Monthly Archives: February 2009

March 1, 2009 — Contents

SUNDAY MARCH 1 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

(2) Russian Courts Destroy Rights rather than Protect Them

(3)  How Putin is Ruining his Country

(4)  Standing up to the Kremlin’s Murderous Thugs

(5)  Russia Enters a Massive Recession

EDITORIAL: An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

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EDITORIAL

An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown
Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
10 Downing Street
London, England

Dear Prime Minister Brown,

If you don’t mind our asking, Sir, just what the !#@*&? do you think you are doing?

Are you, perhaps, trying to cement your status as this century’s Neville Chamberlain and the worst ruler of Britain in half a century?  Do you actually want to encourage more murders by Russian special forces on British soil like the killing of Alexander Litvinenko by making the Russians think England is their supplicant?   If so, we sincerely hope the good people of Great Britain will have the wisdom to put you in prison at their earliest opportunity.

Let us explain.

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Russian Courts are Obliterating Human Rights rather than Protecting them

Human Rights First reports:

Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the Saint Petersburg City Court’s ruling against the leading Russian human rights organization Memorial today. The decision allows the authorities to remain in possession of all materials confiscated from their St. Petersburg offices during a police raid in December 2008.

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Vladimir Putin: acting tough, thinking short-term and keeping his country behind the West

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune Business Forum:

Since he came to power in 2000, Vladimir Putin has launched a campaign to recover Russian pride, prestige and influence lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Early on, he decided that Russian’s gas and oil supply would finance both the country’s economic recovery and its return as a global power. Even after stepping aside as president in 2008, Putin continues to make the idea of Russia’s comeback his personal project. His successor, President Dimitry Medvedev, has, by all accounts, identical aims.

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Standing up to the Kremlin’s Murderous Thugs

Johann Hari, writing in The Independent, says that “we can’t allow Russia’s dissidents to be killed on Europe’s streets.”

The critics of Vladimir Putin – Russia’s Prime Minister and former KGB agent – have a strange habit of being found shot or stabbed or poisoned. This week, I met a man who is half-expecting an assassin’s bullet – here, in London. He is not alone. Ahmed Zakayev – a big, broad man with a grey beard and grief-soaked eyes – says: “I remember holding a press conference near here with my dear friends Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya. Now they are murdered and I am the only one left. But I have no right to sit in a hole and shake. I have to speak.”

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Russia Enters a Massive Recession

Streetwise Professsor reports:

RIA Novosti reports that the Russian economy contracted 8.8 percent year-on-year in January.  That’s pretty bad, but in fact understates the steepness and intensity of the drop.

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February 27, 2009 — Contents

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 27 CONTENTS

(1)  Another Original LR Translation: Nemtsov, Volume III

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russia, Land of Morons

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Blaming the Jury System

(4)  Russian Provocation in Kyrgyzstan

(5)  Golts on Fraud in the Russian Military

NOTE: Once again through the heroic efforts of our own Dave Essel we alone offer the world Boris Nemtsov’s valiant continuing effort to confront the malignant regime of Vladimir Putin with he withering light of truth.  All Russians, and indeed all those who understand the threat Russia offers the world, owe Dave an enormous debt of gratitude for his blood, sweat and tears on this ongoing project.

NOTE:  A reader directs your attention to the following YouTube recording a speech by the always-brilliant Edward Lucas on the Putin dictatorship delivered at Brown University recently.

Another Original LR Translation: The Nemtsov White Paper, Volume III

Putin and the Crisis

Grani.ru

by Boris Nemtsov and Vladmir Milov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Click here for PDF version.

A note from the Translator:  The authors have provided this third installment in their White Paper series to Novaya Gazeta and Grani.ru for publication. “Putin and the Crisis” will also be published in brochure form. The authors are Boris Nemtsov (First Vice Premier of the Government of the RF 1997-98) and Vladimir Milov (RF Deputy Minister of Energy in 2002). Both are members of the Bureau of Solidarity, the united democratic movement. This is the authors’ third White Paper. The first two –-  “Putin: The Bottom Line” and “Putin and Gazprom” are well-known both in Russia and abroad and were translated into English by this blog.  They have been censored by the Kremlin.

