WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29 CONTENTS
Daily Archives: August 29, 2007
Something I learned very early on in the Khodorkovsky case is that Russian prosecutors are specialized in arranging political show trials and performing illusions of due process – but when it comes to actual investigations and the procurement of evidence (even for real and legitimate criminal cases), they have not the talent nor ability to get the job done.
In this spirit, we have no choice but to greet with caution the news that ten unnamed people have now been arrested in connection with the brutal slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Prosecutor- General Yuri Chaika, who recently blasted Switzerland for having refused to cooperate with Russia on the Khodorkovsky case, has already declared that Politkovskaya’s murder was ordered from outside of Russia by some nefarious opponents of the government, or, as he characterized them: “Forces interested in destabilizing the country, changing its constitutional order, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime.“
Once Chaika got rolling, it seems he couldn’t stop. By his reasoning, the group that conspired to murder Anna Politkovskaya was headed up Chechens, who were also possibly responsible for the murders of Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov and even central banker Andrei Kozlov. However, once Chaika was reminded that the procuracy had already selected Alexei Frenkel to play the fall guy for the Kozlov murder, he backed off this assertion.
With the arrest of these ten people, it’s hard to blame Chaika for wanting to clear as many troublesome outstanding cases as possible. May as well tack on the murders of Czar Nicolas II and his family – which is also currently under a renewed investigation by the prosecutor general.
Reader Penny writes that “this should be interesting, another sham of a show trial coming” and quotes FOX News as follows:
Alexei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a leading Russian media rights watchdog, said he and the staff of Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, knew of the arrests a week ago. “I think these are serious arrests based on real evidence,” Simonov said, asserting that the motive was “undoubtedly linked to He said the staff of Novaya Gazeta feared the authorities would “steer the case in the direction of Weeks after the killing the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that investigators were focusing on former Russian police officers linked to crimes against civilians in ” and blame Politkovskaya’s killing on Berezovsky. . Pointing to Russian prosecutors’ unenviable record in solving journalists’ slayings, Igor Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists, voiced caution about the prosecutor’s announcement. “I really want to hope that we have reached a turning point, but I think we should wait for concrete results,” Yakovenko said on Ekho Moskvy radio..” He said that those arrested likely included the shooter and accomplices who set up surveillance. But while he said he was confident investigators tracked down Politkovskaya’s killers, he expressed concern that the truth about who was behind the slaying could prove more elusive.
Meanwhile, the bilingual ZAXI blog writes:
Why did this cover-up take so long?
And what a sad question to greet the arrest of 10 current and former FSB and other agents in the October 2006 slaying of the brave reporter Anna Politkovskaya. Need we ask? The shooting was masterminded from abroad by people who want to restore “the old system of order when everything is decided by money and the oligarchs.”
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika’s words should be read to mean that President Vladimir Putin is lucky to still be alive. Putin was the actual target – not the journalist who had just returned from Chechnya with footage of the Kremlin’s official henchman there torturing some detained locals for dinner party entertainment.
One irritating point to get out of the way: Why use kindergarten code when accusing London exile Boris Berezovsky of murder? Does the Kremlin believe that not mentioning Berezovsky by name somehow diffuses the weight and responsibility of the charge? Putin’s FSB entourage cannot expect to play this game forever – things are actually reaching court. So is it accusing Berezovsky of orchestrating the murder or will there be a mock trial against phantom foreign enemies of the Russian state? Does it fear actually charging Berezovsky because of how it looks in the West – or because the required tangible proof could unravel and lead to the actual culprits?
It matters little. The case was preordained to end exactly like this – with Chaika parroting the words Putin first uttered three day after Politkovskaya’s death. Putin came out of an ugly silence to tell the US president and the German chancellor – and eventually the Russian people – that “the level of her influence on Russia was very minor.”
This remarkable phrase was Putin’s way of stepping out of the shadow of suspicion immediately cast by Politkovskaya’s grave. The Russian president and former agent – who once famously said “there is no such thing as a former chekist” in reference to the Bolshevik’s first notorious security force – was an immediate suspect in Western eyes. He simply told George W. Bush and Angela Merkel that Politkovskaya was too irrelevant domestically for him to kill.
Putin pointed West. And Chaika pointed West. An explanation that in the words of the Stratfor global intelligence unit “sanitizes Putin.” So why did it take 10 months?
