What ís Happening in Crimea (4/5)

Several pictures for your amusement, made this summer in Yalta, Simferopol and Sevastopol.

vdv

In Russia paratrooper day is being celibrated throughout the country. One the day, which marks the anniversary of the establishment of the VDV – The Russian paratroopers, it is tradition to wear the paratrooper out and wave the VDV flag. And, despite it is officially banned, to dance in fountains. Just like in other parts of Russia, paratrooper day is also celibrated in Simferopol.

krim-uk

krim-russia

Above, two picture containing graffiti. The First one reads ‘Crimea is Ukrainian’, the second ‘Crimea is Russia.’ Despite the graffiti, the overwhelming sound heard is that Crimea is considered part of Russia. On government buildings the Russian flag can be seen. And despite it still makes claim to the territory, the Ukrainian government has very little to say what happens there. – Picture taken in Simferopol.

A very famous comment made by former Ukranian prime-minister Yatsenyuk, was the “It is our Crimea, it is our Yalta, it is our sea, it is our territory, Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin)!” (bellow)

A lot of jokes have already been made about this. Like the following two videos:

Nevertheless, the following picture, depicting an advertisement of a carrental company in Yalta, is new to me. It states “Crimea is YOURS!”

yourcrimea

united-russia

In the above picture we can see two billboards for the political Party: United Russia – the party to which Putin and Medvedev also belong. The one on the left says “OUR CRIMEAN SAVCHENKO” and the one on the left is about the “The Building of the Kerch bridge”, stating: “ACTING IN THE INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE IS OUR WORK!”

billboardputin

Here another picture of an advertisement of United Russia, using the popularity of Vladimir Putin.

afghanistan

sevastopol-wwii

Above, two memorial sites. The first one might suprise most. It is a memorial in Sevastopol about the war fought by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The one bellow, also in Sevastopol, depicts all the hero cities in the former Soviet Union.

odessa

The above picture is a memory to Andrej Brazhevskij that died in a fire in a building of the local union in Odessa. The fire resulted in the deaths of dozens of people that were fleeing from far rightwing demonstrators that came to prevent the demonstration of pro-Russian demonstrators. The Odessa fire is faous throughout Russian speaking world as a symbol of far-right extremism in Ukraine. Even worse is that the pupertraitors of the fire have never been convicted nor tried.

Another intersting fact is that the the graffiti has been over painted, painted again (tekst hand written to the left), and again over painted. It shows that, at least in sub-cultures there is still resistance to the Russian set of ideas. – Picture taken in Simferopol.

yaltamcputin

Above the Boulevard in Yalta. The McDonalds, which has been closed, either because of company policy or due to sanctions has been completely built in a wall of all kinds of carnaval rides. To the left, a wallpainting can be see depicting Vladimir Putin and the newest Russian fightjet, the Sukhoi T50.

putinyalta

An enlargement of the same picture in Yalta. In the bottom right it says ‘#OURS’, refering to that Crimea is now part of Russia.

sevastopol

Above a sign about where to find information about departures of autobusses in Sevastopol. There is however a less pleasant sticker: “White boys Simferopol” an organisation, most likely neo-nazi.

donetsk-lugansk

In the above picture a popular way of advertising. Papers posted on posts and walls. There are three things being offered her. First is judicial help. The other, I think, are more interesting. One is an ad to travel to Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov (all safely in Ukraine) but also to Donetsk and Lugansk. The other is for services connecting to the migration card, a card every foreigner should carry with him visiting Russia. Both ads show that there is still much contact with Ukraine and more so, with the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, despite the civil war raging there.

A final word about history. Only few in Europe know something about the role Russia, as part of the Soviet Union, played in the Second World War. Fewer still know about the heroic defence of the city of Sevastopol. For months, the city held out against one of the most able of German generals. The only way to resuply the city was by boat. But despite its heroic defence the city would fall. Nevertheless, so impressive was its defence that the city of Sevastopol would be awarded the titel ‘Hero City.’ And for all those sailing into its harbour today are reminded by a huge statue commemorating those that kept the city safe for so long. In honor to those that fought, this memorial and a link to a documentary about the battles fought in Crimea in World War II.

Storm in the East: The Defence of Sevastopol

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What ís going on in Crimea? (3/?)

It was like the saleswoman did not want to sell me the magnet I wanted to buy. I already explained to her that my stepmother collected magnets of places which her stepchildren visited. But whenever I again asked to buy the magnet of the railway station of Simferopol, and again she tried to sell me a different magnet. On the magnet was a picture of a soldier, holding a Kalashnikov and completely masked. It was not cheaper, nor more expensive than that of the railway station, but she kept insisting. It was clear to me; these soldiers had been important for her. A look into the 2014 events from the perspective from the Crimeans themselves.

