Daily Archives: July 21, 2008

July 21, 2008 — Contents


(1) EDITORIAL: The Long Arm of the Party

(2) The Yushchenko Outrage

(3) Women Brutalized in Putin’s Russia

(4) In Putin’s Russia, Sex Slavery is Booming

(5) Crazed Russia Lashes out Against Czech Republic

(6) In Neo-Soviet Russia, not Even the EMOs are Safe

NOTE: More shame and disgrace for Russian ladies’ tennis. Russia had two of the top four seeds at the Bank of the West Tier II event in Stanford California last week yet it didn’t even have one participant in the semi-finals. Vera Zvonareva, the #3 seed, was crushed by an unseeded “lucky loser” in straight sets (winning only five games) before the quarter finals, and Anna Chakvetadze was similarly blown off the court by a lower-ranked player, though at least she reached the quarter finals and her opponent was seeded. Russian “dominance” continues apace.

EDITORIAL: The Long Arm of the The Party


The Long Arm of the The Party

If you visit the website of the Moscow branch of the United Russia party, on the main page in the right sidebar you will see the above graphic banner. Click on it, and you’ll be taken to the organization’s sign-up page, where you can learn (if you speak Russian) how to become a member of Vladimir Putin’s party of power.

Writing on Global Voices, Russia blogger Lyndon Allin of Scraps of Moscow translates a blog post about UR’s increasingly frenzied efforts to become the neo-Soviet version of the Communist Party (it has no hesitation, as you can from the image, in dredging up Soviet images — just imagine a modern German political party, much less the party of power, using images created by Hitler’s propagandists). Here’s the translation in full:

Journalist Ilya Barabanov, who writes for the New Times and blogs engagingly as LJ user barabanch, wrote a laconic post a couple weeks ago that drew some interesting comments (RUS):

A young lady came to interview for a job with a friend of mine. She’s a [Young Russia] activist. Under “Professional Accomplishments” [on her resume] the first and only line read “Participated in the inauguration of [the Russian president] Dmitry Anatol’evich Medvedev.”

A couple of comments on the post:

avdeev [punctuation and capitalization as in original]:

it’s funny, but things like that have been happening for awhile. for example at RGGU [Russian State University for the Humanities] they accept [United Russia] party members into the graduate programs, and it’s harder for people who haven’t been vetted by the office to get in […] a couple of my friends were advised by the academic department that before turning in their grad school applications they should pay a visit to the local United Russia office, that it would be more correct and predictable to do so.

at the office it was suggested that they write an essay about how much I love the motherland, i.e. [United Russia], and how much I want to join the party, well they told [United Russia] to go you-know-where and they submitted their applications anyway, we’ll see what happens in September



You don’t understand.

[quoting from Viktor Shenderovich‘s website (here), who also seems to have been quoting from a transcript of some kind]:

Speaking at [a panel discussion on “the new Russian elite” at the “Strategy-2020 Forum”],[Vladislav Surkov] called on the participants in the discussion to “determine what the Russian elite is.” In response to this, producer Andrei Fomin suggested compiling a “list of the elite,” and Andrei [Korkunov], general director of the Odintsovo candy factory, noted that such a list already exists, and pointed out the list of participants in the presidential inauguration in the Kremlin.

There are no words that can be used to adequately describe the horror of this situation. It was bad enough when the Nashi youth cult was employing these tactics to sucker Russia’s mindless impoverished youth, but it now appears that Nashi has faded into the woodwork to be replaced by a full-blown revival of the the Communist Party aimed at the entire population. Just as in Soviet times, you can’t get ahead unless you are a member. “Lists” of those who are sufficiently patriotic to deserve promotion are drawn up and enforced with rigorous discipline. Just think what Josef Stalin could have accomplished using the Internet and the power of modern computers!

Russia seems psychopathically intent on repeating its entire past, apparently in the crazed hallucination that it was just bad luck that brought down the USSR and this time they’re going to do it the right way and inevitably take over the world. And the sad thing is that, if we were to judge by the pathetic response of many Western leaders, we’d have to believe there’s no reason they couldn’t succeed. Certainly, the people of Russia aren’t going to a lift a finger to stop it, and will soon be turning in their neighbors for disloyalty in the hope of personal advantage just like the the good old days of Stalin.

