Sunday 22 May 2022

The Complete Chris Ackroyd vs Vladimir Putin 1-61

Chris Ackroyd, who manages to lead a fulfilled life without a computer, asked if I could send a message to the world. Well, I sometimes have difficulty getting through to the world myself, but I offered to post something on my Facebook page. This was the message... 

Round where I live, we use the term ‘the Put-in’ to refer to that wonderful moment of entry of a man into a woman, during consenting sexual congress (it would be applicable to other kinds of relationships). Might I therefore suggest that usage of the phrase ‘the Put-in’ could usefully be spread throughout the country, nay, dare one hope, even across the whole non-Russian world. In effect, this would mean that every time such union takes place, it could serve as a gentle political expression of love, being a gesture of defiance against all perpetrators of acts of violence and war – and directed specifically against that one man in particular. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘the Put-in’. 

You'll notice that Chris is an old-fashioned 'make love not war' type. I deferred posting because I thought an illustration would give it more punch, and asked his opinion about what might suit, without getting banned. Chris said he would do one himself. The resulting cartoon features Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. More followed: it was like a dam had burst. I posted them on my Facebook page under the title Chris Ackroyd vs Vladimir Putin, together with a relevant comment or news item plucked from the world wide web. Because Facebook is a transient medium, I'm gathering them here for the sake of posterity. If anyone with the interests of the Ukranian people at heart would like to sponsor a run of postcards of the 'Putoons', with the proceeds going to the war effort, all offers will be gratefully received. Their creation has turned into a labour of love for Chris, as opposed to the acts of war that preoccupy his arch rival. "Bear in mind," says Chris, "guys like these hate being laughed at more than anything else in the world." 

The Original 'Putoon' 

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“And I said, ‘This is genius,’ – Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. So, Putin is now saying it’s independent. A large section of the Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ He’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper” – Donald Trump, before Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a right-wing platform.

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Trump's public appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin harkens back to his infamous July 2016 comment in which he said, "Russia, if you're listening," and then urged Putin to hack Hillary Clinton's personal emails. It was the start of a years-long effort by Trump to raise his political prospects with foreign help

In 2019, Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch unfounded corruption investigations against then-candidate Joe Biden and withheld nearly $400 million in US military aid as part of the scheme. This incident led to Trump's first impeachment

And during the 2020 campaign, some of Trump's top allies collaborated with a known Russian spy to peddle disinformation about Biden and his family, including some of the same claims of corruption that Trump mentioned in a new interview published Tuesday, in which former President Donald Trump called on Putin to release any damaging information he has about the Biden family, in a brazen request for domestic political assistance from America's top adversary CNN Politics, March 30, 2022

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"Youth movements played a role in bringing down the Soviet system. But they were masters at creating parallel universes without directly confronting the political order. This skill made them excellent survivors but bad revolutionaries. The former Soviet hippy community is now home to views from across the spectrum, ranging from opposition to the war to full support" – 'A youthquake against Putin is unlikely', Juliana Fürst, Guardian, April 1, 2022.

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For more than two decades the ‘London laundromat’ has cleaned kleptocratic cash without fear or favour. According to Transparency International, since 2016 ‘Russians accused of corruption or links to the Kremlin’ have spent £1.5 billion on British property – Peter Geoghegan, London Review of Books, 11 March 2022

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Finland appears closer to joining NATO despite Russia's threat of military consequences if it does – headline, April 4, 2022

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Russian society is crossing the thin line between passive indifference and passive complicity... Like it or not, you will always remain a pawn in someone else’s game, so isn’t it better to be used by your own country than someone else’s? – Ilya Budraitskis, London Review of Books, 24 March 2022.

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Prof Michael Clarke, a defence and security expert, told Sky News: “The deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime in and of itself, every day of the week. Civilians appear to have had their hands tied behind their back and were shot. That is a straight war crime. They always deny it. First of all, they deny everything. And then they try to obfuscate, and then a couple of years later, they often admit it and they say yes, but point to some sort of moral equivalence in the West. They did it over the poisoning of Litvinenko in 2006 and Skripal in 2018. They did it over the bringing down of the civilian airliner over Ukraine. They always deny it. They always do. And nobody believes them. That’s the point" – Guardian, April 4, 2022.

