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  1. #1
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    Ukraine

    Putin is no longer a Taekwondo 9th Dan, Nor a honorary president for the international Judo Federation
    11:06:00 AM Tkd kwan 0 Comments

    Few months ago we have posted about personalities whom were awarded by Taekwondo black belts, and some of them even got very high ranks such the Russian president who was awarded the 9th Dan Taekwondo black belt by the World taekwondo president.

    The Russian president was awarded the black belt by the head of the World Taekwondo Federation, Choue Chung-won, and made a grandmaster of Taekwondo during a visit to South Korea in November 2013.

    After nine years, The act that Putin did caused a lot to his image, and he is no longer a 9th Dan belt.

    In response to his invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has been stripped of his honorary black belt in Taekwondo.

    This is not the only thing that happened to the Russian leader, Another martial art federation took an action.

    '' Vladimir Putin has temporarily been suspended as the International Judo Federation’s honorary president on Sunday. The federation sited “the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine” as the reason for the suspension, per the Associated Press. ''

    Sunday marks the fourth day since Russia has invaded Ukraine. Putin has a keen judoka and attended a competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

    ''World Taekwondo strongly condemns the brutal attacks on innocent lives in Ukraine, which go against the World Taekwondo vision of “Peace is More Precious than Triumph” and the World Taekwondo values of respect and tolerance.

    In this regard, World Taekwondo has decided to withdraw the honorary 9th Dan black belt conferred to Mr. Vladimir Putin in November 2013.

    In solidarity with the International Olympic Committee, no Russian or Belarusian national flags or anthems will be displayed or played at World Taekwondo events. World Taekwondo and the European Taekwondo Union will not organize or recognize Taekwondo events in Russia and Belarus.

    World Taekwondo’s thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and we hope for a peaceful and immediate end to this war.''


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    Miss Grand Ukraine Anastasiia Lenna

    Former Miss Grand Ukraine swaps glamour for guns by joining army to fight Russians
    A former Miss Grand Ukraine has pledged to risk her life to defend her nation against Vladimir Putin's Russian invasion by ditching modelling to join the armed resistance
    ByCharles Wade-PalmerReporter
    17:54, 26 FEB 2022 UPDATED20:34, 27 FEB 2022

    A former Miss Grand Ukraine beauty queen has joined her nation's army to fight off invading Russian forces.

    Anastasiia Lenna was crowned a national pageant winner aged 24 in 2015, as she dazzled in dresses and high heels but the model has swapped her glamorous lifestyle to put her body on the line for Ukraine.

    The brave model's step into the battlefield to defend her country is a far cry from her previous job working across Turkey as a public relations manager.

    According to her Instagram highlights titled Airsoft, Anastasiia is no stranger to wielding a weapon albeit those that typically fire plastic projectiles rather than real bullets.


    Anastasiia shared this snap on Wednesday with the hashtags #standwithukraine and #handsoffukraine (Image: instagram.com/anastasiia.lenna)

    Streams of snaps show her in full military gear in wooded arenas and indoor training grounds over the past couple of years but now she will be hoping her experience comes in handy.

    Since Vladimir Putin waged war on Ukraine this week, the former beauty queen has been using her platform of over 40,000 social media followers to rally support for her country.

    Saturday saw Anastasiia share various patriotic content on Instagram as well as her own captions to photos of war.


    Anastasiia was 24 when she won Miss Grand Ukraine in 2015 (Image: instagram.com/anastasiia.lenna)

    Another post expressed her pride in Ukraine's resistance so far which has already seen Russia lose more men than Putin had encountered for, according to intelligence.

    Anastasiia said: "Our army is fighting in such a way that NATO should apply for entry into Ukraine."


    Anastasiia has previously shared action shots from her Airsoft training (Image: instagram.com/anastasiia.lenna)

    Sharing content praising the example set by Ukraine's former comedian president by walking among soldiers, she wrote: "A true and strong leader. This is the President of Ukraine"

    Anastasiia also shared a plea from world champion boxer Usyk Oleksandr who appealed to his Russian social media followers to not send loved ones into battle with Ukraine.

    The marketing and management graduate from Slavistik University in Kyiv has called on her follow country people to remove all road signs to make it harder for invading troops to navigate through Ukraine.


    The model has made rallying cries to support Ukraine's defence (Image: instagram.com/anastasiia.lenna)
    For more incredible stories from the Daily Star, make sure you sign up to one of our newsletters here

    A translation of her call to action reads: "Dismantling road signs on all roads of the country. The enemy has a pathetic connection, they don't orientate the terrain. Let's help them go straight to hell.

    "Ukravtodor calls on all road organisations, territorial communities, local authorities to immediately start dismantling road signs nearby.