The Yushchenko Outrage

Imagine this scenario, if you will:

  • While campaigning for a third term as the “president” of Russia, Vladimir Putin is stricken with a deadly poison and his face massively disfigured. Miraculously, he survives and goes on to win “election.”
  • Russian authorities identify the alleged assassin, a ranking figure in the Russian secret police. But before they can arrest him, he flees to America.
  • America confers citizenship on the assassin, and when Russia demands extradition America refuses on that basis.

How do you think Russia would react?

RIA Novosti reports:

KIEV, July 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has refused to extradite a former Ukrainian security service deputy head suspected of involvement in the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, Ukraine’s top prosecutors said on Wednesday. The Prosecutor General’s Office said that since Moscow considers Wolodymyr Satsiuk, or Vladimir Satsyuk, to be a Russian citizen, he cannot be extradited. Satsiuk is also facing abuse of office and forgery charges in Ukraine, which requested his extradition in April 2008. Ukraine has been negotiating with Russia over the extradition of three people who it says may have been involved in the Yushchenko poisoning, but the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said it had received no other extradition requests. Yushchenko became seriously ill in early September 2004, the day after attending a reception and dinner with Ukrainian security services leaders. He suffered from a series of symptoms, including back pain, acute pancreatitis and nerve paralysis on the left side of his face. After the illness, his face became heavily disfigured – grossly jaundiced, bloated and pockmarked. Many have linked Yushchenko’s poisoning to a group of senior Ukrainian officials, including the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ihor Smeshko, and his deputy, Satsiuk.

All of them are believed to have fled to Russia and received Russian citizenship.

It’s barbarism, pure and simple. Russia, a G-8 member, is harboring assassins!

Women Brutalized in Putin’s Russia

National Public Radio reports:

Domestic violence is one of Russia’s darkest secrets. The government estimates that 14,000 women die each year at the hands of their husbands or male partners. But Russian police don’t even classify domestic abuse as a crime. It’s a social problem few Russians ever mention.

Click here to listen to the audio report. 14,000 women per year is more than 38 per day, more than 1 every 40 minutes, ten times more than in the United States, a country with a population double that of Russia. In other words, a Russian woman is twenty times more likely to be murdered by her husband than an American woman by hers.

In Putin’s Russia, Sex Slavery is Booming

CNN reports:

Young women in bright miniskirts and high heels line up to sell themselves in the dingy back streets throughout the Russian capital. Moscow’s illegal flesh markets are flourishing, with up to 30 women at each pickup point, or tochka, standing in order of price for the night. Customers light up the lines with their car headlights and are asked to pay between $100 and $700 for a woman.

Aid workers for groups fighting for women’s rights say Moscow is witnessing a surge in prostitution, including forced prostitution, as a result of Russia’s booming economy. They say thousands of young women are made to work as sex slaves on the city’s streets, unable to escape from the ruthless and violent criminal gangs who traffic them. “It’s because of the economic boom they are brought here,” said Afsona Kadyrova of the Angel Coalition aid agency, which rehabilitates trafficked women and children. “The fast pace of development in Moscow has fueled demand for a range of cheap workers, including prostitutes.”

To investigate the thriving trade, CNN went undercover posing as potential customers and gained access to speak directly to the prostitutes and their pimps. “Take your pick from any of the girls,” the female organizer said at one location, lines of women all around. “The expensive ones are on the right, for $600 and $700 a night. The women on the left are $100.” Aid agencies say many of the women working here are tricked into coming to Moscow on the promise of an education or a good job. They say others are simply kidnapped from their hometowns and forced to work as prostitutes in Moscow. Watch one woman describe how her uncle duped her into prostitution »

Russian police acknowledge that human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a major problem, saying they do what they can to fight it by raiding brothels suspected of forced prostitution and arresting gang members who run them. But the problem, they say, lies elsewhere. “First of all, we have virtually open borders, and badly controlled migration flows from nearby countries,” said Alexander Krasnov of Russia’s Interior Ministry Police. “Secondly, we still don’t have a basic law that defines victims’ rights. At the moment, it’s mostly aid agencies that deal with it.”

Aid agencies say they are handling a growing number of deeply traumatized victims rescued from brothels and pimps in the Moscow area. One U.N. organization, the International Organization for Migration, recently opened a treatment and rehabilitation center to cope with the large numbers of sexually exploited and trafficked women who come for help. At this center, Christine, a 27-year-old Nigerian woman, tells how she acquired a painful 4-inch scar across her right cheek. She says she was lured to Russia from Nigeria four years ago by her uncle. He promised to give her a college education, she says. But instead, she says, he sent her to a Moscow brothel. He told her “the kind of job I’m going to be doing is prostitution.” “I ask him, ‘Why prostitution? Why not another job to pay the money?’ He says I didn’t speak the language. I cannot do any other job.” She added, “It made me feel very bad. I felt that I’m not going to do it over my dead body.” But when she tried to run away, her uncle cut her face, says Christine, who asked that her last name not be used. “He made me know that if I don’t cooperate with him, something bad will happen to me — that if I made an attempt to run away, it would end in taking my life. So I was really scared about that,” she said.

