Daily Archives: October 22, 2006

The Sunday Photos

Alaudi Sadykov, center, who claims to have had his left ear cut off during his interrogation by pro-Moscow Chechen security forces, attends a rally in memory of recently slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya whose photograph is seen on a newspaper front page in Grozny, Chechnya, Monday, Oct. 16, 2006. Human rights groups, journalists and others on Monday staged a small rally in the center of Chechnya’s capital to remember murdered reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who investigated torture in the war-torn region. AP photo.

Adna Karamehic, center, of Bosnia, and others take part in a candlelight vigil to honor slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya outside of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, in Washington. AP photo.

Think it’s Iran? Nope, Moscow. Muslim men gather for prayers outside a Moscow mosque. The city has swelled to 10.4 million people, and one-fifth of them are Muslims. The Russian capital has the largest Muslim population of any city in Europe. Slavic Russians have decided to start hating these people. That’s Russian logic for you. Perhaps in the future everything west of the Urals will be Iran and everything east will be China. That’s the wonderful success story that is the Moscow Kremlin and the Slavic-majority (for now) polity that empowers it. From the LA Times.

Russia, what have you done to Chechnya? Birlant Dokayeva and her son Askhab, 2, in Grozny, Chechnya. Askhab was born healthy but later had a seizure and went into a coma. He is partially paralyzed, and doctors don’t know why. The family says one doctor suggested putting him to sleep. From the LA Times.

Putin in a Nutshell

The International Herald Tribune captures Vladimir Putin in a tidy nutshell:

Russia is not merely failing to live up to standards set by the West or by its own Western-oriented intelligentsia, it is failing in crucial respects to live up to Putin’s primary aim of modernization. Consider Putin’s record on his core pledge to put Russia under a “dictatorship of law” and move away from the corrupt free-for-all of the 1990s. With a score of 2.4 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (in which 10 is the best score and 0 the lowest), Russia tied with Albania in 2005 as the most corrupt country in Europe. Russia now ranks lower than Ukraine and Belarus. Russia’s ranking in 1999, the last year of Boris Yeltsin’s rule, was also 2.4. In other words, despite all the rhetoric from Putin supporters about the need to give up a few freedoms in order to break with the “wild east” practices of the Yeltsin years, Putin has failed to make any progress whatsoever in entrenching the rule of law in Russian society.

The writer, Robin Shepherd, is a senior trans-Atlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, based in Bratislava, Slovakia. He concludes: “Commentators have long recognized that Putin’s so-called managed democracy was a contradiction in terms. The bigger picture, however, is that the entire Putin project offers up a classic example of an irreconcilable contradiction between ends and means. Putin seeks the goal of a modern, dynamic Russia while simultaneously employing the kind of strategy that leads to political and societal stagnation reminiscent of Russia’s past.”

Shepard is perhaps taking his inspiration from Nina Krushcheva’s recent op-ed column in which she states: “It’s time to end the fiction that Vladimir Putin’s ”dictatorship of law” has made postcommunist Russia any less lawless. The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia’s bravest and best journalists, a woman who dared to expose the brutal murders committed by Russian troops in Chechnya, is final proof that Putin has delivered nothing more than a run-of-the-mill dictatorship with the usual contempt for law.” She lays the blame for Politkovskaya’s killing squarely at his feet: “I am not accusing Putin’s government of the contract killing of Politkovskaya. After all, as a campaigning investigative journalist she made many people angry besides Putin; not least of those is Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whom she accused of a policy of kidnapping for ransom. But even if Putin’s associates had nothing to do with her being gunned down in an elevator of her apartment building in the center of Moscow, his contempt for law created the climate in which the murder was carried out. Like the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett in his Canterbury Cathedral many centuries ago, the crime was committed in the clear belief that it would please the king.”

See Wally Lie. Stop, Wally, Stop!

Like any Russophile propagandist, the Accidental Russophile‘s Wally Shedd repeatedly lies to his readers about basic facts in his shameless attempt to support dictatorship in Russia while attacking the United States. Oddly, he chooses to live in the U.S. rather than Russia. Go figure.

