t say anything: you can’t talk with people like that.

As for the Skripal case, I can assure you that we will not drop this issue. I am absolutely convinced that we must demand answers, just like with the Malaysian Boeing. And the longer our partners delay with a response, the more out of line they will look.

Question: But we have been sued by the relatives of those who have died in the Boeing crash.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they have sued us. There is one thing we need to understand. They say that we have done it to the Skripals and that we must say whether it was done on orders from President Putin or whether he had lost control over the secret services which did this without his consent. Nobody else had a clear reason [to poison the Skripals], so it is highly likely that Russia is responsible, they say.

This is baby talk, not a serious investigation.

We put concrete questions to them: Where is Yulia Skripal? Why has her cousin been denied a visa which we requested officially many times? Unfortunately, you can’t sue for a visa.

We ask similar questions about the Malaysian Boeing. Why haven’t they included in their investigation the material that has been provided by Almaz-Antey, the producer of the Buk systems? Why haven’t the Ukrainians provided their radar data, unlike Russia, or the transcript of what their air controllers said? Why haven’t the Americans provided their satellite information? No answer. But we will continue to ask these questions and we will keep reminding everyone that a day will come when these shameful intrigues will end.

Question: Maybe we should not remind but demand? There are already jokes about your recommendations on social media. Can I tell one of them?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. I have read many things about myself.

Question: Sergey Lavrov enters a room for talks with Mike Pompeo, opens his briefcase and takes out a jar of fat chance, a dead donkey’s ears and a heap of fig leaves. He lights a cigarette and politely says “Hello” to Mike Pompeo.

Maybe this is how we should talk with them, not “express concern” or “draw their attention” to problems?

Sergey Lavrov: The meeting I had in this joke was not with Pompeo but with Taro Kono.

Really, do you want us to use four-letter words in international discourse, so that we will all be in the same league? No, I think that if Jupiter is angry, it means he is wrong.

I have read your reports from hot spots, and I respect you for what you are doing. We have criticised our Western colleagues for not sending their journalists to Donbass to report the truth. There are few Western journalists in Syria as well. When somebody wants to drive you mad and you resort to foul language in response, I would caution against this, even if we are not full of grace ourselves. We must not exceed the bounds of decency even if we ourselves set the boundaries.

Question: Is it true that the Foreign Ministry cellars are stocked with coffers of your great patience?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no cellars.

Question: I have worked in Armenia and Georgia. The situation there is dramatic.

I am shocked that we have let go of the situation in Georgia. The Americans are building a deep-water port in Anaklia, a stone’s throw from Sochi. Initially, they planned to deploy their nuclear submarines there, which would be extremely dangerous for us. A NATO base is under construction near Tbilisi. They have signed an official declaration to this effect. And there are three bio laboratories in Georgia.

The Americans are training nine motorised battalions. When I asked who these battalions would be used against, the answer was, “Against our enemies, against Russia.”

President Elect Salome Zurabishvili said at her inauguration that she would do her utmost to fight the Russian occupation.

The situation is very serious, considering that the Americans have failed to build a naval base in Crimea. But now they will build it on our doorstep, on Abkhazia’s border with Georgia. Yet we remain silent.

The Georgians who are on our side – 40 per cent of people in Georgia are for rapprochement and 80 per cent for dialogue with Russia – say that we are feeding them.

Their shops are stocked with Russian goods. There were 1.6 million [Russian] tourists.

Sergey Lavrov: I know this.

Question: They ask why we keep silent, why we don’t say to them that either they shut down the bases, which are a direct threat to our security, or we close the border to their goods.

Sergey Lavrov: Where did you find these highway advisers?

Question: Why do we sell Georgian wines? They are making money through us, and at the same time they are fighting against our “occupation.”

Sergey Lavrov: You surely know that Ukrainians earn millions of roubles in Russia.

Question: We must respond to this. Why do we remain the whipping boys?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t say that we know all the answers. How can we respond? Close the border? Sever all ties?

Question: The Georgians themselves have proposed closing the border and suspending trade and money transfers until the construction of a base on Russia’s doorstep is stopped. They complain that we don’t have a policy towards Georgia, that we are glad that Mikheil Saakashvili is no longer in Georgia. But we forget that there are very many other anti-Russia forces working there.

Sergey Lavrov: Just imagine how it would be if we severed the relations which we have been developing in recent years.

First we launched chartered flights. Now we have scheduled flights, and their number has increased to include Tbilisi, Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kutaisi. The planes are filled with tourists. Our trade is on the upswing. I believe Russia has become Georgia’s largest trade partner. Our civil societies hold regular events. People are meeting, talking and trying to understand which point in our relations we have reached.

Imagine that we stop all this simply to please your friends, who feel hurt. We stop all this, but they complete the base anyway and train the battalions, and the bio laboratory continues working. Who will stand to gain from this?

Question: Should there be some response from our side? What should we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to ask you, do you think that we need to respond just to establish our importance or what?

Question: We do need to show our importance.

Sergey Lavrov: And that’s all?

Question: No, that’s not all. There are levers of economic pressure, similar to military ones. If Georgia lives at our expense, it will howl when it has nothing to eat.

Sergey Lavrov: I assure you, they will find a way to live. I would like to look at this from a different angle. Are you proposing to choke Georgia? What for? You say 40 percent of the population supports contacts with Russia. Break these contacts, and it will be 2 percent.

Question: But we will need to explain why we are doing this. We can say: it threatens our security.

