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Russian-American businessman speaks on growing ties between Moscow and Tokyo (PODCAST)

Paul Goncharoff talks about the projects currently underway in the Far East

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(Sputnik – by John Harrison) In this, the first ‘Pivot to Asia’ program we discuss a new multi-billion-dollar bridge and tunnel project from Sakhalin to Japan that has been proposed by Russia. An official announcement is expected very soon and planning has been going on over the past five years.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast

Paul Goncharoff, an American who has been working in financial services, mining and energy in Russia and Japan for over 40 years joins the program

This is a highly complex engineering project, and contains two projects: a bridge and tunnel from the Russian mainland to Sakhalin, and another bridge between Sakhalin and Japan. Paul nevertheless feels that it will happen. “…It melds very well with the ‘One Bridge One Road’ concept. This bridge and tunnel project will create a much tighter link with the Japanese market, and China is interested in that as well,… the mainland link between Russia and Sakhalin is already happening.”

The project involved huge infrastructure work. Russian railways, for example, will be laying hundreds of kilometers of track. Paul comments: “Russian Railways is no stranger to massive projects if you look at the territory of Russia. They have been sharpening their expertise as well, with high-speed rail link projects to China. The whole One Belt One Road project is largely rail…”

Host John Harrison brings up the subject of the absence of a WWII peace treaty between Russia and Japan. Japan and Russia are still technically at war. Paul replies: “This is because of the dispute over the Kuril Islands. In fact, all of Japan’s major companies have been doing business in Russia since the Soviet days, so there is politics and there is business. I believe that President Putin and Prime Minister Abe are seeking to find a compromise. How that will be packaged — I don’t now, but the Japanese are practical people, the Russians are practical people, both are pragmatic. It’s difficult for Japan, because let’s face it, even in this era of gradual de-dollarization, Japan is essentially a suburb of the USA. It’s the aircraft carrier for the USA in the Pacific…. However, you have to go with the flow. We have seen over the centuries various changes in alliances and preferences. The Japanese are practical and pragmatic and they can read the writing on the wall. China and Russia are their neighbors. America is over the pond. The Pacific is not a small lake, it is a very large body of water. One can project all kinds of scenarios, but it makes good business sense to join the region and its neighboring opportunities.”

The United States has been the major contributor to major infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region, however despite America’s great works, this seems to be changing. “This trend has been going on since the mid to late 1970s.” Paul comments. “The post-war years and the huge investment into Japan was really to allow for Korea and the American involvement in Korea, hence ‘aircraft carrier’ Japan. That required a very quick turnaround from the American attitude of the immediate post-war years and the whole war mentality to saying, Ah-Ha! Japan now is like our best ally in the Pacific so let’s go forward. So, Japan benefitted from a kind of Marshall plan on steroids. If you recall the ‘Japanese miracle’ that happened in the 1970s and the early 1980s. We saw the huge and incredibly rapid expansion of Japanese industry, trade, you name it. They were financing everything. I remember when they bought the Rockefeller Centre in the middle of Manhattan, and everyone was up in arms… For them it is just business.”

Paul sees the money for this new project been raised collectively for a group of countries, including Russia, Japan, China and quite possibly Korea. This is a game changer with South Korea as this is in their interests as well. This all could be seen as a sign of the formation of a new consciousness within Asia that we can group together and pull off major projects. Paul comments: “Getting back to practicalities and pragmatics — they are neighbors. When you are talking about America you are talking about projecting power economically and militarily from a very long distance. And here we are, it’s a neighborhood, and I mean that in every sense of the word….At long last it makes sense to get down to the business table and do business.”

When this project happens, it could generate a boom in investment into Sakhalin and Hokkaido islands, not to mention the Vladivostok area. Could this be the new destination for investment and pension funds? Paul comments: “Definitely yes, but don’t forget the always questionable buggy-bear — the Kuril Islands. How that will end I don’t know. There is even talk of potential joint governance. I have no doubt that it will be resolved….For Russia, this project does open up trade channels with Japan, for two-way trade. Japan is a huge market for Russian energy, resources, materials, ores, metals, you name it. Japan has an incredible technology base, systems and expertise base as well as a consumer base…. Japan will benefit from a rail link directly through Russia into Europe as well which will be cheaper than sea routes even if the Northern Sea Route opens…. It’s a win-win situation…”

There will undoubtedly be opposition to this project, however, as Paul says: “The project has certain inertia, it is inevitable. Time wise, it won’t be tomorrow, but the trend is very clear. We HAVE to go to a multi polar world, economically, politically and geographically….20 years ago, when Russia was on its needs, this could not have been done. Now a lot has changed and these countries are now able to seriously consider the possibility of building these bridges, in many more ways than one.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades.

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Via Oilprice.com


Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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