About That Weird Twitter Email

Back in January I—and probably every Twitter user ever—received a very odd email from our favorite microblogging service. (Is Twitter considered microblogging? I’m going to assume it is, but I’m not actually sure which services qualify as microblogging services…) Here’s the email in its entirety.

Dear Natalie K.,

As part of our recent work to understand Russian-linked activities on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.

Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing you because we have reason to believe that you either followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked content from these accounts during the election period. This is purely for your own information purposes, and is not related to a security concern for your account.

We are sharing this information so that you can learn more about these accounts and the nature of the Russian propaganda effort. You can see examples of content from these suspended accounts on our blog if you’re interested.
Continue reading “About That Weird Twitter Email”

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Polish NATO Jets Buzz Russian Defense Minister’s Plane

I don’t know if you heard about this bit of news earlier this week—I think it was Wednesday—but two NATO F-16 fighter jets buzzed some Russian planes, one of which just happened to have Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on board.

I first saw the story in the American media. Here’s a link to USA Today’s take on it.

A NATO fighter jet buzzed the plane of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu before being chased off by a Russian jet in what would be the latest aerial confrontation between the West and Russia and its allies, Russian media reported Wednesday.

The Russian plane was flying over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea en route to the western Russian city of Kaliningrad when a NATO F-16 “attempted to make an approach” to Shoigu’s plane, RIA Novosti reported, citing its journalist on Shoigu’s plane. A Russian Su-27 fighter escorting the minister “displayed its weapons” and the F-16 flew off, the media outlet said.

Pretty usual, to be honest. Keep in mind this comes in the wake of a Russian fighter plane buzzing one of our jets recently. Allegedly the Russian plane came within five feet of the American plane! So yes, I do recognize this has been a recurring problem from the Russians. And in this case, the Russian planes were over neutral waters, but allegedly didn’t identify themselves when asked.

However, this incident I’m blogging about was a little bit different. You see, the Russian defense minister was on board. He was en route to Kaliningrad. It strikes me as more than a little coincidental that he was buzzed—I wonder if his schedule was known ahead of time. It seems like this was meant to send a specific signal to Russia. Not only that, but the Russians reported their take on the issue—and have a hilarious video as well. Here’s a video from TV Zvezda, the official media outlet of the Ministry of Defense.

The first plane we see is the NATO jet. Then a Russian Su-27 comes up, does a little wing tilt in the air to show off its weapons, and that’s that. Nothing bad happened, fortunately.

Until yesterday, I thought that was that, but then I saw a new development in the story. It has come out that the NATO jets belonged to Poland. Yes, Poland.

A pair of Polish F-16 supersonic multirole jets were on a NATO patrol mission when they were informed of Russian planes near the borders of countries whose airspace they were guarding, the broadcaster said.

According to RMF FM, they intercepted Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s Tu-154 plane and its two armed Su-27 jet escorts. According to Russian authorities, Shoigu was en-route to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, northeast of Poland, RMF FM reported.

The whole thing kind of ticks me off, to be honest, because it seems like Poland, who hates Russia, is basically playing chicken with a major nuclear power without regard for the consequences. And they can do it with impunity because if anything does happen, they’ve got NATO. This basically means Poland could drag the United States into a war with Russia over something stupid just because of NATO’s Article 5. Let me also remind you who pays the bulk of NATO’s costs. Hint: it’s not Poland. Scroll down to the section called “Direct funding of NATO” and you can see that the United States pays for 22% of the budget. Poland pays a measly 2%. Hey Poland, if you want to engage with Russian jets over neutral waters, how about coughing up a bit more money for this organization, huh?

Sigh. NATO should have been disbanded long ago. I’ve thought that for years and I still think that. It served its purpose during the Cold War. Now that’s over, NATO should be done with, too.

Putin the Patriot

Since I can’t embed the video, here’s a picture of Putin from his English Wikipedia page.

My mom sent me this video over the weekend. It’s an unedited (which I assume means unaired?) clip from Megyn Kelly’s recent interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. For some reason, the embed code will not work properly, so unfortunately you’re going to have to click through to the link above to see it. The video does have subtitles, so don’t worry if you don’t speak Russian. You’ll still be able to know what Putin says. (Though no doubt Putin himself would say that you ought to have started learning Russian yesterday, comrade!)

