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Russia’s digital ‘Velveeta moment’

No Spam, Just Facts.

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A digital Slavic sigh of relief carried across both the Atlantic and Pacific. Those Russkies who were suffering as their sanctioned dreams were dashed while waiting for their “Velveeta moment”, or a Skippy slathered Spam sandwich, can now rest easy.

Even the redoubtable Hellman’s has seen its market share wither against a bevy of locally produced mayo’s. The fact is that many such items have already been replaced by Russian equivalents with a difference; they are all natural, with no additives or genetically modified anything. As I said, the food production boom in Russia is well known and is now yesterday’s news.

Moving on, the other day I was speaking “IT & stuff” with some geeky nerds on an island in the Moscow River where the old Red October candy factory used to churn out everything for the sweet tooth. It is now gentrified with condominium and co-op lofts in the old factory complex, very similar to what took place in Manhattan’s SoHo and is an e-everything community. Getting back to the geeks who were quaffing their Latte’s and Mojito’s with lip smacking digitized abandon, they were playing word scenarios starting with “What IF?”

The juiciest and longest word play was – What if Washington and its EU minions decide to somehow cleverly firewall or otherwise inhibit Russia’s access to the major software, programming and service providers? What if VPN’s are blocked and everyone has to store data in country or shut down? The speculation was both ridiculed and taken seriously at the same time. Once they got to talking it through, it looked like they suddenly woke up singing and crying all at once.

Unlikely as such a situation might be, strange things are becoming the new normal in these mentally challenged times. The kind-of conclusion these digital dreamers came to was – not to worry, we have most if not all these services localized and covered. I asked for a rundown of what replaces what, and the following was the feedback naming 100% Russia based providers and services (I mention costs in US$ for the readers visualization, but all billing is in Rubles):

Cloud storage – replacing Google Drive.

  • “Yandex.Disk ” provides a cloud storage for everyday files, photos and videos. Free use for up to 10 GB of information, and can expand the volume to 1 TB. The maximum file size is 10 GB. Two-stage authentication is also provided. The cost for maximum space is about $8 per month.
  • [email protected]”. You can store pictures, audio files, presentations, working documents and other data. The system guarantees the safety of stored data. The maximum storage capacity is 4000 GB, of which 25 GB is free of charge. Files of up to 32 GB can be uploaded in the cloud.

Replacing Google Docs and MS Office.

“OnlyOffice” is an open source office suite that includes document, project management, customer relationship management and e-mail management systems. The set consists of an online document editor, project management system, CRM, corporate social network, calendar and mail server.

“MyOffice” offers a set of office solutions for working with documents, text, tables, presentations and other information. Using this platform, you can work together on files, restrict user rights, and provide enhanced data protection.

Post services replacing MailChimp.

  • “UniSender” organizes mass email and SMS mailings. According to the project planners, it is possible to create a newsletter from scratch in 15 minutes. The service provides more than 100 templates, detailed statistics, allows you to configure automatic dispatch and segment an audience. Use is free provided not more than 1500 emails and 100 recipients. The charges thereafter are $0.005 per letter or $10 per month. For SMS – $0.03 per message.
  • “Sendsay” – a platform for sending emails and SMS. With the help of the system, you can create complex conversation chains, trigger mailings and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • “Yandex.Mail” The domain allows you to connect the needed number of mailboxes free, and set a company logo in the web interface of the system. Even inside the platform, you can keep a calendar, a schedule of meetings and a to-do list.
  • “Mail.Ru for business” – a set of services for start-ups and large companies. For example, a cloud for data and workgroups, mail for the domain, and store information about employees. In this system, there are also tools for site analytics, newsletters, SEO analysis, and computer vision technologies. All users of the platform get access to a loyalty club for business and discounts from partners. The cost depends on the set of tools chosen.

Analytics to replace SimilarWeb.

  • “Pr-Cy” – helps to optimize sites, checks the download speed and finds errors. With the help of this service, you can find out what details to pay attention to and what needs to be corrected for effective website promotion.
  • “Roistat” collects data from the CRM system, advertising sites and the site itself. From this information, the service generates reports on key business indicators. With the help of this service, you can evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, funnel sales and other data. The cost is from $90 per month.
  • “Yandex.Metrika” helps to evaluate site traffic for free and analyze user behavior. With the help of this system, you can estimate the number and composition of visitors, transitions from competitors’ sites, popular pages, and time spent on site plus other indicators.
  • “AmoCRM” helps analyze sales. The system automatically takes into account email requests, phone, website and instant messengers. This service can integrate correspondence with customers and calls. Built-in messenger helps to communicate commands within the system.

CRM-systems, keeping customer activity records.

