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Who produces fake news? Russia, America, or both?

Comparing facts on the ground with the track record of the media in both countries, provides us an answer

Eric Zuesse

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(Washington’s Blog) – The biggest difference between American and Russian news-reporting has been a simple factual issue between the two sides, on what incident started the ‘New Cold War’ between the U.S. and Russia. (The original Cold War was between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and had an ideological, capitalist-versus-communist, alleged basis, but this one doesn’t — so, it’s not really a ‘New Cold War’; it is quite different, but it might be even more deadly.)

The U.S. and its allies say that what started it was in March 2014 when “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and “the invasion of Crimea” and Russia’s “conquest of land” by means of that “invasion,” sparked America’s sanctions against Russia and NATO’s military buildup along Russia’s borders; but Russia says that what started it was in February 2014 when Ukraine was victimized, as Russian Television reported it, on 13 March 2014, by:

an armed coup. The Maidan do not appoint these people; rather, it’s the US that does it. It’s enough to look at the newly appointed officials: Parubiy, Gvozd, Nalyvaichenko are all people who followed somebody else’s orders, the orders of the US, not even Europe. They are directly linked to the American intelligence.

In the American account, Ukrainian democracy started when the democratically elected President of Ukraine was overthrown in February 2014; in the Russian account, Ukrainian democracy ended when the democratically elected President of Ukraine was overthrown in February 2014, and only after (and in response to) that, did two regions (Crimea and Donbass, both of which had voted more than 75% for that man) break away from, and refuse to be governed by, the newly installed Ukrainian Government, which was now being imposed upon them.

For nearly three years now, there has been this ‘debate’; but, there has actually been no debate at all, because the media on the two sides, have different alleged ‘historical’ accounts of what the cause of the ‘New Cold War’ is. The people on the two sides disagree about history (was it a coup that had occurred in Ukraine in February 2014, or was it instead a revolution?), and not only about the news. Fake ‘news’ isn’t the only issue here; fake ‘history’ also is.

This is an exceedingly dangerous situation to exist between the two nuclear superpowers, because it goes deeper than mere semantics (‘coup’ or else ‘revolution’) to the real evidence, to reality. One side or the other is — or else both sides are — simply ignoring crucial evidence, in this case. This could produce nuclear Armageddon. There are two mutually contradictory accounts of the history, which have been continuing unchanged for nearly three years already, and the only way that the problem is being dealt with is by there continuing to be no public adjudication of the issue on the basis of the wealth of incontrovertible evidence that exists (including crucial leaked phone-conversations such as this and this) regarding this incredibly important matter.

Was the precipitating event Obama’s ‘coup’ in February 2014, or was it instead Putin’s ‘invasion’ in March 2014? Western media don’t, at all, use the term “coup” to refer to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, but Russian media do.

On Saturday, October 28th, the RT (Russian Television) website used the word “coup” to refer to the overthrow and replacement that occurred in February 2014 of Ukraine’s Government. In the U.S. and its allied countries, that replacement of the Ukrainian Government is instead called a “democratic revolution” or “2014 Ukrainian revolution” or “Uprising in Ukraine”, referring to it as a supposedly not-CIA-organized operation (though the Obama Administration had actually started planning it in 2011). The U.S.-backed article “Uprising in Ukraine” described this Governmental overthrow as follows (which provides a good summary of the official U.S.-and-allied ‘news’media’s account of what had happened):

Three acts unfolded on the Maidan. First came the citizen protests. Then, the brutal government crackdown. And finally, after the first guy was killed on Hrushevsky Street, what I call “the Maidan of dignity.” At that point, it had become obvious that the people would never accept Yanukovych again. It was the beginning of his end, and the start of this journey toward Russia that is still playing out.

Once, Ukraine looked at its leaders like Olympic Gods; they know what to do, and how to do it, and we’ll just follow them. But over these last three months, the people have seen that’s not true. Politicians are no better than the rest of us. People want to participate in politics now. They demand equality, the right to assembly, and a fair court system. And they see their leaders for what they are—really old. If you asked Yanukovych or some others about Facebook, they wouldn’t understand what it can do.

