Reports have surfaced today alleging that a woman was planted in front of news cameras in five different situations by the Russian government so that she can pretend to be five different women opposing the Ukrainian revolution.
The woman was seen on the news, first in Odessa, explaining that she was afraid of “pro-fascist” politicians who gained power in Ukraine. Soon after she was seen on that broadcast, social media users alleged that she looked just like various other characters seen on different news reports spreading the same message. People claim that the same woman was seen pretending to be the mother of a soldier in Kiev as well as a pro-Russian protester wrapped in the country’s flag in Kharkov.
“Ukrainian media outlets, who describe her as a 'well known guest actress', say she has also appeared in protests in Sevastopol in Crimea and Norocherkassk in Russia,” reports the Daily Mail. “She regularly appeals for Russian help for pro-Moscow Ukrainians, it has been claimed, and speaks of persecution in her country, leading to claims she is a warrior in Putin's propaganda army.”
The same woman also reportedly appeared on LifeNews as someone named Tatiana Samoilenko, a mother of three who fled the Ukraine to go to Russia.
"When those pro-fascist politicians got power, we did not think for long,” the woman, going by Tatiana Samoilenko, said during the broadcast. “We decided to go to Russia. We quickly understood we had no time to waste, or it could get worse.”
Ukrainians have already accused Russia of hiring people to cause more commotion in the country, so while these latest claims have not been confirmed, many are not surprised by the allegations.
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul says the Russian government recorded his private conversations.
McFaul told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that in Russia, recording private phone conversations and tapping emails is a legal activity.
"As we remind all Americans that come to this country, the Russian government has tremendous capabilities and, legal by their law, of intercepting phone calls, e-mails, et cetera,” he said.
He claimed he was a target of Russian wiretapping.
“There is no doubt that I am a primary subject of interest for them, and from time to time they have also leaked conversations I've had that I thought were private," he said. “That’s just the state of working in Russia.”
"It is interesting to me that this doesn’t get more attention to our critics,” he added.
“Do you think that Russia’s gotten the message about gay rights or has it chosen to ignore it?” asked NBC host David Gregory.
“No, they got the message,” McFaul responded. “They know exactly where we stand on that issue, and I’m very proud of the way we’ve communicated our views on that issue.”
“Do you think there’s going to be any movement, significantly, within the country on it?” Gregory asked.
“It’s a bigger issue. It’s a harder issue because of the domestic politics here,” McFaul said.
McFaul has been the ambassador for two years. He plans to leave his post at the conclusion of the Olympics to return to Stanford University.
“He and his wife decided that after seven months of living on opposite ends of the globe, it is time for the family to be reunited,” the embassy said in a statement.
The Winter Olympics torch relay went through Voronezh, Russia on Saturday where it was met by a teenager who unfurled a LGBT rainbow flag.
LGBT activists filmed Pavel Lebedev waving his flag and subsequently being detained by Olympic officials until Russian police arrived (video below).
“Hosting the games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance,” Lebedev, who is being held for police questioning, told the Associated Press.
In Russia, it's against the law to publicly support gay rights, which is classified as "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."
Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to play down Russia's persecution of gay rights last Friday, but ended up comparing homosexuals to child molesters, reported the Associated Press.
“We have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations," stated Putin. "We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors."
“We aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries," added Putin. "One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.”
According to CBS News, Putin said on Sunday that Russia needs to "cleanse" itself of homosexuality if the country wants to increase its birth rate.
ABC News has tried to help Putin's image by publishing a fluff story on how the former KGB agent stays in shape.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might have topped all security measures taken by any other county hosting the Olympics in history.
Today a restricted zone went up around the Olympics site in Sochi, where nothing can come in or go out until March 21, nearly a month after the Games have ended.
Spanning 60 miles across and 25 miles deep, security troops are patrolling the zone. Christian Science Monitor calls it the “ring of steel.”
Everyone in the area "will be subjected to near total surveillance."
Russian security is on high alert after two suicide bombings in Volgograd last week and threats from warlord Doku Umarov, leader of the Chechen terrorist organization Caucasus Emirate, to attack the Games.
"When we examine these recent Volgograd attacks, it's hard not to notice how well planned and well organized they were. They seem to have enjoyed a lot of logistical help," said Russia security expert Nikolai Petrov. "Terrorism has become a big business, and there are people with a real, material interest in keeping it going."
