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Tag: russia

Russia ‘Witch Hunt’ Claims Collapse With Jury Decision And New Revelations

The Fox News-fueled Justice Department probes then-President Donald Trump demanded as rebuttals to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation generated plenty of frothy Fox content. They also gave Republican partisans excuses to discount the obviously unethical and potentially illegal behavior of Trump and the crimes of his underlings. But efforts to turn the network’s conspiracy theories into federal cases have tended to diminish and fail under the scrutiny of prosecutors, judges, and juries.

Years of claims from Sean Hannity and others at Fox that a criminal probe had been needed to “investigate the investigators” received two body blows on Tuesday. First, a jury found former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann not guilty of lying to the FBI in one of the few charges brought by special counsel John Durham’s three-year probe of the origins of Mueller’s investigation. And that night, newly released documents revealed that a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney assigned by then-Attorney General William Barr to review allegations regarding the purportedly sinister “unmaskings” of former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and other people associated with Trump’s transition team had concluded in September 2020 that those actions had been routine and that no criminal investigation into them was justified.

Hannity and his fellow travelers had responded to the initiation of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by furiously manufacturing a counternarrative in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous, anti-Trump investigators. The Fox hosts’ coverage created incentives for Republican politicians to join in, and over the years, they together concocted a hodgepodge of slipshod allegations. The pseudoscandal’s shorthand quickly became impenetrable to anyone who wasn’t a regular viewer of the network, with adherents throwing around terms like Obamagate, #ReleaseTheMemo, Uranium One, and Operation Boomerang, to name a few. Hannity’s cabal claimed that a legal reckoning was coming for an array of high-ranking public officials, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Hannity, for his part, described Durham’s appointment in 2019 as a “major, huge development” that would give “the deep state … every reason to be afraid, every reason to panic.” He later argued that if the investigation did not result in convictions, “the great American republic will disintegrate before your eyes.”

The Durham probe has provided Fox with years of content. The network has aired more than 2,000 weekday segments that discussed his investigation or the origins of the Mueller probe since his May 2019 appointment, more than 500 of which came after he was named special counsel in October 2020, according to Media Matters' internal database. And Trump eagerly watched the coverage — during a September 2020 presidential press conference, he reeled off half a dozen shows that had covered the investigation that day, calling it “the biggest political scandal in the history of our country” as he tried to use the cloud of the phony scandal to bolster his reelection campaign.

However, Durham’s investigation has proven less effective in court. His prosecutors secured a guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for altering a document used to justify the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, but the judge believed Clinesmith’s argument that he had not intended to mislead his colleagues but had inserted words he believed were accurate and sentenced him to probation. Sussmann, charged with a single count of lying to an FBI agent over his role in an aspect of the Russia story so minor that Hannity had barely mentioned it, was found not guilty by a unanimous jury, with the forewoman stating that the government had wasted their time. The only person remaining on Durham’s public docket is Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who contributed to the Steele dossier and is charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Durham’s investigation has now dragged on for more than three years. During that time the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the Russia probe was properly predicated. It is reasonable to conclude both that Durham does not have the goods and that he has inadvertently debunked the conspiracy theory he was appointed to prove. By contrast, it took Mueller’s team less than two years to deliver a completed report detailing Russia’s “sweeping and systemic” interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2020 election and Trump’s own potential criminal actions, and his prosecutors secured guilty pleas or convictions against a lengthy list that included Trump’s 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, Trump’s longtime political consigliere, Roger Stone, and his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But Fox narratives can never really fail, they can only be failed – the likes of Hannity will never admit they got it wrong. Instead, the Fox prime-time host opened Tuesday night’s show by claiming that “America's two-tiered system of justice is alive and well” and arguing that Sussmann’s jury was “tainted.”

“In my humble opinion, Durham likely knew exactly what he was up against in the D.C. courts knew the makeup of the jurisdiction and the D.C. swamp is leftist liberal and likely was not counting on a conviction as much as getting more important information out to the general public,” Hannity later added. “In other words, this is a preview of coming attractions. Forget about Sussmann. It's the system, what the system is.”

At around the same time Hannity was telling his audience that justice was right around the corner, another aspect of Fox’s counternarrative collapsed.

