Daily Archives: March 19, 2008

March 19, 2008 — Contents

TUESDAY MARCH 19 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Dollars and No Sense

(2) Another Original LR Translation: The Persecution of Reznick

(3) Pasko Interviews Kozlovsky, Part II

(4) Annals of Russian “Healthcare”

(5) Annals of Russian “Education”

NOTE: No sooner did he free himself from illegal military confinement than Oleg Kozlovsky found himself facing a concerted effort by the Kremlin to oust him from his headquarters in Moscow, similar to what has gone on with other dissident leaders. Publius Pundit has the details. Comments showing support for Oleg are encouraged.

NOTE: We’ve been saying all along that new Russian “president” Dimitri Medvedev is the perfect cover (and fall guy) for a massive crackdown on human rights. It’ll be harder for the West to sink its teeth into him since he’s not KGB like Putin, and Putin can stay all nice and “clean” while Medvedev does the dirty work of finally wiping out the last traces of civil society in Russia, the ones that won’t go down without a fight. Now, heroic Russian journalist Grigori Pasko reports the horrifying details, on Robert Amsterdam’s blog. Check it out!

EDITORIAL: Dollars and no Sense

EDITORIAL

Dollars and No Sense

Despite the fact that oil prices have spiked to their highest level in recent memory, the Russian stock market is down nearly 20% since New Year’s Day. The Moscow Times quotes Roland Nash, head of research at Renaissance Capital: “The U.S. is looking like it will go through a really torrid time over the next few trading sessions, and, therefore, Russia is going to suffer alongside it.”

Say what?

Isn’t Russia supposed to be the antithesis of the United States? If the U.S. economy is suffering, shouldn’t that mean Russia is doing well? If the price of oil is hobbling the U.S. economy, shouldn’t that mean Russia, reaping a windfall of oil profit, is roaring ahead? If the U.S. dollar is in freefall, and it is, and the ruble is appreciating, doesn’t that mean rosy days ahead for Russia?

Nope.

On Monday alone, the MICEX Russian stock index was at one point down nearly 6% of its total value, and closed down over 4%. MT columnist Alexei Bayer explained: “The United States is not only the world’s largest consumer, absorbing one-third of its resources, it is the linchpin of the world economy. The dollar is central to the global financial system. To hope that the rest of the world can survive a U.S. downturn unscathed is like saying that a high-stakes poker game can go on uninterrupted on the top deck of the Titanic while its hull is taking in water.”

In other words, it’s not wrong to say that the United States is the world’s largest consumer of Russian oil, the commodity that Russia’s economy relies upon for subsistence. Even if America doesn’t purchase Russia’s oil directly, the demand it creates establishes the price Russia sells at. If America’s economy tanks, Russia’s oil becomes substantially less valuable. Russia’s income plunges, and Russia’s economy goes right down too.

You’d think Russians would understand this. You’d think, in fact, that nobody in the world would be a bigger cheerleader for the United States than Russia, that the country would want to go out of its way to support the U.S. economy any way possible. But then again, after decades of Soviet oppression, you’d think the last thing any Russia would consider doing would be to vote for a proud KGB spy as national leader.

Russians have a way of surprising you, don’t they?

Now, to be sure, some of this may be dawning on the malignant little troll who “governs” Russia. The MT reports that Vladimir Putin is all a-twitter over a letter he recently received from U.S. President Bush. Putin stated: “It’s a serious document and we analyzed it carefully. If we manage to agree on its main provisions, we will be able to say that our dialogue is progressing successfully.” Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko was quoted as saying: “We would prefer measures of cooperation, not confrontation.”

Likely, he’d also prefer that his stock market was up 20%, rather than down.

But if that is so, you have to wonder why Russia is buzzing American military targets with nuclear bombers. Why, if Russia wants cooperation, would it be sending dangerous weapons to American foes like Iran and Venezuela? If Russia doesn’t want confrontation, why wouldn’t it respond to U.S. criticism regarding human rights by asking what changes it might make to improve the human rights climate, instead of attacking the U.S. as an equally egregious human rights abuser?

In fact, try to name just one concrete step taken by Russia in the past year to demonstrate cooperation with the United States. Name one time, if you can, when “President” Putin spoke to his nation and told them they shouldn’t hate the United States or wish it ill, because Russia’s economy depends on American spending. Name one time, in his whole presidency, that President Putin has complimented America on something, expressed admiration for America, or sided with America against one of its enemies.

You can’t do it, can you?

And, on the other hand, all you have to do is open the Moscow Times on any given day and you’ll see stories like the one from March 4th, reporting on the activities of the “Nashi” (“us Slavic Russians”) youth cult. 5,500 youths marched unimpeded through the streets of Moscow to the U.S. Embassy, where they screeched boorish slogans like: “Let them teach their wives to make shchi!” That’s what “President” Putin had said a few weeks earlier when asked about foreign criticism of Russian democracy.

