Tag Archives: Putin’s

Translator who listened to Trump and Putin’s calls says it was like overhearing ‘friends chatting in a bar’


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The Inside Story of How Alexey Navalny Uncovered Putin’s $1.3 Billion Palace


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Russian authorities offer contradictory explanations for Kremlin-like security at alleged ‘Putin’s palace’


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Hit Putin’s oligarchs in Europe with sanctions, Alexei Navalny tells EU


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How a Man Linked to Prigozhin, ‘Putin’s Chef,’ Infiltrated the United Nations


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What is Putin’s Endgame With Americans Detained in Russia?


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Putin’s Overhaul Gets Initial Approval in Russian Parliament

Putin’s Overhaul Gets Initial Approval in Russian Parliament(Bloomberg) — The lower house of parliament gave initial approval to President Vladimir Putin’s plan to make major changes to the constitution, widely seen as an effort by the Russian leader to extend his 20-year rule.Legislators in the State Duma rose for a standing ovation after voting 432-0 for the proposal, which Putin unveiled in a surprise announcement last week. Discussions on possible amendments are set for next week, with a vote on those scheduled on Feb. 11. The plan will go to a national vote in April and is virtually certain to pass.The amendments, the most dramatic since the constitution was adopted in 1993, would reduce the power of the presidency, giving somewhat more authority to the parliament and strengthening the State Council, now a largely ceremonial body. The overhaul could create options for Putin to retain control after his current term — his last under constitutional limits — ends in 2024.Putin hasn’t given any public hint of his plans and details that have emerged in the days since the announcement have done little to clarify his vision. Wednesday, he told a group of students and teachers that creating a body with power above the president would be “disastrous” because it would split the government. He also ruled out emulating Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew in a father-of-the-nation role, saying it would be unworkable in Russia.READ MORE: Understanding Putin’s Moves to Keep His Hold on Power: QuickTakeBefore the vote Thursday, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin dismissed criticisms that the changes are being rushed through. “These amendments are hard won,” he told legislators. “Some people have been suffering for these since the time of Imperial Russia, when there was no parliamentarism in Russia.”To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net;Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?

Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?At a celebration of the Russian Orthodox New Year on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chose a grim message, the sarcasm of which left his audience on edge. But, then, Medvedev probably knew what Wednesday would bring—the resignation of his entire government—and the audience did not.Putin’s Power Play: Shuffle the Cabinet But Keep CommandOn national television, the prime minister read at length from Anton Chekhov’s story "A Night in the Cemetery," which suggests with ironic wit that celebrating the coming of the New Year is a foolish pursuit, unworthy of a properly functioning mind, since “every coming year is as bad as the previous one,” and the newest year is bound to be even worse. Instead of celebrating the New Year, Chekhov wrote—and Medvedev read—one should suffer, cry and attempt suicide. Every new year brings you closer to death, makes you poorer, your bald spots larger and your wife older, he said.Medvedev’s sour greetings brought on some awkward laughs and sparse applause from confused Russian bureaucrats in the studio audience, most of whom remained stone-faced. The prime minister seemed nervous and almost dropped his papers at the end of the speech.Then Wednesday dawned, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual state of the nation address proposed a constitutional overhaul. It supposedly is designed to boost the powers of parliament and the cabinet, but more likely is intended to give Putin, 67, a firm grip on the country for many more years, even decades, to come. A few hours later, Medvedev submitted his resignation, and his entire cabinet submitted theirs as well. And while some of them may stay on, Medvedev, who once served a term as Putin's placeholder president, will move to a previously nonexistent post.Putin offered the prime minister slot to Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the Russian Tax Service, who has been described as “the taxman of the future,” digitally acquiring receipts of every transaction in Russia within 90 seconds. It's unclear whether Mishustin will be a placeholder technocrat or assume other responsibilities currently known only to Putin. But in his annual address, Putin articulated the need to identify any persons with current or former double citizenships and foreign holdings, eliminating them from government service. Mishustin might become instrumental in such a reshuffling of Russia’s power elites, who are perceived to be unpatriotic by maintaining residences or bank accounts abroad. The added pressure will also give Putin further leverage over them. In the past, Putin and Medvedev have choreographed moves that allowed Putin to remain in charge under different titles, swapping places to circumvent term limits.This time around, Medvedev will assume a newly created position as the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council and all current ministers will remain in an acting capacity until a new government is appointed.Meanwhile, the leader of Chechnya in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, Ramzan Kadyrov has declared himself to be “temporarily incapacitated,” relegating his duties to the current prime minister of Chechnya, Muslim Khuchiyev.Putin’s sweeping changes are widely interpreted as designed to weaken his successor, reshaping Russia’s power structure in order to create additional opportunities for Putin's continued control over the government, even after the conclusion of his fourth presidential term in 2024. Putin proposed amending the Russian constitution to expand the powers of the legislative branch and investing additional powers in the State Council, leading to speculation Putin is contemplating his future return at the helm of a newly empowered Parliament, after the expiration of his current presidential term.Commentary on the Russian president’s likely intention to carve out a new position for himself has been skillfully avoided by the Russian state media. Instead, Kremlin-controlled news outlets chose to focus on promised subsidies for families with young children, designed to address Russia’s demographic crisis by boosting the birth rate, and the general claim that Putin has, as it were, made Russia great again.On the Russian state television show, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the host proclaimed, “The greatness of the country is indisputably tied to the name of Putin.” Soloviev argued that the Russian president “restored respect” towards their country globally. His take was echoed by the State Duma Deputy Chair Irina Yarovaya, who pontificated that Putin, having achieved his foreign policy and national security objectives, could now move on to his domestic agenda. Yarovaya said, “We remember statements by [U.S. President Barack Obama] in 2014—very recently—that Russia is a regional power of minor importance. We remember all of that. We remember how the sanctions started. We remember how we weren’t invited to the G8. And today there is a line of world leaders waiting just to talk to our president over the phone…”The sanctions started and Russia was disinvited after it seized and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, then incited and abetted a separatist war in Ukraine's east. They were intensified after Russia's flagrant interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.Russian state media also highlight Putin’s promises of socioeconomic largesse and his prediction that “Russia's economy will grow faster than the global average in 2021.” During the last decade, the Russian leader has promised in vain that Russia will become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2024. It is currently ranked as the 11th largest economy in the world, with a smaller GDP than that of California. President Putin’s current growth prediction is much more modest. It’s still not realistic, but such promises had to be made as Russia’s declining standards of living have led to political unrest and mass protests.Without providing any direct answers as to his own plans, the Russian leader—who has now been in power for 20 years—created new venues for his continued reign in yet-to-be-revealed future capacities.Amid all the uncertainties, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that Medvedev was reading Chekhov’s story about a blind drunk civil servant who stumbles out of a New Year’s celebration only to get lost in a graveyard—and then discovers in the morning he was somewhere else entirely.Russia Loves the Impeachment Hearings Because GOP Is Parroting Kremlin PropagandaRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Trump wanting to buy Greenland is yet another sign of Putin’s puppetry

