Daily Archives: April 28, 2007

April 28, 2007 — Contents

SATURDAY APRIL 28 CONTENTS


(1) Annals of Russian Hypocrisy: The Tallinn Riots

(2) Gosh, it Sounds Just like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

(3) Annals of Wealthy Russia: The Disabled are Starving Themselves

Annals of Russian Hypocrisy: The Tallinn Riots

When foreigners tell Russia to stop committing human rights atrocities in Chechnya, Russians say it’s an internal Russian affair and outsiders have no business sticking in their noses. But when Estonia does something Russia doesn’t like (for instance, suppressing a violent riot that included crazed, wild-eyed looters like the one in the photograph, from Itching for Estonia) of Russian nationalists trying to prevent Estonia from moving the graves of Russian soldiers, who subjugated and raped the nation)? Suddenly, Russia has the right to dictate. News.com reports:

ESTONIAN authorities moved a Soviet-era war memorial from central Tallinn under cover of darkness today setting off riots that left at least one dead and sparking fury in Moscow.

The leader of the Russian senate called for diplomatic relations with Estonia to be broken because of the removal of the monument. Russia’s foreign ministry called the move “blasphemous” and said relations would be examined. As Estonian authorities cordoned off the central square where the Red Army war memorial has been for decades, about 1000 pro-Russian demonstrators gathered nearby to protest. Their demonstration turned into a riot in which police used water cannon, rubber batons, and flash and sound grenades to disperse crowds and prevent youths from forcing their way through a police cordon. “One person died after being taken to hospital and 43 have been treated for injuries sustained in the violence,” Tallinn police chief Raivo Kuut said on Estonian Television. More than 300 people were detained following the riots which were the worst the Baltic state has seen since restoring independence from Moscow in 1991.

A government emergency commission met during the night and ordered the controversial monument removed from the square to a new location, which is being kept secret, the Government press office said. Ethnic Estonians see the memorial as a symbol of 50 years of Soviet occupation while Russia considers it a symbol of the fight against Nazism in World War II. “The aim of the Government move was to prevent further similar gross violations of public order, which pose a real threat to citizens’ health and property,” the Government said. The plan to relocate the statue has caused anger in Moscow, which says the Estonians are glorifying fascism by insisting on moving it.

Sergei Mironov, head of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, called today for a break in relations with Estonia. “I urge you to adopt a resolution addressed to the president recommending a break in diplomatic relations with Estonia,” he told MPs. Russian MPs were to vote on a non-binding resolution today. A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, Mikhail Kamynin, called the Estonian government’s action “blasphemous” and “inhuman”. He added that Russia would re-examine its relations with the ex-Soviet Baltic state. The head of the international affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian Parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, also recommended tough measures against Estonia today. “We will of course demand from the executive the toughest possible reaction to what is happening in Estonia,” Mr Kosachyov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. “It’s barbaric, it’s blasphemous,” Mr Kosachyov said.

The Estonian Government voted last year to move the monument to a less prominent location after scuffles broke out at the memorial between pro-Russian supporters and ethnic Estonians. Estonia and its Baltic neighbours were annexed by the Soviet Union at the close of World War II and only regained independence in 1991. The authorities wanted to conduct excavation work at the site to determine if any fallen World War II soldiers lie buried beneath the statue before moving it.

Kommersant reports: “According to the Tallinn newspaper Postimees, activists from Russia’s Nashi movement have moved into the Meriton Grand Hotel Tallinn (69 euros a night) a few hundred meters from the monument. In addition, Dmitry Linter, one of the leaders of the ‘Night Watch’ has also recently promised that ‘surprises are in the works’ for the Estonian authorities.” In other words, Russia sent the Nashi youth cult in to attempt to destabilize the Estonian government, yet Putin just got finished complaining that foreign NGO’s are seeking to support the “Other Russia” coalition in his state-of-the-nation address. Russia can’t have it both ways.

