Monday, March 30, 2015

10 Charts That Explain Russia
















(Forbes) For reasons that are far beyond my ability to explain, Russia is a place that attracts clichés in much the same way that a bright flame attracts moths. Having always found the place confusing, contradictory, and vaguely mysterious, Westerners have settled upon a few choice quotes that supposedly summarize Russia in its entirety.

Even today, with the welcome rise of “data journalism” and the proliferation of graphs and fancy-looking charts, you come across these clichés with surprising frequency. Russia is “a mystery inside a riddle.” It is a place that “cannot be understood with the mind alone.” Or, perhaps, it is “Upper Volta with rockets.” Other tropes about Russia and Russians that are used with depressing frequency include uncontrolled alcoholism, limitless stoicism, and anything even tangentially related to bears.
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But my goal in this post isn’t to convince anyone of a particular narrative or interpretation. All I want to do is bring to light some data that I consider important and allow readers to make up their own minds as to what (if anything) it really means.

I'm only posting three of the 10 charts in the article, to see all of them click the headline or here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Ukraine Map That is Taboo in the Media




There have been innumerable maps published that show linguistic and political divisions in Ukraine, most recently in Vox The real roots of the war in eastern Ukraine.  They are unquestionably significant, but there is one critical map that has been taboo:  the one showing the distribution of religions in the country.  This is perhaps because of the terrible experience of Yugoslav civil war, which was fought along those lines.  But show them or not, these divisions are known to all Ukrainians.  I fear that will be the next shoe to drop, given the fact that the Maidan coup found its greatest support among Roman Catholics in the west of the country.  It isn't a coincidence that among the Eastern Ukrainian one of the most prominent volunteer battalions is the "Orthodox Army", pictured below:





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ukraine arrests two top officials at cabinet meeting

(BBC)  Two senior Ukrainian officials have been arrested during a cabinet meeting as part of an anti-corruption crackdown, hours after a powerful regional governor was sacked. 

The head of Ukraine's state emergencies service, Serhiy Bochkovsky, and his deputy Vasyl Stoyetsky were handcuffed by police at the televised meeting.
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Another senior official, the head of state-run Southwestern Railways Oleksiy Kryvopishyn, was sacked on Wednesday. It is Ukraine's second-largest railway company, mainly serving central areas including Kiev.

President Poroshenko's dismissal of the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky is seen as a clash between business rivals vying for control of energy assets.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Plans proposed for VERY ambitious road across Russia

(Daily Mail)  Britain could be linked with America by road as part of an ambitious project to create the world's longest superhighway spanning half the circumference of the globe.

Proposals have been put forward to build the mega route stretching about 12,400 miles from the western edge of Russia to the Bering Strait where the country nudges Alaska.

Linking into existing road networks in Europe and Asia, for the first time it would allow travellers a proper highway to drive all way from the UK to the United States.

A Trans-Siberian rail link as well as oil and gas pipes would run alongside the highway, and plans have been mooted already for a rail tunnel connecting the far flung Russian region of Chukotka - where football tycoon Roman Abramovich once served as governor - and Alaska.
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Five years ago Vladimir Putin travelled along some of the existing roads in the Russian Far East as part of a tour to meet voters before the presidential elections.

Behind the wheel of a yellow Lada, he drove 2,000 kilometres across Siberia in a stunt intended to boost his ratings and the Russian car industry.

But it backfired when he discovered much of the route was in a bad state of repair and his car was photographed on the back of a tow truck.

House Overwhelmingly Passes Call to Arm Ukraine


Resolution Doesn't Mention Ceasefire
by Jason Ditz, March 23, 2015

In an overwhelming 348-48 vote, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for President Obama to immediately begin providing weaponry to the Ukrainian government.
The resolution claims Russia is plotting to take over eastern Ukraine, and cites Pentagon officials supporting arms shipments to the Ukrainian military. The resolution is non-binding.
The preamble to the resolution includes several factual errors about the Ukrainian conflict, including the bizarre claim that Russia’s annexation of Crimea undermined an international order established after World War 2. At the end of WW2, Crimea was still part of Russia’s Soviet Socialist Republic, and it had been Russian from the early 19th century.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hillary Clinton and the Ukrainian Oligarch


