prof. Stephen Cohen. DISTORTING RUSSIA. How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine

prof. Stephen Cohen.     DISTORTING  RUSSIA. How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine

The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines—particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin—is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.
There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or “expert” views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.
The history of this degradation is also clear. It began in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union, when the US media adopted Washington’s narrative that almost everything President Boris Yeltsin did was a “transition from communism to democracy” and thus in America’s best interests. This included his economic “shock therapy” and oligarchic looting of essential state assets, which destroyed tens of millions of Russian lives; armed destruction of a popularly elected Parliament and imposition of a “presidential” Constitution, which dealt a crippling blow to democratization and now empowers Putin; brutal war in tiny Chechnya, which gave rise to terrorists in Russia’s North Caucasus; rigging of his own re-election in 1996; and leaving behind, in 1999, his approval ratings in single digits, a disintegrating country laden with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, most American journalists still give the impression that Yeltsin was an ideal Russian leader.
Since the early 2000s, the media have followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with US policy, that devalues multifaceted analysis for a relentless demonization of Putin, with little regard for facts. (Was any Soviet Communist leader after Stalin ever so personally villainized?) If Russia under Yeltsin was presented as having legitimate politics and national interests, we are now made to believe that Putin’s Russia has none at all, at home or abroad—even on its own borders, as in Ukraine.
Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin’s Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s—only in the “autocrat” Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power. Nor is he credited with stabilizing a disintegrating nuclear-armed country, assisting US security pursuits from Afghanistan and Syria to Iran or even with granting amnesty, in December, to more than 1,000 jailed prisoners, including mothers of young children.
Not surprisingly, in January The Wall Street Journal featured the widely discredited former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, branding Putin’s government as one of “deceit, violence and cynicism,” with the Kremlin a “nerve center of the troubles that bedevil the West.” But wanton Putin-bashing is also the dominant narrative in centrist, liberal and progressive media, from the Post, Times and The New Republic to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, where Howard Dean, not previously known for his Russia expertise, recently declared, to the panel’s approval, “Vladimir Putin is a thug.”
The media therefore eagerly await Putin’s downfall—due to his “failing economy” (some of its indicators are better than US ones), the valor of street protesters and other right-minded oppositionists (whose policies are rarely examined), the defection of his electorate (his approval ratings remain around 65 percent) or some welcomed “cataclysm.” Evidently believing, as does the Times, for example, that democrats and a “much better future” will succeed Putin (not zealous ultranationalists growing in the streets and corridors of power), US commentators remain indifferent to what the hoped-for “destabilization of his regime” might mean in the world’s largest nuclear country.
Certainly, The New Republic’s lead writer on Russia, Julia Ioffe, does not explore the question, or much else of real consequence, in her nearly 10,000-word February 17 cover story. Ioffe’s bannered theme is devoutly Putin-phobic: “He Crushed His Opposition and Has Nothing to Show for It But a Country That Is Falling Apart.” Neither sweeping assertion is spelled out or documented. A compilation of chats with Russian-born Ioffe’s disaffected (but seemingly not “crushed”) Moscow acquaintances and titillating personal gossip long circulating on the Internet, the article seems better suited (apart from some factual errors) for the Russian tabloids, as does Ioffe’s disdain for objectivity. Protest shouts of “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!” were “one of the most exhilarating moments I’d ever experienced.” So was tweeting “Putin’s fucked, y’all.” Nor does she forget the hopeful mantra “cataclysm seems closer than ever now.”
* * *