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We have to imagine a post-Putin Russia. But what would happen to the statelets if a new Russia were to withdraw its military protection and seek reconciliation with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine? There can be little doubt that Georgian forces would enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it regards as Georgian territories under Russian occupation. This would provoke fierce resistance – especially in Abkhazia – and years of bloodshed. Moldova and perhaps Ukraine would wipe Transnistria and its Russophone independence off the map. As for the Donbas republics, their position is so inflammable that Ukraine and Russia might agree to leave them as undefined zombies. And Crimea? Only a fresh war could detach it from Russia again. – Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books, 11 March 2022

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According to Putin, the plan was the complete occupation of Ukraine, the destruction of the Ukrainian state, and denazification. But the head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, General Sergei Rudskoy, said that "we didn't plan to occupy any cities, we just want to ensure the security of the Donbas, well, maybe expand the territory to the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts."

These are completely different concepts – Andrey Piontkovsky, The New Voice of Ukraine, April 17

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In this case, Mr. Putin is Shakespeare's King Richard III vs. Mr. Zelensky’s King Henry V and it is Mr. Zelensky that carries the overall moral advantage. More importantly, his courage and ability to inspire the Ukrainian citizen has made him the “warrior king” of modern times.
Jesse R. Barker, 'Sun Tzu's Art of War – Principles of Warfare Putin Has Failed to Consider'

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The UN says that as of 26 April, more than 5.3 million people have left Ukraine:
Poland has taken in 2,944,164 refugees
Romania 793,420
Russia 627,512
Hungary 502,142
Moldova 437,362
Slovakia 360,458
Belarus 24,719
Some people have travelled from Moldova into Romania and so are included in both countries' totals.
BBC, April 27, 2022

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"The Tale of Bygone Years captured for posterity the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kiev, ‘Let it be the mother of all Russian cities’" – Vladimir Putin, 2021

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Putin’s rule in Russia is defined by three conceits only Don V. Vladimirovich Putin Quixote believes.
First, that only a handful of people matter. A leader no matter how inept or cruel is entitled to lead and the people should obey.
Second, that the world is run by security services. Putin himself relies on his security services to maintain his legitimate authority against the illegitimate aspirations of the Russian people.
Third, that larger states through spheres of influence rule over lesser states, and that this is immutable. Therefore, though independent, sovereign nations, such as Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic nations and eastern Europe, should serve the interests of greater Russia, their natural imperial overlord. Failure to submit is punishable by Russian subversion and invasion.
‘Don V. Vladimirovich Putin Quixote’, Dirk Mattheisen, September, 2015

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Russia’s Bolshoi theatre has upset opera and ballet fans by abruptly cancelling shows this week by directors who have spoken out against the war in Ukraine.

The theatre gave no reason for dropping Timofey Kulyabin’s production of the opera Don Pasquale and Kirill Serebrennikov’s ballet Nureyev, which will be replaced by productions of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus.

The Bolshoi performed Spartacus in early April, saying that proceeds would be used to help the families of Russian troops who died in Ukraine.

Kulyabin, who has left Russia, used his Instagram account to express solidarity with Ukraine and ridicule Russia’s description of its actions there. In one post, he showed a mocked-up version of the cover of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, replacing the first word of the title with ‘Special Operation'… – The Guardian, May 2, 2022

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A group of civilians who have been evacuated from the besieged city of Mariupol have made their way to the relative safety of the town of Zaporizhzhia after a 200-km journey.
Among them were 69 people who had sheltered in bunkers beneath the massive Azovstal steelworks for months.
After the group of evacuees left on Sunday, fighters at the plant said Russian forces immediately resumed shelling.
Katarina stepped off the bus into the sun with everything she now owns stuffed in a small backpack. Her two children, aged six and 11, rubbed their eyes, exhausted.
The war had taken its toll on their home city, which they saw the wreckage of as they left: "What we saw were just boxes with massive black holes in them. The apartment blocks are gone. Just their remains are there.”
Another evacuee, Irene, had her 17-year-old daughter by her side - and found that, at least, was some comfort.
"We lived in hope that every day would be the last day in this hell. That we would go home to a peaceful Mariupol, but now it is non-existent," she said.
BBC News, May 4, 2022

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Vladimir Putin, current president of Russia, has owned seven dogs; since 2014, he has owned four dogs – Wikipedia entry, 'Pets of Vladimir Putin'.

