“Syrian strikes transform Trump from ‘ours’ to ‘another Hillary’”and other neglected Russian stories

Trump and Putin matryoshka dolls for sale in Moscow, Russia (Image: vedomosti.ru)

Trump and Putin matryoshka dolls for sale in Moscow, Russia (Image: vedomosti.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

Consequently, Windows on Eurasia presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 77th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day – but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1. Putin’s Low Ratings in US Matter of Regret, Kremlin Says

Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman says that the low ratings of his boss among Americans is regrettable. But the Kremlin may have reason to worry more about Putin’s ratings closer to home. His high marks in polls appear to be softening, and there is evidence of a greater willingness among some Russians to treat the Kremlin leader as less that god-like.

One commentator on April 1 suggested that Putin today is remarkably similar to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, while others circulated a picture of Putin as a gay man before the powers that be declared such presentations “extremist.”

2. For Russians, Syrian Strikes Transform Trump from ‘Ours’ to ‘Enemy’ to ‘Another Hillary’

A two-pound silver coin dedicated to Donald Trump minted in Russia for his inauguration. The back of the coins shows the Statue of Liberty against a background of the American flag with inscription reading, “In Trump We trust.” Please note the spelling error. (Image: Art Grani)

A two-pound silver coin dedicated to Donald Trump minted in Russia for his inauguration. The back of the coins shows the Statue of Liberty against a background of the American flag with inscription reading, “In Trump We trust.” Please note the spelling error. (Image: Art Grani)

Prior to the US airstrike on a Syrian military base after Bashar Asad used chemical weapons on his own people, Moscow officials and commentators continued to stress the closeness of Putin and Donald Trump, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov talking at length about how similar the styles of the two leaders supposedly are and how they share common domestic enemies.

After the airstrike, Moscow’s position changed on a dime: Trump went from being “ours” to “an aggressor” and “enemy” to “another Hillary Clinton” in the space of a day. More sober-minded analysts suggested Russia should view Trump neither as a friend or an enemy but “simply as Trump.” The airstrikes raised some even bigger questions in Moscow, however, with analysts asking whether Moscow couldn’t defend its ally Assad or was afraid to do so.

3. Fitch Raises Russian Bond Rating to Just Above ‘Junk’ as Impoverished Russians Stop Buying TVs

Russian commentators welcomed a decision of the Fitch rating agency to reclassify Russian bonds as just above “junk” status but they are less pleased that increasing poverty, now at the highest level since 2006, means that Russians aren’t buying new television sets, the primary channel for Kremlin influence on the population.

Russian analysts have become increasingly critical of the Kremlin’s approach, pointing out that the state sector of the economy – now 70 percent by output – is holding things back, that no one is benefiting from the Central Bank’s low inflation policy, and that forced import substitution is doing more harm than good.

Meanwhile, Moscow continues to cut back its subsidies even to industries it says are critical, like aviation, and statistics show that most portions of the Russian economy have stagnated or even declined since 1990.

4. Russia Now Lags Behind West on All Key Health Measures, Figures Show

While the Soviet Union was ahead of the West on some health measures, Russia today is now behind on every measure for which statistics are comparable, experts say. Incomes and consumption continue to fall with ten percent of Russians now not being paid enough to feed themselves.

A new phenomenon has hit Russia: many couples are now getting fictional divorces in order to qualify for social welfare payments. Other indications of how hard life is becoming:

  • Muscovites have been told that they will have to absorb the costs of tearing down and replacing the five-story khrushchoby buildings in which many have been living
  • The number of regions getting money for road repair has been cut again, hitting some where the lack of roads will make economic growth far more difficult
  • And Russians can’t expect a light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon: the education ministry says it will take at least 80 more years to meet Putin’s famous May decrees.

5. Protests Spread Challenging Ability of Regime to Cope

The March 26 marches convinced many Russians that being against the regime does not make one a marginal figure but rather means that they are with the people, one commentator suggests, and there is growing evidence of that as Russians show solidarity with those arrested despite repressions.

Two official efforts, a call to ban all demonstrations in the wake of the St. Petersburg bombing and a transparent effort to hijack the protest movement by organizing meetings in support of Moscow’s anti-terrorist effort have backfired.