For weeks, this toxic coverage has focused on the Sochi Olympics and the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Even before the Games began, the Times declared the newly built complex a “Soviet-style dystopia” and warned in a headline, TERRORISM AND TENSION, NOT SPORTS AND JOY. On opening day, the paper found space for three anti-Putin articles and a lead editorial, a feat rivaled by thePost. Facts hardly mattered. Virtually every US report insisted that a record $51 billion “squandered” by Putin on the Sochi Games proved they were “corrupt.” But as Ben Aris ofBusiness New Europe pointed out, as much as $44 billion may have been spent “to develop the infrastructure of the entire region,” investment “the entire country needs.”
Overall pre-Sochi coverage was even worse, exploiting the threat of terrorism so licentiously it seemed pornographic. The Post, long known among critical-minded Russia-watchers asPravda on the Potomac, exemplified the media ethos. A sports columnist and an editorial page editor turned the Olympics into “a contest of wills” between the despised Putin’s “thugocracy” and terrorist “insurgents.” The “two warring parties” were so equated that readers might have wondered which to cheer for. If nothing else, American journalists gave terrorists an early victory, tainting “Putin’s Games” and frightening away many foreign spectators, including some relatives of the athletes.
The Sochi Games will soon pass, triumphantly or tragically, but the potentially fateful Ukrainian crisis will not. A new Cold War divide between West and East may now be unfolding, not in Berlin but in the heart of Russia’s historical civilization. The result could be a permanent confrontation fraught with instability and the threat of a hot war far worse than the one in Georgia in 2008. These dangers have been all but ignored in highly selective, partisan and inflammatory US media accounts, which portray the European Union’s “Partnership” proposal benignly as Ukraine’s chance for democracy, prosperity and escape from Russia, thwarted only by a “bullying” Putin and his “cronies” in Kiev.
Not long ago, committed readers could count on The New York Review of Books for factually trustworthy alternative perspectives on important historical and contemporary subjects. But when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, the NYRB has succumbed to the general media mania. In a January 21 blog post, Amy Knight, a regular contributor and inveterate Putin-basher, warned the US government against cooperating with the Kremlin on Sochi security, even suggesting that Putin’s secret services “might have had an interest in allowing or even facilitating such attacks” as killed or wounded dozens of Russians in Volgograd in December.
Knight’s innuendo prefigured a purported report on Ukraine by Yale professor Timothy Snyder in the February 20 issue. Omissions of facts, by journalists or scholars, are no less an untruth than misstatements of fact. Snyder’s article was full of both, which are widespread in the popular media, but these are in the esteemed NYRB and by an acclaimed academic. Consider a few of Snyder’s assertions:
§ ”On paper, Ukraine is now a dictatorship.” In fact, the “paper” legislation he’s referring to hardly constituted dictatorship, and in any event was soon repealed. Ukraine is in a state nearly the opposite of dictatorship—political chaos uncontrolled by President Viktor Yanukovych, the Parliament, the police or any other government institution.
§ ”The [parliamentary] deputies…have all but voted themselves out of existence.” Again, Snyder is alluding to the nullified “paper.” Moreover, serious discussions have been under way in Kiev about reverting to provisions in the 2004 Constitution that would return substantial presidential powers to the legislature, hardly “the end of parliamentary checks on presidential power,” as Snyder claims. (Does he dislike the prospect of a compromise outcome?)
§ ”Through remarkably large and peaceful public protests…Ukrainians have set a positive example for Europeans.” This astonishing statement may have been true in November, but it now raises questions about the “example” Snyder is advocating. The occupation of government buildings in Kiev and in Western Ukraine, the hurling of firebombs at police and other violent assaults on law enforcement officers and the proliferation of anti-Semitic slogans by a significant number of anti-Yanukovych protesters, all documented and even televised, are not an “example” most readers would recommend to Europeans or Americans. Nor are they tolerated, even if accompanied by episodes of police brutality, in any Western democracy.