Apparently, Russians are not overly familiar — though they are a nation rich in fairy tales — with the story of the goose which laid golden eggs. Then again, if one reflects on the infamous behavior of Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations — when he removed his shoe, used it for a gavel and shouted “we will bury you!” — perhaps one might conclude that in Russia, it’s not consider logical do do anything but kill such a goose and have a fine meal. After all, given the stark bleakness of Russia’s tomorrows when viewed in hindsight, maybe Russians are right in concluding that they should live only for today and the gratification of the moment.

Another Original LR Translation: Persecuting Yabloko’s Reznick, by our Original Translator

A member of the Oborona youth opposition group protesting
the detention of Yabloko opposition leader Maxim Reznick

Without Due Process

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

March 13, 2008

Suren Yedigarov, an activist of the United Civil Front (Obedinenniy Grazhdanskiy Front – OGF), was arrested and beaten in Moscow. He was holding a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) building on Zhitnaya Street in support of Maksim Reznik, the recently jailed leader of the Saint Petersburg office of the Yabloko political party. On Thursday morning Yedigarov was arrested by police officers and taken to the Yakimanka police station. At the station, Yedigarov was beaten, then taken away in an ambulance to City Hospital No. 7, where he as diagnosed with a concussion, eye injury, abrasions and bruises. No record of Yedigarov’s arrest was made at the Yakimanka police station. Yedigarov plans to file a complaint against the police officers involved. The day before, three other participants in single-person pickets supporting Reznik were arrested. The first was another OGF activist, Ida Miloslavova, who was arrested without any reason given. Then they arrested two activists as they were changing shifts, Aleksey Kazakov of OGF and Maria Koleda of “The Other Russia”, who was holding a sign that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners”. All three were taken to the Yakimanka police station. According to the arrested, none of their arrests were recorded at the police station, but the chief of the Yakimanka police station destroyed a telephone belonging to Kazakov and threatened all three with imprisonment and physical reprisals. The pickets in support of Reznik are continuing in Moscow, in front of the General Prosecutor’s office on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and the MVD building on Zhitnaya Street. Single-person pickets are also in progress in Saint Petersburg.

Ilya Yashin, “Yabloko” Political Party, March 13:

A series of single-person pickets is continuing today, in support of Maksim Reznik and demanding his immediate release. We have once again encountered the tried-and-true tactic of provocation, which was previously used, in particular, during pickets in support of Gary Kasparov after he was arrested.

The tactic is very simple: a single-person picket does not require permission from the authorities, so for this reason several provocateurs will approach the single picketer with signs or other paraphernalia – at which point the picket stops being single-person and a basis is formally created for the arrest of the “participants”.

Maria Gaidar encountered such a situation today: at two o’clock she took up her position in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office building, holding a sign, and just then two provocateurs approached her (they had no paraphernalia, because seeing that they were provocateurs we took away their signs). Exactly then two policemen appeared, and on the pretext of “participation in an unauthorized demonstration” arrested Maria, the two provocateurs, and me (although at that moment I was in fact not participating in the picket).

We were taken to the Tverskoye police station, where I was almost immediately released, without any record of my arrest or reason given. Maria Gaidar and the provocateurs are still there.

We consider this arrest illegal, inasmuch as the provocateurs simply stood alongside Ms. Gaidar, without any signs or banners – just stood alongside. By this logic of the law enforcement agencies, any person who comes up to a picketer (a journalist, bystander, or anyone else) becomes a participant in a “demonstration”.

On the bright side, no one has bothered the picketers since this incident – people are able to take their turns quietly standing there. Apparently the authorities have run out of provocateurs.

What is going on right now in Saint Petersburg – with the arrest of Reznik, the whole story with the Yabloko/Saint Petersburg office (we learned today that it is about to undergo an inquiry from the Prosecutor’s office for “extremism”) – all of this is, I am certain, a political repression against the Yabloko political party. I think that the initiative came from the city authorities, but things like this cannot help but be approved at the very top.

