Daily Archives: February 8, 2007

Annals of Cold War II: U.S. State Department Condemns Kremlin over Khodorkovsky

Jurist reports that the U.S. State Department has issued the following official statement concerning the Kremlin’s attempt to try Mikhail Khodorkovsky twice for the same crime:

As we have commented in connection with the original trial, the continued prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the dismantlement of Yukos raise serious questions about the rule of law in Russia. Khodorkovsky and his associate, Platon Lebedev, would have been eligible to apply for parole this year, having served half of their terms. These new charges would likely preclude their early release. Many of the actions in the case against Khodorkovsky and Yukos have raised serious concerns about the independence of courts, sanctity of contracts and property rights, and the lack of a predictable tax regime. The conduct of Russian authorities in the Khodorkovsky Yukos affair has eroded Russia’s reputation and confidence in Russian legal and judicial institutions. Such actions as this and other cases raise questions about Russia’s commitment to the responsibilities which all democratic, free market economies countries embrace.

That’s rough talk coming from diplomats, as rough as it gets. Way to go, Miss Condi! LR knew she could count on you in a pinch!

Meanwhile, the Kremlin was announcing a major escalation of the arms race, as the Associated Press reports:

The Russian military will sharply increase the number of new intercontinental ballistic missiles to be deployed this year as part of an ambitious weapons modernization plan, Russia’s defense minister said Wednesday. Sergei Ivanov said the military would get 17 new ballistic missiles – a drastic rise compared with an average four deployed annually over recent years. The purchases are part of a weapons modernization program for 2007-2015 worth about $189 billion.

Ivanov said in a speech before lawmakers that the plan envisages the deployment of the total of 34 new silo-based Topol-M missiles and their control units, as well as another 50 such missiles mounted on mobile launchers through 2015; Russia so far has deployed more than 40 silo-based Topol-Ms. The Russian military will sharply increase the number of new intercontinental ballistic missiles to be deployed this year as part of an ambitious weapons modernization plan, Russia’s defense minister said Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have described the Topol-M as a bulwark of Russia’s nuclear might for years to come, and hailed its ability to penetrate any prospective missile defenses. Putin last week dismissed Washington’s claims that missile defense sites it hopes to establish in Poland and the Czech Republic were intended to counter threats posed by Iran, and said that Russia would respond by developing even more efficient weapons systems.

A rising tide of oil revenues gave Russia a chance to increase its defense spending following a desperate money shortage that plagued the military throughout the 1990s. “The economic growth and the scientific achievements allow us to reach a qualitatively new level in military procurement,” Ivanov said. Russia’s defense budget which stood at $8.1 billion in 2001 nearly quadrupled to $31 billion this year, Ivanov said. But despite a steady increase in military spending in recent years, Putin said last week that Moscow’s military budget was still 25 times smaller than Washington’s defense spending. Ivanov said that a share of weapons purchases in the military budget also has been growing over years. This year, the military will spend $5.4 billion on new weapons, buying aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles and four new satellites, he said

Timoshenko Pokes Putin Right in the Eye! You go, girl! Meanwhile, Poland has her back . . .

Stratfor reports that Ukraine has told Russia just where to go on the question of its national pipelines:

The Ukrainian Rada adopted a law Feb. 6 that forever prevents the country’s natural gas transport pipelines from falling into foreign hands. The move not only puts the Kremlin on alert that at least in some forms Ukrainian nationalism is alive, well and popular, it also highlights the ongoing oligarchic struggle for Ukraine’s assets — as well as its hearts and minds.

Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, voted by a margin of 430-9 (with 11 members not in attendance) not only to prohibit the sale of the country’s natural gas transport system or national energy assets to foreigners, but also to require that any new systems created must be 100 percent owned by the Ukrainian state.

Natural gas-related issues are part and parcel of Ukraine’s ongoing West vs. East debate: The western portions of the country often feel estranged from their Russian suppliers and more willing to sign on with the West, while the country’s Russofied East instead wants closer political and economic relations with Moscow. The parliamentary effort — spearheaded by the charismatic Yulia Timoshenko, leader of an eponymous political bloc — originated in response to comments by both Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and Russian President Vladimir Putin that joint management of the Ukrainian network could lead to greater throughput, something that in theory would help both sides increase their income.

