Daily Archives: October 24, 2007

October 24, 2007 — Contents


(1) Russia: Zimbabwe, with Permafrost

(2) Annals of the Dubrovka Fraud

(3) Putin’s Henchmen Denying the Ukraine Holocaust

(4) How Does a Russian Celebrate a Sports “Victory”?

(5) First Russian Nukes to Iran, Now Belarus

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where we congratulate U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice for publicly asking Russia to stop being so barbaric. President Bush seems to have awoken from his eye-peering slumber and gave a major speech re-asserting his demand for a missile defense system in Europe no matter what Russia wants. Pooty-poot must be so surprised and disappointed! His bamboozling days are over! What a pity. Oh well, you malignant little troll — at least it was fun while it lasted, right?

Russia: Zimbabwe, with Permafrost

The Financial Times reports that supposedly “stable, resurgent” Russia needs to ban inflation by edict just like that wacko failed regime of Robert Mugabe (pictured) in Zimbabwe. As we’ve previously reported, Russia is facing double-digit overall consumer price inflation this year (half that would be viewed as apocalypse in the U.S.) and prices on the basket of basic food and staples that the common man can afford stands to rise at twice that rate, or more. Welcome back to the USSR! Russia: Zimbabwe, with permafrost! Oh, how wise the people of Russia for choosing such a wonderful regime that has elevated them to new heights of bliss!

Russia is introducing Soviet-style price controls on some basic foods in an effort to prevent spiralling prices from denting the Putin administration’s popularity ahead of parliamentary polls in December. The country’s biggest food retailers and producers have reached an agreement, expected to be signed with the Russian government òn Wednesday, to freeze prices at October 15 levels on selected types of bread, cheese, milk, eggs and vegetable oil until the end of the year. Russia’s move is the latest sign of surging agricultural prices becoming an international political issue. Big retailers will limit their mark-up on those goods to 10 per cent. China has also agreed to food price controls; Egypt, Jordan, Bangladesh and Morocco are increasing subsidies or cutting import tariffs to lower domestic prices. Rich countries are not im­mune: Italian consumer groups organised a pasta boycott last month in a protest over prices.

The Russian economy ministry is also examining whether to increase a 10 per cent export tariff on wheat planned for November to 30 per cent to keep its domestic market well supplied. That prospect has pushed wheat prices up 6 per cent in Chicago in the past week, giving Moscow’s fight against rising food prices an effect beyond its borders. Russia’s agriculture ministry said the food pricing arrangement was voluntary. But industry insiders said they had come under heavy pressure. “We were told in no uncertain terms that we have to freeze prices on certain products,” said one Russian food industry executive, who asked not to be named. “Everybody understands what the government is doing. It is part of their election campaign.” Russian food prices rose steeply in September, with vegetable oil up 13.5 per cent, butter up 9.4 per cent and milk 7.2 per cent, thanks to global agricultural price increases. Given a big low-income population and meagre pensions, the price rises are among the few factors capable of deflating President Vladimir Putin’s 80 per cent-plus approval ratings.

Mr Putin’s decision to head the ticket for the dominant United Russia party has transformed parliamentary elections on December 2 into a referendum on his personal popularity. Russia has fought off inflation in recent years but rising food prices mean it has already exceeded this year’s 8 per cent inflation target, with the final figure likely to top 10 per cent.Food prices have risen globally thanks to increasing demand and changing diets in developing countries, more frequent floods and droughts damaging harvests, and the biotech industry’s growing appetite for grains.

Russia, like many countries, faces the additional challenge of fighting food inflation while pumping money into the financial system to combat the global credit squeeze. But, as Izvestia newspaper commented, Moscow has “found its solution in the past”, with price freezes harking back to Soviet times. “The reaction of the Russian authorities to the recent inflation spike has been even more predictable than the price surge that triggered it,” Dresdner Kleinwort said in a note to investors. Industry insiders said price freezes might restrain headline inflation but would not reduce the overall rate.

Annals of the Dubrovka Fraud

The Moscow Times reports:

Relatives of hostages who died in the 2002 Dubrovka theater siege said Monday that they would press for an investigation of officials they said provided distorted information to the European Court of Human Rights. At least 129 hostages died in the attack, which began five years ago Tuesday, and the relatives said they would petition the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate officials for abusing their power and forgery in the 1,500-page response sent to the Strasbourg-based court in the government’s name. “The wrong information the court has received could influence its decision,” lawyer Igor Trunov, who represents victims’ families in their lawsuit filed with the court, told reporters.

