Daily Archives: February 27, 2007

Russian Woman: This is Your So-Called "Life"

The Guardian reports:

For four years girls and young women disappeared from their homes in the drab industrial Russian town of Nizhny Tagil. Their parents called the police and pasted up posters. But in the end it was a stray dog that tracked them down. The decomposing bodies of 30 females aged from 13 to 25 were found in a mass grave in woodland near the village of Levikha, 40 miles away.

The discovery sent a ripple of horror through a country inured to brutal tales. Prosecutors in the town on the eastern flank of the Urals, the crinkle of mountains separating the European and Asian parts of Russia, have now charged eight men aged between 25 and 46 with murder. But it has revealed a catalogue of errors on the part of Nizhny Tagil police who failed to link a string of missing persons reports from 2002 to 2005.

It is thought a gang led by two brothers used a handsome young man to lure the girls to a flat where they were raped and beaten. Those who refused to become prostitutes at the gang’s massage parlour ended up in the Levikha grave. The scale of the horror has reminded rich Muscovites of the brutal life out in the provinces where low pay and lack of work can drive ordinary people to shocking crimes. ‘In four years in Nizhny Tagila, a city of 400,000, girls were going missing left, right and centre and nobody raised the alarm,’ one newspaper commented. ‘Tens of girls and young women missing? And nobody gave a damn?’

Mark Kustovsky, the factory worker who acted as the bait, wooed the women with presents and visits to cafes. His wife said the ringleaders forced him to put bodies in the grave, telling him: ‘If you don’t bury them, you’ll be lying there yourself.’ But the police say he was a willing gang member.

‘The girls who didn’t agree to work in the brothel were taken to the forest and there killed and buried,’ prosecutor Nail Rizvanov said. The gang told the girls they were going for a picnic, feeding them kebabs before they were murdered. It is not clear how they were killed, but some had crushed skulls.

So far, 15 bodies have been identified in a process complicated by wild animals disturbing the remains. One of the girls is thought to be Yelena Chudinova, 15, daughter of one of the gang leaders.

The grave was close to a bus stop and dachas. Towards the end of their spree the gang gave up burying the bodies, just throwing branches over them instead.

Putin Finds Ideal New Defense Chief: An Accountant

RIA Novosti reports that “President” Putin has found the ideal candidate to replace Sergei Ivanov as Secretary of Defense: An accountant named Anatoly Serdyukov.

Vladimir Putin has always been famous for his ability to make unexpected personnel changes.

Although sources on Sergei Ivanov’s staff had hinted that their boss would be promoted soon, nobody could venture to predict how high he would be moved. Some said he was ready for prime minister, a post that could pave his way to the president’s chair. Ivanov, it turns out, has been appointed first deputy prime minister, which should level the playing field for the 2008 presidential elections. Ivanov and his rival in the race, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, must now prove that they are fit to hold the country’s top post. Medvedev is responsible for the four priority national projects in healthcare, agriculture, education and housing construction. Ivanov has been put in charge of civilian and defense industries.

Can they prove their worth in the 12 months before the elections? Or will Putin propose other candidates, which he has the right to do as president and a citizen of Russia? Nobody can answer these questions yet.

For now, it would be interesting simply to determine why Ivanov has been replaced as defense minister by financier Anatoly Serdyukov, former head of the Federal Tax Service, whom few people in the army know. Statements on this issue by military experts can be reduced to two explanations:

First, by making this sensational change in the defense ministry, Putin has shown the country, the army and the world that he alone is in charge of Russia’s military policy. Defense ministers can change, but the president will always remain in charge of the modernization and rearmament of the armed forces, conversion of the army to a mixed volunteer/conscript system of recruitment, and the social welfare for the military. Judging by the reaction of the army, which has hardly taken notice of the change at the ministry’s top, officers fully agree with this principle.

LR: Yeah, nothing shows the presence of a great leader more than his ability to appoint a totally unqualified fool to a position of great importance and terrify the country into saying nothing about it. Russia! A nation bound for glory!

