We [United States] treat him like he’s mad, but Vladimir Putin’s popularity has just hit a 3-year high


Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Source: The Washington Post

Published by Levada Analytical Center

As the situation in Crimea grew  increasingly tense over the past few weeks [March 2014], many in Western Europe and the U.S. began to wonder what exactly Russian President Vladimir Putin was thinking. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said he was “in another world,” while Julia Ioffe of the New Republic wrote that he had “lost it.” As Anne Applebaum of The Post tweeted, “we may have reached the weird moment when the dictator believes his own propaganda.”

The image was of a man losing his bearings, stumbling blindly into a possible conflict. Perhaps, after 14 years of leading Russia, he had finally gone mad.

Apparently in Russia, the perspective is rather different.

In a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) last week, Putin’s popularity level in Russia has reached 71.6 percent. That’s a 9.7 percent increase since mid-February, which seems quite obviously linked to the Russian president’s handling of Ukraine and the Sochi Olympics. As Ria Novosti notes, it means that Putin’s popularity levels are now at a three-year high.

You might want to put that down to the fact that the VTsIOM is state-run, but that argument doesn’t really hold. The Levada Center, a well-respected independent polling center, has also found that Putin had a 72 percent approval rating, up 7 points from January and a recent record. To put that in context on a world stage, U.S. president Barack Obama is currently at 43 percent, according to Gallup, while 79 percent of the French say they don’t approve of Francois Hollande’s presidency. Putin isn’t just popular, he’s extraordinarily popular.

So what is Putin doing right? Well, another poll released by Levada offers some insight. According to that poll, conducted March 7-10, 37 percent of respondents believe that Ukraine has been taken over by radical nationalists, and another 36 percent believe there is no single authority there. Just 9 percent believe the government in Ukraine represents the full range of interests of the Ukrainian population.

Meanwhile, some 67 percent of those polled blame the crisis in Crimea on Ukrainian nationalists, while just 2 percent blamed it on the Russian leadership. This fear of Ukrainian nationalists is part of the Kremlin line, of course: In an unusual news conference this month, Putin referred to the Euromaidan protests as “orgy of nationalists and extremists and anti-Semites on the streets of Kiev.”

Russia has simply stepped in to protect Russian speakers from this terrible crowd, the Kremlin logic goes, and that action is apparently okay with Russian citizens – some 65 percent of those polled by Levada felt that Russia had the right to protect Russian speakers in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In total, 79 percent felt that Russia should accept Crimea into the country if it votes that way in this weekend’s referendum.

What’s really remarkable about Putin’s apparent popularity boost is that for so long we’d been hearing about how it was on the wane. An apparent drop in approval ratings in 2011 – not to mention the huge street protests that hit Moscow and other cities after the disputed Duma elections of December 2011 – had seemed to signify that Russia’s growing middle class was finally growing sick of Putin. The latest trend appears to contradict that, with Putin’s popularity apparently heading back to the stratospheric heights of 2008 and 2009, when his popularity reached 88 percent in Levada’s polling.

Incidentally, Putin’s popularity peaked in September 2008 – just a few weeks after Russia crushed Georgia’s military in a brief war over the fate of breakaway region South Ossetia. Putin’s actions may strike us as paranoid and possibly mad, driven by exaggerated fears of “Russophobia” and rose-tinted memories of a grand Russian empire, but we should remember: There appear to be millions of people in Russia who may feel the same.

The image was of a man losing his bearings, stumbling blindly into a possible conflict. Perhaps, after 14 years of leading Russia, he had finally gone mad.

Apparently in Russia, the perspective is rather different.

In a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) last week, Putin’s popularity level in Russia has reached 71.6 percent. That’s a 9.7 percent increase since mid-February, which seems quite obviously linked to the Russian president’s handling of Ukraine and the Sochi Olympics. As Ria Novosti notes, it means that Putin’s popularity levels are now at a three-year high.

You might want to put that down to the fact that the VTsIOM is state-run, but that argument doesn’t really hold. The Levada Center, a well-respected independent polling center, has also found that Putin had a 72 percent approval rating, up 7 points from January and a recent record. To put that in context on a world stage, U.S. president Barack Obama is currently at 43 percent, according to Gallup, while 79 percent of the French say they don’t approve of Francois Hollande’s presidency. Putin isn’t just popular, he’s extraordinarily popular.

