Posts Tagged ‘Russia’
Free the Greenpeace 30! (And spare us any more whingeing from Damon Albarn, Jude Law and that bloke out of the Clash)Monday, October 14th, 2013
Perhaps the most spectacular and complete German victory of the First World War, the encirclement and destruction of the Russian Second Army in late August 1914 virtually ended Russia’s invasion of East Prussia before it had really started.
Russia’s incursion into German territory was two-pronged. General Samsonov had begun to take his Second Army into the south-western corner of East Prussia whilst General Rennenkampf advanced into its north-east with the First Army. The two armies planned to combine in assaulting General Prittwitz’s German Eighth Army, Rennenkampf in a frontal attack while Samsonov engulfed Prittwitz from the rear.
Such was the Russians’ initial plan. Rennenkampf brought about a modification however following a scrappy victory against Eighth Army at the Battle of Gumbinnen, after which he paused to reconsolidate his forces.
Prittwitz, shaken by the action at Gumbinnen and fearful of encirclement, ordered a retreat to the River Vistula. Upon receipt of this news Helmuth von Moltke, the German Army Chief of Staff, recalled Prittwitz and his deputy von Waldersee to Berlin – an effective dismissal – and installed as their replacement the markedly more aggressive combination of Paul von Hindenburg - brought out of retirement at the age of 66 – and Erich Ludendorff as his Chief of Staff (having earlier distinguished himself at Liege).
Upon his arrival in East Prussia on 23 August Hindenburg immediately reversed Prittwitz’s decision to withdraw, choosing instead to authorise a plan of action prepared by ColonelMaximilian Hoffmann, Prittwitz’s deputy chief of operations. While Hindenburg and Ludendorff received much credit for the subsequent action at Tannenberg, the actual plan of attack was devised in detail by Hoffmann.
Hoffmann proposed a ploy whereby cavalry troops would be employed as a screen at Vistula, the intention being to confuse Rennenkampf who, he knew, held a deep personal vendetta with Samsonov (who had complained of Rennenkampf’s conduct at the Battle of Mukden in 1905) and so would be disinclined to come to his aid if he had justifiable cause not to.
Meanwhile, General Hermann von Francois’s I Corps were transported by rail to the far southwest to meet the left wing of Samsonov’s Second Army. Hindenburg’s remaining two corps, under Mackensen and Below, were to await orders to move south by foot so as to confront Samsonov’s opposite right wing. Finally, a fourth corps was ordered to remain at Vistula to meet Samsonov as his army moved north. The trap was being set.
Samsonov meanwhile, bedevilled by supply and communication problems, was entirely unaware that Rennenkampf had chosen to pause and lick his wounds at Gumbinnen, instead assuming that his forces were continuing their movement south-west.
Samsonov was similarly unaware of Hoffmann’s plan or of its execution. Assured that his Second Army was en route to pursue and destroy the supposedly retreating Eighth Army (and supported in doing so by overall commander Yakov Zhilinski, who was subsequently dismissed for his part in the following debacle), he continued to direct his army of twelve divisions – three corps – in a north-westerly direction towards the Vistula. The remaining VI Corps he directed north towards his original objective, Seeburg-Rastenburg.
On 22 August the bulk of Samsonov’s forces reached the extremities of the German line, fighting (and winning) small actions as it continued to advance into the German trap of encirclement.
Ludendorff issued an order to General Francois to initiate the attack on Samsonov’s left wing at Usdau on 25 August. Remarkably, Francois rejected what was clearly a direct order, choosing instead to wait until his artillery support was in readiness on 27 August. Ludendorff – along with Hoffmann – travelled to see Francois and to repeat the order. Reluctantly, Francois agreed to commence the attack, but complained of a lack of shells.
Whilst returning from their meeting with Francois, Hoffmann was passed two intelligence intercepts that had been transmitted by Rennenkampf and Samsonov, respectively, in the clear, i.e. unciphered. Their contents were explosive.
The first, sent by Rennenkampf, revealed the distance between his and Samsonov’s armies. It further detailed his First Army’s imminent marching plans, and these were not towards Samsonov’s Second Army.
The import of the message was clear: the Germans need not fear intervention from the Russian First Army during their assault upon Samsonov’s forces. The second intercepted message, from Samsonov, was similarly remarkable.
Having engaged – unsuccessfully – the heavily entrenched German XX Corps the previous day, 24 August, at the Battle of Orlau-Frankenau, Samsonov had noted what he took to be a general German withdrawal to Tannenberg and beyond. Consequently, his message provided detailed plans for his intended route of pursuit of the German forces.
With both messages in hand, Hoffmann promptly hurried after Ludendorff and Hindenburg and handed them the intercepts. While Ludendorff was sceptical as to their authenticity, Hindenburg, having heard Hoffmann tell of the personal quarrel between Rennenkampf and Samsonov, was inclined to alter the German Eighth Army’s plans accordingly.
