Daily Archives: August 2, 2007

August 2, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY AUGUST 2 CONTENTS


(1) Another Day, Another Conviction for Russia in the ECHR

(2) Postcards from the Neo-Soviet Union . . . Lots and Lots of Them

(3) Exposing the Horror of Russia’s Most Unfriendly Skies

(4) The Hamas Debacle: It’s just this Simple — You Cannot Trust the Kremlin

(5) Can you Feel the Love Tonight?

NOTE: Here’s a bit of good news from the front in the ongoing battle against neo-Soviet propaganda. The story we ran yesterday about the weaponization of psychiatry has 17 Google News stories including the BBC, Washington Post and Reuters. And the story we ran earlier in the week about new video evidence of Kremlin complicity in the Beslan tragedy has an even more impressive 21 Google News items including numerous important British publications (always the leaders in reporting the truth about Russia). Of course, the coverage should be much wider and deeper, but still the word is getting out, and we can hope for even better results in the future.

Another Day, Another Conviction for Russia in the ECHR

The Moscow Times reports:

Three Russian journalists were unfairly punished for criticizing regional officials in print, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg decided in two separate rulings Tuesday. The first was Viktor Chemodurov, a reporter for a local newspaper in Kursk who called then Kursk region Governor Alexander Rutskoi “abnormal” for publicly criticizing allegations from the journalist about the misappropriation of regional funds in 2000. The second ruling was handed down in favor of Viktor Dyuldin and Alexander Kislov, two journalists who wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin in a Penza business newspaper accusing the local authorities of clamping down on media trying to expose corruption. All three journalists lost lawsuits brought by regional officials and were hit with small fines.

Rulings on freedom of expression in Russia, based on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, are rare. Tuesday’s decisions were only the fourth and fifth the court has ever handed down, said Andrei Richter, of the Center for Law and Media. “This, unfortunately, means nothing,” Richter said Tuesday. “People in Russia are just not aware of what happens in Strasbourg because it is ignored by the state-controlled media.” As a result, Richter said, judges will “continue to make mistakes” in cases dealing with freedom of expression in the media. Chemodurov called the court’s award of 1,000 euros ($1,370) in damages “small change” from Kursk on Tuesday, but he described the ruling itself as “wonderful.”

“We’ve been fighting for this verdict for so long,” Chemodurov said. “It seems like someone reasonable is watching what is going on in Russia.” Dyuldin and Kislov could not be reached Tuesday. Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said the rulings were “great news.”

“But it illustrates a sad situation,” Panfilov said. “The Strasbourg court is Russia’s only functioning court.” Of the almost 90,000 applications before the 47-member court at the beginning of the year, 20 percent of them were from Russian citizens. Most of the complaints are related to events in Chechnya, and in particular to charges that the authorities are responsible for the deaths and disappearance of countless civilians. In a sign that the cases have become an irritant to the government, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin suggested earlier this month that the Constitution be amended to require cases to go through the Supreme Court before they can be filed in Strasbourg.

Postcards from Neo-Soviet Russia . . . Lots and Lots of Them!

The American Enterprise Institute’s online journal The American reports on the continuing, and increasingly aggressive, horrors of the Nashi youth cult, which is now actively calling for insurrection in the United States using the diatribes of Lenin as a model (hat tip — Robert Amsterdam):

Recently, the American Enterprise Institute received several letters originating in the Russian Federation. Meticulously copied out on typical Russian notebook paper in neat, handwritten English, the letters present an emotional appeal addressed to “The American Nation” and “the relatives of soldiers injured and dead in Afghanistan and Iraq”.

After summing up the letdowns of U.S. Middle East policy, the authors also alert the American people to their government’s active interference in Russia’s domestic affairs, as exemplified by the intent of the State Department to “provide financial and technological aid to NGO [sic] and groups of civil society that operate in Russia.” The consequences of such an erroneous approach will be dire, the appeal warns: “It means that the confrontation is irreversible. It also means the return to the times of the Cold War. At its best.”

The letters conclude by calling U.S. citizens to action: “Take to the streets! Cry for the resignation of the President and dismissal of the State Secretary! Stop fanatics at the State Department!”

The return address on one envelope yields a telling clue about the ideological underpinnings of its authors. The letters came courtesy of Nashi. Nashi, which means “ours” in Russian, is a fiercely patriotic pro-Putin youth organization formed to prevent the threat of purportedly Western-funded “color revolutions” and return Russia to the status of a global superpower.

