Monday, October 31, 2022

Russian Flight Benefiting Economies of Russia’s Neighbors While Hurting Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – The flight of Russians seeking to avoid mobilization and service in Ukraine has weakened the economy of their homeland but boosted that of Russia’s neighbors, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan far beyond the recovery officials in these countries had projected.

            The arrival of this unexpected Russian exodus boosted the economy of Armenia from an anemic 1.5 to 2.0 percent growth rate to 11 to 12 percent, Georgia’s economy also rose into the double digit range. Uzbekistan’s did at least that well, and those of Mongolia, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan approached that level as well ( and

            At the same time, the departure of Russians, many of them the most well-educated and highly skilled depressed Russian growth and threatens to have negative consequences well into the future. But despite that, Putin loyalist say they’re traitors and that Moscow doesn’t want them back (

Of the Four Putins on Display at Valdai, Only the Fourth – the One Offended that the West Won’t Treat Him as an Equal – Really Matters, Pastukhov Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 31 – At Valdai, Vladimir Putin offered four different versions of himself -- the religious fanatic who believes in the inevitable death of the West and the special role for Russia, the hardened cynic, the cunning Asiatic ruler, and an individual offended and even deeply wounded by the West’s unwillingness to treat him as an equal, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            Only this last Putin is the real one and has “real significance for an understanding of what is happening now,” the London-based Russian analyst says, an understanding which involves the recognition that Putin’s war in Ukraine became inevitable when he and his St. Petersburg team “took control of Russia 20 years ago” (

            In his speech and elsewhere, Putin has presented a semi-plausible and semi-convincing picture of the current crisis of Western liberal and democratic values. But he is less specific when it comes to his preferred alternative, offering instead “a kind of eclectic, half-Bolshevik, half-Black Hundreds utopia on which he has placed the label of traditional Christian values.”

            But on closer examination, the analyst continues, it is clear that Putin’s words are nothing more than a cover for what is his real alternative to European liberal values. Those are “the values of ‘gangster Petersburg” and that means he wants to promote not traditional values but criminal ones.

            Unlike Stalin or Mao, Putin did not initially want to be at odds with the West. He wanted to become part of the West rather than remaining outside but at the same time be accepted for what they were rather than being forced to change. Ultimately, the West rejected that offer; and Putin and his team are offended and hurt.

            “It isn’t that the West didn’t know about the language of crime,” Pastukhov says. In reality, “there aren’t many differences between the mores of Putin’s court and those of the Medicines or the Borgias.” But since then, the West has changed, reducing the sway of criminality and corruption even if it has not eliminated either altogether.

            When the West rejected Putin and his team via the Magnitsky Act, the St. Petersburg mafia, “humiliated and offended by the West’s unwillingness to accept them as part of their family, decided “to destroy the Paradise they wanted to join but that had now become inaccessible.”

            According to Pastukhov, “the crusade of ‘fallen angels’ of Russian Westernism against their creed is the most adequate description of the ideological meaning of the current war,” a war that is not so much a war of “Russia against the West” but of “the St. Petersburg elites who have crushed Russia and against the West that has offended them.”


‘Russian Disappearing from Streets of Yerevan'' But Affection for Russia Isn't, Moscow Visitor Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 27 – Despite the influx of Russians fleeing from mobilization and their contribution to a dramatic rise in the GDP of Armenia over the last year, “Russian is disappearing from the streets of Yerevan” where street signs are now to be found in Armenian and English, Georgy Yans says.

            The study of Russian is still required in Armenian schools, the Russian visitor says; but young Armenians prefer to study English because their dream is to go to America, however much sympathy they may have for what Russia has done for their country in the past (

            According to Yans, “Armenians love Russia” for its past services above all for its help in restoring that Caucasus republic after the 1988 earthquake, an event that remains part of the national memory and may be just as important in defining how people think about things  than the Qarabagh dispute with Azerbaijan.  

            That Armenian memory must be recalled by those who analyze the current differences of opinion  between Yerevan and Moscow about how to address relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan especially as ever more of them, both in Moscow and the West, are inclined to suggest that Russia has “lost” Armenia.

            As long as people remember Spitak, the epicenter of the earthquake, and what Moscow did to help then, as well as the more general feeling that Christian Russia has defended Christian Armenia against the Muslim Turks and Azerbaijanis, the possibility that Armenia will stop loving Russia even if it stops using Russian and looks to the West is close to zero.

