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 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 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 Ukraine

Ukraine’s Parliamentary Vote Won’t Heal the Nation’s Divide

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-VOTE-CRISIS
A girl walks past booths at a polling station in Kiev on October 25, 2014, on the eve of the country's parliamentary elections. Vasili Maximov —AFP/Getty Images

By leaving millions of pro-Russian voters out of the electoral process, the ballot will only deepen the rifts that lie beneath the war in eastern Ukraine.

The lynch mob caught up with Nestor Shufrich on Sept. 30, when he was campaigning for re-election to Ukraine’s parliament. Outside the press conference he was due to give that day in the port city of Odessa, a gang of activists and right wing thugs were waiting for him with a garbage dumpster, into which they had planned to stuff the lawmaker in front of the assembled journalists. The ambush, part of a broader purge of politicians who are seen as sympathetic toward Russia, did not work out; Shufrich heard about it and cancelled the appearance. But the mob soon tracked him down inside the local government headquarters, tore his clothes off and beat him until his eyes swelled, his head concussed and blood poured from his nose.

A few weeks later, on the final stretch of the campaign, Shufrich recalled the incident like an occupational hazard. “These things come with the territory now, unfortunately,” he says on Friday, two days before the parliamentary ballot that will be held this weekend in most of the country, but not all of it. The huge parts of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of pro-Russian separatist rebels will not take part in the vote, and neither will the southern region of Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in March. “That means millions of our constituents will not be represented in this parliament,” Shufrich tells TIME. “How much of a national dialogue can you expect in those conditions?”

Probably not much at all. In the eight months since the revolution booted Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leaders from power, the country’s political discourse has devolved into a kind of blood sport, and Russia’s military meddling in Ukraine has only served to radicalize the political scene further in the lead up to the vote. Pro-Russian politicians from the old regime have been forced to flee the country in droves, typically to Russia, where the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych took refuge in February. The members of his party who stayed behind, such as Shufrich, have been routinely arrested and charged with separatism, attacked in the streets, beaten or thrown into dumpsters by crowds of vigilantes. An alarming number of Ukrainians seem to support the forces behind these attacks. According to the latest opinion polls, the populists set to take second place in these elections are from the aptly named Radical Party, which uses a pitchfork as its logo and treats even the vaguest relation or sympathy to Russia as a political mark of the devil.

For Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, all this makes it a lot harder to pursue the peace agenda that helped get him elected in May. His political party, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, is still set to get the most votes in these elections, but its ability to pursue negotiations with Russia and reconciliation with the separatists in eastern Ukraine will run up against the nationalists and militants with whom the party will have to share the legislative branch.

In an address to the nation two weeks before the vote, Poroshenko admitted that the peace process he initiated in September, including a shaky ceasefire agreed with the pro-Russian rebels, “is constantly attacked by the gung-ho patriots,” an oblique reference to nationalist groups like the Radical Party and its loudmouthed leader Oleh Lyashko. “These people are, for the most part, divorced from reality and eager to criticize,” he said. “But I nonetheless have no intention of changing my strategy.”

That will be a lot harder than he makes it sound. At the heart of his peace plan has been a series of concessions to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, which he has allowed to elect their own separatist leaders and enjoy broad autonomy from the central government in Kiev. These acts of appeasement have been enough to slow the fighting around the conflict zones in the past month and a half, but they have also incensed the hardline political forces that want nothing short of a military victory over the separatists. The most radical among them have been the paramilitary commanders leading the fight against the rebels on the front lines and, more recently, campaigning for places in parliament.

One of them, the ultranationalist Andriy Biletsky, who leads a regiment of several thousand fighters, has called for Ukraine to scrap the ceasefire and push ahead with an all-out war. “We are negotiating [with Russia] from a position of weakness,” he told TIME in an interview last month in Kiev. “So any breather we get during this conflict will be just that, a temporary respite, and eventually the war will continue. So I don’t see the logic behind negotiating now.”

Nor do many of the activists and protestors who rose up last winter against the Yanukovych regime. In the past few weeks, as the parliamentary elections grew near, thousands of them have again begun to demonstrate in Kiev for a harder line against the separatists, at times clashing with police in scenes that have been painfully reminiscent of the revolution that brought Poroshenko to power in the first place. These protestors do not represent a part of the electorate that can be easily ignored or sidelined. In a nationwide survey released this week, 40% of respondents said they are prepared to take to the streets for a resumption of the winter uprising if Ukraine’s new leaders fail to meet the demands of the revolution.

At the heart of those demands is the drive to purge the ruling class of anyone with ties to the ousted government, and on that front Poroshenko has tried to deliver. Earlier this month, he signed the so-called “lustration” law, which would affect up to a million people who had been on the government’s payroll under the old regime. After an elaborate vetting process, these civil servants could be banned from holding any job in the state bureaucracy for a decade, thus branding a huge portion of the country as unfit for public service. It is under the vengeful spirit of this law that Shufrich and other holdouts from the Yanukovych government have been facing mob justice in the streets. “We’re like pariahs now,” he says.