Trump wanting to buy Greenland is yet another sign of Putin’s puppetryGreenland didn’t just bubble into Trump’s mind randomly – it’s very much on Russia’s radar for its unknown supply of oil, gas and rare metalsIcebergs float behind the town of Kulusuk in Greenland on 16 August 2019. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty ImagesThe last time Americans felt hostility to anything remotely Danish was when the pompous old Duke of Weselton launched a trade-war-turned-palace-coup against the warm-hearted ice queen known as Elsa. Even the prepubescent fans of Frozen know that trade wars are doomed and that strong female leaders are unstoppable.It’s tempting to look at Donald Trump’s ludicrous desire to buy Greenland – and the Danish spat that followed – as just another sick joke of the Trump presidency: an aberration that the world will forget with tomorrow’s distracting tweets on some other outrage.But after two and half years of this corrosive nonsense, it’s time to admit some unpleasant truths. The madness of Donald Trump is getting worse, not better. The presidency has not normalized him, it has only normalized our numbed reaction to his excesses. We cannot see through the fog of disinformation and distraction how much of the world’s instability is directly linked to his abject failure as a president.Let’s just pause to look at Greenland, shall we? On the face of it, the notion of buying the Arctic autonomous territory seems like just another brain fart from the cavities inside Trump’s cranium: “an absurd discussion”, as the new Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, put it on her trip to Greenland on Monday. “Thankfully the time where you buy and sell countries and populations is over. Let’s leave it there. Jokes aside, we will of course love to have an even closer strategic relationship with the United States.”Sadly, the days of buying and selling other countries are far from over because Trump himself seems to be easily bought by his Russian and Saudi friends. He’s so cheap you only have to dangle the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow to win his undying support for lifting sanctions imposed after Russia invaded and annexed part of Ukraine.Greenland doesn’t just bubble into Trump’s mind randomly, unless Fox News is airing obscure weekend segments on Arctic politics. But it is very much on Russia’s radar. Earlier this year, Russia revamped its Arctic circle military base on the tiny Kotelny Island, which sits close to the shipping routes that are opening up as the polar region warms catastrophically.There are unknown quantities of oil, gas and rare earth metals in the arctic, and the region’s powers – Denmark among them – can either green light a global free-for-all or restrain the usual human plunder of one of the last pristine frontiers on the planet. You can guess where Russia sits on this spectrum of environmental concerns in the middle of our climate crisis.It is one of the sickest Trump jokes that his half-baked idea of buying Greenland should be seen as American machismo when it is yet another sign of Putin’s puppet American presidency at work.Denmark is a loyal ally within the organization that Russia loathes: Nato. So the downside to trashing a state visit, complete with a royal dinner, is not what it normally would be for an American president who supposedly leads the greatest global alliance in military history. He did, after all, suggest withdrawing US troops from Nato just last year.One of the many gobsmacking cons of our current crop of so-called nationalist leaders is how happy they are to surrender their national interest in subordination to any foreign strongman who offers to grease their personal interest. It’s almost like they’re not serious about America First or Global Britain at all.It is too much to expect rational public thought from the 45th president of the United States. But you have to wonder if he ever admits to himself that the only reason the Arctic is opening up is because of the climate crisis he used to call a Chinese hoax.More recently he told CBS News that “something’s happening” to the climate that probably isn’t a hoax but definitely has nothing to do with human actions.“I wish you could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels,” Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes told him. Maybe Trump just wanted to buy Greenland to make sure nobody could there to see the ice melting.“You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley,” Trump said, fabricating yet more lies to cover up his own political agenda. In other words, another day in the Oval Office.As the world knows full well with each passing day of this presidency, Trump cannot project national strength because he is so chronically, personally weak. He told reporters on Wednesday that he dropped out of his Denmark state visit because its prime minister was “nasty” and “not nice” in rejecting his advances on Greenland.On a playground full of pre-schoolers, this language might make sense. On the world stage, as the Danish would say, it’s absurd.Like so many weak souls who never grew out of the playground chapter of their lives, Trump tries to pick on other weak souls to demonstrate the strength he so clearly lacks.The weakest of those victims are the children fleeing for their lives from Central America.Trump is not content with ripping them from their parents, orphaning some of them by losing track of their parents forever, and exposing others to unspeakable abuse in so-called shelters. He now wants to ignore the courts and detain them indefinitely in private for-profit prisons with or without their families.His administration claims the old court-ordered Flores agreement is “outdated and fails to account for the massive shift in illegal immigration to families and minors from Central America”, according to a written White House statement.That conveniently ignores the fact that the “outdated” court agreement is named after Jenny Lisette Flores, who was a 15-year-old fleeing El Salvador in the 1980s when she was arrested by US officials, handcuffed and strip-searched and placed in a for-profit prison for two months. The US refused to release her to family members, claiming they were protecting her, but the ACLU said the Reagan administration was just trying to arrest parents and punish children.So obviously there are no similarities to Trump’s policies at all.From the self-inflicted crisis at the border to the self-inflicted spat with Denmark, so much of the global chaos that numbs us all is the product of this mindless and malignant American leader.The world is staring at a global recession triggered in large part by Trump’s pointless trade wars. It’s watching mini-Trumps grasp for power in Britain and Italy, inspired by his own undemocratic example, including all his trademark incompetence and ignorance.Without Trump, how much of the stupefying sense of chaos would evaporate?Perhaps not all of it, but enough for Scandinavia to return to sleeping soundly. Villy Søvndal, a former Danish foreign minister, said that Trump was “a narcissistic fool” because of his decision to cancel his trip. But he explained that this clown wasn’t funny. “The problem is that he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world,” he said.That’s a problem for the whole world to suffer. But it’s a problem that only American voters can solve.



