Daily Archives: August 14, 2007

The Arap Saga Continues: Now She Has Proof

From BBC Monitoring, by way of Industry Watch:

Text of report by Russian news agency Interfax

Moscow, 13 August: Having examined the United Civil Front [UCF] activist, Larisa Arap, the president of the Independent Psychiatric Association, Yuriy Savenko, made a conclusion that she had been put in a psychiatric clinic illegally.

“The story is much more complicated than ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but this very case – though it has no direct relation to politics – testifies that punitive medicine is still alive. And Larisa Arap has been put in a clinic by force, rudely, and without any grounds,” Yuriy Savenko told Interfax on Monday [13 August]. “This style which is typical of the Soviet times – to protect the state and not the person – is used by inertia,” the psychiatrist added.

He said that now he is writing a report on the examination which he will submit to Russian Human Rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who had asked him to conduct the examination, either on Monday night or on Tuesday.

Larisa Arap was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric clinic on 5 July. Her UCF colleagues believe that this happened because of her public and political activity. In particular, the UCF paid attention to the fact that Larisa Arap was hospitalized soon after her article “Madhouse”, in which she described harsh treatment applied to children and teenagers in Murmansk Region’s psychiatric clinic, had been published in the Dissenters March newspaper.

Here’s the Telgraph‘s take on the situation (click the link in the second paragraph to read their extended coverage; click here to read our translation from the Russian press, published yesterday):

One of the nastier manifestations of the culture of spin for which the Blair administration became notorious was its tendency to brief against its dissidents (informally, of course) by casting doubt on their mental health. Clare Short and the late Mo Mowlam were both subjected to the slur, and we were even told that Gordon Brown was “psychologically flawed”. Distasteful as these slanders were, however, they could do little harm while Britain retained an accountable executive and a psychiatric profession of unimpeachable probity.

Things are different in modern Russia, where, as we report in horrifying detail today, it takes only modest influence to secure the incarceration and chemical torture of a business rival, wealthy relative or prosecution witness, and where the sectioning of citizens hostile to the Kremlin seems set to become once more a fact of political life. That Vladimir Putin is still treated by civilised nations, especially those of the G8, as the president of a democracy is an indictment of their cowardice, for since he came to power Russia has again become a corrupt dictatorship, barely distinguishable from the Soviet Union under Khrushchev.

Germany’s dependency on Russian energy, combined with the timidity of some of its neighbours, has helped smother European protests at Putin’s behaviour. So the sea-bed under the North Pole now ludicrously bears a Russian flag, and aerial sparring with Nato, abandoned after the Cold War, has been resumed. In its firm diplomatic response to Russian arrogance over the Litvinenko murder, the British Government has hinted that it is prepared to stand up to a man whose influence will undoubtedly persist long after he formally leaves office next year.

But other countries must follow, before any more of them become enslaved to the need for Russian gas. The alternative would indeed be madness.

Annals of Virulent Russian Anti-Semitism: They Really Believe That Only a "Dirty Jew" Could Find Fault with Russia

The Sun reports that Russia’s war with Britain is getting dirtier and uglier, a clear sign of pathetic desperation on the part of “mighty” Russia (more here from the Daily Mail):

Forgeign secretary David Miliband [pictured] was last night the victim of a dirty tricks campaign by the Russian government. A close adviser to President Vladimir Putin claimed the MP for South Shields, South Tyneside, had inherited a hatred of Russia from his Polish grandfather Samuel. Gleb Pavlovsky, leader of an influential thinktank, said Samuel fought against Russians during the turbulent 1920s. He accused the MPs’s grandfather, who died 40 years ago, of fighting under the command of Trotsky to kill Russians opposed to communism. The allegations, which have not been verified, are seen as part of a diplomatic row between the two countries.

The accusations focus on Mr Miliband’s Jewish roots, in an apparent attempt to discredit his reputation in a country infamous for anti-semitism. A spokeswoman for the Jewish community in Warsaw, Poland, said: “These remarks are probably intended for a Russian audience.” Academic Michael Newman, who has written a book on Samuel’s son Ralph, a political activist, said he did not believe the claim. He said he did not accept Samuel killed Russians or fought in the Russian-Polish war of 1919 to 1920, as claimed by Mr Pavlovsky.

Mr Pavlovsky is a powerful figure in Kremlin politics and is credited with helping bring Mr Putin to power. The slur is regarded a part of Russia’s response to Mr Miliband’s tough stance in the row over the poisoning of a Russian dissident in London. Mr Miliband was keeping a dignified silence over the affair last night. But he previously revealed Samuel was once denied permission to live in Britain by the then Foreign Secretary H Chuter Ede. Ede, coincidentally also a South Shields MP, turned down Samuel’s immigration application in the 1940s.