    Anastasiia Lenna has a huge online following thanks to her glamorous pictures (Image: instagram.com/anastasiia.lenna)
    Among her numerous Instagram stories shared on Saturday was encouraging followers to donate to the Ukrainian army.

    Anastasiia reminded her followers of the importance to stick to Kyiv's curfew on Saturday evening, requiring the city's streets to be "vacated urgently".

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    Putin & Seagal

    PECULIAR PALS Inside Vladimir Putin & Steven Seagal’s odd friendship from martial arts events together to actor calling him ‘brother’
    Cheyenne R. Ubiera
    1:01 ET, Mar 1 2022 Updated: 1:01 ET, Mar 1 2022
    THE seemingly close friendship between Vladimir Putin and actor Steven Seagal has made headlines as the Russian President's invasion of Ukraine escalates.

    The unlikely duo has had a friendship for many years with Seagal reportedly calling the Russian leader his "brother" in previous interviews.


    Many people were asking questions about Steven Seagal's strange friendship with Russian President Vladimir PutinCredit: AFP

    A photo shared on social media claimed that Seagal had joined Russia's militaryCredit: AFP
    Following Putin's invasion of Ukraine, videos shared on social media claimed to show the veteran actor participating in Russia's military operations.

    A screenshot of a bogus tweet was shared by podcaster Joe Rogan, among others, that falsely claimed Seagal had been "spotted by intelligence agencies" while fighting alongside Russian forces near the Hostomel military airfield.

    Rogan shared the image on Instagram, nothing how ridiculous "this f**ked up movie we're living through."

    However, the post was eventually removed.

    "I deleted my earlier post about Steven Seagal being in Ukraine because it was a parody, which isn't surprising, but honestly it wouldn't be surprising if it was true either," he wrote in another post.

    "He was banned from Ukraine in 2017 because he was labeled as a national security threat. I, like all of you, hope the tragic situation is resolved there quickly."

    The image being spread around featured Seagal in army gear, which was actually from his 2017 film Cartels.

    Seagal eventually shared his thoughts amid the invasion, telling Fox News: "Most of us have friends and family in Russia and Ukraine.

    "I look at both as one family and really believe it is an outside entity spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other.

    "My prayers are that both countries will come to a positive, peaceful resolution where we can live and thrive together in peace."

    Seagal has called Putin "one of the greatest living world leaders" and had previously defended the president's actions in Crimea during an interview with the state-run newspaper, Rossiskaya Gazeta.

    The actor went on to say he considers Putin "a friend, would like to consider him a brother."

    ODD FRIENDSHIP
    The two have bonded over their shared love of martial arts and Seagal was even granted Russian citizenship in 2016.

    At that point in their friendship, the actor had visited Russia several times and had accompanied the president to multiple martial arts events.

    In 2018 Seagal was appointed as Russia's special envoy to the US. His position was to "facilitate relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public, and youth exchanges," said the Foreign Ministry.

    As Rogan said in his post, Ukraine had banned Seagal from entering the country for five years back in 2017, because the actor was a "threat" to national security.

    INVASION CONTINUES
    Meanwhile, Russia's military assault on Ukraine is entering its fifth day after Putin ordered nuclear forces on increased alert. Determined troops in Kyiv have held onto the capital and other major cities for now.

    Loud explosions from airstrikes continue to rock the capital city. Dramatic video showed the night sky lit up, as a huge 40-mile column of Russian tanks was earlier seen advancing to the city.

    Air raid sirens blared out across the city as police officers hurried people to shelters.

    Putin's troops are believed to be looking to surround Kyiv after earlier attacks by advanced forces were repelled in fierce battles.

    Kyiv was bracing itself for a further onslaught after the Russians unleashed hell on Ukraine's second city Kharkiv using deadly cluster bombs.

    In Kyiv, many were preparing for a fresh assault with makeshift barricades dotting the streets.

    Residents in the city remained defiant in the face of the onslaught.

    "We will greet them with Molotov cocktails and bullets to the head," said bank employee Viktor Rudnichenko.

    "The only flowers they might get from us will be for their grave."


    Seagal received Russian citizenship in 2016 and has been a special envoy for the country since 2018Credit: Alamy

    In 2017, Seagal was banned entry to the Ukraine for five yearsCredit: Getty
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    Putin & Judo

    February 27, 2022
    1:57 AM PST
    Last Updated 3 days ago
    Putin suspended as honorary president of International Judo Federation

    Reuters

    1 minute read

    Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks about authorising a special military operation in Ukraine's Donbass region during a special televised address on Russian state TV, in Moscow, Russia, February 24, 2022, in this still image taken from video. Russian Pool/via REUTERS TV

    Feb 27 (Reuters) - Russian president Vladimir Putin has been suspended as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), the sport's governing body announced on Sunday, because of his invasion of Ukraine.

