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Russian-American Congress sends open letter to President Trump

Seraphim Hanisch

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First appeared on The Duran

As an American living in the Russian Federation, I have the pleasure of having direct interaction with many Russian people from all walks of life. Many are Orthodox Christian believers who love the Church and love their own president, Vladimir Putin, and consider him as a Defender of Orthodox Christianity and Christianity everywhere in the world.

Many others are more jaded in their opinions and share skepticism of both their government and the Church, and still others hate Mr. Putin and don’t understand what the big deal about any religion is about at all.

The educational background of my friends in Russia ranges from school age kids to doctors and diplomates, and the most expert computer engineers at Kaspersky Labs, where I do a lot of my independent teaching work in the English language.

(I have incidentally met Eugene Kaspersky personally, and many of his executives, and there is a great deal that needs to be said about the insane treatment of this truly fabulous company by American politicrats. But that is for later.)

One thing that literally every person I talked to in Russia shared in common was a dislike and / or distrust of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate in the USA.

Sometimes that dislike was mixed with fear of war with the US, and an overreaching sense that American people have completely lost their minds is common across a majority of Russians I speak to. Most of them are very interested in America, but the picture they get of us is shaped by the news media.

It is an extremely vital point to be made that the media that shapes Russia’s opinion of the United States is not the Russian state run media. At least, not alone.

The American media is piped into Russia pretty directly, so Russian people can see CNN and other major cable networks directly if they so choose.

In Moscow there are a fair number of Russian people that speak English, and at Kaspersky Labs many of them do. They understand for themselves what is going on in the USA but they suffer from a terrible lack of balanced information because the liberal networks pipe news into Russia and the conservative side doesn’t get a fair hearing.

Honestly with what Russia sees of “American Life” as presented by the liberal media, most of any propaganda work is already done. All the Russian networks have to do is rebroadcast it with translation.

Perhaps this is by design, as the liberal networks like CNN, TNT, The Learning Channel and others of this ilk paint a picture of America as a gay haven, a mecca of every sexually and mind-altering aberrant practice under the sun, and this is disgusting to a society that has largely retained some major elements of a very traditional point of view:

Drugs are NOT cool, and… Men are men, and women are glad of it!

I write all of this because it is necessary in order to give you some observed context for the issue at hand.

The Russian-American Congress in the United States sent an open letter to President Trump in the United States to express disappointment because of the difficulty in Russian-American relations.

The sentiments of the Russian-Americans in the United States and the Russian people here, as well as some of the less cynical “American Russians” here is pretty uniform – concern and disappointment, and even frustration. Here is a bit of what they have to say:

We, as Russian-Americans, are deeply affected by the recent rounds of sanctions. We can no longer rely on consulates in San Francisco and in Seattle for routine consular services. Many of us now have to fly across the country to get an appointment at the Russian Consulate in New York or Washington, D.C. for visas to visit family in Russia.

We can no longer invite our relatives to visit us because more visa applications from Russia are being rejected than ever before. The closure of the consulates and the expulsion of the diplomats have worsened our lives. And yet almost 90 percent of Russian-Americans voted for you in the hope that you would restore relations with Russia and lift the sanctions. Today, it appears that you are backing away from your campaign pledge to improve the bilateral relationship.

We do not support the present course of Russian-American relations. It cannot lead to anything good. It has become a serious obstacle to constructive dialogue. Moreover, this odious rhetoric against Russia breeds hatred toward all Russians. Five million Russian-Americans living in this country have to bear the brunt of the consequences of these reckless words and actions. Russian-Americans have come to face serious discrimination.

It does not serve the interests of America to collapse into the abyss of russophobia.

Here is the backstory in summary:

In Russia the American consulates have been closed except for the one in Moscow. This consulate is the ONLY location where Russian citizens can obtain tourist or business visas to come to the United States.

One of my friends who works at the Consulate explained that the gutting of the staff at the Embassy created an impossibly heavy workload, so the average wait time for a Russian citizen to get an American Visa is estimated to run up to six months.

