Journalist Simon Ostrovsky held by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine

•23/04/2014 • Leave a Comment

Our concern for fellow journalist Simon Ostrovsky is high. His captors say that he has switched sides and now supports their pro-Russian forces. That is a falsehood as he is being held in the SBU (former KGB) prison locally. He was detained along with several other journalists covering a news event in Kramatorsk, near the borders of Ukraine and Russia.

The news media is describing him as an “American” and he is now, but Simon was born in the Soviet Union and speaks Russian and Ukrainian fluently. He holds press credentials from the foreign ministry in Moscow and from the Ukrainian foreign ministry–these thugs have no right to hold him.

We saw a tweet from his cameraman Freddie Paxton and are hoping that Freddie has been released. Paxton was beaten up by pro-Russian thugs in Horlivka. Moscow journalist Roland Oliphant of the Daily Telegraph was also detained but has been released.

Ukrainian journalist Irma Krat has been taken hostage in Slavyansk by pro-Russian militants.

Easter in Moscow, 2014

•20/04/2014 • Leave a Comment

This Saturday evening the largest Orthodox Church in the world was filled to capacity with over 7,000 parishioners there to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

Easter 2014 Christ Cathedral b
As is their practice each year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva, and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin attended the Easter liturgy.

Easter 2014 Christ Cathedral Putin Sobyanin
Above: a deacon assists President Putin and Mayor Sobyanin in lighting their Easter Candles. Unseen in this photo but standing next to Mr. Putin were Svetlana Medvedeva and Prime Minister Medvedev. Candles are lit with a flame transported via chartered airplane from the  Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Orthodox Easter liturgies around the world are celebrated in what is called an “all night vigil” with services that begin in the late evening and last until very early morning, usually around three hours. The Orthodox term for Easter is Пасха (Pash-ka) which is Greek for “great night.”

Patriarch Kirill addressed the crisis in Ukraine by saying, We pray for enemies to reconcile, for violence to stop. We pray that people be merciful to one another no matter what divides them and separates them from each other. All the children of our common Church have Ukraine in their hearts, and our hearts are aching for the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

Easter 2014 Patriarch Kirill message(Click on the photo)

Whether Христос воскресe (Kristos Vos-krese means Christ is risen) is said as a greeting from one person to another or when in a service is shouted by the priest, the congregation or other person responds with Воистину воскрес (va-IST-in-oo vas-KRES) which means truly risen!

It is common practice for the presiding priest to hand out tiny round Easter loaves about the size of a cupcake and also a red Easter egg. According to some Christian traditions when Mary Magdalene met Emperor Tiberius in Rome she greeted him with: Christ has risen ; whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and quipped, Christ has no more risen than that egg is red. Legend has it that the egg turned red.

For a better understanding on how Easter is celebrated in Russia and the areas of the former Soviet Union visit our Easter page: http://russianreport.wordpress.com/religion-in-russia/easter-in-russia/

Learning how to say Russian phrases can be found here: http://russianreport.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/how-to-say-russian-easter-phrases/

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Easter in Russia has arrived!

•19/04/2014 • Leave a Comment

For full coverage of Easter follow this link to our special page on how Easter is celebrated in Russia: http://russianreport.wordpress.com/religion-in-russia/easter-in-russia/

 

Pussywillow Sunday День ваий!

•13/04/2014 • Leave a Comment

День ваий!  They call it Palm Sunday in the West and we call it Pussywillow Sunday in the East. This year the date for Easter is the same in the Eastern and Western world and as this is not always the case, this Easter we have an opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Christ together.

(photo: From Russia With Love)

(photo: From Russia With Love)

Across Asia and Easter Europe there were street vendors and kiosks selling bunches of pussywillow branches to folk on their way to Sunday liturgies.

(photo:  Elena Gladkova)

(photo: Elena Gladkova)

As we approach the final week of Easter or the Greek term which is пасха (Pas-hka), may God give you the ability to continue the Holy Fasting season and a time of reflection on our fallen humanity and His glorious resurrection.

Rearming Ukraine might not be a bad idea

•07/04/2014 • 2 Comments

Our fear of the further dismembering of Ukraine is unfortunately underway. The first video shows the celebrations of Independence Day in Donetsk two years ago with citizens singing the Ukrainian national anthem.

The news today however shows Donetsk in quite a different mood as groups of protesters have stormed government buildings and declared that Donetsk is now independent and called their state the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

The Czech President has just gone on record as saying that if Russia gobbles up more of Ukraine then NATO should consider getting involved. All along we’ve not supported NATO action in that part of the world but it gets sticky with the West’s commitment to protect Ukraine’s borders in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons in the “Budapest Memorandum” authorized by the US Senate and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26919928

If the countries involved can’t sit and come to agreements quickly then at the very least, the West should immediately begin steps to rearm Ukraine with nuclear weapons. That may be distasteful to many but frankly it is the only real equalizer in situations where a larger nation bullies her neighbors.