The families were to submit the appeal later Monday, and prosecutors will have 10 days to determine whether there are grounds to open an investigation, Trunov said. A Prosecutor General’s Office spokesman said he could not immediately confirm receipt of the request. A Kremlin spokesman said he had no comment on the case. The relatives of 24 victims filed the suit with the court in April 2003 and were later joined by relatives of another 34 victims. They now have until Nov. 12 to respond to the case presented by the government, Trunov said. The court could begin hearing the case by the end of November, he said. To justify its actions during the rescue operation, Trunov said, the government underreported the number of victims who died in hospitals and exaggerated the amount of weapons and explosives carried by the 42 Chechen rebels who stormed the theater. Authorities also misinformed the court about the dangerous nature of the gas used during the rescue operation, said Tatyana Karpova, head of the Nord Ost group, who lost her son in the attack. Relatives plan to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 56-hour standoff at 10 a.m. Friday in front of the theater.

Meanwhile, the MT unmasks the toxic gas used in the seige:

The knock-out gas that special forces pumped into Moscow’s Dubrovka theater to end the hostage crisis five years ago sent baffled scientists scrambling in their laboratories in the United States and Europe. Now, five years later, the verdict is in. The mysterious substance appears to have been an FSB-made version of carfentanyl, an artificial, opium-like substance that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and usually used to immobilize large animals. And, as it turns out, the gas wasn’t really a gas at all but an aerosol — tiny particles that float in the air. Scientists said that using the narcotic to knock out the 800 hostages and their 42 Chechen captors rather than risk a bloodbath was a wise decision, given the hopelessness of the situation. “This was quite a cunning feat,” said Thomas Zilker, a toxicology professor at Munich’s Technical University who examined two German survivors after the attack. He said the rescue operation after the release of the aerosol was probably to blame for most of the 129 hostage deaths. “Had they prepared themselves better for the medical aftermath, more lives could have been saved,” he said.

Doctors who treated the hostages have said they worked in the dark without knowing what substance had been released in the theater to end the 56-hour siege in the early morning of Oct. 26, 2002. Government officials, who initially described the substance as a gas, still treat its contents as a state secret. But a first clue about its composition came shortly after the end of the crisis when then-Health Minister Yury Shevchenko said it was a derivative of fentanyl, an artificial opioid about 80 times more powerful than morphine. One of fentanyl’s most potent derivatives is carfentanyl, which is so powerful that a tiny drop can put down an elephant.

Russian and Western scientists who have examined former hostages said their findings point to carfentanyl as the mysterious substance. Lev Fyodorov, a former Soviet chemical weapons scientist who heads the Council for Chemical Security, an environmental group, said it was probably the Federal Security Service-developed narcotic more generally known by the code name Kolokol 1, or Bell 1. Zilker, the German toxicologist, said two fentanyl derivatives were found in the urine of the German survivors he examined. He said the findings were actually made in the United States because fentanyl metabolizes quickly and the traces had already been too faint for any European laboratory to detect. Zilker said he could not reveal the names of the derivatives. “I had to promise [the U.S. authorities] not to publish the results,” he said in a telephone interview. He said earlier reports that his team had found traces of halothane, a widely used inhaled anesthetic, were erroneous because of a glitch in his laboratory. “Some of our test tubes had contained traces of halothane from earlier use,” he said.

Paul Wax, a top U.S. toxicologist, said the U.S. government had decided to keep its findings classified. But he agreed that carfentanyl was the most likely answer. “It is very intriguing because it possesses the ideal properties,” he said by telephone from Paradise Valley, Arizona. He called the agent ideal because it floats in the air and requires only a miniscule amount to get quick results. The Chechen hostage takers fell asleep so fast that they had no time to fire their weapons or detonate their bombs. Spraying an aerosol is complicated, because it does not spread evenly like a gas. But the special forces were aided by the layout of the theater hall. “They just used the ventilation system, which was very strong because the hall was very big,” Fyodorov said in an interview in his apartment in southern Moscow. The agent, he said, originated from a generator placed in a space between the hall and the building’s roof. Emergency response workers picking up unconscious hostages at the theater were ordered to inject them with naloxone, a widely used opioid antagonist. All the hostages brought to at least one city hospital responded to naloxone.

