Russian Bloggers Required to Register as Mass Media

Russia Media

(Reprinted from the Moscow Times)

A law requiring popular bloggers to register as mass media took effect Friday, tightening government control over the country’s influential online voices but leaving some uncertainty as to how strict the immediate scrutiny will become.

In accordance with the new law, any blog that receives more than 3,000 hits a day is required to register as a mass media outlet. The government has already shut down several opposition-minded websites and has the right to block any others without a court order or even a detailed explanation, so it remains unclear how much the rule changes will additionally erode Internet freedom in Russia.

The head of Russia’s media watchdog, Alexander Zharov, said that there would be no national “census of bloggers,” and that registration would be brought about voluntarily or as the result of public complaints, Vedomosti reported Friday.

The Izvestia newspaper reported it had obtained a list that the media watchdog has supposedly prepared of seven bloggers, to whom it would send letters on Friday requiring them to register their blogs as media outlets.

The roll includes novelist Boris Akunin, comedian and screenwriter Mikhail Galustyan, nationalist politician and author Eduard Limonov, stand-up comedian Mikhail Zadornov, photographer Sergei Dolya, blogger Dmitry Chernyshev — better known in Russia by his online name mi3ch — and head of NewsMedia holding Ashot Gabrelyanov, the report said.

(Read the entire article at the Moscow Times)

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New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senior foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, has signaled to Washington that Moscow will agree to the appointment of John Tefft as the next Ambassador to Russia. Although cautious, Ushakov in an interview with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS called Tefft a “professional diplomat” with previous experience in Moscow.

New Ambassador to Russia will be John Tefft

Still ahead are the US Senate hearings once the Obama administration makes the formal nomination. Confirmation shouldn’t be a problem as Tefft is no stranger on Capitol Hill, with foreign service experience dating back to 1972. Most recently Mr. Tefft was the US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and he has served previously in the Moscow Embassy under deputy roles. From 2000 to 2003 he was the US Ambassador to Lithuania and the US Ambassador to Georgia during 2005 to 2009.

The nomination of Tefft , who speaks Russian and Ukrainian, is likely to be well received in the Senate after the debacle with the inexperienced Michael McFaul in the position. The Russians say that the Obama administration made the initial request regarding Tefft in June and their announcement of acceptance came while Russian President Putin was in Cuba as part of his diplomatic tour to Latin America.

The annexation of Crimea and the continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine have left relations in tatters between Russia and the United States, some going so far to call the chill a new “Cold War.” Adding to the tension is the suspicion that Tefft’s appointment is due to his experience with so-called “color revolutions.” He served in Ukraine at a time of regime change and he was the US Ambassador to Georgia during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Pravda wrote this week that Russia could not afford to trust Tefft regardless of his prior experience in Russia. Andrei Kortunov, of the Moscow based New Eurasia Foundation, was quoted in Pravda saying that the Tefft appointment would not automatically signal a renewal of open dialogue with Russia. Kortunov pointed to the failures of the McFaul ambassadorship and current tensions regarding Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Both countries must approve Ambassadorial appointments and foreign diplomats are received when the incoming Ambassador formally presents diplomatic credentials to the host nation. Traditionally foreign ambassadors present their credentials to Russia’s president and foreign minister during ceremonies held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s the Alexander Hall.

June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
June 2014 reception of new Ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace.

Of interest to some is that Tefft’s wife will join him in Moscow. Many Russians didn’t understand why previous Ambassador Michael McFaul chose to leave his family in California while trying to make the 9,000 kilometer weekly commute fit his Embassy schedule.

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Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

The Russian attitude seems to be that if they can’t win the Ukrainians over, then we’ll make sure they hate us and one example of this thinking is in Russian schools as children are meeting the new “polite alphabet” meant to simultaneously engender Russian patriotism and denigrate anything Ukrainian while teaching the Russian Cyrillic letters. The Russian Cyrillic letters remain the same but the word examples for each letter now inject a healthy dose of propaganda, patriotism or both.

