Daily Archives: August 3, 2007

August 3, 2007 — Contents

FRIDAY AUGUST 3 CONTENTS


(1) Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

(2) The Moscow Times Rips Gorby a New One

(3) Annals of the Russian Stock “Market”

(4) Piontovsky on Lugovoi

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe‘s latest on Publius Pundit, where she exposes the most recent neo-Soviet act of imperialism, trying to grab the space beneath the polar ice cap (as if Russia doesn’t have enough territory already!).

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

As reported by BBC Russia (link in Russian, hat tip reader Elmer), the image on the right is the actual front page of the Times of London from Monday, July 30th. On the left is a Photoshopped image of that same edition created by the state-owned RTR television network’s “Vesti” evening news broadcast. The headline “Berezovsky is Playing Us, and it’s Embarrassing” did not appear on the actual front page of the paper. Instead, it appeared above an opinion blurb by a “guest contributor” named Stephanie Marsh which was published deep in the paper’s inner recesses. Apparently, the clueless clods at RTR didn’t even know that the Times had undergone a format change in the appearance of their print edition, and used the old version in their nasty little fraud.

How neo-Soviet can you get?

The Moscow Times has the details:

State-run television channel Rossia displayed a fake version of Monday’s issue of The Times of London on its news show “Vesti,” featuring exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky on Monday. Two pictures flanked the front page of the fake issue, one apparently showing Berezovsky and the other Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the headline, “Berezovsky is playing us, and it’s embarrassing.” The newspaper did run the article, by Stefanie Marsh, and under that very headline, but in the comment and opinion six-page pullout section rather than the paper’s front page. “In no way did the piece suggest that the shown image — which was a collage — was the actual issue of The Times newspaper that came out on Monday,” Yulia Polipova, a “Vesti” spokeswoman, said Wednesday. [LR: And in no way did it warn viewers that it wasn’t, either.] In response, The Times highlighted the fact that a personal opinion piece had been presented as news reporting. “The image shown by ‘Vesti’ gives a completely incorrect representation of The Times front page,” said Anoushka Healy, editorial communications director for the newspaper, in e-mailed comments. Polipova flatly dismissed speculation in the Russian media that the image may have been ordered by the Kremlin. The article referred to Berezovsky’s recently announced allegations that Scotland Yard police foiled a plot to kill him. Berezovsky said police had told him to leave Britain because his life was in danger. During the week he was gone, police apprehended a man suspected of the plot at a Hilton hotel in central London, Berezovsky said. In the article, Marsh criticizes Britain’s decision to grant Berezovsky asylum status and suggests that he abuses the status by using his British base as a platform for an anti-Kremlin campaign to “destabilize Russia.” Moscow shares that view. Boris Timoshenko, a media analyst at the Glasnost Foundation, called the program’s actions “idiotism,” but stopped short of blaming the program’s editors. “In current conditions, people understand what is expected of them,” Timoshenko said, alluding to pressure from the Kremlin. The front page of Monday’s bona fide Times led with an article about a shortage of court judges in Britain.

Is this how Putin’s Russia shows how reasonable it is, how well it deserves a place at the table of civilized nations? Is this how it proves how fairly it would deal with Berezovsky were Britain to extradite him?

Watch the Vesti broadcast here (in Russian — not surprisingly Vesti’s server isn’t so great, so it can require some patience to stream the content).

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

As reported by BBC Russia (link in Russian, hat tip reader Elmer), the image on the right is the actual front page of the Times of London from Monday, July 30th. On the left is a Photoshopped image of that same edition created by the state-owned RTR television network’s “Vesti” evening news broadcast. The headline “Berezovsky is Playing Us, and it’s Embarrassing” did not appear on the actual front page of the paper. Instead, it appeared above an opinion blurb by a “guest contributor” named Stephanie Marsh which was published deep in the paper’s inner recesses. Apparently, the clueless clods at RTR didn’t even know that the Times had undergone a format change in the appearance of their print edition, and used the old version in their nasty little fraud.

How neo-Soviet can you get?