§ ”Representatives of a minor group of the Ukrainian extreme right have taken credit for the violence.” This obfuscation implies that apart perhaps from a “minor group,” the “Ukrainian extreme right” is part of the positive “example” being set. (Many of its representatives have expressed hatred for Europe’s “anti-traditional” values, such as gay rights.) Still more, Snyder continues, “something is fishy,” strongly implying that the mob violence is actually being “done by russo-phone provocateurs” on behalf of “Yanukovych (or Putin).” As evidence, Snyder alludes to “reports” that the instigators “spoke Russian.” But millions of Ukrainians on both sides of their incipient civil war speak Russian.
§ Snyder reproduces yet another widespread media malpractice regarding Russia, the decline of editorial fact-checking. In a recent article in the International New York Times, he both inflates his assertions and tries to delete neofascist elements from his innocuous “Ukrainian extreme right.” Again without any verified evidence, he warns of a Putin-backed “armed intervention” in Ukraine after the Olympics and characterizes reliable reports of “Nazis and anti-Semites” among street protesters as “Russian propaganda.”
§ Perhaps the largest untruth promoted by Snyder and most US media is the claim that “Ukraine’s future integration into Europe” is “yearned for throughout the country.” But every informed observer knows—from Ukraine’s history, geography, languages, religions, culture, recent politics and opinion surveys—that the country is deeply divided as to whether it should join Europe or remain close politically and economically to Russia. There is not one Ukraine or one “Ukrainian people” but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions.
Such factual distortions point to two flagrant omissions by Snyder and other US media accounts. The now exceedingly dangerous confrontation between the two Ukraines was not “ignited,” as the Times claims, by Yanukovych’s duplicitous negotiating—or by Putin—but by the EU’s reckless ultimatum, in November, that the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country choose between Europe and Russia. Putin’s proposal for a tripartite arrangement, rarely if ever reported, was flatly rejected by US and EU officials.
But the most crucial media omission is Moscow’s reasonable conviction that the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia, which began in the 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion and continued with US-funded NGO political activities inside Russia, a US-NATO military outpost in Georgia and missile-defense installations near Russia. Whether this longstanding Washington-Brussels policy is wise or reckless, it—not Putin’s December financial offer to save Ukraine’s collapsing economy—is deceitful. The EU’s “civilizational” proposal, for example, includes “security policy” provisions, almost never reported, that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.
Any doubts about the Obama administration’s real intentions in Ukraine should have been dispelled by the recently revealed taped conversation between a top State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador in Kiev. The media predictably focused on the source of the “leak” and on Nuland’s verbal “gaffe”—“Fuck the EU.” But the essential revelation was that high-level US officials were plotting to “midwife” a new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government by ousting or neutralizing its democratically elected president—that is, a coup.
Americans are left with a new edition of an old question. Has Washington’s twenty-year winner-take-all approach to post-Soviet Russia shaped this degraded news coverage, or is official policy shaped by the coverage? Did Senator John McCain stand in Kiev alongside the well-known leader of an extreme nationalist party because he was ill informed by the media, or have the media deleted this part of the story because of McCain’s folly?
And what of Barack Obama’s decision to send only a low-level delegation, including retired gay athletes, to Sochi? In August, Putin virtually saved Obama’s presidency by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to eliminate his chemical weapons. Putin then helped to facilitate Obama’s heralded opening to Iran. Should not Obama himself have gone to Sochi—either out of gratitude to Putin, or to stand with Russia’s leader against international terrorists who have struck both of our countries? Did he not go because he was ensnared by his unwise Russia policies, or because the US media misrepresented the varying reasons cited: the granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, differences on the Middle East, infringements on gay rights in Russia, and now Ukraine? Whatever the explanation, as Russian intellectuals say when faced with two bad alternatives, “Both are worst.”