Sergey Lavrov: Once again. The most serious threat here is the biological laboratories. I am confident that they will not go anywhere with their battalions. They understand that we have allied relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and we will not allow anyone to attack our allies. There are bio labs not only in Georgia, but also in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. It will be useless to talk about it with Ukraine. We are talking about it with Georgia through the relevant organisations, the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons. Similarly, we are talking with Kazakhstan and Armenia. Georgians have already invited diplomats to their bio lab to look around. We thanked them because it was a large group of diplomats and we noted that we would be more interested in sending professionals who understand what is being done in this bio lab better than diplomats. We need to know how big a threat these experiments pose to the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries.

On principle, I am categorically against a foreign policy that amounts to breaking off relations every time someone does us wrong. Otherwise we would have to break off relations with America and Britain. Do you by any chance have friends there who offer you advice?

Question: America clearly responds with sanctions. We do not impose sanctions. Introduce sanctions against Georgia. Armenia is our strategic ally. Why did we allow the building of three US bio labs there in 2016? We have the best friendship in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: With Armenia, we are completing the work on a document that will guarantee the non-presence of the foreign military in these biological labs and full transparency.

Question: And Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: The same.

Question: Will they remove these labs? Or make sure there are no foreign nationals?

Sergey Lavrov: You are not listening to me. I have just told you that an agreement is being prepared that will guarantee that there will be no foreign military in the bio labs and everything that is done there will be transparent, with guarantees, without any threats or risks.

Question: Consider this example: When you come to Armenia, you find 19 Russian diplomats and 2,500 American workers there – an impressive ratio, of course. I do not understand how we can have only 19 diplomats in such a strategically important country. Political strategists in Armenia say: “Russia really uses clumsy force against the former Soviet republics. It never works with the opposition, so for Russia, Nikol Pashinyan came as a huge surprise. Russia never works with the civil society, but only with people in power who are hated in society and whose ratings, according to your Russian officers, are below zero. What is it, the blindness of your diplomacy? I do not know; it is unexplainable. There are normal people in the opposition with whom you could be cooperating.”

Sergey Lavrov: Who writes all this to you?

Question: Political observers with whom I spoke in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: This “your diplomacy” – have Armenians written this?

Question: Yes, Armenians. Why isn’t Russian diplomacy working with the opposition? Remember the last time we argued about soft power? There are 5,000 US NGOs that are canvassing young people who then grow up pro-America and anti-Russia, but there are no Russian NGOs or media there. We have already spoken about this many times.

Sergey Lavrov: So what is your bottom line? As I understand it, the options are either to send 3,000 diplomats and create 5,000 NGOs there, or to break off diplomatic relations.

Question: This is where I think soft power is the best option.

Sergey Lavrov: Why?

Question: At least the people’s attitude to Russia was good; now it has grown worse. It will continue deteriorating. The youth is growing up.

Sergey Lavrov: We are treated well in Georgia. And you propose breaking off relations.

Question: What ideas are being fed to young people? They are raised on the idea that Russia is bad. They are now arguing who was the first to attack.

Sergey Lavrov: Where – in Georgia?

Question: I just watched a talk show where they are proving to children that it was Russia who attacked Georgia ten years ago. And the children are listening.

Sergey Lavrov: There is a report prepared for the EU by a group of experts led by Heidi Tagliavini, which clearly blames Saakashvili for starting the war. Nobody in the EU has contested this conclusion. Now they say that our response was unacceptable. This is sheer hypocrisy.

As for soft power, I fully agree on this. There are two or three times fewer Russian diplomats in Armenia or any other CIS country than American ones. Our diplomatic staff numbers 2,500 together with rotation personnel.

Question: The Americans have the largest staff in Bagdad and second largest in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: They have their own criteria for their work. And we have our traditions and financial limitations, because their non-governmental team working in the former Soviet republics costs big money. In most cases, these NGOs are financed by the Agency for International Development of the US State Department, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, or other similar organisations. George Soros is very active there, just as in many other parts of our space and beyond. Of course, they have the  advantage in numbers. We cannot respond in kind; we cannot create the same number of puppet organisations. Very many of them have a provocative negative agenda.

I agree that we must work with all political forces, which we are doing. We are working with everyone not only in the South Caucasus but also in other post-Soviet republics. We are working with registered opposition groups. We don’t work with nonregistered or underground groups. I believe that this is correct. We have maintained ties with various parliamentary groups, including the nine MPs who represented Nikol Pashinyan’s party when Serzh Sargsyan was president of Armenia.

It is another matter that we have probably acquired immunity against revolutions, because everything the West is doing in the post-Soviet space is preparing revolutions. This may be our problem, but we definitely cannot be blamed for this. We have survived several revolutions, which claimed a great number of lives and destroyed cities and villages. We don’t want to see a repetition of this, and we don’t wish it on others.

Therefore, the conclusion is simple: we must work with society and people, promote projects of interest to them in culture, language, sport, education and people-to-people interaction. I believe we can report certain positive results in this sphere. But we must not stop now. You can’t have enough of such events. We have established interregional forums, days of culture and educational exchanges with nearly all CSTO countries. We are opening branches of our universities there. I have recently visited Azerbaijan where MGIMO University is opening a branch. It is a very popular form of cooperation.

Question: Yet the most influential instrument is mass media. But Margarita Simonyan cannot work for all of us. We need our own local media outlets that will look to you in their work. Very many people would like to work in this way. But they simply don’t have the money.

Sergey Lavrov: Exactly.

Question: Do you mean that we don’t have the money for this?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry doesn’t.

Question: Why cannot we ask our oligarchs? They could be made responsible for certain areas.