The Moscow Times has the details:

State-run television channel Rossia displayed a fake version of Monday’s issue of The Times of London on its news show “Vesti,” featuring exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky on Monday. Two pictures flanked the front page of the fake issue, one apparently showing Berezovsky and the other Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the headline, “Berezovsky is playing us, and it’s embarrassing.” The newspaper did run the article, by Stefanie Marsh, and under that very headline, but in the comment and opinion six-page pullout section rather than the paper’s front page. “In no way did the piece suggest that the shown image — which was a collage — was the actual issue of The Times newspaper that came out on Monday,” Yulia Polipova, a “Vesti” spokeswoman, said Wednesday. [LR: And in no way did it warn viewers that it wasn’t, either.] In response, The Times highlighted the fact that a personal opinion piece had been presented as news reporting. “The image shown by ‘Vesti’ gives a completely incorrect representation of The Times front page,” said Anoushka Healy, editorial communications director for the newspaper, in e-mailed comments. Polipova flatly dismissed speculation in the Russian media that the image may have been ordered by the Kremlin. The article referred to Berezovsky’s recently announced allegations that Scotland Yard police foiled a plot to kill him. Berezovsky said police had told him to leave Britain because his life was in danger. During the week he was gone, police apprehended a man suspected of the plot at a Hilton hotel in central London, Berezovsky said. In the article, Marsh criticizes Britain’s decision to grant Berezovsky asylum status and suggests that he abuses the status by using his British base as a platform for an anti-Kremlin campaign to “destabilize Russia.” Moscow shares that view. Boris Timoshenko, a media analyst at the Glasnost Foundation, called the program’s actions “idiotism,” but stopped short of blaming the program’s editors. “In current conditions, people understand what is expected of them,” Timoshenko said, alluding to pressure from the Kremlin. The front page of Monday’s bona fide Times led with an article about a shortage of court judges in Britain.

Is this how Putin’s Russia shows how reasonable it is, how well it deserves a place at the table of civilized nations? Is this how it proves how fairly it would deal with Berezovsky were Britain to extradite him?

Watch the Vesti broadcast here (in Russian — not surprisingly Vesti’s server isn’t so great, so it can require some patience to stream the content).

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

As reported by BBC Russia (link in Russian, hat tip reader Elmer), the image on the right is the actual front page of the Times of London from Monday, July 30th. On the left is a Photoshopped image of that same edition created by the state-owned RTR television network’s “Vesti” evening news broadcast. The headline “Berezovsky is Playing Us, and it’s Embarrassing” did not appear on the actual front page of the paper. Instead, it appeared above an opinion blurb by a “guest contributor” named Stephanie Marsh which was published deep in the paper’s inner recesses. Apparently, the clueless clods at RTR didn’t even know that the Times had undergone a format change in the appearance of their print edition, and used the old version in their nasty little fraud.

How neo-Soviet can you get?

The Moscow Times has the details:

State-run television channel Rossia displayed a fake version of Monday’s issue of The Times of London on its news show “Vesti,” featuring exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky on Monday. Two pictures flanked the front page of the fake issue, one apparently showing Berezovsky and the other Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the headline, “Berezovsky is playing us, and it’s embarrassing.” The newspaper did run the article, by Stefanie Marsh, and under that very headline, but in the comment and opinion six-page pullout section rather than the paper’s front page. “In no way did the piece suggest that the shown image — which was a collage — was the actual issue of The Times newspaper that came out on Monday,” Yulia Polipova, a “Vesti” spokeswoman, said Wednesday. [LR: And in no way did it warn viewers that it wasn’t, either.] In response, The Times highlighted the fact that a personal opinion piece had been presented as news reporting. “The image shown by ‘Vesti’ gives a completely incorrect representation of The Times front page,” said Anoushka Healy, editorial communications director for the newspaper, in e-mailed comments. Polipova flatly dismissed speculation in the Russian media that the image may have been ordered by the Kremlin. The article referred to Berezovsky’s recently announced allegations that Scotland Yard police foiled a plot to kill him. Berezovsky said police had told him to leave Britain because his life was in danger. During the week he was gone, police apprehended a man suspected of the plot at a Hilton hotel in central London, Berezovsky said. In the article, Marsh criticizes Britain’s decision to grant Berezovsky asylum status and suggests that he abuses the status by using his British base as a platform for an anti-Kremlin campaign to “destabilize Russia.” Moscow shares that view. Boris Timoshenko, a media analyst at the Glasnost Foundation, called the program’s actions “idiotism,” but stopped short of blaming the program’s editors. “In current conditions, people understand what is expected of them,” Timoshenko said, alluding to pressure from the Kremlin. The front page of Monday’s bona fide Times led with an article about a shortage of court judges in Britain.

