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Russia calls on Erdoğan for an explanation

On 13 October 2020, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave a call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

After reminding him of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s condemnation of Turkey’s active support of Daesh in November 2015 during the G20 summit in Antalya and on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference, he enjoined Turkey to respond to the charges levelled against her: the transfer of Syrian and Iraqi jihadists to Libya and Azerbaijan.

Russia already views the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with trepidation, but especially with anger at the arrival of jihadists in its area of influence.

Long before being president, as leader of the nationalist militia Millî Görüş, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had provided a rear base in Chechnya for terrorists of the Islamic Emirate.

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«Global Cybersecurity and Russia’s International Initiatives on Combating Cybercrime»

by Sergey Lavrov

VOLTAIRE NETWORK 

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The coronavirus pandemic, which has changed the lives of billions of people within a matter of several weeks, has become a real test for humankind. It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty when the pandemic will end. It would be logical in this situation to digitalise many aspects of everyday life, including state governance, business activities and education. The sphere of international ties has responded to this trend as well. It therefore makes perfect sense that ensuring reliable international information security (IIS) has moved to the top of the global agenda.

The situation in this sphere is far from ideal. Moreover, the international community is facing a real cyber pandemic, which can be seen not just in the invasion of the privacy of ordinary people throughout the world. We are deeply concerned about acts of cyber terrorism, that is, the increased number of hacking attacks on healthcare, fiscal and education establishments and international organisations recorded during the pandemic. Cyberattacks, which have been identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of top five global risks, are threatening the successful operation and very existence of entire industries. The figures are self-explanatory. According to the WEF, in 2019 alone the cost to the economy of cyberattacks was $2.5 trillion and the figure could reach $8 trillion by 2022.

Information and communication technology (ICT) is being widely used to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Some countries are openly discussing their alleged right to deliver preemptive cyber strikes on their potential adversaries, including their critical infrastructure.

The absence of a universal international code of conduct in the cyber sphere is jeopardising the sustainable socioeconomic, scientific and technical development of absolutely all states without exception. Humankind risks being drawn into a dangerous large-scale cyber confrontation, which could not be limited to any local area due to the cross-border nature of modern communications and the interdependence of national economies.

It is high time the international community drew the necessary conclusions about the use of ICT for regulating state cyber activities in a civilised manner, without hindering progress or infringing on fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Russia’s guidelines for supporting IIS take into account all aspects of this problem. We distinguish three groups of threats: military-political, terrorist and criminal ones.

It bears repeating that more than 20 years ago, in 1998, speaking at the United Nations, Russia was the first to warn the world about the risks posed by cyberspace, then in its early development, and to propose specific solutions for countering those risks. Our stance remains unchanged today and is as follows:

– All states without exception must be involved in resolving and discussing this global problem. It is also important to consider the opinions of other stakeholders (businesses, civil society and the scientific community);

– It is only possible to find a universal solution through talks under the auspices of the United Nations;

– The main objective of these negotiating efforts is to prevent conflict in the information space and to ensure that information and communications technologies are used solely for peaceful purposes. In this context, it becomes increasingly important to promptly reach agreement on rules of responsible conduct for countries to secure, in the digital environment, the principles of respect for sovereignty, non-interference in domestic affairs, non-use of force or threat of force, the right to individual and collective self-defence, respect for the primary human rights and freedoms, and equal rights for all states to participate in internet governance.

Unfortunately, a number of countries oppose this inclusive course with a different logic that substitutes fighting for equal and indivisible cybersecurity with a barely disguised intention to impose its own rules. In this way, they wish to preserve their technological advantages and continue taking unilateral coercive measures when it comes to ICT, and to ultimately arrogate the right to assign responsible parties in cyber incidents. Eventually, all this could turn the global information space into a new battleground.

For example, some are strongly against developing international legal instruments that would prevent the use of information technologies for strictly military and political purposes and would clarify which cyberattacks could be qualified as an armed assault and, therefore, be subject to Article 51 of the UN Charter on countries’ right to self-defence. They do not support the idea of strengthening the role of this world organisation in regulating political issues related to the use of information and communication technologies, including the establishment of international cyber arbitration or another permanent body dealing with international information security under its aegis. They deny the importance of involving the UN Security Council in analysing and settling international incidents and conflicts related to the use of ICT. They dispute the right of countries to sovereignty in ensuring national information security and over the information and communication infrastructure located on their territory.

With this in mind, it is particularly telling that Russia’s principled approaches are the ones being most widely supported in the world. The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in 2018 adopted our resolution by an overwhelming majority of votes. The resolution not only outlined an initial list of rules of conduct for countries in the information space but also created an effective negotiation mechanism under the auspices of the UN in the form of an ad hoc working group with an open composition to find practical solutions to the international information security issue.

Acting on a parallel track, Russia initiated the drafting of a comprehensive international convention to counter the use of information and communication technology for criminal purposes within the UN framework. In this context, a draft resolution Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes was submitted to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. In all, 47 states co-sponsored the document. Approved by most Asian, African and Latin American countries, the resolution called for the establishment of an ad hoc intergovernmental expert committee with an open composition to draft the above-mentioned convention, with due consideration for existing international documents, as well as national and regional efforts to fight cybercrime.

The international community’s receptivity to the Russian initiative shows that the conclusion of such an agreement is a demand of the times, an awareness of a new reality linked with the rapidly increasing role of the information and communication technology and the challenges arising in this connection.

Russia will continue working to expand bilateral and multilateral cooperation on the entire range of topical matters of international information security, including in the interests of countering threats that arise during the large-scale use of the information and communication technology for military and political purposes. Our priorities include efforts to help draft and approve international acts regulating the use of the principles and norms of international humanitarian law in this area, the creation of favourable conditions for establishing an international law regime for the non-proliferation of information weapons, the drafting and implementation of multilateral programmes helping overcome information inequality between industrial and developing countries.

We are urging our partners to borrow the best aspects of the relevant experience for uniting the international community against the coronavirus pandemic and to creatively use this know-how in the cybersphere. It is important not to shelve pressing matters, not to engage in a political tug-of-war, but to focus on practical work and to pool efforts.

We are convinced that the 75th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly, opening in September, is called on to become a good opportunity for creating the foundations of an effective system of international information security. We hope that its participants will contribute to this work while developing solutions aimed at ensuring a stable post-COVID future for humankind.Sergey Lavrov

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Russian comment on discrepancies and inconsistencies in the situation around Alexey Navalny

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The Russian Federation has been acting in the most transparent manner in the situation around Mr. Alexey Navalny from the very beginning. At the request of relatives, he was promptly granted permission to travel to Germany for medical treatment, which he did without hindrance, once the doctors at the Omsk hospital managed to stabilize his condition. Moreover, Russian doctors passed on to their German colleagues the data they had collected on the patient’s health condition and were ready to continue to work together for the sake of his speedy recovery.

Unfortunately, in response we received a categorical refusal from the German government to cooperate in establishing the truth about the situation with Mr. Alexey Navalny. In fact, from day one Berlin switched to “megaphone diplomacy”, launched a broad smear campaign baselessly accusing Russian authorities of allegedly poisoning the Russian citizen. The Euro-Atlantic allies, as well as NATO and the European Union headquarters became actively involved in the situation, demanding an “independent international investigation” under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Surprisingly, unlike the Russian toxicologists, the doctors of the «Charity» hospital immediately found the presence of cholinesterase inhibitors in the analysis of the Russian citizen, claiming that he was poisoned. After that, German military experts from the Military Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology in Munich promptly became involved and, in the atmosphere of ongoing anti-Russian hysteria in the West, came to a quite predictable conclusion that Mr. Alexey Navalny was «exposed» to a chemical agent from the «Novichok» group.

Germany’s actions were so well-coordinated that a lot of questions started to surface about whether we are dealing with another staged mystical use of chemical weapons, though now not in Syria and the UK, but in Russia. A number of facts lead to such thoughts, namely: the immediate involvement at the highest level with requests to expeditiously take the blogger to Germany for treatment; the presence of Bundeswehr representatives and specialized vehicles of the German Ministry of Defense during his transportation; involvement in the situation of the top military and political leadership, declaring that the aforementioned «patient» was their «guest». All these organizational issues seem to have been part of a plan to politicize this incident with the clear aim of accusing Russia of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Contrary to its obligations under the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1959 and its two Additional Protocols, the German government is actively opposing the pre-investigation check of the Navalny incident in Russia, thus hindering the efforts to establish truth under Russian law. Evidence of this is the categorical refusal to cooperate with the Russian law enforcement agencies and medical institutions, ignoring legitimate requests of the General Prosecutor’s Office and appealing to the «expert» potential of the OPCW. The latter is also understandable, since, ironically, once a quite successful and credible international structure, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for the chemical demilitarization of Syria, has essentially been turned by the Euro-Atlantic allies into a tool to promote their geopolitical agenda in the Middle East and beyond.

