Israel gathers world leaders for Holocaust remembrance ceremony, Polish president bails after Putin invited to speak

Israel is hosting the World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75 years since the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. Present-day politics have cast a shadow over the solemn occasion, however.

Delegations of 49 countries will attend the main event at the Yad Vashem memorial complex on Thursday afternoon, to remember the Holocaust and express commitment to fighting anti-Semitism going forward. 

Offended by the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to speak at the ceremony and he was not, Polish President Andrzej Duda refused to attend. He will be speaking at Poland’s own commemoration on Monday. Poland is embroiled in a bitter dispute with Russia over the causes and consequences of the Second World War.

Also on ‘Never heard of it’: Third of Europeans know ‘little’ or ‘nothing’ about Holocaust, survey says....

Speaking at a state dinner on Wednesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tried to smooth things over, urging politicians to “shape the future” and “leave history for the historians.”

Israeli media have noted that this will be the largest gathering of diplomats in the country’s history. Caretaker PM Benjamin Netanyahu has a number of bilateral meetings lined up on the sidelines – including Putin, US Vice President Mike Pence, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

That many VIPs have created a bit of a problem for Yad Vashem, since their main hall can only hold 780 people. With more than half of that reserved for the visiting delegations, only a fraction of the estimated 100,000 or so Holocaust survivors who currently live in Israel will be able to attend. 

Also on Polish PM ‘killed his own humanity’ with propagandist op-ed accusing Moscow of ‘Holocaust revisionism’ – Zakharova....

Yad Vashem estimates that about a million Jews were killed in Auschwitz during the Second World War, as part of a campaign by Nazi Germany to exterminate European Jewry that has claimed an estimated six million lives and come to be known as the Holocaust, or Shoah in Hebrew.

“A central Nazi motivation for the war was a hatred of Jews,” Yehuda Bauer, a 95-year-old historian and adviser to Yad Vashem, told the guests at Wednesday’s dinner, calling it a “deeply held belief” that Germans were threatened by the chimera “of a secret cabal, of an invented international Jewry, that controls both East and West.” This claimed the lives of millions of non-Jews as a result, Bauer reminded, warning that similar beliefs still exist in the world.

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Russian MPs confirm Mikhail Mishustin as new prime minister after cabinet resignation

Mikhail Mishustin has been ratified as next Prime Minister of Russia by MPs, after the cabinet resigned on Wednesday. Vladimir Putin had earlier proposed Mishustin, formerly head of the Federal Tax Service, as a candidate.

In an overwhelming vote on Thursday, 383 lawmakers supported Mishustin's candidacy. Not a single MP cast their vote against the Prime Minister, but 41 MPs — members of Russia's Communist Party — chose to abstain, RIA Novosti reported.

Later in the day, Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree appointing Mishustin Prime Minister. He will now have to suggest his picks for ministers and deputy Prime Ministers, as set out in the Constitution.

The Prime Minister didn’t go into detail about this. “I think that an understanding [of who to propose] will arise in the coming days, we consulted with all the factions today,” he revealed. The list of future ministers will be pitched to the President “in the near future.”

Mishustin has already promised a major cabinet reshuffle, meaning that some fresh faces could emerge as new ministers. The incoming government must hold personal responsibility for the decisions they take to help economy grow, Mishustin told MPs ahead of the confirmation vote.

The first thing to do is to seriously engage in institutional and management reform, and, of course, bring in the most advanced information technologies.

To Mishustin, there are enough resources out there to achieve goals set by the President: "We have a fairly stable [economic] situation ... we do have inflation but I think it will not exceed 4 percent, this is obvious."

Also on Russian government resigns after President Putin’s state-of-the-nation address proposes changes to the constitution...

Mishustin was suggested by President Putin as a replacement of the long-time premier Dmitry Medvedev, who has been offered a position of deputy chief of Russia's Security Council.

The 53-year-old politician has worked in government since 1998 and has been described as a low-profile technocrat who managed to propel Russia's tax service to remarkable efficiency.

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Russian president visits Syria and meets with President al-Assad

Damascus, Dec 7 (Prensa Latina) Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in this capital on an unannounced visit today, last-minute reports by official Syrian media revealed.

President Bashar al-Assad met with Putin at the headquarters of the Russian forces stationed in Damascus, SANA agency reported.

The visit takes place in the midst of extreme security measures while several helicopters continue to fly over the city of Damascus.

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Zelensky meeting with Macron at Normandy Four summit

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron are holding a meeting in Paris as part of the Normandy Four summit.

