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Here’s what the results of the Russian election mean and for whom

Russia’s parliamentary elections show a contented and stable country, but one where was an intense intellectual discussion between the two main opposition parties – the Communist Party and the Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party – over Russia’s future direction.

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I’d like to begin my piece with a new entry to the increasingly valuable Duran Lexicon. Dull election = Peaceful exercise of democracy.

That’s what Sunday’s election was. But do not be fooled by the calm, the results are significant.

Whilst the four parties that dominated the Duma after the previous election in 2011 remain the parties of power, the shift in the particular balance of power represents an intellectual referendum on the state of Russian affairs over the last 5 years, more than it represents changing feelings towards particular parties.

With over 97% of votes now counted, United Russia have increased their percentage of the vote from 49.3% in 2011 to 54% in 2016.

That United Russia were going to win the election was an assured assumption. In a country that is broadly contented with its government and exceptionally contented with its President who supports the party of government, it is only natural for such a party to win and win big.

Whilst some early indications pointed to United Russia getting a bit of a bloody nose due to general ‘success fatigue’ as well as regional allegations of corruption, this didn’t pan out. The status quo won and won convincingly.

The most interesting race of the evening was the race for second place, the race for the official opposition party.

Contrary to western claims, Russia has vibrant, strong, respected and respectable opposition parties, the leaders of which are household names.

To many in Western media a Russian opposition leader is a failed, corrupt ex-pat businessman hiding his failures behind a half-arsed hatred for the government and shareholders to whom he owes money.

When this doesn’t pan out, it often seems as though western media wait with camera in hand by the exit door of a regional lunatic asylum. They then shove the microphone into the face of the first person they see and presto…instant opposition leader.

The reality is completely different.  Russia does have real, diverse and respected opposition parties.

The fact of the matter is that since 2003 the official opposition has been the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Last night’s early results however indicated that this might change as the LDPR was set to come in second. However after a long night and early morning, the democratic dog fight between the Communists and the LDPR was won by the Communists, but with only around 0.2 of a percentage point.

I said earlier that the race for second was going to be close and important, but this was closer than most commentators had imagined.

To put things in perspective, in respect of the notion of an ‘intellectual referendum’ a Communist vote was a referendum on the notion that with the West’s economic warfare against Russia showing no signs of stopping, the Communists had been right all along in saying that Russia must be increasingly self-sufficient in industry and agriculture, and must form fraternal trading bonds with Russia’s true friends, rather than strike what appear to be short term economic deals with unreliable western partners.

A general downturn in the world economy has also vindicated many traditional Communist polices.

Demographically, older individuals tend to vote Communist, though this should not be thought of as a negative statement the way it is in the West. The West’s glorification of the vanity and stupidity of youth is not much of a social phenomenon in Russia, with society there on the contrary still tending to respect and value the contribution of those with life experience.

Whilst the strong-willed and tough Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov would never ape western politicians like Tony Blair and speak in the guttural slang of misguided youths, the Communists did run advertisements designed to show that a Marxist-Leninist government could be a thing of the future rather than a reminder of the past. When further demographic information on voter trends becomes available, it will be interesting to see if these ads were effective.

If a Communist vote was an ‘x’ next to ‘economic self-sufficiency’ in the intellectual referendum, a vote for the LDPR was an ‘x’ next to the ‘Zhirinovsky was right about foreign affairs after all’ box.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the founder and leader of the LDPR, the second official party in both the USSR and Russian Federation (after the Communists), is a deeply misunderstood figure.

Contrary to what one might read in the Western media, Zhirinovsky is amongst the most historically and geo-politically informed politicians in the world.  He is deeply educated, multi-lingual and understands the delicate nature of culture, nations, religions and ideologies better than most.

For years he has warned that the West’s ultimate goal was to encircle Russia with NATO and its political proxy the EU. This has become reality.  He has also warned that the West would ignite Ukraine and would turn what should be a brotherly and friendly country into an enemy. This too has become reality.  He has said that Russia should extend itself to the Arab world and help stable regimes there combat extremism. This is now official Russian policy.

Zhirinovsky has also said that Russia’s friends lie in the east and south, not in the west and north. This is now a proven fact.

The voters know this and it is why the LDPR came within inches of becoming the official opposition (aka second party).

Many in the west call Zhirinovsky an extremist or a clown. This is simply not true.

Zhirinovsky came to public attention at a time when Russian democracy was very young. Even in a mature democracy, one often needs to court attention in order to get one’s message across whether it be an intellectual message or otherwise.

As an undeniably clever man, Zhirinovsky knows that he often needs to be hyperbolic, humorous or outrageous in order to capture public attention over issues that few would otherwise have the time to pay attention to.

This is a fact of democracy. One has to make the intricate exciting and the serious entertaining.

It also doesn’t help that much of Zhirinovsky’s sarcasm is translated as straight speech, and that much of his humour is lost on Western audiences who take his poetic sentiments far too literally.

Another misconception is that the LDPR is ‘far right’.

‘Far right’ ought to be a term reserved for parties which bring matters of race, ethnicity and religion into the public debate, and which seek to exclude or discriminate against people on that basis.

For Zhirinovsky, the understanding of Russianness is a civic rather than ethnic term, and he is the first to condemn the actual far right if one is patient enough to listen to his speeches. Take for example the LDRP’s condemnation of Rodina, a truly extremist far-right party, and one that has little popularity anywhere in Russia.

Finally, one has A Just Russia (sometimes translated as A Fair Russia) who fell behind the LDPR to become the fourth and last of the major parties.

A Just Russia prides itself as being the socialist conscience of United Russia, often proposing more equitable solutions to government proposals whilst claiming that it is less corrupt than United Russia. However, A Fair Russia, due to its rather lacklustre campaign, did not really have an easily defined place in the intellectual referendum, and it lost votes as a consequence.

Finally, one must discuss the mechanics and logistics of the election. Because the Duma elections implemented a single member ‘first past the post system’ in addition to the traditional party list proportional representation system.

Once the final votes come in this means that there is a possibility that some independents or members of smaller parties will have some Duma seats. The effectiveness of this however remains to be seen.

Many observers are commenting on the low voter turn-out of around 48%.

Turnout in the UK election of 2001, which was generally seen as a contest between a competent but disliked party versus an incompetent and disliked party, was 59%. Barack Obama won his election campaign in 2012 with a voter turnout of just under 54%. Turnout in the 2012 French Parliamentary elections was 55%.

Bearing this in mind, the Russian voter turnout isn’t radically different from that in recent elections in many other countries. It is again symptomatic of contentment rather than frustration.

The election was calm, free and fair. The most interesting battle may have been the intellectual struggle between the Communists and LDRP,  but ultimately, the entire election was a referendum on the fact that most Russians are happy with the way Russia is run, and they are the only people whose opinion matters.

To say otherwise would be undemocratic, and the West wouldn’t want that now would they?

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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