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March 5, 2014

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

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Map of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Image: PANONIAN.

People in Ukraine protesting against Russia’s intervention “Crimea is Ukraine”.
Image: ВО Свобода.

A Crimean self-defense group with shields painted as the flag of the autonomous republic.
Image: E. Arrott.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the past few days, tension has been increasing due to conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation which has led to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France increasing pressure on Russia to remove their troops from Crimea.

Wikinews interviewed specialists in Russian foreign policy and specialists in international law about the legality of Russia’s actions and the consequences of any sanctions imposed by G7 nation economies.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Jane Burbank, Professor of History and Russian and Slavic Studies at the New York University, New York
  • Jeremy Morris, Senior Lecturer in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • Craig Brandist, Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield
  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Yanni Kotsonis, Director, New York University Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia in New York.

Wikinews Q&A

File photo of interviewee Craig Brandist.
Image: Craig Brandist.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Are Russian troop deployments into Ukrainian territory a clear violation of sovereignty?

  • Morris: Yes.
  • Burbank: Yes, the borders of the Ukrainian state were drawn up in 1991 and reinforced by the 1994 Budapest accords. See the article by Paul Goble on these accords.
  • Brandist: It would be hard to describe it otherwise. That said, however, it is quite extraordinary hypocrisy for the US and UK to strike moral poses about this, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia clearly has strategic interests in the region, and there is a large Russian-speaking population in much of Ukraine, a majority in Crimea and an important part of the east of the country, and the arrangement after the collapse of the USSR was clearly fragile, especially when NATO expansion took place. None of this is to excuse Russian actions, but they cannot be understood without focus on the ‘great game’ of which it is part.
  • Blank: By any standard Russia’s actions represent a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity, a premeditated break with numerous treaties signed by Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s security, integrity, and sovereignty, and thus Premier Yatsenyuk is right these are acts of war.
  • Kotsonis: On the surface it seems so. Mind you, it is complicated because Russia has been given rights to the bases on the Crimea and this may give Russia the pretext for a larger intervention. But it does not seem to be a clear-cut legal case for intervention and everyone understands that this is Russia smarting over the loss of an ally in Yanukovich and guarding its own back yard interests.

File photo of interviewee Yanni Kotsonis.
Image: Yanni Kotsonis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are we going to see a proxy war between the United States and Russia?

  • Morris: No.
  • Burbank: I doubt that we will have a real war, but note that the Russians who falsely accused the “West” and the U.S. for instigating the political activism of Ukrainians (denying that Ukrainians themselves wanted to change their corrupt government for a more democratic and inclusive one) now have managed, through provocation, to get the “West” involved in the conflict. (So far this involvement is only diplomatic and verbal.) Moreover, the analysis so common in the Western media of a divided Ukraine (East vs West) has played into Russia’s hands, setting up a scenario for strife and divisiveness.
  • Brandist: I think it unlikely at present. Russia humiliated the US when it entered Georgia to stop it becoming part of NATO, exposing the limits of US power in areas where Russia has an overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons. Russia clearly cannot contest the US on a global basis in the way that the USSR once could, but it remains a great power with a powerful regional presence, while the limits of US power have been graphically illustrated in the Middle East and Caucasus. This is another illustration of that.
  • Blank: It is too soon to know what we are going to see but a proxy war is one possibility as is a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia (note I did not say war). In my personal opinion resolute NATO action combined with economic and political action of a similarly robust nature would force Russia to back down because it knows it cannot afford to go up against NATO. Indeed this operation was undertaken because Putin et al openly and […] publicly declared their belief that Obama and other Western leaders are weak, irresolute, and afraid to act. This calculation must be reversed decisively if peace is to hold.
  • Kotsonis: I doubt it. The US has used stern language but so far has taken direct intervention off the table. On the other hand Russia has declared publicly that it can intervene militarily and has decided that the US will not. “Proxy” does not capture it because Russia is actually in Ukraine and the US won’t be.

File photo of interviewee Jane Burbank.
Image: Jane Burbank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In response to Russia’s build-up of its forces in Crimea, Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilisation. To what extent can Ukrainian troops hold back and successfully fight Russian forces?

  • Morris: Anything is possible, but I think Ukraine lacks the political will to enter large-scale conflict. There may be insurgency-like fighting.
  • Brandist: Russia has overwhelming superiority in both the south and east of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian forces are not necessarily reliable in a conflict with Russia given the support for Russia among a substantial part of the Ukrainian population. Ukraine does, however, have substantial assets elsewhere and if Russia was to try to move into the Ukrainian heartland it would be a substantial operation. This is precisely why it is unlikely to do it. Moreover, Russia does not want a division of Ukraine, which could lead NATO to become established within the borders of the ex-USSR, so it is more likely it is seeking to change the facts on the ground so to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. It is difficult to predict how events will unfold on the ground, however, given the informal and extreme nationalist forces who are operating.
  • Blank: It is unlikely that Ukraine could prevail in such a conflict but I think it would unhinge Russian calculations, create the basis for protracted conflict, including guerrilla war for which Russia is not prepared, and thus force the West to act and begin the process of imposing costs on Russia that Putin did not foresee. Indeed that is one reason why this is an incredibly reckless action on Putin’s part.
  • Kotsonis: No one thinks Ukraine can stand up to Russia. It’s partly because Russia is bigger and better equipped, partly because Russia has bases in Ukraine, and partly because Russia is relatively united. One will have to see whether Ukraine will unite when so many of its citizens identify with Russia. We do not know the answer to this, only anecdote.

