What worries the Poles is that if stability in Ukraine returns under terms suitable to the Kremlin, it may only be a matter of time before it is business as usual with Russia. That would give Russia the space to make another move.
A Collective Psychosis Is Taking Hold of Ukraine ~ The New Republic
A collective psychosis, born of machismo and paranoia and fuelled by rumour, is taking hold. The latest story gaining traction in the capital is that thousands of Russians—solitary males of military age—have begun to appear in Kyiv, renting rooms and just waiting. “Let them come,” says Maksym, my wiry and intense landlord. “I’ve got body armour and I’m cleaning all my guns.”
It is a phenomenon I have seen repeatedly: in Lebanon, in Congo, in Israel. Men sit in the cafés and bars of Kyiv vowing to smash “Putin.” Machine-gun-wielding separatists tell me they will “cleanse” Ukraine of the “fascist junta” in Kyiv. “If the Russians come, I’ll be up there with my Kalashnikov,” an ex-soldier friend tells me, pointing to the gaudily lit roof terrace of my local sushi restaurant.
Many members of the camouflaged militia are unemployed young men from small towns, who have a new purpose and sense of belonging. It’s hard to imagine them willingly returning to their previous lives now.
Putin Has Far-Right Admirers All Over Europe, and They're Up for Election This Month ~ The New Republic
Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the authorities in Kiev of being “Fascists” and “neo-Nazis”. Moscow’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently condemned the European Union for rising racist tendencies among its member states. In reality, it is Russia, and not Ukraine or the EU, that is nurturing extremist sentiments. It is to Moscow that Europe’s far-right is flocking.
Across Europe, far-right parties are dancing to Putin’s tune. After March’s farcical referendum in Crimea—“international monitors” for which were primarily drawn from a shady Russia-backed organisation led by a Belgian neo-Nazi—a delegation of extremist and populist members of Germany’s far-right Neue Rechte movement visited the peninsula and praised the election as a model for Europe. Bulgaria’s neo-Nazi Ataka party has called on its government to “recognize” Crimea’s absorption into Russia. A spokesman for Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, defended the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea by arguing that “historically, Crimea is part of Mother Russia.”
With his intervention in Crimea, Putin signaled that the borders established after the Cold War were illegitimate and appointed himself the protector of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers outside of his own country. Many of Europe’s right-wing extremist parties see this agenda as aligning perfectly with their own revisionist forms of nationalism.
Putin’s appeal to Europe’s far right is bigger than this, however: it is to do with the Russian strongman’s combination of imperialist ambition, moral conservatism, and military might. In challenging the global role of the U.S. and EU, the Kremlin is pursuing an anti-globalist agenda (albeit one in which Russia is firmly positioned as a key power). And in developing a political system in Russia characterized by authoritarianism, nationalism, and populism, Putin is providing an ideological and political template for right-wing parties throughout Europe. Through Putin, Europe’s far-right senses that its goal of re-nationalizing Europe is finally in sight.
Since the mid-2000s, the Kremlin has courted the European far right. The Continent’s rightists, in turn, have pledged allegiance. Extremist parties in Eastern Europe supported Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, reserving special criticism for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s pro-American policies. Nick Griffin, the leader of the UK’s xenophobic British National Party, commended Russia for having “a robust, transparent and properly democratic system” after the rigged parliamentary elections in 2011. Last year, Italy’s Fronte Nazionale praised Putin for his opposition to homosexuality.
Serving the Fatherland ~ Moscow Times
The Kremlin held a secret award ceremony for Russia's most loyal journalists:
The main goal of the Kremlin's award ceremony was clear: to thank its journalists for their loyalty. As it turns out, loyalty to the government — not their readers and viewers — is exactly how the Kremlin defines "outstanding service to the Fatherland."