The Soviet Union is still here

‘We did not start celebrating New Year at 11 o clock, we started earlier, on Moscow time. We did this even before Crimea became part of Russia’ a cap driver told us. ‘We watched the president speech, heard the bells of Spasskaya Tower and congratulate each other with the new year.’ It shows how deeply the people in Crimea felt themselves related to Ukraine. In the words of the capdriver: ‘My mother is Ukrainian, my father is Ukrainian, but I, I am Russian, it is how you feel which determines what you are.’

A similar sentiment can be seen in Russia, where people feel like the boundaries of today are not there in family relations. Whether talking to someone from Saint Petersburg, Moscow or Nizhni, often you will hear that got ‘an uncle in Ukraine, a grandfather in Kazakhstan a nephew in Georgia’ or that they all have mixed backgrounds ‘part jew, part Russian, part Polish, part Ukrainian.’ Showing how strong the ties are with the friends and family living in different parts of the former Soviet Union. It were these relations that would deeply effect the attitude of attitude of many living in Crimea and other Ethnic Russian parts of Ukraine.

Enter the Maindan

Initially, the sentiments of almost all people in Ukraine were positive about the protests erupting against the government of Yanukovich. Many considered him to be a corrupt politician and would love to see him go. But as the protests continued the composition of the protesters on the Maidan worried many. About a third of the protestors found themselves on the far right side of the political spectrum. Parties like Svaboda and Pravij Sector held pro-Nazi and strong anti-Russian views. It were these views, dominating the protests, that worried many living in the eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea. They had strong family ties with Russia and like one protestor said in Donetsk. ‘I do not know anyone in the west, my family lives in Russia, it is there where my roots lie.’

As a result of the discontent with the orientation of the Maidan protests, counter demonstrations were being organised in different part of Ukraine. Some people even went so far as to travel to Kiev to take part in anti-maidan protests by bus. It was one of these bus convoys, traveling from Crimea to Kiev, which was intercepted by pro-Maidan supporters. Protestor were being taken out of the busses and molested by pro-maidan supporters, several were even being killed while their busses were set on fire. This event, well known in Russia and Crimea, shocked many. It made many people worry even more about the future orientation of Ukraine and in Crimea.

Cherkassy region, Ukraine. Euro-maidan activists stopped the buses of Crimean pro-government supporters on their way back to Simferopol.

In Crimea people started to get scared that similar events might be organised against them at home. A waiter in a restaurant told us that her own uncle and nephew, having heard that a train filled with far right activists might soon arrive in Simferopol hurried over to meet the train. Armed with self-made shield they, and with them many others, awaited the train. A general sense that something bad might happen had come over the peninsula.

Little Green Men and Polite People

The western world was in shock when all over Crimea, soldiers started appearing. The soldiers were heavily armed, did not wear insignias and were silent, the would eventually be known in the west as ‘Little Green Men.’ They would be the signal to western countries that Russia had taken over Crimea. However, these soldiers would be known under a different name in Crimea. In Crimea they are referred as Вежливые Люди, or ‘Polite People.’ And there is good reason for that.

I would eventually attain the magnet I wanted of the Simferopol train station, but not before the shop owner had did her very best to convince me to buy the magnet with the soldier on it. ‘They were so polite’, she told. ‘Did you see them?’, I asked. ‘Yes! They were, they were standing here. they kept us safe. They were so polite, they helped older people and stood correctly in line when going to a shop.’

Even more apparent were the souvenirs being sold of these soldiers. In every mayor touristic place one could see stalls upon stalls of T-shirts with ‘Polite People’ on them. Next to them other T-shirts depicting the ‘Most polite of all people’, as the T-shirts named him, president Putin himself. And often one would see larger wallpaintings depicting Putin.

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A wallpainting in Sevastopol, the text says “Congratulations with the return to the mother’s harbor.”

Still, after everything I have heard from the people living in Crimea. It was still hard to believe the results of the referendum. Of the more than 80% of the people showing up to vote, a staggering +95% would vote in favour of joining Russia, only around 1% would vote in favour of remaining in the Ukraine.  If such a staggering result came to be, it should be hard, for someone to know anyone that voted against joining up with Russia. Among the people I asked was a cap driver. I asked whether he knew anyone, friend, family, colleagues, of which he knew that he or she voted against joining Russia in the referendum. The cap driver, responded that everyone he knew voted in favour. Only while talking he remember that the wife of his brother, who was originally from one of the Baltic states, voted against. And judging by the fanatical responses of other people I have been talking to, he was not the only one knowing so little people voting against the joining of Russia.

i-voted-yes

A picture inside a touring bus. Next to the Saint George Ribbon there is a sticker: “I voted FOR [joining Russia]”, written on a Crimean flag.