Is this how Putin’s Russia shows how reasonable it is, how well it deserves a place at the table of civilized nations? Is this how it proves how fairly it would deal with Berezovsky were Britain to extradite him?

Watch the Vesti broadcast here (in Russian — not surprisingly Vesti’s server isn’t so great, so it can require some patience to stream the content).

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

As reported by BBC Russia (link in Russian, hat tip reader Elmer), the image on the right is the actual front page of the Times of London from Monday, July 30th. On the left is a Photoshopped image of that same edition created by the state-owned RTR television network’s “Vesti” evening news broadcast. The headline “Berezovsky is Playing Us, and it’s Embarrassing” did not appear on the actual front page of the paper. Instead, it appeared above an opinion blurb by a “guest contributor” named Stephanie Marsh which was published deep in the paper’s inner recesses. Apparently, the clueless clods at RTR didn’t even know that the Times had undergone a format change in the appearance of their print edition, and used the old version in their nasty little fraud.

How neo-Soviet can you get?

The Moscow Times has the details:

State-run television channel Rossia displayed a fake version of Monday’s issue of The Times of London on its news show “Vesti,” featuring exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky on Monday. Two pictures flanked the front page of the fake issue, one apparently showing Berezovsky and the other Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the headline, “Berezovsky is playing us, and it’s embarrassing.” The newspaper did run the article, by Stefanie Marsh, and under that very headline, but in the comment and opinion six-page pullout section rather than the paper’s front page. “In no way did the piece suggest that the shown image — which was a collage — was the actual issue of The Times newspaper that came out on Monday,” Yulia Polipova, a “Vesti” spokeswoman, said Wednesday. [LR: And in no way did it warn viewers that it wasn’t, either.] In response, The Times highlighted the fact that a personal opinion piece had been presented as news reporting. “The image shown by ‘Vesti’ gives a completely incorrect representation of The Times front page,” said Anoushka Healy, editorial communications director for the newspaper, in e-mailed comments. Polipova flatly dismissed speculation in the Russian media that the image may have been ordered by the Kremlin. The article referred to Berezovsky’s recently announced allegations that Scotland Yard police foiled a plot to kill him. Berezovsky said police had told him to leave Britain because his life was in danger. During the week he was gone, police apprehended a man suspected of the plot at a Hilton hotel in central London, Berezovsky said. In the article, Marsh criticizes Britain’s decision to grant Berezovsky asylum status and suggests that he abuses the status by using his British base as a platform for an anti-Kremlin campaign to “destabilize Russia.” Moscow shares that view. Boris Timoshenko, a media analyst at the Glasnost Foundation, called the program’s actions “idiotism,” but stopped short of blaming the program’s editors. “In current conditions, people understand what is expected of them,” Timoshenko said, alluding to pressure from the Kremlin. The front page of Monday’s bona fide Times led with an article about a shortage of court judges in Britain.

Is this how Putin’s Russia shows how reasonable it is, how well it deserves a place at the table of civilized nations? Is this how it proves how fairly it would deal with Berezovsky were Britain to extradite him?

Watch the Vesti broadcast here (in Russian — not surprisingly Vesti’s server isn’t so great, so it can require some patience to stream the content).

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda Machine

As reported by BBC Russia (link in Russian, hat tip reader Elmer), the image on the right is the actual front page of the Times of London from Monday, July 30th. On the left is a Photoshopped image of that same edition created by the state-owned RTR television network’s “Vesti” evening news broadcast. The headline “Berezovsky is Playing Us, and it’s Embarrassing” did not appear on the actual front page of the paper. Instead, it appeared above an opinion blurb by a “guest contributor” named Stephanie Marsh which was published deep in the paper’s inner recesses. Apparently, the clueless clods at RTR didn’t even know that the Times had undergone a format change in the appearance of their print edition, and used the old version in their nasty little fraud.

