Monthly Archives: January 2007

LR on PP

Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she reviews the Kremlin’s assault on the Russian-Chechen Friendship Association, an early indication of how the Kremlin plans to use last year’s Law Against Extremism to shut down opposition political organizations. Reader comments on the best way to deal with this ever-increasing outrage are most welcome; as we also report today, the Kremlin is simulatenously moving to attack formal political parties, denying them access to the 2008 political process. What we are seeing is nothing less than the formalization of the neo-Soviet state, and it’s quite horrifying.

Some people (well, morons) accuse LR of hating all Russians. But it’s obvious this isn’t true. The above post, for example, is a tribute to a Russian, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, and LR has published many tributes to other Russians in the past whom she greatly admires. For instance: Anna Politkovskaya, Marina Litvinovich, Yevgenia Albats, Yulia Latynina, Svetlanna Gannushkina and Lidia Yusupova. She will never have enough praise for them or for their thousands upon thousands of supporters in Russia. The Russians she hates are the ones who actively oppose them and, like Martin Luther King, even more the ones who passively sit by and enable the rise of malignant little trolls like Vladimir Putin, who loves Russia the way a spider loves a fly (to paraphrase Politkovskaya in the New Yorker).

NB: LR’s new chatbox has already begun to acquire content. A commenter has posted a link which purports to show the luxurious interior of Vladimir Putin’s version of air force one. Check it out!

Kremlin Seeks to Obstruct All Political Parties

La Russophobe is always mightily amused at the way that malignant little troll Vladimir Putin and his clan of KGB spies profess strength, talking about stomping Chechen rebels in their outhouses, and yet when it comes to things like elections they show as much yellow as a stream of urine, cravenly afraid of anything remotely like a fair fight. In other words, like the cowards they truly are, they cheat. The Moscow Times reports:

With the exception of United Russia and A Just Russia, just about every political party that has tried to register for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March in 14 regions across the country have run into difficulties. Pro-Kremlin parties United Russia and A Just Russia are on the ballot in all 14 regions. But opposition parties have been barred from races in a number of regions in what analysts call an attempt by local authorities to settle score with dissident groups and demonstrate their loyalty to the Kremlin.

“The Kremlin has no interest in all these scandals. The only explanation is that regional bosses are making a show of loyalty to Moscow,” said Sergei Mikheyev, a regional analyst at the Center for Political Technologies. The affected parties are hardly on the political fringe. The Communist Party was not allowed to register in the Tyumen region and the republic of Dagestan. The Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and Yabloko have also been stricken from the ballot in Dagestan.

St. Petersburg election officials refused to register Yabloko as well as the People’s Will party and the United Socialist Party of Russia, which emerged from the breakup of the Rodina party. Some 40 Yabloko activists rallied Monday on Red Square to protest the party’s exclusion from the election for St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly. Election officials ruled that 12 percent of some 8,000 signatures submitted in support of Yabloko’s application to register were invalid. The party collected some 40,000 signatures in all. Election law says no more than 10 percent of submitted signatures can be invalid.

Yabloko plans to appeal the ruling to the Central Elections Commission this week, and, if necessary, take its case all the way to the Supreme Court, Maxim Reznik, head of the party’s St. Petersburg branch, said Monday. Boris Vishnevsky, a senior member of Yabloko’s organization in the northern capital, said Monday that he was convinced the ruling had been ordered by City Hall. “I see the hand of Governor Valentina Matviyenko in all of this,” Vishnevsky said. “She has clearly had enough of Yabloko questioning her controversial decisions. The governor has decided that it’s time to block Yabloko’s access to the only political forum in the city: the Legislative Assembly.” Yabloko irked City Hall recently by pushing for a citywide referendum on the proposed construction of a 396-meter-tall glass tower that would become Gazprom’s new headquarters. If Yabloko is not restored to the ballot, liberal voters will probably put their support behind SPS, Mikheyev said.