So it seems the government of Estonia is “inhuman” because it dares to disagree with Russia. Perhaps that means it should be “exterminated” like an infestation? Break diplomatic relations? Mironov is the same person who is calling for appointing Vladimir Putin an indefinite rule as dictators, the same one who stood by watching trainees use Alexander Litvinenko’s photograph for target practice. Who are the Russians kidding? Estonia is a part of NATO and the EU. Attacking Estonia is attacking NATO and the EU — and, come to think of it, Putin just announced a pullout from a major security treaty in Europe. Maybe war is just what Russia wants?

Gosh, Sounds Just Like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

The Moscow Times reports on the Stalin-like reception of Vladimir Putin’s eight state-of-the-nation address, in which he declared cold war on the West:

As if it weren’t enough that politicians broke into applause more than 40 times during President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address Thursday, many had nothing but praise as they filed out of the Kremlin’s Marble Hall.

Some lauded Putin’s promise to step down next year, while a minister said the president thinks about the nation’s welfare 24 hours a day.

“The main thing is he’s leaving,” said State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, though he noted a certain melancholy. “It may be sad, but that’s part of our life.”

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said he respected Putin for “his courage and straightforward position.”

Trutnev added that he was confident that Putin spends all of his time making sure Russia is unsusceptible to economic downturns. “He thinks about that day and night,” he said.

With the opposition sidelined and independent media largely silenced under Putin, it is perhaps unsurprising that many officials appear to be merely yes-men, having seemingly recognized the need to toe the official line. Several lawmakers — most notably Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — have called for a change in the Constitution to allow Putin to serve beyond 2008.

Independent Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznyov, however, was not one of them. Seleznyov, asked whether he thought a new leader should replace Putin, answered curtly, “I still think so.”

Although Putin reiterated that he would leave office, he did not hint as to who might succeed him. The two leading contenders, First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, sat next to each other as Putin spoke. Medvedev did not address reporters after the speech, while Ivanov basked in the spotlight of state-controlled television, often repeating Putin’s message word-for-word. Buttressing Putin on the need to urgently resolve the shortage of quality housing, Ivanov said “all of the social vices” in Russia, including widespread alcoholism, stemmed from the fact that people live in egregiously dilapidated buildings.

But not everyone thought Putin’s performance was flawless. One governor, who asked not to be identified, said Putin had been unwise to reveal his hand by saying the speech would be his last.

“A bit too early,” the governor said.

A lame duck president could prompt government officials and lawmakers to look for new masters to pledge their loyalty to, he said.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt exactly that, the Kremlin warned officials against slacking as Putin’s eight-year reign comes to an end. A source in the presidential administration told Interfax that just because Putin said another president would deliver the next address “doesn’t mean officials can relax.”

Putin began the speech with a moment of silence to commemorate his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday. Only Communist officials refused to stand in honor of Yeltsin, who dismantled the Soviet Union and broke the Communists’ grip on power.

With typical bombast, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he would make sure the Communists were eventually banned from the Duma for their insolence. “His body wasn’t even cold yet and they are saying in the Duma that a wooden stake should be driven through it,” Zhirinovsky said.

In a Freudian slip, Condi said it all:

In a slip of the tongue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Thursday of the “Soviet” nuclear arsenal even as she urged Russia to abandon Cold War thinking. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this, the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Rice told reporters before NATO talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Rice said Washington wanted to keep discussing the issue with Moscow based on a “realistic” assessment rather than “one that is grounded somehow in the ’80s.”

Russian officials and generals have revived Cold War language in criticizing the U.S. plan to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington says the deployment is aimed at protecting Europe and North America from a growing threat of missile strike by North Korea or Iran. Moscow says the plan aims to target Russia’s strategic missile arsenal. The Russian rhetoric has unnerved some in Western Europe, who fear the negative impact on relations with the Kremlin may outweigh any benefits of the missile shield. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he needed to hear more from the United States. “I remain to be convinced about the nature of the threats and the way to respond to them,” he told reporters after meeting Rice. NATO diplomats, however, said there was growing support for the U.S. plans among European governments. The missile debate was expected to dominate two days of talks among NATO foreign ministers, who will also focus on efforts to back up the alliance’s military mission in Afghanistan, and a split between Russia and Western powers over the future of Kosovo. Lavrov joined the talks after an opening session among the 26 NATO allies. A Soviet specialist, Rice served on the White House National Security Council from 1989 to March 1991, a period that included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the waning days of the Soviet Union.