In the skies over the Crimea the U.S. drone was captured

In the skies over the Crimea the  U.S. drone was captured

TVC.RU
” Rosteh ” reported about the interception of an American drone in the Crimea. State Corporation claims that the machine was at an altitude of 4000 meters and was almost invisible from the ground.

In the skies over the Crimea the U.S. reconnaissance and shock drone was intercepted , according to a statement on the website of the state corporation Rosteh . UAV MQ-5B was a member of the 66th group of American Military Intelligence Brigade with major stationed in Bavaria, the report says.

In Rosteh reported that the machine was at an altitude of 4000 meters and was almost invisible from the ground. Using a range of EW ( electronic warfare ) “Avtobaza” (“Depot”) was able to break the link with its American operators , and unit had to make an emergency landing .

In state-owned corporation it was said that this is the second case of interception U.S. drone over the peninsula . According to some reports , the U.S. has been in service with 18 such devices .

PRINCETON prof. STEPHEN COHEN: PUTIN “DIDN’T CREATE CRISIS, ‘HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO REACT

On CNN, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Princeton and NYU professor Stephen Cohen about his article in The Nation this week in which he argues that Vladamir Putin is not the “neo-imperialist thug” he is accused of being.
Asked about Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, Cohen said that Putin did not create the crisis and had no choice but to react. Cohen also said that next to Mikhail Gorbachev and possibly Boris Yeltsin, Putin was the least authoritarian Russian ruler in 400 years. The transcript of the interview follows:
Zakaria: Steve, you say that this guy is not the rank imperialist and rank dictator we see him as. Explain why he isn’t those things.
Cohen: Nor is he, as Secretary Albright and Professor Brzezinski suggested, “Hitler,” with their references to Munich. Putin is not a thug; he’s not a neo-Soviet imperialist who’s trying to recreate the Soviet Union; he’s not even anti-American. What he is is intensely, historically pro-Russian. He’s been in power fourteen years, and his mission is, as he sees it, and many Russians see it, [to] restore Russia from the disaster of 1991, the collapse of the Russian state. Remember, that was the second time in the 20th century the Russian state had collapsed, the first time in 1917. So to recreate the stability, prosperity, greatness, whatever that means in Russia at home, and in the process, restore Russia’s traditional zones of national security on its borders; that means Ukraine as well. He did not create this Ukrainian crisis; it was imposed on him, and he had no choice but to react. That’s [unintelligible] today.
Zakaria: You say he’s actually one of the most liberal rulers of Russia in its history.
Coehn: I wouldn’t put it that way, I mean, I wouldn’t use the word liberal. What I would say is if we view Putin in the context of the last 400 years of Russian history, with the exception of Gorbachev and possibly the first post-Soviet president Yeltsin, though there’s an argument there, Putin is the least authoritarian – let’s call him the most “soft” authoritarian, of Russian rulers in centuries. And by the way, in so far as it matters, because Jews, and the status of Jews in Russia, is often a barometer of how Russia rulership treats its society, Putin has been better for Russian Jews than any in Russian history, and if you want evidence of that, just ask Israel.
Zakaria: What about the new imperialism? Why should it be taken as a given that Russia should send troops into parts of Georgia, into parts of Ukraine, every time it feels it has been adversely affected? That does seem neo-imperialist, no?
Cohen: Fareed, we could argue this for hours. We could do the analogy. What if suddenly, Russian power showed up in Canada and Mexico, and provinces of Canada and Mexico said they were going to join Putin’s Eurasian economic union and maybe even his military bloc? Surely the American president would have to react as forcefully as Putin has.
I don’t think if Canada wanted to start a trade relationship with Russia – I do not believe that the American president would want to send troops into Canada. But if it was a trade relationship that excluded preferential trade with the United States, it would certainly create a crisis.
But let’s get back to Ukraine. Brzezinski and Albright said, for example, that the current government in Kiev is legitimate. Putin says it’s not legitimate. I would argue that if you had on your show a panel of constitutional international lawyers, they would be hard-put to explain how a government which a week ago overthrew the entire Ukrainian constitutional order, deposed the elected president and has been passing anti-Russian legislation in Kiev, and which is at least partially controlled by very extremist forces in the streets, is legitimate. That would be hard to explain.

Thanks to the ” Relicts ” the Algerian T-72 will be the most secure among all T-72 in the world

Thanks to the

03/14/2014 Herald of Mordovia

With a fleet of 325 T-72 , the Algerian command looks for a long time , with the help of whom they could upgrade their tanks. In the end, the choice was made for Russia .

Upgraded with the help of Nizhny Tagil the 250 T-72M1 got multichannel sight ” Sosna-U ” with thermal imager and automatic target tracker , the commander’s sight TKN- 4 , and remotely controlled anti-aircraft machine gun .

In addition, the options list includes new means of communication, elements of a complex optical-electronic suppression ” Blind ” and air conditioning.
And , apparently , Algeria will become the first country with tanks which receive a new dynamic protection generation ” Relic ” .

Russian jets and jets of Belarus Air Force ensure security of Union State

Russian jets and jets of Belarus Air Force ensure security of Union State

MOSCOW, March 13. /ITAR-TASS/. The air crews of the Russian jets which arrived on the territory of Belarus on Thursday will be on combat duty jointly with their colleagues from the Air Force of Belarus, the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

“The air crews of the Russian jets will be on combat duty with their Belarusian colleagues for purposes of air reconnaissance and ensuring defense of the air space of the Union State,” the Defense ministry’s spokesman said.