In May 2020, Richard Grenell, an unscrupulous political operative then ensconced as acting director of national intelligence, produced what he claimed was a list of senior Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Flynn, receiving his name after they followed the National Security Agency’s standard process and asked the agency to reveal the identity of an individual generically referenced in an NSA report. While it was always unclear that the unmasking had been inappropriate, Fox gave the story wall-to-wall coverage, running at least 250 weekday segments that touched on the “unmasking” story or the broader “Obamagate” conspiracy theory that month alone, according to Media Matters’ database.

But on Tuesday night, Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold and Ken Bensinger produced a September 2020 report then-U.S. Attorney John Bash authored for Barr indicating that his review had found no predicate for a criminal investigation and concluding that senior Obama officials had not unmasked Flynn “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons.” Indeed, Bash concluded that contrary to the overheated Fox rhetoric that flowed from Grenell’s document, "all but one of the requests that listed a senior official as an authorized recipient of General Flynn’s identity were made by an intelligence professional to prepare for a briefing of the official, not at the direction of the official.”

Over the years, Fox took its audience down a rabbit hole, and the Justice Department followed. But the lack of successful prosecutions does not mean that Fox’s effort was fruitless. The House select committee Fox demanded to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks found no illicit actions by Hillary Clinton, but it did uncover her use of a private email server, and while the FBI investigation into her activity ultimately cleared her, the resulting political damage likely cost her the 2016 presidential election.

Fox-fueled investigations may not put anyone in jail – but they can still stir up enough political controversy to help the GOP win elections. And for a propaganda organ that effectively runs that party, that may be enough.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Ukraine Doing 'Everything' To Defend Donbas From Russian Onslaught

Lysychansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine has pledged to do "everything" to defend Donbas, where an intensifying Russian offensive is prompting Kyiv's forces to consider a strategic retreat from some key areas to avoid being surrounded.

Russia is waging all-out war for the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions that make up Donbas -- the country's industrial heartland -- where Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of carrying out a "genocide".

In his daily address to Ukrainians, Zelensky said the Russians had "concentrated maximum artillery, maximum reserves in Donbas."

"There are missile strikes and aircraft attacks -- everything," he said.

"We are protecting our land in the way that our current defense resources allow," he added. "We are doing everything to increase them."

Pro-Russian separatists said Friday they had captured the town of Lyman between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk, on the road leading to the key cities still under Kyiv's control.

Russian forces are also closing in on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the Lugansk province, with conflicting reports about the extent of their advance.

Regional governor Sergiy Gaiday insisted that the Russian forces would not be able to seize the entire region within two to three days -- but said that Ukraine's troops may have to withdraw from some areas to avoid being surrounded.

"Most probably they will not seize (Lugansk), because there's enough strength and means to hold the defense," he said on Telegram.

"Maybe even to avoid encircling there might be a command to our troops to retreat."

Escalation

A Lugansk police official, cited by Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti, said Severodonetsk was "now surrounded" and Ukrainian troops could no longer leave the city.

That was denied by senior city official Oleksandr Stryuk, though he acknowledged the situation was "very difficult" with incessant bombing.

"People are willing to risk everything to get food and water," said the head of the main aid distribution centre in Lysychansk, Oleksandr Kozyr.

"They are so psychologically depressed that they are no longer scared. All they care about is finding food."

Three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, leaving thousands dead on both sides and forcing 6.6 million people out of the country, Moscow has gained control over swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine, including port cities Kherson and Mariupol.

"Russian forces have made steady, incremental gains in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine in the past several days, though Ukrainian defenses remain effective overall," said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

To further help Ukraine fight back against the invasion, Washington was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems, according to US media reports.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not confirm the plans to deliver the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to Ukraine, a highly mobile system that can fire up to 300 kilometres (186 miles) which Kyiv has said it badly needs.

"We are still committed to helping them succeed on the battlefield," he said.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelensky, referring to the rocket systems, said on Twitter that some of the country's partners "avoid giving the necessary weapons because of fear of the escalation. Escalation, really?"

'Suffering'

In a historic move against Russia's spiritual authorities, the Moscow branch of Kyiv's Orthodox Church said Friday it was cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, declaring "full independence"

A church council that focused on Russia's "aggression" condemned the pro-war stance of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"Not only did he (Kirill) fail to condemn Russia's military aggression but he also failed to find words for the suffering Ukrainian people," church spokesman Archbishop Kliment told AFP.

Ukraine has been under Moscow's spiritual leadership since at least the 17th century, but part of its Orthodox Church broke with Moscow in 2019 over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Donbas.

