Daily Archives: December 20, 2007

December 20, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY DECEMBER 20 CONTENTS

(1) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Journalism

(2) Mighty Moscow Times Blasts Holy Russian Empire

(3) Petro Exposes Horrific Russian Election Sham

(4) Annals of Russophile Treachery

(5) Annals of Litvinenko

NOTE: Vladimir Putin is Time magazine’s “man of the year.” Publius Pundit has our comment, feel free to leave yours. Writing on Pajamas Media, Kim Zigfeld has already exposed the fundamental fraud that is Time‘s Russia coverage.

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Journalism

Here are two shocking reports from the blogosphere regarding the neo-Soviet repression of journalists in Vladimir Putin’s Russia:

Part I: Other Russia on Anastasia Samotorova

“Now I just want to rest. I’m not finding the fighter’s qualities within myself to go toward a conflict, and I can’t work under such conditions.” Such were the words of Anastasia Samotorova, a journalist commenting on her dismissal from the RBC (RosBusinessConsulting) Daily newspaper. She wrote a notice of resignation of her own hand, although the editorial management was responsible for pushing her out.

“The pressure comes not from the bureaucracy, but from the editorial leadership,” Samotorova noted. “The bureaucrats shut themselves off from the press as expected. But editorial offices are increasing their self-censorship.”

According to the journalist, the paper worked out a special list of “heightened demands” for her. Her department head, Yekaterina Vykhukholeva, told Samotorova, “either you write a notice of resignation of your own free will, of we’ll make conditions unbearable for you.”

“This was especially hurtful, since we’re friends, and we worked together in the past at Profil,” Samotorova said.

Samotorova believes that she was forced out for an article she wrote titled “From the buffet to the toilet,” which was published on November 28th. The piece discusses how the government is becoming more and more closed for the press, and noted a new directive which prohibits civil servants from speaking to the mass-media. The article’s title came from a comment given to Samotorova: “The press has the right to come to the Press Office, and from the buffet to the toilet. What more is needed?”

The reporter had originally even received an award for the article. But shortly thereafter, the head editor came up to her, and “jokingly” said: “Our shareholders want to fire you for this article.” In the coming weeks, Samotorova started to receive impossible assignments. On her way to the airport, for instance, she was told to immediately get commentary from several ministers on the nomination of Dmitri Medvedev as a presidential candidate.

On December 11th, while she was in the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk, she was asked to obtain commentary from Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. The assignment came at 1 AM local time, and although Samotorova complained that the premier was asleep, she was told that if the piece wasn’t written, she would be dismissed. The journalist managed to take commentary in the morning, but her editors told her that she didn’t complete the assignment in time, and that she could consider it ruined.

Meanwhile, the editorial leadership is refuting Samotorova’s version of events. Her supervisor, Yekaterina Vykhukholeva, told Sobrok@ru: “Anastasia was given no ultimatums. She wasn’t even encouraged to retire. The article, which Anastasia alludes to, was recognized as the best for some time past, and it’s still up on our website. The conflict between the editorial office and journalist is of an occupational nature, and has no political underpinnings. She was simply reminded of the necessity of giving commentary to the information set forth in the articles, which is a required condition of a labor contract. Some of her remarks needed to be sent back for re-working. The owners don’t have any relation to this conflict. We’re not friends, yes, we worked together for a long time. In my opinion, Nastya deliberately went for an exacerbation of the conflict and didn’t send in her article by the deadline. Why I don’t know. We have a good job, and decent wages.”

Anastasia Samotorova was a participant at opposition demonstrations known as Dissenters’ Marches.

Pressure on journalists in Russia has increased sharply in recent years. The same day as Samotorova resigned, another critical journalist, Natalya Morar, was expelled from the country. The independent “Noviy Peterburg” newspaper has also been completely shut down by authorities. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, more than 40 journalists and noted activists have been barred from entering Russia since 2000.

Part II: Other Russia and Robert Amsterdam on Natalia Morari

Konstantin Romodanovsky, the director of Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS), was not up to date on the situation with Natalya Morar, a journalist from “The New Times” magazine who was illegally expelled from the country. At a December 18th press-conference in Moscow, Romodanovsky was unprepared to answer reporter’s questions on why Morar was deported.

According to the agency head, the FMS was not responsible or involved in Morar’s expulsion, and does not have authority over such matters. Romodanovsky bowed to other branches of the government, and indicated that such jurisdiction is reserved for the Federal Security Service (FSB). Morar, who was turned away from a Moscow airport on December 16th, held documents issued by the FMS, including official registration papers and permission to work in Russia. She resides and works in Moscow, and received a diploma from Moscow State University. On her way back from a business trip to Israel, Morar was forced to return to her native Moldova.

