Daily Archives: April 24, 2007

An Open Letter to Garry Kasparov

From the Desk of La Russophobe


Dear Garry,

You undoubtedly already know, being a very intelligent fellow, what I’m about to tell you. But you sure don’t act like it, so I feel the need to speak up for the record.

Garry, if you’re serious about working with “Other Russia” to end dictatorship in Russia, you’re a marked man. If you think the Kremlin is going to allow you to continue your public opposition after the presidential election cycle starts, you have a screw loose. The odds it will allow you to continue to operate even during the legislative cycle are extremely poor. You’ll either be jailed or killed if you keep marching while Putin’s successor is running (needless to say, if he stays in power, you’ll be in twice as much jeopardy); maybe you’ll be lucky and just warned off once, the way Gaidar was. So if you intend to carry on your patriotic work, you need to start thinking in terms of legacy, and immediately.

For what it’s worth, I’ve got three specific pieces of advice for you:

First, hire yourself a speechwriter. You have many virtues Garry, but you’re not a wordsmith. You don’t deliver speeches well, and you don’t come up with memorable content. Your words don’t strike nerves either in Russia or in the West. That’s got to change, quick. We guess that you’ve got too much involvement in writing what you say, and you need to cede control to sombody who can do it better. Up to now, Boris Berezovsky is outdoing you in this category, and that’s just sad. Russia is full of talented writers, and so is the West. Find one. You must adopt an ideology, a set of goals and a means to achieve one. Find them, fast. We suggest that there is only one methodology available to you, non-cooperation, सत्याग्रह, satyagraha. The Kremlin will never expect it of you, it will blow their minds.

Second, resign from every organization you’ve ever joined that’s not 100% Russian, and repudiate them. Otherwise, your memberships are going to be used against you by the Kremlin’s hatchet met when you’re gone to destroy your reputation when you can no longer fight back (in fact, it’s already started).

Third, don’t make Lenin’s and Yeltsin’s mistake: Find a successor right now, and tell the world about him (or her). And get that successor to find a successor. You don’t want to be succeeded by Edward Limonov any more than Lenin wanted Stalin or Yeltsin wanted Putin — not in their right minds, anyway.

The attacks on you have started already, of course. Recently, Dimitry Simes of the Nixon Center called you a man with a “strong propensity for theatrics and artificial confrontation.” In other words, he’s saying that all you are doing is grandstanding for attention. Maybe he’s right, and you have no intention of going all the way with your campaign, and will pull back before things get really dangerous. In that case, sorry for wasting your time. That’s a pretty sad commentary on modern Russia, since you are without question it’s leading dissident as a KGB spy consolidates his malignant rule. Does Simes really have that much contempt for his countrymen? If so, that’s really sad too. If it’s true, of course, it makes you one of Russia’s worst enemies. If it’s not, we trust you’re suitably offended by what Simes has written, and will call him to account for it.

Simes criticizes Western reporters for failing to make a bigger deal out of the fact that some members of your “Other Russia” coalition are extremists like Edward Limonov (apparently, Simes doesn’t think America should support free speech unless the speakers are pro-American, and Limonov hates America; that’s not a surprising view of the concept of free speech, given that he’s Russian). But we can’t remember the last time Mr. Simes got himself arrested by the KGB for protesting against anything in Russia. In fact, we can’t remember the last time he took any kind of risk for freedom and democracy in the world. Having been born and raised in Russia and being employed by Richard Nixon is hardly a good indicia that he will ever do so.

Simes obviously doesn’t know anything about revolution; if he did, he’d know that many of the people who led the American revolution were rogues, extremists and outcasts of “civilized” countries. Many were out-and-out criminals. He obviously doesn’t know Russian history either, or else he’d know that Franklin Roosevelt made friends with the world’s greatest maniac, Josef Stalin, in order to win World War II. Perhaps, being a sycophant of the disgraced Richard Nixon, Simes has forgotten that FDR ever existed — and forgotten too about Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam war. Simes may very well be deeply jealous of your courage and prominence in Russian politics these days, as well as of the fact that you can get published in the Wall Street Journal and he can’t.