He has confirmed the transfer of the six Russian jets Su-27 and three transport planes with the military-technical personnel of the Russian Western Military District on board to a military aerodrome Bobruisk of the Belarus Air Force, based in the Mogilyov region, which was carried out in accordance with an Agreement signed by Russia and Belarus on joint defense of the external border of the Union State.

Earlier, the press service of the Defense Ministry of Belarus told Itar-Tass that the Russian planes had been transferred to Belarus for purposes of the inspection of the troops’ readiness to fulfill the tasks set forth to the Joint regional air defense forces with the involvement of the Russian component, as envisaged in the agreements signed in the framework of the Union State.

NATO strengthens reconnaissance activities along border with Belarus
“In the event of further accumulation of troops formations in the states adjoining Belarus it will take adequate measures of response on its territory,” the Belarusian Defense Ministry said.

At a meeting of the Security Council of Belarus held on March 12 President Alexander Lukashenko suggested that Russia should deploy up to 15 planes in Belarus in connection with the growing NATO activity near the Belarusian border.

The growing NATO activity near the Belarusian border did not go unnoticed. Chief of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolai Bordyuzha declared at the State Duma on Thursday that “CSTO has not remained indifferent to a group of NATO aviation being stationed near the Belarusian border. We have spotted reconnaissance activity near that region. Nonetheless, we think that planning any measures today is premature,” Bordyuzha said.

Crisis in Ukraine caused by internal factors, not by Russia — Putin

Crisis in Ukraine caused by internal factors, not by Russia — Putin

SOCHI, March 13. /ITAR-TASS/. The crisis in Ukraine was caused by internal factors, not by Russia, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with members of the Russian Security Council on Thursday, March 13.

“Naturally, we cannot ignore the developments surrounding Ukraine, Crimea and this complex problem. I want to stress that this crisis was not caused by us, but we are involved in it one way or another,” the president said.

“This is primarily an internal Ukrainian crisis. Unfortunately, we all understand that we have got involved in these events one way or another,” he added.

“Let’s think together how we should build relations with our partners and friends in Ukraine and with our partners in Europe and the United States,” Putin said.

He noted that Ukraine had not been initially on the agenda of the meeting. “The first and scheduled [issue] is the development of relations between the Russian Federation and Central American and Caribbean countries,” Putin said, suggesting that it be discussed first.

Attending the meeting were Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, his deputy Rashid Nurgaliyev, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov, Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov, and permanent member of the Russian Security Council Boris Gryzlov.

​Russia deploys 8,500 troops for artillery drills in south

​Russia deploys 8,500 troops for artillery drills in south

Russia’s Defense Ministry has launched massive artillery drills in the Southern Military District involving some 8,500 troops and a large amount of hardware. It coincides with war games conducted by the country’s Airborne Troops.

Artillery units are to be deployed in 10 ranges as part of the training, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. They will demonstrate their tactical, technical and special skills and will carry out more than 50 field maneuvers.

“The event involves some 8,500 artillery troops and a large number of rocket artillery systems, military and special hardware, including Grad-M, Uragan and Smersh multiple rocket launchers, Msta-S 152-mm caliber self-propelled howitzers, Nona artillery systems and Rapira 100-mm caliber anti-tank guns,” the statement said.

About half of the shooting practice exercises will be carried out at nighttime. The drills are focused on inter-service cooperation between artillery units and motorized, armor, airborne and amphibious troops, the ministry said.

The artillery exercises coincide with large-scale war games by Russian Airborne Troops currently under way in the south and west of the country. On Thursday, some 1,500 airborne troops have been transported to a range in the Rostov Region for a massive simultaneous deployment.

Those drills, involving a total of 4,000 troops, 36 transport aircraft and 500 military vehicles, will continue through Friday.