(A scanned copy of the Nashi Appeal to the American People can be found here.)

At most, Nashi’s warnings will elicit a furtive smile or a listless shrug from the average American. The sentiments expressed in this “appeal”, however, are indicative of a broader phenomenon: the rapidly diminishing prospect of a genuine civil society in post-communist Russia. In its place, Putin’s seven-year rule has given rise to government-sponsored surrogate groups, such as Nashi—intensely anti-Western and well-skilled in toeing the official line.

In Russia, a sense of belonging is important. The pervasive mentality that group membership outweighs the individual stems not just from the Soviet era, but from the roots of Russian history. Thus, it’s not surprising that in the post-Soviet, post-“chaos” (read: Yeltsin) Russia, guided by the principles of Putin’s “sovereign democracy”, a group like Nashi is gaining prominence. It is also not surprising that this group parallels others from Russia’s past—ones that enjoyed the full support of the state in return for ideologically-tested, unflinching obedience, with a thorough dedication to combat all manner of “subversive elements”.

The closest historical equivalent of Nashi is the Soviet-era Komsomol, the infamous youth wing of the Communist Party. As Bolshevik leaders quickly realized the value that youth indoctrination possessed for fulfilling regime needs, the Komsomol was born in 1918. In October 1920, speaking before The Third All-Russia Congress of The Russian Young Communist League, Vladimir Lenin set the course to the rising generation of Bolshevik leaders:

You are well aware that, as long as Russia remains the only workers’ republic and the old, bourgeois system exists in the rest of the world, we shall be weaker than they are, and be constantly threatened with a new attack; and that only if we learn to be solidly united shall we win in the further struggle and—having gained strength—become really invincible. Thus, to be a Communist means that you must organize and unite the entire young generation and set an example of training and discipline in this struggle. Then you will be able to start building the edifice of communist society and bring it to completion.

And so they did, generation after generation, railing against “imperialist aggressors” abroad and exposing “the fifth column” at home. Along with the Young Pioneers, they occasionally assisted the elderly and planted trees in school gardens. So it went, until Gorbachev and Yeltsin brought an end to the “communist paradise”.

Now, fast-forward nearly nine decades from Lenin’s speech to a free Russia. Then, substitute the communist references therein to “sovereign democracy” – presto, the Nashi Manifesto [AEI links to the Russian original, La Russophobe has translated it here]

We must be realistic. In the post Soviet space, the West—under the slogans of democracy and freedom —is conducting a major geopolitical game to force Russia out of global politics and attempting to institute external control of Russia itself. In the best case scenario, this will lead to economic decay and Russia becoming a resource appendage to developed economies. External control will never allow for a genuine modernization of Russia. In the worst case scenario, our country can expect a split along ethnic and religious lines and a civil war. Fascist organizations in Russia are helping to realize the latter scenario. They are the allies of Russian liberals. Our goal in this situation: to unite the Russian youth under the banner of a wide socio-patriotic movement, which will seek to preserve Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; this movement is “Nashi.”

The similarities do not stop at ideology, however. At the behest of the Kremlin, Nashi was created in 2005 as an “anti-fascist” organization to combat xenophobia and intolerance while promoting social responsibility, such as following a healthy lifestyle, organizing blood drives, or helping needy children. The main focus of the group, however, lies in assuring—by all means necessary—that Putin’s “course” is not altered by unpleasant perturbations such as Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” in 2003 or its “orange” equivalent in Ukraine a year later. Ilya Yashin, the youth leader of the opposition Yabloko party, predicts that “Nashi will serve as a cover for storm brigades that will use violence against democratic organizations.”

But when it comes to acknowledging economic realities of the day, Nashi lags behind the Komsomol in the staunchness of belief. While the young Soviet communists derided the global bourgeois “alienation of labor”, an independent Russia has vigorously pursued dealings with the former “oppressor nations” and as a result, developed a thriving market economy of its own. Although Nashi’s manifesto emphatically supports the “need for modernization”, it simultaneously employs the dreaded “resource appendage” bugaboo against foreign capital. Most recently, the Kremlin has pushed hard for WTO entry, although the latest round of consultations has not yielded the desired results. Nashi is conspicuously silent on WTO entry, but the cognitive dissonance is not entirely shocking, since its Kremlin bosses have employed the same jarring double standard in regard to foreign companies in Russia

Nashi operations are conducted with a disconcerting uniformity. The ideological training of new recruits occurs during the annual summer camp at Lake Seliger, 350 kilometers north of Moscow. Guided by the wise tutelage of founder and ideological guru, Vasiliy Yakemenko, the 10,000 red t-shirt wearing activists – or commissars as they are called – rise early, conduct mandatory mass exercise sessions, and attend lectures on current politics and other ideologically-suitable topics.

