Russia Bans Eating Turkey

Over the past two years the villains shown on Russian television have been, to quote news blogger and press photographer Ilya Varlamov, Ukraine, the USA, France, Germany, then completely unknown terrorists from the IG, but now Turkey.” He goes on to muse about how Turkish products have been on Russian shelves for years, but suddenly are to be considered unsanitary.

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Turkish couple prepares for wedding. Photo: Ilya Varlamov

Russian heath authorities have declared imports of food from Turkey to be unsafe. As usual for political disagreements, Russian health inspectors claim to have discovered sanitary violations in food imports from Turkey.

The Moscow Times newspaper quoted former health official Gennady Onishchenko who claimed, “Every Turkish tomato you buy is your contribution to a rocket to shoot down our boys.”

The Kremlin controlled media has whipped up an angry frenzy among Russian citizens after Turkey’s air force shot down a Russian warplane that had violated Turkish airspace last Tuesday. The Russian plane had ignored ten warnings and refused to leave Turkish airspace after Turkish military fighter jets intercepted the plane.

In addition to the de facto embargoes on a variety of Turkish food products, Russian president Putin cut off access to direct Russian tourist travel to Turkey. A majority of tourists who visit Turkey annually are from Russia.

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Crimea Still in the Dark

Even after being annexed by Russia in March of 2014, most of the electric power in Crimea is from Ukraine. Last Sunday the main power lines supplying Crimea were blown up. Investigators have yet to identify those responsible.

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Photo: Ilya Varlamov

The loss of power has left close to 2 million residents without power, and gasoline generators are being used to power essential services at hospitals and other emergency services.

Crimean prime minister Sergei Aksyonov continues to tell citizens to conserve energy in all ways possible. Public works, such as the extensive transportation system powered by buses and electric trolleys, are on restricted schedules.

 

The government has declared a state of emergency and imposed at 10pm curfew. Meanwhile, Moscow is withholding coal shipments to Kyiv (Kiev). Much of the coal needed in central and western Ukraine is illegally stolen and shipped from rebel held mines in Eastern Ukraine to Southern Russia, and then sold back to the Ukrainian government.

Initial blasts damaged the main power lines feeding Crimea, taking two lines out of service. A later blast disabled the remaining lines. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry is using generators to provide limited power to apartment homes on a rotating basis.

To date, repair teams are blocked from fixing the lines as ethnic Crimean Tatar activists blocking repair teams and say they will not budge until Russia releases Tatar political prisoners.

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Russia Declares Downing of Airliner a Terrorist Act

On Tuesday evening Russian president Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin to hear reports from the security services on the causes of the crash of a Russian airliner over Sinai on 31 October.

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Mr. Putin began the meeting with a moment of silence.

Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov and Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov confirmed that the crash of a Russian airliner over Sinai was the result of an explosive device equivalent up to 1 kg of TNT.

Putin Egypt FSB Alexander Bortnikov
Federal Security Bureau Director Alexander Bortnikov

Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov told Mr. Putin that, “We can say with confidence that this was a terrorist act.”

Russian investigators say that the device was exploded on board the Metrojet aircraft approximately 25 minutes after taking off from the Egyptian resort airport at Sharm el-Sheikh. The airline broke up in mid air with fragments scattered over a large area.

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Foreign Intelligence Service Director Mikhail Fradkov

Mr. Putin responded to the report by saying, “We will not dry our tears – this will remain forever in our hearts and minds. However, this will not stop us from finding and punishing the perpetrators. We have to do it without any period of limitation; We will search wherever they may be hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”

 

Who Are The Expats in Russia?

Count us as normally cautious when something seems too slick, or too glossy, at first sight. Thus, a group calling themselves “Foreigners In Russia” has peaked our interest, but not necessarily our endorsement as of yet. When something hits social media so polished at the outset, there is the possibility of a tie to the government’s propaganda machine, which frankly in Russia is very sophisticated. We will provide some insight at the end of this article.

Meanwhile we’ll give at least some leeway for the sake of argument. That includes the makeup of the expat (foreign) population in Russia. Most expats living in Russia did not just wake up one morning with the epiphany along the lines of “I will move to Russia today!” Instead, most have either work or family connections upon moving to Russia. All expats must have reasons that pass the muster of the government.

So, that being said, where do these expats come from?

Foreigners in Russia

According to this chart, once you subtract the CIS (former Soviet) countries, most expats are from Europe. When you look at these numbers, it is useful to understand that they very likely represent trading and business relationships between Russia and abroad. Most of the expats are employed by companies that have origins in these European nations, or at companies that do business with those nations.

What about Latin America?

Foreigners in Russia Latin

The numbers are much smaller for several reasons: the ability of poor countries to afford travel and options to live abroad, the reality that people with darker skin are not so readily accepted in Russia, and that only recently has Russia began to cultivate relationships with Latin American nations via the BRICS trading alliance.

There are legitimate reasons for Western expats to be concerned about life in Russia. New laws dictate that any foreign resident declared as an ‘undesirable’ might well be required to pay a 500,000 Ruble fine (approximately $7,700) and be sentenced up to six years in a Russian prison. Such laws are designed to keep foreigners from migrating illegally, and from participating in activities that the government views as political in nature.

The Russian economy is contracting and Russia’s Federal Migration Service reports that since early 2014, “some  41 percent of Spanish nationals, 38 percent of British nationals, 36 percent of U.S. nationals and 31 percent of German nationals have left Russia”, according to a report in The Moscow Times.

