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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 This Week November 3-9

Publication: Russia This Week
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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
Latvian Foreign Minister Announces He's Gay
Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs has come out as gay. The Washington Post confirmed that the tweet below is genuine:

The announcement sparked the following response from the Russian state-operated news agency RIA Novosti (translated by The Interpreter's Catherine A. Fitzpatrick):

Perhaps, it would be more correct and humane to not pay any attention to this at all. In the end, everyone has his faults. Although not everyone tries to elevate them into virtues. But if the foreign minister proudly announced his non-traditional nature, then whether you like it or not, the entire statehood has to be looked at from another perspective.

"I know that a mega-hysterics will start now, but I'm proud that I'm gay," writes Edgars Rinkēvičs in a tweet that was reprinted by the news agencies.

The reasons that prompted him to such a candor are not know. But it was hardly likely to be just the wish to hear "our numbers have grown" from the mouths of other such political figures prominent from afar including his former colleague in the diplomatic trade, former German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and Klaus Wowereit, the governing mayor of Berlin.They just live their lives, and not brag about their tendencies. Rinkēvičs, on the other hand, seemed to want to prove that he was capable of a masculine act. Although, few will be found wanting to go with him on a reconnaissance mission after that.


Rinkēvičs incurred the Kremlin's wrath recently when he banned three Russian performers, Iosif Kobzon, Oleg Gazmanov and Valeriya (Alla Perfilova) from performing in  a music festival in Yurmala due to their pro-war stance on Ukraine.

-- James Miller/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
LGBT Rights Magazine Names Putin 'Person Of The Year'

In a surprising decision, and with a picture comparing him to Hitler, the LGBT rights magazine The Advocate has named Putin as their "Person of the Year."

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Interestingly, in the article explaining their decision The Advocate cties the work of both NYU professor Mark Galeotti and The Interpreter's  Andrew S. Bowen:

This is a man hardwired to intimidate.

Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his crusade against LGBT Russians. Since winning a third term in 2012, Putin has become ever more autocratic, and his antigay ideology ever more extreme. In June 2013, he signed the infamous antigay propaganda bill that criminalizes the “distribution of information…aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes,” with nontraditional meaning anything other than heterosexual. Individual violators are fined anywhere between $120 and $150, while NGOs and corporations can incur fines as high as $30,000. International outrage flared in the months before the Sochi Olympics, in response to which Putin reassured the gay and lesbian community they had nothing to fear as long as they left Russia’s children in peace.

Such incendiary rhetoric is a staple of Putin’s political playbook. And in Russia, where the majority of media are state-owned, there’s little public pushback. Tanya Cooper, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, argues that the average Russian is unlikely to seek diverse viewpoints. “When politicians, celebrities, and respectable journalists in Russia tell you repeatedly, either on television or in print, that gay people are perverts, sodomites, and pedophiles, you just believe it,” she says.

According to Pew Research’s 2014 Global Attitudes Project, 72% of Russians think homosexuality is morally unacceptable. This hints at the increasing domination of the Russian Orthodox Church, which between 1991 and 2008 saw the number of adults calling themselves adherents increase from 31% to 72%. In July 2013, Patriarch Kirill I, leader of the church, deemed same-sex marriage “a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse,” a sentiment that appeals to Putin’s conservative base. Julie Dorf, a senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality, argues that Putin relies on the church to legitimize his rhetoric, and in turn, the church gets greater political access. “Without [Putin’s] personal agenda of using homophobia as a tool to keep himself buoyed domestically, I don’t think the church’s own homophobia would have risen to the same level,” Dorf says.

A September 2014 poll from Russia’s state-run Public Opinion Foundation found that of the two-thirds of respondents who said celebrities can be moral authorities, 36% cited Putin, putting him far ahead of Patriarch Kirill I, who was cited by just 1%. Indeed, Putin’s statecraft and overarching political vision have become staunchly Manichaean, as a struggle between diametrically opposed forces. As Mark Galeotti and Andrew S. Bowen wrote in Foreign Policy, “He does not see himself as aggressively expanding an empire so much as defending a civilization against the ‘chaotic darkness’ that will ensue if he allows Russia to be politically encircled abroad and culturally colonized by Western values at home.” Framed like this, Russia’s assault on LGBT rights is really just opposition to American hubris.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Lawmaker Raises Issue Of Terminating Mistral Contract

The Russian state-operated news agency RIA Novosti is reporting that a senior Federation Council member has suggested that the Russian government should cancel the controversial $1.6 billion arms deal which would have Russia purchase two Mistral amphibious assault ships from France.

