As NATO dialogue with Russia resumed, the Putin regime got a brutally cold slap in the face late last week when, after apparently thinking it had pulled the wool over NATO’s eyes on Georgia, Russia suddenly found two of its key NATO staffers accused of spying and booted out of the forum. It wasn’t the only wakeup call for the neo-Soviet dictatorship, nor the most humiliating one.
We doubt many will disagree with us if we suggest that one of the weirdest moments in modern Russian history came recently when Russia, after fuming that Ukraine had been stealing its gas and cutting of supplies, suddenly began fuming about the exact opposite, that Ukraine wasn’t receiving as much gas as Russia demanded it should do. We have a whole category in our sidebar devoted to instances of Russian hypocrisy, many of which defy belief, but this incident was so bizarre that it seemed a whole new vocabulary was needed to describe it.
And now it turns out that even Russia’s crazed dictator Vladimir Putin didn’t believe the things he himself was saying about it. Putin has gone eyeball to eyeball with Ukraine’s fiery PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and Putin has blinked.
Russia’s Moronic Military
Last week the world learned that the Kremlin had administered a basic competency test to 250 high-ranking military officers and that one in five of them had failed, resulting in a purge of 50 from the ranks. It might seem that this represents a gigantic humilation for the Kremlin, but in fact it is merely a ruse designed to cover up an even bigger one.
Our dear friend and reader “Elmer” points us to the following item from Eternal Remont:
Once upon a time, there was a magical world in which the workers of the world united into a Union of Socialist Republics. It was a myth, because everyone knew that some workers (Russians) were more equal than others.
So what does any of this have to do with tobacco? Well, as part of its negotiations with Bulgaria over the proposed South Stream gas pipeline, Moscow has claimed ownership of Bulgartabac (granted to the USSR as a spoil of war in 1945). Now, Russia wants it back.
“We are set to reclaim all properties that lie abroad and belonged to the Soviet Union. Bulgartabac will not be an exception,” said Vladimir Kozhin, head of the
Presidential Property Management Department of the Russian Federation.
Wait just one second, you say… How can Russia claim Bulgartabac as a property of the Soviet Union, when the Russian SSR was just a single republic within a broader Union of Socialist Republics. Couldn’t the other former SSR’s also claim ownership of Bulgartabac?
Nope. Just Russia, according to Kozhin.
The Moscow Times reports:
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has named a police veteran who two months ago tried to get six students expelled from school for participating in an anti-Kremlin rally as Moscow’s interim police chief.
Alexander Ivanov, 59, a police major general who had worked as former police chief Vladimir Pronin’s first deputy and head of the city’s criminal police department since 2001, will fill the position until a new chief is appointed possibly in late May, police said Wednesday.
President Dmitry Medvedev fired Pronin on Tuesday after a shooting spree in which police Major Denis Yevsyukov, head of a police precinct in southern Moscow, killed three people and wounded six. He was captured after a police shootout early Monday.
Ivanov is a “highly professional” and “experienced” police veteran who “is very familiar with the security situation in the city,” police spokeswoman Zhanna Ozhimina said by telephone.
Paul Goble reports:
For the first time in more than a century, a Moscow-based politician and scholar from the Altai says, Russia’s central government has “cast aside” Siberia, a region that is not only rich in natural resources but whose unique spirit is critical for reform, thus putting the future of Russia as a whole at risk. In an interview in Baikalskiye Vesti yesterday, Vladimir Ryzhkov, currently a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that “Siberia, which for the course of a century was celebrated not only for its natural but its human wealth has been converted into an ever poorer kray, forgotten by God and Moscow.”
FRIDAY MAY 1 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Chechnya Explodes
(2) EDITORIAL: Sberbank Vanishes
(3) Exposing the Fraud of Putinomics
(4) Putin Gives Russia Environmental Nightmares
(5) Putin is a Pathetic Loser
NOTE: Today we deliver a little love letter to Vladimir Putin, dousing him with a tsunami of facts showing how he has failed on every conveivable policy front, from foreign policy to the environment. The people of Russia have chosen to be governed by proud and totally unqualified KGB spy. This failure is the predictable result of that decision.
On April 16th, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin announced the end of “counter-terrorist operations” in Chechnya. In other words: Mission accomplished!
Oops. On April 24th, it reinstated them.
We never cease to be amazed by Russia’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity to surprise us with and ever-expanding univere of horrifying bad news.
Earlier this week, Sberbank released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008. Why it took a bank until the second quarter of 2009 to do so is beyond us. Perhaps it is because we lack the requisite level of financial sophistication.
