Friday, July 31, 2015

Small thaw in U.S.-Russian relations at the Alaska frontier 

(Washington Post)  ANCHORAGE — The United States and Russia are in the midst of their most tense relations since the Cold War, but for a small number of residents of both countries, things are warming up a bit.

It will now be easier and cheaper for Alaska Native and Russia Native residents to travel across the Bering Strait to visit relatives on the other side.

Last week, officials announced updates to an agreement that allows such indigenous residents of Alaska and Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula to travel between the two countries without a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
The indigenous people of the region share cultural, linguistic and family ties with their counterparts on either side of the maritime boundary between Russia and the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the Russian and American communities started to ­reestablish ties long cut off by the “Ice Curtain.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

NATO Says It Stands With Turkey In Fight Against ISIS

(NPR) During a meeting with all 27 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Tuesday, Turkey said it wanted to give the members a heads up that at some point it may need their help fighting against the self-declared Islamic State.

Turkey called a rare Article 4 meeting of the NATO allies after it began an air campaign against ISIS targets in Syria.
 "If a NATO member country comes under attack, NATO would support it in every way," Turkey's president, Tayyip Erdogan, said, according to Reuters. "At the moment, Turkey has come under attack and is exercising its right to defend itself and will exercise this right until the end ... but what we're saying is that there could be a duty for NATO, and we ask NATO to be prepared for this."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Swedish sub wreck an imperial Russian vessel

(The Local)  Video footage by a group of salvage hunters purporting to show a wrecked underwater vessel in Swedish waters is likely that of a Russian so-called 'Som class' submarine (nicknamed 'Catfish') which sank in May 1916, an analysis by the Swedish Armed Forces suggested on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, government-owned Russian news site Sputnik News launched a verbal attack on Sweden, saying that "the paranoia has not ceased". "Here we go again..." said the scathing article, referring to last year's submarine hunt in the Stockholm archipelago.

"It was expected that they would respond in this way. If the submarine is shown to be historical the Russians will mock Sweden even more," Tomas Ries, senior lecturer at the Swedish Defence University (Försvarshögskolan), predicted in an interview with The Local earlier on Tuesday.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Europe’s Demographic Tides: 
The Impact Of Population Shifts

(Value Walk)  A new map created by Germany’s BBSR shows in greater detail than has been previously available the population shifts impacting Europe.
Look at the Eastern section of the map and you’ll see that many cities, including Prague, Bucharest, and the Polish cities of Pozna? and Wroc?aw, are ringed with a deep red circle that shows a particularly high rise in average annual population of 2 percent or more. As this paper from Krakow’s Jagiellonian University’s Institute of Geography notes, Eastern cities began to spread out in the new millennium because it was their first chance to do so in decades.

We already know from other available data that Europe is experiencing a migration to the northwest, but the BBSR map adds complexity to this picture and reveals some interesting micro-trends. The dark blue coloring of the map’s Eastern section shows that the lean years for Eastern states are by no means over. Residents have continued to leave Albania, Bulgaria and Latvia in particular in search of jobs, while even relatively wealthy eastern Germany has been hollowed out almost everywhere except the Berlin region. Population growth in the Northwest, meanwhile, is far from even. While large sections of Northern Scandinavia’s inland are losing people, there’s still modest growth on the Arctic coasts. And while the Scottish Highlands contain some the least peopled lands in all of Europe, Scotland’s Northeast shows remarkable population gains, a likely result of the North Sea oil industry concentrated in Aberdeen.

Friday, July 24, 2015

'We like partisan warfare.' Chechens fighting in Ukraine – on both sides

(Guardian)  In the long-drawn-out struggle for Ukraine, it may be surprising to know that Chechen fighters in their hundreds have joined the battle.

