Daily Archives: June 25, 2007

EDITORIAL: Finding Out Who Your Friends Are


Finding Out Who Your Friends Are

Who is the more illiterate and barbaric — the man with newspapers but not the ability to read them, or the one who can read but has no newsprint within his reach? Neither one, of course, is reading.

Who truly hates the people of Russia — those who criticize their faults without mercy until they disappear or those who minimize their faults, attacking the critics as spies as was done in Soviet times? One cannot, of course, correct a fault unless one knows it exists. If I truly hate a person and I see he has a tragic flaw, I may ignore it, or even compliment him, so that he will not reform and will destroy himself.

A story in last Friday’s edition of the St. Petersurg Times reminds readers of events La Russophobe has previously reported concerning the Educated Media Foundation and its director Manana Aslamazian (pictured, above left). Ask a Slavic Russian to judge her by name or face and they will never credit her with the Russian citizenship she holds; indeed, many Russians might be inclined to violently attack her on sight in the subway. But Ms. Aslamazian is yet another heroic, courageous Russian woman standing up to rising dictatorship in Russia, and for doing so she meets the same fate as all those who are true Russian patriots: persecution by the cowardly Kremlin whilst the craven Russian population looks the other way. By seeking to destroy the EMF, Russians could not more clearly show their own illiterate, barbaric nature. They give absolute power to a malignant little troll in the Kremlin who does not have as much patriotism in his whole body as someone like Ms. Aslamazian has in any given fingernail, and they cut themselves off from any real knowledge of what is going on in their own government, much less in the outside world, in exactly the same way they did in the Soviet era. Given the fact that it was this very illiteracy and ignorance that doomed the USSR, the prospects for Russia are utterly bleak.

As the Times summarizes her story “on Jan. 21, Manana Aslamazian walked through customs at Sheremetyevo Airport with a little more undeclared cash than is allowed. Five months later, she faces a decade or more in prison, and the nongovernmental organization she heads — the Educated Media Foundation — is in tatters.” The EMF is a U.S.-funded NGO that trains journalists, including those from state-connected media such as NTV television. Now that the insane prosecution (her lawyer calls it “absolute rubbish, a joke, politically motivated”) has been announced, Ms. Aslamazian cannot return to Russia, and EMF is all but doomed to oblivion — as are the hopes for the flow of information and knowledge in neo-Soviet Russia.

The Times reports that “Aslamazian has acknowledged her guilt from day one, calling her airport transgression a ‘stupid oversight.’ After stepping off a flight from Paris, she failed to declare the 9,550 euros — which she said were a debt collected from a friend in France — in her bag. Any amount worth more than $10,000 must be declared. In Aslamazian’s case, that was around $2,400 too much. Aslamazian’s money and documents were confiscated at the airport. Three months later, about 20 officers from the Interior Ministry’s economic crime department arrived at the NGO’s offices in central Moscow with orders to search the premises and seize all documents and computers.
More than 2,000 media professionals recently signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin that complains authorities view the foundation as a threat to Kremlin-friendly reportage.” In a country whose economy revolves around cash payment of salaries, where credit cards are virtually unknown and corruption is rampant, the idea that Ms. Aslamazian should face anything more than a minor fine is clear and convincing proof of how far gone neo-Soviet Russia really is.

For obvious reasons, the Russian authorities won’t discuss the matter. The Times reports: “The Golovinsky District Court handed the case to the Savyolovsky District Court because it was closer to the foundation’s offices and therefore within its jurisdiction. After a delay to the case in May, it was inexplicably sent back to the Golovinsky District Court. A spokesman at the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is to examine the computers and documents for evidence of money laundering and illegal business activity, referred all questions to the Interior Ministry. Pavel Klimovsky, a ministry spokesman, first said he knew nothing of the case and later declined immediate comment.