It was argued by Hindenburg and Hoffmann that Francois could, after all, await the arrival of sufficient artillery supplies before beginning his attack at Usdau, which in the event came two days later, on 27 August. Ludendorff, keen to assert his authority over Francois, insisted that the attack begin as originally scheduled.
Francois however had no intention of attacking without artillery support. Buying time he fell to bickering with Ludendorff and, as he intended, began his attack, by I Corps, on 27 August – and rapidly enjoyed marked success. Rapidly taking Soldau on the Russian border, and so cutting communication with Samsonov’s centre, his forces confined Samsonov’s left to the frontier.
Despite his success, Francois did not enjoy the trust of either Hindenburg nor, especially, Ludendorff again, particularly once they both moved to Berlin to take over the direction and conduct of the war.
At this stage Ludendorff, fearful that Rennenkampf’s forces might yet suddenly join the fray, ordered Francois to move back north, another order ignored by Francois, who chose instead to take his corps east so as to prevent Samsonov’s centre from retreating over the border. Although executed in disobedience of Ludendorff’s clear order, his bold action contributed to the sweeping success that followed.
Helmuth von Moltke, the German Army Chief of Staff in Berlin, was similarly nervous of the German Army’s prospects in the east. He astonished Ludendorff by telephoning him with notification that he was dispatching a cavalry division and three corps from the west to bolster the Eastern Front. Aware that the troops could be ill-afforded by the weakened German attack towards Paris – that is, by the precisely calculated execution of the Schlieffen Plan – Ludendorff protested that the reinforcements were unnecessary. Nevertheless they were sent.
Having decided on 25 August – the day he was passed the Russian radio intercepts – that Rennenkampf’s forces were unlikely to attempt to join Samsonov Ludendorff sent the two corps stationed at Gumbinnen south where on the following day they met and brought into action Samsonov’s VI Corps moving northwards at Bischofsburg. Surprised and disorganised, both divisions retreated separately for the Russian border.
Ignoring warnings of a massed German advance moving south, Zhilinksi directed Rennenkampf’s First Army to the west to Konigsberg on 26 August, a considerable distance from Samsonov’s plight. Given the degree of personal enmity between Rennenkampf and Samsonov – they had physically come to blows on at least one occasion – the former had no particular inclination to come to Samsonov’s assistance.
Disastrously for Samsonov, Hoffmann and Ludendorff intercepted Zhilinksi’s unciphered order to Rennenkampf. He promptly dispatched Below from Bischofsburg to rejoin the German centre, and sent Mackensen south to meet up with General Francois, where they joined in Willenberg, south of Bischofsburg, on 29 August. Samsonov was by now surrounded.
At last, on 28 August, Samsonov finally became aware of the peril he faced. Critically short of supplies and with his communications system in tatters, his forces were dispersed, and VI corps had already been defeated. Consequently he ordered a general withdrawal on the evening of 28 August.
It was too late for Samsonov’s forces, as they scattered – many throwing down their weapons and running – directly into the encircling German forces. Relief from the Russian border in the form of counter-attacks were weak and insufficient.
95,000 Russians troops were captured in the action; an estimated 30,000 were killed or wounded, and of his original 150,000 total, only around 10,000 of Samsonov’s men escaped. The Germans suffered fewer than 20,000 casualties and, in addition to prisoners captured over 500 guns. Sixty trains were required to transport captured equipment to Germany.
Samsonov, lost in the surrounding forests with his aides, shot himself, unable to face reporting the scale of the disaster to the Tsar, Nicholas II. His body was subsequently found by German search parties and accorded a military burial.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff were feted as heroes at home in Germany. Such was the lustre of the victory – combined with later albeit lesser successes at the First and Second Battles of the Masurian Lakes, that Hindenburg later replaced Erich von Falkenhayn as German Chief of Staff, bringing with him to Berlin Ludendorff as his quartermaster general.
A great propaganda victory, the scale of the Russian defeat shocked Russia’s allies, who wondered whether it signalled the defeat of the Russian army. Such was not the case, as was demonstrated by the lesser scale of German victories at the Masurian Lakes. As always, the sheer weight of the Russian army ensured its survival. Even so, no Russian army penetrated German territory again until the close of the Second World War, in 1945.
Here we have Russia, a vastly powerful country with a floundering democracy, facing the imminent threat of tyranny. That danger is personified by Vladimir Putin, a former KGB man who looks like, well, a former KGB man, as imagined by John Le Carre. Standing in his way is a gallant resistance movement symbolized by an all-female rock band, a group of punky young performance artists called Pussy Riot.