In a recent post, he claims “that it isn’t significantly more dangerous for ethnic peoples in Russia than it is in the US. ” This is a boldfaced lie. Russia has the fifth highest murder rate in the world, 0.201534 per 1,000 people, while the rate in America is 0.042802 per 1,000 people. In other words, you are more than twice as likely to be the victim of murder if you are in Russia than if you are in the U.S., no matter who you are. The U.S. homicide rate is currrently at its lowest level since 1967. Now, it is certainly true that black people in the U.S. are disproportionately victimized by murder. From 1976 t0 2004, 46.9% of all U.S. murder victims were black while 51% were white; the black share of murders is triple their share of the population. But 94% of black murder victims in the U.S. were killed by other blacks, only 6% by whites, so there was no “racist” component to 94% of these killings.

What about the other 6%? According to Sova Center, in 2005 there were 35 race murders in Russia, and September of this year there had already been 33. In the same year, there were only 6 hate-crime murders in the United States. This means that nominally it is five times more likely that a race murder will happen in Russia than in the U.S., and since U.S. population is twice the size of Russia the effective risk is ten times greater in Russia (and that’s assuming the populations of black people in the U.S. and Russia represent the same shares of the population; in fact the U.S. share is much larger, meaning that the risk is still lower in the U.S. than it superficially appears). That’s one reason why there isn’t much reporting on race murder in the U.S., because it doesn’t happen much. But anyone who reads newspapers or watches TV knows that when it does, it’s reported that way, quite sensationally. There have been several sensational incidents in New York City over the past few years, for example. What’s more, the situation is not stable in Russia. Russian data shows that incidents of race violence are increasing annually at the horrifying rate of 20-30% per year.

Instead of relying on facts to deal with this issue, Wally chooses to rely on his own form of “reasoning” which is based on nothing but smoke and mirrors. Wally complains that American white-on-black killing isn’t reported as “race violence” in America, whereas such killings are so reported where Russia is concerned, and he claims this is an example of Western “bias” against Russia. This is an absurd lie. The only evidence he claims to support this allegation is the fact that a story from the Boston Globe about several murders of Cape Verdean immigrants in the city over the past year. But there is absolutely no evidence of any kind mentioned in the article that the killers of these Cape Verdeans were white, because nobody has any idea who the killers were. Based on the data, the odds are 9.6:1 that the killer was black. In the incidents involving the killing of black people in Russia, many of which are documented in La Russophobe’s sidebar, there has always been evidence that the killers were white, Slavic Russians. Sometimes the victim is stabbed with a knife that has a swastika on it, and other times the perpetators are seen as the commit their brazen acts. Often, they brag about them on the internet.

Wally chooses to ignore all these facts and lie to his readers, inventing facts and accusations about the U.S. just the way they used to do in the good old USSR. This is a classic example of how Russophile propagandists have been lying to and deceiving Russians for decades, reducing the nation to a shadow of its former self. If you care about truth in the blogosphere, drop by Wally’s blog and leave a comment asking him to stop lying. Lies are bad enough under any circumstances, but when they are told to prop up dictatorship in Russia and undermine democracy in Amreica, they are particularly venal.

Oh Dear God. Here Comes Belov.

The New York Times reports that crazed racist maniac Aleksandr Belov is now mainstream in Russia. Say goodnight, Gracie. Belov is so handy for “President” Putin, since he accomplishes Putin’s goals and takes the blame.

Aleksandr A. Belov found wide publicity last year when the organization he created gave a cash award to a Russian woman accused of stabbing an Armenian taxi driver to death. During her trial, covered with lurid relish by the news media, she testified that the driver had tried to rape her. “She rid Moscow of a rapist,” Mr. Belov told a radio station at the time. Not just a rapist, however: a rapist from abroad. He went on to assert that half of all serious crimes were committed by immigrants, the issue at the heart of his personal mission and, by all appearances, his growing public prominence.

A court convicted the woman, Aleksandra Ivannikova. But the verdict was later overturned after a public outcry amplified in no small part by Mr. Belov and the group he started four years ago, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration.

Now after years on the fringes of polite conversation, Mr. Belov’s views — unabashedly hostile to foreigners, at times unflinchingly racial in character — are no longer just tapping a nativistic undercurrent, but moving into the mainstream of the political debate. Or perhaps the mainstream is moving toward them.