Romodanovsky was unwilling to comment on the decision of his colleagues, but did not defend the FSB’s move. He told journalists: “Surely you can read between the lines and listen between the words.” The Russian embassy in Moldova was also unaware of any official reason for deporting Morar. Like Romodanovsky, they learned about the incident from the mass-media, and commented that all of Morar’s papers were in order. The journalist’s colleagues believe that she was pushed out for her investigative writing in the magazine, which put a magnifying glass to corruption among Russia’s bureaucracy and elite. Her most recent article described a “slush fund” used by the Kremlin to fund and control most of the political parties involved in the December 2nd State Duma elections.

The Other Russia released a statement denouncing the expulsion, and called on the Prosecutor General’s Office as well as the Central Electoral Commission to launch an investigation.

Robert Amsterdam posts an interview of Morari, shown above, by hero journalist Grigori Pasko. The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned Putin’s action, and has reported that Morari

had investigated complex money-laundering schemes involving government officials who funneled large sums of money out of the country. That month, she received a warning from sources close to the FSB who told her: “There is no need to end your life with an article — someone might simply wait for you at the entrance to your apartment building and they will not find a killer afterward.” Morar did not call the police but she told her colleagues what had happened and stayed away from her home for a week to be safe. On December 10, The New Times ran her report on covert funds generated and distributed by the presidential administration before the December 2 parliamentary elections. While investigating that story, she received another warning that she “could receive a bullet” if she didn’t stop her work. “I think my last article was a final drop in the Kremlin’s cup,” she said.

Russia is now living in times when nobody – and I emphasize: NOBODY! – can be sure that some little stinker of a petty official will not prohibit him or her from entering the country or from leaving it. That’s how it was under Stalin and Brezhnev. And that’s how it’s become under Putin.

A sign of the times: the closer we come to the presidential so-called elections, the more shamelessly, the more arrogantly, the more cynically, and the more lawlessly does the power treat people it regards as unwanted.

In principle, probably, every single independent journalist is internally prepared that he or she might not be let out of the country, not be allowed to enter the country, be thrown in jail, be thrown in a psychiatric hospital, or be murdered in the entrance to his or her home. The variety of kinds of state “love” for those who think differently, as we can see, is not that great. But it is effective, like in Stalinist times: if it has been said by the president that those who “jackalize” need to be “soaked in the toilet”, that means they need to be “soaked”… (And whoever refuses will be “soaked” himself).

Happy days are here again. Democracy? Capitalism? No sir – it’s just plain, ordinary KGB totalitarianism.

Journalist Natalia Morari wrote good articles. I hope she’ll continue to write them. There is no doubt that it was precisely her articles that served as the motive for the decision by the FSB, in essence, to deport her beyond the Russian pale.

Natalia Morari wrote a great deal about corruption in the Russian special services: some of them, in the words of the journalist, “release” compromising information about their rivals in the struggle for power. This autumn, the journalist wrote about the extortion and bribery of which top officers of the FSB are being accused.

Likewise emanating from her pen is an article which talks about the involvement of the authorities in the contract milling of Central Bank of Russia employee Andrei Kozlov, who was trying to shut down channels for money laundering outside Russia. The journalist wrote that Kozlov was hampering Russian government officials’ legalization of unlawful incomes in Austria.

Natalia Morari is a citizen of Moldova, but in recent times – during the course of six years – she has resided in Russia. She went to college there. And then she started working at the magazine The New Times.

The short version of what happened at Domodedovo airport is as follows: On 16 December together with other journalists she returned from Israel, where she had gone on assignment, however upon arrival at Domodedovo they would not let her into the country, citing some kind of letter from the FSB. Please note: Natalia had all of her documents, registrations, permissions, and sundry other papers in good order.

The foreign press called the ouster of Natalia Morari from Russia a new turn in the offensive against independent mass media in Russia.

Natalia is now in Chişinău, where I telephoned her and had the following conversation.

GRIGORY PASKO: Natasha, good day! So were official papers found in the Russian embassy in Chişinău that would shed light on your deportation?

NATALIA MORARI: No, they were not found. So far, I have not received official notification from the Russian authorities with an explanation of the reasons for the prohibition on entry. And the editorial board of our magazine also hasn’t received any.

With whom did you meet at the embassy and what was told to you there?

I met with one of the employees. At the embassy, as it turned out, they were quite surprised, nobody knew anything about my expulsion. They didn’t have any papers on this account. I asked when I would receive a reply to my inquiry to the name of the ambassador. They answered me that they would send their inquiry to Russia.