Massive Influx of Russians Fleeing Mobilization Angering Belarusians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 31 – Neither Moscow nor Minsk is offering any reliable figures on the number of Russian men who have fled into Belarus to escape mobilization, but their number is almost certainly has been larger than into any other country and their arrival, even if it is only for transit to other countries, is creating problems, according to Innokenty Kolbasov.

            Russians have chosen to go to Belarus in especially large numbers, the Versiya commentator says. First, it is the easiest and cheapest place for Russians to go. Second, most Belarusians speak Russian. And third, costs are low and the availability of air tickets onward is high (

            The impact of the new arrivals has been felt most dramatically in the property market, both hotels and short-term rentals and real estate purchases for those who may want to stay in Belarus for longer. Short-term rental costs in the city of Minsk have doubled, putting many places beyond the reach of Belarusians.

            At the same time, some Belarusian property owners are reluctant to rent to the arriving Russians lest they leave unexpectedly. As a result, required deposits are rising even more rapidly so that the owners won’t be left in the lurch. But that change in the property marketplace is also affecting locals.

            According to Kolbasov, “Belarus had become a safe harbor long before the partial mobilization.” Many who experienced difficulties entering Russia because of debts or other legal problems have remained there. Some Belarusians are now offering Russians help in crossing the border illegally bypassing Russian border guards.

            Minsk has taken steps to limit one form of the Russian influx – medical tourism. Any Russian coming in legally or wishing to remain longer than 90 days must purchase health insurance and the cost for that can range up to 1100 US dollars a year, an enormous figure for most.

Tsiakhanouskaya Cabinet Says It will Work Closely with Belarusian Government in Exile

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 27 – The United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus which is headed by opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has issued a declaration saying that it shares the goals of the Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic, which has functioned as the Belarusian government in exile for more than a century and will continue to work closely with it.

            After a brief time in power in 1919, the Rada of the BNR went into emigration where it has remained active. (On the organization, see its official website at It had hoped to hand over power to the post-Soviet government of Belarus as other governments in exile did in the Baltics and Eastern Europe at that time. But the rise of Lukashenka prevented that.

            Tsiakhanouskaya has developed contacts with the Rada of the BNR since 2020, but this is the first time her own government in exile has taken that step, something she and it say is because the two regimes share a common purpose in promoting a democratic future for Belarus (

            Lukashenka’s regime has already signaled that it will work to undermine both just as it has done in the past. A more serious threat is that some Western journalists and governments may ignore the democratic commitment of both the Rada and the Transitional Cabinet and use this declaration to discredit both.

            That danger exists because some of those associated with the Rada in the 1930s cooperated with the Nazis, although they did so as individuals rather than as members of the group. But that distinction is likely to be lost in the Western media, and so Tsiakhanouskaya’s decision could backfire.

Water Pollution Now Chief Environmental Threat to Russians’ Health, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – Eight years ago, Russian environmental activists report, air pollution was the chief environmental threat to the health and lives of Russians but last year, they say, water pollution exceeded air pollution as the most senior environmental threat, leading to more than 11,000 deaths and 1.54 million illnesses.

            What is especially worrisome, the experts say, is that the number of reservoirs and pipeline systems which are contaminated has more than doubled over that period; and as a result, the full impact of rising water pollution on Russian demography lies ahead ( and

            Other kinds of enrionmental pollution remains threats as well. More than half of Russia’s cities are now rated as having substandard air quality, with a growing share of these having significant contamination; and the country is running out of space at its trash dumps, leading many localities to allow unofficial dumps to open.

            Because these are not supervised and controlled – although the authorities keep closing them down – such unofficial dumps regularly bleed chemicals into the water, ground and air around them and pose threats to the well being of Russians in neighboring areas. Efforts to open dumps further away have been blocked, as at Shiyes, by massive protests.