“The president has made statements in the last couple of weeks that are practically identical to what we were calling for a year ago,” Mr. Belov said in a lengthy interview on Wednesday, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin. “I cannot say that our group directly influenced the president, but we identified this problem earlier.”

The problem, in his view, is immigrants, almost all of them former comrades of the Soviet Union, divided now not only by new borders but also by religion and ethnicity. Like immigrants everywhere, they have come in search of work. And as elsewhere, their presence has fueled resentment, cultural clashes and, especially here in Russia, a wave of racial violence that has included at least 39 racially motivated killings this year, according to Sova, an organization that monitors hate crimes.

On Oct. 5, Mr. Putin gave such simmering feelings a public endorsement, denouncing the “semi-gangs, some of them ethnic” that control Russia’s wholesale and retail markets, where many migrants work. He said markets should be regulated “with a view to protect the interests of Russian producers and population, the native Russian population.” Mr. Putin’s remarks echoed complaints voiced widely last month in Kondopoga, a small mill town in northern Russia. A bar fight there ended with the deaths of two ethnic Russians and led to mass protests and ultimately a violent rampage on Oct. 2 that destroyed markets and other businesses owned by Chechens and other immigrants, who fled the town in fear. A common grievance heard afterward was that the newcomers had criminally cornered the city’s markets. “Criminal groups play a major role in markets,” Mr. Putin said a month later. “And all of this results in our citizens being rightly indignant.”

In Kondopoga that day, standing and holding a microphone, was Mr. Belov. His exact remarks — whether he called for the expulsion of the migrants or not — remain a matter of dispute, but he is unapologetic about what unfolded there. “Russians are a sufficiently tolerant people,” he said during the interview, conducted in a Japanese restaurant in southern Moscow. “We have lived a long time with a huge number of people. We are like a family. And one day the mother-in-law comes to visit, and everything is fine. But then the mother-in-law brings her brother, her mother, uncles, aunts. Then they decide to live forever in your apartment. And you have to say, ‘Mother-in-law, you cannot come to visit anymore.’ ”

Mr. Belov is 30, part of the first post-Soviet generation in Russia, a country that is still struggling, in a way, to define itself and its ideology. The Soviet Union endeavored to erase ethnic and racial boundaries, at least officially. And its collapse gave rise to a new Russian nationalism, founded on the language, culture and history of the Russian Empire, on the Orthodox Church and on an abiding preoccupation with ethnic identity.

He said Russia, despite its ethnic diversity, was never a country open to immigration or assimilation, but rather an empire that conquered others, who then had to adapt to the majority’s values. “Russia is not, like the United States, a country that was founded by immigrants,” he said. “It was founded as a nationalist state.”

Post-Soviet Russia has produced other nationalists. Some are blatant racists operating in the shadows. Some are members of religious or social organizations. Still others are politicians, most notably the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, a former presidential candidate known for his clownish antics and expressions of xenophobia. Mr. Belov is far less flamboyant and, he said, uninterested in politics — or at least becoming a politician. “Elections in Russia,” he said, “are just a formality.” Instead, he vows to throw his support to any party that “subscribes to our views.”

He grew up in Moscow, the son of parents who worked in science. He has spent his working life in civic groups. He was a member of Pamyat, an ultranationalist organization that emerged in the chaos of the Soviet collapse but has since faded from public view, with many of its leaders jailed for anti-Semitic statements and acts. His family name was originally Potkin, but he changed it, he said, to disassociate himself from his previous position at Pamyat. (Belov is derived from the Russian word for white.)

Mr. Belov argues that his cause is not based on race, but solely on the issue of immigration, and the illegal sort above all. He created the Movement Against Illegal Immigration in 2002 in response to racially charged incidents in small cities near Moscow: a gang rape in Khimki blamed on immigrants and a fight between immigrants and local residents in Krasnoarmeisk. For a time, the group, known here by its initials in Russian as D.N.P.I., existed largely in cyberspace. Its members railed against immigrants and their crimes, but also against citizens of Russia, especially those from Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus, a predominately Muslim region. (“In the Caucasus, people live on a different civilizational level of development,” Mr. Belov said.)

