Tuesday was a busy day for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Just the day before, on Monday, he had made an offer to Russian president Vladimir Putin via telephone to release two Russian soldiers in exchange for Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. In addition to speaking of the possible exchange, Poroshenko and Putin agreed that Ukraine’s consul general in Rostov-on-Don will be granted access to Savchenko in the near future.
Savchenko has been on a hunger strike after recently being sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison. In June 2014 she had been captured by Russian soldiers operating in Eastern Ukraine, and was illegally taken across the border into Russia as a hostage.
Poroshenko met with Nadiya Savchenko’s mother Mariya Ivanivna and her sister Vira to speak with the Ukrainian pilot from the Ukrainian presidential office. After the call, President Poroshenko released a statement saying that the two countries will do a prisoner swap.
Savchenko will likely be traded for a couple of Russian soldiers who were recently tried in a Ukrainian court and sentenced to 14 years in prison. In March she was sentenced to 22 years in a Russian prison.
The two Russian soldiers, Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov, were captured by Ukrainian forces and then tried and convicted of terrorism against Ukraine. As is common when Russian soldiers are captured, Moscow claims that the men were volunteers, and simply using their holiday time to fight in Ukraine.
During the call President Poroshenko complimented Savchenko on her courage, urged her to end the current hunger strike, and promised to send the presidential plane to Moscow for her as soon as details of the release were agreed upon by Russia.
At this time neither side has announced a date for the exchange, and while the Ukrainian side seems confident of the pending release, the Kremlin will only admit that Putin and Poroshenko have spoken about the pilot’s condition.
Apparently the Russian love affair with Bill Clinton, mostly remembered during the Yeltsin years, is officially over. Certainly you can still find souvenir matryoshka nesting dolls in the likeness of Bill Clinton for sale at some street kiosks, but the days when Russians admired the saxophone playing, womanizing and vodka-loving American politician as one of us are gone.
During President Putin’s recent nationwide call-in show last Thursday, one caller asked Mr. Putin about American democracy, and about Hillary Clinton in particular.
Putin employed the old Russian proverb that the “Husband and wife are the same devil” in responding to the caller who asked his thoughts on current American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Putin noted the length of time the Bush and Clinton families have been in power and opined, “Where is the diversity?” He avoided the obvious correlation to the tenure of Putin-Medvedev-Putin.
The annual live broadcast averages about 3.5 hours in length and is broadcast on all the major television and radio networks across Russia.
The Moscow Times reported that approximately three million questions were submitted for Putin’s traditional telephone marathon. The Presidential Press office selects which questions are asked during the show via studio guests, video messaging, telephone, or email.
During a January debate of Democratic presidential candidates, NBC anchor Lester Holt had asked Mrs. Clinton about her relationship with Putin to which she replied, “Well, my relationship with him, it’s um, it’s interesting.” Clinton went on to describe Putin as a bully.
Several members of the Russian Duma (parliament) have suggested that Mr. Putin place travel sanctions on Mrs. Clinton stemming from the arrest of a Russian pilot while she was the American Secretary of State.
Near the Square where the Paveletskaya Metro and Train stations are located, there is a typical Moscow street kiosk. In an effort to beautify to city, many of these types of small vendor kiosks are being demolished. Many of them disappear overnight, with no warning to the owners.
These signs indicate that shoes are repaired and keys made on the spot. Other products such as batteries, flashlights, electrical strip outlets, USB adapters and phone cords are sold here.
Immediately across the street is a fruit and vegetable kiosk. What will happen to the small business person who operates this vendor stand when the city takes it away?
One must wonder what becomes of the persons who found employment at these kiosks, and to local customers who need them? For local residents, and especially pensioners who need close and convenient access, who depended on easy access to such products and services, these kiosks were a necessary lifeline.
Why does the government give little or no notice to these small business owners when their stands, considered legal for many years and generate local sales taxes, are about to be razed? Why is there no compensation when these kiosks are destroyed overnight?
The most likely answer is found that in their place, the erection of chain stores with connections to Russian Oligarchs come into these neighborhoods quickly. Unlike the long and arduous process of red tape required for approval, the chain stores just seem to pop up with none of the hassle or legal expense that these folk experienced.
Connections, we suspect, is the real cause for the removal of these small businesses. One could argue that these kiosks are part of what makes Moscow beautiful. Chain stores owned by Oligarchs–not so much.