Sergey Lavrov: Those of our people who have big money buy media outlets, including in Russia. If they do the same abroad, we would not complain.

Question: The Americans do this. They have more money.

Sergey Lavrov: But they don’t buy on behalf of the state.

Question: They set up a state fund to finance such projects.

Question: Why not lease the Kuril Islands? The sovereignty would be ours either way. Hong Kong was once leased on these terms. China leased a village and got a major modern city.

Question: There is such a thing as zugzwang in chess, when any move leads to a worse position. We have not had this peace treaty, so why do we need this “piece of paper?” We have diplomatic and economic relations, but no military relations. Nor will there be any in the future. Why do we need a peace treaty with Japan, if we consider the Kuril issue on this basis?

Sergey Lavrov: We are interested in having good relations with Japan.

The situation is very simple. We are people obeying international law. In 1956, the USSR signed an agreement with Japan, the so-called 1956 Declaration. When the USSR was dissolved, the Russian Federation was recognised not just as the legal successor state (all constituent republics except the Baltic states became legal successors) but the USSR’s only continuing state. This is the legal status under which we assumed all the obligations as well as all the assets of the USSR. This was one of the grounds for signing, within the CIS, a treaty on the “zero option” for properties abroad. We assumed all of the USSR’s debt obligations as all the properties were transferred to us (something that is happening today). This is why, when President Vladimir Putin was elected and this issue came up for the first time during his presidency in some situation (I think it was a meeting with then prime minister, Yoshiro Mori) he said that as the successor to the USSR we assumed the 1956 Declaration and were prepared to sign a peace treaty based on that.

In Singapore, we agreed to declare that we had come to terms on revisiting negotiations on signing a peace treaty based on the 1956 Declaration. In this regard, it is very important to understand what this document is all about and basically what situation has taken shape around it. It says: You shall sign a peace treaty. After that, the USSR – as a goodwill gesture and with regard for the interests of the neighbourly Japanese people, not as a move to return [the islands] – will be prepared to transfer the Habomai Ridge and Shikotan Island. President Putin has repeatedly explained, including at his news conference in Singapore and later in Buenos Aires, that this was not a directly applicable obligation of the USSR that had transferred to Russia and that the parties would have to discuss how, to whom, when, and in what form to transfer [whatever there is to transfer].

This was in 1956. After that were the events of 1960, when Japan and the US signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, under which the Americans could deploy their military bases practically wherever they wanted, in any part of Japanese territory. Under the same treaty, the US is creating the Asian segment of its antimissile defence system and deploying antimissile launchers that can be used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

Japan has withdrawn from the Declaration of its own free will. Of course, the USSR responded to the signing of the US-Japan security treaty. Therefore, when we say “based on the Declaration,” we cannot ignore the fact that the events of 1960 have taken place since then, which, from the point of view of a US military presence on the Japanese islands, are increasingly of a very serious nature as a threat to our security. We have explained all of this to our Japanese colleagues at talks with foreign ministry and security council representatives. We are waiting for a response. For us, this is a problem of direct practical importance.

But, most importantly, when we say “based on the 1956 Declaration,” this expresses Japan’s unconditional recognition of the results of World War II. So far, our Japanese colleagues are not ready for this, and they are sending all sorts of signals to the effect that this will not work out. This is a serious issue.

Recently, my Japanese counterpart went on record as saying that he apologised to the Japanese media for having avoided answering the question about the upcoming talks, on several occasions. He stated that he was unwilling to discuss the subject because Japan’s position was unchanged but, if he said this he would provoke his Russian colleagues to state their point of view. Consider that it was not he who provoked us. It is just that we were never ashamed of our position. If Japan’s position is unchanged then we are in the same position we have always been in. This is basically a refusal to recognise the results of World War II, while recognising the results of World War II is an inalienable first step in any talks, let alone any legal negotiations.

Question: Should we perhaps leave this matter to the judgment of future generations and place it on record as is?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not refuse to talk, but I have outlined the terms and the framework, within which these talks will proceed.

Question: May I ask you a few private questions that are often asked by our readers – in the blitz mode?

Sergey Lavrov: Go ahead.

Question: You are one of the most popular and best-known politicians in our country. How do you feel in that capacity?

Sergey Lavrov: I have never thought about it. It is a pleasure for me to communicate with people when I go somewhere, whether on a working mission or not. I talk to young people. It is interesting to listen to questions and comments. If my work meets with a positive response, I am pleased for our Ministry.

Question: As you know, the former Soviet Foreign Minister Alexei Gromyko was dubbed in the West as nothing other than “Mr No”. Andrei Kozyrev must have been a “Mr Yes”. How would you describe your own image in similar terms? Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov is “Mr what?”

Sergey Lavrov: Whatever, but certainly not “Mr Yesman.”

Question: In your interviews, you nearly always refer to our foes as partners. Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Sometimes, I fail to express irony through intonation.

Question: In one of your interviews, you said that you respect Vladimir Vysotsky’s work. What words from his songs would you use to describe the current international situation?

Sergey Lavrov (laughing): “Lukomorye exists no more…” and so on and so forth.

Question: Your opponents were talking such nonsense lately. What self-composure you have. Is it hard to deal with a negotiating partner if you feel that he or she has a grudge against you?

Sergey Lavrov: I have grown used to it.

Question: What helps you remain so calm and coolheaded?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe life has hardened me over the past years. In New York, I had a good schooling in terms of responding to all sorts of crisis situations at the UN Security Council. Someone would dash in and say that something had erupted, broken out and it was necessary to urgently adopt a resolution, when we wanted to work the matter through and take no abrupt steps.

