Daily Archives: March 2, 2009

March 4, 2009 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  More Electoral Fraud in Putin’s Russia

(2)  Putin shoves Russia off the Cliff

(3)  Annals of the Holy Russian Empire

(4)  The Chechnya Disaster, Part II

(5)  Russia’s Olympian Fiasco

(6)  CSM Warns Obama on Putin

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EDITORIAL: More Electoral Fraud in Putin’s Russia


More Electoral Fraud in Putin’s Russia

When a country is as riddled by incidents of spectacular fraud as Russia, something truly special has to happen before any given incident will be noticed.    Something just that horrifying happened earlier this week as the results of nine local legislative elections became known.

America is one of the world’s wealthiest, most successful nations.  Yet, the country’s recent economic downturn resulted in wholesale slaughter of the ruling Republican Party at the polls last November, handing power to their rivals the Democrats. Russia, by contrast, has never experienced a civilized transition of that kind in its entire history.

Russia’s economic performance has been far more dismal than America’s, and Russia started out from a position of excrutiating poverty in the first place.  Russia stock market, currency and reserves have been all but obliterated under the incompetent guidance of Russia’s current crop of rulers.  And yet, in every single one of the nine legislative races Russia’s ruling party prevailaed by landslide margins.  In the Tatarstan region,  where it had its strongest showing, United Russia “won” over 80% of the ballots.

There is only one word for this behavior on the part of the Russian voters, and that word is barbarism.  Just imagine how the world would have reacted in November 2008 if Barack Obama’s party had been defeated by George Bush’s party by a margin of 80%!

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Is Putin Pushing Russia off a Financial Cliff?

The smart money says yes.  Reader “Oleg” directs our attention to the following item from Eurasia.net:

Russia in recent weeks has used its apparent financial clout both to knock an American back out of Kyrgyzstan and to solidify its relationship with Kazakhstan. But recent economic data suggests that when it comes to assistance to Central Asian states, the Kremlin may be running a geopolitical Ponzi scheme — guaranteeing returns that it will not be able to produce.

So far in 2009, Moscow has gone about lavishing money on its international friends as if the heady days of high energy prices still existed, and the global financial crunch had never hit. Even the Kremlin’s old friend Cuba has been the beneficiary of largesse, receiving $354 million in credits recently.

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Annals of the Holy Russian Empire

David Satter, writing on Forbes.com:

The Orthodox patriarchate is a bulwark of autocracy.

The installation of Kirill I as the new patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church last month will not end the subordination of the church to the Putin regime. On the contrary, the church is likely to emerge as an even stronger supporter of dictatorship and anti-Western ideology.

Kirill, who was the Metropolitan of Smolensk, succeeds Alexei II who died in December after 18 years as head of the Russian Church. According to material from the Soviet archives, Kirill was a KGB agent (as was Alexei). This means he was more than just an informer, of whom there were millions in the Soviet Union. He was an active officer of the organization. Neither Kirill nor Alexei ever acknowledged or apologized for their ties with the security agencies.

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The Chechnya Disaster, Part II

A letter to the editor of the Guardian newspaper:

Today is World Chechnya Day. On this day in 1944 Stalin deported the entire Chechen population of 500,000 people to Siberia and Kazakhstan, where almost half of them perished in 13 years of exile.

Sixty-five years on, the Chechen people are still suffering. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Chechnya existed as an independent state in all but name before Russian troops invaded in 1994. Following a bloody war, a peace accord was signed and democratic elections were held in Chechnya in 1997, only for Vladimir Putin to order its invasion in 1999, resulting in the displacement of several hundred thousand refugees and the death of another 100,000 civilians.

The Kremlin now claims that the war is over and that there is peace and stability in the region. The reality is that the intensive bombings have been replaced with a regime of fear and oppression which has eroded civil society in Chechnya and suppressed any open and democratic voice. Visits are carefully choreographed for western journalists and dignitaries. They do not see the daily realities of Moscow-imposed Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule.

The facade of stability is dangerous. The only way to establish lasting peace in Chechnya is through free and fair elections, which last took place over 10 years ago. On this World Chechnya Day, we urge President Medvedev to find a genuine political settlement that will finally put an end to an entire people’s suffering.

Ivar Amundsen Director, Chechnya Peace Forum,
Malcolm Rifkind MP, Andrew Motion, Ken Loach, Prof AC Grayling, Dr Benjamin Zephaniah, Andre Glucksmann, Aki Kaurismäki, Prof Brendan Simms, Jonathan Heawood, Glen Howard, Danny Alexander MP, Raymond Jolliffe, Nicolas Rea, Peter Tatchell

Russia’s Olympian Fiasco

“The most helpful thing would be a new, long war with Georgia. That sounds bad, but it’s still better than Olympic Games in Sochi.”

— Svetlana Berestyeneva, Sochi resident, to Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel reports:

At 10 a.m. in the Caucasus Mountains, backhoes dig their way through the snow and trucks dump loads of sand. The sun is a yellowy white and it’s -4 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit). Russian men with cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouths reach for their helmets, shovels and wheelbarrows, then they begin to hammer, weld and saw.

There are 500 people working here at an elevation of 563 meters (1,847 feet) at the foot of the Aibga mountain range. Two helicopters, a white Ka-27 and a red Mi-8, rise into the air overhead. One flying hour per helicopter costs €3,800 ($4,830), and each can carry four tons of cargo. Right now they’re flying cement bags and steel pylons up to the north slope of Black Pyramid mountain, where all alpine ski events will be held during the Olympic Games in February, 2014.

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CSM warns Obama on Putin

An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor:

Trust, but verify, was Ronald Reagan’s approach to the Soviets as they worked on arms control during the cold war. The phrase showed his hopes for the relationship, but also acknowledged the limitations. Four presidents later, his mantra still applies – even as Washington seeks a fresh start with Moscow this week.

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva on Friday, they will begin talks while at the lowest point in US-Russian relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. No question, it’s time to “press the reset button,” as Vice President Biden said at a security conference in Munich last month.

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