Therefore, it’s quite possible that he’s wrong about you — and we certainly hope you’ll prove he is. If you get locked up or killed doing your work, there’s one thing we can promise you right now: Dmitri Simes will wish he had never been born. Of course, if he’s right and you back down after sucking all the oxygen out of the room, we’ll be among the first to heap scorn on you.

Best wishes,

Kim Zigfeld
Publisher, La Russophobe

More on the Educated Media Foundation Raid

Last week we reported on the Kremlin’s raid of a journalism NGO in Moscow which had been seeking to teach Russian journalists how to do real reporting and support them in that endeavor. Here’s an update, from Internews, by way of an LR reader (still more here from the Committee to Protect Journalists):

On 18 April 2007, officers of the Department of Economic Security of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia carried out a seizure of financial documents and electronic devices (the computer servers) over a period of 11 hours in the offices of the Educated Media Foundation (formerly ANO Internews), on the authority of officer of the Investigative Department of Transport Office of International Affairs (LUVD) of Sheremetevo Airport. The seizure was carried out in connection with the criminal charges brought against Manana Aslamazyan (pictured above), who in January 2007 while going through customs after a private trip to Paris did not fill out a declaration form for 9,550 Euros and 5,130 Rubles (legally it is possible to bring $10,000 into the country without a declaration form). This is quite a common mistake made by forgetful citizens and usually, as far as we are aware, is qualified by the customs authorities as an administrative violation and is dealt with by a fine of not more than 2,000 Rubles.

Four major Russian journalistic organisations – the Russian TV Academy, the National Association of TV and Radio Broadcasters, the Russian Union of Journalists, the Glasnost Defence Foundation – sent letters to the Russian General Prosecutor’s office, asking to consider the reputation of Manana Aslamazyan, her contribution to the development of the TV industry and making the request that such a relatively minor infraction not be considered grounds for the opening of a criminal prosecution.

A letter from the prosecutor’s office replied that the case would be investigated thoroughly. There is no doubt about this, as the events of 18 April go to show. All work in the office came to a stop: the site was shut down, the data base no longer functions, the servers are not working, including the mail server, the accounts server, the server carrying teaching plans and seminar programmes used for carrying out training. There is no way to make announcements about seminars, no means to receive applications to participate, send invoices, check on the execution of existing contracts – they have all been seized. In addition, the video servers were also seized, which held all the material for editing students’ work and video productions for the Foundation’s television projects (Provintsia and Personal Account).

We have already sent a request to the investigator asking how soon we may have returned to us those documents and servers which are vital to our continuing activities. We have also requested an explanation from the General Prosecutor as to the legality of these actions of the investigation and officers of the Economic Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the basis of a prosecution of a private individual, unconnected with the actions of the legal entity which she manages.

The Educated Media Foundation will temporarily discontinue its activities. Unfortunately, we are forced to do this. We have worked for many years for the growth and development of regional television in Russia, which is vital to people and the country. We believe that we have made a serious contribution to the success of many regional television companies, the position of hundreds of managers, journalists and specialists, who have, through our training seminars, television programme exchange projects, at our conferences and competitions, gained experience, strengthened their professional qualifications and even gained new media specialisations. However the situation after the 18 April 2007 has forced us to take this decision. The decision is not an emotional one or one taken without a great deal of thought. It has been approved by our founders.

Our organisation does not accept any blame and is guilty of nothing. We are certain that we have carried out useful and important activities. We do not wish to politicise what has happened, because we have always been first and foremost in support of professional and balanced analysis. However for the last year we have noticed with what extreme caution – and even on some occasions suspicion – law enforcement agencies have regarded our activities. After what has happened, we are concerned that it will be difficult for our partners to send their employees to our events.

This situation does not signify the closure of the Educated Media Foundation. A small number of employees will remain to carry out the day to day running of the office.

