n November 23, 2018 the Ukrainian Navy boat group (small armored artillery boats “Nikopol”, “Berdyansk” and inshore tugboat “Yani Kapu”) started planned transit from the naval deployment – port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol. Ukrainian Navy boats were carrying regular armament without any specific means on board. The route and procedure were the same as of September, 2018 “Donetsk” and “Korets” vessels’ transit.

On November 24, 2018 during the naval march Ukrainian commander received Russian authorities’ notice concerning the closing of navigation in the Kerch Strait. International Centre for Navigation Control (Spain) did not confirm this notification.

On November 25, 2018 the commander of the Ukrainian Navy boat group requested twice the maritime control officer from Kerch port concerning passage through Kerch Strait. He did not receive the answer. Later the maritime control officer from Kerch port directed the Ukrainian Navy boat group to the so-called waiting area. It was stated that in some time Ukrainian vessels would be informed on the Kerch Strait passage procedure.

Approximately at 8:30-9:00 a.m. Russian coastguard ship made a ram attack against inshore tugboat “Yani Kapu” and damaged it. Besides, Russian vessels blocked Ukrainian boat group to prevent them to render assistance to a damaged vessel.


All the time during a provocation against Ukrainian Navy boats, Russian vessels were attempting to provoke Ukrainian seamen to open fire. Moreover, by 01:00-02:00 p.m. Russia used helicopters to patrol and convoy Ukrainian vessels.

From 1:40 p.m. Russia has physically blocked the passage beneath so-called “Kerch bridge” having located there a tanker and later a cargo ship.

After 7 p.m. due to the impossibility to pass the Strait, Ukrainian Navy ships headed back to exit a Kerch Strait. They were immediately followed by a group of 8-10 FSB Coast Guard and Russian Black Sea fleet vessels.

Approximately at 20:25 after the exit of Ukraine’s Navy boat group from 12 mile zone Russia’s Cost Guard boats opened fire on defeat. “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol” were damaged and lost the course. After that Ukrainian vessels were forced to stop and seized by FSB special forces (20:35-20:50). 6 Ukrainian military seamen are wounded. Also 1 boat of FSB Coast Guard damaged.

Ukraine has proven evidence that Russian aggressive actions were planned and authorized by the top Russian military officials. In particular, the Russian military videos in YouTube testifies that a ram of the Ukrainian tugboat “Yanni Kapu” was purposeful, and actions of the captain of the Russian patrol ship were oriented to inflicting harm to the Ukrainian vessel and crew.


Aggressive actions of the Russian military authorities correspond in full with the definition of aggression set forth in the UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX).

Now Russia cynically tries to shift all responsibility to the victim of the aggression, consciously manipulating the facts and ignoring all evidence.

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How do you think, what is the most difficult to prove?

The president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin presented to the whole world his vision of the answer to this question. It appears the obvious things are the most incredible to prove.

All Russian actions aimed to break down the international law and stability in the world hide conveniently behind this Putin’s formula.

Let’s take illegal annexation of the Crimea. The Kremlin presented it as the Crimeans’ will and a return of the peninsula into the motherland’s fold: “Any violence! Fair referendum and point!” However, there are many proofs that it is nothing, but the armed occupation of the other state’s territory. “Prove it!” – Putin is mocking.

Another example – unleashing of armed conflict in Donbass and creation of the so-called DPR/LPR separatist entities. Everything is obvious, once again. There is a set of evidences of direct Russian military aggression and presence of the Russian servicemen there. The Kremlin says: “We are not present there. Prove it… Only miners and peasants are at war with the Ukrainian junta, using equipment and arms which they bought via the Internet in the world Army Surplus…”

What about civil Boeing? Who did shoot down it? Anyone, beginning from drunk Ukrainians and finishing by aliens, but only “not us”. Although, the obvious facts will become a trial subject with the obvious verdict soon.

Apparently, using of the chemical weapon in the Great Britain is evident! We can hear again: “It’s not us. Prove it…”

What are we dealing with? The Free World put up with it. Sanctions have been declared for conscience’s sake. Nevertheless, cooperation with the aggressor continues: Northern and Turkish Streams are being built; Mr. Putin is being received as an honorable guest at weddings and festive events, orban, zeman, salvini dote on Putin.

Finally, there is a new fact of the Kremlin’s aggression against the sovereign state. Having annexed the Crimea, thanks to the constructions of Kerch Straight Bridge (besides illegal), Putin cynically realizes the project of the Azov Sea blockade. Naval Forces of Russia carried out a naked military action against the Ukrainian ships to receive a formal reason for full closing of the Kerch Strait and blockade of the Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea.

Everything is extremely obvious! This time things have gone far enough and presented a risk of a direct military clash with Ukraine with unpredictable consequences. Dear Sirs in Brussels, Bonn, Paris and Washington, is it obvious for you now that you should react rigidly to this accident up to rendering effective military support to Ukraine?

Or do you still need any more evidence else?!

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Recently the Russian website on public procurements posted a very interesting message about holding a closed auction on deployment of the latest Samarkand complexes for radio-electronic fight in 13 military units across all Russia and… in Belarus. The initial contract costs 61 million rubles. According to the plan, these complexes have to be put into operation until 10 November 2019.

In Belarus the Samarkand complexes are planned to be deployed on two military facilities of the Russian Federation which remained there since the USSR (radiolocation station near Gantsevichi and post for a long-distance communication with submarines of the Naval Forces of Russia near Vileyka), thereby gradually expanding the military presence in this state.