Russia is Headed toward Collapse and Only Federalism Can Be a Road Back, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 25 – Calling for federalism in the absence of the collapse of the current state is a fool’s errand because there is no chance that the current rulers of Russia would ever accept such a diminution of their powers or that the territories they control would accept anything less than complete independence from them, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

            Instead, those like himself who urge federalism as a solution to Russia’s problems presuppose that the Russian state is headed toward collapse and see federalism as the only way back that does not lead to the destruction of Russia and the Russians as such, the London-based Russian analyst says (

            Pastukhov says he is certain Russia is headed toward collapse because it is currently engaged not so much in the defense of empire at a time when empires have already died or are viewed as antithetical to the future but rather because it is engaged in a struggle against civilization and its rules as such. That makes its collapse highly likely and not so distant.

            “If we begin some long-term planning,” he continues, “then in a paradoxical manner, we must plan not on the basis of the current situation. That is a major mistake.” If one does that, one only ensures that the future won’t be much different from the present and the current trajectory toward collapse won’t be significantly altered.

            Instead, one must make such proposals for change on the basis of what the landscape will be like following the collapse. “What will that be like?” Pastukhov asks. From his point of view, he suggests, “it will be a volcanic one, where there will be a very, very large crater.” The exact details are unclear, but the center with all its current features will have collapsed.

            That arrangement can exist for a time, but rather quickly other players will appear, some who will seek to rebuild what was and others who will try to end what they see as internal colonization. Those who want to restore the past on the model of Lenin’s defense of the empire after 1917 will almost certainly fail because conditions are different.

            And so there will be either the course of those who want to repeat what happened in  1991 with a variety of new independent states emerging and the former center much reduced but aspiring to rule what it used to control or an arrangement that will hold things together. That arrangement can only be a federal system, Pastukhov argues.

            The reason for that is that some will try to come up with a new ideology to justify a common state who will compete with those who reject that common state and want to go their own way, between as it were the forces of the heart and the forces of the stomach. If either wins on its own, Russia won’t recover.

            Only federalism promises to provide a matrix that could combine the two, Pastukhov concludes.

Moscow Facing Resistance in Its Moves to Restore State Control over Rare Earth Mining

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – In recent years, the Russian government has moved to re-nationalize companies extracting key rare earth metals, including most recently Fin-Project which has been extracting ore contains titanium, niobium, and tantalum, three extremely rare rare earths used in electronics and found together in only a few places on earth.

            The Fin-Project had been owned by a Russian oligarch using shell companies based in Cyprus, but Moscow has been working to restore state ownership of its mines since at least last May. Now, some officials are reporting that this is a done deal, but their claims have been removed from their websites.

            That suggests that the government’s moves face resistance from economic interests and their allies in the business community. (On the likelihood that this dispute is far from over, see

            One reason behind the government’s moves is the fear in Moscow that its invasion of Ukraine may cost it access to titanium and other rare earths it had earlier imported from Ukraine ( Another is the obvious desire to have something to trade with China that has long sought to corner this market by its moves in Angola and elsewhere.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Putin’s War in Ukraine Not Unimportantly about Imposing Moscow’s Understanding of ‘People’ on Others, Gubin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – “In Russia, words taken from the European lexicon often have a completely different meaning,” Dmitry Gubin says, something that needs to be recognized by both Russians and others. This is especially true of words like “people” and “nation,” that is in German Volk and Nation.

            A people in the West is “above all about a group’s horizontal ties – social, neighborhood, professional, political, cultural and so on when people without being pressured from the outside began to act as a single organism,” the Berlin-based writer says. In that context, “government is simply a structure” hired to do what the people want (

            In Russia, in contrast, “the people is not about horizontal ties. It is a community of language and history, and very often, a unity of race.” That explains the suspicious “and in fact idiotic” Russian tendency to say things like unlike in Russia, “in Europe the white man will not no longer remain.”

            “For ‘a people,’ in the Russian understanding what is important is the color of skin and the slant of eyes. For Russians in the metropolitan center, people like Rishi Sunak or Sadik Khan aren’t Englishmen. For Russians, these politicians instead are clear examples of the erosion and corrosion of the English people.”

             According to Gubin, “from this perspective, Putin’s war in Ukraine is a war conducted so that all peoples of Europe will exist exclusively in the Russian sense” and not in the sense such groups have in other countries. Russians have convinced themselves that they are defending Europe from falling into an abyss. In fact, it is Russia that is headed that way.