How neo-Soviet can you get?

The Moscow Times has the details:

State-run television channel Rossia displayed a fake version of Monday’s issue of The Times of London on its news show “Vesti,” featuring exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky on Monday. Two pictures flanked the front page of the fake issue, one apparently showing Berezovsky and the other Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with the headline, “Berezovsky is playing us, and it’s embarrassing.” The newspaper did run the article, by Stefanie Marsh, and under that very headline, but in the comment and opinion six-page pullout section rather than the paper’s front page. “In no way did the piece suggest that the shown image — which was a collage — was the actual issue of The Times newspaper that came out on Monday,” Yulia Polipova, a “Vesti” spokeswoman, said Wednesday. [LR: And in no way did it warn viewers that it wasn’t, either.] In response, The Times highlighted the fact that a personal opinion piece had been presented as news reporting. “The image shown by ‘Vesti’ gives a completely incorrect representation of The Times front page,” said Anoushka Healy, editorial communications director for the newspaper, in e-mailed comments. Polipova flatly dismissed speculation in the Russian media that the image may have been ordered by the Kremlin. The article referred to Berezovsky’s recently announced allegations that Scotland Yard police foiled a plot to kill him. Berezovsky said police had told him to leave Britain because his life was in danger. During the week he was gone, police apprehended a man suspected of the plot at a Hilton hotel in central London, Berezovsky said. In the article, Marsh criticizes Britain’s decision to grant Berezovsky asylum status and suggests that he abuses the status by using his British base as a platform for an anti-Kremlin campaign to “destabilize Russia.” Moscow shares that view. Boris Timoshenko, a media analyst at the Glasnost Foundation, called the program’s actions “idiotism,” but stopped short of blaming the program’s editors. “In current conditions, people understand what is expected of them,” Timoshenko said, alluding to pressure from the Kremlin. The front page of Monday’s bona fide Times led with an article about a shortage of court judges in Britain.

Is this how Putin’s Russia shows how reasonable it is, how well it deserves a place at the table of civilized nations? Is this how it proves how fairly it would deal with Berezovsky were Britain to extradite him?

Watch the Vesti broadcast here (in Russian — not surprisingly Vesti’s server isn’t so great, so it can require some patience to stream the content).

Moscow Times Rips Gorbachev a New One

Gorby the “reformer” in happier times, playing footsie with
maniacal dictator and arch U.S. foe Fidel Castro

Writing in the Moscow Times David R. Marples, professor of Russian history at the University of Alberta, Canada and the author of twelve books including The Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1985-1991, lets Gorby have it with both barrels for crazily siding with dictator Putin:

President Vladimir Putin has an unexpected ally in his current war of words with the United States — Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and architect of perestroika and glasnost, the reform movement that started the democratization process in Russia. Gorbachev maintains that Putin has reconstructed Russia and enabled it to recover from the economic crisis of the 1990s and that he is intent on establishing a democratic society.

Although his standing in his own country has long since dissipated, Gorbachev enjoys a lingering and genuine respect and admiration in the West. Thus, his comments sparked editorials in many Western newspapers and understandably some vitriolic reactions, particularly to his comment that the United States is obsessed with a “victory complex” and that it has embarked on a new era of imperialism.

Of more interest, perhaps, is Gorbachev’s perception of the recent history of his own country, which can be summarized as follows: An era of reform began with his own administration in 1985, and through his policy of perestroika and glasnost, the world observed the onset of democratic reforms, openness and an end to the Cold War.

In the 1990s, however, following the end of the U.S.S.R. and the onset of the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, Russia experienced a sharp economic downturn with the impoverishment of the people, widespread corruption and the uncontrolled power of very rich oligarchs, who were interested in enriching themselves rather than the people.

Putin has, in Gorbachev’s view, reversed these trends, thus continuing his goals, albeit by using more arbitrary methods. Therefore, Putin’s achievements far outweigh his flaws and there is no justification for the foreign media to adopt such a negative stance toward his government. Putin will leave office in 2008, as mandated by the Constitution, but he will continue to play an important role in the nation’s political and economic affairs as well as in its foreign policy.

What is wrong with this picture?

