Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States of America Donald Trump at the initiative of the Russian side.
Vladimir Putin thanked Donald Trump for the information transmitted through the channels of US special services that has helped thwart terrorist acts in Russia.
The two presidents discussed a range of issues of mutual interest and agreed to continue bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism.

The participants summed up the Armed Forces’ performance in 2019. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief outlined the principal objectives in terms of military development and in key areas of the Ministry’s activity next year.
Vladimir Putin: It should be said that many quality and system-wide changes took place in the Armed Forces in 2019. The share of modern weapons in the nuclear triad has reached 82 percent. The latest ballistic missiles with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) are being delivered to the Strategic Missile Forces. This weapon of the future can penetrate both the existing and any future missile defence systems.
Important steps have been taken to improve control, communications, intelligence and electronic warfare systems. The progress is mainly due to the introduction of the most recent technologies in the collection, transmission and processing of information.
If you remember last year, we talked about the need to reduce decision-making time at all levels of the Armed Forces. We have achieved a result. Thanks to the use of advanced technologies, integrated solutions and new algorithms, it was possible to improve the performance and increase the capabilities of the Armed Forces command and control system.

The troops regularly use the new equipment to practice performing tactically difficult, non-standard tasks during their exercises, manoeuvres, and snap combat readiness inspections. The nuclear forces have confidently showed their increased capabilities at the Grom [Thunder] 2019 exercise. The Navy as well as long-range aviation fully accomplished their tasks during the Ocean Shield drills; for the first time, Russian military units tested and coordinated actions among eight states to perform antiterrorist operations during the Center-2019 manoeuvres.
The Russian army continues to play a key role in achieving peace in Syria. The Aerospace Forces group, ships and submarines of the Navy, including those deployed at the Khmeimim airbase and the naval base in Tartus, are guarantors of peace and stability in that country.
<…> The arms control regime is disintegrating, which causes serious concern. This is not limited to the dismantling of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) by the United States under a pretext that is clearly far-fetched and absolutely groundless.
Since November 2019, Washington has been creating uncertainty regarding its engagement under the Treaty on Open Skies. The prospects of extending the New START are equally vague. And all this is taking place while the United States is expanding the capability of its global missile defence system. We see this, and we are aware of these developments.
In this context we must continue to strengthen and develop the Army and Navy, as well as to focus on the following key objectives in 2020.
 <…> This year the United States has actually destroyed the INF Treaty, which is why we must monitor the potential deployment of US missiles of this class around the world, but first of all in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
We are ready to work out new arms control agreements. But until this process is launched we will continue to strengthen our nuclear forces. I am referring to the delivery of cutting-edge Avangard and Yars systems to the Strategic Missile Forces and Borei-A missile submarines to the naval nuclear forces.
And lastly, we will continue to create other promising missile systems that can ensure guaranteed deterrence of aggression against Russia and its allies.

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at the German side’s initiative.
During the exchange of opinions on Libya, the two leaders stressed the expediency for stepping up political and diplomatic efforts to settle the crisis, including with the mediation of Germany and the UN.
The situation in Syria was also touched upon.
In addition, the two leaders discussed issues of cooperation in the gas industry, confirming their commitment to further support the Nord Stream 2 project and noting the progress on negotiations to continue the Russian gas transit across Ukrainian territory after January 1, 2020.
They also praised today’s exchange of detained persons in the Donetsk Region, which was carried out on the “all identified for all identified” principle. Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel exchanged season’s greetings and wished each other a happy New Year and agreed to maintain further contact.

READ ALSO: Telephone conversations with the heads of
Italy, Azerbaijan, Israel and Egypt

Yoshkar-Ola is a city in the Republic of Mari El whose beauty can amaze even the most jaded tourist.There’s a lot to see there! First and foremost is the Tsarevokokshaysky Kremlin and the 12 Apostles clock. Then there’s the embankment with European houses and many amusing sculptures that are just begging to be photographed!
Take the Mari El train in Moscow in the evening and you’ll be at Yoshkar-Ola by morning. It's that simple!