First of course were those FSB agents who got in the way. One problem for Putin was that Politkovskaya’s Novaya Gazeta was conducting a parallel investigation. The paper that dared was not about to let its most intrepid reporter’s ashes be brushed under the rug. It found some curious leads. A few of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s executioners came into focus. As did the FSB and some disgruntled military intelligence officers who served in Chechnya. The paper was due to report its findings in an issue marking the one-year anniversary of the crime – one whose official investigation would have been noted by even the Russian press to have gone nowhere.
But Chaika lifted the potential FSB culprits and turned them into agents of Berezovsky. A few bad apples in Russia’s mist that grew rotten under foreign influence. Even this took 10 months to produce. The FSB does not give up its own.
The head of Russia’s drug control agency identified the KGB/FSB mantra in a recent Russian article that was quoted in this week’s The Economist: “We must understand that we are one whole. History has ruled that the weight of supporting the Russian state should fall on our shoulders. I believe in our ability to put aside everything petty and to remain faithful to our oath when we feel danger.”
Does Putin hand his presidency to anyone but an FSB agent in such a climate? What hope does Politkovskaya’s memory have?
It is fairly easy to assume that some of the detainees Chaika mentioned were about to be identified by Novaya Gazeta. But few people at the paper remotely believe that these 10 – and some mystery Chechen crime boss in their mist – are seriously involved in the affair. The paper’s editor told The New York Times the official version was “a nightmare.”
Yet these arrests and the accompanying finger-pointing at Berezovsky do far more than cover up the elimination of Putin’s fiercest critic in Russia’s press. They also tighten the grip of the siege mentality that has been suffocating Russia ahead of elections. Any Western thought is not simply foreign but dangerous to the Russian core – to Putin and his people. It is conniving and murderous.
The Russian foreign ministry said as much in a statement published while Chaika was debriefing Putin. It accused Russia’s opposition – which the state media now identifies as operating on Western coin – of “overstepping the bounds of elementary ethics” by giving foreigners testimony of Russia’s wrongs. “Where does this odd and humiliating desire to sacrifice one’s country’s interests for personal gain come from?” Could it be – the foreign ministry seems to be asking – capitalist greed for dollar donations?
Alas this opposition – or at least the small segment of it represented by Berezovsky – has done little to save its grace. It bickers and backbites where Politkovskaya wrote courageous exposes of Russia’s most notorious crimes while personally helping those she wrote about in Chechnya – saving some from certain death and others from endless torture in prison.
Berezovsky has turned into an even more schizophrenic egomaniac. And his ravings not only discredit the opposition but also make it theoretically possible that he just might have hatched an odious plot to discredit Putin. His Russian business foes once made graveyard fodder and notorious killers still lounge at his Mayfair estate. To use a double negative now being exploited by the Kremlin – zaxi does not know for sure that Berezovsky did not arrange this murder to harm Putin.
But as the insightful US political scientist Ira Straus observes: this is “the Syrian defense.” Another anti-Syrian figure is assassinated in Lebanon. Syria says anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon killed one of their own to embarrass Syria in world opinion. “It is as if they are copying from Putin’s book – or vice versa.”
The UN Security Council for one is not buying the Syrian defense. Should it buy Putin’s?
Radio Free Europe reports that, free not to learn Russian, most members of the old USSR choose not to:
Experts say in many former Soviet republics, where Russian used to be widespread, the language is starting to fall out of use.
Leonid Krysin is the deputy director of the Russian Language Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences and he warned use of Russian language is waning in former Soviet republics. “Firstly, the number of people who know the Russian language is definitely falling. Secondly, the younger population doesn’t know the language as well as the older one, who learned it under the Soviet rule. And thirdly, of course, the number of schools [teaching Russian] has been dramatically reduced,” Krysin said. He also claimed that “in the sphere of education, schools which taught Russian during the Soviet period have lost their status.”
Only five former Soviet republics now have Russian as an official language alongside their own: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But even in these countries, the issue of language remains contentious. In Belarus, the political opposition accuses the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka of “Russifying” the country and have called for a return to Belarusian as the sole official language. In Turkmenistan, the Russian language is actively discouraged. In some regions Russian schools have been closed, and the department of Russian philology at Turkmen State University was shut down in 2002. All teaching now takes place in Turkmen, which means Russian-speakers often lose out on getting a full education.
Even within Russia’s borders, the issue of language remains divisive. Writing in “Prague Watchdog,” an online service dedicated to the conflict in Chechnya, journalist Ruslan Isayev remembers his schoolmistress in Grozny smacking him with a ruler for speaking Chechen, which she called a “dog’s language.” Today, he writes, the Chechen language is reappearing, but most Chechens still speak Russian or a complicated fusion of Russian and Chechen. But according to Leonid Krysin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, there are objective reasons why former Soviet republics shouldn’t turn their backs on the Russian language. “In the sphere of education and the sciences, there is a whole vocabulary that simply doesn’t exist in those [native] languages, ” Krysin said. He added, “Either it is international vocabulary, with its roots in Latin or Greek, or it is of Russian origin — for example, financial vocabulary or computer terminology.”
