Viktor Yanukovych Interviewed By The BBC

No, I haven’t watched the interview yet, but I plan to. See article with embedded videos here.

Dang, I don’t know about you, but I would love to interview him! The best part is I wouldn’t even need an interpreter. I’d just speak directly to him in Russian.

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The Best Line Ever Written

My friends, I have found the single best line ever written in a news article. Are you ready for this?

The FSB did not respond to a request for comment.

Remember, the FSB is one of the Russian intelligence services. It’s a successor to the KGB. The quote comes from this article. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. I saw it at work and burst out laughing.

С Днем Победы! [Happy Victory Day!]

Happy Victory Day!
Happy Victory Day!

You didn’t think I’d forget, did you? I’ve written Victory Day posts pretty much every year since I started this blog. (2012 appears to be the exception, but you can read 2011, 2013, and 2014.)

Say what you want about the Soviet Union—even someone as fervently against Communism as I am must admit that without the Soviet people, the Allies may not have won the war. С Днем Победы! Happy Victory Day!

The famous photo of the Soviet flag being flown at the German Reichstag after the victory in 1945.
The famous photo of the Soviet flag being flown at the German Reichstag after the victory in 1945.

The US Has Sent Troops To Ukraine To Train Ukrainian Military 

So I haven’t researched this extensively, but the Russian-language media is reporting that the United States is sending 290 military instructors to Lvov, Ukraine to train troops there, including members of the Azov, Yaguar, and Omega battalions, among others.

The article is here, if you read Russian. Needless to say, the Russians aren’t too pleased about this. I’m not either, considering that the Azov Battalion is known for being especially nasty. They’re pro-Nazi (they use Nazi imagery; I’ll update this post with photos later) and are a rather odious group in general. If my country is actually helping them—well, that’s just appalling.

Alexander Bortnikov

While reading the Eurasia Daily Monitor yesterday (you can subscribe to it by email here), I came across this quote:

The visit of FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov to Washington in February (Newsru.com, February 20), the visit of Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev to the North Caucasus the following month (Rbc.ru, March 11) and the recent visit of Sergei Smirnov to Tashkent all indicate that the Russian government is looking for a solution to the problem that the Islamic State organization poses for Moscow. As an ally of Bashar al-Assad, Russia isolated itself from all possible allies among the armed groups in the Middle East and from those countries that oppose the al-Assad regime. Moscow, therefore, is, forced to look for allies against a cruel and merciless enemy, and that enemy has now become the Islamic State.

I wouldn't want to mess with him! Found on the FSB website.
Alexander Bortnikov. I wouldn’t want to mess with him! Found on the FSB website.

I was surprised to see the bit about Bortnikov in Washington, as I didn’t remember seeing that in the news—but, as usual, the Eurasia Daily Monitor didn’t let me down. Alexander Bortnikov was indeed in Washington earlier this year. I’ve followed his career for a while—he’s head of the FSB, one of the post-Soviet sucessors to the KGB—and I can’t believe I missed seeing that he was here.

You can read more about his visit here, but the article’s in Russian. Basically, he was here for some anti-terrorism summit and said that as many as 1,700 Russian citizens may be fighting in Iraq on the side of the Islamic State.

Personally, I think this ought to mean increased cooperation with Russia, since we have a common enemy, but I’m guessing the people who actually make policy don’t see it that way. Oh well.

Bank of Finland’s Russia Forecast

I’m subscribed to a newsletter put out by the Bank of Finland’s Institute for Economies in Transition. Don’t ask how I found it, because I can’t remember, but it’s the perfect thing for someone interested in Russia and economics. (My philosophy in life is if it relates to Russia, it’s probably at least somewhat interesting.) You can sign up for the newsletter here. And never fear, it’s all in English. If you sign up, you’ll get a weekly report with economic analysis on Russia and China. I’m not that interested in China, so I usually just read the Russia stuff. 🙂

Anyway, the annual forecast (this is different from the weekly report I get) just was mailed out last week. It was so interesting, so I thought I’d provide a link so you can read it. Basically, Russia’s economy is due to contract because of lower oil prices. No surprises there, but the analysis has some interesting nitty-gritty stuff about imports and exports, etc.