Putin’s popularity soars at home

•18/03/2014 • Leave a Comment

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity is on an upswing largely in part to concentration of media messaging in the past year. As of recent legislation it is now a crime to even post anti-government news on internet sites while Rain TV, Echo Radio, Novaya Gazetta and Lenta News are battling new restrictions and forced staff changes.

There will most certainly be an uptick in approval ratings given the annexation of Crimea but only time will tell how long that euphoria will last. It won’t be forever. It is exactly by reclaiming Soviet lands that give Russians this temporary emotional orgasm but to sustain the momentum he’d need to continue.

Mr. Putin’s United Russia party came close to having a runoff in 2010 even after massive voter fraud with ballot stuffing and “caravan” voting which frankly saved his bacon. In that election UR took 49.32% of the vote and that gave him 238 seats or 52.88% of the Duma. Compare that with 2007 when his party won 64.30% of the vote and took 70% of the Duma.

The 2012 presidential election, held really with nobody as formidable competition, was also fraudulent. To counter the protests in Moscow the UR party had to bus in paid protestors from distant cities because so few in the Moscow region wanted to bother with protesting for him. His total vote count was 63.64%, widely viewed even by those who voted for him as a questionable number, even after campaigning on a recent increase of pensions and military salaries.

The government promised transparency and installed video cameras at most polling stations with live streaming only to be embarrassed at the shenanigans revealed by the cameras including police arriving at polling stations and escorting election officials and monitors off the premises before votes were counted, the old trick of caravan voting, and clear images of individual voters stuffing handfuls of ballots into the boxes. More than one precinct showed entertainers being paraded in to sing and dance for election officials while voters took ballots and matters into their own hands. Some Russian election monitors were denied access to the polling stations and some had their apartment doors nailed shut from the outside so that they couldn’t go to the polls. Most of the videos posted on places like YouTube have since been disabled.

The 2012 election has forced Mr. Putin to move more to the right as the two parties who showed up with voters in significant numbers were the Liberal Democrats (nationalists) and the Communist party. His further moves away from the centre reflect the need to re-capture some of that support.

To the more immediate subject, Mr. Putin is afraid of a democratic revolution on his doorstep, or even closer. Were he really that popular there would be no need to shut down opposition media, muzzle opposition leaders, and pass laws to crush dissent. The opposite is true.

Argue all you wish about the legitimacy of an illegitimate referendum but no one is insane enough to say that Mr. Putin is ready to return the Kiril Islands, he isn’t going to invite back the residents of Kaliningrad who were forcibly expelled and give that land back, nor is he going to call up Helsinki and offer return Karelia.

If you want to know what Mr. Putin really thinks in terms of referendums and International law, poll the Chechens.

More media crackdowns

•13/03/2014 • 1 Comment

From the Moscow Times:

Fired editor Galina Timchenko. (foto: Lenta News)

Fired editor Galina Timchenko. (foto: Lenta News)

The longtime editor-in-chief of news agency Lenta.ru has been replaced by the former editor of a Kremlin-friendly online publication, prompting an uproar among many journalists who say the move is just the latest nail in the coffin of Russia’s independent media.

Alexander Mamut, head of the Russian Internet news service’s parent company Afish-Rambler-SUP, said Galina Timchenko had resigned from her post, but the Lenta.ru editoral staff released a statement saying she had been forced out.

She will be replaced by Alexei Goreslavsky, former head of the online publication Vzglyad.ru, and the official change is set to take place immediately. Goreslavsky has a reputation for being pro-Kremlin, and speculation erupted immediately after the announcement of Timchenko’s departure that this was orchestrated by the Kremlin as part of a wider media crackdown.

Lenta.ru was widely considered one of only a handful of independent Russian news outlets.

The reshuffling at Lenta.ru came immediately after the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service sent the news agency an official warning on Wednesday of possible “extremism” charges for publishing an interview with a member of a Ukrainian ultranationalist group. The media watchdog said the interview had violated “a range of Russian laws, including the law on information, the law on mass media and the law on countering extremism.”

The Lenta.ru editorial staff seemed to see the warning as a pretext to shut the agency down, however, saying in an open letter to readers that “we definitely always expected that they would come for us.”

The situation parallels that of another media outlet, Dozhd, which found itself in hot water after publishing a poll on the anniversary of the liberation of Leningrad from Nazis that many considered offensive. After being cut by all major cable providers, the channel lost the bulk of its finances and has said it will likely be forced to shut down in the near future.

Just like Dozhd staff, journalists at Lenta.ru said that the decision to replace the longstanding editor was made in order to put pressure on the independent news outlet and keep it under tighter control. The online statement, which was signed by the entire staff, declared the decision to be “a violation of the law on mass media, which talks about the inadmissibility of censorship.”

“Over the past couple of years, the space of free journalism in Russia has dramatically decreased. Some publications are directly controlled by the Kremlin, others through curators, and others by editors who fear losing their jobs. Some media outlets have been closed and others will be closed in the coming months. The problem is not that we have nowhere to run. The problem is that you have nothing more to read,” the statement said.

Read the full story at the Moscow Times.

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