Second, although many good words have been said about the departing minister (“I think Sergei Ivanov has fulfilled his tasks in the defense ministry honorably” – Putin), military analysts claim there was a note of displeasure in the president’s words. (“In modern conditions, we need someone with experience in the economy and finance to address this task, to organize efficient work [of the armed forces], and to rationally use huge budgetary funds – at least they are huge for Russia” – Putin).

LR: So Ivanov was a failure just like Putin. Naturally, his next step may be the presidency since, like Putin, he posesses the key qualification, slavish obedience to the outgoing president and a firm committment not to send him to prison.

Indeed, spending on the rearmament of the army and the navy has grown by 250% times since 2001; the 2007 budget allocates more than 300 billion rubles ($11.44 billion), or 20% more than in 2006. However, the acquisition of modern hardware is lagging behind requirements in the Russian armed forces, only 20% of whose weapons are modern, and even behind the demands of the Indian army.

India, which is a major military-technical partner of Russia, has bought more than 100 Su-30MKI Flanker multirole fighters, 350 T-90C main battle tanks, four multirole frigates, submarines, supersonic anti-ship missiles, and Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems in the past few years.

Although comparable funds were allocated to the Russian armed forces, they have received only several weapons systems over that same period, including two Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers late last year, seven modernized Su-30MK2 fighters, one battalion (30) of T-90 tanks, and three ground-based RS-12M2 Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile systems.

Funds for housing and capital construction, training, recruitment of contract servicemen, and combat training have not been used wisely either. The new defense minister will have to work hard to remedy these shortcomings.

Officers know very little about Anatoly Serdyukov. Apart from serving his obligatory two years of military service (1984-1985) after graduation from the Leningrad Institute of Commerce, he has never had anything to do with the army. He worked for commercial organizations (the furniture business) and tax services, where he has made a career and was head of the Federal Tax Service for the past three years. His colleagues said he was a top-class professional and a workaholic.

LR: In another country, officers might balk at being led by an accountant they’ve never heard of. But in Russia, officers know better than to balk. When the pitches come they swing at them, even if they are being pitched in a different stadium.

At the same time, Serdyukov has done his best to avoid the limelight; he did not give a single interview during his work at the tax service and his face has not become a fixture on TV. According to experts, this means that the issue of military reform, which has been a favorite of the media, will now be toned down.

How soon can Serdyukov learn the ropes in the defense ministry? It is a difficult post with complicated tasks, and it will take some time for him to get his bearings. However, analysts predict that after a new president comes to the Kremlin in 2008, he will appoint a new defense minister who will take on new tasks.

So far, the president has given the task of controlling the situation in the army and navy and their reforms to professionals on the General Staff, who have the skills and experience to fulfill Putin’s orders.

Konnander Says Russia is Toasted by Global Warming no matter How you Slice it

Recent weeks have seen the welcome return to the active blogosphere of three previously moribund Russia blogs: Andy Young’s Siberian Light, Lyndon’s Scraps of Moscow and most recently Vilhelm Konnander’s Weblog: Politics and Security in Russia, Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

La Russophobe comments repeatedly on Andy’s blog, recently quoted Lyndon in her latest Publius Pundit installment, and is now pleased to tout Vilhelm’s recent analysis of the impact of global warming on Russia.

Publishing the wonderfully Photoshopped image of Vladimir “Studboy” Putin which appears above, Vilhelm first quotes Putin joking about global warming as follows: “Russia is a northern country and if temperatures get warmer by two or three degrees Celsius it’s not that bad – we could spend less on warm coats and agricultural experts say that grain harvests would increase further.” Vilhelm then points out what Putin failed to notice: that Gasprom’s export volumes to Europe are down 16% this winter because of unusually warm average temperatures and less need for heating. As Vilhelm states: “It is quite clear that if this tendency would become permanent in years to come, it would have a grossly negative impact on international gas demand and prices.” This loss in revenue would, of course, seriously undermine the Kremlin’s ability to control the country and leverage influence in the West. Vilhelm asks: “So, should we expect Gazprom executives to turn into ardent environmentalists? Will Ivanov and Medvedev campaign to stop global warming for next year’s presidential elections?” By doing so, the Kremlin could theoretically hope to continue a “cold Earth” that would demand hot prices for Russian energy. But Russia can’t play that, because doing so would require Russia itself to adopt sweeping environmental reforms which would cost far more, in creaking backwards Russia, than it could possibly hope to earn from maintained energy sales (which are finite in any case).