Leaving aside whether the interview was good or bad, whether Kelly’s questions were good or bad, and whether she should have conducted the interview in the first place, I want to focus on Putin’s answer to her question. I was really impressed at the depth of feeling in it. That, my dear readers, is what a true patriot looks like. That is a man who loves his country.

This isn’t meant to be a pro-Putin post. Unlike many people in the West, I don’t mind admitting that I like some of the things Putin has done over the years and sometimes agree with him. Other times, of course, I don’t see eye to eye with him, to put it lightly. But I cannot help but respect his patriotism evident in that interview. I find it quite… inspiring.

Russian Political Party Sponsors Bill To Revive Tsarist National Anthem

I read this amazing bit of news a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it ever since: Law introduced in the State Duma to replace Russian National Anthem with “God Save the Tsar.” The link is in Russian.

Basically, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has introduced a bill in the Russian parliament (Duma) to replace the current national anthem with the tsarist-era anthem, “God Save the Tsar.” (Zhirinovsky famously declared war on a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet years ago, so he’s no stranger to very random pronouncements.) Now, I do like the current anthem, I really do. I think it’s quite beautiful. But I like the tsarist anthem even more, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to hear this news.

I doubt the bill will pass, to be honest. I don’t think there’s popular support for it. I don’t think United Russia, the most powerful party in the Duma, supports it, and support from United Russia would be crucial for it to pass. Nor would I want it to pass in the form it was introduced: apparently, according to other sources I read, the bill also proposes changing the calendar back to the Julian version, which would be very confusing since the entire world uses the Gregorian calendar right now. As such, I do think reverting to the Julian calendar would be rather stupid.

But I digress. With all this talk of the two different anthems, you’re probably wondering what they sound like. Wonder no further, dear readers. I have embedded below videos of each so you can listen.

First, the current anthem—here is a direct link to YouTube, in case the embedded version isn’t working. It has the lyrics in both Russian and English.

And here is the tsarist era anthem. Again, here’s a direct link in case the embedded version doesn’t work. I managed to find a version that had the lyrics in English, which was not easy. There are better musical versions out there, but I wanted to have the lyrics in English for all of you to read.

Russian flags by the Kremlin. Source

Really, I do think they are both nice anthems. But I’d love to see a change back to the tsarist version. It’s all part of the plan, you see. First, the tsarist anthem. Then the tsarist flag—oh wait, that’s already happened. The current flag in use in Russia was also used during the late period of the Russian Empire (though there were other flags in use in earlier years). The next, and final step is to restore the monarchy to Russia. I rather like that idea—as long as Putin is not the tsar… 😉

‘Look At Me When I’m Speaking’: A Fabulous Row In The UN

Meet Vladimir Karpovich Safronkov.

To become a Russian diplomat, you have to be physically imposing. That’s my theory, anyway. Source

Until recently, Safronkov was a little-known deputy at Russia’s UN delegation. A career diplomat who was born on March 29, 1964, he attended the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), which seems to be a de facto prerequisite to have a career in Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Even after Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, passed away in January of this year, Safronkov didn’t exactly step right into the spotlight. I’d never heard of the guy until recently, and I don’t think I’m alone.

However, Safronkov made headlines last week when he angrily (and in my opinion, awesomely) told off the UK’s permanent representative to the UN. The British representative made some very pointed remarks about Russia’s stance on Syria—and Safronkov wasn’t having any of it. As my mom said about the photo below, if looks could kill…

Apparently you have to raise your hand to talk at the UN? Or maybe he’s just voting on some resolution.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case, we need to extend the metaphor and say that a video is worth a thousand pictures. (It sounded cleverer in my head before I typed it…) There are multiple videos of Safronkov telling off the British. I think this one from the Guardian is the best because it preserves the original languages of both parties. I’ve also embedded the video below—I’ve never embedded from the Guardian before, so I hope it works. The link above will also take you to the video.

[Edit, April 23: Sorry about the video embed, guys. I hear it doesn’t work. From what I can tell, my WordPress forbids this sort of code. I’ve embedded a video from YouTube below, which is a bit more extensive than the one from the Guardian. You can see the video from the Guardian on their website by clicking here.]

