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Russian Ukrainian War V - Russian Politics Fall Berlin Wall, Gorbachev, Yelstin, Communist Party, Unity Party, NATO Expansion, Mogilevich Russian Mob

Apr 24, 2022 at 03:11 pm by mikewood

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Ukraine Part V: Adding Context to the Shallow Reporting of TV News

In Part V We Delve into the Russian Politics Leading up to the War in Ukraine, the Role of the Russian Mob and Oligarchs and a Look at NATO Expansion & What's Happening at the Peace Negotiation Table in Turkey

ukraine russian war analysis russia war in ukraine analysisMarch 28, 2022 / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.


To Understand Russia Today, a Little Background is in Order - Unfortunately the Incredibly Lame TV News is Failing Miserably at Providing it

In the graphic at right is the head of the Russian mob, Semion Mogilevich. Mogilevich, a Ukrainian, rose in the criminal world in Russia reportedly starting in the 1980's. In the early 1990's as the government of the Soviet Union was collapsing, Mogilevich and Vladimir Putin became fast friends.

At that time, the Russian mob began spreading like cancer to the nations of Eastern Europe, as well as to Britain and the U.S.. The spread of the Russian mob was fueled by disgruntled Russian veterans from the Afghanistan War, and by ill-gotten gains, some of which allegedly came from an incredibly corrupt Russian government which was first headed by Boris Yeltsin, and then his hand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin.

One of Mogilevich's under bosses met with Donald Trump as early as 1984. According to a January 12, 2019 report by Vox,

"... The very first episode that’s been documented, to my knowledge, was in 1984 when David Bogatin -- who is a Russian mobster, convicted gasoline bootlegger, and close ally of Semion Mogilevich, a major Russian mob boss -- met with Trump in Trump Tower right after it opened. Bogatin came to that meeting prepared to spend $6 million, which is equivalent to about $15 million today ... Bogatin bought five condos from Trump at that meeting. Those condos were later seized by the government, which claimed they were used to launder money for the Russian mob ..."


The Primary Differences Between a Free Society & a Dictatorship - Truth & Transparency vs Deception & Corruption

Except for the most corrupt of people, most humans - given the choice - would like to live in a democracy: 1) in a society governed by laws, 2) where free speech doesn't get you 15 years in prison or a death sentence like it does in Russia today, 3) in a nation where you get to choose your leaders, and 4) can non-violently fire your leaders when they implement bad policies for the nation. That's what we have here in America, and that's what most of the other NATO countries offer their people.

At present Russia is the bizarro rendition of the free, democratic nations of NATO. Putin's changing of the Russian Federation Constitution in 2020 essentially enables him to hold government power for the rest of his life [until 2036, when he's age 83]. And the imprisonment and multi-year sentencing of Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny in 2021 / 2022, shows that Russian rule of law is merely a charade. Reportedly between 13,000 and 15,000 Russian peaceful protesters have been jalied since the Russian Invasion of Ukraine began in late February of 2022. Unfortunately, aspirations of becoming a free society, where the people are able to pick and choose their own leaders, continues to elude Russia, as the corruption in the Russian Federation electoral process, makes voting seem a useless waste of time.

For these and other reasons, Ukraine embarked on the path toward joining NATO since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And, as described in Part II of this report series, that's also why the Ukrainians have been seeking independence from Russia for at least a century - if not longer - prior to this most recent Russian invasion.


From Gorbachev to Yeltsin - Before, During & After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Mikhail Gorbachev was the Secretary General of the Communist Party from 1985 to 1990. During his terms in office, he was a reformer who advocated for glasnost, which was the opening up of Russian society. Through glasnost, the government was more consultative with the people with respect to the policies it pursued, and there was wider dissemination of information. For the first time in about two thirds of a century [since the Russian Revolution] the Russian government loosened its restrictive control over the populace. Gorbachev also decided that Russia needed to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 [see our report on Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan which compares the two], since it was a winless war. In 1979, Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev had also expressed an openness to reforming the Russian government's role in society.

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Germany and Russia negotiated for East Germany's independence from the Soviet Union. In March of 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev became the first President of the Soviet Union. He continued trying to move Russia into the modern world via Perestroika, which at first was about automation, but grew to entail economic and social reforms. Some of the Eastern European nations, like Lithuania, began to push for greater autonomy from the Soviet Union. To continue on the reform path, Gorbachev needed money, and this is where the west failed Russia during this transition.

