Daily Archives: August 31, 2007

August 31, 2007 — Contents

FRIDAY AUGUST 31 CONTENTS


(1) EDITORIAL: Who Killed Anna?

(2) Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

(3) Another Day, Anther Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

(4) The Horror of Summer with Nashi

EDITORIAL: Who Killed Anna?

EDITORIAL

Who Killed Anna?

“We think the prosecutor-general’s announcement was premature, as not everyone has been arrested by a long way. The question of the person who ordered this killing has not been worked out in full – the interpretation of the prosecutor-general is more political than judicial. Our names of those who organized the murder coincide with the official investigation. But the identity of the person who ordered the murder does not coincide.”

Those are the words of Novaya Gazeta‘s deputy editor Sergei Sokolov, as quoted by ABC News and the Moscow Times. Sokolov was responding to the announcement by the Russian prosecutor of ten arrests, which led to four suspects being charged with complicity in the killing of his colleague Anna Politkovskaya. Dimitry Muratov, the paper’s editor in chief, told the Independent: “We are absolutely amazed that they have openly stated they know who ordered the crime before the investigation has even been completed.” Igor Yakovenko, secretary-general of the Russian Union of Journalists, echoed Muratov: “It’s worrying that, even before the investigation has been officially completed, they are pointing the finger at people abroad.”

What are they talking about? They’re talking about Prosecutor Yuri Chaika’s statement, announcing the arrests, that they represented a group of persons hired by someone living outside Russia who wanted to “destabilize the situation in the country. . . and return to the previous ruling system, when money and oligarchs decided everything.” Obviously, he meant exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whom the Kremlin has already blamed for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko. And Chaika was not content to stop there. As the Independent reports: “He also linked the group to the killings of Andrei Kozlov, the corruption-fighting banker who was shot dead last year, and the Forbes magazine editor Paul Klebnikov, killed in 2004.”

In an article in Novaya Gazeta, Sokolov made his position clear (we’ve edited his text slightly for English fluency from the original translation):

Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of the involvement in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Announcing the arrests, an official statement was made that this crime has been solved.

This is not so.

First, not all involved have been arrested.

Second, the guilt of those arrested is yet to be proved. Our own investigation allows us to assume that the arrested people were actually involved in the murder to some degree, but a great deal of routine work remains before the prosecutors (interrogations and searches) before they will be ready to try the case, we we don’t believe will happen before the end of this year.

Third, the question of what client ordered murder be carried out by those arrested is yet to be answered.

Fourth, and most important, a revelation to the media was organized because someone had a wish to gain something and someone wanted to prevent investigation from establishing all the circumstances of the contract murder of the journalist, and this leak has complicated the whole situation. From the day that the arrests were announced, starting from 27 August in the Prosecutor’s Office, in the interior ministry and at the FSB, everything has been confused – the names of the suspects, the circumstances of the arrest, their past criminal records. It may seem that perhaps it is the client and client’s protectors who have caused all this fuss.

Even those arrested did not know each other’s identities before 27 August, the date of the press conference that featured the statements of the Prosecutor General and various special services officers. And those who are still at large certainly did not know the full list of the arrested. Now those people who remain at liberty can guess the main direction of the investigation and they will have opportunities to escape. The first arrests were made on 13 August, and they were planned and prepared carefully. There was no leak and the investigators planned to make unexpected confrontations, interrogations and lineups The lawyers of those who had been detained were warned against any breaches of the investigation’s secrecy. Now it appears that all those measures were in vain. It seems that someone had a wish to make the current list of suspects final and, besides, not to allow any other crimes committed by those arrested to come to light. That’s probably because the list of the involved in those other cases could be rather unexpected.

So Kremlin foes drop like ducks at a shooting gallery, and it turns out that they were all killed . . . by another Kremlin foe, the one the Kremlin can’t reach by any other means than convincing the world he’s a mass murderer? Only someone totally cut off from reality, a fully-realized neo-Soviet man, could possibly think he could get away with making a statement as outrageous as this — even if it was solely aimed at domestic consumption. But nobody should be surprised to find that there are still plenty of such people in the world, eager to lap up the Kremlin’s propaganda like cream and help recreate the USSR. After all, how else could a proud KGB spy ever have come to power in Russia?