The decision by Dagestani officials to bar the Communists and SPS from the upcoming parliamentary election was based on similarly technical grounds. Under regional law, parties must field candidates in all 53 of Dagestan’s districts in order to contest the election. Last week, four SPS candidates suddenly withdrew from the race, as did three Communists, leaving the parties without candidates in several districts. Dagestan’s Supreme Court rejected appeals from both parties despite the fact that the candidates in question had agreed to re-enter the race. “The election law in Dagestan is terrible. It allows the authorities to exclude a national party just because one or two of its candidates got cold feet,” said Enver Kisriyev, a political analyst with the Center for Civilization and Regional Studies, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. reported late Monday that Dagestani election officials had relented and would allow the Communists to contest the March election after the presidium of the regional Supreme Court reinstated the party’s withdrawn candidates. This report could not be confirmed late Monday. The Communist Party has traditionally been a major power in Dagestan, winning more than 25 percent of seats in the regional legislature in 2003. If the party were barred, most of those seats would likely go to United Russia, Kisriyev said. United Russia in Dagestan is backed by President Mukhu Aliyev. In the Tyumen region, the Communist Party has filed a new party list in an attempt to get back on the ballot. The party was denied registration last week because its candidates had not fully disclosed their incomes and property.

Luzhkov Condems Gays as "Satanic"

Maybe you don’t care for homosexuals. But even if you don’t, you probably don’t feel the need to condemn them to hell as long as they leave you alone, right? And even if you felt that need, you probably wouldn’t do it because, if they get condemned today, then who knows, maybe you’ll get condemned tomorrow, right? But unfortuantely, the Mayor of Moscow can’t grasp this logic. Today the homos, tomorrow the Jews, and the day after that . . . the bell tolls for THEE, my friend. The Moscow Times reports:

Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Monday denounced gay rights parades as “satanic” and vowed that he would never allow such events to be held in the city. Speaking during a Russian Orthodox Church conference at the Kremlin, Luzhkov said the city would reject any application to hold a gay pride parade and crack down on anyone who chose to march in defiance of the ban, just as it did in 2006. “Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as a satanic event,” Luzhkov said in televised comments. “We did not let the parade take place then, and we will not allow it in the future.”

At last year’s parade in May, marchers were overwhelmed by militant Orthodox Christians and ultranationalists throwing smoke bombs. The parade had been banned by Luzhkov, and more than 100 gay rights activists and their opponents were arrested by police. Nikolai Alexeyev, the chief organizer of last year’s march, said it was “shocking” that such a high-ranking government official could publicly express such sentiments. “To compare us to a satanic cult is not worthy of the top official of Europe’s largest city,” Alexeyev said. “It is a personal insult.” Alexeyev said the parade organizers would file a libel suit against Luzhkov in the coming weeks. Alexeyev also said that on Monday the organizers of last year’s parade had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, seeking 20,000 euros ($26,000) in damages for the violation of their constitutional right of free assembly.

Gay activists will march again this year regardless of whether Luzhkov bans the parade, Alexeyev said. Ahead of last year’s march, the Council of Europe issued a statement that offered support to gay rights activists in Moscow in their struggle against homophobia. The statement also called on city authorities to ensure the safety of the marchers.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a top spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said Monday that a majority of Russians were against gay rights parades. Chaplin called Luzhkov a “responsible politician” for upholding the will of the people in his remarks at the Kremlin on Monday. “Satanic” was not an exaggeration by Luzhkov, Chaplin said. “The forces of evil are always emboldened by the propaganda of sin,” Chaplin said.

A number of gay rights activists opposed last year’s parade and labeled Alexeyev a self-promoter who sought to use the event to build his own reputation at home and abroad. Gay activist Ed Mishin, director of the gay rights organization Together, said the gay parade dispute in Moscow was merely a personal conflict between Alexeyev and Luzhkov. “This is not a conflict between city authorities and the gay community at large,” Mishin said.