    Russia's invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday followed a declaration of war by Putin.

    A judo blackbelt, the 69-year-old is a keen practitioner of the discipline and has co-authored a book titled "Judo: History, Theory, Practice".

    "In light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, the International Judo Federation announces the suspension of Mr Vladimir Putin's status as Honorary President and Ambassador of the International Judo Federation," the IJF said in a statement.

    The IJF on Friday said it had cancelled a May 20-22 event in Russia.

    "The International Judo Federation announces with regret the cancellation of the 2022 Grand Slam in Kazan, Russia," IJF President Marius Vizer said.

    Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

    Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue
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    Ukrainian Men’s Foil Team Refuses to Fence Russian Men’s Foil Team



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    Awkward

    Putin’s Hollywood pals – the stars who snuggled up to the Russian dictator

    Golden photo ops … clockwise from top left, Steven Seagal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gérard Depardieu and Mickey Rourke. Composite: Getty, Reuters, AFP
    From Leonardo DiCaprio to Steven Seagal, Tinseltown’s biggest names were once happy to hang out with the invading president. Are they all now cringing? Not entirely
    Phil Hoad
    @phlode
    Mon 7 Mar 2022 03.00 EST

    It was one of those surreal moments when light entertainment mugs history. Vladimir Putin crooned the song Blueberry Hill at a children’s charity benefit in St Petersburg in 2010, as a crowd of celebrities – including Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Gérard Depardieu, Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci – clapped along like they were in kindergarten. When the politician reeled off the opening line – “I found my thrill” – thoughts of the Georgian invasion or the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko didn’t seem to be urgently popping into anyone’s head. Knowing what we know now, the spectacle plays more like Dr Evil’s rendition of Just the Two of Us – but far less funny. In 2022, after Putin’s ruthless assault on Ukraine, the guests present that day must feel very naive, perhaps even ashamed – but they are not the only western celebs who cosied up to Putin. In defence of this bunch, they had been booked to appear by Samuel Aroutiounian, a New Yorker who specialised in bringing Hollywood talent to Russia and later said that he had been unaware Putin would be appearing.



    Now, as big names from Angelina Jolie to Sean Penn and Mark Ruffalo issue their support for besieged Ukraine, Hollywood must be cringing at the days when a public appearance with Putin wasn’t beyond the pale. In the mid-00s, he had merely nibbled at a few former Soviet provinces and seen off the odd dissident – events that didn’t trouble most Entertainment Weekly readers. Russia was an important emerging film market, and firmly on the celebrity junket circuit. So Jean-Claude Van Damme, in 2007, could happily buff the president’s macho credentials at a St Petersburg MMA event, while Leonardo DiCaprio purred at his fellow feline lover during a big-cat conservation summit in 2010.

    His hegemony firmly established by then, Putin already had a domestic entertainment machine working hard in his favour. Channel One – descendant of the Soviet-era state TV station RTO – had produced Night Watch and Day Watch, two aspiring global blockbusters that put a manichaean gloss on the chaotic post-communist Russia that Putin had quelled in the early 21st century. “Dark means freedom and light means responsibility – and, in real life, Putin, for sure, is a light one,” said director Timur Bekmambetov at the time. “He is trying to fix everything, make everything organised. But it’s very bad for freedom.” Perhaps the succession of jingoistic military films the Russian cinema industry was also starting to churn out – which included 2005’s 9th Company, 2008’s Admiral and 2013’s Stalingrad – were a true bellwether of his actual allegiance.

    But Putin – lambasted for his aggressions in Chechnya and Georgia, and with suspicions swirling around state agencies after the killings of Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya – was sorely in need of international legitimacy. Photo ops with big stars and the implied entry into the VIP area of global mass entertainment helped normalise his rogue state in the eyes of the world.


    Picks his moments to challenge the leader … Oliver Stone during the making of The Putin Interviews. Photograph: Komandir/Courtesy of Showtime
    Or so he assumed. By 2014, when Putin had annexed Crimea and by which time it was obvious he wasn’t going to surrender the leadership any time soon, Hollywood was starting to run shy. Talking to Time magazine, Blueberry Hill mastermind Aroutiounian said of the A-list: “They’re much more concerned about not killing their careers. [In the current political climate] they don’t know what will happen to them when they come back home. They will take a lot of heat.” With his inscrutable air, machiavellian geopolitical schemes and his critics’ habit of dying in outlandish assassinations, Putin was increasingly resembling a cartoonish arch-villain of the Blofeld ilk. His foreign military intelligence agency was even called GRU, like the Despicable Me baddie. But there remained a coterie of film-world refuseniks who were unbothered by his growing pariah status: not just Depardieu, but Mickey Rourke, Steven Seagal and director Oliver Stone. In fact, this set of leathery iconoclasts and libertarians seemed to actively embrace it.