Seeking to build on the international pressure on Russia, Zelensky will speak with EU leaders at an emergency summit Monday as they try to agree on an embargo on Russian oil, which is being held up by Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Rather than continue trading with (Russia), we need to act until they stop their policy of aggression," Zelensky told a think tank in Indonesia.

But in Moscow, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the country expects to receive one trillion rubles ($15 billion) in additional oil and gas revenues this year, a windfall from the sharp rise in oil prices caused in part by its invasion of Ukraine.

As his navy blockades Ukrainian ports, Putin also rejected accusations that he was using food shortages as a weapon. Russia and Ukraine supply some 30 percent of the wheat traded on global markets.

Russia has tightened its own exports and Ukraine has vast amounts stuck in storage, driving up prices and cutting availability for importers across the globe.

In a call Friday with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Putin put the blame on "anti-Russian sanctions by the United States and the European Union, among other things," according to the Kremlin.

He also accused Kyiv of "sabotaging" negotiations and urged Ukraine to de-mine ports "as soon as possible" to allow the passage of grain-carrying vessels, the Kremlin said.


Kyiv Court Convicts Russian Sergeant Of War Crimes And Orders Life Sentence

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - A Ukrainian court found a young Russian soldier guilty of war crimes Monday for killing a civilian and handed him a life sentence, in the first verdict of its kind since Russia's invasion three months ago.

The judgement came in as President Volodymyr Zelensky took to the virtual stage in Davos, urging political and business elites at the World Economic Forum to end all trade with Russia and keep supplying his country with weapons.

Russian attacks are pummeling eastern Ukraine, but all eyes Monday were on the capital Kyiv, in the landmark trial against 21-year-old Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin.

Shishimarin, a shaven-headed sergeant from Siberia, had admitted in court to killing a 62-year-old civilian, Oleksandr Shelipov, in the village of Chupakhivka in northeast Ukraine.

He claimed he shot Shelipov under pressure from another soldier as they tried to retreat and escape back into Russia in a stolen car on February 28, the fourth day of Moscow's invasion.

Shishimarin had apologised and asked Shelipov's widow for forgiveness, adding: "I was nervous about what was going on. I didn't want to kill."

But prosecutors claimed he shot between three and four bullets with the intention of killing the civilian.

"The court has found that Shishimarin is guilty (of war crimes) and sentences him to life imprisonment," Judge Sergiy Agafonov announced on Monday, as the Russian looked on from the glass defense box.

He was also found guilty of premeditated murder, which Agafonov said was "committed with direct intent."

Stop Russia Trade

Shishimarin's lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said he will appeal the verdict, calling it "most severe", adding that "you can feel societal pressure" on the decision.

The landmark ruling is expected to be followed by others, with Ukraine opening thousands of war crimes cases since Moscow's invasion.

International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces in cities like Bucha and Mariupol, which have become emblematic of the destruction and suffering of the three-month-old war.

As the verdict was read out in Kyiv, Zelensky continued his attempts to maintain Western support with a video address at the Davos summit, which this year is dominated by the fall-out of the war -- and from which Russians have been barred.

He highlighted the cost to his people of the war, revealing that 87 people were killed in a Russian attack earlier this month on a military base in northern Ukraine.

Zelensky insisted that tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if Kyiv had received "100 percent of our needs at once back in February", when Russia invaded.

"This is why Ukraine needs all the weapons that we ask (for), not just the ones that have been provided," said Zelensky, flanked by Ukrainian flags and wearing an olive-green T-shirt.

He also called for an oil embargo on Russia, punitive measures against all its banks and the shunning of its IT sector, adding that all foreign companies should leave the country.

'Scorched-Earth Tactics'

Shishimarin's lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said he will appeal the verdict, calling it "most severe", adding that "you can feel societal pressure" on the decision.

The landmark ruling is expected to be followed by others, with Ukraine opening thousands of war crimes cases since Moscow's invasion.

International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces in cities like Bucha and Mariupol, which have become emblematic of the destruction and suffering of the three-month-old war.

After failing in its initial goal of capturing Kyiv, Moscow's forces are now squarely focused on securing and expanding their gains in the Donbas region and on Ukraine's southern coast.

In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, a focus of recent fighting, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday accused Russian forces of "using scorched-earth tactics, deliberately destroying" the city.

Gaiday said Russia was repositioning forces from the Kharkiv region, others involved in Mariupol's siege, pro-Russian separatist militias, and even troops freshly mobilised from Siberia to concentrate their firepower on the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

'Savagery'

More than six million people have fled Ukraine and eight million have been internally displaced since the war broke out, according to the United Nations.

