Tag Archive: Vladimir Putin

The Russian Connection: Browder, Magnitsky, and Putin

Just who is Bill Browder and why is he so important to the investigation into the Russian meddling in the US 2016 election? Sanctions, of course. William Felix Browder is a 53 year American who is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the investment fund Hermitage Capital Management (“Hermitage”), an investment firm that at …

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The Russian Connection: Trump, G-20 and Putin

Donald Trump is in Europe again displaying his ignorance bigly. His first stop was in Poland where he was assured of a warm welcome by crowds bused in by the conservative government. He then proceeded to bash CNN, MSNBC, Barack Obama and America’s own intelligence agencies. He flew to Hamburg where he will meet for …

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Some Would Call This Treason

In 1968, GOP presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon conspired with a foreign government to scuttle the Paris Peace Talks and the election of his Democratic opponent Vice President Hubert H Humphrey. From the FBI wiretaps, (President Lydon B.) Johnson quickly learned about the role of Nixon campaign official (and right-wing China Lobby figure) Anna Chennault …

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The Putin Connection

The Republican nominee for president has deep ties to Russia and it’s head of state Vladimir Putin that long preceded his friendship with Paul Manafort. And, as Charlie Pierce said, this should raise alarm bells for anyone concerned about democracy. Pierce leads us to an in depth article by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo …

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Stop Listening to Morons

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Surface To Air Missiles Kill People

I know I’m a silly and naive hippie. Very Serious People know the importance of arming the rebels, and the rebels of the rebels, and of the governments fighting the rebels, and of the random people who might just be good guys today but who knows about tomorrow, because it’s what we know how to do and our friends get rich in the process.

But, you know, weapons kill people. That’s what they’re for.

Atrios

We need to stop arming morons but most of all we need to stop listening to them.

In the wake of the tragic crash of Malaysian Air Flight 17 yesterday that took the lives of 290, there is a lot of ranting and finger wagging among war hawk conservatives who believe this tragedy could have been averted of we had just given the new Ukrainian government weapons. Considering the clear possibility that the plane was taken down by a Russian made Soviet era surface to air missile, the logic of these neo-cons is baffling. The US backing, arming and training rebels and rogue governments hasn’t worked very well in the past and isn’t working out very well today in either the Middle East or Latin  and South America

Charlie Pierce thinks we should stop listening to morons, in particular a couple of our elected morons, who have never seen a war they didn’t like or a terrorist under every rock, want more weapons and more war. Sen. John “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” McCain (R-AZ):

“It’s just been cowardly,” McCain said. “It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.” He speculated that the Russian separatists who allegedly shot down the plane “may not even have occupied and had access to these weapons, which apparently they got at an airfield,” [..]

“First, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory. Second of all, move some of our troops in to areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, in other countries like the Baltics and others. Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that’s just for openers.”

This from the man who wanted to arm the Syrian rebels who were affiliated with Al Qaeda, some of whom are now trying to overthrow the American backed Iraqi government. John, please, just please, retire.

And of course the call for throwing more weapons into the mix wouldn’t be complete without some good ol’ fear mongering for Rep. Peter King (R-NY)

“[W]e need more leadership from the president,” King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on MSNBC. “He gave this a passing reference in his speech in Delaware, then went on to tell Joe Biden jokes and take the usual shots at Republicans – which is fair game, but not on this day – and then to go to New York and go to two fundraisers. I mean, I can’t imagine [former Presidents Dwight] Eisenhower or [John F.] Kennedy or [Ronald] Reagan doing that.”

Ronnie Reagan? Seriously. The man who slept through the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the Kamchatka Peninsula by Soviet forces in 1983 and took three days to make a statement? Pete, get a grip

More of what Charlie said about arming morons:

I often refer to the scene featuring the great character actor Philip Bosco, as a judge in the small upstate New York town that is the setting for the vastly underrated Paul Newman movie Nobody’s Fool. Newman is before the judge because he has punched a local cop — played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman — and, in response, the cop had fired off a warning shot that frightened an old woman a few blocks over. Bosco listens to the story and then addresses the police chief. “You know my views on arming morons,” Bosco says. “If you arm one, you have to arm them all. Otherwise, it isn’t good sport.”

