NEWSWATCH AP: “The Latest: Russian media keep mum on offshore scandal”

Hand Pulling Cash from Envelope

Russian media are keeping mum about the $2 billion found in offshore accounts linked to close friends of President Vladimir Putin. … an international coalition of more than 100 media outlets … details how politicians use banks, law firms and offshore shell companies to hide their assets. Putin’s close friends including a cellist from St. Petersburg were shown to be […]

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NEWSWATCH Kyiv Post: “Protester who tore up Poroshenko’s photo gets 4.5 years in jail”

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

A court in Vinnytsia, a city 270 kilometers southwest from Kyiv, sentenced local activist Yuriy Pavlenko to 4.5 years in prison for hooliganism with a use of a weapon. Pavlenko denies the charges, saying that he is being punished for publicly tearing up the portrait of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko during a protest action. … activists protested to stop the […]

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NEWSWATCH Reuters: “Risk of nuclear war in Europe growing, warns Russian ex-minister [Igor Ivanov]”

Iskander Missile with Launch file photo

The East-West standoff over the Ukraine crisis has brought the threat of nuclear war in Europe closer than at any time since the 1980s…. said Igor Ivanov, Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 and now head of a Moscow-based think-tank founded by the Russian government. … Russia and the United States have cut their nuclear arsenals [but] the pace […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How long will Putin stay in power?” – Washington Post/Nelli Babayan

Putin Descending a Staircase

How long can Putin last? … former Swedish prime minister … Bildt gave him five to 10 years. Some Russian analysts predict the Putin regime will falter as early as mid-2016. Putin will not remain in power indefinitely. But he won’t be out anytime soon. * * * Putin, with his KGB history, has a specific and rather homogenous entourage […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Baltic Elves Taking on Pro-Russian Trolls; What at first looked like as a social media grudge match could be a precursor to invasion, war, and resistance in the Baltics” – TheDailyBeast.com

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

Mindaugas is an unassuming, thirtysomething advertising agency director by day … ferocious cyber-warrior by night. He started a phenomenon … in Lithuania … countering Kremlin propaganda and disinformation …. ‘We needed to call our group something. … we were fighting trolls. … I said, “Let’s be elves.”‘ There were 20 or 30 at first, when the trolls began … leaving […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How Putin Could Make Russia Great Again” – Newsweek.com/William Courtney, Donald Jensen

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

After Russia annexed Crimea … Obama dismissed it as a regional power that acts ‘out of weakness.’ [ ] Russia is more … but a penchant for zero-sum statecraft and coercing neighbors lessens its stature. By cooperating more in the international arena, Russia could become a greater power.  … Putin’s announcement of a military drawdown in Syria hints that Russia […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What is the best way to describe Vladimir Putin’s Russia?” – Reuters/John Lloyd

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

In January of this year, a British judge, Robert Owen, said … Putin … was ‘probably’ a murderer. * * * Litvinenko’s widow, Marina … called on Prime Minister David Cameron to expel all Russian spies … and for a range of … sanctions … on several figures close to the murder … includ[ing Putin] himself. * * * In […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Meldonium Ban Hits Russian Athletes Hard” – New York Times

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

The fallout from Maria Sharapova’s failed drug test has ensnared her native Russia as it becomes clear that the banned substance found in her system is creating wider problems for Russian sports. … she … tested positive for meldonium during the Australian Open in January, shocking the tennis world …. in Russia, meldonium, also known as mildronate, was a common […]

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NEWSWATCH “Ukraine will not join EU, NATO for another 20-25 years, Juncker says” – DPA

EU Map

The push for closer ties between Ukraine and the EU lies at the heart of the current crisis … triggered by protests in 2013 over a failed attempt to finalize … EU-Ukraine free trade …. The agreement has since been signed and implemented, while the EU is paving the way for Ukrainian citizens to be able to visit the bloc […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Ukraine Towns Ravaged by War, Evangelical Missionaries Find Fertile Ground” – New York Times