For the civilians left behind near the front, prayer is often the only comfort left.

Southwest of Severodonetsk, in the city of Bakhmut, Maria Mayashlapak scanned the devastation of her home, where a missile imploded her kitchen and cratered her vegetable garden.

"I was reciting my morning prayer for God to keep me from getting hurt," the 82-year-old recalled, as the family's kitten mewed from somewhere in the rubble.

Sunday's bombardment of the Donetsk region killed at least seven civilians and wounded eight others, according to the Ukrainian army.

Shelling and missile strikes also continued to pound Kharkiv in the north, as well as Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia in the south, Ukrainian officials said.

The effects of the war are also being felt far beyond Ukraine, particularly the impact of a Russian blockade that has left one of the world's breadbaskets unable to export its grain.

"It's savagery for one country to have food spoiling like this and for other people to be left poor and hungry," said Dmitriy Matulyak, a farmer near the Black Sea port of Odessa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been unequivocal on the matter, saying last week that the war "threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity".

burs-ar/jm

Finland, Sweden Ask To Join NATO As Ukraine War Crimes Trial Begins

Brussels (AFP) - Finland and Sweden on Wednesday submitted a joint application to join NATO as Russia's invasion of Ukraine forces a dramatic reappraisal of security in Europe.

The reversal of the Nordic countries' longstanding policy of non-alignment came as Ukraine opened the first war crimes trial of a Russian soldier since the invasion began.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, from Irkutsk in Siberia, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in Ukraine's Sumy region on February 28 -- four days into the invasion.

"By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility," prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said.

Russia's government has no information on Shishimarin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that many such cases reported by Ukraine are "simply fake or staged".

Peskov further accused Kyiv of a "complete lack of will" towards peace talks, after Ukrainian negotiator Mykhaylo Podolyak said stop-start dialogue was "on hold", having failed to yield any breakthroughs.

The Kremlin also intensified a tit-for-tat round of diplomatic expulsions against European countries, ordering out dozens of personnel from France, Italy and Spain.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg formally received the applications from the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors, calling them "an historic step".

"All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize," he said.

The membership push could represent the most significant expansion of NATO in decades, doubling its border with Russia, and President Vladimir Putin has warned it may trigger a response from Moscow.

But the applications face resistance from NATO member Turkey, which accuses the Nordic neighbours of harbouring anti-Turkish extremists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded "respect" from NATO over his government's concerns.

Western allies remain optimistic they can overcome Turkey's objections and for now, several including Britain have offered security guarantees to Finland and Sweden to guard against any Russian aggression.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Nordic applications would not have been expected a short time ago, "but Putin's appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent".

Mediators for Azovstal

On the ground, in Ukraine's ruined port city of Mariupol, a unit of soldiers had been holding out in the Azovstal steelworks, but Moscow said Wednesday that 959 of the troops had surrendered this week.

Kyiv's defence ministry said it would do "everything necessary" to rescue the undisclosed number of personnel still in the plant's tunnels, but admitted there was no military option available.

"The evacuation mission continues, it is overseen by our military and intelligence," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.

"The most influential international mediators are involved."

Those who have left Azovstal were taken into Russian captivity, including 80 who were heavily wounded, the Russian defence ministry said.

The ministry, which published images showing soldiers on stretchers, said the injured were transported to a hospital in the eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.

The defence ministry in Kyiv said it was hoping for an "exchange procedure... to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as quickly as possible".

But their fate was unclear, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refusing to say whether they would be treated as criminals or prisoners of war.

Putin had "guaranteed that they would be treated according to the relevant international laws", Peskov said.

'My war is not over'

Despite their last-ditch resistance in places such as Mariupol, and their successful defence of Kyiv, Ukrainian forces are retreating across swathes of the eastern front.

White smoke from burning fields marks the pace of Russia's advance around the village of Sydorove, on the approaches to the militarily important city of Slovyansk and Ukraine's eastern administrative centre in Kramatorsk.

Army volunteer Yaroslava, 51, sat on a slab of concrete jutting out from the remains of a school in Sydorove where her husband's unit had set up camp before it was hit by a Russian strike.

She stared at a spot where rescuers and de-miners had spotted a motionless hand reaching out from the rubble.

"We had settled in London before the war but felt like we had no choice but to come back," Yaroslava said.

"My two sons have just signed three-year contracts with the army. We will fight. We will still fight," she said without moving her eyes.

