“Russian investigators … opened a criminal probe into a failed rocket launch that caused a two-man crew to make an emergency landing shortly after blast-off to the [International Space Station] …. U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were rescued without injuries …. An ‘anomaly’ with the booster led to the voyage … being aborted two minutes in, NASA said. The Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems in recent years, including the loss of a number of satellites and cargo spacecraft. [Roscosmo is headed by] Dmitry Rogozin … appointed by … Putin ….”
“… With 95 percent of votes counted on Sunday night, Kremlin-backed United Russia incumbent Andrei Tarasenko was trailing his Communist rival by around 5 percent. But on Monday, the local election commission said Tarasenko had won by just over 1 percent, an unlikely turnaround that the Communists said was evidence of rigging. The scandal is awkward for Putin, who met Tarasenko a week ago and told him that ‘everything will be OK.’ The comment was widely seen as a personal endorsement of Tarasenko, whom Putin appointed acting governor last year, at a time when Putin’s own ratings are under pressure from plans to raise the pension age. … A week ago in the Primorsky Region, which includes the Pacific port of Vladivostok, 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow, Tarasenko failed to pass the 50-percent threshold for an outright win. …”
SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “Russia: Runoffs in Four Regional Races Reveal the Kremlin’s Vulnerability” [Excerpt] – Stratfor
“… Putin … in his fourth and perhaps final term as Russia’s president, faced a key political test in regional elections …. though the ruling party, United Russia, won most of the races – which included gubernatorial elections in 22 regions, legislative elections in 16 regions and a mayoral election in Moscow – it faced stiffer competition and more unrest than usual. In a record four regions, the ruling party’s gubernatorial candidates failed to obtain a simple majority … and will stand in runoff elections Sept. 23. Their opponents are candidates from the Communist and Liberal Democratic parties, registered political parties that work within Russia’s political system and don’t pose a strong threat to Putin’s government. Even so, the result is troubling for the ruling party and practically unprecedented …. The main force behind United Russia’s comparatively lackluster performance in the polls is the Kremlin’s plan to increase the retirement age. …”
Click here for: “Russia: Runoffs in Four Regional Races Reveal the Kremlin’s Vulnerability” – Stratfor.com
SCW RUSSIAWIRE: “In Russia, the Corporate Raiders Are Often Cops; Companies face harassment from law-enforcement officials, according to business owners, lawyers and activists” – Wall Street Journal/James Marson, Thomas Grove
“… Russian companies routinely face harassment from law-enforcement officials seeking to extort money or expropriate businesses, according to business owners, lawyers and activists. One in six Russian business owners is facing criminal prosecution, according to [a Kremlin-launched agency]. … weaker prices for oil … and Western sanctions in 2014 sent the economy into a recession that it only emerged from last year. … Putin’s authoritarian rule relies on security officials and political heavyweights who use their authority not only to squash political opponents but also to squeeze companies for payoffs, seize them on behalf of rivals or take them over for themselves, critics say. … mak[ing] changes to the justice system potentially perilous. … [P]eople who should be building Russia’s economy are losing their businesses and their freedom. Russian courts found 99.8% of defendants guilty … and are ripe for hijacking using fabricated cases …. Resisting can be risky and often ends with the company being destroyed anyway. ….”
Click here for: “In Russia, the Corporate Raiders Are Often Cops; Companies face harassment from law-enforcement officials, according to business owners, lawyers and activists” – Wall Street Journal/James Marson, Thomas Grove
“Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday Moscow would respond if Sweden and Finland were drawn into the NATO alliance and that such expansion would undermine global security, the Interfax news agency reported. …”
[featured image is file photo from another occasion]
NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s Success Masks Russian Weakness; Things are breaking his way. But if China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts” – Wall Street Journal/Walter Russell Mead
“Despite … Putin’s successes, Russia remains weak, and its leverage over other nations is limited. China can woo its neighbors with multibillion-dollar projects like its ‘One Belt, One Road’ trade initiative. Russia has much less to offer: If China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts. … Putin can obstruct Germany’s faltering European project, but he lacks the resources to offer an alternative. In the Middle East, the Kremlin’s position depends on American forbearance. If … Trump decides to make opposing the Assad regime a crucial part of his anti-Iran strategy, … Putin may have to stand by and watch his client fall. … developments at home counsel restraint as well. … Putin’s string of dramatic foreign-policy successes has shored up his domestic popularity, [but] Russia’s sclerotic economy and corrupt social order ensure that the foundations of his power remain weak. … Putin has made Russia great again on the international stage, but the Russian people would rather see him use that daring and finesse to improve the situation at home.”