This entry sparked an interesting line of correspondence

Mike Butler: I confess I didn't know what this one was about, till I did a bit of rummaging and found out that Putin is a dog lover. It must be said that Chris's invention of an English/cyrillic hybrid doesn't aid understanding. I might ring him later for a translation.

Patrick Kirby: I concur. Christophe, wtf? x

Steve Currie: It has been said of Vladimir Putin, by someone who has spent much time in his company, that the only occasion he has seen him relating and smiling, is when he is with his dog Yuri. Curious (Also he is known to enjoy spending some of his spare moments assembling flat-pack furniture of a modernist nature...)

Mike Butler: Steve, you're brilliant. And when I rang Chris, he said (or the first thing he said; he said other things too): DAMN WELL TRY HARDER!

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MEHLMEISEL, Germany, April 19 (Reuters) - An animal park in Bavaria that had named one its wild boars Putin due to its Russian genetic heritage held a ceremony on Tuesday to rechristen the hairy hog with a German name following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “New Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience" – Christopher Paul, Rand Research.

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U.S. Loses Vietnam War; Ford Urges All Americans to Salute Our Vietcong Rulers

‘We Must All Get Behind New U.S. President Le Duc Tho,’ Ford Says

NEW HANOI, D.C. – After nearly a decade of fighting and more than 58,000 American casualties, the U.S. has lost the Vietnam War.
President Ford officially announced an unconditional surrender Wednesday in a formal ceremony at Vietcong headquarters in Haiphong, North Vietnam, then ceded full control of the U.S. to its Communist foes – The Onion, May 1, 1975

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To protest the recent escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine, activists placed a bare mannequin of Russian President Vladimir Putin on a golden toilet outside the Russian embassy in Prague. The April 16 demonstration was staged by members of the Kaputin group. See it here –

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In the 82 days since Russia widened its war on Ukraine, the Russian military has lost a third of its forces, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.

That’s tens of thousands of dead soldiers, sailors and airmen plus thousands of wrecked armoured vehicles, a dozen sunk or damaged ships and boats and more than a hundred shot-down aircraft.
The heavy losses are contributing to a spiral of declining combat effectiveness. As Russia writes off more and more of its best weaponry and buries more of its best-trained troops, it increasingly counts on old weapons and under-trained troops to sustain its war effort.
But obsolescent weapons and second-tier troops get blown up and killed even faster than do the modern and first-line weapons and troops they replaced. It’s not for no reason that, with each passing week, the Kremlin ratchets down its war aims.
Forbes, May 15, 2022

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Following in the footsteps of national liberation struggles throughout history, both the Ukrainians and the Dutch transformed their native languages into forms of resistance to aggressors who had made their own languages into vehicles of oppression.
When Ukrainian defense forces encounter a suspected Russian saboteur passing himself off as a Ukrainian, they usually ask him to say the Ukrainian word for a type of local bread: palyanitsya. Almost invariably the suspect betrays his nationality and politics by pronouncing it with a different ending: palyanitsa. Similarly, in World War II, the Dutch resistance would ask German spies to say the name of the seaside town of Scheveningen. In Dutch, the first syllable is pronounced skheh; in German, it’s sheh. It’s an age-old practice: An account of the first pronunciation test to identify enemies, known as a shibboleth, is mentioned in the Bible.
Alexander J. Motyl, ‘The Language of Russia’s War on Ukraine’, FP

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“I remember a dream I had last year where the President of Mexico referred to Vladimir Putin as ‘Vladimir Puto’ and made him cry” – blog,
“A beer company wants Mexican fans at the upcoming World Cup in Russia to chant ‘Putin’ instead of the gay slur ‘puto.’ Russia’s ambassador to Mexico is not amused” – news item, May 30, 2018.
(‘Puta’ in Spanish is ‘prostitute’; ‘puto’ is a homophobic slur.)