The fact that the German side concealed the information about a bottle with alleged traces of highly toxic chemicals, that had been taken by Mr. Navalny’s entourage from the hotel room in Tomsk in violation of criminal investigation procedures, and the subsequent unauthorized transportation of this object to Germany, suggests the whole story is politically motivated. Obviously, such evidence is quite questionable from a legal point of view. In line with this goes an amateur, in terms of chemistry and toxicology, presentation of the evidence in the video footage – all associates of Mr. A.Navalny involved, Bundeswehr representatives and German doctors wear no protective suits, mandatory in such cases. There are also questions as to why people around the «poisoned» Mr. Alexey Navalny in the hotel, at the airport and on the aircraft felt perfectly normal. Logically, they should have been seriously affected, but apparently, in a happy coincidence, that was not the case. Summing up, everywhere on the verge of fantasy amazing things happened.

Berlin’s blatant disregard of the requests from the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for legal assistance constitutes a direct violation of paragraph 2 of Article VII of the CWC, which obliges all States-Parties to provide such assistance. Furthermore, demands that the German government and NATO allies have been putting forward since early September, 2020 for Russia to «facilitate» an investigation under the auspices of the OPCW serve no other purpose than to undermine the basic principles of the CWC and constitute an attempt to use this international body to interfere in the internal affairs of a State-Party to the Convention, that has direct jurisdiction over all the events in Tomsk and Omsk.

The detection and identification by the laboratories of Germany, France and Sweden of highly toxic chemicals, called «Novichok» in the West, is the evidence in itself that they have long been well-known, studied and produced on high-end technological equipment in a number of NATO and EU countries. In some of them, for example the US, patents were issued for the military use of this group of chemicals, which is very telling by itself, as well as in the context of the situation around A.Navalny.

The close attention to this class of toxic chemicals is confirmed by a scientific article, published earlier this year, by experts from the US military chemical laboratory (Aberdeen, Maryland) on the research of the properties of «Novichoks». In particular the scientists indicated that they synthesized these types of chemicals (A230, A232 and A234). In any case, this fact refutes any possible arguments that such technologies should only be associated with the USSR or Russia.

The role of the OPCW Technical Secretariat in this situation is quite questionable. Of particular significance is the fact that since the OPCW Director-General Mr. Fernando Arias received information on the alleged “poisoning” of Mr. Alexey Navalny from the German side on September 3, 2020, the Technical Secretariat has taken some “preparatory measures” in anticipation of a request from Germany and has been maintaining permanent contact with Berlin. This circumstance clearly exposes the warped judgment and political bias of the Technical Secretariat that has never mentioned its active cooperation with Berlin when communicating with Russia’s Permanent Mission to the OPCW.

It soon turned out that the OPCW experts «independently» took biosamples from Mr. Alexey Navalny on 5-6 September, while the official request for technical assistance under Article VIII, subparagraph 38(e) of the CWC was sent by Berlin only on September 12-13, 2020. Therefore, the Technical Secretariat began “assisting” in this politically biased matter without a proper mandate. Furthermore, the German government claimed having already sent the samples to the OPCW in its statement of September 14, 2020, while the Technical Secretariat itself confirmed to us its involvement in this process for the first time on September 17, 2020.

The media statement regarding Germany’s request for technical assistance issued on the OPCW website on September 17, 2020, indicates that the Technical Secretariat has overstepped its mandate and violated the CWC. Article VII of the Convention provides for no role of the Technical Secretariat in pre-investigative and investigative proceedings carried out by the States-Parties within the framework of their legislation, in this case, for the alleged use of chemical weapons by individuals or legal persons. Therefore, the Technical Secretariat has gone beyond its mandate by providing technical assistance to the German side under subparagraph 38(e) of Article VIII of the CWC in relation to the “alleged poisoning of Mr. Alexey Navalny”. Berlin needs no assistance from the OPCW to analyze samples in the OPCW-certified laboratories, which Berlin itself confirmed through its bilateral cooperation with France and Sweden without any “mediation” of the OPCW.

Furthermore, the OPCW Technical Secretariat was not authorized to disclose any information concerning technical assistance without the consent of the Russian Federation since, in accordance with the CWC Confidentiality Annex (subparagraph 2(c)(ii)), any information obtained by the OPCW in connection with the implementation of the Convention can be released only with the expressed consent of the State Party to which the information refers. The Technical Secretariat was well aware that the situation with Mr. Alexey Navalny directly involves Russia, however, its leadership that had long become embroiled in political intrigues opted once again to ignore its obligations and kept on with the travesty for a while by hiding its involvement in the situation with the Russian citizen at Berlin’s behest.

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Vladimir Putin on a comprehensive program of measures for restoring the Russia – US cooperation in the field of international information security

by Vladimir Putin

VOLTAIRE NETWORK 

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One of today’s major strategic challenges is the risk of a large-scale confrontation in the digital field. A special responsibility for its prevention lies on the key players in the field of ensuring international information security (IIS). In this regard, we would like to once again address the US with a suggestion to agree on a comprehensive program of practical measures to reboot our relations in the field of security in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

First. To restore a regular full-scale bilateral interagency high-level dialogue on the key issues of ensuring IIS.

Second. To maintain a continuous and effective functioning of the communication channels between competent agencies of our States through Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers, Computer Emergency Readiness Teams and high-level officials in charge of the issues of IIS within the bodies involved in ensuring national security, includig that of information.

Third. To jointly develop and conclude a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on preventing incidents in the information space similarly to the Soviet-American Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas in force since 25 May 1972.

Fourth. To exchange, in a mutually acceptable format, guarantees of non-intervention into internal affairs of each other, including into electoral processes, inter alia, by means of the ICTs and high-tech methods.

We call on the US to greenlight the Russian-American professional expert dialogue on IIS without making it a hostage to our political disagreements.

These measures are aimed at building up trust between our States, promoting security and prosperity of our peoples. They will significantly contribute to ensuring global peace in the information space. Addressing all countries, including the US, we suggest reaching global agreement on a political commitment of States on no-first-strike with the use of ICTs against each other.Vladimir Putin

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Intervention by Vladimir Putin before the 75th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly

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Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
colleagues,
ladies and gentlemen,

This year, the international community celebrates two, without exaggeration, historic anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and establishment of the United Nations.

The importance of these two forever interlinked events cannot be overemphasized. In 1945, Nazism was defeated, the ideology of aggression and hatred was crushed, and the experience and spirit of alliance, as well as the awareness of the huge price that had been paid for peace and our common Victory, helped construct the post-war world order. It was built on the ultimate foundation of the UN Charter that remains the main source of international law to this day.

I am convinced that this anniversary makes it incumbent upon all of us to recall the timeless principles of inter-State communication enshrined in the UN Charter and formulated by the founding fathers of our universal Organization in the clearest and most unambiguous terms. These principles include the equality of sovereign States, non-interference with their domestic affairs, the right of peoples to determine their own future, non-use of force or the threat of force, and political settlement of disputes.

Looking back at the past decades, one can say that despite all difficulties of the Cold War period, major geopolitical shifts and all the intricacies of today’s global politics, the UN has been ably fulfilling its mission of protecting peace, promoting sustainable development of the peoples and continents and providing assistance in mitigating local crises.

This enormous potential and expertise of the UN is relevant and serves as a solid basis for moving ahead. After all, just like any other international organization or regional entity, the UN should not grow stiff, but evolve in accordance with the dynamics of the 21st century and consistently adapt to the realia of the modern world that is indeed becoming more complicated, multipolar and multidimensional.

The current changes certainly have an effect on the principal UN body, the Security Council, as well as on the debate concerning the approaches to its reform. Our logic is that the Security Council should be more inclusive of the interests of all countries, as well as the diversity of their positions, base its work on the principle of the broadest possible consensus among States and, at the same time, continue to serve as the cornerstone of global governance, which cannot be achieved unless the permanent members of the Security Council retain their veto power.

Such a right pertaining to the five nuclear powers, the victors of the Second World War, remains indicative of the actual military and political balance to this day. Most importantly, it is an essential and unique instrument that helps prevent unilateral actions that may result in a direct military confrontation between major States, and provides an opportunity to seek compromise or at least avoid solutions that would be completely unacceptable to others and act within the framework of international law, rather than a vague, gray area of arbitrariness and illegitimacy.

As diplomatic practice shows, this instrument actually works, unlike the infamous pre-war League of Nations with its endless discussions, declarations without mechanisms for real action and with States and peoples in need not having the right to assistance and protection.

Forgetting the lessons of history is short-sighted and extremely irresponsible, just like the politicized attempts to arbitrarily interpret the causes, course and outcomes of the Second World War and twist the decisions of the conferences of the Allies and the Nuremberg Tribunal that are based on speculation instead of facts.

It is not just vile and offending the memory of the fighters against Nazism. It is a direct and devastating blow to the very foundation of the post-war world order, which is particularly dangerous in view of the global stability facing serious challenges, the arms control system breaking down, regional conflicts continuing unabated, and threats posed by terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking intensifying.

We are also experiencing a whole new challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. This disease has directly affected millions of people and claimed the most important thing: the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Quarantines, border closures, numerous serious troubles to citizens of almost all States constitute the present-day realia. It has been especially difficult for elderly people who, due to the necessary restrictions, have not been able to hug their loved ones, children and grandchildren for weeks or even months.