Click here for: “Putin’s Success Masks Russian Weakness; Things are breaking his way. But if China is a tiger, Russia is a pussycat on stilts” – Wall Street Journal/Walter Russell Mead
“Russia’s Putin won … March’s election[, ostensibly by large margin,] amid complaints from critics. With neighboring Armenia offering an example of the potential threat, Russian authorities weren’t taking any chances …”
NEWSWATCH: “Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Is Detained Amid Anti-Putin Protests; Demonstrations are held across #Russia, with more than 1,000 protesters held by police” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove
“Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was detained Saturday together with as many as a thousand of his supporters across the country in protests against the start of … Putin’s fourth term …. The demonstrations, marked by uncharacteristic violence in Moscow, were an attempt by critics of … Putin to spark momentum surrounding their movement, which had faded somewhat since March’s presidential election. … [The] presidential inauguration is planned for Monday. …”
Click here for: “Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Is Detained Amid Anti-Putin Protests; Demonstrations are held across Russia, with more than 1,000 protesters held by police” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove
SCW RUSSIA WIRE NEWSWATCH: “Britain says former Russian spy poisoned with nerve agent” – Reuters/Toby Melville, Estelle Shirbon, Kate Kelland, Guy Faulconbridge, Michael Holden, Gareth Jones
“A nerve agent was used to deliberately poison a former Russian double agent and his daughter, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer said …. Sergei Skripal, once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench … in the southern English city of Salisbury … Both remain critically ill and a police officer who attended the scene is also in a serious condition in hospital. * * * … a U.S. security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the main line of police inquiry was that Russians may have used the substance against Skripal in revenge …. Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence before his arrest by Russian authorities in 2004. … given refuge in Britain after being exchanged for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap ….”
Click here for: “Britain says former Russian spy poisoned with nerve agent” – Reuters/Toby Melville, Estelle Shirbon, Kate Kelland, Guy Faulconbridge, Michael Holden, Gareth Jones
“President Vladimir #Putin is pushing a plan with U.S. President Donald #Trump to create security zones and deploy peacekeepers in #Syria — possibly including #Russian forces — to enforce a faltering cease-fire as he tries to find a resolution to the more than six-year conflict. …”
“Police detained dozens of people in several Russian cities as demonstrators joined a protest campaign urging Vladimir Putin not to run in the country’s presidential election next year. The April 29 protests came just three days after authorities moved to ban the organization spearheading the demonstrations: Open Russia, which was set up by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.”
“Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities. Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for 17 years, has not said whether he will run in presidential elections in March 2018. But the 64-year-old politician, who enjoys high popularity ratings, is widely expected to do so. …”
NEWSLINK: “Russian police arrest dozens of anti-Putin protesters; More than 100 arrested in St Petersburg at demonstration against Vladimir Putin’s expected candidacy in 2018” – Al Jazeera 4.29.17
“More than 100 activists were arrested in St Petersburg on Saturday as hundreds of Russians turned out to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s expected candidacy in elections next year. Demonstrators rallied across several cities under the slogan ‘We’re sick of him.’ The protests were called by the Open Russia movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. …”
“Russian authorities have detained dozens of protesters at rallies demanding that President Vladimir Putin should not seek re-election next year. At least 30 people were reported to have been held in St Petersburg and more than 16 in the southern city of Kemerovo. Activists in some other cities were kept away from protests, reports said. President Putin has not confirmed that he will run in March 2018 but he is widely expected to do so. …”
NEWSWATCH: “Russia bans three Khodorkovsky-linked opposition groups; Move comes before planned protests across 30 cities on Saturday” – Financial Times/ Kathrin Hille 4.26.17
“#Russia has banned three non-governmental groups linked to Mikhail #Khodorkovsky … ahead of planned anti-regime demonstrations as the #Kremlin tries to curb the spread of protest sentiment. The Prosecutor General’s Office … declared the Open Russia Foundation, the Institute of Modern Russia and the Open Russia movement to be ‘undesirable organisations’. Such a status allows authorities to freeze their assets in Russia and exposes anyone working with them to criminal prosecution. …”
Click here for: “Russia bans three Khodorkovsky-linked opposition groups; Move comes before planned protests across 30 cities on Saturday” – Financial Times/ Kathrin Hille 4.26.17
“A prominent #Russian journalist known for articles criticizing the country’s government and President Vladimir #Putin has died in St. Petersburg after being beaten up, his lawyer was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. Nikolai #Andrushchenko, a 73-year-old co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Peterburg, was found unconscious with what colleagues described as head trauma on March 9. …”
“A former #Russian lawmaker who defected to #Ukraine and aired damning criticism of #Russia’s leadership has been gunned down in broad daylight in the heart of Kyiv in what Ukraine’s president called ‘An act of state #terrorism by Russia.’ … ex-#Duma Deputy Denis #Voronenkov was killed by a gunman as he and his bodyguard were approaching the five-star Premier Palace Hotel …. the attacker fired at least eight shots at the 45-year-old Voronenkov with an ‘old Soviet pistol.’ … caught on security cameras. The attacker was shot in the ensuing gunbattle with Voronenkov’s lone bodyguard and apprehended by police on the street nearby. He later died in hospital … there was initially no word on his identity. … the bodyguard, who was wounded in the exchange of gunfire … was provided by Ukrainian authorities in the past month because there was ‘reason to fear’ that Voronenkov’s life might be in danger. … Voronenkov had become a vocal critic of Kremlin policy toward Ukraine, including its military invasion and annexation of Crimea. But the former communist lawmaker was also unpopular among Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom were dubious of his loyalties and critical of authorities fast-tracking a Ukrainian passport ….”
NEWSWATCH: “Denis Voronenkov: ex-#Russian MP who fled to #Ukraine killed in Kiev; Vladimir #Putin’s spokesman dismisses claims that Moscow is linked to the killing of #Kremlin critic who left #Russia last year and renounced citizenship.” – The Guardian (UK)
“A former #Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine was shot dead on a busy street in central Kiev …. Denis #Voronenkov, who had spoken out against … #Putin and #Kremlin policies, was shot three times outside the upmarket Premier Palace hotel. #Ukraine’s president, Petro #Poroshenko, quickly pointed the finger at Russian authorities, calling the killing an act of ‘state #terrorism’. …”
Click here for: “Denis Voronenkov: ex-Russian MP who fled to Ukraine killed in Kiev; Vladimir Putin’s spokesman dismisses claims that Moscow is linked to the killing of Kremlin critic who left Russia last year and renounced citizenship.” – The Guardian (UK)
“#GOP leaders reject suggestion of a moral equivalence between U.S., #Putin; #Pence sees path to end #sanctions”
NEWSLINK: “Team #Trump: Flynn called #Russia ambassador, no sanction talk ‘plain and simple'” – Fox News
“The Donald #Trump transition team has acknowledged that its incoming national security adviser has been in contact with #Russia’s ambassador but denies reports they were plotting over recently imposed #sanctions on Moscow. … a call on Dec. 29, the day President #Obama hit Russia for election-related #hacking … was about ‘logistics’ for a call between … #Putin and #Trump, who on Friday is sworn-in as president. …”
“… #Trump and … #Putin spent some time on the telephone Monday, as the pair discussed hopes that the two nations can thaw icy relations …. The #Kremlin confirmed … both Trump and Putin agreed that U.S.-#Russian relations are presently at an ‘unsatisfactory’ level.
Trump’s campaign said Putin had called to offer his congratulations on winning the election and the two began discussing a range of issues. ….
Syria and global terrorism also reportedly were among the topics of discussion.
