TIME Gas

Ukraine, Moscow Clinch Deal on Russian Gas Supply

"There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter"

(BRUSSELS) — Moscow and Kiev on Thursday clinched a multi-billion dollar deal that will guarantee that Russian gas exports flow into Ukraine and beyond to the European Union throughout the winter despite their intense rivalry over the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, whose offices mediated the talks for months, said the EU will also help cash-strapped Ukraine with the payments through aid and guarantees.

“There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter,” he said. Barroso added that he was “hopeful that the agreement can contribute to increase trust between Russia and Ukraine.”

EU energy chief Guenther Oettinger said that “we can guarantee a security of supply over the winter,” not only for Ukraine but also for the EU nations closest to the region that stood to suffer should the gas standoff have worsened.

A similar standoff in 2009 had caused serious disruptions in gas flowing from Russia into the EU and it was a prospect the bloc sought to avoid.

The agreement long hinged on the question whether Ukraine was in a position to come up with the necessary cash to pay for the gas. “Yes, they are,” a confident Oettinger said. Oettinger said the $4.6 billion deal should extend through March.

“We can claim and pay for amounts that we need. That question has been totally settled,” said Yuriy Prodan, Ukrainian Minister for Energy. “There will be no problems.”

Under the deal, Ukraine would pay for its outstanding debt by making a $1.45 billion deposit without delay, and $1.65 billion by year’s end. The final sum of debt would be determined through arbitration.

For new gas, Russia will only deliver after pre-payment and Ukraine intends to buy some $1.5 billion by the end of December.

The EU said in a statement it had been “working intensively” with international institutions and Ukraine to secure funds to pay for gas delivery in the coming winter.

“Unprecedented levels of EU aid will be disbursed in a timely manner,” it said.

The deal only stretches through March and the difficulties of the talks were immediately evident when the Russians and Ukrainians started disagreeing on terms and prices of gas for next summer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, agreed earlier this month on the broad outline of a deal, but financial issues, centering on payment guarantees for Moscow, had long bogged down talks.

But with each week, the need for a resolution becomes more pressing, since winter is fast approaching in Ukraine, where temperatures often sink below freezing for days.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June after disputes over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. Ukraine since then has been relying on gas transfers from other European countries and its own reserves.

TIME russia

Chechen Dissident: ‘I Survived Abduction by Vladimir Putin’s Agents’

The story of one man who says he was tortured for challenging Russia's president

On a warm morning in early August, a 68-year-old Chechen man named Said-Emin Ibragimov packed up his fishing gear and walked to his favorite spot on the west bank of the river that runs through Strasbourg, the city of his exile in eastern France. Ibragimov, who was a minister in the breakaway Chechen government in the 1990s, needed to calm his nerves, and his favorite way to relax was to watch the Ill River, a tributary of the Rhine, flow by as he waited for a fish to bite.

Ibragimov had reason to be nervous. The previous month he had accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes in a criminal complaint he had sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to the Kremlin. Ibragimov had taken five years to compile evidence of what he considered crimes committed during Russia’s two wars against separatists in the Russian republic of Chechnya. During the second Chechen war, which Putin oversaw in 1999-2000, Russia bombarded the Chechen capital of Grozny and killed thousands of civilians. The U.N. later called Grozny “the most destroyed city on earth.”

Read the full story here.

TIME France

France Says Conditions Not Right to Deliver Warships to Russia

A Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is docked in the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire, Aug. 20, 2014, Saint-Nazaire, France.
A Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is docked in the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire, Aug. 20, 2014, Saint-Nazaire, France. Mehdi Chebil—Polaris

Minister says decision surrounds Russia's involvement in Ukraine's civil war

France said Thursday that it would not deliver either of the warships Russia has ordered because its conditions had not yet been met.

Russia ordered two Mistral class amphibious warfare ships in 2010. The first was due to be delivered this year, but President Francois Hollande said it would not happen because of Russia’s involvement in the civil war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

“The conditions today are not met to deliver the Mistral,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told RTL radio. “What are these conditions? It is that in Ukraine we are in a situation that is becoming more normal, that allows for things to cool down.”

On Wednesday, Russian news agency RIA quoted Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying that Russia had been invited to take delivery of the first ship on Nov. 14. He also said the second ship would be floated on the same day.

