Tag Archives: vladimir ryzhkov

EDITORIAL: Russia, for Sale

EDITORIAL

Russia, for Sale

One of the most hilarious Russophile notions we’ve yet encountered is the way they attempt to attack Transparency International’s international index of corruption by claiming it is only a “perceptions” index and only places Russia at the uncivilized bottom of its list because of anti-Russian bias — as if all the talk about corruption in Russia were nothing but hot air and not based on any measurable reality.

TI needs no defense from us. It is a world renown organization of international objective scholars with unimpeachable credentials that provides an essential monitoring service.

But still, it’s genuinely pleasurable for us to watch the expressions on the faces of these idiot Russophiles change when they see a report like the one that aired on Russia Today, of all places, recently.   Perhaps by accident, the Russian Interior Ministry decided to admit, and RT decided to report, that the average size of a bribe in Putin’s Russia has increased by a stunning 700% in just the past year.

In other words, the forces of corruption in Putin’s Russia are not receding, they are going hog wild.

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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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Pandemic Vote Fraud in Putin’s Russia

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

There is something sinister in the way ballot boxes were purportedly stuffed during the March 13 Tambov regional elections to boost United Russia’s results. It was pulled off under the cover of a blood drive.

Last Thursday, Nikolai Vorobyov, a lawyer and Tambov regional head of the Party of People’s Freedom, released a 20-page report detailing election fraud. It contained hundreds of testimonies, photos, videos and statements made by witnesses. As a drop of water reflects the composition of the larger sea, a glimpse into the Tambov elections reflects the entire complex machinery of lies and fraud that United Russia apparently uses over and over again across the country to create the illusion of popular support for the party.

According to Vorobyov’s report, this is how the election fraud was carried out:

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Goodbye Jackson-Vanik, Hello Jackson-Vanik II

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Relations between Cold War-era foes Moscow and Washington have long been distrustful, hypocritical, peppered with mutual insinuations and patched together with the most tenuous of threads. But now, on the eve of State Duma and presidential elections, an inevitable crisis in relations is nearing that threatens to tear them apart at the seams.

Last week, a group of 15 U.S. senators formally introduced a bill targeting Russians for human rights violations and corruption, including 60 officials connected to the jail death of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The bill would ban them from entering the United States and freeze any U.S.-based assets.

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In Russia, even History is Corrupt

Brian Whitmore, writing on The Power Vertical:

A Russian leader gives a four-hour speech filled with empty platitudes about imaginary accomplishments, promises of a bright future, and dire warnings about dangerous foreign influences. The speech was interrupted 53 times by applause.

Sound familiar?

Several months back, I blogged about the striking similarities between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Each replaced a reformist predecessor who was ultimately seen as bumbling, erratic, and ineffective — Nikita Krushchev in Brezhnev’s case, Boris Yeltsin in Putin’s. Both ushered in an era of stability and relative prosperity thanks to high oil prices. And both perceived a “golden age” that lasted roughly a decade.

But by the late 1970s, the luster began to wear off Brezhnev’s rule as the Soviet economy stagnated, life expectancy plummeted, and social problems like rampant alcoholism, worker absenteeism, and widespread cynicism became endemic.

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When Putin “Wins” by Cheating, Russians Lose

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

The Tambov region provides an excellent illustration of the connection between United Russia’s political monopoly, rampant corruption and the low standard of living in Russia.

On July 13, President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Tambov Governor Oleg Betin to a fourth term. Betin has been governor several times since 1995. He is a member of United Russia, although in the 1990s he was a member of the Communist Party. Medvedev particularly values Betin for his role in the 2008 presidential election, when the president received more than 72 percent of the Tambov vote.

The results of the recent March 13 elections demonstrate that the Tambov region has not lost its touch in “organizing” elections, with United Russia reporting 65 percent of the vote there — one of its highest results in the March vote.