It is becoming plain that the atrocity visited on the Malaysian jetliner is a direct result of arming morons. The New York Times obtained audiotape, allegedly from the people who shot down the plane, and these guys sound like they shouldn’t be trusted with a lemon zester, let alone a surface-to-air missile. And it is quite plain that the one thing this situation doesn’t need is to arm more morons, or to have another superpower come bungling in. Either by accident or by design — and Josh Marshall is right to point out that, if it’s the former, that’s infinitely worse — Vladimir Putin is responsible for a horrendous crime, and one that weakens his international standing. The only thing that would bail him out would be a flood of American arms to our own set of morons. The only thing that would bail him out would be if we all started listening to John McCain again.

We do know that the separatists in Eastern Ukraine have been armed by the Russians and have taken credit for bring down other planes over the last several weeks. If this is true, the culpability for this tragic loss of lives lies directly at the feet of Vladimir Putin, he alone has the power to stop this. Like Putin, the US needs to stop arming morons and stop listening to them as well.

Game, Set, Match

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Just how really stupid do these two think we are?

Obama’s Syria address: do we look that dumb?

by Michael Cohen, The Guardian

The president marred his chance to lay out a principled position to the American people with patronising dog-whistling

Upholding and enforcing the longstanding global norm against chemical weapons – while deterring Bashar al-Assad from using them again against his own people – offers a compelling rationale for even a punitive use of force by the United States against Syria. Tuesday night, Barack Obama made a semblance of that argument; but he lathered it in so much threat-exaggeration and maudlin imagery that it was virtually impossible to take his case for war seriously.

If anything, the fact that Obama was forced to rely on contradictory and deceptive arguments to sell the American people on the idea of military intervention in Syria did more to undermine the case for intervention than reinforce it. [..]

Finally, what is the justification for condemning one violation of international law (the use of chemical weapons) with the violation of another (fighting a war in Syria without a UN security council mandate)? Does this set a troubling precedent for conflicts down the road?

To be sure, there are reasonable answers to these questions, but in failing even to try to answer them, and instead, raising red-herring issues and making dubious claims – such as, attacking Syria will “make our own children safer over the long run” – Obama offered the American people a confusing and ultimately misleading rationale for military action.

What Vladimir Putin didn’t tell the American people about Syria

by Anna Neistat, The Guardian

Russia’s leader poses as a champion of the rule of law in a New York Times op-ed, but his record as Assad’s backer is shameful

It’s not what Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed says that’s so worrisome; it’s what it doesn’t say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Putin overlooked …

There is not a single mention in Putin’s article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia’s ongoing transfer of arms to Assad throughout the past two and a half years. [..]

Finally, the sincerity of Putin’s talk about democratic values and international law is hard to take seriously when back home his own government continues to throw activists in jail, threatens to close NGOs, and rubber-stamps draconian and discriminatory laws.

President Putin should give more credit to his audience: Russia will be judged by its actions, both on the international arena and domestically. So far, Russia has been a key obstacle to ending the suffering in Syria. A change towards a more constructive role would be welcome. But a compilation of half-truths and accusations is not the right way to signal such a change.

Neither of these two men are honest brokers to end the Syrian conflict, nor are they exceptional.

Syria: Exceptional Drumming for War

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In his speech to the nation on the possible use of military force in Syria, President Barack Obama spent most of the fifteen minutes justifying his banging the drums for war. Describing the images of people dying from exposure to an chemical weapon and citing unconfirmed casualty numbers, was a repulsive ploy to appeal to the emotions of the American people. Bombing and killing more people for humanitarian reasons is an oxymoron.

The president’s speech was a confusing mixture of claims that the action was a matter of national security but a paragraph later stating the opposite as his reason to take the issue to congress. He also made the statement that the US was the “anchor of global security” and looked upon as the enforcer of international agreements but then says “America is not the world’s policeman.” He mentions the danger of al Qaeda gaining strength in the chaos but failed to mention that the US is arming the Syrian rebels many of whom are members of al Qaeda and even more extremist Islamic groups.

After this rambling garbled message, Pres. Obama finally got around to mentioning diplomacy as an option and the Assad government’s offer to surrender its chemical weapons to international control and finally asked congress to table the resolution for the use of force.

However, it seemed as if Mr. Obama was already throwing in the towel on diplomacy through the UN before a resolution is even on the table.

In today’s New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin writes an op-ed opposing an American strike against Syria. In his plea for caution, Mr. Putin said he felt the need to speak directly to the “American people and their political leaders” citing “insufficient communication between our societies.” He noted the strong opposition worldwide and the possible consequences from the potential strike.

