Monthly Archives: April 2007

April 30, 2007 — Contents

MONDAY APRIL 30 CONTENTS


(1) Another Original LR Translation: Kiselyov on “Other Russia”

(2) Hooray! Here comes Oborona!

(3) So much for Chechnya being “Under Control”

(4) Annals of Cold War II: A prison term for Grandpa Putin?

(5) Congressional Hearings on Dictatorship in Russia

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Another Original LR Translation: Kiselyov on "Other Russia"

Translator Vova Khavkin offers the following original LR translation by pundit Yevegeny Kiselov (pictured) from the virtual pages of Gazeta.ru concerning the “Other Russia” protesters:

Premonition of GKChP-2*

Yevgeniy Kiselev

April 18, 2007

Gazeta.ru

Why did the authorities, after all, stage an OMON [stormtrooper] street theatre in downtown Moscow on Saturday, 14 April, then duplicated it in Piter one day later? Why did they corral to capital city’s Pushkin Square thousands of out-of-town goon squad enforcers who went berserk and unleashed their nightsticks upon random old ladies, grabbing each and everyone in sight—women, children, and passers-by who had no intention of either marching, or holding meetings, or protesting but simply came to take a stroll downtown?

Why did President Putin need to have the newspapers—both here and in the West—splattered next day with reports about the “feats” of the stormtroopers? Does he need the foreign TV outlets (our own, thank God, are all under wraps) run endless coverage of the most vivid scenes from the “Dissenters’ March” in their newscasts? What is it with him—he enjoys it when spokesmen of the heads of the G8 states and governments publicly express their concern and demand an explanation?

Did the president seriously expect that proponents of the “Other Russia” were going to disrupt public peace, crush something, beat up somebody, turn over and burn cars? Would it have been easier to let them walk through the city peaceably, just as they had intended, have a meeting, and head home? Putin and his entourage would have been dealt a powerful argument to counter the accusations that they stifle democracy while the Kremlin propagandists could have cited the march as an example of how scanty the ranks of the opposition were.

Perhaps all that happened there was in spite of the president’s will? Oh no, this is rather unlikely! Personally I have no doubt that Putin was kept apprised of the events as they were unfolding. Firstly, to corral so many stormtroopers from so many regions, to have a show of force in the center of the capital, two steps away from the Kremlin—without the president knowing this? I don’t believe this. No [Mayor] Luzhkov would ever dare to do this.

Secondly, thanks to former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi who was hosted by his friend in Piter last Saturday and whose words were quoted by Italian newspapers, Putin was talking on the phone to the Minister of the Interior the whole time.

So why then was all this necessary? I am asking myself and the people around me for umpteenth time. It seems to defy rational explanation. Here, e.g., what Maxim Reznik, head of the Piter Yabloko [party] chapter says: “Irrational fear, irrational anger, and irrational aggression beget irrational actions. This is exactly how the crazed-up Russian [power] vertical smashed by the authorities does look like.”

So what is this, is it the very same case I described in my previous column: In order to comprehend the actions taken by the authorities one needs a psychoanalyst rather than a political scientist. Indeed, one can certainly see the paranoia in the authorities’ actions. They themselves invented the “orange” threat bogeyman and did this so well, so convincingly, that they began to fear it themselves in all sincerity. Indeed, what if not one, two, or three hundred “Other Russia” sympathizers hit the streets but ten, twenty, or thirty thousand?

It seems to me that there is another psychological factor, a certain inferiority complex which the authorities just can’t get over with. Putin became president bypassing the school of body politics. He never took part in organizing meetings and demonstrations during the perestroika, did not advance to a leadership role in any political party that came into being at that time, and was not tempered in the crucible of numerous elections campaign in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Furthermore, the only election he had ever taken part in before—when one fine day the whole country learned his name—was that of St. Petersburg governor in 1996; Putin was head of [former mayor] Sobchak’s election campaign, and Sobchak lost.