Experts are yet to fully assess the scale of the social and economic shock caused by the pandemic and all its long-term consequences. However, it is already evident that it will take a really, really long time to restore the global economy. Furthermore, even the proven anti-crisis measures will not always work. We will need new innovative solutions.

The only way to elaborate such solutions is to work together, which is the most important task for both the UN and G20 States, as well as other leading inter-State organizations and integration associations that are also going through tough times due to the pandemic impact and need fundamentally new horizons and scope of development.

This very idea of a qualitative integrative growth, the ”integration of integrations“, is the one behind Russia’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership involving all Asian and European countries without exception. It is purely pragmatic and increasingly relevant.

Besides, I would like to draw attention once again to Russia’s proposal to create so-called ”green corridors“ free from trade wars and sanctions, primarily for essential goods, food, medicine and personal protective equipment needed to fight the pandemic.

In general, freeing the world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be of great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment. According to experts, total or partial reduction in global employment in the second quarter of this year equals to the loss of 400 million jobs, and we have to do our utmost to prevent this unemployment from growing long-term and ensure that people return to work and can support their families instead of finding themselves imprisoned by poverty with no prospects in life.

This is indeed a most acute global social problem, so the politics has a mission now to pave the way for trade, joint projects and fair competition, rather than tie the hands of business and discourage business initiative.

The pandemic has also pinpointed a series of ethical, technological and humanitarian matters. For instance, advanced digital technologies helped quickly reorganize education, trade and services, as well as set up distant learning and online courses for people of different ages. Artificial intelligence has assisted doctors in making more accurate and timely diagnoses and finding the best treatment.

However, just like any other innovation, digital technologies tend to spread uncontrollably and, just like conventional weapons, can fall into the hands of various radicals and extremists not only in the regional conflict zones, but also in quite prosperous countries, thus engendering enormous risks.

In this regard, matters related to cybersecurity and the use of advanced digital technology also deserve a most serious deliberation within the UN. It is important to hear and appreciate the concerns of people over the protection of their rights, such as the right to privacy, property and security, in the new era.

We must learn to use new technologies for the benefit of humankind, seek for a right balance between encouraging the development of artificial intelligence and justifiable restrictions to limit it, and work together towards a consensus in the field of regulation that would avert potential threats in terms of both military and technological security, as well as traditions, law, and morals of human communication.

I would like to point out that during the pandemic, doctors, volunteers and citizens of various countries have been showing us examples of mutual assistance and support, and such solidarity defies borders. Many countries have also been helping each other selflessly and open-heartedly. However, there have been cases showing the deficit of humanity and, if you will, kindness in the relations at the official inter-State level.

We believe that the UN prestige could strengthen and enhance the role of the humanitarian or human component in multilateral and bilateral relations, namely in people-to-people and youth exchanges, cultural ties, social and educational programs, as well as cooperation in sports, science, technology, environment and health protection.

As to healthcare, just like in economy, we now need to remove, as many as possible, obstacles to partner relations. Our country has been actively contributing to global and regional counter-COVID-19 efforts, providing assistance to most affected states both bilaterally and within multilateral formats.

In doing so, we first of all take into account the central coordinating role of the World Health Organization, which is part of the UN system. We believe it essential to qualitatively strengthen the WHO capability. This work has already begun, and Russia is genuinely motivated to engage in it.

Building on the scientific, industrial and clinical experience of its doctors Russia has promptly developed a range of test systems and medicines to detect and treat the coronavirus, as well as registered the world’s first vaccine, “Sputnik-V.”

I would like to reiterate that we are completely open to partner relations and willing to cooperate. In this context, we are proposing to hold an online high-level conference shortly for countries interested in cooperation in the development of anti-coronavirus vaccines.

We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all States and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine which has proved reliable, safe, and effective, to other countries. Russia is sure that all capacities of the global pharmaceutical industry need to be employed so as to provide a free access to vaccination for the population of all states in the foreseeable future.

A dangerous virus can affect anyone. The coronavirus has struck the staff of the United Nations, its headquarters and regional structures just like everyone else. Russia is ready to provide the UN with all the necessary qualified assistance; in particular, we are offering to provide our vaccine, free of charge, for the voluntary vaccination of the staff of the UN and its offices. We have received requests from our UN colleagues in this respect, and we will respond to those.

There are other critical items on today’s agenda. The issues of both environmental protection and climate change should remain the focus of joint efforts.

The specialized multilateral UN conventions, treaties and protocols have proved fully relevant. We are calling on all states to comply with them in good faith, particularly in working to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Dear colleagues! I would like to underline again, that Russia will make every effort to contribute to peaceful political and diplomatic resolution of regional crises and conflicts, as well as to ensuring strategic stability.

For all the disputes and differences, at times misunderstanding and even distrust on the part of some colleagues, we will consistently advance constructive, uniting initiatives, first of all in arms control and strengthening the treaty regimes existing in this area. This includes the prohibition of chemical, biological and toxin weapons.

The issue of primary importance that should and must be promptly dealt with is, of course, the extension of the Russia-US Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire shortly, i.e. in February 2021. We are engaged in negotiations with our US partners on the matter.

We also expect that mutual restraint would be exercised with regard to deploying new missile systems. I would like to add that as early as last year, Russia declared a moratorium on deploying ground-launched medium and short-range missiles in Europe and other regions as long as the United States of America refrains from such actions. Unfortunately, we have not received any reaction to our proposal from either our US partners or their allies.

I believe that such reciprocal steps on specific issues would provide a sound basis for launching a serious, profound dialogue on the entire range of factors affecting strategic stability. It would aim at achieving comprehensive arrangements, shaping a solid foundation for the international security architecture that would build on prior experience in this field and in line with both the existing and future politico-military and technological realia.

In particular, Russia is putting forward an initiative to sign a binding agreement between all the leading space powers that would provide for the prohibition of the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force against outer space objects.

We are well aware of the fact that security issues as well as other problems discussed by this jubilee UN General Assembly call for consolidated efforts on the basis of values that unite us, our shared memory of the lessons of history, and the spirit of alliance which guided the anti-Hitler coalition participants who found it possible to raise above differences and ideological preferences for the sake of Victory and peace for all nations on the Earth.

In the current challenging environment, it is important for all countries to show political will, wisdom and foresight. The permanent members of the UN Security Council – those powers that, for 75 years now, have been bearing particular responsibility for international peace and security, the preservation of the foundations of international law – should take the lead here.

Fully realizing this responsibility, Russia has suggested convening a G5 summit. It would aim at reaffirming the key principles of behavior in international affairs, elaborating ways to effectively address today’s most burning issues. It is encouraging that our partners have supported the initiative. We expect to hold such summit – in person – as soon as epidemiological situation makes it possible.

I would like to reiterate that in an interrelated, interdependent world, amid the whirlpool of international developments, we need to work together drawing on the principles and norms of international law enshrined in the UN Charter. This is the only way for us to carry out the paramount mission of our Organization and provide a decent life for the present and future generations.

I wish all the peoples of our planet peace and well-being.

Thank you.

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Russia saved not only Syria from Western backed jihadi terrorists

The Trump regime will not accept that its unipolar strategy was destined not to enhance America power, but actually decrease it, a huge diplomatic failureBy Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor -October 5, 20204360

How Russia’s five-year long involvement in Syria war changed balance of power in Mid East & beyond

…from Sputnik News, Moscow

[ Editor’s Note: VT has had to do most of our work at long distance, due to budgetary and time constraints, plus the physical wear and tear of road trips, which can include having to get through Homeland Security when coming back.

As an example, the Stew Webb attempt to set us up with being searched on one return trip blew up in their faces when the “leak” that Gordon had traveled to Syria to train ISIS snipers and that he was running guns into Afghanistan, presumably to the Taliban, when it was widely known that they already had plenty of guns.

VT at Syrian Counter-Terrorism Court during the Damascus Counter-Terrorism Conference, December 2015 – Jim Dean Archives

DHS siezed Gordon’s cell phone photos that showed a treasure trove haul of Gordon and his old school buddy Mike Chester on a whirlwind tour of Germany to see Gordon’s relatives, with hundreds of date and time stamped photos and videos detailing their travels. DHS had been scammed by Webb.

After midnight meeting, Syrian Justice Minister Dr. Nagym with VT – Jim Dean archives

His punishment for that was the DHS gave up his name, under the long time rule that a source that provides bogus information loses his confidentiality as a result.

We have traveled overseas when there was a critical need and when it was feasible, like my first trip to Syria as an election monitor in 2014, or the Damascus Counter-Terrorism Conference in the summer of 2015 where Gordon gave the signature address, and then a rushed trip back in the fall a month before the Russians came in.

At the time we could not discuss the details of the last trip but did have a few photos in the archives. Getting to meet the Grand Mufti, our last stop on the last day, was a memorable treat. He was a true blue Syrian patriot, and highly respected by all, except for the Jihadis and the US for some reason.

