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Ukraine bans best-selling book ‘Stalingrad’ by renowned British historian

Antony Beevor is ‘astonished’ at why Ukraine would ban his history book on the pivotal battle of World War Two

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British Historian Antony Beevor is “astonished” at why Ukraine would ban his best selling history book “Stalingrad”.

You would think as a historian he would be aware book burnings, and other bans on access to information is a common tactic of totalitarian regimes throughout history.

Ukraine may not be fully totalitarian in the scope of government control – mainly due to lack of organization, not motivation, but there are certainly fascist elements in power in Kiev.

Ukraine has already banned popular legends, stories, and cartoons about Saint Ilya Muromets, an ancient warrior buried in Kiev.

This would be the equivalent of Greece banning Disney’s Hercules, on the account of it being “anti-Hellenic.”

Below is the full report from Radio Liberty. While Radio Liberty is definitely not pro-Russian, it speaks to how exposed the fascism and corruption are in Ukraine, that even US-funded anti-Russian media is reporting on it.

This along with the historian’s apparent honest surprise only goes to show that the mainstream is only just catching on to what Russian media has been trying to warn about Ukraine since 2014.

British historian and best-selling author Antony Beevor says he is dumbfounded at a decision by Ukrainian authorities to ban the import of a Russian translation of his award-winning account of a major tipping point in World War II and that he expects an apology.

“I must say, this sounds absolutely astonishing,” he told RFE/RL on January 17 in response to Ukraine’s refusal to allow the import of 30,000 copies of his book Stalingrad. “There’s certainly nothing inherently anti-Ukrainian in the book at all.”

The State Committee for State TV and Radio Broadcasting announced the ban on a Russian translation of Stalingrad along with 24 other books, mostly by Russian authors, including crime novelist Boris Akunin, historian Boris Sokolov, and ultraconservative Russian Orthodox priest Vsevolod Chaplin.

Kyiv has imposed media and other bans to counter a perceived information campaign by Moscow as fighting between Russia-backed separatists and pro-government forces in eastern Ukraine nears the four-year mark in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people.

Beevor’s book is a deep dive into one of the most brutal battles in history, the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Red Army and Soviet citizens fought off advancing Nazi troops to maintain Soviet control over the symbolically and strategically important southern Russian city now renamed Volgograd.

The head of the State Committee for State TV and Radio Broadcasting’s licensing and distribution-control department, Serhiy Oliyinyk, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that “several paragraphs did not allow us to give permission for [the import of] this book” and accused Beevor of falling for a “provocation” that was never confirmed by war crimes prosecutors after the conflict.

He cited a passage that purportedly said “Ukrainian nationalists were tasked with shooting the children” in order to “spare the feelings of SS Sonderkommando,” a reference to forced work units made up of death-camp prisoners.

“We are not aware of such facts being revised at the Nuremberg tribunal. It’s a provocation,” Oliyinyk said. “When we checked the sources he used, we found out he used reports of The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. It was enough to discuss the issue at expert council and we are happy they supported us.”

In an e-mail to RFE/RL, Beevor said that Oliyinyk’s statement is untrue and that the source for the report was a highly respected anti-Nazi officer, Colonel Helmuth Groscurth, who was a witness to the atrocity and who reported it to another German officer. He said those details were recounted in a book written by Groscurth and published in 1970.

“He wrote to his wife at the time, so shocked was he by what he had witnessed, ‘We cannot and should not be allowed to win this war’,” Beevor said in his e-mail. “I expect an immediate apology from Oliyinyk and a reversal of the decision by the ‘expert council.'”

Stalingrad’s 1998 publication closely followed new access for Western scholars to Soviet archives after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The book incorporated “primary sources never used before,” according to its U.K. publisher, “including reports on desertions and executions from the archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense, captured German documents, interrogation of prisoners, private diaries and letters from soldiers on both sides, medical reports, and interviews with key witnesses and participants.”

Stalingrad has won prestigious awards including the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson History Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize.

Kharkiv-based rights group Human Rights In Ukraine has described the ban on “renowned English historian and others” as “baffling.”

Beevor recalled to RFE/RL one passage in the book when “I think a German officer, when being interrogated, remarked about how unreliable their Romanian allies were and, as far as I remember, some sort of Russian officer said something about, ‘Oh well, that’s probably like our Ukrainians,’ implying that they did not fight as well as the Russians. But this was just a quote from the period, and I cannot imagine any government organization taking that seriously or as a reason to ban a book.”

Critics have warned that Ukrainian officials’ book bans, frequently in connection with charges that works promote separatism or hatred, are a “slippery slope.” Russian-made films, television series, and other cultural projects have also been banned.

Beevor said he was broadsided by confirmation of the ban, which he initially dismissed as possible disinformation in the context of Ukrainian-Russian relations.

“It first of all seems to have been reported, if that’s the right word, on [Russian state information agency] Sputnik or whatever, which has some rather, shall we say, dubious elements which might often be fake news,” Beevor told RFE/RL, “and I assumed it was fake news coming from the Russian side.”

He also expressed doubt as to whether errors or misrepresentations might have been introduced in the Russian version targeted in the Ukrainian import ban, citing the thorough approach of publisher Azbooka-Atticus, a joint venture between French Hachette and Aleksandr Mamut’s A&NN Group.

