Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Putin Names Russian Army Units After UKRAINIAN Cities

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President Putin named several Russian divisions and regiments after Ukrainian cities such as Lvov and Zhitomir, as well as the Polish capital Warsaw. This move is sure to anger Ukrainian and Polish ultra-nationalists. Indeed, the names already trigger and anger Ukrainian nationalists. Putin assigned the names as honorifics, commemorating the participation of these units in liberating the city for which they received their name.

For this reason, Putin’s decree named the 6 Guards Tank Regiment the 6 Lvov Guards Tank Regiment in honour of the Western Ukrainian city of Lvov in Galicia. The 68 Tank Regiment will now be the Zhitomir-Berlin Guards. The name of the regiment (originally raised in 1944 and reformed in 2017) is in honour of Zhitomir in the northern Ukraine and the title “Berlin” comes from the capture of Berlin in 1945. The 381 Artillery Regiment received the title Varshava (Warsaw), after the capital of Poland (note that Warsaw wasn’t the capital during the Polish occupation of the Ukraine… the then-capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita was Krakow). Soviet soldiers fought to liberate Warsaw and Poland from the German fascists and the heroes of the Red Army liberated the Nazi concentration camps. We mustn’t disregard this, even if contemporary Polish political figures forget it.

The 933 Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment received the title “Verkhnodneprovsk” (Upper Dnepr River) and the 102 Motor Rifle Regiment received the title “Slonim-Pomeransk”. The 90 Tank Division is now the 90 Guards Tank Division Vitebsk-Novgorod. Vitebsk is a Belarusian city located in the north near the Russian border. When people hear the name Novgorod they often think of the famous ancient city where Russian history began. Veliki Novgorod is close to Vitebsk and is the logical reason for the name, but we mustn’t forget the name simply means “New City”, and there’s the much larger and younger Nizhny Novgorod in Russia, as well as Novgorod in the Ukraine, which is located south of the original Veliki Novgorod. Additionally, the 400 Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment has the title Transylvania (in Romania), which means “Beyond the Forest”. In fact, that’s a common Slavic name, as there is one such place of the same name near Moscow, as well as one near Kiev.

Transylvania in Slavic languages uses a variant of its Austro-Hungarian name, Semigorod, meaning Seven Cities. The region is most famous for Voivode Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who spawned the Dracula legends. The lurid accounts emphasising Vlad’s ferocity might’ve been slightly exaggerated slander by the Germans. Contemporary Russian and Slavic accounts provide a more fair and unbiased middle ground. They acknowledge his cruelty, but also note his successful diplomacy and campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. They did criticise him for what they felt was a betrayal of Orthodoxy and believed this is what caused his death, in contrast to the life of his cousin, St Stephan the Great, but this is beyond the scope of this article. The focus is the units and the names Putin assigned them, but it’s worth understanding a little something about the regions from which they take their names.

The last three units mentioned were the 856 Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment (Guards of Kobryn), the 150 Motor Rifle Division (Idritsko-Berlin), and the 144 Motor Rifle Division (Elnya Guards). In Russian military tradition, a Guards Regiment or the title “Guards” refers to an élite or particularly distinguished unit. This isn’t the same as Special Operations (Spetsnaz) forces, but a Spetsnaz unit can also be a Guards unit. Officers of a Guards unit bear the title “of the Guards” added to their title, so, a Colonel of a Guards regiment would be a Colonel of the Guards or Guards Colonel. Of course, it’s important to address an officer or unit appropriately. The legendary and beloved Russian movie Only Old Men Go to Battle (a must watch for Russia lovers) joked about this. In the film, singer and ace pilot Captain Titarenko is walking by and one of the surprised soldiers in the scene said, “Oh, excuse me, Comrade Captain”, and he jokingly replied, “That’s Comrade Guards Captain to you!”

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The film is a classic about the Great Patriotic War, which is the main reason why these units received their special titles, to “preserve glorious military historical traditions, to instil in military personnel a spirit of devotion to the Motherland and loyalty in fulfilment of one’s military duty”. Of course, ultranationalists from the Ukraine, Poland, and (possibly) Romania may falsely see this as some form of expansionist threat, as some Ukrainians already have. This is ridiculous, as the units received such titles in honour of historical deeds of heroism. People shouldn’t blind themselves to their history, and the reality is that the USSR liberated these countries from fascism. Were it not for the might of the USSR, the fascists could’ve ruled all of Europe and likely the entire world. In the case of the Ukraine, this was Russian land, liberated by Slavic peoples… Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, but the USSR also helped Polish, Romanian, and Moldavian partisans to push the fascists off their land.

