Tag Archives: Moscow

EDITORIAL: Politkovskaya’s Killers

EDITORIAL

Politkovskaya’s Killers

Anna Politkovskaya

Last week Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was arrested in Moscow and charged with masterminding the murder of hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya.  At the time he did so, Pavlyuchenkov was head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate, the city’s main police force.  At long last, in other words, the world has learned that it was not some rogue elements from Chechnya, acting on the orders of Ramzan Kadyrov, who liquidated Politkovskaya.

It was the Moscow Kremlin.

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EDITORIAL: The Catastrophic Failure of Russian Aerospace

EDITORIAL

The Catastrophic Failure of Russian Aerospace

Russia’s aerospace program appears to be collapsing.

The latest series of horrifying incidents began in June with the crash of a TU-134 airliner while attempting to land near Petrozavodsk, killing all of its nearly four dozen passengers.  The government was forced to order the entire model out of service.

Days later, a MiG-29 fighter jet crashed inexplicably, and the government was left with no choice but to order that model out of service too, even though Russia had just inked a larger sale of the model to India.

Then, in an epic humiliation, when Russia rolled out its version of the F-22 Stealth Raptor during its annual international air show an engine collapsed during takeoff and the plane could not get airborn.

Next, a swarm of bees attacked a Moscow-bound Boeing 757, from the inside.

And most recently, an entire Russian ice hockey team was wiped out in a horrific crash  near the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga.

Meanwhile, objects even higher up began dropping out of the sky.

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The Horror of Childbirth in Neo-Soviet Russia

Journalist Natalia Antonova, writing on Foreign Policy’s website:

“Russia needs babies” may as well be the unofficial slogan of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. The country is in a demographic crisis, shedding 2.2 million people (or 1.6 percent of the population) since 2002, and the government is trying to encourage more women to bring Russian citizens into the world. This year, when I unexpectedly got pregnant soon after receiving my visa to work in Moscow, I became a test case.

Since the Soviet days, having a baby in Russia has been commonly understood as a nightmare of understaffed state hospitals and forbidding bureaucratic mazes. Feminist author MariaArbatova‘s My Name is Woman, an alternatively harrowing and hilarious account of childbirth in the 1970s, was the grim reality for many. Arbatova described being left completely unattended during the final stages of labor, which nearly resulted in her death and the death of her twin sons.

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Remembering the Last Iron Curtain as the New One Descends

Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on his blog Spotlight on Russia, remembers the end of the old Iron Curtain as the new one descends across the continent:

Just the same, no simpler
Are the tests of our times:
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
Can you come to the square?
Dare you come to the square?
When that hour strikes?

— Alexander Galich, St. Petersburg Romance (1968)

On August 19, 1991, Muscovites awakened to the sound of tanks. In a fitting conclusion to the decades of Soviet tyranny, the tanks that once rolled on the streets of Budapest, Prague, and Vilnius, came to the heart of Russia. By mid-morning, Moscow was occupied by troops. Television channels were broadcasting Swan Lake, interrupted only by pale-faced news anchors who read out decrees by self-proclaimed “acting president” Gennady Yanayev declaring a state of emergency, suspending most constitutional rights, shutting down newspapers and radio stations, and announcing the formation of a new governing body—the “State Committee on the State of Emergency” (known by its Russian acronym, GKChP), composed of the top Communist leadership, including the vice president, the prime minister, the minister of defense, and the chairman of the KGB. Their objective: to save the rapidly crumbling Soviet dictatorship

If history was any indicator, the coup was bound to succeed.

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Moscow’s Hell on Earth for Shoppers, Tourists, Everyone

Briton in Russia Clare Taylor, blogging at the Moscow Times, explains what it’s like to face the Russian retail establishment, which is in no significant way different from what it was in Soviet times. It sees customers as an annoying problem and it is not equipped or interested enough to deal with them properly.  This is why Russian can’t compete in international markets and can’t attract a large number of tourists.  (FYI, children don’t have the experience to know when shoes fit properly, and therefore can’t help parents when seeking to determine if they do. That’s why careful parents want their kids’ feet measured when buying new shoes.)

Back in May, my sons were in need of new shoes, and, I must admit, I had been putting it off. I was hoping against hope that the canvas sneakers I picked up for them in London on a solo trip over there in April would stay the course until our summer break when we would be back in the land of less expensive and — crucially — expertly fitted footwear. What’s that you say? Muscovite children wear shoes, too, and amazingly, they even fit? That fact is obviously true, but based on our experiences shoe shopping in Moscow, for the life of me I can’t work out how.

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EDITORIAL: Russia hates the World, Feeling very much Mutual

EDITORIAL

Russia hates the World, Feeling very much Mutual

The latest figures on international travel and tourism are in from the World Economic Forum, and they are truly devastating for Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  The words of Laura, a student from France, tell the tale:

I decided to come to Russia because I love the culture, the history, and I was curious to meet Russians. I wanted to form my own ideas about the country, different from the western view.  It was surprising to see that Russians don’t speak English and in Moscow, I think they are sick of tourists and just don’t make any effort. So to find your way, to eat in a restaurant, was quite a challenge. I was really surprised to see that Moscow is even more expensive than Paris.