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Mr. Putin went on to argue that this fight is not about democracy stating that neither side is a champion for democratic rule and that arming the Syrian rebels is also arming US designated terrorist organizations, Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Calling this an internal conflict  and ” one of the bloodiest in the world,” he didn’t mention that Russia was supplying the Syrian government with weapons and would continue to do so.

What have not heard from Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin, pundits or any world leaders is a plea for a cease fire. They all have bemoaned how difficult it will be to secure the stockpile of Syrian weapons during an armed conflict but no one has brokered the idea of a “white flag” while the process is taking place. Of course that would mean the rebels would have to present a unified front and there are few that believe that’s possible. Also no one is asking that the rebel forces surrender whatever chemical weapons they might have simply because the White House and the media is refusing to acknowledge even the idea that they might be in possession of them, as has been revealed by communications from Iran.

America is not a neutral actor in this conflict and neither is Russia. As Mr. Putin noted, “we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”  Both sides need to own up to reality and stop banging the war drums. They need to learn to stop talking past each other and listen.

Syria: Looking for Support, Finding Little

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama concluded his meetings at the G-20 in Moscow where he sought support for bombing Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashir al-Assad. Unable to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pres. Obama took his lobbying to the G-20 dinner.

Syria divides deepen during Putin’s G20 dinner

by Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

Leaders fail to reach agreement over military action as UN called on to fulfil its obligations while Russia maintains position

The majority of leaders at a summit dinner on Thursday evening in Peterhof, near Saint Petersburg, were not in favour of any punitive action unless it was agreed by the UN security council, although strong calls for the UN to live up to its responsibilities were made by the Americans, the Turkish, Canadians, French and British. [..]

During the dinner, Putin told Barack Obama and François Hollande that the chances of reviving peace talks soon after a punitive bombing strike would be minimal.

The Russian leader won the support of the Chinese, a long-term ally of Putin on Syria, but backing also came from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, Argentina, Brazil and several European leaders, including Angela Merkel. One German diplomat said “Putin did not need to toughen his tone at the dinner. There were enough sceptics.”

At his press conference after the closing of the summit, Pres. Obama would not say if he would strike it congress did not give him the authorization. Two of the more conservative Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), have drafted a resolution in a move to appeal to those senators  who are reluctant to either approve strikes or reject the use of force outright. The resolution, assuming that it was Assad who ordered the use of chemical weapons, would give President Bashar Assad’s regime a 45-day window to avoid a strike if it signs a chemical weapons ban.

President Obama’s major opposition lies in the House, where, if the vote on the Senate resolution were held today, it would fail.

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) who is adamantly opposed to attacking Syria, appeared Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss the US roll as the world’s police force and his website, DontAttackSyria.com, which is gathering signatures for a petition calling on Congress to deny permission to attack Syria



Transcript can be read here

“I am very disturbed by this general idea that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it,” Grayson says. “The president has criticized that mindset, and now he has adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this.”

Secretary of State John Kerry keeps repeating that drooping a few Tomahowk missiles on Syria is not a war. I suggest that Sec. Kerry not try to sell that to the Syrian civilians.

Obama Scraps Central European “Missile Defense”!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting what would be maybe the best move, yet, by the Obama Administration:

The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to people familiar with the matter, a move likely to cheer Moscow and roil the security debate in Europe.

The U.S. will base its decision on a determination that Iran’s long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

This is a brilliant move, on several levels, the first and foremost being that “missile defense” is an enormously expensive farce that has yet to come close to being a proven technology. Despite billions upon billions poured into the coffers of its various contractors. Beyond that, though, merely attempting to put even an ostensibly advanced weapons system in Central Europe, in nations that were once part of the former Soviet Union’s buffer zone, was seen as a blatant provocation to Russia, thus politically enabling the hard line Putin regime. As explained by the BBC:

Want to know what Russia and Russians are REALLY like. I can tell you.

This is the first essay in a five part series. These will be posted each day at noon EST from today, Wed 12/12-Sun 12/17.

The first four essays are just for amusement, fun facts, breaking stereotypes, education and insight into how propaganda has falsely shaped our thinking about this country and these people.

One through four are not political or relevant to any major U.S. matter. The fifth essay on Sunday is a political essay about an important issue to the USA. It is titled “What is Putin up to? Dictator? Czar?”. It covers many Russian political events and serious changes in Russia’s Government that affect America.  

This first installment in my series of five essays will be the only one that requires this amount of dialogue to set up the series. I also have about 70 photos I will spread between the first four diaries.