Gosh, Sounds Just Like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

The Moscow Times reports on the Stalin-like reception of Vladimir Putin’s eight state-of-the-nation address, in which he declared cold war on the West:

As if it weren’t enough that politicians broke into applause more than 40 times during President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address Thursday, many had nothing but praise as they filed out of the Kremlin’s Marble Hall.

Some lauded Putin’s promise to step down next year, while a minister said the president thinks about the nation’s welfare 24 hours a day.

“The main thing is he’s leaving,” said State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, though he noted a certain melancholy. “It may be sad, but that’s part of our life.”

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said he respected Putin for “his courage and straightforward position.”

Trutnev added that he was confident that Putin spends all of his time making sure Russia is unsusceptible to economic downturns. “He thinks about that day and night,” he said.

With the opposition sidelined and independent media largely silenced under Putin, it is perhaps unsurprising that many officials appear to be merely yes-men, having seemingly recognized the need to toe the official line. Several lawmakers — most notably Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — have called for a change in the Constitution to allow Putin to serve beyond 2008.

Independent Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznyov, however, was not one of them. Seleznyov, asked whether he thought a new leader should replace Putin, answered curtly, “I still think so.”

Although Putin reiterated that he would leave office, he did not hint as to who might succeed him. The two leading contenders, First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, sat next to each other as Putin spoke. Medvedev did not address reporters after the speech, while Ivanov basked in the spotlight of state-controlled television, often repeating Putin’s message word-for-word. Buttressing Putin on the need to urgently resolve the shortage of quality housing, Ivanov said “all of the social vices” in Russia, including widespread alcoholism, stemmed from the fact that people live in egregiously dilapidated buildings.

But not everyone thought Putin’s performance was flawless. One governor, who asked not to be identified, said Putin had been unwise to reveal his hand by saying the speech would be his last.

“A bit too early,” the governor said.

A lame duck president could prompt government officials and lawmakers to look for new masters to pledge their loyalty to, he said.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt exactly that, the Kremlin warned officials against slacking as Putin’s eight-year reign comes to an end. A source in the presidential administration told Interfax that just because Putin said another president would deliver the next address “doesn’t mean officials can relax.”

Putin began the speech with a moment of silence to commemorate his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday. Only Communist officials refused to stand in honor of Yeltsin, who dismantled the Soviet Union and broke the Communists’ grip on power.

With typical bombast, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he would make sure the Communists were eventually banned from the Duma for their insolence. “His body wasn’t even cold yet and they are saying in the Duma that a wooden stake should be driven through it,” Zhirinovsky said.

In a Freudian slip, Condi said it all:

In a slip of the tongue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Thursday of the “Soviet” nuclear arsenal even as she urged Russia to abandon Cold War thinking. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this, the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Rice told reporters before NATO talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Rice said Washington wanted to keep discussing the issue with Moscow based on a “realistic” assessment rather than “one that is grounded somehow in the ’80s.”

Russian officials and generals have revived Cold War language in criticizing the U.S. plan to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington says the deployment is aimed at protecting Europe and North America from a growing threat of missile strike by North Korea or Iran. Moscow says the plan aims to target Russia’s strategic missile arsenal. The Russian rhetoric has unnerved some in Western Europe, who fear the negative impact on relations with the Kremlin may outweigh any benefits of the missile shield. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he needed to hear more from the United States. “I remain to be convinced about the nature of the threats and the way to respond to them,” he told reporters after meeting Rice. NATO diplomats, however, said there was growing support for the U.S. plans among European governments. The missile debate was expected to dominate two days of talks among NATO foreign ministers, who will also focus on efforts to back up the alliance’s military mission in Afghanistan, and a split between Russia and Western powers over the future of Kosovo. Lavrov joined the talks after an opening session among the 26 NATO allies. A Soviet specialist, Rice served on the White House National Security Council from 1989 to March 1991, a period that included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the waning days of the Soviet Union.

