Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Nick Clegg says Russia should not host World Cup 2018


Fifa has ruled out calls for boycott after the shooting down of MH17, insisting the tournament could be ‘a force for good’.

Nick Clegg believes it would be 'unthinkable' for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesNick Clegg believes it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the World Cup 2018 tournament to go ahead in Russia. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Nick Clegg has joined calls for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The deputy prime minister said it was “unthinkable” at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the west for supplying arms to the separatist rebels accused of causing the deaths of all 298 on board.

Football’s world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be “a force for good“.

But Clegg told the Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by president Vladimir Putin would make the world look “so weak and so insincere” in its condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.

The EU has added another 15 individuals and 18 entities to the list of those subject to asset freezes and ambassadors in Brussels are expected to extend the punitive actions to state-owned banks’ access to capital markets and to the arms and energy sectors.

Clegg said however that sporting events should also be part of the package of measures – including the cancellation of Russia’s first F1 Grand Prix, which is due to take place in Sochi in October.

“Vladimir Putin himself has to understand that he can’t have his cake and eat it,” he said.

“He can’t constantly, you know, push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilise a neighbouring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.

“That’s why I’ve come to the view that if he doesn’t change course it’s just not on, the idea that Russia will host the World Cup in 2018.

“You can’t have this – the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

“Not only would Vladimir Putin exploit it, I think it would make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere about our protestations about Vladimir Putin’s behaviour if we’re not prepared to pull the plug.

He said that despite F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s insistence that there was no case for abandoning the Grand Prix, “the question marks I’m raising will only increase over the next coming weeks and months, over the summer and up to the Grand Prix, about Russia’s entitlement to host these major events.

“Vladimir Putin is a past master at attending these sporting events and, sort of, pretending almost as if everything’s utterly normal and nothing untoward is happening around him.

“And if anyone needed any reminding of how dangerous this conflict is in the heart of Europe, just ask any of the family and relatives of those loved ones they lost in that plane incident last week.”

Clegg said the threat of withdrawing the World Cup would be “a very potent political and symbolic sanction”.

“If there’s one thing that Vladimir Putin cares about, as far as I can see, it’s his sense of status.

“Maybe reminding him that you can’t retain the same status in the world if you ignore the rest of the world, maybe that will have some effect on his thinking.”

He did not rule out the UK as an alternative host given its recent history of putting on successful global sporting events.

“We’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got the public backing and enthusiasm to host it,” he said.

“That’s a decision for other people. But I’m not saying this just as a, sort of, British land grab to snatch the World Cup from under Vladimir Putin’s nose.”

He joined David Cameron’s criticism of the French deal to supply warships to Russia, saying it would be “wholly inappropriate” for it to proceed in the present circumstances.

“Whilst I can entirely understand that the French may have entered into that contract with the Russians in entirely different circumstances, it is wholly inappropriate to go ahead with that now,” he said.

“And as you know, the Prime Minister has reviewed the outstanding licenses that we have got to make sure that we deliver what we unilaterally announced back in March, which was that there would be no exports from Britain of arms products which could in any way fuel or fan the flames of the conflict in Ukraine.”

He said he had been assured by business secretary Vince Cable that “great care” was taken to check the remaining licences.

Clegg predicted that any adverse effects on EU member states of tougher economic sanctions against Russia would be “probably not very significant” and urged all countries to consider the wider benefit.

“We are now moving, I think, towards a situation – and both the prime minister and I would be united in this – in saying to other European Union leaders, look, even if this incurs short-term political damage to this economy or that economy, this sector or that sector, there is something bigger at stake here and it is the stability of the European continent.”

Clegg said the furore over the £160,000 paid in a Tory fundraising auction by the wife of a Russian oligarch who was a minister in Putin’s first government for a game of tennis with Cameron and Boris Johnson mostly demonstrated the need for reform of political party funding.

“They need to make their own judgments,” he said, when asked if his coalition partners should meet Labour demands to repay the money.

“But all parties … continue to be damaged because of the haphazard way which we have to go around fund raising,” he added – calling on both main parties to stop blocking reform.

The Guardian.

#Russia, #MH17 and the #West: A web of lies


Vladimir Putin’s epic deceits have grave consequences for his people and the outside world.

A web of lies

IN 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path. And yet many around the world, through self-interest or self-deception, have been unwilling to see Mr Putin as he really is.

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the killing of 298 innocent people and the desecration of their bodies in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine, is above all a tragedy of lives cut short and of those left behind to mourn. But it is also a measure of the harm Mr Putin has done. Under him Russia has again become a place in which truth and falsehood are no longer distinct and facts are put into the service of the government. Mr Putin sets himself up as a patriot, but he is a threat—to international norms, to his neighbours and to the Russians themselves, who are intoxicated by his hysterical brand of anti-Western propaganda.

