13 mei 2014
Reshuffles in North Caucasus, Siberian Federal Districts: President Putin has made a number of high-profile reshuffles and appointments. Putin has appointed Sergey Melikov as Presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District. Until now, Melikov has been commander of the Interior Troops' combined grouping in the North Caucasus. Former envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District Khloponin will retain the post of Deputy PM and oversee the newly-formed Ministry for North Caucasus Affairs. Putin has appointed Interior Troops Commander Nikolai Rogozhkin as Presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District and Viktor Zolotov as Interior Troops Commander. Krasnoyarsk governor Kuznetsov has been appointed Minister for the North Caucasus Development. Former Presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Tolokonsky has been appointed as acting Krasnoyarsk governor. Putin has also dismissed Vladimir Kozhin from the post of head of the Office of Presidential Affairs and appointed him as Presidential aide on military technical cooperation. Dailies also report on appointments carried out by Putin in the Russian Interior Ministry. (Gazeta.ru, Izvestia, Kommersant, MK, NG, RG, Vedomosti)
Vedomosti, 13 May
In today's editorial, Vedomosti offers a historical overview of the importance of governor-generals (general-gubernatory) for the Tsarist and Soviet Russia. The authors argue that the recent re-shuffle among government officials and the appointment of two Russian army generals as presidential plenipotentiaries to the Siberian and North Caucasus Federal districts, in particular, represents a new step in strengthening the power vertical.
According to the article, in Tsarist Russia, the governor-generals were always appointed to challenging regions that required "immediate actions on the ground without the approval of the emperor". Usually, these posts were occupied by prominent dignitaries and members of the royal family.
The authors conclude by stating that, in essence, the position of presidential plenipotentiary is extraordinary (not outlined in the Constitution) and thus, is above the constitutional authorities of the regions- giving the respective role holders wide powers.
14 mei 2014
Accelerated food inflation: According to Rosstat, the prices for many staple foods have soared since January by dozens of percent. These are primarily milk, fish, fruit, vegetables and pasta. Meanwhile, the price growth differs by regions. For instance, while the food prices in Central Russia increased by around 8%, in the North Caucasus they soared by 20-30%. (NG)
16 mei 2014
Three policemen killed in Dagestan attack: Three police officers were killed and ten others were wounded after a police convoy came under fire on Thursday in Dagestan. (Gazeta.ru, Kommersant, RG)
20 mei 2014
The Russian blogosphere comments on the situation surrounding Ukraine.
Anton Dmitriev states that it is important for the people to understand that there is no "Civil War" going on in Ukraine and that there is no Russian army in Ukraine either. However, there are terrorists who are using Russian flags and symbols of different organizations or groups that are supported by Moscow. And thus, what is taking place in Donbass is an anti-terrorist operation- similar to the ones organized by Putin in the North Caucasus or Volgograd. Regarding the request of the Donbass region for federalization, Dmitriev states that Donetsk and Lugansk should understand that "equality and federalization" implies the equality of all- and thus, it is nonsense when 1/25 of Ukraine's territory is trying to impose its conditions on the rest of the country.
26 mei 2014
LifeNews reporters released: Journalists from Russia's LifeNews online portal Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, who were detained by the Ukrainian forces on 18 June near Kramatorsk, have been released over the weekend. The media highlight the mediation of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in the release of the journalists. President Putin has expressed gratitude for Kadyrov's efforts in securing the release of the journalists. Izvestia and Komsomolskaya Pravda publish interviews with Kadyrov. (Izvestia, KP, MK, MT, RG; Ekho Moskvy)
28 mei 2014
Dozens killed in fierce clashes in Donetsk: All Russian media give extensive coverage of armed clashes between the Ukrainian forces using aviation and artillery against the pro-Russian militia in the Donetsk region. Bloody clashes took place on Monday in the area of Donetsk's airport. Ukraine's Interior Minister Avakov stated that the airport is now under full control of the Ukrainian forces. Avakov also said that a camp of militiamen had been destroyed as a result of an airstrike in the Lugansk region. The Donetsk city authorities said that at least 40 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in fighting at Donetsk's airport. Representatives of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk people's republic' put the death toll as high as 100, including more than 50 militiamen and 50 civilians. Some media report about 200 dead, while Nezavisimaya Gazeta argues that up to 500 people have been killed over the past day in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Media also report on casualties among civilians as a result of continuing shelling by the Ukrainian forces of Slavyansk. Ukraine's First Deputy PM Yarema is quoted as saying that the 'anti-terrorist operation' in the country's eastern regions has reached a 'turning point'. Press recalls a statement by Poroshenko, who won Sunday's Presidential elections in Ukraine, that "the anti-terrorist operation should not last two or three months." Referring to allegations that Chechen fighters were among the dead and injured in the clashes in Donetsk, Ukrainian military expert Alexei Arestovich said that the 'Chechen units' could be considered "the most combat capable forces" of the 'Donetsk people's republic', adding that their defeat during Monday's operation had a psychological importance for further military operations. Arestovich does not rule out that if the Ukrainian forces' offensive against the militia succeeds, the 'Donetsk people's republic' will be liquidated in the near-term prospect. The next target of the 'anti-terrorist operation' will be the Lugansk region, said the expert (RBK daily). Russian analyst Konstantin Makiyenko, cited by Vedomosti, views as real a military victory of the Ukrainian forces using heavy artillery and aviation. However, this could lead to significant losses among peaceful civilians. Another Russian expert, Eduard Rodyukov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that "punitive operations in Ukraine's south-east, which Poroshenko intends to continue, would strengthen the resistance of the militiamen and expand the scale of a civil war." Meanwhile, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has dismissed claims about the participation of 'Chechen units' in hostilities in Donetsk, saying that in line with the Russian Constitution, Chechnya has no armed forces. (ii) Contact has been lost with an OSCE team near Donetsk. The team comprises four monitors (nationals of Estonia, Switzerland, Turkey and Denmark). (iii) In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, the so-called 'defense minister' of the 'Donetsk people's republic' Igor Strelkov said that 90% of militia units comprise local residents. The newspaper publishes a copy of Strelkov's order to execute two militiamen in Slavyansk for looting. (Gazeta.ru, ITAR-TASS, Kommersant, KP, MK, MT, NG, Novye Izvestia, RBK daily, RG, Vedomosti; Channel One, Radio Rossii)
The Russian blogosphere discusses the events surrounding Ukraine.
