Stalin is smiling from hell.
From the NYT.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and he asserted Russia’s historical claim to the territory in language not often used before, signaling a new and more aggressive policy.
Mr. Putin repeatedly referred to eastern Ukraine as “New Russia” — as the area north of the Black Sea was known after it was conquered by the Russian Empire in the late 1700s. He said only “God knows” why it became part of Ukraine in 1920.
Speaking in a televised question-and-answer show, Mr. Putin also admitted for the first time that Russian armed forces had been deployed in Crimea, the disputed peninsula Russia annexed last month immediately after a large majority of the population voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine. But he dismissed suggestions that Russian troops were behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
……Russia has mobilized troops along the border with Ukraine and in recent days pro-Russian demonstrators have caused widespread unrest throughout the eastern part of the country, seizing police stations and other government buildings and forming roadblocks. There have been several outbursts of violence, including a firefight at a Ukrainian military base overnight in which at least three pro-Russian militiamen were killed.
During the question-and-answer show, Mr. Putin asserted that he had the authority to invade Ukraine, but that he hoped it would not be necessary.
“I remind you that the Federation Council has given the president the right to use armed forces in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the upper house of Parliament. “I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems.”
Mr. Putin’s use of the historical term “Novorossiya” or “New Russia” to refer to southeastern Ukraine, which he had not emphasized previously, suggested that he was replicating Russia’s assertions of historical ties to Crimea before the occupation and annexation of the peninsula.
Novorossiya generally refers to a broad area, stretching from what is now the border of Moldova in the west to Donetsk in the east, including the port city of Odessa to the south and the industrial center of Dnepropetrovsk to the north.
‘Comrades, I don’t want to use force to bring you into the ‘New Russia; but if I have to I will.’
So much for Perestroika.
One of the most startling moments came not in an exchange with a Russian citizen but with a surprise appearance by Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American who leaked a huge trove of highly classified documents related to electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
In a bold poke at the Obama White House, the Kremlin arranged for Mr. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor wanted on espionage charges, to appear on camera and ask Mr. Putin about Russia’s own surveillance practices.
……Supporters of Mr. Snowden, however, many writing on social networks, praised his courage in making the appearance, which they said demonstrated his willingness to challenge the use of illegal surveillance in Russia, much as he had in the United States.
In his prerecorded appearance, Mr. Snowden said that he had seen “little discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance.”
“So I’d like to ask you,” he continued, “does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?”
Is that a rhetorical question??
Mr. Putin, a one-time K.G.B. agent and former head of the Russian intelligence service, played up their common professional experience in spycraft.
“Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent,” the president replied. “I used to work for an intelligence service. Let’s speak professionally.”
“Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law,” Mr. Putin said. “You have to get a court’s permission first.” He noted that terrorists use electronic communications and that Russia had to respond to that threat.
“Of course we do this,” Mr. Putin said. “But we don’t use this on such a massive scale and I hope that we won’t.”
“But what is most important,” Mr. Putin concluded, “is that the special services, thank God, are under a strict control of the government and the society, and their activities are regulated by law.”
Putin’s domestic spying is also used as a weapon against outspoken critics and dissidents. Everything he does is a throwback to the old Soviet regime. He sends political opponents to insane asylums, murders journalists, and has tightened his grip on the Russian media. Vlad is an old KGB officer and never assimilated into the post-Soviet democratic movement.
Snowden’s planted question was asinine and no one with any brains would believe Putin’s answer.
……Putin repeated his assertions that Russia feels an obligation to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who are a large minority in the region.
“We must do everything to help these people to protect their rights and independently determine their own destiny,” he said.
Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.
Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.
Donetsk is the site of an “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held on joining Russia. The news was carried first by the Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.
The leaflets bore the name of Denis Pushilin, who identified himself as chairman of “Donetsk’s temporary government,” and were distributed near the Donetsk synagogue and other areas, according to the reports.
……The leaflet begins, “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.”
It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk,” a name adopted by the militant leadership.
The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”
What’s next, a pogrom?