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On the night of February 25, the second day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stepped into the empty streets in the darkness of Kyiv, trailed by a coterie of advisers. A rumour, nefariously spread, held that Zelensky had fled for his life, a decision that would have arguably made rational sense. After all, sources in U.S. intelligence were telling reporters that his government would likely be toppled in a week’s time. To counteract the sense of doom descending on Ukraine, he recorded a video on a phone. Using the gentlest version of his gravelly voice, he told his people, “We are still here”…
Zelensky’s words were a prayer and a defiant rallying cry. I felt as if they had been uttered, unconsciously, in the spirit of Passover.
Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, April 13, 2022

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Appeal of the Russian chess players to the President of the Russian Federation: 

"Chess teaches you to be responsible for your actions; each move is meaningful and a mistake can bring you to a fatal point of no return. This used to be a sport, but now the human lives, human rights and freedoms, human dignity, the present and the future of our countries are at stake.

"During these tragic days we are thinking of all the people caught in the midst of this frightful conflict. We share the pain of our Ukrainian colleagues and call for peace.” April 20, 2022

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The mysterious ‘Putin’s Palace’ that featured in a viral video by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared to be full of luxuries gifted to President Vladimir Putin by wealthy friends. But then Russian TV broadcast a completely different report. Gone was the sprawling palace’s voluptuous decor, replaced instead by bare, concrete walls. The property looked as if it was being thoroughly rebuilt - raising questions about what exactly is happening at the estate.

The Navalny investigation video has racked up more than 110m views. Since then Navalny has been jailed for failing to report to the prison service while he was recovering from a nerve agent attack in a Berlin hospital.

BBC Russia has spoken to several builders who say they worked at the site of the palace between 2005 and 2020, building and then refurbishing it. They confirmed many of the allegations in the Navalny video - including that the palace was being rebuilt due to a mould infestation.

Stanislav (not his real name) saw the mould himself.

“Walls and ceilings were covered in mould. Just ordinary mould - green. In places even black. It had affected the whole building. We were shocked,” Stanislav told the BBC.

BBC News, February 12 2021

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Vladimir Putin’s rise to power came accompanied by a new version of patriotism relying on “heroic” and “bright” aspects of the Soviet past. An image of Stalin as a strong leader who had ensured victory in the second world war and led a Soviet superpower re-emerged. Television propaganda again worked hard to create that image. The millions who perished in waves of political repression were pushed to the margins of collective consciousness.

Today, the 1989 liberation of eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war are understood by many Russians in terms of defeat, disaster even. No wonder, given that Putin has called the fall of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Today Stalin’s face watches you ubiquitously from billboards, subway train walls, and bookstore windows. Dozens of monuments to him have sprouted around Russia.

The current glorification of our victories and the whitewashing of Stalin have become possible because today’s Russia has, in fact, no concept whatsoever of the future. 

Irina Sherbakova, The Guardian, July 10, 2019 

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Russia's theft of Ukrainian grain appears to be ramping up as it continues its war on the country, according to new satellite photos of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Two Russia-flagged bulk carrier ships are shown docking and loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain in the images. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of "gradually stealing" Ukrainian food products and trying to sell them.

It's difficult to know for certain whether the ship is being loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain, but Russia-annexed Crimea produces little grain itself, unlike the agriculturally rich Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia immediately to the north. Ukrainian officials and industry sources have told CNN that Russian forces in occupied areas have emptied several silos and trucked the grain south. CNN, May 23, 2022. 

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Ukraine is where, more than a thousand years ago, a warrior prince took up Christianity to marry a daughter of the patriarch of Constantinople, and then compelled thousands of others to convert as he had. The conversion of St. Vladimir – also known as St. Volodymyr – is claimed as the foundational act of Christianity in the region, to which both Russian Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy in Ukraine trace their roots, and Ukraine has been religiously controverted territory ever since… In the nineteenth century… Ukraine, which had not gained national sovereignty, remained mainly Orthodox but dividedly so, with the west in the sphere of Constantinople and the east in that of Moscow…

After the Russian Revolution, in 1917, the U.S.S.R. suppressed all churches. When Ukraine declared independence, as the Soviet Union dissolved, in 1991, and religion was freely permitted in civil society again, many Ukrainians sought to worship in churches with local or national ties rather than in those with ties to Moscow, and the new nation claimed many formerly Russian Orthodox churches as its own. 