Anton Orekh argues that the Kiev authorities are acting exactly as the Russian leadership did (and it should have done) in Chechnya - it is using force against the separatists. Back when Moscow "crushed" Dudayev's uprising- the Kremlin was not calling that as genocide or punitive operation- terms used by Russia to describe the events in eastern Ukraine. Both Russia's (back then) and Ukraine's actions (today) are nothing else than restoring constitutional order.
Aider Muzhdabaev states that by the involvement of the Chechen fighters in eastern Ukraine, Russia de facto became a country which is at war. According to the blogger, Russia should stop its operations in Ukraine and call back all its fighters from eastern Ukraine.
Alexey Malaschenko believes that the Ukrainian presidential results have clearly proven that there aren't any efficient pro-Russian lobby groups left in the establishment of the Ukrainian politics, and that there wouldn't be one in the near future. In fact, the pro-Russian lobby becomes more and more inefficient and less represented in other post-Soviet countries. Malaschenko concludes by stating that Russian elite managed to push away Ukraine towards Europe and it will be almost impossible to get it back.
29 mei 2014
Putin awards journalists from LifeNews, Russia Today: President Putin has awarded Orders of Courage to LifeNews journalists Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko and Russia's Today's employee Fyodor Zavaleikov. Sidyakin and Saichenko, who were detained by the Ukrainian troops near Kramatorsk on 18 May, have been released with the mediation of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Zavaleikov was seriously wounded in Mariupol earlier this month. (Izvestia, KP)
30 mei 2014
At least 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed as separatists shot down helicopter near Slavyansk: Ukraine's National Guard said that 12 Ukrainian servicemen, including Maj. Gen. Kulchitsky, were killed on Thursday after a Ukrainian army helicopter was shot down by the terrorists near Slavyansk (Donetsk region). Press reports about a 'full-scale military operation' launched by the Ukrainian forces in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Gazeta.ru cites Ukrainian media reports which alleged that the Kiev authorities' military operation in the country's south-east might be completed by 14 June. Dailies assess the Ukrainian Armed Forces' capabilities to continue the operation against rebels in eastern Ukraine. In the view of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, militiamen have 'moral superiority'. Meanwhile, the 'people's mayor' of Slavyansk Ponomaryov confirmed that the Slavyansk 'self-defense forces' had detained OSCE observers. (ii) Reportedly, the Lugansk 'self-defense forces' have destroyed an ammunition depot in the town of Alexandrovsk (Lugansk region). Ukraine's National Guard has dismissed claims that militiamen captured 20 Ukrainian soldiers in Alexandrovsk. (iii) The 'prime minister' of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk people's republic' (DPR) Alexander Borodai said that the bodies of the militiamen killed in armed clashes at Donetsk's airport on 26 May had been identified, adding that 33 of them were Russian nationals. US State Department spokeswoman Psaki said that in a phone conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Wednesday, State Secretary Kerry raised concern over reports about Chechens fighting on the side of the militia in eastern Ukraine and called on Moscow to "end all support for separatists." (iv) President Putin's spokesman Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia will provide humanitarian aid to the DPR "for sure," but added that he "cannot say anything about military aid." Earlier, head of the DPR Pushilin asked Russia to provide Donbass people with assistance, including humanitarian and military. (v) The media cite head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council Andriy Parubiy, who has accused Russia of unleashing a so-called 'hybrid war' against Ukraine. (Gazeta.ru, Kommersant, KP, Lenta.ru, MT, Newsru.com, NG, RG, RIAN, Vedomosti; Channel One, NTV)
The Russian blogosphere discusses domestic and international developments.
Boris Nemtsov argues that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov lied when he denied the fact that there are Chechen fighters in the eastern regions of Ukraine. According to Nemtsov, every significant decision in Grozny is taken by Kadyrov himself. This denial is so much in the style of President Putin, who also denied that there were troops sent by Moscow to Crimea. The explanation for Kadyrov's denial is simple: the desire to avoid further Western sanctions.
Anton Orekh states that the Kremlin's current method of exerting its influence in the ex-USSR republics is inefficient. The Russian authorities support the creation of separatists regions by appointing criminals as the "popular leaders". Moscow then injects a substantial amount of cash into financing these quasi regimes, and the money is simply stolen. Russia starts by lying and ends by either annexing foreign territories or creating marionette states.
Eduard Limonov calls for the need to recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as independent states and further politically and financially support their unification into the 'Novorossiya' state. He also stresses the need to supply armament and soldiers to these regions.