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EDITORIAL: Stunning Failure for Putin at the Polls

EDITORIAL

Stunning Failure for Putin at the Polls

In a jolting humiliation for Vladimir Putin’s “party of power” United Russia, despite relentless vote rigging the party could not muster a national majority in the last week’s regional elections.  As reported by the Moscow Times, the election results are “a serious warning for the party, reflecting an increasing mood to protest in the regions,” said Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

Even though Putin has purged every significant true opposition party from the ballot, his own party was in effect repudiated by the voters.  And, as Nikolai Petrov reports:  “Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is also the head of United Russia, took a more active role in Sunday’s elections he’s played in any since his own presidential election of 2000.”  So the result was very clearly a personal repudiation of Putin — to the extent the cowardly, lemming-like denizens of Russia are able to achieve such a thing.

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Another Appalling new Low for Russian “Justice”

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.

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What Russians can learn from Egyptians

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.

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EDITORIAL: Potemkin Putin Exposed before the Russian Nation

EDITORIAL

Potemkin Putin exposed before the Russian Nation

Dr. Ivan Khrenov

Meet Dr. Ivan Khrenov.

On November 9, 2010, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin visited the hospital in Ivanovo where Khrenov works in cardiology.  Then days ago, Khrenov was selected as one of the questioners in Putin’s latest installment of his annual propaganda festival, where he pretends to respond to issues phoned in by ordinary citizens.  But Khrenov threw Putin a curve ball, and departed from the pre-arranged script to ask Putin whether he was aware that his visit to the hospital had been rigged, a total sham, a Potemkin village designed to deceive.

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EDITORIAL: Russia, Putin’s Bitch

EDITORIAL

Russia, Putin’s Bitch

We were very pleased, of course, to see a cartoon (shown above) from our favorite Russian political artist, the inimitable and indispensable Sergei Yelkin, appear atop a column in last week’s Moscow Times by former Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of our favorite Russian politicians.

Ryzhkov neatly sums up the attitude of Russia’s rulers towards her people, an attitude of pure contempt and hatred that spells certain national disaster if these rulers are allowed to continue in power. He states:  “Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Kremlin first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov and their ideological supporters don’t believe Russians can be trusted to vote. They are not smart or civilized enough to vote responsibly.”

He continues:

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EDITORIAL: When is a Russian not a Russian?

EDITORIAL

When is a Russian not a Russian?

Professor Andrei Geim

Last week a “Russian” won a Nobel prize for Physics.  Two of them, actually:  Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. They invented a new material so strong that a single layer of it stretched across a coffee cup could support the weight of a tractor trailer pressing down on a pencil point.  Yet, it’s also the thinnest material ever made.

It will surprise no regular reader of this blog to learn, however, that neither one of them is really Russian.

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The Neo-Soviet Train Wreck in Russia

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

In the Svirstroi village in the Leningrad region, there is a large bronze statue of a strong, stocky man in a long coat and cap on a high red granite pedestal, located behind brightly colored tents where the locals do a brisk business selling souvenirs at the Vepskoi market. The inscription reveals that this is a monument to Sergei Kirov, the leader of the Leningrad Communists who was killed under mysterious circumstances in 1934. It was his murder that gave Josef Stalin an excuse to unleash the Great Terror during the second half of the 1930s.

Higher up, beyond the statue of Kirov, stands the Svirskoi hydroelectric plant, built during Stalin’s reign by gulag prisoners, at least half of whom were imprisoned for political crimes. Estimates indicate that no fewer than 480,000 people in the northwestern region of the Soviet Union suffered during those horrendous years of repression, and tens of thousands of those — including a part of the workers who built the hydroelectric plant — were shot and killed. But the Leningrad region has only a few memorial cemeteries and monuments to those victims, while there are hundreds of monuments and streets dedicated to Lenin, Kirov, Bolshevik leader Moisei Uritsky and other Communist leaders.

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Improving Russia is not in the Kremlin’s Interests

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Russians hold no illusions about the ability or the willingness of the authorities to “modernize” — the government’s latest catchword — and view such proclamations in the opposite light of that intended. President Dmitry Medvedev and his administration view modernization as the exclusively technological renewal of the country. The president identified five areas in which new technologies should be developed. New legislation is being drafted to stimulate development of the technologies. The decision has been made to build an innovation city in Skolkovo in the Moscow region that will enjoy legal and tax incentives, and the project has already earned the nickname of Vekselburg, in honor of its director, billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.