Aid workers say Russia has become a prime destination for trafficked women from Africa, the Far East and former Soviet states. There are no exact figures, but aid agencies estimate that thousands of trafficked women are on Moscow’s streets. “Before, it was just a country of origin for Europe and the U.S. and elsewhere in the world,” Kadyrova said. “But right now, we see that Russia has become a destination country also.” According to the group’s Web site, human traffickers “prey on the dreams of impoverished women seeking employment and opportunities for the future.” Most women are young and single with little education; some are orphans and college students; others are married with children. “All of them are lured by advertising images of a beautiful life beyond the borders of their homelands — making them easy prey to the thousands of traffickers advertising in newspapers, on radio, television, in the metro and on the streets for wonderful work abroad with no experience necessary,” the group says.

For millions, Russia’s new economic prosperity has been a blessing. But for those caught up in the sex trade, it’s a curse. Christine managed to escape after meeting a woman from a church who helped her. “I was crying all the time, telling her, ‘I don’t want this kind of job,’ ” she said.

Crazed Russia Lashes out Against Czech Republic

Writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vladimir Soccor explains the barbaric actions of Russia retaliating against Czech Republic for daring to defend itself against Russian missiles. While Russia claims it is just a “technical” issue, none of the other countries who receive oil through this pipeline have been affected in the least, including Poland Hungary and Slovakia. Russia a reliable energy partner? Dream on, Europe. Time to wake up and smell the radioactive poison!

On July 8 in Prague the United States and the Czech Republic signed the agreement on placing a U.S. radar on the Czech Republic’s territory, as part of the antiballistic missile shield. Two days later, Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft announced that oil deliveries to the Czech Republic were being cut from the contracted volume of 500,000 tons down to 300,000 tons for the month of July. Transneft did not mention the reasons for this deep cut and did not specify whether supplies would fully resume after July (Interfax, July 10).

Whether the signing of the Czech radar agreement triggered Russian retaliation through the oil supply cut is a matter of conjecture. In any case, maintaining uncertainty about the reasons behind supply cuts and forcing the target country to guess is a key element in Russia’s misuse of energy supplies as a political instrument. This uncertainty provides deniability for Russia and delays an effective response from the target country and its European partners. Even if a cut turns out not to have been politically motivated, it introduces an element of intimidation into the relationship by reminding the target country that Russia can use this instrument politically next time.

The Czech government’s inquiries in Moscow remain unanswered thus far. Russian diplomats in Prague are giving enigmatic responses to local inquiries. The relevant Czech ministries, the state-owned oil transport company MERO, and the refineries’ shareholders are all in the dark about Moscow’s and the Russian oil companies’ intentions. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg have told the Czech and international media that they are awaiting a Russian response to their requests for an explanation.

Russia failed to inform the European Commission about the supply cut. Moscow is obligated to provide such information in a timely manner, in accordance with an early-warning procedure regarding oil and gas supplies. Russia agreed with the European Union to institute that procedure in 2007, following supply cuts through the Druzhba pipeline system that affected Germany and several new member countries of the EU in Central Europe. In that incident (January 2007), Transneft suspended oil deliveries to Belarus, where the Druzhba system originates, causing supply shortfalls to six European countries farther downstream.

On July 14 Transneft vice-president Mikhail Barkov invoked “technical and commercial reasons” for the supply cut to the Czech Republic. In his version, two Russian producer companies, which he did not name, have decided that their crude oil can be processed more profitably in Russia. Another Russian company might, however, step in to compensate for the supply shortfalls, Barkov said (Interfax, July 14).