By contrast, if the same Russian applies for an American Visa in a neighboring country like Latvia, the wait time can be as little as one day.

However with the exception of Ukraine, a Russian pretty much needs a Visa for the EU, and a trip to an EU member nation to do the visa process in any close sense.  And Russia is huge – so citizens in the far East in Vladivostok have to travel 9 hours by plane to Moscow to undergo a six-month wait Visa process.

The Russian-Americans are similarly being oppressed by the inconveniences cause by Moscow’s closing of the Russian consulates in the United States as Russia responds tit-for-tat to the American and European sanctions that are built of fantastic allegations anyway, most notably the unsubstantiated allegation that the Russian government is in some way responsible for the attempted murder on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

Further, the Russophobia being pumped out by the American media is beginning to take a toll on American citizens who emigrated from Russia in hopes of pursuing the American dream for themselves.

This is bigotry, and unfair discrimination just as much as it is for any ethnic or race-based group in the United States.

The Russian-American Congress sent their letter to express their disappointment and concern to President Trump because the craziness in terms of all this has impacted their lives in many ways.

Here in Russia the disappointment is echoed by people like those at Kaspersky Labs, which has been singled out for extremely biased and unfair treatment to score political points.

Eugene Kaspersky has filed a lawsuit in regards to this matter against the US Department of Homeland Security. His points are completely logical and yet he is ignored the benefit of legal protections under the law as a business operator in the United States because of political expediency on the part of people like Bill Browder driving a truly insane and falsely based anti-Russia campaign.

I am a big supporter of President Trump, personally.  I voted for him as many times as I could. (wink)(Once, as a Colorado resident, which I am.)

And I would vote for him again in a heartbeat. He is a superb president on every count where he has been able to do what he feels is right. And we see this expressed in the tone of his phone contacts with President Putin and his actual personal meetings with him. Through his help the US has helped Russia avert the tragedy of ISIS terrorist attacks on its own soil, something which has gained the gratitude of the Russians and most notably President Putin himself.

But in this matter of Russian-American relations I am grieved along with the Russian people in both our nations.

I am similarly saddened because the Americans who rely on their news media to be truthful to them about world events are being given a grave disservice. Rather than seeing Russia for what it wants to be – a partner and an ally – the Americans have been getting a steady diet of propaganda that only serves the interests of those people who feel threatened by Russia asserting herself as her own sovereign nation. This is simply grievous, it has gone on much too long and it should stop.

There are some in the media – both mainstream and alternate media of which The Duran considers itself a part, that have tried to point out the notion of war brewing between the US and the Russian Federation.

While anything is possible because bad actors can start wars, I personally disagree with this notion. Russia has no aspiration for war with the United States or Europe in any way.

But the Russian Federation and its leadership are understandably frustrated with being blamed for everything under the sun, and then punished for things they have no part in, a practice that has been ongoing for several years at least.

How would you feel?

In pursuing this track of scapegoating Russia as many of the political establishment in the US and Europe have succeeded in doing, the Western powers are putting themselves at grave risk of a problem later. Not a problem with war, for Russia will not attack anyone. The only way a war will start is if the West starts it; but the scapegoating behavior is scandalous and it will not be forgotten.

Also, since it is falsely based, Russia will find her own way around it and prosper. When things get difficult in the West, its leaders will be forced to eat humble pie in some way that will not be pleasant… and it will have been totally unnecessary.

The Russian-Americans, and not a few American-Russians, are still hoping for President Trump to rise above the fray and fix this mess.

The American Congress – both parties – are full of Russiaphobes and people who are so ill-informed that they actually consider Bill Browder an expert on Russian affairs. I will place my bet that as a regular guy living here I know far more accurately what the real picture is than any rich tax evader.

In this, I echo President Putin’s statement. Together with the Russian-Americans in the USA, we say this:

“Listen to us now.”

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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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