Category Archives: neo-soviet crackdown

EDITORIAL: We Told you So

EDITORIAL

We Told you So

On September 28, 2011, a perfect metaphor for the horror that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia appeared in The Independent, which has over the years been responsible for some of the toughest and most insightful reporting on Russia (hat tip: Streetwise Professor).

The paper wrote about how thousands upon thousands of stray dogs roam the streets of Moscow, how they have killed Muscovites in packs and how they pose all manner of serious health concerns, to say nothing of betraying Russia’s eternal poverty regardless of the propaganda the state may churn out.  Yet Russians, idiots that they are, are fighting to keep these dogs on the streets, and do what they can to care for them.

Similarly Josef Stalin is beloved by Russians, even though he murdered more of them than any other person who ever lived.

And similarly, the proud KGB spy and murderer of Starovoitova, of Litvinenko, of Politikovskaya, of Yushenkov, of Shchekochikhin, of Girenko, of Klebnikov, of Kozlov, of Estemirova, of Markelov and of so very many others, known as Vladimir Putin, is being embraced as he declares himself president for life. Lenin, Stalin, Putin.

On April 2, 2006, we warned the world that it would be so.

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Kara-Murza on Putin’s Return

Spotlight on Russia reports:

One of the surest signs of repression in Russia is a flourishing culture of political jokes. The 1930s and the 1970s, in particular, bear testimony to this. In 2008, when Vladimir Putin tricked term limits by becoming prime minister under hand-picked President Dmitri Medvedev, a new joke was born in the Moscow intelligentsia’s kitchens. The year is 2020. Putin and Medvedev are in a bar, drinking beer. Putin looks up and asks: “Dima, do you remember which one of us is president, and which one is prime minister?” Medvedev thinks for a short while, then replies: “I think you are president, Vladimir Vladimirovich, and I am prime minister.” “Then it’s your turn to pay for the beer,” responds Putin.

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EDITORIAL: Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?

EDITORIAL:  

Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?

Last week any intelligent Russian citizen had just one question in response to a pair of orders emanating from their so-called “president”:  Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?

First, in response to the crash of an airliner that killed an entire Russian professional ice hockey team, Medvedev ordered the airline shut down.  But intelligent Russians were asking:  Why didn’t you shut them down before the crash, Mr. Medvedev? Why did you wait so long?

Then, in response to growing civil unrest, Medvedev authorized the Russian Gestapo to utilize water cannons, tasers and tear gas on peaceful opposition protesters who fail to disperse upon the illegal order of the authorities.  Intelligent Russian citizens were asking:  Why now, Mr. Medvedev?

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The Kremlin’s Eye turns to Piter

The Other Russia reports:

In Russia, taking part in a demonstration that hasn’t been sanctioned by the government can cost citizens their right to work in federal agencies. Officially dubbed “unreliable” citizens, opposition activists and other political protesters are entered into special blacklists drawn up by law enforcement agencies for purposes that are not entirely understood. It was on such a blacklist that Vera Sizova, a retired resident of St. Petersburg, unexpectedly found herself – upon being told that she was banned from working for the 2010 Russian Census because of her son’s opposition activities.

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EDITORIAL: Piter Drives the Final Nail into its Own Coffin

EDITORIAL

Piter Drives the Final Nail into its Own Coffin

Before Vladimir Putin came along, the city of St. Petersburg, Russia enjoyed a national and even an international reputation for enlightenment. It was called Russia’s “window on the West” and it was famous for citizens who had a broader world view, a more democratic inclination, who were more civilized and intelligent than ordinary Russians.

But Putin, a native of Piter, changed all that.  From the moment the world learned how he shamelessly plagiarized his dissertation at an elite Piter university, it became clear that Piter was just like every other rotten place in Russia under the skin.  When it remained just as silent as the rest of the country (or cheered even louder) as its native son seized power in Moscow, filled the Kremlin halls with proud KGB spies and began a relentless neo-Soviet crackdown, the world saw the true St. Petersburg.

And nothing could have better confirmed Piter’s wretched barbarism than the recent election campaign of former governor and Putin lackey Valentina Matvienko for a local legislative post in the city, one she needed so Putin could appoint her to the Federation Council and name her speaker.