So, though Vilhelm doesn’t go so far as to say so, global warming may have a silver lining: It may do the neo-Soviet Union what Star Wars did to the Soviet Union and what World War I did to the Tsar.

How Ukraine Beat Russia’s Latest Imperialist Gambit

Radio Liberty reports the details on how valiant little Ukraine beat back the Kremlin’s most recent gambit to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and recreate the Soviet Union:

Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up a hornet’s nest when he publicly announced earlier this month that the Ukrainian government had approached Russia with the idea of unifying the countries’ respective gas-pipeline networks.

Putin hailed the overture, coupled with Ukrainian interest in drilling for natural gas on Russian territory, as a “revolutionary development” that was in the “interest of both countries.”

Circling The Wagons

Ukrainian officials and lawmakers responded quickly to Putin’s comments, made on February 1 to reporters assembled for the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Within days, legislation had been passed forbidding the sale or transfer of ownership of Ukraine’s trunk gas pipeline to another country. An investigation was also launched to determine just who may have been responsible for making such proposals.

Vitaliy Hayduk, chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, soon provided some insight.

Hayduk told a February 16 press conference that, after a meeting of the Yushchenko-Putin Commission in December, it was in fact an unidentified aide of Putin’s who had delivered a memorandum containing such proposals. “Given its content,” Hayduk said, “such a memorandum was deemed unacceptable and could not be signed.”

Hayduk’s claims were supported the next day by the deputy head of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s administration, Oleksandr Chaliy. On February 17, Chaliy revealed that Putin had proposed the idea of an asset swap — Ukraine’s pipeline in exchange for Russia granting Ukraine the right to drill for gas on Russian soil — during a January 10 phone conversation with Yushchenko.

However, Chaliy said, the Ukrainian president had rejected the idea. “No proposals to exchange assets” ever came from Yushchenko, Chaliy insisted.

Public suspicion then turned to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko.

Looking For Answers

Yanukovych at first appeared be caught off guard by the Ukrainian parliament’s harsh reaction to Putin’s comments — even within the ranks of his own Party of Regions. In the immediate aftermath, Yanukovych made a number of contradictory statements on the issue while trying to blame the scandal on members of Yushchenko’s administration.

But Hayduk’s and Chaliy’s testimonies that Russia’s proposals had been rebuffed by Yushchenko’s administration served to embarrass Yanukovych’s government, which turned to Boyko to arrange a campaign to save face.

As Hayduk made his revelations, Boyko met with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller to discuss “the development of strategic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the oil and gas sector.”

No details were provided of what the two men spoke about.

However, Interfax reported that the day before the meeting Boyko had said Ukraine should be given access to Russian gas reserves since UkrHazEnergo — a partly Russian joint venture between the Swiss-registered gas trader RosUkrEnergo and Ukraine’s Naftohaz Ukrayiny — was already working in the Ukrainian market.

The flaw in Boyko’s logic, though, is that UkrHazEnergo can hardly be considered a Russian company. Only one-quarter of the firm belongs to Gazprom — the rest belongs to Ukraine’s Naftohaz and two private Ukrainian businessmen.

Theories Abound

Interfax on February 15 also cited Boyko as saying he knew of an agreement Yanukovych had with the “leadership of the Russian Federation” under which Ukraine would be allowed to produce gas in Russia.

This revelation led to question about with whom in the “Russian leadership” Yanukovych had reached such an agreement. If it was Putin, could this be the origin of the Russian president’s announcement in Munich?

