FRIDAY DECEMBER 5 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Putin goes Potty
(2) Annals of Russian Racism
(3) Readalong with Neo-Soviet Psychopath Vladmir Frolov
(4) Russia’s Economic Ship, Sinking
(5) Russia’s Caribbean Farce
(6) Medvedev’s Wife: Let them Wear Rolex!
NOTE: Not for the first time, this blog has scooped the Moscow Times. We published Dave Essel’s translation of Yulia Latynina’s essay on Golodomor on November 26th, and the MT only got around to it on Wednesday December 3rd. As always, LR readers stay well ahead of the curve.
Putin goes Potty
So, get this.
At a government meeting this past Monday, Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin said that it was “some kind of ugly thing, absolutely unfair” that the Russian stock market had lost 80% of its value in the past eight months because “decisions concerning which securities to buy or sell on Russian markets are, for the most part, made abroad. Moreover, the criteria by which these decisions are made have very little connection to the actual state of our economy or Russian companies.”
James Beadle of Pilgrim Asset Managment couldn’t quite agree. Beadle stated: “Russia’s situation has been, as we know, worse than most emerging markets. I put that down to the weak economic environment, the political risk and a lack of domestic investors.” Russia should have plenty of domestic investors, of course, given Putin’s claims of having raised the national income so dramatically. But it doesn’t, because in fact most of Russia’s oil windfall has been hoarded in the hands of a wealthy few, people who are now terrified to invest because Putin’s crazy forieign and domestic policies have left the nation without any sound economic fundamentals to lean on.
Comrade Putin’s remarks are, in other words, completely insane on two entirely different levels.
Below is a screen shot from the website of the Kremlin-sponsored propaganda network known as Russia Today, dated November 28th. It says that a representative of the Ukrainian Chess Federation had a chess trophy he was carrying in his luggage stolen during baggage handling at an airport. When queried, the airport security director blamed Georgian thieves, according to Russia Today: “Going into the the things of our passengers is widespread among Georgians. We’re wrestling with this problem, but defeating evil that has been accumulating for many years is difficult.”
There’s just one problem. He had no reason to blame the Georgians, and didn’t. The airport where the theft took place was in Kiev, Ukraine, and the representative was flying in from Germany. According to the Other Russia, the security director didn’t say Georgians were the likely thieves, he said Ukrainian baggage handlers were. But the Russian word for baggage handlers — gruzchik — is similar to the Russian word for Georgians — gruzin — and therefore Russia Today translators had a wonderful opportunity for a Freudian slip, of which they took full advantage.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
— Queen Gertrude, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2
Vladimir Frolov, a Kremlin stooge we’ve exposed multiple times in the past, has spewed forth yet another wildly dishonest bit of propaganda in the pages of the Moscow Times, this time in regard to Russian aggression in Georgia. The pathetically desperate manner in which the Kremlin’s flunkies have jumped on this very minor vein of reporting, simply because it isn’t 100% pro-Georgia, is the best possible indication of just how very weak Russia’s position really is. There’s simply no excuse for the MT’s editors to have allowed so many gross misstatements to appear on their pages, and the only explanation we can think of is that they are using Frolov as a way of appeasing the Kremlin, in the hope of avoiding the axe as long as possible. That is shameful, and a betrayal of everything the MT has stood for. We condemn it. Here is the full text, with our running commentary in boldface.
A day after he sent Russian forces into South Ossetia to repel the Georgian army, President Dmitry Medvedev responded to mounting Western criticism by saying the truth was on Russia’s side and that, eventually, it would become apparent to the whole world. That day has finally come, and Russia is vindicated. Its story has not changed and is holding up, while Saakashvili’s version is collapsing. Medvedev’s credibility is rising.
LIE #1: Russia’s “story” was that Georgian forces killed 2,000 civilians in Ossetia and that they razed a city to the ground. Both claims were false.
LIE #2: No opinion polls in the West show that Medvedev’s crediblity is rising. No nation in the West has suggested it will consider recognizing Ossetia or Abkhazia.