I understand that the moment I posted on Facebook, I was no longer acting as a journalist; I was an activist. As a journalist, one must remain independent. On the other hand, as a citizen, I had to act. It is difficult to do nothing as your future is being destroyed right before your eyes. As the crackdown began, I realized I could no longer stand by as an unbiased observer while the government was killing people. It has been a long time coming.

The press gained freedoms under Yanukovych. But it wasn’t until 2013 that a group of us left our jobs at companies owned by oligarchs or political partisans and began to create a truly independent media. In the first months of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych we formed Stop Censorship! to protest persecution of the press.

Three years later, we founded the first Internet TV channel in the country that operates through donations from our viewers — Hromadske.tv, where I work now as editor in chief. The media showed everything that was happening—helping people to believe that if we all act together, we can accomplish great things.

But the Russian media are different. They are trying to create a parallel reality. They are under Putin’s control, and he is trying to convince Russians that evil has overtaken Kyiv. The Russian people don’t have access to a free Internet, like we do. …

Wikipedia says of that writer:

Using Facebook, Nayem was one of the first activists to urge Ukrainians to gather on Independence Square in Kiev to protest Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to “pause” preparations for signing an association agreement with the European Union.[9] His summons to rally on Facebook on November 21, 2013 were the start of the Euromaidan protests which led to the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.[10]

His main financial backer was actually an American “oligarch” or aristocrat, the lifelong hater of Russians, George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation and other rabidly anti-Russian ‘non-profits’ and ‘charities’, such as the International Renaissance Foundation, had pushed that writer forward to become ultimately a member of Ukraine’s post-coup parliament or “Rada.” But in that article by him, which was published at Soros’s Open Society Foundation site on 4 April 2014, he was identified at that time as: “Mustafa Nayem is a Ukrainian journalist and co-founder of the online channel Hromadske.TV.” In other words: Nayem was very successful as a Soros employee, not only before the “uprising” but after.

Where Nayem had used in his article the phrases “the brutal government crackdown” and “the Maidan of dignity,” I thought of the event that occurred on 25 January 2014, and that was captured so well in a video uploaded that day to the Web by Russian Television, “Ukrainian rioters brutally assaulting police”, in which the terrified police, who are being beaten and worse by America’s hired masked paramilitaries, try to ward off the clubs and brickbats by means of their shields. The assault’s PR agents labelled such realites as “the Maidan of dignity,” and Soros’s Nayem parroted the phrase, for whatever trusting fools (people who don’t ‘need’ evidence) might happen to be reading Soros’s site — which is just about everyone who reads there. Those PR agents had actually been inside the Vatican (institutionally hostile toward Russia); and, in fact, on that very day (January 25th), Vatican Radio had headlined “Ukraine movement a ‘Maidan of dignity’, says bishop”, and Orthodox Churches, including the Russian one, were infuriated. But, anyway: this was the reality behind “the Maidan of dignity.”

Here was a superb article by the tech journalist Carola Frediani on 28 February 2014, the last day of the coup, in which she had explained “How Ukraine’s EuroMaidan Revolution Played Out Online” (because calling it a “coup” that early was too shocking even for her; she apparently still trusted the Western ‘news’media), and reported:

Protestors began to mobilize on Nov. 21, 2013, after the Ukrainian government suspend preparations for the EU-Ukraine Association agreement. They gathered in Independence Square (Maidan) in Kiev and used the hashtags #euromaidan and #евромайдан on Twitter and Facebook. The Facebook posts of Hromadske TV journalist Mustafa Nayem, encouraging Ukranians to gather at Maidan, received more than 1,000 shares in a few hours. At the same time, a number of independent video streams were set up, on platforms like UStream, live broadcasting what was happening on the streets.

