Daily Archives: March 25, 2007

March 25, 2007 — Contents


(1) The Sunday Miscellany

(2) Why Tlisova Left Russia

(3)Mighty Anna Cannot be Silenced

(4) Russia Picks a Fight with the Entire World

The Sunday Miscellany

Baturina devours Forbes.
Source: Ellustrator.
From the comments section:
Commenter: Aren’t you afraid she’ll sue you to protect her honor and
dignity, and you’ll have to pay for every pageview?

Ellustrator: I’ve already booked my plane ticket!

Lions and tigers and owls, oh my! The Moscow Times reports: “A scantily clad, 32-year-old man was found dead early Monday in a pool of blood in an owl cage at the Moscow Zoo. A bird keeper at the zoo found the man, Alexander Luparev at about 10 a.m., lying in the cage, which is home to a Siberina long-tailed tawny owl.”

Question: Which are more outrageous, the Russians
who find this funny or the Russians who don’t and say

They are carrying signs that say: “HUG ME!” Notice how nobody wants to?
Take a little trip to the middle of Siberia and visit
Lake Baikal . . . it only takes two minutes!

Why Tlisova Left Russia

Writing in the Moscow Times Yulia Latynina (pictured), who hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio, one of the last bastions of opposition speech in Russia, tells the sad story of journalist Fatima Tlisova:

An article ran 11 days ago in London’s Sunday Times about a Russian journalist requesting political asylum in the United States. Working under the pseudonym of Maria Ivanova, she is an expert on the Caucasus region and claims to have been poisoned last autumn.

Up until last Thursday, people unfamiliar with the specifics of the story were trying to guess her true identity. Those who knew the whole story, however, were praying for her life. This is because Fatima Tlisova — former correspondent for Svoboda, Novaya Gazeta and The Associated Press, head of the North Caucasus bureau of the Regnum online news service and winner of numerous international awards — was scheduled to fly last Thursday from Nalchik, in Kabardino-Balkaria, to the United States. She was then to fly out of Turkey on Wednesday for the United States, where she has won a two-year scholarship to study at Harvard.

The unwanted publicity caused by the article in the Sunday Times may have put Tlisova in greater danger four days prior to her flight. The source of the information is unclear, as she never spoke with the paper’s reporters, and I know many journalists who kept silent to avoid putting her in danger.

Because of her professionalism, the security services saw the widowed mother of two as an enemy. Before her poisoning, her home had been searched, she had been detained by authorities, and articles appeared calling her a U.S. spy and a terrorist leader. Her fellow journalists were questioned and told that she was a Turkish spy.

Her colleagues only learned about these events through third parties, or after weeklong delays: Tlisova, a proud Circassian, had absolutely no desire to make waves or leave her native Kabardino-Balkaria. She just wanted to work honestly at her job.

At the end of last October, Tlisova returned home after an evening walk, applied face cream from an old cosmetics jar, had a cup of coffee, and went to sleep. In the morning, skin was peeling from her fingers and her tongue had become swollen. She was rushed to a local hospital, where she was diagnosed with kidney failure.

A week later her symptoms had disappeared. After comparing her test results with those taken at the onset of her symptoms just 10 days earlier, doctors at a Moscow clinic couldn’t believe the results came from the same person.

A few weeks later, I talked with one of the government’s highest-ranking officials for the North Caucasus. He knew all about Tlisova’s case. Kabardino-Balkaria is, after all, a small republic, and Tlisova is well-known. Despite her almost pathological humility, these events had caused quite an uproar. The official said he thought very highly of Tlisova and her work. “I ordered them to leave Tlisova alone,” he told me.

Two weeks after this discussion, a man knocked at Tlisova’s door and asked: “Does Ruslan Nakhushev live here?”

Nakhushev is a human rights activist from Kabardino-Balkaria who disappeared without a trace after he was interrogated by the Federal Security Service. Tlisova knew him well. It is events like this that suggest that the FSB has more to do with running the country than the civil authorities.

