Daily Archives: July 23, 2007

July 23, 2007 — Contents

MONDAY JULY 23 CONTENTS


(1) Another Day, Another International Review, Another Failing Grade for Russia

(2) The Past as Prologue

(3) Bloodthirsty Kremlin’s Onslaught Against the British Dissidents

(4) Zaxi Blog on the Russo-British Firefight

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime — which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign “russophobia” instead of undertaking needed reform. We’ve documented this phenomenon many times, here’s our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) 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. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus 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. Nevertheless, Putin’s comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia’s World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:


Russia’s “rule of law” score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin’s Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a “minus” governance score in every category. The decline in “regulatory quality,” previously Russia’s area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia’s percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 — a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia’s highest percentile score now is the “governmental effectiveness” category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year’s results to the year before that; Russia’s scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia’s scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He’s offering Russia “stability” — only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria — at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he’s offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR’s fate?

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime — which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign “russophobia” instead of undertaking needed reform. We’ve documented this phenomenon many times, here’s our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) 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. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus 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. Nevertheless, Putin’s comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia’s World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:


Russia’s “rule of law” score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin’s Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a “minus” governance score in every category. The decline in “regulatory quality,” previously Russia’s area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia’s percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 — a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia’s highest percentile score now is the “governmental effectiveness” category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year’s results to the year before that; Russia’s scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia’s scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He’s offering Russia “stability” — only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria — at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he’s offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR’s fate?

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime — which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign “russophobia” instead of undertaking needed reform. We’ve documented this phenomenon many times, here’s our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) 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. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus 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. Nevertheless, Putin’s comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia’s World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:


Russia’s “rule of law” score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin’s Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a “minus” governance score in every category. The decline in “regulatory quality,” previously Russia’s area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia’s percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 — a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia’s highest percentile score now is the “governmental effectiveness” category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year’s results to the year before that; Russia’s scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia’s scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He’s offering Russia “stability” — only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria — at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he’s offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR’s fate?

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime — which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign “russophobia” instead of undertaking needed reform. We’ve documented this phenomenon many times, here’s our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) 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. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus 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. Nevertheless, Putin’s comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia’s World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:


Russia’s “rule of law” score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin’s Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a “minus” governance score in every category. The decline in “regulatory quality,” previously Russia’s area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia’s percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 — a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia’s highest percentile score now is the “governmental effectiveness” category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year’s results to the year before that; Russia’s scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia’s scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He’s offering Russia “stability” — only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria — at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he’s offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR’s fate?

Another Day, Another International Review, Another Miserable, Humiliating Failing Grade for Vladimir Putin’s Russia

Well, the World Bank has just released its 2007 World Governance Indicators report, and once again a prestigious, respected international organization has trashed the Putin regime — which, once again, just as in Soviet times, has tried to blame foreign “russophobia” instead of undertaking needed reform. We’ve documented this phenomenon many times, here’s our summary for 2006, a joltingly dismal report card for Russia.

Even RIA Novosti gets it: Russia is unqualified for G-8 membership or any other role among the advanced nations of the world. RIA states:

This week, the World Bank Institute published its sixth annual Worldwide Governance Indicators. The Bank summarizes six aggregate indicators to arrive at an assessment of how well countries are governed: i) Voice & Accountability, ii) Political Stability and Lack of Violence/Terrorism, iii) Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v) Rule of Law and vi) 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. President Putin has frequently complained that international reporting on Russia is biased and unfair, that the media focus 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. Nevertheless, Putin’s comments display a profound failure to understand what drives the 24/7 international news agenda. And as new reports by the World Bank and the Swedish Defense Research Agency make clear, it is hard to put a good spin on bad policies.

