Daily Archives: October 12, 2008

October 15, 2008 — Contents

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 15 2008

(1)  Another Original LR Translation:  The Georgia Coverup

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Khodorkovsky in La-la Land

(3)  Annals of Putin’s Mafia Regime

(4)  Irrelevant Russia

(5)  Putin’s Economic Waterloo

(6)  Felgenhauer on Russian Self-Destruction

NOTE:  Another special extra in support of John McCain follows our list of posts on Russia in today’s issue.

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Another Original LR Translation: Sokolov is the New Sakharov

The following is a staff translation (not from our experts, corrections welcome!) of two items from the Russian press which detail the horrific neo-Soviet persecution that is now underway against those who dare to challenge the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin.

A Professor is Fired for Writing about Saakashvili

by Olga Gorelik

Moi Raion

September 26, 2008

Professor Boris Sukorov

Professor Boris Sokolov

Over the past month, the historian Boris Sokolov has lost his job not once but twice.

First, he was suspended from his position as an op-ed columnist for the Gazeta newspaper.  Then his resignation was demanded from his other employer, the Russian State Social University (“RSSU”).  Both incidents were the result of a column Sokolov wrote for Gazeta in August entitled “Did Saakashvili Win or Lose?” in which he questioned the Kremlin’s version of the events in South Ossetia. 

Soon after the column was published, Sokolov says, the newspaper’s editor in chief Pyotr Fadeyev was fired and the text was removed from its website.  The paper then informed Sokolov that it was no longer interested in carrying his work.  “My colleagues all said that this occurred after the paper received a telephone call from the offices of the presidential administration.”

When Sokolov did not tender his resignation, he says, on September 17th he was fired by RSSU, where he was a professor of social anthropology. “The Dean of my faculty made no attempt to hide the fact that the decision to terminate my employment was made by RSSU’s rector after several phone conversations with presidential administrative staff,” Solokov says.  RSSU denies there was any political motivation behind the termination; according to Dina Tanatova, Acting Dean of the Factulty of Sociology, Sokolov voluntarily resigned because he preferred to engage in professional rather than academic work.  “I very much regret his resignation,” said Tanatova.

Gazeta told a similar story.  “Solokov probably misunderstood me,” claimed Dmitry Balburov, a newspaper spokesman. He asserts that the Professor has simply not submitted any publication-worthy material since the piece about Georgia appeared, and that he never said the relationship had ended.  Further, he claimed that the disappearance of the Georgia text from the newspaper’s website was attributable to “technical reasons” and denied that the editor-in-chief had been terminated against his will.  Anonymous sources at Gazeta confirmed Solokov’s version, however.

LR:  The following is the text of Sokolov’s article (after that is the Russian original). It was obtained from a comment to an article on the same topic which appeared on the Grani.ru website, authored  by dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya — an article we published in English shortly after it appeared and which has now collected nearly 1,500 comments on the orginal Russian page):

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EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky in La-la Land

EDITORIAL

Khodorkovsky in La-La Land

The bizarre and ever more “Russian” story of jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky took yet another strange turn last week.

It turned out that for months Khodorkovsky had been communicating with Russian novelist Grigory Chkhartishvili (a/k/a Boris Akunin) for an interview in the Russian version of Esquire magazine (published by the same parent as the Moscow Times).  No sooner had the interview appeared on its pages (but not its website, the Russian version being available on the web only on Khodorkovsky’s site) than the Kremlin chucked Khodorkovsky into solitary confinement for two weeks for participating in it. Though the details are quite murky, it appears that the Kremlin claims Khodorkovsky sent letters to Chkhartishvili that it wasn’t allowed to censor first.  This alleged disciplinary violation could be used to deny Khodorkovsky parole the next time he comes up for it, although that’s a moot point because he’s facing a new round of charges that could independently keep him in prison for the rest of his life.  Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has published a complete English translation of the article on his blog.