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Some of Putin’s Top Cops Are Mobsters. Even KGB Vets Are Ashamed.

Some of Putin’s Top Cops Are Mobsters. Even KGB Vets Are Ashamed.Michael Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ReutersMOSCOW—Crime scandals involving Russia’s most powerful law enforcement agency have rocked this capital, exposing some phenomenal corruption at the heart of President Vladimir Putin’s power structure. Ranking officers of the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, are allegedly involved, as are members of some of its most elite units. In April, authorities arrested three officials from the FSB’s Department K, which deals with economic crimes and financial counterintelligence. Kirill Cherkalin, the former head of the unit, and Andrey Vasilyev and Dmitry Frolov, his associates, were jailed on suspicion they took huge bribes from banks and other commerce they were supposed to supervise. A video purported to show the equivalent of $ 185.5 million being hauled out of Cherkalin’s residence. The initial charge against him involved a single bribe worth $ 850,000.The Liberation of Ivan Golunov Felt Like a Burst of Freedom in Russia, but Not for LongOne might think those arrests made by the internal affairs division of the FSB would make other criminals in the security force lie low. But no. Others were allegedly robbing banks. Last week RBC, one of Russia’s most respected newspapers, reported the arrests of four FSB agents from the Alfa and Vympel special forces units, and two more from Department K. The number has since grown to 15 suspects, according to press reports. But the FSB has confirmed only two arrests.While supposedly conducting legitimate searches, or shepherding shipments of currency, the accused are supposed to have removed the heavy ballistic plates from their bullet-proof vests and stuffed them with money instead, but such details have not been confirmed officially.There must be massive turmoil in the depths of the gloomy FSB headquarters, the nerve center of Russia’s police power located just across Lubyanka Square from the buildings of the Kremlin’s administrative offices. All of Russia’s leading newspapers reported that Instead of providing security, FSB agents robbed the Metallurg Bank, reportedly controlled by a former officer in Military Intelligence (the GRU) named Yury Karasev. If true, that’s an interesting wrinkle since the FSB and GRU are rival secret services.Moscovskij Komsomolets, a newspaper with a circulation approaching one million copies, says in its Friday report: “Generals of the special services were shocked to hear about the arrests of FSB agents accused of a bank robbery on Ivan Babushkin Street and of stealing 140 million rubles ($ 2.2 million.)” Veteran agents of the Soviet KGB, the predecessor of the FSB, said they were disgusted by the scandal.“This is the first time in the entire history of the Russian secret police when we see the triumph of greed that surpasses greed—so many officers of elite departments committing crimes,” retired Maj. Gen. Aleksei Kandaurov told The Daily Beast. “The FSB is not a security service any longer, it has changed its status completely: it is now a service that enforces Putin’s rule, and in exchange abuses its authority for purposes of enrichment.”Gen. Kandaurov remembers the last days of the KGB, which had an infamous heritage dating back to the Cheka at the time of the revolution, and the NKVD under Joseph Stalin. As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 there was popular rage against the Communist regime’s symbols and its obsession with secrecy, but the officers of the KGB—among them one Vladimir Putin—saw themselves as defenders of a regime and indeed an empire that they had served all their lives. They worked on fixed salaries.On the night of August, 22, 1991, Kandaurov watched from the window of his office as thousands of protesters demanded the removal of the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the Bolshevik leader Vladmir Lenin appointed to be the director of the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage (Cheka). Dzerzhinsky is seen as the symbol of the Bolseviks’ political repressions and mass killings. “We represent in ourselves organized terror—this must be said very clearly,” Dzerzhinsky proclaimed during the period known as the Red Terror that began in 1918.The modern state security agency, FSB, has been reviving the memory of Dzerzhinsky just as Putin has burnished the reputation of Joseph Stalin. Today many officials hang portraits of the secret police founder on their walls. In 2017 the agency celebrated the 100th anniversary of Cheka-NKVD-KGB-FSB, as a proud successor. But veterans see the current organization as an inglorious pretender to the fame of the older ones.