[On] March 6th, … Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, gave an incendiary homily likening Russia’s invasion to a culture war against the West… 

Paul Elie, ‘The Long Holy War Behind Putin’s Political War in Ukraine’, The New Yorker,  April 21, 2022

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There are roughly 100 million Russian Orthodox – the largest church within Orthodox Christianity. Their leader is Patriarch Kirill, who has framed Russia's invasion of Ukraine in holy terms. In a sermon in early March, Kirill railed against the influences of the Western world – its “excess consumption" and “gay pride parades.” He said of the Ukraine war: “We’re talking about human salvation.”

In Soviet times, priests were pushed to keep the spy service informed, and it's widely believed that Kirill was in the KGB. [His] resources are vast. Another former insider, Sergei Chapnin, who also worked for Kirill, said: “There are rough estimations that he’s definitely a billionaire and, in fact, he's one of Putin’s oligarchs – sorry to say that.”

CBS News, May 1, 2022

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I loved that beloved Emperor Putin of my heart.when God is concerned we make a difference and since today is Sunday you charm me to be the right one for your feelings to changed the world for our new world orders to reign .what a God we trust and worshiped Emperor Putin the greatest leader and the best choice of God when Spiritualities strikes our world.💙💙We are proud of who we are because Jesus Christ of Nazareth is our life’s💙💙

Amanda Marline, comment, Russia's Putin takes traditional Epiphany dip in icy waters, sourced at

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has suggested that the US-led alliance is anticipating long term conflict in Ukraine as the Russian invasion turns into a “war of attrition”.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House after meeting with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Stoltenberg said it is difficult to predict how or when the conflict will end.

“Wars are by nature unpredictable,” Stoltenberg said. “And therefore, we just have to be prepared for the long haul because what we see is that this war has now become a war of attrition where the Ukrainians are paying a high price for defending their own country on the battlefield, but also where we see that Russia is taking high casualties.”

He added that NATO’s “responsibility” is to provide support for the Ukrainians. Stoltenberg reiterated that the war, like most conflicts, will end at the negotiating table.

Aljazeera, Jun 2 2002

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A woman known as Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia about 10,000 years ago, shares about two-thirds of her genome with living Native Americans. “It's the closest we have ever gotten to a Native American ancestor outside the Americas,” says Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, who led the team that sequenced the whole genomes of 34 individuals who lived in Siberia, the land bridge Beringia, and Alaska from 600 to nearly 32,000 years ago.

Based on the time it would have taken for key mutations to pop up, the ancestors of today's Native Americans splintered off from these ancient Siberians about 24,000 years ago, roughly matching up with previous archaeological and genetic evidence for when the peopling of the Americas occurred, the team reports today in Nature.

Science, June 5 2019

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In Greek mythology, Heracles, or Hercules, the son of Zeus, performed 12 labours: a dozen incredibly difficult and highly dangerous tasks. But slaying the Neamean lion or battling the Lernaean hydra must have been a walk in the park, compared to what Vladimir Putin has had to deal with. At least, that's the impression you get from this bizarre exhibition… In pictures: The 12 Labours of... Putin –

BBC News, October 2014

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken of his visit Sunday to the city of Kharkiv, his first trip outside the region of the capital since the Russian invasion.

“Kharkiv suffered terrible blows from the occupiers. Black, half-ruined apartment buildings face east and north – where Russian artillery was firing from, where Russian combat aircraft were arriving,” Zelensky said. 

“Russia has already lost not only the battle for Kharkiv, not only the battle for Kyiv and the north of our country. She lost her own future and any cultural ties to the free world.”

CNN, May 29 

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About 700,000 stamps depicting a Ukrainian fighter holding up a middle finger in front of the now-sunken flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet have been sold in about a week, as Ukrainians waited in long lines outside post offices to buy a commemorative token that has become associated with one of Kyiv’s most notable wins during the war.