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Putin is the Disease

Putin is the disease, democracy is the cure.

The Moscow Times reports:

Siberian investigators are seeking jail terms over a prank in which a billboard (shown above) for a clinic treating sexually transmitted diseases was doctored to include less-than-flattering portraits of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin.

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EDITORIAL: Mickey Mouse, Banned in Russia

EDITORIAL

Mickey Mouse, Banned in Russia

In 1995 the Russian artist Alexander Savko painted a series of images interposing the face of Mickey Mouse onto famous historical scenes, like the one above.

Last week, a Russian court determined that Savko’s image of the Sermon on the Mount with Mickey Mouse (shown after the jump) was “extremist” and illegal and banned it from public display.

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EDITORIAL: Back in the USSR

EDITORIAL

Back in the USSR

Every year the good folks at Freedom House prepare a worldwide survey of the state of freedom and democracy. This year’s report on Vladimir Putin’s Russia is particularly horrifying, and not even because Russia’s scores were lower than they have ever been, although they certainly were.  What was most jolting was a look back at the trend Russia has now conclusively displayed under Vladimir Putin.

Under FH’s methodology, each country is assigned a numerical rating from 1 to 7 in a variety of basic criteria, with 1 representing the most freedom and 7 representing the least.  Tracking the data over time from 2002 through 2011 produces the following chart:

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EDITORIAL: Craven Russia Soils Democracy Once Again

EDITORIAL

Craven Russia Soils Democracy Once Again

In light of what has occurred with former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov’s People’s Freedom Party, it is hard for us to see how any thinking person can now view the people of Russia with anything but naked contempt.

Shamelessly, the Putin Kremlin has refused to allow PFP to stand for elections, denying them the basic right of registration.  As Kasyanov put it:  “Nothing that has been said or promised by Medvedev during these past three years has materialized.  It has only gotten worse: that is more pressure on political opponents, even more falsification in regional elections.”

Meanwhile, despite telling the Financial Times that he thought political competition was essential to Russia’s future and that it was “very bad” that there were no liberal parties represented in the Duma, Medvedev  himself said the he would not run against Vladimir Putin if Putin chose to seek the presidency for at third time.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal our favorite blogger, Vladimir Kara-Murza, told the world who Medvedev really is:  “Medvedev’s recent statements about freedom and political competition have led many Western observers to hope for a new wave of democratic reforms in Russia. The Justice Ministry’s denial of the Popular Freedom Party’s registration papers last week shows that these statements are a fraud.”

A group of leading Western Russia scholars was blunt:  They called the Kremlin’s decision “clearly political” and held that it violated international law to which Russia was obligated.  And they challenged the US to respond:  “The Obama administration is on record that democracy and human rights are important to U.S.-Russia relations.  If so, the administration, and the U.S. Congress, should respond vigorously with measures designed to support democratic rights and freedoms. “

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EDITORIAL: Welcome to the Horror of Neo-Soviet Russia

EDITORIAL

Welcome to the Horror of Neo-Soviet Russia

When you click the jump, you will see an image of the leather trench coat that was worn by officers of the NKVD, the organization that became the KGB and is now the FSB (the organization has twice been required to change its name to try to ward off its disgraceful past).  The NKVD, like their successors, were responsible for  horrific crimes against the people of Russia and were a legion of goons that terrorized the country in order to support the Stalin dictatorship.  They were integral in carrying out one of the most infamous crimes against humanity in world history, the Katyn massacre in 1940 Poland.

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Putin Moves Russia From Authoritarianism to Totalitarianism

Pavel Felgenhauer, writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:

A group of 14 acclaimed Russian intellectuals, including human rights activists, artists, film directors, writers and aides of the late President Boris Yeltsin have published an open statement condemning the present regime for “completely destroying the institution of democratic elections in Russia.” Election results are shamelessly falsified by the authorities, while opposition parties and activists are “unconstitutionally” denied registration to run in elections under cooked up pretexts.

As a result, subjects of the Russian state are disfranchised from the political system rendering it illegitimate. The statement describes as “vicious” the so called “vertical of power”—a system of personalized authoritarian rule the prime minister and leader of the ruling United Russia Vladimir Putin has been building since 1999. This “vertical of power” has created a rubberstamp misrepresentative parliament, a “paralyzed Dmitry Medvedev presidency” and dysfunctional regional and municipal authorities.

