from Russia with bias

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


with 3 comments

Latvia has adopted a law aimed specifically against a few thousand Russian political immigrants who have fled dictatorial mayhem in their country after Bolotnaya protests and the annexation of Crimea.

These people, mostly middle class professionals, obtained residence permits in exchange for investment in property and businesses. In practice, it means that they swapped their Russian apartments for flats and houses in Latvia, bringing hundreds of millions into the cash-strapped economy.

Now, the new law stipulates that they need to pay 5000 Euro per person to renew the five-year permit. For many families, possibly including my own, it means they’ll have to say goodbye to Latvia after all the efforts, years and money invested in settling down and integrating in Latvian society.

The simple reason is that unlike Russian oligarchs, state officials and criminals who inundate Latvia and will have no trouble paying the fee, for us 5000 euro, multiplied by the number of people in the family, is a very large sum of money.

Besides, the state-sponsored theft and extortion was one of main reasons to leave Russia in the first place, so why live in a country that does the same?

The new law says three things about Latvia:

1. This country is bad for investment, because it cheats and changes the rules in the middle of the game.

2. Amazingly, in the 21st century Latvian laws actually work retroactively. This one, for example, targets people who obtained permits after 2011.

3. The parliamentary majority in Latvia can be easily manipulated by the Kremlin into adopting laws that go against Latvia’s economic and strategic interests, while helping Vladimir Putin to promote anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic agenda in the EU and to target Russian political immigrants.

In short, it is full of Putin’s stooges no matter how they pretend to come across as patriots and nationalists. MPs who initiated this law have a long history of serving as Russian propaganda’s favourite scarecrows who are helping Kremlin TV to paint Latvia as intolerant and Russophobic country, which it clearly isn’t. Now they are at it again.

Written by fullofbias

April 21, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


with one comment

Why not leave. Assad’s departure is no longer on the agenda. Pro-Western forces in Syria are marginalized. The West has been distracted – Ukraine is no longer in the news, the conflict in Donbass is being frozen on Russia’s conditions. Crimea is nowhere on the global agenda. The EU is showing cracks, sanctions will be eventually lowered, but then their contribution to the economic crisis is questionable compared to the impact of oil prices. Internal opposition has been destroyed. Ukraine is discredited as a role model for pro-Western Russians. There will be no export of revolution. The economy did fall, but not even nearly to the level, from the which the Ukrainian economy started falling. As Ukraine shows, ex-Soviet people are strong – they’ll endure worse calamities. Besides, now it’s easy to blame everything on the enemies with their sanctions – no one remembers that downfall began before Ukraine.

He has won not one war but three – in Syria, Ukraine and most importantly – inside Russia. He is the winner, the West, Ukraine and Russia are losers.

Written by fullofbias

March 14, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


leave a comment »

In terms of its dramatic effect, how does the Syrian season of the Russian TV news soap opera compare to the Ukrainian season?

The Middle East setting is way more spectacular. Just think of it – desert sun, ancient ruins, people in exotic outfits. Also, planes are infinitely cooler than tanks or artillery. Besides, judging by Russian news reports, they always hit some mysterious facilities, which seem uninhabited, because no one is talking about casualties.

There is less confusion with Syria. While in the case of Ukraine one could recall a colleague from Cherkassy or distant relatives in Odessa, who suddenly stopped sending birthday cards, Syrians come across as strange (and dangerous) aliens who populate TV screens, but not the real world as it is observed from Tambov or Ulyanovsk.

The new goods guys, pilots, are a totally different league in terms of manners and intelligence than the gangster-ish field commanders in Donbass. Terrorists work better than Ukrainian “fascists” as the bad guys – the whole world hates them, so there is no question of Russia being isolated on the issue. The fact that Russia is bombing non-ISIS groups is not something that will worry Russian viewers. Really, who cares about different shades of Jihadism?

Finally, Syria is the place where the evil force behind all of the world’s misfortunes – one might call it West or simply America – has once again bred a Frankenstein which is now threatening its own creator. Same way as it did with Afghan mujaheddins, who transformed into Taliban and caused 9/11. Now the Russian Jedis can sort the whole thing out and shame the reckless American devils.

Or not. But who in Russia cares what happens to Syria at the end of the day? Besides, if the Russian intervention leads to a greater trouble, it’s always possible to withdraw and blame everything on America.