Russia Sends 6 Fighter Jets to Belarus

Russia Sends 6 Fighter Jets to Belarus

MINSK, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – Six Russian Su-27 fighter jets and three military transport planes with ground support personnel arrived Thursday at an airbase in Belarus to boost the airspace defenses of the two countries’ Union State, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said the aircraft from the Western military district have been deployed to the Babruysk airbase in line with a bilateral agreement on the joint protection of the Union State’s airspace.

The planes will reinforce the four Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jets already at the nearby Baranovichi airbase.

The Su-27 Flanker is a highly-maneuverable, all-weather fighter jet that could be used in a variety of combat missions, including reconnaissance and the interception of enemy aircraft.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had said earlier that Belarus would ask Russia to deploy up to 15 combat aircraft on its territory in response to increased NATO military activity along the country’s borders.

NATO has begun military exercises in Poland near the borders with Belarus and Ukraine amid the current political standoff between Russia and the West over the fate of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

su-27

The US Air Force has dispatched at least 12 F-16 falcon fighter jets from its airbase in Italy to take part in the exercises, while two NATO AWACS command and control planes have started reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania in order to help monitor the crisis in Ukraine.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said earlier on Thursday that further expansion of foreign military activity close to Belarusian borders would “prompt an adequate response.”

In addition to its ally Russia, Belarus borders crisis-hit Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Belarus to offer Russia to deploy extra warplanes as NATO active near borders

Belarus to offer Russia to deploy extra warplanes as NATO active near borders

Belarus will request Russia to deploy up to 15 extra warplanes on its territory, as NATO is building up military presence in proximity to the Belarusian borders, President Aleksandr Lukashenko announced.

Speaking at a session of the country’s Security Council, he also vowed “a reasonable response” to NATO’s strengthening contingent near Belarus boundaries.

He stressed that Minsk “reacted calmly until a large exercise began in Poland which requested reinforcements and larger scope of the exercise.”

Lukashenko referred to the US deployment of a dozen F-16 fighter jets and nearly 300 service personnel to Poland a part of a training exercise which came in response to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine.

Aside from that the US also sent six F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania, in addition to four F-15s, which arrived on January 1, to bolster NATO’ air patrol over Baltic airspace.

“They threw in extra half a dozen fighters and some other planes which operate close to our borders, and we are acting reasonably. The Minister of Defense received such an order long ago and, as I am being told, it [the order] is being fulfilled,” Lukashenko said.

From the west and northwest, Belarus borders on the NATO member states of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, and sees combat air patrols of these Baltic states’ airspace as a potential threat to its national security.

The situation in neighboring Ukraine, where Belarus leader said “we have seen escalation of the conflict” is affecting interests of his country, he pointed out.

“This escalation is happening not in Syria, Libya or Iraq. It’s near our borders,” he stressed.

Lukashenko has called on Ukrainian coup-appointed government to focus on solving domestic conflict rather than on negotiations with the West.

“[They] just have to work, and less run abroad. It is necessary to think about their country and the welfare of the people. How to do it? If necessary, we will advise and help,” Lukashenko said.

When asked if the Ukraine scenario is possible in Belarus, as some media reports speculated, the President ruled out such possibility, saying that “there will be no Maidan in Minsk”.

“We are not afraid of anything, absolutely, even more so, I am not. We have no fundamental, conceptual reasons for such revolutions. And the main reason for that [revolution in Ukraine] we all know: terrible economic collapse, corruption, which led to the collapse of the authorities,” he said

Lukashenko added that Belarus will act within the legal and regulatory framework which exists between Belarus and Russia. “I have said it several times that Russians and Belarusians are one people and we will always be together.”

Russia and Belarus manage reciprocal air defense and joint military maneuvers under agreements signed within the Russia-Belarus Union State which was formed in 1999. Moscow and Minsk also have an agreement (since 2009) on joint protection of the Russia-Belarus Union State’s airspace and the creation of an integrated regional air defense network.

Last year, Minsk and Moscow agreed on Russia’s deploying a wing of fighter jets at a military airbase in Belarus. Russia also planned to deliver four battalions of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Belarus in 2014.

Belarus is not going to be “an initiator of escalation of any process in connection with the Ukrainian events and the confrontation of the West, the US, on the one side and Russia – on the other,” Lukashenko concluded. “We will serve the interests of our country, as well as our friends and neighbors, that’s why don’t try to scare us in this respect.”