Moscow has never covered their longstanding plans to create the full-fledged Russian military bases in the territory of Belarus. Finally, they found the excellent opportunity to put these plans into practice – the Poles proposed to construct US military base on their territory supposing to place the US light armored division.

The U.S. and Polish Presidents, Donald Trump and Andrzej Duda, already discussed this issue during their meeting in Washington. The Polish authorities declared their determination to allocate 2 billion dollars for this project.

It’s very likely to assume that during negotiations behind closed doors in Sochi on September 22 one of the preconditions for renewal of the Belarus economy’s “hydrocarbon sponsorship” laid down by Putin was establishment of the Russian military base in Belarus. Well, that is an assumption only. However, on 21 October new ambassador in Belarus Mikhail Babich in his extensive interview to the Belarusian TV said that Moscow would qualify any military attack on Belarus as an attack on Russia. Commenting on a possible establishment of permanent US base in Poland, he said also that increase in the US military commitment near Russia and Belarus borders would not promote safety of neighboring states: “Since precisely neither for Poland, nor for the neighboring states… where these bases are deployed, such opposition will bring nothing good”.

It is noteworthy that discussing a possibility of Russian military operations in the territory of the allied State, the Russian ambassador speaks about his country of residence as not an independent state, but as a part of Russia, ignoring the position of the Belarusian leaders.

The issue of establishment of the Russian military base in Belarus was subjected to long and difficult discussions in 2014-2015. In 2015, the Russian government considered the draft agreement with Belarus on deployment of Russian Air Force base on their territory. That time the question was a deployment of a wing equipped with SU-27 fighters in Belarusian city Baranovichi. It is remarkable that the Russian servicemen considered a matter of the new Russian military base in Belarus already settled and spoke about it as about the accomplished fact. However, in 2015 before the next re-elections Mr. Lukashenko refused deployment of the Russian military base in Belarus.

Meanwhile, Moscow strengthened their pressure upon Belarus in the field of defence. The apogee was the last year’s Zapad 2017 military manoeuvres accompanied with a range of scandals related to lack of coordination between the Russian servicemen and the Belarusian Joint Staff on the Belarusian territory as the first pursued to make it clear who is the master.

Today Kremlin obtrusively suggests Minsk to accept the Russian military base in the Belarusian territory again, having secured this idea in the intergovernmental document – the military doctrine of the Allied State. Since then, in case of possible Lukashenko’s free will, Moscow may put in “failure to follow allied obligations”.

Further relations between Minsk and Moscow will depend on whether Alexander Lukashenko would sign the new “allied” military doctrine without specific objections or he would fall again to chaffer.

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Recent midterm elections in US another time showed the continuing efforts of the third parties to affect the voting results using media platforms. Facebook stated it blocked 115 accounts for suspected “coordinated inauthentic behavior” linked to foreign groups attempting to interfere in Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections, particularly 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts.

Twitter, meanwhile, has said it has identified more than 4,600 accounts and 10 million tweets, mostly affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, which was linked to foreign meddling in U.S. elections, including the presidential vote of 2016. The agency, a Russian troll farm, has been indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller for its actions during the 2016 vote.

The response of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI was a joint statement declaring the law enforcement is working in “unprecedented ways” to combat foreign influence operations.

“Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord,” the statement said. “They can do this by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics.”

Facebook, Twitter and other companies have been fighting misinformation and election meddling on their services for the past two years . There are signs they’re making headway, although they’re still a very long way from winning the war.

According to data provided by researches who monitored 2018 US elections, while these measures made less effective specific sort of interference the Russians engaged in two years ago, they haven’t fully stopped Russian influence operations. It seems to a greater extent that they stimulated Russia to develop and shift to new tactics

According to Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox, who run a New Knowledge cybersecurity company, this year it was registered more overall activity in real time from continuing Russian online influence operations targeting the midterm elections than it was disclosed by social media platforms or detected by researchers during the same period before the election in 2016.

In the past month the researchers have collected more than 26 million social media posts concerning the 2018 midterms, particularly a large portion of all relevant content on Twitter as well as a smaller targeted sample of all relevant content on Facebook.

Analysis shows that more than 400 websites are likely to be Russian propaganda outlets aimed at American audiences. More than 100 of these websites were confirmed as under the direction of the Russian government or are thought to be Russian with a very high degree of confidence.

In the month of October alone, the company tracked 110,000 social media posts that referenced a United States midterm candidate, topic or hashtag and contained a link to one of these websites. More than 10,000 of these posts contained a link to one of the websites we have either confirmed as Russian-directed or believe to be Russian with a very high degree of confidence.

The top three websites linked to these social media posts are the site of RT, Russia’s state-financed international cable network (5,275 links); The Duran, a right-wing news and opinion site (1,328 links); and Sputnik, a news and commentary site run by the Russian government (1,148 links).

The company have also identified 1,451 social media posts aimed specifically at midterm voters from social media accounts assessed with high confidence as belonging directly to Russian influence operations. These posts are largely focused on the geopolitics of the Middle East, the Saudi-assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

The most-shared article of known Russian origin for October on Twitter was an article from The Duran purporting to show how groups financed by the billionaire Democratic fund-raiser George Soros “plotted with Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to eliminate conservative ‘right wing propaganda.’”

The Russia-linked social media accounts were active during the Kavanaugh hearings, drawing attention to sexual and domestic abuse allegations against various 2018 Democratic candidates and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. They have been amplifying anti-immigrant sentiment, including conspiracy theories about the caravan of migrants in Central America, and have promoted the idea that the mail-bomb campaign of the Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc Jr. was a Democratic plot.