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

Maryinka, a Ukrainian-held town of apartment blocks and one-story homes outside … Donetsk, has become a hot spot … for fighting … also for saving souls. … Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists carry on an almost forgotten fight in half-deserted towns like this one … several well-organized evangelical groups are staging a campaign of their own. Based on their accounts […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Thinks It Has Solved the Oil-Price Crisis; But it may just be more wishful thinking” – Fortune.com

Oil Well file photo

The world’s major oil exporting economies have been putting together an agreement to freeze oil production levels, and Russia’s energy minister is optimistic that it will be effective in finally stopping the slide in oil prices ….  * * * The news seemed to buoy the oil market…. But there’s plenty of reason to doubt that the action will bring […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Achieves Tactical Success in the Middle East, But No Strategic Victory; Russia needs good ties with the West more than short-term gains in Ukraine and Syria” – Thomas Graham/YaleGlobal Online

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

… From the beginning of its military operation in Syria, Moscow has operated on the now indisputable proposition that … rampant unrest in the Middle East and … mounting challenges to the unity of the European Union are inextricably linked. The wager was that Europe would eventually seize an offer of cooperation in Syria to constrict the migrant flow and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Public support for Putin to serve another term hits highest level in four years: poll” – Reuters

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

Public support for … Putin to serve another term as president has hit its highest level in four years, a survey by a state-run pollster showed …. Seventy-four percent of Russians would vote to re-elect Putin as president, according to … VTsIOM. Putin dominates state media … and is widely expected to contest the next presidential election in 2018 …. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Over 2,600 Ukrainian servicemen killed, around 9,000 wounded since Feb 2014” – Interfax-Ukraine

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

Over 2,600 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and over 9,000 were wounded since the beginning of the Russian aggression in February 2014, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said. * * * … Russia-formed, equipped and financed army in a number of 40,000 under the command of Russian officers during their aggression against Donbas. * * * The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also noted that […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Ukrainian Jews Flee To Israel Amid Anti-Semitic Attacks in War-Torn Ukraine” – The Jewish Press (New York)/Tazpit News Agency

Torah Scrolls

Over 100 Ukrainian Jews fled war-torn Ukraine and arrived in Israel on Tuesday, February 23. Many Ukrainian Jews have been leaving their country of birth due to violence and frequent anti-Semitic attacks. They were assisted by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has been spearheading a project of bringing Jews to Israel from countries engulfed by war. […]

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NEWSWATCH TASS: “Kremlin comments on Chechen leader’s plans to step down”

Ramzan Kadyrov file photo

Russian-controlled TASS reported on Kremlin statements about Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s announced plans to step down. The Kremlin will be guided by results of Ramzan Kadyrov’s work rather than his statements, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters …. ‘We should wait for the time [when Chechen leader’s term expires and the president’s decision],’ he said …. Kadyrov, 39, who […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Trump being advised by ex-U.S. Lieutenant General who favors closer Russia ties [Lieutenant General Michael Flynn]” – Reuters

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is receiving foreign policy advice from a former U.S. military intelligence chief who wants the United States to work more closely with Russia to resolve global security issues … three sources … former foreign policy officials in past administrations, said retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency under … Obama … 2012-2014, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Truce Unravels as Fighting Picks Up in Ukraine” – New York Times

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

… overshadowed by the war in Syria, fighting in eastern Ukraine has picked up sharply in recent weeks … The resumption of hostilities in Ukraine, with exchanges of machine gun and mortar fire across the front line up to levels not seen since last summer, suggests a willingness by Russia, which supports the rebels in eastern Ukraine, to sustain two […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Violence rages in Syria as Kerry and Lavrov reach provisional deal on ceasefire” – Reuters

Syria Map

… John Kerry said on Sunday he and … Sergei Lavrov … reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria …. violence continued to rage …. Multiple bomb blasts in a southern district of Damascus … and twin car bombs … in Homs …. Russian air strikes launched in September against rebels fighting … al-Assad […]

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AUDIO & NEWSWATCH: “For Russian Farmers, Climate Change Is Nyet So Great.” – National Public Radio