Putin was a high-level functionary on a county scale who was noticed by the Kremlin when Yeltsin’s “family” began having doubts about the reliability of the former FSB chief, and they needed to find a replacement. They continued to watch him and finally made the decision: Here’s the person we need as a successor. He was picked by the members of the “family”: [Yeltsin’s daughter] Dyachenko, [former Yeltsin chief of staff] Valentin Yumashev, Roman Abramovich, [former Yeltsin chief of staff] Aleksandr Voloshin, and Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] himself—they picked him out of a slate of several candidates that included [former prime minister] Sergey Stepashin and [former head of the Russian Rail Corporation] Nikolay Aksenenko, and perhaps somebody else. For example, I personally heard that [former prime minister] Mikhail Kasyanov—the then finance minister—was also on the “short list” of successor candidates. By the way, could this explain the intensity of the royal dislike for the former prime minister?

The rest was just the work of political operatives and big-gun heavy propaganda artillery: It was just the matter of weeks for television Channel One and Channel Two that had spun Vladimir Putin (let’s face it, he did have a good potential) and made him a popular leader on a national scale. It is not coincidental that having been erected on the pedestal of president with the help of television, Putin began his reign with “cleansing” the television medium.

Now all TV channels are meek and unconditionally subservient to Putin. None of them would dare reminding the president about the unpleasant events of the recent past. Yet one cannot get rid of the impression that no matter what, the president still can’t put the history of his political rise behind him, and this is the case of his constant diffidence.

Remember how Putin usually reacts in the rare instances when the journalists (all of them foreign) ask him difficult questions and even begin to argue? What’s important is not even the words—it’s the inflexion of irritation, hostile and at times—like in the famous case of circumcision which Putin promised to arrange for a French journalist—bordering on hysterical. And this is not surprising indeed: Putin totally lacks any experience of public polemics with his political opponents.

I think that core of his team should have the same type of complex, albeit to a larger extent—they found themselves on the pinnacle of power solely because of the following:

a) Being classmates at the Leningrad State University School of Law or the intelligence school;

b) Serving together at the Piter KGB structure;

c) Serving together at the USSR KGB station in the GDR;

d) Working together in the Piter city hall under Sobchak; and

e) Being member of the “Ozero” [Lake] cottage cooperative near St. Petersburg.

Look at these, how nontransparent and closed to the public they are. Of course, this is partly their professional spymaster trait that shows, but also their insecurity about the future and the fear of open political competition.

there is one more factor in the actions of the authorities—a psychological one: A cult of force which the president has clearly worshiped since his days of back alley youth in the ‘hood in Piter, the days when he had to earn respect and defend his territory and living space with fists. You can’t be weak, the weak are beaten up—how many times have we heard this [thought] slip by in Vladimir Putin’s speeches and public pronouncements. Hence his manic fear of compromise: God forbid some one thinks I am weak, that the government is weak. No negotiating with the enemy, never cutting any slack.

The veritable hysteria that was uncorked on the eve of the “Dissenters’ March”, including the matter of the U.S. State Department report on the status of human rights in the world, a report that has been issued on an annual basis for many years but elicited such a disproportionate response for the first time (merely few pages are devoted to Russia in this voluminous report—about the same number as are devoted to many other countries) brings to memory 1991.

Back in the spring [of ‘91] Gorbachev—who was also full of anxiety, unable to make his choice between a peaceful and a violent resolution of the problems at hand, swung towards to the siloviki [experts in violence] and for the first time spoke with irritation “about the so-called democrats” while the servile yes-men instantly picked the cue and went on squealing about the “agents of influence,” saying that Washington knew all along the names of those who would speak up and criticize the authorities from the podium of the congress of people’s deputies.

Back then the KGB arrested [Duma Deputy] Valeriya Novodvorskaya in a provocative matter and put her away in the “Lefortovo” [prison]. Then they started to expel the most liberal members of the Gorbachev circle from the CPSU ranks: Shevardnadze and Aleksandr Yakovlev—although there was no rational sense in these persecutions. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happened again in the near future. They won’t expel people from the ranks of “United Russia;” rather, they will fire them from the government [service].

This is when the onslaught against mass media began: The pulled the plug on the “Vzglyad” [View] program, then “Before and After Midnight”, then forced the best democratically minded journalists out of the Central TV newsroom (I won’t name the names because they have left the fold) and tried to change the management at the Izvestiya [newspaper].

