Daily Archives: October 2, 2007

Putin, Part II

So now it’s official. Putin will not give up power. He will clutch it to his breast until he breathes his pathetic last, just like every other ruler of Russia (except Boris Yeltsin) has always done. He will remain ruler of Russia, merely exchanging the title “president” for the title “prime minister” and retaining all the accountrements of power while technically obeying the constitution. Or maybe you think Russia’s next president will be able to fire Putin if he decides he doesn’t like him? Putin will transform the nature of national power by fiat and for his own convenience, just as he has done in regard to the election of governors at the local level. Hey, presto, the presidency is now the prime ministry, the real power, and vice versa. The presidency becomes a figurehead. Once more, the malignant little troll spits his poison on the withered soul of Russian democracy.

This might be great news! If Putin was willing to stand down, it would mean he believes the country can be controlled without his physical presence, and that would imply his grip on the nation is unbreakable. But he’s worried! He’s scared to step aside, so he’s just moving some chairs around. This means he’s vulnerable, and the chance for democratic reform persists.

Of course, it could simply mean he’s a power-crazed meglomaniac who can’t give up power no matter how firm his prospects. And, of course, does not mean we will see courageous action by the people of Russia to pull their nation back from the brink of destruction even if Putin is vulnerable, and courageous action is necessary to confront the whims of an autocrat.

The Washington Post reports:

President Vladimir Putin said Monday he would lead the dominant party’s ticket in December parliamentary elections and suggested he could become prime minister, the strongest indication yet that he will seek to retain power after he steps down as president early next year.

Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March presidential election, but has strongly indicated he would seek to keep a hand on Russia’s reins.
He agreed to head the United Russia party’s candidate list in December, which could open the door for him to become a powerful prime minister _ leading in tandem with a weakened president.

Putin called a proposal that he become prime minister “entirely realistic,” but added that it was still “too early to think about it.”

He said that, first, United Russia would have to win the Dec. 2 elections and a “decent, competent, modern person” must be elected president.

Putin’s agreement to top the candidate list of United Russia sent an ecstatic cheer though the crowd at a congress of the party, which contains many top officials and dominates the parliament and politics nationwide. The move will likely ensure that United Russia retains a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, enough to change the constitution.

The White House took note of Putin’s move and said it was ultimately a matter for the Russian people.

“We will be paying attention to the upcoming elections in Russia and urge them to conduct those elections in a manner that is free, fair and democractic,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Monday.

Leading the party’s ticket does not mean Putin will take a seat in parliament; prominent politicians and other figures often are given the top spots to attract votes, but stay out of the legislature after elections. The 450 seats in the Duma will be distributed proportionally among parties that receive at least 7 percent of the votes.

The popular Putin has repeatedly promised to step down at the end of his second term in May, as the constitution requires, but has suggested he would maintain significant influence. He offered some initial hints at his strategy last month when he named Viktor Zubkov _ a previously obscure figure known mainly for his loyalty _ as prime minister.

With no power base of his own, Zubkov would likely play his preordained part in any Putin plan. If he became presiodent and Putin prime minister, Zubkov could be expected to cede specific powers to Putin or step down to allow him to return to the presidency. If he becomes prime minister, Putin would be first in line to replace the president if he is incapacitated.

Putin has amassed authority as president, but as he prepares to step down he has been setting up a system of check and balances that would weaken his successor by putting him at the mercy of rival centers of power. By leading the United Russia party list, Putin instantaneously creates the strongest such center, with himself as its head.

The move means that Putin’s successor “will not be a czar,” Kremlin-connected analyst Gleb Pavlovsky said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “There will be a new center of influence outside the Kremlin.”

Russia’s most vocal opposition alliance, co-led by the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, applied Monday to participate in the December vote but said it expected to be blocked by the Kremlin.

“Our chance for registration is less than zero,” Kasparov told journalists, suggesting that a main aim of the application is to draw attention to what Putin’s critics say is a severe lack of democracy in Russia. “Once again, we’ll show that the government uses administrative and legal leverage to exclude dissidents from the election.”

Only registered political parties can participate in the election to the State Duma, the lower parliament house, and none of the dozen or so political movements that comprise Other Russia qualifies.

Annals of Sochi: The Russophobe Strikes!

We unfortunately have to admit that at this point, in a city of half a million people, there is no proper sewage system, electricity supply or infrastructure.


What nasty, narrow-minded Russophobe could have possibly made that statement, do you imagine, referring to the beautiful cosmopolitan city of Sochi, proposed home of the 2014 Winter Olympics?

Obviously, it can’t be true — or else how could the International Olympic Committee possibly have awarded Russia the games? But who in the world could be so crazed as to issue such a nasty smear against lovely, charming Sochi?

Why, lo and behold! Shock and dismay! It was Russian “president” Vladimir Putin himself, as reported in the Moscow Times.

Hmmm . . . wonder if Putin let the IOC have that little tidbit of information before they decided to award the games, or after . . .

Oh well, after all they are Olympic athletes. Surely they can just keep their legs crossed for two weeks whilst in country, right?