The new alphabet is being introduced to Russian school children in the Irkutsk region by Project Network, a pro-Kremlin group with plans to roll the new alphabet learning tools to more schools across Russia next year. They group is part of the “togetherness” project and say they are tasked to teach young Russian children that Russia, Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine are meant to be together.

For example the new alphabet primer and accompanying charts teach students that “A” stands for “Anti-Maidan,” the letter “Ya” is for “Yalta,” and as any good propagandist would hope, “P” is for “Putin.” Naturally “R” is for “Russia” and the face of Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is matched to the term for “firmness” while the letter B represents the “berkut” Ukrainian riot police who defected to Crimea. Some older alphabet charts had the golden eagle (berkut) with the letter and a photo of the golden eagle.

Some will question why the letter “D” stands for Donetsk, a Ukrainian city instead of the more common word for “dom”  (home) as on existing charts. Organizers are quick to point out that Donetsk should and will be a part of Russia and thus school children should learn to think of Donetsk as Russian instead of Ukrainian. Some of the letter equivalents are a bit of a stretch.

To make the point about Ukraine, the chart assigns the letter ы for Крым, spoken as “Krem” (Crimea). No Russian words begin with the letter ы so Russian school children will meet the new polite alphabet with Крым for Crimea. To make the point that Crimea has been annexed into Russia the Ukrainian term for Crimea, Крим, has been circled with an arrow drawn through it.

Two letters within Russian Cyrillic, ь and ъ, have no sound themselves but serve to modify letters adjacent to them. The new “polite alphabet” did find patriotic words which included those letters and for example they assigned ь, the letter which serves to soften other sounds, to мягкость which is a term commonly used to express the idea of gentle or soft in relation to a mother and her baby. Some Ukrainian groups have responded on social mean with an alternate “war alphabet” that mocks the Russian attempt at indoctrination.

It is no accident that Project Network calls it the “Polite Alphabet,” as it is named for the so-called “polite” but armed forces that forced Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier this year. The Project Network website claims that as Russian school children meet the new polite alphabet they “…will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture.”

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Moscow Terror Plot foiled

The Moscow Times:

Special forces officers killed two men and detained one more outside Moscow on suspicion that they were plotting a terror attack in the city, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said.

The officers came under fire when they surrounded a house with the suspects on Monday in the city of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, roughly 80 kilometers from Moscow, and demanded that they surrender.

In the ensuing firefight, the officers shot and killed two of the suspects, and captured another, the committee said.

One special forces officer suffered a light wound. There were no civilian casualties.

“The decisive actions of law enforcement agencies foiled an effort to commit a terror attack in the capital,” the committee said in a statement late Monday.

The suspects are Russian citizens who returned from Afghanistan or Pakistan, where they received battle training and prepared to carry out terror attacks, the statement said.

The Federal Security Service briefed President Vladimir Putin about the operation and kept him updated about its progress, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Interfax reported.

A law enforcement source told the news agency that the men were planning to strike a large-scale public gathering in Moscow. Security officers acted on intelligence data, the source added.

Another law enforcement source told Interfax that the men had lived in Pakistan and practiced Islam.

Security officers had kept them under surveillance for a month.

Intelligence showed that the men, whose names weren’t released, underwent training in Northern Waziristan, a mountainous patch of land in Pakistan, the source said.

Customs Union agenda, 18 November

The heads of the Customs Union member states will meet in Moscow this Friday 18 November to discuss current issues of integration in the Eurasian region in preparation for full integration of the Common Economic Space between the nations in January of 2012. The meeting will include Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The meeting agenda includes operation of the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, forming a common customs territory as of 1 July 2011. Cooperation within the Customs Union has already begun and state control has been moved to the external borders of the Customs Union countries with uniform customs rules and regulations in place.

The next phase of integration includes the Eurasian Economic Union.