Another Original LR Translation: Persecuting Yabloko’s Reznick, by our Original Translator

A member of the Oborona youth opposition group protesting
the detention of Yabloko opposition leader Maxim Reznick

Without Due Process

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

March 13, 2008

Suren Yedigarov, an activist of the United Civil Front (Obedinenniy Grazhdanskiy Front – OGF), was arrested and beaten in Moscow. He was holding a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) building on Zhitnaya Street in support of Maksim Reznik, the recently jailed leader of the Saint Petersburg office of the Yabloko political party. On Thursday morning Yedigarov was arrested by police officers and taken to the Yakimanka police station. At the station, Yedigarov was beaten, then taken away in an ambulance to City Hospital No. 7, where he as diagnosed with a concussion, eye injury, abrasions and bruises. No record of Yedigarov’s arrest was made at the Yakimanka police station. Yedigarov plans to file a complaint against the police officers involved. The day before, three other participants in single-person pickets supporting Reznik were arrested. The first was another OGF activist, Ida Miloslavova, who was arrested without any reason given. Then they arrested two activists as they were changing shifts, Aleksey Kazakov of OGF and Maria Koleda of “The Other Russia”, who was holding a sign that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners”. All three were taken to the Yakimanka police station. According to the arrested, none of their arrests were recorded at the police station, but the chief of the Yakimanka police station destroyed a telephone belonging to Kazakov and threatened all three with imprisonment and physical reprisals. The pickets in support of Reznik are continuing in Moscow, in front of the General Prosecutor’s office on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and the MVD building on Zhitnaya Street. Single-person pickets are also in progress in Saint Petersburg.

Ilya Yashin, “Yabloko” Political Party, March 13:

A series of single-person pickets is continuing today, in support of Maksim Reznik and demanding his immediate release. We have once again encountered the tried-and-true tactic of provocation, which was previously used, in particular, during pickets in support of Gary Kasparov after he was arrested.

The tactic is very simple: a single-person picket does not require permission from the authorities, so for this reason several provocateurs will approach the single picketer with signs or other paraphernalia – at which point the picket stops being single-person and a basis is formally created for the arrest of the “participants”.

Maria Gaidar encountered such a situation today: at two o’clock she took up her position in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office building, holding a sign, and just then two provocateurs approached her (they had no paraphernalia, because seeing that they were provocateurs we took away their signs). Exactly then two policemen appeared, and on the pretext of “participation in an unauthorized demonstration” arrested Maria, the two provocateurs, and me (although at that moment I was in fact not participating in the picket).

We were taken to the Tverskoye police station, where I was almost immediately released, without any record of my arrest or reason given. Maria Gaidar and the provocateurs are still there.

We consider this arrest illegal, inasmuch as the provocateurs simply stood alongside Ms. Gaidar, without any signs or banners – just stood alongside. By this logic of the law enforcement agencies, any person who comes up to a picketer (a journalist, bystander, or anyone else) becomes a participant in a “demonstration”.

On the bright side, no one has bothered the picketers since this incident – people are able to take their turns quietly standing there. Apparently the authorities have run out of provocateurs.

What is going on right now in Saint Petersburg – with the arrest of Reznik, the whole story with the Yabloko/Saint Petersburg office (we learned today that it is about to undergo an inquiry from the Prosecutor’s office for “extremism”) – all of this is, I am certain, a political repression against the Yabloko political party. I think that the initiative came from the city authorities, but things like this cannot help but be approved at the very top.

Another Original LR Translation: Persecuting Yabloko’s Reznick, by our Original Translator

A member of the Oborona youth opposition group protesting
the detention of Yabloko opposition leader Maxim Reznick

Without Due Process

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

March 13, 2008

Suren Yedigarov, an activist of the United Civil Front (Obedinenniy Grazhdanskiy Front – OGF), was arrested and beaten in Moscow. He was holding a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) building on Zhitnaya Street in support of Maksim Reznik, the recently jailed leader of the Saint Petersburg office of the Yabloko political party. On Thursday morning Yedigarov was arrested by police officers and taken to the Yakimanka police station. At the station, Yedigarov was beaten, then taken away in an ambulance to City Hospital No. 7, where he as diagnosed with a concussion, eye injury, abrasions and bruises. No record of Yedigarov’s arrest was made at the Yakimanka police station. Yedigarov plans to file a complaint against the police officers involved. The day before, three other participants in single-person pickets supporting Reznik were arrested. The first was another OGF activist, Ida Miloslavova, who was arrested without any reason given. Then they arrested two activists as they were changing shifts, Aleksey Kazakov of OGF and Maria Koleda of “The Other Russia”, who was holding a sign that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners”. All three were taken to the Yakimanka police station. According to the arrested, none of their arrests were recorded at the police station, but the chief of the Yakimanka police station destroyed a telephone belonging to Kazakov and threatened all three with imprisonment and physical reprisals. The pickets in support of Reznik are continuing in Moscow, in front of the General Prosecutor’s office on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and the MVD building on Zhitnaya Street. Single-person pickets are also in progress in Saint Petersburg.

Ilya Yashin, “Yabloko” Political Party, March 13:

A series of single-person pickets is continuing today, in support of Maksim Reznik and demanding his immediate release. We have once again encountered the tried-and-true tactic of provocation, which was previously used, in particular, during pickets in support of Gary Kasparov after he was arrested.