The first has yet to be adopted, and the second has sparked resistance with some cities refusing to hold such meetings and others going ahead with their own holidays. Kaliningrad for instance will mark the day of sorrow not with a demonstration about that but rather go ahead with its plans to celebrate Herring Day.

There is even evidence that protests or the fear of protests is affecting government decisions: Moscow has pledged not to take down any of the old five-story khrushchoby buildings unless at least 80 percent of the residents agree.

6. St. Isaac’s Case Highlights Complete Dependence of Moscow Patriarchate on State

The fight over handing back St. Isaac’s cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church highlights not the church’s strength but its complete dependence on the state for anything it gets, one commentator says. If the state supports the church, the latter wins; if it doesn’t, the reverse is true.

Meanwhile, the fight over returning churches has spread across the country with problems arising when the buildings are now being used for socially useful purposes such as OB/GYN clinics.

The most interesting fight of the week on the monuments front was in Novosibirsk. There, a group that wanted to erect a bust of Stalin but was told no by the local authorities who pointed out that there is already a Stalin statue in the city. Instead, the city will erect a bust of Nicholas II.

7. Another FIFA World Cup Scandal: Moscow Said Using North Korean Slaves to Build Venues for 2018

Moscow, in its rush to build venues for the 2018 World Cup is Using “slaves” from North Korea to complete the work under budget (Image: Wikimedia)Newspapers in the West have reported and the Moscow Times has repeated a story that Moscow, in its rush to build venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is using “slaves” from North Korea to complete the work under budget.

Meanwhile, earlier scandals, involving Russian hacking of international sports bodies and the cover up of the massive Moscow doping program continue to bubble along. And the Russian government took a positive action – increasing penalties on the often outrageous behavior of Russian fans – by adopting a law increasing penalties on them, something that only highlights how serious that problem still is.

8. Almost Every Proton Rocket Engine Found Defective

Moscow’s announcement two weeks ago that it was inspecting its Proton rockets has given Russia another black eye in the security area: Almost every single one of the rocket engines examined was found to have defects, many of them serious. But there was more bad news on the defense industry and security fronts:

  • Moscow acknowledged that Brazil is now building more non-atomic submarines than Russia is
  • Draft resistance has increased in some parts of the country
  • Attacks on police and National Guard officers have increased
  • Moscow has been warned by experts that its favored response – more repression by reintroducing the death penalty for terrorist actions is likely to make them more, not less, common.

9. Operation Trust, the Cheka’s First Special Operation, Celebrated in Hour-Long TV Program

The Trust, a false flag operation organized by Felix Dzerzhinsky, to penetrate and disorder the anti-Soviet White Russian military emigration has been celebrated in a 65 minute Moscow television program. That is not the only revenant from the past that swirled through Russia this past week:

  • Archaeologists found a 16th century spy chamber under buildings in Moscow
  • Soviet ideologist Mikhail Suslov’s suggestion in 1961 that Moscow could use ethnic minorities against Georgia was recalled
  • Officials in Kaluga urged journalists to use the term “horde” rather than “Tatar-Mongol” to describe the occupation of Russia by Genghis Khan in deference to Tatar concerns.

10. Jehovah’s Witnesses Banned and Other Moves on the Religious Front

The biggest news on the religious front during the last week was Moscow’s decision to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a decision that one commentator suggested was transforming a group “of pacifist believers into enemies of the state.” Others include:

  • The Buddhists finally are getting their own religious center in Moscow
  • Daghestan’s Muslim Spiritual Directorate has pulled out of the North Caucasus Coordinating Center which had overseen all MSDs in the North Caucasus
  • Jewish groups objected to a decision by Moscow’s First Channel to show clips from a Nazi film suggesting that the Rothschilds and other wealthy Jews had formed a conspiracy to pursue world rule
  • Jewish and Orthodox Christian organizations divided on Chechnya’s decision to allow school children to wear the hijab, with the first supporting it and the second opposing that step.