Evidence Is Now Conclusive: Two Ukrainian Government Fighter-Jets Shot Down Malaysian Airlines MH17. It was Not a ‘Buk’ Surface to Air Missile



Top Views By Country – July 2014

Let's look for Hutch!

Let’s look for Hutch!

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03 Oct 1986, Sydney, Australia --- Michael Hutchence of INXS --- Image by © Bob King/Corbis

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Breaking News: Entire Ukraine Military Brigade Abandons the Battlefield and Surrenders to Donbass Militia

The Shrinking Cauldron – The Surrender of the 72nd Brigade


ukrainemap6-400x313The Surrender of the 72nd Brigade

Original: Colonel Cassad LiveJournal
Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov

Slavyangrad.org   [Cauldron indicates a geographic designaiton of the hotspot of war in South East Ukraine]

Today, the remnants of the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade fled into the territory of the Russian Federation. According to Russia Today:

Four hundred and thirty eight Ukrainian servicemen have requested asylum in Russia and moved into the Russian territory. According to ITAR-TASS, this was announced by the Border Guard department of the Federal Security Service (“FSB”) of Russia.


Map: Operational information from Colonel Cassad LiveJournal

No agreement with respect to the surrender of all the surrounded has been reached yet (the negotiations that were reported earlier are still ongoing).bumtbf6iqaapmqi-large

Accordingly, the Cauldron is starting to break up into parts. The 72nd Brigade for all intents and purposes has ceased to exist due to ammunition and food rations running out. They held on while they still had resources and then began to exit into the territory of the Russian Federation – at first in separate groups, followed by the surviving remnants of the once full-fledged brigade.

The hardware was all abandoned at their positions, which continue to be controlled by Junta troops that have not yet surrendered. When militiamen would drive up on tanks as close as 400 metres away from the positions of the Junta, there was no return fire – there is simply nothing to fire back with. Some of the soldiers of the 72nd Brigade had no rounds left during the surrender; others had 1-2 magazines per automatic rifle.

There is also information that among those who did not surrender there are Polish mercenaries, which essentially explains the stubbornness of the resistance (a serious international scandal is possible).

Those who remain in this part of the Cauldron were given an ultimatum to surrender and exit to Russia and not to touch the hardware.

Otherwise, the Grads will start working again. Strained arguments are ongoing there now; military commanders are reasoning that the potential for resistance has been exhausted and that they must surrender so as not to kill people in vain. Pravoseki [Note: Praviy Sector militants], mercenaries and the political zealots are demanding that the resistance be continued at all cost. As a result, a complete surrender is likely impossible – the majority of the military personnel will surrender and others will be leveled [with Grad MLRS], particularly in view of the fact that they have nothing to respond with.

I expect that this group will cease to exist in the course of 2-3 days, following which the Cauldron will shrink in half, and the Militia will start dealing with the remnants of the 24th and the 79th Brigades.


Map: Predicted Retreat Routes for the Troops Surrounded in the Southern Cauldron.

In order for you better to understand what has happened, those who surrendered were the remnants of the 72nd Brigade that were driven from Izvarino and Sverdlovsk toward the border with the Russian Federation.

At the same time, the Cauldron continues to exist in the gap between Marinovka and Birukovo, where the remnants of the 79ths Separate Aeromobiles Brigade and the 24th Separate Mechanized Brigade, as well as the various reinforcement units and punitive formations, continue to hold defensive positions.

Overall, the Southern Cauldron now has truly entered the final stages of its existence; the agony of the units deprived of provisions has begun.



Photograph: Ukrainian Troops After Crossing into the Russian Territory.

And this note by Russia Today is specifically about those who intend to cross the Russian border in the nearest future. They simply face the same problems as the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade (“OMBR”).

One more group of Ukrainian servicemen intends to cross the border into Russia after almost 440 soldiers and officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces crossed into the territory of the adjacent country in the night of August 4th. As reported by ITAR-TASS, quoting the head of the press service of the Border Guard department of the FSB in the Rostov region, the exact number of servicemen that intend to cross into the Russian Federation is still unknown.

The Official Junta’s Version  RBK-Ukraine

A group of servicemen of the 72nd Motorized Brigade was forced to retreat into the territory of the Russian Federation because they ran out of ammo during a battle with the terrorists. This was announced to RBK-Ukraine by Alexey Dmitrashkovskiy, a representative of the press-centre of the antiterrorist operation in Donbass.

