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.
Time for the Old Switcheroo
On February 20th, activists from Roman Dobrokhotov’s “We” movement hung a fifty-square-meter banner, shown above, from a bridge directly opposite the Moscow Kremlin. You can view photos of the unfurling on the blog of “We” activist Ilya Varlamov.
The banner showed photos of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in a presidential gaze, and Vladimir Putin, behind bars, and invited viewers to consider the possibility that it was time, as LR founder Kim Zigfeld said on Siberian Light several years ago, for the two to change places.
We’ve written about Dobrokhotov before. He’s made many spectacular and direct challenges to the dictatorial rule of Vladimir Putin, but none more awesome and fearless than this one. Make no mistake: Putin shoots people for doing stuff like this, shoots them dead.
In a truly thrilling op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Milov, Russia’s terrific trio, lay down withering crossfire against the advancing legions of the Putin dictatorship:
This year started quite symbolically in Russia. In the last days of 2010, government authorities decided to demonstrate their power and their intolerance for being challenged: The verdict issued at the farcical trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev had no relation to jurisprudence; leading opposition figures were detained for as many as 15 days on purely political grounds.
These heavy-handed actions set a peculiar stage for President Dmitry Medvedev’s address at the World Economic Forum. Nevertheless, the intelligent and well-informed audience in Davos enthusiastically applauded his nice words about Russia’s economic modernization and dynamic democratic development. International business leaders seem to accept his complaints that few Russians understand his great plans for the country’s future, which greedy oligarchs and corrupt officials from the 1990s prevent him from undertaking.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:
In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.
There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.
The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
One of the hot discussion topics in Russia these days is the revolutionary events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and other Arab states. For years — even decades — these countries have been led by harsh, authoritarian regimes that are just as unscrupulous in using force against dissenters as they are in finding ways to enrich their ruling dictators and their families. It has become fashionable to theorize that the Russian regime — just as unscrupulous and corrupt, with a brutal leader who recently marked 10 years in power — could become one of the next rotten autocracies to collapse. But there is no reason to make such a prediction. Russia is fundamentally different from the countries of the Arab world, and Russian society and politics are developing along a completely different path.
Writing on Gazeta.ru Vladimir Milov delivers a one-two punch to the solar plexus of Vladimir Putin on the issue of nationality, along with his partner in opposition Boris Nemtsov. The latter handles the Caucaus region, while Milov addresses Putin’s weakness much closer to home. Paul Goble reports:
Russia’s liberals have ceded issues like migration and the violence in the North Caucasus to the nationalists by failing to address them openly and honestly and to offer programs for their resolution, a shortcoming that has helped to marginalize the liberals in Russia and give the nationalists an undeserved victory, a liberal commentator says
In a commentary on Gazeta.ru, Vladimir Milov, the head of the Democratic Choice Movement and of the Institute of Energy Policy, argues that the Manezh Square violence must become “a serious occasion” for re-assessing “the influence and role of nationalism and the factor of inter-ethnic relations in Russian politics.
Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
A video titled “Primorye Partisan” has been making the rounds on the Internet. It was made by a gang of self-proclaimed guerrillas in the Primorye region that led an armed attack against policemen. They are suspected of killing two policemen and wounding six others between February and June.
One of their slogans is “Grab a weapon and save your soul” — something that is close to what guerrilla fighters in the Caucasus have said and done. Imagine that these guerrillas surfaced in the United States and started shooting at cops. I think the public would call them the new Manson family.
Oleg Kozlovsky, writing on the Huffington Post:
As Vladimir Putin is apparently preparing to return to the Presidential seat in 2012, PR campaign in his support is gaining strength sometimes almost reaching the level of cult of personality. On October 6, a day before Putin’s 59th birthday, he got an unusual gift from several female students of Moscow State University’s Department of Journalism. Twelve soon-to-be journalists in sexy lingerie posed for a calendar entitled “Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin!” Next to their smiling photos were put slogans like “How About a Third Time?”, “Who Else If Not You?”, “You Are Only Getting Better with Years” etc. Names of the girls and their department were mentioned at every page.
Top: cover of the original calendar saying “Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Love You!”
Bottom: remake by Zhurfak students, saying “Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Have a Few Questions For You.”
Make no mistake, it wasn’t a joke or a spontaneous burst of patriotism of a few not-so-smart girls.
The Kremlin has lost a major battle and received another humiliating international black eye. The Microsoft Website reports:
A story in yesterday’s New York Times reports on anti-piracy enforcement actions in Russia that have been used for more nefarious purposes than protecting intellectual property rights.