Because of the numerous changes since 2016 in social media platforms and propaganda-detection practices, a straight “apple to apples” comparison of 2016 and the current election cycle is not possible. And no analysis of the social media landscape is ever complete because no one has access to all the data.

But any significant detectable quantity of Americans who are unwittingly sharing Russian propaganda on their social networks is cause for concern. And based on activity that the analysis attributes to Russian government efforts, we may estimate that at least hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions, of United States citizens have engaged with the content of Russian propaganda online.

The consensus among academic researchers and Russia experts in the intelligence community is that Russia does not take a timeout from information battles. It considers itself to be in a constant state of information warfare. Its online influence operations are inexpensive and effective, and afford Russia an asymmetric advantage given the freedoms of expression afforded to Western democracies.

We are heartened by the seriousness with which many social media platforms and government agencies are treating this situation. But while progress has been made since 2016, we must remain vigilant in the face of confirmed Russian efforts to undermine our democracy.

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Thanks to the Russian special services, Austria is becoming a trendsetter in loud espionage scandals. Such phrases as “Russian intelligence man failed in Vienna” or “Russian spy was found in Austria” will be permanently integrated in everyday life. Given the number of Russian residencies from the Federal Security Service, Main Intelligence Directorate and Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency, operating in the capital of European architecture, this sounds quite natural.

On Friday, November 9, it became known about the alleged agent of the Russian special services in Austria – an officer of the Austrian army, who has transferred information to Moscow over the past 20 years, that was reported on Friday morning by the Polish news channel TVP Info, with reference to the Kronen Zeitung. According to the Kronen Zeitung, the suspect of espionage in the interests of Russia was a retired Austrian colonel and occupied an “inconspicuous post” in the Austrian army. He acted very professionally and received € 300.000 for his work. Every two weeks, the alleged spy met his Russian curator “Yuri” and received tasks. As a result of the work of the “mole”, Russia could get information about the Austria’s air force, artillery systems, high-ranking officials.

Two days later, the same newspaper Kronen Zeitung, with reference to a source, reported on another Russian spy case. According to the information, on November 11, an employee of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism was detained. The employee had access to secret documents and handed them over to his curators in Moscow. The spy was discovered as a result of an investigation that lasted for a year.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz demanded the Russian side to provide transparent information. The Austrian side believes that such cases will not improve relations between Russia and the European Union, and considers espionage in European countries “unacceptable”.

The agents recruitment from different branches of troops or special services is a fairly common practice for Russian special services in relation to hostile states. But here the situation is somewhat different, since Austria is considered by many to be one of Russia’s main allies in the European Union. This is confirmed by the fact that it was Russia that became the first country beyond the EU, visited by Sebastian Kurz after his post of Chancellor in the fall of 2017. After that, a series of meetings between Putin and Kurz took place, both in a formal and an informal setting, including the wedding of Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl, where Mr. Putin was among the honored guests. Austria also became one of the few western countries which had decided not to expel Russian diplomats after poisoning of a former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England.

And now, again, new spy scandals, but now in Austria… Russia in its natural style “#Wecannotbeblamedif…” tried to smooth out the occurred scandal.

But it seems that even for patient Austrians, these cases turned out to be “too much”, and caused the cancellation by Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and “Putin’s loyal dance partner” of her planned visit to Russia at the beginning of December. It is possible that this decision is a signal of a possible cooling of bilateral relations and that Austria has decided to join the UK, which after the Skripal’s case had decided to impose sanctions against the high-ranking heads of the Main Intelligence Directorate, while hoping to attract the support of key EU players.

In any case, if for Russia it is just the next spy scandal in a series of failures that have recently followed one by one, then for Austria it is quite a serious situation, since it is about its reputation. After all, if Vienna slows down this scandal and does not demonstrate a tough and uncompromising stand regarding Russia, this may aggravate communication with the main EU partners which try to toughen measures against Moscow, and may be also a blow to its reputation as a strong player in international politics and once again confirm that Austria is only a sequacious partner in a waltz with Russia…

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In his interview to the Foreign Policy Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine declared lack of direct evidence of participation of the Russian Federation in Donbass conflict and noticed that everyone is free to buy the Russian military uniform in any shop. However, remarkable it may be, the OSCE Representative made such statement the day before his resignation. Such unexpected and uncovered tribute to Kremlin certifies to the fact that Hug’s statements are synchronized with Kremlin “grey eminence”, while OSCE’s objectivity and ability to perform their function in Donbass properly have often raised great doubts.

Since Mr. Hug’s statements do not hold water, such unprofessional opinion declared on behalf of the whole monitoring mission causes significant damage to the OSCE image and confirms its engagement as well as the fact that formerly authoritative and solid organization discredited itself and called into question its ability to perform the role which historically was assigned to it. The use of this organization’s authority for dissemination of unveracious data and subjective data interpretation, is unacceptable for heads of such level.

Hug’s statement contravenes EU shared position concerning the Russian Federation. His words also call into question advisability of sanctions policy against Russia and weaken EU unity in a question of counteraction to aggressive Kremlin actions. Hug’s speech appeared right after the resolution of the European Parliament on strengthening sanctions in case of aggravation of a situation in the Sea of Azov as well as declared support of sanctions policy by the Austrian Foreign Minister K. Kneissl (Austria presides in the EU Council).

However, there are a lot of questions to the OSCE aside from that. One should ask, why monitoring mission was not admitted in due time to the place of MH-17 crush, as well as to the places of shootouts and Zakharchenko murder while the Russian intelligence agencies and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation played there the master. By the way, daily reports of the OSCE Monitoring Mission constantly record Russian military equipment, weapons and military personnel in the combat zone.