The demonstrations swelled on November 24 when ultimately 250,000 people took to Kiev’s streets, demanding reforms as well as Ukraine’s European integration. The first social media pages also started to gain traction: the Euromaidan Facebook page gained 70,000 followers in less than a week. As noted by two NYU researchers in the Washington Post, Facebook was being used much more actively than Twitter, acting as a news hub, as well as coordinating protests by noting the location of demonstrations, providing logistical and support information, distributing flyers for printing and dissemination, giving tips on how to behave and react to police, and uploading videos of police brutality.

A recent independent research study conducted by Kyrylo Galushko and Natalia Zorba from the National Pedagogical University ‘M.P. Drahomanov’ in Kiev confirmed the predominance of Facebook in organizing the protests. According to a poll of 50 Ukrainian social media experts and Internet opinion leaders, conducted between December 2013 and January 2014, Facebook played the largest role in mobilization. Twitter came in second place, followed by the Russian social networking site, Vkontakte, which is the second most popular social networking site in Europe. “Social networking services were the leading communication feature of protesters, instrument of mobilization for taking part in different actions and establishing other forms of social support,” explains Galushko. …

Even she didn’t recognize, at the time, that she was covering a coup. But, on 12 March 2014, was uploaded to the Web this stunningly brilliant 12-minute video showing that it was actually a coup and a very bloody one; and, then, six days later, that video was used as the opening 12 minutes of a 62-minute video which added yet more videos of what had been happening behind-the-scenes there. And, then, on 27 January 2015, a deeper layer of the behind-the-scenes operation was revealed, and I picked up on it and tied it in with the other extremely reliable evidence that was by now available on the Web about the overthrow, and all of it fit into the same picture: that of its having been a U.S. coup. On 8 February 2015, I posted “New Video Evidence of America’s Coup in Ukraine — and What It Means” and linked to this video which had been taken inside the Ukrainian Rada on 20 November 2013, immediately before the “Maidan ‘Revolution’,” in which video a Rada member, Oleg Tsarev, delivered an address to the other members, providing there a detailed description of what had been happening for months already, inside the U.S. Embassy, “tech camps” training far-right paramilitary Ukrainians how to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter in order to raise a mass of ‘democracy’ demonstrators, behind which those paramilitaries would then be able to take over the Ukrainian Government by their guns, and become the country’s new rulers. Tsarev said:

In my role as a representative of the Ukrainian people, activists from the Volya Public Organization turned to me, providing clear evidence that within our country, with support and direct participation of the US Embassy in Kiev, a “TechCamp” project is under way in which preparations are being made for a civil war in Ukraine. The “TechCamp” project prepares specialists for information warfare and for the discrediting of state institutions [the Government] using modern media — potential revolutionaries for organizing protests and the toppling of the Government. This project is overseen by and currently under the responsibility of the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt. After the conversation with the Volya Organization, I learned that they actually succeeded to access facilities in the “TechCamp” project [they had hacked into it] disguised as a team of IT specialists. To their surprise, were found briefings that were held on peculiarities of modern media. American instructors explained there how social networks and Internet technologies can be used for targeted manipulation of public opinion as well as to activate potential protest to provoke violent unrest on the territory of Ukraine — radicalization of the population, and triggering of infighting. American instructors show examples of successful use of social networks to organize protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. “Tech Camp” representatives currently hold conferences throughout Ukraine. A total of five events have been held so far. About 300 people have been trained as operatives, who are now active throughout Ukraine. The last conference took place on 14 and 14 November 2013, in the heart of Kiev, inside the US Embassy!

That article also described Tsarev’s background, and his past and subsequent enormous courage, risking his life and losing his fortune, to protect Ukraine’s democracy — and, then, failing that, to help Donbass to protect itself from the new Ukraine’s ethnic-cleansing operation. I furthermore noted there:

The U.S. Embassy in Kiev had even posted in Spring of 2013 an announcement of its “Tech Camps.” Here is an announcement from the Embassy in Ukraine, on 1 March 2013, titled, “U.S. Embassy Hosted TechCamp Kyiv 2.0 to Build Technological Capacity of Civil Society.” (That Ambassador is now our Ambassador to Russia.)