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EDITORIAL: Lebedev Goes Down

EDITORIAL

Lebedev Goes Down

Lebedev goes Down

Recent days have seen a disturbing trend as oligarch after oligarch bows and scrapes before Vladimir Putin (so-called “president” Dima Medvedev did the same in his recent press conference).  By the far the most ominous of these has been Alexander Lebedev.

Lebedev is the publisher of Novaya Gazeta, by far Russia’s most important source of information about the Putin regime. He openly admits that he has been receiving relentless pressure from the KGB on his banking business, and that he has decided to side with Putin rather than become a jailed pauper like Mikkhail Khodorkovsky.  The tycoon posted a statement on his website stating that his “Our Capital” movement had decided to join the All-Russia People’s Front created by Putin earlier this month.

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Pamfilova Speaks

Radio Free Europe has interviewed Ella Pamfilova, who spoke candidly about the shame presidency of Dima Medvedev:

Ella Pamfilova is one of Russia’s most distinguished liberal figures. She is the head of two NGOs — Civil Society For Russia’s Children and Civic Dignity. She is a former Duma deputy and a former social affairs minister. In 2000, she became the first woman to run for the office of president of Russia.

In 2002, then-President Vladimir Putin named her to head the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, which was later transformed into the Presidential Council on Human Rights. In July 2010, she resigned from that post after coming under strong pressure from the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group. Since then, she has generally shunned the limelight.

RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maria Morozova caught up with in Moscow and asked her about her tenure on the human rights council and her views on the political environment in Russia now.

RFE/RL: What were your thoughts when in 2002, being a critic of the authorities, you agreed to head the Presidential Council on Human Rights, which under you later grew into the Council on Cooperation With Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights?

Ella Pamfilova: In 1999, when Vladimir Putin was confirmed as prime minister, I was one of the few Duma deputies who spoke against him and voted no. This annoyed a lot of liberals who back then were already working hard to elevate him to the presidency.

But in 2001, I and a group of rights activists and regional nongovernmental organizations — with the clear support of the presidential administration — organized the first Civic Forum with the participation of Putin. This provoked a certain enthusiasm. It seemed to us that it might be possible to pull the country out of chaos. And I believed that finally a dialogue between the state and civic organizations was being established.

So when I was asked to head the semi-dormant Presidential Council on Human Rights, I already understood exactly what I wanted. As a politician, I believed that in order to turn the heavy Russian political machine in the direction of democracy, it was very important to create a permanent, functioning forum in which the liberal, rights-oriented minority — de facto in opposition to the government — had the opportunity to bring directly to the authorities their views, arguments, information, and proposals.

At that time, I had complete freedom of action, so I invited into the council independent experts and human rights advocates who were not afraid to harshly criticize the government and defend their positions. To a considerable extent, I considered myself an intermediary between rights activists and the Kremlin.

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Putin and the Rise of the Neo-Soviet State

Victor Davidoff, writing in the Moscow Times:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s May 6 speech in Volgograd finally put an end to the questions that have been asked for the last three years: Who is ruling Russia, and who will rule Russia after 2012?

It was a canonical speech by a national leader who is both trying to help the party he heads, United Russia, in December’s State Duma elections and who is priming himself for the presidential race in 2012. The speech painted a rosy picture of Russia today and an even brighter picture of the future if, of course, the country maintains “stability,” which when translated from post-Soviet newspeak means “the status quo of United Russia and the siloviki in power for many years.”

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EDITORIAL: Putin Knifes the Infant RuNet

EDITORIAL

Putin Knifes the Infant RuNet

Georgia:  35

Russia: 52

If we were talking international basketball scores, those would be good numbers for Russia.  But we’re not. We’re talking Internet freedom, as analyzed by Freedom House.  The higher the score, the less the freedom.

FH reviewed Internet access among a group of 37 countries around the world, and found that Georgia ranks #12 in the group, in the top third and right behind South Korea, while Russia ranks #22, right behind Rwanda and well into the bottom half of all countries surveyed.  In the group of nations designated by FH as “partly free” only four have lower scores than Russia (including Egypt at 54 and Pakistan at 55).  The USA’s score is 13, surpassed in the group only by Estonia.