File photo of interviewee Jeremy Morris.
Image: Jeremy Morris.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would penalties imposed on Russia by the ‘Western nations’ being the United States, UK and France have severe consequences for the Russian economy?

  • Morris: Not really, so much depends on oil price for Russia, but fall in [the] rouble due to lack of confidence may affect ordinary Russians’ ability to buy imported goods.
  • Brandist: Clearly such measures would have negative effects, and the business community in Russia is clearly worried. That said, however, the likelihood of any coherent action against Russia is not great, not least because much of Europe is reliant of Russian gas. Moreover, it is European states that would face any potential flood of refugees and so European states will not be keen on too much pressure that could lead Russia to press Ukraine even more. Germany effectively vetoed Georgia’s attempt to be part of NATO, and it would have even more interests in trying to stabilize the situation now. In this situation the ‘Western nations’ mentioned have limited leverage, though it clearly would have an impact.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is meaningless. Sanctions that would register are sanctions on Putin et al so they cannot access their money, action in the WTO [World Trade Organization] to arraign Russia for violating its statutes, legislation placing sanctions on Russia equivalent to those on Iran that have crippled it, staging a run on the rouble, and if necessary blockading the Baltic and Black Seas to prevent maritime commerce. Most importantly but this is over time, Europe must reorient its gas and oil purchases away from Russia on a long-term basis. All these moves must be taken together and in tandem with military-political moves to uphold Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty and thus preserve peace by deterring Russia and imposing excessive costs upon it.
  • Kotsonis: It will probably make matters worse for Russia but it won’t be a causal factor. Russia is overly dependent on commodities exports and is at the mercy of world prices. The world wants those resources and will probably not renounce them, but they may not be enough to keep the economy growing in Russia. Any penalties would only accelerate the secular trend.

Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 2, 2014.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png There are reports that Russia could be ejected from the G8 group of developed economies. Would this be a major blow for Putin’s domestic popularity?

  • Morris: Not really.
  • Brandist: In present circumstances not. There is a substantial constituency in Russia that is nostalgic about its imperial status, especially after the humiliation inflicted on the state during the Yeltsin period, and these conflicts are presented in this context. Certainly recognition of Russia at the G8 was a prestige factor, but there are clearly compensations on an ideological level in the present situation. This is an illustration of Russia’s ascendency vis-a-vis the US and the EU [European Union] in one sense. What it all means in the longer term depends on a significant amount of variables, however.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is necessary but insignificant in its own right.
  • Kotsonis: No, it would probably increase his popularity in an us-v-them dynamic. Putin thrives politically on autarky and it may be treated as an attack on Russian prestige. But less on Putin’s reputation at home.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the Russian general public in full support of the deployment of their own troops into Ukraine, a separate sovereign nation?

  • Morris: No, this is a distraction by Putin from increasing economic and political problems in Russia. A minority of Russians support deployment and I think support from ordinary Russians will fall when they realise deployment may result in the killing of fellow Slavs.
  • Burbank: There is no such thing as a united Russian public. There are many views in Russia, as elsewhere. Clearly, some people in Russia oppose this assault on Ukraine, as we have seen from the arrests and beating of demonstrators in Moscow. There is a section of the academic “community” — also a deceptive word — that is opposed to the invasion.
If you are interested in this, read the discussion on Ab Imperio’s Facebook site, where many young academics are expressing their views.
I would like to repeat one point: the notion of a simple nationalized divide between East and West Ukraine is both false and counter-productive. There are nationalists in many areas of the country, but there are also people with other political commitments. It is dangerous for the Western media to reinforce the notion that nationalist sentiment (pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian) is the only political force in Ukraine. A whole generation has grown up since Ukraine’s independence and many people, old and young and in the middle, have ideas about sovereignty and politics that are not simply “ethnic.”
  • Brandist: Russia does not have a unified or stable ‘public opinion’ any more than anywhere else. Moreover, the Crimea and east of Ukraine are not necessarily viewed as fully a separate nation among many Russians. Many Russians have relatives there and go there for vacations. At present the majority are in support for the reasons I’ve just outlined. However, we have seen significant opposition movements in recent years, which shows that if things turn out badly then Putin may be vulnerable. There is clearly an assessment of risks that has been carried out by the Kremlin, and so far it has paid off. Indeed, it probably strengthens Putin’s compromised standing at home, but if things do go wrong then this could change quickly.
  • Blank: It is probably the case that Putin enjoys public support in Russia but that is irrelevant since the media’s been so thoroughly cowed as to be unreflective of reality and the issue is not public opinion there but Putin and the ruling clique.
  • Kotsonis: Yes, this seems to be the case. You need to understand that Ukraine is in Russian minds somewhere between a close friend and a back yard. It was always assumed that this was the key alliance for Russia and tacitly understood that Russia’s geopolitical interests would be respected. Europe’s gamble last year was to pull Ukraine into the Euro orbit by forcing Ukraine to choose. Almost anyone in Russia saw this as a direct challenge. I can’t say for certain but I imagine a large majority think the intervention is justified.