Official propaganda would have it that this crisis is a “made in the USA” event and that the mistaken economic policies of the American government are the root cause of all our misfortunes in Russia. It is true that the origins of the crisis lie in America; however the crisis that has developed in Russia is far more serious and painful than in the West. We are facing a deep devaluation of the rouble – over 50%, the collapse of our stock markets where the indices have dropped 75% (40% in the USA), a budget deficit of 20% in December 2008 (not equalled even during the collapse of the USSR), a 36% drop in rail transport volumes in early 2009, a fall in ferrous & non-ferrous metals output, a rise of over 1 million unemployed, a sharp reduction in real salaries, rising poverty and the destruction of the middle classes.

Why did the crisis virus hit Russia’s economy so hard?

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EDITORIAL: Russia, Land of Morons

EDITORIAL

Russia, Land of Morons

There is an old saying that “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” This expression never had any greater applicabilty to any land than it does to Russia, which explains the only reason why foreigners ever go to Russia — washed up though they may be abroad, in Russia even the most idiotic foreigner seems somewhat sensible.

Russia watchers may remember that back in June 2008, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller boldly stated: 

Russia’s Gazprom, the supplier of a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, expects the price of crude oil to almost double within 18 months and to take gas prices higher with it. “We think it will reach $250 a barrel in the foreseeable future,” Chief Executive Alexei Miller told reporters at a presentation in France, adding high demand rather than speculation was the primary factor for high hydrocarbon prices. A spokesman said the company, which is also one of Russia’s largest crude producers, expected the price to hit the $250/barrel level sometime in 2009.

Even someone who knew nothing about Russia or the oil industry but merely possessed rudimentary critical reading skills would see the anomaly: Gazprom sells gas, and its CEO is making public predictions about the price of oil.  Maybe not such a wise move.

In the event, of course, oil prices went rapidly in the other direction, over the course of the next six months dropping by over 70%, and the Russian stock market went right down with them, plunging by an even larger amount.  Gas prices are just about to follow.  Russia will be lucky to see a per-barrel oil price of $50 as the 2009 average, one-quarter in other words of what the Gazprom CEO predicted.

And Gazprom’s CEO? Think he has made a public apology or been taken to the woodshed by the Kremlin? Think again.

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EDITORIAL: Blaming the Jury System

EDITORIAL

Blaming the Jury System

 It can’t have surprised anyone vaguely familiar with Russian politics these days to learn, from Kremlin bagman Alexei Pankin in the pages of the Moscow Times, that the Putin regime plans to use the Politkovskaya trial acquittal to lay the Russian jury system in its grave.

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Condemning Russian Provocation in Kyrgyzstan

Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times, writing in the San Fransisco Chronicle, documents Russia’s brazen, aggressive challenge to Barack Obama:

America’s competitors and adversaries are certainly not greeting President Obama with open arms. During his first month in office, many have given him the stiff arm.  Pakistan made a deal with the Taliban to give it a huge swath of territory in the middle of the country for a new haven. North Korea is threatening war with South Korea.  Many in the Arab world who had welcomed Obama are now attacking him because he did not denounce Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Iran launched a satellite into space, demonstrating that it has the ability to construct an intercontinental ballistic missile to match up with the nuclear weapons it is apparently trying to build.

There’s more, but none of it can match the sheer gall behind Russia’s open challenge to Washington.

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Golts on Fraud in the Russian Military

Defense expert Aleksandr Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:

It is a well-known fact that the prosecutor general plays one of the most important roles in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “managed democracy.” Clearly, that role is not to lead the struggle against crime or to ensure the rule of law. Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky is no exception to the rule. However, Fridinsky recently had what appeared to be a sudden fit of honesty. While speaking to colleagues in the Military Prosecutor’s Office, he alarmingly reported that criminal acts in the armed forces were sharply increasing. Out of nowhere, the number of crimes has surpassed 20,000. One-fourth of those crimes were committed by officers — the highest rate in the past five years. It turns out that corruption has seized the highest echelons of the military establishment. An illegal scheme involving apartments for military personnel was uncovered in the army’s high command that cost the government 250 million rubles ($6.9 million).