[Reuters]

Read next: Russians Re-write History to Slur Ukraine Over War

TIME europe

NATO Accuses Russian Military Aircraft of Flagrantly Violating European Airspace

Military aircrafts are seen on the tarmac during a visit of new NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask air base
Military aircraft are seen on the tarmac during a visit by the new NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask Air Base, in Poland, on Oct. 6, 2014 Kacper Pempel—Reuters

The alliance claims the incursions pose a risk to civilian air traffic

NATO officials have announced that an increasingly large number of Russian military aircraft have been tracked flying unannounced into European airspace this month — behavior that threatens to escalate the already taut relations between Moscow and the West.

On Wednesday, NATO claimed to have monitored at least four groups of Russian military aircraft as they conducted “significant military maneuvers in European airspace” over the Baltic and Black Seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean this week.

According to the alliance, multiple sets of Russian strategic bombers and tanker aircraft failed to file flight plans or engage in radio contact with civilian air-traffic-control officials during their forays into European skies. The crafts also refrained from using their onboard transponders during the exercises.

“This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic,” read a statement released by NATO this week. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.”

In response, NATO allies scrambled their own jets to intercept and identify the Russian planes. Washington, D.C.–based think tank the Atlantic Council says the alliance has conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft this year — a threefold increase in incursions since 2013.

Russia’s disregard for civilian procedures comes as relations with the West have hit new lows. In July, Washington accused Moscow of “creating the conditions” in eastern Ukraine that allowed separatist fighters to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with an alleged Kremlin-supplied weapons system.

Moscow has repeatedly denied having a direct hand in the felling of the flight and in turn blamed Kiev for igniting civil war in the country’s east.

TIME russia

Russians Re-write History to Slur Ukraine Over War

Soldiers stand in formation as they swear an oath at the World War Two museum on Poklonnaya Gora in Victory Park, Moscow in 2007.
Soldiers stand in formation as they swear an oath at the World War Two museum on Poklonnaya Gora in Victory Park, Moscow in 2007. Denis Sinyakov—Reuters

Vladimir Putin has turned the idea of fascism into a political tool, and now Russian historians are adapting to the Kremlin line

The trio of German historians, as well as a handful of their colleagues from Eastern Europe, flew into Moscow last week for what they thought would be a conference on the history of Nazi war crimes. It was the fifth in a series of international summits held every other year since 2006, first in Berlin and Cologne, then in Slovakia and Belarus, to keep alive the memory of the towns and villages destroyed during World War II. But the German co-chairman of the conference, Sven Borsche, began to feel that something was amiss in Moscow as soon as he met his Russian hosts. “All they wanted to talk about was the conflict in Ukraine,” he says.

Even without the simultaneous translations provided for the foreign guests, they would have gotten the political message. The photographs shown by several of the Russian speakers put the atrocities of the Nazi SS right alongside pictures from the current war in eastern Ukraine. There is not much difference, the Russian historians suggested, between the actions of the Ukrainian military in its war against separatist rebels and the atrocities that Hitler’s forces committed during World War II.

“Right now, fascism is again raising its head,” declared Yaroslav Trifankov, a senior researcher at the state historical museum in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. “Right now,” he said from the podium, “our brother Slavs in Ukraine have been so thoroughly duped and brainwashed by their puppet government, which answers only to the U.S. State Department, that they truly have come to see themselves as a superior race.”

This rhetoric—calling it an argument would overstate its relation to facts—has recently come into vogue among Russian historians. Under their interpretation of history, the struggle that began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 continues for Russia today, in a direct line through the generations, with the conflict in Ukraine. That is the connection President Vladimir Putin first presented to the Russian people in March, when he sent his troops to invade and annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The Russian-speaking residents of that peninsula, he said in a speech on the day of the annexation, need Russia’s protection from Ukraine’s new leaders, whom he referred to as “neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.” Ukraine’s ensuing war to prevent Russia from seizing any more of its territory has likewise been branded a fascist campaign against ethnic Russians.

Practically every arm of the Russian state, from the education system to the national police, has since taken up this message. The state media have consistently painted Ukrainian authorities as “fascists” in the service of the U.S. government. In late September, Russia’s main investigative body even opened a criminal probe accusing Ukraine’s leaders of committing “genocide” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the more recent involvement of the nation’s historians has marked a worrying turn in this endeavor.