This new evidence from Tsarev, piled on top of all the other evidence that already proved the assertion by the founder of the “private CIA” firm Stratfor, that the overthrow of Yanukovych was “the most blatant coup in history,” simply cements the reality, that all of the sanctions against Russia, and all of the “me too” statements supporting Obama’s coup and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, by David Cameron, Stephen Harper, and Obama’s other co-nazis, are abominations, which should be loudly condemned by all decent persons in all countries. The aggressor here is Obama, not Putin; and NATO must end, now: all decent nations should quit it ASAP. (War crimes trials against Obama and his agents should follow. After all: these people are bringing the world closer to a nuclear war than has been the case since 1962, and there is no decent reason for it.)

Subsequently, on 17 September 2016, I traced the origin of the February 2014 coup back farther, to a meeting that had occurred on 23 June 2011 between Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and the Hillary Clinton U.S. State Department’s Jared Cohen (now hired by Google), in which Schmidt and Cohen drilled Assange for tips on how to use social media to foment a revolution, and Assange didn’t figure out till later, that they were planning both the Arab Spring operations and the takeover of Ukraine. On 23 October 2014 Assange headlined “Google Is Not What It Seems”, and called Cohen “Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” Assange also explained his disillusionment: “I began [prior to meeting Schmidt] to think of Schmidt as a brilliant but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire who had been exploited by the very U.S. foreign-policy types he had collected to act as translators between himself and official Washington — a West Coast–East Coast illustration of the principal-agent dilemma. I was wrong.”

The great investigative historian Nafeez Ahmed took that insight even farther, in his stunning 22 January 2015 “How the CIA made Google”, which tells, in remarkable detail, the origin of the military-industrial complex’s takeover of the then-emerging digital economy — the internet, Google, the ‘news’media, and, more broadly, of Americans’ emerging fascism-accepting political attitudes and beliefs — the manipulation of the public mind (mass mind-control), starting with the mathematician William Perry’s service as U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. Whereas the anodyne CIA-editedWikipedia article on Perry presents him by deceptive phrases such as “Perry did everything he could to improve relations with Moscow,” and ignores the deeper reality to the exact contrary (which followed through on President G.H.W. Bush’s lie issued on 24 February 1990), Ahmed recognizes this deeper reality (which I documented at the present link). Perry was doing everything he could — and not just in the former Yugoslavia — to expand America’s empire right up to Russia’s borders.

On 3 January 2015, I submitted to all U.S. newsmedia, for them to consider for possible publication, a news-report that opened:

Czech President Says ‘Only Poorly Informed People’ Don’t Know About Ukraine Coup

Eric Zuesse

The Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman said, in an interview, in the January 3rd edition of Prague’s daily newspaper Pravo, that Czechs who think of the overthrow of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, on 22 February 2014, as having been like Czechoslovakia’s authentically democratic “Velvet Revolution” are seeing it in a profoundly false light, because, (as Russian Television translated his statement into English) “Maidan was not a democratic revolution.” He said that this is the reason why Ukraine now is in a condition of “civil war,” in which the residents of the Donbass region in Ukraine’s southeast have broken away from the Ukrainian Government.

He furthermore said that, “Judging by some of the statements of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, I think that he is rather a prime minister of war because he does not want a peaceful solution, as recommended by the European Union (EU), but instead prefers to use force.”

He added, by way of contrast to Yatsenyuk, the possibility that Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko “might be a man of peace.” So: though Zeman held out no such hope regarding Yatsenyuk (who was Obama’s choice to lead Ukraine), he did for Poroshenko (who wasn’t Obama’s choice, but who became Ukraine’s President despite Obama’s having wanted Yatsenyuk’s sponsor, the hyper-aggressive Yulia Tymoshenko, to win the May 25th Presidential election, which was held only in Ukraine’s pro-coup northwest, but claimed to possess authority over the entire country). …

That news-report was published at no mainstrean news-site and was rejected by almost all alternative-news sites, but was published at the following six: RINF, washingtonsblog, thepeoplesvoice, countercurrents, blacklistednews, and pontiactribune.