The Czech Republic is 100 percent dependent on imported oil, 70 percent of it from Russia through a branch of the Druzhba pipeline system. Other branches of the Druzhba system supply several Central European countries and Germany. As the Czech government’s special envoy for energy affairs, Vaclav Bartuska, observes, the cut to the Czech Republic is unlikely to be a merely technical problem, since the other Central European countries are not affected (Lidove Noviny, July 14). Moscow’s move seems suspiciously to single out the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic is storing oil reserves for 95 days of average-level usage, amounting to almost 1 million tons. In the event of longer-term shortfalls in supplies, Prague can activate supply agreements for increased deliveries through the Trans-Alpine (TAL) pipeline, which runs from Trieste (Italy) via Austria to the refining center at Ingolstadt in Bavaria. That pipeline has a continuation line from Ingolstadt to Kralupy and Litvinov (IKL pipeline) in the Czech Republic. The Czech government had made agreements for both regular and contingency oil deliveries through the TAL-IKL pipelines already in the 1990s, as part of a foresighted policy to diversify supplies. However, switching the flow of supplies even partially can be a costly move (Hospodarske Noviny, July 14).

The main consumers of Russian oil in the Czech Republic are the Kralupy and Litvinov refineries, owned by the Ceska Rafinerska consortium. Its shareholders are the Polish PKN Orlen (via its Unipetrol group) with 51 percent, Italy’s ENI-Agip with 32.5 percent, and Royal Dutch Shell with 16.5 percent. Shell, however, looks to sell its stake to some other company, which remains publicly unnamed but was known last year to have been Russia’s Lukoil and this year Russia’s Rosneft. Meanwhile, Polish majority control of the consortium is a bulwark against a partial Russian takeover.

PKN Orlen rescued Lithuania’s Mazeikiai refinery in 2006 from a takeover by Lukoil or Rosneft. These, along with Transneft, had earlier cut deliveries of oil by pipeline to Mazeikiai to force it to surrender. Russia has stopped all deliveries to Lithuania through the Druzhba system since 2006 in retaliation for the Lithuanian-Polish agreement. In recent days, Rosneft president Sergei Bogdanchikov and board chairman Igor Sechin, who is deputy prime minister of Russia, have declared an interest in acquiring refining capacities in EU territory, specifically in Hungary and the Czech Republic (RossBusinessConsulting, July 1; Vilaggazdasag, July 8; Reuters, July 11).

In neo-Soviet Russia, not even the EMOs are Safe

The Moscow Times reports:

In a basement studio in northern Moscow, singer Valentin Ayedonitsky screeches about his broken heart, his asymmetrical bangs flapping with every beat. “Things have become so lonely, nothing interests me anymore / Daylight, but light is lacking, around there is only dark night.” Dressed in tight jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and skull-adorned Vans, Ayedonitsky, 22, looks more Brooklyn than Moscow. But he and his band, MAIO, are part of the country’s burgeoning emo scene — a subculture coming under increasing government scrutiny.

Teens sporting emo couture — black bangs, eyebrow piercings, pinned shoulder bags — have become a ubiquitous sight on the Moscow metro and at popular youth hangouts like Pushkin Square and the All-Russia Exhibition Center. But State Duma deputies, Public Chamber members and social conservatives have hammered out legislation aimed at heading off the spread of emo culture, which they describe as a “dangerous teen trend.” The Duma last month held a parliamentary hearing on a raft of proposed amendments contained in a document called “Government Strategy in the Sphere of Spiritual and Ethical Education,” a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times. Among other measures, the proposed legislation calls for heavy regulation of emo web sites and for banning young people dressed like emos from entering schools and government buildings.

Sitting at a table with scattered cans of Red Bull and packs of Marlboro Lights, MAIO drummer Dmitry Gilevich, 21, was indignant over the bill. “Expressing psychological emotions is not forbidden by law,” Gilevich said. “I believe every individual has that right.” At the heart of the emo backlash is widespread ignorance of culture, Gilevich said. “People think it’s an aggressive subculture for youth who cut their veins every day,” he said. “First and foremost, emo is not a culture of the soul, but of music.”

MAIO bassist Alexander Kulikov, 22, said emo music has a therapeutic effect on teens. He discovered the emo band Aiden when he was 17 years old and credits their lyrics for helping him persevere. “Those bands really helped me survive my difficult, neurotic age,” Kulikov said. Ayedonitsky loves the energy of the music. “It’s not just that you like it and want to listen to it. It gives you goose bumps. You want to scream, to run,” he said. “You want to push the pedal, get up and dance in the traffic jams,” added guitarist Dmitry Sergeyenko, 23.