Question: Were there episodes during your service as minister, when things grew very alarming and even frightening?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably not, considering that I was already accustomed to crisis situations in my work prior to my appointment to this post. Maybe, that experience helps.

Question: Do you feel like putting work aside

And sailing down the river with a guitar,

Making a campfire at sunset

And talking of peace and love?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. Moreover, I even do that.

Question: What is the largest fish that you caught during your river trips? Where did it happen and how much did it weigh?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not remember, because, actually, I am not really a fishing sort. When we go canoeing down the river Katun, two of our group members handle the fishing and I break camp and watch the campfire.

Question: Suppose you had a time machine, who of our country’s rulers of the past years or even centuries would you like to talk to and what essential question would you ask that person?

Sergey Lavrov: Among our fellow countrymen – Alexander Gorchakov. Much has been written about him and all his diplomatic achievements are well known. I would ask him exactly the same thing that you asked me – about his self-composure that enabled him to return Crimea.

Question: Who of the US presidents of the past would you like to talk to and what would you ask him?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe, Harry Truman. After Franklin Roosevelt’s policy, he made a sharp turn towards the “cold war”. It would be interesting to understand why. Though, as a matter of fact, it looks like everyone understands everything. The USSR was a real ally of Britain and the United States in the war, but maybe a situational ally, after all, though that situation was about the life or death of the whole of humanity. Almost. And it was a genuine alliance. Nevertheless, they never fully considered us to be one of theirs, and back then they already saw a threat.

Question: If you had the opportunity to turn back the clock and influence some event in our country or elsewhere, what would you change?

Sergey Lavrov: First, I have no opportunity to turn back the clock. Second, I do not want to. Third, we all know that history has no “ifs”. Whatever God does is for the best. There are many proverbs, for example, “it does not hurt to dream.”

Question: Will the Eurasian Economic Union survive as an entity, considering our problems with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: It will survive. In any event, we have common interests. In the five years of its existence or even less (there used to be a Customs Union, followed by the Eurasian Economic Union), we are making great strides forward, as compared with the deadlines that allowed Europe to achieve the same level of integration.

Question: It was easier for us.

Sergey Lavrov: Nevertheless, economic ties were disrupted considerably after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Question: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko says that he is planning to leave the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: Just like other countries’ leaders, we judge the policies of other countries by their deeds, rather than words. When US President Donald Trump conducts talks, he also makes all kinds of statements.

Question: Is this blackmail?

Sergey Lavrov: It is preparations for talks, if you like. I cannot say that US President Donald Trump is blackmailing anyone, although he exerts tough pressure.

Question: What would be the first thing you saved if the Foreign Ministry building caught fire?

Sergey Lavrov: God forbid.  We don’t need any self-fulfilling prophecies, and we have a good fire safety system.

Question: What do you eat to improve your mood?

Sergey Lavrov: I prefer tasty food.

Question: Could you be more specific? All of us like tasty food.

Sergey Lavrov: Sauerkraut shchi and borsch. I like soups very much.

Question: How do you relax? And what is your favourite music? How do you manage to stay in shape all the time? Perhaps you like rap music?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not into rap music. I like bard singers, including Vladimir Vysotsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Yury Vizbor and Oleg Mityayev. And I love the outdoors.

Question: If on New Year’s Eve you found a magic lantern that could grant any personal wish, what would it be?

Sergey Lavrov: A personal wish? I don’t know. Never thought about it. I am not used to making wishes. I am more of a realist than a dreamer.

Question: So when the Kremlin chimes welcome the New Year in, you never make a wish?

Sergey Lavrov: No. On my rafting team, we have this principle – never drink to anything in advance. We do not celebrate what is to come, but celebrate what happened. If it’s someone’s birthday, we raise a glass of champagne. But we never toast what is still to come. It is even considered wrong.

Question: Figuratively speaking, if we take Russia’s foreign policy in recent years, was there anything you would toast with a glass of champagne with your colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not assessing the work of my Ministry now. One of our most significant projects in recent years was the chemical disarmament agreement in Syria, which helped us avoid an act of American aggression. This agreement was documented in a UN Security Council resolution, but, unfortunately, after that, the OPCW, whose job was to physically remove and destroy toxic substances from Syria, suffered a hostile takeover from the inside.

Question: Do you mean following the Skripal case?

Sergey Lavrov: No, this was not following the Skripal case. It primarily had to do with Syria. It was a separate story. Some of our western partners are now trying to replace international law with a “rules-based order.” But what they mean is not any universally agreed rules, but those they consider convenient for themselves. Western media are already openly writing about it. In particular, the British newspaper The Times wrote that the departure from international law is leading to a very unstable system, where relationships will be determined by the balance of power, brute force or economic and financial pressure such as blackmail, and bilateral agreements. This is roughly what the Americans are trying to do now, breaking the multilateral structures, including the World Trade Organisation, and moving from relations with the EU to resolving all problems bilaterally. Therefore, the agreement on chemical disarmament in Syria was indeed a serious achievement. Now, under various far-fetched pretexts, the Americans and their closest allies are trying to claim that not everything has been destroyed. Although international organisations, namely the OPCW, in the presence of observers, including those from the United States, verified the destruction of all chemical facilities and substances in Syria. Such are our partners.

Question: Do we still have any influence in that organisation?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes.

Question: Do you remember the most unusual New Year gift you received or gave?

Sergey Lavrov: My “hard drive” does not store such things. They have been erased from memory. These days I am more busy thinking about work than about the New Year.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the listeners and readers of Komsomolskaya Pravda a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. All the best to you, good health and good luck.

Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk agreement fiction (Exclusive!)

Russia, Ukraine and the Minsk agreement fiction (Exclusive!)

December 18, 2018

by Pepe Escobar exclusive for The Saker Blog

Rostislav Ishchenko is arguably the leading international analyst focused on the extraordinarily turbulent Russia-Ukraine relations. He posts regularly on Ukraina.ru, with frequent English translations here.

In contrast to the 24/7 “Russian aggression” demonization campaign effective on all corners of the Beltway and spreading towards selected European capitals, Ishchenko’s analysis, for instance of the information war deployed on all fronts of the Russia-Ukraine saga comes as a breath of fresh air.

Although we were not able to meet in person during my recent visit to Moscow, due to conflicting schedules (the meeting will take place later in the winter), Ishchenko graciously accepted to answer my most pressing questions regarding what could happen next on the Russia-Ukraine front, with translation by Scott Humor.

Ishchenko’s answers on the situation in Donbass should also be expanded to Crimea, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed he had information about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko planning an armed provocation on the border with Crimea in the last ten days of December.

Considering the terrain in winter is usually propitious for tank advance, would Poroshenko, in desperation, go for a major provocation in the Donbass, perhaps between Christmas and New Year’s Eve? 

First of all, this winter is too warm and the area is not yet favorable for an offensive. Second, even if frost strikes and an attack becomes possible, it is too big of a risk for Poroshenko. He does not have enough military power to defeat the DPR/LPR forces, without even mentioning that surprises are still possible as it happened in August 2008 in South Ossetia. After all, the Minsk peace agreement has not been canceled yet, and it is unlikely that the West will be able to stand against Russia in a consolidated manner at the moment when Russia is conducting a peace coercion of the confectioner, who is out of his mind with fear, and whom the West has already written off. The West requires a mandatory holding of elections, and any war would mean a cancellation of elections. If the war is facilitated by Poroshenko, he will be blamed for the cancellation of the elections and there will be no need to protect him.

Is there any possibility of the Minsk agreements being fulfilled in case of a slightly less anti-Russian government in place in Kiev after the next elections? 

No, it’s not possible. Kiev is unable to implement the Minsk agreements because this would imply the federalization of Ukraine, while the Kiev elites are able to rule only within the rigid vertical of the unitary state. They basically do not imagine a different system of relationships. Since 2014, the internal resources which could satisfy appetites of oligarchic groups were exhausted, and there is no material basis for compromise. Therefore, they are doomed to fight among themselves for the dominance. Even if Russia, Crimea, Donbass and the whole world would suddenly vanish, the civil war in Ukraine, no longer restrained from the outside, would only intensify.

Is Kiev aware that in case of a military attack on Donbass, the Russian response would be devastating? And that in Brussels, as I confirmed with many diplomatic sources, nobody really cares about Poroshenko’s fate anymore? 

I think that he knows this very well. That’s exactly why he organized his provocations in the Kerch Strait and also in Kiev (attacking the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate), but not in Donbass.

 

Brave Poroshenko – the Worse It Is for Him, the More Dangerous He Is For Others

December 11, 2018

By Rostislav IshchenkoBrave Poroshenko – the Worse It Is for Him, the More Dangerous He Is For Others
Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-brave-poroshenko-the-worse-it-is-for-him-the-more-dangerous-he-is-for-others/
source: 
https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20181211/1022049102.html

In recent days, in connection with the frank violation by Poroshenko’s regime of all international norms, and also of the articles of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine regulating relations between the church and state, experts and politicians often ask a question (not always having a rhetorical character): is he really not afraid of the consequences?

After all, any competent lawyer can prove a whole bouquet of criminal offences, among which the smallest one is the abuse of power and his own official authority.

I have to say that Poroshenko’s actions don’t surprise me. I am surprised by the questioning.

Let’s dissect the situation.

As is known, Poroshenko was a parishioner of this same Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) that he now so zealously pursues. It is supposed that he believed in God, otherwise he wouldn’t have visited church or served as a subdeacon. Now he has renounced this church and pursues it in support of schismatic and frank swindlers. Consequently, Poroshenko isn’t afraid of God’s judgement. So why would he be afraid of human judgement?! After all, God’s judgement decides the fate of the soul in eternity, while human judgement can punish you only once and, in comparison with eternity, for an imperceptibly small period of time. And even still, you have to be brought to court and your guilt must be proven.

But we will assume that Poroshenko only pretended to be churched to receive the support of parishioners of the UOC-MP in any elections, while in practice he was never a believing person and he isn’t afraid of God’s judgement.

In that case, let’s remember that accusations of usurping and abusing personal and office powers, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the organisation of mass corruption at the state level, and many other things – including banal theft from the budget and the the organisation of roguish foreign trade schemes – can anyway be made against Poroshenko (some, from 2014 onwards, some from 2015 onwards, and some from 2016 onwards). Taking into account the fact that the most harsh of these accusations have no limitation period, and persecution for them happens all over the planet, Poroshenko doesn’t risk anything new.

Once upon a time in certain countries people were sentenced to five and more death penalties (in Russia there is a joke about “ten years of execution”). But in reality it is possible to execute someone only once. In our time, except for separate special tribunals (for example, concerning Saddam Hussein), the death penalty isn’t appointed as a punishment at all. A person will be given a life sentence at maximum, and then they can be released in 10-20 years when the wave subsides.

So the new and new crimes committed by Poroshenko don’t at all worsen his situation – it already can’t get any worse. They are designed to improve it.

