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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Update February 18, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Censor Sends Formal Warning to Twitter - But Uses Twitter for Propaganda

Roskomnadzor, the state media monitoring agency and censor, has sent an official notice to Twitter's management asking for clarification of its position regarding failure to comply with Russian law, Interfax reported.

Vadim Ampelonsky, press secretary of Roskomnadzor, said the notice was sent February 13 and no reply had been received. He said the letter was regarding Russia's anti-extremism laws and Twitter's refusal to block accounts and turn over user data at the request of the Russian authorities.

Roskomnadzor said on February 10, following Twitter's release of its annual "Transparency Report," that Twitter was "systematically not fulfilling the requirements of Russian law."

"Not a single one of 108 requests to turn over information was honored, regarding the log-ins of accounts of popular users, sent by Roskomnadzor's administration," said Zharov.

"Roskomnadzor has a legitimate question about the acceptability of such a position for a company which is carrying out activity on the territory of the Russian Federation," he said.

By that, Zharov means that the Internet is accessible from Russia. Twitter has no offices in Russia, although it does have Russian representatives.

No doubt the Kremlin is of two minds about Twitter, as on the one hand, it has proven hugely successful in gaining traction for RT.com and other propaganda outlets that don't have many viewers in mainstream media, and it has also provided a fertile ground for Kremlin trolls and bots attempting to influence the debate on the war in Ukraine and other topics.

But opposition members also use Twitter for things like organizing protests and documenting police brutality. No doubt the Russian authorities hope to tame Twitter just enough so that they can continue to harvest the propaganda benefits and any financial rewards that might eventually relate to Twitter, but block unfavorable accounts as it has already succeeded in doing with Right Sector, an ultranationalist Ukrainian group, and Shaltai Boltai, a group of Russian hackers who have leaked Kremlin correspondence.

Maksim Ksenzov, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, appears to have fallen silent about Twitter's behavior, even as he continues to avidly use Twitter to retweet things like the news of Lady Gaga's engagement:


Translation: "@rianru: American singer Lady Gaga has become engaged to actor Taylor Kinney." Horrible nails.

Ksenzov also tweeted about a new Belarusian tram made with Swiss help...

...and a poll which shows Iran is considered America's greatest enemy, not Russia...

...and a comment from 20th-century poet Sergei Esenin about his dislike of America. 

Ksenzov was reprimanded last year by his boss for jumping the gun in threatening Twitter with blockage. But apparently he can continue his propaganda work on Twitter.


Translation: Sergei Esenin on America.

Recently he tweeted a stanza from Esenin's 1923 poem, "Land of Scoundels," which included the lines:


These people are rotting fish,
All America is a greedy gullet
But Russia - now there's a rock
Let there only be Soviet power.

What's intriguing about this tweet is that the poem in fact is mainly about a fictional anarchist rebel named Nomakh (an anagram of the famous Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno) and a Bolshevik commissar Rassvetov who wants to modernize Russia. The section on America is only a minor part of it. The poem was seen as a criticism of Soviet life at the time. Esenin, whose works were banned during his lifetime, ultimately committed suicide.


-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Abby Martin, Host of RT's 'Breaking the Set' is Leaving Show
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Lavrov Says Russia Will 'Take Measures' if There Are Attempts to 'Drag' Georgia into NATO

While it might seem as if grabbing more territory from Ukraine would preoccupy Russia at the moment, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks at a press conference today following his talks with South Ossetian Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev indicates that paranoia is ever present.

Lavrov said that Russia was prepared to react if NATO tried to "drag" Georgia into NATO (translation by The Interpreter):

We discussed our cooperation in the international arena, including the participation of delegations of Russia  and South Ossetia in the Geneva discussions on stability and security in the Trans Caucasus. We affirmed the need to achieve an agreement for a legally-binding agreement on the non-use of force which would exclude a repeat of the events of 2008.

This task is especially relevant in light of the unceasing process of dragging Tbilisi into NATO. We were united in saying that this would not foster the efforts to secure stability in the Caucasus, and we will, naturally, if these steps will acquire practical outlines, and judging from everything, this has already begun, we will take measures in order not to permit negative influence on the situation from these processes."

Before the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, NATO countries opted not to bring George and Ukraine into the NATO membership Action Plan precisely because of Putin's objections. Former US President George Bush pushed for Georgia and Ukraine to be accepted, but German Chancellor Angel Merkel objected on the grounds that it would increase Moscow's hostility.

The issue was reviewed again in December at another NATO meeting, but member states merely discussed reforms needed by Georgia and Ukraine to potentially join the alliance in the future. Because NATO allies were divided on the prudence of such a step, no further action was taken.


20150130_150130-DSG_GEO_MoD_Janelidze_rd

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow and Minister of Defence of Georgia, Mindia Janelidze.

But with the war in Ukraine, NATO and Georgia have been "coming closer," in the words of Deputy Secretary General Ambassador  Alexander Vershbow last month.

On February 2, Vershbow, former US ambassador to Moscow, visited Georgia and called it a model for its region and an "exporter of security," nato.int reported:

Ambassador Vershbow also met with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and discussed the implementation of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, including preparations to establish a Joint Training and Evaluation Centre in Georgia. He said that Centre will help Georgia to reform, modernise and strengthen the security and defence sector and expressed hope to have the Centre operational this year.  The Deputy Secretary General urged Georgia to continue with democratic reforms, to uphold the rule of law and to improve the independence and professionalism of the judiciary.

Amb. Vershbow's remarks indicate that he remembers the 2008 summit differently than Chancellor Merkel:

The decision that NATO leaders took at an earlier Summit, in Bucharest in 2008, still stands:  your country will become a member of NATO, provided that it meets all the necessary requirements”, Ambassador Vershbow said.  “Since we took that decision in Bucharest seven years ago, successive Georgian governments have implemented ambitious reforms and made good use of the NATO-Georgia Commission and our Annual National Programme.  NATO Allies welcome the democratic development of your country, and the modernisation of your military forces and your defence institutions."

Merkel made it clear at the last NATO summit in Wales in June that there was no prospect for Georgia to join immediately, although she acknowledged Georgia's progress in reforms and its contribution to the Allies' efforts such as in Afghanistan.

"For the next NATO summit we should consider how to acknowledge that Georgia is a good partner, especially in these difficult missions, and I think that there are also ways other than MAP to do it,” the German Chancellor said.

Merkel has repeatedly indicated her conviction that bringing Georgia into NATO will incite further Russian aggression rather than quell it.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin and His Allies are Trying to Buy Pro-Life Groups
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Canada Imposes Sanctions on Rosneft, Rostec CEO
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