Documents recorded movement of motor columns, particularly equipped with antiaircraft mounting, through uncontrolled sector of the Ukrainian-Russian border even as of October 23 this year. At the same time there were no official statements and claims from the OSCE in this regard.

Resignation of the Swiss official was not overlooked by ORDLO (Separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk territories). D. Pushilin, leader of Donetsk terrorists, gave positive estimate to Hug’s performance and noted that positive moments of cooperation prevail over negative ones.

One should also bring to notice that should be a penultimate interview of Alexander Hug as the first deputy head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The last was scheduled in temporarily occupied territory of Donbass. Such sequence serves as unambiguous hint about those whose allowance was worked out by this official of the international organization.

As we know, while working for the OSCE (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Gaza Strip) Hug maintained close contacts with Russian representatives in this organization. It is quite possible that the latter offered Hug support and assistance in further career growth within the organization or within other international authorities upon termination of his functions in the OSCE. We will keep an eye on it and get to know in the course of time.

It may also happen that Hug became a target for blackmail by the Russian intelligence agencies. As is known, in July, 2018 internal documents of the OSCE Mission to Ukraine, including briefs on mission members (personality traits, tendency to alcohol, financial position, interest in the opposite sex) and Hug’s communications profile. The OSCE Mission did not report the results of investigation.

We may only hope that the end of Hug’s commission in monitoring mission and his substitution with Mark Etherington from Great Britain will favorably affect objectivity and overall performance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. To the best of our knowledge, communications with the Russian intelligence agencies and Kremlin involve further consequences for engaged foreign politicians and heads of various international organizations. The new Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and other officials and representatives of influential international organizations should think thoroughly about the aftermath of “close” communications with the Russian Federation and their intelligence agencies. Short-term benefits can turn into much bigger losses for them and for the European safety.

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Today’s EU is far from its former unity: we are increasingly confronted by those opposing the idea of an “open society,” but who are ready to live in a confederation format, where a certain state will play the major role rather than the Union. And it was not Brexit that gave rise to such appeals – it was the ascent of autocratic leaders across Eastern Europe.

The most striking example is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – someone who once so actively fought against the Soviet past, suddenly become an actual advocate of the Soviet-style present.

Hence, the harassment of mass media, neglect of independent judiciary, high profile corruption, with Orbán increasingly resembling Vladimir Putin, or more precisely, becoming Putin’s even smaller copy. Therefore, there is no surprise that someone, who back in 2009 so zealously fought with the Russian gas monopoly and resisted the seizure of Hungary’s chemical facilities, just handed over to Russia the country’s entire nuclear industry. Moreover, now he is demanding that Brussels not prevent Russian gas flows through the southern pipe to Central Europe.

At the same time, the Hungarian conservative, together with the Italian populists and the Czech opportunists, keep insisting on the need to lift sanctions imposed against Russia in connection with the Ukraine conflict.

Let’s ask ourselves a question: can we lift sanctions today, allowing Russia to pursue its aggressive policy in Ukraine? However cynical it may sound, it’s no. We can’t. That’s because in this case, we run the risk of facing a powerful adversary, willing to restore their former Soviet influence.

Ukraine again – however cynical it may sound – remains a kind of an outpost against Russian destructive policies and aggression threatening all civilized Western democracies. Everyone seems to understand this, except for Viktor Orbán.

The head of the Hungarian government is not just trying to play along with Putin in his campaign to weaken the EU. He also intends to take part in dismembering other countries, to make many Hungarians’ dream come true, that is, to reunite all the lands that Budapest claims were illegally snatched from Hungary with the Treaty of Trianon signing. Now we see that Orbán is set to start with the Ukrainian Zakarpattia.

Hungary has long been working out the idea to return territories the country has lost throughout history. Judging by the outcome of the latest parliamentary elections, most Hungarians support the project. It’s us, Europeans, who are partly to blame: for the past 15 years, the EU has done nothing to change the ideology in Hungary; we failed to convince both the local government and the people there of the advantages of globalization and open society. It turns out, not everything rests on the economy, market relations, and democratic values.

Hungary aggressively protects their interests in Serbia, where it formed a broad territorial and full-fledged national-cultural autonomy in Vojvodina; Slovakia, where Budapest currently avoids unnecessary confrontation trying to enlist Bratislava’s support in his confrontation with Brussels and Romania, where the main goal is to regain Transylvania (Szekely Land).

Why did the Hungarian Prime Minister choose Ukraine and its western lands (Transcarpathia) as his main target? It is because the Crimea annexation happened. Whether anyone likes it or not, Russian seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula has set a precedent. Anyone today could take advantage of it – both at the borders and in the heart of Europe. This is also about a major prevalence of Hungarian communities living in several areas of the Transcarpathian region. An important note: it is only a few areas within a particular region. And, of course, these communities’ financial dependence on Budapest is on the table.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the real numbers. Of 1.2m people living in the Ukrainian region bordering Hungary just over 150,000 are Hungarians. This is not the majority seen in the Serbian province of Vojvodina – on the contrary, it is a clear minority. Does this mean that Ukraine must protect the rights of any ethnic group, including the Hungarians? It definitely does. However, this in no way means that Kyiv should put the interests of any minority above the law.

The conflict between Budapest and Kyiv began in 2017, after the Ukrainian parliament passed a law on education. The new legislation has seen enough criticism and support at the same time, while the Venice Commission found no violations in its text concerning the infringement of national minorities rights.

Indeed, the law defends the Ukrainian language, making it the main language of instruction at schools. Starting from middle classes, all schools are obliged to teach in Ukrainian, while some classes can be taught in the languages of EU states (one of which is Hungary, I must recall).