I will explain.

Poroshenko can’t win elections – any and anywhere. He needs to take the political struggle in Ukraine outside the limits of the quasi-legitimate process of presidential and parliamentary elections and to transfer the rivalry to the power plane [the application of physical force – ed]. But it is necessary to do this in such a way that Poroshenko can’t be accused of deliberately disrupting elections. The West relates to the Ukrainian elections extremely tremulously, and anyone who will openly encroach on them will become the enemy of the West. And all the elite, all the bureaucracy, and all law enforcement bodies will turn away from the enemy of the West in Ukraine. They didn’t collect, kopek by kopek, their fortunes and withdraw them out West just to fall under sanctions as servants of the “criminal regime” and “bloody dictatorship”, and to lose everything they gained by back-breaking toil.

I.e., falling into a violent tailspin must happen as if by itself and contrary to the “peacekeeping” efforts of Poroshenko.

Let’s look at what he is doing for this purpose.

Firstly, he provokes Russia into using weapons against the Ukrainian military, masking this provocation under a usual borderline incident in allegedly disputable waters. Notice that Poroshenko would receive many more corpses if he sent a couple of squadrons through the Russian border. They would be neutralised by artillery and aviation, but Russian troops wouldn’t go through the border towards Kiev.

So why did he do things precisely in this way? Because an obvious attack on Russian territory or even on the DPR/LPR would be impossible to sell to the West as the disproportionate reaction of Russia to an ordinary incident. In the first hypothetical scenario Poroshenko would be asked why he sent troops through the Russian border. In the second hypothetical scenario he would be asked why he violated the Brave Poroshenko – the Worse It Is for Him, the More Dangerous He Is For Others

Even the reaction of the West to the provocation in the Kerch Strait turned out to be less sharp than Poroshenko had hoped for – it was rather indifferent. I think that it is precisely for this reason that the Verkhovna Rada sharply grew bolder and didn’t allow to impose martial law for 60 days across the entire territory of the country and to cancel elections. So, even in an incident in disputable (according to Kiev, which the West agrees with) waters, the West suspected the personal interests of Poroshenko were at play.

In this sense, provoking an interfaith conflict and even a religious war is the last card in the sleeve of Poroshenko. That’s why he is in a hurry with the “unifying congress in fancy dress” and opts to commit barefaced violations of the law, involving the SBU in the process of “convincing” bishops, priests, and parishioners of the UOC-MP to participate in Poroshenko’s spectacle.

After all, it is clear that behind-the-scenes intimidation, persuasion, and bribery would give Poroshenko more chances of being successful. People could pretend that they caved in not because of pressure or a bribe, but because they always sought autocephaly. Whereas in Poroshenko’s rendition any person who has self-respect, even if they through spiritual weakness are ready to back down out of fear or self-interest, will now be afraid to do it explicitly, bringing eternal shame to themselves.

That’s why evil always disguises itself as good, because its wants to be attractive. It is characteristic for a human to strive for the love and respect of the people around them, even subconsciously. Whereas Poroshenko leaves the traitors of the UOC-MP nothing but eternal shame and an ambiguous (subordinated) situation in the new structure. You think it’s a coincidence? Then why earlier were there no such “coincidences”?

It is because Poroshenko doesn’t need the UOC-MP’s consent to participate in Bartholomew’s sabbath, he doesn’t even need negotiations or autocephaly. He needs conflict – open and violent. That’s why people’s souls are being frankly spat on. That’s why all the laws of God and human are being violated. Feeling their correctness, Orthodox Christians should start to openly resist the godless and illegitimate authorities, which violate even their own laws.

It is precisely this cruel forceful standoff all over Ukraine with big bloodshed that is necessary for Poroshenko in order to legitimise the rejection of pseudo-democratic elections and to switch to an open dictatorship, for the sake of prolonging the agony of his regime. He has no other option. That’s why the congress in fancy dress was appointed for December 15th (martial law end on December 25th and there is a need to unleash a new phase of the civil war before it ends). That’s why Poroshenko is also not afraid that the opposition will be able to legally disavow his actions. It’s important for him that the West believes that the UOC-MP – the “fifth column of Putin” – attacked the Ukrainian state. More precisely, not especially believe, but be unable to avoid supporting the steps taken by the regime. After all, the West can’t allow Bartholomew, who submerged himself in the Ukrainian crisis up to his eyeballs and who sacrificed his authority in the orthodox world for its sake, to lose the fight for Ukraine to the UOC-MP. Moreover, if the uprising of Orthodox Christians in the name of their belief wins, then it’s not the regime of Poroshenko that will collapse, but a pro-West regime in Ukraine in any form. Poroshenko reasonably considers that, having provoked Orthodox Christians into resisting, he will be able to force the West to support the prolongation of his powers as the lesser of two evils, from the point of view of Washington, London, and Brussels.

I think that even if Poroshenko will succeed in everything, he will only prolong his agony for a few months, after which he will be torn to pieces by his own colleagues, because he is too greedy, boastful, false, and hated, and he’s the kind of dictator that is approximately the same as a chairman of a sobriety society. But Petro Poroshenko nevertheless has nowhere to retreat. By all accounts, even the Hague doesn’t want to put him in its prison. I.e., it’s not a case of him being torn to pieces – it’s a case of putting off as much as possible this “wonderful moment“.

Like a rat driven into a corner, battling for an extension of his worthless life by a couple of minutes, Poroshenko already threw everything into the fire chamber of this fight, including his family. Defeat is death for him, and victory will write everything off. And although the chances of victory are illusive, hope dies last.