Luzhkov on Monday also accused countries in the West of trying to force their liberal values on Russia, thereby corrupting its children and its traditions. Luzhkov said it was unfortunate that “religious institutions at various levels” in European countries had teamed up with governments to “bless same-sex marriages” and provide “manuals of a sexual nature” for use in the education of children “starting in the first grade.” “Supporters of such education appear in Russia propped up by generous grants from thoughtful Western ‘educators,'” Luzhkov said, Interfax reported. In April 2005, Luzhkov suggested that the construction of a golf course in the bucolic Strogino area in northwestern Moscow would help prevent homosexuals and barbecuers from frequenting the area and damaging the environment.

Kudrin for President?

Konstantin Sonin, a professor at the New Economic School/CEFIR in Moscow, seeks to jump-start the debate over the 2008 succession issue by touting Alexei Kudrin in the Moscow Times:

When political activists Masha Gaidar and Ilya Yashin draped a banner that read, “Return the elections to the people, you scum!” over the side of the Great Stone Bridge facing the Kremlin, they were expressing in a very clear manner a thought that fills volumes of texts written by political scientists today: Russia is no longer a democracy. Although, formally, elections continue to be conducted, neither the rules –– thanks to United Russia — nor the process — thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s administration — meet the broadly accepted criteria for democratic elections. The system may be democratic in form but is hardly so in content.

The idea that elections are something that the political leadership grants the people is a fairy tale: In fact, those in power only agree to hold elections when they have exhausted all other options. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev continuously held freer and freer elections with the sole goal of guaranteeing his own political survival through his struggles with the more conservative wing of the Politburo. And President Boris Yeltsin used the mandates that he had won in elections as weapons — first against Gorbachev, and later against the Communists and other opponents.

So, if the people want genuine elections, the only way is to compel those in power to hold them. Given this, I have a suggestion to would help improve the democratic bona fides of the 2008 presidential vote. Now, before anyone gets too excited, let’s remember that rendering the election fully democratic in one fell swoop is probably too tall an order. But it still might be possible to develop some of the requisite elements, such as a public discussion of the way the different candidates propose to develop the country they hope to lead. In developed democracies, political campaigns and party platforms play a major role in determining the course the country will ultimately take.

The idea here is that the candidates looking for Putin’s blessing ahead of the 2008 vote would discuss their programs as if they were actually running a campaign.

We have already been seeing this to some extent in the cases of the current favorites: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Before the plan put forward last week by Medvedev, the discussion had been free of verbose party manifestos, focusing instead on analysts’ projections for the policies each of the figures might follow as president. The suggestion was that Sergei Ivanov, for example, would follow a policy of even greater state intervention in the economy and open confrontations with governments in other countries. There was a fair consensus on this among analysts, despite the fact that Ivanov had yet to make any public comments on these subjects.

And there’s no reason to confine our discussion to these two candidates. There could be other interesting options. If any of these people can get their message out and convince a big enough portion of the elite that Putin should endorse someone other than Medvedev or Ivanov, the president would be obliged to do so. In other words, it isn’t true that any person’s only hope for success rests on a word from Putin: A candidate who can suggest a popular program also stands a chance.

One such candidate could be Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. No other government member has such obvious and solid strengths. His ability to keep spending under control, and the development and defense of the stabilization fund at a time when Russia is reaping unparalleled revenues from oil and gas sales, is a feat few finance ministers in the world could have pulled off. Last year’s substantial capital inflow, though driven by excess global liquidity, is a good indicator of Russia’s macroeconomic stability.

So, let the discussion begin.


Dear, dear eXile!