No thinking human being can dispute that in these events we see the Neo-Soviet Union fully realized. Only at the most superficial level of dates and names is there any difference whatsoever been the treatment of regime critics in Russia in 2007 and their treatment in 1987, and the clock is rapidly ticking backward. Indeed, Ms. Aslamazian can consider herself lucky that she merely faces exile and the ruin of her life’s work. Anna Politikovskaya and Galina Starovoitova were shot dead, and Mikhail Khodorkhovsky is languishing in a Siberian prison cell. Indeed, it’s hard to recall a person of Politkovskaya’s significance being shot down in Gorbachev’s Russia, so in some ways the neo-Soviet Union may even be worse than the USSR.

As outrageous as the actions of the Russian people and their government are in this case, La Russophobe‘s ire is most intently focused elsewhere today, on those treacherous vermin among us who whispered in our ear when the USSR collapsed and elections became the norm in Russia that the country could “never go back” to its malignant Soviet ways. There was no need, these charlatans advised us, to take aggressive action to prevent the creation of a neo-Soviet state, since Russians had learned their lesson. Whether out of simple ignorance or an active desire to facilitate dictatorship in Russia, these vermin caused us to lower our guard and mostly leave Russia to its own devices. Now, we pay the awful consequences of listening to them.

Not nearly enough has been done to call these traitors to the cause of democracy (to say nothing of Western security) to account for their outrageous and harmful acts. Has even one of them stepped forward to apologize for his/her misleading analysis? To some extent, we ourselves are guilty of digging our own grave if we won’t do what is necessary to punish those who mislead us, rooting out misinformation and disinformation where we find it. Had the Clinton administration been more aggressive in challenging Russia when the opportunity was there, we might well not now be facing the horror of a neo-Soviet Union — and George Bush Jr. certainly didn’t do us any good by looking into the eyes of Putin, either. How history will howl and heap scorn upon us when it sees that the amazing victory over the Evil Empire won by Ronald Reagan was so quickly and mindlessly squandered by twin two hayseed presidents, dooming us to generations more cold war with a barbaric country that is now out of control. And at the same time, have we adequately praised and rewarded those who warned us that the horror of dictatorship and imperialism had not yet ended in Russia with the rise of Boris Yeltsin? Surely we have not.

But let’s be clear about this: Russia is a pathetic excuse for a country with a pathetic excuse for an economy and a pathetic excuse for a military. In the end, it’s no real threat to the United States, much less to the NATO alliance, which can grind Russia into fine powder both economically and militarily and blow it into the wind as long as it makes a determined effort to do so. Whether we’ll step up to the plate and do what is necessary to protect ourselves, this time, from the Russian menace is an open question, but it’s entirely within our power.

Those who will suffer most at the hands of those venal scum who said Russia could “never go back” are the Russian people. Those who urged a “hands off” attitude towards Russia, who urged us to trust the Russian people, are the true “russophobes” of the world. They have condemned the people of Russia to the dustbin of history, to a lingering demise as Russia is humiliated before the world as “Zaire with permafrost,” a nation which can no longer be considered civilized and will no longer be taken seriously by the community of advanced nations. They have condemned the people of Russia to literal extermination, as their population dwindles by up to a million every year until they cease to exist.

But in the end, the Russian people have nobody to blame except themselves. They’re not innocent victims, but willing accomplices in their own destruction. A society that can’t tell its friends from its enemies, that repeats the same mistake over and over, that exiles, jails and kills those who should rule and hands power to those who should be in prison, is not long for this world.

Annals of Barbaric Russian Racism

It becomes more and more clear with every passing day that if you are not the “right” color you are not welcome in Russia — indeed, you can be attacked or killed on sight. When was the last time you heard “president” Putin give a speech condemning Russian racism and praising those who attack it? A reader comments by e-mail: “This is life on the ground in Russia. Putinism at an international level is a scandal but then there are the poor people that suffer daily because their leaders couldn’t care what the consquences are when they encourage xenophobia and whip up enmity across communities and nations.” Two stories from the St. Petersburg Times flesh out the horrifying details:

Expert on Hate Crimes Violently Attacked

One of Russia’s leading experts on racial issues and hate crimes was violently attacked on Tuesday in what her colleagues and human rights advocates see as an attempt to force the expert to change her testimony in a high-profile legal case. Valentina Uzuniva, was attacked by a female assailant, wearing a mask and was dressed in camouflage, who hit Uzunova several times on the head and took a dossier on a court case Uzunova has been working on dealing with charges of extremism. The assailant also took Uzunova’s earrings. Uzunova, 59, who received treatment in the Alexandrovskaya Hospital, sustained a concussion and hematomas on her head. Her condition was described as satisfactory on Thursday. The expert was attacked at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday outside 7 Ulitsa Podkovyrova, when she was on her way back from visiting the relatives of her former colleague, Nikolai Girenko, a prominent expert on ethnic issues, who was gunned down on exactly the same day in 2004. Girenko was shot through the door of his apartment, when he went to answer the doorbell. His killers have not yet been identified.

Uzunova had received threats of violence before, her colleagues said. After a recent anonymous nighttime call, in which the caller threatened to execute the expert and her family if she did not help to clear a defendant now facing extremism charges in court, Uzunova appealed for police protection but without success. The request was turned down as the police claimed there was lack of evidence of a credible threat. The police established the location of a phone booth used to make the phone call but failed to establish the identity of the caller. The case in question concerns a retired submariner Vladislav Nikolsky, who is facing charges of distributing extremist literature and forming a nationalist group. Uzunova had been give expert testimony in the court on Wednesday but the hearing was cancelled because of the attack. The assailant, who attacked Uzunova, took the materials on the Nikolsky case. Uzunova’s colleagues and human rights advocates said they have no doubts that extremists were behind the attack.

Alexander Vinnikov, a senior official at the St. Petersburg Union of Scientists and regional coordinator of the nationwide non-governmental movement “For Russia Without Racism,” said the Nikolsky case was coming to an end. “Uzunova had enough evidence in her hands for the judge to convict Nikolsky during the next hearing,” Vinnikov. Yuly Rybakov, a prominent human rights advocate with the St. Petersburg rights group Memorial, is convinced an organized extremist group was behind the attack. “She definitely had been followed, and in all likelihood, her phone had been bugged; the assailants had to know about her plans and visits in great detail to be able to get to her when she would be carrying the case materials, when she would be in a deserted quite place and when she would be on her own,” Rybakov said. “It requires timely and careful preparation with a certain number of people involved.” Rybakov accused law enforcement agencies of a biased and negative attitude towards anti-fascist campaigners. “I am not surprised Uzunova did not get protection after that dangerous threat,” he said and brought his own first-hand experience in to strengthen his point.

Several years ago, when Rybakov was a deputy in the State Duma, he learnt that two extremist groups had been planning to assassinate him. The lawmaker contacted the police and, providing all evidence available to him, asked for police protection, or at the very least, for his phone calls to be monitored and recorded. His request was turned down. “I then went public about the threats, and made a speech at the Duma about it to protect myself,” Rybakov said. “In most cases, the prosecutors openly show their contempt to anti-fascists and democrats, sometimes with outright insults.” His worries are shared by many of his counterparts. Human rights lawyer Olga Tseitlina, who represents the Kacharava family in the case of student anti-fascist campaigner Timur Kacharava, who was stabbed to death in 2005, is bewildered by what she calls “the attemps to present anti-fascists as a radical youth group of extremist character. The defendants’ lawyers [in the Kacharava case] almost make it sound as if Timur got what was coming to him and the judge and prosecutors just turn a blind eye,” Tseitlina said. Kacharava was stabbed to death outside the Bookvoyed book shop near the Oktyabrskaya Hotel early on a November evening in 2005 by assailants described as “skinheads.” The student’s activism also included delivering food aid to the homeless.

Natalya Yevdokimova, an advisor to Sergei Mironov, the chairman of the Council of Federation, urged the authorities to commission an in-depth analysis and assessment of the scope of extremism and nationalism in the city and for the results to be widely publicized. “It does not help that only human rights groups are aware of the issues; ordinary people do not get the picture at all,” she said. “The circumstances of and around these crimes — which are often classified as robberies, hooliganism or homicide [without a hate motive] — remain obscure to them.”

Race Murderers Get 39 Years . . But Only After Retrial

A 20-month jury trial rocked by judicial flaws that initially led to acquittals, prompting public condemnation and a retrial, ended Tuesday with the St. Petersburg City Court sentencing four white supremacists a total of 39 years in jail for murder. The court sentenced Andrei Gerasimov to 14 years in a high security prison for masterminding and taking part in the killing of 29-year-old Congolese student Roland Epassak in September 2005. Viktor Orlov, the youngest culprit in the group aged between 19 and 26, was sentenced to 7 years in jail, while Andrei Olenov and Yury Gromov will each serve a 9-year term. The group’s defense lawyers said they will file an appeal against the verdict with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if an appeal lodged in the Russian Supreme Court is rejected. After sentencing was passed a small picket of discontented nationalists, and friends and relatives of the convicted men gathered outside the court building on the Moika embankment waving placards “Shame to Fascist Prosecutors!” and “It Could be You in Their Place!” The 20-strong crowd was led by Yury Belyayev, leader of the extreme nationalist Freedom Party which was outlawed in 2004, who is currently serving an 18-month suspended sentence for promoting hate. “They [nationalists] have been dealt with a serious blow today,” said Ruslan Linkov, head of the Democratic Russia human rights movement. “But in the meantime anything should be expected of the wounded wild animals they are.” Linkov reminded people of non-Slavic appearance and their Russian sympathizers to the watchful of nationalist reaction to the case.

Tuesday’s sentencing followed a guilty verdict issued last Thursday by a panel of a dozen jurors who voted 10/2, a week after the prosecution and the defense had delivered final statements. It was the end of a retrial that had been ongoing since February, following the original trial in July in which the suspects were acquitted by a jury that was branded “inefficient” by human rights advocates and high profile politicians. “I took the case under my own patronage, followed it closely and the prosecutors did an excellent job proving guilt beyond any doubt; yet a bunch of inefficient, semi-literate jurors let the criminals go!” Governor, Valentina Matviyenko said in response to the public outcry against the acquittal last year. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling and ordered a retrial. “Such verdicts are counter-productive in relation to the war on xenophobia and extremism,” said Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, condemning courts acquittals in all three jury trials for hate murders in St. Petersburg last year. Gryzlov was referring to the trial of suspects in the murder of 9-year-old Tajik girl Khursheda Sultanova in February 2004 under the charge of “hooliganism” which resulted in suspended sentences for those accused of the slaying. A day after that killing, Neo-Nazis stabbed 9-year-old African-Russian girl Lillian Sisoko in the throat on the doorstep of her apartment building in downtown St. Petersburg. Gryzlov was also referring to the dropping of hate crime charges against the killers of Vietnamese student Vu An-Tuan in October 2004 resulting in a conviction on lesser charges and light sentences. The retrial in the Epassak case had a new jury and also heard fresh evidence and new witnesses. They included witness testimonies by two of Epassak’s compatriots who were with him minutes before the assault and the Russian girlfriend he was going to meet when he was attacked in the courtyard of a building on 8 Prospekt Nauki. The evidence also included video footage of the attack from a closed circuit camera on a nearby building.

The retrial was not without its hitches, however. The new jury had one of its members disqualified for allegedly having a criminal record. Epassak’s murder was the first in what would become a wave of violent hate crimes to hit St. Petersburg in which nine people were killed and several others hospitalized within the space of a year. Although most of the victims were members of the African community, the city’s smallest minority group, others in the spree included a Russian anti-fascist activist Timur Kachareva, a student at the St. Petersburg State University, Indian medical student Nitesh Kumar Singh and two women from the Caucuses and Central Asia.

Once Again, Russia Convicted of Subhuman Behavior in Chechnya by the European Court

Jurist reports:

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text] Thursday that Russian authorities were responsible for the deaths of four members of a Chechen family. The court ordered Russia to pay $114,000 to the family of Zura Sharaniyevna Bitiyeva, who was a political figurehead and anti-war campaigner in Chechnya. She, her husband, one of their sons, and her brother were all shot in the head in 2003. The ECHR found that the killings were carried out by Russia state workers, and that Russian authorities failed to thoroughly investigate the killings. Russia has three months to appeal the ruling.

Last month, the ECHR ruled [JURIST report] in another case that Russian authorities were responsible for the 2001 death of a Chechen man who died after he was taken into Russian custody during a raid. In April, the ECHR ordered Russia to compensate a Chechen woman [JURIST report] for the disappearance and alleged killing of her husband in 2000. The president of the ECHR has said almost a fifth of the 90,000 complaints currently before the court name the Russian government as a defendant. AP has more.

Russia is generating so much business for this court that it will probably soon have to be renamed the European Court for Adjudicating Russian Atrocities.


ZAXI blog offers the following penetrating commentary (as usual) regarding the recent ejection of the BP oil concern from the Russian market by the malignant nationalizing forces of the Kremlin:

It matters not if you spent ages preparing for the final exam. You will still fail without a pencil. And the teacher not only failed to provide a pencil in this case – he threatened to kick the groveling student out of the room for taking too long with the test.

Russian justice has turned so twisted that BP was feigning delirious joy at its handover to Gazprom of the ill-fated Kovykta gas field. BP’s new chief executive called it both “historic” and “powerful.” A host of Western oil analysts in Moscow said BP should feel grateful. Indeed BP and its Russian partner TNK faced the option of simply getting stripped of Kovykta’s license under pretext that the two could not market its gas in time to meet a fictitious deadline. They first needed permission to access pipelines – and the Russian state refused to hook up the stranded field to nearby China by claiming this was not in its plans. TNK-BP may have crammed all it wanted but it was about to go home with a failing grade and snot running down its quivering lip.

So Roland Nash of the Renaissance Capital investment house was nearly right to say the deal “is almost a billion dollars more than they might have otherwise gotten.” TNK-BP did get almost double its Kovykta investment in an actual legal agreement with Gazprom. And it now has the hilarious option of buying back a quarter stake at an “independently verified market price” or by swapping some of its European assets.

But of course Nash was not right. Gazprom could and did steal Sakhalin-2 from Royal Dutch Shell. It is about to illegally bar ExxonMobil from selling Sakhalin-1 gas to China – it wants that right for itself. Yet Gazprom could not simply pinch Kovykta because the B in BP once stood for “British.”

The Kremlin seems to abhor all things Albion except for its gas. Centrica may not have made any of the stories about Friday’s deal but the British Gas owner – seeking buyers because its fields are running dry – is the only reason why BP got any cash here at all. The prospect of Gazprom owning their gas has left Brits feeling understandably queasy. Parliament has proposed legislation blocking a potential deal. Centrica has put out hopeful feelers to gas firms stretching from France to Norway. The Kremlin knows it is not being welcomed with open arms. But Gazprom wants a foothold in Western Europe – perhaps as much for its prestige as its bottom line – and Centrica’s 16 million customers are a start. A small sacrifice on Kovykta in exchange for some whooping endorsements from BP mangers was a bargain in Kremlin eyes.

And has BP whooped. The company has waged war on Tony Blair for suggesting that British business calm its courtship of a Russia that looks to have donned its 1930s garb. It sunk one billion dollars in a Rosneft initial public offering that came up against stern analysts’ warnings. It placed a ceremonial bid in a staged auction for Yukos assets. BP has now offered Gazprom new joint ventures abroad. All this fine work has left BP with the right to still do business in Russia. Vladimir Potanin on the other hand just twiddled his thumbs. And all the Interros boss now has is a 26 percent stake in a Kovykta project that is suddenly worth tens of billions of dollars because of its imminent access to China.

The “baby billionaire” – a title Potanin earned from a fawning Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post in 1998 – learned quickly that silence is golden in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. He kept everything pilfered under Boris Yeltsin and remains one of the few standing oligarchs without training in the KGB. The Kremlin’s wrath has spared him again. His Kovykta stake was untouched by its campaign against the Russian partners in TNK-BP – confirming that Putin will let the select few who came before him enjoy their wealth.

Not all of it. It seems that Potanin’s Norilsk Nickel has the misfortune of holding rights to a titanium mine that looks just right to Putin’s old Dresden spy partner Sergei Chemezov. He now runs the state military industrial complex conglomerate being forged from the arms exporter Rosoboronexport. Potanin’s titanium mine fits nicely into Chemezov’s plans and the local governor has already blessed the whispered handover – perhaps citing the watertight legal argument that Putin would otherwise sack him.

Potanin’s team has also suddenly discovered that it will have a tough time digging through the titanium mine without Chemezov’s help. It told Kommersant it was willing to “discuss cooperation.” And who would not be after finding themselves sitting on top of enough gas to keep Asia – rather than some impoverished Siberian customers – running for over a year?

Interros will likely be booted from Kovykta in the long run if BP is ever allowed back in. Gazprom would not stand losing its majority stake and considering Potanin’s chumminess with Putin he can expect another handsome reward. But the future of TNK-BP itself looks grim. Putin has made clear his displeasure with the Russians involved in the arrangement – “I am not even going to talk about how they obtained the permit” for Kovykta in the early 1990s – if not with Potanin. And all the Kremlin really needs is BP’s technology rather than the remnants of a joint venture that Putin blessed in 2003. That fall Kremlin ceremony marked the apex for Western involvement in Russia. Pages of ink were spilled hailing the country’s rise to prominence almost five years to the day after an economic implosion saw investors stampede for safer shores. Those articles reversed course weeks later when the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky sounded the starting gun to the Yukos campaign.

One may now frown at BP’s naive enthusiasm at spotting a potential cash cow standing untended off the upper-left coast of Lake Baikal. A super-giant gas field that maps place just inches from China – the temptation was there. And BP could argue that others have also looked into Putin’s eyes and claimed to see something warm and fuzzy. Now energy analysts use stock phrases to insist that the Kremlin has done its work – the old deals have been “renegotiated” and all Western firms now operate under defined if subservient terms. It is safe to bet on Russia again.

Perhaps. But someone should first report the good news to ExxonMobil.

Putin and Yanukovich

Kommersant reports on a meeting last Thursday between Vladimir Putin and his alter ego in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich. It seems to have turned into a Keystone Cops affair, and reader “Elmer” observes

You might note the comment about the meeting starting on time (a miracle!) and a supposed gaffe committed by Yanuk – he sat down before Putin did. Or rather, seems to have plopped himself down into a chair. Ukraine’s parliament has been disbanded, and new elections are set for September 30. Key comment – Putin’s, and the reporter’s, beffudlement and bemusement over Ukraine being in “crisis.” Apparently, to Putin and his supporters, a crisis is when elections come up. Note also the reference to the “older brother” providing understanding and advice to the “younger brother.” This is a left-over piece of russkie chauvinism, dating way back to tsarist days, and carried through into sovok times. Is Putin pining for a Russian empire? You bet.

Crisis Pays a Visit to Stability

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday during his visit to Moscow. During his meeting with Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin made a stab at understanding who in the Ukrainian government is in the opposition and who is in the coalition. Kommersant special correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov has the details from their meeting.

The meeting between the Ukrainian prime minister and the Russian president began precisely at the appointed hour, at 19:00 Moscow Time, which is an unprecedented occurrence not only in the relationship between Ukraine and Russia but also in Russia’s relationship with any foreign government in recorded history.

Vladimir Putin greeted Mr. Yanukovych on the second floor of the presidential residence outside Moscow and offered him a seat in a the closest armchair. Mr. Putin’s own chair was further away, and Mr. Yanukovych sat firs – in fact, he simply threw himself down in the chair without waiting for Vladimir Putin to make it over to his own seat. He seemed to be playing at musical chairs, the game in which there’s always one less chair than the number of children and everyone has to hustle to get a chair so as to not disgrace themselves in front of the other players.

It would seem that the episode meant absolutely nothing at all. And yet Vladimir Putin, accustomed to rigid adherence to the iron protocol of the Kremlin (which I firmly believe includes a clause stating that the Russian president shall never arrive anywhere on time), looked briefly disgruntled. And suddenly that episode became a gross violation of protocol.

“Frankly speaking, we look with sympathy at what is happening in Ukraine,” said Vladimir Putin, clearly still reeling a bit after the curve ball thrown by the Ukrainian prime minister’s gaffe, “since all recent indications showed that economic growth and real improvement in the social sphere had started, and now the country has again run into political problems that need to be gotten through… But we are counting on our primary partner in the post-Soviet space, and in general one of our main economic partners, to deal with these problems as quickly as possible. Everything will pull through, it will happen in due course…we hope within the framework of the law and the existing constitution…”

Vladimir Putin spoke to Viktor Yanukovych like an older brother, one who is concerned about what’s going on in his younger brother’s life but who also finds it difficult to understand how the guy can live in such revolting disorder. An older brother, with his certainty about tomorrow, who could never even imagine such a thing.

“Unfortunately, we are going through the next stage of the political crisis that began almost at the very beginning of April,” said Viktor Yanukovych gloomily. “The main thing that we have managed to achieve during that period – and we believe it to be a big achievement – is that all branches of government are operating within the law.”

Then he realized that maybe that isn’t quite the whole truth, and that maybe he should own up to his older brother.

“But there are still unresolved questions that need to be resolved, mainly by the opposition,” he added, his facade crumpling. “It is these questions that basically open the door to holding legal elections. That was our first demand, and the second demand of the coalition is that if the elections are held, they must be transparent and clean…”

“You don’t have an opposition!” interrupted Vladimir Putin. “All of you are in the government! Who is in the opposition? I can’t figure it out for the life of me. Everybody’s in power over there.”

The older brother appeared to be dissatisfied with the mess into which he had been forced to dive for the sake of close family ties.

“I remember very well the conversation that I had with you, one of the first, when you asked what the constitutional reform is,” began Viktor Yanukovych hastily. “It is to some extent the flaws in the constitutional reform that we need to resolve, and I think that in any case the question of whether there will be elections or not is open, because the balance of power creates the conditions for it to be effective as whole and because it’s not possible for any of the branches of government to interrupt their work.”

If someone had tried to delve into what Viktor Yanukovych was talking about at this point, he probably wouldn’t have gotten that Mr. Yanukovych is talking about the dissolution of the legislature. All the more so because the prime minister had managed to confuse himself.

“In that case, the chain is broken,” he said without a pause, “and basically the country cannot live in those conditions. That’s what has happened now in Ukraine.”

So it turns out that Ukraine cannot live anymore. And then, of course, the question arises as to what physical state Ukraine is currently in. It turns out that it’s in a coma.

“But in addition to that, all of these processes are taking place peacefully,” continued Viktor Yanukovych. “We have not allowed any clashes or civil strife. Although we cannot really call that a big achievement…”

It was long past time for him to stop talking. Every word could be used against him.

“We’re just glad that human blood wasn’t spilled…” said Viktor Yanukovych, and his eyes became warm and even somehow radiant. “We believe that crises come and go, but life goes on!”