The Washington Post, April 15 2022

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Both the British and Russians had difficulty in coming to terms with the charge of the Light Brigade, as they did with the Crimean War as a whole, because it was neither wholly a victory nor defeat for either side. As a result, even monuments to the Crimean War such as that in Waterloo Place or those in Sevastopol attest to loss as much as victory… 

‘Valiant Lunatics’ by Martin Danahay 

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Propagandists have staged (and doctored) photos apparently in order to bolster Russia's presidential image, but no, Putin doesn’t ride bears –

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It's far easier to pin a war crime on the soldier who commits it, than the leader who ordered it – Dominic Casciani, legal correspondent, BBC News, May 23 

Editor's note: I have told Chris to leave more room at the margins in the ‘Putoons’. What I feared has come to pass: the last line has dropped off. These are the missing words… BY A NOD. FROM A THOUSAND MILES AWAY. 

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Moscow, third Rome is a theological and political concept asserting that Moscow is the successor of the Roman Empire, representing a ‘third Rome’ in succession to the first Rome (Rome itself, capital of Ancient Rome) and the second Rome (Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire) – Wikipedia 

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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Alexander Dugin, often termed ‘Putin’s Rasputin’ by the international press, is the de facto author of Putin’s Ukrainian strategy. Although he holds no formal position in government and has been perpetually cagey about the specifics of his relationship with Putin, his language and rhetoric have long been adopted by the Kremlin. As just one small example, his 2013 and 2014 uses of the term ‘Novorossiya’ (New Russia) for territories of Eastern Ukraine that Russia wished to claim were reflected shortly afterward in Putin’s propagandist language supporting the occupation of Crimea. For anyone who has read Dugin, the echoes of his thought in Putin’s recent speeches about Russia’s supposedly proper place in the world have been unmistakable, and uncanny – ‘The far-right mystical writer who helped shape Putin’s view of Russia’ by Tara Isabella Burton, Washington Post, May 12 2022. 

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The roots of Euroasianism go back to czarist emigres interacting with fascist thinkers in between-the-wars France and Germany. But in recent years, its primary exponent has been the very prominent and prolific political theorist Aleksandr Dugin. Born in 1962, Dugin was admitted to the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1979, but was later expelled because of his involvement with mystic neo-Nazi groups. He then spent the 1980s hanging around monarchist and ultra-right-wing circles, before joining Gennady Ziuganov’s Communist… (and that’s as far as I got before the paywall came down) – ‘Putin’s Rasputin: meet Aleksandr Dugin, the mystical high priest of Russian fascism who wants to bring about the end of the world’ by Robert Zubrin, Skeptik, vol. 20 issue 2, Spring 2015 

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There hasn't been a single week in 2022 without a mass shooting. The July Fourth shooting in Highland Park, Ill., that left six people dead and dozens injured was one of fourteen mass shootings over the long weekend. There have been just over 100 since a rampage at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., left 19 children and two teachers dead on May 24 – ‘There have been over 300 mass shootings so far in 2022’, Washington Post, June 2 2022. 

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Breaking news: The leaders of Russia and Turkey are meeting in Iran this week in a show of unity and potential military alignment that acts as a stark geopolitical counterpoint to the recent visit by the American president to its primary Middle Eastern partners – The Independent, July 19, 2022.

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No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin's. The Russian President's pale blue eyes are so cool, so devoid of emotion that the stare must have begun as an affect, the gesture of someone who understood that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking. The affect is now seamless, which makes talking to the Russian President not just exhausting but often chilling. It's a gaze that says, I'm in charge – ‘A Tsar is Born’ by Adi Ignatius, Time, December 19, 2007. 

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“That's exactly why we want to produce this play. To show the world the true Hitler, the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart” – Max Bialystock, The Producers.

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A miracle defender of Christianity or the most evil man? Well, it is Ukrainian Christians among others whom he is now slaughtering indiscriminately and he has little understanding of Jesus, who said “blessed are the peacemakers” – Tim Costello, Guardian, March 5 2022. 