Eurasia Map Showing Temperature Ranges

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad. * * * The problem … is that while warmer weather might open up more land in cold regions such as […]

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NEWSWATCH AP: “UN Says Conflict in Ukraine Has Affected 580,000 Children”

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

The conflict in Ukraine has ‘deeply affected’ 580,000 children close to the front lines and in areas in the volatile east not under government control, the U.N. children’s agency said … Ukraine remains locked in conflict with Moscow, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula and has supported a pro-Russian insurgency in the east. Fighting there has killed more than 9,000 people […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia government mulls five percent cut in defense procurement spending: sources” – Reuters

File Photo of Russian Tanks in Military Parade

Russia’s government is considering cutting spending on defense procurement this year by 5 percent … a move that would extend the budget squeeze to a sector that up to now has been immune …. The proposal has support across several ministries and in other state institutions, enough for it to go forward for discussion at a cabinet meeting, the sources […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Premier Bypasses Ban on File-Sharing Site” – Transitions Online

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

Determined users can easily slip past Russia’s strict anti-piracy laws. … Medvedev used his personal iPad to reach the site during a meeting in which measures to combat piracy were under discussion…. the banned file-sharing website RuTracker …. Click here for Transitions Online: Russian Premier Bypasses Ban on File-Sharing Site  

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Aggression Drives Increase in European Defense Spending” – Defensenews.com

Europe Map

Fear of Russian aggression will help drive European defense spending up by 8.3 percent this year, putting a halt to 20 years of declining budgets … Over two decades after the end of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin’s expansionist policies in Crimea and Ukraine have pushed European leaders to once again increase their spending on military programs, according to the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Pentagon: Russia agreed not to strike US forces in Syria” – The Hill

Aerial Photo of Pentagon and Environs

The Pentagon revealed … that Russia granted a U.S. request not to target American special operations forces deployed to northern Syria …. The Pentagon made the request to the Russians after a U.S. decision to send the special operations forces into Syria last year. * * * … Russia also outlined some areas, such as airfields, that it did not […]

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NEWSWATCH: “A Pyrrhic Victory for President Poroshenko” – Atlantic Council/Anders Aslund

Rada File Photo

… February 16, the Ukrainian parliament deemed the performance of its government unsatisfactory with 247 votes, but only 194 parliamentarians voted for a no-confidence measure. The government did not fall … this strange vote may appear a victory for … Poroshenko, but it seems a Pyrrhic victory that may have broken the ruling coalition in parliament and brought Ukraine closer […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Countering Putin begins with knowing what his regime is saying” [Bring back FBIS] – The Hill/Stephen Blank, Glen Howard, Enders S. Wimbush, Paul Goble

Recent media accounts have argued that the U.S. government suffers from an absence of high-quality expertise on Russia. * * * One such solution that does not require legislation is directing the intelligence community to resume the daily electronic Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) now supervised by the Open Source Center. … a daily electronic feed of worldwide media, press, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Weak Oil Prices Fuel Ukrainian Hopes of a More Conciliatory Russia” – Wall Street Journal

Oil Well file photo

The Wall Street Journal covers Russian economic vulnerability amidst falling oil prices and its possible impact on efforts to resolve the Russo-Ukrainian conflict . Ukraine’s political elite is hoping that plummeting oil prices will restrain neighboring Russia’s interventionist ambitions—and give Western sanctions on Russia a bit more bite. … diplomatic overtures have raised hopes in Kiev that Moscow—which annexed Crimea […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Intervention in Syrian War Has Sharply Reduced U.S. Options.” – New York Times

Syria Map

The New York Times covers the impact of Russian military intervention on U.S. policymaking on Syria. … the United States has insisted there can be no military solution to the Syrian civil war, only a political accord between … al-Assad and the fractured, divided opposition groups that have been trying to topple him. … days of intense bombing that could […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Muslims in Russia See Putin’s Antiterrorism Efforts at Home as Backfiring. North Caucasus residents say crackdown often leads to new recruits for Islamic State.” – Wall Street Journal