In the course of a few turbulent months, the purge has helped disrupt an uneasy balance of power that had held in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. The electoral map of the country had been split for years roughly down the middle with a political east-west divide. Voters in the central and western parts of the country tended to favor integration with Europe, and bristled at Russia’s frequent attempts to treat Ukraine like a wayward stepchild. But to the east and south of the Dnieper River that bisects Ukraine, and especially in the industrial eastern regions where the dominant language has always been Russian, voters broadly favored the close ties with Moscow on which their economic fortunes depended. For the past two decades, both halves of Ukrainian society had ample representation in parliament. Sometimes they turned the chamber into a venue for food fights and bare-knuckle boxing, but at least all sides got to have their say.

What finally ruptured this balance was the Russian annexation of Crimea in March. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was outraged at the revolution that toppled his ally in Kiev, sent his troops to occupy the Crimean peninsula and absorb it into Russia. But he did not win many allies in Ukraine in the process. Even the regions that had previously favored closer ties with Moscow began to see a surge of ill will toward the Russian President and the country he represents. According a survey conducted in May, two months after the annexation of Crimea, 76% of respondents had a negative view of Putin, up from 40% just a year earlier.

The main exceptions to that trend were the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the vast majority of people expressed support for Putin in May despite his annexation of a piece of their country. These breakaway chunks of eastern Ukraine, which are home to at least 10% of the country’s 45 million people, are now being left out of the electoral process. Instead of taking part in this weekend’s elections, the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine will hold their own ballots next month, thus helping to formalize their split with the rest of the country. “If you count the people of Crimea, that comes to seven million Russian-speaking voters who will not be represented in the new parliament,” says Shufrich.

For the ruling government in Kiev, that might not be such a bad thing. The absence of millions of pro-Russian voters will ensure that Ukraine’s new leaders, as well as the nationalist parties, get a stronger mandate to rule at the polls, while the closest thing to a pro-Russian party running in these elections – the newfangled Opposition Bloc of Shufrich and his allies – has been so badly humiliated and demoralized by the post-revolutionary purge that it is not expected to win any seats in the parliament. This may well reflect the new anti-Russian mood in Ukraine as a whole. But it will not help heal the national divide. Instead of moving into the somewhat more civilized framework of parliamentary debate, the conflict over eastern Ukraine will still be caught up in the discourse of purges, guns and garbage dumpsters.

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 Fast Food

McDonald’s Says Russian Health Inspectors Target 200 Restaurants

Inside Burger King And Subway As McDonald's Faces Growing Challenge From Rivals
A logo hangs on display outside a McDonald's food restaurant in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, April 7, 2013. Andrey Rudakov—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Russian courts also ordered 9 to close

More than 200 McDonald’s restaurants in Russia are being audited by health inspectors, the company said in a public statement over the weekend.

McDonald’s vowed to challenge a court-ordered closure of nine restaurants, according to a Russian-language statement released by the Illinois-based company, Bloomberg reports.

Health inspections of the Russian branches — there were at least 440 as of August — began shortly after countries in the West imposed sanctions against Russia during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Regulators argue the searches are part of a widening investigation of sanitary violations, but critics in August dismissed the probes as an exercise in political retaliation.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Italy

Putin Seeks Deal on Ukraine

Europe Asia Summit
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, center, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko meet on the sidelines of the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders in Milan on Oct. 17, 2014 Daniel Dal Zennaro—AP

Leaders emphasized the need to separate the warring sides in eastern Ukraine and talked about monitoring the cease-fire

(MILAN) — Russian leader Vladimir Putin is meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and key Western leaders in an attempt to negotiate a full end to hostilities in Ukraine that could ease sanctions against Russia.

Putin met separately overnight with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has insisted that Russia fully respect a Ukraine cease-fire deal signed last month that has reduced hostilities but not stopped all fighting.

The Kremlin, in a readout on the nearly 2½-hour meeting, said the leaders emphasized the need to separate the warring sides in eastern Ukraine and talked about monitoring the cease-fire. They continued to disagree on the roots of the conflict.

The meetings Friday are on the sidelines of an ASEM summit of more than 50 Asian and European leaders in the Italian city of Milan.

TIME Ukraine

Crimea’s Gay Community Moves Out as Russian Homophobia Sets In

Yegor Guskov and Bogdan Zinchenko, who owned a gay bar in Sevastopol, feared for their business — and their family

The Qbar was always an awkward fit in the nightlife of Sevastopol. It was the only place in the Ukrainian city to host the occasional drag show, and certainly the only place where the all-male waitstaff wore booty shorts beneath their aprons. In other parts of Europe, and even many cities in mainland Ukraine, the camp décor would have raised few eyebrows. But Sevastopol is a macho place. It houses the Russian Black Sea naval fleet, and its streets are studded with the homes and memorials of veterans from Russian wars going back to the 18th century. So even before Russia decided in March of this year to annex the city from Ukraine along with the rest of the Crimean peninsula, the locals, both Russian and Ukrainian, looked at the Qbar with a bit of suspicion.