Speaking in the House of Commons in his maiden speech Mr Miliband said: “Despite long correspondence, the then Home Secretary felt compelled to deny his application.” Later, however, the decision was reversed and Samuel settled in London.

Why can’t Russians see that by engaging in ape-like antics of this kind, all they show is weakness, not strength.

Putin’s Third Reich/Term


The Weekly Standard lays out the horror of “President Putin’s Third Term” as Russia becomes a “democracy name only.”

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia’s system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a “managed democracy.” This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin’s own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a “dictatorship of the law.” Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once “managed democracy” is now officially deemed “sovereign democracy.”

This “Kremlin coinage,” as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, “conveys two messages: first, that Russia’s regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.” In other words, questioning Russia’s pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin’s professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which “sovereign democracy” is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn’t. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU’s Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia’s government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. “There are two frontrunners now,” he stated, “the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say ‘I endorse both–you choose’–the Russian people choose.” Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin’s administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin’s, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford’s Michael McFaul, would be “if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia.”

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it’s almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia’s respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.” . . . It is truly disgusting that people’s opinions don’t mean anything. “You are welcome to elect whom you choose,” they tell us, “as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward.” There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin’s successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports–no questions asked.

What Russia’s 2008 election promises to deliver is a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” regime. It will be–in everything but name–a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS’s Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: “The Putin course will continue,” Sitov declared. “He is saying this to the future U.S. president’s administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia–all those days are over.”

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner’s conclusion was that “one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology.”

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology–and will continue to be so–in Putin’s third term.

Putin’s Third Reich/Term


The Weekly Standard lays out the horror of “President Putin’s Third Term” as Russia becomes a “democracy name only.”

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia’s system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a “managed democracy.” This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin’s own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a “dictatorship of the law.” Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once “managed democracy” is now officially deemed “sovereign democracy.”

This “Kremlin coinage,” as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, “conveys two messages: first, that Russia’s regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.” In other words, questioning Russia’s pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin’s professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which “sovereign democracy” is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn’t. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU’s Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia’s government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. “There are two frontrunners now,” he stated, “the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say ‘I endorse both–you choose’–the Russian people choose.” Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin’s administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin’s, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford’s Michael McFaul, would be “if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia.”

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it’s almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia’s respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.” . . . It is truly disgusting that people’s opinions don’t mean anything. “You are welcome to elect whom you choose,” they tell us, “as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward.” There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin’s successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports–no questions asked.

What Russia’s 2008 election promises to deliver is a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” regime. It will be–in everything but name–a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS’s Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: “The Putin course will continue,” Sitov declared. “He is saying this to the future U.S. president’s administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia–all those days are over.”

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner’s conclusion was that “one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology.”

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology–and will continue to be so–in Putin’s third term.

Putin’s Third Reich/Term


The Weekly Standard lays out the horror of “President Putin’s Third Term” as Russia becomes a “democracy name only.”

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia’s system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a “managed democracy.” This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin’s own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a “dictatorship of the law.” Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once “managed democracy” is now officially deemed “sovereign democracy.”

This “Kremlin coinage,” as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, “conveys two messages: first, that Russia’s regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.” In other words, questioning Russia’s pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin’s professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which “sovereign democracy” is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn’t. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU’s Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia’s government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. “There are two frontrunners now,” he stated, “the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say ‘I endorse both–you choose’–the Russian people choose.” Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin’s administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin’s, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford’s Michael McFaul, would be “if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia.”

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it’s almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia’s respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.” . . . It is truly disgusting that people’s opinions don’t mean anything. “You are welcome to elect whom you choose,” they tell us, “as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward.” There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin’s successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports–no questions asked.

What Russia’s 2008 election promises to deliver is a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” regime. It will be–in everything but name–a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS’s Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: “The Putin course will continue,” Sitov declared. “He is saying this to the future U.S. president’s administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia–all those days are over.”

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner’s conclusion was that “one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology.”

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology–and will continue to be so–in Putin’s third term.

Putin’s Third Reich/Term


The Weekly Standard lays out the horror of “President Putin’s Third Term” as Russia becomes a “democracy name only.”

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia’s system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a “managed democracy.” This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin’s own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a “dictatorship of the law.” Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once “managed democracy” is now officially deemed “sovereign democracy.”

This “Kremlin coinage,” as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, “conveys two messages: first, that Russia’s regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.” In other words, questioning Russia’s pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin’s professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which “sovereign democracy” is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn’t. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU’s Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia’s government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. “There are two frontrunners now,” he stated, “the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say ‘I endorse both–you choose’–the Russian people choose.” Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin’s administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin’s, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford’s Michael McFaul, would be “if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia.”

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it’s almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia’s respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.” . . . It is truly disgusting that people’s opinions don’t mean anything. “You are welcome to elect whom you choose,” they tell us, “as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward.” There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin’s successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports–no questions asked.