I think Tlisova’s poisoning was a warning. When she failed to heed that warning and leave, she was “warned” again. The second poisoning affected both her heart and her kidneys. After that, the AP arranged for her to work in the United States as part of a two-year professional exchange program. And so it was that the journalist I consider to be the leading expert on the Caucasus left the country.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the country to prove that the Caucasus is a good place to invest. For that matter, it is also having trouble proving that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky was involved in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the poisoning of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Mighty Anna Cannot be Silenced

Reuters reports:

Slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s diaries, published in English this week, paint a damning picture of a Russia where democracy is stifled, fascism is on the rise and ethnic minorities are brutally repressed. For her, one man is to blame — President Vladimir Putin. Her hard-hitting account of Russian news and politics over two years, including the parliamentary elections in 2003 and the Beslan school siege in 2004, was completed shortly before Politkovskaya was murdered in Moscow in October, 2006, aged 48.

She also voices her frustration at the opposition itself, saying it concentrated on wooing the wealthy while ignoring those below the poverty line, and at Russia as a whole. “In the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, three boys have gone off to fight for the resistance,” she said in 2005. “They left notes for their relatives explaining that they could … see no other way to get back at the failure to punish evil-doers.”

The 300-page collection of reportage and reflection, unpublished in Russia, is a reminder of why Politkovskaya was such a thorn in the Kremlin’s side. In the first of three sections, Politkovskaya describes the creation and success of the “phantom” pro-Kremlin United Russia party in 2003 parliamentary elections, which eased Putin’s passage to re-election in a presidential ballot in 2004. “Were we seeing a crisis of Russian parliamentary democracy in the Putin era?” she said. “No, we were witnessing its death.”

Politkovskaya, her appeals unheeded in her lifetime by the majority who see Putin as a bulwark of stability, accuses those in power of undermining the opposition through intimidation. “The Russian people gave its consent. The electorate took it lying down and agreed to live … without democracy,” she wrote on Dec. 8, 2003. “It agreed to be treated like an idiot.” Putin declines the totalitarian label, but says democracy must be adapted to Russian conditions and culture. In between political reflections, Politkovskaya highlights the gap between Russia’s rich and poor, allegations of arbitrary kidnappings and killings in southern Russia and of the torture and murder of a soldier by fellow recruits.


Politkovskaya wrote for a low-circulation liberal Moscow newspaper and was shunned by state-controlled media, making her less well known in her own country than she was abroad.Several times in her memoirs, she argued that by resorting to what she called brutality and lawlessness in Russia’s Chechnya province, the authorities under Putin were driving young people to take up arms against them.

The mother-of-two also attacked Putin and security forces for botching the siege of a Moscow theatre in 2002 that left more than 100 hostages dead and that of a school in Beslan in 2004 in which more than 330 children and parents died. Politkovskaya accused men loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, confirmed as Chechnya’s new president this month, of corruption and torture. Kadyrov has denied he ordered Politkovskaya’s murder. Politkovskaya’s sister Elena Kudimova said investigators had narrowed the search for her killers to a few possibilities, but she could not predict if or when charges would be brought.

“She had quite a lot of enemies. There could potentially be a number of people who might have killed her,” she told Reuters. Kudimova added that Politkovskaya, respected internationally for reporting from troubled regions in Russia’s south and tireless human rights campaigning, would speak again from beyond the grave with a new book to be published this year. Politkovskaya started the book about an event in Chechnya in 2006 which Kudimova said contained “explosive” material. Kudimova will complete it with a chapter about her sister. “She was very feminine, not just a warrior,” Kudimova said.

Russia Picks a Fight with the Entire World

Time magazine has a feature in this weeks issue that shows a map of the world where Russia is ringed by nations, painted blood-red, that it has aggressively attacked and alieated during the Putin years — just like in the bad old days of the USSR, Russia is friendless and isolated because of its own crazed policies. Here is Time’s verbal description

NORWAY A boundary dispute muddies mutual claims to a gas field in the Barents Sea

BELARUS In early ’07, Russia shuts off crude oil supplies, alleging siphoning of oil meant for other nations

GEORGIA A serious geopolitical fight gets weird, with a Russian ban on Georgian wine and mineral water

JAPAN Fishermen and Russia’s navy clash in a long conflict over control of Kurile Islands

UKRAINE A major gas standoff; unrest over Russia’s Ukraine-based Crimea fleet

MOLDOVA Long fight over Moscow-backed breakaway territory Transdniestria

AZERBAIJAN Halts oil shipments to Russian Black Sea port after sharp gas-price hikes

CHINA Russian nationalists worry about Chinese migrants taking over borderlands