Russia’s World Bank data is accessible here and here. As shown below (click the graphic to see it full size), its score is down from the prior year in every one of the six assessed categories except political stability and is in the red warning area (bottom quartile in the world) in four of the six categories:


Russia’s “rule of law” score has now slipped into the bottom fifth of all 212 countries surveyed by the World Bank (that means 80% of the countries in the world, four out of five surveyed, have more respect for the law than Russia). Again, Putin’s Russia is in the bottom quartile among the 212 countries surveyed in four of the six categories (shown in red), including stability, and as high as the top half in none. It moved into the bottom quartile this year in two categories where it was above that level previously, and failed to climb out in the other two. It has a “minus” governance score in every category. The decline in “regulatory quality,” previously Russia’s area of highest achievement, was the most dramatic; here Russia’s percentile score fell from a score of 42 in 2005 to a score of 34 in 2006 — a decline of 20% in just one year. Russia’s highest percentile score now is the “governmental effectiveness” category, but this slipped from 41 last year to 38 this year.

The same pattern appears when comparing last year’s results to the year before that; Russia’s scores fell in four of six categories after the passage of one year. Comparing Russia’s scores to ten years ago, when according to the Putinites Russia was a total basket case on life support, shows that Russia is still in the bottom quartile in three categories (corruption, rule of law and stability), has fallen into the bottom quartile in voice/accountability, and has climbed out of the bottom quartile only in governmental effectiveness and regulatory quality. But those two improvements are marginal, since Russia still has negative scores in both areas and has lost ground in both areas in each of the past two years. Russia has sacrificed the freedom it enjoyed in the Yetsin years without making any significant progress towards becoming a successful state.

How can this banana republic possibly be a member of the G-8? How can it be allowed to host the Olympic Games? More important, how can such a disastrous regime, measured quantitatively, possibly enjoy 70%+ approval from the population, even as the population plunges and the entire world is alienated by cold-war policies? Has the world, and have the Russian people, gone mad?

Vladimir Putin has been an unmitigated disaster in Russia. He’s offering Russia “stability” — only in a relative sense, Russia is still a basket case by international standards in that criteria — at the price of every other aspect of civilized society being placed in retrograde. In other words, he’s offering exactly what Stalin offered. How long before Russia meets the USSR’s fate?

The Past as Prologue

Writing in the Moscow Times Natasha Randall, whose translation of “We,” by Yevgeny Zamyatin, was published last year by The Modern Library, reviews The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland:

The master short-story writer Isaac Babel was arrested by the NKVD in May 1939 and executed in January 1940. For a long time, it wasn’t clear when he died: His wife eventually learned of his demise 15 years after the fact. When he was arrested, all his papers were confiscated. His unpublished manuscripts were never found.

Travis Holland’s gripping debut novel, “The Archivist’s Story,” summons up this moment in time — the months during which Babel was incarcerated in the Lubyanka security-police headquarters — through the eyes of one of the Lubyanka’s archivists, Pavel Dubrov. Pavel is a former literature teacher who is now in the employ of the NKVD, responsible for organizing the archives of seized literary manuscripts in the basement of the notorious building on what was then known as Dzerzhinsky Square. His department is in the process of cataloging and then incinerating the manuscripts, file by file.

As the novel opens, Pavel is interviewing the newly imprisoned Babel about a discrepancy in the latter’s file. The scene is a quiet one: Pavel offers Babel some tea and feels pity for the author, who has had his glasses confiscated. “It is a small matter that brings them together. A story, untitled, unsigned, and by all appearances incomplete, which the officers in their haste have neglected to record in the evidence manifest.” Babel asks Pavel if he can be permitted to write a letter to his wife. “I’m sorry comrade,” is Pavel’s reply. “Understand, it’s not a matter of whether or not I’d like to help you.” Pavel is moved to tears by the author’s request but turns to the matter at hand. He shows the manuscript to Babel. “It’s mine,” the author concedes.

Indeed, Pavel cannot help Babel, for he has little or no power over the archives and the inmates of the Lubyanka. He takes his orders from a bureaucrat called Kutyrev who says: “I’m not really much of a reader.” As Pavel grows increasingly uncomfortable with the destruction of so much literary work, Kutyrev becomes suspicious. Pavel knows full well that Kutyrev may pass on his suspicion to his superiors.

Outside of work, Pavel leads a lonely life; his wife was killed in a train accident some years previously. He lives alone in an apartment block near the Donskoi Monastery, which overlooks the chimney stacks of a nearby cemetery’s crematorium. This is the crematorium that serves the Butyrka and Lefortovo prisons and the Lubyanka — disposing of the remains of their executed and starved.