As General Counsel for Microsoft, it was not the type of story that felt good to read. It described instances in which authorities had used piracy charges concerning Microsoft software to confiscate computers and harass non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others engaged in public advocacy. It suggested that there had been cases when our own counsel at law firms had failed to help clear things up and had made matters worse instead.
Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases the New York Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain. We are moving swiftly to seek to remove any incentive or ability to engage in such behavior.
Another Day, Another Nemtsov Arrest
Once again last Tuesday, the former first deputy prime minister of Russia was arrested and accused of “provocation” by the Putin Kremlin for daring to challenge its authority.
Before we discuss the latest incidence of jaw-dropping barbarism from the Putin Kremlin, though, let’s take a moment to reflect on amazing photograph shown above, an image captured by a Novaya Gazeta photographer at the scene of the crime. It ought to strike sheer terror into the hearts of the loathsome reptiles within the Moscow Kremlin.
Posted in editorial, nemtsov (white paper), neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged barack obama, boris nemtsov, European Union, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Leonid Brezhnev, russia, United States, vladimir putin
So-called law enforcement officers following Vladimir Putin's advice in Moscow on August 31
Oleg Kozlovsky, writing on the Huffington Post, reveals how Vladimir Putin has declared open, violent war against peaceful protesters (just for daring to march without a license, not for defying an order to disperse) and his own presidency-for-life:
Today’s Kommersant publishes a fresh interview with Vladimir Putin, where the dictator comments on opposition rallies:
Look, all our opponents support a Rechtsstaat. What is a Rechtsstaat? It is obedience to the existing law. What does the existing law say about [Dissenters'] Marches? You need to get a permission from the authorities. Got it? Go and protest. Otherwise you don’t have this right. If you go out without having the right, get beaned with a baton. That’s it!
Putin manages to lie three times in this short passage:
Posted in kozlovsky, neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged Civil disobedience, Huffington Post, Kommersant, Law, Moscow, oleg kozlovsky, russia, united russia, vladimir putin
Robert Amsterdam interviews Lev Ponomarev:
Russia-watchers are no doubt aware of the recent arrest of my good friend Lev Ponomarev. Lev is one of the leading lights of the Russian human rights movement, part of the original perestroika-era generation of human rights advocates whose courageous efforts ensured that democratic reforms were an integral part of the changes that followed the collapse of communism. These reforms have been steadily and vigorously eroded over the past decade under Vladimir Putin. Several days ago, for example, Lev was arrested in Moscow on Flag Day – while walking with a Russian flag. The irony is all the greater because Russia’s Flag Day commemorates the day in 1991 when the tricolor was raised for the first time over the Supreme Soviet building after the failed August Putsch, a time when Lev was a deputy to the Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR and a key figure in the fledgling democracy movement.
I spoke with Lev by phone after his release, and here is what he had to say:
Posted in neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged Flag Day, Human rights, lev ponomarev, Lev Ponomaryov, Moscow, robert amsterdam, russia, Russian language, Soviet Union, vladimir putin
Boris Nemtsov, draped in his country's flag, finds out what his "prime minister" thinks about real patriotism -- Courtesy Reuters
Nemtsov Arrested, Again!
Yuri Shevchuk, unplugged, a command performance for Vladimir Putin on Pushkin Square in Moscow -- Courtesy AP
Last time, just weeks ago, former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was arrested for signing an autograph. This time, his crime was far more serious: Waving a Russian flag. World-renown human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov was also arrested.
Nemtsov was arrested by Vladimir Putin’s jack-booted goons once again last week, before he could even set foot at the site of a demonstration in support of the Russian flag. Yuri Schevhuk, the Russian Bruce Springsteen, was forced to sing at the demonstration without amplification after Putin’s goons blocked his speakers from reaching him.
Putin on the Edge
An extraordinary YouTube video was making the rounds in Russia circles last week. It showed Vladimir Putin in his shirtsleeves being confronted outside a government building in Nizhny Novgorod by a throng of enraged local residents who had watched their lives go up in flames.
Putin is attacked for having done nothing to prepare the local population for the disaster of spreading wildfires, and for having failed to make a timely response to the disaster after it occurred. In brutal, condescending language, talking to Putin as if he were a child, the residents demand action, and Putin stammers ridiculous promises about rebuilding homes from the ground up.
Needless to say, the confrontation was not aired on any national broadcast television, because all those stations are owned and operated by Putin himself.
A truly amazing nine-minute video has surfaced on YouTube recording the brutal crackdown against and heroic defiance of the “31” protesters in St. Petersburg a few days ago.