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April 1, 2012

Ex-KGB head Leonid Shebarshin dies at age 77

Ex-KGB head Leonid Shebarshin dies at age 77

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

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Leonid Shebarshin, a retired senior spy who headed the former Soviet Union‘s KGB for a day, has apparently killed himself. He celebrated his 77th birthday earlier this week.

The KGB’s logo. Shebarshin headed the service for a day.
Image: Jgaray.

Born in 1935, Shebarshin had experience as an agent in India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. He was made head of the KGB’s foreign intelligence arm, the First Main Directorate, in 1989 and held the post until 1991.

That year saw a coup by figures including the KGB’s leader Vladmir Kryuchkov against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. When the coup failed, Shebarshin was appointed Kryuchkov’s interim replacement on August 22. The next day, he was replaced in that role and resigned soon after. The Soviet Union collapsed later that year.

Shebarshin is believed to have left a suicide note before killing himself with a shot to the head from the pistol he was gifted upon retirement, according to media and the local Investigative Committee. His body was found at his Moscow apartment Friday. The gun was nearby.

Shebarshin’s wife has been dead for several years. He is thought to have lived alone in his city centre apartment.



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June 21, 2011

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

File:BonnerAndSakharovAndKallistratova1986.jpg
Yelena Bonner (left), Andrei Sakharov and Sofiya Kalistratova in Moscow, 1977.

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner died of heart failure in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday at the age of 88, her daughter Tatiana Yankelevich said in a statement. She had been hospitalized since February 21.

Bonner gained fame by smuggling the papers of her late husband, the nuclear physicist and Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov, out of Siberia and was prominent in her own right for her human rights activism.

Leaders and politicians paid Bonner tribute. “The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders,” said Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.

Cquote1.svg The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders. Cquote2.svg

Jerzy Buzek, President European Parliament

Bonner was born in Turkmenistan February 15, 1923 to a family of Communist Party officials; her father was later killed and her mother sent to a gulag in Joseph Stalin‘s purges of the late 1930s.

In 1941, she became a nurse for the Soviet military on the front during World War II. She suffered a severe wound to the chest, and serious head injuries in 1943 from which she nearly lost her sight, and received decorations for valor. Bonner returned to the front in 1945, advancing with the army to Potsdam. While studying medicine when the war was over, she married a fellow student, Ivan Semyonov and they had a son and a daughter. But as she became increasingly politically active, they lost their common interests and divorced in 1965.

She was an active Soviet dissident in the 1970s, and a leader of a group that monitored Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Washington Post describes her at this time as “[h]eadstrong and sharp-tongued with a no-nonsense voice deepened by years of chain-smoking acrid Russian cigarettes”.

Bonner married Sakharov in 1972, whom she had met through her political activities. He was also fierce critic of the lack of civil liberties and human rights in the Soviet Union, and their tiny Moscow apartment became the meeting place for the Soviet dissident movement in the 1970s. They traveled around Russia together visiting imprisoned dissidents and working for their legal rights.

When Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, she traveled to Oslo to receive it on his behalf as Soviet authorities refused to allow her husband to leave the country.

Cquote1.svg We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. Cquote2.svg

—Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department

Sakharove was arrested in 1980 and exiled to Siberia, and Bonner, Sakharove’s sole contact with the outside world, smuggled his writings to Moscow and ensured that they were published. Soviet authorities conducted campaigns of personal attacks against her, accusing her of being a foreign agent who turned Sakharove against his country. In 1984 she was convicted of “anti-Soviet agitation” and was exiled to Siberia with her husband, both continually harassed by authorities. She published her memoir in 1986 of the years in exile, described by the Washington Post as partly “a love story of mutual sacrifice.”

In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the Sakharoves to return to Moscow where they continued to agitate for human rights and were constantly harassed for their activities.

When the Soviet Union collapsed two years after Sakharov’s death in 1989, Bonner continued her human rights and political activities. She initially supported President Boris Yeltsin‘s government and served on his state human rights commission, but became critical of his government at the beginning of the war in Chechnya. She was also critical of Yeltin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, and was the first person to sign a petition against him in March 2010.

As her health deteriorated, she became less active, and she moved to the United States to be with her daughter.

Bonner received the Rafto Prize in 1991 for her promotion of human rights in the former Soviet Union and in contemporary Russia. She published at least four books and edited her husband’s memoirs which were published in 1997.

U.S. State Department‘s spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.”



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April 13, 2011

Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin\’s spaceflight marks fifty years of human space travel

Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight marks fifty years of human space travel

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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Yuri Gagarin, the first human to visit space, during a 1964 visit to Sweden.
Image: Arkiv: Sydsvenskan.

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off on Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight in history, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours. Tuesday marks the anniversary of Gagarin’s flight and fifty years of human space travel.

Celebrations were to take place all over the world and aboard the International Space Station. Yuri’s Night, started in 2001 for fortieth anniversary celebrations, is a global celebration of the history of spaceflight, including the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, the twentieth anniversary of Gagarin’s flight. There were to be more than 400 events in 71 countries celebrating Yuri’s Night this year.

Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes, just under two hours, and consisted of one full orbit around the Earth. His trip to orbit came just four years after the launch of Sputnik 1 and the beginning of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR).

The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) also marked the fiftieth anniversary by delivering a message from space. While addressing viewers, station commander Dmitry Kondratyev referred to the portrait of Gagarin floating next to him as a representation of the achievement of “humankind at large”.

A movie, entitled First Orbit, was filmed in parts in space when the orbit of the ISS matched that of Gagarin’s flight. The movie, produced by filmmaker Christopher Riley, was filmed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and matches the radio communications, times, and views of the flight. The film is freely available to the public and made its debut on Tuesday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the human race becoming a space-faring species.



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May 13, 2010

KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In the interview Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticised KKE in a previous interview.

The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation’s debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.

Interview

KKE protestors atop the famous Athens Acropolis

Wikinews waves Left.pngIain MacdonaldWikinews waves Right.png Has slavish pursuit of free-market capitalism been the cause of Europe, and particularly Greece’s, economic woes?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDr Isabella MargaraWikinews waves Right.pngWhat we are experiencing today – not only in Greece, but in all capitalist countries – is a crisis of overproduction. The exploitation of the working class and the other popular strata is intensified due to the fact that the bourgeoisie has been keeping for itself larger and larger parts of the produced wealth. Behind overproduction lies the over-accumulation of capital. The average profit rate is decreased in the main sectors of the economy. This leads to destruction of part of productive forces, closing factories, inflation, mass redundancies of superfluous workers as waste – in order to permit a new process of accumulation to begin, when new sectors of the economy will secure the increase of the average profit rate. This has nothing to do with the ‘management’ of the system by social democrats or liberals; it is an inevitable outcome of capitalism.

The national deficits do exist. In fact, behind the debt are the huge tax reliefs for large monopolies, the massive bank bailouts, the inconceivable NATO military expenses, the subsidies in the name of capitalist development. In Greece at the moment, there is a clear expression of the imperialist rivalries between the US and EU, between EU countries and especially between Germany and France. However, it is now becoming clearer every day that the ruling class is using the existing deficits, in Greece and in Europe, in order to promote new anti-labour policies which will secure the profits of the capital. These measures have been pre-decided a long time ago in the Maastricht Treaty and are here to stay. Their aim is not just to exit the crisis, but to ensure stability and high profits for the capital in the next phases of the economic cycle.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png How, given the Soviet collapse, and China being communist in name only, would your vision of a communist system have been better for the majority of citizens?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngDespite the various problems of socialist countries, the socialist system of the 20th century proved the superiority of socialism over capitalism and the huge advantages that it provides for peoples’ lives and working conditions. The Soviet Union and the world socialist system constituted the only real counterweight to imperialist aggression – we recently celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Anti-fascist victory. The achievements of workers in the socialist states were a point of reference for many decades and contributed to the gains won by the working class in capitalist societies as well. In this way, everyone had guaranteed work, public free health care and education, housing, and access to intellectual and cultural creativity. The complete eradication of the terrible legacy of illiteracy, in combination with the increase in the general level of education and specialization and the abolition of unemployment, constitute unique achievements of socialism. In the Soviet Union in 1975 it was guaranteed by law that the hours of work could not surpass 41 per week, among the lowest in the world. All workers were guaranteed days for rest and relaxation and annual paid holidays. Non-working time was extended and its content was changed. It was transformed into time for the development of the cultural and educational level of the workers, for the enhancement of their participation in workers’ power and in the control of the administration of productive units. Social Security for working people was of utmost priority for the socialist state. A comprehensive system of retirement benefits, with the important achievement of low age limits for retirement (55 years for women, 60 for men), was created. Socialist power laid the foundation for the abolition of inequality of women, overcoming the great difficulties that objectively existed. Socialism ensured in practice the social character of motherhood and socialized childcare. It instituted equal rights for women and men in the economic, political and cultural realm, although not all forms of unequal relations between the two genders, which had become entrenched over a long period of time, had been successfully eradicated.

Our critical approach regarding various issues of building socialism in the USSR, namely decisions in the economy in critical times, or the extend of workers’ control and participation, do not change the fact that the first historical attempt to abolish the exploitation of man by man had many achievements for the majority of people and many of the rights that Soviet people had in 1975 seem like a dream for us today. Also, it does not change the fact that the contradictions of the capitalist way of production become deeper. The counter-revolution may have won one fight, but it has not won the war. As long as there is socialised production combined with capitalist property of the means of production, there will be crisis, unemployment and poverty – and socialism will remain the only way out.