One theory is that Yanukovych agreed to Putin’s proposals under the condition that UkrHazEnergo — whose role in Ukraine’s energy sector is being debated — be kept in tact.

Putin, as the theory goes, may have gone ahead and made the agreement public in the believe that it was a done deal.

If so, the strong resistance his words received in Ukraine must have been an embarrassment to the Russian leader — both because he was caught jumping the gun on his dealings with Ukraine and because of the realization that he may not be as influential in dealings with Ukraine as he expected when Yanukovych became prime minister.

How Ukraine Beat Russia’s Latest Imperialist Gambit

Radio Liberty reports the details on how valiant little Ukraine beat back the Kremlin’s most recent gambit to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and recreate the Soviet Union:

Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up a hornet’s nest when he publicly announced earlier this month that the Ukrainian government had approached Russia with the idea of unifying the countries’ respective gas-pipeline networks.

Putin hailed the overture, coupled with Ukrainian interest in drilling for natural gas on Russian territory, as a “revolutionary development” that was in the “interest of both countries.”

Circling The Wagons

Ukrainian officials and lawmakers responded quickly to Putin’s comments, made on February 1 to reporters assembled for the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Within days, legislation had been passed forbidding the sale or transfer of ownership of Ukraine’s trunk gas pipeline to another country. An investigation was also launched to determine just who may have been responsible for making such proposals.

Vitaliy Hayduk, chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, soon provided some insight.

Hayduk told a February 16 press conference that, after a meeting of the Yushchenko-Putin Commission in December, it was in fact an unidentified aide of Putin’s who had delivered a memorandum containing such proposals. “Given its content,” Hayduk said, “such a memorandum was deemed unacceptable and could not be signed.”

Hayduk’s claims were supported the next day by the deputy head of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s administration, Oleksandr Chaliy. On February 17, Chaliy revealed that Putin had proposed the idea of an asset swap — Ukraine’s pipeline in exchange for Russia granting Ukraine the right to drill for gas on Russian soil — during a January 10 phone conversation with Yushchenko.

However, Chaliy said, the Ukrainian president had rejected the idea. “No proposals to exchange assets” ever came from Yushchenko, Chaliy insisted.

Public suspicion then turned to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko.

Looking For Answers

Yanukovych at first appeared be caught off guard by the Ukrainian parliament’s harsh reaction to Putin’s comments — even within the ranks of his own Party of Regions. In the immediate aftermath, Yanukovych made a number of contradictory statements on the issue while trying to blame the scandal on members of Yushchenko’s administration.

But Hayduk’s and Chaliy’s testimonies that Russia’s proposals had been rebuffed by Yushchenko’s administration served to embarrass Yanukovych’s government, which turned to Boyko to arrange a campaign to save face.

As Hayduk made his revelations, Boyko met with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller to discuss “the development of strategic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the oil and gas sector.”

No details were provided of what the two men spoke about.

However, Interfax reported that the day before the meeting Boyko had said Ukraine should be given access to Russian gas reserves since UkrHazEnergo — a partly Russian joint venture between the Swiss-registered gas trader RosUkrEnergo and Ukraine’s Naftohaz Ukrayiny — was already working in the Ukrainian market.

The flaw in Boyko’s logic, though, is that UkrHazEnergo can hardly be considered a Russian company. Only one-quarter of the firm belongs to Gazprom — the rest belongs to Ukraine’s Naftohaz and two private Ukrainian businessmen.

Theories Abound

Interfax on February 15 also cited Boyko as saying he knew of an agreement Yanukovych had with the “leadership of the Russian Federation” under which Ukraine would be allowed to produce gas in Russia.

This revelation led to question about with whom in the “Russian leadership” Yanukovych had reached such an agreement. If it was Putin, could this be the origin of the Russian president’s announcement in Munich?

One theory is that Yanukovych agreed to Putin’s proposals under the condition that UkrHazEnergo — whose role in Ukraine’s energy sector is being debated — be kept in tact.