Twice as many Russian bloggers were arrested in the most recent survey period compared to the last one. Russia’s rank fell three places since the prior survey, and its score got much worse, from 49 in 2009 to 52 in 2011.

If course, it may not matter much how free or unfree Russia’s Internet is, because according to FH two-thirds of the Russian population has no Internet access at all.

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EDITORIAL: The Russian Nightmare

A scene from the Rose Monday Carnival Parade in Dusseldorf, Germany, February 2009. Reuters. On the gun barrel is written Freedom of the Press Putin Style.

EDITORIAL

The Russian Nightmare

Alexander Andreyechkin.   Vladimir Litvinenko.  Alexander Surinov. Do you know these names? If you don’t, you can’t claim to have any real understanding of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Let us introduce you to them.

Andreyechkin wants to ban Hotmail, Gmail and Skype from use in Russia.

Want to see what somebody who would say something as venal as that looks like? Good luck trying to find a photo of him. Google images has never heard of him, but it’s not because he’s a nobody.

To the contrary, Andreyechkin is the head of the FSB’s department for protection of information and special communication, and Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said that Andreyechkin was voicing the FSB’s official position.  The FSB is the KGB, by another name.

It’s hard to say which is more a more ominous sign for Russia:  That the FSB is so brazen and heedless of its own history that it can openly call for shutting down basic communication services, or that it is so incompetent that doing so is the only response it can make to its helpless inability to deal with these evil foreign systems, which apparently are far too complicated for it to manage on its own.

Then there’s Vladimir Litvinenko.

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EDITORIAL: The Russian Hallucination

EDITORIAL

The Russian Hallucination

Russia’s most valuable company, Gazprom, has a market capitalization about $150 billion.  That seems impressive, until you know that Exxon, America’s most valuable company, has a market capitalization more than double that of Gazprom.

Flip your perspective, and you see something even more amazing. Gazprom’s value constitutes more than ten percent of the total gross domestic product of Russia.  Exxon’s value? It’s less than two percent of America’s GDP.

In other words, because the American economy is ten times larger than Russia’s, Exxon can fail and America will go merrily on, almost oblivious. But if Gazprom fails, Russia crashes into poverty and absolute collapse. And competing head to head in Russia’s area of greatest strength, America still wins hands down, in dominating fashion.

How is it, then, that Russians dare to continue to adopt such a provocative and hostile attitude towards the USA?

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The Day Russia turned out the lights

The brilliant Vladimir Kara-Murza reports:

If one were to name a particular date when Russia’s nascent democracy succumbed to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime, April 14, 2001 would be a fairly good contender. Ten years ago the Russian government, using the state-owned energy giant Gazprom as its proxy, seized control of NTV—the country’s largest and most popular independent television channel. There were, of course, other significant dates: June 22, 2003 (the government-ordered shutdown of TVS, Russia’s last independent television channel), October 25, 2003 (the arrest of oil tycoon and opposition supporter Mikhail Khodorkovsky), December 7, 2003 (the expulsion of pro-democracy parties from Parliament in heavily manipulated elections), December 12, 2004 (the abolition of direct gubernatorial elections—ironically, signed into law by Mr. Putin on Constitution Day). But it was the takeover of NTV that was, in many ways, the point of no return.

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EDITORIAL: Russia, Land of Bandits

EDITORIAL

Russia, Land of Bandits

The image above shows the dictator of Libya and the dictator of Russia flying in attack aircraft to bomb their own populations in to submission, with the Russian using a computer attack rather than an explosive. It is the work of the genius Russian cartoonist Sergei Yelkin, better known as Ellustrator, an refers to a recent massive cyber attack on the Live Journal blogging network in Russia which shut down the entire service for the better part of a day (even the blog of so-called Russian “president” Dima Medvedev was affected — interestingly, Vladimir Putin is not a blogger and was left unscathed). A few days later a massive attack was launched on the website of Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading opposition newspaper.  Both Anton Nosik and Alexei Navalny, the two titans of the Russian blogosphere, made it clear that the Putin Kremlin was to blame, in preparation for the rigging of the next presidential “elections.”

