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Russian presidential candidates release first official videos to woo voters ahead of March 18th ballot

The candidates’ platforms range from the strength and stability of the nation to radical changes in people’s lives

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This article originally appeared at RT

Campaign videos for Russian presidential candidates have started running on TV and the internet. Voters are variously promised things ranging from the strength and stability of the nation to radical changes in their lives.

Candidate Sergey Baburin of the All-Russian People’s Union political party emphasizes his Russian ethnicity and prioritizes family values. “The Russian choice is to love children, respect the family and help the elderly,” he says in one video. “A Russian is someone who is accepted by Russians,” he states in another. Baburin’s election slogan “A Russian choice for Russia” is also an attempt to sway the ethnically-conscious voters; ethnic Russians make up about 80 percent of the Russian Federation’s population.

Baburin started his career in Soviet times and is backed by the All-Russian People’s Union party. The party describes itself as nationalist conservative, and Baburin’s program is built around economic protectionism and strong social support, as well as constitutional reform seeking to shift from a presidential to a parliamentary republic.

Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin claims in his video that the Lenin State Farm agricultural enterprise he ran before pursuing his political career is “an island of socialism in modern Russia.” The video overlays beautiful views of residential buildings with claims of high salaries, free healthcare, interest-free credits and other benefits for workers. Grudinin himself appears in the video next to Vladimir Lenin’s monument and promises to rebuild the country using his company as a model. The video concludes with the slogan “Pavel Grudinin — the president that Russia is waiting for.”

Grudinin is not a member of the Communist Party that backs his candidacy, but he has previously stated that “it is not important what party certificate you hold, what is important is how you see yourself.

The head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, used his videos to emphasize the existing problems faced by the nation, such as poverty, inflation and the general “humilitation of the people.” The political veteran then makes a personal appearance, promising to freeze consumer prices for “important foodstuffs” and completely eliminate poverty, hunger and unemployment. In other videos Zhirinovsky says he would change the system of school exams, as well as both repairing the aging housing stock and building new homes. “Let’s make a powerful leap forward together” is the slogan for the Liberal Democrats.

While the Vladimir Putin campaign video running on the first day does not show his face or mention his name, it runs one of the incumbent’s speeches in the background while showing images of various noticeable buildings and structures erected in the country in recent years. These include the city stadium in Kazan or the major bridge connecting the city of Vladivostok with the island of Russky. The slogan reads “Strong president — strong Russia.” Another video does briefly show the incumbent, but quickly switches to images of monuments and beautiful landscapes with narrative saying that “a strong president” would ensure protection and support for all strata of the population, as well as generally successful development of the country. Previously, Putin has officially refused to participate in televised election debates.

Campaign videos promoting TV host and magazine editor Ksenia Sobchak put the emphasis on the candidate’s personal appearance at rallies and public events. Sobchak claims that “there is no such thing as state interests; there are only people’s interests” and then recites a list of “traditional values,” from abstract “freedom” to an “independent court system” that are supposed to help the nation reach peace and prosperity.

Sobchak is running as a Civil Initiative party candidate, but presents herself as a “none of the above” candidate. Her stated objective is to give voters who cannot choose from any of the current contenders the opportunity to express their feelings and political position.

Maksim Suraikin, who is running on the ticket of his own political party “Communists of Russia,” does so in his trademark style of mimicking Soviet-era propaganda bordering on satire. In the video Suraikin describes himself as a Stalinist and promotes his program of “10 Stalinist blows to capitalism,” with plans of major nationalization, restoration of the USSR and openly populist promises, like an increased minimum wage and a ban on raising the retirement age. The narrator also describes Suraikin as “Comrade Maksim… a president of the poor against the rich” while the main campaign slogan reads “against capitalism, for socialism and the power of the Soviets.”

Russian business ombudsman and head of the Party of Growth Boris Titov has probably the simplest video of all — text on a reddish background states existing problems like unemployment and poverty and claims that “the authorities think that they are doing everything right.” Then the video shows the slogan “And what about Titov?” that is also read out by the narrator.  No promises are made in the video.