Gosh, Sounds Just Like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

The Moscow Times reports on the Stalin-like reception of Vladimir Putin’s eight state-of-the-nation address, in which he declared cold war on the West:

As if it weren’t enough that politicians broke into applause more than 40 times during President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address Thursday, many had nothing but praise as they filed out of the Kremlin’s Marble Hall.

Some lauded Putin’s promise to step down next year, while a minister said the president thinks about the nation’s welfare 24 hours a day.

“The main thing is he’s leaving,” said State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, though he noted a certain melancholy. “It may be sad, but that’s part of our life.”

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said he respected Putin for “his courage and straightforward position.”

Trutnev added that he was confident that Putin spends all of his time making sure Russia is unsusceptible to economic downturns. “He thinks about that day and night,” he said.

With the opposition sidelined and independent media largely silenced under Putin, it is perhaps unsurprising that many officials appear to be merely yes-men, having seemingly recognized the need to toe the official line. Several lawmakers — most notably Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — have called for a change in the Constitution to allow Putin to serve beyond 2008.

Independent Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznyov, however, was not one of them. Seleznyov, asked whether he thought a new leader should replace Putin, answered curtly, “I still think so.”

Although Putin reiterated that he would leave office, he did not hint as to who might succeed him. The two leading contenders, First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, sat next to each other as Putin spoke. Medvedev did not address reporters after the speech, while Ivanov basked in the spotlight of state-controlled television, often repeating Putin’s message word-for-word. Buttressing Putin on the need to urgently resolve the shortage of quality housing, Ivanov said “all of the social vices” in Russia, including widespread alcoholism, stemmed from the fact that people live in egregiously dilapidated buildings.

But not everyone thought Putin’s performance was flawless. One governor, who asked not to be identified, said Putin had been unwise to reveal his hand by saying the speech would be his last.

“A bit too early,” the governor said.

A lame duck president could prompt government officials and lawmakers to look for new masters to pledge their loyalty to, he said.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt exactly that, the Kremlin warned officials against slacking as Putin’s eight-year reign comes to an end. A source in the presidential administration told Interfax that just because Putin said another president would deliver the next address “doesn’t mean officials can relax.”

Putin began the speech with a moment of silence to commemorate his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday. Only Communist officials refused to stand in honor of Yeltsin, who dismantled the Soviet Union and broke the Communists’ grip on power.

With typical bombast, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he would make sure the Communists were eventually banned from the Duma for their insolence. “His body wasn’t even cold yet and they are saying in the Duma that a wooden stake should be driven through it,” Zhirinovsky said.

In a Freudian slip, Condi said it all:

In a slip of the tongue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Thursday of the “Soviet” nuclear arsenal even as she urged Russia to abandon Cold War thinking. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this, the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Rice told reporters before NATO talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Rice said Washington wanted to keep discussing the issue with Moscow based on a “realistic” assessment rather than “one that is grounded somehow in the ’80s.”

Russian officials and generals have revived Cold War language in criticizing the U.S. plan to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington says the deployment is aimed at protecting Europe and North America from a growing threat of missile strike by North Korea or Iran. Moscow says the plan aims to target Russia’s strategic missile arsenal. The Russian rhetoric has unnerved some in Western Europe, who fear the negative impact on relations with the Kremlin may outweigh any benefits of the missile shield. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he needed to hear more from the United States. “I remain to be convinced about the nature of the threats and the way to respond to them,” he told reporters after meeting Rice. NATO diplomats, however, said there was growing support for the U.S. plans among European governments. The missile debate was expected to dominate two days of talks among NATO foreign ministers, who will also focus on efforts to back up the alliance’s military mission in Afghanistan, and a split between Russia and Western powers over the future of Kosovo. Lavrov joined the talks after an opening session among the 26 NATO allies. A Soviet specialist, Rice served on the White House National Security Council from 1989 to March 1991, a period that included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the waning days of the Soviet Union.

Gosh, Sounds Just Like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

The Moscow Times reports on the Stalin-like reception of Vladimir Putin’s eight state-of-the-nation address, in which he declared cold war on the West:

As if it weren’t enough that politicians broke into applause more than 40 times during President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address Thursday, many had nothing but praise as they filed out of the Kremlin’s Marble Hall.

Some lauded Putin’s promise to step down next year, while a minister said the president thinks about the nation’s welfare 24 hours a day.

“The main thing is he’s leaving,” said State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, though he noted a certain melancholy. “It may be sad, but that’s part of our life.”

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said he respected Putin for “his courage and straightforward position.”

Trutnev added that he was confident that Putin spends all of his time making sure Russia is unsusceptible to economic downturns. “He thinks about that day and night,” he said.

With the opposition sidelined and independent media largely silenced under Putin, it is perhaps unsurprising that many officials appear to be merely yes-men, having seemingly recognized the need to toe the official line. Several lawmakers — most notably Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — have called for a change in the Constitution to allow Putin to serve beyond 2008.

Independent Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznyov, however, was not one of them. Seleznyov, asked whether he thought a new leader should replace Putin, answered curtly, “I still think so.”

Although Putin reiterated that he would leave office, he did not hint as to who might succeed him. The two leading contenders, First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, sat next to each other as Putin spoke. Medvedev did not address reporters after the speech, while Ivanov basked in the spotlight of state-controlled television, often repeating Putin’s message word-for-word. Buttressing Putin on the need to urgently resolve the shortage of quality housing, Ivanov said “all of the social vices” in Russia, including widespread alcoholism, stemmed from the fact that people live in egregiously dilapidated buildings.

But not everyone thought Putin’s performance was flawless. One governor, who asked not to be identified, said Putin had been unwise to reveal his hand by saying the speech would be his last.

“A bit too early,” the governor said.

A lame duck president could prompt government officials and lawmakers to look for new masters to pledge their loyalty to, he said.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt exactly that, the Kremlin warned officials against slacking as Putin’s eight-year reign comes to an end. A source in the presidential administration told Interfax that just because Putin said another president would deliver the next address “doesn’t mean officials can relax.”

Putin began the speech with a moment of silence to commemorate his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday. Only Communist officials refused to stand in honor of Yeltsin, who dismantled the Soviet Union and broke the Communists’ grip on power.

With typical bombast, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he would make sure the Communists were eventually banned from the Duma for their insolence. “His body wasn’t even cold yet and they are saying in the Duma that a wooden stake should be driven through it,” Zhirinovsky said.

In a Freudian slip, Condi said it all:

In a slip of the tongue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Thursday of the “Soviet” nuclear arsenal even as she urged Russia to abandon Cold War thinking. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this, the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Rice told reporters before NATO talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Rice said Washington wanted to keep discussing the issue with Moscow based on a “realistic” assessment rather than “one that is grounded somehow in the ’80s.”

Russian officials and generals have revived Cold War language in criticizing the U.S. plan to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington says the deployment is aimed at protecting Europe and North America from a growing threat of missile strike by North Korea or Iran. Moscow says the plan aims to target Russia’s strategic missile arsenal. The Russian rhetoric has unnerved some in Western Europe, who fear the negative impact on relations with the Kremlin may outweigh any benefits of the missile shield. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he needed to hear more from the United States. “I remain to be convinced about the nature of the threats and the way to respond to them,” he told reporters after meeting Rice. NATO diplomats, however, said there was growing support for the U.S. plans among European governments. The missile debate was expected to dominate two days of talks among NATO foreign ministers, who will also focus on efforts to back up the alliance’s military mission in Afghanistan, and a split between Russia and Western powers over the future of Kosovo. Lavrov joined the talks after an opening session among the 26 NATO allies. A Soviet specialist, Rice served on the White House National Security Council from 1989 to March 1991, a period that included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the waning days of the Soviet Union.