After playing for democracy in a daring public venue, they face a show trial that could send them to prison for years. Around the world, politicians and celebrities speak out, supporters organise solidarity demonstrations. The film is a natural: can we get Aubrey Plaza as the band’s leader? Will Madonna do a cameo? This is too good to be true!
And indeed it is. Putin may be a thug, and Pussy Riot might be feminist warriors for human rights, but the particular act for which they faced trial is much more controversial than is commonly reported in the West.
A good case can be made that it was a grievous act of religious hate crime, of a kind that would be roundly condemned if it happened in a country that the West happened to like. (I’m also wondering why liberals are suddenly so fond of a band that claims inspiration from the “Oi!” music invented by far-right British skinheads).
Last March, three members of Pussy Riot staged an unauthorised “concert” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Standing before the altar, they sang a pseudo-hymn to the Virgin, urging her to remove Putin and condemning the Patriarch Kirill as his slavish disciple. They have now been convicted of what a judge termed ”hooliganism driven by religious hatred”.
Few Western commentators have taken that religious element too seriously, but it is central to what Hollywood might term the back-story.
Look, above all, at the site of the demonstration. Historically, Christ the Saviour was a central shrine both of the Orthodox faith and of Russian national pride, and for that reason, the Bolsheviks targeted it for destruction.
In 1931, in a notorious act of cultural vandalism, the Soviet government dynamited the old building, levelling it to the ground, and replacing it with a public swimming pool. Not until 1990 did a new regime permit a rebuilding, funded largely by ordinary believers, and the vast new structure was consecrated in 2000. The cathedral is thus a primary memorial to the restoration of Russia’s Christianity after a savage persecution.
It’s difficult, perhaps, for Westerners to realise how bloodthirsty that government assault was. Russia in 1917 was overwhelmingly Orthodox, and in fact was undergoing a widespread religious revival. Rooting out that faith demanded forceful action by the new Bolshevik government, which had no scruples about imposing its will on the wishes of a vast majority. Government leaders like Alexandra Kollontai – the self-proclaimed Female Antichrist – illegally seized historic churches and monasteries, and used soldiers to suppress the resulting demonstration. Hundreds were killed in those actions alone.
Through the 1920s, the Bolsheviks systematically wiped out the church’s leaders. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev perished in 1918, shot outside the historic Monastery of the Caves, while Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk was drowned in a Siberian river. Archbishop Andronicus of Perm was killed the following year, followed by most of his clergy. In 1920, Bishop Joachim of Nizhni Novgorod was crucified upside down from the iconostasis in his cathedral. In 1922, a firing squad executed the powerful Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd/St Petersburg. The repression was indiscriminate, paying no attention to the victims’ records as critics of Tsarist injustice and anti-Semitism.
Persecution claimed many lives at lower levels of the church, among ordinary monks and priests. We hear of clergy shot in their hundreds, buried alive, mutilated, or fed to wild animals. Local Red officials hunted down priests as enthusiastically as their aristocratic predecessors had pursued wolves and wild boar. The number of clergy killed for their faith ran at least into the tens of thousands, with perhaps millions more lay believers.
The regime also rooted up the churches and monasteries that were the heart of Russian culture and spiritual life. Officials wandered the country, vandalising churches, desecrating saints’ shrines and seizing church goods, and murdering those who protested the acts. Militant atheist groups used sacred objects to stage anti-religious skits and processions. Between 1927 and 1940, active Orthodox churches all but vanished from the Russian Republic, as their numbers fell from 30,000 to just 500.
In the process of dechristianisation, the crowning act came in 1931 with the obliteration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. For the Bolsheviks, it was the ultimate proof of the Death of God. But, of course, Resurrection did come, so that a new cathedral would stand to mark a new century. The long nightmare was over.
Yet Russia’s new religious freedom is a very tender shoot, and the prospect of future turmoil has to agonise those believers who recall bygone horrors. These fears are all the more pressing when modern-day activists seem to reproduce exactly the blasphemous deeds of the past, and even in the precise places.
When modern-day Orthodox look at Pussy Riot, they see the ghosts of Alexandra Kollontai and her militiamen, or the old Soviet League of Militant Godless. Are they wrong to do so?
I just offer an analogy. Imagine a dissident group opposed to the current governments of Poland or Hungary. In order to grab media attention, they take over one of those countries’ recently restored synagogues, and frame their complaint in the form of a pseudo-Jewish prayer. Horrified, the authorities arrest them and threaten harsh criminal penalties. Not only would international media fully support the governments in those circumstances, but they would complain bitterly if police and courts showed any signs of leniency. However serious a group’s grievances, there is absolutely no justification for expressing them with such mind-boggling historical insensitivity, and in such a place. Anywhere but there!