The repeated journeys to the archive’s incinerator, and Kutyrev’s obnoxious philistine dogma, eventually take their toll. “Pavel is suddenly, powerfully sick to his core: of Kutyrev and his grinding, mindless ambition, of these deadening metal stacks and their dust, which Pavel can all but feel sticking in his lungs. Mostly, though, he is sick of himself.” Later that evening, as he is carting yet more manuscripts from stack to stack, Pavel is seized by an impulse. He takes the newly discovered Babel story, folds it and stuffs it down the back of his pants. Then he walks out of the Lubyanka and heads for home.
Holland’s measured narrative maintains a swift pace — it’s a suspenseful story, full of brushes with peril. Pavel’s act of sabotage could cost him his position, if not his life. But with the pressures of Stalinist life in 1939, something has to give. Adolf Hitler is beginning his offensive on Soviet territory, and Pavel’s friends and mentors are being threatened with arrest. After the meeting with Babel, Pavel’s work at the archive gains a new purpose — or, rather, it regains the original purpose of archival work: preservation.

So Pavel hides the short story, and then a second short story, behind some bricks in the wall of his apartment block’s basement. His neighbor, Natalya, a building attendant with whom he is having an intermittent love affair, notices something and says: “I could hear you the other night. Down in the basement.” He tells her he was looking for clothes among his boxes. “‘I don’t know,’ she says, ‘It doesn’t matter, Pavel. Whatever you were doing.'”

Meanwhile, a major called Radlov summons Pavel to his office — being noticed is a big sign of trouble to come. But it’s not clear what Radlov wants, other than to make Pavel nervous. The major says: “He killed himself. Gogol. Do you know how?” Pavel knows that Gogol starved himself. “‘Do you think,’ Radlov asks, ‘that because you’ve read his stories, you understand Gogol any better than those who knew him personally?'” Pavel isn’t sure what he is being asked. It seems that Radlov is trying to make Pavel articulate the distinction between an author’s work and life — to put a value on each. But Pavel can’t say a word: “To even speak of the disgraced dead is to risk joining them.”

Holland holds the reader in suspense as Kutyrev mysteriously intimates that Pavel’s career will end when he has finished incinerating all the manuscripts in the archive. But Pavel the archivist continues doing what he needs to do: He needs to preserve, and to build memorials. That’s why he steals manuscripts, hoards the letters of an arrested friend and even hides a handkerchief that Babel gave him. As his 58-year-old mother begins losing her memory due to a brain tumor, Pavel’s greatest fear becomes forgetting itself: “A day, one day, when his mother will no longer recognize him, will no longer remember their lives together. Two deaths then: her past, his.”

As trouble looms perceptibly for Pavel, Holland creates scene after ominous scene in a rather straightforward delivery. The writing is barely noticeable, in part because Holland’s descriptions are on the bland side. But the smoothness of the flow and the mounting tension soon engross the reader in Pavel’s fate. With Pavel, Holland competently explores a voice of conscience within one of the most brutal institutions in history. And it is a worthy and interesting voice, though Holland may have erred toward the melodramatic in his treatment.

Bloodthirsty Kremlin’s Onslaught Against British Dissidents

Contributor Jeremy Putley points out that The Observer now reports that not only did British police warn Boris Berezovsky that he was an assassination target a month ago, they also warned Maria Litvinenko and Akhmed Zakayev. So it appears that not only was the Kremlin stonewalling the Litvinenko investigation, it was also plotting to commit other Litvinenko-like acts against other British-based Russian dissidents. If true, this would be an act of war by Russia against Britain, and it seems to be true. In the wake of the announcement of these threats, Russia is backing down, seeking raprochment.

Police tracking the would-be killer of business tycoon Boris Berezovsky feared two other London-based Russian dissidents were also assassination targets, The Observer can reveal.

Scotland Yard warned the widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko and the exiled Chechen envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, that there was an increased threat to their personal security shortly before the alleged attempt to kill Berezovsky at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair, London, last month. Police were so concerned they placed a squad of uniformed officers around Zakayev’s house in north London five days before Berezovsky’s alleged assassin was picked up. They also phoned Marina Litvinenko to urge her to take greater security precautions. Berezovsky was told to leave the country for a while after the suspected assassin was flagged entering the UK early last month, a move that saw police take action to protect a number of high-profile critics of the Kremlin living in the UK.