11. Medvedev Attacked and Defended

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sought to dismiss the Navalny report on his corrupt practices by calling it “a compote” but that only sparked more criticism of the Russian leader. But Medvedev was defended by those who matter: Vladimir Putin and the Russian State Duma leadership both dismissed the charges against the premier and said there was no reason for an investigation. Even if an investigation were to be launched, experts said, it would be unlikely to find anything or conclude quickly as that has been the outcome of all cases the authorities don’t want to reach any conclusion.

12. Is Karelia Becoming Burelia?

Some regions welcome the change in governors that Vladimir Putin has made, none more than Mari El where the departure of Leonid Markelov has been greeted with enthusiasm given his authoritarian rule. But some in that Middle Volga republic are less than pleased by Putin’s decision to appoint another Russian and another outsider to their Finno-Ugric republic.

In another Finno-Ugric republic, Karelia, people are even more unhappy with the arrival of officials who are more connected to Buryatia than to Karelia, with some suggesting that perhaps Moscow should rename Karelia “Burelia.”

13. Russia is a Country That Shouldn’t Exist but Does, Polish Commentator Says

A Polish analyst says that by Western measures, Russia is “a country which should not exist but nonetheless does,” a reflection of its distinctive history and style of governance.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has described Russia as “a quasi-state” even as other Ukrainian analysts have outlined their ideas on the gubernization of Russia, both responses to Moscow’s continuing claims that Ukraine isn’t a state but must be federalized.

 

And six more from countries in Russia’s neighborhood:

1. Ukrainians Get Visa Free Travel to EU; Russians Get It to Samoa

The EU has voted to give Ukrainians visa-free travel, something Kyiv has long wanted. On the same day, Moscow announced that it has signed an agreement giving Russians visa-free travel to Samoa.

2. Uzbekistan Now Outranks Russia in FIFA Ratings While Russia Just Beats Out Belarus in Freedom House Rankings

Uzbekistan’s national team now rates higher among world soccer clubs than does Russia which fell another point over the last year. Meanwhile, Russia found itself ranked just between Kyrgyzstan and Belarus on Freedom House’s freedom index.

3. Ukrainians Call for Boycott of 2018 World Cup if It Isn’t Moved from Russia

Ukrainian activists have launched a petition drive to strip Russia of the right to hold the 2018 FIFA World Cup and called on other nations to boycott that competition if it isn’t moved.

4. Uniates Acquire a New ‘Friend’

The Moscow Patriarchate has softened its longstanding hostility toward the Uniates, not only as part of its campaign to reach out to the Roman Catholic world but also to put Russia in a better position to have influence on that important religious group in Ukraine.

5. Vatican Announces Plans to Beatify Lithuanian Churchman Held in GULAG

The Holy See announced this week that it intends on June 25 to beatify Teofilius Montulionis, who was secretly created archbishop by Pope Pius XI while he was a captive of the Soviets. Beatification is the first step toward sainthood.

6. Baku Upset at Moscow for Russian Plans to Liquidate All-Russian Azerbaijani Association

Azerbaijanis are furious at the Russian government for its announced plans to liquidate the All-Russian Azerbaijani Association as a foreign agent, not least because Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev’s daughter is a senior official of that group.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Michel Cloarec

    Impoverished Russians Stop Buying TVs
    Russian commentators welcomed a decision of the Fitch rating agency to reclassify Russian bonds as just above “junk” status but they are less pleased that increasing poverty, now at the highest level since 2006, means that Russians aren’t buying new television sets, the primary channel for Kremlin influence on the population. Well the Russian Govnt will have to supply TV to Russian citizens , otherwise the Russians would be misinformed .

    • Alex George

      Ha ha, exactly.

  • Mephisto

    either the election of Trump backfired on Putin, or the two are waging a dog, i.e. these tomahawk strikes were just for show. Donnie needs to demonstrate at home that the suspions of his collusion with Russia are false, and Putin needs an outer enemy, a new war, to distract attention from his problems at home. Of course, nobody knows truth (except those directly involved).

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Pedo Putolini probably believed all of Trump’s pro-Dwarfstan campaign rhetoric, as did nearly all Dwarfstanians. The Tomahawk strike was a rude awakening for them. It won’t be a one-off if Assad steps out of line again.