The Russians, with a total score of 197.030, were completing their fourth consecutive Games clean sweep after lifting the duet title on Tuesday.
China, third in the duet, took second, with Spain claiming the bronze medal.
Russia’s triumphant team comprised Anastasia Davydova, winning her fifth Olympic gold, Maria Gromova, Natalia Ishchenko, Elvira Khasyanova, Daria Korobova, Alexandra Patskevich, Svetlina Romashina and Anzhelika Timanina.
“I am very happy that we managed to get the result with the girls and that we carried on the tradition of synchronised swimming, winning four Olympic Games in a row,” said Davydova.
“This was the hardest medal for me to win and the happiest. I finish my career on a peak, five golds is a record.”
On the secret of Russia’s success she added: “We train children from three years of age at school. By 15 they are already ahead and competing.”
Expanding on their choice of music Patskevich said: “The theme was a lost world like a big spiders net, we wanted people to get the goosebumps.”
Russia went into the freestyle programme leading after Thursday’s technical routine, and made sure of gold by scoring 98.930 to add to Thursday’s 98.100.
Despite another polished performance, the Chinese, lying second overnight, were not able to dislodge their Russian rivals from the top of the podium, coming in with a score of 194.010.
Friday’s free routine placed the emphasis on artistic impression, with Davydova and company seducing the capacity crowd at the Aquatics Centre and more importantly the 14 judges sitting poolside.
The Russians celebrated by giving their civvie-clothed coaches an impromptu ducking.
For Ishchenko and Romashina this was the second time they had had a gold medal hung around their necks after claiming the duets title 72 hours earlier.
Davydova, Gromova and Khasyanova meanwhile were celebrating becoming the first synchronised swimmers to win three team golds.
Spain’s routine had an ocean theme about it, their costumes resembling fish scales with coach Elisabet Fernandez Marti revealing: “It took one hour for the girls to dress.
“We used a special superglue to stick them (the costumes and caps) to the skin”
In a bid to get an edge in the water the Spaniards had got the clippers out, shaving their heads
“We were shocked when the Spanish team cut their hair, but they did everything they could for the victory,” said Russia’s Ischenko.
Canada took fourth with fifth-placed Japan failing to achieve a medal in synchronised swimming for the first time since the sport was introduced in 1984.
Japan’s coach, Mayumi Uchida, reflected: “We have trained with an aim at 95 points. We are still far from there, but we have improved since the world championships and the qualifier.”
Great Britain came in sixth of the eight finalists on their first appearance in the team event.
“On the whole, I think it has gone incredibly well. We have definitely put synchro out there, and on the map.” said British team member Jennifer Knobbs.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Saturday that international support for Syrian rebels would lead to “more blood” and the government could not be expected to willingly give in to its opponents.
Lavrov, whose country has vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to increase pressure on Syria‘s government to end 16 months of violence, said Western and Arab nations should exert more influence on rebels to stop fighting.
He said “tragedy” could be imminent in the Syrian city of Aleppo, but indicated rebels would be at least partly to blame.
“Pressure must be put on everyone,” Lavrov said at a joint news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba after talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, President Vladimir Putin‘s summer base.
“Unfortunately, our Western partners prefer to do something a bit different and essentially, along with some countries neighboring Syria, encourage, support and direct the armed fight against the regime,” he said.
“The price of all this is still more blood.”
In the wake of the Security Council vetoes by Russia and China, the United States has said it will seek ways to tackle the crisis outside the U.N. [ID:nL2E8INLYP]
Gemba said it was “very serious moment” in Syria and it was primarily up to the government to stop the bloodshed.
“The position of the Russian side has great influence, and there is also the voice of the international community. We are counting on a constructive Russian position,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Lavrov said Russia was calling on the government to “take the first steps” but that the rebels should not take advantage of any such government actions by occupying cities and towns.
“The city of Aleppo is occupied by the armed opposition and the next tragedy is brewing there, as I understand it,” he said.
“Well-armed opposition groups are occupying cities, intending to create some sort of buffer zones for a transitional government. How can one expect that the Syrian government will say, ‘Yes, go ahead, overthrow me,’” he said.
“This is unrealistic – not because we are holding onto the regime but because it just doesn’t work,” he said.
To get an idea of how parts of the Russian economy still resemble the Soviet Union, take a look at Russian Railways. With 85,000 km of track, 1 million employees and turnover of $40 billion a year, the state run company remains a heavyweight symbol of the old command economy.
Now President Vladimir Putin‘s government has ordered the privatisation of a one-quarter stake in the company by the end of 2013. That’s starting to open up Russian Railways’ management and strategy to closer scrutiny – some of it unwelcome.