My wife, Oxana, is Russian. We will be married two years in Jan 08. I have been to Russia numerous times in the last four years. I was fortunate enough to visit areas that are each very different from the other. All of us are aware of the size of Russia. Well, it is also as diverse as the USA.

Different areas have different customs, cultures, foods and habit’s, the same as the USA. Think about San Francisco, Miami, NYC, Bangor Maine, Chicago, Omaha, Denver. All quite varied. It is the same in Russia. I have been from Moscow to Saint Petersburg to Siberia to small “old Russia” cities that have not changed or become “westernized” yet.

Before marrying my wife, Oxana, I was engaged to another Russian woman who came here and after 60 days I realized it was not going to work out and she had to return to Russia. Oxana was engaged to a man from Malta and she broke it off six months before we met.

I communicated with at least a hundred women from all over the world on the internet. Most were from Russia and countries that were previously part of Russia prior to perestroika. Perestroika means reconstruction or reorganization in Russian. The seeds of perestroika began in the mid 80’s but it was not official until 1991 when the USSR was broken into 15 separate countries. In my communications with those hundred or so women, I got to know about 20 Russian women very well through the internet, instant message formats and on the phone. I only met my first Russian fiancé and Oxana in person.

After three years of work, six months ago, I finally finished a book about international dating (90 pages). It contains details about government red tape, forms, pitfalls, scams and many more items that you wouldn’t be interested in. I also warn readers to avoid the “pay for dating services” that only want to make money off you by selling addresses to you and getting you to go on their “tours” to Eastern Europe. It also includes a lot of trivia and anecdotal stories. In fact, enough of the latter to make four essays.

My dealings have been primarily with single women, the family of my first Russian fiancé, her friends, my in-laws and Oxana’s friends. I have only communicated and dealt with average middle class Russians. Most of the women I communicated with have a child and an ex husband that neither have seen since they got divorced. My friends are from smaller cities other than Moscow (11 million) or St. Petersburg (5 million) which combined are about 11% of the population of Russia.

Most of the women I have known live with their parents for financial reasons. Many were abused by ex-husbands and/or had ex-husbands with drinking problems and/or husbands that did not make family their top priority. This is a fairly high percentage of the population. There are more single mothers (percentage wise) in Russia than in the US. Additionally, virtually none get any assistance from their ex-husband and have no recourse.

My experiences are those of one man. There are many other opinions and experiences of Americans who have been to Russia. I encourage those who read this to comment about their experiences. I hope not confrontationally but rather to state their experiences with Russians and Russia to contribute to the education of those who read this.

Finally!!! I am done with this “setup”. Now to the fun stuff. The remainder of this first one is what 95% of number two through four will be. I sincerely hope you learn some things from this and most of all enjoy this and have a few laughs (some at my expense).

The first photo below is of an average office building in a smaller city in Russia (500,000). The second photo is of the UNBELIEVABLE bathroom in this office building.

Unfortunately, if you don’t work there, you have to pay a little money to a woman out in front of the “facilities” and she will also give you some AMAZING toilet paper (NOT). It is worth what you pay (NOT).

Oxana was a ticket agent for the largest airlines in Russia. This is her office building and “facilities”.

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These three photos are of the walkway up to an average Russian apartment building, the entrance doorway and the stairwell. I rented an apartment in this building for two weeks from a friend of my mother in-law and lived like an average Russian. Every other trip I have made there, I went first class, so this experience was very ineresting.

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TRIVIA/STORIES

– No pictures of President Vladimir Putin’s children are allowed to be published by anyone and nobody knows where they go to school.

– Putin flies in a helicopter for the very short trip from his home to the Kremlin for security reasons.

– The largest fresh water lake in the world is in Siberia. Yes, larger than any of the great lakes. Not in circumference but because of it’s depth, it holds more water than any other fresh water lake in the world. It has numerous species of fish that are nowhere else in the world.

– The coldest “inhabited” place on earth is in Siberia. It is the town of Oymakon in NE Siberia. There are colder places that people go to in Antarctica, but they are study/research locations and not places people live. About 2000 inhabit this town that has an average temperature of 30-40 below zero. It gets down to as low as 90 below.

– In all my time in Russia I never saw anyone with a to go cup. No Styrofoam cups anywhere.

– Domestic violence in Russia is common. Both verbal and physical. A call to the police is virtually useless. They will come there but do nothing. Domestic violence in Russia is probably 20X the USA.