It was particularly interesting and ironic, but very appropriate, that a Guards Regiment would receive the title Lvov, which means “The Lion-City”. Lvov is the historical capital of Galicia; it’s the most stereotypically Western of Ukrainian cities. The traditional date of the founding of Lvov is 1256; however, some historians believe its foundation was between 1240 and 1247, shortly after the fall of Kiev (1240). The city served as the capital of the westernmost principality of Rus, quickly conquered by Poland, then, merged with the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita. During the period of the Rzeczpospolita, the Uniate Catholic religion arose; to this day, Lvov has one of the highest rates of Uniates or outright Roman Catholics in the Ukraine. This is illustrative of the extreme cultural differences between one part of the Ukraine and another, to the extent that it almost feels like they’re two separate countries.

Kiev, the traditional birthplace of Russia, was only separate from Russia for a period of around 300 years, between 1360 and 1654 (and again from 1991 to the present day); it has a much more Russian and Orthodox feel. If you didn’t know Russian cities and architecture, a foreigner could mistake it for a city like Volgograd… they both even have a “Motherland with a sword” statue. Kiev is over one thousand kilometres away from Volgograd, twice the distance to Lvov, which is about 500 kilometres from Kiev. Even though Kiev and Lvov are in the same country, whereas Volgograd isn’t, the former two are more distant in culture. Lvov looks, feels, and sounds much more Polish; it only reunited with Russia in 1939 after spending centuries in Austro-Hungary and Poland. It fell to the Germans during World War II; the Red Army only liberated it in 1944. Just imagine the differences between Lvov and the Donbass.

Not only does Lvov have a distinctly less “Soviet” look to it, but also the buildings even fit in with those in Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czechia, etc. The Churches look far more Catholic than they do Orthodox. These things influence culture and thought tremendously. There are Orthodox Christians from Lvov. Orthodox people in Lvov feel no different from those from the rest of the Ukraine or in Russia, aside from the language and accent of course. People in Lvov can still speak Russian if they encounter those who don’t speak Ukrainian. Lvov people are still Ukrainians, therefore, Eastern Slavs, and Galicia was once an equal part of Rus, so there’ll always be a common history. Still, one can’t deny the powerful foreign influence in Lvov. A simple look at the skylines reveals the cities have a different character. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad to be Polish, Austrian, etc, or it’s bad to have Catholic churches in your cities. Of course, it’s positive to coexist and respect all peoples and cultures. It’s simply worth noting that when a city looks and feels different, when the people speak a different, more Polish-influenced, Ukrainian, and when they spent most of their history in other states, it can cause cultural differences. These differences shouldn’t cause conflict, but human nature allows them to. I fully believe the Orthodox Church will unite the Ukraine, and see her through the storms, and that fascism has no future in this land, in the West, or the East. Still, there are difficulties today, caused by cultural differences.

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These differences express themselves clearly in Ukrainian political life and demographics. Naming a Russian regiment after Lvov is merely one of the ways to remind people of their brotherly bonds, of a time when people from all over the USSR fought together against fascism. There’s still much we must do to bring peace to the Ukraine after Western neocons and Ultranationalists tore it apart. Learning about when in history differences first emerged can help; ultimately, studying history reveals that all of the Ukraine, even Lvov, has roots in Kievan Rus. Instead, Ukrainian ultranationalists believe that they’re the “True Russians”, and that Russia has no claim to Kievan Rus. They think they’re more Russian than the Russians are! The Red Army drove the West out of Lvov, which invaded and occupied it. Indeed, Hitler came from the same group of Austro-Germans that occupied Galicia for centuries. It’s important to remember that and not to forget it.