Alexander Goldfarb, a close friend of Alexander Litvinenko and another outspoken critic of the Kremlin, said uniformed officers were outside Zakayev’s house when he attended a party there on 16 June, shortly after arriving with Marina Litvinenko from Hamburg where the two had been promoting their book about the poisoning of the former KGB agent. ‘There were about eight officers outside,’ Goldfarb said. ‘When we asked what was happening we were told there was a security alert. And just after we landed, Marina’s driver said the police had phoned six times to talk to her while she was away. They detained this guy [the alleged assassin] on the twenty-first. It seems they had a lot of intelligence about what was going on and that the attempt to kill Berezovsky wasn’t an isolated event.’

Police fears of a heightened threat to Zakayev and Marina Litvinenko emerged as Berezovsky gave further details of the plot to kill him. In an interview with a Russian news agency, he said he was told the assassin would be someone he knew who would shoot him in the head. ‘He wouldn’t attempt to hide from police, he would explain his actions by saying he had some kind of business claims against me,’ Berezovsky said. ‘In that situation – where a person had alleged business claims, where he didn’t attempt to run away or hide – there’s the possibility that he would be sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to English law, they’ll let you out after 10 years with good behaviour. He would get money [for carrying out the assassination], his family would get money; in other words, he would be completely taken care of. And he wouldn’t be serving his time at [Moscow’s] Matrosskaya prison; he’d be here in an English prison… He could eat well, watch television, exercise, learn a trade.’

The latest lurid claims have again drawn attention to the murky world inhabited by Berezovsky and his London-based acolytes. Moscow has consistently denied having any part in Litvinenko’s death or an assassination attempt against Berezovsky. There is speculation Berezovsky leaked details of the alleged attempt to kill him to the media to antagonise Moscow, once the British authorities had returned the suspected killer to Moscow. There have been reports the man was tracked by the security service, MI5, as he toured London in an ultimately futile attempt to buy a gun only to be arrested by police and handed to immigration officials.

The timing of the story has also been seen as suspicious, coming in the middle of a row over Britain’s attempts to charge a Russian businessman, Andrei Lugovoi, with Litvinenko’s murder. The Russian authorities have refused to hand Lugovoi over, prompting Britain to expel four officials last week. In reply Russia expelled four British diplomats. However, in a sign that Russia wants to calm the increasingly fractious row, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested the Kremlin now wishes to see a line drawn under the affair. Lavrov told the Interfax news agency: ‘Russia is interested in having relations with Britain brought back to normal.’

Bloodthirsty Kremlin’s Onslaught Against British Dissidents

Contributor Jeremy Putley points out that The Observer now reports that not only did British police warn Boris Berezovsky that he was an assassination target a month ago, they also warned Maria Litvinenko and Akhmed Zakayev. So it appears that not only was the Kremlin stonewalling the Litvinenko investigation, it was also plotting to commit other Litvinenko-like acts against other British-based Russian dissidents. If true, this would be an act of war by Russia against Britain, and it seems to be true. In the wake of the announcement of these threats, Russia is backing down, seeking raprochment.

Police tracking the would-be killer of business tycoon Boris Berezovsky feared two other London-based Russian dissidents were also assassination targets, The Observer can reveal.

Scotland Yard warned the widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko and the exiled Chechen envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, that there was an increased threat to their personal security shortly before the alleged attempt to kill Berezovsky at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair, London, last month. Police were so concerned they placed a squad of uniformed officers around Zakayev’s house in north London five days before Berezovsky’s alleged assassin was picked up. They also phoned Marina Litvinenko to urge her to take greater security precautions. Berezovsky was told to leave the country for a while after the suspected assassin was flagged entering the UK early last month, a move that saw police take action to protect a number of high-profile critics of the Kremlin living in the UK.

Alexander Goldfarb, a close friend of Alexander Litvinenko and another outspoken critic of the Kremlin, said uniformed officers were outside Zakayev’s house when he attended a party there on 16 June, shortly after arriving with Marina Litvinenko from Hamburg where the two had been promoting their book about the poisoning of the former KGB agent. ‘There were about eight officers outside,’ Goldfarb said. ‘When we asked what was happening we were told there was a security alert. And just after we landed, Marina’s driver said the police had phoned six times to talk to her while she was away. They detained this guy [the alleged assassin] on the twenty-first. It seems they had a lot of intelligence about what was going on and that the attempt to kill Berezovsky wasn’t an isolated event.’