It is true that Gorbachev introduced reforms, but they were introduced haphazardly and without any clear forethought. In 1991, Gorbachev’s opponents tried to carried out a coup, but they were thwarted by popular resistance led by Yeltsin, the brash reformer best known at that time for throwing away his Communist Party membership card and opposing the Soviet nomenklatura. Unlike Gorbachev, Yeltsin subjected himself to a national election in the then-Russian Republic of the U.S.S.R. And it was Yeltsin, in his capacity as the new president of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, who authorized the shock therapy that transformed the country from a command economy to a market-oriented one.

Admittedly, the situation deteriorated subsequently with the rise of oligarchs such as Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and others, who gained their wealth as a result of the reckless and unwarranted sale of key state assets at cut-rate prices. Corruption became an uncontrollable problem, and Yeltsin himself spent long periods incapacitated by health problems. Moreover, in 1998, Russia experienced a financial crisis so severe that it almost led to a collapse of the economy.

Against the background of the Yeltsin era, Putin certainly deserves some praise. He has brought order to society, curbed the outflow of capital and ended the reign of unpopular oligarchs. He has brought about state ownership over key companies such as Gazprom, which also controls a hefty share of Russian oil output. To be sure, he has been blessed with remarkably good fortune, particularly in the rise in world prices for oil and gas, over which he had no control.

Gorbachev’s version of events chooses to ignore some key aspects of Putin’s two terms in office, including the renewal of the war in Chechnya and the growing control over the media. Ironically, one exception to that comment is Gorbachev’s own newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, whose most prominent journalist and Putin critic, Anna Politkovskaya, was assassinated in October.

Moreover, Gorbachev ignored the fact that Putin has reduced the State Duma to little more than a talking shop (and it is highly unlikely that any real opposition faction will emerge). His acolytes in United Russia won 222 out of the 450 seats in the 2003 Duma elections, and, together with several minor parties, make up a firm majority. He has also appointed governors, ending gubernatorial elections three years ago.

The reduction of the power of the oligarchs, while popular, is clearly politically motivated. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former CEO of Yukos, has served an eight-year sentence for fraud in a maximum-security prison in Krasnokamensk, a remote and toxic-ridden town in the Chita region (in December, Khodorkovsky was transferred to a detention center to Chita in connection with the new charges brought against him.)

Khodorkovsky was singled out for the harshest treatment because of his political ambitions. Putin has stronger grounds for demanding the extradition from Britain of Boris Berezovsky, who has advocated the violent overthrow of the government. But other oligarchs have been left untouched, either because they have no political ambitions or because they have declared their loyalty to the Putin government.

On several occasions, relations with neighbors have been strained. Tiny Estonia suffered a cyberattack on its government networks following the dismantling of a Soviet-era statue commemorating World War II victims. And Putin’s overt backing of the flawed presidential campaign of Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych sparked the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Lastly, the state-run Gazprom claims to apply the laws of the market, but uses draconian business tactics and arbitrary pricing. Thus, Belarus pays less for gas than Ukraine, which in turn pays less than Georgia, whose government has been hostile toward Moscow.

Putin has indeed led Russia’s recovery, restored national pride, and raised the country to the level of a powerful regional power. But he has not used democratic methods, his security forces enjoy vast powers, and his own authority is now greater than that enjoyed by his admirer Gorbachev. The latter’s depiction of the Putin government seems as distorted as his memory of his own years in office.

Annals of the Russian Stock"Market"


Yesterday, the Russian stock market shed nearly 2.5% of its value. Since July 24th, it has lost 150 points or over 7% of its total value, giving up nearly every rouble of the gain it had experienced since the beginning of the month (as shown in the roller-coaster-like graphic above).

Do you dare to imagine what would be happening in the Russian stock market if the price of oil were NOT absurdly high? Anyone who puts their money into this so-called “market,” which is really nothing more than rigged gambling casino run by the mafia, is quite simply insane.