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President Vladimir Putin has had the honour of presenting a £9m Fabergé egg to the Hermitage Museum in celebration of their 250th birthday. The Russian President attended a party on Monday with the gift that originally belonged to Catherine the Great’s art collection. The egg which also houses a clock was created for the 25th wedding anniversary of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna. It was made in the exclusive Carl Fabergé workshop, who were the official jewellers to the tsar.

‘Vladimir Putin Presents Faberge Egg Worth £9m To The Hermitage’, December 13 2014, Artlyst. 

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Putin's visit comes about a week after the White House said Tehran is preparing to sell armed drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. Iran has said technological cooperation with Russia preceded the war, without confirming or denying the US claim.

Amid growing diplomatic isolation, increased trade with Russia could create relief for Iran's economy, which has been foundering under US oil and banking sanctions for years. 

The military partnership between Tehran and Moscow has been growing since the outbreak of the decade-old conflict in Syria.

“Russia and Iran are in fact trade competitors, especially in the energy market,” Hamidreza Azizi, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW. 

Currently, Iran seems to be losing its already narrow share in the energy market to Russian oil, which now comes at a more discounted price.  

With sanctions severely curtailing Iran's revenues, oil exports are vital for the country, which is now facing economic crisis. The inflation rate is above 50%, but Iran has reportedly been forced to slash its oil prices to keep up with Russian discounts.   

Back in March, Russia nearly sabotaged negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action , or Iran nuclear deal, the resolution of which could lead to the relaxation of some sanctions on Iran's economy.  

"A major part of Iran's motive to work with Russia is driven by its urgent economic needs and lack of alternatives," said Abdolrasool Divsallar, a visiting professor of Middle Eastern studies at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy. “Iran cannot dismiss its relations with Eastern powers like Russia, as long as there are no options in the West.” 

DW, ‘Growing Iran-Russia ties in focus as Putin heads to Tehran’, ed. Jon Shelton 

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“TEXAS SAYS HOWDY RUSSIAN PRES. PUTIN,” proclaimed the sign posted by a first-grade class on the road to town. In fact, Texas gave Vladimir Putin such a vigorous howdy today that the KGB-agent-turned-Russian-president is unlikely ever to forget it. – ‘Vladimir Putin, Gettin' The Twang of Texas’ by Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, November 15, 2001.

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A Ukrainian medical student who saved lives while living in an underground railway station for four months is to resume his clinical training in the UK.

Serhii Alkhimov's studies in Kharkiv were thrown into turmoil when hospitals were damaged or destroyed by Russia.

While sheltering, he treated many ill people on his own and was awarded a medal by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He is among 20 Kharkiv students who are beginning a seven-week placement with the University of Cambridge.

The twinning partnership with Kharkiv National Medical University will see the students continue their practical studies at the School of Clinical Medicine, and at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Royal Papworth Hospital and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

There will be no cost to students, with travel and living expenses funded by a donation from a biotechnology company and accommodation funded by an anonymous donor, the university said.

The students are due to start their placements next week

Clinical Dean Paul Wilkinson said the programme was "about packing as much as possible into seven weeks".

"Ukrainian medical schools don't want to lose students and doctors who will be essential to rebuilding health services in the country after the conflict," he added.

Speaking of his experience living with 1,000 people in a railway station, 21-year-old Mr Alkhimov said: "I had military medical experience, so it wasn't as hard for me as it might have been, but I didn't get a lot of sleep.

"Most of the people I treated had chronic illnesses and couldn't get help anywhere else.

"I was glad to help, and save two or three lives.”

BBC News, ‘University of Cambridge to train Ukrainian medical students’, August 5. 

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Grave of Vladimir Putin’s parents Maria Ivanovna Shelomova (1911-1998) and Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911-1999) at the Serafimovskoye cemetery in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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Do you remember when I used to contextualise or reinforce a Putoon with a bit of text? I can't do that anymore because no commentator is as incisive as Chris himself. 

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The latest Putoon came to Chris in a dream. Possibly only Chris spotted the soundalike ‘Iranian men’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’. Anyway, it inspired a dream where the menfolk had to go around in public all covered except for their penises. Trust the subconscious mind to come up with a wild, scabrous image to put the geopolitical situation in perspective.

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The Complete Chris Ackroyd vs Vladimir Putin 1-61

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