A Reuters investigation has identified business ties between the son of Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin and firms and businessmen linked to the railways giant. Andrey Yakunin, 37, a London-based investor, is pursuing a $500 million plan to build hotels across Russia, partly with the help of a subsidiary of the company run by his father. He also shared offices until recently with a private venture aiming to ship millions of tonnes of freight between Asia and Europe by Russian rail, rather than traditional sea routes.
While Andrey Yakunin is open about his business ties to Russian Railways – and there is no suggestion of any illegality in those links – the state rail monopoly has made only scant disclosures in filings to investors. In a statement to Reuters, Vladimir Yakunin denied any ties at all.
“It’s a huge cultural problem,” said Elena Panfilova, head of the Russian chapter of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. “The core management of Russian Railways comes from a past where it was not the norm to disclose any information, even if it’s public and even if it doesn’t hurt their operations. It would be much better to explain and show how these connections go.”
Andrey Yakunin denies that any conflicts arise through his dealings with companies linked to the state railways. But, in an interview with Reuters, he said he understood concerns over whether he might have gained an advantage from his father’s position.
Asked whether his partnership with the real estate arm of Russian Railways might raise questions of disclosure for the state rail monopoly, he said: “I agree, but I’m not getting money from them – I’m paying them.”
Nor was buying land from a subsidiary of Russian Railways any goldmine because of his father’s position, he said.
Though he had originally thought he had “direct access to the second-largest landowner in the country”, Andrey Yakunin said that, thanks to the complexities of land ownership in Russia, his connections were “no fast track to heaven”.
The elder Yakunin, 64, declined to be interviewed for this article. In a statement issued to Reuters, the firm said that there were no business links between Russian Railways, which is also known as RZhD, and Andrey.
“Concerning any financial interests on the part of RZhD and its president in the companies you name – they do not exist,” the statement said.
The statement declined to comment on individuals in business with Andrey Yakunin while also having roles at companies either controlled by or linked to Russian Railways.
THE RAILWAY BARON
In the system of Kremlin capitalism built by Putin since he first became president 12 years ago, Vladimir Yakunin is a quintessential insider. The son of a military pilot, he was brought up in Estonia, studied in St Petersburg and later flourished thanks to relationships he built both before and after the Soviet collapse in 1991.
Around the same time that Putin returned from his posting overseas as a KGB agent to start a political career in his native St Petersburg, Yakunin also arrived there, having left the Soviet mission to the United Nations in Vienna to go into business in Russia’s second city. The two men soon got to know each other.
On Putin’s rise to the presidency in 2000, Yakunin entered federal government and emerged in 2005, after a power struggle, as head of Russian Railways, which in many ways is the blood supply of the world’s largest country.
“Mr Putin once said that if you want to know the status of the Russian economy, you should look at the papers of the president of Russian Railways with the daily reports of the amount of cargo, the directions of delivery and amount of passengers.” Yakunin told the Daily Telegraph on a visit to London this year to market a bond offering by the railways.
The year after Yakunin became Russia’s train-driver-in-chief, his son founded a real-estate investment fund, based in London, with an Israeli-born investor called Yair Ziv. The firm began to develop plans for a chain of hotels aimed at business customers travelling across Russia, concentrating on major regional centres from Krasnodar to Khabarovsk.
In 2009 Andrey Yakunin struck a landmark deal with Rezidor, a company listed on the Stockholm stock exchange that has long experience operating hotels. Andrey’s company Regional Hotel Chain (RHC) would acquire and develop the sites and Rezidor would manage the hotels. Together they set about planning 20 hotels with, as Andrey said in an email to Reuters, a “fast and massive nationwide roll-out” in mind.
Andrey said the first three hotels in operation – in the provincial cities of Kazan, Astrakhan and Izhevsk – have nothing to do with RZhD. But plans for at least five other sites are next to or very near key rail stations, according to Rezidor.
To acquire suitable plots, Andrey Yakunin said his firm conducted a “rigorous selection process” to find a property consultant in Russia. It settled on Zheldoripoteka, a subsidiary of Russian Railways. Zheldoripoteka has since helped RHC to secure hotel sites, Andrey Yakunin said.
“We were able to locate a few land plots, which we did eventually acquire through Zheldoripoteka,” he said. They are next to or close to stations in key cities.
But he added that the relationship has not made it any easier for him to acquire land in a country where red tape and corruption make completing deals a challenge. “Without disrespect, the way they have built the process in the company for selling off something from the company’s assets is painful.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Andrey Yakunin is not averse to playing up family associations as he seeks investors for his ambitious hotel plan.
“Yakunin is a brand of a sort,” he told Reuters in an interview over lunch in May at the trendy Blackberry CafÃ© in downtown Moscow.