The Orbán government responded to these initiatives with an ultimatum, blocking the highest-level meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, turning them down to the level of ambassadors, while Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto threatens to block Ukraine’s EU integration process under the Association deal. At the same time, Hungary allocates millions of euros to support pro-Hungary political movements in Transcarpathia that is, brazenly interfering in the neighboring state’s internal affairs – something Szijjarto does not mention in his statements on Ukraine.

Budapest also funds Hungarian organizations abroad through charities, organizes seminars and round tables, attracting the youths. Through the Robert Schumann Institute in Budapest, Hungarians also fund experience exchange programs for young Ukrainians living in the bordering region. In fact, this is about training young politicians who will one day become part of local governments and promote Hungarian interests.

What is the most surprising here is that, while failing to secure any support in Brussels, Budapest found it in Moscow. Hungarian officials met with their Russian counterparts, to slam the Ukrainian language law. Moreover, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov agreed with Peter Szijjarto to jointly oppose Ukraine’s legislative moves and hinder its educational reform.

The saddest thing though is that this, and many other things, has being done under the cover of the EU. Yes, it is precisely their experience of integration into the EU that the Hungarian authorities use to cover up their meddling in another country, which is not even an EU state. A very simple question arises: would we really choose to be complicit in Viktor Orbán’s outright violations?

We must definitely avoid a conflict being created and escalated on the EU borders. However, it’s time for the European Union to look into the ways to fix the situation. We have seen a rather dangerous move by Hungary whose consul has been openly handing out passports to representatives of Hungarian minority living in Ukraine. The danger stems from the fact that in the Ukrainian territory, in contrast to a number of EU states, dual citizenship is officially banned.

Budapest, once so wary of Ukraine launching protectionist policies, has now become the very force pushing Kyiv toward the adoption of the new legislation— the new language bill, which had already passed its first reading in the Ukrainian parliament. Now Ukraine once again hears Hungarian officials voicing an ultimatum. This means that escalation is inevitable, with the next step of the Ukraine authorities possibly being passing changes to the law on citizenship.

It would be less complicated though if it were all about citizenship issues and Hungary’s will to boost population numbers. In fact, we are well aware that it’s not Hungarians who Viktor Orbán and his government believe are so important – it’s the lands that used to belong to Austria-Hungary and a revanchism-focused flirting with voters. Indeed, Orbán does need a cheaper labor force, but only those who always return home, to Western Ukraine. What he really craves for is a territory that will later seek to become part of the Great Hungary. This is the reason why the Hungarian government has also been campaigning among the Ukrainian nationals living in the bordering region.

Meanwhile, the situation could spin out of control, which is exactly what Moscow seeks to exploit. The Hungarian government recently approved a classified plan on Ukraine. It allows Budapest to deploy troops across the Ukrainian border without NATO’s consent in case an “emergency” arises.

Interestingly, a Hungarian intelligence agency recently received a number of specific instructions: to strengthen its operations not only in the Transcarpathian region, but also in Ukraine as a whole; and create conditions for economic and political expansion in areas where Hungarians reside. It has also been ordered to strengthen partnership cooperation with Russian intelligence.

At the same time, the Russian Wolf International Special Combat Training Center has been boosting its presence in Hungary. Its founder is a Russian national who has been put on the U.S. sanctions list. Most importantly, the organization has already opened a real network of cells.

This is happening amid Hungary’s efforts to boost the total number of military reservists. Hungarian defense minister István Simicskó this August announced the need for 20,000 reservists to join the already 30,000-strong army. And this is despite the fact that last year the Hungarian army started the practice of signing up Hungarians living beyond the country’s borders, most of them, residents of Ukraine.

Now let me ask you the most important question that we all will soon face. What shall we do if a conflict breaks out on the Hungarian-Ukrainian border? What about the EU and NATO treaties? After all, we are now talking about the destructive actions of a NATO ally and an EU member state which maintains political and economic ties with Russia, in relation to a non-EU and non-NATO state which at the same time has been actively repelling the Kremlin’s aggression in close proximity to our eastern borders. So what do you think? Could an outside player be able to provoke a conflict, as it had already happened in history?

Don’t you see that we finally have to think about our own safety? Perhaps it is time that we engage in the negotiation process and take a closer look at the general situation in Hungary. These are all questions demanding answers. Today.

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Every day the Nord Stream 2 project is becoming more and more popular. We hear dispersedly about those benefits and prospects which this project promises. Nevertheless, so frank euphoria is absolutely strange. In fact, not all countries will benefit from the project, but in consequence we will pay off all together.

At first sight it may seem that Germany’s energy dependence on Russia, which with implementation of Nord Stream 2 will increase from present 55% to 80%, will create problems both economic and political only for the Germans. At the same time, you should not forget that Germany, despite the undoubtedly strong economic positions, is a member of the European Union. According to the European legislation its problems in case those arise (and they will arise of course) will lay down on shoulders of all the European community. And only some experts have already paid attention that Nord Stream 2 project’s price may actually be too high. That is exactly what Thierry Bros, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies where he is in charge of the Quarterly Gas Review, a visiting professor at SciencesPo Paris and a senior expert at Energy Delta Institute, is telling. According to him, “there is the issue of the European legislation. We have legislation on security of supply binding us to act collectively. If a country is exclusively dependent on one supplier, does it meet the N-1 regulation (readiness for action in case of the disruption of a major gas source)?