Our Party in 2009 held its 18th Congress, during which we discussed and studied socialism and the causes of counter-revolution in the USSR. The conclusions we drew have been published and we have enriched our programme based on them. See here for more information.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png For right or for wrong, we have now reached a situation where Greece is on the brink of an international bailout. If you were given power tomorrow, what steps would you take immediately to get Greece back on track?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngAt the moment we are trying to build a front of workers, small farmers, the self-employed and working young people. This front needs to become a huge social and political anti-imperialist anti-monopoly coalition with only one duty – to bring the working class into power and socialise the basic means of production, namely energy, telecommunications, mines, manufacturing, and transportation. We would implement public and free education, health and national insurance systems. Next to the socialised sectors, there can be the co-operatives of small farmers and small tradesmen in sectors of the economy where concentration is still low. The production and distribution in both the socialised and the co-operative sectors will be under workers’ control as part of a centrally planned economy. This is a vital need in order to fulfil our contemporary needs, in order to ensure that all productive forces are mobilised, that science and technology will develop in favour of the people, and that all international economic co-operation will be used, on the basis of mutual benefit. The government, which will be the organ of the popular power, will have to ensure the participation of the people in building this new society. The debt is due to the power of monopolies. There will be no solution if the capitalist profits remain untouchable, if we don’t disengage from EU and NATO, if the capitalists continue to rule at the expense of the working class.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png Why do you oppose the current austerity measures? What has the government, in your view, got so wrong?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngMassive and drastic cuts to public and private sector salaries and pensions, further cuts of benefits, reduced overtime payments, increase of the VAT up to 23%, increase of the indirect taxes, abolishment of collective labour agreements, massive redundancies to public services and merges, right of unrestricted redundancies to private companies, and increases to the retirement age: Huge masses will be condemned to unemployment and extreme poverty. Health and Education will become a privilege only for a small minority. The recovery phase will lead to new concentration of wealth to the capital, to an increase in the degree of exploitation. The recovery, when it happens, will not have a positive impact on the people on one hand, and will lead relatively soon to a new crisis on the other. That is why we oppose the measures.

That is also why the working class should not be trapped in a discussion about bonds or interest rates, the simple reason being that it has nothing to gain from this discussion. The international loans will end up in the capital’s pockets, not the working class. The Greeks have suffered when the rates were down, they suffer now that the rates are up. We do not intend to share the capital’s ‘anxiety’ about the bourse, because it is becoming clearer every day that if plutocracy does not go bankrupt, then the people will.

The government is not doing anything wrong – in fact, it is doing a great job representing the interests of its bosses, the Greek capitalists, the imperialists of E.U., the I.M.F. But they want the working class partners to their crime. They are telling us that our sacrifice to live in poverty and work until we die is our patriotic duty. What they are not telling us is that the workers, the farmers, the owners of small shops; we do not have the same country as these E.U. fans of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, the City-educated bankers, the corporate media owners. Their country and their god is exploitation and profit. Our people have proven their patriotism in every single crucial point in history for thousands of years now. But this case is different, the working Greek man and women should not make any sacrifices for plutocracy! The only ‘sacrifice’ that should be made is to fight the dangerous fear and hesitation and organise the struggle. That’s what will help our own country and our class.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png I have heard that people in Greece are upset that the euro has weakened Greece’s economic position, as the Drachma’s low value actually encouraged spending by foreigners. What steps would a socialist government take to encourage new spending in Greece by both foreign tourists and investors?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngAs mentioned earlier, since the agreements signed within the EU do not allow for manoeuvres in favour of the people, our disengagement would be inevitable and would be an essential term in order to plan the economy based on how we will fulfil our contemporary needs. The currency itself is not the main issue.

Tourism is another sector of the economy whose fate depends again on who owns the means of production. Only with a different economy the country will develop the infrastructures and provide quality services that will first of all guarantee decent working conditions, will be accessible to all the population and will be cheap.

So far, the development of Greek tourism has been based on profit. Therefore, the fees for ships and other means of transport are outrageous; many islands are left with no regular connection with the mainland because these lines are not considered to be profitable. Both PASOK Panhellenic Socialist Movement and ND New Democracy governments, under the EU guidance, have implemented policies that led to rough working conditions and wages in tourism. Besides, more than 60% of Greeks at the moment cannot go on any holiday and after the latest measures these numbers will increase; another significant portion reduces the time off work, and a third one relies on the hospitality of friends and family for their holidays, due to their low income.

For us, tourism and holidays are not a trade, they are a social right – for both the Greek workers and the tourists that will choose to visit our country.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you respond to the assertion that ‘democracy is the least-worst of all the political systems tried’? Would the Greek communists accept a multi-party system where some parties would be stridently advocating free-market economics?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngDemocracy is not synonymous with the number of parties that exist in a country. For example, today in Greece we have dozens of political parties but despite the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes the austerity measures, the Parties that have the majority support them. How is that democratic? Nearly all strikes in Greece over the last decade have been declared illegal by the bourgeois court. In the workplace, there is no other law but the law of the employer.

In the process of building an anti-imperialist anti-monopoly Front, there will be a social coalition of the small farmers, the self employed, or other poor popular strata that will follow the working class since that will be their objective interest. Besides, people’s power is the real democracy, since capitalists and monopolies do not exist: it’s the democracy which is guaranteed by the direct political action of millions of people – in their workplaces, in their industrial units, in their neighbourhoods, in their popular organisations.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow would you respond to allegations that the recent protest from the Acropolis was not appropriate for a historic monument?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngThe Acropolis is more than a touristic attraction. For the Greek people, it is a symbol of hope and dignity. KKE made this symbolic demonstration in order to emphasize that the attack against the Greek working class is a preview of the attack that follows to the other European people. And that the struggle of the Greek working class is indeed at the moment a struggle that gives hope to all the peoples abroad, who suffer the same. From that point of view, our demonstration not only was not inappropriate, but actually highlighted the true meaning of the monument. And judging by the impact this symbolic occupation had, I would think it has been very successful as well!