The presidential program published on Titov’s web-site is based on the plan to send groups of effective managers to target destinations who would gradually reform the economy. The first such group would be an ‘Administration of Growth’ set up to develop a detailed program for economic reforms and later oversee its implementation.

A video promoting Grigory Yavlinsky of the liberal party Yabloko features an animated short wherein the candidate meets a stereotypical ordinary person who faces various problems — from registering copyright to attempts to combat corruption — and turns to the politician for possible ways of solving them. In a different video Yavlinsky silently sits in a chair in a dark room and holds up signs saying that those who are happy with the crisis can stay home on election day but those who want a better life should come out and vote.

Yavlinsky’s election program is built around the promise to grant every Russian citizen a free one-acre parcel of land on which to build a home. At the same time, in press interviews Yavlinsky has emphasized that his major objective is not to win the elections, but to influence the current Russian authorities by showing them that the support for liberal ideas in the society can be substantial.

Russian law mandates that all registered presidential candidates and the political parties that back them have to receive equal air time on federal TV and radio. Last week, head of the Central Elections Commission Ella Pamfilova said that in practice this could mean that party candidates have an advantage over the independent ones because they will be promoted both in their own ads and those of their parties.

The only candidate running as an independent is Vladimir Putin, and neither the incumbent nor his representatives have so far protested this situation. Baburin’s All-Russian People’s Union and Suraikin’s Communists of Russia parties chose not to apply for free air time. In addition, Vladimir Putin has refused to participate in “joint promotional events on federal TV channels” — the official name for election debates.

The current stage of campaigning will last until March 16, with March 17 being the official “day of silence” when all electioneering is forbidden. The vote is scheduled for March 18.

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Russia Lures International Arms Buyers With Half-Priced, More Effective Missile System

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery.

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Via Zerohedge


Russia has been pitching a rival missile platform that costs half of those made by US companies, reports CNBC, which has resulted in several countries dealing with the Kremlin “despite the potential for blowback.”

Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery, while a THAAD battery made by Lockheed Martin costs just about $3 billion, according to people with first-hand knowledge of a US intelligence assessment.

Nearly 13 countries have expressed interest in buying Russia’s S-400, a move that could trigger potential U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017. In September, the U.S. slapped sanctions on China  for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. However, the U.S. could grant sanction waivers. –CNBC

Turkey, meanwhile, may be hit with US sanctions over their decision to purchase the S-400 defense system, which the United States says poses a risk to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

Meanwhile, India called the United States’ bluff over sanctions in late Ocotber, standing its ground in its decision to buy the S-400.

One of the reasons Russian systems are generally considered less expensive than their American counterparts is because they don’t include pricey ongoing maintenance.

“When foreign militaries buy American, above and beyond the purchase, they are buying a partnership with the U.S. military,” Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC. “And that plus the maintenance and technical assistance is a big part of the cost difference.

The S-400 system made its debut in 2007, succeeding the S-200 and S-300 missile systems. According to CNBC, “the Russian-made S-400 is capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously,” vs. US-made systems.

In terms of capability, one source noted that while there is no perfect weapon, the S-400 eclipses even THAAD, America’s missile defense crown jewel.

When asked why nations seek to buy the S-400 instead of America’s Patriot or THAAD systems, one of the people with knowledge of the intelligence report explained that foreign militaries aren’t willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the U.S. government. –CNBC

“Many of these countries do not want to wait for U.S. regulatory hurdles,” said a CNBC source with first hand knowledge of the assessment. “The S-400 has less export restrictions and the Kremlin is willing to expedite sales by skipping over any regulatory hurdles.

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Britain’s Enemy Is Not Russia But It’s Own Ruling Class, UN Report Confirms

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

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Authored by John Wright. op-ed via RT.com:


As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity…

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country’s right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society– upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.