But for many hostages, help came too late. Doctors had not been told what agent the hostages had inhaled, leaving them guessing how to treat their patients. Also, the unconscious people were rushed to hospitals in ordinary buses, many of them placed in seats or on the floor. Fyodorov pointed out that when the Alfa special forces stormed the theater, they focused first on shooting dead the unconscious captors instead of helping the hostages. “There were no paramedics, no emergency ministry officials in the room,” he said. “This was a case of gigantic unprofessionalism.” He said the use of a chemical agent was “utterly outside international and national law.”

No officials were charged after the rescue operation, and an investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office was suspended after a year. The prosecutor’s office declined immediate comment about the case. The Kremlin has long maintained that the rescue effort was handled properly. [LR: The Kremlin also thinks Stalin was “proper”] “All special forces involved in the operation acted in strict accordance with Russian and international law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. He said the special forces officers had been “ready to die to save the hostages.”

Fyodorov suggested that authorities used the agent again in October 2005, when they crushed an insurgency by Islamic militants in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. An Associated Press reporter noted at the time that troops fired gas grenades that caused at least one hostage to lose consciousness as they began storming a building where the insurgents were holding hostages. Doctors later said the hostages were suffering from the effects of an unspecified, nonlethal gas. Peskov said he had never heard allegations that a chemical agent was used in Nalchik.

While morally dubious, the handling of the Dubrovka crisis could probably be justified under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Moscow signed in 1997, said Jan van Aken, the Hamburg-based director of the Sunshine Project, an international nongovernmental organization against the use of chemical and biological weapons. The convention explicitly allows the use of chemical weapons for law enforcement, including domestic riot control purposes. “They just need to argue that the siege was a domestic crisis and no act of war,” van Aken said. After the siege, the government sent a letter to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons explaining its actions, the organization’s spokesman, Peter Kaiser, said via telephone from The Hague. He said he was not authorized to discuss the contents of the letter. Van Aken called Dubrovka a prime example of how nonlethal chemical weapons should be avoided in both warfare and anti-terrorist operations. He said people react differently to temporarily incapacitating agents like fentanyl and that the agents needed to be delivered in individual doses. “It is in the nature of biochemistry that some will always suffer fatal results. Even under the best clinical conditions, an anesthesiologist’s patients sometimes die,” van Aken said. “With the use of hand grenades in the same situation, the mortality rate would statistically not have been higher,” he added.

With 129 fatalities out of 800 people, the Dubrovka death rate was about 16 percent. In comparison, a grenade attack typically results in 10 percent fatalities, according to a report published in the World Journal of Surgery in 1992.

A 2003 study by U.S. scientists Lynn Klotz, Martin Furmanski and Mark Wheelis found that even the most effective incapacitating agent could be expected to result in 10 percent fatalities. “Genuinely nonlethal chemical weapons are beyond the reach of current science,” the study said.

Putin’s Henchmen Denying Russian Crimes in Ukraine

Writing on the op-ed pages of RIA Novosti Andrei Marchukov, PhD (History), a staff researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Russian History, claims that Russia is blameless in the Ukrainian famines under Stalin. Here’s his “scholarly analysis” (pursuant to a request from a reader) with La Russophobe‘s running commentary.

The Soviet famine of 1932-33 was an act of genocide against Ukrainians. Kiev has been forcing this point on the world, the United Nations and Moscow for several years now, in a vast and aggressive campaign. The Famine (Holodomor, in Ukrainian) is an all-pervading ideological concept, a tool of public indoctrination. It is not only a tribute to the victims’ memory but also a pressing political demonstration by present-day Ukrainian leaders, spearheaded against Russia as much as against the communist past.

LR: So, let’s see if we understand. When Ukraine remembers its history, that is “indoctrination” but when Russia does it (using the youth cult Nashi as the instructor), that is just patriotism. Right?

The matter returned to the United Nations on October 15, when Ukraine submitted to a UNESCO conference a resolution demanding the greatest possible information about the Great Famine. In fact, this information is not withheld, even though the world does not regard the Famine as a deliberate genocidal act. While fully recognizing the Ukrainian tragedy, there is no explicit proof that the famine was provoked by the Kremlin and intended to exterminate the Ukrainian nation.