Those who accuse us of ‘blasphemy’ are those who have been shamelessly privatising most historic and archaeological monuments in Greece during the last decades. In 1992, Coca Cola used the Acropolis for a commercial, where the monument was built on bottles instead of columns! Samsung recently filmed its own commercial, let alone the various fashion shows that take place there. They have been selling out our beaches and forests to touristic monopolies and have been offering the monuments in order to promote commercial products – and that is not considered to be inappropriate. They accuse us of undermining tourism – in fact all visitors had free entry to Acropolis on that day!

A few days ago, being annoyed by the fact that the seamen prevented the strike breaking in a cruise ship, the bourgeoisie and its journalists accused the seamen of anti-patriotism for attacking tourism which is ‘the only thing we have left’. They even encouraged the government to ban the organisation of strikes. Despite the media efforts to turn even the tourists against the seamen, the majority of travellers expressed their solidarity to the strike. Their problem is not the historical meaning of Acropolis or tourism, their problem is organised struggle.

We have said it before and we’ll say it again: the images broadcast by the media of our struggle are an honour for the working people of our country.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow would you respond to the criticisms levelled by Petros Tzomakas of Xekinima, who denounced the KKE’s lack of co-operation with SYRIZA Coalition of the Radical Left in a recent interview?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngSYRIZA are the tail of social democracy in Greece. Their analysis on the crisis is similar to PASOK. According to them, the way out is a more ‘human capitalism’, where ‘people will come first’ and profits will follow. What they are hiding from the people is that capitalist profits cannot co-exist with pro-popular policies, the basic contradiction between capital and labour cannot be overcome.

SYRIZA, being consistently pro-E.U. (it has voted for the Maastricht treaty after all), prefers the implementation of the same measures by the E.U. rather than the IMF and fights for different versions of the ‘Stability Pact’. As if the E.U. is the good cop and the IMF the bad one. We say: this is a fake dilemma; there is no good or bad imperialism. All of them are good for serving their own monopolies, their own fat cats. The bottom line is that there is increasing antagonism between the different imperialist centres and the Greek government is trying to play the game with all of them. KKE has warned that this leads to our even deeper involvement in the inter-imperialist rivalries, and this can be a very dangerous path. They all agree 100% on the measures taken by the government and they ask for more blood now. Contrary to the party of Syriza, we do not plan to choose our assassin or negotiate the terms of the assassination with any of them.

It is also important to notice that for years now, in the trade union movement and during the latest strikes and rallies, SYRIZA has been following the compromised leaderships of GSEE w:General Confederation of Greek Workers and ADEDY (the Greek TUC in the private and public sector respectively, controlled by PASOK) who originally boycotted the strikes, went on strike breaking and then dragged them in unwillingly under public pressure, in order to minimise the damage to the government.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngI notice that the KKE is seeking to distance itself from the recent deaths in Athens. Are the people responsible completely wrong in their actions, or can you sympathise with their anger? Do you believe they should be prosecuted?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngThe burning of the bank at Stadiou Avenue by ‘anarchist’ provocation groups, which led to the death of three people, is clearly a crime and a provocation aiming at the intimidation of the people and the defamation of the struggle. It proves that the mechanisms of this system are ruthless when it comes to attacking the popular movement. Both the Greek as well as the international movement have had similar experiences in the past. Do you remember the bomb at Chicago’s Heymarket after the demo for the 8-hour workday in 1886, for which the pioneers of that movement were sentenced to death? Or the arson of the German parliament by the fascists, which allowed them to unleash the chase against the communists? Even the large scale provocations of today that are used in order to justify the ‘preventive wars’…

The question we urge people to ask themselves in order to understand why this happened is: who benefited from these actions? Clearly, it was the supporters of the anti-popular measures, all those who are scared by the huge numbers of working people who participated in the protests: the capitalists. Since they are the ones who are really responsible for the deaths, we have no illusions that they are going to be prosecuted. The main thing is that the Greek workers have got enough experience now and can differentiate between massive, organised and protected political struggle and isolated, criminal provocations that cause innocent victims, intimidate the people and at the end of the day, only facilitate the monopolies’ goals.



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April 9, 2010

Obama, Medvedev sign treaty cutting nuclear stockpiles

Obama, Medvedev sign treaty cutting nuclear stockpiles

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev sign the New START Treaty during a ceremony at Prague Castle, in the Czech capital.
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed a treaty to reduce their countries’ nuclear stockpiles by 25 to 30 percent over seven years.

In the Spanish Hall, an ornate chamber within the Czech capital’s Prague Castle, the two countries, which own more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, agreed to downsize their arsenals.

Presidents Obama and Medvedev sat in front of U.S. and Russian flags and signed their countries’ first major nuclear arms reduction accord in almost two decades.

