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Protests in Russia fizzle as Medvedev corruption case unravels

Follow on opposition protests attract derisory turnout as doubts cast on Navalny allegations of corruption by Russian Prime Minister Medvedev

Alexander Mercouris

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The allegations of corruption made against Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev by the opposition activist and blogger Alexey Navalny have been given short shrift in – of all places – an article in the Washington Post.

In an unusual flurry of objective reporting, the Washington Post also admits that the turnout at follow on opposition rallies in Moscow on 2nd April 2017 was derisory and that Navalny – the individual the Western media regularly touts as the leader of Russia’s opposition – is widely disliked and has little support.

The protests on Sunday 2nd April 2017 were intended as a follow on to the protests called by Navalny the previous week.

I had previously estimated the total number of people who turned up to those protests at about 20,000 across the whole of Russia.  As I also reported it appeared that Russia’s ‘non-system’ liberal opposition agreed with this assessment, with one of the organisers putting the total number of people who had turned up for the protests across Russia at between 20,000 and 30,000.

Obviously this was not impressive enough for some people, and so over the course of the next few days the pro-opposition media in Russia and the West doubled that number to a still less than overwhelming 60,000.

That number is certainly too large.  It appears to originate in an unverifiable claim apparently first made by the pro-opposition radio station Ekho Moskvy that unlike the protests in 2011 and 2012 many more people protested outside Moscow than the 7,000 to 8,000 who protested in Moscow itself.

I am sure this was not the case.  I followed the contemporaneous rundown of the protests across the country provided by the independent news agency Interfax as the protests were underway.  Interfax is a highly reliable news agency, and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of its reporting.  In my opinion the claim that there were many more protesters outside Moscow than in Moscow is not only wrong, but looks like an attempt to draw attention away from the less than impressive turnout in Moscow itself by pretending that many more people turned out in the regions (where it is impossible for the international media to check the numbers) than actually did.  

As for the turnout in the follow on protests on Sunday 2nd April 2017, everyone including the Washington Post agrees this was derisory, with the protesters in Moscow outnumbered by the journalists present.   In the hours before the protests, as it became increasingly clear that turnout would be derisory, the ‘non-system opposition’ distanced itself from the protests, with Navalny denying that he had anything to do with them.

Unusually the Washington Post not only admits the incontrovertible fact that the turnout at the protests on Sunday 2nd April 2017 was derisory, but has now also admitted in a separate article that Navalny’s case that Medvedev is corrupt is based less on fact than on innuendo.  

Asked Friday whether the Russian parliament would look into the report, pro-Kremlin legislator Vyacheslav Nikonov dismissed it as a desperate attempt to get attention by an unpopular candidate. He also poured scorn on the way Navalny built his case against Medvedev, which relies on connections to the premier’s former classmates, Instagram photos that appear to place Medvedev on one of the yachts or at one of the estates, and garishly colored sneakers and shirts that were sent to one of the companies and were identical to ones worn by Medvedev in pictures and videos shown in the video.

Piecing together the evidence, Navalny concluded that without a doubt, Medvedev, who has frequently spoken of the need to fight official corruption, is “one of the richest people in the country and one of the most corrupt bureaucrats.

One former classmate linked to companies and charities mentioned in the scheme denied any connection, and Nikonov countered that Navalny’s accusations boiled down to the fact that “Medvedev wears pink sneakers.”

In an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio, Ilya Shumanov, a deputy head of the Russian branch of Transparency International, agreed that Navalny has failed to make an irrefutable case that Medvedev benefited financially from his acquaintances.

Elsewhere, in its article about the protests on 2nd April 2017, the Washington Post article actually admits that Navalny is extremely unpopular

But Navalny himself faces a bigger problem. He was once popular enough to win 27 percent of the vote in a 2013 Moscow mayoral election reportedly slanted in favor of the Kremlin’s candidate. But in the course of a week, I couldn’t find anyone who would say they like him.

And it’s not because Navalny has dabbled in unsightly nationalism in the past, endorsing Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008, using racist epithets to describe Georgians (for which he later apologized), calling for the deportation of illegal immigrants (sound like anyone you know?). Those issues are actually kind of mainstream in today’s Moscow.

The authorities, through state media, have cast Navalny as a stooge of Western elites, someone with no plans for how he’d lead and who issues slanderous videos to grab attention to raise his profile. And they’ve made sure that television viewers know he has been twice convicted in a fraud case he says is political.

If even the Washington Post and Transparency International are casting doubt on the allegations of corruption against Medvedev, and if even the Washington Post is admitting that Navalny is unpopular, then there is no excuse for anyone to retain any illusions either that Medvedev is going soon or that Navalny has any prospect of being elected Russia’s President.

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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