Shoot ‘without warning’ to quash revolt, Kazakhstan president orders troops | Courthouse News Service

Shoot ‘without warning’ to quash revolt, Kazakhstan president orders troops | Courthouse News Service
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De-oligarchisation in Ukraine

7 January 2022

Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky campaigned for and was elected president of Ukraine in 2019 promising to do something about oligarchic control of the economy and society.  He vowed to take on the oligarchy and limit their power.  Two years later, even faced with a build up of Russian military might on his border he is trying to fulfill some of those promises.

In the name of “deoligarchisation” Zelensky’s government has targeted some of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchy including pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk.  Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest and charged with crimes including treason.  Medvedchuk, of course, claims that the charges are “political repression.”

The Zelensky administration introduced legislation that legally defined oligarchs and subjected them to restrictions including a ban on financing political parties. 

Critics have argued that these moves are intended to impress U.S. President Biden, and are cosmetic, but they are occurring none the less.

In November of 2021, the Atlantic Council published an article claiming that:

“…the Ukrainian parliament recently passed de-oligarchization legislation to prevent oligarchs from purchasing elections, wielding undue influence over Ukraine’s government and economy, or possessing the power to stymie Ukraine’s reform progress and democratic potential.”

The article noted the problem of a media space dominated by oligarch-controlled outlets that combine TV, news, and social media channels to influence the political debate inside Ukraine.  It was also noted that when Zelensky’s administration introduced this legislation and “insisted on its adoption” the media outlets which were oligarch controlled began to attack him. 

The article notes that there is an expectation that the oligarchs will try to sabotage key sectors of the Ukrainian economy to stop the reforms.

Ukraine and Zelensky Alone

5 January 2022

Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor when he was elected President of Ukraine in 2019.  Zelensky had appeared regularly on a TV series where he played a history teacher whose rant against political corruption vent viral and made him president.  The Ukrainians, widely disillusioned with their own politicians, were so enchanted with the fictional story they made Zelensky the real president.  The political party of the history teacher character on the television series, the “Servant of the People,” became the actual political party of Zelensky when he ran for president against incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

Zelensky was what all disaffected voters love – an outsider at least from conventional politics.  And, he had said in his fictional viral rant, what many people knew to be true, i.e., that corruption was strangling the life out of the country.  Hopes were high for Zelensky when he won election with 73% of the vote.

Two years later, Zelensky is struggling to fulfill some of the promises for fundamental social change he made during his campaign.  In 2014, after pro-Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych (for whom Paul Manafort worked) was ousted from the presidency and had to flee.  Russia then seized Crimea and backed (or created) separatists who took over large areas of the region.

When Zelensky came to power, he promised to bring peace to the region and to end conflict in the Dunbas, another region where Russian separatists were taking over.  Zelensky criticized his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, for not negotiating effectively to end these conflicts.

But, Zelensky has not been able to deliver on his promises of peace.  The war between Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists continues and now there is a massive built up of troops on the Ukrainian border.

Zelensky initially made an effort to compromise with the Russians over their territorial claims. There were peace talks between the two countries, prisoner exchanges and moves toward establishing a peace process, known as the Minsk agreement.  But, after Russia began issuing passports to the Russian-speakers in the contested territories, talks soured. 

To make matters worse, the dictator of Belarus, Alyaksandre Lukashenka, has ceased to be a defender of Ukraine in its struggle with Russia. 

When the Russian attack on Ukraine began in 2014, Lukashenka made great efforts to publicize his neutrality.  He refused to recognize Russia’s claims to Crimea, politically declared that he would not permit an attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory, and ridiculed Putin’s historical arguments justifying an invasion of Ukraine.

But, in August of 2020, Lukashenka launched a brutal response to nationwide protests over rigged presidential elections.  This made him an international pariah.  In the aftermath of the vote there were mass anti-regime demonstrations across the country.  Lukashenka appeared to be in danger of losing power entirely.  But, Vladamir Putin intervened and propped Lukashenka up with financial assistance, Kremlin propagandists and a public promise of security forces. 

From this point onward, the dependence of Lukashenka on Putin only increased.  Lukashenka launched a prolonged crackdown on domestic opposition and escalated an increasingly acrimonious confrontation with the West.  One of the most widely publicized acts was a May 2021 incident where a commercial EU airliner was forced down while going over Belarusian airspace and a dissident Belarusian journalists was abducted from among the passengers.