LR: By “no explicit proof” (the same thing Vladmir Putin says about Iran’s nuclear bomb plans), he apparently means there’s not document in which Stalin personally admits he caused the famine to kill off Ukrainians. There’s no “explicit proof” that the U.S. has any intention to invade Russia, but Vladimir Putin is acting on that supposition. Did you notice Mr. Marchukov calling on Putin to show “explicit proof” before doing so? The world condemns Iran and seeks to sanction it, yet Russia ignores the world. It seems world opinion only matters to Russia when it agrees with Russia. And, by the way, if one might be so bold, where is Mr. Marchukov’s “explicit proof” that “the world does not regard the Famine as a deliberate genocidal act”? Why are Russians allowed to make conclusions without showing “explicit proof” yet non-Russians must have it? And, do you notice that Mr. Marchukov is not prepared to say what action against Russia he would be prepared to support if “explicit proof” were given?

The holodomor concept first arose amongst the Ukrainian Diaspora. Many books and press publications appeared in the West in the 1940s-70s describing the Famine as a Kremlin plot to kill off Ukrainians and undermine the survivors’ spirit. Public attention to the holodomor skyrocketed in the 1980s. This was the time when President Ronald Reagan was referring to the U.S.S.R. as the Evil Empire. Ukrainian emigres added fuel to the fire with their reminiscences and analyses of the holodomor. In 1984, the U.S. Congress established an ad hoc commission to investigate the causes of the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-33. Its 1988 Report to Congress described the famine as “man-made” and denied any causal connection with drought. “Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933,” the report says. Perestroika, with its outspoken spirit, brought the concept to Ukraine. Mourning the millions starved to death went hand-in-hand with wrathful denunciations of genocide. Today’s propaganda aims to make the holodomor part of the Ukrainian world-view. President Viktor Yushchenko called on politicians of his generation to “preserve historical memory and spare no efforts to make the world qualify the Famine of 1932-33 as genocidal”.

LR: Correct us if we are wrong, but didn’t this madman just get finished saying that the world didn’t agree it was genocide? He’s just shown formal evidence that it does. Where is his evidence from some other country, any other one, reaching the opposite conclusion? Is he suggesting that because this conclusion comes from the U.S. it is therefore wrong? Does that mean if the U.S. decided there was no genocide, it happened and Marchukov would admit it?

Why is such sensation whipped up over bygones? On the one hand, Ukrainian propaganda has found a satanic enemy, the epitome of Absolute Evil, and is now out to develop a guilt complex in Russians to make them feel morally and materially responsible for the tragedy. On the other hand, it seeks to make Ukrainians feel like innocent victims, and spread this assumption worldwide. Tellingly, Ukrainian leaders are ever more frequently referring to the Famine as the “Ukrainian Holocaust” – thus putting the U.S.S.R. on a par with Nazi Germany. Cardinal Lubomir Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, concisely described the goal of the campaign: “Memory of the holodomor is what our nation shall stand on.” Words of equal aptitude belong to former President Leonid Kuchma: “Ukrainian national consolidation has a long way to travel yet. We have made Ukraine. Now is the time to make Ukrainians.”

LR: We wonder if Mr. Marchukov would adopt the same attitude towards the “bygones” of the Great Patriotic War, Beslan and Dubrovka. Does he lecture Russians, especially Vladimir Putin, that they mustn’t discuss these bits of ancient history?

“Making Ukrainians” implies a new national ethic and mentality, with the idea of Ukrainians and Russians as two nations apart. What several Ukrainian generations firmly believed in has been turned on its head. The young regard their country’s recent past as a time of colonialism, when Ukrainians were ruthlessly exterminated. It is hard to find a more graphic example than the Famine.

LR: “Several generations believed”? Correct us if we’re wrong, but those are the ones that lived under the Russian dictatorship in Moscow’s Kremlin, aren’t they? Why are Russians allowed to engage in making Russians — via Nashi for example — but Ukrainians are not allowed to make Ukrainians? Is it because this card-carrying fanatic believes there is no such thing as Ukraine, that the nation is really just an appendage of Russia, as Russian pop icon Oleg Gazmanov sings in his hit song?

Was it really genocide or ethnocide against Ukrainians? The U.S.S.R. owed the terrible famine of 1932-33 to agricultural collectivization. The rapid creation of a thoroughly new type of farming went together with the cruel dispossession of well-to-do farmers, so-called “kulaks”. Peasant resistance inevitably followed. Bloated grain procurement quotas envisaged total confiscations-seed, food and fodder grain. The 1932 quota for Ukraine was 400 million poods, or 6.4 million metric tons, but even the severest possible confiscations brought only 261 million poods, so extra procurements were launched, with searches, ruinous fines-and firing squads. Peasants were dying of starvation as early as October 1932, and the famine went on up to the next year’s end.

LR: And yet, it was the Ukrainians who perished in famine, not the Russians, wasn’t it? What an odd coincidence! Oh, the fickle finger of fate!