Timoshenko would have none of it. She — and many other Ukrainian nationalists — see any Russian involvement in the pipelines as the surrender of one of the few levers Kiev holds over Moscow. So long as more than three-quarters of Russia’s natural gas exports to the European Union and Turkey flow through Ukrainian-owned lines, the nationalists argue, Moscow cannot dictate terms to Kiev. Beyond the issue of maintaining Ukrainian sovereignty, however, the vote highlights two critical issues.

First, even parliamentarians from Yanukovich’s own Moscow-friendly Party of Regions voted en masse for the restriction on the sale of the network. Ukraine is home to nearly 20 million Russians who, by and large, identify more with people across the border in Russia than with those across the country in the nationalist powerbase of Lviv; however, those Russians’ sense of political loyalty and national pride apparently are such that they want to keep control of their country’s most valuable physical asset in non-Russian hands. A Russia that has been working steadily to reassert its influence in Kiev cannot ignore that fact.

Second, there is more at work here than the often-wily Timoshenko simply securing a nationalist victory. Back around the turn of the millennium, when Timoshenko was in government as energy minister, she was hardly a diligent bureaucrat beyond corruption. She made her personal fortune by grabbing for herself the rights to sell imported Russian natural gas to Ukraine’s various regional distributors (to the point that the Russians had an outstanding warrant for her arrest even when she became Ukraine’s prime minister in 2004). So long as the infrastructure that made her fortune possible remains firmly in state hands — and now it will — Timoshenko has preserved the possibility of replicating such income in the future.

After all, Timoshenko is not only a former energy minister, but also a former prime minister — and she has every intention of scrambling back to the top again.

Poland opened another front against Russia, as the People’s Daily reports:

Poland will uphold its veto of Russia-EU negotiations toward broader economic cooperation if Russia imposes sanctions against Poland in a meat export row, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski warned on Tuesday. Poland, which joined the EU in 2004, vetoed the launch of talks on a broader economic cooperation agreement between the EU and Russia in November last year in protest against a year-old Russian ban on imports of meat from Poland. “Under the currently operative Russia-EU agreement, Russia cannot use such methods towards Poland. Poland will in no circumstance withdraw from its veto should Russia use them,” Kaczynski told a press conference. Kaczynski said any economic sanctions against Poland would mean sanctions against the EU. Poland will never agree to be treated like a country that is not a EU member, he added.

The prime minister’s words followed a report on Tuesday by Russia’s Kommersant daily saying that Moscow will impose restrictions on imports of various goods from Poland in retaliation for Poland’s blocking of EU-Russia negotiations on the new agreement. The planned restrictions will reduce the value of Poland’s exports to Russia by between 1.5 billion and 2 billion U.S. dollars from the present 4 billion, the daily said. Russia, which has been vigilant of its food safety after findings of Poland’s falsified veterinary and sanitary certificates, responded with rhetoric. “We believe the ball is in Poland’s court. No one other than Poland can solve this problem,” Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on EU relations, said on Tuesday in Moscow. The national elites of some recent EU entrants had “major hang-ups” about their “special relations” in the past with Russia, he said. “(They) try in part to exorcise these hang-ups through their relations with contemporary Russia. These new entrants have to a certain extent influenced the atmosphere of relations between Russia and the EU,” said Yastrzhembsky. Russia urged Poland to put aside historical grievances and resolve a dispute over meat imports which is hindering the start of negotiations on the EU-Russia deal. The EU said earlier that the restrictions should be lifted immediately, but agreed that Russia does have a right to send a team of experts into Poland to see for themselves. According to the PAP news agency, Russian veterinary inspectors on Monday visited Poland to inspect selected meat plants accompanied by EU vets.

Putin Sssssspeaks (Over a Forked Tongue)

Some facts about “President” Vladimir Putin’s February 1 “press conference” in Moscow:

The transcript of the proceedings comprises 25,426 words. Not one of them came from a reporter from Novaya Gazeta. So much for the idea that a “press conference” occurred.