For instance, one of the Kremlin’s most sycophantic bag men, Charles Ganske of Russia Blog, has written:

Here at Russia Blog, we have declined to speculate on the outcome of these criminal cases before hard evidence is presented – unlike the many media outlets that immediately accused the Russian government of “getting away with murder” and of being “the enemy” last year after Alexander Litvinenko’s sensational and public death from radiation poisoning.

Then guess what he writes next:

In terms of motives, it’s no secret that Anna Politkovskaya was a staunch critic of the Putin Administration. It’s also not a secret that in his book, Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov had publicly accused Boris Berezovsky of ordering the contract killings of his business rivals during the Nineties, and of having direct connections to terrorist groups operating in Chechnya.

So much for his promise not to speculate. His post is chock full of speculation that anyone and everyone, except the Kremlin, killed Anna (just note the length of his sentence noting the Kremlin’s motive compared to the length of the one letting the Kremlin off the hook!). Ganske carefully avoids mentioning that, as reported by his employer Forbes magazine, at the time of his death, Klebnikov “was believed to have been investigating a complex web of money laundering involving a Chechen reconstruction fund, reaching into the centers of power in the Kremlin and involving elements of organized crime and the FSB (the former KGB).” So in fact, he was threatening the Kremlin power structure just like Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Kozlov.

Taking a page right out of the Soviet playbook, Ganske then claims, totally without any attempt at substantiation:

“The fact is that the number of business-related murders and killings of journalists in Russia has actually declined since the 1990s.”

He actually expects people to just take his word for this. It’s simply amazing that the blogosphere allows this nasty Russophile propaganda to continue. We demand that Ganske source this statement, and prove that political murder has declined in Russia under Vladimir Putin. And if he can’t, then we demand an apology and retraction. The blogosphere should enforce this demand so as to maintain some semblance of professional standards.

Ganske is only part of a concerted propaganda onslaught by the Kremlin and its sympathizers — and those who have simply been suckered by them. For example, the Strata-Sphere blog (operated by a Pat Buchanan clone eager to avoid U.S. “entanglements”) totally ignores the statements quoted above from Novaya Gazeta, and quotes out of context a different declaration from Muratov, that:

“We are fully satisfied with the way the investigation proceeded,” said Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta’s editor in chief. “It was an honest, unbiased and efficient investigation. What’s more, we fully cooperated with the investigators and they didn’t hide anything from us. We know everything the investigators know, and they know everything we know,” he said. “This is why the authorities couldn’t hide the results of the investigation even if they wanted to.”

It’s hard to tell whether this is just ignorance or outright duplicity. Strata-Sphere then opines:

This is big news which should up end the conventional wisdom that Putin is the dangerous leader. It is turning out those in exile and desperate to get back into power are the ones who would use murder as a propaganda tool. And if this is the case, then why would they not use nuclear material smuggled through London to disrupt Russia and begin the take over of Russia one such Oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, has openly called for.

It’s big manufactured news, classic Soviet propaganda. Novaya Gazeta has said that it feels the Kremlin has arrested the correct people in terms of the actual killers, but it has also said that it doesn’t feel the conclusions it has reached about who hired those killers are accurate. Strata-Sphere chooses to simply ignore this basic fact, exactly as the KGB would do if it were writing his article, as well as all other facts that clearly show the Kremlin’s guilt. It’s propaganda of this kind that deflected our attention from the rise of Soviet dictatorship in Russia the first time. Are we going to let this exact same thing happen again? Even proud athiest and communist Sean Guillory, who detests Berezovsky, America and capitalism itself, doesn’t believe Berezovsky engineered all these killings — only real extremists like Russia Blog and Strata-Sphere go that far.

Strata-Sphere also chooses to ignore the British goverment’s formal conclusion, after a full-scale investigation, that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in a state-sponsored assassination (as well as Russia’s stonewalling of the extradition of the alleged killer), asking “why is the UK still sticking by Berezovsky?” and “is Britian being played here?” as if that conclusion had never been made. SS quotes a KGB officer who is now in the Russian Duma blaming Berezovsky, but he ignores the KGB defectors who have blamed the Kremlin. And SS also chooses to ignore the recent ruling by the Swiss Supreme Court that the Kremlin railroaded oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, its chief political rival, into prison and stole his assets. In other words, SS is engaging in propaganda. Read the SS post and ask yourself: How would this have been different if the KGB had been the author?