"My war is not over."

The war crimes trial in Kyiv, expected to be followed by several others, posed a test of the Ukrainian justice system at a time when international bodies are also conducting their own investigations.

Shishimarin faces a possible life sentence. Prosecutors said the sergeant was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack.

He and four other soldiers stole a car and encountered the man on a bicycle, shooting him in cold blood, according to the prosecutors.

The International Criminal Court said Tuesday it was deploying its largest-ever field team to Ukraine, with 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff being sent into the field to gather evidence of alleged atrocities.

The US State Department also announced it was creating a special unit to research, document and publicise Russian war crimes.

57 Extremist House Republicans Vote No On Ukraine Aid

Nearly five dozen House Republicans voted against a $40 billion aid package to help Ukraine fight off the violent Russian invasion of their country.

The aid package still passed the House by a vote of 368-57, with every Democrat voting in favor of helping Ukraine beat back Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose violent invasion has led to nearly more than 2,400 civilian deaths and thousands more injuries, according to the United Nations.

The bill includes both military funding to help the Ukrainians fight back against their Russian aggressors, as well as humanitarian aid to help the struggling citizens in the war-torn country.

Those 57 Republicans voted against the aid package as Democrats and Republicans alike described the funding as a vote against Putin — whose brutality is part of an effort to expand Russia's geographic footprint.

"This is a historic vote, and it could determine the course of this war, and to vote no is a vote for Putin," Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) told Politico.

The Republican "no" votes were from some of former President Donald Trump's biggest supporters in the House, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Jim Jordan (R-OH).

In February, at the start of Putin's invasion, Trump praised Putin as "smart," saying that the Russian dictator's decision to invade Ukraine was "genius" and "wonderful." In the months since, Russia has unleashed brutal attacks on civilians and has seen its military suffer losses — including of top Russian generals.

In a speech on the House floor, Greene said that the United States shouldn't help Ukraine because the country needs to stop "funding regime change and money laundering scams."

Polling, however, shows that providing aid to Ukraine is overwhelmingly popular among the typically polarized American electorate.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll from May 2 found that 76 percent of Americans say the United States should give more military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including a majority of people who voted for Trump.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Russian Soldiers Reported To Sabotage Putin’s War On Ukraine

Members of the Russian's armed forces have reportedly been mulling over ideas to deliberately sabotage their own military operations in an effort to impede Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war efforts to continue his invasion of Ukraine.

According to The Daily Beast, the latest developments reportedly stem from "recordings of alleged Russian troops’ phone calls that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) intercepted."

During one conversation, an alleged Russian soldier claimed they'd been funneling sand into their tankers' fuel systems to create clogging issues.

“I don't follow stupid orders, I simply refuse,” one fighter was reportedly heard telling a fellow comrade-in-arms. “The motherf*cker sent me to tanks, motherf*cking piece of shit. I f*cked it up and that's it.”

Another Russian soldier also admitted that he and multiple of his fellow comrades had intentionally "damaged their tank—the last one left in their regiment—to interfere with an attack plan," per another document shared by the SBU. “We have one tank left in the regiment,” he said. “In short, we broke our tank ourselves in the morning so as not to go.”


However, the Beast reports that these aren't the only efforts being made to obstruct Putin's war. Per the news outlet: "The Russian war effort isn’t only being hampered from the inside. Inspired by the Russians’ intercepted phone calls, Ukraine’s government encouraged other Russian troops to disobey orders and refuse to attack, echoing earlier calls to surrender and abandon the war path."

In a statement released on Friday, May 6, 2022, the SBU said it "welcomes this practice. But even it can be improved—just ‘give up’ and leave the war in Ukraine!”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also released a statement addressing the latest intel. While Kirby admitted that he is aware of the intelligence-sharing effort, he confirmed the United States has no involvement in it.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Russian State Media Proposes Inflicting Famine On Ukraine (Again)

From 1932 to 1933, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation and disease in a Great Famine engineered by then-Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. The Holodomor – named by combining the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor) – was only one example of the unholy atrocities that were inflicted upon the Soviet people by Stalin over his 31-year reign of terror.

The Holodomor was officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and more than a dozen other nations in 2006.

Today, Ukraine is known as "the breadbasket of Europe," and its agricultural exports account for a significant portion of all of the calories consumed around the world. But Russian President Vladimir Putin's barbaric invasion of Ukraine and his military's indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is stoking fears that hunger could once again be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Over the weekend, propagandists on Russian state television mused about cutting off Ukraine from its crops and exporting them to China.

