How Russians Define Freedom; Putin Signs Anti-Terrorism Law; Putin Calls Obama re Syria & Ukraine, Then Talks to Merkel & Hollande re Ukraine; More NATO Drills

The Russian Art Museum, St. Petersburg
The Russian Art Museum, St. Petersburg; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin


Russia Beyond the Headlines reports that a new poll reveals most Russians view freedom as the ability to pursue the career of one’s choice and freedom of expression.

This as the Russian president signed a new anti-terrorism bill into law, which contains some controversial changes.  RT provided details on some of the main provisions:

The anti-terrorist package of bills was drafted in April 2016 by a group of lower house lawmakers, who described it as a response to the bombing of an A-231 jet liner in Egypt in October 2015 and the terrorist attacks in Paris in November of that year.


The document contains a separate criminal article that orders up to 10 years in prison for anyone engaging in international terrorism, and up to 15 years behind bars for anyone found guilty of financing terrorist groups. Attracting new recruits to a terrorist organization was also criminalized, and will be punished with prison terms of between five and 10 years.


The new bill also lowers the age threshold for terrorist crimes, such as terrorist attacks and hostage taking, to 14 years from the current 16. Presently the age of minors in Russia is 16, with exceptions made for such crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping and several others. For these, criminals are deemed to be responsible from the age of 14.


Another provision stipulates fines of between 300,000 and 1 million rubles ($4,600 – $15,400) or prison terms ranging from five to seven years for public calls to terrorism or justifying terrorist crimes, including via the internet.


Among others, the bill drew criticism from Edward Snowden, who has been given refuge in Russia:

#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia…  Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned. Beyond political and constitution consequences, it is also a $33b+ tax on Russia’s internet.


Parliamentary elections are coming up in September in the lower house (Duma) and Russia will reportedly invite U.S. election monitors to participate in oversight of the polls if Washington agrees to reciprocate and allow Russian monitors to help oversee U.S. elections:

State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin has said that monitors from the United States would be welcomed at Russian polls, but added that such steps required mutuality.


We have no secrets from anyone but of course we would like to see decent and honest people observing our elections. It is evident that there are decent and honest people in the United States, including among their parliamentarians, but still this issue needs to be worked on,” RIA Novosti quoted Naryshkin as saying.


The Duma chief also told reporters that such steps should be mutual, adding that he personally had doubts about the possibility of such cooperation, given the experience that Russian monitors had with previous US elections.


This is difficult to imagine if we recall some episodes from previous US polls when a state prosecutor threatened to arrest us if we did not keep a distance of at least 20 meters from a polling station,” Naryshkin said.


In late May, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it plans to invite representatives of four international political blocs and organizations to this year’s parliamentary elections. The invitations will be extended to representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Putin had two important phone calls over the past 10 days, the first with President Obama regarding cooperation in Syria as well as addressing the Ukraine conflict, in which there are still sporadic flare-ups which have worsened recently amid reports of an increased build-up by the Kiev government of troops and weapons near the contact line in Donbass.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the conversation focused mainly on Syria:

The two leaders discussed Syria and Ukraine, according to a White House summary of the phone conversation, as well as efforts to settle the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Mr. Obama emphasized U.S. concern that the Syrian regime wasn’t complying with a cease-fire agreement and urged Mr. Putin to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to fully do so. The two also “confirmed their commitment to defeating ISIL and the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria,” the White House said.

A Kremlin summary of the call said the two leaders agreed to intensify military coordination in Syria. A senior Obama administration official said Wednesday the U.S. and Russia aren’t currently “conducting or coordinating military operations with Russia, nor is there an agreement to do so.”

Mr. Putin also urged Mr. Obama to help separate moderate opposition forces from Nusra front and other terrorist groups, the Kremlin said.

The U.S. has proposed that Moscow force Mr. Assad to ground Syria’s air force in exchange for the Pentagon’s help with targeting in Syria.

RT, however, reported that, according to the Kremlin’s account of the conversation, the issue of Ukraine was brought up by the Russian president:

Putin also returned to the topic of the Minsk agreements, concerning Ukraine, and called on Kiev to follow the terms of the 18-month-old treaty, which has still not been fully implemented. Specifically, he has called for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to engage in “direct dialog with Donetsk and Lugansk, carry out an amnesty, and award the regions special autonomous status.”

Shortly afterwards, Putin had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande regarding increased violations of the ceasefire agreed to at Minsk in 2015.

The Moscow Times had the following details:

Putin stressed the “provocative nature” of Ukraine’s military operations in the Donbass region, and called on Merkel and Hollande to pressure Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko into complying with the Minsk agreements.


All three agreed on the need to remove heavy weaponry and the equal withdrawal of forces from the front line.


[Neo-Nazi] Andrey Parubiy, the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, warned earlier this week that military activity could soon flare up in the Donbass region, the RBC newspaper reported.


“There is a risk that our enemy could strengthen on two fronts. There is an election campaign in the U.S. and Europe is going through a moment of crisis. The Kremlin is also planning to intensify the conflict in this period,” Parubiy said. “On one front we face military attacks and attempts to destabilize the country on the other.”


Russia’s Foreign Ministry also warned Wednesday that Kiev could be preparing for a new offensive in the Donbass, expressing its concern over the build up of Ukrainian military forces and volunteer battalions along the front line.


NATO, meanwhile, is continuing with yet more exercises.  This time it’s the Sea Breeze 2016 naval drills in the Black Sea, described as follows by RT:

As many as 25 military vessels, two planes, two helicopters and some 1,700 personnel are taking part in the exercise conducted in the international waters, reports Sofia New Agency.


All NATO member states of the Black Sea region, namely Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, are taking part in the drills, also attended by warships from Greece and Spain. The exercise also involves NATO associates Ukraine and Georgia.

Veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry, over at Consortium News, provides another blistering analysis of the NATO narrative of reality from February of 2014 to the present:

The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every “important person” in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality.


But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act.


“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” Pavel told a news conference.


What Pavel blurted out was what I have been told by intelligence sources over the past two-plus years – that the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression” results from a clever demonization campaign against Putin and a classic Washington “group think” rather than from a careful intelligence analysis.


Ironically, however, just days after the release of the British Chilcot report documenting how a similar propaganda campaign led the world into the disastrous Iraq War – with its deadly consequences still reverberating through a destabilized Mideast and into an unnerved Europe – NATO reenacts the basic failure of that earlier catastrophe, except now upping the ante into a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.


The Warsaw communiqué – signed by leaders including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron – ignores the reality of what happened in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 and thus generates an inside-out narrative.

Read the complete article at


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