Russia spent $51 billion to host the Winter Olympics, and Putin has staked his reputation on the event.
"Putin's personal image is closely connected to the outcome of these Games,” said Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB security expert and an ex-Duma deputy. “So I am absolutely sure that whatever can be done, will be done.”
Veteran Kremlin critic Andrei Piontkovsky says Putin will protect internationals in Sochi, but leave the rest of the country vulnerable.
"This is Putin's basic promise to Russians, that he will make us safe," said Piontkovsky. "If we look back over the past 15 years, we can see that he never really kept that pledge. We've been hit over and over again.”
“But because of the Olympics, the whole world is watching,” he added. “It may be that the extraordinary concentration of security resources in Sochi means that city is safe, but what about the rest of the country? Even Moscow? If terrorists strike anywhere, it will seriously undermine faith in Putin."
A new law in Russia makes relatives and others close to terrorists responsible for damages from attacks.
MSN notes that Russian President Vladmir Putin signed a bill into law that would require the relatives, spouses and other "close people" of terrorists to pay for the damages of their attacks.
The term “close people” refers to those whose lives, health, and well-being are valued by the terrorist, due to the terrorist’s personal relationships with the individuals, according to RT, which reports that under the law, all damages – including moral damage – should be compensated “at the expense of the means of the person committing the terrorist act and also at the expense of the means of his [or her] family, relatives and close people.”
The new law also allows for the government to investigate the assets and properties of any relatives or "close people" to determine whether they acquired those items by legal means. If documents are not provided to prove that to be the case, the government can take away the possessions.
RT also notes that there is now a limitation of action under this law, which means it could be implemented regardless of the remoteness of a crime and that harsher jail terms for terror activities have been introduced.
Individuals convicted of organizing a terrorist network can receive 20 years in jail and be ordered to pay a fine of around $31,000.
The Sochi Winter Games met something of a speedbump this weekend when the Olympic flame burned out.
Lit a week ago in Greece, the Olympic flame arrived in Moscow on Saturday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a reception speech at the lighting ceremony as the flame burned in a cauldron on Red Square.
"Today is a joyous and momentous day," Putin said. "The Olympic flame—the symbol of the planet's main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship—has arrived in Russia, and in a few minutes it will be on its way around our huge country."
Putin said the flame would “light the hearts of millions of people, and the Olympic torch, designed in the shape of a feather of the magic firebird, will bring luck and joy.”
The speech kicked off a relay across the country, during which the torch went out. When a torchbearer ran through a long tunnel to the Kremlin, a gust of wind blew it out.
The torch was promptly relit by a security guard with a lighter.
The flame is being carried on a 123-day, 40,000-mile journey throughout Russia, from the western city of Kaliningrad to the easternmost point just across the Bering Strait from Alaska. It will travel by car, plane, train and even reindeer sleigh, before kicking off the Winter Games in February at Sochi.
"Today can truly be called a historic day for us," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who headed the delegation to Greece, said upon arrival. "We – all Russians – have a right to be proud.”
Dan Joseph, a reporter for the conservative Media Research Center, recently asked college students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. to identify Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, but many were stumped.
However, the students were able to explain "twerking" in detail (video below).
“Do you know who Vladimir Putin is?" Joseph asked students.
One girl simply replied, "No," but added, "sounds familiar."
Another female student answered, "No idea."
"Sounds familiar, sounds like someone I should know who I read about in a history book, so I feel like an idiot right now," added another young lady.
“Isn’t he from Russia?” asked one student.
Joseph then asked the students if they knew who the U.S. Secretary of State was, but got similar responses.
“Oh no, don’t do this to me. Don’t make me look like an idiot,” said a female student.
Vitaly Milonov, the champion of the anti-gay ban in Russia, says British actor and outspoken opponent of the law Stephen Fry is a “bringer of evil.”
In an interview in St. Petersburg with the AFP, Milonov went on to compare homosexuality to pedophilia and said “Gays do not have any support in Russian society.”
Fry met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in August, asking him to ban Russia from hosting the 2014 Winter Gamers the country’s new ban on homosexual propaganda. Cameron refused.
“For me Stephen Fry is a bringer of evil, as he expresses ideas which are evil,” Milonov told AFP.
“It’s a declaration of our values, our response to the challenges of the present time,” Milonov said of the ban.