"Ukraine's deal with the Chinese and the corn didn't come through," political scientist Dmitry Evstafiev said on Russia 1."If they need it, we'll supply them with Ukraine's corn," host Vladimir Solovyov interjected.

"Certainly, certainly, especially since we have every opportunity to do it," Evstafiev concurred. "Cutting off the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine from the Black Sea, from the croplands, from the breadbasket granary, this is the most dangerous thing, and the corn too."

The Kremlin's goons also fantasized about targeting farms in the United States as a means of strong-arming the Americans into capitulating to Putin's demands.

"And one more thing that is still ahead for us," Evstafiev continued, "we need to find the effective spots of vulnerability for Americans. We need to think, and not discuss it publicly, but we need to identify them and apply pressure to make that the last drop that will force the American elites to recognize that they need to negotiate with us. And that they need to negotiate with us on our terms and not on their terms."


Watch the translated version below courtesy of The Daily Beast's Russia expert and Russian Media Monitor founder Julia Davis:

Davis' followers immediately recognized what Russia is proposing.










One person noted that Putin's playbook eerily mirrors the plot of the television show that catapulted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's rise to power.

Others, meanwhile, pointed out that Moscow is running out of options to sustain its disastrous operation in Ukraine.




Printed with permission from Alternet.

Biden Freed Reed From Russia — But Churlish McCarthy Won’t Say So

Wednesday brought news of a surprise prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia, with Russia releasing former Marine Trevor Reed as the U.S. released Konstantin Yaroshenko. The decision to make the exchange came amid the relentless advocacy of Reed’s parents and news of his deteriorating health, with President Joe Biden ultimately making the decision to trade Yaroshenko, who was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010.

Embattled House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy celebrated the news … with a noteworthy omission. “After being held captive by Russia's corrupt system since 2019, Marine Corps veteran Trevor Reed will finally be returned to U.S. soil,” McCarthy tweeted Wednesday. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process—I am relieved for his family. I invite them all to my office to celebrate Trevor's freedom.”

Okay, Kevin. “Securing his freedom has been a years-long process,” huh? That makes it sound like you were intimately involved. But, uh, how did it ultimately happen?

Reed’s parents have answered that question: They credit Biden for saving their son’s life.

Biden has said he raised the issue with Russia “three months ago,” CNN reports, while an administration official described “months and months of hard, careful work across the U.S. government,” with outreach not only from U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan but Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden, and others, as well. The Richardson Center, headed by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also served as an intermediary.

The decision to commute Yaroshenko’s sentence was Biden’s, with approval from the Department of Justice.

Biden’s focus on Reed’s case came after Reed’s parents, Joey and Paula, fought to get his attention, asking for a meeting when he visited Texas in early March and, when they were turned down, standing along his motorcade route with a sign. On a phone call afterward, Biden told them he had prayed the rosary for their son and “thinks of Trevor every day.” But when they didn’t see further action, they went and stood outside the White House with a sign about their son. By the end of the day, they were inside the White House meeting with Biden. That was March 30—before which Biden and others in his administration had talked to Russian officials about releasing Reed. He still had to make the decision to do a prisoner exchange, though.

Trevor Reed and Constantin Yaroshenko were returned to the custody of their respective countries in Turkey, and Reed arrived in the U.S. in the early hours of Thursday morning.

“We are grateful beyond words,” Paula Reed tweeted. “We actually said that we believe @POTUS saved @freetrevorreed's life by agreeing to this prisoner swap. We truly mean that!”

But Kevin McCarthy? He couldn’t unbend enough to give that tiny bit of credit for the months of work by the Biden administration. And no wonder. McCarthy has in recent days been busy groveling for Donald Trump’s forgiveness for recordings of McCarthy, in Jan. 2021, saying he was going to urge Trump to resign the presidency, and expressing what at moments sounded like real outrage at the Trump-supporting mob’s attack on the Capitol. McCarthy has gotten Trump to express public support, but praising Biden for anything, at all, however glancingly, would be the kind of tweak Trump’s ego cannot stand. So even if it was McCarthy’s instinct to acknowledge that Biden was responsible for Reed’s release—which it probably was not—there’s no way McCarthy’s current political position would allow him to do so. That’s today’s Republican Party: run by Donald Trump’s ego and the imperative to never, ever to give a Democrat credit for anything, however detached it might be from partisan policy battles.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.