The world needs to face the danger Mr Putin poses. If it does not stand up to him today, worse will follow.

Crucifiction and other stories

Mr Putin has blamed the tragedy of MH17 on Ukraine, yet he is the author of its destruction. A high-court’s worth of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that pro-Russian separatists fired a surface-to-air missile out of their territory at what they probably thought was a Ukrainian military aircraft. Separatist leaders boasted about it on social media and lamented their error in messages intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence and authenticated by America.

Jerzy Dyczynsk and Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski from Australia, whose daughter Fatima, 25, died on flight MH17, on Saturday visited the crash site in disputed eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.Jerzy Dyczynsk and Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski from Australia, whose daughter Fatima, 25, died on flight MH17, on Saturday visited the crash site in disputed eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.

Russia’s president is implicated in their crime twice over. First, it looks as if the missile was supplied by Russia, its crew was trained by Russia, and after the strike the launcher was spirited back to Russia. Second, Mr Putin is implicated in a broader sense because this is his war. The linchpins of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic are not Ukrainian separatists but Russian citizens who are, or were, members of the intelligence services. Their former colleague, Mr Putin, has paid for the war and armed them with tanks, personnel carriers, artillery—and batteries of surface-to-air missiles. The separatists pulled the trigger, but Mr Putin pulled the strings.

The enormity of the destruction of flight MH17 should have led Mr Putin to draw back from his policy of fomenting war in eastern Ukraine. Yet he has persevered, for two reasons. First, in the society he has done so much to mould, lying is a first response. The disaster immediately drew forth a torrent of contradictory and implausible theories from his officials and their mouthpieces in the Russian media: Mr Putin’s own plane was the target; Ukrainian missile-launchers were in the vicinity. And the lies got more complex. The Russian fiction that a Ukrainian fighter jet had fired the missile ran into the problem that the jet could not fly at the altitude of MH17, so Russian hackers then changed a Wikipedia entry to say that the jets could briefly do so. That such clumsily Soviet efforts are easily laughed off does not defeat their purpose, for their aim is not to persuade but to cast enough doubt to make the truth a matter of opinion. In a world of liars, might not the West be lying, too?

People watch from a bridge as a convoy of hearses carries the bodies of those killed on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 through Boxtel in the Netherlands. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.People watch from a bridge as a convoy of hearses carries the bodies of those killed on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 through Boxtel in the Netherlands. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images. Continue reading

Russians in London: ‘It’s official policy now to hate us’


Russians living in London say British media's coverage of the Malaysia Airlines crash is pushing them to side with Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Zuma/Rex FeaturesRussians living in London say British media’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines crash is pushing them to side with Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Zuma/Rex Features.

Outside Kalinka, a Russian delicatessen and grocers on London’s bustling Queensway, customers were uneasy . “I am shocked,” says one, an electrician, who came to London 12 years ago to work on building sites. He remembers the stereotyping of his fellow Russians back then. “It was Russians are rude. And they are drinking beer. And they are drinking vodka. But it was funny. It was soft humour.

“Now, the newspapers are definitely trying to mix the opinions of people against Russian culture and people. Now it is Russians are killers.”

He is far from alone among Russians living in London to have noticed a backlash since the downing of flight MH17. Like most, he too, speaks only on condition of anonymity.

“There are pictures of Putin. The word “killer” on the front pages,” said Anna, a Russian-born pharmaceutical consultant. “Then page after page, until page 12 or something, when it’s Gaza. Russians are killers. How do you think it affects us?”

“Do you believe in collective punishment? Do you want to bomb people for their nationality?” she asks. “It’s actually official policy now to hate Russians.”

Of course, she said, she has no idea of the exact circumstances that led to shooting of the plane and loss of 298 lives. “But the British culture is to find a culprit. Bully them. Bully those around them. Don’t bother to investigate. Judge on very superficial grounds. Let’s bully his daughter. Let’s find someone who played judo with this man and bully them too.

“Surround him with hate so the Russians will throw him out. But the Russians won’t throw him out,” she added. “Everyone is suffering. Collective punishment is not the answer.”

Among his friends, Sasha, a retired Russian army officer who has lived in London for more than 20 years, now finds “a great deal of sadness, and fear, fear that the lunacy will escalate.

“It is easy to resurrect antagonism towards Russia because people remember the cold war, and when something goes wrong in Russia it’s magnified,” he said. Sanctions would hit the middle and lower income Russians “the tourists, the students who fill the universities” and not “the big people, who don’t care”.

Across London in the City, fears are also for business. One director of a reinsurance broker, whose company works in 20 different countries, many from the former Soviet Union, said his concern about media coverage was “that there is no presumption of innocence in this case.

“It looked as if the story was ready for the mass media before the aircraft came down.