After recent talks with Putin, Lukashenka has announced plans to deploy Russian air defense systems along the Ukrainian border.

Zelensky is making a courageous effort to confront corruption in Ukrainian society and fulfill his campaign promises, but he is also confronting a dangerous situation with Russia.  It appears that Zelensky has reached the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and given the retreat of the West from foreign conflicts, he and the Ukrainians face this perilous situation by themselves. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59667938

Podcast: Ukraine World

If you are at all interested in the build up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, you should listen to the podcast “Ukraine World.”  It is by far the most intelligent discussion of the situation.

The following are notes from several of the Ukraine World podcasts.

  • Ukrainian president Zelensky came to office arguing that more negotiation was needed with Russia and that the previous administration in Ukraine had done a bad job of negotiating.  Two years later, halfway through Zelensky’s term, he has come to the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and does not want peace. 
  • Even though the situation on the border is extremely serious, Zelensky seems to be also fighting major battles domestically.  As one commentator phrased it, Zelensky seems to be “waging a war against everybody else in Ukrainian politics.”  These “internal turbulences” are creating an unstable situation inside Ukraine.
  • It is unclear whether Zelensky is battling against powerful domestic players and interests for reasons of his own, or is being manipulated by others.  Who these others might be was not explained.
  • The rhetoric coming out of Russia seems to be intended to prepare the Russian population for war.  As one commentator said, Putin is almost promising that Russia will invade Ukraine.  Another commentator stated: Putin is “preparing the Russian public to the fact that the war is inevitable.”
  • It also seems clear that the West is unwilling to engage in a full-fledged war with Russia over Ukraine.  Russia perceives the West as withdrawing.
  • After the feckless and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is almost certain not to involve itself in another war.
  • Even though the Biden administration has made clear that there will be sanctions if Russia invades, many point out that Russia has already invaded Ukraine.  Sanctions have already been applied to Russia and the Russians have not withdrawn.
  • The Russian government has been taking steps to make the economy sanction proof, or at least more sanction proof so that sanctions are unlikely to have a significant impact.
  • In addition, meaningful sanctions would affect powerful economic interests and are unlikely to be implemented no matter how much they are touted by the Biden administration. 
  • There is extensive ideological work going on in Russia preparing the population for war.  Even on popular talk shows on television, there is discussion about Ukraine having plans to militarily take back the territories.  Russia is distributing Russian passports to Russian-speakers in occupied territories.
  • There is a distinct advantage in exporting chaos.  Conflicts rouse nationalistic fervor in Russia and help distract people from their stalled economy and decreased standard of living.
  • The underlying narrative is that there are serious external threats but also victories against those threats (such as in Crimea).  The taking of territory is a success, so don’t complain about how you are living.
  • The west was reluctant to encourage Ukraine to become a separate country after the fall of the Soviet Union.  George Bush, Sr. went to Kiev in 1991 in an attempt to calm down the Ukrainians and persuade them not to leave the Soviet Union.  The west is afraid of a breakup of the Soviet Union.  The narrative inside Russia, however, is completely different.
  • There, the Zelensky administration is portrayed as being a puppet of the West.   And, there are dire warnings that just as the U.S. left Afghanistan, it will leave Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainians in fact helped support U.S. troops in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  At a time when it was too dangerous politically to risk U.S. soldiers leaving the airport in Kabul, Ukrainian troops went into Kabul and helped people get to safety at the airport.  Ukraine was anxious to demonstrate that it could be a helpful ally, a country that could help as well as ask for assistance.
  • Internal polling inside Ukraine indicates that if a presidential election were held today, Zelensky would get approximately 24% of the vote, but there are three parties opposing him.  Two of them are pro-Russian. 
  • The Zelensky administration is being drained by the conflict on the border.  And Zelensky’s own conflicts domestically are fracturing the country.
  • Ukrainians are understandably distrustful of their politicians.  Hopes for Zelensky when he was elected were extremely high.  Calmer souls warned that Zelensky could not possibly deliver on the promises he was making.  Now, disenchantment has set in. 
  • Corruption remains a serious problem and hopes that Zelensky could do anything about this ingrained corruption were probably misplaced.

Russia Has Already Invaded Ukraine

There has been a great deal of discussion in the media lately about what the West will do if Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine.  But, as has been pointed out on the podcast, Ukraine Without Hype (12/10/21), Russia has already invaded Ukraine.