What do you know about Veliky Ustyug? “This is the birthplace of Father Frost!” - some of you might answer. However, few people are aware that Veliky Ustyug in fact has rich cultural heritage.
Even before it became home to Father Frost, Veliky Ustyug had been famous for its history and unique architecture. The name ‘Veliky’, meaning "Great", was given to the city by Ivan the Terrible when the city became part of “oprichnina”, meaning its revenues went straight to the state coffers.
Today, the city has about 30 churches, cathedrals and architectural monuments. You can also visit museums and learn about the art of ancient folk crafts – applying niello on silver, carving on birch-tree bark and wood, weaving.

Veliky Ustyug counts only 30,000 people, but in the winter, the city is flooded with tourists. In 1999, the mayors of Moscow and Vologda decided to name Veliky Ustyug homeland of Father Frost, or Russian Santa Claus. The idea was such a success that it turned a rather remote northern city into a popular tourist destination.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world come to Veliky Ustyug for its special New Year’s atmosphere. Here they can visit the residence of Father Frost, take a walk in a fairy forest, take a photo against a giant bast shoe and send a reply letter to a child marked "from Father Frost" - Veliky Ustyug is a special place filled with New Year's atmosphere!


Vyacheslav Nikonov: Mr Lavrov, your recent meeting with US President Donald Trump has created quite a stir, especially in the United States. President Trump deliberately held the meeting on the day when the House Judiciary Committee announced articles of impeachment against Trump. I see this as political trolling of the highest level. You noted, however, that there are no good days for meeting with anyone in the US because of sanctions, impeachment or other hearings. Anyway, what do you think about Donald Trump?
Sergey Lavrov: I have met with US President Donald Trump before. He received me at the White House in May 2017, when Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State. After that, the US opposition tried to stir up a spy scandal, claiming that secret information was passed to us at the meeting. This is a crazy and silly allegation plucked from the air. Of course, I also talked with President Trump during his meetings with President Vladimir Putin. The last such meeting was held in June of this year on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka. So, we know each other rather well. I like the way President Trump talks about international affairs and bilateral relations. He avoids ambiguities and tries to speak his mind. It is not often that top-level politicians do this, but I think that it is a very constructive approach that allows the sides to see the potential, difficulties and prospects of relations, which is what we are concerned about.

Dimitri Simes: I talked with members of the US administration after your visit. The White House had very positive views regarding it. The State Department was more wary. The US military said a few very interesting things: Russia is correct to emphasise the importance of strategic stability, but the US military I had talked with believe that the New START, in its current form, does not ensure it.
First, there is the Chinese factor. And second, both Russia and the United States have created new technology that is not covered by the treaty. Does the New START provide a basis for moving forward? Or can the sides reach informal agreements on the rules of the game you have mentioned and also exercise what the Pentagon describes as reasonable restraint on the deployment of new weapons, which the Americans see as a better guarantee of strategic stability than this treaty?
Sergey Lavrov: Otto von Bismarck once said that in military affairs, you have to judge not the intentions, whether reasonable or unreasonable, but the potential. This rule still stands. A treaty cannot cover all the existing problems in the field of strategic stability and those that will accumulate with the development of new technology.
We have told the Americans within the Bilateral Consultative Commission under the New START that we had presented our new systems, including hypersonic ones. We believe that the Avangard and Sarmat systems are covered by the treaty. We are ready to incorporate these systems into the New START, of course when it is extended. We have shown the Avangard system to the Americans and we will also be ready to demonstrate the Sarmat in due time. The other systems President Putin has presented in the Address to the Federal Assembly in March 2018 are not covered by the treaty. We said that we were ready to hold separate talks on these Russian systems and the new US technology. These talks can only be held as part of broader discussions on the entire range of matters related to strategic stability.
We have formulated the New START Treaty. One of the decisive factors was the Americans’ agreement to include in the preamble the phrase on the sides’ recognition of the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, which means above all missile defence systems. We never refused to discuss the entire range of matters related to strategic stability with due regard for all the aspects that can affect strategic stability, including strategic offensive nuclear arms, the conventional strategic arms the Americans are creating within the framework of the Prompt Global Strike programme, as well as missile defence. Of course, now that we see that the BMD system has no connection to defence against Iran but is a truly global system, we insist on discussing the plans to deploy weapons in space, which not only the United States but also France has announced. The US refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is not strengthening stability and confidence either. Therefore, we should not only extend the New START but also launch talks between all the key players on the entire range of these matters. <…>