Now again, a new wave is sweeping away what is left of the independent press: Bashkir president is threatening to sue the NTV [TV channel], the REN TV and “Russian News Service” management have been replaced: The commissars from state-run media dropped in, the prosecutor’s office is investigating the “Moscow Echo” because of the Limonov and Kasparov interviews while the FSB wants to stiffen the legislature in order to control the Web under the guise of the war on terror.

One cannot rule out that just like the future GKChP party was fledging its wings then, the “party of the third term” has gone on the new offensive now. If this is so, then it’s logical: It simply has to act according to the principle “The worse—the better.”

The savage breakup of a peaceful demonstration in downtown Moscow is a sure step towards “Lukashekaization” of Putin. Sic the stormtroopers on the opposition a couple of more times and you can safely forget about loyalty to the Constitution and the unwillingness to sour relations with the West. The West, they say, will never forgive this anyway, and as for the Constitution, why not amend it if we are violating it anyway?

It looks like this: While in 1999 struggle against Chechen terrorists was the main thrust of the Kremlin’s election campaign, and in 2003—the struggle against the oligarchs, today during the upcoming election campaign next fall the external threat may become the main theme.

Anything would do in such a case: Both the State Department report and the Jackson-Vanick amendment which the U.S. Congress can’t get around to repealing, and the European Court where some rulings not favorable to Russia are bound to be made, and PACE where Moscow will be continually castigated, and the WTO which just would not admit Russia, and the U.S. missiles in Poland: The enemy is at the doorstep, and the fifth column inside is ready to throw open the door. Hence—we are just a step away from a new version of GKChP. I hope every one remembers how the last affair ended.

A premonition of GKChP-2 is not the only outcome of recent events. There are other feelings: It seems that the opposition—in a broad sense of the word—is coming into motion. Many people started saying all at once that the sympathies of the rank-and-file members of “Yabloko”, SPS [Union of Rightist Forces], and even KPRF [RF Communist Party] began to gravitate towards the “Other Russia.” The longer these parties’ leaders play a game called “we part way with the radicals” forced upon them by the Kremlin, the faster this process will evolve.

And what’s your word?

______________

*GKChP—Sate Committee on the State of Emergency, a provisional government that overthrew President Gorbachev in August 1991 and collapsed three days later

Hooray! Here Comes Oborona!

Oborona (“Defense”) is a Russian youth organization devoted to protesting against the rise of dictatorship and defending the basic principles of democracy in Russia. Consider then the Anti-Nashis. Their emblem, a clenched fist in a closed circle, has been displayed prominently during the recent spate of public protest actions which have occurred across Russia, and their members have been routinely arrested and harassed by the police. They are true Russian patriots, struggling to save their country from extinction, and deserve all the support we can give them. Naturally, just like other true Russian patriots from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn, they will face oppression from the Kremlin — and La Russophobe has already documented examples. As they go, so goes Russia.

The map above, from the Oborona website, shows how the group’s reach is expanding across Russia; the darkened regions have an organized Oborona presence, and by clicking the link you can find he names of the local coordinators, their telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and, in some cases, their blogs. Unfortunately, the group hasn’t done enough yet to create an English-language presence on the web, so we provide their basic materials in translation (these are LR staff translations that have nothing to do with our three expert translators and have been undertaken so as to show our solidarity with this organization, so don’t even think of blaming our translators if you find some mistakes!). To view photographs taken by Oborona members during the protest actions, click here. To view other photographs taken by their members, visit their library here.

Oborona’s Declaration of Purpose reads:

Who we are: We are the new, free generation. We grew up in a free country, we do not fear authority, and we are not burdened by the experience of the Soviet past. There can be different opinions about the political and economic reforms of the 1990s but we not we will expend energy on useless arguments about the past, only the future interests us. It is customary to assume Russian young people are cynical and passive. But there is another type of young people – thinking, daring, interested in the fate of its country, ready to take upon themselves responsibility for their own future. There are still too few of us, but we grow in number every day.