Strata-Sphere does, at least, quote Muratov’s expression of shock that the Kremlin would blame Berezovsky before the investigation had even been completed, but it seems unable to understand the words it is quoting out of context. They don’t make sense unless you have the additional material quoted above, and Strata-Sphere’s attempt to analyze them ends up being pure gibberish: “Who wouldn’t be ‘absolutely amazed’ when their preconceptions prove to be in error?” Strata-Sphere speaks as if it is incapable of having false preconceptions, although it brags about having never believed the Kremlin was guilty, and it ignores the fact that Muratov is affirming his prior concern that Politkovskaya was targeted by forces friendly to the Kremlin.

The net result is that Strata-Sphere is saying we must believe Novaya Gazeta when it says the Kremlin’s initial investigation was credible, but we must ignore it when it says the investigation is not complete and has produced conclusions that are not supported by facts. On top of that, it’s saying that puppet-master Berezovsky is pulling the strings not only of a ruthless pack of killers, but of the Russian nuclear industry, the KGB, and Scotland Yard — and his best plan to undermine the Kremlin is to kill of all of his own best allies, exposing himself to deportation and execution. That’s just plain crazy. It’s an embarrassment to the blogosphere!

Strata-Sphere seems not to understand (or it chooses to ignore) the fact that Novaya Gazeta has said from the start that it was on the trail of the people who pulled the trigger on Anna. This meant that the Kremlin had no choice, unless it was going to shut down the paper and muzzle its staff, but to investigate and arrest those people, and to show a good effort to the paper in doing so. For Strato-Sphere to suggest, as it seems to be doing, that the Kremlin, if it were guilty, would follow such an investigation past the trigger to the highest reaches of power, exposing and arresting even Vladimir Putin himself if he were guilty, is an insult to the intelligence of every thinking reader in the blogosphere and gives conservatism a really bad name.

If Vladimir Putin thought he could get away with all these murders without the West taking any decisive action against him, he has clearly been proved 100% right, and those who claimed in his defense that ordering such killings would have been wildly dangerous proved 100% wrong. No action of any kind has yet been taken against Putin on account of these killings.

But all is not lost. There is, at least, reason to hope: When Slate magazine reviewed the blogosphere’s reactions to the announcement of the arrests, for instance, it cited Robert Amsterdam’s analysis, and Mark MacKinnon’s supporting it (as well as even Sean Guillory) and ignored Strato-Sphere and Russia Blog. Such understanding is the first prerequisite to action, and indicates that the West is going to much harder to fool this time around. That’s encouraging. The Washington Post‘s editors weren’t fooled for a second, echoing Sokolov’s words and warning: “Mr. Putin probably intends to use the lie that foreigners are sponsoring deadly plots against Russia as a theme in a domestic political campaign before parliamentary elections this year.” The Wall Street Journal said it best: “Mr. Chaika’s sweeping dismissal of even the possibility that someone within Russia ordered the killing undermines his credibility. Anna Politkovskaya would not have bought the government’s line in such a story without substantial evidence to back it up. To accept anything less would be to dishonor her memory.” An avalanche of reporting is rising to Politkovskaya’s defense, showing that killing a journalist does have at least some consequences.

We’ve already documented at length a long list of obviously political murders that dates back to the inception of Vladimir Putin’s installation in the Kremlin by Boris Yeltsin and begins with leading human rights advocate Galina Starovoitova. How many opponents of the Kremlin need to fall by the wayside before the world will take the necessary action to stop it?

That’s a question to be answered in the future. It’s clear that no amount of evidence will ever convince the rabid, frenzied Russophile cabal to disavow their Supreme Leader, and the West’s cowardice fits a pattern than began with Hitler. Just try asking one of these folks what action against Russia they would be prepared to support if Putin admitted having ordered all these killings. You’ll hear the sound of silence that destroyed the USSR.

