Anna Akage

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Geopolitics

Russia And Ukraine, The Meaning Of A Bad Status Quo

Despite being parties of one conflict and neighbors and comrades of the same historical events, it is now obvious that Russia and Ukraine — or at least their very different leaders, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky — are living in opposing realities.

-Analysis-

The best we can say about the recent visits of U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland to Moscow with top European officials Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel to Kyiv was that these high-level meetings ensured the status quo in the longstanding Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But that is a status quo measured in dead negotiations in the Normandy Format over the simmering war on the border and the status of Crimea. It is status quo of the shared disapproval of the situation, and the clarity of the opposing directions chosen by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Geopolitics

Zelensky's Ukraine, Where The Pandora Papers Hit Hardest

The global probe of offshore accounts around the world strike at the heart of Kiev's current government and power structure of a ruling class that rose to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including the television-star-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky.

KIEV — Nowhere could the the revelations from the Pandora Papers investigation hit harder than in Ukraine. The discovery of offshore accounts strike at the heart of the current government and power structure of a ruling class that rose to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including the television-star-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The worldwide probe, prompted by a massive leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has included work by journalists from the Ukrainian media Slidstvо.Info, which connected the shady financial dealings of Zelensky's television production company Studio Kvartal 95 to the Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Slidstvo found that the laundered money passed through the Cyprus branch of Kolomoisky-owned Privatbank, according to law enforcement officers.

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Green Or Gone

Microplastics In Lake Baikal, World’s Largest Freshwater Lake At Risk

Fishing nets, industry and other human-caused dumping are poisoning Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's largest, deepest (and oldest) lake. Bigger than all the North American Great Lakes combined, it's at risk after 25 million years of life.

MOSCOW — The vast and ancient Lake Baikal in Russia has a rich history, providing a home for thousands of plants and animal species and sustaining the nearby Buryat tribes going back millennia. It's the world's deepest and oldest lake, and has survived for some 25-30 million years. But its depths bury a dark secret: a growing layer of microplastic pollution that threatens the health of Lake Baikal.

A new study looking at microplastics was conducted in the southeastern coast of the lake and the Small Sea in Southern Siberia. These places are not the most populated on the Baikal shore; no more than several hundred people live there permanently. But the water sampling areas were chosen not by chance: all of them are touristic areas, so they are considered to have a significant human impact.

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Society

In Russia, Brands Advertising Diversity Are Under Attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple.

MOSCOW — "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi. What was the offending ad? Yobidoyobi published an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man.

Shortly after, Yobidoyobi's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. According to Zimen, the accusations began to appear after the founder of the far-right Male State movement, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, called on his Telegram digital channel to "leave feedback" about the company, as well as place orders and not pay for them.

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Geopolitics

Destination Chernobyl? Radioactivity, Jobs And Tourism

Ukraine's leaders face toxic land-use challenges 35 years after the world's worst nuclear accident.

KYIV — What is perhaps the best-known — and certainly, the most dangerous — place in Ukraine is referred to as the "Chernobyl Exclusion Zone." And now, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is promising major changes to the site of the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

More than 35 years after the tragedy, much has changed in what locals call the "Zone," but life continues. People who'd returned to their native villages after being forcibly evicted in the aftermath of the 1986 accident still live there. But life has been troubled in these specially designated towns and communities: contaminated areas are often located alongside their vegetable gardens, new infrastructure cannot be built, and there is virtually no work.

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Geopolitics

Sandu Sweep: Moldova Reformist Revolution May Actually Happen

Last year's election of reformist president Maia Sandu was the first step. But now the anti-graft, pro-Europe forces are about to dominate the Parliament. But what will it look like on the ground?

CHISINAU — Moldovan President Maia Sandu and her Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) are confident that they can turn this week's parliamentary election victory into real reform. Yet for some political players, including former president Igor Dodon, this itself is reason to worry about their fate.

On July 11 it was clear that the results from the parliamentary elections in Moldova held the potential to be truly historic for the Eastern European country. The gap between PAS and all other participants in this parliamentary race was getting larger with every passing hour of ballot counting. According to the preliminary data, the PAS could count as many as 63 seats out of 101, the Communists and Socialists 32, and the Shor Party on 6.

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Geopolitics

As U.S. Pulls Out Of Afghanistan, Moscow Eyes Power Vacuum

To succeed in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan White House will need the active help of the Central Asian countries. However, with these post-Soviet republics in play, Russia wants a say.