Currently, there is even more concern for American expats given the current tensions between Moscow and Washington. When Americans do run into trouble with Russian authorities, Russia does not recognize the standing of the US Embassy and its diplomatic missions to assist American citizens. The mood in Russia has turned decidedly anti-American in recent times, especially since the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s war in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia actively screens potential expats for their suitability to live in Russia. Under new migration rules, those applying to live in Russia must pass a basic language test that includes a minimum vocabulary of 1,250 words. A test on Russian civics must be passed, and new questions added to the Russian history test include the applicants view on the annexation of Crimea, and a question on Stalin’s policy of farm collectivization. Passing the test is required: 60% is the minimum score for those with a work permit, and 75% is needed for those seeking a residency permit.

As to the truthfulness in the charts and their percentages listed above, how many American live in Russia? The answer is about the same number who live on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao: about 6,000. How many Britons live in Russia? The answer: 6,100 according to the British Institute for Public Policy Research. The first chart lists the number at 10%, yet it fails to list the number of Americans.

Our suspicions remain just that: suspicious.

Marches Across Russia on National Unity Day

It was a day the government calls “National Unity Day” but there was little unity across Russian cities as a variety of conflicting protests took place. There were pro-Kremlin marchers, Nazi and Skinhead groups, and several anti-government marches. Despite the fact that the Kremlin has done much to relabel anyone who supports Ukraine as a fascist and Nazi, the real fascists–young groups of Nationalists and Skinheads were out in force across Russia.

The Nazi and Skinhead marches were not altogether pro-Kremlin however as marchers blamed current polices on the influx of immigrant workers from nearby Asian countries, condemned the war in Syria, and blamed the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt on retaliation for actions by the Russian military.

Some protesters targeted migrants who are flooding Europe due to fighting across the Middle East. Marchers chanted slogans like “Европа будет белой’ (Europe is White) to protest countries that accept refugees.

However, most of the marches were strongly pro-Russia as crowds cheered and chanted slogans in support of President Putin. A majority of Russian citizens believe that Russia is under siege by the West. The holiday, known as National Unity Day, was established by the government a decade ago.

As for democratic and anti-Kremlin protests, police say that the march in Moscow, the largest, was attended by 500 persons. March organizers admit that the numbers were low, but point out the history of Russian authorities to underestimate protests against the government while overestimating when demonstrations are pro-government. There were as many police in attendance as protesters, a continuing sign that citizen interest in Russian affairs makes this government nervous.

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Banner: “Against War in Ukraine.” (Фото: М. Стулов / Ведомости)

The primary theme of the pro-democracy marches centered around the war in Ukraine, a conflict that supposedly does not exist according to the state controlled media. While the government remains consistent in denying that Russia troops are in Ukraine, an increasing number of soldiers are facing legal charges for refusing to go on unspecified “training missions.”

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Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the Kremlin’s Tragic Miscalculation

Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has penned a substantial commentary on relations between Russia and the West. Titled, “The Kremlin’s Tragic Miscalculation,” Rasmussen writes that Russian leaders have misjudged the West, and misjudged those former Soviet republics who raced to embrace the West.

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Rasmussen correctly observes that “A secure and prosperous Central and Eastern Europe benefits everyone – especially Russia. Today, the EU is Russia’s largest foreign market, with a major share of its exports going to the member states that joined in 2004. And Russia’s border with the EU, far from posing a threat, is the most stable and secure of all its frontiers.”

The Secretary General is correct: Appeasement is not the way to bring Russia back into the fold of civilized nations. The West must lead by example; starting by helping Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites to flourish. That will show the Russian people how democracy, and free enterprise, can ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future for themselves.

Editors note: Rasmussen served as Prime Minister of Denmark prior to becoming the 12th Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014. Currently he serves as Founder and Chairman of Rasmussen Global.

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Auchan Banned From Selling Unpackaged and Bulk Products

Russia’s consumer rights authority, Rospotrebnadzor, has won a court case ordering French supermarket chain Auchan to stop selling bulk food items in its Russian stores.

Auchan Moscow
(Photo by A.Savin.)

The case had been appealed, but on Monday the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled in Rospotrebnadzor’s favour. The ruling applies to bulk and unpackaged goods. The Moscow Times newspaper detailed the items as “tea, frozen shrimp, dumplings, vegetable mixes, semi-processed meat and vegetables, as well as cookies, candy, nuts and dried food.” It was not clear why only bulk or unpackaged items violate Russia’s reverse sanctions.

Rospotrebnadzor inspectors claim that Auchan routinely violates Russia’s reverse sanctions by selling products banned by the Kremlin. Auchan says that its hypermarkets offer a wide choice of goods, but the majority of items are produced in Russia.

In addition to the large “big box” supermarkets, Auchan operates a variety of branded stores ranging from inner city markets to neighborhood convenience stores. Products vary depending on the size of each store, and aside from grocery products the retailer offers furniture, garden products, children’s items and clothing.

Auchan officials have expressed belief that the repeated inspections and alleged violations stem from the Kremlin’s desire to punish French companies for Western sanctions, and the refusal of France to deliver two large “Mistrial” war ships to Russia.

Some retailers and fast food operators claim that the Russian consumer rights organization has a history of targeting Western companies for political leverage.

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