  • “Univle” – CRM-system for Instagram. This service helps receive and respond to all requests in Direct. With it, you can connect new managers, keep customer cards and track the sales funnel.
  • “Bitrix24” combines a task management system, projects, documents, social network, chat, video calls, document storage, calendar, mail and customer relationship management. With the help of this service, you can manage the customer base and mark all interaction points: calls, letters, and appointments. You can use it free or a commercially upgraded version at about $17 per month.
  • “Simple Business” helps to maintain a client base, store information about each customer, record and process calls. In addition, with the help of the platform, you can manage projects and personnel, conduct workflow, bookkeeping and manage the site. The cost is from $33 per month.
  • “LiveTex” provides digital channels for customer service: feedback widgets, instant messengers, social networks, email. With the help of the system, one can process calls in one interface or integrate into CRM-systems and chat-bots.

Accounting

“1C” is a set of software products for accounting, management and other types of reporting for small and medium sized businesses. The system is popular and used in construction, trade, education, medicine and other areas.

Project management and tools replacing Asana, Trello, Jira and others.

  • “Yandex.Tracker” helps to manage projects and organize work, allocate resources and monitor task fulfillment. Using this platform, you can track all the company’s processes and make them transparent for each participant. The cost is from $1.50 per person per month.
  • “Kaiten” helps manage complex processes on one board. For example, it suggests using a space on which several boards are in place. Within the project concept lies the use of both kanban and sram methodologies. All processes happening in the company can therefore be visualized. The cost is from $7 per person per month.
  • “Planiro” organizes collaboration work in the cloud: messages, discussions, archives, accounting of tasks and time, calendar, timing and budget planning, notifications, reports and tools for several management methods. The service helps monitor priority tasks, evaluate project progress and analyze costs. The cost is from $4 per person per month.
  • “Idea RealtimeBoard” – created a teamwork platform with cross-functional commands. This service helps to communicate with the team in one language, regardless of formats, work tools, geography or time zones. Each project participant can input new tasks or discuss existing ones for this endless board. The cost is from $40 per team per month.
  • “CrocoTime” automatically tracks working time at a computer and creates a digital photo of the working day; it helps keep records of meetings and calls. It analyzes the company’s business processes and helps to find and correct inefficient ones. From $5 a month per employee.
  • “Megaplan” is suited to organize work for a small or medium sized company. Helps to track business processes and manage employees. Among the features – billing, transaction control, task manager, file server, internal mail, transaction control and a module for working with personnel.
  • “PlanFix” helps organize joint work. In this system, you can set up an interface, and share user rights. The service can be used as a CRM-system, technical support, and with its help, you can assign and monitor tasks, conduct project activities, account for resources and plan finances.

Messengers and video communication to replace Slack.

  • “Dialog” offers a corporate messenger, which can be installed on the company’s internal server. Service meets the requirements of a single register of Russian programs and approved by state authorities. With the application, you can make audio and video calls, arrange video conferences and display a screen, share files, create personal and group chats. Among the possibilities of this service are audio messages, chat-bots, and channels. Using the service is free of charge; however, the paid company version is individually negotiated with each commercial user.
  • “TrueConf” – A service for organizing video communication on a local server or via the Internet. Communication is provided by UltraHD- quality and secure channels. You can deploy the system in a company of any size.

Tools for working with social networks, replacing HubSpot and HootSuite.

  • “Amplifer” automatically publishes records in social networks, collects statistics on them and counts clicks. Based on the statistics, the service prompts the time, in which it is better to publish the records. There is a weekly and monthly reporting format. This service is about $5 per page monthly.
  • “Babkee” tracks mentions in social networks and the media. This service helps to track user needs and conduct competitor analysis. With its help, you can also evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Use is free of charge.
  • “SMMplanner” helps manage publications on social networks and create pending records. With the help of the service, you can create auto-deletion records, publish “Stories” and customize UTM-labels. The cost is from $7 per month, depending on the number of connected pages.
  • “Brand Analytics” is a system for analyzing social networks and the media. The service tracks the company’s references, determines the tone of messages, highlights important topics and finds trends.

Design and layout

  • “Readymag” helps transform design into code. Using this platform, you can create presentations, prepare stories and make logs. Interactive web projects can be created without developer participation. The service includes an editor, a preview and a platform for publication of the project. The cost is from $16 per month.
  • “Tilda Publishing” – A site builder. You can work free, but not more than one site and a limited set of templates. The price for the full shebang is from $8.50 per month, depending on the number of sites you are doing.

Notes – replacing Evernote and Google Keep.

  • “Nimbus Note” – with the help of this service you can save information from sites, write notes and important thoughts. The application has shared access for folders and notes. Storage of information is organized in a multi-level structure. The service positions itself as an alternative to Evernote. Use is free with a limit on the size of notes and attached files. The commercial fee is about $2 per month.

Since 2014 Russia has invested over 600 billion rubles ($10 billion) in accelerating import substitution, of which 120 billion rubles ($2 billion) were government funds, the rest private investments. This has helped start-up just over 1,200 import substitution projects, from peanut butter and cheeses to the digital realm. The focus however is not so much short term local substitution, but to refine and develop cost and quality effective export products and services for jobs creation, tax revenues and to diversify Russia’s long term economic matrix.

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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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