“For a long time they were afraid,” says Yegor Guskov, who ran the bar along with his partner, Bogdan Zinchenko, since it opened in 2007. Mostly out of a fear of the unfamiliar, the Ukrainian officials who worked next door at City Hall were “worried at first that someone would fondle them if they came inside,” he says. “But then they realized it was safe, and the food is really good. So they started coming to eat.” By day the bar would be full of dowdy bureaucrats on their lunch breaks; by night it was packed with lithe young men and women taking Sambuca shots and dancing to Britney Spears. It filled a niche, and business prospered.

But like a lot of things about life in Sevastopol, all of that changed after the Russian annexation. In response to this year’s pro-Western revolution in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to occupy the region of Crimea, many of them fanning out from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol. The invasion quickly helped install a new set of leaders in the region, who organized a slipshod referendum to call for Crimea to secede from Ukraine. When the vote passed with an overwhelming majority – most of Crimea’s residents are ethnic Russians – Putin signed a decree absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation. Its two million citizens thus found themselves living under Russian law.

For the gay community in Crimea, the most worrying piece of legislation was the Russian ban on “homosexual propaganda,” which Putin signed in 2012. Although the law is billed as an effort to protect Russian children from learning about “non-traditional sexual relationships,” its critics say the law encourages homophobia, signaling to Russians that gays are somehow inferior and should not be allowed to insist on their equality in public.

Since March, the new leaders of Crimea have embraced these principles with gusto. The head of the regional government, Sergei Aksyonov, said that the West’s liberal attitude toward gay rights would be “intolerable and unacceptable” on his peninsula during a meeting with his ministers last month. “In Crimea we don’t welcome such people, we don’t need them,” he said, referring to homosexuals. If they ever try to stage a pride parade or any other public events, Aksyonov warned that the local police and paramilitary forces would “take three minutes to clarify what [sexual] orientation is right.”

That sort of discrimination began to hit home for the Qbar in April, after Moscow appointed a retired officer of the Black Sea fleet to serve as the acting head of Sevastopol. Through their patrons from City Hall, the bar’s owners learned that “someone had whispered to the new leadership that they have a gay bar sitting right underneath them,” says Guskov. A series of fire and tax inspections followed, hitting the bar with fines and official reprimands that made its managers understand they weren’t welcome anymore.

At first they tried some cosmetic remedies. They removed the Ukrainian-language sign from their door and made the waiters put on trousers instead of their trademark denim shorts. They even took the letter Q out of the name of the bar, Guskov says, because the local officials said it looked like a symbol for sodomy. “We changed the format,” he says. “We tried to make it into a normal eatery.”

But none of that made them feel safe in the city they call home. Not only are the pair among the most open of Sevastopol’s chronically closeted gays, but Guskov and Zinchenko have a two-year-old son, Timur, from a surrogate mother. The chance that some technocrat could question their custody of Timur, plus their desire to have more children, convinced them that it was time to leave Crimea behind.

In August, they joined the quiet stream of émigrés – thousands of them, even by conservative estimates – who have left the peninsula and moved to mainland Ukraine since the annexation. The largest groups have been from Crimea’s ethnic minorities, primarily Muslim Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, who have both raised alarms over repression and discrimination since their towns and cities became a part of Russia. But the region’s gay men and women have also been moving away, as much out of protest at the annexation as out of a fear of becoming the targets of a state-backed campaign of homophobia.

Guskov believes that campaign won’t be long in coming. “When it became clear that Russia needs to prepare for isolation from Europe, it needed to smear the Europeans somehow, and the simplest is to spread this idea of perverted, decadent Gayropeans,” he says, using the derogatory term for Europeans—”Gayropeytsy”—that has entered the Russian vernacular. “So this witch hunt at home is needed as a tool to smear opponents abroad,” he says.

In Crimea, adds Zinchenko, the warning signs are easy to see. If elderly neighbors were happy before to coddle Timur and offer his parents advice on how to raise him, now the Soviet tradition of the “donos” – denouncing an acquaintance to the police – has started to return, he says. “People are writing these accusations against their neighbors just to show how patriotic they are, how loyal,” he says. “These are all signals for us. They show that we can become a target.”

That suspicion is what forced Guskov and Zinchenko to give up their business in Sevastopol, pack up their things and moved to Kiev. Along the way, the New York City-based photographer Misha Friedman joined them to document their journey, which he felt was emblematic of the transformation that Crimea, and the rest of Ukraine, have undergone since the annexation. “They just struck me as a normal happy family,” the photographer says. “They just got caught up in the politics of bigotry.” As they make their new home in the capital, they’re thinking of opening up a new Qbar, which will have to deal with a lot more competition in Kiev’s vibrant gay scene. But this seems like a minor worry compared to the risks they faced in the new Sevastopol.

Read next: What the Vatican Really Said About Homosexuality

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