Ukrainian sailor: ‘We left one country, but came back to another’

Ukrainian sailor: ‘We left one country, but came back to another’

A young Ukrainian Navy sailor turned up in hot water when he decided to resign, refusing to serve the fleet after the change of government in Kiev. After his commanders rejected his resignation, he had no choice but to head back home to Crimea.

“When we left for our mission, we left one country, but came back to a different one,” Maksim Knyazev, contract senior seaman of the military base А0248 of the ship Hetman Sagaydachny in the city of Odessa in southern Ukraine, told RT.

Maksim, 22, from Sevastopol has always dreamed of going to sea. That’s why he joined the navy. The recent events in Kiev happened when he was on sea mission. All the information he got was from his commanders who, according to Maksim, told him “nothing about the events in Ukraine.”

The Hetman Sagaydachny was due to arrive in one of Crimean ports, but the vessel changed its course and arrived in the port of Odessa “because of the coup,” according to the ship’s commanders.

“Our commander [Rear Admiral Andrey Tarasov] just said that Russia “has stabbed Ukraine in the back” and is taking over Crimea, that a Russian ship was waiting for us and is going to provoke us; will probably fire on us,” he told RT.

According to Maksim, the commanders were saying that “America will save them all, the US troops will come to Ukraine and they will join forces against Russia.”

Without leaving the board of the ship, the sailor didn’t hesitate which side to choose as he always considered himself to be Russian and Crimea to be a part of Russia. Knyazev tendered his resignation several times, but it always rejected.

When Knyazev arrived in Odessa, he immediately called his parents and learned what was really happening in Ukraine and that the Crimean authorities started speaking about its independence and prepared to call for a referendum.

Despite all the threats from his commanders, Maksim had made a decision not to stay on the ship any longer.

He contacted his father in Sevastopol, who immediately decided to rescue his son.

“In the current situation in the country, when pro-fascist powers carried out a military coup and came to power, I don’t want my son to be serving as an instrument in the hands of these people,” Igor Knyazev, Maksim’s father, himself a retired seaman, told RT.

After a family gathering, Igor Knyazev planned an operation to bring his son home from a Ukrainian navy ship and on Saturday, March 8, he brought Maksim back from the Hetman Sagaydachny.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian media, backed by the coup-appointed government in Kiev, have branded Maksim a traitor, labeling him a deserter.

“I then got a phone call from the ship telling me I would be prosecuted, that I need to come back, that they want to sort it out in a peaceful way that they would let me go,” Maksim told RT, “But back at the ship when I appealed for resignation, they just smiled.”

According to Knyazev, his whole situation was wrongly portrayed to the rest of the crew, to the people with whom he served side-by-side.

“They [the crew] were told that I was captured and I’m now facing 20 years in jail,” adds the sailor.

Meanwhile, Maksim is not the only one who refused to swear allegiance to the coup-appointed government in Kiev. According to Knyazev, there are “more sailors abroad the ship who wanted to return to Crimea” and “who don’t want to serve in the Ukrainian Navy.”

“But they are not allowed to leave the ship. They are told it’s impossible, that martial law has been declared,” Maksim told RT, “But it’s not true. They are told you can’t resign or leave for Crimea.”

Meanwhile, the young sailor doesn’t want to finish his seamen career and dreams of sailing again, but under the Russian tricolor. In Sevastopol he has already registered for joining the Russian Navy.

Igor Knyazev, father of Maksim Knyazev (Screenshot from RT Video).
Igor Knyazev, father of Maksim Knyazev (Screenshot from RT Video).

On March 2, the Ukrainian armed forces dispatched to Crimea switched to the side of the authorities of the Crimean Autonomous Region and Navy Chief Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky swore allegiance to the people of Crimea.

On Tuesday the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine, which is necessary in order to hold a March 16 referendum. After this declaration, the Crimean authorities said they will never rejoin Ukraine.

On the referendum Crimea’s people – about 60 percent of whom are ethnic Russians – will decide whether they want the Crimea to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia.

If the referendum shows citizens are in favor of joining Russia, the Crimean authorities will request that their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.