“All this blaming Russians, I am Russian English. I have been living here for 25 years. I don’t quite like Putin’s politics. But, unfortunately, all this has really pushed me over to the Russian side, which I haven’t been since the events started in the Ukraine.”

He fears a break “in connections which have been set up over the last 20 to 25 years, based on information that has not been verified”.

Others fear a trade slump will lead to job losses. “If there is no business with Russia, it inevitably will affect our employability because we sell our language skills,” said one insurance worker.

Now living in London, she was born in Russia before moving to Ukraine, where her parents still live. She was visiting them when the plane was shot down.

“My parents have both Ukrainian and Russian channels. And the story was so contradictory if you switched from Russian TV to Ukrainian TV. It is actually scary how the same event can be shown from a different perspective and you just don’t know what to believe,” she said. “They are trading accusations, and both seem equally credible. My advice would be not to listen to either.”

She has found British media “more or less objective” but is concerned how comments translate into Russian.

“I can hear what David Cameron says in English and it’s sort of alright. Once it is translated into Russian it sounds really harsh. That really is an issue. When it’s taken out of context, and translated, it can sound almost opposite to what was said,” she said.

The Guardian.

Backing #Russia into a corner will have consequences…


What does Vladimir Putin and a cornered rat have in commonWhat does Vladimir Putin and a cornered rat have in common?

World leaders need to come together and sit around the table themselves (not their elected representatives) and talk before this crisis reaches a point where there is no turning back.

It’s not just about the Malaysian flight. #Russians are living in an alternate reality.


The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

MOSCOW—Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has already shined a spotlight on the Russian public’s somewhat, um, unique views.

Russian media are running with conspiracy theories: that MH17 was shot down by NATO to spark a conflict with Russia, that MH17 wasn’t full of innocent civilians but week-old corpses, or that MH17 was shot down because it was mistaken for Vladimir Putin’s personal jet (as if anti-aircraft missiles weren’t aimed with radar but with a really large pair of binoculars). The only theory missing is the right one: that Russian-backed separatists accidentally shot down the plane when they mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport.

This may seem like the entertaining sideshow to a tragedy, but actually it’s just a window into a hugely dangerous problem. I recently moved to Moscow, and it’s hard to miss the extent to which Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.

One particularly easy and glaring example is Russian TV reporters, filing from Eastern Ukraine, who say they are reporting from the “Lugansk People’s Republic” or the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Regardless of your views on the worsening civil war in Ukraine, which is not a neat story of black and white or right and wrong, it is obvious that these republics are almost entirely fictitious and that their “territory” is largely confined to a handful of government buildings. Despite their extremely dubious claims to legitimacy, the non-existent states are treated with deadly earnestness by both the state media and large numbers of ordinary Russians. (Ukraine has been a problem for Russian media ever since protests there began at the end of 2013.)

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder. They have different views about 9/11, with shockingly large numbers of Russians supporting “alternate” explanations of one of history’s most carefully studied and well-documented terrorist attacks. (I was recently asked what “theory” of the attacks I supported only to be told that it was “my opinion” after I noted that al-Qaeda was clearly and obviously responsible.) Even something as seemingly straightforward and non-political as a meteor strike attracted a range of bizarre theories and pseudo-scientific “explanations” like the onset of an alien invasion or the testing of a new American super weapon. These wacky ideas (“the aliens are attacking Siberia!” “The grand masons are responsible for 9/11!”) would be extremely funny if they didn’t represent such a tragic deficit of reason.

I’ve asked people about these notions. Particularly if they’re a bit bashful about the position they’re about to advocate, Russians will often highlight their country’s long track record of superstition and its history as a rural, peasant society. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “we’re a superstitious people” as an explanation for some kind of seemingly nonsensical position. In contrast to Western Europe, Russia really did urbanize and become literate much later. This delayed development has left a lasting impression on popular consciousness and public attitudes.

But while there is clearly some truth to the idea that Russia’s unique cultural history renders it susceptible to conspiracies, explanations centered on the “Russian soul” strike me as a cop-out. Far more important than the legacy of peasant life or any kind of natural penchant for mysteriousness and inscrutability is the Soviet legacy of propaganda. The older generations here all grew up in an environment in which the government systematically manipulated information on a scale that is hard to fathom. Although you might expect that this would engender a healthy skepticism, it appears to have created an unhealthy over-reaction. Russians don’t just doubt the “official line.” Several expats here, like me, have observed that they seem to doubt everything.

Like many Americans, I used to think that these differences would recede with time, and that, as they traveled the world, got jobs, and got rich, Russians would eventually start to think more and more like us. After Ukraine and the Malaysia Airlines crash, I’m a lot less optimistic. Despite ditching communism and its call to world revolution, Russia appears to becoming more, not less, different from the United States. It doesn’t just have its own system; it now has its own facts.

Mark Adomanis specializes in Russian economics and demographics.


By Mark Adomanis – The Washington Post.