For many in the west when soldiers started appearing out of nowhere on Crimea, it was the sign that Russia took over Crimea by force. Asking anyone in Russia about their opinion about ‘Russia’s annexation of Crimea’ might result in a stark reaction. For Crimea, according to them, has not been annexed Crimea, Crimea decided to join Russia, Russia just kept it safe while the referendum took place.

All in all, all people I talked to seemed to have been very glad that Crimea has united itself with Russia. Even the person most critical about the process, seemed hardly negative at all. Referring to the evens in Donetsk and Lugansk he told us about Crimea: “Some things are worse now, somethings are better now, but all in all, at least there is no war here.”

Serious Escalation in Russian-Western Relations

The past few weeks have seen a deterioration in the relations between the Russian Federation, the United States and Europe over the conflict in Syria. Despite relations have been very poor the last few years, the language used in diplomatic and military circles the last few weeks marks a new low. The recently past time has been the witness from cancelling of international treaties, refusal for talks to the open threats over and from. Maybe the scariest thing is, that these events are hardly being covered. What follows in this article is an overview of the ghastly events and language which have unfolded the last few weeks.

Prelude

In the days prior to the drastic escalation of the relationship between Russian and the west a cease fire agreement was made by the US and Russia. However, reports from both sides about violations soon emerged. Russian accused the so called moderate opposition to fire upon Syrian targets in the area near Allepo. Russia even went as far as to release drone footage of rebel held territory. (I)

map-syria

17 September: US led Airstrike target Syrian Arab Army in Deir Al Zor.

Two Australian F16s(I) and Two US A10s conducted airstrikes against positions of the Syrian Arab Army in Deir Al Zor.(II) In the attacks, lasting for over an hour, some 60 soldiers were injured and over a 100 were wounded. Immediately after the airstrike ISIS forces have started a counter attack against Syrian troops stationed in the area forcing them to retreat. The Airstrike followed recent successful advance of the Syrian Army.

The Russian defence ministry has stated that “If this airstrike was carried out due to an error in the coordinates of the target it is a direct consequence of US side’s unwillingness to coordinate its actions against terrorist groups with Russia.”(III) Russian Foreign minister Sergej Lavrov would later (09SEP16) hint that it was very strange that such mistakes were made in the airstrikes basing his opinion on a US General that the airstrikes was prepared fort wo whole days using solid intelligence.(V) The Syrian army has even gone so far as to state that the airstrikes are evidence that the US is cooperating with ISIS. (IV)

Syrian War Report – September 19, 2016: ISIS Obtains Air Force – South Front

20 September: Unconfirmed Russian strike on US Special Forces

Via the Russian government funded media outlet Sputnik news reports surfaced of a Russian strike with ship launched Kalibr (Cruise) missiles. The missiles reportedly killed 30 foreign special forces reporting in the Allepo area in Syria. Among the casualties supposedly be US, Israeli, Qatari and Saudi troops. – Till this day these reports remain unverified. (I)

20 September: Russia Allegedly bombed a UN Aid convoy

The destruction of a UN aid convoy has been widely covered in the media the last few days. Allegations are that either Russian or Syrian aircraft bombed the convoy. Despite the UN initially condemned Russia and Syria for the incident. It has later withdrawn its claims after hearing explanation of the Russian Federation.

“We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact airstrikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked,” a representative of the UN for Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, said. (I)

21 September No fly zone

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has called for the installation of a No-Fly Zone over Syria for Syrian and Russian planes.(I) If such a No-Fly-Zone would be enforced by the US and its partners, it might well provoke open war with the Russian Federation. The shooting down, willingly and knowingly of Russian jet, would put Russian and US troops in open conflict with each other, at least in Syria. It is a question how such a matter would evolve, to the region, possibly the world.

28 September: Allegations of State Department Spokesperson against Russia

During a regular press briefing the US State Department’s spokesperson John Kirby was asked the following question, and gave the following answer:

Reporter: “What are the consequences for Russia if this [ceasefire] agreement falls through?”