Meeting the Grand Mufti was a treat, as he was the real deal. Mattlingly is in the center

The US of course would never accept the blame for the Russians being in Syria, for what appears to be not only the next 50 years, but maybe 50 more if they renew their basing options.

The Trump regime will not accept that its unipolar strategy was destined not to enhance America power, but actually decrease it, a huge diplomatic failure.

And by that I am not using military hardware as the key measurement, but the US loss of credibily in terms of purity of motive, and its becoming viewed more as a threat to peace than a guardian.

Americans have a lot of work to do as their lack of resistance has put their defacto approval on most of what has happened. Will Biden turn back the clock to make America the once respected friend it used to be? Or would the Israeli Lobby have him dancing the jig for them like Trump has done?

We will have to wait and see. But if he does, VT will go into opposition, because that’s what we do. We don’t sit back and lap it up, as we watch so many do… Jim W. Dean ]

Author with the Syria election commission just befor the 2014 vote – Jim Dean Archives

– First published … October 05,2020 –

Five years ago Russia became involved in the Syrian civil war, prompting an abrupt U-turn in the situation on the ground and ending the spread of Islamist terrorism in the country. Middle East expert Ghassan Kadi and Syrian journalist Basma Qaddour have taken a look at the Russo-Syrian strategic partnership’s achievements and plans.

On 30 September 2015, Russia started an air operation against Daesh* in Syria in response to a request for military help from the Arab Republic’s legitimate government headed by President Bashar al-Assad.

“We all know that thousands of people from European countries, Russia, and the post-Soviet region have joined the ranks of the so-called Islamic State, a terrorist organisation that – I want to stress again – has nothing to do with genuine Islam”, President Vladimir Putin told a special summit of government members on that day.

“There is no need to be an expert to realise that if they succeed in Syria, they will inevitably return to their own countries, and this includes Russia.”

Russia’s Involvement Became a Game Changer

The Russian involvement became a turning point for Syria, which has been engulfed by civil war since 2011. As a declassified document compiled by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2012 indicated, the major forces driving the insurgency in the Arab Republic were the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood*, and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)* that “supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through media”. At that time the US and EU signalled their sympathy with the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels and urged Assad to step down.

In September 2014, the US intervened in Syria under the pretext of the war against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)*, a terrorist organisation that emerged out of AQI. The US military led a coalition of several regional and external players – including forces from the UK, France, Jordan, Turkey, Canada, Australia – and provided support to the Syrian rebels and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground.

Apart from the invasion by the US-led coalition, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of fighters poured into Syria from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, recalls Ghassan Kadi, a Middle East expert and political analyst of Syrian descent.

“They were heavily armed and trained”, he stresses. “Without the use of targeted air power, eliminating such forces would have been a very difficult task to perform on the ground.”

There was a considerable likelihood that the terrorists were going to win, the Middle East expert continues. If the jihadists prevailed, the political, constitutional and demographic nature of Syria would have changed “from that of tolerance, secularism and inclusivity, to that of a Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalist, one that does not even tolerate Sunnis who don’t adhere to this tradition”, according to Kadi.

By September 2015, jihadi groups had moved very close to the Syrian capital, Damascus, which was nearly two-three weeks away from falling to foreign-backed terrorist groups, echoes Basma Qaddour, a Syrian journalist and head of the news department at The Syria Times.

Moscow’s military move of 30 September 2015 came as a “huge turning point”, according to the observers.

“The biggest role that Russia played militarily was in the use of its air power and expertise on how to fight in a dense urban environment”, notes Ghassan Kadi. “This tipped the balance of power against the invaders and in favour of the Syrian Army.”

Russian Air Force's long-range aircraft hit ISIS targets in Syria

What Goals Have the Russo-Syrian Alliance Achieved?

By December 2017, the Russo-Syrian coalition eliminated 60,318 jihadists, including 819 terrorist leaders, and liberated 1,024 settlements, most notably the strategic cities of Aleppo, Palmyra, Akerbat, Deir ez-Zor, Meyadin and Abu Kemal.

Backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Arab Army eliminated Daesh’s major strongholds, with Idlib remaining the only jihadi hotbed in the country. Thus the Russian military presence on the ground and successful anti-terrorist aerial campaign made any prospective full-scale NATO offensive irrelevant, according to Ghassan Kadi.

After the deployment of the military police in the Arab Republic to monitor a cease-fire in new de-escalation zones in July and agreeing with Damascus on the formation of a permanent grouping at the Tartus naval facility and the Hmeimim airbase, President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the Russian troops to their permanent bases in December 2017. However, Moscow continued to provide support to Syria: in general, the Russo-Syrian coalition has liquidated more than 133,000 jihadi militants.

In parallel with its military effort, Russia, together with Iran and Turkey, arranged peace talks between the Syrian government delegation and opposition forces in Astana in late December 2016.

In subsequent years, the Astana format of negotiations led by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara helped to lower the intensity of the clashes on the ground by concluding ceasefire deals and founding four de-escalation zones in the war-torn country.

“Here we can point out to the fact that the Astana peace talks aimed at a post-war Syrian order as an effective alternative to similar efforts within the United Nations”, Basma Qaddour underscores, referring to the Geneva peace talks on Syria held since June 2012 under the auspices of the UN.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep TayyipErdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a joint press conference after the 5th Trilateral Summit in Astana format on the Syrian crisis

Obstacles in the Path to Restore Peace & Order

Still, the reconciliation process is largely hampered by the US and Turkish military presence in the region, argues Qaddour, stressing that these foreign players must pull out of the Arab Republic. Touching upon the issue of the US-SDF military bases in the region, the journalist suggests that the Syrian popular resistance is likely to squeeze them out from these areas. In August 2020, Syrian tribal leaders in Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo called upon the US and their Kurdish proxies to leave the region.

“The problem is that US-backed ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) militia in eastern Syria are currently in control of approximately 70% of Syria’s national oil resources and a number of valuable gas facilities. The eastern Euphrates is under the control of US occupation forces and SDF militia,” says Qaddour.

In addition to this, Idlib is still controlled by terrorist groups, she points out, stressing that as many as 85% of terrorists in Idlib are affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)*. Kadi echoes the journalist’s concerns:

“Apart from non-Syrian fighters who were either killed or fled, the remaining actual Syrian fighters are all in the Idlib region, hence any reconciliation talks will have to wait until the region is fully back under the control of the Syrian Government”, he notes.

Turkey, which supervises the Idlib de-escalation zone, has vowed to separate the moderate opposition from terrorists, liberate the M4 highway and form a security corridor around this highway. According to Moscow and Ankara, these agreements are being gradually implemented.

Russia to Help Syria Revive Post-War Economy

However, at the present moment, reconciliation seems to have taken a step back from centre court, as the major issue to deal with at the moment is the economy, Kadi points out, citing the Syrian oil issue and Washington’s Caesar Act strangulating the country.

“The Western-centric order has made it almost impossible for nations to trade and interact without reliance on the greenback, the Internet and the SWIFT banking system”, the Middle Eastern expert says. “Any nation that finds itself under Western sanctions risks being isolated and falling under the mercy of even further sanctions such as the Caesar Act.”

Under these circumstances, Damascus is expanding business ties with Russia to facilitate economic recovery. During the Russian delegation’s September visit to Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told the press that Moscow had presented a package of economic proposals to the Arab Republic in July in order to tackle the post-war crisis and US sanctions. It is expected that these proposals will be sealed in December 2020.

The economic difficulties and the pressure exerted by the West have prompted regional players, most notably Syria and Iran, to form new alliances and economic partnerships, notes Kadi.

According to him, the US sanctions policy is doomed as “the West is no longer the centre of manufacturing even of advanced commodities”. The political analyst suggests that in the foreseeable future nations such as Russia, China, Iran, Syria, in theory, will be “capable of supplying each other with all of their basic needs without having to resort to Western imports”.

The Syrian civil war and subsequent events on the ground have once again proven that the days of the post-Cold war Western-centric world order are over, echoes Basma Qaddour.

“The US pushes an anti-world agenda in order not to face the difficult reality that it is no longer the world’s only superpower and it has to adapt to an increasingly multipolar world”, she concludes.

*Al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are terrorist groups banned in Russia. 

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Russia, SyriaComments Off on Russia saved not only Syria from Western backed jihadi terrorists

US Sends M2A2 Bradley IFVs to Challenge Russian Forces in Northern Syria

By South Front 

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/09euS2Uy4FM/hqdefault.jpg

…from SouthFront.org

The US military has reinforced its troops, supposedly mostly withdrawn from Syria, with a new batch of military equipment, this time M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

In an official comment released on September 18, the US-led coalition said that mechanized infantry assets, including Bradley IFVs, were positioned to Syria in order to “ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS”, “ensure the protection of Coalition forces” and “provide the rapid flexibility needed to protect critical petroleum resources”.

The M2A2 Bradley is armed with a 25 mm chain gun, a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a dual TOW anti-tank guided missile launcher. This makes the IFV the heaviest weapon deployed by the US on the ground in Syria.