What if there is a problem? It does not have to be the Russians; it can be a technical problem…

According to the legislation, in case there is a problem in Germany, we will have to switch off the French, the Polish, the Hungarians, and the Italians to provide gas to the Germans. Germany is not following all those EU rules. The problem is that – contrary to what Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin stated at their August meeting – Nord Stream 2 is a political project, not only commercial. Eventually Angela Merkel had to admit after many, many months that Nord Stream 2 is not only commercial, but also a political project. And if it’s political, it has to be discussed with the other EU Member States.

Brussels has tried to stop Nord Stream 2 in different ways, because it wants some Ukrainian transit. A WTO ruling is generally in favour of Brussels’ decisions. The Commission now knows it can push for more unbundling. The power of Brussels is a bit stronger. Germany shows absolutely no sign of willingness of entering into a decent, fair bargaining.

Merkel was one of the leading figures at the European level when France had a weak government. That’s over. France is back on track, Greece, Portugal and Spain are back on track. There is a unity.”

It is also necessary to remind that earlier, in Vilnius, heads of parliaments of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia signed the letter with the danger warning of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline addressed to heads of parliaments of the European countries. Later Nord Stream 2 was also opposed by Estonia.

It is absolutely clear that Nord Stream 2 not only violates the provisions of the European legislation in the energy, which reduces monopoly power of electricity and gas suppliers, but it poses obvious threat for all EU MS. Nevertheless, despite all ‘not benefits’ and disagreement of many states, the project of the gas pipeline construction is being still implemented. Let’s ask for whose benefits the European politicians supporting the Nord Stream 2 project act?

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“All is fair in love and war”, as the proverb says. Let’s leave aside love and turn regard on war. Modern wars increasingly often find the battlefield in the economic, diplomatic, religious and other spheres. Even ecology is not an exception for confrontation. However, let’s start from pre-history.

The diplomatic scandal around the ethnic population of the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine and their rights has been smoldering for a long time between Ukraine and Hungary, particularly the cn nationalists led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Recently it became known that the Hungarian consulate issues in secret their national passports to the Ukrainian citizens. Naturally, such actions were condemned by the European institutions and the leading states. In response, the Hungarian side repaired to play on ecological safety of Europe.

River Tysa, which is one of the largest inflows of Danube, originates in Ukraine and before falling into Danube goes through several countries including Hungary. Hungarian defenders suddenly took care of the water condition originating from the Ukrainian territory. They found huge amount of heavy metals, harmful chemistry and household waste, in particular plastic bottles there. That’s why it became a new stumbling block in Ukraine-Hungary relations.

Today main ‘accuser’ of Ukraine is Hungarian eco-activist Gergely Hankó. He was also among organizers of unusual performance: making boats and canoe from the bottles fished out of the river and rafting down the river on them. The future of these “means of swimming” is unknown, possibly, they continue poisoning river banks in a more structured form.

The main Mr. Hankó’s argument against Ukraine is a case of spring, 2015, when a large volume of garbage fell into the river in consequence of heavy floods. The Hungarian part restricted themselves to recording the event and taking many shots of dirty river while they turned on the HPP taps and made garbage a problem of their neighbors. At the same time, both Ukrainian and Romanian experts reported about no registered fact of cross-border pollution of the river basin.

We can’t say for sure whether Mr. Hankó’s activity has strictly mercantile features. Possibly, that is manifestation of his altruistic nature, and he really bother about river condition. However, the actions of Hungarian government are by no means altruistic. They have their own goals, the main among which is to retain power. To this end, they use such drastic measures as issuing Hungarian passports to Ukrainians with a view to draw national minorities as their main electorate in advance of upcoming elections. For the same purpose, they make advances to nationalists and are ready to confront the whole Europe and NATO.

Frankly speaking, Ukraine and Hungary are on the brink of mutual expulsion of diplomats that is a very serious step. However, position of Hungarian part in this conflict is the most unflattering, due to propaganda of the nationalist ideas, confrontation with other states, and many other facts. Here tame “ecologist” is needed, he will tell how Ukraine poisons the European rivers and why it is impossible to conduct constructive dialogue with them as their authorities don’t care about citizens of other states. By the way, ideas of ecological safety in Europe advert more and more supporters.

It’s too prematurely to give forecasts as to the end of this confrontation. Most probably, the Hungarian government relies on the support of Russia and their allies in Europe, therefore behaves so aggressively. The main thing the European politicians may assure today is prevent making them fool by high-minded statements, which disguise quite mercenary incentives.

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Modern world experiences a very difficult period of economic cataclysms, geopolitical and military conflicts, breach of international treaties, and post-war transformations in Europe. In this atmosphere of mistrust, contradictions and political pressure any economic project should be estimated comprehensively and giving due account to all positive and negative sides. Today the Nord Stream 2 project is the most contradictory both in economic and political dimensions. It provides a new weapon which by design, image and likeness may be compared to the well-known group of Trojan viruses. This malicious program cause harm to the target computer systems. It appears to be a useful software at first glance, though it will do damage once installed to your computer. Whether this program would be more or less aggressive depends directly on intention of its author. Well, we may say that the Nord Stream 2 is of the same poisonous for the European safety! It may legitimately penetrate into Europe, and, unfortunately, involves far-reaching harmful geopolitical consequences. Non-exhaustive list of possible malicious effects of this project within the integral system of the European community you may see below.

· Construction of the gas pipeline by Russia undermines collective energy supply security of Europe. It will divide Europe making a part of the EU countries dependent on the Russian energy resources to such an extent that Eastern and Southeast Europe will find themselves in power isolation. Implementation of the project will increase the Russian share in German gas market to above 50% enabling Kremlin to strengthen the pressure upon US allies within the European states through traditional tactics of manipulations with gas supply. Even today German support of gas pipeline construction gives Russia confidence in lack of unity within the EU as well as in high bribability and corruptibility of Western states.