Those two years saw 2.9-3.5 million deaths from starvation in Ukraine alone, according to various estimates. Yet it was not ethnocide proper. Registry office statistics for 1933 show death rates in urban localities no higher than average, in contrast to an exorbitant death toll in the countryside not only in Ukraine but all over the Soviet Union. People were doomed not on the grounds of ethnicity, but merely because they lived in rural areas. Grain shortages were exacerbated by a rapid increase of the urban population. It swelled by 12.4 million nationwide in the four years 1929-32, and by 4.1 million in Ukraine within 1931, mainly because persecuted peasants fled their villages. Nothing could have been easier for the regime than to starve townspeople, who depended on food supplies from elsewhere for their survival. Yet, it was not done. The regime made do with harsh food rationing. Peasantry as a social class was the victim of the cruel policy. This point clearly follows from the geography of the Great Famine. It spread throughout the Soviet breadbasket areas-Ukraine, the middle and lower reaches of the Volga, the North Caucasus, the central part of the Black Earth Zone, the Urals, part of Siberia, and Kazakhstan – with a total population of 50 million. The Famine killed 6-7 million people nationwide. All Soviet peoples were victims.

LR: Half of those who perished were Ukrainian by his own admission, and he fails to state any number of ethnic Russians who lost their lives — nor does he even attempt to deny that the non-Ukrainians were classifiable as enemies of Stalin.

Arguments cited to prove that the famine was a deliberate act of genocide do not hold water. Still, many Ukrainians do not want to turn the tragic page of history. This is understandable. If they did, public attention would turn to their own, present-day, policy and its dire fruit. The Ukrainian population shrank by 4.3 million in 1991-2003-3.6 million died, and over 1.2 million emigrated, while only 500,000 former emigres returned. If we extrapolate the figures to the end of 2006, the population decline exceeds 5.4 million-this without wars, famine, or the Kremlin’s imperialism. Don’t these statistics give food for uneasy thought?

LR: The inherent subtext of this garbage is that Mr.Marchukov would admit Russia was responsible and support appropriate sanctions against Russia if the evidence supported it. But there is not one word of “explicit proof” that he actually believes this to be found in the article — nor is there one single word of criticism of either the Stalin dictatorship or the current Kremlin regime — yet, this maniac has the gall to complain about propaganda issuing from Ukraine! Never once does he ask what Russia might have done to make Ukrainians hate Russia so much that they would engage in propaganda. He seems not to notice that Russia’s alienation of the world is in fact much broader — that only rogue nations like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela will give Russia the time of day. Meanwhile, he ignores the fact that after having had its lifeblood sucked as if by leech by Russia for decades and facing even today active Russian efforts to subvert its independence (especially the weaponization of energy resources), Ukraine is naturally suffering the consequences today. Yet, he asks Ukraine to ignore the horror that caused its current problems, just because it would be so much more convenient for Russia.

That’s just plain crazy. This is what passes for “scholarship” from Russian “universities” today — universities that are pawns of the Kremlin just as they were in Soviet times, universities that are swimming in corruption and are no more capable of giving a true liberal arts education than of finding the cure for Russia’s own rapidly plunging population. Russia should get its own house in order before it dares to lecture other countries how they should live.

And the irony is simply breathtaking: When anyone in the West delivers such lectures to Russia, all they meet is outrage. Yet, Russia feels itself perfectly free to treat Ukraine, and other former Soviet slave states, exactly the same way.


How Does a Russian Celebrate a Sports Victory? Kill a Darkie, of Course

The Moscow Times reports:

Sixty-three football fans aged 13 to 16 were briefly detained last weekend amid drunken clashes that left a dark-skinned man dead and two others injured. No suspects, however, were being held Monday for the violence, which police blamed on drunken rowdiness rather than xenophobia. [LR: The KKK said the same] Sergei Nikolayev, a 43-year-old native of the republic of Buryatia, in eastern Siberia, died Saturday of stab wounds to the torso, police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said. “Most probably, the fans got drunk and walked down the street chanting loudly,” Gildeyev said. “Nikolayev probably asked them to be quiet, which provoked the attack.” Two other men — natives of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — were hospitalized with knife and baseball bat injuries. Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin also said the attacks did not appear to be racially motivated. He said investigators had “established a circle of suspects,” Interfax reported. [LR: Nope, everybody knows Russia is racially enlightened, no reason to suspect racism just because dark-skinned people get stabbed by mobs of frenzied whites]