Chkhartishvili starts out by asking Khodorkovsky why he speaks out so rarely in the press. An excellent question, especially as it concerns those who faithfully served him and were likewise persecuted, such as Svetlana Bakhmina for instance!  Khodorkovsky responds: “For a real dialogue is needed an interlocutor who understands and is interested. They just ‘don’t make that kind’ of journalist in Russia. Why? Maybe the publishers don’t want it, maybe self-censorship.” But how can Khodorkovsky possibly imagine it will lead to him being taken more seriously to give an interview to a pop novelist to be published in a foreigner-supported men’s glossy with little circulation or reputation in Russia?  Perhaps Chkhartishvili’s closing comment sheds some light: “In our country there is got no small number of writers and cultural figures who want to support you and for whom it is important to know what you think. I am confident that they will continue this dialogue and will maintain it until all of us – civil society – have attained your release. Endurance to you and health.”  Apparently, then, he’s in the tank for Khodorkovsky. So apparently the oligarch has no problem with shill journalists, just as long as they are his shill journalists.

Meanwhile, it seems that the whole charade was part and parcel of Khodorkovsky’s ongoing effort to curry favor with the Kremlin.

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Annals of Putin’s Mafia Regime

Paul Goble reports:

In an article timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the still-unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the birthday of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta said that Russian security agencies now regularly engage in murders to eliminate those the Kremlin does not like.
Vyacheslav Izmailov, the paper’s editor for military affairs, chronicles the large number of cases since 2000 when Russian security services have killed the regime’s opponents in Russia or abroad, a pattern that leads him to conclude that “extrajudicial” murders have become “an ordinary practice of the special services.”

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Irrelevant Russia

President Bush makes a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House after meeting with G7 finance ministers about the financial crisis, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008, in Washington. Seen from left to right listening are central bank governor Mario Draghi of Italy; IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker; Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa; U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde; Canadian Finance Minister James M. Flaherty, and British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling

President Bush makes a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House after meeting with G7 finance ministers about the financial crisis, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008, in Washington. Seen from left to right listening are central bank governor Mario Draghi of Italy; IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker; Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa; U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde; Canadian Finance Minister James M. Flaherty, and British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling

When a meeting occured between the major nations of the world last weekend to discuss the world’s falling stock markets, there was the G-7 in Washington D.C.’s famous Rose Garden.  Russia was nowhere to be seen, because nobody cared what Russia thought about the matter. It was irrelevant, as was the entire institution of the G-8.  Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has succeeded in marginalizing his country’s role in world affairs to the point where now it is something like a running joke, certainly not a valuable partner in any international endeavor.

Putin’s Economic Waterloo

Streetwise Professor dispels the nonsense that Russia’s “stabilization fund” can protect it from economic apocalypse:

I have often written that Russia is a natural state, a cartel of violence specialists that is held together by economic rents, primarily generated by natural resources. As I have noted, such states/cartels are fragile, and subject to collapse. Collapse occurs when (a) the rents dissipate, or (b) the time horizons of the colluding parties shorten. Natural states look strong pendant les bon temps roulez, but have a tendency to implode once the music stops.

The crash–crashes plural, actually–of the Russian stock market, the gridlock in the money/banking markets, and the decline in oil prices, are dissipating rents, and arguably convincing the various clans that the game will soon be up. Moreover, the financial crisis has weakened some players (Deripaska is a well-publicized example), which could tempt others to exploit this weakness and grab what they have left. This could induce a breakdown in the uneasy peace between competing factions of violence specialists.

What is occurring now is just the sort of crisis that threatens the natural state with collapse. The facade of order and control can quickly dissolve into chaos and conflict. Like glass, natural states are strong but brittle, and shatter when the stress becomes too acute.

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Felgenhauer on Russian Self-Destruction

Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in on the Eurasia Daily Monitor, exposes how Russia’s financial crisis fundamentally undermines its military power, which was never all that impressive in the first place:

On September 15 President Dmitry Medvedev announced ambitious plans to rearm and modernize Russia’s armed forces. Medvedev announced that by 2020 Russia had to guarantee continued nuclear deterrence as well as precision attack capability on land and sea (See EDM, October 3).

Indeed, by 2020 the Soviet nuclear strategic potential inherited in 1991 will be mostly spent. All Soviet-made, silo-based, heavy SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles and land-based mobile SS-25 (Topol) ICBMs will be retired, as well as the six Delta III strategic nuclear submarines. The fleet of six Delta IV strategic submarines is planned to continue in service until 2025. The Delta IVs are being modernized and rearmed with new SS-N-23 (Sineva) ICBMs. A number of silo-based SS-19 ICBMs may still be operational after 2020, but since no new SS-19 or Delta IV boats are being built, these last vestiges of Soviet military might will inevitably be scrapped soon after 2020.

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