We are grateful to all the journalists who have calmly and accurately described this situation to the public. However part of the information which has appeared in some media outlets requires a response from us: we do not have “grey” [illegal financial] schemes and salaries, we have always paid and continue to pay all proper taxes, our projects are registered with the government commission for international technical and humanitarian assistance. We regularly provide reports to the tax and registration authorities. The organisation carries out an audit every year using independent auditing firms. We cannot agree with the opinion of some in the media, who have described our organisation as being a “threat to national security.”

Information for all journalists, who have written or who may write on this subject:

The Autonomous Non-Commercial Organisation “Internews” – is a Russian organisation and completely independent. It was registered in 1997. Around 15,000 people have participated in training and other projects organised by Internews.

“Internews Europe” is also an independent organisation, registered in Paris and Manana Aslamazyan is a member of its board. A representative office of Internews Europe is registered in Moscow and it began its activities in 2007. Internews International is a voluntary association of national Internews offices from different countries around the world, it does not carry out its own projects.

In autumn 2006 ANO Internews merged with the Educated Media Foundation, also a non-commercial organisation, with founders who are respected citizens of Russia – representatives of science, business, culture, education and television. As a result of the merger, the Educated Media Foundation became the full legal successor to ANO Internews in January 2007, responsible for all its projects, grants, property and obligations.

All the grants received by the Foundation are officially registered. Sources of financing in 2007: a grant from USAID for the support of regional television in Rusia, a grant from Internews Europe under the framework of the TACIS programme for regional media support, two grants from the Ford Foundation to provide equipment for the Radio Centre of the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University and the production of a documentary film on the life of the indiginous Taimyr group. Finances from the payment for training and television consultation make up on average 1 million Rubes a month. Last year the Foundation received grants from over a dozen Russian and international donor organisations.

Where were you the Day Brezhenev Died?

Reader Dave Essel offers the following comments and fascinating essay reflecting on his memories of bygone days (or perhaps not so bygone afterall). This story could not come at a more timely moment, as we reflect upon the passing of Boris Yeltsin and upon his legacy.

I came across La Russophobe yesterday and was delighted to find a place where Russia is looked at through glasses that are not tinted the rosy-pink that Western ‘liberals’ wear or whatever evil colour it is that Russophiles see instead of daylight. My position comes from understanding the term Russophobe in the following way: in the centuries-old battle between Westernisers and Slavophiles, and now between democrats, liberals, free-thinkers or whatever on the one hand, and Russophiles on the other, the Russophiles have shown themselves to be consistently vile, inferior in thought, racist, chauvinist, jealous, and burdened by a massive chip on their shoulders. Since I stand for the antithesis of what it means to be a Russophile, I must therefore be antonymically a Russophobe. Only a Russophile could think that this means that I hate or despise Russians and/or Russia.

WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY BREZHNEV DIED?

Everyone of the post-war generation remembers where they were the day JFK was shot. Most also remember the same for the day when John Lennon was shot.

I, however, also have wonderful memories of the day old “eyebrows” Brezhnev (Бровеносец в потемках) finally kicked the bucket in November 1982. I was in Germany, shepherding a Soviet delegation from one of the more powerful foreign trade organisations. We were providing a 3-day jolly in Munich under the pretext of a pre-delivery inspection of goods that were being supplied to the Soviet Union. [It was always a good idea for contracts with the Soviets to include the necessity, built into the price of the goods, of visits to the West during the course of the contract. The costs of such bribes is rather higher today, of course.]