The tactic is very simple: a single-person picket does not require permission from the authorities, so for this reason several provocateurs will approach the single picketer with signs or other paraphernalia – at which point the picket stops being single-person and a basis is formally created for the arrest of the “participants”.

Maria Gaidar encountered such a situation today: at two o’clock she took up her position in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office building, holding a sign, and just then two provocateurs approached her (they had no paraphernalia, because seeing that they were provocateurs we took away their signs). Exactly then two policemen appeared, and on the pretext of “participation in an unauthorized demonstration” arrested Maria, the two provocateurs, and me (although at that moment I was in fact not participating in the picket).

We were taken to the Tverskoye police station, where I was almost immediately released, without any record of my arrest or reason given. Maria Gaidar and the provocateurs are still there.

We consider this arrest illegal, inasmuch as the provocateurs simply stood alongside Ms. Gaidar, without any signs or banners – just stood alongside. By this logic of the law enforcement agencies, any person who comes up to a picketer (a journalist, bystander, or anyone else) becomes a participant in a “demonstration”.

On the bright side, no one has bothered the picketers since this incident – people are able to take their turns quietly standing there. Apparently the authorities have run out of provocateurs.

What is going on right now in Saint Petersburg – with the arrest of Reznik, the whole story with the Yabloko/Saint Petersburg office (we learned today that it is about to undergo an inquiry from the Prosecutor’s office for “extremism”) – all of this is, I am certain, a political repression against the Yabloko political party. I think that the initiative came from the city authorities, but things like this cannot help but be approved at the very top.

Another Original LR Translation: Persecuting Yabloko’s Reznick, by our Original Translator

A member of the Oborona youth opposition group protesting
the detention of Yabloko opposition leader Maxim Reznick

Without Due Process

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

March 13, 2008

Suren Yedigarov, an activist of the United Civil Front (Obedinenniy Grazhdanskiy Front – OGF), was arrested and beaten in Moscow. He was holding a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) building on Zhitnaya Street in support of Maksim Reznik, the recently jailed leader of the Saint Petersburg office of the Yabloko political party. On Thursday morning Yedigarov was arrested by police officers and taken to the Yakimanka police station. At the station, Yedigarov was beaten, then taken away in an ambulance to City Hospital No. 7, where he as diagnosed with a concussion, eye injury, abrasions and bruises. No record of Yedigarov’s arrest was made at the Yakimanka police station. Yedigarov plans to file a complaint against the police officers involved. The day before, three other participants in single-person pickets supporting Reznik were arrested. The first was another OGF activist, Ida Miloslavova, who was arrested without any reason given. Then they arrested two activists as they were changing shifts, Aleksey Kazakov of OGF and Maria Koleda of “The Other Russia”, who was holding a sign that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners”. All three were taken to the Yakimanka police station. According to the arrested, none of their arrests were recorded at the police station, but the chief of the Yakimanka police station destroyed a telephone belonging to Kazakov and threatened all three with imprisonment and physical reprisals. The pickets in support of Reznik are continuing in Moscow, in front of the General Prosecutor’s office on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and the MVD building on Zhitnaya Street. Single-person pickets are also in progress in Saint Petersburg.

Ilya Yashin, “Yabloko” Political Party, March 13:

A series of single-person pickets is continuing today, in support of Maksim Reznik and demanding his immediate release. We have once again encountered the tried-and-true tactic of provocation, which was previously used, in particular, during pickets in support of Gary Kasparov after he was arrested.

The tactic is very simple: a single-person picket does not require permission from the authorities, so for this reason several provocateurs will approach the single picketer with signs or other paraphernalia – at which point the picket stops being single-person and a basis is formally created for the arrest of the “participants”.

Maria Gaidar encountered such a situation today: at two o’clock she took up her position in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office building, holding a sign, and just then two provocateurs approached her (they had no paraphernalia, because seeing that they were provocateurs we took away their signs). Exactly then two policemen appeared, and on the pretext of “participation in an unauthorized demonstration” arrested Maria, the two provocateurs, and me (although at that moment I was in fact not participating in the picket).

We were taken to the Tverskoye police station, where I was almost immediately released, without any record of my arrest or reason given. Maria Gaidar and the provocateurs are still there.

We consider this arrest illegal, inasmuch as the provocateurs simply stood alongside Ms. Gaidar, without any signs or banners – just stood alongside. By this logic of the law enforcement agencies, any person who comes up to a picketer (a journalist, bystander, or anyone else) becomes a participant in a “demonstration”.

On the bright side, no one has bothered the picketers since this incident – people are able to take their turns quietly standing there. Apparently the authorities have run out of provocateurs.

What is going on right now in Saint Petersburg – with the arrest of Reznik, the whole story with the Yabloko/Saint Petersburg office (we learned today that it is about to undergo an inquiry from the Prosecutor’s office for “extremism”) – all of this is, I am certain, a political repression against the Yabloko political party. I think that the initiative came from the city authorities, but things like this cannot help but be approved at the very top.