Written by fullofbias

October 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


leave a comment »


Russian planes are bombing moderate pro-American Syrians, but Russia claims that it’s targeting Islamic State militants. If you are seeing a contradiction here, it means you are not watching Russian TV on daily basis. For it has been hammering into viewer’s heads for weeks and months that Islamic State has been created by the West. Indeed Putin reiterated the same idea while addressing the UN General Assembly.

So see – it’s logical. First Islamic State militants get bombed and then they start shouting that they’ve been trained by the CIA. Bingo! We always knew it.

The only logic that matters for Putin is the one that sells to Russian TV audiences. The only reason to start the war in Syria was that the Ukrainian episode of the ongoing soap opera was getting duller and murkier. The new one has been great so far – just look at those MoD videos of explosions on the ground neatly going off all at the same time. They will keep millions of people mesmerized for some months, while script writers will be scratching their heads about new scenes and new backdrops.

Written by fullofbias

October 1, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


leave a comment »

My instinct always tells me to avoid meeting mean people. But journalism is about meeting exactly them, and so is diplomacy. They might give you insights that you won’t get otherwise or they might ally with you against meaner and more dangerous people. It’s always good to talk, which is why I am glad that Obama is talking to Putin.

That said, the Russian president is unlikely to offer a feasible solution for Syria or concessions on Ukraine. It is highly probable that his only goal is to get the handshake footage, which he can show to Russian TV viewers lest they are starting to realize that Russia has turned into a bit of a pariah state. As I said before, Russian foreign policy is serving just one goal – keeping popularity ratings at the current mind-bogglingly high level.

But Putin is interesting, and he is not someone you can summon at a whim. He might have ideas on the future of Assad or crucial intelligence on ISIL obtained from Chechens and Tajiks fighting on its side. He might hint at a possible change of tack on Ukraine.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s fascinating to watch his body language and his slips of tongue. Is he scared? Is he feeling cornered? Is he losing his grip? How will he try to dupe and manipulate the Americans this time? Obama should really approach this meeting as an interviewer rather than mentor or policeman talking to repeated offender.

It will also help if the US president comes late by an hour or two – just to watch the reaction and spoil the rosy TV picture Putin is hoping to bring home.

Written by fullofbias

September 25, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


with one comment

Double portrait of a businessman facing himself

Photo from mybrainsolutions.com

One important thing to understand about Russia’s foreign policy is that Russia has no foreign policy and no long-term goal to achieve internationally. But given its size and capabilities, its domestic politics will continue to make a strong, if random impact on international affairs. All of its actions, including the war in Ukraine and the recent foray into Syria, are dictated by the need to mobilize Putin’s support base in order to keep the status quo whereby the oligarchy can tap into natural resources and state coffers, unhindered by media and opposition.

If the pendulum of public opinion swings towards pacifism, as it did in the late 1980s and during the first Chechen war, the regime (non-democratic, but obsessed with feedback) will swing that way, too. But for now it feels it needs another ‘victory’ to prop up its high popularity ratings, playing on the Russians’ deep inferiority complex caused by the trauma they endured in the 20th century. It needs another Crimea of sorts.

Since there will be no more victories in Ukraine, Syria comes as a natural alternative. Crucially for Putin’s regime, Syria is where the West has failed miserably, which allows him to once again present himself as the only real can-do man among the world leaders. His unique experience of putting down an extremely brutal and insane Islamist insurgency in Chechnya gives him a lot of confidence when it comes to fighting the Islamic State, which sure as hell has been massively infiltrated by Russian agents of Northern Caucasus and Central Asian background. Another concern is that the warlord and mercenary class that Putin has bred in Chechnya and Donbass needs to be permanently fed with war, lest it turns arms against the regime.

But ultimately, there is no end game for Putin in Syria – all he needs is a TV picture of Russians doing something that passes for saving the world, no matter what the end result might be. The imitation of efficiency, bold actions and strong views is the essence of the current Russian regime.

Putin’s only real war is against the domestic opposition and its leader Alexey Navalny, but his entourage is imaginative enough to avoid waging this war in the streets of Moscow. The whole point of meddling in Ukraine and Syria is to create the right TV picture and commentary for domestic consumption. What passes for Kremlin’s foreign policy is run by media-savvy ‘Wag the Dog’ types, but their level of cynicism is only comparable to the Bolshevik’s or Islamic State’s ability to unleash unrestrained and unprecedented terror.

