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

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

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This article originally appeared at RT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Second group of Su-57 stealth fighters to be requested in 2020

The second Su-57 contract will feature fighters with the advanced engine design that was under development while the prototypes were made.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The contract for a second order of Russian Su-57 stealth fighters is expected to be signed in 2020, according to an unnamed source in Russia’s aircraft-making industry. TASS, the Russian News Agency, reported on this on Wednesday, 16 January:

The second contract to manufacture 13 Su-57 fighter jets for the Russian Aerospace Forces is to be signed next year, a source in Russia’s aircraft-making industry told TASS on Wednesday.

“In 2020, we plan to sign the second contract to manufacture and deliver 13 Su-57 fighter jets, some of them equipped with the second-stage engines,” he said. “The preliminary timeframe for the new contract is five years.”

The first contract envisages the delivery of two fifth-generation aircraft in 2019-2020.

“In line with the contract signed in 2018, one serial Su-57 jet with first-stage engines will be delivered to the Aerospace Forces this year, the other aircraft featuring the same type of engine – in 2020.”

The aircraft’s manufacturer, the United Aircraft Corporation, refrained from commenting on the report.

The Su-57 is a fifth-generation multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.

The Su-57 took to the skies for the first time on January 29, 2010. Compared to its predecessors, the Su-57 combines the functions of an attack plane and a fighter jet while the use of composite materials and innovation technologies and the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration ensure the low level of radar and infrared signature.

The aircraft has been successfully tested in Syria.

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Kaspersky Lab snags former NSA contractor stealing hacking tools

Semi-buried article did see publication on Politico and Fox News, but Kaspersky Lab was not vindicated for its help in solving this case.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In a time known for Smear Campaigns of the Strangest Kind, we have seen Russia blamed for being there, for interfering and preventing the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Presidency, putting Donald Trump in the White House instead. One of Russia’s companies, Kaspersky Lab, has a particularly notable history of late; that is to say, this computer security company has found itself on the receiving end of quite frankly, illegal levels of slander and punishment without cause from the US government. Kaspersky Lab owner and CEO tried very hard to come to the US to discuss these matters with a Congressional committee, only to have the meeting shelved into limbo.

However, the truth made itself manifest when it became known that Kaspersky Lab actually helped the American FBI catch Harold T. Martin III, who was found to be attempting to steal some of the American government’s most sensitive hacking tools. This fact emerged on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, when sources familiar with this investigation spoke to The Politico magazine. Politico says the following in its report:

[Kaspersky Lab’s] role in exposing Martin is a remarkable twist in an increasingly bizarre case that is believed to be the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

It indicates that the government’s own internal monitoring systems and investigators had little to do with catching Martin, who prosecutors say took home an estimated 50 terabytes of data from the NSA and other government offices over a two-decade period, including some of the NSA’s most sophisticated and sensitive hacking tools.

The revelation also introduces an ironic turn in the negative narrative the U.S. government has woven about the Russian company in recent years.

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, officials have accused the company of colluding with Russian intelligence to steal and expose classified NSA tools, and in 2016 the FBI engaged in an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit the company and get its software banned from U.S. government computers on national security grounds. But even while the FBI was doing this, the Russian firm was tipping off the bureau to an alleged intelligence thief in the government’s own midst.

“It’s irony piled on irony that people who worked at Kaspersky, who were already in the sights of the U.S. intelligence community, disclosed to them that they had this problem,” said Stewart Baker, general counsel for the NSA in the 1990s and a current partner at Steptoe and Johnson. It’s also discouraging, he noted, that the NSA apparently still hasn’t “figured out a good way to find unreliable employees who are mishandling some of their most sensitive stuff.”

The Politico piece as well as Fox News’ variant still seem somewhat determined to keep that negative narrative in place, with Fox assessing that the FBI had a “strange bedfellow” in the investigation, and what appears to be an absolutely enormous presumption in Politico’s piece:

The first message sent on Aug. 13, 2016, asked one of the researchers to arrange a conversation with “Yevgeny” — presumably Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky, whose given name is Yevgeny Kaspersky. The message didn’t indicate the reason for the conversation or the topic, but a second message following right afterward said, “Shelf life, three weeks,” suggesting the request, or the reason for it, would be relevant for a limited time.

However, there are many people in the world named “Yevgeny” (Evgeny, or Eugene) in Russia, and presumably many Evgenys in Kaspersky Lab itself. The notion that the CEO of the company would be involved in this appears to be an absolutely enormous leap of logic.

The maintenance of a negative narrative about Kaspersky Lab has been one of the most frustratingly effective examples of American propaganda in use since Russia overall became increasingly used as America’s newest scapegoat.