Question: Could you briefly share with us the results of your visit to the United States, your meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump? Do you see any prospects for normalising relations with the United States and in what areas? In this regard, President Putin unequivocally stated that we are willing to renew START-3 without any conditions and to sign it any time. What is the position of the United States? Is there still hope for stability and security in this area?
Sergey Lavrov: During my visit to the United States, we discussed bilateral, regional and international items on our agenda with an emphasis on global security and strategic stability. We noted that normal interaction has resumed in some areas, albeit not a lot. Two rounds of consultations on counter-terrorism have already taken place. They started a long time ago, but were left hanging by the Obama administration. Contact between the special representatives for Afghanistan have taken place and continue − in a tripartite format − with China, and occasionally Pakistan. There are talks on Syria, both military and diplomatic. We have a channel of interaction on the Korean Peninsula. I can’t say that we are making equally good progress in all these areas, but the fact that these channels are available helps us better understand each other and creates an opportunity for the United States to hear our point of view, including on the Korean Peninsula, which could take on a new dimension of crisis at any minute.
Yes, I drew attention to START-3, including in Washington during the talks with Secretary Pompeo and President Trump. What President Putin said is a direct answer to the attempts to cash in on the situation related to START-3 and to pass our questions regarding the actions taken by the United States when it takes certain carriers off the list, for our reluctance to renew START-3 and an attempt to “blame” everything on the United States.
advance its multilateral initiatives, which, to reiterate, I would like to see spelled out on paper. So far, we haven’t seen any of that.


Question: What specific measures can Moscow take to counter US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream? When would they take effect?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot tell you everything. This matter requires quiet work and analysis. I can assure you that unacceptable and uncivil moves like this, in violation of all conceivable norms of international law and diplomatic and human behaviour, will not go without response.
READ ALSO: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the TASS news agency and Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency

Question: Mr Ryabkov, this not the first time the year is coming to an end with the United States imposing sanctions on Russia, and a new sanctions bill “from hell” is around the corner. Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are now under sanctions. We already said that we would respond. Is there an understanding of what measures we are talking about? Will they be symmetrical in that they affect US businesses?

Sergey Ryabkov: No one is forcing us in any way to respond symmetrically. As for taking economic measures to respond to the illegal US sanctions, these measures have been taken a long time ago, they are in force, and relate to imports of specific US goods. We can debate whether these measures produce any meaningful impact considering the size of the US economy and its foreign trade, but it is a matter of finding sectors where we can live without US imports without hurting the domestic market or consumers. There are those who were affected by these measures in the US. I mean the manufacturers of these goods. As for the presence of US investors in Russia, companies working on projects, including in the real economy, various firms who work with Russian partners or are about to establish these ties, of course, I do not expect them to face any pressure or restrictions, since this would be at odds with the course set by our country’s leaders to draw in foreign investment and promote normal relations with all our partners who are interested in working with us.
We will find a way to respond, and it may consist of adding new names on the list of persons who are banned entry to Russia. It is not uncommon for the United States to publish the lists of people facing travel restrictions, but this is not our approach. However, people who played the most active role in promoting this specific decision in the US administration alongside other sanctions initiatives, and there are quite a few people like this, since over a dozen drafts to this effect are circulating in Congress, these people can rest assured that they will not be able to travel in our country as any US citizen would consider normal and natural. They will not be able to cross the border into Russia, and will probably only learn that they are designated when applying for a visa. This is simply one of the ways this can be done.