The eagle-eyed might notice that the initials of his private equity and real-estate fund, Venture Investment & Yield Management are strikingly similar to those of his father Vladimir I. Yakunin. They might notice, too, that VIYM’s St Petersburg office is headed by Andrey’s younger brother, Viktor, who has worked for Gunvor, an oil trading firm run by billionaire Gennady Timchenko who also got to know Putin well in the St Petersburg of the 1990s.
But Andrey, a fluent English speaker whose string of qualifications includes an executive MBA from London Business School, said he avoids potential conflicts of interest. “I have to be very careful about industries that maybe I find interesting, but I just stay away from … because I don’t want to create any trouble,” he said.
He said he had turned down an opportunity to tender for fast-food concessions at Russian train stations, adding with a laugh: “I’m still crying over it.”
His father, a champion of conservative moral and religious causes, flatly denies any personal link to his son’s company VIYM, saying in a statement that its initials “bear no meaning besides the creation of an abbreviation.”
“All attempts to extrapolate from this coincidence any kind of affiliation with the head of Russian Railways amount to fiction,” added the statement issued by his office in response to questions submitted by Reuters.
Arild Hovland, Rezidor’s Russia country manager, told Reuters that the Swedish hotel operator had a relationship with Andrey Yakunin before partnering with RHC and had accepted assurances that he had no business link with his father or Russian Railways.
“Of course we looked at the background of Andrey Yakunin and, sure, we are aware of his father as the top official in Russian Railways,” Hovland said. “However, they assured us that there is a firewall between the investment company that is owning the Regional Hotel Chain and Russian Railways.”
Russian Railways has felt no need to detail Andrey’s relationship with a subsidiary of the company headed by his father. RHC’s partnership with Zheldoripoteka, the real estate arm of Russian Railways, was not made clear in any of the prospectuses for billions of dollars in bonds recently issued by the state rail company.
Hotels are not the only connection between the RZhD and the London office of Andrey Yakunin’s VIYM. The premises on the 16th floor of the Marble Arch Tower, at 55 Bryanston Street in London’s West End were also home, until early July, to another occupant looking to ride the footplate of Russia’s rail opportunities: a firm called Far East Land Bridge.
FELB is a freight-forwarding company that joined with a subsidiary of Russian Railways called Transcontainer to offer rail freight transport between Europe and Asia – a potentially lucrative market. While the overland route from China to Europe through Russia is relatively direct, freight sent by ship must travel via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal. At 18 to 24 days the land bridge takes roughly half the time of seaborne shipments. Among the other advantages FELB claims are lower costs per tonne and more flexibility in changing final destinations during transport.
The company, which this month moved its headquarters to Vienna, is controlled through a nominee-based structure originating in Cyprus. There it uses the same company secretary and the same office address in Nicosia as a number of VIYM-related entities, documents show. Cyprus is a popular offshore venue for Russian businesses because it does not require companies to disclose their beneficial owners.
One of FELB’s web sites is registered in the name of Yair Ziv, Andrey Yakunin’s partner at the real estate investment fund VIYM, according to a web registry. Ziv declined to comment in response to e-mailed questions regarding VIYM and FELB. And Andrey Yakunin, who set up VIYM with Ziv in 2006, said he was “not involved at all” in FELB.
“Yair does a lot of things in his own right, and if I know about 5 percent of what he’s doing, maybe I’m flattering myself,” he said.
But Vladimir Yakunin’s statement that neither he nor Russian Railways had a financial interest in FELB is contradicted by statements and filings made by a subsidiary of Russian Railways called Transcontainer. London-listed Transcontainer recently sold its stake in FELB to a firm called RZhD Logistika that was set up in 2010 and is 100 percent owned by Russian Railways. RZhD Logistika announced on June 29 that it had completed the purchase of a 10 percent stake in FELB and intended to raise it to 25 percent.
Andrey Zhemchugov, a spokesman for Transcontainer, described the FELB equity and debt transfer as an “intra-holding optimisation” within the Russian Railways group. In a recent filing, Transcontainer said that FELB was “in fact controlled by the RZhD group”.
How such joint ventures between RZhD and private firms will be affected by the part-privatisation of the state company has yet to become clear. The potential risks and rewards on all sides are high. Vladimir Yakunin estimates a 25 percent holding in RZhD to be worth $8 billion, but government officials reckon it nearly three times higher.
Yakunin argues that it makes “no sense” to sell a stake in Russian Railways as a whole, and it would be better to continue his strategy of spinning off and selling operating units. But Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently accelerated the privatisation plans – with the stake in Russian Railways to be sold by the end of next year.
Russia said that the gathering last weekend in Saaremaa was “aimed at glorification of former SS-men and local collaborationists”. According to Moscow, the event could be interpreted in “no other way than intentional propagation of pro-Nazi attitude in Estonian society”.