    Three of them fell into the useful-idiot camp. Depardieu took Russian citizenship, and its refreshing 13% flat tax rate, in 2013, after criticising the French government over its levying plans. On friendly terms with Putin, he called Russia “a great democracy” in an open letter. At a Latvian film festival in 2014, Depardieu was sufficiently high on great sentiments to declare Ukraine “part of Russia”. Cue tanks rolling across the border in 2022 and the sound of tarte à l’humble being scoffed: “I am against this fratricidal war,” he said. “I say, ‘Stop the weapons and negotiate.’”

    Rourke, meanwhile, was unfazed by Putin’s Crimea incursion and judged him “a real gentleman” while buying a T-shirt with the leader’s face on it at a Moscow department store in 2014. “I met him a couple of times and he was a very cool regular guy, looked me right in the eye,” he told Sky News. It’s easy to assume this was some kind of edgelord publicity stunt from the one-time hellraiser, but he offered up his Russian girlfriend as the real reason: “It’s all about family. I don’t give a **** about the politics. That’s not my department.”

    Seagal doesn’t even try to play that get-out-of-jail-free card. Granted Russian citizenship in 2016, he had already called Putin’s Crimea annexation “very reasonable” and lauded the president as “one of the world’s greatest living leaders”. With his old pal now trashing the rest of Ukraine, he’s only dialled down his support one notch: “I look at Russia and Ukraine as one family and really believe it is an outside entity spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other,” he told Fox News.


    Putin shakes hands with martial arts movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme as they watch a mixed fight event in St Petersburg in 2007. Photograph: Vladimir Rodionov/AFP/Getty Images
    You can see why – in a kind of Botoxed 21st-century version of the Hollywood Ten – three over-the-hill blowhard actors might identify and want to shack up with the Russian president. Stone’s case is more complicated. He had already made documentaries about Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, so with his past proclivity for revolutionary figureheads, Putin was a logical next candidate. The director’s four-hour 2017 series, The Putin Interviews, undoubtedly indulges the leader but in doing so it draws him out in all his bland cynicism. It also picks its moments to challenge him: on Chechnya, on Russian “democracy”, on election interference.

    It’s not hard to understand what Stone got out of discussing realpolitik with his country’s adversary. The bigger question is how Putin benefited from this arrangement. Could the series, in continually insisting on the equivalence between US and Russian expansionism, have been part of his broader disinformation strategy? To throw a tantalising bone to sympathetic liberal anti-imperialists to distract them from his real endeavour during the period: radicalising the US and Europe’s nativist right wing.

    At least Stone’s dalliance with Putin gave us an opportunity to sit and watch the surface of the man – even if it didn’t quite get at what lay beyond. In one remarkable vignette, the director gets the autocrat to sit for his first viewing of Dr Strangelove. As the climactic mushroom-cloud montage plays out, Putin seems faintly amused by this depiction of mutually assured destruction: “Nothing has changed.” Maybe that’s what the Moscow celebrity train has helped obscure all along – for Putin, it has always really been about a colder, harsher reality.
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    BK for the fail

    In contrast to BK's previous euro marketing...

    Burger King franchise 'refuses' to close 800 Russian restaurants
    CNN Digital Expansion 2016
    By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
    Updated 8:15 AM ET, Fri March 18, 2022

    New York (CNN Business)Burger King is trying to suspend its operations in Russia, but that's proving difficult. A business partner controlling 800 restaurants has "refused" to close them, the company said.

    The burger chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International (QSR), has a joint venture partnership with businessman Alexander Kolobov in Russia. RBI controls just 15% of its Russian Burger King business, and Kolobov is responsible for the "day-to-day operations and oversight" of its locations in the country.
    That means Burger King can't just snap its fingers and close up shop.
    "We started the process to dispose [of] our ownership stake in the business," said David Shear, president of RBI's international operations, in an open letter. "While we would like to do this immediately, it is clear that it will take some time to do so based on the terms of our existing joint venture agreement."