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February 25, 2009 — Contents

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25 CONTENTS

(1)  EDIORIAL:  The Times, they are a-Changin

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Ukraine, Smoldering

(3)  The Battle for Russia’s History

(4)  Russia in La-la Land

(5)  Putin, Exposed

NOTE:  As we had hoped, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday, and solidified its position with the best director award. Russia, of course, won nothing.  Perhaps it will take the lesson we described to heart, but we doubt it.

EDITORIAL: The Times they are a-Changin’

EDITORIAL

The Times the are a-Changin’

The Russian RTS stock index's performance last week

The Russian RTS stock index's performance last week

A year or so ago, when the U.S. and Russian stock markets were at historic highs, the ratio between the two was roughly 6:1.  The U.S. Dow Jones average was valued at 14,000 while the Russian RTS average was at 2,400.

Times have changed.  Both the U.S. and Russian stock markets have suffered debiliating setbacks, but the impact on Russia has been far, far worse.  Today, the Dow Jones stands at 7,500 while the RTS is at 500. That means the ratio betwen the two is now on the order of 15:1. The relative size of the U.S. stock market compared to Russia’s has, in other words, increased by more the double following the onset of the global economic slowdown.  It now stands in the appropriate ratio given the relative sizes of the two countries’ GDPs.

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EDITORIAL: Ukraine, Smoldering

EDITORIAL

Ukraine, Smoldering

In civilized countries, a national ambassador is seen as a representative of the best his country can offer, and expected to use only the most diplomatic language even in time of war, to show that he does in fact represent a civilized, modern nation deserving of the world’s respect.

But Russia, of course, is not a civilized country.  So Russians apparently have no problem with their Ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, publicly stating that the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine were “at each other like dogs.”  Instead of censuring Chernomyrdin, the Russian Foreign Ministry castigated Ukraine for daring to complain about his outrageous insult.

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The Battle for Russia’s History

Jeremy Putley directs our attention to the following item from the virtual pages of OpenDemocracy’s Polit.ru website:

The raid by on Memorial’s offices in St Petersburg in December 2008 has far wider ramifications for Russia’s identity and history. What action have the courts taken? And what was the real purpose of the raid?

From a judicial point of view, the first move was extremely encouraging. For on January 20th, In the Dzerzhinsky Court in St Petersburg  Judge Andrei Shibakov ruled that the search was illegal. Following the complaint filed by Memorial, the police officers of Petersburg’s Central District were forced to justify their action in court. Memorial demonstrated that the law enforcement and security authorities were powerless before an independent court. Many observers thought that this was the end of the affair.

But on the very next day, the Senior Assistant to the Petersburg Central District’s Prosecutor Vladimir Vasyukov launched an appeal, which meant that Shibakov’s verdict did not enter into force. The Memorial case will come before the St Petersburg City Court again on February 24. In the meantime, the confiscated electronic archives, hard disks and other material on Soviet history that Memorial has collected over the last 20 years have not been returned.  

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Russia in La-la Land

Jeannette Di Louie, Assistant Editor of Mt. Vernon Research, blogging on iStockAnalyst:

For my final blog of the day, I had a choice to write about Russia’s economic harships or the fact that Hugh Heffner has said that he would be open to selling the Playboy enterprise.  Sadly for my mostly male audience, I chose to write about the first topic. However, if you’d like to know more about the potential sale, click here. If not, let’s get down to real business…

When we last discussed Russia, the motherland was doing less than phenomenally. In fact, former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was starting to feel the weight of a turning tide of public sentiment that was once heavily in his favor.

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Putin, Exposed

Writing in Foreign Policy Arkady Ostrovsky, the Moscow correspondent for the Economist magazine, exposes the Potemkin Village that Vladimir Putin has built in neo-Soviet Russia:

For the Western world, 1929 marked the start of the Great Depression. For the Soviet Union, it was a year that Joseph Stalin called the “Great Break”—the ending of a short spell of semiprivate economic policy and the beginning of the deadly period of forced collectivization and industrialization. Often mistranslated as the “Great Leap Forward,” “Great Break” is truer to Stalin’s intentions and much more befitting their tragic consequences. The events he set in motion 80 years ago broke millions of lives and changed human values and instincts in Russia. It was, arguably, the most consequential year in Russia’s 20th-century history. Now, 80 years later, and for much different reasons, 2009 could shape up to be a year of similarly far-reaching consequences for Russia’s 21st century.

Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is not Joseph Stalin. But just as historians view 1929 as the end of the revolutionary period of Soviet history, scholars will (and already do) define Putin’s rule as a restoration that followed a revolution. Restoration—of lost geopolitical influence, of Soviet symbols, of fear, of even Stalin’s reputation—has been the main narrative of the past decade. But as history shows, periods of restoration do not restore the old order; they create new threats. This is what Russia is today—a new, much more nationalistic and aggressive country that bears as much (or as little) resemblance to the Soviet Union as it does to the free and colorful, though poor and chaotic, Russia of the 1990s.

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February 25, 2009 — Contents

MONDAY FEBRUARY 23 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  No Justice for Politkovskaya? No peace for Russia!

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Russia, scorched by Global Warming, Ravaged by AIDS

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Neo-Communist Russia

(4)  EDITORIAL:  Russian Space Terrorism

(5)  Readalong with Russophile Scumbag Anton Fedyashin

NOTE:  Oleg Kolzovsky posts YouTube video of Vaclav Havel condemning neo-Soviet Russia and praising the new “Solidarity” opposition organization.

NOTE: It’s all La Russophobe all the time today, with four — count them, four — editorials and a readalong with the Russophile maniac du jour. If anyone out there is in a position to have a word with the bigshots at American University about this nasty little rodent, we sure would appreciate it. 

EDITORIAL: No Justice for Politkovskaya, No Peace for Russia

No justice? No peace!

No justice? No peace!

EDITORIAL

No Justice for Politkovskaya, No Peace for Russia

“There were two verdicts delivered today.  One, de jure, was the acquittal of the defendants. But a guilty verdict was leveled against the corrupt system that exists here. Nothing works, not one governmental institution works.”

— Sergei M. Sokolov, deputy editor of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, reacting to the acquittal of all accused in the murder of the paper’s most famous reporter, Anna Politkovskaya

No justice? No peace!

For months now, a ridiculous show trial has been underway to supposedly prosecute the killers of hero journlist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in the lobby of her apartment building in Moscow in October 2006.  In fact, neither the person who ordered the killing nor the one who pulled the trigger stood before the court, but rather only a trio of lackeys allegedly having tangiential connection to the ghastly crime.

No justice? No peace!

And last Thursday, a jury acquitted all three of them on all charges, putting the final nail into this obscene mockery of justice. Along the way, so-called “president” Vladmir Putin said Politkovskaya’s killing was “more damaging” to Russia than her writings (imagine John Kennedy saying that about Martin Luther King!) and the trial judge attempted to preclude anyone from watching the outrageously crude proceedings, which echoed some third-world banana republic.

No justice? No peace!

We would condemn this travesty, but there are no words strong enough to do so.  From Galina Starovoitova to Stanislav Markelov, these murders have been the most salient feature of the Putin years, and not one of them has ever been solved.  That’s not difficult to understand, not if you believe Putin himself ordered the killings — and not once has Putin made an unequivocal statement condemning them.  In fact, he only spoke out about Politkovskaya because he was ambushed by a pack of foreign journalists while traveling abroad.

No justice? No peace!

The people of Russia, who have chosen Putin as their ruler, are responsible for his actions. The misery and woe descending upon them now are of their own making, and not until they realize that will they have any hope of a future.

No justice? No peace!

EDITORIAL: Russia, Scorched by Global Warming, Ravaged by AIDS

EDITORIAL

Russia, Scorched by Global Warming, Ravaged by AIDS

Some Russophiles might be inclined to imagine that the phenomenon of “global warming” might be good for frigid, frozen Russia because it might thaw out vast swaths of unproductive territory and make them more fertile and habitable.

One problem with such a theory, of course, is that Russia’s population is dwindling by the day, expected to fall by one-third in the next half-century or so.  Which means that Russia can hardly manage to populate the territory it has now, much less new territory uncovered by global warming.

