Ariel Cohen, writing on the National Interest website:
In late August, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev appointed Georgy Poltavchenko governor of St. Petersburg. Poltavchenko has served as presidential envoy to Russia’s central-administrative district since 2000. More importantly, he is a loyalist to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and a KGB veteran. He replaces Valentina Matviyenko, another Putin confidante, who has moved on to chair the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament. Sergey Mironov, the former speaker of the Federation Council, is out. All this game of musical chairs has little to do with either President Medvedev or significant democratic developments. Rather, it demonstrates how Putin is rearranging his insiders.
An editorial in the Moscow Times:
A February ruling by Judge Tatyana Adamova of Moscow’s Savyolovsky District Court must go down as among the most absurd in Russian history.
Adamova presided over the defamation case brought by opposition leaders Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who in answer to the question “What do Nemtsov, Ryzhkov, Milov really want?” on his December live television call-in show said: “Money and power. … In the ’90s, they stole billions of dollars.”
This is an outlandish and reckless claim that previously had never been alleged — except perhaps by a few crackpot bloggers on LiveJournal — much less proven.
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.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs:
Russian officials have a selective approach to holidays. When it came to arrestingopposition leader Boris Nemtsov on New Year’s Eve and sentencing him on January 2 (a Sunday), no effort was spared. Yet when it came to hearing his appeal, Tverskoy Court remembered that January 1 to 10 is a period of vacation. By law, an appeal against administrative arrest must be heard within 24 hours. The former deputy prime minister has been in detention since December 31, but his appeal has still not been reviewed due to “holidays.” On January 8, another attempt to vindicate Nemtsov’s legal rights ended with Mr. Nemtsov’s lawyer, Timur Onikov, being escorted out by bailiffs. On January 11, the appeal was admitted as a priority case — by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Resurgent McCain blasts Neo-Soviet Russia
Can we have a word, Mr. Putin?
Last week Senator and presidential candidate John McCain gave us Russophobes an amazing early Christmas present, delivering a blistering attack on neo-Soviet Russia at one of the world’s most prestigious institutes of foreign policy, Johns Hopkins University. The speech was immediately touted by conservative pundits as a declaration of war by the newly empowered Republican Party upon the craven appeasement policies of the Obama adminstration.
McCain pulled no punches. He called for massive new shipments of arms to Georgia, condeming Russia for continuing “to occupy 20 percent of Georgia’s sovereign territory” and “building military bases there” and ”permitting the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in South Ossetia, and denying access to humanitarian missions – all in violation of Russia’s obligations under the ceasefire agreement negotiated by President Sarkozy.” He openly mocked the Kremlin, stating: “The World Bank considers Georgia the 12th best place in the world to do business; Russia is 123rd. Russia’s decline is a human tragedy, but it is also a geopolitical reality. Put simply, Russia is becoming less and less capable of being a global, great power partner with the United States.”
And that was just for starters.
The New York Times reports:
I wish I had enough space to reprint in its entirety Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky’s closing statement, as his latest sham trial in Russia came to an end earlier this week. I have never been so moved by the words of a businessman.
Not that Mr. Khodorkovsky is a businessman anymore. Once the most famous of the Russian oligarchs, he ran YukosOil, which under his leadership became the best-run, fastest-growing, most transparent company in the country — a gleaming symbol of hope for Russian industry. Mr. Khodorkovsky, however, has spent the last seven years in prison, much of that time in Siberia. Stripped of his company, which was sold off to politically connected insiders, Mr. Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, were convicted of trumped-up tax charges brought by prosecutors acting on behalf ofVladimir V. Putin, who had come to view Mr. Khodorkovsky as a threat.