It suggests a willingness to reinterpret even the most sacred chapters of Russian history, as the venue for last week’s conference seemed to suggest. With the exception of the Kremlin’s gilded halls and, perhaps, the nearby tombs of Soviet leaders on Red Square, few places in the Russian capital inspire such awed respect among the locals as the Central Museum to the Great Patriotic War. Its curved colonnade stands on a hill near the center of the city called Poklonnaya Gora, which in rough translation means, “the hill where one bows in respect.” In the center of its inner sanctuary, the white-domed Hall of Glory, an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier stands with a sword at his feet; its sheath bears this inscription: “He who comes to us wielding a sword shall die by the sword.”

The vast rotunda, done up in marble and gold, would be something like the Temple Mount if Russian patriotism were a religion, while the official history of World War II that the museum embodies would be at least a portion of its scripture. By various official estimates, between 20 million and 30 million Soviet citizens died during the war against German fascists – more deaths than any single nation suffered in World War II – and the history of Soviet valor in that war still lies at the core of Russia’s sense of identity. But it has, like any dogma, proven malleable in the mouths of its contemporary preachers.

“Nazism is again coming to us from Europe,” says Mikhail Myagkov, one of Russia’s leading historians of the Second World War and a professor of history at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where most of Russia’s top diplomats are educated. “The bacilli of Nazism have not been destroyed. Unfortunately, they have infected, among other countries, our brotherly nation of Ukraine,” he told a press briefing on the eve of the conference at the museum on Poklonnaya Gora.

The following day, in one of its auditoriums, Russian historians took the stage one after the other to draw an explicit link between the Hitler’s Reich and today’s Ukraine. None of them mentioned Russia’s military support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine or the encouragement they got from Russia in rising up against the government in Kiev this spring. Nor did the speakers dwell on the fact that the far right is hardly the driving force of Ukrainian politics. The country’s new President Petro Poroshenko is a liberal Westernizer with no links to Ukrainian nationalist parties, and the supposed popularity of those parties in Ukraine was exposed this week as a Russian fabrication; in the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 26, they failed to win a single seat in the legislature. But from the speeches presented at the conference in Moscow, one would assume that Poroshenko and his allies are all just resurrected Nazis in disguise.

As these speeches were translated for the foreign delegates, including guests from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, their faces turned gradually from confusion to disgust. Joerg Morre, the director of Berlin’s Karlhorst Museum, which focuses on the history of the eastern front in World War II, began to fidget in his seat. “I mean, to show the photographs of the Second World War and then switch in the next slide to what’s happening in Ukraine,” Morre told me during a break in the conference, “No way is that right. Now way!” Borsche, the co-chairman, agreed with him: “It’s polemical!” he said.

As the conference drew to a close, the two of them decided to voice their objections. Morre, springing from his seat, took hold of the microphone and told the hall that he did not agree with the final declaration of the conference, which had been written by its Russian organizers. Specifically, he took issue with the clause that declared, “Our generation is facing the task to deter [the] revival of Fascism and Nazism,” a thinly veiled reference to Ukraine, the German delegates felt. “It has become clear that we have different views on what fascism means today,” Morre told the hall in nearly perfect Russian. “Your point of view is not mine. So I call for this part of the resolution to be removed,” he added. “I do not want to sign it, and I am not the only one.”

After some noisy debate, the delegates agreed to put the matter to a vote. Practically all of the foreign participants raised their hands in favor of deleting the reference to a “revival” of European fascism. All of the Russian participants, including a large group of high school students who had been herded into the auditorium about 15 minutes earlier, had the clear majority in voting to leave the text of the declaration unchanged. So the hosts of the conference won out—a small but telling victory for the cause of Russian revisionism.

Outside the hall, Borsche seemed at a loss for words as he waited in the coat-check line. He had served as one of the initiators of the conference and its co-chairman, flying in from Germany for the occasion to discuss a shared history of suffering during World War II. But he says he had no idea that his Russian colleagues would use it as a chance to promote their political agenda against Ukraine. “That’s not correct,” he told me. If there is some lesson to be learned from the experience, it’s a familiar one, he said: “The more people are convinced of their own opinion, the more they become estranged from other opinions. That’s a real difficult problem.” And as Russia sets out to redefine what Nazism means, it is a problem that Western historians will somehow have to face.