Putin, as the theory goes, may have gone ahead and made the agreement public in the believe that it was a done deal.

If so, the strong resistance his words received in Ukraine must have been an embarrassment to the Russian leader — both because he was caught jumping the gun on his dealings with Ukraine and because of the realization that he may not be as influential in dealings with Ukraine as he expected when Yanukovych became prime minister.

How Ukraine Beat Russia’s Latest Imperialist Gambit

Radio Liberty reports the details on how valiant little Ukraine beat back the Kremlin’s most recent gambit to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and recreate the Soviet Union:

Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up a hornet’s nest when he publicly announced earlier this month that the Ukrainian government had approached Russia with the idea of unifying the countries’ respective gas-pipeline networks.

Putin hailed the overture, coupled with Ukrainian interest in drilling for natural gas on Russian territory, as a “revolutionary development” that was in the “interest of both countries.”

Circling The Wagons

Ukrainian officials and lawmakers responded quickly to Putin’s comments, made on February 1 to reporters assembled for the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Within days, legislation had been passed forbidding the sale or transfer of ownership of Ukraine’s trunk gas pipeline to another country. An investigation was also launched to determine just who may have been responsible for making such proposals.

Vitaliy Hayduk, chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, soon provided some insight.

Hayduk told a February 16 press conference that, after a meeting of the Yushchenko-Putin Commission in December, it was in fact an unidentified aide of Putin’s who had delivered a memorandum containing such proposals. “Given its content,” Hayduk said, “such a memorandum was deemed unacceptable and could not be signed.”

Hayduk’s claims were supported the next day by the deputy head of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s administration, Oleksandr Chaliy. On February 17, Chaliy revealed that Putin had proposed the idea of an asset swap — Ukraine’s pipeline in exchange for Russia granting Ukraine the right to drill for gas on Russian soil — during a January 10 phone conversation with Yushchenko.

However, Chaliy said, the Ukrainian president had rejected the idea. “No proposals to exchange assets” ever came from Yushchenko, Chaliy insisted.

Public suspicion then turned to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko.

Looking For Answers

Yanukovych at first appeared be caught off guard by the Ukrainian parliament’s harsh reaction to Putin’s comments — even within the ranks of his own Party of Regions. In the immediate aftermath, Yanukovych made a number of contradictory statements on the issue while trying to blame the scandal on members of Yushchenko’s administration.

But Hayduk’s and Chaliy’s testimonies that Russia’s proposals had been rebuffed by Yushchenko’s administration served to embarrass Yanukovych’s government, which turned to Boyko to arrange a campaign to save face.

As Hayduk made his revelations, Boyko met with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller to discuss “the development of strategic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the oil and gas sector.”

No details were provided of what the two men spoke about.

However, Interfax reported that the day before the meeting Boyko had said Ukraine should be given access to Russian gas reserves since UkrHazEnergo — a partly Russian joint venture between the Swiss-registered gas trader RosUkrEnergo and Ukraine’s Naftohaz Ukrayiny — was already working in the Ukrainian market.

The flaw in Boyko’s logic, though, is that UkrHazEnergo can hardly be considered a Russian company. Only one-quarter of the firm belongs to Gazprom — the rest belongs to Ukraine’s Naftohaz and two private Ukrainian businessmen.

Theories Abound

Interfax on February 15 also cited Boyko as saying he knew of an agreement Yanukovych had with the “leadership of the Russian Federation” under which Ukraine would be allowed to produce gas in Russia.

This revelation led to question about with whom in the “Russian leadership” Yanukovych had reached such an agreement. If it was Putin, could this be the origin of the Russian president’s announcement in Munich?

One theory is that Yanukovych agreed to Putin’s proposals under the condition that UkrHazEnergo — whose role in Ukraine’s energy sector is being debated — be kept in tact.

Putin, as the theory goes, may have gone ahead and made the agreement public in the believe that it was a done deal.