Another Original LR Translation: Persecuting Yabloko’s Reznick, by our Original Translator

A member of the Oborona youth opposition group protesting
the detention of Yabloko opposition leader Maxim Reznick

Without Due Process

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

March 13, 2008

Suren Yedigarov, an activist of the United Civil Front (Obedinenniy Grazhdanskiy Front – OGF), was arrested and beaten in Moscow. He was holding a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) building on Zhitnaya Street in support of Maksim Reznik, the recently jailed leader of the Saint Petersburg office of the Yabloko political party. On Thursday morning Yedigarov was arrested by police officers and taken to the Yakimanka police station. At the station, Yedigarov was beaten, then taken away in an ambulance to City Hospital No. 7, where he as diagnosed with a concussion, eye injury, abrasions and bruises. No record of Yedigarov’s arrest was made at the Yakimanka police station. Yedigarov plans to file a complaint against the police officers involved. The day before, three other participants in single-person pickets supporting Reznik were arrested. The first was another OGF activist, Ida Miloslavova, who was arrested without any reason given. Then they arrested two activists as they were changing shifts, Aleksey Kazakov of OGF and Maria Koleda of “The Other Russia”, who was holding a sign that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners”. All three were taken to the Yakimanka police station. According to the arrested, none of their arrests were recorded at the police station, but the chief of the Yakimanka police station destroyed a telephone belonging to Kazakov and threatened all three with imprisonment and physical reprisals. The pickets in support of Reznik are continuing in Moscow, in front of the General Prosecutor’s office on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and the MVD building on Zhitnaya Street. Single-person pickets are also in progress in Saint Petersburg.

Ilya Yashin, “Yabloko” Political Party, March 13:

A series of single-person pickets is continuing today, in support of Maksim Reznik and demanding his immediate release. We have once again encountered the tried-and-true tactic of provocation, which was previously used, in particular, during pickets in support of Gary Kasparov after he was arrested.

The tactic is very simple: a single-person picket does not require permission from the authorities, so for this reason several provocateurs will approach the single picketer with signs or other paraphernalia – at which point the picket stops being single-person and a basis is formally created for the arrest of the “participants”.

Maria Gaidar encountered such a situation today: at two o’clock she took up her position in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office building, holding a sign, and just then two provocateurs approached her (they had no paraphernalia, because seeing that they were provocateurs we took away their signs). Exactly then two policemen appeared, and on the pretext of “participation in an unauthorized demonstration” arrested Maria, the two provocateurs, and me (although at that moment I was in fact not participating in the picket).

We were taken to the Tverskoye police station, where I was almost immediately released, without any record of my arrest or reason given. Maria Gaidar and the provocateurs are still there.

We consider this arrest illegal, inasmuch as the provocateurs simply stood alongside Ms. Gaidar, without any signs or banners – just stood alongside. By this logic of the law enforcement agencies, any person who comes up to a picketer (a journalist, bystander, or anyone else) becomes a participant in a “demonstration”.

On the bright side, no one has bothered the picketers since this incident – people are able to take their turns quietly standing there. Apparently the authorities have run out of provocateurs.

What is going on right now in Saint Petersburg – with the arrest of Reznik, the whole story with the Yabloko/Saint Petersburg office (we learned today that it is about to undergo an inquiry from the Prosecutor’s office for “extremism”) – all of this is, I am certain, a political repression against the Yabloko political party. I think that the initiative came from the city authorities, but things like this cannot help but be approved at the very top.

Pasko Interviews Kozlovsky, Part II

Robert Amsterdam publishes the second part of Grigori Pasko’s interview with Oleg Kozlovsky (part one is here):

PASKO: You say “without opening a criminal case”… But they approve of this method too – the leader of the St. Petersburg «Yabloko», Maxim Reznik, has been arrested, and in relation to him a criminal case has been opened, under which he faces deprivation of liberty for a term of five years…

KOZLOVSKY: It is obvious that the provocation in relation to Maxim was being prepared for a long time and meticulously. He can’t be conscripted into the army – he’s got a non-conscriptional age. But it’s easy to entrap him in a fight: Maxim is an emotional person, everybody knows this. There are many in today’s Russia who dream of beating up a policeman who is exceeding his authority. No doubt they were counting on the public believing the policemen and their fairy tale about how Maxim had beat up several of the guardians of order.

The precedent with Reznik is alarming. By the way, there already was such a case, and also with a representative of «Yabloko» – when they opened a criminal case against Ivan Bolshakov. That time the case fell apart.

PASKO: Behind all of these cases – when they first are opened, then fall apart, then are maniacally opened once again, only now already in relation to other people – behind all of this I clearly see the signature of the FSB. What do you think on this account?