According to Dmitrashkovskiy:

“Servicemen of the 72nd Brigade divided into two units. The first unit broke through the ring of terrorists, and the second unit covered these servicemen. After that, one of the units had their ammo and provisions run out. Military hardware that was on the battlefield was damaged. After that the personnel was forced to transport into the area of the border crossing checkpoint in Russia. According to latest information, the servicemen are in the territory of Russia. The number of the servicemen is being confirmed.” According to his statements, reinforcements have already arrived to assist the servicemen that covered those who were breaking through the ring of terrorists.

Earlier, the Russian Federal Security Service (“FSB”) stated that more than 400 Ukrainian soldiers have requested asylum in the Russian Federation. As it was clarified, a humanitarian corridor was opened for the Ukrainian military and they were allowed to cross into Russia.

The remnants of the 79th Aeromobile and the 24th Motorized Rifle Brigade and Battalion Shakhter continue to remain in the Southern Cauldron. Just south of this grouping is Battalion Azov.

Tom Petty On Cheap Speakers And George Harrison


Tom Petty – Photo Billboard

August 4, 2014

On a recent night in San Diego, was doing what he’s been doing for close to 40 years: leading his band The Heartbreakers on stage, playing the old hits and inaugurating new ones. He’s just started touring behind Hypnotic Eye, the band’s latest album in a prolific career — and if you ask Petty how it feels to still be kicking after all this time, you’ll get an uncharacteristically bashful response.

“It’s actually kind of embarrassing now; it’s such a love fest,” the 63-year-old rocker says. “I don’t think any of us pictured doing it at this level, at this age. “How could you?”

Musically, Hypnotic Eye is a throwback to early Heartbreakers albums; it’s driving rock with a bluesy vibe. But lyrically, Petty says, it’s very much about what’s going on in America today. Petty recently spoke with NPR’s Melissa Block about his long friendship with a late Beatle and why it pays to hear one’s own music on a bad car stereo. Hear the radio version at the audio link and read their conversation below.

Tell us about writing the songs for Hypnotic Eye and thinking about what tied them together. What do you think that is? What makes this feel like a collection of songs to you?

Tom Petty: It’s observational. I think it has a lot to do with American culture, without getting too strict about it or trying to be preachy. I don’t really take a side; I just invented characters that had their points of view.

Let me ask about one of the characters that I think you might be talking about, the speaker in the song “Power Drunk.” Who’s this guy?

Well, the guy singing that song is in some situation where he’s feeling, maybe, a little frightened. The line, “Pin on a badge and a man begins to change,” that’s pretty self-explanatory, really. There’s a lot of power-drunk people around these days.

Do you think about that? You said you don’t want it to be preachy; is that a line you’re pretty careful about not crossing?

I just tried to kind of explore this gap between the poor and people that get so wealthy that making more money really wouldn’t change an hour of the rest of their lives. And yet they’re obsessed with making more money, regardless of how that affects other people.

Maybe it’s a moral question of, “Do you want something so bad that you don’t need, even though it will hurt others?” ‘Cause we’re looking at a very different time in America right now. We’ve rubbed out the middle class, which was really the whole point of the thing for a long time — meaning America.

It’s interesting, because I wonder if you see yourself as part of that group of people who are on top? Who are securely in that 1 percent?

Yeah, I am. But I don’t do anything that hurts anyone. I come from a very humble background, but I guess I did live the American dream of getting into something I loved and working really hard at it, and there were financial rewards. I don’t think that’s ever been the guiding light of our band, but it’s nice.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: American Dream Plan B [Official Audio]



It’s really astounding, when you think about it, how long this band has been together. The original members go back to 1976 — so, coming up on 40 years.

Actually Mike, Benmont and I go back further than that, to 1970.

Mike is your guitar player Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench on keyboards. When you listen to Heartbreakers songs, you can tell from the very first notes what song they are. I wonder what that’s like for you, knowing that there’s this direct tie from the very beginning of a song to what millions of people know and remember about that song.

Well, it’s a tremendous thrill. I mean, if I think about it very long, it frightens me.

Really? Why?