In the context of an outrageous situation created in late September of this year by the United States, who denied visas to several members of the Russian delegation to the UN General Assembly session, we cannot but comment on the ongoing sabotage by Washington with regard to Russian UN Secretariat staffers in New York.
This time it is the Russian Defence Ministry personnel who have encountered problems. Russian officers who went through a rigorous selection process and were assigned by the UN General-Secretary’s decision to the UN Secretariat units on military matters have to wait for months to be issued US visas. In some cases, it takes over a year for US visa applications to be processed.
There are outrageous incidents when US visas are not extended for Russian staffers already working in New York, so they have to terminate their contracts and return to Russia. By using this administrative leverage, the Americans are resorting to unfair competition practices and removing Russians from the posts that they are interested in filling with their own military officers.
It is noteworthy that all of this is obviously happening with the tacit consent of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has ignored the United States’ violation of the UN Charter and the agreement between the UN and the Government of the United States as the host country for the UN Headquarters. These and other regulatory acts stipulate the working conditions and the rights of the UN employees, while the UN Secretary-General as a guardian of these regulations is in charge of ensuring that they are observed.

On Estonian authorities behavior towards Sputnik news outlet - We have decided to support Kirill Vyshinsky’s initiative to launch a media response to the completely unacceptable behaviour of the Estonian authorities towards the media, in particular Sputnik Estonia. We have said many times that any pressure on the media, any form of genuine pressure or intimidation when there has been no violation of the law or the accreditation procedure but only political reasons, is unacceptable. The Estonian authorities refuse to listen to Russian and international arguments.
Update on Syria -  The situation in Syria has mostly been stable in December, with the exception of the northern regions, which the Syrian Government does not control. The terrorists doubled the number of attacks on the Syrian Government forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone compared to November.
Wikileaks release exposing fabrication during incident in Douma in 2018 -  We took note of the release by WikiLeaks on its website of new documents showing that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), tasked with establishing facts regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, misrepresented facts about the investigation of the incident that took place in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018. A number of media outlets reviewed these reports, adding their own analysis and comparisons.
Update on Venezuela - Tension persists in Venezuela. Last time we talked about the Venezuelan Government exposing the radical opposition’s plans to attack military garrisons in Sucre to seize their weapons. Last Sunday, a similar plan was implemented in the state of Bolivar. The attack shows that the radical wing of the opposition has resumed the tactic of provocations aimed at inciting armed clashes and at creating an atmosphere of chaos. 

May the spirit of the Christmas fill your home with peace, joy and love!
Photo: Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Tula, Russia

On December 28, 1897, Marshal Ivan Konev was born. Auschwitz prisoners were liberated by Red Army troops under his command. He presented US Gen.Omar Bradley with his war horse, a Don stallion. Bradley presented Konev with the Legion of Merit.

The Russian Embassy in Prague condemned the act of vandalism committed against the monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague, which the municipal authorities earlier decided to remove from public territory.
"A yet another cynical act of vandalism against the monument to Marshal Ivan Stepanovich Konev in Prague’s District 6 looks particularly cynical and clearly demonstrates the cultural level of those who are fighting with monuments to liberators and simultaneously attempt to glorify Nazi collaborators," Russian embassy spokesman Nikolay Bryakin told TASS.
"Once again, we call upon the Czech authorities to ensure proper security of the Konev memorial - a monument of our common history - and not to leave barbaric crimes unanswered," the spokesman added.
Earlier, unknown perpetrators vandalized a monument to Soviet marshal Ivan Konev located in the Prague-6 municipal district. The vandals slung a chain of sausages with memorial ribbons attached to them over the marshal’s arm.


January, 26 “Giselle” ballet (premiered on November, 21) will be live streaming in cinemas all over the world. The story which is known to everyone in incredible performance, staged by Alexei Ratmansky, cannot be ignored


Join us and Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association on January 11, 2020 from 2 - 5 pm, for Project Zebra Day, for the 75th anniversary of the crash of a Project Zebra PBN-Nomad plane into the Pasquotank River. We will commemorate the anniversary with a wreath-laying ceremony at Waterfront Park.
This publication by the Alaska-Siberia Research Center is free for the public. You are welcome to download and share this book with your friends, colleagues and affiliated institutions, and keep this title in your e-library.

This book is a collection of articles, essays and speeches that together illuminate a remarkable chapter in human history—the Alaska-Siberia Airway during World War II. The distinguished writers found herein include well-known historians, anthropologists, diplomats, and political leaders representing the United States, Russia, Great Britain, Canada and France—all among countries allied against Nazi Germany and its Axis powers during the war. Their inspirational memories and observations remind us of a time when cooperation and good will among peace-seeking nations arose victorious over evil.

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