Western aggressor nations remain a perennial concern for Nashi. For instance, in protest of Estonia’s controversial removal of a Soviet-era World War II monument in April, portraits of Estonia’s leaders with Hitleresque moustaches have been posted all over the Seliger complex. Furthermore, Nashi members with a penchant for history can attend the “museum of double standards”, aimed at exposing the Western bias toward Russia’s record on human rights and democracy, while ignoring more atrocious violations at home. As related by Times reporter Tony Halpin, “One exhibit shows a grandmother pushing a policeman at a pro-democracy protest in Moscow next to an astonishing claim that 80 died in riots at the G8 summit in Germany.”

The group’s members are trained to view the opposition (primarily the anti-Putin umbrella coalition, Other Russia) as fascists and traitors. In an exhibit in the camp center, the faces of the three main leaders of Other Russia are pasted onto the bodies of prostitutes, while a separate area with dilapidated cabins and broken glass is “reserved” for its members. To drive the point home, on-site paramilitary training is conducted to prevent “destabilization” of the upcoming Duma elections in December and the presidential contest in 2008.

Given the past Nashi harassment of foreign envoys as well as of assorted domestic opposition, Putin’s critics can consider themselves well-warned.

Exposing the Horror of Russia’s Most Unfriendly Skies

Thinking of boarding a plane in neo-Soviet Russia? Maybe to visit Sochi for the Olympic games? Better think again. The Associated Press reports:

The storm was too massive to fly around, but rather than turn back, Captain Ivan Korogodin decided to risk flying over the towering clouds. The Aug. 22 crash last year of Pulkovo Airlines flight 612 from the Black Sea resort of Anapa to St. Petersburg was officially blamed on pilot error. But safety advocates see it as symptomatic of a much deeper problem with Russian aviation: A burgeoning fleet of small, low-budget airlines, under-trained pilots, weak government regulation and a cost-cutting mentality in which pilots who abort flights and landings are sometimes fined.

Last year, 318 people died in two major crashes and eight lesser ones of planes flown by Russian carriers — close to half the world‘s total of 755 fatalities reported by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The combined death toll in Russia plus the former Soviet republics reached 466 last year. Experts, including pilots who fly the former Soviet skies, say government bodies tolerate practices that are wrecking a once honorable safety record. State-controlled Aeroflot, privately owned Transaero and some other big airlines have modern planes, skilled crews and world-class safety records, experts agree. But scores of smaller carriers, they allege, cut corners on safety. On the flight recorder he is heard ordering co-pilot Andrei Khodnevich to take the plane upward while warning it will be very difficult. The cockpit alarm screams as the plane approaches maximum altitude, and the co-pilot yells “Don‘t kill me!” before the plane hits the ground.

“Naturally no one would admit publicly that flight safety isn‘t the top priority,” said Smirnov, a veteran pilot who was a deputy aviation minister in Soviet times. “But nonprofessionals now in charge of many airlines — former economists, lawyers and even dentists — think only about money.” Anatoly Knyshov, a highly decorated test pilot with 41 years‘ experience, said: “Business managers run for profits and neglect safety.”

Russia‘s civil aviation is overseen by five government agencies, two of which both regulate the industry and investigate accidents, so that blame is invariably pinned on the crew rather than regulatory failures. After the 1991 Soviet collapse, 500 “babyflots” — offshoots of the Aeroflot monopoly — sprang up. Today there are 182, and the smaller ones are more likely to sacrifice safety to cut costs, critics say. Low pay is also a safety issue, said Miroslav Boichuk, chief of the Cockpit Personnel Association of Russia. Despite increases in recent years, average pilots‘ salaries of around $2,000 a month are far lower than in the West, and typically depend on how much time they spend flying — a practice, Boichuk said, that can exhaust them and impair their judgment.