The 63 teenagers who were detained were celebrating with beer in Vorontsovsky Park, near the Noviye Cheryomushki metro station, after watching the Spartak Moscow football club beat crosstown rival FK Moscow 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. The teens then proceeded to the nearby Arkhitektora Vlasova Ulitsa, where the deadly attack on Nikolayev took place at around 5 p.m., Gildeyev said. Nikolayev died from his wounds in the ambulance. Shortly afterward, a 37-year-old Uzbek, Gaildjan Gulyashov, was stabbed on the adjacent Nametkina Ulitsa. Gulyashov was hospitalized, and his life was “probably not in danger,” Gildeyev said. A little later, on the same street, a Tajik, whom Gildeyev could not immediately identify, was attacked by teens carrying baseball bats. “These people were unfortunately just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gildeyev said. As for Nikolayev, he said, “This isn’t a hate crime. After all, Nikolayev is a Russian citizen.”

Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy director of Sova, which tracks hate crimes, called Gildeyev’s remarks “simply ridiculous.” “How can they instantly reject the hate crime motive when all three victims have dark skin and football fans are known to be from the ultra-right?” Kozhevnikova said.“Authorities are under clear instructions to deny the fact that xenophobia exists at all in this country,” she added.

The detained fans were all released after police established their identities, Gildeyev said, adding that the matter was now in the hands of the Investigative Committee within the City Prosecutor’s Office. Gildeyev said he did not know whether any of the 63 detainees were suspected in the violence. Repeated calls to the Investigative Committee went unanswered Monday. In a separate incident, an Uzbek native in his late 20s was stabbed to death in eastern Moscow on Sunday night, Interfax reported. Police found two knives, a glove and 10,000 rubles in cash at the scene, on Pervomaiskaya Ulitsa. Kozhevnikova said that with the weekend deaths, 52 people have been killed and exactly 400 have been injured in hate crimes this year. Both figures are higher than those for all of 2006.

First Iran, now Russia will Give Nukes to Belarus

The Moscow Times reports:

Belarus said Friday that it would hold a tender next year for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant, which could cost up to $3.5 billion, and Russia signaled its interest. Belarus has virtually no energy resources and has quarreled with Moscow over the prices it pays for Russian gas, on which it relies heavily. President Alexander Lukashenko has long talked of diversifying energy sources, and on Thursday he pointed to Japan as an ideal partner for the nuclear project. “The government at the moment is doing preliminary work. We have offers from Western partners and we have an offer from Russia,” Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said after meeting his Russian counterpart, Viktor Zubkov, in Minsk on Friday. Earlier, Zubkov said Russia was “capable of offering the most pragmatic and safest way” of building a nuclear power plant. Russia’s ambassador to Belarus has said Russia could provide a loan to cover the entire cost of the project. Zubkov also said it would make sense to revisit a proposal to build a second gas export pipeline to Europe through Belarus. “It is probably expedient once again to revert to the question of constructing a second link, but to do that we will need to tally all resources,” Zubkov said. Sidorsky said he estimated that building the link could cost $2 billion to $3 billion. Gazprom has, however, abandoned the so-called Yamal-2 link across Belarus due to low demand in Poland. It is now focusing on a project to build the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

In other news, the President of Belarus is a rabid anti-Semite, it turns out. The Beeb has the details:

The president of Belarus has been called “anti-Semitic” after he reportedly blamed Jews for turning a town into a “pigsty”. President Alexander Lukashenko allegedly made the remarks last week after hearing complaints from residents of the eastern town of Bobruisk. He added that he had been to Israel and seen that “Jewish people do not take care of where they live”. Israel’s foreign minister condemned the remarks as racist. “Leaders have a duty to fight anti-Semitism, which rears its ugly head in different places in the world, and not encourage it,” Tzipi Livni said. Belarusian Jewish groups have warned of growing anti-Semitism in the country. They are alarmed at what they call the open publication of anti-Semitic brochures and books, desecration of Jewish cemeteries and closure of the republic’s only Jewish university.

October 23, 2007 — Contents


(1) Annals of Closet Skeletons: Putin’s Secret Outrage at Dubrokva

(2) EDITORIAL: Speculating about Darwinian Russia

(3) Neo-Soviet Fear/Cowardice: Is it Genetic?

(4) China Renders the Trans-Siberian Railway Irrelvant

NOTE: Here’s yesterday’s snapshot of our international readership, your community of Russia watchers —