Bloomberg reports more devastating bad news for the Putin regime:
Russian manufacturing shrank more in November than during the 1998 financial collapse as the global economic crisis drove output and new orders to record lows and companies cut jobs, VTB Bank Europe said.
VTB’s Purchasing Managers’ Index fell for a fourth month to 39.8, its lowest level, from 46.4 in October, the bank said in an e-mailed statement today. The previous low was 43.2 in September 1998, a month after the government’s ruble devaluation and default on $40 billion of debt. A figure above 50 means growth, below 50 a contraction. The bank surveyed 300 purchasing executives. “The sense of doom and gloom was only deepening,” in November, Tatiana Orlova an economist in Moscow at ING Group NV said by telephone. “The mood isn’t getting any better.”
Industrial production has slumped and unemployment is rising as declining commodities prices and the seizure of credit markets prompt an outflow of capital. Investors withdrew $190 billion from the country since August, BNP Paribas SA estimates, as oil fell below the $70-a-barrel average needed to balance the 2009 budget.
“Driving the rapid contraction of the manufacturing sector in November was a record fall in incoming new work,” the bank said in the statement. New export contracts tumbled because of “fallout from the global financial crisis.”
The great Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post:
“Nyet! Nyet!” That’s what a Russian bodyguard told a McClatchy news reporter when the latter asked for comment on an incident aboard the Admiral Chabanenko, a Russian destroyer that carried President Dmitry Medvedev to Venezuela last week. Following the pomp, circumstance and 21-gun salute that are mandatory at such meetings, there was, it seems, a bit of a misunderstanding. As Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez boarded the vessel, his beefy bodyguards tried to follow him up the gangplank. They were stopped by their equally beefy Russian counterparts. The Venezuelans, who presumably spoke no Russian, tried to push their way through. The Russians, who presumably spoke no Spanish, fought back.
It was all over quickly. “Everything is fine,” a Russian official said afterward. And indeed it was: The rest of Medvedev’s visit to Latin America proceeded smoothly. During his trip to Venezuela, Medvedev reportedly added a couple of passenger planes to the $4.4 billion worth of military hardware Russia has sold to Venezuela since 2005. In Cuba, Medvedev met the ailing Fidel Castro and went sightseeing with his brother Raúl. Yesterday, Russian ships began exercising in the Caribbean. But more than weapons and armies were at stake in this visit. As Chávez himself said a few months ago, the whole show was designed to send “a message to the empire”: Russia is back, and it can play the imperial game as well as the United States can.
And yet — the lingering image of those thuggish bodyguards, shouting at one another in mutual incomprehension, remains weirdly appropriate.
They cannot afford Breguet? Let them wear Rolex!
Russia uber-pundit Yevgeny Kiselov, writing in the Moscow Times (Kompromat.ru also has the story, in Russian)
When I opened the Nov. 27 issue of Kommersant, I was shocked. After taking out the glossy “Style” pullout section devoted to watches, I saw a full-page photograph of Svetlana Medvedeva, Russia’s first lady, on the cover. Her picture was adorned by a Breguet watch [LR: $15-$30K each] that was conspicuously displayed on her left hand.
The centerspread of the insert described which expensive watches the leading female leaders and first ladies wear. Those featured included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. first lady-to-be Michelle Obama, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, acting Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni and Queen Rania of Jordan.
Medvedeva’s photograph was first on the list and was accompanied by a short description: ” … the daughter of a military serviceman from Leningrad sports an eye-catching watch from Breguet’s Reine de Naples collection that includes the phases of the moon, a small second hand, a pearl face set in a gold casing and colorful Chopard earrings from the Copacabana collection. But as the photo on this page shows, she also wears more modest Breguet watches from the Classique collection.”
Was the cover photo of the first lady intended to make Medvedeva — and by extension President Dmitry Medvedev — look bad? Unlikely, since it is commonly believed that the owners of Kommersant publishing house are good friends with the presidential couple.