Police fears of a heightened threat to Zakayev and Marina Litvinenko emerged as Berezovsky gave further details of the plot to kill him. In an interview with a Russian news agency, he said he was told the assassin would be someone he knew who would shoot him in the head. ‘He wouldn’t attempt to hide from police, he would explain his actions by saying he had some kind of business claims against me,’ Berezovsky said. ‘In that situation – where a person had alleged business claims, where he didn’t attempt to run away or hide – there’s the possibility that he would be sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to English law, they’ll let you out after 10 years with good behaviour. He would get money [for carrying out the assassination], his family would get money; in other words, he would be completely taken care of. And he wouldn’t be serving his time at [Moscow’s] Matrosskaya prison; he’d be here in an English prison… He could eat well, watch television, exercise, learn a trade.’

The latest lurid claims have again drawn attention to the murky world inhabited by Berezovsky and his London-based acolytes. Moscow has consistently denied having any part in Litvinenko’s death or an assassination attempt against Berezovsky. There is speculation Berezovsky leaked details of the alleged attempt to kill him to the media to antagonise Moscow, once the British authorities had returned the suspected killer to Moscow. There have been reports the man was tracked by the security service, MI5, as he toured London in an ultimately futile attempt to buy a gun only to be arrested by police and handed to immigration officials.

The timing of the story has also been seen as suspicious, coming in the middle of a row over Britain’s attempts to charge a Russian businessman, Andrei Lugovoi, with Litvinenko’s murder. The Russian authorities have refused to hand Lugovoi over, prompting Britain to expel four officials last week. In reply Russia expelled four British diplomats. However, in a sign that Russia wants to calm the increasingly fractious row, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested the Kremlin now wishes to see a line drawn under the affair. Lavrov told the Interfax news agency: ‘Russia is interested in having relations with Britain brought back to normal.’

Zaxi Blog on the Russo-British Firefight

Zaxi blog on the Russo-British firefight:

You know it has all gone a bit pear-shaped for the Kremlin when Germany throws in the towel.

Britain broke something of a European convention by expelling four Russian diplomats for Moscow’s decision to harbor the presumed killer of Alexander Litvinenko. It may be argued that London’s response was too meek. London could have justifiably mothballed an entire Russian embassy section for potentially helping Andrei Lugovoi smuggle polonium into London. It might have recalled its Moscow ambassador – the hounded man must surely welcome a respite from the Kremlin youth mob that blots his every step. Yet its suspension of fast-track visas for bureaucrats was a delightful exposure of Russia as a criminal state. True: the City still props up its cash trough before Kremlin Inc. But it should also now get a notch harder for London Stock Exchange listings regulators to justify wearing their blinders.

Moscow allowed itself a few days of fulminations before issuing a tit-for-tat response capped by a droll decision to freeze anti-terror cooperation. Russians watching their television news in that span could hardly escape a feeling of having just been violated by an “immoral” monarchy that refuses to honor their young constitution. “The so-called Litvinenko case” was a plot against Russian soul and sovereignty – “a provocation planned by the British authorities.”

However Britain’s new government took a far more fundamental step than just standing up to Kremlin debauchery. It also demanded that a Europe that strikes self-serving bilateral deals with Moscow while mumbling a few chorus lines about democracy do the same.

And Europe did what Europe does best. It stalled.

The Foreign Office sought an immediate European Union statement denouncing Russia’s refusal to extradite Lugovoi. Nicolas Sarkozy’s new France was rearing to go. But the EU presidency now rests with Portugal and its foreign minister clung to the phrase “a bilateral issue” like a white flag before an advancing Red Army.

In fact the heart of this European matter rested elsewhere – namely Berlin. As The Guardian wrote: “German foreign ministry officials reportedly believed Britain had overreacted by expelling four diplomats.”

Germany’s Angela Merkel holds an abridged encyclopedia of evidence against Russia in the case. Lugovoi’s cohort Dmitry Kovtun scattered Po-210 traces at both his ex-wife’s and former mother-in-law’s Hamburg homes before landing in London. Kovtun also submitted a radioactive passport photo to Hamburg city hall while applying for a permanent residency permit that was officially stamped on October 30 – two days before he and Lugovoi met Litvinenko for poisoned tea.