3 July 2018

Russia Feed

http://russiafeed.com/putin-names-russian-army-groups-after-ukrainian-cities

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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

ROK President Moon to Visit Russia This week

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Yonhap News Agency reported, citing an anonymous presidential administration official, that ROK President Moon Jae-in will pay a three-day state visit to Russia later this week to meet President Putin. The two presidents will meet on Thursday, shortly after the ROK leader’s arrival in Moscow. This’ll be Moon’s first visit to the Russian capital since his election in May 2017 and the first state visit by a ROK President to Russia since 1999. Most expect Moon and Putin to pay special attention to the DPRK nuclear issue during the summit. Yonhap quoted the anonymous official:

Russia made significant contributions to efforts to denuclearise the DPRK, it also played a significant role in pressuring it, considering its economic relationship with the DPRK. In addition, the visit should help promote strategic cooperation between the two countries to establish peace in Northeast Asia amidst positive developments in security conditions and efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

Whilst in Moscow, Moon will also meet with Chairman of the RF Government D A Medvedev and other high-ranking officials. He’ll also be the first ROK President to address the RF Gosduma (lower house of the RF Federal Assembly). Later on, Moon will travel to Rostov-on-Don to attend the FIFA World Cup match between the ROK and Mexico before returning home on Saturday.

18 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/world/1009968

Monday, 18 June 2018

Media Reports Speculate that Trump May Meet with Putin in Europe in July

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The Washington Post cited “a senior administration official and two diplomats familiar with his schedule”:

We expect that President Trump shall meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next month while he’s in Europe for a NATO summit. On Friday, in a nod to those plans, Trump told reporters that “it’s possible” he’d meet with Putin this summer.

NATO is going to hold a summit in Brussels 11-12 July. The Post went on:

Trump’s interest in a meeting with Putin became public in March after the Kremlin disclosed that Trump extended an invitation in a phone call with the Russian leader. However, US officials say Trump privately asked his aides for a bilateral meeting ever since he met with Putin in Vietnam in November on the sidelines of a multilateral economic summit. A US official said, “After that meeting, the president said he wanted to invite Putin to the White House. We ignored it. At the time, top aides in the National Security Council opposed the idea of a meeting and said they didn’t view Trump’s interest in a summit as an order to set one up. They decided, ‘Let’s wait and see if he raises it again’”.

The push for engagement with the Kremlin follows months of prodding by Trump, who faced resistance from senior political aides and diplomats questioning the value of meeting with Putin and worry that a tête-à-tête could cast a shadow over the NATO summit in Brussels. Senior officials at the State Department acknowledged that a meeting between the two leaders could, in theory, help resolve long-standing differences on the Ukraine, Syria, cybersecurity issues, and interference in foreign elections. However, some of those officials said a summit between the two leaders is premature given the lack of progress on resolving minor issues, such as the return of Russian dachas on the East Coast seized as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the election.

In late December 2016, the Obama administration introduced a new round of sanctions against some Russian companies, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff. Besides that, US authorities expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland. Washington attributed these sanctions to cyberattacks against US political institutions, accusing Russia of being involved. However, Moscow fully rejected all allegations and refrained from giving a tit-for-tat response at the time.

On Wednesday, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia with the US National Security Council Richard Hooker told us that Washington and Moscow were considering the possibility to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. On 20 March, the two presidents held a telephone call and agreed to hand down instructions to start preparations for a Russia-USA summit. Putin and Trump earlier held talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit held in Hamburg in July 2017. They had another opportunity to negotiate during the APEC summit in Vietnam in November 2017 but managed only to exchange a couple of phrases. On 4 June, Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov said that we’ve taken no specific steps in order to prepare for a summit. Meanwhile, Putin confirmed on 10 June that he was ready to meet with Trump as soon as the USA was also ready for that.

16 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/world/1009827

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Izvestiya: Russia and China Confirm High-Level Partnership

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President V V Putin wrapped up his three-day visit to China this weekend during which he held comprehensive bilateral negotiations and took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. Russia and China signed multibillion-dollar contracts, which included the construction of two additional power units at the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant and building the new Xudabao Nuclear Power Plant. According to experts, the talks set the tone for relations between Moscow and Beijing for the next few years. Putin said the parties confirmed “a very high level” of relations. The Chinese side also positively assessed the outcome of the talks. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs source Geng Shuang said, “The current visit by President Putin is an absolute success”. Zhao Huasheng, Director of the Department of Russia and Central Asia at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, noted:

The meeting of the two leaders was shortly after their election to new terms. For both countries, this visit is the new beginning of cooperation for the next five or six years. It once again showed that the sides are ready to continue and enhance cooperation.

Yang Cheng, a Sino-Russian relations expert from the Shanghai International Studies University, said:

For the first time, India and Pakistan participated in the SCO summit in Qingdao. Amidst difficult relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, there were fears that Indian-Pakistani bilateral tension would affect the SCO’s activity. However, on the contrary, their membership in the SCO made it possible to ease tensions.

13 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/pressreview/1009261

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