The group assembled to demand their rights to peaceably assemble under Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, and were summarily arrested by an army of OMON gestapo troops. Despite repeated acts of crude violence against the protesters, they never strike back. But after being stuffed into a bus for transport to jail, they climb out onto the roof and continue their protest, absolutely mocking the authority of the police. As the photos after the jump clearly show, the onlookers were utterly horrified by the barbaric conduct of the so-called “law enforcement officers,” who were in fact the only ones breaking the law this day.
Former first deputy prime minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov, being arrested in Moscow on July 31, 2010, for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in support of basic human rights in Russia. Numerous others were jailed before the protest had hardly begun by the jackbooted thugs of Vladimir Putin. Apparently, Putin is afraid of what Nemtsov might say and how many might applaud him if he were allowed to speak.
The Associated Press reports:
Russian police arrested a leading Kremlin opponent and dozens of fellow activists Saturday at a demonstration demanding freedom of assembly.
Several hundred protesters gathered in a Moscow square chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” at the rally city authorities tried to ban.
An Associated Press reporter saw Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov dragged to a police car and driven away. The rally had barely started. Three or four others appeared to have been detained.
There’s Sick, and then there’s Russian Sick
Russia’s ability to surpass itself, week after appalling week, with ever lower levels of vile, nauseating, subhuman conduct is truly breathtaking.
Last week, Echo of Moscow Radio broke the story of how the annual Nashi orgy of xenophobia and aggressive nationalism known as Camp Selinger, a government-funded festival of barbaric outrage, plumbed inconceivable new depths by putting the virtual heads of opposition political leaders on pikes and decorating them as Nazis.
The Kremlin’s youthful thugs did not hesitate to include octogenarian Lyudmila Alexeeva among those so assaulted.
You read that right: They put an eighty year old woman’s head on a pike and stuck a Nazi hat on her head. She’s a human rights activist. She’s utterly defenseless and frail. And she’s a Nazi.
The New York Times reports (the paper is collecting video submissions from Russian opposition figures and posting them online) :
One day last fall, a police officer here put on his uniform and sat on a drab tan couch before a video camera. In a halting monotone, he recorded two video appealsto Vladimir V. Putin, 13 minutes in all.
He was a nobody cop from a nowhere city, but his words would startle this country.
“How can a police officer accept bribes?” the officer asked. “Do you understand where our society is heading? You talk about reducing corruption,” he said. “You say that it should not be just a crime, that it should be immoral. But it is not like that. I told my boss that the police are corrupt. And he told me that it cannot be done away with. “I am not afraid of quitting. I will tell you my name. I am Dymovsky, Aleksei Aleksandrovich.”
The videos were uploaded to YouTube in November, and a nation that has grown increasingly infuriated by police wrongdoing could not take its eyes off them. Here, finally, was an insider acknowledging the enveloping culture of corruption in Russia’s police forces — the payoffs large and small, the illegal arrests to extort money, the police chiefs who buy fancy cars and mansions on modest state salaries.
In Tuapse, a Rising
Maybe, just maybe, when the story of the demise of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev is written, the story will begin: “It all started in Tuapse.”
This utterly charming hamlet by the sea (if you’ve not been, you should) rose defiantly to spit in the eye of Putin and Medvedev once again last week. After the jump, photographs from the scene tell the tale better than any words could do.
More than two thousand brave Russian citizens poured into the streets, heedless of the Kremlin’s threats and its jackbooted thugs called “policeman” and demanded that their government stop killing them, slowing poisoning their environment with toxic chemicals as if their lives did not matter.
One protester declared: “We address those troublemakers and environmental racketeers and those who sponsor them: Stop causing a nightmare for our terminal! Think about where your children and grandchildren will work, and whether life be sufficient for all of us”
We can’t help but wonder: How long before the same happens in Sochi?
The New York Times reports:
REVERENCE for Russia’s leaders, be they czars, general secretaries or presidents, has never come easily to Yuri Shevchuk. A bespectacled, slightly graying rock star, Mr. Shevchuk has spent much of the last three decades growling into a microphone in an effort, he says, to awaken in his compatriots a passion to break from their long history of bowing to heavy-handed authority.
These days, at 53, Mr. Shevchuk remains a guttural voice of defiance, just as he was when he began dodging Soviet censors by holding secret concerts in apartments throughout Russia in the early 1980s. But now he rails against Vladimir V. Putin’s government in his packed shows and openly scorns other musicians he accuses of selling out.
Last month, he put his preaching into practice, stunning Russians by making an off-the-cuff speech against official abuses during a meeting with Mr. Putin himself.
“I have questions, honestly speaking,” Mr. Shevchuk told the prime minister at the meeting. “They’ve accumulated for some time, and I will use this opportunity.”