Ans Andrei Busygin said, “we have ties that go back many centuries. There is no point in destroying them.” Busygin pointed out “geographically, these countries are close to Russia. And many people understand that if their country has a border with Russia, or if it is close to it, economic ties [between their countries] are unavoidable.”
In some respects, the economic opportunities mean Russian is still spoken. Millions of people from countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States work in Russia — some temporarily, others permanently — and the vast majority use Russian on a daily basis. Still, Krysin said that is not often the case. “I’ve heard about the situation in, let’s say, Uzbekistan, where knowledge of the Russian language has sharply declined – as has the need to use it,” Krysin said. He predicted that “It’s very possible that in a few decades, Russian will no longer be spoken there. Or, at least, it will exist, but only as a foreign language that is taught in schools like any other.” Krysin said in former republics like Uzbekistan it is possible that within a generation, the Russian language could be just a memory.
The Moscow Times reports:
A court has ruled that a group that has been fiercely critical of the government’s handling of the 2004 Beslan attack must change leaders. Ella Kesayeva, the current leader of the group, Voice of Beslan, called Friday’s decision by the Leninsky District Court in Vladikavkaz unjust and said it had been based on forged signatures. “Since the moment of our creation, the authorities have been fighting us with every means possible,” Kesayeva said by telephone Monday from Vladikavkaz.
Voice of Beslan was formed two years ago by relatives of victims of the 2004 hostage-taking incident, which ended with the deaths of more than 330 people, most of them children. Friday’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Marina Melikova, a former member of the group who claimed to be its rightful leader.
Kesayeva said Melikova backed her claim with documents purportedly showing that she had been elected to head the group. The court ruled in Melikova’s favor and ordered the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service to recognize her as the group’s leader. Kesayeva said the signatures on the documents had been forged and that witnesses who would have backed this up were not allowed to testify. She said she believed that Melikova was being used by the service to undermine the group. A statement on Voice of Beslan’s web site said Melikova had been kicked out 1 1/2 years ago for attempting to disrupt the group.
Attempts to reach Melikova on Monday were unsuccessful. The daily Gazeta reported Sunday that she had declined to comment and was planning to make a statement about the case later this week. A woman who answered the phone at the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service said Monday that the agency’s spokesman was on vacation.
Voice of Beslan said it would appeal the court’s decision Wednesday and ask prosecutors to investigate Melikova for fraud in connection with the signatures, Kesayeva said. A woman who answered the telephone at the Leninsky District Court on Monday said she was not authorized to comment on the case. In June, the organization helped 89 relatives of Beslan victims file a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights accusing the government of failing to investigate the massacre properly. Kesayeva said the Strasbourg lawsuit would not be affected by Friday’s ruling and that the group would continue functioning as it had before.
The Lies from Russia Blog
Never Seem to End
The mendacious propaganda campaign called “Russia Blog” and “The Real Russia Project” — being in league with the state-sponsored “Russia Today” television network (whose videos Russia Blog routinely posts in the manner of shameless shill without the slightest word of warning to readers as to the highly questionable nature of the source) — continues its revolting neo-Soviet attempt to undermine the West’s security by trying to induce it to drop its guard long enough for Russia to get in a sucker punch.
A post entitled “What Leading CEOs Think about Russia” by Kremlin lackey Charles Ganske lays bare the childish manner in which the Kremlin has deluded itself into thinking, once again, that it can fool the West with any ridiculous lie it chooses to dream up. It didn’t work for the USSR, and it won’t work now, not with the ever-watchful La Russophobe on the job.
Ganske claims to be offering the views of a variety of “leading CEOs” yet in fact only one such person is quoted, namely E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company. Sitting on a stage next to several Russian government officials and Russian business leaders, Isdell calls Russia’s “progress” under Vladmir Putin “absolutely magnificent” because the average wage has risen from $2/hour to $3/hour even though the average man doesn’t reach age 60 and up to 1 million are lost from the population each year, and calls it “fundamentally changed” even though it is still run by a proud KGB spy who has destroyed the media, opposition political parties and local government. He says that Russia’s only problem is one of public relations. The statements made by Isdell came at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Interestingly, Russia Blog doesn’t care to mention that the Swiss Supreme Court has just ruled that Russia’s attack on Mikhail Khodorkovsky was fundamentally corrupt and illegitimate. You can be sure that Isdell spends the same amount of time in “absolutely magnificent” Russia as does Ganske himself — that is, absolutely none.