How do you appraise what has happened? Your colleague Ilya Barabanov reported in the press that entry into Russia was prohibited to you by order of the central apparat of the FSB on the basis of the federal law “On the procedure of exit from the RF and entry into the RF”. A border guard in the rank of lieutenant-colonel refused to introduce himself and advised turning for clarifications to the Lubyanka. A representative of the border service made reference to one of the articles of the law, in which is said that entry into Russia is not permitted a foreign citizen if “this is necessary for the purposes of providing for the defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or the protection of the health of the population”, as well as if “a decision has been adopted in relation to the foreign citizen on the undesirability of sojourn (residence) in the Russian Federation”.

Yes, I am familiar with Article 27 of this law. There is indeed a line there about the security of the state…

…But there is nothing about undesirability of sojourn. Probably they mixed it up with other laws or instructions of theirs.

…Whatever the case may be, it is obvious that all this can be associated only with my publications, with journalistic investigations: about money laundering, about corruption, about schemes for financing elections, about offshore zones… In articles I named concrete surnames: Bortnikov’s, Sobyanin’s, Surkov’s… (Alexander Bortnikov – deputy director of the FSB of the RF, member of the board of directors of «Sovkomflot»; Sergey Sobyanin – head of the administration of the president of the RF; Vladislav Surkov – Sobyanin’s deputy, assistant to the president—G.P.).

What do you think – is the FSB in the given instance acting independently or is there a corresponding instruction from higher up?

I think that certain employees of the FSB are acting independently in the hope that this will advance their careers. There is a trend – to pursue the unwanted, independent journalists, human rights advocates, businessmen… Having caught on to this trend, bureaucrats of various agencies are trying to get noticed. There are many such… unwanted ones. And we are undesirable for the current power of Russia.

How were you met by the border guards of Moldova?

They were greatly surprised not by the fact that I had been sent out of Russia, but because all of my documents were in order, and I had not violated any laws. Right at the ramp from the airplane they arranged an interrogation for me. By the way, in contrast to the Russian embassy, they had received some kind of papers from the Russian side.

Is all of this a sign that the Russian power is afraid of independent journalists?

I think they’re afraid. After all, in the event if other people come to power in the country, then it can not be ruled out that they will hold today’s leaders liable for all the lawlessness that’s going on now. They’re going to have to answer for YUKOS, and for the jailed Khodorkovsky, and for Gutseriyev, and for the persecution of journalists… They’re afraid of these facts coming out even now. And any independent opinion – a journalist’s, a human rights advocate’s, a businessman’s – they evaluate as a personal threat to themselves.

Has the power in Russia become more aggressive?

Yes, no question about it. Expulsion from the country isn’t the worst thing at all. The alternatives – camp, a psychiatric hospital… And at the same time they, the representatives of the power, are actually trying to tell us that they’re generous and liberal. I think that closer to the elections, the situation will get worse still, while incidents such as the one that took place with me will be repeated.

Good luck to you, Natasha! We hope for your return to Russia.

Meanwhile…

The Federal Migrational Service (FMS) doesn’t have anything to do with the deportation of the journalist of the publication The New Times, citizen of Moldavia [sic] Natalia Morari, declared the director of the FMS of Russia, Konstantin Romodanovsky, at a press conference at «Interfax».

“I do not have in my possession information about who deported her and adopted the corresponding decision”, declared Romodanovsky. “The Migrational Service does not work on the border, we work inside the country”, added the FMS head.

To a request to comment on the actions of the corresponding services in relation to the journalist, Romodanovsky said: “It is incorrect for me to answer for other agencies”.

Deputy editor-in-chief of The New Times Yevgenia Albats told about what other publications by Natalia Morari might have evoked dissatisfaction on the part of the power.

Secretary-General of the Union of Journalists of Russia Igor Yakovenko called the prohibition of entry onto the territory of Russia to Natalia Morari a “political lynching”. Yakovenko noted that the Union of Journalists of Russia will endeavor to undertake all possible measures in order to achieve the return of Morari to Russia.

President of the Foundation «In defense of glasnost» Alexey Simonov likewise calls the deportation of the journalist Natalia Morari unlawful. As Simonov himself declared in an interview of a radio station, he is counting on the support of the «International Federation of Journalists».

Absolutely impermissible is what Secretary-General of the «International Federation of Journalists» Aidan White called what happened with Natalia Morari. In his words, Russia should not count on being perceived of as a democratic state if it allows itself such actions.

