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How Russia will respond to new US sanctions

Group-think on Russia is usually thoughtless.




Friday the 13th of April was full of surprises. Rocket attacks, added sanctions, accusations, hazing, assumptions without the “boring” burden of proof, and so on. Someone is getting on a real testosterone-fired high from all this gunslinging. The US freely continues tightening its sanctions screws against Russia and just about anyone who is not on “the team” or has a worldview that is not in agenda-lockstep.

Russia must now consider its response(s) in turn.

Isaac Asimov wrote “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”  Seems Mr. Asimov’s words simply slip through the ears of many, and dissipate in the geopolitical air.

Therefore this past Friday a bill appropriately named “On measures counteracting unfriendly actions of the United States and/or other foreign states”, was reviewed by the leaders of all factions of the State Duma. This proposed bill seeks to impose various measures as a response to American trade restrictions as well as those countries that have adopted similar restrictive measures against Russia.

The range of affected goods manufactured in the USA as well as those countries who have joined with the USA in restricting trade with Russia may include pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, agricultural products, cigarettes and alcohol. However, there is to be no ban against importing such items “for personal use”, even if brought into Russia by non-Russians.

Additionally, there may be specific regulations concerning banning certain software, technical, and even legal and financial services. Also under consideration is suspending cooperation with the USA in the nuclear, aircraft construction, and rocket engine industries.

On the table for consideration also is for Russia to increase charges for air navigation and overflight services for the US and other countries which support unfriendly, trade restrictive sanctions. In short, the legislation under review in Russia will seek to develop a mechanism to replace goods and services of American origin.

As concerns the movement of people, there is also one item being discussed which might be a list of US citizens who will be banned from entering or doing business with Russia, the list will be determined later by the government should it feel it to be appropriate. At the same time draft legislation mentions a possible prohibition or restriction on attracting citizens of the United States and/or other foreign states, including highly qualified specialists, from employment in the Russian Federation.

Many in the duma see the proposed legislation as an incentive for the enhanced development of the Russian industrial sector and the Russian Federation’s response to what it believes are the unfriendly policies of the US and other states aimed at undermining Russia’s sovereign territorial integrity and destabilizing its economy.

Trade turnover between Russia and the United States in 2017 increased by 15.8% and amounted to 23.1 billion dollars. Russian exports to the US increased by 14.7%, to $ 10.6 billion, and imports by 16.8% percent and amounted to 12.5 billion. Therefore, America’s trade surplus with Russia for 2017 was 1.9 billion dollars to the USA’s advantage. At the start of 2018 Russian metals and mineral products led exports to the United States, and the main imports from the United States were cars, and heavy equipment.

Where will all these tit for tat sandbox tactics take us? Looking back to 2000 since Vladimir Putin became president of the Russian Federation; his record has been transparent and publicly stated both inside Russia and declaratively on the international stage. The ambition for Russia is not global hegemony or heaven forbid – European conquest.

Russia has been seeking a regional sphere of influence and interactivity with nations directly on its national borders, its geopolitical neighborhood, or through alliances directly related to its perceived national security interests. That said, it is not by any stretch of the imagination “empire building” given the reach and scope of its comparatively limited international involvements.

Since the start of this 21st Century, the Russian sphere of influence has not been achieved by conquest, domination or old-school regime-change. It has been attempted through close financial ties, direct foreign investment, free trade zones, treaties, security alliances, and a network of geopolitical agreements that closely remind me of the (pre-EU) European Economic Union.

Given the current state of affairs in this sanctions-mad world, several Russian companies have taken proactive steps to ready themselves for potential exclusion from the SWIFT interbank payments system. This is an extension of the bullying effect a politicized US Dollar, and the increasingly inclusionary/exclusionary practices, or as some have observed – the “weaponization” of the greenback. These companies include those who have recently been “sanctioned” by the USA this past month, and those who plan ahead for contingencies.

The Russian state technology giant Rostec is one that will now use Russia’s new equivalent to the SWIFT interbank cash transfer system called SPFS. Rostec consolidates strategically important Russian companies. It has divisions in aircraft, electronics, and armaments. It unites companies like Russian Helicopters, Kalashnikov, and Rosoboronexport. Last month, another Russian state-owned firm, Rosneft, announced it had tested the SPFS in December with Gazprom bank, and is ready to seamlessly use it if need be.

The potential exclusion of Russia from SWIFT has concerned the country’s banks since 2014, when the EU and the US introduced the first round of international sanctions against Moscow over alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis and reunification with Crimea. Recently, the head of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Russia is ready, if needed, to disconnect from SWIFT and smoothly function.

It may very well be that today’s Russia is demonized mostly for its desire to put national sovereign interests ahead of globalization. That said, it has also been apparent over these past 18 years that Russia’s actions and intentions on the world stage have been congruent, openly stated and have not been nearly as opaque or unipolar as some others. They have in fact been in keeping with the guidelines and treaties set out in the charter of the UN as regards the ethical behavior of Governments, and diplomatic conduct in the international arena.

Where will we go from here now that inertia and the rules of the sandbox have taken over diplomacy? It has been said that Washington is considering announcing still further sanctions against Russia on Monday April 16th, or maybe it will change its mind and stop this circle game – who knows? Who benefits? Seems this just might be the ideal moment to dial back on the rhetoric and think this through. I believe there are a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere in the ‘sandbox gang’ who would truly appreciate in their private heart-of-hearts any de-escalation ASAP.

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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



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.





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.




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

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