In so doing, the Kremlin has flipped the traditional role of journalism completely on its head. Journalists working for the main nationwide television channels and high-circulation newspapers, of course, should be independent of the government. How can they perform their traditional Fourth Estate role as a check and balance against the government when they are under the control of the government, eat from its hand and accept awards from it? Instead of exposing government abuses, state-controlled journalists are often compelled to whitewash, cover up or simply ignore them.
In the West, journalists do not receive professional awards from the government, which would be a clear conflict of interest. The awards they do receive are from their own professional organizations. And these awards are not for "objectivity," but, as a rule, for outstanding achievements in investigative reporting and exposing government crimes and abuses.
Thus, while the West gives journalistic awards for fighting the government, the Kremlin gives awards to journalists for serving it.
Chocolate tycoon heads for landslide victory in Ukraine presidential election ~ The Guardian
Ukraine's Presidential elections are coming up in a couple of days, and it might be that we'll see Petro Poroshenko, the "Chocolate King" elected to that most precarious of jobs:
For a man with presidential ambitions, it was not a propitious scene. Petro Poroshenko stood atop a bulldozer between a line of police and an angry crowd chanting expletives at him. Shouting into a loudhailer he urged calm, asking protesters to desist from storming the presidential headquarters in Kiev.
Hardcore elements in the crowd didn't like his speech; they responded with jeers of "dickhead" and "Jew trash". (Actually, Poroshenko is a Christian.) Someone dragged him off his perch. Others managed to rescue him from this seething frontline. Masked youths grabbed the tractor and used it as a battering ram to force a path though police. Clouds of smoke billowed across Ukraine's warring capital.
This was early December. Six months later Poroshenko is on the brink of becoming Ukraine's new president. Opinion polls suggest he will win the first round of Sunday's presidential election by a landslide. Such is his lead he may even beat his nearest rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in the first round, avoiding the need for a run-off vote on 15 June.
For Poroshenko, it has been a steep rise to popularity that begs two questions: how has he managed it? And will this support help him accomplish one of the toughest jobs in the world today: running Ukraine?
Softly spoken, articulate, and fluent in English, Poroshenko bears little resemblance to the bear-like ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych. A former foreign minister and minister of trade, Poroshenko is no political newbie. But he has managed to dodge the unpopularity that has engulfed the rest of Ukraine's governing class.
Poroshenko's current popularity has much to do with adroit positioning. He wasn't one of the three opposition leaders – the current prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, boxer Vitali Klitschko and ultra-nationalist Oleh Tyahnybok – who signed a deal with Yanukovych. And his business fortune came not from the murky world of energy but from something altogether more palatable: chocolate.
"Poroshenko was on the Maidan [central square in Kiev]. But at the same time he escaped unpopular decisions," said Olexiy Haran, a professor of comparative politics in the capital. "He managed to present himself as balanced, reasonable and successful." Even when he popped up on Maidan, paying for food, water and firewood for protesters, he was careful to play both sides. "Russia isn't our opponent, but our partner," he told the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta. "Understand, Euro-Maidan is not a movement away from Russia, but from the Soviet Union."
Can Putin keep Russians elated over Crimea ~ Moscow Times
Putin's second goal was not political, but existential. After 14 years in power, any leader naturally begins thinking about his place in history. According to Putin's remarks and judging from the people he quotes and most admires, it seems that he wants to be known as the "consolidator of Russian territory." Of course, Putin will not restore the former borders of the Russian Empire, but he will extend Moscow's influence over all the territories that he, along with the overwhelming majority of Russians, consider to be inherently part of Russia. It is no coincidence that Putin is arguing for the use of a single textbook on Russian history. He wants to control what schoolchildren in the second half of the 21st century will read about him and his main achievements.
The West is trying to spoil Putin's great Crimean victory with sanctions. But more important, Western countries are trying to ensure their own security. Moscow's annexation of what was legally Ukrainian territory dealt a devastating blow to the foundation of global security and stability. As a result, many leaders in the West no longer consider Russia a potential partner, but an unpredictable potential threat.