If such news-reports were published in U.S. newsmedia, especially in mainstream ones, then one could reasonably trust U.S. newsmedia, but such news-reports are not published in the U.S. (nor in its allied countries)

Here is terrific journalism (click onto that link) from “The Saker” documenting both with video from Hromadske TV, and with links to that TV operation’s annual financial reports, that the three top funders of Hromadske TV — Nayem’s springboard into Ukraine’s Rada —  were, in order: the Dutch Embassy, the American Embassy, and the International Renaissance Foundation (mis-identified there as the “International Renaissance Fund” — this is one of Soros’s ‘non-profits’, not one of his hedge funds). That report by The Saker was dated 3 August 2014, and afterward the linked-to “Hromadske TV Annual Financial Report, 2013” was taken down, but here it had been web-archived, so that you can see and authenticate it for yourself, showing on its second-to-last page, exactly what the screen-shot by The Saker showed. Interestingly, the “International Renaissance Fund” error was in the original financial report itself. The error wasn’t by The Saker.

That article by The Saker included the 31 July 2014 video of a Ukrainian ‘journalist’ being interviewed on George Soros’s and Mustafa Nayem’s and the U.S. Government’s and the Dutch Government’s Ukrainian TV station, explaining why “You need to kill 1.5 million people in Donbass” — arguing for ethnic cleansing there, of the genocidal type. The U.S.-imposed Ukrainian regime did attempt that, and such ethnic-cleansing started being Ukrainian Government policy as soon as the new Government was installed. On 19 November 2014, I headlined “Meet Ukraine’s Master Mass-Murderer: Dmitriy Yarosh”and noted that Yarosh had been the person who not only was very active in the ethnic-cleansing program, but he had trained the paramilitaries who had executed the overthrow, and I linked to a video of Yarosh being interviewed as a hero on the new regime’s television. I also wrote:

As Yarosh said this past March in an interview with Newsweek, he has “been training paramilitary troops for almost 25 years,” and his “divisions are constantly growing all over Ukraine, but over 10,000 people for sure.” More recently, in October, a pro-Government Ukrainian site interviewed Yarosh and he mentioned specifically a “DUC,” or Volunteer Ukrainian Corps of fighters. He was then asked “How many soldiers in DUC?” and he answered, “About seven thousand men.” These would be his real military force, by far the biggest private army in Ukraine. So, in his private files are everyone’s individual background and skill-level as a “paramilitary,” or far-right mercenary, and they all respect and obey him as the top man. He is the indispensable person in this new Ukraine. Yarosh’s teams carry out the most violent operations for the CIA in Ukraine (including the coup).

Already by the time of 9 December 2014, Russian Television headlined “’They’ll try to shut you down’: Meeting Assange & the non-stop ‘War on RT’”, and RT’s chief Margarita Simonyan covered 5 specific ways in which Assange was predicting that the U.S. would try to shut down RT in America:

1. Pressuring of our employees.

2. Hordes of Western media outlets attempting to discredit our work.

3. Flogging the ‘cash cow’

4. Explicit threats to revoke our broadcasting license.

5. Pressuring independent experts who appear on RT.

Assange there scored a 100% accuracy-of-prediction; and, so, on 1 October 2017, RT headlined “‘If RT leaves the US, American media might stop broadcasting in Russia’ – RT editor-in-chief”.

On 28 October 2017, RT bannered “Budapest vetoes Ukraine-NATO summit, says Kiev’s new law a ‘stab in the back’”, and reported that some of the formerly Russia-allied European nations were turning away from the U.S. (NATO & EU) alliance. The core of that news-report was the statement from Hungary’s Foreign Minister saying “Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s integration aspirations, so it vetoed the NATO-Ukraine summit in December.” RT’s article linked to the Hungarian Government video of that person saying this. However, my Web-search of that statement “Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s integration aspirations, so it vetoed the NATO-Ukraine summit in December” brings up only the RT news-report, none other. A Web-search for that Minister’s name, Peter Szijjarto, also fails to bring it up. Perhaps his statement isn’t suitable for inclusion in “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. Apparently, it just doesn’t fit; so, it won’t be printed. Like none of this has been published in America.