The new ten-year pact, which is called the “New START Treaty“, requires the U.S. and Russia to cut their inventory of nuclear warheads to about 1,500 each in the next seven years. Both countries are estimated to have well over 2,000 warheads now.

The agreement also slashes by more than half the number of missiles, submarines and bombers that carry the weapons.

The pact replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which was signed by U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the final days of the Soviet Union. START I expired in December of last year. The treaty complements the other two nuclear arms reduction treaties signed by the United States and Russia, which where the 1993 Russia, which where the 1993 START II treaty and the 2002 Moscow Treaty also known as SORT.

Obama said the treaty is a big step forward for world security. “Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation and for U.S.-Russia relations,” he said.

Medvedev said because of this treaty, the entire world community has won. The Russian leader said the year-long negotiations were tough, but hard work on both sides brought success.

“That enabled us to do something that just a couple of months ago looked like ‘mission impossible.’ Within a short span of time we prepared a full-fledged treaty and signed it,” he said.

Obama says, in addition, that the treaty paves the way for future arms reduction talks with Russia, mainly on short-range nuclear weapons. “This treaty will set the stage for further cuts, and going forward, we hope to pursue further discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons,” he said.

Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, says the new treaty is significant in reducing the threat from U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, but more significant because it could lead to further cuts.

“We think we can even go to deeper reductions, and we hope they sign a new treaty after this one relatively soon. But this treaty is a great step forward, it is very important, and it puts U.S. and Russian arms control back on a firm footing, and, again, sets us up for deeper cuts,” he said.

The signing of the “New START” treaty is one of several arms control developments taking place in several weeks.

Earlier in the week, President Obama announced a major shift in U.S. nuclear policy. He said for the first time that preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is at the top of the U.S. nuclear agenda. The threat of destruction by Russian warheads is now considered a secondary menace.

Under Obama’s nuclear posture review, the U.S. pledges not to use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear countries that abide by their nonproliferation obligations.

Frank Gaffney, a former arms control adviser to President Ronald Reagan, says the president’s nuclear posture review is based on a false and dangerous premise. “The idea that he can, by reducing America’s nuclear arsenal, contribute to the universal abandonment of nuclear weaponry. It will not happen. It will not happen on his watch. It will not happen ever,” he said.

Obama also plans to hold a conference on nuclear security next week in Washington, D.C..

In their hour-and-a-half meeting before the ceremony, President Obama urged Medvedev to support new U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. The Russian leader said the issue is not whether to impose sanctions, but what kind of sanctions.

“Smart sanctions should be able to motivate certain parties to behave properly, and I am confident that our teams that will be engaged in consultations will continue discussing this issue,” he said.

Obama said, “We are working together at the United Nations Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran and we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).” He added, “My expectation is that we are going to be able to secure strong, tough sanctions on Iran this spring.”

The nuclear treaty is almost certain to be approved in the Russian Duma. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia reserves the right to drop out of the pact if it believes U.S. missile defense plans for Europe threaten its security.

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Many experts agree passage in the U.S. Senate is not as certain, but that its prospects are good. To ratify the treaty, it will require 67 votes, to pass it will require Republican votes. Republicans in the Senate have expressed concerns that too many restrictions have been placed on America’s nuclear arsenal.

However, Obama is confident the treaty will be ratified when asked during a press conference following the signing. Obama stated, “And so I’m actually quite confident that Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate, having reviewed this, will see that the United States has preserved its core national security interests, that it is maintaining a safe and secure and effective nuclear deterrent, but that we are beginning to once again move forward, leaving the Cold War behind, to address new challenges in new ways.”

Obama also noted, “[T]hat both in Russia and the United States, it’s going to be posed on the Internet, appropriate to a 21st century treaty. And so people not only within government but also the general public will be able to review, in an open and transparent fashion, what it is that we’ve agreed to.” Copies of the treaty and it’s protocol have been posted on the State Department’s website.

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February 12, 2010

United States Representative Charlie Wilson dies at 76

United States Representative Charlie Wilson dies at 76

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Friday, February 12, 2010

File photo of former Congressman Charlie Wilson
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Charles Nesbitt Wilson, a former United States naval officer and twelve-term Democratic Representative from the 2nd congressional district in Texas, died on Wednesday in Lufkin, Texas. He was 76 with a history of heart ailments, receiving a transplant in 2007.

Memorial Medical Center, Lufkin said the preliminary cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest. Jack Gorden Jr., the mayor of Lufkin, confirmed the death.

He was best known for initiating Operation Cyclone, the largest CIA covert operation, which supplied military equipment, anti-aircraft missiles, and paramilitary officers to the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. His campaign was the subject of the non-fiction book Charlie Wilson’s War and the film ‘Charlie Wilson’s War‘.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wilson’s “efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close. […] After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatized country to its fate — a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today”.

Born in Trinity, Texas, Wilson graduated from Trinity High School in 1951. While a student at Sam Houston State University, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy. Between 1956 and 1960, Wilson served in the Navy, attaining the rank of lieutenant. After four years as a surface fleet officer, he was assigned to the Pentagon as part of an intelligence unit that evaluated the Soviet Union‘s nuclear capabilities.