The authorities attempt to preserve the existing power structure, preventing entry by new thinkers. Only young people who are the most dependent on the existing strucure, the most dull and aggressive, the most like the older members, are permitted entry to its upper echelons. This is not our way! We defend our rights and we express our ideas, but we do not do it for profit and we do not want confrontations. We strive so that the authorities will become the people, we do not wish to pass into the hierarchy. Our love for our native land we prove by our deeds, we do not shout meaningless “patriotic” slogans. In our struggle we rely only on nonviolent methods.

We want to live in a free and flourishing country. We want a combat-effective and professional army to protect us, and freedom for students to study in peace. We want the democratic transfers of power via free elections in which the whole country actively participates. We want to be able to obtain information from a free and independent media. We want to work in companies without fearing that they will be shut down because of the visits of bandits or corrupt officials. We want the law to be equally applied to all citizens, not used as tool against those who disagree. We want an honest budget in which there are monies valid social purposes, not the pockets of corrupt officials.

For our support we rely on the power of truth and our committment to our goals, not our connections to those in power or our wealth. Our contemporaries in adjacent countries already changed the course of history. Now it’s our turn.

Oborona asks: “How can you help us?” They answer:

If you are tired of having all your decisions made for you, if you are ready to build a Russia that will stand as a free, modernized nation, we welcome you! There are many ways you can help us. build a normal democratic system in Russia. First, you can join Oborona. Joining up is easy, just fill out a form on this site, and we will be connected with you. In Oborona we have no membership cards or dues payments (as in the political parties). You can participate in those actions and measures, which you support, and propose your own suggestions. If in your region or city still there is no Oborona local office, you can create one yourself. Contact us for further details. Second, we are also pleased to receive financial contributions to support our work, which is not financed by oligarchs or government agencies. Even a small contribution can bring big results. Third, even if the first two options are not for you, don’t just be a couch potato! You can, for example, place our banner on your site or in blog using code available on this site.

To the crucial question, “Why are you against Putin?” Oborona answers:

Putin is the architect and personification of the regime which exists now in Russia. He abolishes merit selection and he assigns to all key posts to his St. Petersburg friends. He considers Ramzan Kadyrov to be a hero and personally shuts down oppositional television channels. He signs laws that favor his chosen oligarchs, transferring great quantities of wealth to them from the state budget. Without batting an eye, he tells gigantic lies about the fate of the Kursk submarine and the Dubrovka theater patrons. He may not haver personally participated in these tragedies, but he governs the system that caused them. One might say that our problem is not so much with Putin but with “Putinism.”

Oborona also operates a blog, and La Russophobe recently translated one of its posts, about how the Kremlin pays protesters to appear at its demonstrations. Click here to read it.

So Much for Chechnya being "Under Control"

The New York Times reports that the rebels have staged a major battle and brought down a Russian helicopter in Chechnya; the incident must have been quite serious since, as usual, the Kremlin chose to lie abou it.

A Russian military helicopter crashed in the mountains of Chechnya on Friday, killing at least 18 service members and marking the most lethal day for Russian authorities in the volatile North Caucasus region since late 2005.

The circumstances surrounding the crash were not fully clear. Several Russian officials told news agencies that the helicopter, an MI-8 transport, was struck by ground fire as it was ferrying troops with two other helicopters to a skirmish against rebels in the Shatoi district of southern Chechnya. But an official at the military prosecutor’s office said by telephone that an investigation had been opened and the cause of the crash had not been officially established.

All aboard were killed, Russian news agencies said.

There were indications that the battle to which the helicopter was flying was much more intense than most in recent years. The helicopter crashed in the late morning, and fighting nearby was still being reported at 4 p.m. Russian officials also said that at least three Chechen insurgents had been killed.

“The fighting continues,” a Russian official told the Interfax news agency. “We hear nonstop automatic fire and grenade explosions. We know for certain from reliable sources that three militants were eliminated.”

The Kremlin and its pro-Russian local proxies have largely had the upper hand over the remaining insurgents since late 2004, when intensive crackdowns followed the siege of a public school in Beslan by Chechen terrorists and as the pro-Kremlin Chechen formations, many of them filled with former separatists, have consolidated their hold over the republic and its government.