And this is why he is dangerous.

Ukraine sets up for a possible winter offensive in LDNR

December 11, 2018

by GH Eliason for The Saker BlogUkraine sets up for a possible winter offensive in LDNR

Everything is pointing to Ukraine starting a winter offensive in Donbass and the possible use of a chemical weapon false flag event to kick it off.

The Ukraine of 2018 is far different than what Europe was expecting. Instead of economic and social reform that was promised at Ukraine’s 2014 Euro-maidan coup, the government of Petr Poroshenko is taking a brute force approach to retaining power past the 2019 elections.

European and NGO supporters have been worried that the powers given with Poroshenko’s martial law declaration may be too spellbinding for Poroshenko. They are worried Kiev will trample on human and civil rights in Ukraine.

On December 10th, DNR’s Eduard Basurin stated they had Intelligence Kiev is going to stage an attack on December 14th, the day before the Ukrainian Orthodox Church votes for Autocephaly (freedom from the Moscow Patriarchate).

Ukraine is going to start their attack from the Mariupol region with a 12,000 man group with over 50 tanks and 40 multiple rocket launchers.

This group will make an offensive drive up the border trying to gain as much of it as possible before the offensive stalls.

From the Saker in September– When Ukraine starts the assault on LDNR, I expect it will be conducted in a similar fashion to 2014. The reason for this is simple. Unless they bought an airforce or large scale surface to surface missiles, the terrain and layout hasn’t changed. Trying to blitz in will only go so far before your troops are decimated. The Ukrainians started pounding Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014 to get the republics to defend the cities and then tried to roll in around them.

The first targets to take are the two main roads connecting the cities. Next, Ukraine will probably try to roll in overland and avoid contact as much as possible on the way to the border. In 2014, they had guides taking them across the open land.

The 12000 troops and equipment in Mariupol are there for two reasons. One is to serve Ukrainian propaganda with possibly a feint to draw DPR resources away from where Ukraine wants to be. The other reason is to roll up the entire border while the contact line troops engage DNR and LNR defenses. In 2014, Ukraine did not allocate near enough resources to do this even though other than key border areas the borders were relatively unprotected. This led to Ukrainian Diaspora volunteers sniping locals that were trying to flee the conflict.

Kerch

The Kerch incident and its ramifications are still high on the international watch list because United States Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker is saying the Ukrainian ships might have been in international waters when the Russian coast guard fired on and confiscated them.

Part of what’s embarrassing about Volker saying that is the Bellingcat report he gleaned this from used Google maps to make the assessment and according to the author, Russia was 500 yards over the territorial line. Bellingcat should invest in better resources because they made US Rep to Ukraine Volker look foolish because of this mistake.

Going further, Ukraine is claiming the right to transit through the strait without using the established procedures including using a channel pilot to guide the ships through safely. Russia is saying Ukraine refused to call the Kerch Port ahead to set up passage through the Kerch Strait and this neglect was for the purpose of creating an international incident.

Ukraine took warships through the Strait in September with Russian escort. This is a matter of record that was even videoed. However, directly after, the Ukrainian Navy called it a victory saying they did not call or confirm transit or use a pilot to navigate the shallow channel.

The passage of Ukraine’s navy through the Strait in September was clearly recorded as was this latest attempt in November. If the September record, which includes video is looked at, the accepted law and procedure in place can be shown.

Most western sources are saying the Russians violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is a misnomer because the Azov Sea is considered a private internal sea by both Ukraine and Russia. It is not the high sea and it contains no exclusive economic zones. Either case would have made the UNCLOS applicable.

The text of the 2003 agreement between Ukraine and Russia favors Russia in this instance.

Martial Law and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The only gain from the Kerch Incident was Petr Poroshenko declaring martial law the same day. It was just ahead of the initial Autocephaly vote for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) separation. The vote was cancelled and pushed back to December 15th, which is one day after DNR Intel says Ukraine will mount an attack.

In the meantime, Ukraine has decided dissenting Bishops are treasonous in an effort to skew the results of the vote to favor the Kyiv Patriarchate.

Ukraine’s relation to its existing churches and the one it hopes to have with a positive vote by Bishops for Autocephaly (independence) is murky.

And yet, Poroshenko’s SBU (Ukraine’s version of FBI) is taking groups of Bishops in for questioning. Ukraine is calling the current Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) Moscow Patriarchate Bishop a security threat and questioning the Bishops and Metropolitans ahead of the vote (Sobor) in what looks like a blatant attempt to change their vote to favor UOC independence.

By delivering the Church to Ukrainian nationalist Bishop Filaret, Poroshenko will be making good on his campaign platform of a united and rebuilt Ukrainian Language-Army-Church.

Recognizing Stepan Bandera Voted a Hero of Ukraine

The Ukrainian Senate (Rada) just voted to recognize assassinated WWII Ukrainian Nationalist leader Stepan Bandera as a hero of Ukraine once again. This move is beyond controversial because the OUNB (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists- Bandera) were WWII’s most enthusiastic murders.

For those unfamiliar with Bandera, his armies included 3 or 4 Waffen SS Battalions that were also prison guards at the extermination camps. The OUN is responsible for the murder of more than 3 million Soviet prisoners of war through forced starvation inside Ukraine.

The OUN committed WWII’s first Holocaust acts at Katyn and Babi Yar just outside Kiev. Today at Babi Yar, instead of a promised Holocaust memorial commemorating the 36,000 Jews that were murdered there, the Ukrainian government put up memorials to OUN members that may have taken part in the crimes against humanity.