This is also not the first time that Kaspersky Lab saved the day for an American intelligence agency. In 2017 the same company’s services found 122 viruses on an NSA employee’s computer.

Kaspersky Lab itself is a highly sophisticated company based in Moscow, Russia, specializing in securing computers against malware, viruses, ransomware and all manner of invasive efforts by the bad guys out on the ‘Net, and among the providers of such services it consistently rates among the best in the industry, including in US surveys. While US retailers Best Buy, Office Depot and the US government have banned selling or running Kaspersky Lab software, European allies of the US have not even breathed the slightest bit of discontent with the AV provider. The narrative is the only thing that is actually wrong, and since Evgeny Kaspersky’s education was largely at the Academy that trained former KGB personnel, (now called FSB), the anti-Russia narrative in the US the acronym “KGB” is usually enough to alarm most low-information American news readers and watchers. 

However, logic and awareness of life in modern Russia, point to the fact that getting an education on security at the FSB Academy ought to be equivalent to the same education at the CIA. Who would know better about how to create security than those people specially trained to compromise it? However the propaganda vantage point that Kaspersky afforded the US government in its drive to get rid of President Donald Trump made the Russian company too juicy a target to ignore.

Over the last year or two, however, this narrative has slowly been falling apart, with this Politico article being a significant, though still small vindication of the company’s prowess and abilities.

That a Russian Internet Security company could succeed where American enterprises failed, and especially where it helped the Americans catch a man who was stealing very powerful hacking tools, is a significant story, indeed.

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Russia’s court jester that tells the truth: Meet Vladimir Zhirinovsky [Video]

While Mr. Zhirinovksy failed in his presidential run, this man is unafraid to speak truth to power. He has done this in Russia for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The ancient tradition of court jester is not dead in the world. In Russia it is manifest in the person of Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party of the Russian Federation. This man is Russia’s answer to the legendary late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, with his famous “I get no respect at all” shtick. However, Mr. Zhirinovsky does his act in full view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov and others who are extremely important in the government of Russia.

His “jestering” is often utilized by the government because he has a way of presenting information that other people are reluctant to talk about in such company as the Russian President, and so among Russians he has earned this reputation as a court Jester to President Putin. However, like some jesters have done in history, this affords Mr. Zhirinovsky the unique ability to speak very freely and directly about all manner of topics. Wikipedia refers to him thus:

He is fiercely nationalist and has been described as “a showman of Russian politics, blending populist and nationalist rhetoric, anti-Western invective and a brash, confrontational style”.[1] His views have sometimes been described by western media as fascist.

In this video, just released by VESTI News, the fiery politician made his first major appearance since the 2018 Presidential elections, and he spoke about his views on foreign policy, not only of Russia, but of the United States, China and the rest of the world. What he had to say is nothing less than fascinating:

Some of the more salient points:

[00:15] – Nobody knows how to go on across the whole planet. The age of empires is over.

[00:40] – The US became the sole ruler of the world after 1991, but that time is over. It is neither willing nor able to remain the sole ruler.

[01:00] – North Korea became a nuclear power, able to negotiate on even terms with the US, though it is very small

[01:20] – The Middle East is following a relatively peaceful (!) scenario, tending toward peace.

[01:40] – China has unleashed its full potential, but it doesn’t know what to do next. China knows it could be on top but it isn’t because it doesn’t know what to do with such power, and the US is visibly having problems with such a role.

[02:13] – Ukraine is the nastiest problem. Zhirinovksy predicts they will become more fascist over time, and eventually will “Balkanize” into separate countries.

[03:11] – He goes on to point out how the Russian “elite” who is essentially pro-Western, have essentially sold Russia out, but in so doing, they have lost their happiness because the West used them to punish Russia.

Mr. Zhirinovsky does not stop here. He actually discusses a common phenomenon among the Russian “elites” which is that they often take citizenship in other countries, such as England, Germany and even the United States. Their children attend fine European schools. Yet they keep their Russian citizenship as well. When the Western powers started leveling more and more sanctions against Russia, sometimes it was these elites who took the brunt of the hit. For Mr. Zhirinovsky, Russia’s response should be to strengthen, to let the West know that Russia will never be on the same side as the West, nor will it ever become part of the Western world.

No doubt the Western press, if it picks this story up, will lift this sort of rhetoric out of context, taking it as a “sure sign” that Russia is trying to take over the world. To that end they would refer to Mr. Zhirinovsky’s hopes of Russia stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indian Oceans, and say that this “fascist” leader wants Russia to do something similar to what the West charges President Putin of wanting.