 This difference in perspective on what a people is has far-reaching consequences. Russians aren’t behaving toward the war in Ukraine the way Americans did toward the war in Vietnam. Instead, “Russians are behaving the same way as they did during the pandemic,” disturbed only about its consequences for themselves and without empathy for Ukraine.

             “The absence of horizontal ties within one’s own country deprives individuals of both empathy and solidarity toward everything outside that country, Gubin argues. It means that for Russians, the world is divided as it was in the Middle Ages into “ours” which resembles us by race, language and history and “others” who differ on those measures.

             Once that is recognized, the commentator continues, it is clear that it is “time to stop deifying the Russians. They “are simply a state-occupied, fragmented, disenfranchised, poorly educated and poorly self-aware population which can sometimes be sympathized with but in no case should be indulged.”

             And for Russians who have moved abroad, it is time to insist that they stop trying to clutch to the idea of their uniqueness and rather ask them to master and assimilate to the world around them. That is, they must undergo Europeanization, Americanization, Englishization, Frenchization and Germanization depending on where they live.

             That means they must cultivate the horizontal ties they don’t have at home and make them rather than some racialist state definition the definition of who and what they are. If they do, they might at some point be able to make a contribution to saving their own homeland from the abyss Putin is now driving it toward.

Putin Seeking New World Order like One Hitler Tried to Impose but was Blocked from Creating, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 29 – Vladimir Putin and his supporters like Dmitry Medvedev are seeking to impose a new order on the world, one like that which Hitler tried and failed to do but only because he was blocked by a coalition of countries who saw the danger and were prepared to fight against it, according to Aleksandr Skobov.

            That world as both Putin and Medvedev have said, the Moscow commentator continues, is one in which “any country has the right to defend its priority interests on the territory of another by full-scale military actions if it has reason to do so” and if it has the power to act in tht way (

            The basis for such actions, Medvedev said only this past week, can include even suspicions that its own citizens or co-ethnics are not being treated as it wants, that the government of that neighboring country is behaving in ways it doesn’t approve, or that the territory of that state is being used in some way by enemies of Russia.

            “Of course,” Skobov says, “Medvedev was careful” not to point out the obvious that this is exactly the view Hitler had and acted upon. Putin when he engaged in historical essay writing several years ago came closer when he noted that World War II happened because “flabby ‘bourgeois democracies’ tried to ‘hobble a strong-willed leader and state.”

            The current Kremlin leader didn’t name names either, but it is obvious whom he like Medvedev admires and even models himself upon. Putin and his team believe that today they represent “the strong-willed leader” and that as a result, they can “dictate their will to everyone else.”

            They “can break the lives of millions of people in neighboring countries, forcing some to flee and leaving others without power, heat or water. They can seek to forcibly assimilate them, taking away children from this country and placing them in new families for ‘re-education.’ And most importantly, [they believe they have the right] to kill unlimited numbers.”

            “As Medvedev writes,” Skobov observes, “international norms, the UN Charter, the results of World War II are acceptable for this state only to the extent that they don’t contradict its arbitrarily defined interests.” Western leaders are beginning to recognize the parallel with Hitler although they aren’t ready to say the name.

            But it is more important that they recognize something else, Skobov concludes. In the case of Hitler, “the world did not allow the establishment” of Hitler’s world order. And they need to realize that if they don’t want to live in an updated version of that order imposed by Putin, they need to come together as well to stop him.

Moksha Emigration Comes Out Against War in Ukraine and for an Independent Moksha State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 24 – Mordvinia seldom has received much attention except as the site of some of Stalin’s most notorious GULAG camps and as an example of a relatively rare kind of Soviet ethnic engineering, the fusion of two peoples who believe themselves to be separate peoples into a single Mordvin nation.

            Recently, that has begun to change not only because of demographics inside Mordvinia (, and but also because of the activism of the émigré leaders of one of these two communities, the Erzya ( and

            The other people of Mordvinia, the Moksha, have been less often heard from. This is because the leadership of Mordvinia in recent years has been drawn from the Moksha more than from the Erzya, disposing the former to be less critical than the latter and because, as a result of school consolidation and urbanization, the Moksha appear to have been the more Russianized.

