Daily Archives: November 11, 2006

Chechnya, Smoldering

Dr. Dmitry Shlapentokh of Prague Watchdog reports:

Official propaganda, mostly beamed from the TV screen, the major source of news for the majority of Russians, presents Chechnya as a place of peace and tranquility, run by the flamboyant Kadyrov but totally faithful to Moscow. The reality seems to be not so rosy. TV news, despite the desire of the authorities to present life in the North Caucasus as absolutely normal, indicates the continuous intensity of the conflict. Indeed, information about a hospital where those severely wounded in Chechnya were being treated confirmed that the war was ongoing

For confirmation, David McDuff translates another PW report as follows:

The situation in the southern districts of the Chechen Republic has significantly deteriorated recently. Local residents report that Russian soldiers are actively shelling forested areas and mountain gorges with long-range guns, and in a number of cases using combat helicopters and attack aircraft.

“In our district, and also in the adjoining Vedensky and Shalinsky districts, the situation is pretty nerve-racking. Soldiers once again actively firing cannon and conducting aerial bombings of the outskirts of the villages, as well as the forests and gorges. Fortunately there haven’t yet been any deaths or injuries among the population, but even so, people are very worried by what is going on,” says Abuyazid Alkhazurov, a 40-year-old resident of the mountainous Shatoysky district.

“Work started on rebuilding a bridge up here near our village of Zumsoy, so now the soldiers have declared open season on it,” Alkhazurov says. “On October 30 and 31 the district around the bridge was fired on from helicopters. A day earlier (on October 29), this locality came under fire from long-range guns. None of the workers was killed or injured, thank God. Now work on the bridge has stopped, since after two missile strikes and an artillery bombardment the workmen are simply unwilling to do the job. The machinery and construction materials are lying there unsupervised.”

The situation in Shalinsky district is not much better. Russian soldiers regularly subject the forested areas there to artillery strikes and aerial bombardments. Those who suffer most from the soldiers’ actions are the residents of the large settlement of Serzhen-Yurt. At the end of last week a picket was even organized in Grozny demanding an end to artillery attacks and air-strikes in the mountain districts of the republic.

The situation in the south of Chechnya has become so complicated that it is now even a subject of debate at the current session of the Chechen Parliament. The deputies of the National Assembly (Chechnya’s House of Commons) have passed a resolution for the creation of a parliamentary commission. This body will attend to the tasks of liaison with federal law enforcement command centres and the prevention of similar incidents in future. An ex-military officer, General Ibragim Suleymenov, has been appointed chairman of the commission.

Meanwhile in Grozny on November 3, General Yevgeny Baryayev, deputy commander of the United Group of Russian Troops in the North Caucasus, attempted to justify the deployment of aviation and heavy artillery in the mountainous part of the republic.

“The guerrillas in the mountains are trying to equip bases. In order to prevent them from restocking their supplies of ammunition and foodstuffs and penetrating into the villages, it’s necessary to employ artillery and open fire on areas of mountain and forest periodically,” the General said.

However, the republic’s residents take a rather different view of the matter. “The war has being going on here for seven years now. For seven years they’ve been bombing and shelling here. Russia’s highest leadership, including the military, has already announced several times that that there’s no war in Chechnya, that the ‘counter-terrorist operation’ is complete, that the guerrillas don’t present any serious threat, but for some reason there is no real confirmation of this,’ said a lecturer at Chechen State University who is a native of the Vedensky district. ‘The incessant bombardments and shelling of the mountainous part of the republic are the obvious evidence. I don’t know how many more thousands and millions of tons of projectiles and bombs the generals plan to bring down on our mountains and forests in order to ‘finally’ beat the guerrillas. It’s all plainly absurd.”