On 22 August 2014, Steven Starr, who is one of the world’s leading experts on what would be the results of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, headlined “’The Russian Aggression Prevention Act’ (RAPA): A Direct Path to Nuclear War with Russia”, and he opened:

The “Russian Aggression Prevention Act”, introduced to Congress by U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), will set the US on a path towards direct military conflict with Russia in Ukraine.

Any US-Russian war is likely to quickly escalate into a nuclear war, since neither the US nor Russia would be willing to admit defeat, both have many thousands of nuclear weapons ready for instant use, and both rely upon Counterforce military doctrine that tasks their military, in the event of war, to preemptively destroy the nuclear forces of the enemy.

RAPA provides de facto NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova via RAPA

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act, or RAPA, “Provides major non-NATO ally status for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services.” Major non-NATO ally status would for practical purposes give NATO membership to these nations, as it would allow the US to move large amounts of military equipment and forces to them without the need for approval of other NATO member states. Thus RAPA would effectively bypass long-standing German opposition to the US request to make Ukraine and Georgia part of NATO.

Fortunately, Corker’s bill turned out to have ended on 1 May 2014 when it was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and failed to be voted on even there. Corker is that extreme a neoconservative. No one in the U.S. Government can be more fascist than that. He was even more of a fascist than U.S. President Barack Obama was.

On 28 October 2017, the AP bannered “Corker: Possible 2020 run against Trump not ruled out” and reported that Senator Corker, who had earlier announced that he won’t be running for another term in the Senate, is now leaving open the possibility of a primary campaign to block Donald Trump from again receiving his Party’s nomination. The article said: “And any impeachment of Trump isn’t realistic today and is not going to happen, Corked added.” So: maybe the reason why he wanted not to be a Senator after 2018, is that he had decided he wants to be free during 2019 and 2020 to campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination for himself. The AP noted that, “Early this month, Corker charged that Trump had turned the White House into an ‘adult day care center’ and was setting the U.S. ‘on the path to World War III’.” But, of course, Corker was actually describing himself there (regardless of whether he was also describing the current President), and no one in the U.S. ‘news’media was pointing out this important fact about him. Corker was already running for the White House. He seemed already to be aiming to be the Republican version of Hillary Clinton who would win what she had failed to win: the White House.

This article, like every article that I do, is being sent free-of-charge for publication, to all U.S. newsmedia that cover international issues; but, all of the major newsmedia, and almost all of the “alternative news” sites, have refused to publish any among the many hundreds like this that I have submitted to them in the past. Perhaps the reason for this is the same reason why the U.S. ‘news’media never admitted that they had entirely uncritically reported to the American people, in stenographic fashion, really as propaganda instead of as a democratic newsmedia, the lies that George W. Bush and his Administration asserted in 2002 and 2003 regarding ‘Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction’ etc., as if it those lies weren’t clear, even at that time the lies were made. How does a ‘news’media which has a record of deceiving its public into invasions, ever admit that this is what they long have been doing, and continue even now to do? Any of them that would publish the present article would be making a fundamental change-of-course, to becoming finally part of the press in a democracy, no longer part of the propaganda-operation in a dictatorship. Can a leopard change its spots? We’ll see, by web-searching the title here, “Does Russia Produce ‘Fake News’? Or Does America? Or Both?” and seeing where this article has been published — and where it hasn’t.

Perhaps the people who run America’s ‘news’ media don’t care whether they are participants in bringing about nuclear Armageddon. We’ll soon see.

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Must we pay attention to every piece of Russian propaganda? “…Ukrainian democracy started when the democratically elected President of Ukraine was overthrown in February 2014…” And what happened with the “democratically elected” President of Ukraine? Why is he wanted on charges of corruption, murder, and treason in Ukraine and is still hiding in Russia? “…two regions (Crimea and Donbass, both of which had voted more than 75% for that man)…” So why didn’t Yanukovych go to Crimea or Donbass? Could it be because he didn’t have the support of the people in those two regions, even the ones that have… Read more »

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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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Germany Pulls Rank on Macron and American Energy Blackmail

Why France’s Macron, at the last minute, attempted to undermine the project by placing stiffer regulations is a curious question.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It was billed politely as a Franco-German “compromise” when the EU balked at adopting a Gas Directive which would have undermined the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia.