As of September 21, the newly deployed armoured vehicles were already spotted during a coalition patrol in al-Hasakah province, where the US has a network of fortified positions and military bases. US forces regularly conduct patrols in the area. Another area of US interest in Syria’s northeast are the Omar oil fields on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Washington reinforced its troops deployed there with M2A2 Bradley IFVs in October 2019.

The main difference is that, according to local sources, the vehicles deployed in al-Hasakah province will most likely be involved in patrols in the area and thus regular confrontations with the Russian Military Police and the Syrian Army.

Just a few days ago, Russian attack helicopters chased US Apaches after they had tried to harass a Russian Military Police patrol. Earlier, the US military claimed that US troops sustained “mild injures”, when a Russian vehicle rammed a US MRAP in the al-Hasakah countryside.

The US-led coalition regularly tries to limit the freedom of movement of Russian and Syrian forces in the northeast of the country and faces an asymmetric response. Now, US forces will have an additional argument in securing what they see as their sphere of influence.

Syrian government forces have suffered even more casualties from ISIS attacks in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor. On September 19, at least five members of Liwa al-Quds, a pro-government Palestinian militia, died in an explosion of an improvised explosive device near the town of al-Shumaytiyah. On September 20, an explosion hit a vehicle of the Syrian Army near al-Mayadin reportedly injuring several soldiers. Also, a field commander of the National Defense Forces was killed in clashes with ISIS terrorists west of Deir Ezzor.

As of September 21, the Syrian Army, Liwa al-Quds and their allies continue a combing operation to clear the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert from ISIS cells. However, the strong ISIS presence is still a notable threat for the security situation in the central Syrian desert.

In Greater Idlib, the Russian Aerospace Forces continue their air campaign targeting training camps, weapon depots, HQs and fortified positions of Turkish-backed terrorist groups. The interesting fact is that with the resumption of active Russian strikes on targets across Idlib, terrorists have decreased the number of attacks on the Syrian Army and civilian targets along the contact line. It would appear that the airstrike diplomacy has all chances to become an integral part of the Idlib ceasefire.

Posted in Russia, SyriaComments Off on US Sends M2A2 Bradley IFVs to Challenge Russian Forces in Northern Syria

Putin: We can now safely obliterate the United States, thanks to Trump – Bolton

RT/Moscow: The US pullout from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was a threat to Russia’s security and risked “zeroing” its nuclear arsenals, prompting Moscow to design unparalleled hypersonic projectiles, President Vladimir Putin said. Moscow, which claims primacy in the worldwide race to develop the ultra-fast weapons systems, faced an urgency to maintain strategic parity with its near-peer opponent Washington, the Russian president recalled on Saturday.

“The US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [ABM Treaty] in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons,” Putin said while speaking over a video link to Gerbert Yefremov, a renowned engineer who played a lead role in designing an array of sensitive missile systems for the Russian military.


Al-Masdar News@TheArabSource
Putin says #Russia had to create Hypersonic Weapons after US’ pullout from ABM Treaty https://almasdarnews.com/article/putin-says-russia-had-to-create-hypersonic-weapons-after-us-pullout-from-abm-treaty/…#USA

Signed back in 1972, the ABM Treaty was instrumental in helping keep the equilibrium between Russian and American nuclear deterrents, until the 2002 pullout threatened to dramatically tilt the balance. No longer bound by the pact, the US rushed to deploy its ballistic missile shields, including close to Russian borders.  From Canada, December 2019:

Moscow could not stand back and watch the new threat emerge, Putin continued.

We had to create these weapons in response to the US deployment of a strategic missile defense system, which in the future would be capable of virtually neutralizing, zeroing out all our nuclear potential.


Russian Exercises@RUSexercises
TASS: Putin said that the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty forced Russia to create hypersonic weapons https://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/9501307

Image

Russia also had to catch up with its prime rival on nearly every track, from building nuclear weapons to designing long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Oliver Stone@TheOliverStonePutin’s words have been distorted in our #MSM as an aggression towards US. But #Putin outlines how the West has pushed #Russia to invent these systems b/c US has provoked nuclear tension with 2002 pull out from ABM treaty.5:26 PM · Mar 6, 2018

According to Putin, the need to play catch-up has always put the country “in a very difficult and even dangerous situation.” On certain occasions, “we were threatened but had nothing to respond,” he admitted.

READ MORE: ‘More intimidating than a nuke’: Chinese media heap praise on Russia’s highly advanced Avangard missile system

He praised Yefremov’s contribution in creating hypersonic weapons, likening it to the Soviet nuclear program of the 1950s and 1960s.

For our country today, the embodiment of your concepts is undoubtedly comparable to implementing USSR’s nuclear and missile projects, which were carried out by outstanding Soviet scientists [Igor] Kurchatov and [Sergey] Korolev.

The modern-day advances in hypersonic technology turn the tide in Russia’s favor, Putin said. “Right now, for the first time in our modern history, Russia possesses the most modern types of weapons, which are many times superior in strength, power, speed and accuracy to previous and existing ones,” he explained.


I can’t breathe@KenartsTheKing
US withdrawal from ABM treaty & anti-missile system in Europe [“iranian threat”] gives Russia the self-defense right to break #INF treaty

Image

Russia claims to be the first nation to have fielded a hypersonic weapon, the Avangard glide vehicle. Other projectiles, like the Kinzhal (Dagger) cruise missile and the Zircon anti-ship missile, are undergoing trials or said to be in the works.

In addition, the Russian military industry is on its way to designing an interceptor missile that will be able to shoot down adversary ultra-speed munitions. As part of the effort, it has recently rolled out a radar station designed to track over a thousand fast-moving targets, including those that are hypersonic.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘We’ll PLEASANTLY SURPRISE them’: Russia will be able to counter hypersonic weapons once other states develop them, Putin pledges

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Putin: We can now safely obliterate the United States, thanks to Trump – Bolton

Housing and architecture in the Soviet Union

A variety of housing was built for working people designed to reflect the varied character, climate and context of the vast territories of the USSR.

Katt Cremer

View of Lenin Avenue in Sverdlovsk, 1936, showing the scale of the new town and the incorporation of public spaces lined with trees.

This article is the second of two presentations to the Stalin Society.

This contribution follows from my previous presentation, which looked at the sheer scale of the housing problem that the Bolsheviks faced after taking power in the October Revolution of 1917.

We looked at how the Soviet Union embarked on tackling the problem, taking the task seriously from the first days of the revolution – nationalising large homes, redistributing living space to those in need and embarking on a massive building programme.

We also looked at how conditions in the Soviet Union compared to those in Britain, and how the trajectory in the USSR was one of improving conditions and reducing costs for the workers, while providing healthy cities and towns with access to amenities and culture, while in Britain the housing problem got worse and worse, and has continued to do so.

Having addressed all of that previously, we will in this session be looking in more detail at where, how and what the housing was like across the USSR. We’ll also look at how the character and quality of the housing provision changed just a year after the death of Josef Stalin, creating a legacy for the Soviet Union that is typically used by opponents of socialism as an example of how socialism is ‘bad’, since it only produces ‘monotonous concrete blocks’ for people to live in.

Hopefully, by the end of this contribution, it will be clear that this is not the case, and that it was revisionism that promoted such a bland and standardised approache to architecture.

But more of that later. First let’s look at where housing was being built after the revolution.

Rapid urbanisation

In 1917, Russia was predominantly agricultural. Over the next few decades it rapidly developed its industrial capacity as its urban population rose. Between 1927 and 1939 – ie, in the first 12 years, the urban population of the Soviet Union more than doubled, reaching a total of 56 million.

Leningrad doubled its population, as did Moscow and Kharkov. That of Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and Novosibirsk more than trebled, while Chelyabinsk and Omsk more than quadrupled their populations. These cities were not isolated cases but were entirely typical of the rapid urbanisation that was taking place across the entire Soviet Union.

With this swell of numbers in these existing cities came the requirement for significant house building to accommodate the influx of people. Indeed, they needed not just house building but all the amenities and infrastructure that goes with it, which required a significant level of town planning and organisation.

In order to facilitate this, a comprehensive study of the history of town planning throughout the world was undertaken at the request of the Soviet state. This was started before the war, which delayed its completion. Despite the delay, the research and the final study proved a valuable textbook for all involved in planning Soviet cities.

Within the study, a series of chapters were devoted to town planning in Britain, and the development of London was treated at considerable length. Although reference is made to London as a “nightmare of a modern city”, the authors also reserved their special admiration for its numerous and varied parks. These will not only have influenced but have been surpassed by the parks of culture and rest that the Soviets incorporated into the majority of their cities, along with the numerous other parks and open spaces spread through the cities, towns and villages.

For example, when walking through Moscow or Leningrad (now St Petersburg) today, it is noticeable that it is not possible to walk more than a couple of blocks without seeing an area of green space, quite often containing some play equipment for children along with benches for communal gatherings.

Expansion and re-planning of existing cities and towns

A typical example of the reconstruction of an established industrial city is Sverdlovsk, formerly Yekaterinburg (renamed from 1924-91 after the great Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov).