MOSCOWWe've just witnessed several days of speculation that the planned Sep. 11 final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan might happen even earlier, after the main Bagram airbase was rapidly emptied. But that speculation was dispelled first by President Joe Biden and then by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who vowed an "orderly drawdown" over the coming weeks.

In preparation for the end of the operation, Washington has needed to coordinate with the post-Soviet republics that border Afghanistan, namely Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On July 1, the foreign ministers of these countries, Abdulaziz Kamilov and Sirodjiddin Mukhriddin met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The official reports from these meetings contain lengthy statements about "the importance of bilateral relations' as well as "efforts to achieve sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, Bloomberg and Reuters news agencies have both quoted State Department sources saying that Washington made a very concrete request: the United States asked Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, along with nearby Kazakhstan, to offer haven to some 9,000 Afghans who cooperated with NATO and may now be in danger. It would be a temporary asylum, while these people awaited approval for American visas.

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Geopolitics

Putin's Blunt Message For Germany: Forget Ukraine

The Russian president's article on the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union can be read on multiple levels. But one thing is sure, his mind is fixed on the future.

KYIV — The title itself is catchy enough: "To be open despite the past." True, it had nothing to do with the War or post-War years. The article, printed in the German newspaper Die Zeit is rather a call to Germans to forget about the Ukrainian issue and to engage as soon as possible in real, profitable policies, such as the launch of Nord Stream.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to convince the Germans to be open-minded, regardless of the past. But the past he urges Germans to forget has nothing to do with Nazism. Here the Russian president understands that Germans are still bound by the politics of memory, and are unlikely to allow themselves to change history any time soon.

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Geopolitics

Lavrov To The West: Your Hegemony Is Over, Your Rules Don't Apply

In Moscow daily Kommersant, a long and fiery response from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the U.S. and European tactics during and after this month's Putin-Biden summit.

MOSCOW — The frank and generally constructive conversation at the June 16 summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden in Geneva resulted in an agreement to begin a substantive dialogue on strategic stability ... But almost immediately after the end of the summit, U.S. officials — including participants of the Geneva meeting — began to assertively return to their former attitude: "pointing out," "clearly warning" and making myriad demands on Moscow. Moreover, all these warnings were accompanied by threats: if Moscow didn't accept the rules of the game outlined for it in Geneva within several months, then it would be exposed to the new pressures.

Washington's instantly voiced backlash in the wake of the talks is quite indicative, especially since the European capitals, having caught the mood of big brother, immediately began to actively echo it — and with pleasure. The gist of their statements: They are ready to normalize relations with Moscow, but Moscow should change its behavior first.

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Geopolitics

What Ukraine Has To Lose In Biden-Putin Talks

Joe Biden's Geneva meeting with Vladimir Putin cannot avoid the Nord Stream 2 pipeline standoff. Kyiv will be watching every step.

KYIV — Before the series of visits and talks, President Joe Biden wrote in a column for the Washington Post that he wanted to improve relations with Russia, but was also ready to work with Europe to deal with Moscow's undermining of security on the continent — especially the so-called Ukrainian issue. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin practically expressed hope that the United States would disintegrate.

Ukraine's hopes are too high for the June 16 meeting between Putin and Biden in Geneva, Switzerland. It is good that the U.S. President found time to talk to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone before his talks with the Russian counterpart. This can only make us happy. It's a shame that our country has little to do here — and the White House has already shown this ahead of time by letting Russia complete the first section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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Geopolitics

Ukraine: Zelensky Doesn't Understand The Rules Of Realpolitik

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is delusional in believing that the U.S. and Europe will force Moscow’s hand, so long as Russia holds so many cards.

KIEV — While President Volodymyr Zelensky awaits NATO membership, he has released his own vision to assert Ukraine with its more powerful European neighbors: As Zelensky outlined in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, this "Plan B" is aimed at deescalating the conflict with Russia in the contested Donbas region in order to move toward a comprehensive treaty to guarantee Ukraine's military, economic and energy security through an accord with the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian President argues that the ongoing Normandy Format (between Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France) will not be an alternative, but will be integrated into a broader process.

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Geopolitics

And The Oscar Goes To ... Vladimir Putin

In a recent government meeting, the Russian strongman once again showed off his trademark flare for political theater, promising, among other things, to leave his foreign foes toothless.

MOSCOW — In a conference call last week with government officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped things up on a characteristic note: with a promise to "knock out the teeth" of the country's foreign enemies.

But that was toward the end. Earlier, he was far more restrained — notably calm, in fact — as he discussed what he sees as attempts to distort the military history of the Soviet people.

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