No Peace For The Last Tsar And His Family

Ugh, this news makes me so annoyed. Paul from the Royal Russia blog I read posted an article from Interfax, one of Russia’s main news sources, about a proposal to exhume the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

“All doubts about the authenticity of Emperor Nicholas II’s family relics should be eliminated,” said Sergey Mironenko, the director of the Russian State Archive (GARF) in Moscow.

[…]

As to disclosed relics of Nicholas II’s children Alexey and Maria, the archive director says he “is categorically against burying the relics without participation of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

He also promised to publish in the Internet all the materials referring to the case on disclosure of the tsar and his family relics. “The Russian State Archive has its own website and there we will post all the documents discovered during the research,” Mironenko said.

There’s more to the article, but the English is so bad that it’s just painful to read. Though, in my opinion, even if the English weren’t bad, it still would be painful. I don’t understand the point of digging up poor Nicholas and his family all over again. I’ve read so much about the search for the imperial family’s bodies. The evidence is conclusive: those people are indeed the late tsar and his family, along with their faithful servants. There’s been DNA analysis done. The best forensic scientists in the world have examined the remains. What more proof do you need?

It just makes me so frustrated. Those poor people lay rotting in a mineshaft without a proper burial for decades. Apparently the Russian Orthodox Church won’t recognize that these are indeed the remains of the tsar and his family. I wish they’d stop being stupid and let that poor family be buried together, and stay buried together. It’s the right thing to do.

Putin, Nemtsov’s Murder, And The Russian Opposition

On February 27 of this year, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed as he walked in Moscow near the Kremlin. According to this article, Russian investigators have said that Nemtsov may have been a “sacrificial victim.”

The first possibility, the Investigative Committee said, was that the murder was aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country and Nemtsov was a “sacrificial victim for those who do not shun any method for achieving their political goals.”

This suggestion echoed comments by Putin’s spokesman and other Russian politicians that the attack was a “provocation” against the state.

The term “sacrificial victim” was also the same one Putin used three years ago when he warned that his political opponents were planning to kill one of their own and then blame it on his government.

This idea was so intriguing that I had to research it further. I found this article from February 2012, nearly three years earlier to the date Nemtsov was murdered.

Sounding as if he was quoting from a dusty KGB manual or a bad movie script, Vladi­mir Putin warned Wednesday that his opponents are prepared to murder one of their own so they can blame it on him.

[…]

“They are looking for a so-called sacrificial victim among some prominent figures,” Putin, a former KGB agent, told a gathering of the All-Russia Popular Front, a group organized to support him. “They will knock him off, I beg your pardon, and then blame the authorities for that.”

If you’re curious about other theories of who did it, this article has a summary of the five most popular. One of them has been discussed here. The other is that Putin did it. There are three other interesting ones on the list.

Basically, I find the idea that the opposition had him killed in order to discredit Putin to be so fascinating that I want to stick it in a spy novel that I someday plan to write. It may not be accurate at all in real life, but you can’t deny it makes for great fiction.

Boris Nemtsov Feared Putin Would Order Him Killed

Nemtsov at a march in Moscow in 2013. Source
Nemtsov at a march in Moscow in 2013. Source

Prominent opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered late on Friday evening, right by the Kremlin. (Morbid and interesting fact: I’ve been to the very place where he was killed.) A little over two weeks before his death, he gave an interview in which he said he feared that Putin would kill him. The link is in Russian and the translation is mine.

She [Nemtsov’s mother] is completely against what is happening in Ukraine and considers it a catastrophe and complete nightmare. But Putin worries her more than Ukraine. Every time I call her, she says: “When are you going to stop criticizing Putin? He’s going to kill you!” And this is completely serious.

Unfortunately, her fears came true. Nemtsov is dead, shot four times in the back.

Вечная память.

Original text: Она категорически против того, что происходит на Украине, считает, что это катастрофа и полный кошмар. Но больше Украины ее волнует Путин. Всякий раз, как я ей звоню, она причитает: «Когда ты прекратишь ругать Путина? Он тебя убьет!» И это на полном серьезе.