Map of Area Spanning Portions of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, highlighting military engagements against ISIL

The Wall Street Journal covers concerns that Russian government policies will fuel more terrorist recruits for the so-called Islamic State. President Vladimir Putin justifies his military action in Syria in part as a way to head off the terrorist threat at home, especially here in the mostly Muslim north Caucasus. But residents say the government’s often heavy-handed measures are instead […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Mortgages vs. pensions and blasts from the past”

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

BNE covers the impact of the Russian economic crisis on mortgage holders, and resulting unrest. Russia is in a painful place and freeing the ruble in November last year may be acting as a very effective shock absorber in the face of plummeting oil prices, but it also means that the brunt of the pain is being borne by the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Syria, Russia Protects Its Interests From Above and Below” – Stratfor

Syria Map

Stratfor reports on the buildup of Russian air defenses in Syria in the aftermath of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft. With such an extensive presence, Russia will be able to obstruct the war efforts of those opposed to Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The United States and its allies can still fly airstrikes against the Islamic State, but […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics” – RAND

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

RAND addresses the military dynamic in the Baltics in the event of a hypothetical prospective Russian attack. Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine has disrupted nearly a generation of relative peace and stability between Moscow and its Western neighbors and raised concerns about its larger intentions. From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the threat to the three […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia could overrun Baltics in 3 days. NATO forces would face severe casualties.” – Washington Times

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

The Washington Times covers a recent RAND report about the military dynamic that could exist in the Baltics in the event of a hypothetical Russian attack. On the same day the Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, announced new resources being sought to strengthen Eastern European defenses from any possible Russian aggression, a report from the RAND corporation was released and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Ukraine to reclaim Donbas this year – Poroshenko” – Interfax-Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko file photo, with additional men in background, adapted from image at state.gov

Interfax-Ukraine reports on comments attributed to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko regarding conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has said … ‘At my press conference on January 14 I clearly proclaimed: my objective – and I firmly believe in this – is to restore Ukrainian sovereignty in Donbas already in 2016. And yesterday speakers in Davos also reaffirmed this position: […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Row over Ukrainian city’s new name” – BBC

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

The BBC covers debates in Ukraine over the jettisoning of names recalling Soviet rule, including the effort to rename Kirovohrad as Inhulsk. Since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, Ukraine has been removing all public vestiges of Soviet rule, from statues of Lenin to street names honouring other Communist luminaries. A parliamentary committee recently decided that Kirovohrad, which […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Seven Key Reforms for Ukraine in 2016” – Atlantic Council/Anders Åslund

Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Anders Åslund covers unfolding conditions in Ukraine, adding recommendations for steps forward in 2016. … It is quite striking how the mood has changed in a positive direction. The 2016 budget and the modified tax code were adopted on December 24. After two weeks of well-deserved rest, there is a sudden realization that Ukraine accomplished many important economic reforms in […]

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NEWSWATCH Vladimir Suchan: “Nuland-Surkov Talks”

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Vladimir Suchan – Facebook post – January 17, 2016) Alexander Chalenko, who belongs to the ex-Ukrainian circle of Surkov’s and the Kremlin’s PR horns, published an article… Posted by Vladimir Suchan on Saturday, January 16, 2016

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s current account improves in 2015, capital outflows fall two-thirds” – Reuters

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

Reuters covers Russian financial positions. Russia’s current account surplus improved in 2015 while net capital outflows fell by almost two-thirds, underscoring the role of a weaker rouble in mitigating the impact of a slide in oil prices.  Preliminary balance of payments data published by the central bank on Monday showed the current account surplus increasing to $65.8 billion in 2015 […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian economic crisis drives people to the soup kitchens” – Deutsche Welle

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

Deutsche Welle covers the impact of Russia’s economic crisis. The impact of the economic crisis is now noticeable in everyday life in Russia. Many are now living below the poverty line. The number of people seeking help is rising. Click here for “Russian economic crisis drives people to the soup kitchens” – Deutsche Welle