The United States and the members of the G7 have threatened “massive consequences” if this current military and support structure build-up on the border with Ukraine turns into yet another full scale invasion by Russia, but what those consequences might be, has not been specified. 

It is difficult to imagine Biden approving a military defense of Ukraine just after he orchestrated a disastrous unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Putin is well aware of this.

And, a number of commentators are arguing that invading Ukraine now would be much less costly and risky than waiting until some future date.  Putin has made it crystal clear in an article published last summer that the Russian government considers Ukraine part of Russia, not an independent country.

The Russian kleptocratic autocracy is working overtime to ideologically legitimate an invasion of Ukraine.  In Putin’s article (described on MSNBC as a “letter from an abusive spouse”) he clearly appeals to Russian nationalism, arguing that Ukraine as a separate entity is a fiction imposed on people who did not see themselves as Ukrainian.  This “Ukrainization” by the leaders of modern Ukraine and their “external patrons,” is a “tragedy” and “forced assimilation” and is “comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against” Russia.  

In an article published by the Atlantic Council, it is argued that in order to maintain the loyalty of elites and the population Putin has found it effective to engage in “small victorious wars.”  These distract from the fact that the Russian economy has barely grown since 2014.  Small wars are profitable and also whip up the nationalism of Russians.

The five-day war in Georgia in August of 2008, was a great popular success in Russia.  For the first time ever Putin’s popularity figures reached 88%.  Also popular was Putin’s seizure and annexation of Crimea.  Once again Putin’s popularity rose. 

Whatever the goal, actual invasion or mere threat, Putin already has some of what he wants, the West negotiating over the status of Ukraine in a way that would have been unthinkable in the past. 

UKRAINE: WHAT WE SHOULD KNOW

Russian House of Soviets, Lenin on Moscow Square. St. Petersburg.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

  • The 2014 uprising in Ukraine, the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government were severe blows to the pride of Vladamir Putin and the Russian establishment/oligarchy.
  • Added to the economic importance of Ukraine is the profound cultural centrality of Ukrainian history as part of the Soviet Union, and the political significance of the independence gained by the Ukrainian people.
  • Putin has reportedly never gotten over the breakup of the Soviet Union, the independence of Ukraine or the movement of the Ukrainian people towards the West.
  • As was pointed out in the Ukraine World Podcast, Putin and the Russian oligarchy have never conceived of Ukraine as an independent state.  They have never considered Ukraine as independent and cannot now accept the status quo.
  • As Timothy Snyder pointed out, Putin and Russia have never considered Ukrainians as anything but vassals.  They do not even negotiate with Ukrainians, but with the West over Ukraine.
  • And, the status quo, as unpalatable as it may seem, may not remain the status quo much longer.
  • Putin may feel that the window of time for pressuring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere is rapidly closing.
  • Not long after Biden took office, Russia announced itself fed up with the status quo relating to Ukraine and NATO expansion.
  • Also, around the first of the year, Zelensky expressed more publicly than he had in the past, an interest in Ukraine joining NATO.
  • Since Ukraine is not currently a member of NATO, there is no automatic responsibility of the West to react if Ukraine is invaded.  If Ukraine joins NATO, however, this changes completely.
  • Note: I cannot see after withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden involving military troops in any conflict in Ukraine.  Putin, of course, knows this and it adds to the likelihood of intervention.
  • There is, of course, a great deal of debate about whether Putin intends to invade or just threaten.  But, as has been pointed out, not only is there an unprecedented movement of troops, but also a structuring of support for an invasion, like locating medical supplies near the border. 
  • It would probably be an error to suppose that Putin’s choice is binary.  Even though U.S. officials persist in talking about the choice as either an invasion with a full scale military operation and seizure of territory, or backing down and not invading.  But, as others point out, Putin has stated that he would never invade any territory unless he were certain of victory.
  • So, a number of regional experts foresee an operation that includes pinpoint strikes and then strategic withdrawals.  The object, according to these commentators, is to destroy Ukrainian military capability.  Occupation is not the goal.
  • Putin, so the theory goes, wants to demonstrate to Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Block that all their efforts towards independence can be negated easily and quickly, leaving them vulnerable and back inside the Russian sphere.
  • While there have been strides in the development of Ukrainian military capability, it cannot even compete with the highly technological, mobile Russian military expertise.
  • Putin pursued economic strategies to block Ukraine from moving out of the Russian sphere of influence and toward the west.   
  • In 2014, it became evident that that strategy had failed.  Ordinary people rose and drove out the pro-Russia president who had to flee to Moscow to keep from being imprisoned.  The Ukrainians made their choice clear when they drove out a Russia friendly president and ushered in the pro-western government.
  • Putin saw this as a coup engineered by the West and the CIA to divide the Russian sphere of influence.  So, Putin seized Crimea. 
  • Putin intended to demonstrate that he cares more about the fate of Ukraine than the west.
  • Putin also sees the writing on the wall in the policies and actions of Zelensky.  In early 2021, Zelensky’s government began cracking down on Russian controlled media inside Ukraine and a Russian connected oligarch.  The government also participated in military exercises with Western forces.
  • Putin’s actions have actually alienated people in Ukraine.  Polls indicate that more people than when Zelensky first took office support joining NATO and a move toward the West.
  • Putin, evidently, does not believe this.  He has indicated that a move toward Russia is the will of the people and that Russian forces would be welcomed, regarded as liberators. 
  • And, Putin may estimate that a war now could be less costly than later.
  • While U.S. officials bandy around the threats of “sanctions” according to specialists, Putin has been sanction proofing the Russian economy since 2014. 
  • And, sanctions on Russia will affect powerful interests around the world.  In order to enact meaningful sanctions, Biden would not only have to take on the Russians, but banking and other interests internationally.  There is little indication that he is prepared to do this.
  • What Putin wants is not to annex Ukraine, but to influence it.  He wants to alter and control the structure of security in Eastern Europe.
  • While this mobilization near the border of Ukraine may be only an example of “coercive diplomacy,” the intent is to keep Ukraine out of NATO and get an agreement to limit NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.
  • If Biden agrees to this in order to avoid a war, he will violate the concept of self determination that has influenced policy in the post-war era. 

