Putin’s Ukraine Admission and a Culture of Lies

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William Echols

After persistent denials, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemingly admitted to a Russian military presence in Eastern Ukraine (before he didn’t). In any “normal country”, coming clean about a clandestine military operation on live television would have huge political implications. But in Russia, it didn’t even make the evening news.

It all started on December 17 during Putin’s annual marathon Q&A session, a PR exercise in which he vacillates between his roles as global statesman and provincial Santa Claus.

Putin faced many queries, some serious, some prosaic. Due to Russia’s economic woes, his usual air of confidence was punctuated by more bluster than usual. This was especially true when questioned over recent corruption allegations leveled at the family of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika.

But from Chaika’s alleged mob ties to a quasi-admission that Katerina Tikhonova was in fact his daughter (because only in Russia is the identity of one’s children a matter of state security), it was his answer to a question about Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov, two alleged officers of the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) captured during fighting in East Ukraine, that gave pause to many watching the proceedings.

“We never said there were not people [in Eastern Ukraine] who performed certain tasks, including in the military sphere,” he said. “But that does not mean there are Russian (regular) troops there, feel the difference.”

Putin, of course, has vehemently denied that very thing before…

Read the entire article at Russia! Magazine

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Russia’s Draconian ‘Anti-Maidan Law’ Claims Its First Victim

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William Echols 

The noose is tightening around Russia’s increasingly shrinking civic space. On Monday, activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in prison by a Moscow court for taking part in multiple, unsanctioned protests. He is the first victim of a repressive 2014 law that criminalizes the act of violating public assembly rules more than twice within a 180-day period.

As Amnesty International notes, a single violation of the so-called ‘anti-Maidan law’ is now punishable by a fine or up to 15 days in jail. Three strikes and a five-year prison sentence might be on the table. In Dadin’s case, the prosecutor had asked for two years, a sentence which the judge (or whoever ultimately handed down the verdict), found too lenient.

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Ironically, at the time of the bill’s signing, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the authorities would not fight “radicalism” in the country by “tightening the screws.” And yet, Dadin certainly appears to have been put in a vice…

Read the full article at Russia! Magazine