John Kirby: “The consequences are that the civ war will continue will continue in Syria. That extremist groups will continue in Syria and expend their operations. Which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interest, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags and will continue to lose resources, ever, perhaps more aircraft. The stability that they seek in Syria will be ever more elusive. It is hard to image that continued war, not just a civil war, but increasingly, more violent extremist activity in Syria.”(I)

US payback? More body bags, attacks on Russian cities. 28 Sept 2016

I leave it up to the reader to make his or her own conclusions about this statement. Nevertheless, these remarks have been interpreted as being a threat towards Russia. At the moment the above statement was made, the Syrian rebels (ISIS nor the so called moderate opposition) did not own any serious AA capabilities. More so the statement comes just days after the No-Fly zone statement of John Kerry in the UNSC.

3 October: Cancelation Plutonium treaty

Following the above events, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cancelled the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement with the United States. Stating that “a drastic change in circumstances, the appearance of a threat to strategic stability due to unfriendly actions of the United States toward Russia.” (I)

At the same time an ultimatum was set by Russia to NATO in order to withdraw all of its infrastructure and personal in the Baltics and Balkans. (II)

6 October: Deployment of S300VM system

The S300VM system is a highly advanced Anti-Aircraft, Anti-Cruise missile and Anti-Ballistic missile system. It is capable of operating in an electronic warfare environment, being able to operate despite the presence of jammers. The choice to send in a S300VM and not the regular S300 system shows that the possible adversary the Russian Federation had in mind with the deployment of this system, is not just fighter jets, but also covers the possibility to engage any threat faced by the Russian or Syrian troops in the area.(I)

venezuelan2bs300vm2bantey2b2500

The statement made by the defence ministry makes this even more clear:

Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality.”

The later statement is clearly directed against any owner of stealth aircraft. The only country in the world currently operating such aircraft is indeed the United States. The move by Russia is an evident reaction against the proposing of a No-Fly-Zone for Russian and Syrian aircraft over Syria and is also strongly linked at the incident at Deir Al Zor.

6 of October: Chief of Staff of the (US) Army threatens Russia

In response to the deployment of the S300VM system to Syria and the allegations made by the Russian defense spokesperson, Chief of Staff of the Army, four star general Mark Milley made a very strong statement ‘to those that try to oppose the United States.’ Saying that “The US Army will (…) stop you and beat you harder then you have ever been beaten before. (…) We will destroy any enemy, anywhere, anytime.”(I)

U.S. Army Chief Threatens War With Russia

 

As a final personal note; The above events are all pieces of the puzzle which is current and rapidly unfolding between Russian and the United States. But perhaps even more depressing than the current events is that many media outlets proved themselves unable to identify the escalation which has been going right for our very eyes on for more than a month now. Instead of seeing the mutual dynamics of the process, reporting seldom reaches farther than suggesting Russia is the new Evil Empire.

 

Sources:

Prelude

I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWqTULshons

17 September: US led Airstrike target Syrian Arab Army in Deir Al zor.

I Australian jets involved in botched air strike on Syrian army, http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2016/09/18/australia-syria-air-strike/

II Russia criticizes U.S. over bombing of Syrian army near Deir al-Zor

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia-idUSKCN11N0QG?il=0

III Russian MoD Confirms US-Led Coalition’s F-16, A-10 Jets Attacked Syrian Army
https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201609171045415141-russia-syria-army-attacked/

IV http://sana.sy/en/?p=88303

V Lavrov trolls CNN: Russia flattered by US hacking allegations – Full interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8WiQFWEO4

20 September: Unconfirmed Russian strike on US Special Forces

I – https://southfront.org/30-foreign-intelligence-officers-israeli-us-turkish-killed-in-missile-attack-in-aleppo-unconfirmed/

I – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egUFFM3QQz0

20 September: Russia Allegedly bombed a UN Aid convoy

I https://southfront.org/un-removes-charges-against-russia-regarding-air-strike-on-humanitarian-convoy-in-syria/

28 September: Allegations of State Department Spokesperson against Russia

I – U.S. Army Chief Threatens War With Russia https://www.youtube.com/embed/-wCwJ8pfXXo

3 October: Cancelation Plutonium treaty

I – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/03/putin-scraps-deal-to-dispose-of-bomb-grade-plutonium-in-swipe-at/

II – https://southfront.org/putin-issues-a-ultimatum-to-the-united-states-to-leave-eastern-europe/

6 October: Deployment of S300VM system

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Giant-Gladiator.html

I – NIEMI/Antey S-300V 9K81/9K81-1/9K81M/MK Self Propelled Air Defence System / SA-12/SA-23 Giant/Gladiator НИЭМИ/Антей Cамоходный Зенитный Ракетный  Комплекс C-300В 9К81/9К81-1/9К81М/МК  / «Антей 2500» http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Giant-Gladiator.html

II – https://www.rt.com/news/361800-russia-syria-usa-aistrikes/