If so, the strong resistance his words received in Ukraine must have been an embarrassment to the Russian leader — both because he was caught jumping the gun on his dealings with Ukraine and because of the realization that he may not be as influential in dealings with Ukraine as he expected when Yanukovych became prime minister.

How Ukraine Beat Russia’s Latest Imperialist Gambit

Radio Liberty reports the details on how valiant little Ukraine beat back the Kremlin’s most recent gambit to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and recreate the Soviet Union:

Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up a hornet’s nest when he publicly announced earlier this month that the Ukrainian government had approached Russia with the idea of unifying the countries’ respective gas-pipeline networks.

Putin hailed the overture, coupled with Ukrainian interest in drilling for natural gas on Russian territory, as a “revolutionary development” that was in the “interest of both countries.”

Circling The Wagons

Ukrainian officials and lawmakers responded quickly to Putin’s comments, made on February 1 to reporters assembled for the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Within days, legislation had been passed forbidding the sale or transfer of ownership of Ukraine’s trunk gas pipeline to another country. An investigation was also launched to determine just who may have been responsible for making such proposals.

Vitaliy Hayduk, chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, soon provided some insight.

Hayduk told a February 16 press conference that, after a meeting of the Yushchenko-Putin Commission in December, it was in fact an unidentified aide of Putin’s who had delivered a memorandum containing such proposals. “Given its content,” Hayduk said, “such a memorandum was deemed unacceptable and could not be signed.”

Hayduk’s claims were supported the next day by the deputy head of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s administration, Oleksandr Chaliy. On February 17, Chaliy revealed that Putin had proposed the idea of an asset swap — Ukraine’s pipeline in exchange for Russia granting Ukraine the right to drill for gas on Russian soil — during a January 10 phone conversation with Yushchenko.

However, Chaliy said, the Ukrainian president had rejected the idea. “No proposals to exchange assets” ever came from Yushchenko, Chaliy insisted.

Public suspicion then turned to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko.

Looking For Answers

Yanukovych at first appeared be caught off guard by the Ukrainian parliament’s harsh reaction to Putin’s comments — even within the ranks of his own Party of Regions. In the immediate aftermath, Yanukovych made a number of contradictory statements on the issue while trying to blame the scandal on members of Yushchenko’s administration.

But Hayduk’s and Chaliy’s testimonies that Russia’s proposals had been rebuffed by Yushchenko’s administration served to embarrass Yanukovych’s government, which turned to Boyko to arrange a campaign to save face.

As Hayduk made his revelations, Boyko met with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller to discuss “the development of strategic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the oil and gas sector.”

No details were provided of what the two men spoke about.

However, Interfax reported that the day before the meeting Boyko had said Ukraine should be given access to Russian gas reserves since UkrHazEnergo — a partly Russian joint venture between the Swiss-registered gas trader RosUkrEnergo and Ukraine’s Naftohaz Ukrayiny — was already working in the Ukrainian market.

The flaw in Boyko’s logic, though, is that UkrHazEnergo can hardly be considered a Russian company. Only one-quarter of the firm belongs to Gazprom — the rest belongs to Ukraine’s Naftohaz and two private Ukrainian businessmen.

Theories Abound

Interfax on February 15 also cited Boyko as saying he knew of an agreement Yanukovych had with the “leadership of the Russian Federation” under which Ukraine would be allowed to produce gas in Russia.

This revelation led to question about with whom in the “Russian leadership” Yanukovych had reached such an agreement. If it was Putin, could this be the origin of the Russian president’s announcement in Munich?

One theory is that Yanukovych agreed to Putin’s proposals under the condition that UkrHazEnergo — whose role in Ukraine’s energy sector is being debated — be kept in tact.

Putin, as the theory goes, may have gone ahead and made the agreement public in the believe that it was a done deal.

If so, the strong resistance his words received in Ukraine must have been an embarrassment to the Russian leader — both because he was caught jumping the gun on his dealings with Ukraine and because of the realization that he may not be as influential in dealings with Ukraine as he expected when Yanukovych became prime minister.