After discarding a flawed translation by another publisher, Beevor said, Azbooka-Atticus “thought that really a proper translation should be done, and they translated it again from the start.”

“I’d be very surprised if anything had been slipped in there on the Russian side or anything had been distorted, because they are extremely responsible publishers.”

In a 2012 interview, Beevor told RFE/RL that he thought books like his contributed to a greater understanding of the Eastern Front in World War II, particularly among Westerners accustomed to focusing on the Western Front.

Word of a ban on Beevor’s book by officials in the Russian region of Sverdlovsk emerged in 2015.

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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EU and Japan ink free trade deal representing over 30% of global GDP

The free trade agreement represents a victory for free trade in the face of growing protectionism

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In a bid to preserve free trade and strengthen their trade partnership, the European Union and Japan have finished a free trade zone agreement that has been sitting in the pipeline for years.

The present global economic outlook provided the needed spur to action to get the ball rolling again and now it has finally reached the end zone and scored another point for free and open trade against the growing influence of protectionism, which has been creeping up with alarming rapidity and far reaching consequences in recent months.

Under the deal, Japan will scrap tariffs on some 94% of goods imported from Europe and the EU in turn is canning 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods.

Between the European Union and Japan, the trade deal impacts about 37% of the world’s GDP, making it one of the largest and impactful of such agreements.

The Japan Times reports:

Top European Union leaders and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement Tuesday in Tokyo, a pact that will create a massive free trade zone accounting for 37 percent of the world’s trade by value.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hastily arranged their visit to Tokyo after Abe was forced to abruptly cancel plans to attend a July 11 signing ceremony in Brussels in the aftermath of flooding and mudslides in western Japan.

Japanese officials said the signing is particularly important to counter intensifying protectionism worldwide triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations on the pact between Japan and the EU, which started in 2013, had stagnated for a time but regained momentum after Trump took office in January 2017.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Abe after they signed the agreement.

“The relationship between the EU and Japan has never been stronger. Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could be hardly any closer,” Tusk said. “I’m proud today we are taking our strategic partnership to a new level.”

Tusk stressed that the EU and Japan are partners sharing the same basic values, such as liberal democracy, human rights and rule-based order.

Abe also emphasized the importance of free and fair trade.

“Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world. We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules,” he said.

The pact will create a free trade bloc accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Japan and the EU hope to have the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both parties, come into force by March.

Under the EPA, tariffs on about 99 percent of Japan’s exported goods to the EU will eventually be eliminated, while duties on 94 percent of EU’s exported items to Japan will be abolished, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The EPA will eliminate duties of 10 percent on Japan’s auto exports to the EU seven years after the pact takes effect. The current 15 percent duties on wine imports from the EU will be eliminated immediately, while those on cheese, pork and beef will be sharply cut.

In total, the EPA will push up domestic GDP by 1 percent, or ¥5 trillion a year, and create 290,000 new jobs nationwide, according to the government.

“The world is now facing raging waves of protectionism. So the signing ceremony at this time is particularly meaningful,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month on condition of anonymity.

“The impact for Japan is big,” the official said.

Fukunari Kimura, an economics professor at Keio University, said the EU is now trying to accelerate the ratification process.

“This is a repercussion of President Trump’s policies. They will try to ratify it before Brexit in March of next year,” he said in an interview with The Japan Times last week.

But the deal has raised concerns among some domestic farmers, in particular those from Hokkaido, the country’s major dairy producer.

According to an estimate by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the EPA will cut national production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry industries by up to ¥114.3 billion a year, with Hokkaido accounting for 34 percent of the predicted losses.

“The sustainable development of the prefecture’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is our top priority. We need to make efforts to raise our international competitiveness,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said during a news conference July 10.

Japan and the EU had reached a basic agreement on the EPA in December.

Tokyo also led negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in January 2017.

In March, 11 countries including Japan signed the so-called TPP11, or a revised TPP pact that does not include the U.S.

“The Japan-EU EPA is another important step for Japan to strengthen its trade relationship with key trading partners, and demonstrate that trade liberalization is alive and well, even if the United States is taking a different stance,” wrote Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, in an email sent to The Japan Times last week.

“The EU deal also reduces Japanese dependence on the U.S. market and thus increases its leverage to resist unreasonable trade demands by the United States,” she wrote.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the EU, which accounts for 22 percent of the world’s GDP, was the destination for 11.4 percent of Japanese exports in 2016. In the same year, the figure for the U.S. was 20.2 percent and 17.7 percent for China.

In 2016, Japan’s exports to the EU totaled ¥8 trillion, while reciprocal trade was ¥8.2 trillion.

The deal provides tariff relief for both parties and can improve the quantity of trade between them, expand the economy and create many jobs. It also helps to further diversify their trade portfolios in order to mitigate the prospect of a single global trade partner wielding too much influence, which in turn provides a certain amount of cover from any adverse actions or demands from a single actor. In this way, current trade dependencies can be reduced and free and diversified trade is further bolstered.

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Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

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Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billion in US Government debt obligations.

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The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.

As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.

So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.

During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.

For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.

The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).

Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?

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