Yekaterinburg arose at the beginning of the 18th century as the centre of the mining industry of the Urals under the tsar. Typical of a Ural town, the old layout consisted of a mass of wooden huts where the workers lived. Then in the town centre there would be a few imposing buildings where the local industrial enterprises had their offices. And in the suburbs, usually standing on higher ground, were the villas of the administrative staffs, with trim gardens and shady trees.

By 1932, at the end of the first five-year plan, construction of new large industrial enterprises and, first of all, a huge heavy engineering plant (Uralmash) began in Sverdlovsk. With this, re-planning of the town was essential, and a masterplan was drawn up. This took into account the impact of these new powerful city-forming factors, allocating areas for the expansion of the city on the basis of preliminary considerations and analysis.

In 1936, S Dombrovsky headed work on the master plan, which, while maintaining the existing structure, focused on the development of city that would connect the old part with new industrial areas. The city’s regular plan was defined by two highways: Lenin Avenue, stretching for 4km from west to east, and Lunacharsky Prospect which passed from south to north towards one of the new industrial zones. These two lines, like central axes of orientation, clearly fixed the structure of the city.

In reconstructing Sverdlovsk, new streets and squares were designed, providing areas for housing along with amenities, cultural buildings and other public buildings. At the same time, all the roadways and sidewalks were paved, an up-to-date water and sewer system was installed, and bus and trolley-bus services came into operation.

As Pavel Zlobin, the chief architect of the Urals region in 1946, put it: “In re-planning our towns we look upon each as a single architectural whole, consisting of residential sections, squares, river embankments, green belt, and so on. The natural beauty of the Urals landscape is brought into the town by planning the building so that broad views open out.

“The architect’s purpose is to create the maximum amenities for the population. Nor is he handicapped in his work by dependence on individual landowners, because all the land and most of the buildings in the town are state property.”

Sverdlovsk’s population rose from fewer than 50,000 before the revolution to 140,000 (the size of Newport or Blackpool) by 1926, more than doubling again by 1939 to 423,000 (the size of Cardiff or Leicester). Today it has a population of 1.3 million (the size of Birmingham).

The need for new towns

As existing towns were increasing in population and requiring re-planning, there was also an appreciation by the state that, hand in hand with the drive to develop heavy industry, was the need to establish new towns. The building of new towns in remote districts was of tremendous importance for the rapid economic and cultural development of the country, bringing industry nearer to the sources of raw materials and to areas of consumption.

A host of new cities came into existence. In fact, between 1926 and 1963 over 800 new towns were built across the USSR. They were partly built on the sites of existing small settlements, but approximately one third of them were entirely new towns founded on vacant sites. The building of new towns was particularly intensive in the eastern regions in the union republics of Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kirghiz, Tajik, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan – where over two-thirds of the towns were new.

This challenge was one that was taken on with the typical high level of research development and enthusiasm. As a Russian correspondent to the Soviet Times wrote:

“Our housing authorities and architects are used to thinking big. They are used to kaleidoscopic population shifts, to the character of Soviet man, who storms desert and jungle and arctic waste, and from a wilderness of sand or swamp or eternal frost announces: ‘Here I will work. Build me a city.’”

The master plans of these new towns were based on progressive town-planning principles, on clear functional zoning of town territories, on the organisation of convenient connections between residence and work, on the uniform distribution of welfare facilities, and on the principles of creating favourable conditions of work, life and rest for all the inhabitants of the town. Such factors as landscape features, sizes of towns and their national economic importance were taken into account as well.

Typical of these new towns were Magnitogorsk and Karaganda. In 1926, Magnitogorsk was a small settlement surrounded by grasslands where nomads pastured their flocks at the foot of the Magnitanaja mountain in the southern Urals, while Karanganda, not even on the map as a settlement, was a sweltering wasteland in Kazakhstan.

By 1946, Magnitogorsk had a population of 146,000 people. It has now risen to 417,775 (2015); and Karaganda, from nothing in 1926, the population rose to 166,000 by 1946 and now stands at 459,778 (2010).

In planning these new towns, not only were housing, cultural facilities, hospitals and educational facilities incorporated, but the Soviets also took providing green infrastructure and spaces seriously. As LB Lunts, a Russian correspondent, pointed out:

“No site is too grim or arid for our gardeners to tackle. Saline soils are washed clean, the earth is transformed by skilled fertilisation, rocky outcrops are blasted away, and Michurin’s [a notable Russian horticulturalist and geneticist] school of gardeners will undertake to make a flowering orchard in the most improbable place.”

Indeed, the rocky Magnitogorstk, the Urals’ iron and steel colossus, was clothed in verdure; and Karaganda, the centre of the great Kazakh coalfield, managed to turn itself into a creditable version of a ‘garden city’, in spite of its excessively salty soil and great shortage of water.

Another new town was that of Zaporizhia, in Ukraine, which was founded in 1928, at the same time as the building of the hydroelectric power plant on the Dnieper. The first stage of the development was the construction of large blocks of multistorey flats, completely equipped with all kinds of facilities; the outlying districts were built up with cottage-type houses. These were built first by the state building organisation and subsequently by the industrial enterprises.

As Zaporozhje lies in a steppe deprived of any natural plantations, much attention was paid to planting. The plan incorporated many parks and gardens, and its streets and residential quarters, as well as sites of schools and children’s institutions, were lavishly planted. Khortitza island was turned into a forest-park with rest homes, as well as pioneer camps for children of the workers and employees in the town enterprises.

Some examples of the 800 new towns that were built across the Soviet Union are Komsomolsk on the Amur in the far east, supporting large shipyards, and Novokuznetsk in the Kuznetsk coal basin in western Siberia.

In Estonia, Kohtla-Yarve developed around the oil shale production. Rustavi, a large industrial centre of major significance, was built in the Georgian Soviet republic on the basis of the Trans-Caucasian metallurgical works. In Azerbaijan, on the basis of metallurgical and chemical production, the town of Sumgait appeared.

New houses for working people

There is a tendency to think that all Soviet housing was in massive highrise blocks. Indeed, opponents of the Soviet Union, and of socialism, would have you think that not only was the standard for massive blocks of highrise flats but that they were all the same type of monolithic block.

In fact, that was not the case. Up to the mid-1950s the main type of housing construction was low or mid-rise. One reason for this was available materials: you do not need steel or concrete to build low-rise. Another is that the scale of these buildings is appropriate where land is available. Since land had been nationalised, its supply was no longer subject to the limitations that had previously been suffered when ownership and, importantly, financial returns, governed development.

In the majority of towns, most houses were no more than two storeys. In larger cities, buildings within the central area would extend up to three, four or five storeys. For example in the Urals, it was Sverdlovsk, Nizhni-Tagil and Kemensk-Uralsk where buildings of up to five storeys were erected in the main streets, while the surrounding towns were all low-rise. In the larger cities of Leningrad and Moscow these scales would rise to over 10 storeys.

In terms of who built the houses, approximately two-thirds of the dwellings in the USSR were built by state building organisations, while the remainder were built by the collective farms, housing cooperatives and individuals. Many of the state industrial enterprises, such as iron and steel works, built big housing projects of low-rise, bungalow and two-storey houses and cottages. Once built, these would be transferred to individual workers for their occupation.

Mr Vozyakov, manager of the Central Communal Bank of the USSR, commented in 1946: “Some of the nicest cottages I have seen have been built at Nizhny Tagil, in the Urals, by the Visokogorsk Iron Ore Trust for its workers. Each one has a personality of its own, some slightly different treatment of the facade which sets it apart from the rest. The owners are particularly proud of their gardens.” (Quoted in We encourage private house building, Soviet Times, 1946)

While the state building organisations built most of the new housing that was much needed, there was also some encouragement to individuals to build their own houses with the assistance of state loans and in accordance with their local village or town plan. The Academy of Architecture set up the Institute of Mass Construction with the object of producing designs for houses suitable for erection by people building their own homes.

During 1943-4 a set of general principles of design for rural housing was prepared, taking into account the conditions that were expected to prevail after the war. It was agreed that the construction of separate bungalows and two-storey houses would best meet the demands of the time, and plans were drawn up accordingly.

These plans took into account the probable shortage of building materials and of skilled labour. In view of these two factors, allowances had to be made for maximum use of all sorts of local building materials, and architects were asked to bear in mind, when preparing their designs, that most of the houses put up in the country areas would probably not be built by skilled building workers, but by untrained local labour without mechanical aid.

Not only did it research, create and publish designs to assist in local rural house building, the institute also gave exhaustive directions for construction so that amateur builders would have full instructions to work from.

The size of rooms was planned in consultation with the institute responsible for designing household utility furniture. Every cottage had storage and outbuildings. It was suggested and expected that gardens would be used for both fruit and vegetables, with the plans also providing some useful advice on garden layouts.

In style these cottages had a modest neatness, but the architects refrained from laying down any rules for decoration. Their main aim was to provide guidance for the most economical and convenient use of space. It was recognised that with so much varied local material and with so great a variety of climatic conditions to be taken into account, there could be no real standardisation. Local authorities and builders were expected to use their judgement and draw on the great human capacity for improvisation.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s the extensive developments of housing and community facilities were still typically low-rise, and showed serious attempts to reinterpret local building traditions in form as well as decoration, in many cases most successfully. Unfortunately, much of this work has been swept away in later redevelopments and is little known, though it might now have offered some useful models.