Moscow Times Blasts the Holy Russian Empire

In another heroic editorial, the mighty Moscow Times delivers a withering blast at the Holy Russian Empire:

Patriarch Alexy II has blessed First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as the next president, giving a literal meaning to the idea that Medvedev is President Vladimir Putin’s anointed successor. In supporting Medvedev during an address Thursday, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke highly of Putin and expressed hope that there would be “a continuity of the course that has been implemented by Vladimir Putin in the past eight years.”

The patriarch is not the only religious leader who has backed Putin’s choice to succeed him in the March 2 presidential election. Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar, a senior mufti and a Baptist leader have also voiced their support for Medvedev.

Citizens of a country that is constitutionally defined as a secular democracy have the right to support whomever they want in elections, and the clergy are no exception. But you have to wonder about the ethics of a situation where a religious leader clad in flowing robes wholeheartedly endorses a politician in front of television cameras for lengthy broadcast on all state television channels. A secular democracy, after all, provides for the separation of state and church.

Church leaders should realize that supporting specific politicians — no matter how much they like them — will drag them into politics. This may eventually bring the church under the control of the ruling elite at the cost of its independence. If anything, the Russian Orthodox Church should have learned what close proximity to the state can entail from its experience after the Bolshevik Revolution. The church suffered from repressions by adversaries of imperial Russia and the subsequent infiltration of its ranks by secret police agents.

Moreover, the Russian Orthodox Church is a supranational entity beyond the authority of one national government, with entire dioceses in countries like Ukraine and Estonia, and it has condemned previous attempts by local Orthodox churches to break away from the Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore, it should think twice before endorsing a candidate in one country — which might have poor relations with another country where it has dioceses.

Finally, Alexy should keep one more tactical consideration in mind. What if the Kremlinologists who see politics in a Machiavellian light are right and Putin decides to endorse a second candidate for the sake of a “fair” competition in the presidential election? What if that candidate also promised to continue Putin’s course? What would the patriarch say then?

Petrov Exposes Horrific Election Sham

The Carnegie Center’s Nikolai Petrov, writing for the Moscow Times, explodes the barbaric fraud perpetrated in the aftermath of the Duma elections:

The final composition of the State Duma has been established. Over 100 candidates who ran on the federal tickets of the four winning parties have rejected their posts and refused their mandates. They are all prominent figures, President Vladimir Putin foremost among them, but they also included three federal ministers, governors, mayors and speakers of local legislatures. These figures were the steamboat that dragged deadweight into the new Duma.

This is shameful. It is a hypocritical shell game where Kremlin political strategists dragged political heavyweights onto the ballots to serve nothing more than a decorative function. Then, after the elections, they were replaced by others who are unknown or even unpopular with the voters.

It is also shows the authorities’ fundamental contempt for the people. Voters were first denied the right to elect governors and then were urged to vote for a system in which Putin and his appointed governors would, in effect, appoint the remaining office holders while referring to this result as the people’s choice. It merely proves that Russia has no genuine popularly elected politicians.

The authorities used the Duma elections as a means of cleansing their ranks. The mayors of Pskov and Kaliningrad, as well as the heads of a few smaller cities and the head of the state council of the Adygeya republic, were sent to the Duma as a form of honorable discharge. They had fallen out of favor with the regional heads and left peacefully; their Duma seats served as a retirement package of sorts.

Among the “inconvenient” politicians expected to join the ranks of the Duma deputies are the mayor of Norilsk, the speaker of the legislature of the Ryazan region and a host of minor figures. The arrival of a number of well-known regional politicians into the Duma might have seemed like a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, such deputies rarely make a contribution to the Duma.

It should be noted that the process of cleansing the regional elite will not be limited to the transfer of some of them to the Duma. There will be “election sacrifices” from among leaders who were unable to muster sufficient votes, having aligned themselves with the “wrong” political forces and other “guilty” factions. The first sign of this was when the mayor of Glazov, which is located about 950 kilometers east of Moscow, was dismissed. The night following elections, the electronic vote-counting system stopped working in Glazov and the subsequent hand count gave United Russia a record low 42 percent.

Yaroslavl Governor Anatoly Lisitsyn also became a deputy and was the only one of the 64 regional heads included on the United Russia ticket to do so. Lisitsyn was one of the last holdovers from among the first wave of governors put in office by President Boris Yeltsin. At the time of becoming a deputy in parliament, he was still fighting with the local United Russia leadership.

It seemed he had won, but in the end he was not given the chance to stage the opulent celebration of Yaroslavl’s 1,000-year anniversary he had hoped for. Some people see the reason for his removal as being United Russia’s low 53 percent result in the region, others see it as stemming from his lack of success in carrying out national projects.