Before the four countries’ leaders gather for a joint meeting, they will hold bilateral meetings. After Macron, Zelensky will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the same time, will hold meetings with Merkel and then with Macron.

A bilateral meeting between Putin and Zelensky is scheduled after the Normandy Four summit.

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Who does Putin want in the White House in 2020? ‘Experts’ suggest reading RT to find out

Russian bots are so 2016. The best way to decipher who Moscow wants in the White House in 2020 is to read RT. That’s according to internet sleuth Clint Watts, who is back with another timely analysis of Russian nefariousness.

Watts, for the uninitiated, is one of the most prolific media charlatans when it comes to fake Russian expertise – and one of the developers behind the ‘Hamilton 68’ dashboard ‘tracking’ Russian influence campaigns online. Launched with much fanfare in 2017, Hamilton 68’s popularity soon fizzled out as even the most ardent Russia critics admitted that media coverage of bot influence was “totally overblown.”

Experts in deceit

Now Watts is back with a new approach to “deciphering where, why, how and for whom” Russia might interfere in 2020. This time, he wants you to read RT and Sputnik – and to get you started, he and his team at the Boeing-funded Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) have analyzed 1,711 articles so you don’t have to. But before we get into the results, it’s worth recalling one of the most egregious instances of dishonesty by Hamilton 68.

Jonathan Morgan, one of Watts’ co-developers on the project, was exposed by the New York Times last year for creating fake Russian bots and using them to convince Americans that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was being amplified on social media by Moscow-controlled accounts. The story grew legs when Morgan tweeted that Russian bots were “taking an interest” in Moore. The duplicitous scheme even got the so-called researcher kicked off Facebook for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” 

Biden? No thanks!

The first nugget of wisdom Watts imparts in his new analysis of Russian media is that RT is not a fan of Joe Biden. As VP during an administration which fear-mongered about Russia like it was going out of fashion, skeptical coverage of gaffe-plagued Biden on RT shouldn’t really bowl anyone over – but it’s hardly just RT. Biden’s “weakness” has been (somewhat surprisingly) well documented across US media, too. Even still, 44 percent of Biden coverage by RT and Sputnik was described as “neutral.”

Watts tells us that when it comes to Russian coverage, “Biden is to 2020 what Hillary Clinton was to 2016.” This is a (perhaps inadvertently) insightful observation, because Biden, as a centrist establishment Democrat suffering from an “enthusiasm gap” among Democrats, is indeed exactly what Clinton was in 2016 – but that’s another story entirely.

Elizabeth Warren? Meh…

Warren has “recently moved into the Kremlin’s crosshairs,” Watts informs us, admitting that the upward trend in mentions “coincides with her climb in the polls.” A truly shocking pattern, there.

If you were not intent on finding Russian nefariousness behind every meme, tweet and gif, you would simply leave it at that and accept that increased mentions of Warren (even negative ones) can be put down to the fact that she was suddenly catapulted to frontrunner status – rather than as evidence of a Russian influence campaign. Besides, Warren is no stranger to a bit of media-bashing, particularly over her anti-billionaire tax proposals.

Also on ‘War on Wall Street’? Billionaires declare themselves a persecuted minority

That’s clearly far too simple an explanation, though. As such, RT’s coverage of Warren “will be the focus of an upcoming separate post” from Watts – so stay tuned!

O’Rourke and Harris? Hard pass

Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris – two more candidates not averse to using a bit of anti-Russia hysteria to grab headlines – have shockingly not received glowing coverage from Russian media, either. While O’Rourke (a recent drop-out) received “consistently” negative coverage, mentions of Harris have “tailed off precipitously” in recent months. 

That couldn’t possibly have something to do with the fact that Harris, who began as a self-described “top-tier” candidate, later tanked in the polls and is now being talked about as the next likely drop-out… could it?

Bernie Sanders? Take him or leave him

Bernie Sanders has received “mixed coverage” from Russian media, with an “even split of positive and negative mentions.” In fairness, that’s a hell of a lot better than mainstream US media, which isn’t exactly winning any awards for its coverage of the Vermont senator, which is so bad that it spawned the #BernieBlackout hashtag.

In one particularly audacious incident, the establishment-friendly MSNBC forgot to add Sanders to a graphic of 2020 contender headshots, but somehow managed to include Michael Bennett, who is polling at one percent. Oops?!

Watts’ time might be better spent analyzing American news media to decipher why things like this happen, rather than reading tea leaves at RT.

Tulsi Gabbard? Yes please

It should come as no surprise that Watts declared Gabbard the “overwhelming favorite” of Russian media – and it would be dishonest to deny that the anti-war candidate has received mostly sympathetic coverage at RT and Sputnik. 