However, this is not exactly the gloom and doom scenario Zhirinovsky envisions. As one continues to watch the video clip there is history, viewpoint and a stunning assessment that excessive focus on capitalist notions like wages, taxes and salaries is a source of great unhappiness in Russia. Far from focusing on “progress” as merely economic development of free markets, Mr. Zhirinovsky goes a different direction, pointing out although the monarchy cannot be restored to Russia, there are elements of it that Russia might call on to get to a better place.

A deeper study of Mr. Zhirinovsky’s context reveals some interesting features that even made it to Wikipedia’s pages in English. We include a few select points that appear interesting:

Zhirinovsky has expressed admiration for the 1996 United States presidential election contender Pat Buchanan, referring positively to a comment in which Buchanan labeled the United States Congress “Israeli-occupied territory.” Zhirinovsky said that both countries were “under occupation.” and that “to survive, we could set aside places on U.S. and Russian territories to deport this small but troublesome tribe.” Buchanan strongly rejected this endorsement, saying he would provide safe haven to persecuted minorities if Zhirinovsky were ever elected Russia’s president, eliciting a harsh response by Zhirinovsky: “You soiled your pants as soon as you got my congratulations. Who are you afraid of: Zionists?”

Zhirinovsky has Israeli relatives, including his uncle and cousin, [and]… [he] has led a number of official Russian delegations to Israel, on behalf of the Russian government. Visiting Israel, he says that he is concerned particularly about the economic situation for the more than one million Russians living in Israel. He also states that “Russia will never allow any kind of violence against Israel.”

Besides expressing his concern for Turks and Caucasians displacing the Russian population from their settled territory, Zhirinovsky also advocated for all Chinese and Japanese to be deported from the Russian Far East. During his 1992 visit to the United States, Zhirinovsky called on television “for the preservation of the white race” and warned that the white Americans were in danger of turning their country over to black and Hispanic people.

In 2004, Zhirinovsky spoke at the City Court of Saint Petersburg, in reference to the assassination of Galina Starovoytova. After accusing Starovoytova of having worked for foreign intelligence, he said “I have always said openly that for democrats of pro-Western orientation there are only three roads: prison, the grave, and emigration.”

In August 2016, Zhirinovsky prayed for the Republican presidential election nominee, Donald Trump, whose antics were similar to Zhirinovsky’s but different in backgrounds, to defeat Hillary Clinton, whom he considered dangerous, in order to take his party’s ideology global. He also expressed his desire to test his DNA to determine whether he and Trump were related. In April 2017, Zhirinovsky promised to drink the champagne for Donald Trump’s impeachment, saying: “A half of Americans voted for different foreign policies. Trump breaks his promises, and if he continues breaking them, his impeachment is inevitable.”

The Last Break Southward (1995) is the magnum opus of Zhirinovsky in which he expressed his worldview. “Since the 1980s, I have elaborated a geopolitical conception—the last break southward, Russia’s reach to the shores of the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.” This is “really the solution for the salvation of the Russian nation … It solves all problems and we gain tranquility.” Russia will rule the space “from Kabul to Istanbul…” The “bells of the Orthodox Church must [ring] from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.” And Jerusalem becomes close. It is necessary that “the Christian world reunifies in Jerusalem.” The Palestinian problem can be solved by partial transfer of the Palestinian population to the former territories of Turkey and Iran. The great Russian language and Russian ruble would wield Near Eastern and Central Asian peoples into one Russian citizenship.

Along the Russia southern sphere from India to Bosporus, other spheres of influence will stretch from north to south in the forthcoming world order, Latin America would be in the American sphere, Africa in the European sphere, and Japan and China will rule Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australia. Everywhere “the direction is the same—north-south. “Geopolitically, it is logical. “Hence, the distribution along such a geopolitical formula would be very beneficent for the whole of humanity, and all over the planet would be established warm and clear political climate.”

But his talk in the video makes another stunning point: The spirit of the Monarchy must be returned, rather than thoughts only of wages, spending and taxes. “We must restore the sanctity of power”, says Zhirinovsky, and this is a radical departure from the viewpoint of market economics such as is held in the West.

There is much about the rhetoric of Mr. Zhirinovsky that would, at first and even second glance, would alarm readers schooled in the Western way of viewing the world. But this is also the function of the court jester in motion. Mr. Zhirinovsky has never earned more than about 9.5% of the vote for any of Russia’s recent Presidential elections and he earned only 5.65% in the most recent 2018 election, probably because he dug into a nasty row against the supremely unqualified but nonetheless female candidate Ksenia Sobchak in debate.

However, his function is no less important. In listening to and reading his works, such as “The Great Break Southward”, there are salient points that he has made in the past that turn out to be true. The Jester was able to speak such truth to power and remain unassailed, and yet, this ability does help get people to think.

 

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