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NEWSWATCH: “Backed by Russian air power, Syria’s army builds on gains.” – Los Angeles Times

Syria Map

The Los Angeles Times covers unfolding evens in the Syrian civil war, including Russian involvement. … Moscow’s air onslaught appears to be gaining effectiveness as Russian commanders grow more familiar with the conflict and with the capabilities of allied Syrian ground forces, observers say. … Russia’s involvement has also led to a new calculation by Syria’s neighbors …. Click here […]

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NEWSWATCH Wall Street Journal: “Vladimir Putin Warns Government May Cut Budget Over Oil Price Fall. Russian president says peak of crisis is over, sees return to growth next year.”

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

The Wall Street Journal reports on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s December address, and prospects of Russian budget cuts prompted by oil-related economy downturns. … Putin said on Thursday that the government may have to cut the federal budget because of a plunge in oil prices, but tried to reassure Russians that the worst of the economic crisis was over. At […]

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NEWSWATCH Carnegie Endowment for International Peace/Eugene Rumer, Paul Stronski: “Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia at Twenty­Five-A Baseline Assessment”

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace undertakes an overview of former Soviet states two-and-a-half decades following the USSR’s collapse. For nearly twenty-five years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine, and the rest of the former Soviet lands now collectively referred to as Eurasia defied the best and the worst expectations of students of the region’s history. Unfortunately, […]

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NEWSWATCH Moscow Times/Sergei Alexashenko: “Russia’s Economy Slows Amid Investment Woes”

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

Writing in The Moscow Times, Sergei Alexashenko assesses trends in the Russian economy and some of the factors impacting them. Russia’s economy is faring poorly …. Gross domestic product has swung back to a level last seen in the first of 2008 and the economy has essentially stagnated over the last seven years. * * * The situation in Russia is not […]

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NEWSWATCH AP: “Russians Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 60-Hour TV Marathon”

Leo Tolstoy file photo

AP covers a televised reading of War and Peace. More than 1,300 Russians are reading Leo Tolstoy’s notoriously lengthy novel “War and Peace” aloud in a 60-hour marathon on national television. The public readings, pre-recorded at locations all over Russia, from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to remote Arctic islands, have been coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter and feature Russians […]

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NEWSWATCH CNN: “Russia’s middle class: We don’t blame Putin.”

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

CNN reports on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political standing and the reaction by the Russian citizenry to the impact of sanctions, embargoes and economic downturn. Russia’s middle class has had a tough time recently, but they aren’t blaming … Putin for it. [In addition to restrictions on certain travel and imports] … The ruble has lost more than half its […]

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NEWSWATCH New York Times: “Russia’s Fury Over Montenegro and NATO”

File Photo of Montenegro Coastal City Kotor with Portion of Old Fortress, Town in Distance, Mountain

The New York Times comments upon Russia’s reaction to the prospect of Montenegro joining NATO. It is a measure of how cold the West’s relations with Russia have become that NATO’s membership invitation to Montenegro — a small, poor Balkan state with a military force of 2,000 and no strategic significance save putting the last bit of Europe’s Mediterranean coastline […]

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NEWSWATCH Moscow Times/Mark Galeotti: “Moscow Must Avoid Shadow War With Ankara”

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

Writing in The Moscow Times, Mark Galeotti considers Russia’s potential reactions to Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft. Moscow is sanctioning Turkish goods and holidays, something that will have a distinct impact on an economy which earns $6.5 billion a year from Russian tourists, but is this enough to assuage President Vladimir Putin’s evident fury at the shooting down […]

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New York Times/Anatol Lieven: “The Key to Crushing ISIS”

Middle East Map

Writing in The New York Times, Anatol Lieven addresses the fight against ISIL. Since the latest terrorist attacks in Paris, President Obama and a range of other Western leaders have agreed that ISIS must be crushed, Syria and Iraq stabilized, and the flow of refugees reversed. If ISIS, Al Qaeda and their supporters are the greatest enemies of the West, […]

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