“Thank God that we have Putin, who defends the basic interests of Russia, for defending its values,” he added, saying that Russia “needs to resist the wave of degradation that has seized the Western world.”
Milonov isn't concerned with alienating Western spectators and athletes from the games.
“I do not know why we have to apologize in front of Westerners," he said. "The preaching tone that they adopted in this area does not suit us.”
“Ninety-five percent of Russians are against gay marriage. Gays do not have any support in Russian society,” he added.
“We could say that paedophilia is a sexual choice we could say that murder is one way to survive. But truth is truth and we cannot change the way things are. Homosexuality is not normal, I’m sorry.”
Fry, who many Americans recognize from his depiction of Oscar Wilde opposite Jude Law in “Wilde”, has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, comparing him to Dobby the House Elf in “Harry Potter.”
In an open letter to David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee, Fry called Deputy Milonov “oafish and stupid.”
“At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilized world,” Fry wrote. “He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews.”
Putin said this month that the ban is to encourage heterosexual relations that can beget children because “Russia and European countries have a big problem, the birth rate is low, Europeans are dying out. Same-sex marriages do not produce children.”
The IOC said announced this week that they have no intention of challenging the ban on gay propaganda and that they are "fully satisfied" with Russia hosting the games.
A Russian court on Thursday ordered two Greenpeace activists to be detained for two months after authorities accused them of piracy for protesting on an Arctic oil rig.
Russian investigators accused 26 foreign and four Russian Greenpeace protesters of piracy after their Sept. 18 protest on the Gazprom oil rig.
The Lenin district court ruled that two Russian activists, photographer Denis Sinyakoc and Greenpeace expert Roman Dolgov, should be detained until Nov. 24.
None of the activists have been charged with any crime.
The Netherlands has threatened legal action against Moscow if its protestors were not immediately released, AFP reported.
Greenpeace Russia tweeted that the activists are suspected of “piracy with the aim of seizing property by threatening violence as part of an organized group.”
Sinyakov told the court that “all the accusations are baseless” and that “My weapon was my camera.”
Putin said Wednesday that the activists are in violation of international law. He believes they were trying to “seize” the oil platform.
“It is perfectly obvious that they are no pirates," he said. "But they made a deliberate attempt to seize the oil platform. Our law-enforcement agents, our border guards didn’t know who was trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace. Especially against the background of the bloody events that were taking place in Kenya – that could have been anything.”
Greenpeace is happy with Putin’s announcement. They were alarmed when they thought the protesters would be charged with piracy, which carries with it a sentence of 15 years in jail.
“Thank God, there is a reasonable high-ranking person who has finally admitted that this accusation is not right with regards to this international non-violent organisation. All our actions are non-violent, they are peaceful,” said Evgenia Belyakova, Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner.
In August, travelling on an icebreaker ship called the Arctic Sunrise, the group claimed Russian officials were blocking them from entering the Northern Sea Route in order to hide its lucrative oil drilling. Officials questioned the integrity of their ship, but Arctic Sunrise has a higher ice classification than many of the vessels allowed into the Northern Sea Route this year.
A new Russian propaganda video, supporting the country’s anti-gay legislation, says that gays and lesbians who become parents do so in order to rape their own children.
The video appeared on YouTube last week, but was taken down at the request of a Spanish gay parenting advocacy organization who claimed that its own material was used in the video without permission.
The Russian parliament is currently considering a bill that would require the state to remove the children of gay parents from their homes and place them in orphanages. The video would appear to be designed to support that proposed law.
"Of course [a lesbian parent] should definitely be deprived of her rights to the child," the author of the bill, lawmaker Alexei Zhuravlev, said. "Homosexuals must not raise children. They corrupt them. They do them much more harm than if the child were in an orphanage. I am deeply convinced of this."
The video claims to support its assertions with data from a controversial study by an American sociologist which concluded that children of gay parents are worse off than those of heterosexual couples. That study, by University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus has been widely criticized for allegedly slipshod methodology and data that does not back up the study’s main conclusions.
Nonetheless, the video claims that one-third of gay parenting couples commit rape against their own children and falsely cites the Regnerus study to support the claim. The study says no such thing.
At a meeting of European leaders last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) said that society views gay rape less harshly than heterosexual rape.
His remark came in the context of a “joke” about former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who recently faced accusations of statutory rape, saying that Berlusconi was being condemned because his alleged sexual misdeeds were againt women.