– Russians don’t drink much coffee at all. I saw only one coffee house type restaurant in my travels in Russia. They drink tea. Coffee in every restaurant I have ever been to in Russia served instant coffee. Even the best restaurants.

– One of the difficulties for a Russian to learn English and us to learn Russian is sentence structure. In Russian, the order of words in a sentence does not matter. The words can be spoken in any order and understood. Like, Bush is a fucking moron and a complete idiot. In Russian could be, Idiot and complete moron is fucking Bush. They don’t have articles in Russian, so that is why I didn’t use a.

– There are no contractions in the Russian language and therefore most Russians don’t use them when speaking English. They will generally speak out both words for things like; don’t, wont, cant, isn’t and will have difficulty understanding contractions when you use them.

– There are no articles in the Russian language like; the, a, an and most Russians will omit these when speaking English. Thus, in the Russian version of the Bush sentence two trivia’s above, I did not use the a.

– Many of their words end in a specific vowel designating feminine or masculine or neutral. Most inanimate objects are either masculine or feminine with a smaller percentage as neutral. For this reason they will often confuse, he, she, it, them etc.

– In some Russian cities when riding a bus you pay when exiting. This is odd because there are doors at the back and payment is made in the front. You can be ten people deep standing in the middle aisle. The back door will not be opened until the collector in the front has your money. When it is impossible to get by the people in the aisle, your money is passed up through the chain. What is odd is most do not trust people. No Russian I knew ever saw anyone try to steal the money passed forward or anyone try to get off the bus without paying.

– It is not uncommon for a waitress, female barkeep or the like to have vulgar, obscene and/or propositioning comments made to her by a drunken Russian man. If she responds angrily she will probably be fired. Sometimes the owner or manager will even pass a message to one of them that a patron will pay X amount to sleep with her. Some will not only pass the message but pressure the woman to accept the “invitation”.

– My wife, Oxana, had a good job (for Russia) as a ticket agent for an agency that sold tickets for all airlines but primarily the two largest (Aeroflot & Siberia Air). Even though her hours for the month (50/wk-6 days/wk) would be the same her pay could vary by 25% depending on how good a month the agency had. She made about $3500 annually. No benefits. What do you think a ticket agent at a US airlines makes and with what benefits?

– When accepting a job sometimes they are not told how much they will be paid. Rather they are told that it is a month trial and they will be compensated commensurate with their performance and the sales of the establishment. It is less common now days but it is possible that after the month they will be told they are no longer needed and paid nothing!

– Because of this type behavior and other reasons many otherwise honest and moral Russians have systems for stealing from employers. Some “schemes” are elaborate and some are simple.

– Ekaterina II of Saint Petersburg who was a dignitary (maybe a queen) is well known as having been promiscuous. On boat tours in Saint Petersburg they point out the numerous palaces near the rivers that she gave to each of her lovers who were unending and always younger than she. Russians always speak of her with a slight grin and amusement in their tone. They seem to like the fact that she was like she was. Women have held prominent positions in Russia for 100’s of years.

– Even if not a history buff the stories of much of Russian history are very interesting.

– I never saw a car dealership as we know them. I saw some small store fronts with automobile manufacturer’s names but no inventory.

– All Russian cemeteries are far away from the cities and residences. When Oxana first got here, she didn’t like that my families restaurant is across the street from a cemetery. Now she doesn’t care, she works there.

– Russians have a great sense of humor. They must to keep their sanity in their insane environment. It is called Russian humor as it can be very different than ours.

– Russians have many “odd” (to Americans) superstitions. It is bad luck to whistle in public. Never say hello/goodbye across an entrance way.

– In the mid 1990’s Russia changed their money. When the new money came out, the old money was then useless. They announced this on a Friday and it was effective on the following Monday. “Only in Russia”!!

– Most Russians believe much about Russia and Russians is unique in the world and only a Russian can understand Russia or Russians. It may be true. The expression, “only in Russia” is said often by Russians.

– If someone figures out how they decide to address buildings on one side of a street versus the other, I hope they will advise me. Several times I was looking for a specific address and missed the mark by as much as a couple blocks. If I was walking down the odd numbered side of the street and I was at 1101 and looking for 1102 and crossed the street the number directly across from 1101 might be 1146 or 1062. I was a couple blocks away from what I wanted although on my side of the street I was only one number off from my destination. Only in Russia! At least they are even on one side and odd on the other and run in numeric order on each side.