“At the very beginning of this war, these mountain districts were subjected to the most brutal air-strikes and shelling. Then hundreds and even thousands of people who weren’t guilty of anything were killed or became cripples. Very gradually, people have begun to move away from what they went through, they want to live, build houses for themselves, raise their children, but the military still refuses to be pacified. What’s the point of their indiscriminate bombardments and air-strikes on the forests and mountains? They ought to go there and fight, if that’s where the guerrillas are hiding as they say they are. And they should give the civilian population a chance to get on with a normal life,” he considers.

Meanwhile, Strade’s Chechnya list reports on a spate of recent killings of Russian troops in Chechnya and the fact that an army of 700 gunmen is currently operating in the breakaway province. So much for the bogus notion that Putin has “solved” the Chechnya problem.

Borat Banned by Kremlin

Sean’s Russia blog has really wandered disturbingly far from the path of insight, leading readers astray often and egregiously. First it found wisdom in Rolling Stone, the eXile and crazed Russian nationalist Boris Kagarlitsky, attracting the lurid nutjob Mike Averko as a commenter. Then it rationalized Russian racism after condemning the nation of Kazakhstan for banning the Borat film, refusing to give it any credit for its progress while giving Russia a free pass (saying that, although it’s press was unfree, that had to be seen in the context of a global tightening of press freedom and ignoring the fact that Kazakhstan had a higher score for press freedom than Russia) and condemning America (calling George Bush an “idiot” for praising Kazakhstan’s progress). Now, as the Moscow Times reported Thursday, Russia has done what it always does to those who try to help it, stab them in the back. As if just to humiliate Sean for his remarks, in yet another classic neo-Soviet move, Russia too has banned Borat:

Borat Sagdiyev may have taken the United States by storm, but he won’t repeat his box-office success in Russia. Less than three weeks before a feature film about Borat, a character created by English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, was to open in Russian movie theaters, the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency refused to license it out of concern that the film could offend audiences in this country. The movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” about a misogynistic, wife-beating Kazakh journalist with a penchant for mustaches, thus becomes one of the first non-pornographic films to be banned since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was scheduled to open in 300 theaters nationwide Nov. 30. The movie opened in the United States on Nov. 3, and took in $26.49 million in its first weekend, setting a box-office record for movies that opened in fewer than 1,000 theaters

Sean’s reaction to the censure? He states: “No worry. The ban is sure to increase interest in the film. And I’m sure many Muscovites are already scooping up illegal DVD copies on sale at Gorbushka.” Not a single reference to what he said about the evil thugs in Kazakhstan when they attacked the film. Well, one thing you’ve got to admit, if you want to imbibe the full flavor of Russian hypocrisy, there are many rich sources over at Sean’s place.

La Russophobe Wants to Know

La Russophobe is beta testing another new feature, polling. Feel free to express your opinion as to who would be the best successor to Vladimir Putin, and to use the comments section to write in a candidate you prefer to those listed.

Who is the best available replacement for Vladimir Putin as president of Russia?
Garry Kasparov
Andrei Illarionov
Vladimir Ryzhkov
Mikhail Kasyanov
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Annals of Russian "Justice": Even the Good News is Bad

The Committee to Protect Journalists said yesterday that it “welcomes the decision today by Russia’s Supreme Court to overturn the acquittal of two suspects in the assassination of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov and order a retrial. The ruling comes six months after a jury at Moscow City Court acquitted Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev of murdering the 41-year-old U.S. journalist. “

The Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t really good news. Even if it ultimately leads to the conviction of those accused, there is absolutely no reason to trust the Kremlin’s claims that they are the killers. Even if they were, is it really good news for Russia that the Kremlin can appeal from a jury’s acquittal of those it accuses and then retry the suspects? Have you ever heard of such a thing happening in the U.S.? No? Probably because we have a little thing in the Constitution called “double jeopardy” that prevents a prosecutor from taking several bites at the same apple. Today the acquittal of these two alleged killers is reversed, who the world happens to believe are guilty, and what happens tomorrow if a jury acquits, say, a journalist accused of undermining national security by calling the President a “phallic symbol”?

In Russia, even the good news is bad.