The Moscow Times reports:

Russian stocks dropped sharply Wednesday as a slump on Wall Street on Tuesday caused by concern over the U.S. subprime-mortgage rout prompted investors to sell riskier assets. Sberbank, the country’s biggest bank, and Gazprom, the country’s largest company, led the decline. Brent crude for September delivery ended on a high of $78.21 per barrel Tuesday in New York, but even these strong prices were not enough to dissuade investors from selling Russian energy shares. LUKoil dropped 3.9 percent to $77.70 per share, while Rosneft declined by 2.28 percent to $8.15. The ruble-denominated MICEX index slumped 2.4 percent to 1693.14. Four stocks advanced and 26 retreated. The dollar-denominated RTS index lost 2.4 percent to 1946.34. Sberbank dropped 3 percent to 101.92 rubles on the MICEX. Financial services stocks worldwide were hit Wednesday, with the MSCI World Financials Index falling 1.5 percent. Gazprom tumbled 3.4 percent to $10.53 on the RTS. The company is the biggest constituent of the Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Markets Index, a global benchmark. Shares of Norilsk Nickel retreated 2.4 percent to 5,562.43 rubles as nickel and copper fell on the London Metal Exchange. Nickel for three-month delivery slipped 1.9 percent to $30,850 a ton, dropping to within $650 of its six-month low. (Bloomberg, MT)

Piontovsky on Lugovoi

Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Andrei Piontovsky exposes the insane behavior of Russians towards Andrei Lugovoi:

In the latest interview given by former security services officer Andrei Lugovoi, whose extradition on suspicion of murder is being sought by Britain, there was a remarkable moment that doesn’t seem to have been fully appreciated.

Lugovoi, who was somewhat reserved but, at the same time, beaming with pride, mentioned that when he is seen in public, he usually finds himself surrounded by people who want to shake his hand, congratulate him on his valor or ask for his autograph.

“Well, haven’t you thought about a career in politics?” the interviewer asked. It is a pity he did not pursue this topic in more detail because it certainly deserves the attention.

Surprisingly enough, Lugovoi seems not to have questioned why Russians were so eager to get his autograph. Were they showing solidarity with a victim unjustly hounded by the Crown Prosecution Service?

Give me a break! When did Russians ever ask victims for their autographs? I have myself been attracting the interest of the Prosecutor General’s Office for several months now and have yet to encounter a single autograph hunter. In Russia, you get asked for your autograph if you have made it, if you are a proper hero — a hockey player, a cosmonaut or a war hero.

The list of unspeakable crimes allegedly committed in the course of Alexander Litvinenko’s brief life grows longer every day. The animosity toward Litvinenko among self-righteous Russian patriots has reached a very high level; they relish the fact that this traitor received such a severe form of punishment as payback for his sedition. Of course, this should not be interpreted to mean that these patriots agree with the Crown Prosecutor Service’s official accusations of who stands behind the Litvinenko killing.

A new species of “homo putinicus” has been created in large part thanks to the meticulously professional work of the television propaganda machine. Consequently, homo putinicus feels a great sense of pride in Lugovoi’s achievements.

At the same time, it feels deep indignation regarding the fierce campaign in the West unleashed against Lugovoi by the slanderers of Russia. Homo putinicus fiercely defends its position on these issues without the slightest understanding of its inherent self-contradiction.

This entire episode speaks to the mystery of the Russian “holistic” mentality, on which Slavophiles and Eurasians expounded at such length for so many years and which has proved so difficult for foreigners to understand.

But returning to the interviewer’s question: Is this not the ideal solution to the problem of President Vladimir Putin’s heir, which is threatening to divide the nation’s elite?

If we compare two potential presidential candidates, Lugovoi in 2007 and Putin in 1999, the number of obvious similarities is astounding: the same modest social background; the same KGB alma mater; a similar style of speaking, which at times includes the use of criminal jargon; the same mentality; and the same hatred toward “enemies of the people.”

In addition, there is another, highly significant shared circumstance: Both of them at the start of their political careers were largely indebted — perhaps even totally indebted — to Boris Berezovsky. Moreover, both Lugovoi and Putin subsequently had serious fallouts with Berezovsky.

Would the sybaritic, globe-trotting Lugovoi really want to take over the reins and put on Monomakh’s Cap? After all, the job of president is very difficult and exhausting. Look at how Putin’s face changed over the course of the last eight years as president. Lugovoi’s face has also changed markedly during the last eight months of news conferences.

Whatever the case may be, Lugovoi and Putin are two living portraits of Dorian Gray — two faces of the new Russia that is “getting off its knees.”