(Voice of America – voanews.com – Moscow, Nov. 9, 2016)
Russia warmly welcomed the presidential election victory of Donald Trump with officials, analysts, and ordinary citizens cautiously hoping it could turn a new page in relations between Russia and the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Trump on his win, saying he hoped to work together with the next American president to lift relations out of the current crisis, resolve international issues, and respond to global security challenges.
At an election watch breakfast at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, various foreign and Russian dignitaries mingled as the results came in and took interviews with Russian and international media.
Trump’s victory, defying polls that predicted Hilltary Clinton would win, came a surprise to most present.
Some analysts questioned how much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric would translate into policy and whether, as president, he can improve U.S.-Russia relations.
“Too early to say,” says Moscow-based political analyst and author on Putin, Maria Lipman. “Trump will be president effective end of January. He still has got to deal with the American congress. The American congress is not a crowd of Russia lovers, to say the least. It will depend on Russia as well,” adds Lipman, “whether Russia will try and take advantage of this unexpected result of the election.”
“They will welcome a chance to sit down early on with President Trump and discuss the relationship,” says director of the Carnegie Moscow Center Dmitri Trenin.
But he was cautious about any dramatic improvement, after more than two years of frosty relations with the West over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria. “We are still in dangerous waters. I don’t think that a change of president in the United States would mean a fundamental change of interests, clearly not. Change of policies or a correction of policies, probably yes. Which direction, we don’t know.”
While Clinton’s positions on Russia are known, Trenin noted there were still many unkowns about Trump’s policy toward Russia. “We don’t know enough about Mr. Trump. We don’t know anything about the Trump administration, we don’t know anything about Trump policies, including his foreign policy.”
On the streets of Moscow, Trump’s victory was overwhelmingly welcomed by most Russians.
“Well, I think that was the best option for Russia than any other ( politician),” says student Irina. “Because they say he is not so critical about Russia.”
Pensioner Elena voiced a rare dissenting opinion on Trump, saying while bilateral relations may improve under Trump, she thought him too emotional. “I have no confidence that he (Trump) is a person who is capable to manage the country in a stable way.”
During the election campaign, Trump and Putin exchanged compliments and expressed interest in improving relations. On the thorny issues of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and Syria, Trump leaned to Moscow’s positions more than his own Republican Party.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko congratulated Trump on his victory, but also said he hoped Trump would continue the Republican Party’s policy of supporting Ukraine.
Leaders of other former Soviet states, such as Moldova, expressed simliar hopes that bilateral relations with Washington remain unchanged under Trump.
Russian state media clearly favored Trump in its reporting, criticism of Hillary Clinton was much more common. But Russian analysts say the attacks were more about disparaging Clinton, who was tougher on Russia, than necessarily wanting or believing that Trump could win.
“I think for some people (in the Kremlin) it was disbelief,” says Trenin. “Some people have always maintained that if Trump looked like he was going to win, his victory would be stolen by the American elite. Now this has not happened. And that sends a message, including to the Kremlin, that democracy works in America.”
[Article also appeared at voanews.com/a/russia-congratulates-trump-victory-hopes-for-better-relations/3589309.html]
“Russia revives Soviet-era psychiatric punishment: Crimean Tatars, dissenters suffer” – Sydney Morning Herald
… last week after his release from a forced stay in a Crimean psychiatric hospital, Ilmi Umerov [said] ‘It was what you could call one big torture’ … Having made public statements against Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine … Russian authorities charged Umerov with ‘separatism’ and forced him into a psychiatric hospital for a month of observation [even as he already was s]tricken with Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart problems…. * * * The resurgent Soviet-era practice of punitive psychiatry has shut away a number of dissenters and activists who have dared to speak out against the Russian government. [After] opposition activist Mikhail Kosenko took part in mass protests against … Putin’s inauguration for a third term, the … Bolotnaya Square protests [h]e was soon arrested, convicted and confined to a psychiatric hospital for eight months … Earlier this year, an opposition activist was grabbed from his home by orderlies posing as gas company workers and dragged off to a psychiatric hospital, where he was involuntarily injected with drugs before being released a week later. …