            But now, a new group of Moksha emigres based in Budapest, is speaking out and making many of the same demands that the Erzya and other non-Russian groups are – non-participation in Putin’s aggressive war in Ukraine and independence for themselves from Moscow (

            The appearance of this group and its demand shows the ethnic divide in Mordvinia is very much alive and has now taken a form which will be far more difficult for Moscow to use given its propensity for divide-and-rule tactics. Now both sides are opposed to the Kremlin, reducing the change Moscow can either play one off against the other or unite them under itself

            The Moksha must decide, the appeal begins whether they are going to “completely dissolve in the so-called ‘Russian sea’ or to gain long overdue sovereignty. We the Mokshas twice had an opportunity for that, in 1917 and in 1991. Now, the situation has been further exacerbated by the Kremlin’s so-called ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine.”

            “We have something to be proud of, despite the Russification of a large part of the Mokshas, the self-awareness and subjectivity gradually disappearing among new generations.,” the appeal continues. “Our language has been written since the time of the Khazar Khaganate.” We must “no longer humiliate ourselves by artificially hiding our Mokshan nature behind ‘Russianness.’”

Moreover, “we have before our eyes a vivid example of related Finno-Ugric folks of Europe: Finns, Estonians and Hungarians, who were able not only to preserve their uniqueness, but also use it as an advantage. Each of them has achieved the transformation of their Motherland into one of the advanced and democratic countries, and today they are successfully working not for Moscow, but for their future.”

The émigré group continues: “We are your compatriots, and we appeal to you. Wake up and stop being afraid, first of yourself and your roots, and then of the colonial regime of Moscow, which hiding behind claims of good intentions, using our people for its own bloodthirsty interests.”

“It’s already obvious,” the appeal says, “that the Kremlin is weakening and soon will no longer be able to dictate its terms to us, so the time has come for national self-determination. We, who are here abroad, are ready to help you in any way we can … we all need to realize that nothing and no one will stop an idea whose time has come.”

Putin’s Mobilization Approach Further Degrading Russian Military, Luzin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 26 – Not only has Putin’s mobilization campaign failed to restore let alone increase the size of the Russian army, Pavel Luzin says, but it has failed to provide those taken in with the skills they need to be effective as soldiers and further degraded the quality of the Russian army’s command and control.

            Nonetheless and despite Moscow’s claim that the current mobilization campaign has been successfully completed, the independent military analyst continues, it is nearly certain that if the war in Ukraine continues, there will be more mobilizations especially given that “no one has cancelled” Putin’s original decree (

            Consequently, after the fall draft which this year will take place in November and is not  expected to go smoothly, the Russian government will repeat the current mobilization effort with the result being that the Russian army will be increasingly filled by men who don’t know how to fight and officers who don’t know how to maintain discipline effectively.

            Such a continuing “dispatch of poorly trained, poorly supplied and poorly motivated mobilized citizens to the front” while “partially solving the problem of ‘plugging holes,’ is a bleak prospect,” Luzin says, one that recalls the ineffective approach of Chiang Kai-Shek during World War II.

            Despite the ultimate failure of the Chinese project, “Russia seems to be implementing something similar in its war against Ukraine,” the analyst argues, but “of course, the consequences of such an approach for the mobilized themselves and for the morale and psychological state of Russian society will probably be fatal.”

            Given existing shortages of weapons and the lack of a professional army, Luzin suggests, “the mobilized are likely to become a bargaining chip. With their help, the Kremlin can attempt an offensive from the territory of Belarus in late autumn or winter with the sol purpose of forcing Kyiv into negotiations to get a respite from the war.”

            And if that fails as it is likely to, Luzin says, “the Russian army runs the risk of becoming an irregular force that will exist from one mobilization wave to the next and which, on the battlefield, will not differ much from mercenaries, Russian Guard troops, Chechen detachments” or other such formations.”

            “If the war does not end in the coming months or if its intensity does not decrease significantly, then more waves of mobilization are inevitable – but each new on will be worse and smaller than the one before” and thus have a more negative impact unless or until the entire Russian military system is changed.


In Wake of Defeat in Ukraine, Putin Likely to Bring War Home to Russia Itself, Yerofeyev Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 15 – As his defeat in Ukraine becomes ever more likely and as he retains the capacity to defend himself against a palace coup, Vladimir Putin almost certainly will bring the war he launched abroad back to Russia and direct it against the Russian people in order to save his own position, Sergey Yerofeyev says.