Standards at state-run flight schools have declined steeply since the Soviet era. Rookie pilots such as Khodnevich — who was at the controls of flight 612 when it crashed — log about 60 flight hours during training, mostly in old propeller planes. That‘s less than half the minimum of 150 hours in modern planes required by Western flight schools. Only 20 percent of training planes are airworthy and instructors earn less than a tenth of what a commercial pilot earns in Russia. Student pilots, meanwhile, may be distracted from their studies by hunger. The daily food subsidy at government flight schools is $1.90. “Even a police dog gets more,” said Smirnov, the former deputy minister.

Critics say Russian pilots aren‘t being properly trained on the secondhand Boeings and Airbuses in increasing use here. Last year an Airbus A310 skidded off a runway in the Siberian city of Irkutsk and slammed into a row of garages, killing 125 people. The pilot had instinctively worked the controls as if he were flying a Soviet-designed plane, and accelerated instead of slowing down. One more issue, say critics, is a legal system that doesn‘t expose airlines to expensive lawsuits. “Forcing at least one carrier to pay sizable compensation would have a sobering impact on others,” said Vitaly Yusko, whose 10-year old daughter, a sister and her two sons died in the crash. “That would help end their feeling of total impunity.”

It’s Just this Simple: You Cannot Trust the Russian Government

The International Herald Tribune reports more evidence of neo-Soviet Russia’s fundamental duplicity, incompetence and malignant, valueless corruption:

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas’ nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the “legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.” But the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by Hamas officials.

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group’s exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, saying only the visit would be “in the coming days.” Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting. The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza. In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas. “This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations,” said Abbas, who was on an official visit to the Russian capital. On Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that “no personal meetings with Hamas officials are being planned either in Moscow or in the Palestinian territories.”

It’s Just this Simple: You Cannot Trust the Russian Government

The International Herald Tribune reports more evidence of neo-Soviet Russia’s fundamental duplicity, incompetence and malignant, valueless corruption:

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas’ nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the “legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.” But the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by Hamas officials.

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group’s exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, saying only the visit would be “in the coming days.” Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting. The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza. In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas. “This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations,” said Abbas, who was on an official visit to the Russian capital. On Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that “no personal meetings with Hamas officials are being planned either in Moscow or in the Palestinian territories.”

It’s Just this Simple: You Cannot Trust the Russian Government

The International Herald Tribune reports more evidence of neo-Soviet Russia’s fundamental duplicity, incompetence and malignant, valueless corruption:

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas’ nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the “legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.” But the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by Hamas officials.

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group’s exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, saying only the visit would be “in the coming days.” Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting. The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza. In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas. “This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations,” said Abbas, who was on an official visit to the Russian capital. On Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that “no personal meetings with Hamas officials are being planned either in Moscow or in the Palestinian territories.”

It’s Just this Simple: You Cannot Trust the Russian Government

The International Herald Tribune reports more evidence of neo-Soviet Russia’s fundamental duplicity, incompetence and malignant, valueless corruption:

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas’ nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the “legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.” But the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by Hamas officials.

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group’s exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, saying only the visit would be “in the coming days.” Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting. The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza. In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas. “This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations,” said Abbas, who was on an official visit to the Russian capital. On Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that “no personal meetings with Hamas officials are being planned either in Moscow or in the Palestinian territories.”

It’s Just this Simple: You Cannot Trust the Russian Government

The International Herald Tribune reports more evidence of neo-Soviet Russia’s fundamental duplicity, incompetence and malignant, valueless corruption:

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas’ nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the “legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.” But the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by Hamas officials.

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group’s exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, saying only the visit would be “in the coming days.” Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting. The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza. In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas. “This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations,” said Abbas, who was on an official visit to the Russian capital. On Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that “no personal meetings with Hamas officials are being planned either in Moscow or in the Palestinian territories.”

Can you Feel the Love Tonight?

La Russophobe set a new record for page views last month, recording 28,164 according to StatCounter, and more recently our performance has grown even stronger. As shown above, SiteMeter’s numbers indicate we are currently averaging nearly 1,100 page views (and over 600 unique visits) per day on this blog, and we are about to roll past the quarter million page-view milestone some time in the next few days. This doesn’t count the traffic we generate on Publius Pundit or on our backup blog on WordPress. Once again, we emphasize that these are as much the accomplishments of you the reader as they of our publisher and contributors, so pat yourself on the back! Can you feel the love tonight?

August 1, 2007 — Contents

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1 CONTENTS


(1) Annals of Weaponizing Psychiatry

(2) Editorial: Dear John (re Beslan)

(3) On the Trail of Litvinenko’s Killers

(4) Another One Bites the Dust