Gosh, Sounds Just Like Stalin, Doesn’t it?

The Moscow Times reports on the Stalin-like reception of Vladimir Putin’s eight state-of-the-nation address, in which he declared cold war on the West:

As if it weren’t enough that politicians broke into applause more than 40 times during President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address Thursday, many had nothing but praise as they filed out of the Kremlin’s Marble Hall.

Some lauded Putin’s promise to step down next year, while a minister said the president thinks about the nation’s welfare 24 hours a day.

“The main thing is he’s leaving,” said State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, though he noted a certain melancholy. “It may be sad, but that’s part of our life.”

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said he respected Putin for “his courage and straightforward position.”

Trutnev added that he was confident that Putin spends all of his time making sure Russia is unsusceptible to economic downturns. “He thinks about that day and night,” he said.

With the opposition sidelined and independent media largely silenced under Putin, it is perhaps unsurprising that many officials appear to be merely yes-men, having seemingly recognized the need to toe the official line. Several lawmakers — most notably Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — have called for a change in the Constitution to allow Putin to serve beyond 2008.

Independent Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznyov, however, was not one of them. Seleznyov, asked whether he thought a new leader should replace Putin, answered curtly, “I still think so.”

Although Putin reiterated that he would leave office, he did not hint as to who might succeed him. The two leading contenders, First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, sat next to each other as Putin spoke. Medvedev did not address reporters after the speech, while Ivanov basked in the spotlight of state-controlled television, often repeating Putin’s message word-for-word. Buttressing Putin on the need to urgently resolve the shortage of quality housing, Ivanov said “all of the social vices” in Russia, including widespread alcoholism, stemmed from the fact that people live in egregiously dilapidated buildings.

But not everyone thought Putin’s performance was flawless. One governor, who asked not to be identified, said Putin had been unwise to reveal his hand by saying the speech would be his last.

“A bit too early,” the governor said.

A lame duck president could prompt government officials and lawmakers to look for new masters to pledge their loyalty to, he said.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt exactly that, the Kremlin warned officials against slacking as Putin’s eight-year reign comes to an end. A source in the presidential administration told Interfax that just because Putin said another president would deliver the next address “doesn’t mean officials can relax.”

Putin began the speech with a moment of silence to commemorate his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday. Only Communist officials refused to stand in honor of Yeltsin, who dismantled the Soviet Union and broke the Communists’ grip on power.

With typical bombast, Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he would make sure the Communists were eventually banned from the Duma for their insolence. “His body wasn’t even cold yet and they are saying in the Duma that a wooden stake should be driven through it,” Zhirinovsky said.

In a Freudian slip, Condi said it all:

In a slip of the tongue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Thursday of the “Soviet” nuclear arsenal even as she urged Russia to abandon Cold War thinking. “Let’s be real about this and realistic about this, the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it,” Rice told reporters before NATO talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Rice said Washington wanted to keep discussing the issue with Moscow based on a “realistic” assessment rather than “one that is grounded somehow in the ’80s.”

Russian officials and generals have revived Cold War language in criticizing the U.S. plan to install radar scanners in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington says the deployment is aimed at protecting Europe and North America from a growing threat of missile strike by North Korea or Iran. Moscow says the plan aims to target Russia’s strategic missile arsenal. The Russian rhetoric has unnerved some in Western Europe, who fear the negative impact on relations with the Kremlin may outweigh any benefits of the missile shield. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he needed to hear more from the United States. “I remain to be convinced about the nature of the threats and the way to respond to them,” he told reporters after meeting Rice. NATO diplomats, however, said there was growing support for the U.S. plans among European governments. The missile debate was expected to dominate two days of talks among NATO foreign ministers, who will also focus on efforts to back up the alliance’s military mission in Afghanistan, and a split between Russia and Western powers over the future of Kosovo. Lavrov joined the talks after an opening session among the 26 NATO allies. A Soviet specialist, Rice served on the White House National Security Council from 1989 to March 1991, a period that included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the waning days of the Soviet Union.