Read next: Ukraine’s Elections Mark a Historic Break With Russia and Its Soviet Past

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: White House Computers Hacked

Hackers thought to be working for the Russian government are suspected of breaching White House computers

Russian hackers are suspected of breaching White House computers over the past few weeks, temporarily disrupting services.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House computer system had been infiltrated, but added that there’s no evidence the hackers had access to classified information or damaged any systems. The White House learned of the breach two to three weeks ago.

The FBI, Secret Service, and NSA are all investigating the breach which shut off Intranet or VPN access. The hack, however, did not manage to down the email system.

 

TIME White House

White House Computer Networks Hacked

Early morning sunrise is seen over the White House in Washington, Oct. 28, 2014.
Early morning sunrise is seen over the White House in Washington, Oct. 28, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

Russian hackers suspected

Hackers believed to be employed by the Russian government breached White House computer networks in recent weeks, temporarily disrupting services.

Citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported there was no evidence that hackers had breached classified networks or that any of the systems were damaged. Intranet or VPN access was shut off for a period but the email system was never downed. The breach was discovered two to three weeks ago, after U.S. officials were alerted to it by an unnamed ally.

“On a regular basis, there are bad actors out there who are attempting to achieve intrusions into our system,” a White House official told the Post. “This is a constant battle for the government and our sensitive government computer systems, so it’s always a concern for us that individuals are trying to compromise systems and get access to our networks.”

Cybersecurity firms in recent weeks have identified NATO, the Ukrainian government and U.S. defense contractors as targets of Russian hackers thought to be working for the government.

[The Washington Post]

 

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Elections Mark a Historic Break With Russia and Its Soviet Past

Ukrainian Voters Head To The Polls For The General Election
A woman leaves a polling booth as she votes during the parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on Oct. 26, 2014 Vladimir Simicek—Isifa/Getty Images

With more than half the votes counted in the country's parliamentary ballot, an unprecedented national consensus has emerged in support of a lasting break with Moscow and a turn toward European integration

On Sunday night, as the votes in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections were being tallied, President Petro Poroshenko went on television to congratulate his citizens on the successful ballot and, citing early results, to highlight one of the milestones the country had crossed: Ukraine’s Communist Party, a political holdover from the nation’s Soviet past that had always championed close ties with Russia, had failed to win a single parliamentary seat.

“For that I congratulate you,” the Ukrainian leader told his countrymen. “The people’s judgment, which is higher than all but the judgment of God, has issued a death sentence to the Communist Party of Ukraine.” For the first time since the Russian revolution of 1917 swept across Ukraine and turned it into a Soviet satellite, there would be no communists in the nation’s parliament.

Their defeat, though largely symbolic, epitomized the transformation of Ukraine that began with this year’s revolution and, in many respects, ended with the ballot on Sunday. If the communists and other pro-Russian parties had enormous influence in Ukraine before the uprising and a firm base of support in the eastern half of the country, they are now all but irrelevant. The pro-Western leaders of the revolution, by contrast, saw a resounding victory over the weekend for their agenda of European integration. “More than three-quarters of voters who cast their ballots showed firm and irreversible support for Ukraine’s course toward Europe,” Poroshenko said in his televised address.

With half the ballots counted on Monday, his political party was projected to get the most votes and more than a quarter of the seats in parliament. The party of his ally, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was in a close second place, setting them up to form a ruling coalition of Westernizers and Ukrainian nationalists. They will likely need no support from the shrunken ranks of the pro-Russian parties in order to pass legislation and constitutional reform.

In many ways they have Russian President Vladimir Putin to thank for that success. Since the revolution overthrew his allies in Ukraine in February, Putin has alienated most of the Ukrainian voters who had previously supported close ties with Moscow. His decision to invade and annex the region of Crimea in March, when Ukraine was just emerging from the turmoil of the revolution, awakened a hatred toward Russia in Ukraine unlike any the two countries had seen in centuries of unity and peaceful coexistence. Putin’s subsequent support for Ukrainian separatists, who are still fighting to turn the country’s eastern provinces into protectorates of Moscow, sealed the divide between these once fraternal nations.