Sources:

Podcasts:

The Daily, NYT (12/8/21) Interview with Moscow Bureau Chief, NYT, Anton Troianovski

Ukraine World Ep. 58: The New Russian Attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine World Ep. 57: Ukraine in November 2021.

MORNING NOTES: bELARUS, RUSSIA, GREG PALAST AND VOTING, ENFORCING THE LAW

  • Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has ordered protests to end in the capital Minsk.  Protests are also going on in Khabarovsk.  https://news.yahoo.com/belarus-crisis-unsettling-putin-home-162603296.html
  • Olga Lautman (@olgaNYC1211) is reporting on Twitter that according to “Bild Media sources” the Kremlin is sending troops into Belarus in support of Lukashenko and to stop the protests.  Alexandra Chalupa (@AlexandraChalup) notes that this is similar to actions Russia took in 2014 when they sent “humanitarian aid” into Urkaine followed by a military convoy.
  • According to Greg Palast: 22% of all mail-in ballots don’t get counted.
  • In 2016, more than 141,000 ballots were disqualified because someone challenged the signature.
  • In 2016, in Michigan 75,000 ballots were not counted in Detroit, machines broke down.  Trump supposedly won by 10,000 votes.
  • In Wisconsin in 2016, over a hundred thousand students were told right before the election that they could not vote with their university issued ID.
  • In Georgia, to vote with a mail-in ballot in the primary, there was a part of the ballot you had to unattach (it has no perforations) before you return the ballot.  Also, if your signature changed from the signature you used when you signed up for your driver’s license, your ballot could be challenged and thrown away.  For example, if you signed your driver’s license Christina J. Johns and you sign your ballot “Christina Johns” they can throw it out.
  • Greg Palast’s book “How Trump Stole 2020 “is a must read.  But, the most interesting fact to come out of this book is that presented with the evidence of the stealing of votes, the Clinton campaign would not challenge the results.  Does anybody think that the Biden campaign will do any differently?
  • And, while I’m on the subject, the Obama administration failed to hold officials from the Bush administration accountable for torture or domestic surveillance.  And they refused to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.  They said they wanted to move ahead.
  • I will eat my left arm off if a Biden administration does any differently.  They will not hold the criminals and grifters and treasonous bastards in the Trump administration responsible for their crimes.  They will also say “Let’s move ahead.”  “Let’s look at the future not the past.”
  • On the first night of the Democratic Convention, the Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer bragged that Obama and Biden “didn’t waste time” blaming those who were responsible for the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. No, why “waste time” enforcing the law for white collar, corporate and political criminals.  It’s too easy to wind up among them. 
Brian Kemp, Georgia’s governor after stealing the election from Stacey Abrams. He is an architect of voter suppression. He must be removed from office.