· The Nord Stream 2 project violates provisions of The European Union’s Third Energy Package governing reduction of monopoly in gas and energy supplies. The competitiveness of EU suppliers of energy carriers has been threatened. At the same time Russia considers the Nord Stream 2 as a tool for counteraction to development of the EU power policy. Besides it, they expect to create strong prerequisites for strengthening contradictions between those states consuming and those transiting natural gas to Europe.

· The project is designed to level down position of the Ukrainian gas transmission network in delivery of the Russian natural gas to the West, while its elimination from transportation of the Russian natural gas to EU states will cause serious turbulence in stability of deliveries. In addition, the Nord Stream 2 will definitely give Moscow a free hand which annexed Crimea and occupied a part of Donbass right after construction of the first stage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. The threat of further escalation of conflict in the region, or, even worse, of creating the new flash points of military conflicts in Europe will increase!

· The Nord Stream 2 will by no means promote diversification of gas supply to the European Union and will not provide access to the new gas sources.

· The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline may exert only negative impact on ecosystem of the Baltic Sea.

· Construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will unambiguously lead to increase in military presence of Russia on the Baltic Sea. This would be a threat for Europe – the gas pipeline will expand possibilities of Russian espionage actions which they currently deliver in the European states.

It is unlikely that the above arguments of harmfulness of the Nord Stream 2 project are unknown to the European establishment and EU officials of the European Union. Probably, they are well-known, and many of them do not approve intention of Germany towards its implementation.

In their turn, Russia seek promotion of the Nord Stream 2 project at the EU level frankly intimidating officials with expansion of a large-scale internal crisis in the European Union through levelling the interests of certain EU vanguard states. Nevertheless, the gas pipeline is unprofitable to the German business as well, since it challenges the whole Third Energy Package. However, if Germany opposes its construction, Mr. Putin will be very dissatisfied, which is apparently unfavorable situation for Germany. Well, probably the time came to take courage and apply the anti-virus program?

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As “Süddeutsche Zeitung” wrote, Vladimir Putin had assured the chancellor Angela Merkel that in case of need, Russia, from its own resources, would be ready to finance the construction of “Nord Stream 2”. At the same time counteraction to construction of the second branch of the gas pipeline on the ground of the Baltic Sea is one of fundamentals of the Polish foreign policy. And it is natural. Each serious buyer (and not only of gas) shall have alternative channels of supply.

However, it is worth asking a question: who “in fight for “Nord Stream 2” has more problems: Poland diversifying its procurement or Russia for which it becomes more and more difficult to earn from hydrocarbons from year to year. Let’s compare a situation with the Russian export of wheat. Now Russia is its largest exporter in the world. Its export has increased – in quantitative expression – by 36%. However, if we take into account export cost, it decreased by 1,8%. It means that Russia sells more and more, but the Russian growers earn from export less and less. If more precisely, the state pays extra for export, for example, at the expense of subsidies for transportation and also builds additional storages. We may see a situation which economists call inefficient investments.

Gas is not wheat, but the principle of inefficient investments remains the same. Let’s consider, for example, the Russian “Gazprom”. Recently there was 25 years from the moment of its creation. Russians analyze a way passed by the corporation for these years. Conclusions are not optimistically at all. Notwithstanding the fact that for the last 18 years the Russian economy has received from hydrocarbons export an astronomical amount of 3,5 trillion dollars, its dependence on oil and gas export has not decreased, but increased. In 2000 the share of hydrocarbons in export made 52%. In 2017 this figure was 55%.

It means that the federal budget of the Russian Federation depends on export of hydrocarbons more and more. In 2000, the budget received 25% of income, now – 40%. Of course, a problem is not in percentage, but in the amount of revenues. There are no doubts that as a result of an oil boom Russia had much more money. But it, contrary to statements of the Russian politicians, did not create alternative sources of replenishment of the budget in better days. They have not prepared for the worst times in the event of prices or demand for the Russian gas are much lower. They have not changed economy structurally. It seems that Russia has put everything on one “gas card”.

Long-term plans of “Gazprom” provide stable and significant growth in export in the European market. By 2035, according to analysts of group, production will fall in Europe, and consumption will increase. As a result, purchase by Europeans will increase from current 300-325 BCM of gas up to 393-459 billion. Proceeding from these calculations the Russian giant estimates to put into operation eight new areas of extraction of hydrocarbons in 2027, from which three, located in Eastern Siberia, transfer gas to Asia. The others will make deliveries to Europe.

As the practice of the last years has shown the fact of ownership of the gas pipeline does not mean its use.

The Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok pipeline was filled less than 40% till 2016. Later such data were kept a secret. Actually, it was not better in a case of “Nord Stream”: in 2012 – 67% of its capacity were used, in a year – 57%, then 35%, and in 2015 only 29% were hardly used!!! Only in 2016-2017 the pipe was filled almost for 100%.

The situation around the well-known gas agreement with China (there is no in practice) is similar, but nevertheless Russia is building “Power of Siberia” gas pipeline. It is building, paying more and more, but there are no prospects of profit. The consortium on construction of pipelines has 20 years’ tax exemption, and “Gazprom” received similar one but 15 years’ tax exemption. Moreover, the former Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Vladimir Milov reported that the debt of the Russian companies of extraction of hydrocarbons to China has already exceeded 70 billion dollars. Conditions of both credit and commercial contracts are the most carefully protected secrets. According to Mr. Milov, after discover of huge reserves of slate gas in China, Russia will never be able to earn from supplies to China.

