Daily Archives: January 2, 2009

January 5, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  An Iron Firewall Descends Across the Continent

(2)  EDITORIAL:  The Russian Corruption Virus is Spreading

(3)  Zigfeld’s Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

(4)  Uh-Oh:  Russia Inserts an Ossetia into Ukraine

(5)  Vladivostok as the New Novocherkassk

(6)  The World’s #2 Loser is a Russian

EDITORIAL: An Iron Firewall Descends Across the Continent


An Iron Firewall Descends Across the Continent

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

–George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

Paul Goble, surely one of the most essential Russia correspondents in the world today (and for that reason surely one of the most endangered), reported on Christmas eve about the escalating efforts of Vladimir Putin’s jack-booted Kremlin to crush Russia’s internet, the last remaining vestige of real information in the country.  What we are seeing before our eyes is the repetition of history, and those both within and outside Russia who will once again stand idly by as an Iron Firewall descends across the contintent richly deserve the brutal suffering they will experience when the monstrosity finally clanks into position.

Citing Russian sources Goble says that, in the wake of the sensational protests against curtailing automobile imports that broke out recently in Vladivostok,  the Kremlin has moved from launching furtive denial-of-service attacks on opposition websites like Grani.ru to a “new and more active role” in which KGB officers “visited the moderators of the ru_auto Internet community and asked that they not post stories about the automobile protests, visits that intimidated some but encouraged others to go public.”

Goble continues:

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EDITORIAL: The Russian Corruption Virus is Spreading


The Russian Corruption Virus is Spreading

In October 2007, a Russian named Vladimir Kuznetsov appeared in a New York City courtroom and was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of $73,000 for his role in a massive corruption conspiracy at the United Nations, where he had been the head of the international body’s Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Issues.

Kuznetsov’s bribe-taking was so virulent that the UN took the dramatic step of rescinding his diplomatic immunity and allowing him to be prosecuted in the United States.  Kuznetsov was nabbed when an underling, Alexander Yakovlev, was caught carrying out the scheme and rolled over on his boss, agreeing to testify against him at his trial in return for a reduced sentence.  Kuznetsov established an offshore company in 2000 to hide proceeds he received from an Yakovlev, to the tune of $1 million.  And the bribes were not paid by just any company seeking lucrative UN procurement contracts, but by a Russian company called Volga-Dnepr Airlines.

The Kremlin’s response to this horrifying fraud was predictable.

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A Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

Score another one for our side!  The New-Year’s-Eve edition of the Washington Post newspaper carried a lengthy letter to the editor from LR publisher Kim Zigfeld dealing with the Olga Ivanova fraud we’ve previously documented here on this blog.  The letter has even been translated into Russian and published as well on the popular Russian InoSMI.Ru website, to great sensational effect within the Russian blogosphere (our e-mail box is bulging at the seams with adoration and loathing and there’s also been an influx of Russian-language comments here at the blog, many of which are too obscene for publication; nobody gets a Russian goat like Zigfeld!).  InoSMI deserves kudos for its yeoman work bringing  English content from the Western press to Russian readers, though of course their translations aren’t always perfect.  At long last, the record has been set permanently straight regarding Ivanova’s blindly Russophilic statements about the actions of the Georgian army in Ossetia. Here is the letter:

To the Editor:

On Aug. 15, The Post published an op-ed [“A Free Press? Not This Time.“] by Olga Ivanova, a Russian graduate student at Duquesne University who at the time was a Post intern. In it, without attribution to any specific source, Ms. Ivanova wrote this about the war between Georgia and Russia in Ossetia: “Within hours, Georgian troops destroyed Tskhinvali, a city of 100,000, and they killed more than 2,000 civilians.”

On Dec. 23, an official Russian investigation concluded that in fact only 162 civilians had been killed by Georgian forces and that Tskhinvali had been lightly damaged, not “destroyed.” Ms. Ivanova’s misstatements, at the core of her opinion piece, are deeply troubling.

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Uh-Oh: Russia inserts an Ossetia into Ukraine

Paul Goble reports:

The Transcarpathian Rusins (Ruthenians), who are estimated to number more than a million, are calling on Moscow to recognize the independence of Subcarpathian Rus because Kyiv has ignored their demands for autonomy within Ukraine, an appeal that could create yet another “unrecognized” republic in the former Soviet space.  That appeal, which was given prominence two days ago when Petr Getsko, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic, gave an interview to the Russian government newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta, in fact has deeper roots.

On the one hand, there has been a resurgence of Ruthenian activism across eastern Europe, with most countries in the region providing some support to what is the fourth largest East Slavic group in the world. And on the other, Kyiv has infuriated many Rusins by refusing to acknowledge them as a separate nation, anger that Moscow has clearly sought to tap into.

The current Ruthenian campaign for greater rights began at the end of October when the Second European Congress of Ruthenians met in Mukachevo and formally demanded that Kyiv grant them the status of an autonomous republic before December 1. If that did not happen, the participants said, they would see national self-determination outside of Ukraine.

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Vladivostok as the New Novocherkassk

Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin were quick to react to the street demonstrations against higher tariffs on imported used cars in Vladivostok over the past two weekends. Putin said it was “absolutely inadmissible” to spend money on foreign cars during a time of crisis, and Sechin called the protesters a bunch of “swindlers.”

It is not difficult to see that the situation in Primorye is a repeat of what happened in Novocherkassk in 1962. In this small, one-factory city near Rostov-on-Don, workers were told to increase production while their pay was effectively cut after Moscow’s central planners announced major price increases on staple foods.

Now in the Far East, where salaries had already been dropping, Kremlin leaders will raise the price on imported cars. The impact in Primorye from price hikes on car imports is dangerously similar to what was felt by Novocherkassk residents in 1962, when prices were raised for butter and meat.

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The World’s #2 Loser is Russian

Oleg Deripaska wants his mommy

Oleg Deripaska wants his mommy

Back in April of last year Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska was riding high, strutting and preening as arrogantly as Vladimir Putin himself, his BFF. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Last week, Forbes magazine reported that Deripaska is the #2 financial loser of 2008, having seen two-thirds of his net worth turn to vapor and now $4 billion in the red.  Forbes states:

March net worth: $28 billion
Current net worth: less than $10 billion

Former metals trader survived Russia’s gangster wars but may not withstand collapsing markets and heavy debts of at least $14 billion. Russia’s one-time richest man recently received a $4.5 billion loan from a state-controlled bank in order to keep his 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel, which faced a margin call by Western banks from which he had borrowed. Other margin calls forced him to divest a $1.5 billion stake in Canadian carmaker Magna International and a $500 million stake in German construction company Hotchief. He’s also selling stake in insurance company Inogsstrakh.

This is the only possible result of playing footsie with the KGB.