By failing to help Gorbachev, by keeping Russia frozen out of the G7 which would have given him access to the liquidity of global markets, things worsened in Russia. Eventually a group of eight leaders of the Communist Party held Gorbachev under house arrest while he was vacationing near the Black Sea, in an attempt to stage a coup. Gorbachev refused to make / legitimize the governmental changes they demanded.

Back in Moscow, Boris Yeltsin, President of the Soviet State [which if I understand this correctly that Soviet state is now Russia], stepped in with troops loyal to him and protesters to stop the storming of the Russian Parliament and to save the government of Gorbachev's Soviet Union [which included all other Soviet republics at the time as well as Yeltsin's Soviet State]. By beating back the coup initiated by the members of Gorbachev's own Communist Party, Yeltsin ascended to the top spot. But not until after some changes were made.

The Soviet Union is Dissolved & Russia Reels from Control by the Communist Party to Control by the United Russia Party

After the attempted coup in August of 1991, Yeltsin aligned himself with the other non-Russian leaders of the other Soviet republics to dismantle the Soviet Union. Gorbachev may have overseen the transition from the Soviet Union to the Commonwealth of Independent States aka CIS, but it was Yeltsin who was leading the charge. The CIS includes Russia and many of the former Soviet Republics located in Asia, as well as Belarus and Moldova in Europe. Yeltsin then moved quickly to consolidate his power. First he outlawed Communist Party activities on Russian soil in August of 1990, and then he took over the Russian ministries. By December 1991 the Soviet Union voted to dissolve itself and transition to becoming the Commonwealth of Independent States or CIS. At that point Gorbachev's position essentially became powerless, and Boris Yeltsin became the President of Russia, and was up for re-election in six years time in 1996.


After Collapse of the Soviet Empire - Eastern European Nations Expand Their Ties with the West

While many of the former Asian republics became members of CIS, most of the Eastern European nations, including Ukraine, did not. They began gravitating west toward Europe. According to 'A Short History of NATO, on the NATO website at,

" ... In December 1991, the Allies established the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997. This forum brought the Allies together with their Central European, Eastern European, and Central Asian neighbours for joint consultations. Many of these newly liberated countries - or partners, as they were soon called - saw a relationship with NATO as fundamental to their own aspirations for stability, democracy, and European integration..."


NATO Expansion has been in Process Since 1952

Since its founding in 1949, NATO membership has grown from 12 to 30. One of the primary benefits of becoming a member of the group is Article V, which states that an attack on any member of the organization is considered an attack on all.

The first NATO Expansion, following the creation of NATO in 1949, was with the admission of Greece and Turkey in 1952. In 1955, Germany was admitted. In 1982 Spain entered NATO. In 1990 Eastern Germany became a part of NATO. In 1994 and 1995 NATO committed itself to openess and possible enlargement. Between 1997 and 1999 three former Soviet Republics - Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary become NATO members at the Washington Summit. That brought the total NATO membership up to 19. Since then NATO membership has grown to 30.

I just want to take a minute here to point out that the knuckleheads on network TV news don't provide this sort of context to inform the American people. Their newscasts oftentimes seem like a bunch of old ladies and old men yapping indiscrimately and unknowingly about the topics they're covering.

The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 so that individual NATO member states and Russia could work as equal partners on security issues of common interest. In 2002 former Soviet Republic, Ukraine, expressed its interest in joining NATO, and in 2006, former Soviet Republic, Georgia, expressed the same. On November 10, 2021 the Ukraine and the U.S. signed a strategic partnership agreement that among other things states,

"... The United States and Ukraine endorse the 2021 Strategic Defense Framework as the foundation of enhanced Ukraine-U.S. defense and security cooperation and intend to work to advance shared priorities, including implementing defense and defense industry reforms, deepening cooperation in areas such as Black Sea security, cyber defense, and intelligence sharing, and countering Russia’s aggression ..."

This was due in part to counter to Russia's invasion of the Crimea, Donbas and Luhansk regions of Ukraine in 2014.