Like many youth trends in Russia, emo culture is a Western import. Born out of 1980s “emotional hard-core” rock in Washington D.C. (and undergoing a rebirth in 2000), emo culture arrived in Moscow in 2003 after droves of young Russians began downloading foreign music on the Internet. Hard-core rock about love infiltrated the independent music scene as bands like The Used and Finch were on heavy rotation at Funkysouls.com. “These groups showed up in our country years after they were popular in the United States, and teens caught this wave,” said Pavel Shumilov, 21, co-founder of the web site Emokids.ru. “Since then, the emo underground music scene has faded into a mainstream style.”

Created in 2005, Emokids.ru has 6,000 registered members in its forum and gets more than 500 original hits per day, Shumilov said. With Keds borrowed from the skaters, piercings from punks and a love of all things black from goths, emo style in Russia has become at once indefinable and everywhere. The lawmakers who drafted the proposed legislation, however, have spelled out their own definition. Emos, according to the bill, are from 12 to 16 years old and wear black and pink clothing. They have black hair with long bangs that “cover half the face,” black fingernails, black belts peppered with studs and pins, and ear and eyebrow piercings, the bill says.

The “negative ideology” of emo culture may push young people toward depression and social withdrawal, and the movement carries a significant risk of suicide, especially for young girls, according to the bill. Dasha Larionova, 21, who listens to MAIO and My Chemical Romance and has an affection for emo fashion, believes that the association between emo culture and suicide is just a stereotype. “There are way too many emo teens to have one general characteristic,” Larionova said. “The government doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

The bill also outlines what it calls a “spiritual and ethical crisis” facing Russian youth, including the high rate of alcohol abuse, teen abortions and “negative youth movements.” Emo ideology encourages and justifies drug use and sexual relations among minors, according to the bill, which also lumps emos and goths together with skinheads. “The point of the bill is so that by 2020, Moscow will have someone to rule its government,” said Alexander Grishunin, an adviser to Public Chamber member Yevgeny Yuryev, one of the bill’s three coordinators. “This is the first step in the public discourse.” The bill’s sponsors hope that it will be passed into law by the end of the year.

This is not the first time emo kids have been targeted as a danger to society. In November, the Novgorod regional education department issued a letter to all schools in the region with a description of emo culture, saying the “dream of every [emo] is to die in a warm bath from the blood of cutting their wrists.” The branch distributed the letter at the behest of the regional branch of the Federal Security Service, according to the bill’s footnotes. One school in Chelyabinsk has banned emo attire, saying it violates the Constitution because it promotes “violence,” the news agency Novy Region reported.

Igor Ponkin, one of the bill’s authors and a member of the Interior Ministry’s public oversight council, described emo culture as a “social danger” that demands measures such as dress codes in schools, Internet regulation and state-sponsored after-school activities. Ponkin said emo kids exchange photographs showing off their slashed wrists. “This type of behavior is a crucial part of emo ideology,” he said. “Of course there are emo teens who just listen to their music. But our actions are not directed at them but rather at those who also hurt themselves, commit suicide and promote those acts,” Ponkin added.

Not all psychologists agree with Ponkin’s analysis, however. “Suicide is not a symptom of emo culture. I work with other teens too, and every group has emotionally troubled kids,” said psychologist Inna Cherkova, who has worked with local teenagers, including emo kids, for 15 years. Many subcultures can, in fact, help children mature into adults, psychologist Alyona Filippova said. “Many kids seek those with the same perspective and problems and, through this, they can enter general society,” Filippova said. She said, however, that those who cling to subcultures do have a higher risk of psychological problems.

But the emo movement may fade into obscurity before the proposed bill ever becomes law. The anti-emo backlash is almost as prevalent as the culture itself. Many bands who were formally identified as emo are quick to distance themselves from their “earlier” emo period. Sergei Vel, the lead vocalist in rock band Radio Cambodia, which is heavily featured on Emokids.ru, says he no longer listens to emo music. “Even those who play emo music will not admit that it’s emo, because it’s not in style anymore,” Vel said. “It used to be honest and real. Now it all faded and merged into the mainstream. I can identify with emo culture, but not the kind that is now being offered in Russia.”

Andrei Shmorgun, 28, said he loves the emotional quality of emo music, but that in Russia, “this style is not accepted as it should be.” “They ruined the stereotype of emo and turned it into some kind of suicidal trend,” said Shmorgun, a member of the metal band Arda. Kulikov, the bassist for MAIO, said it was natural that emo culture is spawning enemies. “The more popular the wave, the more antagonists will rise — in any music,” Kulikov said. “If someone is saying something negative, he probably has no idea what we or our music are about.”