And, after all, we’ve known — as has every thinking person — from the beginning who ordered Anna to be killed. Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin did. Now we know (perhaps) who actually pulled the trigger at its behest. Hopefully, the world will fully realize, and act on, this obvious fact — however belatedly and clumsily. Right now, though, there’s a more important point to address: A proper answer to the question “who killed Anna?” doesn’t place the lion’s share of the blame with either Putin or his henchmen. Do you blame a lion for killing a zebra? Those who run the Kremlin are beasts, pure and simple, and beasts kill and eat, that’s what they do. If you bring home a lion and put it in your house, it’ll eat your children. If it does, you’re to blame, not the lion. Do you blame a child for eating the trans-fat-laden food a parent puts in front of him, or breathing in their second-hand smoke? The witless drones who pulled the trigger are nothing more than pathetically helpless children doing the Kremlin’s bidding.

No, the people of Russia killed Anna Politkovskaya. They killed her slowly, tortuously, by embracing a regime presided over by a proud KGB spy who launched a barbaric war of aggression against Chechnya, obliterated the independent press, crushed opposition political parties and wiped out local government. They killed her by allowing that regime to appropriate Russia’s mineral resources and divert them to a new cold war, radically escalating military spending whilst ignoring Russia’s horrifying poverty and demographic crisis. They killed her by making the same mistake twice, and forcing her beloved country down the road traveled by the USSR. And those who stood idly by in the West watching all this happen, rationalizing it, like Strata-Sphere, surely did their part in digging her grave.

Anna was a dead reporter walking, and not mostly because she was doomed to be whacked by a cowardly Kremlin hit. She could handle that, she was made of steel. Threats to her body meant nothing to her. Her soul, though, was another matter – and only her fellow Russian citizens could lay a glove on that. The withering flames of the Russian people’s cowardly indifference to their own fate, their own history, that killed Anna long before she fell, melted her soul, inflicting upon her a pain that must have been unbearable even by a true hero like her. In fact, when Putin and his henchmen finished the job, they were probably doing her a favor, preventing her from having to see the worst her country could become.

A worst that is yet to be.

Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

Reuters reports that Ingushetia is the new Chechnya (remember, this region is where the world has insanely chosen to stage the 2014 winter Olympic games, a fundamentally corrupt decision that will live infamy).

Petimat Tatriyeva was woken up one morning late last month by shouts and banging coming from the courtyard of her home. She said it was a raid by Russian security forces. “About 15 men … burst into the yard. One of them put a machine gun to my forehead. They said: ‘Where are the men? We’ll count to ten, then throw a grenade into the house’,” she told Reuters. “When my 15-year-old son woke up, they threw themselves at him and beat him up,” she said. “They beat my husband on the kidneys and pressed their fingers into his eyes.”

Tatriyeva and her family live in Ingushetia, a mainly Muslim republic where for more than a decade Moscow’s forces have been fighting a low-level military campaign against armed Islamist militants linked to separatists in neighboring Chechnya. But things are getting worse. In response to an escalation in attacks by insurgents, Moscow in late July sent in an additional 2,500 interior ministry troops, almost tripling the number of special forces in Ingushetia. The escalation in violence shows that seven years after President Vladimir Putin came to power on a pledge to “wipe out” the insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya and Ingushetia, the rebels are not beaten.

In Chechnya, attacks have grown rare, but the problems appear to have shifted next door. Some people in Ingushetia draw parallels with Chechnya eight years ago. Then, after a lull in the fighting that had already dragged on for six years, troops were sent back in to respond to a wave of rebel attacks. That unleashed a new war. Now in Ingushetia, reports emerge almost daily of gun battles or ambushes on police vehicles.

This summer the insurgents have killed an aide to Murat Zyazikov, the region’s pro-Moscow president, and launched an audacious attack on an army base. Last week a Russian soldier was killed in an attack on a column of troops. In July, the rebels murdered an ethnic Russia schoolteacher, Lyudmila Terekhina, and two of her children. A bomb went off in the cemetery as she was being buried, wounding several mourners. In Ingushetia’s capital, Nazran, armored personnel carriers drive through the streets. Roadblocks check the documents of everyone entering the city.

“ROUTINE OPERATION”

Zyazikov, a former official with the Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday it was a “routine precautionary operation.”