Putin stated: “Wages rose by 13.3 percent on average, real incomes increased by ten percent from last year’s base, and old-age pensions rose by 5.4 percent.” But later he stated “For the first time in modern Russian history we had single-digit inflation – 9 percent – in 2006. It is very good to see that this was precisely what we forecast.” If wages rise by 13% and inflation is at 9%, doesn’t that mean real wages increased by 4%, not 10%? And do you notice that Putin doesn’t care to express the wage growth in monetary terms, but rather only in percentages? Guess why: If the average wage is $400 per month, then 13.3% growth is only $53.20 of additional income per month, less than $2 per day, and that’s before taking into account inflation. The same thing occurred when Putin spoke about economic growth. He stated: “We will get the final result for 2006 only in March, but various estimates suggest GDP growth of approximately 6.7-6.9 percent for last year.” What he doesn’t say is that 7% growth on an economic base of $750 billion only amounts to $52.5 billion spread out among a population of 140 million people — that’s just $375 per person, about a dollar a day. So much for the idea that a transfer of information occurred.

Putin was asked “Vladimir Vladimirovich, when President Yeltsin was in power, he had the habit of naming his successors. Under your rule, it’s quite the opposite and you have not yet named any names.” He answered: “You used the word ‘rule’. I do not rule, I simply do my work.” This is like a scoop of (decaying rat-flavored) ice cream saying “I am not cold, I just spend all my time in the freezer. I don’t taste bad, I’m just made from rat entrails.”

The word “murder” was used by only one questioner, never by a Russian reporter. It appears in this exchange:

STEVEN GUTTERMAN (Associated Press): After Anna Politkovskaia’s murder you said that there are people hiding from Russian justice who would like to damage Russia’s reputation. And after Aleksandr Litvinenko’s death your aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that this could be part of a plot with that same goal. Can you now tell us a few more details, several months after the tragedy, or say more precisely who you think is behind these murders? Do you think they are foreigners or Russians living abroad? And if yes, then who? Can you name them?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Only an investigation can determine whoever is behind these murders. And moreover only a court can do so, because at the end of the day it is the court that, having weighed all the pro and contra – both the prosecutors’ arguments and the defense of the accused – makes the final decision. As to prominent murders, then it is true that the problem of the persecution of journalists is a very acute problem both for our country and for many other countries. And we acknowledge our responsibility in this. We shall do everything possible to protect members of the press. I recall not only Anna Politkovskaia – she was quite a sharp critic of the authorities and that is a good thing. I recall other journalists as well, including Paul Khlebnikov. And not long ago one of our American partners said something very true: “Paul Khlebnikov died for a democratic Russia, for the development of democracy in Russia”. I completely agree with him. I fully agree with this evaluation. As to other well-known crimes, you know that just recently the investigation into the murder of the Vice-President of the Russian Central Bank has been finished. I very much hope that the law enforcement agencies will manage to find the criminals who have committed other, no less prominent crimes, and ones that are no less harmful to our country.With regards to Litvinenko, I do not have much to add here, except what I have already said. Aleksandr Litvinenko was dismissed from the security services. Before that he served in the convoy troops. There he didn’t deal with any secrets. He was involved in criminal proceedings in the Russian Federation for abusing his position of service, namely for beating citizens during arrests when he was a security service employee and for stealing explosives. I think that he was provisionally given three years. But there was no need to run anywhere, he did not have any secrets. Everything negative that he could say with respect to his service and his previous employment, he already said a long time ago, so there could be nothing new in what he did later. I repeat that only the investigation can tell us what happened. And with regards to the people who try to harm the Russian Federation, in general it is well-known who they are. They are people hiding from Russian justice for crimes they committed on the territory of the Russian Federation and, first and foremost, economic crimes. They are the so-called runaway oligarchs that are hiding in western Europe or in the Middle East. But I do not really believe in conspiracy theories and, quite frankly, I am not very worried about it. The stability of Russian statehood today allows us to look down at this from above.

Note well: He didn’t name a single one of the “enemies” responsible for attacking Russia, nor did he name a single specific measure his regime would take to protect journalists. And note that this question only comes from a foreigner. The Committee to Protect Journalists has just named Russia the most dangerous country not at war in the entire world for the practice of journalism. So much for Putin’s laughably dishonest statement that “the problem of the persecution of journalists is a very acute problem both for our country and for many other countries.” Russia stands alone in this regard. CPJ states: “Russia has the worst record of impunity among countries in the region. It is also the third deadliest country for journalists worldwide, according to Deadly News, a CPJ analysis of deaths over the past 15 years. Only Iraq, and Algeria when it was riven by civil war, outrank it.”