    A Burger King restaurant at a St. Petersburg shopping center.
    McDonald's (MCD), by contrast, owns more than 80% of its restaurants in Russia outright. That made exiting the country significantly easier.
    Shear said that RBI has "demanded" that the joint venture immediately close the Burger Kings, but Kolobov has "refused to do so."
    Burger King entered Russia about a decade ago, operating the joint venture with Kolobov, Investment Capital Ukraine and VTB Capital, a Russian bank that has been hit with sanctions.
    Shear explained that a "complicated legal process" is preventing it from shutting down the partnership and businesses.
    "There are no legal clauses that allow us to unilaterally change the contract or allow any one of the partners to simply walk away or overturn the entire agreement," Shear said. "No serious investor in any industry in the world would agree to a long-term business relationship with flimsy termination clauses."
    Last week, Burger King pulled corporate support from its businesses in Russia, including suspending operations, marketing and supply chain assistance.
    This issue highlights the problems some Western companies and banks face in pulling out of Russia, complicated by joint ventures or partnerships that they don't have complete control over. For example, a Papa Johns (PZZA) franchisee in Russia refused to close about 200 locations even after the pizza chain suspended corporate support for it.
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    awkward

    Some U.F.C. Fighters Have Ties to a Chechen Leader Loyal to Putin
    Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, is facing U.S. sanctions and accused of brutal abuses. Yet some fighters and others who work with the U.F.C. have kept ties with him.


    Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, speaking to about 10,000 troops in the regional capital of Grozny.Credit...Associated Press
    By Karim Zidan and Kevin Draper
    April 15, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET
    Sign up for the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing. Every evening, we'll send you a summary of the day's biggest news. Get it sent to your inbox.
    Khamzat Chimaev’s victory last weekend in a bruising fight served as a declaration in mixed martial arts: Chimaev, an undefeated welterweight, is quickly becoming the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s next superstar.

    Yet as his mystique has grown through exciting bouts and promotional spectacle, the same U.F.C. that builds fighters into pay-per-view headliners has sidestepped a problem for Chimaev and others in the sport: the relationships with Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya whose personal businesses have been constrained by the U.S. government.

    Hours before his bout on Saturday, Chimaev, 27, posted a picture on his Instagram story that showed him chatting by video with Kadyrov, who has been accused of gruesome human rights abuses and is a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Chimaev, who was born in Chechnya and moved to Sweden when he was 18, has long been lavished with praise and luxury by Kadyrov, who has hosted him at parties and once gave him a Mercedes-Benz.


    Khamzat Chimaev, upper right, posted a screenshot to Instagram of a videochat he had with Kadyrov.
    In 2017, the U.S. Treasury issued sanctions that blocked U.S. citizens and people present in the United States from doing business with Kadyrov. Several of his associates and some of his businesses were similarly punished in 2020. One of his most visible business pursuits, one that has intertwined repeatedly with the U.F.C. and other combat sports organizations, has been mixed martial arts, including his gym, Akhmat MMA.
    The measures against Kadyrov and Akhmat MMA are broad, designed to prohibit “any contribution or provision of funds, goods or services by, to or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods or services from any such person,” according to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

    Chimaev’s picture on Saturday included a caption with the phrase “Akhmat Sila,” a battle cry popular among Kadyrov loyalists that translates to “Akhmat Power.” Akhmat is a variation of the name of Kadyrov’s father, which Kadyrov uses in numerous ways in Chechnya to brand businesses, streets and other things.

    Chimaev’s manager and agent did not respond to messages requesting comment.

    Kadyrov has many ties to combat sports athletes.

    Numerous athletes and others in the world of mixed martial arts have ties to Kadyrov, who has supplied Chechen soldiers to support the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. He has been one of the most fervent supporters of the war and has pushed for taking control of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. In one of his recent addresses, Kadyrov said that Chechen soldiers would first “liberate” Donetsk and Luhansk, “and then we will take Kyiv next.”

    Before the war, he was accused of brutal human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torturing and killing L.G.B.T.Q. people in Chechnya.

    Athletes training with his Akhmat MMA gym have fought regularly in U.F.C. bouts for years. American fighters have traveled to Chechnya, visiting Kadyrov and interacting with his athletes. Some American fighters have even fought in Kadyrov’s fighting league, Absolute Championship Akhmat.


    An Absolute Championship Akhmat mixed martial arts tournament in 2020 in Moscow.Credit... Natalya Kazhan/Kommersant/Sipa USA
    And after the U.S. Treasury’s guidance and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, little changed, although Kadyrov’s most visible displays with fighting celebrities have slowed.

    “There are a number of people involved in an M.M.A. fight, any of whom could be in violation if they are providing or receiving goods, services or funds from Akhmat,” said Shahroo Yazdani, a lawyer at Price Benowitz who specializes in sanctions cases.

    In a statement to The New York Times, the U.F.C. said it had “no contractual relationship or any commercial dealings with Ramzan Kadyrov or any of his family, associates or affiliated companies that have been designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.”

    The U.F.C. said that its fighters were independent contractors and that it entered into contracts with them directly, without intermediaries. The organization also said it had no affiliation with Akhmat MMA and that it was in compliance with all laws and regulations. (The Times first asked the U.F.C., which is owned by the sports and entertainment conglomerate Endeavor, about Kadyrov in 2021. The U.F.C. reiterated its written statement when asked about him after Russia invaded Ukraine and again this week after Chimaev’s fight.)