“There are no curfews, no punitive operations, no violations of anyone’s human rights, whatever anyone says. It has had no impact on the situation. There is no public outrage.” However, residents who spoke to Reuters described a massive security operation underway, with regular and often violent raids on private homes by security forces looking for insurgents. Homes in the village of Ali-Yurt were raided after shots were fired at government buildings in the nearby town of Magas. “They brought my husband outside in just his underpants and they pressed me against the wall,” said Madina Martazanova. “They told him to lie on the ground, he didn’t want to and they forced him down and kicked him in the stomach.”

Nazran resident Idris Khamkhoyev said heavy-handed police operations were causing bitterness among the local population. “They (Russian security forces) are rampant and answer to no one,” he said. “They are exacerbating the situation and we now fear a repetition of the Chechen problem.”

In Moscow, some observers see other parallels with Chechnya. The start of the second Chechen war helped the then little-known Putin show off his credentials as a tough politician. It was a factor in his victory in the 2000 presidential election. Early next year, Russia is due to choose a new president because Putin, limited by the constitution to two consecutive terms, says he is stepping down. Most observers say the Kremlin will encourage voters to back a Putin lieutenant as his replacement. “In theory, the new deterioration of the situation in the Caucasus could be used to raise the profile of the successor, or as a pretext for calling off the election completely,” said New Times, a Russian-language news magazine.

RIA Novosti reports:

The murder of a Russian-speaking teacher’s family in the North Caucasus Republic of Ingushetia, could be a possible revenge killing following the death of a militant, an aide to the republic’s prosecutor general said. Islam Belokiyev a suspected militant field commander was killed during a police operation August 30, in the Nazran district, the largest city in Ingushetia. On August 31 at around 01:00 a.m. unknown assailants broke into a house in the town of Karabulak, in Ingushetia, and shot Vera Draganchuk’s husband and two sons, 20 and 24 years respectively, with an automatic rifle. “The woman was hiding and the murderers could not find her,” the source said adding that Vera also has a daughter but that her fate was unknown.

No suspects have been arrested to date and a criminal case has been launched. Russian Interior Ministry officials have arrived in Nazran to assist in the investigation. This is the latest crime in a series of similar incidents in the republic neighboring troubled Chechnya, which saw two Moscow-led military campaigns against separatist regimes in the 1990s- early 2000s.

In the early hours of July 16, ethnic Russian teacher Lyudmila Terekhina, 55, and her son and daughter were shot in their house in the town of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. Policemen said possible motives were robbery and nationalistic sentiments. At their funeral two days later a tripwire bomb went off leaving 11 people injured.

The region is inhabited by a predominantly non-Slavic Muslim population.

And from the BBC:

Deadly blast in southern Russia

Map


Four people have been killed in a large explosion in the city of Nazran, capital of the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia, reports say.

The blast took place as a security forces vehicle passed a government building, Interfax news agency says. Earlier, gunmen killed three members of an ethnic Russian family. Explosions and gunfights have become increasingly common in Ingushetia, a largely Muslim republic bordering war-torn Chechnya. President Vladimir Putin earlier this month announced the deployment of an extra 2,500 troops in the republic. The Nazran blast killed four policemen, Russian news agencies reported. Three died at the scene and one later in hospital. The explosion took place at 1900 local time (1500 GMT), one official told the Itar-Tass agency. One police officer told the Reuters news agency a Lada car packed with explosives blew up in the town centre. On Thursday night three men – the husband and two sons of an ethnic Russian schoolteacher – were killed in an attack. The woman, Vera Draganchuk, escaped by jumping out of a window, police said. The attack is the second of its kind in two months.

Lyudmila Teryokhina, a Russian teacher, and her two children were shot dead in Ingushetia in July.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization’s computers to investigate alleged “computer-related crimes.” The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization’s finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization’s office warned her that she could risk prosecution for “stirring up ethnic hatred” for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a “list of extremists” and the need to “check the activities of all organizations where young people work.” Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization’s computers to investigate alleged “computer-related crimes.” The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization’s finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization’s office warned her that she could risk prosecution for “stirring up ethnic hatred” for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a “list of extremists” and the need to “check the activities of all organizations where young people work.” Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization’s computers to investigate alleged “computer-related crimes.” The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization’s finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization’s office warned her that she could risk prosecution for “stirring up ethnic hatred” for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a “list of extremists” and the need to “check the activities of all organizations where young people work.” Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization’s computers to investigate alleged “computer-related crimes.” The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization’s finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization’s office warned her that she could risk prosecution for “stirring up ethnic hatred” for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a “list of extremists” and the need to “check the activities of all organizations where young people work.” Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin’s Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization’s computers to investigate alleged “computer-related crimes.” The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization’s finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization’s office warned her that she could risk prosecution for “stirring up ethnic hatred” for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a “list of extremists” and the need to “check the activities of all organizations where young people work.” Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