      Now, the Dwarfstanians are probably wishing predictable Hillary had been elected, and not totally unpredictable Donald. And things are only going to get worse for them.

      • Tchitcherine

        Also he did not understand that a meeting with prostitutes (if true) in Moskau is no feasible kompromat for Donald Trump, but rather something he’d bragg with.

        • Alex George

          True I’ve always thought that – traditional honey traps are a waste of time with Trump.

  • Tony

    “For Russians, Syrian Strikes Transform Trump from ‘Ours’ to ‘Enemy’ to ‘Another Hillary'”
    Hahaha, I saw this one coming. When they were told that Crimea isnt theirs they accepted it, when they were told in 2014 that it is then they accepted that too and if the kremlin told them tomorrow that Crimea is not theirs after all, then they would accept and go with it like good little sheep. Unquestioning, unthinking.

    Don’t know what’s up with Trump now but this is one of the few things that he did right so far, hopefully not the last.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    Zounds! Dwarfstanians get visa-free travel to Samoa!!!!! I’m sure all Dwarfstan is now celebrating!

    But……. just how many Dwarfstanians want to go to Samoa, and how many- or rather how few- can actually afford a trip to Samoa????

    • MichaelA

      ha ha yes

      • Andrew Chmile

        MichaelA — RUSKI ***MOLE** !!!

        hidden profile being a ***LYING*** coward & all — with der bad ANGLISH :)))

        • Alex George

          And here is Andrew, the putin troll who creates new profiles every time he gets banned from
          Pro-Ukrainian sites.

        • MichaelA

          So i support Dagwood when he attacks putin, and you attack me for it.

          That shows whose side you are really on.

  • zorbatheturk

    Whoever created the RuSSia should be put against a wall and shot.

    • Andrew Chmile

      the MONGOLS did….. who else?

  • MichaelA

    putin knows he cant attack the baltics – the russians living there will turn against him just as the russophone people did in ukraine

    • Andrew Chmile

      RUSKI ***MOLE*** ALERT!

      MichaelA — RUSKI ***MOLE** !!!
      hidden profile being a ***LYING*** coward & all — with der bad ANGLISH :)))

      DEFENDER OF OTHER LYING MOLES!!!

      ATTENTION!!! — RUSKI ANIMAL **MOLE** INFILTRATOR & TRUMP SUPPORTER!!!

      “Vasyl P.” — Ruski MOLE. — LIAR!!

      — A “TRUMP SUPPORTER” :)))

      HE IS A RUSKI **MOLE** & “moderator” of a RUSKI MOLE-TROLL SITE — with SPUTNIK & VARIOUS

      OTHER RUSKI COMMIE ARTICLES @ VARIOUS “DISQUS CHANNELS” like:

      __UKRAINE TODAY USA__

      __THE PRESIDENT TRUMP CHANNEL__

      __IMPERIAL NEWS NETWORK__ etc.. BS “Disqus Channels”

      (FREE!! CHEAP!!!)

      CLAIMS ON HIS DISQUS PAGE
      https://disqus.com/by/Vapetrenko/
      ———————-
      Right-wing freedom fighter; pro-democracy, anti-corruption, anti-feminazis, anti-fascist,

      Russian, Ukrainian, American

      ————————–

      Has claimed in the past to be Ukrainian & American.

      IS NEITHER!!

      SPOKE RUSKI AT ME — Thinking I would (or should?!?!) understand that DOG BARK & GROWL

      LANGUAGE :)

      “Larissa” a “MODERATOR” MOLE/TROLL & the OTHER SCUM — will ALL tell you how “Larissa” —

      “LOST HER ONLY CHILD IN DONBAS!!!!”

      A-A-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-E-E-E-eeeeeee!!!!! :)

      Another RUSKI SKANK — whined about being “RAPED”!!! as per her Disqus home page no less!!!! :))

      — she deleted it after I repeatedly posted & laughed at her DUM RUSKI @SS!!! :))

      The STUPID RUSKA ‘HO !!! :)))

      • zorbatheturk

        Probably raped by her husband, in the usual ruSSian manner. Some women like it that way.

        • Alex George

          So now you are making despicable comments about a well-known pro-Ukrainian blogger, who did lose a child to Russian shooting in the Donbass.