In a statement, a spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry also called the gathering “undisguised jeering at the memory of those who saved the world from ‘brown plague’ at the expense of their own lives.”
Estonian Defence Minister Urmas Reinsalu denied in a written statement to EurActiv that the event was a glorification of fascism. A European Commission official said the EU executive would study the situation before reacting.
Russia, which lost 20 million people in World War II, is particularly sensitive to attempts to present all war veterans in the same category. Moscow also keeps Estonia, a former Soviet republic, under close watch (see background).
Russia seems particularly that the Reinsalu delivered a speech at the veterans’ event.
“His expression of gratitude to fascism vassals for ‘saving the honour of Estonian people’ is evidence of ‘mythopoetry’ of the official Tallinn in relation to World War II events,” the Russian spokesperson stated.
Russian media report that among those present were the veterans of the 20th Waffen SS division and other Estonians who fought on the Nazi side in WWII against Soviet occupation of the country.
The Estonian Anti-Fascist Committee, an NGO, accused Reinsalu of “demonstrating to the whole world that Nazi ideology can be justified and those who followed Hitler’s orders can become national heroes”.
Europe turning a blind eye?
“The reason for such negligence to the norms of law and morals is based on only one thing – the higher echelons of power in the European Union are turning a blind eye to neo-Nazi sentiments and refuse to pay attention to the falsification of history and the making of Nazi criminals in Europe into heroes,” the Anti-Fascist Committee stated, quoted by the Russian TV channel RT.
Asked by EurActiv to comment on the accusations, Reinsalu said in a written answer that the Estonian Parliament recognised “the merits of those who fought in the name of Estonia’s independence”.
On the other hand, he insisted that the Parliament had “unequivocally” condemned the crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Soviet and National Socialist German occupations, “regardless of the citizenship of the perpetrator or where the crimes were carried out”.
The minister further wrote that “the gathering of the Association of Estonian Freedom Fighters held in Saaremaa last week was a civic initiative event to commemorate those who fought for Estonia’s freedom as well as the victims of the occupation regimes. Accusations that depict events held to commemorate the victims of totalitarian regimes as manifestations of neo-Nazism are erroneous and deeply offensive.”
He insisted that his country consistently condemned the crimes of all the totalitarian regimes that occupied Estonia – Nazism and Stalinism – and denounced “all attempts to distort this message”.
Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.
And it may well be that this same astounding race may at the present time be in the actual process of producing another system of morals and philosophy, as malevolent as Christianity was benevolent, which, if not arrested would shatter irretrievably all that Christianity has rendered possible. It would almost seem as if the gospel of Christ and the gospel of Antichrist were destined to originate among the same people; and that this mystic and mysterious race had been chosen for the supreme manifestations, both of the divine and the diabolical.
The National Russian Jews, in spite of the disabilities under which they have suffered, have managed to play an honourable and successful part in the national life even of Russia. As bankers and industrialists they have strenuously promoted the development of Russia’s economic resources, and they were foremost in the creation of those remarkable organisations, the Russian Co-operative Societies. In politics their support has been given, for the most part, to liberal and progressive movements, and they have been among the staunchest upholders of friendship with France and Great Britain.
In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. Most, if not all, of them have forsaken the faith of their forefathers, and divorced from their minds all spiritual hopes of the next world. This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognisable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.
There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders. Thus Tchitcherin, a pure Russian, is eclipsed by his nominal subordinate Litvinoff, and the influence of Russians like Bukharin or Lunacharski cannot be compared with the power of Trotsky, or of Zinovieff, the Dictator of the Red Citadel (Petrograd), or of Krassin or Radek — all Jews. In the Soviet institutions the predominance of Jews is even more astonishing. And the prominent, if not indeed the principal, part in the system of terrorism applied by the Extraordinary Commissions for Combating Counter-Revolution has been taken by Jews, and in some notable cases by Jewesses.
The same evil prominence was obtained by Jews in the brief period of terror during which Bela Kun ruled in Hungary. The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany (especially in Bavaria), so far as this madness has been allowed to prey upon the temporary prostration of the German people. Although in all these countries there are many non-Jews every whit as bad as the worst of the Jewish revolutionaries, the part played by the latter in proportion to their numbers in the population is astonishing.