So there I am in Munich with my delegation, headed by a complete animal by the name of Alexandr N. This delegation, as usual, consists of one or two people who actually know something about the work in hand, a couple of freeloading communist party bureaucrats who of course get preference over people infinitely more worthy, and the inevitable KGB minder. It doesn’t take long to sort out who is who. Aleksandr N., the head of the delegation, is special in a number of ways: he is quite a good specialist in his field and very well positioned bureaucratically as head of an FTO. As a result, he appeared relatively fearless. Example: on the first day, eating out is the most important thing to discuss in the order of the day, since the factory walk-through is simply the price in boredom to be paid for the evening meal in a grand restaurant which will be a thrill (making sure to always let the delegation know the amount of the addition, the size of which provides the sole proof that they have been treated with due respect since any dish will have been unfamiliar and not appreciated, while only alcohol will have tempered the uneasiness of the situation). Alexandr N., however amazes me. In front of the whole delegation, he says let’s go to a fish restaurant and eat shrimps. Addressing the whole delegation, none of the other members of which have been to the West before, he says that shrimps in the West are really big, not the size of genital crabs like back in Moscow (не размером с мандавошек как у нас). All but one of the other members of the delegation practically piss themselves with horror and don’t know where to look. I now know who the gebeshnik (KGB spy) is. At the same time, I force myself to contain a laugh because there is truth in what he says (the shrimps occasionally available in the beer bar, name forgotten, in the basement of one of the new buildings on Kalinina are not impressive) but reckon it might be diplomatic not to have understood.

This has been all to the good, however, because I now know who to talk to about the most important thing that must take be arranged: the evening at a night club with striptease. This high point of any visit by a Soviet delegation is a very delicate matter. I have to decide who is the right person to whom to mention the possibility of such an entertainment, then let him arrange the clearances (basically, browbeat the KGB man into joining in and then making sure that no-one will engage in any denouncing activities after the return to Moscow, mainly by making sure that everyone goes so that everyone has sinned). My proposal that we do this the next evening is heard out, the whispered conversations take place, and an hour later, I am told that they accept the idea – when in Rome do as the Romans.

There is a tingle of excitement in the atmosphere the next morning as we prepare to do our duty-time in the factory preparatory to the planned evening thrills. Actually, the time in the factory is fun, too. The Germans have made an effort. The secretaries have been told to dress up in traditional clothes so they’re all in Bavarian dirndls or whatever and a buffet lunch complete with a barrel of special Munich beer has been arranged – in one of the clean rooms, to the horror of its resident engineers, since a buffet without smoking some stinking TU134s is unthinkable. One of the engineers is carefully and accurately fitting the spigot into the beer barrel. This seems to be fiddly and is taking time. Alexandr N., in a hurry to get some booze in and irritated by the care being taken, steps in to help. All he manages to do is rip the spigot out of the barrel and stands, frozen in surprise, getting himself hosed with the beer that streams out. Even lunch is a stinking success.

As lunch finishes, a secretary comes in and whispers to the boss. He interrupts things to relate the sad news: Brezhnev’s death has been announced. The delegation is stunned into instant silence. No one knows what to do. The KGB man gets his act together, tells us they must go back to the hotel as they are in mourning. Everything comes to a close and cars are summoned.

We start the drive back to the hotel. But then I hear some whispering in the back seat. This continues back and forth for some time. It’s difficult to eavesdrop because of traffic noise. Eventually, one of them, the gebeshnik I think, taps me on the soldier and asks the all-important question. “We presume that you have already made arrangements for this evening, that reservations have been made and everything?” I tell him yes, that is indeed the case. Some more whispering ensues. “Given that you have gone to all this trouble, we think it would be unreasonable to disrupt the planned schedule and will nonetheless keep to it.”

We pop into the hotel in order for Alexandr N. to change out of his reeking beer-soaked clothes and then I had a very easy evening of it in the night club. We had hardly sat down and chugalugged a few drinks before I found myself free: all my companions from the delegation were busily engaged chatting up, God knows in what language since none of them spoke anything but Russian, and cuddling their lovely lap dancers until the early hours.

Of Brezhnev, not a further word was said. Sic transit…

Even Remembering a Protest March will Get you in Trouble in Putin’s Russia

The Moscow Times reports that those who marched over the weekend to protest the treatment of last weekend’s protesters were themselves arrested.

Human rights activist and Kremlin critic Lev Ponomaryov said he and four others had been detained Sunday near a central Moscow street where police beat demonstrators during an opposition protest last week. “They shoved us into a bus quite rudely,” Ponomaryov said by mobile phone from a police precinct. Later on Sunday, Ponomaryov said he and the others had been released after three hours, adding that he had been accused of taking part in an illegal gathering and faced a court hearing. He said at least 30 people had gathered near the site of the Dissenters’ March, held April 14. It was intended to be a quiet display of defiance and a rebuke to the authorities for crackdowns on the Moscow rally and one the following day in St. Petersburg.