KOZLOVSKYK: I am confident that behind all these cases stands the FSB. Moreover, when they drove me to the assembly center in Moscow, they stuck a person in the car who congratulated everybody with the Day of the Chekist and everybody congratulated him. They didn’t even hide their affiliation with this organization. After all, what’s important for them is to kiss up to the power, to demonstrate that it’s not for naught that they’re getting high salaries, that they’re fighting “against extremism”… True, they fight with other’s hands: the military’s, the police’s…

PASKO: There is an opinion that they’re still afraid of an orange revolution in the halls of the Kremlin…

Kozlovsky: I think that they truly are afraid. The spectre of Maidan [the square in Kiev that was the focal point of Ukraine’s «Orange Revolution»—Trans.] is wandering around the Kremlin offices. And that’s why the methods of the struggle with other-thinking are getting harsher – as a manifestation of the power’s fear that it may one day be deprived of its power.

PASKO: Maybe the power is in this way getting stronger, perfecting repressive methods?

KOZLOVSKY: I don’t know about the strengthening of the power, but there’s no question that the activeness and the counter-efforts of the opposition after such methods increase. The incident with me unconditionally strengthened «Oborona».

PASKO: They say that the power is afraid of the opposition. But it actively suppresses the dissenters’ marches, locks people up in special receivers, opens criminal cases… That doesn’t look too much like a manifestation of fear before the opposition…

KOZLOVSKY: Repressions are effective when they are few. Violence and force everywhere becomes civil war. But now they want to get rid of the spectre of Maidan with relatively little blood. And to barricade themselves off against the coming of a new power, a democratic one. Because such a power will demand answers for all the crimes that are being committed by today’s power.

PASKO: Did they intimidate you – with the army, the special receiver?

KOZLOVSKY: Me, no. But this did make an impression on some. After all, people are used to feeling themselves comfortable.

PASKO: By the way, we’ve forgotten to discuss yet another method of influencing those who think differently – putting them in psychiatric hospitals.

KOZLOVSKY: Yes, that’s yet another old-new method – a dirty method, but effective in its own way. Here they’re counting on the psychology of the average person, on the fact that an unknown person is always suspicious. Maybe he really is crazy…? And in the opposition, just like in the power, there are people who aren’t quite “normal”. Then, apparently the special services have still got the task of creating an image for an unwanted person, so that everyone would think that he’s, you know, “not quite all there”… They’re still not letting Vladimir Bukovsky forget that he’s supposedly crazy. That is, you need to smear a person, to attach the stigma of a madman on him. These methods need to be fought against; this is mocking and belittling a person and his human dignity.

PASKO: Your assessment of the current state of our opposition?

KOZLOVSKY: This state can not be called “inspiring optimism”. We did not succeed in radically turning Russia from Putin’s course. Therefore, this task still lies ahead and it is getting more complicated. The power is putting up concrete walls all around itself, and it’s getting harder and harder to break through them. On the other hand, the power is helping us by taking its actions to the point of absurdity: everybody, for example, could see for themselves that the elections – this is sheer unadulterated profanation. And everybody can see how the OMON disperse and beat completely harmless people. Everybody sees that there is a semi-military regime in the country. And all this they call “stability”. Such stability is characteristic of prisons and concentration camps. Support for the opposition is growing. We need to continue to put pressure on the power directly – to litigate with it, to participate in actions, marches, to try to express our point of view wherever possible… To interact directly with people. It needs to be clarified to people that democracy – this is not at all what we’ve got now in the country. Nor is it chaos. People need to be shown in what way they can protect their rights and have an influence on the power.

PASKO: After the designation of the heir Medvedev, some people for some reason started talking about a thaw, liberalization in the country…

KOZLOVSKY: I don’t see a single reason for such talk. On what grounds do they call him a liberal? Just what has he done, or even said, that distinguishes him from Putin? Putin also always talked about democracy and freedom of the mass media, but did everything just the opposite. They say: Medvedev – is a lawyer. But Putin’s supposedly a lawyer too! In my opinion, hopes for a better future with the coming of Medvedev into the Kremlin office – are illusory. He’s just as illegitimate as the recently appointed parliament. An illegitimate president and parliament ought to resign from office.

PASKO: Thanks for the conversation. Best of luck!