"The Russian Federation itself should raise the issue of terminating the contract, with all the proper compensation, because of its non-fulfilment," First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council's Committee on Defense and Security Yevgeny Serebrennikov said.

"If we do this, we'll benefit from it," Serebrennikov added.

The senator also recalled that when the Mistral contract was being prepared experts evaluated the decision as "very controversial" with some saying that it would be difficult for the Russian Armed Forces to use the carriers.

"There is no threat to our security if the contract fails," Serebrennikov said.

As we've been reporting, many in the West are also looking for a way to halt the deal. At this point, however, it's just not clear whether the deal will go forward as planned, whether the ships will go elsewhere, or how long we may have to wait before we find out.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
France's Mistral Ships May Not Be Headed to Russia After All

Perhaps nothing is a better symbol of Europe's economic entanglement with Russia than a $1.6 billion arms deal which would send two French Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia. The deal was negotiated years ago, but since Russia's annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine is has become far more controversial.

Under pressure from Europe and the United States, France postponed the sale of the warships.  French President François Hollande has said that while current EU sanctions do not prohibit the sale of the ships, the deal would only go through under two conditions:

The first condition is for there to be a ceasefire, an actual ceasefire. The second condition is for there to be an agreement on a political settlement, and one which makes sufficient headway for us to be sure that it clearly paves the way to a resolution of the crisis in Ukraine. So I’ll base my decision at the end of October on the situation.

Foreign Policy reports that a bipartisan group of U.S. Congressmen are advocating that NATO buy the ships from France, thus alleviating France's financial burden while simultaneously strengthening NATO against further Russian aggression:

"Sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia, we renew our call that NATO purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset," the November 4 letter to new NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reads. "Such a decisive move by NATO is not without precedent and would show President Putin that our rhetorical resolve is matched by our actual resolve and that this Alliance will not tolerate or abet his dangerous actions in Europe."

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Mike Turner (R-OH), Bill Keating (D-MA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Steve Chabot (R-OH) all signed the deal.


As we've been reporting, there have been reports this week which suggest that the Mistrals could wind up in Canada. International Business Times reports:

The possibility of a Canadian solution appeared in French media after French President François Hollande began a state visit  to Canada this week. While Hollande has yet to make a decision on whether Russia has met the criteria to receive the ships, the presence in the French delegation to Canada of the diplomatic advisor to the chairman of DCNS, the company that manufactures the ships, offers the first indication that France could actively be seeking an alternative buyer...

The idea of Canada buying the ships is not a new one. In May 2014, Canadian Senator Hugh Segal  publicly suggested that France should sell to Canada instead of Russia. “Canada or NATO should buy these ships from France, leaving the Russians to await a further slot on the list, which good behavior would assure,” Segal said. “Being silent as French technology is afforded to an adventurist Russian military stance makes no sense at all.”

 -- James Miller



The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Human Rights Activist Barred from Ukraine Now Permitted Entry
Vitaly Ponomarev, a member of Memorial Society's Human Rights Center, has now received permission to enter Ukraine, Markiyan Lukivsky, advisor to the chief of Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), has stated.

Ponomarev was stopped at the border November 5 and told his name was in a no-entry list.

It turned out it was a relic of the Yanukovych regime's blacklists. Aleksandr Yakimenko, the former chief of the SBU, had made lists of persons to keep out of Ukraine that included not only Ukrainian but Russian opposition members. Ponomarev was put on that list.

"I publicly beg pardon for this unfortunate situation," Lubkivsky in a statement to the press.

He said such incidents "might occur again" as the Ukrainian government struggles to address Yanukovych's legacy.

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