On Saturday, opposition leader Garry Kasparov lambasted the authorities over the violent crackdown at the two marches, accusing police of “brutality and cruelty.” Kasparov spoke after meeting with prosecutors he said had summoned him in connection with State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry into whether police had acted illegally when they detained the former world chess champion at the Moscow rally. Police held Kasparov for hours after detaining him as he tried to enter a central square in defiance of authorities who had barred protesters from meeting there. He was one of hundreds of people detained by police.

The crackdown has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups and reinforced opposition contentions that the government is strangling democracy and suppressing dissent before December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote next March. The report that results from Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry will be “a very important sign of the current legal and political situation in Russia,” Kasparov said, adding that “we have to wait to see whether prosecutors will take the side of the Russian people versus the law enforcement officers.” After four hours of questioning at Federal Security Service headquarters on Friday, Kasparov suggested that law enforcement was being pressed by the Kremlin to find evidence of extremism in his actions and pronouncements. In comments published Saturday, another opposition leader involved in the Dissenters’ Marches, Putin’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, accused the government of demolishing all aspects of a democratic state over the past two years. “The authorities are practically provoking revolutionary activity. Not today, but within three to five years, there will definitely be a revolution in Russia. If we don’t have honest and free elections. It’s the only way out for everyone,” the Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli quoted Kasyanov as saying.

Even Remembering a Protest March will Get you in Trouble in Putin’s Russia

The Moscow Times reports that those who marched over the weekend to protest the treatment of last weekend’s protesters were themselves arrested.

Human rights activist and Kremlin critic Lev Ponomaryov said he and four others had been detained Sunday near a central Moscow street where police beat demonstrators during an opposition protest last week. “They shoved us into a bus quite rudely,” Ponomaryov said by mobile phone from a police precinct. Later on Sunday, Ponomaryov said he and the others had been released after three hours, adding that he had been accused of taking part in an illegal gathering and faced a court hearing. He said at least 30 people had gathered near the site of the Dissenters’ March, held April 14. It was intended to be a quiet display of defiance and a rebuke to the authorities for crackdowns on the Moscow rally and one the following day in St. Petersburg.

On Saturday, opposition leader Garry Kasparov lambasted the authorities over the violent crackdown at the two marches, accusing police of “brutality and cruelty.” Kasparov spoke after meeting with prosecutors he said had summoned him in connection with State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry into whether police had acted illegally when they detained the former world chess champion at the Moscow rally. Police held Kasparov for hours after detaining him as he tried to enter a central square in defiance of authorities who had barred protesters from meeting there. He was one of hundreds of people detained by police.

The crackdown has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups and reinforced opposition contentions that the government is strangling democracy and suppressing dissent before December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote next March. The report that results from Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry will be “a very important sign of the current legal and political situation in Russia,” Kasparov said, adding that “we have to wait to see whether prosecutors will take the side of the Russian people versus the law enforcement officers.” After four hours of questioning at Federal Security Service headquarters on Friday, Kasparov suggested that law enforcement was being pressed by the Kremlin to find evidence of extremism in his actions and pronouncements. In comments published Saturday, another opposition leader involved in the Dissenters’ Marches, Putin’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, accused the government of demolishing all aspects of a democratic state over the past two years. “The authorities are practically provoking revolutionary activity. Not today, but within three to five years, there will definitely be a revolution in Russia. If we don’t have honest and free elections. It’s the only way out for everyone,” the Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli quoted Kasyanov as saying.

Even Remembering a Protest March will Get you in Trouble in Putin’s Russia

The Moscow Times reports that those who marched over the weekend to protest the treatment of last weekend’s protesters were themselves arrested.