‘Cause it’s kind of like, “Did I do that?” Music is a real magic: It affects human beings, it can heal, it can do wonderful things. I’ve had two people contact me in my life about coming out of comas to their family playing a song to them of mine, that they had liked before they were injured. They credited the song having something to do with that. I find that fascinating. A lot of people have told me, “This music got me through a really hard time,” and I can relate to that.

When I think about Tom Petty songs, I think they’re songs you want to play with the windows open and the top down, driving really fast. I wonder if, when you’re recording a new album, if you ever do that: if you take a rough recording and take it out for a drive, see how it sounds on the highway, outside the studio?

Yeah, I have done that. I think it was the Wildflowers record, we had a rental car; we wanted a kind of average sound system, not too expensive. So as we did each mix we would transfer it over — I think it was probably cassettes in those days — and take it out and listen to it in the car. There was a terrible moment when one of the crew returned the car and got a different one.

With the cassette still in it?

Well, not with the cassette in it, but we wanted that system. There was a real panic, so we had to send him back to find that same car.

But what’s the idea there?

Well, I’m trying to hear what it really sounds like. Studios have really good playbacks, good speakers and tuned rooms that are made for accuracy, soundwise. We tend to work most of the time with really inexpensive speakers that are probably worse than most people have.


Yeah, because if I can get it to sound good there, when I bring it up to the big speakers it’s pretty amazing.

How do you hear The Heartbreakers growing or evolving the longer you play with them? What’s changed?

There’s a lot of things. In Hypnotic Eye, one of the things that I was most pleased with, and that I really wanted to make happen, was what we didn’t play — the amount of space in the arrangements. The more air in the arrangement, the bigger the track sounds to me. We didn’t try to create walls of sound on this one; it was more like sonic textures.

I like to create lots of different guitar sounds, and I’m fascinated with how sounds go together. When you get something that works in a particular way, it’s kind of like mixing two colors together and getting a new one. Am I getting a little too esoteric?

[Laughs.] In the best way.

I probably sound like a pretentious ass here, but that’s kind of the way I see it. I just look at it like, between the speakers, when you come in there’s a blank canvas, and when you go out there’s actually something on it. And as simple as that sounds, it’s a tremendous rush to this day to me, to just make something happen.

You spent quite a bit of time with the late , and sang with him in the Traveling Wilburys. What do you think was his biggest influence on you?

We became very good friends, really, for decades. I don’t like to bring it up that much, because are so special that people might see it as boasting or something. But he actually became my friend, past being a Beatle to me. It was like having an older brother that had a lot of experience in the music business, someone who I could go to with my troubles and questions.

Traveling Wilburys – End Of The Line



I think [spirituality], probably, was the greatest gift he gave me. He gave me a way of understanding a higher power without it being stupid, or having tons of rules and books to read. But the best thing I can say to people that are curious about that is George was probably everything that you thought he was, and then some more. Very funny man; he could just kill me with his humor. He was a great guy and I miss him terribly.

I know you’ve talked a lot about first seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 — I guess you’d have been 13 — and that was basically what made you think, “Music, band, that’s what I want to do.” So to go from that to being that close with him and that intimate with him must have been quite something.

Strangely enough, we got along very well right away. He was the kind of person that, when he came across a good thing or the potential for a friend, he really was aggressive about it. And he had a way of knocking out anything that was extracurricular, or in the way of what was really going on. He could get you comfortable with him very quickly. I was always asking Beatle questions, and probably annoyed him. But, you know, he liked The Beatles, too. He liked talking about it and remembering it.

Do you have one George Harrison memory that really stands out?

I have thousands, you know. Thousands and thousands. We’d be here all day talking about George.

How do you gear up and get ready to go out on tour?

That’s easy, because just absolute fear takes over. I am in a state of shock.

Is it still thrilling in any way, or does it feel so familiar that that thrill is gone?

No, I get a thrill. My adrenaline gets so high from a concert that after it, I usually just pace until sunrise. I can’t come down from it.


Yeah, you kind of spend the whole day gearing up for it, and the night getting over it. You just want to be as wonderful as everyone thinks you are, and you know you’re not. So something takes place where you reach down and pull from so deep inside your soul that this music happens, and you all reach the place you wanted to reach together, you and the audience. Getting over that takes all night.

So a lot of pacing?

I pace, yeah. People deal with it in different ways, but I tend to walk around a lot.