– Plastic bags (packets they call them) are not usually given with a purchase. If you want one you must pay for it!!! The first time I went in a food shop the lockers were strange enough and when she tried to stuff everything in as few bags as possible I didn’t understand why. I didn’t realize until the third or fourth time that they charged for bags.

-You pay for a public restrooms in office buildings and malls and also outside port o potties. Many smell like an outhouse.

– Exposed plumbing pipes in all bathrooms are the norm. Even the best apartments you can rent from a travel agent and I had several that were awesome.

– America (including Alaska and Hawaii) is only 50% of the geographic size of Russia. Russia’s population is about one half of America. Russia has less than 10% of the miles of roadway we have in America.

– On my first trip I went out alone to buy my girlfriends daughter some school supplies. Pens and paper and these type items are treated like gold. Knowing I would be spoken to in Russian and being the brilliant mind I am, I decided to pretend I was deaf. When the clerk spoke to me I pointed to my ear and grunted. She reached under the counter and produced a pad of paper and a pen. Oh shit! It seemed like a good idea before carrying it out. I shook my head no and pointed to what I wanted.

– There are about three million people of Russian decent in America. That is more than the population of 20 of our 50 states. There are about 750,000 Russians in the Brighton Beach area of near New York/New Jersey thus it is called “little Russia”.

– In Tomsk (Oxana’s hometown), as I stated, I rented the apartment of a friend of my mother in law’s. I wanted to live in a “regular” Russians apartment and neighborhood instead of the numerous upscale apartments I had rented from agents. It was the best time I had of any trip I made. The photos here of the entrance, stairwell, door & bathroom are from that apartment.

– My first day in that apartment, I was on the balcony having coffee early one morning. I noticed a stray dog in the alley below our third floor apartment. I threw him some table scraps. He was sitting in the same spot every morning at 7am for my entire two week stay awaiting my handout which I gladly dropped down to him. The other two photos are me on that balcony and the dog below.

– I know a man of about 60 who is a retired Soviet army officer. He can not speak English well but wanted to talk and bond every minute we were together. He loved the cigarettes I brought from America. He was a very interesting man and someone I will never forget. In a gesture of friendship he went in his bedroom closet and brought out some items. He gave me numerous Soviet army items like a hat, a shirt and lapel pins as gifts. He explained the Russian life and the sour look by saying that Russian life is one small problem after another and another and another. While saying this he progressively slumped his shoulders and head further and further down like a man having twenty pound weights added with each problem. He, like most average Russians, lived a better life under communism. I once said that perestroika will result in a better situation and a better life for future generations but I suspected he didn’t really have much hope.

– Hope has been beaten out of many Russians or they have just given up so not to lose their sanity.

Photos below, are of the door (check locks-WOW) on the that average Russian apartment I rented for two weeks for $175. Also, the bathroom in the apartment, looking up at me on the balcony feeding my dog friend in the last photo.

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How about a photo of the amazing architecture of Saint Petersburg. Photos don’t do these remarkable statues and buildings justice, but it is all I have.

The second photo is a “special” for the women. It is a photo of a tall man with a sculpted body and muscles all over and the photo is taken from behind him and he is naked.

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– IF an apartment building has an elevator (lift) it may be shut off daily between midnight and six am. Some sound as loud as a small plane and you feel lucky when it gets you to your destination. They almost always have graffiti and sometimes urine. The buttons are sequenced different than ours and are usually illegible. Because of this, on one trip up alone I stopped at three wrong floors before finally getting to mine (9th floor). This was quit humorous to my girlfriend who had taken the stairs as she preferred. She arrived at the ninth floor before me awaiting in hysterics.

– Russians have a humorous habit when talking about someone being drunk or asking if you want to go get drunk. They all do it. They take their right hand middle finger and thump it against their neck on the right side. They all do it and all understand it, even children. There is a story to this. A famous navy admiral from World War II had a first mate that was his right hand man. The first mate was a drunk. On numerous occasions when the admiral most needed him he was in jail. The admiral went to each local bar and implored them not to serve him as well as to the police not to arrest him. When this failed he had a tattoo put on the first mates neck on the right side. The tattoo said “this is my first mate and he is of utmost importance to the war effort. Please do not serve him alcohol or detain him, Admiral Perry”.

– I never saw a grocery store like we know. They are not any where near as large. They are more like food shops and nearer the size of a convenience store.  

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