Boldyrev Blasts Corrupt Putin’s Russia

Old school dissident Yuri Boldyrev blasts the fundamental corruption of Putin’s Russia, on Radio Free Europe:

The word “nepotism” has been increasingly invoked in connection with the new Russian government — largely the result of President Vladimir Putin’s refusal last month to accept the resignation of new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov’s brother-in-law, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, and the appointment of Tatyana Golikova, wife of Industry and Energy Resources Minister Viktor Khristenko, as health and social development minister.

Yury Boldyrev, a prominent social commentator and deputy head of Russia’s Audit Chamber during the Yeltsin era, discussed the development recently during an interview with RFE/RL’s Russia Service.

“It’s as if we simply don’t have other qualified, deserving, responsible people, other than the relatives of those who are already members of the government,” he said. “This is not only unethical, but also, I think, inappropriate from the point of view of an attitude toward society, toward the people. In society there are more than enough deserving people, qualified and able, who could have headed the ministry and developed an ideology.

“A situation in which a husband and wife [Golikova and Khristenko] are developing the ideology of energy resources and social politics is totally absurd for the government, for Russia with its population of 143 million — this is something inappropriate.”

From Ideology To Practice

Boldyrev argues that while the issue of nepotism is receiving the most attention, it is not the most disturbing trend in the Russian government.

That, Boldyrev says, is “the formation of a particular kind of government…in which we have a ministry that develops an ideology and an agency that puts it into practice.” The practice, he warns, constitutes “an admission of the absolute failure of administrative reform.”

As an example, he cites the replacement of Mikhail Zurabov as head of the Health and Social Development Ministry with Golikova. Boldyrev says this is a bad situation not only because she is married to another minister, but because “a financier has been appointed to a major social ministry.”

Boldyrev says that “if the same Golikova were appointed to some agency that purchased medicine or something like that, it wouldn’t be an issue. But to a ministry of public health — one that supposedly formulates an ideology, social development and all that — one needs to, strictly speaking, appoint a humanist, a person who understands this kind of problem. What can a financier do there? It’s absolutely absurd.”

Asked why he believes Golikova was appointed, Boldyrev appears bewildered.

“If I were a total cynic, I would say [that it was] just because she’s a relative,” he says. “But maybe this isn’t exactly so. I can’t even find explanations or justifications. I simply can’t find them.”

A Growing Phenomenon

Boldyrev’s puzzlement regarding the new government is not restricted only to the Health and Social Development Ministry. “With the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, there is a practically analogous situation,” he says.

At a time when developed countries are beginning to restrict Russian investment, what is needed is “a second look not only at [Russia’s] politics, but at the doctrine of economic development and economic politics.”

But instead, he says, with the appointment of new Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina what Russia got was “practically a second [German] Gref,” the man whom Nabiullina replaced. “I think this is very disheartening,” Boldyrev concludes.

Vladimir Putin, by contrast, opposes harsher penalties for corruption. RIA Novosti reports:

The Russian president spoke out Monday against stricter sentences in Russia for economic crimes and corruption. Vladimir Putin said laws have been toughened in the economic sphere in the past few years. “Further toughening of criminal responsibility could lead to arbitrariness, which means increasing corruption,” he told a congress of the pro-presidential United Russia party. Putin called corruption one of the main social and political problems. “Businessmen, investors, any normal person, need reliable guarantees of their rights. They need an independent and competent judiciary, honest officials and law enforcement officers,” he said. Putin said that despite measures taken so far – personnel shifts, criminal investigations – the situation has not changed. “Many people quite rightly say that no problem can be solved without a bribe,” he said. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said September 28, Russia is set to adopt a new anti-corruption federal law. The announcement followed a decree revising the structure of federal executive bodies. The decree was signed by President Putin on September 25 as part of a highly-publicized, anti-corruption campaign. In his brief speech to lawmakers on September 14, Zubkov pledged his commitment to policies pursued by President Putin, highlighting the war on corruption as one of his top priorities. According to the decree, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), a former subdivision of the Finance Ministry, will now answer to the Russian government. The state-run agency aims to counter money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The watchdog was established in November, 2001, and was headed for the first six years by Viktor Zubkov, Russia’s newly elected prime minister. The latest restructuring means that PM Zubkov will supervise the committee he so recently left.

Boldyrev Blasts Corrupt Putin’s Russia

Old school dissident Yuri Boldyrev blasts the fundamental corruption of Putin’s Russia, on Radio Free Europe:

The word “nepotism” has been increasingly invoked in connection with the new Russian government — largely the result of President Vladimir Putin’s refusal last month to accept the resignation of new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov’s brother-in-law, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, and the appointment of Tatyana Golikova, wife of Industry and Energy Resources Minister Viktor Khristenko, as health and social development minister.

Yury Boldyrev, a prominent social commentator and deputy head of Russia’s Audit Chamber during the Yeltsin era, discussed the development recently during an interview with RFE/RL’s Russia Service.

“It’s as if we simply don’t have other qualified, deserving, responsible people, other than the relatives of those who are already members of the government,” he said. “This is not only unethical, but also, I think, inappropriate from the point of view of an attitude toward society, toward the people. In society there are more than enough deserving people, qualified and able, who could have headed the ministry and developed an ideology.