It’s even more surprising to learn that they have been fighting on both sides.
While Chechens on both sides have been integrated into the bigger fight, there is also an element of intra-Chechen conflict on the battlefields of east Ukraine. While they were in Donetsk, Bolotkhanov and his men released a video saying they had come to Donetsk to find Isa Munayev, a 1990s Chechen commander who had since lived as a refugee in Denmark and then arrived in Ukraine to found the Dudayev battalion.
The Chechen battalion shares a base with the Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian volunteer battalion. One Ukrainian at the base has converted to Islam since the Chechens arrived, and been renamed Shamil.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

(Euronews)  Italy’s controversial former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been offered a return to power in Russia, according to Italian media.

Vladimir Putin has told Berlusconi he can have Russian citizenship and a position in government heading up its economy ministry, reports La Stampa.

The Italian newspaper quoted Berlusconi saying: “My future? Becoming minister for my friend Putin.”

He added: “Think about it: in Italy I am marginalised while Putin tells me he is ready to give me (Russian) citizenship and get me the lead of the Russian economy ministry.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kiev makes list of 567 artists 'threatening Ukraine’s national security'

Serbian singer and composer Goran Bregovic, US actor Steven Seagul and French actor Gerard Depardieu are among these "personae non gratae"
Russian ex-PM Yegor Gaidar's daughter under fire for leaving for Ukraine 

(Economic Times) MOSCOW: The daughter of a former Russian prime minister has accepted the job of deputy governor in a Ukrainian region, a decision that has sparked criticism in both Russia and Ukraine.

Maria Gaidar's appointment Friday as deputy governor of Odessa, now led by former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, has been painted as a betrayal in Russia. In Ukraine, she has been criticized for being hesitant to denounce Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Introducing Harvard-educated Gaidar in Odessa on Friday, Saakashvili described her as ``one of the most brilliant political leaders fighting Putin's regime.'' Saakashvili was Georgia's president during his country's brief war with Russia in 2008.

Gaidar, 32, is the only daughter of the 1990s reformist prime minister Yegor Gaidar and is an opposition activist in her own right. She served as deputy governor in Russia's Kirov region in 2009-2011 and advised Moscow's deputy mayor in 2012-2013.

Gaidar's appointment caused bitterness in Russia and criticism from Ukrainian nationalists who resent another foreigner appointed to a top job. Some feel she has not been radical enough in denouncing Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Iran nuke deal gives Russia a boost – for now

After years of hard lobbying for a nuclear deal between Iran and the big powers, Russia looks at first glance like one of the big winners from the agreement finally reached last week. And in the short run, Moscow may indeed benefit greatly, experts say.

But in the longer haul, assuming the accord holds, Russia is likely to see only limited economic gains as Iran emerges from years of harsh sanctions and begins doing business with the world once again.

In immediate political terms, the deal looks like a major win for Russian diplomacy. In his remarks about the agreement, President Obama went out of his way to praise the constructive role played by Russia as negotiations came down to the wire last week. In a phone conversation between Mr. Obama and Vladimir Putin, the two reportedly stressed the desirability of extending such cooperation to other vexing problems such as Ukraine and Syria.
Some observers say they can already detect signs of new US-Russian cooperation in efforts to implement the Minsk-II cease-fire accord in Ukraine.
Oligarchs nouveaux? Why some say Ukraine is still in thrall to an elite

(Guardian)  In Ukraine, government supporters, western diplomats and opposition figures tend to reply to inquiries about how the process of “de-oligarchisation” is proceeding in the country with exactly the same response: hearty laughter.

Unlike in Russia, where the term “oligarch” has been a misnomer since Vladimir Putin stripped them of real political clout more than 10 years ago, Ukraine has been an oligarchy in the true sense, with a few extremely wealthy men wielding huge power and influence.
“Poroshenko says what the western politicians want to hear, and for some reason they believe him, but they don’t understand how impossible de-oligarchisation is in our system, how deep this post-Soviet legacy runs,” said Irina Vereshchuk, the former mayor of Rava-Ruska, a town in western Ukraine. “The oligarchs are like the blood and organs of the system, and we have nothing yet to transplant them with.”
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