Isdell’s statements are so bizarre, so extreme, so completely detached from reality that they actually undermine Russia’s credibility rather than supporting it — as was so often the case with the Soviet apologists during the first Cold War. If his statements truly represent the views of the Coca-Cola corporation, it’s time to boycott their products. It’s quite interesting how Russophiles are so ready to dismiss Americans as ignorant fools, and American corporations as evil expressions of imperialism, right up until the time they start defending Russia. Then they’re glad to sing their praises from the rooftops, unquestioningly.
It’s quite telling, too, that Russia Blog could not find a single leader of any other real Western manufacturing business to make favorable statements about the Kremlin, and instead was forced to turn to a bunch of accountants at Ernst & Young. Doing Russian taxes hardly constitutes a major expression of economic viability, and the firm has a vested financial interest in encouraging more clueless Westerners to invest money in Russia so that it can do their taxes, too. Ernst & Young says that is is concerned about corruption in Russia but comforted by the fact that “the government is in fact taking the results of work yet to be done and sharing it publicly.”
Uh . . . “the results of work yet to be done”? Perhaps they’ve spent a bit too much time in Russia, and think that sentence makes some kind of sense. Ernst & Young may well heartily approve of the Kremlin since it has launched a vicious attack on their chief rival, PriceWaterhouse — something neither their spokesman nor Russia Blog chooses to mention. Meanwhile, study after international study, published right here on this blog, has shown that Russia is mired in corruption and doing nothing whatsoever about it except to deny and fuel it. Russia Blog ignores all of them.
Perhaps even more telling, though, is that Russia Blog intentionally ignores the one business that would be delighted to praise the Kremlin most — the cigarette makers. In Russia they don’t face the threat of lawsuits or any serious public-health bashing from regulators, so they are delighted to do business in Russia. Yet, Mr. Ganske makes no any mention of them. Gee, wonder why. The neo-Soviet propagandist, though still ham-handed to an embarrassing extent and doomed to failure like his predecessors, has at least that much sophistication.
And then it really gets ugly. The only other leader of a significant Western business who is quoted in Russia Blog’s impressive, objective survey of CEO views is Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine. Not exactly a manufacturing giant, to say the least, so Ganske needs to provide some cover in order to keep up appearances for his manufactured “story.” In typically blatant dishonesty, as shown in the screenshot below, Ganske refers to Forbes as “former Republican presidential candidate.”
In fact, Forbes was NEVER the candidate of the Republican party for president. He entered the Republican primaries in 1996 and 2000, seeking to BECOME the candidate of the Republican Party, and he was utterly REPUDIATED both times. He dropped out of the 2000 primary race before it hardly had begun, in total disgrace. This brazen lie by Ganske is quite similar to his absurdly false claim, which we previously reported, that the Russian film “Ninth Company” had been nominated for an Oscar (in fact, it had only been nominated for a nomination, and then been rejected). If Russia Blog weren’t engaged in such a frenzied propaganda campaign, one might be able to pass statements of this kind off as mere childish ignorance. But it is, so one can’t.
It’s just this simple: Russia Blog is fanatically, pathologically unable to tell the truth. As such, it’s the perfect microcosm of the evil of neo-Soviet Russia.
NOTE: We’ve recently reported on how Russian nuclear bombers have started menacing British and American targets. A reader writes by e-mail to tell La Russophobe that he has tried to investigate similar instances by American bombers menacing Russian targets with the threat of nuclear attack and has been unable to do so. Therefore, he asks whether any readers can point him to reported recent incidents of such a thing occurring. It’s an interesting and important question to explore, but our view is that even if Russia is merely matching American actions jot for jot, rather than being unilaterally provocative, its actions are still totally outrageous. Russia isn’t America, just as the USSR wasn’t, and it can’t win an arms race any more than the USSR could. Putin’s actions, even if they are “justified” by U.S. “provocation,” are still totally self-destructive and crazed in the extreme. If Putin is wrong and there is no basis for his actions, then he’s even more of a madman than the world suspects.
NOTE: We blast Putin’s Russia but GOOD today! First Khodorkovsky, then Berezovsky, then Gordievsky. It’s an embarrassment of riches! And to put a cherry on top, we publish the results of our poll showing who readers think is to blame for this horrific mess.