“A situation in which a husband and wife [Golikova and Khristenko] are developing the ideology of energy resources and social politics is totally absurd for the government, for Russia with its population of 143 million — this is something inappropriate.”

From Ideology To Practice

Boldyrev argues that while the issue of nepotism is receiving the most attention, it is not the most disturbing trend in the Russian government.

That, Boldyrev says, is “the formation of a particular kind of government…in which we have a ministry that develops an ideology and an agency that puts it into practice.” The practice, he warns, constitutes “an admission of the absolute failure of administrative reform.”

As an example, he cites the replacement of Mikhail Zurabov as head of the Health and Social Development Ministry with Golikova. Boldyrev says this is a bad situation not only because she is married to another minister, but because “a financier has been appointed to a major social ministry.”

Boldyrev says that “if the same Golikova were appointed to some agency that purchased medicine or something like that, it wouldn’t be an issue. But to a ministry of public health — one that supposedly formulates an ideology, social development and all that — one needs to, strictly speaking, appoint a humanist, a person who understands this kind of problem. What can a financier do there? It’s absolutely absurd.”

Asked why he believes Golikova was appointed, Boldyrev appears bewildered.

“If I were a total cynic, I would say [that it was] just because she’s a relative,” he says. “But maybe this isn’t exactly so. I can’t even find explanations or justifications. I simply can’t find them.”

A Growing Phenomenon

Boldyrev’s puzzlement regarding the new government is not restricted only to the Health and Social Development Ministry. “With the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, there is a practically analogous situation,” he says.

At a time when developed countries are beginning to restrict Russian investment, what is needed is “a second look not only at [Russia’s] politics, but at the doctrine of economic development and economic politics.”

But instead, he says, with the appointment of new Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina what Russia got was “practically a second [German] Gref,” the man whom Nabiullina replaced. “I think this is very disheartening,” Boldyrev concludes.

Vladimir Putin, by contrast, opposes harsher penalties for corruption. RIA Novosti reports:

The Russian president spoke out Monday against stricter sentences in Russia for economic crimes and corruption. Vladimir Putin said laws have been toughened in the economic sphere in the past few years. “Further toughening of criminal responsibility could lead to arbitrariness, which means increasing corruption,” he told a congress of the pro-presidential United Russia party. Putin called corruption one of the main social and political problems. “Businessmen, investors, any normal person, need reliable guarantees of their rights. They need an independent and competent judiciary, honest officials and law enforcement officers,” he said. Putin said that despite measures taken so far – personnel shifts, criminal investigations – the situation has not changed. “Many people quite rightly say that no problem can be solved without a bribe,” he said. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said September 28, Russia is set to adopt a new anti-corruption federal law. The announcement followed a decree revising the structure of federal executive bodies. The decree was signed by President Putin on September 25 as part of a highly-publicized, anti-corruption campaign. In his brief speech to lawmakers on September 14, Zubkov pledged his commitment to policies pursued by President Putin, highlighting the war on corruption as one of his top priorities. According to the decree, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), a former subdivision of the Finance Ministry, will now answer to the Russian government. The state-run agency aims to counter money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The watchdog was established in November, 2001, and was headed for the first six years by Viktor Zubkov, Russia’s newly elected prime minister. The latest restructuring means that PM Zubkov will supervise the committee he so recently left.

Another Bird Flu Outbreak in Russia

Science Daily reports:

Hundreds of thousands of birds at a poultry farm in Russia’s southern Krasnodar Terroritory are being destroyed following an outbreak of bird flu. Russia’s agricultural watchdog says the lethal HRN1 avian flu virus was discovered after some 500 chickens died on September 4, RIA Novosti reported Monday. The day after the infection was confirmed, 22,000 birds were slaughtered. Officials say by the time the operation ends, 248,000 chickens will be culled in an effort to prevent the outbreak from spreading. So far, no human deaths from bird flu have been reported in Russia. In 2006, more than a million birds were culled, slightly less than the number recorded in 2005. Officials consider Russia’s Krasnodar Territory at higher risk for bird flu because it is on the route migrating birds take. However, the World Health Organization says most of the spread of bird flu is through poultry and the poultry trade.

October 1, 2007 — Contents

MONDAY OCTOBER 1 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Welcome Back to the USSR

(2) EDITORIAL: The Russian Who Cried “Wolf!”

(3) Russians are Radioactive and They Don’t Seem to Care

(4) Ouch! Now They’re Even Losing at Chess!

(5) Kasparov in the Boston Globe

NOTE: La Russophobe can’t help but wonder when the Slavic Russian nationalist psychopath set will get around to burning all the books by poets Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. A news story about a new genetic study in Scotland reminds us that Lermontov isn’t Slavic, he’s Scottish (along with, apparently, a whole bunch of other “Russians”), and Pushkin wasn’t Slavic either — he was a descendant of a black African slave.

NOTE: A new Yahoo! group devoted to collecting scholarly materials on Russian nationalism has been created by Andreas Umland. Interesting project for those with strong stomachs. The home page currently has a photograph of a Russian nationalist carrying a sign which basically says “do what we say or we’ll kill you.”