Gabbard’s anti-interventionist foreign policy stances and criticisms of US militarism have put her at the center of an exceptionally dirty establishment smear campaign, the goal of which is to cast her as a “Russian asset” in the eyes of American voters. RT, needless to say, chose not to jump on that particular bandwagon.

Of course, Watts leaves that part out.

Like many who have seen their media profiles grow thanks to feigned expertise on Russian “active measures,” Watts and crew have faced no real repercussions for their dishonesty so far – and so here we are again, watching as mainstream media takes their latest analysis oh so very seriously.

By Danielle Ryan, an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others.

  • Published in World

Marco Rubio blames ‘Putin’s disinformation’ for coverage of Bolivia coup that he doesn’t like

Eager to find some way to implicate Russia in Bolivia’s political crisis and control of the US narrative, Republican senator Marco Rubio branded any skeptical coverage of events as an example of how "Putin uses disinformation."

Rubio, an early and avid supporter of protests that ousted former Bolivian President Evo Morales this week, tweeted that those wishing to understand Russian disinformation should "study current coverage" of Bolivia.

In Rubio's world, Russia has created "fake news" on Bolivia and is spreading it via a "vast network of outlets" and "social media actors” before it is "echoed in mainstream media."

Rubio did not specify exactly what kind of “fake news” he was referring to, but his past statements and support for the Bolivian opposition indicate that he is displeased with media coverage accurately referring to Morales’ ousting under military pressure as a coup.

Twitter was quick to step in and point out that Rubio’s description of how ‘Russian’ propaganda spreads is indeed quite similar to how the US government maintains narrative control on issues of foreign policy — usually by ensuring that misleading or outright false official statements proliferate rapidly in the media.


Those interested in how Putin uses disinformation as tool of foreign policy should study current coverage of

1. They create fake news

2. They spread it via vast network of outlets & social media actors

3. Disinformation gets echoed in mainstream media

Journalist Dan Cohen said Rubio's interpretation of what was happening with coverage of Bolivia amounted to "pure projection." 

“I mean, the US just assisted with a right wing fascist coup to overturn a democratic election… you’re like a cartoon,” another user wrote.

“If you disagree with Marco Rubio’s warped neocon version of reality with regard to Bolivia, then you might be spreading Russian disinformation. Very convenient.”added journalist Rania Khalek.

Rubio does have quite the incentive to keep pushing the line that Morales was ousted in a popular uprising though — and that Russia must be behind any other narrative. Leaked audio recordings show that right-wing Rubio was among a group of US senators actively plotting with the Bolivian opposition to overthrow the socialist leader.

@SlowNewsDayShow Marco Rubio is neck deep Bolivia. Just like he was in Venezuela. And Guatemala. And Ecuador. I'm starting to wonder if John Bolton didn't switch bodies w/Lil Marco. It's either that, or he's the CIA's Central/South American lapdog.
Morales touched down in Mexico on Tuesday after the country offered him asylum following his forced resignation. Morales was re-elected as president in October, but opposition parties accused him of tampering with the vote and violent protests erupted, culminating in the police and military mutiny which forced him to flee the country.
  • Published in World

Putin confirms visit to Cuba

Moscow, Oct 29 (Prensa Latina) Russian President Vladimir Putin said today he gladly accepts the invitation to visit Cuba, when he met his fellow Caribbean peer, Miguel Díaz-Canel, at the Novoe Ogoriovo residence, in the outskirts of this capital.

Putin congratulated Díaz-Canel for his election as president of Cuba. 'Last year you made an official visit to this country, but now you do it for the first time as head of state of the Republic of Cuba, as provided by the new Constitution,' he said.

He also said that in Russia they know well the prehistory of the links between the two countries. I would like to point out that this year you made an extended visit, I hope it was interesting and useful, said thwe Russian President.

The Russian head of state also referred to the increase in bilateral trade exchange by 33 percent last year and stressed in Russia they always viewed with special sympathy the independent position of Cuba and its sovereign policy.

  • Published in Cuba

Venezuelan president meets with Russian counterpart in Moscow

Moscow, September 25 (RHC)-- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has met with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.  

During the meeting on Wednesday, Putin expressed his full support for the legitimate government of President Maduro and reaffirmed Russia's commitment to the further development of bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Russian news agency Sputnik reported that both leaders talked about economic, social and cultural relations between Venezuela and Russia.

The Venezuelan president and his accompanying delegation are on an official visit to Russia.

Edited by Ed Newman
  • Published in World
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