For example, the low-rise apartments in and around Moscow took the form of courtyards similar to old urban estates, a layout which was characteristic of the old city. By contrast, in Kiev, the layout was characterised by a more street-oriented architecture, with terraced housing and the use of florid Ukrainian sculpted decoration. In Central Asia, meanwhile, the equivalent housing was constructed with thick solid walls of high thermal mass with small apertures and deeply recessed shaded balconies, often reflecting local arch forms in their profile.

An example of a residential development in Liublino, Moscow, shows a layout based around central courtyards, with ornate planted gardens as well as garden space in front of the surrounding buildings. The rendered houses form a block around the garden. The block is predominantly two-storey, with elements of three-storey that add focal points to the building. The use of gables, corbel detailing, arched accesses through the block and generous proportions to the windows, creates a development that is extremely pleasing.

Images of new houses built in Stalinabad (the capital city of Tajikistan, now named Dushanbe) show a linear plan with terraced two-storey buildings. The facades in white render are detailed with first floor balconies creating a rhythm along the street. The stone balustrades on the balconies and the corbelled parapet roofs give the buildings a classical style, while the sculpted heads to the windows follow the traditional forms of the region. It is worth noting that the front gardens provided on some of the streets are generous and show an abundance of plants and trees.

The scale rose in the early 1950s to five storeys and above. By then, particularly in Moscow, very high standards of spatial provision, construction and finish were creating a suitably high-quality environment for the main public thoroughfares. It is in the bigger cities like Moscow and Leningrad that the majority of the high-rise development took place.

Not only were the external facades considered but the internal detailing and provision was deemed important and given suitable attention. Examples of some of the indoor communal spaces include: staircases with generous proportions and spaces to allow for gatherings of residents; crafted balustrades and grand wooden carved doors specific to each block; iron gates embellished with arches and details giving character to entrances; and glazed partition doors to allow light through the building. Inside the apartments there were examples of built-in wooden wardrobes with compartments and drawers.

While there was a level of standardisation and application of common layouts to housing across the Soviet Union, there was encouragement and attention paid to local vernacular architecture and its incorporation with classical forms. Arkady Mordvinov, a Soviet architect who became the president of the Academy of Architecture in 1950, pointed out:

“National forms offer colourful variety. The humanism expressed in classical forms serves to unify the architecture of all the national republics, while yet allowing them to preserve traits peculiarly their own.” (Quoted in Reconstruction of towns and art problems confronting Soviet architecture, VOKS bulletin, 1944)

Architectural style

From the mid-1920s and through the 1930s there had been an ideological battle over design. The avant-garde movement, which was developing across the western world, had also taken root in Russia. Many liberal critics see the first decade of the revolution as an ‘exciting moment’ for the expression of the ‘new’ stylised movement in the arts, with architecture being no exception.

Constructivism was the expression of this ‘new’ thinking in architecture, seeing simplicity in design as fundamental. Its proponents opposed the idea of celebrating traditional forms of architecture and design, instead placing emphasis on new technologies and the machine, considering form to follow function with a focus on clean lines, minimal detailing and geometric form.

After the revolution, the constructivists built many individual commissions across the Soviet Union, which gained support amongst the academics for their formalist approach to architecture and design. However, there was increasing opposition amongst the masses to the geometric ‘boxes’ that were being built in parallel lines across the steppe or in Moscow suburbs. Popular discontent with bad modern buildings bred the desire for something that spoke the language of mass aspiration, and with it the need to address the role of architecture.

In 1926, Anatoly Lunarcharsky delivered a speech to the State Academy of Artistic Sciences (GAKhN) that reinforced a clear approach to design in opposition to that of the constructivists: namely, the application of socialist realism in architecture – socialist realism being a method of artistic reflection (otrazheniya) and creative work, and not a specift style; a method of artistic expression that uses examples of the world as it is and seeks within that to raise the understanding of the masses and point to what is possible; to help in the creation of the new man.

In his speech, Comrade Lunarcharsky pointed out: “It is being said that this is a new stage in human history; that the proletariat is entering into the stage of urbanisation; that the machine is poetic; that the factory is the most powerful thing that can be seen on earth; that any form of literary tale is a mere mirage compared to the poetic situation in which science brings about a new factory.

“I do not in any way deny that the proletariat may find original and attractive colouration for its life in poems of productivity … But it has to be said that … only futurism and the artists of the LEF (a literary group), that seedbed of constructivism, who are the avant-garde of a leftist Euro-American urban culture, can become wholly immersed in this element …

“We [Bolsheviks] have not entered the world in order to finally make the machine the mistress of our lives, as advocates of time-and-motion study like Gastev are advocating through their sociopolitical literature. We came in order to liberate the individual from under the power of the machine … Let the rhythm of the machine certainly become an important element in our culture … but the machine cannot be the centre of our art.

“There exists with us in Russia a vast Euro-American conception of the culture of individual creative work, of that high art which was created by the geniuses, the great talents of Euro-American culture. Certainly there is a very great deal that can be absorbed from the products of this individual art. But as a whole it is alien to us …

“Much more nourishing an environment for proletarian art is that mass of vernacular, peasant art, that art which developed in the primal period of our ancestors …

“It is precisely from here that we should draw models, from this art evolved over the course of centuries, which devised a ‘style’ that is almost irreproachable in the inner rigour and order of its crystallisation of form.

“Despite the fact that it developed while civilisation itself was still beginning to emerge, it is precisely this vast body of creativity which can now provide that nutritious environment for proletarian artistic labour – because of its multi-valued character, and because of the collective nature of the basic principles underlying its products.”

This speech demolished the constructivists’ claim that their machine-led approach to design was somehow related to socialist development, making the distinction between the role of the machine in building society and its domination over man.

Lunarcharsky further outlined how proletarian art, including architecture, should not be alien to the masses but come from the art that has developed for centuries. As Vladimir Lenin rather bluntly pointed out in relation to the constructivist approach to design when speaking to Clara Zetkin:

“I have the courage to show myself a barbarian. I cannot value the works of expressionism, futurism, cubism or other such ‘isms’ as the highest manifestations of artistic genius. I do not understand them …

“Art belongs to the people. It must grow deep roots in the very midst of the broad mass of workers. It must be understood and loved by them. It must unite the feelings, thoughts, and will of the masses and inspire them.” (Clara Zetkin, Reminiscences of Lenin, 1924)

Lenin further made the point, when speaking at the third congress of the Komsomol (Young Communist League), that culture is not ‘invented’ by people who deem themselves specialists. The constructivists saw themselves as the new thinkers applying their art to the socialist requirements of the day, very much falling into the category of just such self-annointed ‘specialism’ in proletarian culture.

Lenin, on the other hand, stressed just where it is that proletarian culture comes from: “Proletarian culture is not something dreamed up out of nowhere; nor is it the invention of people who call themselves specialists in proletarian culture. That is all complete nonsense. Proletarian culture must emerge from the steady development of those reserves of experience which humanity has built up under the yoke of capitalism.” (Speech to the third all-Russian congress of the Komsomol, 1920)

Having gone through this ideological battle against the avant-garde constructivists, the state developed flourishing building organisations and institutes that ably tackled the housing problem while maintaining the long-term implications of building structures that not only housed people but also created the environment in which the peoples of the Soviet Union were living their daily lives.

Then in 1954, just a year after the death of Stalin, the new revisionist leader of the Soviet state and the communist party Nikita Khrushchev made a speech to the all-union conference on building problems denouncing “Stalinist architecture” and “all ornamentation on buildings”.

Khrushchev had been a senior party member in Moscow during the construction of the city’s metro and the realisation of the 1935 plan for Moscow. He had involvement in the building institutes and was aware of all the discussions and debates that had taken place previously. And yet it was not until after Stalin died that he spoke on the matter of design and announced that “architecture is not art”, asserting that “it is technology and should be treated as such”.

At the conference, he made an uncompromising attack on the Academy of Architecture, the president of the academy, Arkady Mordvinov, and the profession as a whole, using the need for more housing as his justification. He accused them of “skating around the problem of building economies”, claiming they were not “interested in costs per square metre of living space”, but were “indulging themselves with unnecessary ornamentation of facades, and permitting all manner of excesses”.

He went on: “Architects are more concerned with beautiful silhouettes than with living quarters … Modern apartment houses must not be transformed into a replica of a church or museum … Some leading architects refuse to adapt their work to the new materials by referring to the need of combating constructivism … Such architects should probably be called constructivists in reverse, since they themselves are lapsing into aesthetic admiration of form divorced from content.”

He outlined that the direction of the future must be “standard designs for housing, schools, hospitals, kindergartens and so on”, with “effective use of new materials … and of pre-fabricated reinforced concrete components, large-panel and large-block construction systems”.

All this stood in sharp contrast to the previous Soviet tradition in architecture.