Raising money online and gathering political support among like-minded politicians, the group has become more organized. It now claims thousands of members in branches across all of Russia. Last November, at the time of Ms. Ivannikova’s acquittal, Mr. Belov’s group joined others in a mass demonstration in Moscow on a newly created holiday known as Day of National Unity.

Rights organizations denounced the march as an ugly expression of hate and a mockery of the holiday, which replaced the old one commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution. The authorities also appeared shocked by the crowd and the message, though they had granted a permit for the rally. A year later, at Mr. Putin’s directive, the authorities have begun the most aggressive campaign against immigrants to date. The arrests of four Russian military officers for spying in Georgia last month precipitated a wave of harassment against Georgians living here. The authorities have closed casinos, restaurants and markets where Georgians worked and deported hundreds of Georgians, including more this week, saying they were here illegally. The anti-Georgian campaign has roots in the Kremlin’s hostility to Georgia’s politics and its president, Mikheil Saakashvili, of course. Its results, however, fit seamlessly with Mr. Belov’s prescription for what ails Russia.

Mr. Belov and the movement have not been fully embraced by the authorities. Dozens of the movement’s members have been arrested for holding unsanctioned protests; Mr. Belov himself was detained briefly in July. The group has applied for a permit to hold another Day of National Unity march, but has not yet received one. Mr. Belov said the Kremlin feared all public protests, wary of what he called “this mythical orange revolution,” referring to the mass protests in Ukraine in 2004 that overturned a fraudulent election. “The government,” he said, “should not be afraid of its own people.”

Remembering Anna: We Here Highly Resolve

Only one post today. Only one reason.

One week ago, the unspeakable malignant cowardice that dwells within the walls of Moscow’s Kremlin reached out its cold bony hand and extinguished one of Russia’s last few remaining candles of patriotism and courage, Anna Politkovskaya.

I’m sorry I failed you, Anna. I started my blog six months ago and began warning the world what was happening in Russia, but I waited much too long and I should have done a lot more than start a blog. I knew what was what as soon as the Kremlin poisoned Victor Yushchenko in a pathetic attempt to stop Ukraine from turning its face, beaten to a pulp by Russian blows, to the West. But I procrastinated, and so did many others (but that doesn’t diminish my blame one tiny little bit).

Some progress is being made. Today, U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice is in Moscow, and she will conduct a meeting with the editors of Anna’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, directly snubbing the Putin administration and emphasizing its catastrophic diplomatic failure in relations with the world’s most powerful country. Putin said Anna was an enemy of the state, Condi is saying she was a hero. Take that.We who now dwell beneath you are so wretched, it seems that you had to give your life to get our attention. Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg do not come amiss on this somber day:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Perhaps now we can make this Anna’s song (maybe Celine will even dedicate it to her some day):

My Heart Will Go On

Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance and spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door, and you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time and last for a lifetime
And never go till we’re one
Love was when I loved you, one true time I hold to
In my life we’ll always go on
Near, far, wherever you are I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door, and you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
There is some love that will not go away
You’re here, there’s nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on
We’ll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart and my heart will go on and on

Anna warned the world that Russia was returning to Stalinism but the world didn’t listen, and now we will pay the price. The Cincinnati Post documents it all:

Russia’s War on Truth

After she was found brutally murdered in the hallway of her Moscow apartment building, most of Anna Politkovskaya’s obituaries identified her as a war reporter who seemed to court danger.

She was far more than that. Those who might have taken the trouble to read her book, “Putin’s Russia,” would have seen she was a chronicler of Russia’s steady decline into authoritarian rule under President Vladimir Putin and perhaps as his most bitter critic in all of Russia.

Her book should have been more widely heralded in the United States, but the diplomatic and journalistic book review establishment here sniffed at it. Foreign Affairs magazine called it “stridently indignant.” Other reviewers said she was too provocative in claiming Russia was on its way back to Stalinism. One even suggested she was a “Cassandra.”

Perhaps we all needed to be a little more indignant and provocative about Putin’s Russia after his election to a second term. The pity is that Politkovskaya didn’t get as much attention when she was alive as she’s getting now that her voice has been silenced.