The word “Chechnya” was used only once, here:

SULTAN GALBATSOV (Democracy newspaper, Chechen Republic): In the Chechen Republic more than 70 percent of the available labour force is unemployed. In light of the positive results of the amnesty and the region’s importance, could you please tell us, Vladimir Vladimirovich, what measures are being foreseen to create new jobs? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, I would like to point out that the present government and the Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic were able to accomplish a great deal lately. I watched how the present government worked in Chechnya attentively. I must say that what is happening there is even unexpected. We are witnessing the mobilization of citizens living in Chechnya and there is an obvious desire for a religious peace, to restore order, for discipline, the rule of law, and economic revival. And there are simply visible results of this effort. But of course we still have a lot that we can and must do. We have the corresponding programmes to develop the productive forces. I must say that today the Chechen Republic receives more from the federal budget than other regions in the Russian Federation, including regions in the Northern Caucasus. We intend to continue this policy in the future. I am not going to go into detail here because it would simply not be interesting for everyone (I know it involves a brick factory, cement, and so on). We are going to support what is called for, expedient and agreed upon with the federal authorities.

When he says “I must say that today the Chechen Republic receives more from the federal budget than other regions in the Russian Federation, including regions in the Northern Caucasus” he’s talking about money spent on security forces for the terrorizing of the Chechen population, not investment.

Photo credit: The cartoon of Vladimir Putin that accompanies this article comes from the website of American neo-Nazi David Duke. David is a big, big fan of DyaDya Vladimir. This is no doubt so because extremist crimes of racist violence are dramatically up in Russia under Putin.

Annals of Chechnya: The Violence Continues Apace

The International Herald Tribune reports:

A senior local official in Russia’s restive Chechnya province was killed Wednesday in a bomb attack, police said, in the latest violence in a more than decade-long separatist conflict.

A bomb exploded in the morning as Mairbek Murdagamov, deputy head of the southern Vedeno district, was leaving his house, said the local branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry.

The explosion ripped off Murdagamov’s foot and he was hospitalized, dying a few hours later, the ministry’s press service said.

Large-scale fighting has all but ended in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim province in southern Russia where a separatist conflict has persisted for more than 12 years, but small-scale attacks and hit-and-run ambushes on police and government officials persist.

The violence in Chechnya has spilled over into other regions of Russia’s troubled North Caucasus, blamed on both criminal gangs and remaining groups of separatist rebels.

Me so Horny II: Annals of Cheap Russian Prostitutes

Some readers (well, moronic apes) have expressed interest in knowing further details about the availability of attractive Russian women selling their bodies on the cheap after our first post on the subject a while back. A few idiots have even suggested that despite Russia having an average wage one-third that of America’s minimum wage, it might be possible that Americans (and other Western foreigners) would still not see Russian prostitutes as inexpensive. On her side, La Russophobe has heard that Russian whores are so popular that mentioning such things can cause a sudden temporary surge of traffic on a website as numerous horny weirdos are apparently trolling the internet looking for such opportunities as Russia is famous for offering them. Hence, if you click here you will find a listing of prostitutes from the city of St. Petersburg Russia who charge no more than $50 per hour (from just one pimping agency, in Russia there is a vast profusion, and St. Petersburg is the second-most expensive city in the country; go into the hinterlands, and prostitutes would become virtually free for Westerners with normal incomes). If anyone knows of a European nation offering a better bargain, do please inform La Russophobe. Albania, maybe? But they probably wouldn’t offer such a wide variety of models to choose from, in so many styles and colors, would they? After all, it’s a small country. In a nation where the average wage is $2.50 per hour, there’s obviously considerable pressure on young women to pursue this mode of “employment.” This is well documented in a film we’ve previously recommended, Lucas Moodysson’s “Lilya 4ever.” In Seattle in 2002, the going rate for a prostitute was $120 (undoubtedly inflation has bumped the rate to at least $150 since then), so one can find a prostitute in St. Petersburg for 1/3 the price. If one consumed prostitutes heavily enough, one could pay for the cost of a flight and even have a net profit by indulging in the Piter sex trade.

Russia is also a world leader in hosting affordable child pornography for the consumption of Western aficonados, as a recent bulletin from CBS News reports.