In another excellent piece of reporting on Russia, the New York Times documents how Russians are fighting back against the Putin Kremlin, and how it is cracking down on them with barbaric neo-Soviet force. The piece includes several protest Youtubes by Russians translated into English.
LISTVYANKA, Russia — On the edge of this Siberian village is a resort with a veiled guest list and armed guards at the front gate. When local officials have expressed unease about what goes on inside, the reply has always been the same: do not interfere.
Two and half years ago, the village’s mayor, Tatyana Kazakova, had enough. A major construction project at the resort had exposed a hot water main, threatening the heating supply for the entire village as temperatures plunged to 30 degrees below zero.
Ms. Kazakova was not a typical bureaucrat. She was one of the most successful businesswomen in this vast region, a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur.
She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.
A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova.
In Putin’s Russia, Citizens most of all Fear the “Police”
Oleg Kozlovsky in Triumfalnaya Ploshchad
Here’s what happened to Oborona opposition faction leader Oleg Kozlovsky last week:
First, he was illegally arrested for doing nothing more than asserting his Constitutional right to peacefully assemble in Triumfalnaya Ploshchad in Moscow.
Then, he was illegally beaten while in police custody as he protested (peacefully) the illegality of his arrest.
Next, he was held illegally for nine hours in police custody (the law allows for only three).
Finally, he was indicted on the signature of a police officer who had nothing whatsoever to do with his arrest and therefore could not have been a party to it, and on a pre-printed form prepared by bureaucrats miles away.
In other words, in the space of just a few hours Oleg had his legal rights trampled upon by the Russian police who are supposed to protect those rights not once, not twice, not three times but four separate times. More than a hundred other activists were treated similarly by the Russian “police” and Oleg saw a reporter get his arm broken by these thugs for trying to cover and report on the their atrocities.
Russia and the Ape who Governs Her
Russia's ape in chief
Try to imagine a press conference where U.S. President George Bush is asked about his policies at Guantanamo Bay by Bruce Springsteen, and responds to “the Boss” by musing: “Who are you?”
What do you think the world might then say about Mr. Bush?
Well, precisely that happened last week when Yuri Shevchuk, the Russian equivalent of Springsteen and leader of the legendary rock band DDT, stood up and confronted Putin with the following question: “I received a call the day before yesterday from your assistant, I guess — don’t remember his name — who asked me not to pose sharp questions. Do you have a plan for the serious, sincere and honest liberalization and democratization of our country so state organizations do not strangle us and so we stop being afraid of the police on the streets?”
Putin responded: “What’s your name, sorry?” Shevchuk gave his name, and added “a musician.”
The Other Russia reports:
The signatories of the petition ‘Putin Must Go,’ which calls for the resignation of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, held their first meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. The opposition manifesto, which has gathered more than 43 thousand signatures over the past two months, accuses the prime minister of brutally suppressing dissent, fostering corruption, and failing to modernize and develop Russia over the course of his tenure in power. Therefore, it says, “the return of Russia to the path of democratic development can only begin when Putin has been deprived of all levers of managing the state and society.”
Approximately seventy people attended Wednesday’s event, which was organized by opposition leaders to discuss the history, current state, and future of their campaign against the prime minister. Denis Bilunov, executive director of the opposition movement Solidarity, said the petition was originally intended for social and political organizations to sign, not the general public. However, he said, it turned out that the petition’s message appealed to a far greater number of ordinary Russians than was expected, so a website was set up to collect signatures online. Over 12 thousand people signed the petition in the first week alone.
Robert Amsterdam publishes a true dymanic duo, hero journalist Grigory Pasko and hero economist Andrei Illarionov (Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда):
Journalist Grigory Pasko recently had the opportunity to sit down with Andrei Illarionov, former advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, and currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute in Washington.
GRIGORY PASKO: Andrei Nikolayevich, appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in February of the year 2009, you said: “Today’s Russia is not a democratic country”… And further: “The members of the Corporation do share strong allegiance to their respective organizations, strict codes of conduct and of honor, basic principles of behavior, including among others the principle of mutual support to each other in any circumstances and the principle of omerta.” But is this not a characterization of a classical mafia? Can one fight with a mafia using democratic methods: honest elections, unbribable independent courts, free mass information media?
ANDREI ILLARIONOV: A very good and complex question. But I will not give you an answer now. Inasmuch as we have to make several sub-points here. First: is this phenomenon a mafia? It has very many features that look like a mafia, that are close to a mafia. Nevertheless, this is not exactly a mafia. More precisely, this is some kind of a special mafia. A mafia of such a kind – a siloviki corporation, as we have, – belongs to the group of special siloviki structures that exist in different human societies. By the way, states as such ought to be included in this as well.