La Russophobe is proudly awaiting the day, several weeks hence, when she records the 100,000th page view at this blog (we’re now at 90,000). A “page view” is not the same as a visit, one visit can generate more than one page view depending on the interest level of the visitor, so it’s a more general indication of how the blog is being received by its audience. But it’s still a really big number for a little specialist blog like this, and it’s going to come before we’re even one year old. Readers should be just as pleased as LR, since they are responsible for the number as much as LR is. When this day arrives, it’ll be the biggest milestone in the history of this blog to date, so naturally we are on pins and needles. Perhaps it’s because any hopeful sign where Russia is concerned, in the midst of so very much darkness, is so valuable.

Thankfully, the charming fellows over at the eXile tabloid have stepped in to fill the void, providing us with yet another milestone to tide us over whilst we patiently wait for the big one to arrive, like little kids waiting for Santa Claus (it’s as if there were a National Enquirer in America written in Russian by Russians; here’s how the earthshaking lead item in the most recent issue begins: “For years Moscow has been known as the cultural Cheese Capital of Eastern Europe, a hotbed of sh**ty disco pop music and style so shamelessly lame that it made Milan or the Castro District seem like grimy punk zones by comparison.” Heavy stuff there, heavy.) . They’ve said they don’t like us! In fact, they’ve devoted a whole article to a typically scatalogical personal attack on us! There really couldn’t be any more convincing proof of what we’ve achieved in the short amount of time we’ve existed so far than the eXile’s disapproval, so we humbly thank them for it. We’re very proud to be now keeping company with other vile villains hated by the eXile, such as the Moscow Times and Yevgenia Albats. And the free publicity can’t hurt either (yup, we can hardly believe that all nine of the eXile’s readers have now been clued in to our existence! is that cool or what? we’re looking to see a major surge in visitation over the next few days).

To thank the (very little) boys over at the eXile for their charming and most welcome recognition, we’ve consulted a journalism professor and are pleased to offer them a series of free lessons in the finer points of their craft, which will hopefully lead to even more brilliant success for them in the future, maybe even Russia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize (if such there be).

To wit:

1. Interviews

We know it probably sounds like a bizarre notion to the boys, but when you want to know about somebody (David Johnson and Kim Zigfeld are mentioned in the eXile’s screed by name), our professor says one of the first things an actual journalist will do is speak to them. If, for instance, the eXile had interviewed David Johnson before going to print, they’d have found out that, far from being the recipient of “crazed” letters from Ms. Zigfeld, he recently wrote to her and asked permission to run our translation of the Novaya Gazeta piece “Spare Organs,” which she was happy to grant. Ms. Zigfeld herself has never received any inquiry from the eXile about, well, anything. Maybe they’ll try this technique one day, a whole new world might open up for them! For instance, instead of asking readers “Who is this freakish ghoul who haunts the blog world with her Russophobia, and what is his/her/their purpose?” they could have asked us, and then they could have printed the answer. Journalism at this sophisticated level is really amazing, isn’t it?

2. Sources

Often times, the professor says, it’s considered a good idea to check out one’s sources of information before going to press. The mention by the eXile of the name “Oliver Bronsen” is a sure tipoff that information has been fed by them by the wacko Russophile pair of Kiril Pankratov and Mike Averko. Relying on these keystone cops for information is like relying on Vladimir Putin for the milk of human kindness. Perhaps not such a good idea, especially not when making statements about “one of those psychos who writes obsessive letters to their local newspaper complaining about ‘big government.'” Those who have read LR’s post about Mr. Averko will understand why (that’s quite a large number, as you will see if you Google Mr. Averko’s name). Little wonder the eXile chose not to name their sources, but the professor says that conscientious journalists frown on the use of anonymity in such cases. It’s the sure tipoff of quackery.