Two presidents of the fugitive separatist government have been killed, as has the most prominent terrorist leader, Shamil Basayev, who died in a mysterious explosion in 2006. With the separatist leadership thinned and many former insurgents lured into amnesty programs, the pace and tactical skill of the insurgents’ operations have declined markedly.

But fighting has continued sporadically, as have occasional bombings, assassinations and ambushes in Chechnya and the republics nearby.

Russia has also maintained elite troops from its federal police forces and intelligence services in the area, to continue the hunt for the remaining veteran separatists, including Doku Umarov, the movement’s latest president and military leader.

The limited details of the operation on Friday suggested that a group of insurgents had been found and that a Russian reaction force was reinforcing the area when the helicopter crashed. It was not immediately clear whether the dead were from a federal or a local unit, although the three-man helicopter crew was reported to be Russian.

Annals of Cold War II: A Prison Term for Grandpa Vladimir?

PressTV reports that if Vladimir Putin goes forward with his plan to weaponize Russia’s energy resources, he may end up in an American prison cell (from where he can write postcards of sympathy to Mr. Khodorkovsky in Chita):

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has voted in favor of a legislation to prosecute new energy cartel organizers.

The committee unanimously voted in favor Wednesday of the so-called “NOPEC” legislation, which would allow for criminal prosecution of countries that organize energy cartels and manipulate the prices of natural resources. The bill is the latest version of similar legislation that has failed to make its way through Congress in several attempts since 2000.

Although a US federal court ruled in 1979 that OPEC’s pricing decisions are the result of “governmental” rather than commercial actions, meaning that they are protected by the sovereignty of foreign governments, the NOPEC bill, which was sponsored by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), would allow US law enforcement agencies and the federal government “to begin legal proceedings against any foreign power, including the member nations of OPEC, for conspiring to fix prices and artificially decrease the volume of available oil.”

The measures that could be taken against such nations or their agents would be left to the discretion of the judges, but would probably include freezing or confiscation of the US-held assets of foreign governments.

The legislation has nothing specific to say about gas, preferring instead to talk about “a confederacy of oil-exporting countries, as a result of which [oil] reserves were artificially and critically cut and prices inflated on fuel.” Nevertheless, Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachyov and Russian gas behemoth Gazprom have expressed concern that the bill’s language leaves plenty of latitude for the US to take action on other energy-resource fronts.

A source in a Russian ministry told Kommersant that even if the Senate is not specifically targeting Russia, “we should not remain silent.” Russia’s concern comes in the wake of the meeting in Doha, Qatar on April 9 at which gas-exporting countries including Iran, Venezuela, Algeria, and Russia discussed the possible formation of an organization of gas-exporting countries modeled on OPEC. The different branches of the US government are known to be of unusually like mind in their opposition to the possible gas cartel.

Congressional Hearings on Dictatorship in Russia

Helsinki Commission Announces Hearing on Russia

‘Russia: In Transit or Intransigent?’

WASHINGTON, April 27
PRNewswire-USNewswire

The Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) announced today that the Commission will hold a hearing entitled: “Russia: In Transit or Intransigent?”

Friday, May 4, 2007
9:30 am to 12:00 noon
Room 311
Cannon House Office Building

The hearing will focus on the reemergence of Russia as a major political and economic power in the world, examine current trends in Russia today, and consider the implications for United States’ policy. Testifying before the Commission will be:

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Rajan Menon, Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations, Lehigh University

Igor Zevelev, Washington Bureau Chief of RIA Novosti, Russian News and Information Agency

Sarah Mendelson, a senior fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

E. Wayne Merry, Senior Associate, American Foreign Policy Council

The reemergence of Russia as a major political and economic power in the world has been accompanied by a cooling of relations with the United States over a number of issues, such as foreign policy, human rights, and the war in Iraq. Russia remains interested in cooperation with the U.S. in the war on international terrorism and other issues, but the recent chill in relations has curtailed expectations on both sides. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

April 29, 2007 — Contents

SUNDAY APRIL 29 CONTENTS


(1) The Sunday Photos Part I: Russia the Final Frontier

(2) The Sunday Photos Part II: Aceski of Cakeski

(3) Another Original LR Translation: Illarionov Speaks Again

(4) The Sunday Links

(5) Annals of Jailtime: Khodorokovsky in Chita