Voices from Russia

Monday, 24 April 2017

Macron Forged Ahead After First Round of French Presidential Election

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French Interior Ministry final data revealed that Emanuel Macron took first place in the first round of French presidential election; Marine Le Pen is hard on his heels. Macron secured a lead over his main rival, populist nationalist National Front leader Le Pen, gaining 23.75 percent of votes, while Le Pen had the support of 21.53 percent of French voters. At the same time, right-neoliberal François Fillon had 19.91 percent, whilst leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon had 19.64 percent. At 19.00 local time (17.00 GMT), the voting ended as the polling stations across France closed. The law prohibited French media from publishing any preliminary results until the last polling stations closed.

24 April 2017

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/europe/201704241052921791-macron-wins-first-round-french-election/

Empty Threats: Why Trump’s Vow to Strike the DPRK Was a Bluff

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When the White House threatened Pyongyang with a potential strike if there was a new nuclear weapons test by the DPRK, the US task force was actually moving away from the Korean Peninsula. It appears that Donald Trump’s “armada”, led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, had only been approaching the DPRK figuratively. Trump told Fox Business Network:

We’re sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. This deployment was part of our response to Pyongyang’s provocations.

Earlier, on 8 April, US Pacific Command stated that the Carl Vinson and its escorting task force would head to the Western Pacific in a “show of force” towards the DPRK. Predictably, the gesture prompted a fierce response from Pyongyang, which dubbed the supposed deployment of a task force in the Sea of Japan as a “reckless act of aggression”. A chain reaction of tough statements led to Pyongyang threatening the USA with a pre-emptive strike in the event of any US “political, economic, or military provocation” and prompted US Vice President Mike Pence to announce that “the era of strategic patience [towards the DPRK] is over”. Meanwhile, contrary to all expectations, the much-talked-about “armada” was heading toward Australia, far away from the Korean Peninsula. On Wednesday, Phil Stewart of Reuters noted:

It was even farther away over the weekend, moving through the Sunda Strait, and then into the Indian Ocean, as the DPRK displayed what appeared to be new missiles at a parade and staged a failed missile test.

On Tuesday, the US Pacific Command clarified that the flotilla needed to complete joint naval drills with Australia. The statement added that now the strike group was “proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered”. The paradoxical episode prompted a heated debate in the media, with some observers claiming that Trump’s empty threats have dealt a blow to the new administration’s credibility and others blaming the embarrassing situation on a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House. However, at the same time, some experts called attention to the fact that Trump somehow toned down his harsh rhetoric toward Pyongyang during his recent interview with TMJ4-TV in Wisconsin. Trump expressed hope that DPRK Kim Jong-Un wants to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula:

Hopefully, [Kim Jong-Un] wants peace, and we want peace. That’s gonna be the end determination. We’re gonna have to see what happens.

However, just a few days ago, US media circulated reports that Trump might order a strike against the DPRK if Pyongyang decides to carry out a new nuclear weapons test. Commenting on the matter, political scientist Aleksei Gusev told us:

It’s highly unlikely that the USA would engage the DPRK in a direct confrontation. There’ll be no strike against the DPRK, for the DPRK possesses not only nuclear weapons but also delivery vehicles… missiles with a range of about 5,000 kilometres. That’s enough to reach American territory. Therefore, it’s most likely that [the USA] wouldn’t launch a strike against the DPRK, for such an adventure could end very badly for the USA. Pyongyang remains a major irritant for the Trump administration. I don’t exclude a new nuclear weapons test on the part of the DPRK, as it has already conducted several nuclear weapons tests. Now, probably, there’ll be yet another atomic test… one can understand that Trump should issue a “serious” response [to it].

On Monday, Georgi Toloray, head of Korean studies at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took a similar stance:

US threats toward the DPRK are a mere bluff. Now, Trump and his administration say that it’s necessary to act decisively and take measures against the DPRK, including military options. However, in my opinion, this is still a bluff. Primarily, this bluff has the aim of making China act more decisively towards the DPRK.

It seems that the Russian experts nailed it, given the fact that the Carl Vinson and its task force were heading away from the Korean Peninsula as Trump and Pence issued threats to Kim Jong-Un.

19 April 2017

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201704191052780421-trump-strike-north-korea/

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Russia’s Supreme Court Deems Jehovah Witnesses Extremist, Bans Organisation

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On Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled the activities of the main centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia to be extremist, banning its work, and seizing their property. Judge Yuri Ivanenko ruled:

The Supreme Court ruled to sustain the claim of the Ministry of Justice (Minyust) and deem the “Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” organisation extremist, eliminate it, and ban its activity in Russia.

Earlier, the Minyust applied for an order to shut down the JW’s national headquarters near St Petersburg. Judge Ivanenko said:

The state will confiscate the property of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” organisation.

Following the ruling, JW representatives said that the group would appeal the court’s decision, stressing that they’re prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The judicial ruling hasn’t yet taken legal effect. Should the JWs lodge an appeal, the ruling would come into legal force at the announcement of the appellate resolution. Otherwise, the ruling would become final within 30 days.

In March, the authorities suspended the activities of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia… the largest Jehovah’s Witnesses group in the country, with some 175,000 adherents. According to the Minyust, the suspension came because the group conducted “extremist activity”.

20 April 2017

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201704201052821725-russia-supreme-court-jehovah-witnesses-extremism/

Russia Passes Law Banning Bizarre Baby Names

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On Friday, the Gosduma (lower house of the Federal Assembly) passed a bill that bans parents from officially giving their babies names that are foul words, numbers, titles, or abbreviations. Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the Gosduma Committee for State Construction and Legislation, told us that the law bans figures, abbreviations, numerals, symbols, characters that aren’t letters (except a dash), obscene words and titles or positions as baby names. Nevertheless, the law grants parents an opportunity to give their baby a dual surname at birth. Krasheninnikov said:

Until now, the law allowed a “double-barrelled” surname after marriage, when a couple could combine two surnames in one. The law would grant parents a right to give a dual surname at birth, combining the surnames of mother and father. The previous legislation also failed to oblige people to give their offspring names that didn’t violate the children’s interests or rights. We know about such weird names as Air Traffic Controller, Lancelot, Lexus, Lettuce, or BOChrVF260602 (which translates to “biological human object of the Voronin-Frolov family born on 26 June 2002”), Prince, or Tsar. Most children with such names are subject to bullying at kindergartens and schools and usually feel outcasts. Children can’t change their names before the age of 14. The law formalised a child’s right to a normal life, to well-balanced growth, and respect for their individuality and human dignity. As you know, your rights end where my rights begin.

BOChrVF260602, who is already 14, still has no ID papers since the Moscow registration office refused to register such an outlandish name. Subsequently, a court upheld this ban.

21 April 2017

TASS

http://tass.com/society/942631

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