That video is just a small excerpt of what happened. If someone can find the entire thing with subtitles, I’d be happy to post it, especially since the video I have above leaves out the best part. Apparently Safronkov also said, “Don’t you dare insult Russia again!”

The video has raised quite a reaction in the media. Russians are talking about it. The British are talking about it. Even people over here in the US are talking about it. As you can imagine, there’s a split amongst people who have an opinion about it. Some think it’s amazing and others think Safronkov acted like a thug. My position is probably clear from this post, but in case it isn’t, I do think that British guy was a bit of an arse…

Also, the United States permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, wisely stayed out of the kerfuffle.

About That Ante Gotovina Film

I read this interesting story on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) about a week ago: In Casting Quandary, Croatian Filmmaker Lacks For ‘Enemies’.

Croatian director Antun Vrdoljak finds himself in a bind.

His current project, called The General, deals with Croatia’s recent past; it is meant to be a blockbuster about the exploits of Croatian wartime commander Ante Gotovina. Vrdoljak and his crew are currently shooting the film in the vicinity of the Croatian coastal city Split, recreating the final battle of the Croatian war of independence in 1995.

But he is having trouble finding actors willing to play “the enemy.”

Vrdoljak’s dilemma is that even in the filmmaker’s world of make-believe, Croatian actors refuse to put on the uniform of “Chetniks” — as rebel Serb fighters were dubbed to evoke the nationalist Serbian units that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II — while Serbs refuse to take part in a Croatian movie about General Gotovina.

The story—which is unfortunately written with a rather anti-Serbian bias—goes on to say that though this director is paying top dollar for actors to be in his movie, he’s still having trouble finding them. Croats don’t want to play Serb nationalists on film, while Serbs don’t want to take part in anything that glorifies Ante Gotovina. Gotovina was a Croatian general during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. He started his military career in the French Foreign Legion and then returned to his native Croatia. He helped mastermind Operation Storm in 1995, which greatly weakened the Serb side militarily, as well as driving out tons of Serbs from their homes in Croatia.

Ante Gotovina returning to Croatia in 2012.

Gotovina was indicted for war crimes and arrested. However, he was inexplicably acquitted on appeal after being sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. He returned home to Croatia a hero—and according to the article I linked to, much less of a Serb hater.

I’ve never been a great admirer of Gotovina since I’m more pro-Serb than pro-Croat (in the context of the Yugoslav breakup, that is). However, he’s definitely had a fascinating life and I really would like to see the movie when (if?) it comes out. In fact, I will see it no matter how anti-Serb and pro-Gotovina it is, due to one important fact: one of my favorite actors, Goran Visnjic, is playing the role of Gotovina. In case you don’t know what he looks like, I’ve included a helpful picture below.

Have I convinced you to see it, too? 😉

Seriously, though, as amusing as the director’s quandary is, I think a lot of people are missing the point. When you’re acting, the whole point is you aren’t yourself. I mean, I could play a character who really wants a tattoo or a nose piercing—those are two things I’m resolutely against. Just because I played a character who wanted them wouldn’t mean that I did. I could play a character who had political views that were completely opposed to my own—and that wouldn’t mean I espoused those views. It’s just like playing a Serbian soldier doesn’t mean that you’re pro-Serbian. Believe me, I know the whole history of the Balkans is very fraught with tensions and fighting and wars. But I think refusing to play a character who is supposed to be on “the other side” is taking things just a little bit too far.

Or maybe I’m too blinded by my obsession with Goran Visnjic and just really want this movie to be made so I can see it. 🙂

April Fools’ Greetings from the Russian Foreign Ministry!

I found this excellent post on a blog I follow… Seriously, listen to the recording (there is English around 0:30 if you don’t speak Russian). It’s nice to know Foreign Minister Lavrov has such an excellent sense of humor! Also, to hear the recording, you’ll have to go visit the full post by clicking on the title below. I can’t figure out how to embed that in my own post, thanks to Facebook’s confusing interface!

Dispatches from the Asylum

Leave it to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, for a little humor on this April Fools’ day.

(Skip to the 0:30 mark for English)

“You have reached the Russian Embassy. Your call is very important to us. To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponents, press 1. To use the services of Russian hackers, press 2. To request election interference, press 3 and wait until the next election campaign. Please note that all calls are recorded for quality improvement and training purposes.”

Choice!

Photo credit:  I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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