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December 5, 2009

Vyacheslav Tikhonov, Russian actor most famous for Stirlitz, dies at 81

Vyacheslav Tikhonov, Russian actor most famous for Stirlitz, dies at 81

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

File:Vyacheslav Tikhonov 1963 photo.jpg

Vyacheslav Tikhonov (1963 postcard photo)
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Famous Soviet and Russian actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov died Friday aged 81.

Born in 1928, he made his film debut in 1948. The first fame came in 1968, when he featured in Sergei Bondarchuk’s Oscar-winning War and Peace as Andrei Bolkonsky and in We’ll Live Till Monday in the leading role of a history school teacher.

Cquote1.svg This role [of Stirlitz] personified an ideal Soviet spy — smart, refined, intelligent Cquote2.svg

—Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister

He is best known for his role of the Soviet spy Standartenführer Stirlitz in the famous 1973 television series Seventeen Moments of Spring, Soviet classics about World War II. Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Cabinet Sergei Ivanov, and the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, remarked that, “this role personified an ideal Soviet spy — smart, refined, intelligent”.

His later roles included the portrayal of a KGB General in the 1984 television series TASS Is Authorized to Declare…, also written by Moments author Yulian Semyonov, and the role in the award-winning 1994 film Burnt by the Sun.

Russian state broadcasting company VGTRK recently presented a version of the 17 Moments with restored color. It took approximately US$3,000 to colorize each minute of the film, a $2,520,000 total cost. The television series Isayev was also released recently by Central Partnership, about the deeds of young Stirlitz, based on the novels by Semyonov. Isayev was played by Daniil Strahov.

He was operated on in the Central Clinical Hospital of Moscow last Saturday, but his health remained in a poor condition and he died after a second infarction.

Union Of Cinematographists of Russia specifically asked Yuriy Luzhkov, the Moscow mayor, to permit the burial of the People’s Artist at Novodevichiye cemetery. The date and place of the funeral will not be decided until Monday.

He is survived by second wife Tamara, daughter Anna Tikhonova (also in actoring) and four grandsons. His first wife, Nonna Mordyukova, died last year.



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November 30, 2009

Soviet statue returns to Moscow

Soviet statue returns to Moscow – Wikinews, the free news source

Soviet statue returns to Moscow

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Monday, November 30, 2009

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Soviet Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris
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Worker and Kolkhoznitsa as seen in Moscow in 1999
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On Saturday, Worker and Kolkhoznitsa, a giant statue of Soviet times, was returned to a pedestal in Moscow, Russia. It was done after a long five-year restoration process since the monument was dismantled in 2003. The statue was initially expected to return in 2005, but when the Expo 2010 was awarded to Shanghai instead of Moscow the restoration process was stalled due to a shortage of funds.

The 24.5-meter high Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman holding a hammer and a sickle, the symbols of the Soviet Union, steel monument by Vera Mukhina and Boris Iofan was first showed at an exhibition in Paris in 1937. It was later returned to Russia after the exhibition and installed to a place just outside the Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy. The monument became a recognisable symbol of the Soviet Union after it was chosen as a Mosfilm studio logo in 1947 featuring in the opening credits of many Soviet films produced by the studio.

It’s expected that the statue would now last for centuries. Plans for the future of the monument included construction of an exhibition hall in the statue’s pedestal. One of the rejected projects was to introduce a parking lot beneath the statue’s square.

Earlier this week, on Monday, an exhibition of Vera Mukhina works was opened in St. Petersburg’s Russian Museum, presenting more than 200 of her sculptures, graphic works, and decorative and applied arts, including the several sketches and studies, as well as the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman monument’s model.

The official monument reopening ceremony is scheduled for December 3–5.



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November 10, 2009

Vitaly Ginzburg, Russian academician and physicist, dies at age 94

Vitaly Ginzburg, Russian academician and physicist, dies at age 94

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nobel Prize winner, prominent Russian Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and theoretical physicist Vitaly Ginzburg has died on Sunday at the age of 93 years.

Ginzburg reads his Nobel lecture in MSU (2004)
Image: Emaus.

Ginzburg was one of the fathers of the Soviet hydrogen bomb together with Andrei Sakharov, and the head of the Department of Theoretical Physics in the Lebedev Physical Institute of Academy of Sciences (FIAN), as well as editor-in-chief of the scientific journal UFN.

He was born in Moscow in 1916, and graduated from the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University in 1938.

In 2003 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics together with Alexei Abrikosov and Anthony Leggett for developing the theory behind superconductivity.

He developed a theory based on Lev Landau’s previously-established theory of second-order phase transitions, about the free energy of a superconductor near the superconducting transition which describes how deep into the superconducting phase the system is. He also developed the theory of electromagnetic wave propagation in plasma and a theory of cosmic radiation. He was usually touted as the “last theorist” in Russia.

He was granted the USSR State Prize in 1953 and the Lenin Prize in 1966.

Ginzburg died from heart failure. A civil funeral will be held on Wednesday at the main hall of FIAN. He will be buried on November 11 in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

In a TV interview, Ginzburg once said: “If I believed in God, I would start every morning by saying, ‘Thank you, My Lord, for making me a theoretical physicist.'” But he was an atheist.

One of his favorite sayings was: “Of course, it could be funny, if it wouldn’t be so sad”…



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