Just in passing…

Not that long ago, when Oleg Kozlovsky was found in isolation, Andrei Illarionov at a meeting with representatives of «Oborona» put his signature to an appeal by the leaders of the opposition on the immediate release of Oleg. In the meeting with the youth, Illarionov noted in particular that the opposition activists should not underestimate their adversaries from the power in force. Cookie-cutter decisions ought to be shunned, new non-standard moves need to be thought up – after all, the agents of the regime also attentively read Gene Sharp and are preparing responses to the most varied variants of our actions. The political situation in Russia is very complex for oppositioneers. Our task is harder than the one that was faced by democrats in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine. However, in the historical perspective, the regime of the siloviki is doomed. It will inevitably be succeeded by a model based on the free competition of different political forces. In Illarionov’s opinion, in order to bring this moment closer, it is necessary to create a broad forum, a round-table or “proto-parliament” with the participation of political movements representing the most varied points of view accepted in Russian society. The opposition ought to focus its efforts on the organization of parallel elections to this representative organ, and not on participation in the dishonest “elections” arranged by the powers in force.

Annals of Russian "Healthcare"

The Chicago Tribune, showing itself to be a world leader on Russia coverage, continues its series exposing the sick underbelly of Russia:

Health care is supposed to be free in Russia, but Russians know that every hospital has its under-the-table price list.

That’s why the family of Khazerya Ziyayetdinova, a 70-year-old woman suffering from severe bedsores, brought cash every time they visited her at Hospital 67 in Moscow. To have Ziyayetdinova recover in a room instead of the hallway, relatives slipped an orderly $300. They paid nurses $20 to give injections, change bedpans and unclog catheters. Every chat with Ziyayetdinova’s doctor cost $40.

“Our health-care system is still in the Middle Ages,” said Vera Pavlova, Ziyayetdinova’s daughter-in-law, sitting in her home in this small town 54 miles southwest of Moscow. “There’s low professionalism, corruption — it makes me very worried about finding myself in a situation where I might need medical treatment.”
Russia is an unhealthy nation, and its health-care system is just as sick. Its hospitals are understaffed, poorly equipped and rife with corruption.

The biggest reason Russia’s population plummets at a rate of more than 700,000 people each year is not that its birthrate is so low, but that its death rate is so high. The average life expectancy for Russian men is 59. In the U.S. it’s 75; in Japan it’s 79.

Alcohol and smoking are major culprits. Both are linked to heart disease, and in Russia, the rate of men ages 30 to 59 dying from heart disease is five times that of the United States, according to researchers at Columbia University.

Prevention and better health care can help reverse that trend. The Russian government is pumping $6.4 billion into revamping health care; much of that money is paying for the construction of eight high-tech medical centers across the country, new X-ray machines, electrocardiograms and ambulances at hospitals, and raises for family doctors.

But doctors and nurses in the Russian Far East city of Amursk are still waiting for the overhaul to reach their hospital. In January 2007, the hospital ran out of syringes and asked patients to bring their own, said Olga Cherevko, a nurse at the hospital. Even something as fundamental as keeping pharmacies stocked can prove problematic for Russia’s beleaguered health-care system. A bureaucratic breakdown in late 2006 led to a severe shortage in government-supplied prescription drugs.

Russians with enough money were able to buy medicine privately. But hundreds of thousands of Russians with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and other diseases had to do without the drugs for weeks.

Russian officials have promised that the errors that led to the drug shortage won’t happen again. They can’t be as reassuring when it comes to corruption that demands bribes for everything from surgery to clean sheets.

Researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Open Health Institute estimate that corruption siphons off as much as 35 percent of money spent on health care. Low wages perpetuate the problem; yearly doctor salaries in Russia average $5,160 to $6,120. Nurses make an average of $2,760 to $3,780 annually.

Pavlova estimates that Ziyayetdinova’s family shelled out nearly $5,000 in bribes during the time Ziyayetdinova was hospitalized.

At a skin clinic in Moscow, nurses charged $20 each time they applied ointment to Ziyayetdinova’s bedsores. One of her sons began sweeping up her ward during visits because a nurse said room cleanup was the responsibility of patients or their families — not hospital staff.

The money never really helped. Ziyayetdinova died. Doctors said she died of a heart deficiency, but Pavlova and Ziyayetdinova’s sons are convinced the indifference and neglect Ziyayetdinova endured during her hospitalization contributed to her death.

“It was as if their goal wasn’t to save someone’s life,” Pavlova said, “as if they thought their role was to be a last stage before death. To be a place that prepares a person to die.”

Annals of Russian "Education"

The Globe & Mail reports:

College student Renat Nasipov doesn’t have time to go to class. He works full time driving a moving van to pay his tuition bills and support his single mother. When exam time came in January, Mr. Nasipov, 21, knew he would fail. Instead, he paid his course supervisor nearly $900 in exchange for passing grades on all of his exams. If all goes to plan, Mr. Nasipov will graduate this June, without ever having attended a seminar or lecture. “I pay bribes for all my exams,” said Mr. Nasipov, who is finishing an automotive mechanics course at a small college. “I can’t afford to attend class because I have to pay for my education, which is $1,200 a year, and I have to feed myself and my mother.”