“Protector of the Jews”
Needless to say, the most intense passions of revenge have been excited in the breasts of the Russian people. Wherever General Denikin‘s authority could reach, protection was always accorded to the Jewish population, and strenuous efforts were made by his officers to prevent reprisals and to punish those guilty of them. So much was this the case that the Petlurist propaganda against General Denikin denounced him as the Protector of the Jews. The Misses Healy, nieces of Mr. Tim Healy, relating their personal experiences in Kieff, have declared that to their knowledge on more than one occasion officers who committed offences against Jews were reduced to the ranks and sent out of the city to the front. But the hordes of brigands by whom the whole vast expanse of the Russian Empire is becoming infested do not hesitate to gratify their lust for blood and for revenge at the expense of the innocent Jewish population whenever an opportunity occurs. The brigand Makhno, the hordes of Petlura and of Gregorieff, who signalised their every success by the most brutal massacres, everywhere found among the half-stupefied, half-infuriated population an eager response to anti-Semitism in its worst and foulest forms. The fact that in many cases Jewish interests and Jewish places of worship are excepted by the Bolsheviks from their universal hostility has tended more and more to associate the Jewish race in Russia with the villainies which are now being perpetrated.
A Home for the Jews
Zionism offers the third sphere to the political conceptions of the Jewish race. In violent contrast to international communism.
Zionism has already become a factor in the political convulsions of Russia, as a powerful competing influence in Bolshevik circles with the international communistic system. Nothing could be more significant than the fury with which Trotsky has attacked the Zionists generally, and Dr. Weissmann in particular. The cruel penetration of his mind leaves him in no doubt that his schemes of a world-wide communistic State under Jewish domination are directly thwarted and hindered by this new ideal, which directs the energies and the hopes of Jews in every land towards a simpler, a truer, and a far more attainable goal. The struggle which is now beginning between the Zionist and Bolshevik Jews is little less than a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people.
The great military successes on all fronts have led part of the population to have an overly optimistic opinion of the situation, one that is ahead of the facts. The [German] peopleâ€™s desire for peace can lead only too easily to wishful thinking that does not correspond to actual conditions. Thus one not infrequently encounters the following thinking by average citizens:
In the East, the Soviet Union is near its end since the Caucasus has been cut off and the Volga River has been reached. The English can no longer do anything to us in the Mediterranean; if U-Boat successes continue for a few months longer, the opponents will no longer have any shipping capacity. They suffer one defeat after another in East Asia. And British dominion over India is almost ready to collapse. All these factors together mean that the war will end victoriously for us this year.
Such a very optimistic attitude is extraordinarily dangerous. If it is not dealt with or derailed, the danger exists that there will be serious effects on morale that will hinder dealing with the increased difficulties that will come with winter.
In our speeches we must avoid anything that might encourage such overly optimistic wishful thinking by the public.
Any predictions about future developments are absolutely forbidden. The task of propaganda is not to predict what will happen, but rather to explain what did happen and is happening. This also includes raising certain hopes about a future significant improvement in our food situation resulting from harvests in the newly won regions of the Soviet Union.
Even if we succeed in producing agricultural surpluses in these areas in the face of great difficulties such as the lack of agricultural machinery, tractors, fuel, seed, etc., it will not be immediately possible to transport large amounts of these products to the Reich. Any predictions in this subject are absolutely out of order. Even if the food situation improves significantly in the near future, from the propaganda standpoint it is better to announce the success after the fact. Here, too, the maxim applies: â€œNothing is as successful as success, and nothing is more dangerous than disappointed hopes.â€
It is always important to even with great successes that each success is only a building block of victory. Our opponents have taken very heavy blows and their losses are terrible, but they are not yet fatally wounded. A boxing match provides a good example:
One boxer has been hit hard and could collapse at any moment. Then the bell rings and the pause enables him to catch his breath again and gather new strength. One round follows another until finally continuing blows break his last strength and he suddenly falls to a blow, often one weaker than those he has already withstood.
All speakers have the absolute duty of following the above guidelines. We want to train our people to hardness, and must therefore avoid strengthening any overly optimistic hopes that are expected to be fulfilled within a short time. We must much more make it clear to our people that there is no doubt of our final victory, but that a major and critical decision will not happen in the immediate future. Instead, we must slowly beat down our opponents step by step.
As per the 2010 census, 19,18,53,000 people in India were of 50 years and above, which made about 16.4 per cent of the total population.
According to the US Census Bureau, this is projected to increase to 20 per cent (26,49,13,000) in 2020 and 24.3 per cent (35,55,96,000) in 2030; 28.5 per cent (44,82,23,000) in 2040 and 32.6 per cent (54,04,24,000) in 2050.
The bureau, in its first-ever report to use data from the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE), said health levels varied greatly among people 50 years and older in China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa, but hypertension and arthritis were the two most common chronic conditions in all six countries.
‘The wide range of health levels is evident when looking at the prevalence of disability.
‘The percentage of people 50 and older in SAGE countries reporting a disability ranged from 68 per cent in China to 93 per cent in India,’ the report said.
According to the report, high levels of risky health behaviours often continued into older ages, particularly for men.
For instance, more than half of older Chinese and Indian men still smoked tobacco and the majority of older Ghanaian, Mexican and Russian men reported daily moderate or heavy alcohol consumption.