Thankfully, the Wall Street Journal hates Hillary Clinton even more than it hates Vladimir Putin, and has uncovered how US foreign policy is undermined by nefarious means.  This is directly from the WSJ article "Clinton Charity Tapped Foreign Friends":

Between 2009 and 2013, including when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according to that foundation, which is based in Kiev, Ukraine. It was created by Mr. Pinchuk, whose fortune stems from a pipe-making company. He served two terms as an elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament and is a proponent of closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union.

Mr. Pinchuk and his wife—the daughter of former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma—began donating to Clinton charities in 2006 after being introduced to Mr. Clinton by Doug Schoen, a pollster who has worked for both Clintons.

In 2008, Mr. Pinchuk made a five-year, $29 million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a wing of the foundation that coordinates charitable projects and funding for them but doesn’t handle the money. The pledge was to fund a program to train future Ukrainian leaders and professionals “to modernize Ukraine,” according to the Clinton Foundation. Several alumni are current members of the Ukrainian Parliament. Actual donations so far amount to only $1.8 million, a Pinchuk foundation spokesman said, citing the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

During Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department, Mr. Schoen, the pollster, registered as a lobbyist for Mr. Pinchuk, federal records show. Mr. Schoen said he and Mr. Pinchuk met several times with Clinton aides including Melanne Verveer, a Ukrainian-American and then a State Department ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. The purpose, Mr. Schoen said, was to encourage the U.S. to pressure Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych to free his jailed predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Truly disgusting... and this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how American foreign policy is conducted.  Hopefully more such revelations will come out in the coming months.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sarajevo's struggles to contain jihadism



Saudi charity foundations now regard Bosnia-Herzegovina as their sphere of influence. They have poured a lot of money into the construction of places of worship, including the King Fahd Mosque in Sarajevo, the biggest mosque in the Balkans with a capacity of 4,000, which was inaugurated in 2000 and is dominated by Wahhabis.

Leaving Kosovo: Exodus of young people as frustration soars


A Kosovo Albanian family leave for Serbia, who said in February that 1,000 people were entering through Kosovo every day.
"It's sad that this is happening, but it's not their fault; they're just looking for a better life," says one of 7 Arte's customers, 22-year-old Ardita Gjergieku.
Ardita is one of the lucky ones. She has a job in marketing in the capital, Pristina.
But she is still planning an exit of her own - she is studying English and applying for scholarships at universities in the US and Europe.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow To Kiev

(Forbes)  The U.S and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are.

One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there — be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tartars are all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.

Little has changed over the last 12 months. Despite huge efforts on the part of Kiev, Brussels, Washington and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit. At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule. Unless we are all to believe that the locals polled by Gallup and GfK were done so with FSB bogey men standing by with guns in their hands.

In June 2014, a Gallup poll with the Broadcasting Board of Governors asked Crimeans if the results in the March 16, 2014 referendum to secede reflected the views of the people. A total of 82.8% of Crimeans said yes. When broken down by ethnicity, 93.6% of ethnic Russians said they believed the vote to secede was legitimate, while 68.4% of Ukrainians felt so. Moreover, when asked if joining Russia will ultimately make life better for them and their family, 73.9% said yes while 5.5% said no.

In February 2015, a poll by German polling firm GfK revealed that attitudes have not changed. When asked “Do you endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea?”, a total of 82% of the respondents answered “yes, definitely,” and another 11% answered “yes, for the most part.” Only 2% said they didn’t know, and another 2% said no. Three percent did not specify their position.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Turkish-Greek Stream Pipeline?


Looks like the Western-blocked South Stream pipeline has found a new way around EU/American bullying.  What is most interesting about the diplomatic consequences of the change is that this new route will require the cooperation of Turkey and Greece.  An unlikely duo, but they seem to have worked out a preliminary deal with Russia so that a new gas pipeline across the Black Sea and then Turkey, will use the existing Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to access markets in southern Europe.


 
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