“The greatest traditions of the past will live on not as historical reminiscences but in an organic new creation on a national soil – national in its fullest reference to the people …

“The creative task of the modern architect is to give architectural expression to the peoples, the localities, the cities in individuality, and not hide this individuality behind a simplified screen of reinforced concrete, glass and metal.”

These hopeful words of leading architect D Arkin, in 1947, were not to be fulfilled by the state building organisations from the mid-1950s onwards.

In November 1955, the second congress of Soviet architects was convened, following a decree on 10 November ‘On removing decorative excesses in architectural design and in building’. From there on across the Soviet Union mid-rise and high-rise blocks were built to standard plans, with standard elevations based on a set of standard prefabricated concrete elements. The Khrushchyovka, a standardised five-storey housing block, was born and spread like wildfire.

This prefabrication and standardisation was not limited to housing: all cultural and service buildings were also required to be built based on standardised elements.

No longer were the steppes of the Urals and the suburbs of Moscow to be distinct and evoke traditions and characters that celebrated the peoples of the Soviet Union. The landscape of the edges of towns was the same whether you went to Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Sverdlovsk, Tashkent, Nizhny Tagil, Cherepovets or any other city, where entire neighbourhoods still today consist of these large-panel prefabricated buildings.

The Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s famous line “The streets are our brushes, the squares our palates” was no longer applicable to the housing development that took place under Khrushchev. The art in architecture was removed, and with it the character and aspirations of the people.

Posted in Literature, RussiaComments Off on Housing and architecture in the Soviet Union

Mr Jones: anti-Soviet propaganda gets thumbs up from Ukrainian president

The same old tired lies are being recycled under the guise of ‘fresh evidence’ in order to remind workers they must not think about taking state power.

Proletarian writers

A new film, Mr Jones, is receiving rave reviews from the corporate media, praised for bringing to life a forgotten Welsh hero who helped expose supposed Stalinist crimes in Ukraine. Nothing, however, is said of the fact that his journey to Soviet Ukraine began and ended in Nazi Germany, where he was the guest of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Jones – coming to a cinema near you

Presented as a mere ‘Welsh journalist’, Gareth Jones was not in fact anything like your average correspondent for the South Wales Echo. Jones was a well-educated Cambridge graduate, reputedly with family links to Ukraine, a multilingual onetime secretary to former British prime minister David Lloyd George. Strange, then, that he should be remembered merely as a newspaperman.

Gareth Jones travelled to Soviet Ukraine and soon afterwards brought back a story of terrible suffering at the hands of Josef Stalin. Mr Jones was not in the USSR for very long, and in the Ukraine for even less. He was caught by Soviet authorities and thrown out, later travelling to Asia where he was found dead, supposedly killed by Chinese bandits.

The new film from anticommunist Polish director Agnieszka Holland attempts to ‘bring to life’ the claims that Mr Jones travelled to Ukraine and witnessed first-hand a manmade famine there. Hunger he may well have seen, but who put the idea into his head (or into the director’s) that it was manmade, let alone that it was a genocide, as our anti-Soviet director declares (joined of course by the Guardian newspaper)?

Polish director a rabid anti-Stalin hack

At the Internationale FilmFestpiele in Berlin, Ruptly news agency recorded Agnieszka Holland as stating:

“Why Stalin is a hero for contemporary Russians? Don’t ask me. It shows an enslavement of the mind and soul. Stalin was one of the greatest murderers in the history of humanity … and he’s responsible for thousands of millions of lives.”

You would think that being responsible for thousands of millions of deaths, Ms Holland might be able to depict just one factual event from real life in her film about the ‘forgotten hero’ Jones and the mass killer Stalin.

Instead, in this excessive and ludicrous piece of anti-Stalin propaganda, the director portrays Mr Jones eating human flesh – a piece of fantasy so galling that it forced a relation of Mr Jones to write in to the Sunday Times to deny that his great-uncle had ever taken part in cannibalism and to admit that as far as the records show, he never even saw any bodies in Ukraine! (Mr Jones: The true story, as not seen on screen by Philip Colley, The Times, 26 January 2020)

Mr Colley Jr said: “In the film, they have got him up a tree eating bark, eating human flesh, tripping over dead bodies. He didn’t witness any dead bodies or any cannibalism, let alone take part in any.” (Daily journalist’s family hit out at Hollywood over film about his life by David Sharman, Hold the Front Page, 29 January 2020)

But that fact hasn’t stopped BBC Wales from reporting on the man who exposed “a manmade famine in 1930s Ukraine” or the Financial Times from noting: “While Graham Greene lends the film a plot point, George Orwell (Joseph Mawle) turns up on screen, inspired by Jones’s reporting to start work on Animal Farm.”

Readers might be interested to know that the family also deny that Mr Jones ever met Mr Orwell!

What do we know about Mr Jones and who he met?

One or two persons whom Mr Jones most definitely did meet with are Messrs Hitler and Goebbels.

Just days before his entry into the Soviet Union, Gareth Jones took a flight in a private jet with Adolf Hitler and ate dinner at a five-star hotel with Dr Josef Goebbels. His notebooks record the events and are held at the National Library of Wales, pages of which have been uploaded online.

In these notes, Mr Jones recorded his pleasant reflections on Mr Goebbels, whom he saw as jovial and laughing “all the time” with a tremendous sense of humour. The website dedicated to his work, garethjones.org, records that Gareth was in Moscow just ten days after his meeting with Hitler, who at the same time had set fire to the Reichstag.

The jovial arsonists Hitler and Goebbels took Mr Jones to Nazi party rallies and, after his deportation from the USSR, Mr Jones was back in Berlin on 29 March 1933 to tell the German people all about the horrors he had witnessed in the Soviet Union.

From Hitler to the modern-day fascists

Agnieszka Holland, who participated in the ‘Prague spring’, has been honoured by the Ukrainian government for this most recent work of fiction. When she collected an award from the neo-fascists, where only a couple of years ago scores of trade unionists were set on fire inside their offices in Odessa, she saw no irony in declaring:

“I do not normally wear jewellery, but today I’m wearing an earring which symbolises the millions of victims of the great famine orchestrated by Stalin in the Ukraine … It shows that social engineering and megalomaniac power can lead to the destruction of nature and suffering, and eventually the deaths of millions. At the same time, Stalin managed to convince the world he is in charge of an island of freedom and justice.”

“This is an allusion to populist leaders who believe that powers gives them the right to design human beings, to design societies, nature or destroy nature,” she said. “Unfortunately we have a lot of populist leaders at the moment.” (Holland picks up best-movie award for film about the Ukraine’s great famine by Matt Day, The First News, 23 September 2019)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky awarded Holland the Order of Princess Olga.

Journalistic fraud in the 1930s

In the autumn of 1934, an American using the name of Thomas Walker entered the Soviet Union. After less than a week in Moscow, the remainder of his 13-day stay was spent in transit to the Manchurian border, at which point he left the USSR never to return.

Four months later, a series of articles began to appear in the Hearst press in America by Walker, who was described as a “noted journalist, traveller and student of Russian affairs who has spent several years touring the Union of Soviet Russia”.

The articles described a famine in Ukraine that had claimed six million lives, and was illustrated with photographs of corpses and starving children. Walker was said to have smuggled in a camera under “the most difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

Louis Fischer, an American writer living in Moscow at the time, was suspicious. Why had the Hearst press sat on these sensational stories for ten months before publication? He established that Walker’s short visit to the Soviet Union could not possibly have allowed him even to visit the areas he claimed to describe and to have photographed.

He also pointed out that Walker’s photographic evidence was distinctly odd: not only were the pictures suggestive of an earlier decade (Fischer thought probably of the 1921 Volga famine), but they contained a mixture of scenes from both summer and winter. Fischer also noted that the 1933 harvest in the Ukraine had been a good one.

Some of the pictures were subsequently identified as having been taken in the Austro-Hungarian empire and in World War 1, and it was known that Hearst newspapers were digging up old pictures and retouching them for use as anti-Soviet propaganda.

Pictures sometimes appeared labelled as having been taken in Russia, and at other times the same picture was relocated to Ukraine for obviously political reasons.

Not only were the photographs a fraud, and the trip to Ukraine a fraud, but Thomas Walker himself was a fraud, turning out to be an escaped convict by the name of Robert Green, who had served time in jail for forgery.

At his subsequent trial following recapture, he admitted that the series of pictures used in the Hearst newspaper articles were fakes and had not been taken in the Ukraine as claimed.

Despite these facts, the same photos are still used on commemoration posters and websites today, as well as featuring in the film Harvest of Despair.

Propaganda lies

Far from exposing the crimes of Stalin and the USSR, the new film Mr Jones exposes the utter bankruptcy of modern western cinema and the thoughtless, prejudiced, virulently anticommunist propagandists who fill positions at the Guardian and other such institutions.

These real falsifiers of history need to be exposed and confronted for the barefaced liars that they are.

Posted in Politics, Russia, UkraineComments Off on Mr Jones: anti-Soviet propaganda gets thumbs up from Ukrainian president

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