Mr. Nasipov doesn’t feel guilty that his college diploma will be purchased, not earned. His life circumstances left him no other choice, he said. Besides, he doesn’t think he missed much by skipping classes. He plans to open an automotive repair business after graduation. “I already drive a car. I know how it all works. I don’t need to study mathematics for that.”

Mr. Nasipov’s story wouldn’t shock fellow Russians. While not every student is purchasing a postsecondary education, most adult Russians have, at some point in their lives, slipped money to a public official in exchange for a favour or exemption from a rule. Russians pay bribes to avoid passport-renewal lineups, to obtain driver’s licences, to get their kids into top universities or keep them out of the dreaded army.

Corruption is so widespread in Russia today that some activists say the word “corruption” itself is misleading because it implies that there is an aberration of standards. In a recent poll, only a third of Russians said they believe corruption can be rooted out. The country’s top leaders admit corruption is tearing at Russia’s economy and threatening its economic development. Most of the talk in policy circles concerns the toll that corruption has wrought on struggling small- and medium-sized business, where it’s estimated to cost between $1,800 and $41,000 in bribes to start a new company.

But it’s not just the Russian economy that is affected. Countless college and university graduates, including medical students, have entered demanding professions using bogus educational credentials. And public safety is jeopardized by motorists who have purchased their driver’s licences or paid off inspectors during annual auto safety inspections. Salesman Mikhail Balashov paid $700 for his driver’s licence after failing the test four times. Mr. Balashov said he suspected the driving inspector was failing him on purpose because he hadn’t offered a bribe. After his fourth failed test, Mr. Balashov arranged to pay the inspector through a mutual acquaintance. On his fifth attempt, after the inspector was paid, Mr. Balashov passed his exam. Like Mr. Nasipov, Mr. Balashov said he felt no remorse. “In this country, you can’t survive without giving a bribe. It is just the law of living, not a crime.” A few weeks later, he paid a safety inspector $150 to give his car the green light. He said he didn’t have time to stand in the day-long queue.

Georgy Satarov, the founder of the Moscow think tank INDEM, which has published numerous reports on corruption, said most Russians don’t think of the long-term, broader consequences of state-sanctioned cheating. Few equate Russia’s high car-accident death rate with rampant corruption in the motor vehicle sector, he said. “The people who will heal us, the people who will build our bridges; if their diplomas aren’t real, it’s creating a dangerous situation,” Mr. Satarov said. Elena Panfilova, director of the Russian branch of Transparency International, agreed. “Unfortunately, people in Russia still don’t understand why it’s bad to pay a bribe to a public official,” Ms. Panfilova said.

So far, corruption has not deterred short-term investors in high-tech sectors, Ms. Panfilova said. But there is a concern that Russia’s endemic corruption could scare off long-term investors who might be considering large capital investments. And the problem is getting worse. Last year, Transparency International ranked Russia 141 out of 180 countries in a ranking of corruption perceptions, a drop of 20 places from 2006. In 2002, Russia placed 71st. Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin suggested chopping off the hands of corrupt public officials. The President didn’t mean this literally, but his comments reflected how serious the issue has become.

His successor, president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, has vowed to tackle the problem anew and has promised to introduce an anti-corruption bill. Many aren’t holding their breath. Ms. Panfilova and Mr. Saratov said Russian leaders have been promising for years to crack down on corruption. Despite signing two international treaties aimed at curbing corruption, Russia still has few laws in its criminal code that address the crime, she said. While corruption exists to some extent in every society, the Russian brand began to flourish in the legal vacuum that was left after communism collapsed in 1991 and Russia turned to a market economy.

Over the past few years, the government has introduced a raft of anti-corruption measures, but many initiatives have failed. Mr. Saratov blamed the top-down regime structure created by Mr. Putin, who also doubled the size of the bureaucracy. At the same time, the President stifled the organizations that traditionally scrutinize public officials, namely the media and opposition groups. “It’s a dictatorship of the bureaucracy,” Mr. Saratov said. Ms. Panfilova said Russian citizens need to be more aggressive about their rights when confronted with corrupt officials. “There is no public control over public servants, she said. “There is no obligation for civil servants to reply to a citizen who has a complaint.”

Eventually, corruption could blunt Russia’s long-term economic recovery, Mr. Saratov said. Small- and medium-sized business operators feel increasingly strangled by the ever-changing demands of public officials. Ask Alla Abushayeva, who operates two small grocery outlets in Samara, about 850 kilometres southeast of Moscow. Each month, she pays her local tax inspector $125 to keep other municipal officials and inspectors at bay. Ms. Abushayeva said most fines for regulation breaches are set so high – $1,200 for failing to hand a customer a receipt – that business owners must pay bribes to get exemptions.

“If I had been paying all the fines that the tax inspectors and police imposed, I would have been bankrupt a long time ago,” she said.