Ouch.

Russia ranks a stunning #59 out of 139 nations surveyed for travel competitiveness, and that’s hardly surprising when you learn it ranks #91 for spending on tourism, laying out less than one-tenth of the world average per tourist on welcome measures.

Look at the facts, and you clearly understand Russia’s stark, unwelcoming hatred for foreigners:

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Livin’ La Vida Rooskie Loca

The Moscow Times reports:

Real estate in Dubai and Montenegro. Regular first-class travel. Millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts. Russia’s second-best country house.

And all made possible with an annual household salary of less than $40,000.

Those are the findings of a private investigation into the assets of Olga Stepanova — the former Moscow tax official who authorized a $230 million payment that no one disputes was embezzled.

The investigation is the latest conducted by supporters of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail after accusing senior Interior Ministry officials of masterminding the $230 million fraud.

The Interior Ministry, in turn, accuses Magnitsky and Hermitage in the fraud.

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Under Putin, Russia Culture Perishes

The Associated Press reports:

A squirrel tail. Wolf teeth. Sheets of gold. Flax oil.

These are the things Vladimir Buldakov uses to work a feat of modern-day alchemy: transforming an ordinary papier-mache box into a gilded miniature masterpiece that will tell the story of saints or heroes, fairies or dragons.

Buldakov comes from Palekh, a 700-year-old Russian village where a church’s lavender onion-domes overlook snow-clad houses, a frozen river and a distant birch forest. The town is famous for its beauty, but the rare outsiders who visit come for the varnished boxes that bear its name.

Now, the unique art form, which emerged in the 1920s after the atheist Bolsheviks approved a new medium in which masters of religious icon paintings could use their talents, is struggling to find a reason to exist in capitalist society.

If it disappears entirely, its stunted lifespan will bear vivid testament to the twists of Russia’s turbulent recent history. And Russia will lose one if its hallmark trinkets, the product of an astonishingly high-skilled process.

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SPECIAL EXTRA: The Nemtsov White Paper, Part V — Putin the Thief

Boris Nemtsov has published the fifth installment of his White Paper series reviewing the manifold failures of the Putin regime. This time, his focus is personal corruption by Vladimir Putin himself, and the allegations are truly sensational.  Nemtsov is clearly taking his life in his hands by publishing this material, once again translated professionally by the amazing Dave Essel.  The four prior installments are located here.  The original Russian version of Part V is here.

PUTIN.
CORRUPTION.

AN INDEPENDENT WHITE PAPER
Moscow 2011

Editorial board
V.Milov, B. Nemtsov, V. Ryzhkov, O. Shorina

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Introduction

Vladimir Putin’s decade in power associates in most minds with two highly negative phenomena – an extraordinary increase in the abuse of power and corruption.

Russia in 2010 managed to rank 154th out of 178 countries according to influential global civil society organisation Transparency International. Our peers in the list are some of the least developed countries of Africa (Congo, Guinea-Bissau) and other countries such as New Guinea and Tadzhikistan. Transparency International considers Russia to be the most corrupt of all the major countries in the world, the so-called G20. Our BRIC colleagues (Brazil, China and India) rate way above us as well in 69th, 78th, and 87th respectively.

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Putin has Russia flat out on the Expressway to Disaster

Paul Goble reports:

Although this has been sometimes obscured by high oil and gas prices, the policies Vladimir Putin has carried out over the last decade “are contributing to an economic and political trend which repeats that which led to the demise of the Soviet Union,” according to a leading Moscow commentator.

Writing in Novaya Gazeta, Georgy Satarov, the head of the INDEM Foundation, argues that once these trends and the dangers they present are recognized by Russian society “disappointment with Putin will be much deeper and more severe than the [currently widespread] disappointment in Gorbachev or Yeltsin.

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Why the Kremlin can’t Fight Terrorism

The New York Review of Books explains why the Putin regime is unable to protect Russian citizens from terrorism:

As the story of the horrific January 24 bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport continues to unfold, the parallels with past major terrorist attacks in Russia are striking. It is not just the high number of casualties (36 dead and 160 wounded) and that the perpetrators appear to have come from the volatile North Caucasus. As with earlier such violence, there were also serious warning signs in advance that were ignored, and the immediate handling of the attack by the authorities was botched. Above all, the confusing and contradictory response of both the security agencies and Russia’s leadership has once again raised troubling questions about the Kremlin’s counter-terrorism policies.

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Siamese Twin Idiots Come Unglued

EDITORIAL

Russia’s Siamese Twin Idiots Come Unglued

“You can say that the case has on the whole been solved.”

– Vladimir Putin, February 3, 2010

“No one has a right to make an announcement about the solution of this crime.”