Afternoon Notes: Epstein, the House Intelligence Committee Report, MSNBC,Ukraine

ukraine scandal

 

House Intelligence Committee Report

The House Intelligence Committee has released their preliminary impeachment report.

Included are phone records that document phone calls between Giuliani and OMB, made from the White House.  This makes it impossible to maintain the fiction that Giuliani was conducting a “rogue operation.”

Epstein

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz told The Miami Herald on Wednesday that he does not believe investigating the outcome of pedophile multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s case is a wise move, saying it would set a “dangerous” precedent of second-guessing prosecutorial decisions.” The Intellectualist.

If you don’t know just how outrageous this plea deal was, you need to do some reading.  The plea deal immunized not only Epstein, but anyone associated with him, unnamed.

Ukraine Scandal

Seth Abramson pointed out on Twitter that the Trump/Ukraine story is far worse than the Democrats are presenting.  They are conducting a concerted attempt to dumb down the impeachment inquiry to the most elementary story hoping that then, people will understand it.

Abramson writes: “It’s much worse than we’ve been told.”

Trump, Pompeo, Giuliani, Nunes, Solomon, Parnas, Lutsenko and Fruman, Abramson notes began their plotting much earlier than is being considered.  (Note: Schiff referred to this in his statement today after the report was released).

The plotting began at a time when the participants didn’t know if Mueller would take down Trump.  It started when Trump learned he was being investigated over Russia.

Trump, Abramson argues, believed that Mueller would take him down.  The push towards Ukraine was a defense to allegations he knew were being made against the Kremlin, which he believed were going to be connected to him via Manafort.

This was not a plot against Biden.  Biden was just the icing on the cake.

“This was a plot to exculpate Trump, Putin and the man who connected them: Manafort.  It was a plot to end sanctions and pave the way for Trump deals in Russia.”

The key events started before anyone knew that Biden was going to run for president.

Duncan Hunter and Sentencing

Duncan Hunter is going to be allowed to plead guilty to corruption charges he vehemently denied for years.  Hunter claimed the charges against him were politically motivated and a (sign) “witch hunt.”  He refused to admit his wrongdoing, publicly claimed that he was being persecuted and still holds his position in the congress, but he is being allowed to plead guilty to one charge.  Even though he has been charged with multiple crimes, and potentially faces five years in prison, the reporting is that he will most probably get a little over a year.

There is no functioning criminal justice system for white collar, corporate and state criminals in this country.  That’s why Trump and Manafort and others like them were running around free to engage in political campaigns.  This must stop or we will have no democracy left.

The Corporate Media

At this extremely serious time, Nicolle Wallace has Donnie Deutsch on her show as a member of the panel.  Deutsch is a “marketing expert.”  This, folks, is where we are as a country, and where the corporate media is.

House Intelligence Report: Partial Table of Contents

  1. The President Forced Out the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine …………………………………….38
  2. The President Put Giuliani and the Three Amigos in Charge of Ukraine Issues …………51
  3. The President Froze Military Assistance to Ukraine ……………………………………………….67
  4. The President’s Meeting with the Ukrainian President Was Conditioned on An

Announcement of Investigations ………………………………………………………………………….83

  1. The President Asked the Ukrainian President to Interfere in the 2020 U.S. Election by

Investigating the Bidens and 2016 Election Interference …………………………………………98

  1. The President Wanted Ukraine to Announce the Investigations Publicly ………………..114
  2. The President’s Conditioning of Military Assistance and a White House Meeting on

Announcement of Investigations Raised Alarm ……………………………………………………126

The President’s Scheme Was Exposed

 

Trump was Organizing a Propaganda Campaign: Against the American People

ukraine scandal

Yet another impeachable offense.  What Trump and Giuliani (and Sondland, Perry and Volker) were organizing was a covert propaganda campaign designed to fool the American people.  And, Republicans are fighting for their right to do so.  This article by Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent, explains the most important point of the Ukraine dirt for money scandal.

Article

Running Covert Propaganda Against Americans Is Illegal. Trump Tried It Anyway.