What the West mistakes for a message to itself, is not addressed to it all. The Kremlin is only talking to the imaginary West of its own TV broadcasts and it doesn’t care a bit that the real West might take it personally.

Written by fullofbias

September 23, 2015 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“Beasts & Non-Humans”

with one comment

Toxic tweets that led to the dismissal of pianist Valentina Lisitsa from Toronto orchestra are causing understandable outrage. But for someone reading Russian and Ukrainian posts on daily basis, her language comes across as standard, if not mild. This is exactly how pro-Kremlin and pro-Ukrainian bloggers address each other on social networks 24 hours a day.

I once translated a post by Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin who called Ukrainians “a nation of bastards that emerged from sewage manholes”.

It was retweeted by hundreds of people, which came as no surprise. Apart from Dugin, I also tweeted some excerpts from the prominent Ukrainian blogger Serhiy Ivanov. Although his statements were arguably even more extreme than Dugin’s, they didn’t draw nearly as much attention. This is fair enough – Russia has invaded Ukraine and the world’s sympathies lie with the Ukrainians.

Dugin is not exactly mainstream in Russia and has almost no access to TV, even though his Eurasianism seems to have been taken on board by the Kremlin.

By contrast, Ivanov, who has 34,000 followers and friends on Facebook is the Ukrainian TV darling, a famous columnist, a close friend of top politicians and a co-founder of a non-parliamentary party.

Ivanov is a former prosecutor and a refugee from Luhansk region, which is often cited as an excuse for his inflammatory language. From my observation, he’s been recently avoiding blatantly hateful speech, but he remains a leading trend setter and many young bloggers copycat him.

Here is the translation of his most outrageous post published in the early September 2014. He has by now blocked access to all posts that appeared before October, but I’ve got a screenshot, which I tweeted at the time.


Here is the translation –

“First results of ceasefire with the Prick [Putin]. Almost 80 dead. Russian special forces’ work.

I hope these high-precision weapons PAP [Poroshenko] has been bragging about will not be resold, as our generals love to do, but they will be used for high-precision killing of Russians [uses the word referring to ethnicity, not nationality], since no nation is more vile and unsrupulous than this one.

Besides, as a citizen of Ukraine, I demand that all relations with Russia should be broken, all Russians [ethnic term again], except political refugees, should be deported, all Russian-owned businesses should be nationalized. There are many people who share my – no question – radical views. So very soon Sberbank offices and Coffee House outlets will start catching fire. Same will happen to the Russian embassy, consulates and citizens.

Russians are beasts and non-humans. Fungus and mold. I wonder if I should change my [Russian] surname, so that no one associates me with this dumb herd of cave-dwelling animals.

Gosh the Germans chose the wrong people to burn in the ovens, yeah the wrong ones.

P.S. If someone didn’t get it, this was not a call for violence, but a demand for a symmetric response to the aggressor, addressed to the Ukrainian government.”

Written by fullofbias

April 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Fingerprints on Crimean Trigger

leave a comment »

On March 10, Fyodor Mozgovoy – who commands LNR’s ‘Phantom’ unit and enjoys a cult status among Russian volunteers fighting on the rebel side in Ukraine – made a remarkable statement. Asked about fascism in Ukraine, he said:

“My dears, there is no fascism. The anti-fascist movement is… Well, it’s like with computers, understand? There virus and there is antivirus. The Virus is created by the same person who creates the anti-virus. It’s all business, pure business. You can create a surge and then create a counter-surge. You gain from the both”.

I think it’s a great metaphor because it worked so well a year ago.

I the wee hours on February 23, 2014 Putin told his entourage it was time to “return” Crimea. The operation began.

Later on that day the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party managed to convince the Ukrainian parliament to vote for the annulment of a law that gave a special status to regional languages, of which the by far most important is Russian.

The next day the self-proclaimed “social-nationalist” Ihor Mosiychuk, now an MP, threatened to send right-wing militants to pacify the restive Sevastopol in what he called a “friendship train” – a reference to a similar action in 1992.