From the report’s introduction:

“It…seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Though as a citizen of the UK I respectfully beg to differ with the professor’s claim that such social and economic carnage seems “contrary to British values,” (on the contrary it is entirely in keeping with the values of the country’s Tory establishment, an establishment for whom the dehumanization of the poor and working class is central to its ideology), the point he makes about it being “obvious to anyone who opens their eyes,” is well made.

For it is now the case that in every town and city centre in Britain, it is impossible to walk in any direction for more than a minute before coming across homeless people begging in the street. And the fact that some 13,000 of them are former soldiers, casualties of the country’s various military adventures in recent years, undertaken in service to Washington, exposes the pious platitudes peddled by politicians and the government as reverence for the troops and their ‘sacrifice,’ as insincere garbage.

Overall, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure which translates into an entire fifth of the population. Four million of them are children, while, according to Professor Alston, 1.5 million people are destitute – that is, unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

And this is what the ruling class of the fifth largest economy in the world, a country that parades itself on the world stage as a pillar of democracy and human rights, considers progress.

The values responsible for creating such a grim social landscape are compatible with the 18th not 21st century. They are proof positive that the network of elite private schools – Eton, Harrow, Fettes College et al. – where those responsible for this human carnage are inculcated with the sense of entitlement and born to rule ethos that defines them, are Britain’s hotbeds of extremism.

Professor Alston:

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Here, set out above in bold relief, is the barbarism that walks hand in hand with free market capitalism. It is the same barbarism that was responsible for pushing post-Soviet Russia into a decade-long economic and social abyss in the 1990s, and the values that have pushed 14 million people in the UK into the same economic and social abyss in our time.

Austerity, it bears emphasizing, is not and never has been a viable economic response to recession in a given economy.

Instead, it is an ideological club, wielded on behalf of the rich and big business to ensure that the price paid for said economic recession is borne exclusively by those least able to bear it – namely, the poor and working people. It is class war by any other name, packaged and presented as legitimate government policy.

However, in Britain’s case in 2018, this is a war like no other because, as Professor Philip Alston’s report lays bare, only one side in this war has been throwing all the punches and only one side has been taking them.

With Christmas season upon us, the scale of human suffering across the UK ensures that the elaborate ad campaigns inviting us to shop and indulge to our heart’s content – ads depicting the middle class dream of affluence and material comfort – take on the character of a provocation. In fact, they call to mind the truism that wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is, while revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

 

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‘Iron’ Mike Pence Stares-Down Putin In APEC Showdown

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton were seen shaking hands and chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

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Via Zerohedge


Forget the All-Blacks ‘Haka’, ignore Foreman-Frasier, Drago-Balboa, and Ortiz-Liddell, the honor of the greatest (or perhaps most awkward) staredown in history now goes to US Vice President Mike Pence…

Having been blamed for everything from Trump’s election victory to USA soccer team’s loss to England last week, Russia faced accusations all weekend and was reportedly confronted by the US contingent over “meddling.”

As The Sun reports, Pence and Putin “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit,” according to the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah.

An NBC reporter tweeted: “New per the @VP’s Office—> The VP’s office says Vice President Pence directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election in a conversation with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Singapore.

“The conversation took place following the plenary session this afternoon at ASEAN.”

But, it was the following clash of the titans that caught most people’s attention.

As the Russian president joined the that Pence shook Putin’s ‘deadly’ hand, met his ‘steely KGB-trained’ gaze, and desperately tried not to smile or blink for 20 seconds as Putin appeared to chat amicably with the US VP…

While Putin has (if his accusers are to be believed) grappled his opponents to death with his bare hands (remember he is a sinister KGB agent and jiu-jitsu expert); we suspect the only thing VP Pence has gripped tightly in his hands is his bible.

Sadly, John Bolton then blew the tough guy act (or is he Mike Pence’s ‘good cop’) as he does his best impression of a teenage girl meeting their popstar idol for the first time…

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