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The Kremlin’s Failure in Kaliningrad

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Developments in Kaliningrad clearly demonstrate that the “power vertical” built over the past decade — a system for permitting unchecked bureaucratic abuses — is not only failing to effectively manage the regions but is, to the contrary, itself the cause of serious social and political conflicts that are making the system increasingly unstable. What’s more, the boundless appetite of monolithic state capitalism — the economic foundation of that “vertical” — has already exceeded the limits of what even the most long-suffering Russians can tolerate.

The paralysis of state systems and the limitless greed shown by officials for monopolistic businesses are manifested most severely on the periphery of the country — in Kaliningrad and Vladivostok. There, the population and the business community pay a much higher price than the national average for maintaining parasitic bureaucracy and monopolies. This is a result of their geographic remoteness and, in the case of Kaliningrad, the fact that it is a distant exclave surrounded by foreign countries that are EU member states.

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Ryzhov on Russia’s Cowardly, Craven, Silent Majority

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, who hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio, writing in the Moscow Times:

Russia saw more protests in the first three months of 2010 than it has seen over the past few years. A wave of demonstrations swept from one end of the country to the other. From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, demonstrators for the first time made both economic and political demands, shouting “Down with the tariff increase!” and “Putin must go!”

The gap between the people and the government is widening further and further. The Kremlin not backing down at all from its power vertical model. If anything, it will only be strengthened. Nonetheless, a growing demand for change can still be heard from the liberal members of society.

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Russian Barbarism at Baikal

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

At a pompous meeting of the board of regents of the Russian Geographic Society held on March 15, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his January decision to permit the reopening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mills. In his words, Baikal’s problems should be resolved by the state and “without a lot of noise.” But if we ignore Putin’s advice and examine this question thoroughly from all sides, it becomes clear that Putin’s decision was completely incompetent.

The main argument for reopening the plant has been the desire to save jobs in Baikalsk, a small single-industry town built around the mill. But since 1966, when the mill first opened, it has been the main polluter of Lake Baikal. The mill sends about 5 tons of harmful emissions into the atmosphere annually, polluting up to 400 square kilometers of territory around Baikalsk, and builds up millions of tons of dangerous solid wastes along the shores of the lake.

There was a time when the plant was crucial to the town’s economy, employing 2,200 of the town’s 14,000 inhabitants. But the situation has fundamentally changed now. To restart the mills, 1,450 workers have been re-employed. What’s more, the local unemployment office listed only 700 people out of work in late January, and that number had decreased throughout last year at a time when the plant was not working.

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Medvedev’s dismal Midterm Report Card

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

President Dmitry Medvedev was elected president two years ago on March 2, 2008, with 70 percent of the vote, and this is a good time to analyze his midterm results. In a word, they are dismal. Medvedev did the right thing in not even mentioning his anniversary. Just like when he chose not to attend the closing Olympic ceremonies in Vancouver after Russia’s miserable results, there are certain things that are certainly better left ignored.

But what is definitely worth remembering is his infamous “Four I’s” speech that he delivered at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum in February 2008, just weeks before he was elected president. He called for the immediate development of Russia’s “Four I’s” — institutions, infrastructure, innovation and investment. It is important to remember this speech only because it underscores the huge gap between his absolutely meaningless, empty slogans and the sorrowful state of affairs in Russia.

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Ryzhkov on the ICD Report

Former Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

As anticipated, the report recently issued by the liberal Institute of Contemporary Development titled “21st-Century Russia: Reflections on an Attractive Tomorrow” caused a big stir in the muddy waters of Moscow’s elite.

The opposition forces quickly threw their support behind the main thesis of the report — that the successful modernization of the country is impossible without political democratization. As expected, United Russia and propagandists loyal to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin viciously attacked the report, accusing its authors of trying to return the country to the “wild ’90s” and even of thirsting to dismember Russia, a scenario that former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously described in his 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard.”

Most observers have contemptuously labeled the Institute of Contemporary Development report “utopian.” They contend that the proposals are not only unrealistic a priori, but also that the overwhelming majority of Russians do not support the ideas, even if they could be carried out in theory. In my view, the accusation that the report is “utopian” and calls for a return to the “wild ’90s” are entirely unfounded.