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EDITORIAL: The Voice of Russia(n Lies)

EDITORIAL

The Voice of Russia(n Lies)

The chart above, prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows that only two nations on this planet, Iraq and Philippines, have more unsolved murders of journalists than does Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which ranks #3 in the world in nominal and #8 in the world in per capita butchery of members of the press.  Russia’s rate of savagery in this regard is 50% higher than Mexico’s, which comes in just below it at #9, and it has twice as many unsolved murders as does Mexico.  Russia moved from #9 last year to #8 this year.  Amazingly, with little room to do so, it’s getting even worse as time goes by.

But you would never know this from reading or listening to the “Voice of Russia,” the Kremlin’s own paid propaganda network. It is one of the very worst, most unreliable and dishonest sources of information about modern Russia in the world.  Because of outrageously dishonest reporting from the likes of VOR, Russians and Russophiles have a warped, distorted, neo-Soviet view of themselves and, like the infamous Emperor with his “new clothes,” fail to realize that in reality the entire world is appalled by them.

Look, for example, at the shameless lies VOR told about the recent visit to Moscow by human rights delegations from the United Nations and the European Union.

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EDITORIAL: Long Live Luke Harding!

EDITORIAL

Long Live Luke Harding

Luke Harding

On December 1, 2010, Luke Harding, Russia correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, published a story based on leaked confidential government documents which concluded that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin approved the murder of dissident KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko.

Six weeks later, the very next time Harding tried to enter Russia, his visa was revoked and he was sent back home.  More than three dozen foreign journalists have been refused entry to Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power and many others, like Paul Klebnikov of Forbes, have been murdered outright.

But it’s pretty hard to think of a single pro-Kremlin journalist who has been arrested or exiled or murdered by the Putin Kremlin, isn’t it?

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EDITORIAL: Russia Eliminates

EDITORIAL

Russia Eliminates

Daylight savings time.

Valentine’s Day.

Luke Harding.

What do these three things have in common? They were all banned last week in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Illegal. No more. That’s it. That’s right, banned. In so-called “democratic” Russia.

What’s next?  Only God knows the answer to that question, dear reader.  Just try to make sure it’s not you.

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EDITORIAL: Putin Stumbles

EDITORIAL

Putin Stumbles

Three stunning events over the course of the past two weeks have revealed profound weakness in the regime of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  We, his foes, are winning. We have the upper hand, and no thinking person can dispute that.  Putin’s choice now is stark, the same as the one faced by Hosni Mubarek of Egypt:  Bloody repression followed by national collapse, or ouster.

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Two kinds of Russian Terrorists

An editorial in the Moscow Times:

“I felt terrorized!” the young woman told a Moscow Times journalist.

The young woman had not been at Domodedovo Airport, but instead was driving home when a Volvo owned by the Federal Guard Service — with its familiar EKX number plates, which drivers know as an acronym for “Drive Anyway I Want”— and a presidential administration Mercedes entered the oncoming lane and forced her and all the other drivers into the shoulder.

Were the government vehicles speeding to an urgent meeting to resolve a national crisis? Doubtful, since it was a recent Friday evening rush hour and they were heading away from Moscow’s center, toward the elite’s residential area.

Other drivers aren’t so lucky.

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Putin’s Crypto-Fascism Revealed

Today, Russia gets a dress code. Tomorrow, it rounds up the Jews? Paul Goble reports:

The Moscow Patriarchate’s advocacy of a dress code for all Russians is at one level simply an absurdity, but at another it is evidence of “a very strong tendency” in Russia “toward the establishment of a proto-fascist regime masked under the name of sovereign democracy,” according to a senior Moscow scholar.

Indeed, Sergey Arutyunov, a specialist on the North Caucasus, argues, Russia is moving toward a system “in essence no less totalitarian than Mussolini’s regime in Italy or with certain qualifications (let us say, without anti-Semitism or perhaps even with a revived anti-Semitism) Hitler’s regime in Germany.

That trend is “natural,” he argues, because “the situation in [Russia] recalls that in the Weimar Republic on the eve of the fascists’ coming to power. The very same factors, the very same attitudes in society, and the very same perspectives,” including the risky behavior and ultimate catastrophe Russia would suffer if “adventurists playing at fascism came to power.”

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