Nevertheless, diplomatic rhetoric aside, Berlin’s blocking last week of a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron to impose tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 gas project was without doubt a firm rebuff to Paris.

Macron wanted to give the EU administration in Brussels greater control over the new pipeline running from Russia to Germany. But in the end the so-called “compromise” was a rejection of Macron’s proposal, reaffirming Germany in the lead role of implementing the Nord Stream 2 route, along with Russia.

The $11-billion, 1,200 kilometer pipeline is due to become operational at the end of this year. Stretching from Russian mainland under the Baltic Sea, it will double the natural gas supply from Russia to Germany. The Berlin government and German industry view the project as a vital boost to the country’s ever-robust economy. Gas supplies will also be distributed from Germany to other European states. Consumers stand to gain from lower prices for heating homes and businesses.

Thus Macron’s belated bizarre meddling was rebuffed by Berlin. A rebuff was given too to the stepped-up pressure from Washington for the Nord Stream 2 project to be cancelled. Last week, US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and two other American envoys wrote an op-ed for Deutsche Welle in which they accused Russia of trying to use “energy blackmail” over Europe’s geopolitics.

Why France’s Macron, at the last minute, attempted to undermine the project by placing stiffer regulations is a curious question. Those extra regulations if they had been imposed would have potentially made the Russian gas supply more expensive. As it turns out, the project will now go-ahead without onerous restrictions.

In short, Macron and the spoiling tactics of Washington, along with EU states hostile to Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries, have been put in their place by Germany and its assertion of national interests of securing economical and abundant gas supply from Russia. Other EU member states that backed Berlin over Nord Stream 2 were Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and the Netherlands.

Washington’s claims that Nord Stream 2 would give Russia leverage of Europe’s security have been echoed by Poland and the Baltic states. Poland, and non-EU Ukraine, stand to lose out billions of dollars-worth of transit fees. Such a move, however, is the prerogative of Germany and Russia to find a more economical mode of supply. Besides, what right has Ukraine to make demands on a bilateral matter that is none of its business? Kiev’s previous bad faith over not paying gas bills to Russia disbars it from reasonable opinion.

Another factor is the inherent Russophobia of Polish and Baltic politicians who view everything concerning Russia through a prism of paranoia.

For the Americans, it is obviously a blatant case of seeking to sell their own much more expensive natural gas to Europe’s giant energy market – in place of Russia’s product. Based on objective market figures, Russia is the most competitive supplier to Europe. The Americans are therefore trying to snatch a strategic business through foul means of propaganda and political pressure. Ironically, the US German ambassador Richard Grenell and the other American envoys wrote in their recent oped: “Europe must retain control of its energy security.”

Last month, Grenell threatened German and European firms involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 that they could face punitive American sanctions in the future. Evidently, it is the US side that is using “blackmail” to coerce others into submission, not Russia.

Back to Macron. What was he up to in his belated spoiling tactics over Nord Stream 2 and in particular the attempted problems being leveled for Germany if the extra regulations had been imposed?

It seems implausible that Macron was suddenly finding a concern for Poland and the Baltic states in their paranoia over alleged Russian invasion.

Was Macron trying to garner favors from the Trump administration? His initial obsequious rapport with Trump has since faded from the early days of Macron’s presidency in 2017. By doing Washington’s bidding to undermine the Nord Stream 2 project was Macron trying to ingratiate himself again?

The contradictions regarding Macron are replete. He is supposed to be a champion of “ecological causes”. A major factor in Germany’s desire for the Nord Stream 2 project is that the increased gas supply will reduce the European powerhouse’s dependence on dirty fuels of coal, oil and nuclear power. By throwing up regulatory barriers, Macron is making it harder for Germany and Europe to move to cleaner sources of energy that the Russian natural gas represents.