The decision on the language law hasn’t been approved by the acting presented Oleksandr Tourchinov (neither it has been annulled), while the “friendship train” never materialized. But these two acts provided crucial ammunition for Kremlin’s propaganda. Within hours, both stories became viral in the offline world of ordinary Russian-speakers in Crimea and Donbass. They can certainly be blamed for their susceptibility to manipulation. But the result was achieved.

Participants in the large rally held in Sevastopol at the time, were telling me there was no thought about rising up against Ukraine until the news broke about the law and Mosiychuk’s threat. Talk to anyone in Crimea now – they will say nothing would have happened without these acts.

Like two brilliant strikers who have played on the same team forever, the Kremlin and the radical Ukrainian nationalists cut through the thin defence at a lightning speed and scored. It was the culmination of a long lasting partnership, or rather symbiosis. Like between a virus and an antivirus.

Written by fullofbias

March 18, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nashist International

with one comment

Their world is monochrome – divided into “us” and the enemies. They treat criticism as betrayal, they reject otherness as subversion. They attack in packs, but when left on their own, they are pathetic. Their span of attention is extremely short, which means their heroes can instantly turn into enemies and visa versa. When they argue, they put words into your mouth, then proceed with deconstructing the arguments they’ve invented themselves.

This is of course people who comprise the core of Putin’s regime – but many others, too. This psycho type is not endemic to Russia, so you find same people in the Ukrainian “couch battalion” – people who “fight” Russia by posting xenophobic comments in social networks, as well as among hawkish tea party right-wingers in America and terrorist-loving left-wingers in Europe.

There is no commonly used word for them, but there are two well-known Russian words that describe them best. One is Bolsheviks – “people of the majority”. The word emerged during the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. Lenin’s faction was in fact a minority, but it claimed to be the majority, so they dubbed themselves Bolsheviks and the other side – Mensheviks, people of the minority. The Bolsheviks slaughtered the Mensheviks in the Civil War and during the subsequent years of terror.

Another good term is Nashists and it was coined quite recently. The word “nashi” literally means “ours”, but it is best translated as “our guys” or simply “us” – as opposed to “them”, alien people. The main idiom, which contains that word is “nashikh byut”, which means “our guys are being attacked”. If you feel yourself like one of “nashi”, then upon hearing this battle cry you are supposed to run and join the fight, no matter whether “our guys” are right or wrong.

“Nashi” became a political term in the early 1990s, when journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov produced a film, which glorified Riga riot policemen who clamped down on the pro-independence movement and killed several unarmed civilians.

Even though Nevzorov grew into a critic of Putin, the word was later used by Kremlin spin doctors when they were creating the most potent pro-government youth movement. Nashi became Putin’s version of Hitlerjugend and the word Nashism was coined by Russian democrats instantly after the movement emerged.

This word comes very handy in a variety of political situations outside the Russian context. I find it extremely useful.

Written by fullofbias

December 26, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Want to Fight in Ukraine? Join Humanitarian Convoy, Get Red Cross Papers

leave a comment »

What a remarkable interview – especially since it appeared on a regional website.

The head of an organization that unites special forces veterans in Yekaterinburg openly talks about his role in sending mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. Vladimir Yefimov calls them volunteers, but admits that they get between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on their rank. “I think people should get paid. They are risking their lives after all. Payments help to attract professionals. They come back with shining eyes – the performed their duty and they are not feeling bitter”, he told E1. He says he helped six groups of 15 to 30 people to reach Donetsk. Two other groups, 30 people in each, went to Luhansk.

Most amazingly, he claims that they travel with “humanitarian convoys” and at least once the Russian Red Cross helped them with papers. “First time they traveled in the guise of Red Cross employees. They received papers from the local bureau. When [the convoy] reached the destination, people stayed. They were given weapons and issued combat orders”, Yefimov says.

It appears to be largely a grassroots initiative, but actively assisted by the state. When Yefimov approached Putin’s envoy to the Urals with a request to institutionalize it, the official refused but thanked him for patriotism.

Yefimov first surfaced during a ceremony in which several people received state awards for fighting in Ukraine. One of them, paratrooper Alexey Zasov was awarded posthumously. The family was not allowed to see the body when his coffin arrived. Relatives were told that he died “while accompanying a humanitarian convoy” in Russia, but soldiers from his unit told them that it happened in Ukraine.

Written by fullofbias

December 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized