Daily Archives: July 20, 2007

July 20, 2007 — Contents


(1) Annals of Neo-Soviet Failure: Sochi Laid Bare

(2) Annals of “Pacified” Chechnya: The Blood Continues to Flow

(3) Annals of Russian “Sportsmanship”

(4) Signs of the Neo-Soviet Apolcalyse: Russophiles Turning on the Kremlin

NOTE: Check out LR’s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where we decry the Kremlin’s outrageous action in refusing to cooperate on terror with the West, something that will be at least as harmful to Russian’s own people (Dubrovka, Beslan) as it will to the West. Only a truly evil empire would condemn its own citizens to be killed in acts terror, as well as innocent people in other countries, just to get political revenge.

Annals of Neo-Soviet Failure: Sochi Lays Russia Bare

The Financial Express of India (see similar on RIA Novosti) exposes Russia as a third-rate nation utterly unfit to hold membership in the G-8 or host the Olympic Games. Of course, lack of substance has never stopped Russia before, which has always preferred instead to rely on lies and illusions.

President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus is on the bad news rather than on positive developments. There is certainly some truth in this—western reporting on the Soviet Union and on Yeltsin and Putin’s Russia has varied between brilliant and insightful and downright incompetent. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defence Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

This week, Russia started getting down to the serious business of organising the 2014 Winter Olympics after Sochi’s successful bid to host the Games. President Putin’s injunctions to the prime minister, ministers, government officials and the Prosecutor General were symptomatic of Russia’s current stage of development.

Putin told officials recently to set up a special working group at the prosecutor general’s office to ensure that the billions of dollars the state will spend on building the necessary sport facilities and transport infrastructure will be used rationally and as intended.

He also told ministers and Yuri Chaika, the prosecutor general, that the working group should prevent the money from being siphoned off and embezzled and should include people from other law enforcement agencies to beef up monitoring. The Russian media highlighted Putin’s call for the working group, but Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi bidding committee, argued that the fears of fraud were exaggerated and rightly pointed out that in the last 15 years, Russia has made great progress in democracy, openness and transparency.

But it is hard to imagine that a western head of state would feel the need to set up an audit body with such a specific brief: the legal regimes and control mechanisms in developed countries are by no means perfect and cannot prevent corruption, but they are far superior to similar institutions in Russia.

Putin’s orders reflect his recognition of rampant corruption, but Transparency International claims that since 2001, graft in Russia has in fact jumped sevenfold. This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The bank summarises six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: voice & accountability; political stability and lack of violence/terrorism; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law and control of corruption.

Needless to say, the G7 and the OECD continue to boast the high values which indicate better governance—in other words, these are the advanced first-world countries, or those aspiring to become developed.

But no matter how you slice and dice the data, Russia almost invariably appears far below the advanced countries and falls in the ranks of the lower percentiles, which indicate the percentage of countries worldwide that rate below the selected country. Even more worrying to Moscow ought to be Russia’s poor performance in the much-vaunted BRIC group, with Russia often far behind Brazil and India, although China more often brings up the rear with a big lag. Indeed, Russia does not even perform particularly well among the group of countries from the former Soviet Union. Russia is still a long way off achieving anywhere near the levels of the developed West and Japan—and also of OECD members such as Mexico.

The Swedish Defence Research Agency published a report recently sponsored by the Swedish Ministry of Defence and entitled, “Russian Leverage on the CIS and Baltic States.” The study analyses Russia’s use of foreign policy levers, such as energy and culture, and concludes that Russia’s actions during the “oil and gas wars” and the recent crisis with Estonia have caused a backlash and go against Russia’s stated aim of joining the WTO and better relations with Europe and EU.

Annals of "Pacified" Chechnya: The Blood Continues to Flow

RIA Novosti reports:

Four police officers were killed and at least eight injured in an explosion in southern Russia’s Republic of Daghestan early Wednesday, local police and medics said. An explosive device was detonated at 7:40 a.m. Moscow time (3:40 a.m. GMT), when police officers were jogging at a sports ground in the town of Kizilyurt in central Daghestan, police said. The injured officers were hospitalized, and one of them is in a serious condition undergoing surgery. An investigation is underway. “The gunmen activated a radio-controlled explosive device made of a 76-mm-caliber artillery shell,” the Daghestani Interior Ministry’s spokesperson, Anzhela Martirosova, said. “The bomb was buried underground near the building where police usually change their clothes.” Daghestan, an ethnically mixed, largely Muslim republic in the volatile North Caucasus, has been plagued with violence, stemming both from the conflict in neighboring Chechnya and political infighting and turf wars over fishing and other lucrative economic activities. One Russian policeman was shot dead and two others wounded Sunday by two suspected militants, while the officers were inspecting an abandoned car in the city of Khasavyurt. Also Sunday, a former local administration head, Tamerlan Amayev, was wounded after a bomb exploded in a restaurant in Khasavyurt. On Saturday, a Daghestani lawmaker and his guest were killed in an attack on the deputy’s house in eastern Daghestan.

Russia is planning to hold the Olympic games in this region. Is that totally insane even by Russian standards, or what?

The Moscow Times reports:

A bomb went off during a funeral Wednesday in an Ingush village, injuring at least seven, Interfax reported. The funeral for Lyudmila Terekhina and her two adult children, who were shot dead in their home Monday, was almost over when 50 to 100 grams of TNT exploded in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, Ingush police chief Mussa Medov told Interfax. Ingushetia’s prosecutor, Yury Turygin, said the explosion had been classified as a terrorist act, Itar-Tass reported. Medov said seven were injured in the attack, including four law enforcement officers and a woman whose leg was torn off. Akhmed Nakastoyev, head of the Sunzhensky district, where the village is located, put the number of those injured in the attack at 10, Interfax reported. Neither Medov nor Nakastoyev would offer any clues as to who might have planted the bomb targeting people attending the funeral.

Annals of Russian "Sportsmanship"

The International Herald Tribune reports that Russia has set yet another new benchmark of craven behavior in sport:

Anastasia Rodionova of Russia became the second player on the WTA Tour to be disqualified from a match when she smacked a ball Tuesday toward fans cheering for her opponent at the Cincinnati Women’s Open. Germany’s Angelique Kerber was handed a 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 victory when Rodionova hit a ball in the direction of three fans at one end of the court in a display of frustration after she lost the first game of the third set. The ball hit halfway up the wall in front of the stands where the fans were sitting and caromed back onto the court. Earlier, she had complained about fans applauding for Kerber during points. While the players were changing sides, the umpire called for tournament referee William Coffey. After a brief discussion, Coffey defaulted Rodionova for “unsportsmanlike conduct,” he said. “I’m shocked,” Rodionova said. “I still don’t understand why they defaulted me. I’m really upset. I’ve never seen in my life anyone defaulted in this situation. I had no warning. I didn’t hit the ball at anybody. I didn’t swear at anybody. I didn’t throw my racket.” In the 36-year history of the tour, it is believed that there has been only one other default in the main draw of a tournament, a WTA Tour spokesman said. Irina Spirlea was disqualified in 1996 at Palermo for directing abusive language at an official.

When the Russophiles Condemn the Kremlin, You Know Russia is on the Brink of Utter Disaster

It seems the world has finally come to its senses and beat a path to La Russophobe‘s door. First eXile America hater and Russophile Mark Ames reports favorably on the Russian opposition, then Russophile blogger Ruminations on Russia trashes Russophile cabal Russia Blog, and now Boris Kagarlitsky, a rabid Russophile who’s been repeatedly attacked on this blog for facilitating the rise of dictatorship in Russia, rips the neo-Soviet Kremlin a new one. If even he is now worried about the neo-Soviet crackdown, that’s a pretty breathtaking illustration of just how bad things are. Note how this cowardly little rat weasels out at the end, merely saying we can “hope” that the Putin crackdown “fizzles out” as he apparently thinks Stalin’s did. Is he willing to sacrifice millions of Russian lives until that happens? Can’t he suggest any practical course of action? Is he really that pusillanimous? You better believe he is. From the Moscow Times:

Andrei Polyakov, the leader of the Union of Communist Youth of Karelia, was surprised to learn that his name had been included on a list of extremists drawn up by local law enforcement agencies. After all, the union is an officially registered organization that never interested the authorities before. The group had never held any unauthorized meetings and hadn’t even participated in the Dissenters’ March in St. Petersburg in April.

Karelia authorities now spend most of their time making lists of extremists. Olga Ivanova, a young journalist from Krasnodar, has long been accustomed to receiving unwanted attention from the authorities. Representatives from the security services occasionally call her in for “friendly chats” wanting to know where she has traveled lately, and with whom she has met.

Ivanova recently graduated from the university. She received a ‘B’ on her graduation paper, but one of her professors confessed to her, saying, “Of course that paper deserved an ‘A,’ but since you are known as a dissenter, it would not have been a good idea to give you anything more than a ‘B.’ But don’t worry, the authorities also had it out for me during Soviet times, but nothing came out of it,” he said.

Ivanova can probably consider herself lucky. Things haven’t worked gone as well for Sergei Vilkov of Saratov. On the evening of July 5, two riot police jumped him without warning. Then, six members of the organized crime division of the police joined in. The officers then handcuffed Vilkov and shoved him to the asphalt, holding him face down. He remained in that position for 20 minutes. After that, in the presence of witnesses, the police “discovered” a loaded pistol in Vilkov’s possession. He was released on bail only after giving assurances that he would not leave the region.

A lawyer accompanied Vilkov at the interrogation. The investigator, who didn’t want any defense lawyers poking around in his investigation, decided to postpone the questioning to a later date on the grounds that he had additional work to do on the case. Later, the authorities added another charges against Vilkov — causing bodily harm to a local Nazi sympathizer during a brawl. Although the police admit that Sergei did not participate in the fight, they plan to implicate him for “inciting” the violence.

I became somewhat disturbed after reading about these events because I know these individuals personally. And it’s frightening to realize that they are actually extremists! Maybe they read my articles, drew the wrong conclusions, and decided to undermine the Establishment as a result. One fine day, I might be charged for inciting others as well.

Ever since the State Duma began its battle against extremism, it has stepped up both the quantity and the severity of legislation designed to combat it. At the same time, the understanding of what constitutes “extremism” remains deliberately vague, giving repressive local law enforcement agencies sufficient latitude to interpret and enforce the laws as they see fit. In a typical fashion, the laws are written in such a way so as to blur any distinction between the ultra right and the radical left. Moreover, the authorities use the violence committed by the ultra-right as a justification for repressing the left — and not only the radical left, but also the more moderate wing. Any criticism of the authorities or the government can be interpreted as incitement to insurrection.

Law enforcement agencies, in turn, take the new legislative initiatives as a clear signal to act decisively. They see it as their duty to identify and apprehend all the extremists within their jurisdictions. And if they don’t find a single extremist, their city ends up looking like some sort of backward village.

The fight against extremism is gaining momentum. However, we can still hope that the current campaign will fizzle out like so many have in Russia’s past, leaving behind nothing but unpleasant memories.