– Dmitri Medvedev, February 3, 2010

The horrifically successful bombing of Russia’s Domodedovo airport has caused the idiotic Siamese twins who rule the country to come unglued.  It seems those who gave their lives at the airport did not do so in vain.

They are actually, openly contradicting each other. It’s sweet music to our ears.

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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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EDITORIAL: Sobyanin Cracks Down

EDITORIAL

Sobyanin Cracks Down

Finding a juicy hotdog lathered in ketchup has gotten a bit harder since Mayor Sergei Sobyanin took office. Forty of the 150 Stardog!s hotdog stands dotting Moscow have been shut down over the past week, and another 20 are expected to be closed shortly, said Sergei Rak, director for development with Markon, the private company that runs the Stardog!s chain.

– The Moscow Times, November 15, 2010

Moscow’s new mayor, it seems, is a cheeseburger man.  And he’s responded to his desires exactly the way Josef Stalin would have done if Moscow’s streets had been peppered with repugnant hot-dog stands in his time:  He’s shut them down.  The MT reports that Sobyanin’s minions “studied Markon’s leases for the hotdog stands in hope of finding errors that would justify their cancellation. Finding none, they said bluntly, ‘Close! At any rate, you are not going to work here anymore’.”  The MT continues:

A visit by Sobyanin to the Ulitsa 1905 Goda metro station during an Oct. 30 city tour promoted the kiosk crackdown. Sobyanin complained that the kiosks blocked the view of a historical monument and were located too close to the metro station. The head of the Presnensky district, where the metro station is located, was fired on the spot, together with the head of the central Tverskoi district. The official reason given for the dismissals was that the officials’ work contracts expired Nov. 8, RIA-Novosti reported.

Now we ask you, dear reader:  How is this behavior any different than Stalin’s would have been?  Is Russia’s really the type of economy that can afford to wipe out hundreds of thriving small businesses on a daily basis in an arbitrary, unpredictable, nakedly illegal manner, thus sending a clear message that setting up any such business is a gamble at best?

We think not.

Just a few weeks ago, Sobyanin had declared:  “Small and medium-sized businesses are in need of aid.”Referring to bureaucratic barriers for small business startups in Moscow, he said: “We should take them away. Then there will be a completely different investment climate.”  Any number of kiosks might have opened specifically in reliance on these words, only to have the rugged yanked out from under them just as the Russian regime has done to so may others, domestic and foreign alike, for so many years now.

EDITORIAL: Moscow’s New Crypto-Fascist Scumbag

EDITORIAL

Moscow’s New Crypto-Fascist Scumbag

Sergei Sobyanin

Deutsche-Welle, one of the best sources of reporting on Russia, has published a brilliant exposure piece on Sergei Sobyanin, the handpicked, unelected new mayor of the city of Moscow.

Here is what Sobyanin said after he was “elected” governor of Tyumen provience in 2000:  “There is opposition, look! Only 24 out of 25 deputies have voted for me.” Such a remark could easily have been made by a stooge of the Soviet empire, and indeed quite often was.  Now, Sobyanin has been placed in charge of one of the world’s largest cities by exectutive fiat of the Kremlin, and he will be its slave.  Democratic politics at the local level has been absolutely and finally extinguished, and it has been carried out by the so-called “liberal” reformer Dima Medvedev.

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Russians begin to Reject Abkhazia, Ossetia

Paul Goble reports:

Two years after Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a step the Russian people overwhelmingly backed as a signal that their country could stand up to Georgia and the West, the failure of many other countries to recognize these republics and the high cost of supporting the two new states have combined to reduce public backing for them.

In an article posted online, Mikhail Smilyan says that polls show “ever fewer [Russians] remain support recognition of South Ossetia” and that they are less prepared to continue to provide assistance to that republic.

Drawing on poll results collected by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Smilyan notes that fewer Russians are paying attention to the political aspects of Moscow’s decision and more to the actual costs of supporting these republics.

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Putin openly Threatens Peaceful Protesters with Violence

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:

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Amsterdam interviews Ponomarev

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:

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Russians don’t Emigrate because they Fear being Required to Obey the Law

Paul Goble reports that, in contrast to the poll data we discuss in our led editorial, the Kremlin’s own polls show nobody wants to leave Russia.  But Goble thinks he knows one reason why at least some Russians want to stay:  They know they’d be required to obey the law if they lived in a civilized country.

In addition to all the normal constraints – inertia, language knowledge, and uncertainty about other places – Russians today choose not to leave their country for work abroad because they consider it “abnormal to live according to the letter and spirit of the law” as Western countries require, according to VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov.

Speaking to a Novosibirsk forum “Strategy 2020″, Fedorov, the general director of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, said that Russians at the present time “rarely consider emigration abroad as a key to the resolution of their personal problems.”

According to his organization’s data, the VTsIOM pollster said, far fewer Russians are interested in moving abroad than “20, 15 or even 10 years ago.” Even those who are having problems “where they were born and grew up,” he continued, have many reasons for deciding against such a step.

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