3. Consistency

According to the professor, one of the most important features of journalism, and the single most important feature of editing, is consistency. If, for instance, you at one point say “La Russophobe is an NGO project run by an angry, fat-assed Anglo/American chick who hates Sharapova” and you then post the picture at left, well, people are bound to be confused. Even by anorexic standards, that ass isn’t fat. And if you then go on to say that Ms. Zigfeld is actually a guy named Oliver Bronsen, your readers are bound to drift away to . . . oh . . . let’s just say the Moscow Times. Also, you might then notice that it’s just a bit odd to refer to the source of your story about LR anonymously as “a reader” and to publish the story itself without a byline whilst simultaneously screeching about how odd it is that LR might be anonymous. You might notice that if you say you’re about to list “two theories” and then list (a) and (b) and (c), that’s not actually two. Likewise, it might have occurred to somebody that expressing hatred of all things La Russophobe (to say nothing of all things George Bush and, indeed, all things America) while attacking LR for expressing hatred of all things Russian is bound to be a bit confusing for many. And lastly, you might realize that if you pontificate about LR being obsessed with attention and then give her some, you’re kind of undermining your own theory (or at least showing a pretty childish lack of self control — then again, maybe that’s a point of pride over at the eXile).

4. Conflict of interest

Granted, journalistic ethics is an advanced topic, and it’s probably way too early to mention it. But we can dream, can’t we? If you’re going to write a critique of somebody (let’s say something thoughtful and reasonable like: “La Russophobe is a compulsively unironic, humorless hate blog, with said hatred directed at All Things Russian. Sort of like one of those psychos who writes obsessive letters to their local newspaper complaining about ‘big government.'”), the professor says, it’s considered standard operating procedure to disclose the fact that the person has previously written such things about you. You know, as La Russophobe did five months ago about eXile editor Mark Ames. The same thing holds true for the rather sharp attacks LR has launched against the eXile’s sources, Averko and Pankratov. What’s more, in the blogosphere it’s considered basic to post a link to those comments, so readers can see them for themselves. This not only follows good ethics, but it avoids the appearance that you’re scared of what was said about you and don’t want anybody to read it. LR must say she was a bit disappointed, but not surprised, that the eXile didn’t do so.

5. Research

Last, but certainly not least, the professor points out the many benefits of actually doing research, instead of just blowing smoke out of your butt, which is amusing for a while but gets old pretty fast. If, for instance, the eXile had done any research about this blog they would have learned. just for instance, that:

  • Far from being “obsessed” with Maria Sharapova as they claim, only 25 posts out of 1,250 that have been published so far over the course of ten months had Maria as a topic. In other words, 98% of our posts are not about Sharapova, only 2% are. Given that she’s the most famous Russian in the world (and the wealthiest female athlete of any nation), we hardly think that’s overkill. Now, we understand that the little horny boys over at the eXile are annoyed that we’ve dared to mess with their wet dreams (they refer to Maria as “tennis-babe” in the article), but come on guys. There’s lots of fish in the sea! And anyway, Russia is full of cheap prostitutes and vodka to ply them with.
  • Maybe it’s not such a good idea to say “just about every non-cash-earning blog is totally f**ked up.” They might have found out, you see, that La Russophobe has more links from blogs and more traffic than any “cash-earning” Russia blog of its kind in existence. A little more research might have revealed that a “non-cash-earning” educational/political blog can make freer use of source material than can one which operates for revenue. Still more research might have led to the realization of how many people feel using profanity isn’t really very impressive. In fact, often, quite the opposite. Especially when you follow it up with childish and incomprehensible analogies like “a Scooby Doo situation.” Plus which, no matter how jaded and cynical you might be, is it really such a good idea to trash volunteerism, particularly in a country like Russia where 1 million people are lost from the population every year? Is even the eXile capable of being THAT evil? Maybe. Maybe they revile Gandhi because he didn’t keep on being a tax lawyer and raking in the big bucks. Perhaps they’re just that sick. But if so, it’s rather odd that they spend so much time screeching about the establishment and the Bush adminstration, isn’t it?
  • Probably could have done better than to say that LR “hates all things Russian.” After all, everybody within earshot knows how much LR loves Anna Politkovskaya, Yulia Yusupova, Yevgenia Albats, Marina Litvinovich and Svetlana Gannushkina — to say nothing of Stanislav Dmitreivsky. They’re about as Russian as you can get! The tribute in our sidebar and our special piece on Publius Pundit clearly show our awestruck admiration for them, and many other Russians who struggle to stop the rise of the neo-Soviet Union in Russia. This blog was created for one purpose: to support them!