And now, scholar Paul Goble is reporting that in fact the whole notion is bogus.  He states:   “the Russian Federation will be more profoundly and negatively affected by global warming over the next 40 years than will any other country, a projection that Russian experts and officials say make it critical that Moscow take the lead both domestically and internationally to combat this trend.”

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EDITORIAL: Neo-Communist Russia

EDITORIAL

Neo-Communist Russia

The Moscow Times reported last week that salaries in Russia’s  far-Eastern Primorye region are currently averaging 9,700 rubles ($270) per month.  For a forty-hour work week, that means an hourly wage of $1.70.

The MT also reports that a round-trip plane ticket from Vladivostok in Primorye to Moscow currently costs $1,120.  That is four months wages.

The Kremlin is responding to this problem with a well-known Russian “solution” — communism. 

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Space Terrorism

EDITORIAL

Russia’s Space Terrorism

Two weeks ago, an orbiting Russian government Cosmos 2251 satellite crashed into an American private satellite owned by the Iridium corporation, obliterating both and scattering at least 2,000 pieces of dangerous debris that will pollute the Earth’s orbit for decades. It is already threatening the next mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

It did not have to happen.  The Russian government could have “de-orbited” the Cosmos 2251, which had ceased to function usefully years before, and avoided the collision, which was certain to occur otherwise. The Russian government chose not to do so.

That’s terrorism.  Now, not only will Russia’s own satellites have to avoid this detritus field, but Russia has even further blackened its own reptuation and standing in the world community, right on the heels of its outrageous barbarism in Georgia and its egregious imperlialism in Ukraine.

What did Russia get in return?  Are Russians proud of their ability to act like the Chechens of space?  Will they proudly wear the world’s designation “bandit nation” just as the Chechen terrorists do?

Do Russians really think they will do better with the cold war the second time around, this time as a pale shadow of a much more powerful state that the West has already destroyed utterly?

Readalong with Professor Anton Fedyashin, Russophile liar

Writing on the Post Global blog operated by the Washington Post Anton Fedyashin, an Assistant Professor of Russian History at American University, speaks of a “new Russian opportunity.”  We wrote to Professor Fedyashin to ask him to substantiate with source material his claim that Georgian President Saakashvili’s “luck ran out when he recklessly attacked a breakaway region with internationally-approved Russian peacekeepers in it” and to tell us about his citizenship status.  He ignored our request.  We consider his statement outrageously irresponsible in the absence of any attempt to cite source material, and we feel American University should be embarrassed by this shoddy pseudo scholarship.  If any of our readers have any connections with AU, we’d appreciate it if they’d write Cornelius Kerwin, the school’s president, a letter of protest. Here’s his address: president@american.edu.

Now, let’s review the entire tract and see if there are any more flies in this nasty Russophile ointment (his text in ordinary print, our comments in boldface):

True to his word, President Obama has launched a new era in American foreign policy. Signals from the U.S. have been positive and encouraging. Henry Kissinger quietly visited Moscow in December. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke optimistically about cooperating with Russia at the international security conference in Munich. In his first press conference, the President mentioned non-proliferation negotiations and Russia’s role in preventing other regimes in acquiring nuclear capability. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Moscow in March to lay the groundwork for reestablishing the U.S.-Russia partnership. And finally, President Obama and President Medvedev will meet at the G-20 summit in April. There is a veritable thaw in the air and spring looks promising.

These are all U.S. moves, which could only look “promising” to Russians as signs of weakness that can be exploited. He does not mention a single act by Russians to give an advantage to the U.S.  We must ask:   Whose side is this guy on, anyway? We’d like to know what country he’s a citizen of, but he won’t tell us and his resume seems to be some kind of secret. If anyone can tell us more, please do.

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February 22, 2009 — Contents

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 22 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Putin is Worse than any Foreign Foe

(2)  The Internet under Siege in Putin’s Russia

(3)  Letter to La Russophobe

(4)  Springtime war in Georgia?

(5)  A New Film on Russia’s Katyn Atrocity

(6)  Drinking in Russia

NOTE:  Georgia’s entry in the EuroVision song contest is a wicked mockery of the odious, malignant little troll who rules Russia. Go Georgia, go!