Nowhere has that been more apparent than in the results of Sunday’s ballot. The only party that made it into parliament with an agenda of repairing ties with Moscow was the so-called Opposition Bloc, which was forecast to take fourth place with less than 10% of the vote. Only a year ago, its politicians were part of the ruling coalition in Ukraine made up of the Communist Party and the Party of Regions, whose leader, Viktor Yanukovych, had won the presidential race in 2010 on a platform of brotherly ties with Russia. Now Yanukovych, who was chased from power in February, has taken refuge in Russia at Putin’s invitation, while his Party of Regions was so certain of defeat in this weekend’s elections that it decided not to run. Whatever chance remained for Putin to keep his allies in power in Ukraine now looks to have been lost, and with it he loses his dream of forming a new political alliance made up of the biggest states in the former Soviet Union.

Putin’s narrative about far-right radicals taking power in Ukraine — during a speech in March, he referred to the leaders of the revolution as a bunch of “neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites” — was also exposed as a fabrication in the course of Sunday’s ballot. Though hard-line nationalists did play a key role in the revolution, few of them made it into parliament. The right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) Party is expected to get around 6% of the vote, roughly the same as the populists from the Radical Party, just squeaking by the 5% minimum needed to enter the legislature. The ultra-nationalist party known as Right Sector, which Russian state media has cast as the demonic force behind Ukraine’s new government, failed to make it past the post with its projected 2%.

But the real threat to Russia was never from the demagogues of the Ukrainian right. It was from the politicians like President Poroshenko who are determined to set Ukraine on a path toward joining the European Union. That path will not be easy, as Western leaders are hardly eager to welcome Ukraine’s failing economy and its 45 million citizens into the E.U. But the national consensus behind European integration, and the lasting break with Russia that this agenda entails, is now stronger than at any point in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Iran’s insidious control of Hezbollah and Russia’s operations inside Ukraine call for a new U.S. strategy to counter unconventional warfare.

By Robert A. Newson in Defense One

2. Criminalizing organ donor compensation endangers lives and fuels an unregulated black market.

By Sigrid Fry-Revere and David Donadio in the New Republic

3. Utility rights-of-way — think power lines and pipelines — can become flourishing wildlife habitats.

By Richard Conniff in Yale Environment 360

4. A unique combination of government support and a strong entrepreneur culture has made D.C. a hub for startups.

By Dena Levitz in 1776 DC

5. For the nations of the South Caucasus, the fate of Ukraine means choosing between Russia and the west comes at a high price.

By Maxim Suchkov in Carnegie Moscow Center Eurasia Outlook

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sweden

Sweden Calls Off Search for Submarine

The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen under way in Namdo Bay, Sweden, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. The navy has demanded a 1000-meter, (yard) no-go radius around naval vessels taking part in the current operation. (AP Photo/Fredrik Sandberg) SWEDEN OUT
The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen under way in Namdo Bay, Sweden, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Fredrik Sandberg—AP

Sweden's military launched its biggest anti-submarine operation since the height of the Cold War on Friday

(STOCKHOLM) — Swedish authorities say they have called off their weeklong search for a suspected submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.

Military authorities said Friday that they have ordered naval and amphibious forces to end their hunt for the submarine, though some ground forces will remain involved.

Sweden’s military launched its biggest anti-submarine operation since the twilight of the Soviet Union last Friday after receiving credible reports of foreign underwater activity in the archipelago that extends from the capital, Stockholm, into the Baltic Sea.

Military officials haven’t blamed any country for the suspected intrusion, though most Swedish defense analysts say Russia would be a likely culprit.

Sweden built up an anti-submarine force after a Soviet sub with nuclear weapons ran aground off its southern shores in 1981 but started dismantling it as part of deep cuts in defense spending after the Cold War ended. Anti-submarine helicopters were phased out in 2008 and replacements are not expected until 2018.

Apart from cutting defense spending, Sweden has shifted its focus from territorial defense to international peacekeeping operations and abolished conscription. In 2012 Sweden had 20,000 troops on active duty and 200,000 reserves, down from 50,000 active-duty personnel and almost 600,000 reserves in 1999, according to statistics from the Britain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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