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How Sanctions Can Hit Even Harder: Guidance From A Russian In Kyiv

Europe’s addiction to Russian energy paid for the assault against Ukraine. And in spite of crippling sanctions, it is inadvertently continuing to fund the war by not cutting two major Russian banks from SWIFT.

Photo of an anti-Ukraine war protest with a placard that reads "Ban Russia from Swift"

Europe still hasn't cut off Sberbank or Gazprombank from the SWIFT banking system.

Michael Sheitelman
In Kyiv, currently enduring constant airstrikes, there are not only those who cannot leave but also those who decided to stay. One of them, a hostage of circumstances who decided to remain to witness the events of the defense of Kyiv, is the Russian-Israeli writer and political consultant Michael Sheitelman. Since the beginning of the war, the St. Petersburg native has been recounting how the Ukrainian capital and the entire political and Ukrainian and world community live in light of this war.

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KYIV — While they are destroying cities one by one, we can look at the Russian business people, CEOs and Vladimir Putin allies who have been placed under sanctions — or we can do more useful things with our time.

People ask me: Will people in Russia take to the streets if there is absolutely nothing to eat? I answer that the sanctions and the withdrawal of foreign companies from the market are not intended to reeducate the Russian people.

The purpose of sanctions and the refusal to trade with Russia is to deprive them of the means to produce weapons and conduct warfare.

Europe funding Russia's war

One has to recall Trump telling the Europeans: We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries. And then those countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia and you pay billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.

Germany, France and other countries financed the creation of the army that is bombing Ukraine today. The Russian plane that bombed the maternity hospital in Mariupol was built with Russian state-owned energy corporation Gazprom's proceeds from Europe.

Why Western companies left Russia

McDonald's closed in Russia not to make Russians eat steamed turnips with kvass but to avoid paying taxes to the Russian budget. And so that dozens of its suppliers and landlords would not pay taxes to the Russian budget. And so that the Russian budget will have to pay benefits to the tens of thousands of McDonald’s workers who were laid off.

You can save those children of Mariupol.

There are other kinds of companies, too. General Electric closed down for "McDonald's reasons" so that their technology would not be used in the Russian defense industry. McDonald's, General Electric, BMW, Shell, Procter & Gamble — all of them are now hitting the rear of our enemy, the rear of the enemies of civilization.

And at the same time, some companies (lists are online) continue to work for the enemy. Europe still hasn't cut off Sberbank or Gazprombank from SWIFT, with money for new bombs and missiles going to Russia through this channel.

How Europeans can really help 

You don't have to wage a one-on-one war against Russian products by crushing cans of red caviar. People in democratic countries have the simplest leverage over their governments: demonstrations and even simple participation in polls. If the polls show that the majority of Europeans are in favor of disconnecting Sberbank and Gazprombank from SWIFT, they will be disconnected immediately.

So this text is to my friends in Europe, America, and Australia. You can save those children of Mariupol whom the Russians have not yet burned.

*Michael Sheitelman has advised election campaigns in Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as non-governmental organizations, such as the Russian Jewish Congress. His media management experience includes the Internet division of STB media group (Ukraine), the launch of a Russian-language TV5 channel in Latvia and other projects. He has worked as a journalist in the Russian-language media worldwide.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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