Ukraine attempts to say Bandera and the OUN were against the German Nazis, but not according to Slava Stetsko, his one remaining lieutenant and leader of the OUN in 1991. She is the one person that would know the truth and Stetsko clearly says she was in Berlin in 1945 begging Hitler for more money to build armies to serve the Reich.

Recognition of Stepan Bandera by Ukraine on any level should be the factor showing exactly where the country exists politically. Bandera was a fascist and believed in a strongman government. His follower’s politics today is the same.

What kind of country is Ukraine to make a man Adolf Hitler considered violent and unstable its national hero?

Europe and the US would do well to educate the Ukrainian Diaspora and Ukrainian government on what it means to be Democratic. The country has never found its bearings on the one really important factor needed to enter international society and need help.

Russia’s Foreign Minister accuses the US in orchestrating the attacks against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine

October 13, 2018

Russia’s Foreign Minister accuses the US in orchestrating the attacks against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine

Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview to RT France, Paris Match and Figaro, Moscow, October 12, 2018

 

Question: Russia has been constantly, especially recently, accused by Western countries, the media, and a number of organisations, such as the Anti-Doping Agency and the OPCW, of election meddling and cyber attacks. Most recently, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands came out with such accusations concurrently and provided the media with information dating back six months. What is that all about? A planned action to put pressure on Russia and impose more sanctions? What do you think about the evidence that has been produced?

Sergey Lavrov: I find it difficult to discuss this matter seriously, because the evidence is being provided to us through the media. With all due respect to the journalism trade, we, as serious people, cannot consider the specific allegations, and Russia stands accused of all the deadly sins, without making use of the legal norms that were created specifically for such cases.

However, our response is fairly straightforward. If you talk to us through the media, we will do the same but be specific and to the point in our statements.

If our Western colleagues seriously think they can rattle us with their hysterics, they must not be paying enough attention to the history books. If all this is just a momentary fit and this particular instance of “political madness” dissipates naturally, we, when they are done talking, will be expecting them to join us in the legal framework for a serious professional discussion that is not tainted by propaganda.

QuestionThe Ukrainian Patriarchate decided to turn its back on Moscow and become independent from the Russian Orthodox Church. Politically, this is considered an important decision. What do you think about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church?

We will be marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice in World War I on November 11. Many heads of European governments will attend the event. Do you think President Putin will also attend the celebrations?

Sergey LavrovThe Ukrainian Patriarchate did not turn its back on the Russian Orthodox Church, because the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate opposes the provocations orchestrated by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople with direct and open support from Washington.

The plan was to make use of two non-canonical schismatic churches in Ukraine (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church), which were never recognised by any Orthodox Church, but which, in the interests of this provocation, Patriarch Bartholomew recognised as canonical, and lifted the anathema from the two hierarchs who head these schismatic churches during the Holy Synod which he convened in Constantinople the other day.

As for church matters in general, intervention in church activities is outlawed in Ukraine and in Russia, and I hope in any other civilised state as well. However, when the US special representative for church relations outwardly welcomes the decision by Patriarch Bartholomew, when Kurt Volker who must, on behalf of the United States, facilitate the Ukrainian settlement based on the Minsk agreements, says what he says about these processes, we, in such cases, have a saying that loosely translates as a guilty conscious betrays itself. People who are unable to come up with a single fact to back up their indiscriminate accusations that we are interfering in someone’s internal affairs, behave as if this is normal.

I very much hope that these extremely negative examples of the culture of dialogue, talks and diplomacy being replaced with uncultured Diktats backed up by flagrant blackmail, will not go unnoticed by hosts of the Paris Peace Forum.

With regard to celebrations dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we received invitations and will certainly be represented there.

Question: I would like to revisit the Idlib issue. President Assad said that the situation in Idlib is temporary. Do you think your Turkish partners under the Sochi agreement are capable of disarming the jihadists in Idlib? How can a solution be found to this final part of the Syrian war?

Sergey Lavrov: This is really a temporary agreement. This story will end only when the power of the Syrian people is restored in Syria, and all those who are now in Syria, especially those who were never invited there, will leave its territory. Everyone understands this.

I do not agree that Idlib is the only problem area in Syria. There are vast swathes of land to the east of the Euphrates River where absolutely unacceptable things are happening. The United States is trying to use this territory to create a quasi-state with their Syrian allies, particularly the Kurds.

The United States is trying absolutely illegally to create a quasi-state in this territory and to create proper living conditions there for their minions. They are creating alternative governing bodies to the legitimate Syrian government and are actively promoting the return and resettlement of the refugees. This is being done at a time where neither the United States, nor France, or other Western countries, want to create proper conditions for the return of the refugees in the territories controlled by the legitimate Syrian Government prior to, as the West keeps telling us, the beginning of a credible political process. The question is why no one has to wait for the beginning of a credible political process on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River controlled by the United States and their local supporters. There can be only one answer. They want to create a territory which will be a prototype of a new state, or start another dangerous game with Iraqi Kurdistan, the so-called idea of ​​Greater Kurdistan. I do not rule out the possibility that the United States wants to keep the situation so heated that it never calms down. It is much easier for them to catch the fish they want in muddy waters. This approach has never led to anything good.

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Lavrov: US backs Patriarch Bartholomew’s provocation against Orthodox Church in Ukraine

The Russian top diplomat pointed out that any interference in Church affairs is banned in Ukraine, in Russia, and in any other “normal state”

MOSCOW, October 12. /TASS/. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is plotting a provocation against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with direct support from Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the RT France, Paris Match and Le Figaro.

 

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