Ukrainian Nuclear Disarmament in Exchange for Security Guarantees by U.S. & Russia

Vladimir Putin did something nearing an Adolph Hitler, when he invaded Crimea in 2014, in violation of the Trilateral Statement of 1994 and the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. According to Disarmament.Org,

" ... As the United States mediated between Russia and Ukraine, the three countries signed the Trilateral Statement on January 14, 1994. Ukraine committed to full disarmament, including strategic weapons, in exchange for economic support and security assurances from the United States and Russia ... To solidify security commitments to Ukraine, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances on December 5, 1994..."

As neither of these agreements are treaties, Putin's violation of them, isn't exactly a Hitler, but a defacto Hitler. As we've seen since the war began, a lot of Putin's behaviors including lies, deceptions and military aggression, seems highly reminiscent of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in the late 1930's and early 1940's.


While Eastern European Nations Make Constructive Changes, Autocracy & Corruption Metastisize in Yeltsin's Russia

Yeltsin began liberalizing the practices of the old Soviet Union, by opening up the economy to foreigners and trade. In the process, many of the people who depended on the state fell into poverty. The output of the economy of Russia reportedly fell by 50% from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of 1993. Yeltsin was the head of the Russian government for half or more of this time in the early 1990's.

According to Wikipedia,

"... Corruption was rampant, violent crime was skyrocketing, medical services were collapsing, food and fuel were increasingly scarce and life expectancy was falling for all but a tiny handful of the population ..."

In a show of illegal force, Yeltsin who had become incredibly unpopular, disbanded the Supreme Soviet, and replaced it with the Duma in a decree. By December of 1993 anti-Yeltsin candidates were elected to the Duma, but it didn't matter that much as in the referendum establishing the Duma, Yeltsin had ascribed significant powers to the Presidency, which Yeltsin held. Once a champion of democracy, Yeltsin had quickly become a champion of autocracy. This seems to happen a lot in less developed parts of the world. Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Belarus President Lukashenko are good examples of such.

Yeltsin began privatizing the assets of the Russian people. At first he distributed 10,000 ruble vouchers to each Russian, which were quickly bought for cash by intermediaries. As the election of 1996 approached, Yeltsin distributed equity in Russian assets, at huge discount prices, to financiers who could provide him with the loans to needed to keep the government operating. This was the first generation of Russian Oligarchs.

I used to work with someone at CBS, who later worked for Australian born Oligarch, Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch controls Fox News, the Wall St. Journal and the NY Post [and appears increasingly to be wielding influence at Disney / ABC News where Murdoch and two Fox shareholding entities control about 25% of the Disney / ABC stock]. In the mid 1990's my former boss told me of a trip he took to Russia with Rupert Murdoch, where security was a huge issue. And if I recall correctly, they met with Boris Berezovsky, a Russian Oligarch. Berezovsky later fell out of favor with Putin, and is believed to have been murdered on his orders in Britain.


Yeltsin & Putin: Corruption and the Emergence of the Unity Party

As mentioned, Boris Berezovsky was one of the first Russian Oligarchs. He made his allegedly corrupt cash by buying media outlets in Russia at discount prices, when Yeltsin was privatizing the assets of the Russian state.

In 1996, Yeltsin announced he was running for re-election. He was vastly unpopular, so he recruited a number of media specialists and owners, to help him win. Yeltsin and company did what Australian born Oligarch Rupert Murdoch, appears to have been doing in possibly every important election in Australia, Britain and the U.S., since Murdoch came to power in the companies he now dominates [Newscorp and 21st Century Fox]. Like Murdoch, Yeltsin scaremongered and manipulated the ignorant and low information voters in the electorate, to vote for the manipulators' preferred candidate, by disinforming the audience. According to Wikipedia,

" ... In mid-1996, Chubais and Yeltsin recruited a team of a handful of financial and media oligarchs to bankroll the Yeltsin campaign and guarantee favorable media coverage to the president on national television and in leading newspapers. In return, Chubais allowed well-connected Russian business leaders to acquire majority stakes in some of Russia's most valuable state-owned assets. Led by the efforts of Mikhail Lesin, the media painted a picture of a fateful choice for Russia, between Yeltsin and a "return to totalitarianism." The oligarchs even played up the threat of civil war if a Communist was elected president..."