We hope this little lesson has been valuable to our friends over at the eXile and look forward to lots more free publicity from them in the future.

And here’s a little personal advice, just because we’re feeling so good.

Dear eXile,

Guys, if you really wanted to “get” us, you would have praised us to the sky. Had you done so, we would have (a) felt a bit guilty about trashing you as incompetent loons who crashed and burned in America and then went to the one place in the world where you could actually feel superior and started pimping Russian women to foreigners for profit as mail-order brides under the guise of “journalism” and we would have (b) had to reevaluate our whole existence, since your approval would be the same as getting a letter from a hero like Yulia Latynina saying we suck. So, as far as can be seen, you accomplished the exact opposite of your purpose. That is unless you actually do like us, and know how we think, and wanted to throw us a bone. But since we don’t want you to like us, we prefer to think you’re not remotely close to being that clever.

Love and Kisses,

La Russophobe

Russian Special Forces Used Litvinenko’s Image for Target Practice

You may recall how various Russophile wackos have claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was too small a fish in the Kremlin’s eyes to justify taking any action against him; in essence, they say, the Kremlin couldn’t care less about him. Reader Jeremy Putley directs us to a report from the Polish newspaper Dziennik, which reports that the FSB has been using Litvinenko’s image for target practice. A video is available here and below is an image from a Russian website with more photographs of the target practice scenes.

One must say that Mr. Putley is far more than just a “reader” and is in fact an important driving force behind the movement for democratization and justice in Russia as a contributor not merely to this blog but also to David McDuff’s A Step at a Time and Norbert Strade’s Chechnya List. La Russophobe is indebted to him for his invaluable contributions to this effort and to this blog, as are all those concerned with opposing the rise of the neo-Soviet Union in Russia.

Putley offers, via Strade’s Chechnya List, the following translation from the Polish press (if any reader has a facility with Polish language and can translate the entire Dziennik article, LR would be delighted to receive it): “Sergei Mironov, the Chairman of Russian Federation Council, the third person in the country, visited a shooting range with targets that had portraits of murdered former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko. On the internet site of the Center of Russian special services Vityaz we have found a photo of Mironov against a background of targets with Litvinenko. Sergei Mironov visited Vityaz on November the 7th. On one of these photos he wears earmuffs and safety glasses. We don’t know if he was actually firing or just wore shooting acessories, because someone else was firing at targets standing beside him.”

This information about Mironov (pictured, below left) was subsequently censored, according to SCL, which adds more translation as follows:

Our source, a person connected with special units, explained to us that this videoclip was taken during practice of spetznaz in the Vityaz Centerm 10 km from Moscow, in the town of Balashikha. Exactly 2 days after the attack on the theater at Dubrovka (23 Oct.2002). This is the base of Russian special units, assembled from veterans of spetznaz, Alfa (units of the former KGB, now FSB) and Vityaz (Interior Ministry anti-terrorists unit). Soldiers of these formations were extracting hostages in Dubrovka and Beslan.

Nervous reaction of Russians

Reaction of Russians when we asked about that videoclip in the Center Vityaz was very fast. From Center’s webpage immediately has disappeared that picture on which a shooting target with Litvinenko’s silhuette can bee seen. We were able to copy it from the site (see above right, photohere)

Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Lysiuk, the commander of the Center, belittles the issue: “It appeared to you (that was him). Nobody fires at picture of Litvinenko” – he told to our journalist. “But on the Center’s webpage we also found a picture on which a target with Litvinenko can be seen” – we were inquiring. “Where it is says that this is Litvinenko? – he asked ironically.