There is also other problem. It is difficult to consider “Gazprom” as effectively operated company. If in 1999 the company extracted 546 billion cubic meters of gas a year, then 18 years later this figure decreased up to 472 billion cubic meters while the staff of the company for this period increased from 298 thousand to 467 thousand persons.

In the Russian oppositional circles, the opinion is widespread that the expediency of many projects of “Gazprom” is equal to zero, and it is only about how to make good money on construction of pipelines, stations for gas liquefaction and all other infrastructure. This year it has turned out that construction of “The Turkish stream” will cost one billion US dollars more, than it was estimated, and a land (Russian) part of “Nord Stream-2” has already rose in price for the last three years for 25%. On paper, from the Russians point of view, everything looks perfectly. Expenses on delivery of 1000 cubic meters of the Russian gas to Germany make about 400 euros while liquefaction and delivery of the same volume of the American gas cost 500 euros. The difference is not big, but it may so happen that in the next years it will quickly disappear. And what will be if development of the European market is not such as estimated by “Gazprom”?

Significant increase in a share of renewable energy in power balance of the main buyer and the most important partner of Russia – Germany recorded in the present coalition agreement may become the main reason. The agreement has a paragraph that partners in the coalition will seek to increase volumes to the level of 66% in 2030 (from present 33%). If it occurs, the strategy of “Gazprom” will be undecided. Instead of stable growth there will be the highest level of demand stagnation.

Other factor is Qatar which has recently declared that it wanted to increase gas export from 77 to 100 BCM. It is about the liquefied gas which is generally delivered to Europe. The Polish press has already written tens of articles about plans of export growth of hydrocarbons by producers from the United States. The coast of Cyprus has also new perspective fields, the pipeline from Algeria to Italy and from Morocco to Spain is planned. As a rule, the market of the liquefied gas (LNG) slowly, but becomes the world market, and this tendency cannot be terminated in the long term. If Russia, for credit money (because the second branch is under construction for expensive credits) wants to construct and drown it in the Baltic Sea, let it make. Poland and Europe shall take care of that Russia will sell gas so cheap that all this grandiose action will be unprofitable.

Source: http://serwisy.gazetaprawna.pl/energetyka/artykuly/1282247,nord-stream-2-pozwolmy-mu-zbankrutowac.html

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Once the Roman emperor Vespesian said a catch-phrase “the money has no smell”. Though it concerned taxation of public bathrooms in the Roman Empire, the phrase is still relevant. However, in our time and in our realities the sewage smell was replaced with a gas smell.

Construction of “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline has remained a debatable issue in German society and political circles for several months. The arguments were produced that this project would be unprofitable and would not be justified even in in the distant future.

For example, in May, Alexander Fek, the analyst of Sberbank-SIB, pointed out that those who would benefit from implementation of the project are not the companies which would serve the gas pipeline, but construction contracting companies – “Stroygazmontazh” and “Stroytransneftegaz”, owned by Russian oligarchs Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko respectively, who are president Putin’s old friends and companions. According to the analyst’s report which by the way caused his dismissal, the construction of the access to the sea for the gas pipeline will cost 74,6 billion rubles (about one billion dollars) only, while estimated cost of the whole gas pipeline is 17 billion dollars. The right for the construction was given to “Stroytransneftegaz” company out of the competition.

However, Russia has their own laws and orders. The Russian side generally has rather geopolitical goals than economic interests in this project. The question is, why does the German side is insistently getting involved in such unprofitable project? Evaluation of the allocated resources for this project shows that it may be paid off at least in 25 years, and that is the most promising forecasts and subject to the maximum loads. The answer is simple – corruption is bilateral process and its manifestations may be traced both in Russia and in Germany. Especially when the stake is big money.

To make it more clear let’s get to know closer Matthias Waring who heads “Nord Stream” since 2006. He is also one of the chief lobbyists of “North Stream 2” construction. You may think, what is wrong with it? He is a successful businessman who attempts to increase his capitals by creation of new assets. Except for the fact that these assets will bring profit in a quite distant future. Well, here is something behind it.

It worth noting that figure of Mr.Waring is quite controversial. Let’s begin with the fact that he is the former employee of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR, known as Stasi (1975-1989). At the end of 1989, during his work in Dresden, he got acquainted with Vladimir Putin who served that times in KGB. However, Waring denied his personal contacts with future Russian leader in every possible way until 1991 when Putin became head of the Department of Foreign Policy Communications at St.Petersburg city council. That was Putin who facilitated licensing of BNP-Dresdner Bank’s activity in Russia in 1993.

However, that became a history. As for today, in addition to governing “Nord Stream”, Matthias Waring is a member of the board of directors of a great number of Russian companies. This brings him a good profit – more than 2 million euros a year, plus over 4 million from “Nord Stream”. All the companies in which Waring holds senior positions, are Russian or have a considerable share of the Russian capital. Therefore, he has taken an active part in promoting Russia’s interests in Germany for many years. In return Putin awarded him with an Order of Honour in 2012.

Waring, his activity and his income, both legal and illegal, are only a top of corruption iceberg in the field of distribution of energy resources in the European market. As we have already mentioned, the project is primarily of geopolitical nature for Russia. Moscow attempts to lock up gas supplies to Eastern and Central Europe on themselves in order to dictate their political will. The interest of Germany seems to be even more doubtful, especially in the context of the promise from the USA to impose sanctions against the companies involved in construction. If the Russian government may easily take money from their people upon the pretext of pensionary reform or tax increase to avoid inflicting losses to loyal oligarchs, the question arises, what will the German government do to save in turn their companies?

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