This is akin to the demagoguery of Murdoch's propaganda outlets in the U.S. 2020 election. Murdoch's Fox News, NY Post and even the Wall St. Journal, appeared to try to manipulate the electorate that voting for Joe Biden was the same as voting for Socialism, Defunding the Police, Open Borders and so many other of their disinformative slogans.

Anyhow back to Russia where evil triumphed, and Yeltsin won. Yeltsin's health started failing. Russia did eventually receive western aid of about $40 billion through the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. Opposition forces claim that Yeltsin's supporters stole the money and deposited it in banks around the globe. Yeltsin fired his cabinet four times from 1996 - 1999 and on the fourth occasion, in August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister. Putin was annointed as Yeltsin's choice to be his successor. On December 31, 1999, Vladimir Putin became the 'President' of Russia. According to Wikipedia, Putin's first decree was provide Boris Yeltsin with lifelong immunity from prosecution for corruption.


Kleptocracy: Vladimir Putin, Semion Mogilevich & Golden Age of Russian Corruption

According to a May 19, 2016 Radio Free Europe report,

" ... Putin has long boasted that he alone was able to help Russia get over this tumultuous period, and that he alone could guarantee stability for an unlimited amount of time..."

One of the under-reported stories of our age was what happened in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Under Yeltsin, the Oligarchs were in charge, providing money to Yeltsin as he needed it, in exchange for under-pricing and selling Russian state assets, which had entrusted to him, in tandem with the government apparatus. This was the birth of the Russian Kleptocracy.

What Putin did, was to turn that business model around on the Oligarchs, telling them they could keep their ill-gotten gains, so long as they stayed loyal to him. Some reports allege that Putin also stipulated that the Oligarchs give half of their wealth to him. And if you read the prior reports in this series, you'll see photos of Putin's $1.4 billion palace on the Black Sea and his $750 million yacht - both of which Putin claims are owned by the Oligarchs, not himself. But like a lot of things Putin says, it smells like a lie.

So this is where the Russian mob comes in. One of the bedrocks of the Putin Presidency is his relationship with Semion Mogilevich, head of the Russian mob. The relationship between Mogilevich and Putin goes back decades to the 1990's, possibly earlier. Putin is believed to have cut a deal with Mogilevich, whereby the Russian mob was provided with a lot of operational leeway for Mogilevich's illegal operations, while Putin's Russian government looked the other way. According to an October 5, 2021 report by journalist Greg Olear of [author of 'Dirty Rubles'],

" ... Principal activities of the Mogilevich Organization include weapons trafficking, nuclear materials trafficking, prostitution [i.e., sex trafficking], drug trafficking, dealing in precious gems, and money laundering. The Mogilevich Organization operates across Central Europe, including Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; and Moscow, Russia. Its activities also extend to the United States, Ukraine, United Kingdom, France, Slovakia, and Israel... "

In exchange, Mogilevich's mob is alleged to provide services to the Putin government as needed, including contract killings. Reportedly, by striking a deal with Mogilevich, Putin was able to bring domestic crime under control, while providing Putin with reach into nearly anywhere in the world, by way of Mogilevich's Russian crime syndicate. This is reportedly, how Putin tamed the Russian Oligarchs.

I think it's worth noting that Semion Mogilevich is a Jewish Ukrainian, like President Volodymyr Zelensky. What's uncertain, is whether Mogilevich's cultural identity will play any role in how events in this drama unfold.


Putin, the Russian Economy & Russian Wars

I could take you deeper into Putin's nearly 20 years in office [1999 - present] as the President and Prime Minister [2006 - 2012], but I've run out of time. The short and sweet of it is that he cracked down on highly visible street violence, thus providing Russians with a sense of law and order. And during his first two terms as President the price of oil was steady or rose [Russia is the second largest oil exporter in the world], so Russians' subsidized incomes went up. Putin also rebuilt and used the Russian military to quell rebellion against the Russian state in former Soviet Republics / regions such as Chechnya [1999 - 2000], Georgia [2008] and eventually the Ukraine [2014 - 2022]. Putin had also ventured into Syria [2015 - 2019], and the then President Trump, helped Putin by abandoning America's allies, the Kurds, in that region.

Initially Putin was popular, but his popularity declined as the years wore on. And at this point the Russian elections are reportedly so corrupt - aided by state controlled media, jailing or eliminating opposition candidates, and controlling the ballot boxes - that nobody really knows how popular or unpopular Putin really is.