This is not just circumstantial evidence – this resembles DNA evidence on a smoking gun.

But Merkel had until now betrayed her East German roots by allowing the admittedly daunting weight of local industrialists to quash her nascent efforts to stare down Russian intimidation. The Hamburg evidence was buried. The most vocal German on Litvinenko has been the disgraceful Gerhard Schroeder – the sellout ex-chancellor who lobbies Kremlin interests from his payoff post as head of the Nord Stream pipeline shareholder’s committee controlled by Gazprom.

Merkel initially received Gordon Brown in Berlin with a message that could have been read by Schroeder from his Gazprom script – that Britain’s actions were leaving it exposed and isolated from Europe. Yet somehow Brown – forever damned with the contrast of his Hugh Grant predecessor – managed to swoon Merkel. She dropped her “bilateral” charade and the EU expressed its “disappointment” with Russia on the following day. And it vitally stressed that the standoff “raises important questions of common interest to EU member states.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband will go for gold in Brussels on Monday by trying to compel EU foreign minister to detain and hand over Lugovoi should he ever step on EU soil.

This momentum must carry for the Kremlin’s divide and conquer strategy now roiling Europe to finally crack. There is precious little evidence to go on that it will. E.ON and ENI have until now run the Moscow strategy desks in Berlin and Rome. A bone tossed to Total in the Shtokman gas field is still expected to appease Paris.

Thus the Brown-Merkel-Sarkozy troika – at this critical juncture – was in dire need of a razor-sharp US signal that it too was shelving the Russian appeasement strategy for the Europeans’ Kremlin gambit to be worth its immense risk.

And thus US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dusted off her old hymn sheet and reminded the world once more that “Russia is not the Soviet Union” and should not be “abandoned.”

What a shame that the face of US diplomacy is represented by perhaps the last Washington survivor to still believe that Vladimir Putin’s Russia must not be challenged but contained. Rice has been true to her message from the start and her measured tone – no matter how horribly mistimed in this case – has tempered the potential mayhem that could have erupted had Vice President Dick Cheney been let loose.

But Rice needs to honestly ask herself if her “not the Soviet Union” mantra is still really true.

Moscow may no longer export global communism but it has published one teacher’s guide calling Stalin “the most successful Soviet leader ever” and another accusing the US of building “a global empire.” Both state and private enterprises are making membership in the Kremlin’s United Russia party compulsory for employees to win promotions on the job. Former KGB agents not only run almost all major state companies but also – according to a study by the eminent Kremlinologist Olga Khryshtanovskaya – comprise 78 percent of Russia’s 1,016 leading politicians. Elections have been scrapped: the president remains the only federal official still directly chosen by Russians after parliament axed single-mandate votes that allowed liberals to win a handful of house seats. Regional governors have been appointed since about the day the Kremlin swallowed the last independent national television network. And of course the Soviet echoes ring just as boldly on the international arena. Moscow’s withdrawal from the CFE treaty that defined post-Cold War peace in Europe is just the most emblematic example. The United Nations’ forced abandonment of the Kosovo independence resolution is only the most recent and regretful.

Perhaps the only things separating the Russia of today from the Soviet Union of Brezhnev besides open borders are IKEA stores and Moscow Echo radio. It is a “mini-USSR” that can provoke a “mini-crisis” – a Soviet consumer society fed on oil.

Europe’s new leaders and the “new Europe” states are settling to this uneasy reality. It was Russia that pulled down the old curtain and it is now up to the United States to accept that the farcical play about democracy has come to a close.

July 22, 2007 — Contents

SUNDAY JULY 22 CONTENTS


(1) The Sunday Photos

(2) The Sunday Slam, Part I: Nemtsov Rips Putin a New One

(3) The Sunday Slam, Part II: The Journal Rips Putin a New One

(4) The Sunday Slam, Part III: European Bigwig Rips Putin a New One

(5) The Sunday Sports: Sharapova Gets the Boot (At Last!)

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she reviews the horrifying recent assault on senators and lawyers in neo-Soviet Russia, and feel free to add your comments on this latest Kremlin outrage.