    Details are often murky about how mixed martial arts fighters are paid, since their contracts with organizations like the U.F.C. are usually private. In general, fighters are responsible for arranging their own training and promotion through agents, managers and coaches. The sanctions put pressure on these arrangements while raising wider questions about how they are applied, especially to people who are not American citizens and who often fight outside the United States.
    “Treasury is aware of Kadyrov’s ongoing interest in M.M.A. and will continue to take action as appropriate,” a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department said in a statement.

    The U.F.C. has long cultivated a brash, rebellious image, embracing the brutality of combat sports, pushing the boundaries of propriety and the law and eschewing much of the button-down visage displayed by other major sports leagues.

    Since Russia’s invasion, major sports leagues worldwide have distanced themselves from Russian owners, teams and athletes, while the U.F.C. has maintained its broadcast partnership with a Russian state-controlled media company and prominently featured Russian athletes in its events.

    But the ties to Kadyrov in mixed martial arts are different from what other sports have had to confront.

    Chimaev was once represented by Ali Abdelaziz, a manager. He is one of the most powerful figures in mixed martial arts and has had numerous ties to fighters who have trained or appeared at Akhmat MMA. Abdelaziz, 44, a U.S. resident who was born in Egypt, represents four of the five fighters affiliated with Akhmat MMA on the U.F.C. roster. At least seven other fighters managed by Abdelaziz, including the current U.F.C. welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, have visited Kadyrov’s M.M.A. gym in Russia.

    Abdelaziz did not respond to messages seeking comment, but he has said in the past that he doubts that Kadyrov committed human rights violations, stating that he “doesn’t believe anything the media says.”

    Kadyrov has called Chimaev his favorite fighter and once boasted that he persuaded Chimaev not to retire after a serious case of Covid-19. Last year, Chimaev was present when Kadyrov issued a death threat to a 15-year-old Chechen teenager who had spoken out against his regime.
    “You won’t sleep at night. You’ll be writing your will,” Kadyrov said during a live Instagram stream aimed at the teenage dissident. “I will destroy you.”
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    continued from previous post

    ‘I want to say hello to my country.’


    Chimaev after his unanimous decision victory over Gilbert Burns at U.F.C. 273.Credit...James Gilbert/Getty Images
    After his victory against Gilbert Burns on Saturday in a bout that many observers praised as the best U.F.C. fight so far in 2022, Chimaev grabbed a microphone from the commentator Joe Rogan after an interview and said, “I want to say hello to my country.” He then spoke in Chechen.

    “Brother, I know you’re watching from home,” Chimaev said. “I said that today I would finish quickly, but today it did not work out. Thank you, brother. God bless you. I know you’re watching this fight. Thanks to all Chechens. God bless you.”

    It is not explicitly clear whom Chimaev was referring to. Chechens, including Kadyrov, often use the word “brother” as a term of respect for people who are not their direct siblings. Chimaev also has an older brother, Artur.

    The Chechen word is “vasha.” Kadyrov has addressed Chimaev with it, and Chimaev addressed Kadyrov directly with it after the fight in a comment on Instagram. “Thank you brother. God bless you. Akhmat is power. Chief Champion,” Chimaev said.
    Whomever Chimaev was referring to during the U.F.C. broadcast, the fight and the in-ring interview were not seen by mixed martial arts fans in Poland. Polsat, which showed the rest of the U.F.C. 273 card, declined to broadcast the fight between Chimaev and Burns because of Chimaev’s post showing his video chat with Kadyrov.

    “This is a clear signal of mutual support, and with Ukraine under attack from Russia, the post is simply provocative,” Polsat said in a statement.

    The Treasury sanctions have created confusion in the M.M.A. world.

    The Treasury Department does not make public the vast majority of enforcement actions it takes, but Jamal El-Hindi, a lawyer at Clifford Chance who spent two decades at the Treasury Department, said the sanctions against Kadyrov and his businesses were far-reaching. They prohibit U.S. citizens and green card holders, as well as anybody on U.S. soil, from interacting with Kadyrov and his businesses.

    El-Hindi and other lawyers said sanctions and their enforcement were broad, flexible and opaque precisely because they were designed to be primarily a foreign policy tool.

    “The purpose of sanctions is to affect foreign policy and have impact,” El-Hindi said. “To the extent that an enforcement action against somebody who violated sanctions will aid in the foreign policy goal, that is the driver for doing the enforcement.”