Still others claim it was because Lisitsyn was overly eager to establish contacts with members of various political camps. There is some irony in the fact that this December would have marked the end of the gubernatorial term to which Lisitsyn was elected by voters four years ago but the end of only the first year of the term to which he was appointed by Putin.

One of the main innovations of the electoral law is the so-called postponed mandate, which allows election winners who have refused their posts in the past to change their minds and be first in line for any future vacancies. Prior to such large-scale political reconfigurations of the political system, finding a place for those who refuse their office takes on added importance. Any “retired” governor or federal official, considering his political weight, would be unlikely to stand in line very long.

In this way, the current Duma membership will apparently set new records not only for the number of mandates that were refused by candidates, but also for the rotation of the deputies within the chamber.

Annals of Russophile Treachery

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, Professor Richard Sakwa (pictured – would you let that man babysit your children? your pet iguana?) of the University of Kent takes Russia’s side in the British Council dispute:

In the light of the breakdown in relations between Russia and the UK, as evidenced by the pressure on the British Council (Report, December 13), would it not be appropriate for the government to rethink its policy. The sacrifice of the British Council in the pursuit of unclear and unachievable goals is unwise.There is no chance of Andrei Lugovoi being extradited to Britain, so it is time to stop digging in that particular hole. Article 61(1) of the 1993 Russian constitution clearly states a citizen cannot be extradited. President Putin will be stepping down in May, after serving the two terms allowed him by the constitution, which suggests at the least that constitutional conventions are formally observed. More than 200 people in the last decade have been extradited to Russia to stand trial, and more than 100 have been convicted. If Britain is so sure of its case with Lugovoi, let it be heard in open court in Russia – and let us draw back from the brink of seriously damaging the important work of the British Council in Russia. The Litvinenko affair was one purported bad man being killed by other purported bad men, with no serious evidence of official Russian state involvement. Let’s not sacrifice the British Council and broader Anglo-Russian relations for this.

The Kremlin might just as well have written that themselves. And you know what? They may just have done exactly that. Because what the dear professor doesn’t care to mention is that he spent two years working for the USSR in one of its publishing houses. Lenin called such people “useful idiots.” We’d use another term that our own guidelines prevent us from writing. So we’ll settle for this one: Traitor.

Annals of Litvinenko

The Guardian reports:

The diplomatic tension between Britain and Russia took a new twist last night when a man linked to the murdered dissident Alexander Litvinenko sought political asylum in Britain. Andrei Sidelnikov, 32, was prevented from leaving Moscow last week by the Russian secret service who intercepted him at the airport but it is understood he arrived in London yesterday from Kiev. Sidelnikov, the leader of a small Russian opposition youth movement, is known to have met Litvinenko in a cafe off Oxford Street on October 30 last year, two days before Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210. Sidelnikov was tested for polonium-210 but found not to be contaminated. He said he had no role in Litvinenko’s poisoning and offered to assist the Scotland Yard investigation.

Sidelnikov, thought to be close to the exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, a leading foe of President Vladimir Putin, said he was making the asylum application because his life was in danger in Russia. Last week, before being barred from leaving Moscow, he claimed he was followed for several days by officers from the FSB, Russia’s biggest security agency. He was also questioned about the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. “I’ve just landed in London – I’m very happy,” he said yesterday. A friend said yesterday he fled to Britain because of “political persecution” by the Russian authorities.

Without citing any evidence, Russian officials have accused Berezovsky of involvement in the Litvinenko case and other murders of Putin opponents. Sidelnikov said he previously travelled to London four times a year, usually meeting Litvinenko. At their final meeting he said Litvinenko told him he was expecting some documents to come from Moscow offering proof of Russian secret service involvement in the Politkovskaya killing. “I understood he was indeed making his own investigation into her death,” he said. “He told me he was expecting some papers to arrive to him soon with proof of the FSB involvement. He didn’t say who was going to give him such documents.”

Last week, Sidelnikov said he was puzzled about why he was questioned over Politkovskaya’s death. When he was stopped at a Moscow airport he said he was given a letter from the FSB saying he was not permitted to leave Russia. The Kremlin has refused to extradite to Britain the chief suspect in the Litvinenko murder, Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a Russian MP. Moscow is also angry at Britain’s refusal to extradite Berezovsky.

December 19, 2007 – Contents

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Opposition Folds its Tents

(2) Russia’s Milquetoast “Opposition” Collapses

(3) Ryzhkov on the Elections

(4) Annals of “Pacified” Chechnya

(5) Ah, Russia: Come See the Paradise!

NOTE: Moscow Times columnist Leonid Radzikhovsky has some fascinating insights about Putin’s “plan” for Russia. We flesh them out on Publius Pundit. Check them out and feel free to add your thoughts.