Putin The Liar, And The Russians Who Love Him

Evidence is so overwhelming that even Russians can no longer deny the truth that their country is fighting in Ukraine. But Putin offers something better than the truth.

Putin in Moscow on April 16
Putin in Moscow on April 16
Jacques Schuster


BERLIN — Europeans and Americans have known for a long time that Russian troops are aiding Ukrainian separatist rebels. Europe and the U.S. possess countless statements, photos and video that prove how deeply the Russian army is embedded in this conflict.

The latest evidence comes from a posthumously released report by slain Russian political opponent Boris Nemtsov, which was finally published in Moscow last week. It reveals that Russian troops streamed into Ukraine "on a huge scale" starting last August, and have participated in all essential military actions since then.

Last August alone, 150 Russian soldiers were killed. So now, those in Russia who would like to know the truth can hear it from their very own (politically opposed) fellow countryman. It appears that President Vladimir Putin lies just as well as he rides and shoots.

But the West can scarcely get its hopes up now, even if this is a saddening prospect. The fact of the matter is that, politically speaking, the voice of the political opposition is being heard about as attentively as the orchestrated cultural tripe of the Don Cossack Choir at the Bolshoi Theatre.

The West has deluded itself long enough in believing that Russia would become a democracy after the downfall of the Soviet dictatorship because the majority of the Russian people truly wanted democracy. After the chaotic Boris Yeltsin years, which many saw as humiliating, Russians were longing for order and a return to greatness.

Putin has achieved a kind of cult status with his own people. Not only are a vodka brand, a lollipop, an ice cream label, and a freeze-resistant tomato named after him, but also the youth of Russia is apparently amazed by their all-powerful president.

And we must understand that this is because of, not despite, his actions in Ukraine, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel with good cause characterized as criminal.

More than 90% of 18-to-24-year-olds are celebrating the political strategy of their president. And 70% of all Russians praise him for having made their country, once again, one of the great powers on earth. Caught in this thrill of victory, who wants to hear the truth?

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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