    Before the latest restrictions, in December 2020, dozens of U.F.C. fighters and combat sports celebrities visited Akhmat MMA facilities and attended fights alongside Kadyrov at his invitation. His previous guests included celebrities like the actor Steven Seagal and the boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., and former U.F.C. champions like Frank Mir and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

    Over the past 15 months, however, there has been a slow, sporadic retreating of Akhmat MMA from the combat sports world in the United States. Fewer fighters have been publicly photographed at Akhmat gyms. YouTube pulled down Akhmat MMA’s page last year, saying it had done so because of “compliance actions.” Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, suspended Akhmat MMA’s Facebook and Instagram pages after The Times inquired about them in March.


    “Thank you brother. God bless you. Akhmat is power. Chief Champion,” Chimaev said in an Instagram comment.Credit...Instagram
    One of the notable exceptions is Usman, who was shown in an Instagram video alongside Kadyrov’s teenage son at the boy’s birthday party in November 2021 — nearly a year after the Treasury Department cracked down on Kadyrov’s fight club. During a previous visit to Akhmat MMA, in November 2020, Usman sparred with the boy and took a picture wearing a sweater with the gym’s slogan, “Akhmat Sila.”

    Usman did not respond to a message seeking comment sent to his manager, Abdelaziz.

    The lack of clarity over the interpretation and enforcement of the Treasury rules has led to confusion in the mixed martial arts world.

    Brett Cooper, an American journeyman mixed martial artist who is scheduled to fight in the Professional Fighters League in May, learned about the December 2020 sanctions against Absolute Championship Akhmat when he landed in Russia days before a scheduled fight that month. After his manager spoke to a lawyer, Cooper pulled out because he believed he could be prosecuted for receiving money from an organization owned by Kadyrov.

    But Cooper now says he believes he got bad advice and should have fought. “I was cutting weight and probably didn’t make the most clearheaded decision,” he wrote in an email. “In hindsight I should have just competed anyway.”

    According to Mansur Sadulaev, the founder of Vayfond, a Chechen human rights organization in Sweden, Kadyrov becomes close to athletes by showering them with luxury cars and homes, then uses them for propaganda.

    Kadyrov has long used sports, particularly his combat sports businesses, to rub shoulders with fighters and present himself as a benevolent, sports-loving leader rather than an autocrat with a long record of human rights abuses.
    “All these athletes are direct accomplices of Kadyrov’s cruel crimes,” Sadulaev said in an email.

    Kadyrov’s ownership of Akhmat MMA allows him to go far beyond merely associating with athletes. He uses it to express Chechen machismo and has directly tied mixed martial arts to his military forces. Some fighters who train at Akhmat MMA also moonlight as soldiers, blurring lines between athleticism and militarism.

    Mohsen Zarkesh, a lawyer who specializes in Treasury sanctions, said the circumstances “are definitely problematic, not just for the U.F.C. but also the entire M.M.A. world.”

    Kasia Pilat contributed reporting.
    Kevin Draper is a sports business reporter, covering the leagues, owners, unions, stadiums and media companies behind the games. Prior to joining The Times, he was an editor at Deadspin. @kevinmdraper
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  10. #10
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    I'm lovin' it

    McDonald's is leaving Russia, after more than 30 years

    May 16, 20228:43 AM ET
    BILL CHAPPELL

    McDonald's arrived in Moscow when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of customers stood in line when its first restaurant opened on Jan. 31, 1990, at Moscow's Pushkin Square.
    Vitaly Armand/AFP via Getty Images
    McDonald's is exiting Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, pulling out of a market it's been a part of for 32 years. The fast-food giant had previously paused its operations in Russia less than two weeks into the brutal conflict being waged over Ukraine's future.

    McDonald's wants to sell its entire slate of restaurants in the country to a Russian buyer. To prepare for that sale, it will start "de-arching" its restaurants — stripping them of its trademark signs, menus and branding.

    The company cites ethics and business reasons

    McDonald's emphasized the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and its corporate values while announcing its move on Monday, but it also described it as a business decision, citing the "unpredictable operating environment" in Russia, which has become an economic pariah due to international sanctions.

    "The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald's to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald's values," the company said.

    Tens of thousands of employees will be affected

    The decision will directly affect some 62,000 employees, along with hundreds of suppliers and distributers. While it's looking for a buyer, McDonald's says, it will aim to ensure that all of the employees will continue to be paid. The corporation has been paying their salaries since March 8, when it paused the operations of its restaurants in Russia.

    "We have a long history of establishing deep, local roots wherever the Arches shine," Chris Kempczinski, McDonald's president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. He praised the company's employees in Russia — but, he added, "we have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values. And our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the Arches shining there."

    McDonald's arrival helped start a new era in Russia

    The hamburger chain's departure will end an era that began in January of 1990, when, after much anticipation and fanfare, McDonald's opened its first store in Moscow's Pushkin Square.


    YouTube
    It was seen as a concrete sign of the thawing of the Cold War, of Russia's progress at a time when it was part of the communist Soviet Union, and of the arrival of a new gateway to the West.