When we phoned him one more time with a question why after our call that picture has disappeared from the Center’s webpage, colonel Lysiak reacted nervously:” Girl, you just think (that was him). Goodbye” – and he hung up the receiver. Military attache in the Russian embassy Vladimir Bietekhin, asked by to comment about this, he first send us to the department of Interior Ministry in Moscow, and then asserted that he didn’t know Litvinenko. Also added that there’s nothing unusual in firing by the commandos at human silhuettes. “To think like this, we can go too far, because putting questions if soldiers shoot at human silhuettes, to learn to kill something concrete, that’s a complicated philosophy” – he put us off.

UPDATE. Now, Jeremy Putley points out that the AP has got the story. Here’s their report:

A private facility that trains security personnel used pictures of poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko’s face for target practice during a competition for special forces, the center’s chief said on Tuesday. In video circulating the Internet, trainees dressed in camouflage maneuver between slats in a wall, leap through an obstacle course, then tumble to a semi-sitting position with outstretched arms aiming their weapons at a black-and-white target showing Alexander Litvinenko’s face. Several black holes appear on the target near the ex-spy’s nose before the video goes black. Click here to watch video of trainees firing at the Litvinenko target.

Sergei Lysyuk, Vityaz Center‘s chief, said the video is from 2002 and shows military recruits. He said he was unaware the target depicted Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning after eating at a sushi restaurant. The former spy was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and from his deathbed accused the leader of pulling the strings in a plot to kill him. “The fact that it was Litvinenko, we only found out later from the press,” Lysyuk said. “We did not shoot at Litvinenko; we shot at a target.”

Use of the target at the center, which held a competition for Russian special forces, became known this week after Russian media published photographs of Sergei Mironov, head of the Russian parliament’s upper house, visiting the center in early November. His visit, to present awards in a competition for Interior Ministry special forces, came about a week after Litvinenko fell ill; one photo shows the Litvinenko target in the background behind Mironov.

Lysyuk insisted his company does not normally hold such contests and was granting a favor to former Interior Ministry colleagues, whose own training ground was being repaired. Litvinenko, once an agent in the Federal Security Service, the Soviet KGB’s main successor, fled to Britain and was granted asylum after accusing his superiors of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon and one-time Kremlin insider who also has been granted British citizenship.

Dmitry Peskov, a senior Kremlin spokesman, said using a person’s face as a shooting range “was ethically incorrect,” but stressed it was that company’s responsibility and insisted government troops were not involved in the exercises. “There is no talk of such shooting ranges being used by Russian special forces or by the Vityaz unit,” Peskov told AP in a telephone interview. “This [company] has no relation to the elite Vityaz troops.”

Unfiltered Chat (and game!) Now Available

LR is pleased to announce another new feature offered by this blog: If you are not a member of Blogger, you may be interested to know that you can now talk back to La Russophobe (or to other LR readers) by means of a scrolling chat located at the bottom of the sidebar (it also has its own webpage). Anyone can enter text in the chatbox any time she/he feels like it, with complete ease and anonymity. However, if you want LR to pay attention to your remarks, you should identify them with a unique name when you post and you should avoid vulgarity. You will not get a reply otherwise. Remember, Blogger membership is free and easy, so consider signing up and joining us in the blogosphere! Note that the chatbox is supplied free to LR by a host company and is funded by tiny advertisements appearing on the box. LR receives no revenue of any kind as the result of these advertisements and continues her policy of refusing financial support from any source and charging readers nothing for her content. LR assumes no responsibilty for the content of the chatbox and, since it is unfiltered, warns those who may be faint of heart or weak of stomach to ignore it.

You may also want to try your hand at our new game, Russian Life, just above the chat box. Use you mouse to aim your telescopic site and click to blast away at the lurking KGB agents before they liquidate you.