What Russia’s 2008 election promises to deliver is a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” regime. It will be–in everything but name–a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS’s Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: “The Putin course will continue,” Sitov declared. “He is saying this to the future U.S. president’s administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia–all those days are over.”

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner’s conclusion was that “one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology.”

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology–and will continue to be so–in Putin’s third term.

Uh-Oh: Annals of Russian Nuclear Energy

Energy Central reports:

Russian nuclear oversight watchdog Rostekhnadzor has investigated the causes of eight interruptions in the operations of nuclear power plants in July. All of them rated zero on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), the authority reported on Friday.

Four of the incidents occurred at the Kursk nuclear plant. On July 3 the capacity of the second power unit dropped when the turbo generator was turned off following a false alarm. On July 4 the first power unit was shut down when technical water leaked into the lower part of the reactor chamber. On July 20 the turbo generator of the fourth unit was turned off after the temperature rose in its stator. On July 26 the short circuit safeguard of the third unit stopped the turbo generator.

In addition to that, on July 9 the capacity of the third power unit at Beloyarsk plant dropped 33% due to the failure of a transformer. On July 18 the main circulation pump turned off at the fourth unit of the Kola plant, the report says.

On July 22 metal defects were discovered in the heat collectors of two steam generators of the fifth unit at the Novovoronezh plant during a regular check. On July 24 the capacity of the third unit of Smolensk NPP dropped by 500 MW due to a short circuit in a transformer.

Rosenergoatom operates Russia’s nuclear power plants.

Click the “nuclear power” link at the bottom of this post to read other posts about the breakdown of Russia’s nuclear power industry.

Putin’s Third Reich/Term


The Weekly Standard lays out the horror of “President Putin’s Third Term” as Russia becomes a “democracy name only.”

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia’s system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a “managed democracy.” This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin’s own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a “dictatorship of the law.” Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once “managed democracy” is now officially deemed “sovereign democracy.”

This “Kremlin coinage,” as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, “conveys two messages: first, that Russia’s regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.” In other words, questioning Russia’s pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia’s sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin’s professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which “sovereign democracy” is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn’t. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU’s Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia’s government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. “There are two frontrunners now,” he stated, “the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say ‘I endorse both–you choose’–the Russian people choose.” Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin’s administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin’s, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford’s Michael McFaul, would be “if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia.”

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it’s almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia’s respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.” . . . It is truly disgusting that people’s opinions don’t mean anything. “You are welcome to elect whom you choose,” they tell us, “as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward.” There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin’s successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports–no questions asked.

What Russia’s 2008 election promises to deliver is a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” regime. It will be–in everything but name–a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS’s Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: “The Putin course will continue,” Sitov declared. “He is saying this to the future U.S. president’s administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia–all those days are over.”

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner’s conclusion was that “one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology.”

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology–and will continue to be so–in Putin’s third term.

More Proof of How Civilized Russia Out-Classes America

Everyone knows that Russia is a superior society to the United States and therefore doesn’t, for instance, have serial killers — especially not since Russians have chosen to live in a dictatorship where they exchange their personal liberty for freedom from things like street crime. Here’s more conclusive proof of the advanced state of Russian civilization, from the Moscow Times:

The specter of Andrei Chikatilo [pictured], Russia’s most notorious serial killer, hovers luridly over the case of Alexander Pichushkin, whom prosecutors say killed 52 people over 14 years, many in the sprawling Bittsevsky Park in southwest Moscow. Compared with Chikatilo’s bizarrely savage crimes — he was convicted in 1992 of murdering 52 women and children, dismembering victims and eating some of their remains — Pichushkin’s purported style was methodical and workmanlike. Typically he would invite elderly people to drink alcohol in a secluded part of the park and then bash in their skulls with a hammer or another blunt object after they were drunk, police and prosecutors say. Pichushkin supposedly invited victims to drink at the grave of his dog, which he walked in the park after the death of his beloved grandfather.

Authorities say Chikatilo was always on the mind of Pichushkin, 33. “He dreamed of surpassing Chikatilo and going down in history,” Moscow’s top prosecutor, Yury Syomin, told reporters last week.

Preliminary hearings for Pichushkin, dubbed the “Bittsevsky Maniac” by the media, are scheduled to start Monday at the Moscow City Court. “This is the first such case in Moscow,” Syomin said. “We are charging him with 52 murders. He insists that he killed 63, but there are no bodies, no fragments, not even records of people gone missing.” Prosecutors — and Pichushkin himself — say he committed his first murder in 1992, when he killed a classmate. A law enforcement source who participated in Pichushkin’s arrest said the suspect pushed the man out of a stairwell window of an apartment building in what police called a suicide at the time.