          You clearly are no friend of Ukraine or its people.

          • Andrew Chmile

            “You clearly are no friend of Ukraine or its people.”

            Not up to a fukin’ Ruski POS to say.
            Not at all your place… anymore than you can write in VAGUE generalities when arguing with the anti-Uke “laker48” — for you do NOT KNOW ANY Ukr. history!

            Some BS — “talkin’ ignoramus” — WHO MAKES RUSKI MISTAKES
            IN HIS BAD BS, SLOPPY “ANGLISH”.

            Russia’s “best” eh you IGNORANT, UNEDUCATED, monhol faqqot? :))

          • zorbatheturk

            I refer in general to the habits of drunk RuSSian males. I am an enemy of Putin, the RuSSian state, all dictatorial regimes, and of RuSSian trolls and other trolls and fakers. I have no connection to Ukraine whatsoever, but believe it and all former Eastern bloc countries should be allowed to develop without interference from Moscow. I began with my anti-Putin commentary after Savushkina trolls started attacking me on the Daily Telegraph, which no longer uses Disqus, and after reading about 20 books detailing Putin and the siloviki’s hijacking of power in RuSSia. If young Ukrainian men were not dying needlessly in Donbas due to Putin’s phoney war, I would not be as vehement in my condemnation of things RuSSian.

          • Scradje

            Yes indeed. The troll blitz that descended on the DT when putlerstan invaded Ukraine in 2014 was to use a cliche, a ‘wake-up call’ that needed some sort of response. There was none, so the responsibility fell on previously neutral commenters with knowledge of the region to make sure the troll vermin did not have it all their own way. Also worth repeating that the entire ‘alt-right’ movement is a kremtroll cover organisation that appears to be a cabal of putler-worshippers led by the likes of Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Bannon, Ron and Rand Paul. Ann Coulter has recently gone full putler too. In Europe the movement is led by Farage, Wilders and of course Le Pen. Then of course there are devils on the left too who actively promote putlerism. Check this out sometime:-
            http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/02/exclusive-the-american-lefts-love-affair-with-putins-russian-tv/

          • zorbatheturk

            The RuSSian troll operation is extremely sinister.

          • Andrew Chmile

            Here! Here!

          • MichaelA

            Andrew Chmile attacked me because I attacked Putin. That shows whose side he is really on, and whose side you are really on when you support him.

          • zorbatheturk

            The poster you mention has made some valid points, if in a disagreeable way. Unfortunately when dealing with scum like RuSSian trolls, one cannot be nice.

          • slavko

            He has indeed made valid points and at the same time some wild accusations. I have yet to see him argue anything in a civilized manner, instead he employs the tactics of the trolls found on RT, RI which is just brutal. I’m sure that we all can agree that no one here can agree on all points, but there’s no reason to browbeat either when differences in opinion occur.

          • zorbatheturk

            Yeah, well… sometimes you need to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

          • slavko

            Then he should go on Bloomberg and make omelletes over there. There’s a whole lineup of ruSSian trolls working there… without any doubts. Emerson, Red Star, Popcorn, Sibir, Che Guevera and many many more. And the lies that they spew can be damaging. Why does he ignore them?

          • zorbatheturk

            Dunno.

          • slavko

            Neither do I.

          • slavko

            So what I don’t understand is why is he picking on Alex George? Or Vasyl? or MichaelA? What have they said to invite such abuse? He makes truly wild accusations yet offers no substantiation. I really would like to read a proper argument by him besides the verbal abuse that he slings so easily.

          • zorbatheturk

            Overexposure to RuSSian trolling has mental repercussions..

          • slavko

            Now there’s a good laugh!! You mean to tell met that sh*t’s contagious? Now we are all fkd!

      • Alex George

        And here is Andrew the well-known Putin troll, trying to sow dissension among friends of Ukraine, and attacking anyone who opposes putin.

      • MichaelA

        So I attack Putin, and therefore you attack me.

        That shows whose side you are really on

  • Dirk Smith
  • zorbatheturk

    The World Cup should be moved elsewhere. RuSSia must pay for its crimes. It is not a normal nation, and should not be treated as one.