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Graham Phillips’ 10 tips for visiting Crimea

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Graham Phillips is an independent journalist who remains one of the only English and Russian speaking journalists who has covered the war in Donabss from the beginning. In spite of being captured by forces loyal to the Ukrainian regime, he has returned multiple times in order to bring the world exclusive first hand reportage from the front line. He also crucially investigates perspectives of civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk.

But Phillips also goes to places that aren’t conflict zones. He goes to peaceful areas whose political and social situations are either ignored or misrepresented by corporate mainstream media.

Phillips is always one to cover all sides of the story whether interviewing Latvian fascists (before being kicked out of the country for doing nothing but exercising the right to peacefully ask questions) or ordinary Latvians who simply want to live in peace with their neighbours. Phillips has covered events as wide ranging as German anti-government protests, to the European Cup in France, to Brexit. Recently, he has explored modern Serbia as Serbs remember the illegal 1999 NATO bombing of their country.

Recently, Graham Phillips made a film called ‘A Brit In Crimea’. Here, Phillips took one Scottish man with one open mind to Crimea.

This has got many others in the west thinking about visiting Russia’s famous Black Sea peninsula. With that in mind here are Graham Phillips’ 10 tips for visiting Crimea, courtesy of The Truth Speaker:

“1. There are no cash machines which take western cards. So you’ll need to take all the money for your trip with you. The last cash machine is at Krasnoarmeiski, before you get the ferry, but, you’d be best off stocking up on wedge before that.

2. Due to sanctions, some things don’t work in Crimea. If you have a UK, EU number you may well find it cannot connect to a roaming service, so you’ll need to purchase a number in Crimea. Crimea has its own phone network, separate from mainland Russia, Crimeastreet2so, you’ll need to purchase a local MTS card. There’s 3G, even some 4G. All internet sites work as normal, and you can even use main booking sites to book apartments, hotels in Crimea. All the apps you have should work, but there may be an issue downloading new ones, you can use your credit card to book things online there – all good.

3. Don’t even think of going to Crimea via Ukraine, as is the official advise. It’s a nonsense. Kiev have to ‘give you permission’, but you still need a Russian visa, and more, have to pass through the Ukrainian ‘blockpost border’, adding hassle, stress, and perhaps other. Get a single-entry Russian visa, and you can book a flight to Simferopol airport!

4. It’s better to put what you’ve read in the western press, by western governments out of your mind before you enter Crimea. You can find people there who will freely tell you that they are ‘pro-Ukrainian’, and want to be with Ukraine again. But, they’re a small minority. You can find a lot of people who generally would like Crimea to be as prosperous as it previously was, but speak to people there and you’ll see for yourself that the vast majority of Crimeans supported, and support reunification with Russia.

There’s no sign of tension, or repression of Crimean Tatars. You will come across many in your travels in Crimea. Crimean Tatars are, in my experience, a warm, friendly people. A lot of restaurants are Crimean Tatar, they run many businesses. Speak to them, ask them yourselves how life is for them. You will hear different opinions, some for Russia, some for Ukraine (though again, a minority), many non-political and simply for whatever will give them the best quality of life.

5. You will find people in Crimea who speak excellent English, and many have some level of English. However, it’s by no means universal, and at this moment in time you could even say that Crimea is not especially orientated towards English-speaking visitors. Not every restaurant will have an English-language menu, and while your waiter may well speak English, it’s not a guarantee. Speaking some Russian, or having a Russian-speaking friend with you, would definitely help.

6. Despite the political tensions between the west, and Crimea, I’ve never encountered, or heard of any problems encountered by western visitors because of where they come from. On the contrary, Crimeans are more than likely to roll out the red carpet for a western visitor. Most tourists there are from Russia, and actually many have come to Crimea for the first time. In my experience, you’ll also find them of a friendly disposure towards you!

7. Despite what governments etc try to insinuate, you are not breaking any laws by visiting Crimea, with the exception of Ukrainian law. So if you go to Crimea, and post selfies from there etc, then you may have some issues if you try to visit Ukraine, but, that’s all. You’ll have no stamp in your passport other than a Russian one. You’ve broken no laws, apart from ‘Ukrainian laws’, whatever they are these days.

Graham Crimea reportage8. Prices in Crimea are pretty much what they are on mainland Russia. For a UK visitor, you’ll get around 70-75 roubles to the pound now, down from a year ago, but it still makes Crimea a comparatively inexpensive tourist destination. A beer by the beach for £1.50, sit-down lunch in a seaview restaurant for less than £5 all do-able, even in Yalta at peak season. There are pricier ‘tourist traps’, and that goes back to the above, that it’s better to know some Russian!

9. If you’re driving, you’ll see a massive ‘road rehabilitation’ project going on (and there’s actually infrastructure being upgraded everywhere), but it’s not reached everywhere yet, so on some roads, get ready for a bumpy ride. If you drive there in summer, you could be in line for a few hours wait for the 25-minute ferry crossing. And in Crimea itself, particularly Yalta, traffic can be heavy at peak times.

Crimea in general, some of it is ‘Russian standard’ – ie what you’d find in Russia, infrastructure etc to a high level. Quite a lot is still ‘Ukrainian standard’, no offence, but you get the idea. This ferry video, btw, in Russian, but again, sure you’ll get the idea –

10. There really is an incredible amount of things to do in Crimea. You can have a beach holiday in Yalta, Koktobel or if you want a sandy beach, Evpatoria. There are vineyards, safari parks, palaces, mountains, festivals, epic open-air museums, bike shows, concerts, there’s the black sea fleet of Sevastopol, always something happening by the waterfront or in the square there, Yalta is absolutely buzzing, Balaklava is mind-blowingly beautiful, Taigan is the best safari park you could ever visit… where to base Graham Crimeayourself will be your decision. Simferopol itself is an appealing city, and although it’s not by the sea itself, or especially tourist-orientated, it’s a mid-point between a lot of places which are.

The most popular places to stay are Sevastopol, and Yalta, but if you want to stay in a number of places, you can find hotels, or apartments anywhere in Crimea – Alustha, Feodosiya, Kerch, Sudak, Koktobel, and more, and you’ll find something to do everywhere in Crimea. So, if you were thinking of going for a week, I’d recommend two, and even then you are just getting started. Not to sound like the Holiday show, but that’s exactly as it is.

And why should you believe me? Because I’ve got no angle here other than to tell you the truth of how things are. And I’ve spent a lot of time there. As for the rest, be sure that most all of what you read about Crimea in the west is by those who haven’t even been there – and certainly do have an angle –

But, if they want to visit, let them follow this advice, and I wish you all a great time! Graham”

 

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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