    That first restaurant's opening was wildly successful, serving more than 30,000 customers who braved massive lines to grab a Big Mac and other sandwiches on that unprecedented first day.

    "I felt like I was eating America itself," a customer named Andrey was quoted as saying.

    But the U.S. and Russia are now in a new era, one that has seen a number of Western businesses pull out of a country they once entered with great fanfare.

    Describing the financial logistics of leaving Russia, McDonald's says it will record a charge of around $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion "to write off its net investment in the market."
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  11. #11
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    Wolverines!

    ‘Wolverines’ graffiti straight out of ‘Red Dawn’ showing up all over battlefields in Ukraine
    Avenge me!

    BY MAX HAUPTMAN | PUBLISHED APR 16, 2022 8:29 AM

    CULTURE


    Photos and screenshots showing various Russian military vehicles that were tagged with "Wolverines" in Ukraine, in an apparent reference to the 1980s Cold War action movie "Red Dawn." (Screenshots via Twitter).


    The message seems to be spreading.

    A photo posted to Twitter on Friday morning by journalist Nolan Peterson showed a burned-out Russian T-72 tank on a roadside supposedly near western Kyiv. Along the barrel, scrawled in white spray paint, was the word “Wolverines,” another seeming homage to the 1984 Cold War-era movie “Red Dawn.

    Other videos showed civilians walking around the same tank, along with other charred wreckage.

    Last week, a photo surfaced on Twitter showing a disabled Russian BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle marked with the “Wolverines” tag. And now, much like the insurgency carried out by Patrick Swayze, Thomas Howell, and a collection of high school students from the town of Calumet, Colorado against a fictional Soviet invasion of the United States, the Wolverines tag is showing up more and more.

    There is what looks like a burned-out BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, supposedly destroyed near Brovary, a suburb of Kyiv.

    And then there is this photo of another destroyed T-72 with “Wolverines” painted in white on the side of the turret which, in this case, had not blown off.

    And from Thursday, the wreckage of another BTR-82 seen by a French journalist in Nova Basan, again with “Wolverines” spray-painted across the front of the armored personnel carrier.

    As we saw in the original movie — and we won’t be talking about the critically panned 2012 remake — the occupation of Colorado ends in disaster for the Soviet and Cuban occupiers. Taking their name from their old high school football team, the teenaged insurgents, among them Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey, are soon waging a guerilla campaign, leaving behind the “Wolverines” tag whenever they strike.

    The invasion of Ukraine has seen an impressive proliferation of information warfare. There have been the memes. There have been tales of bravery that have ranged from muddled to almost certainly apocryphal, such as the “Ghost of Kyiv.”

    How a 1980s movie reference made its way to the battlefields of Ukraine is unclear. But it certainly seems as if there will be plenty of more tanks and armored vehicles bearing the tag: “Wolverines.”


    Max Hauptman
    Max Hauptman has been covering breaking news at Task & Purpose since December 2021. He previously worked at The Washington Post as a Military Veterans in Journalism Fellow, as well as covering local news in New England. Contact the author here.
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  12. #12
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    What'll happen tomorrow for Cannes’ “Ukraine Day” on May 21?

    Cannes: Topless Protester Disrupts ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ Red Carpet
    The woman was removed after security guards covered her with a coat.

    BY ALEX RITMAN, SCOTT ROXBOROUGH
    MAY 20, 2022 10:34AM

    The protestor had "stop raping us" written in body paint over the Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow. PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN/GETTY IMAGES


    A woman has been removed from the Cannes red carpet after making a pro-Ukraine protest.

    The woman stripped off all of her clothes and fell to her knees screaming in front of the assembled photographers, according to eyewitnesses. Security guards were seen rushing over to her and covering her with a coat.

    The woman was wearing body paint in the colors of the Ukrainian flag with “stop raping us” written across her abdomen. She also appeared to have blood red paint over her lower back and legs, with the word “scum” written on her lower back.

    There have been numerous reports of Russian soldiers raping civilians during the invasion of Ukraine.

    The Cannes Film Festival requires multiple security checks to access its famed red carpet and there is heavy security along the carpet itself.

    But this isn’t the first time the security has been breached. In 2014, infamous prankster Vitalii Sediuk slipped past the guards and stuck his head under the dress of America Ferrera during the gala for How to Train Your Dragon 2.

    Tonight’s protest came ahead of the premiere of George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. The demonstration comes ahead of Cannes’ “Ukraine Day” on May 21, when the festival will hold a series of events aimed at showing solidarity for the country’s battered film industry.

    The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the Cannes Film Festival press office for comment.

    The New York Times‘ Kyle Buchanan posted a short video of the event on Twitter.
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