Her book, written in Russian and translated into English, was for sale in St. Petersburg, the hometown of Putin. But it was not available in a Russian language edition.

“Nyet,” said a clerk, acting as if I had asked for the plans for a phased array radar system.

One of Politkovskaya’s most memorable stories was about a minor Moscow politician identified only as Tonya who was eager to have her story published in the West but not in Russia during her lifetime. “Go ahead. Let them know what our money smells of,” Tonya said.

After clawing her way to the top by selling cheap goods from Turkey in Moscow’s post-communist street market, Tonya found that she had to pay bribes to a councilman to stay in business. She also had to pay a penance unless she spoke favorably of Putin. To resolve her problem, she ran for the council herself on a pro-Putin slate and won.

Politkovskaya compared Putin to Stalin and Lenin in his ruthlessness, but she was an equal opportunity critic. She didn’t have much good to say about Western leaders, either.

Russia’s slide back to the Soviet system, she said, “happened to choruses of encouragement from the West, primarily from (Italy’s) Silvio Berlusconi, who appears to have fallen in love with Putin. He is Putin’s main European champion, but Putin also enjoys the support of (Britain’s) Blair, (Germany’s) Schroeder and (France’s) Chirac, and receives no discouragement from the transatlantic junior Bush.”

For President Bush, indeed, having a steady partner in the war on terrorism has been the steering current of his relationship with Putin. Corruption and even intimidation of its neighbors, such as is occurring right now in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, is being overlooked.

Who dared kill this feisty woman?

Politkovskaya, as a correspondent covering the war in Chechnya, uncovered a stream of abuses against Muslims. She was getting ready to bring out a big story about torture in Chechnya. The son of a slain president of Chechnya reportedly had publicly threatened to do her in.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who was part owner of the newspaper for which Politkovskaya was working, expressed doubt that her murder was connected with Chechnya. He called it nothing short of a “political homicide.”

Politkovskaya, among other things, had been heavily involved in uncovering corruption in the Yukos oil scandal, in which Putin’s cronies muscled their way into control of Russia oil conglomerate, throwing its president into jail and selling stock in world exchanges at wildly inflated profits.

Some suspect angry military officers. But Politkovskaya did a lot for the military – bringing attention to the miserable conditions that Russian officers and troops have to endure. Her work on the poor maintenance of nuclear submarines is a chilling reminder of how close to the edge that country’s safety procedures have deteriorated.

Russia is the now the third most deadly country in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Algeria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Politkovskaya was the 43rd journalist killed in Russia since 1993.

Call it a war on truth.

I’m sorry, Anna. As God is my witness, I’ll do everything I can not to repeat the mistakes of the past. How can I do otherwise, when I know you are watching?

Read Anna’s last article in the Independent, which ran it on the front page, God bless them.

Read RIA Novosti eulogizing Anna (yes, even they couldn’t help it).

Here’s what Elena Bonner said at the London Memorial service, with the famous actress Vanessa Redgrave reading her words:

The blame for the death of Anna Politkovskaya rests on the indifference of Russian society, the government, and the President. It also rests on the international community, the European institutions and the UN who have forgotten that in 1975, the Helsinki Agreement declared that human rights violations cannot be considered an exclusivelyintemal affair of any country. Today this community pretends to believe the official lie that Russia is engaged in the war against international terrorism, while it helps terrorists diplomatically and with arms sales. President Putin has condemned the honest, selfless, and humane position of one of Russia ‘s best journalists. Saying that, Politkovskaya’s publications have harmed Russia means admitting that honesty harms Russia . He worries about what to say to George Bush, to Angela Merkel, he knows he has to say something, and his every word gives him away. He promises an investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder to George Bush – not to Politkovskaya’s mother, her children, or her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta. A promise of investigation to George Bush is a slap in the face of Russia. Our time shows two faces: One of a person of high mind, integrity, compassion and empathy for the country, its people, every human being – this is the face of Anna Politkovskaya; The other face is beastly, cruel, and selfish – this is the face of the country whose citizens we are. Those in power hope we are cattle unable to understand all this. The tragic death of Anna Politkovskaya is Russia’s loss, and it serves those who create a life for themselves alone, at Russia’s expense.