Dysfunctional Russian Ukrainian Peace Negotiations

The U.S. & E.U. are not Involved, but a Russian Oligarch is?

ukraine russian war analysis russia war in ukraine analysisUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, invited Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich, to help broker the Russia / Ukraine Peace negotiations with Putin. Zelensky went so far as to ask the Biden Administration to keep Abramovich off the financially sanctioned Oligarch list [this appeared to be confirmed in an NYT story on March 29, 2022]. Representatives of the United States and the European Union are not presently involved in the negotiations. This seems like a flawed peace negotiation process from the start, since one of the most important peace terms for the Ukrainian people is a U.S. / E.U. guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignity.

It's worth noting that Oligarch Abramovich, like Zelensky, is also Ukrainian. Abramovich became fabulously wealthy during Yeltsin's tenure by buying state industries, like an oil company and an airline, at discount prices from the state. Abramovich then sold the companies for huge windfall profits. Unlike many Oligarchs, Abramovich survived the transition to Putin, and remains an Oligarch to this day. According to the New York Times, Abramovich got involved in trying to broker peace shortly after the war started. According to a March 15, 2022 report in The Times of Israel, Abramovich shuttled between Russia and Israel [he has citizenship in both nations] by way of Turkey, where the peace negotiations are located.

Australian born Oligarch, Rupert Murdoch, owns the Wall St. Journal, which published an unconfirmed / questionable story alleging that Abramovich had been poisoned. Almost every lemming national news organization in this country repeated the WSJ report, without independently verifying it - except the Washington Post, CNN and Vanity Fair. Real news organizations know that they should NEVER publish anything picked up from the Australian born Oligarch's [Murdoch] media outlets [Fox News, WSJ, NY Post and increasingly ABC News] without first independently verifying it. The Washington Post properly said the poisoning was alleged, noted that Abramovich refused to take questions on it, that he didn't miss a single step in the negotiations, and cited the following,

" ... In announcing sanctions against Abramovich, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government called him a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” with an estimated fortune of more than 9 billion pounds ($12 billion) who should be punished for his association with Putin. Abramovich also was linked with “destabilizing” and threatening Ukraine..."

So was the 'poisoning' faked as a theatrical diversion, to distract and preempt questions as to what Abramovich was doing at these negotiations in the first place? And this begs the question what is the relationship between Russian Oligarch Abramovich and Ukrainian President Zelensky? And, why is Australian born Oligarch Rupert Murdoch using his mass media outlets to undermine Biden, while seeming to aid and abet Vladimir Putin?


Is Zelensky up to the Job of Negotiating with the Russians?

Assuming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is correct, that Abramovich is Pro Kremlin [having survived both Yeltsin & Putin], then Zelensky's faith in Abramovich to broker a deal appears naive at best. Zelensky already appears to be caving in on the negotiations with Russia, saying the Ukraine will give up pursuit of NATO membership, which leads me to ask, wasn't this one of the main issues cited as causing the war? Shouldn't Ukrainian people - not Putin or Russia or for that matter Zelensky - decide whether the Ukraine will or will not join any organization? And if not, then why have so many Ukrainians already sacrificed their lives?

And if Zelensky and the Ukrainians are willing to negotiate away their right to self determination vis a vis NATO membership, why the hell is NATO funding and supplying the Ukrainian war effort with billions in weapons and aid? Shouldn't people from both the United States, Europe and other NATO countries be represented at these peace negotiations? In establishing peace between Northern Ireland and Ireland, all of the related parties were brought in on the negotiations, including Britain and the U.S. Anything less than full participation by Ukraine's allies is likely a hasty peace, not a lasting one, and a disservice to those Ukrainians who fought and died in this war.

The Ukrainians have made a number of bad deals over the past century. First aligning themselves with the Czar in WWI, then with the Germans in WWII, and then giving up their nukes without even a treaty that guaranteed their sovereignity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is a point lost on the TV newscasters, because as noted above, the agreements made in 1994 were a 'Statement' and a 'Memoranda' NOT treaties.


In Negotiations it's Important to Pay Attention to the Entire Playing Field

Are the Russian War Munitions Running on Empty?