Human rights activist and Kremlin critic Lev Ponomaryov said he and four others had been detained Sunday near a central Moscow street where police beat demonstrators during an opposition protest last week. “They shoved us into a bus quite rudely,” Ponomaryov said by mobile phone from a police precinct. Later on Sunday, Ponomaryov said he and the others had been released after three hours, adding that he had been accused of taking part in an illegal gathering and faced a court hearing. He said at least 30 people had gathered near the site of the Dissenters’ March, held April 14. It was intended to be a quiet display of defiance and a rebuke to the authorities for crackdowns on the Moscow rally and one the following day in St. Petersburg.

On Saturday, opposition leader Garry Kasparov lambasted the authorities over the violent crackdown at the two marches, accusing police of “brutality and cruelty.” Kasparov spoke after meeting with prosecutors he said had summoned him in connection with State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry into whether police had acted illegally when they detained the former world chess champion at the Moscow rally. Police held Kasparov for hours after detaining him as he tried to enter a central square in defiance of authorities who had barred protesters from meeting there. He was one of hundreds of people detained by police.

The crackdown has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups and reinforced opposition contentions that the government is strangling democracy and suppressing dissent before December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote next March. The report that results from Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry will be “a very important sign of the current legal and political situation in Russia,” Kasparov said, adding that “we have to wait to see whether prosecutors will take the side of the Russian people versus the law enforcement officers.” After four hours of questioning at Federal Security Service headquarters on Friday, Kasparov suggested that law enforcement was being pressed by the Kremlin to find evidence of extremism in his actions and pronouncements. In comments published Saturday, another opposition leader involved in the Dissenters’ Marches, Putin’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, accused the government of demolishing all aspects of a democratic state over the past two years. “The authorities are practically provoking revolutionary activity. Not today, but within three to five years, there will definitely be a revolution in Russia. If we don’t have honest and free elections. It’s the only way out for everyone,” the Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli quoted Kasyanov as saying.

Even Remembering a Protest March will Get you in Trouble in Putin’s Russia

The Moscow Times reports that those who marched over the weekend to protest the treatment of last weekend’s protesters were themselves arrested.

Human rights activist and Kremlin critic Lev Ponomaryov said he and four others had been detained Sunday near a central Moscow street where police beat demonstrators during an opposition protest last week. “They shoved us into a bus quite rudely,” Ponomaryov said by mobile phone from a police precinct. Later on Sunday, Ponomaryov said he and the others had been released after three hours, adding that he had been accused of taking part in an illegal gathering and faced a court hearing. He said at least 30 people had gathered near the site of the Dissenters’ March, held April 14. It was intended to be a quiet display of defiance and a rebuke to the authorities for crackdowns on the Moscow rally and one the following day in St. Petersburg.

On Saturday, opposition leader Garry Kasparov lambasted the authorities over the violent crackdown at the two marches, accusing police of “brutality and cruelty.” Kasparov spoke after meeting with prosecutors he said had summoned him in connection with State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry into whether police had acted illegally when they detained the former world chess champion at the Moscow rally. Police held Kasparov for hours after detaining him as he tried to enter a central square in defiance of authorities who had barred protesters from meeting there. He was one of hundreds of people detained by police.

The crackdown has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups and reinforced opposition contentions that the government is strangling democracy and suppressing dissent before December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote next March. The report that results from Ryzhkov’s call for an inquiry will be “a very important sign of the current legal and political situation in Russia,” Kasparov said, adding that “we have to wait to see whether prosecutors will take the side of the Russian people versus the law enforcement officers.” After four hours of questioning at Federal Security Service headquarters on Friday, Kasparov suggested that law enforcement was being pressed by the Kremlin to find evidence of extremism in his actions and pronouncements. In comments published Saturday, another opposition leader involved in the Dissenters’ Marches, Putin’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, accused the government of demolishing all aspects of a democratic state over the past two years. “The authorities are practically provoking revolutionary activity. Not today, but within three to five years, there will definitely be a revolution in Russia. If we don’t have honest and free elections. It’s the only way out for everyone,” the Ukrainian weekly Zerkalo Nedeli quoted Kasyanov as saying.