The Horror of Summer with Nashi

The horror of Nashi, revealed by Germany’s Financial Times:

In a sunlit glade fringed with pine forest and a deep-blue lake, thousands of hands clap in unison with the beat. It could be a rock festival, were it not for the song’s refrain – “Go on, Russia.” – and the clunky slogans splashed across the speaker stacks: “Let’s modernise the country! Let’s defend our sovereignty!”

This is morning aerobics at Lake Seliger, 200 miles north-west of Moscow. For two weeks, 10,000 student-age activists from Nashi, a youth group that supports Vladimir Putin, the president, are gathered at a summer camp to sing, dance, swim, and take part in an “educational megaproject”, with lectures on everything from entrepreneurship to civil rights.

Nashi – Russian for “our own” – was formed with Kremlin blessing two years ago to channel youth political activism and oppose attempts at a Ukraine-style “orange” revolution. Today, thanks to its largely corporate sponsorship, it is the best funded of a handful of pro-Kremlin groups. Claiming 10,000 active members and 200,000 volunteers, it dwarfs any opposition movement. Nashi calls itself a “youth democratic anti-fascist movement”. Others say it is an example of what it claims to oppose, deserving its nickname – the Nashists.

Critics point to the group’s high-profile, and controversial, activities. These include the month-long hounding of Sir Tony Brenton, British ambassador to Moscow, after he spoke at an opposition conference. It was Nashi members who organised thuggish demonstrations outside Estonia’s embassy after Tallinn dismantled a Soviet war memorial.

At Seliger plenty of what Nashi calls patriotism, but others might term nationalism, is in evidence. There are ubiquitous calls to defend Russian sovereignty, with one poster illustrated with a nuclear missile. A board headed “Red Light District” shows posters with the faces of Mikhail Kasyanov, Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov – leaders of the opposition Other Russia coalition – digitally superimposed on lingerie-clad women. “They’re shown as prostitutes because they’re traitors to the country,” says Alina Belyagina one of several members of Nashi’s information section assigned to “escort” journalists around the camp.

Nearby there is a lecture on electoral law. The camp aims to train leaders to form a 60,000-strong force to monitor voting and conduct exit polls at parliamentary elections in December and next March’s presidential election, to counter any opposition claims of vote-rigging. “We will have exit poll data that will confirm the official results,” says Dmitry Baranovsky, co-ordinator of Nashi’s election programme.

Conversation is dominated by the idea that the west will work with domestic opposition to subvert the elections. Activists reverently of Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin ideologist who coined the term “sovereign democracy” to describe the closely-controlled Putin political system, and who will address the camp’s final day. Asked against whom “sovereign democracy” must be defended, Yulia Kuliyeva, a 20-year-old member of Nashi’s ideology department, echoes Kremlin officials twice her age: “We are defending our sovereignty not from someone else, but for ourselves, so that people listen to us, so that we can speak and our opinion will be taken into account,” she says.

Nashi does attempt to counter the racist nationalism of far-right groups. An “ethno-village” at the camp displays cultures of Russia’s many minorities. Invited foreign guests will lecture on their national cultures. And, for many, politics seem secondary to a belief that attending Seliger is good for career prospects. In the “Gazprom tower”, Nashi members can apply for internships with the state-run gas company and other energy groups.

Analysts suggest that just as today’s pro-Putin United Russia party resembles the Soviet Communist party in that ambitious officials feel they need to join, so Nashi has echoes of the Komsomol, the communist youth league. Vasily Yakemenko, the former Kremlin official who founded Nashi, admits some symbols are similar but insists that the ideology differs fundamentally.

August 30, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY AUGUST 30 CONTENTS


(1) Annals of Russian “Patriotism”

(2) Russia’s Economic War on the West

(3) Another One Bites the Dust

(4) Annals of the Russophile Sociopath

(5) Annals of Russian “Sportsmanship”