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Happy New Year, Russia!

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Russia will finish out 2009 sadder and a slightly more sober than usual but hardly any wiser. Russia’s economy fared worse than all other Group of 20 countries during the crisis, and the excessive number of catastrophes it suffered underscored how woefully ineffective, incompetent and corrupt the government is. Nonetheless, the government hasn’t budged one centimeter from the status quo course that has driven the country into a political and economic dead end.

The State Duma’s reaction to Yegor Gaidar’s death is highly symbolic and is a fitting way for President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to conclude their disastrous year as leaders of the nation. Led by Oleg Morozov, first deputy speaker of the Duma and a United Russia member, the lower house of parliament refused the motion to observe a moment of silence for Gaidar, a Duma deputy of six years, an acting prime minister and one of the most influential economists and reformers in Russian history. Not a single high-ranking member of United Russia or the presidential administration came to pay their last respects at Gaidar’s funeral.

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Putin to Russia: “Don’t hold your breath!”

Vladmir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

“Don’t hold your breath!”

That is how Prime Minister Vladimir Putin answered the question asked during Thursday’s televised call-in show, “Do you ever want to quit politics with all its problems and to live for yourself, for your family and relax?” This pithy quip not only answers the specific question posed, but it also answers the broader question of whether there will be any changes to the autocracy that he has built up over the past nine years. In one single phrase, Putin set the record straight for Russia and the world.

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Medvedev the Comedian

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

President Dmitry Medvedev’s second state-of-the-nation address was tragicomic. The much-anticipated “plan for modernizing Russia” turned out to be a haphazard mix of utopianism and superficiality. His address lacked a sober, honest diagnosis of the serious maladies that are crippling the country. In fact, the president took the exact opposite approach, opting to preserve the political, economic and social status quo — directly contradicting his goal of modernization.

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Ryzhkov on the Berlin Wall

Former Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who ended the Cold War and forever ended the threat of a global nuclear holocaust, has a simple answer for those who continue to blame him for the collapse of the Soviet Union and for “giving away” the former Soviet satellite states to the West. “What did I give away?” Gorbachev asks. “I gave Poland to the Poles and Czechoslovakia to the Czechs and Slavs.” And as it turned out, Russia went to the Russians as well.

Gorbachev never tires of reminding people of his political program at the time that the Berlin Wall fell: “We made an agreement [with Western leaders] to build a free Europe, a unified system of security … that would serve the interests of Germans, Russians, Europe and the whole world.” That is the principle value of perestroika, glasnost and Gorbachev’s “new thinking”: Every individual was given the chance to determine his own path. The only problem is that everyone chose different paths and traveled down differing roads over the past two decades.

Now, 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell Nov. 9, 1989, we see how much Europe and Asia have expanded and become stronger, while Russia has declined and continues to lag behind.

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The Kremlin’s War on Dissidents

Former parliamentarian of nearly a decade and a half’s service Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

To the accompaniment of the usual official drivel about democratic values, Russia’s political regime continues to reach new heights of authoritarianism. Or more accurately, it is stooping to new lows. Having already eliminated freedoms in television, federalism and parliamentarianism, elections and the formation of multiple parties, and having established an all-powerful ruling bureaucracy, the Kremlin is now reviving one more important element of the Soviet system — the fight against political dissidents.

In true Soviet fashion, individuals have appeared to speak out against the ruling powers and our leaders have sanctioned a campaign of ostracism and persecution against them. Human rights activist and journalist Alexander Podrabinek has kicked off the new epoch of Putin-era dissidents with a drama that is unfolding before our eyes.

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In Russia, Hatred of America Triumphs over All – Part I

Former Russian Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week, U.S. President Barack Obama said we are entering a new historical era. He declared that the United States would cease taking unilateral actions and called on all people of all nations to join together in combating the challenges facing the world. Obama said we need the “cooperative effort of the whole world.” His foreign policy leitmotif has become the call to cooperate based on shared values. He made similar appeals during visits to Prague, Cairo and Moscow.

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