What's even more bothersome regarding these negotiations, is that Russia may now be on its heels. The Russian war effort is stalled. It seems the war is beginning to turn in Ukraine's favor. The Ukrainians have been resupplied with all sorts of additional western weapons and the Ukrainian army has been winning back territory.

Furthermore, since an estimated 10 million women and children have already been displaced to western Ukraine or have fled to other nations, the remaining men and women in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, which likely number about 20+ million and are fight-capable. So with the new supply of western weapons and some training, the Ukrainians should be able to beat back the reportedly demoralized 150,000 Russians who remain in the Ukraine.

Isn't this why Putin's Russia now appears ready to negotiate? Putin is nothing - if not calculating. Putin is not ready to negotiate because he's winning, nor because he cares about all of the damage he has inflicted on Ukraine. No, Putin is ready to negotiate because he's losing, and it seems pretty badly, and he's looking for a way to save face to make it look like he won on his way out. He wants to end this conflict before he and the Russian army are subjected to an all out rout, and total humiliation by the very determined, freedom-loving Ukrainian people.

By the way, one military analyst predicted that Putin would run out of ammunition by the end of March. This is a guess, but runing low on ammo may be part of the motivation behind Putin's increased interest in negotiations for peace and the redeployments.


Will the Russians and / or the Ukrainians Send Putin Packing?

Given this war with Ukraine has weakened both Russia and Putin, this could be an opportunity for Mogilevich, the Russian Oligarchs and the Russian people, to break free of Putin's grip. A May 19, 2016 report by Radio Free Europe tells us,

"... When the economic pie was expanding, it was easy for the Kremlin to manipulate the criminal underworld and keep it tame and well fed... But those days are over. The pie is shrinking and only the best connected crime groups are thriving -- and the rest are getting restless, and more willing to break the rules..."

A March 11, 2022 report in Forbes states,

"... U.S. financier and prominent Putin critic Bill Browder, who insists that Putin has made a deal to take 50% of the wealth from the country’s leading oligarchs, argues that sanctions could go a “long way toward drying up” the resources Putin needs to continue the war. Meanwhile, Sarah Mendelson, the head of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in Washington, D.C., said the sanctions have “threatened” a foundation of Putin’s regime..."

My guess is that both Mogilevich and Putin must be wary of one another. One can't help wonder which one will strike the other first. This may just be wishful thinking on my part.


Putin's Paranoia Appears Justified - Putin Likely Never had any Real Friends

The Russian Economy is Slowing, Inflation is Rising, Interest Rates have Jumped, Many Western Corporations have Closed Operations, Foreign Investment has Plummeted, Unemployment is Likely to Rise, and Putin is in for a Protracted War that may Soon Make its Way onto Russia Territory

Putin has reportedly lost seven generals in the Russian Ukrainian War. He has house arrested at least two top ranking FSB [CIA equivalent] officials. One of his top ministers resigned and fled the country, as have a few celebrities, like a famous Russian ballerina. And some of the Oligarchs have stated publicly that they're not supportive of the war in Ukraine, but have not have attacked Putin personally. Putin's current failure in Ukraine, may have opened the door to enabling the Oligarchs to turn the business / operating model back around on him. But they may still fear him, even more than he fears them. His fear is obvious by the photos of him meeting with his generals and advisers in very large rooms with long tables and huge distances between them.

Putin has plenty of reasons to be paranoid including a possible revolt by the remaining generals, or the top FSB leadership, or possibly a returning army that has suffered the losses and humiliation of being beaten by a smaller country because of Putin's corruption, mismanagement and selfish motivations for the war in the first place. While the Russian ruble has rebounded from being down 50%, to being down 10%, knowledgeable traders believe the ruble is trading at an inflated price because of Russian currency trading restrictions, and very limited trading of the ruble on spot markets [meaning the ruble is likely overpriced]. The currency fall will translate into higher inflation, and it has already triggered higher interest rates [raised to 20% when the financial sanctions hit and still there according to Trading Economics]. Russian financial concerns, coupled with a huge drop in foreign investment and international trade, will create job losses that may eventually contribute to Putin's eventual relinquishment of the top job at the Kremlin. And then there's Russian mob boss Mogilevich ...

I believe I have one more background / context report to do, to wrap up this report series on the Russian Ukrainian War.

Thanks for reading and have a good week. Photos and graphics to follow.