Pichushkin did not kill again until 2001, when he went on a killing spree that only ended with his detention last year, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the pending trial. Pichushkin told investigators during an interview shown on NTV television in July 2006 that he committed 60 murders in the park. Televised confessions are common in Russia. Pichushkin said he left the bodies of 17 victims lying on the ground and tossed the rest into sewer ducts.

Alexander Kshevitsky, a senior Interior Ministry investigator who worked on the case, said Pichushkin primarily killed lonely, elderly people who were “down on their luck.”

“No one would come to the police and report them missing,” Kshevitsky said.

Asked why he killed, Pichushkin said on NTV that for him, “A life without murders was like a life without food. It was a necessity, you understand? I felt like the father of these people,” he said. “I opened up the door for them to a new world. I let them into a new life.”

The law enforcement source who helped detain Pichushkin said the suspect opened up in the hours following his arrest, telling how he grew up without a father and that his mother had placed him in an internat, a state home for disadvantaged children, before taking him out to go live with his grandfather. The death of the grandfather was devastating for him, and after that, Pichushkin spent much of his free time taking his dog for walks in Bittsevsky Park, the source said. After the dog died, Pichushkin buried it in the park, and he lured many of his victims into secluded areas by inviting them to drink at the dog’s grave, the source said.

Criminal psychologist Mikhail Vinogradov said the death of Pichushkin’s grandfather could have prompted him to target elderly people as a kind of revenge for having been “abandoned” by his grandfather when he died. He also said there was likely a sexual subtext, in the murders, though prosecutors have said Pichushkin did not sexually assault his victims. “All serial killers experience a kind of sexual pleasure from murder,” Vinogradov said. The law enforcement source said Pichushkin described the pleasure he got from killing as a kind of “perpetual orgasm.”

Pichushkin’s last victim was Marina Moskalyova, 36, a co-worker at a Grossmart supermarket on Ulitsa Khersonskaya, where Pichushkin worked as a lifter, the law enforcement source said. Moskalyova’s body was discovered in the park on June 14, 2006. Two small pieces of paper with the body led investigators to Pichushkin. “A metro ticket found in Marina Moskalyova’s coat pocket helped us track down the perpetrator,” the source said. “Using the ticket, we were able to establish the date and time she rode the train, and video surveillance footage clearly showed [Pichushkin] walking with her.” The second piece of paper was a note Moskalyova had left for her teenage son that he showed police the day her body was found, the source said. Moskalyova wrote on the piece of paper that she had gone for a walk with Pichushkin and jotted down his cell phone number. Having identified Pichushkin as the primary suspect, police took elaborate precautions when detaining him at his apartment two days later, on June 16, the source said. “The most important thing was to keep him from committing suicide,” he said. To this end, police arrived at the apartment building late at night along with a fire truck to give the illusion they were responding to a blaze.

“There were OMON officers hanging by cables on the walls of the building to make sure he couldn’t jump out of the window,” the source said. “A neighbor called through the door, ‘Is anything burning in there?’ His mother opened the door, and [Pichushkin] was grabbed still lying in bed.” Pichushkin said on NTV that he thought “long and hard” about whether to kill Moskalyova. “I knew that she had left a note for her son with my cell phone number and that they could track me down,” he said. “While we were walking in the park, while we were talking, I just kept thinking: Kill her or forget it? In the end, I decided to risk it. I was, after all, already in the mood.”

Pichushkin’s arrest followed a yearlong search rife with false leads and tragicomedy. On Feb. 20, 2006, police shot and injured an apparently innocent man while combing the park for the killer. About 200 officers were deployed there after police received a tip that a man resembling the killer had been spotted. The officers detained a suspect, but he pulled out a knife and managed to break free from his handcuffs. He then tried to flee. Police shot the man in the leg, and he was hospitalized. About three weeks later, plainclothes police detained a transvestite who tried to flee when stopped for a document check not far from the park. Police found a hammer in the 31-year-old man’s purse, but his alibi checked out and he was released.

After his arrest, Pichushkin underwent several months of psychiatric evaluation at the Serbsky Institute and was declared mentally competent to stand trail, said Syomin, the city prosecutor. At Monday’s preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether the trial will be open to the public and whether it will be by jury, court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said Friday. The judge will also set the opening date of the trial, she said. Pichushkin’s lawyer, Pavel Ivannikov, conceded on Friday that he faced an uphill battle. “Any case is difficult, especially if it concerns several murders and has great resonance in society,” he said by telephone. Ivannikov declined to comment on whether Pichushkin would plead insanity. With a moratorium on the death penalty, Pichushkin faces a maximum punishment of life in prison if convicted.

August 13, 2007 — Contents

MONDAY AUGUST 13 CONTENTS


(1) Another Original LR Translation: Annals of Weaponizing Psychiatry

(2) Rewriting Russian History . . . and its Present

(3) Editorial: Dear Vladimir

(4) Annals of Russian Tennis