            The US-based Russian analyst suggests that Putin will shift his attention from the Ukrainians and focus instead on “his chief enemy, the Russians” – or mor precisely on “all those who are against him” for whatever reason (

            “This war is already going on; the question is only its degree or as some politologists like to say of its hybridity, or in the growth of the number of active Putin opponents,” Yerofeyev says. But there is now a high probability that Putin is preparing to dispatch the army and other siloviki against Russian cities, given that he can’t stop fighting even if he loses in one place.

            Undoubtedly Putin would refer to this effort as “a counter-terrorist operation” and blame the Ukrainians and the West for what is taking place; but it will be more massive than any Russia has seen before and likely resemble the trial balloon effort Putin has already put in place in Belarus.

            How much resistance there will be is a matter of speculation, although mobilization has the effect of putting more guns into the hands of the population. At present, “events are accelerating and Putin is losing what has been his main weapon, the gradual heating up of the frog rather than tossing him into boiling water.”

            Before announcing mobilization, the Kremlin leader had managed to avoid a radical shock to the population because of his decision to invade Ukraine; but how he has crossed that Rubicon. However, he will certainly use lies and euphemisms to “mask the transfer of the war to Russia’s own territory.”

            The Kremlin leader, the commentator says, will have to avoid declaring martial law because that “by definition” implies the possibility of defeat. He will need to present the threat as quite large and thus requiring major moves but “at the same time as marginal,” lest he admit that there is already a civil war going on or that “some Anglo-Saxons are already present.”

            To gain some short-term successes, “Putin will have to eliminate the remnants of all civil and economic structures” because “for him, the main danger at least at first will not be open armed uprisings but the structure of the Russian bureaucracy.” That is the backbone of the country and if it begins to crack, he knows he is finished.

            “It may sound paradoxical,” Yerofeyev continues, “but it is Putin’s open war against the Russians as a modern nation of the future that may give them a chance to redeem themselves for what Russia is doing in Ukraine whether they become a confederation or not and rid Northern Eurasia of Russian imperialism and the threat of new nuclear blackmail.”

            If the Russian people stand up and successfully defeat Putin’s war against them, he argues, that could happen even though at present, “such a scenario seems no more likely than a palace coup.” But history teaches that such things are possible and while the human costs in the short term would be high, the long-term benefits would be far greater.

            Because “Putin’s resources to maintain himself in power now exceed the costs of his defeat in Ukraine,” Yerofeyev says, “it is unlikely that it will be possible to avoid a war inside Russia.” What Russians and others need to think about now is how to keep it as short and as bloodless as possible.

The Real ‘Boom’ in Russia – the Rush to Purchase Bomb Shelters

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 27 – Many sectors of the Russian economy as a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine and Western sanctions but one is experiencing booming growth – the rush to purchase private bomb shelters in places where no public ones are available or where those who can afford them hope to sit out a war without having to be among ordinary people.

            Unfortunately for most, not only are the costs of such shelters prohibitive but the shelters themselves are often in poor condition and need massive repairs. Nonetheless, many wealthier Russians think that buying such facilities is a good investment that will repay them “hundreds of times over.”

            That is just one of the anecdotes – and in this case one based entirely on the facts – that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has assembled in her latest collection ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russians who do well at shooting galleries in fairs may get an unexpected “reward.” Instead of being given a stuffed animal, they may receive a summons to show up for military training so they can be sent to fight in Ukraine.

·       Having failed to reach Kyiv in three days and Lviv in a week, Moscow has changed course. Now it promises that it will “defend Kursk and Belgorod to the last inhabitant,” and officials in those places are building shelters and digging defensive trenches.

·       Russian wits have assembled what they say are Russia’s real traditional values: “without a piece of paper, you’re nothing,” “people must suffer,” “there is no way to live well,” “I’m the boss and you’re nobody,” “the tsar is good and the boyars are bad,” and “women are still giving birth to children.”

·       The Russian media are playing up the removal of monuments and books from Ukraine by Russian soldiers to distract attention from what Russian troops are taking more often – toilets and food. After all, Moscow wants the world to know that Russians are cultured people.

·       Margarita Simonyan, the ethnic Armenian who heads Russia Today, has been banned by Yerevan from entering Armenia because of her inhuman and militaristic statements. She is the first leading Armenia to receive such an honor.