Also, if Macron had succeeded in imposing tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 project it would have inevitably increased the costs to consumers for gas bills. This is at a time when his government is being assailed by nationwide Yellow Vest protests over soaring living costs, in particular fuel-price hikes.

A possible factor in Macron’s sabotage bid in Germany’s Nord Stream 2 plans was his chagrin over Berlin’s rejection of his much-vaunted reform agenda for the Eurozone bloc within the EU. Despite Macron’s very public amity with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Berlin has continually knocked back the French leader’s ambitions for reform.

It’s hard to discern what are the real objectives of Macron’s reforms. But they seem to constitute a “banker’s charter”. Many eminent German economists have lambasted his plans, which they say will give more taxpayer-funded bailouts to insolvent banks. They say Macron is trying to move the EU further away from the social-market economy than the bloc already has moved.

What Macron, an ex-Rothschild banker, appears to be striving for is a replication of his pro-rich, anti-worker policies that he is imposing on France, and for these policies to be extended across the Eurozone. Berlin is not buying it, realizing such policies will further erode the social fabric. This could be the main reason why Macron tried to use the Nord Stream 2 project as leverage over Berlin.

In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership.

On this note, the Hungarian government’s comments this week were apt. Budapest accused some European leaders and the US of “huge hypocrisy” in decrying association with Russia over energy trade. Macron has previously attended an economics forum in St Petersburg, and yet lately has sought to “blackmail” and disrupt Germany over its trade plans with Russia.

As for the Americans, their arrant hypocrisy is beyond words. As well as trying to dictate to Europe about “market principles” and “energy security”, it was reported this week that Washington is similarly demanding Iraq to end its import of natural gas from neighboring Iran.

Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

The hypocrisy of Washington and elitist politicians like Emmanuel Macron has become too much to stomach. Maybe Germany and others are finally realizing who the charlatans are.

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Russia Readies Own Web To Survive Global Internet Shutdown

Russia is simultaneously building a mass censorship system similar to that seen in China.

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Via Zerohedge


Russian authorities and major telecom operators are preparing to disconnect the country from the world wide web as part of an exercise to prepare for future cyber attacks, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week.

The purpose of the exercise is to develop a threat analysis and provide feedback to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament last December.

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russian internet service providers (ISP) to guarantee the independence of the Russian Internet (Runet) in the event of a foreign attack to sever the country’s internet from the world wide web.

Telecom operators (MegaFon, VimpelCom (Beeline brand), MTS, Rostelecom and others) will have to introduce the “technical means” to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), Russia’s federal executive body responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.

Roskomnazor will observe all internet traffic and make sure data between Russian users stays within the country’s borders, and is not re-routed abroad.

The exercise is expected to occur before April 1, as Russian authorities have not given exact dates.

The measures described in the law include Russia constructing its internet system, known as Domain Name System (DNS), so it can operate independently from the rest of the world.

Across the world, 12 companies oversee the root servers for DNS and none are located in Russia. However, there are copies of Russia’s core internet address book inside the country suggesting its internet could keep operating if the US cut it off.

Ultimately, the Russian government will require all domestic traffic to pass through government-controlled routing points. These hubs will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians internet users work seamlessly, but any data to foreign computers would be rejected.

Besides protecting its internet, Russia is simultaneously building a mass censorship system similar to that seen in China.

“What Russia wants to do is to bring those router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control- so that it can then pull up the drawbridge, as it were, to external traffic if it’s under threat – or if it decides to censor what outside information people can access.

China’s firewall is probably the world’s best known censorship tool and it has become a sophisticated operation. It also polices its router points, using filters and blocks on keywords and certain websites and redirecting web traffic so that computers cannot connect to sites the state does not wish Chinese citizens to see,” said BBC.

The Russian government started preparations for creating its internet several years ago. Russian officials expect 95% of all internet traffic locally by next year.

As for Russia unplugging its internet from the rest of the world for an upcoming training exercise, well, this could potentially anger Washington because it is one less sanction that can keep Moscow contained.

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