“FSB agents should stop hiding behind the KGB reputation, behind Dzerzhinsky. If he were alive, he would have executed most of these corrupt officers as his ideological enemies,” Kandaurov told The Daily Beast.  When the KGB Wanted You Dead, This Is How They Killed YouRussia has glorified “Alfa” and “Vympel” as legendary, heroic special operators who saw service in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s and many other more secretive theaters. At the Balashikha Cemetery near Moscow there are sad rows of tombstones where each is marked with an “A” or “V” for the soldiers of these units who gave their lives rescuing hostages during the Beslan school siege in September 2004. In the past few years Russian special operators have died anonymously in secret operations in Ukraine.“Today’s thugs in the special forces put shame on all the past heroes,” a retired KGB officer and corruption fighter, Gennady Gudkov, told The Daily Beast. “The FSB violates its authority for ‘operative activities,’ which was given to them to stop transactions for terrorism or drug deals. Now a group of elite FSB and special forces units used their authority to rob a bank; but the bank informed Moscow police investigators and the organized criminal group was arrested.”A channel on the Telegram messaging service covering the latest news about Russian gangsters, oligarchs and bureaucrats, said on Monday that authorities fired the head of Moscow’s FSB Directorate, Alexey Dorofeyev.Last month police tried to stop an investigation by a Medusa Project reporter, Ivan Golunov, into Dorofeyev’s links to a corrupt funeral business. After spending months researching figures and beneficiaries of the funeral industry, Golunov discovered some links connecting shadowy figures and senior FSB officers. But somebody decided to stop the reporter from publishing: police planted drugs on Golunov and kept him behind bars for five days, while thousands of people joined protests in support of the journalist.Russian veterans of secret services gossip about three “towers” of FSB power: the richest one is allegedly supported by the almighty Putin’s ally, Igor Sechin, the head of the vast Rosneft energy company; the second one also enjoys enormous financial resources and is backed by another of Putin’s long-time friends, Sergey Chemizov, the head of the Russian arms export agency; the third, the weakest financially, nonetheless has the best network of secret agents and is backed by the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin. Some see a connection between these rivalries and the revelations about high-level criminality.“It feels like everything is falling down,” a major general of the FSB reserve, Alexander Mikhailov, told reporters last week. “I want to tell you that all the old employees are shocked by what is happening. During my entire service in the Moscow KGB, and I worked there for 20 years, there were only three criminal cases.”“None of the people from the old guard understands where that number of criminals in the system came from,” said Mikhailov. “It is also disturbing that today we are confronted with the widest range of units that are involved in criminal activity. We repair it in one spot and it breaks down in another one.”There are no checks and balances at FSB management, Gudkov pointed out. “The Soviet KGB was massively repressive, you can blame that service for anything, but not for corruption. The worst we could hear about was a colleague sleeping with somebody’s wife or some secret agent bringing a pair of sneakers for a colleague from abroad—that was already a big enough scandal to write a report,” Gudkov remembered. “Even in our worst nightmare we could not imagine officers stealing millions of dollars, robbing banks. What will we hear next? The Russian Federal Security Service robbing the Kremlin’s treasury or the Central Bank’s reserves?”  Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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