The results the bank revealed — and remember, this institution is owned and operated by the Russian government, it’s the embodiment of the nation’s financial relationship with its citizens — were truly stunning. Its earnings fell 80% — you read that right, eighty percent — dropping to an utterly puny and pathetic $224 million. This happened even though revenues were up significantly owing to massive losses in the bank’s investment portfolio.
And, believe it or not, that’s far from from the worst of it.
Writing in the Russian newspaper Vedemosti and translated into English by the Moscow Times Vladimir Mau, Dean of the Russian Academy of National Economy and a high-ranking Kremlin financial advisor, exposes the truly catastrophic failure of Vladimir Putin’s economic policies (without, of course, explicitly blaming his boss at all):
In the same way that generals prepare by analyzing past wars, economists and politicians prepare by analyzing past economic crises. On the whole, this makes sense because we know what happened in the past, and we can analyze only what is known. Despite this preparation and analysis, nations continue to repeat the same blunders and have been hit repeatedly by the same economic crises over the past 100 years.
During the economic boom years when the price of Russia’s main exports of oil, gas and metals hit unprecedented highs, many economists and politicians occasionally posed the question: What will happen when this boom turns into a bust? It was clear that it would have a disastrous effect on the federal budget. But it was not perceived as being potentially fatal to the country’s economic growth because there is a natural flip side to a crash in natural resources’ prices — a drop in the ruble, which would in turn lead to increased competitiveness for goods produced domestically and for import substitution. To put it another way, everyone was expecting a repeat of Russia’s quick economic rebound from 1999 to 2001 after the 1998 default and ruble devaluation. The problem with this analogy is that this crisis is much different from the 1998 crisis for four main reasons.
Pesticides still poison people in the ex-Soviet Union almost two decades after the fall of the Communist superpower when farm managers liberally sprayed chemicals over fields, an environmentalist said in an interview.
Olga Speranskaya — who won an international award last week for her push to clean up the Soviet Union’s toxic legacy — also said the global economic crisis had diverted cash from cleaning up chemical waste, including from Soviet-era factories. “There is a lot of concern about toxic contamination. It’s getting worse and especially because of this financial crisis,” she told Reuters by telephone. “Our governments show a lack of political will to tackle chemical contamination and now they have one more excuse because of the financial crisis.”
Russia’s ecology ministry declined to comment.
Former parliamentarian Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing the Moscow Times, exposes the “fundamental failure” of the Putin regime:
The recent annual meeting of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, a Moscow-based think tank, underscored the confusion and distress among leading Russian politicians, analysts and policymakers. The meeting was dedicated to discussing the results of these last two decades. If in recent years they were all caught up in a frenzy of patriotism, muscle-flexing and shouts of “Russia is rising from its knees!” this spring has marked a clear shift in mood. Now they are much more sober and reflective. The economic crisis and Russia’s continuing foreign policy failures have hit them like one big cold shower.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 29 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Incredible Shrinking Country
(2) EDITORIAL: A New Low in Neo-Soviet Stupidity
(3) Sochi “Votes”
(4) Putin Stalinifies at Breakneck Speed
(5) Exposing Putin’s Legion of Murderers
NOTE: Once again, the U.S. junior national hockey team has inflicted a brutal, humiliating beatdown on their Russian counterparts in the world championships. Adding insult to injury, Russia’s vaunted national women’s tennis team was blown away in the Fed Cub semi-finals by a much lower-ranked (#6 vs. #14 and #22 vs. #44) Italian team. Hockey and women’s tennis are surely Russia’s two greatest claims to sports fame. Ouch. Better luck next time, Mr. Putin.
The Incredible Shrinking Country
Early Monday morning, a 32-year-old Russian man named Denis Yevsyukov hitched a ride to a supermarket in a southern district of Moscow. As he got out of the car, he shot and killed the driver who had been good enough to offer him a lift. Then he walked into the market and shot nine more people, including a market cashier. Three of them were dead and four more in critical condition by Monday evening. As is so often the case with Russia, the most shocking fact about that crime was not the brutal way it was carried out, nor the number of people killed, nor the fact that it occurred in Russia’s capital.
It was this: Yevshyukov was the district police chief.
It’s hard to think of a more emphatic demonstration of the fundamental corruption of Russian law enforcement agencies than this horrifying incident. If this police chief was that unbalanced, how many more such officers, working for slave wages and being ordered to carry about barbaric and illegal arrests of their fellow citizens, may be out there? Such questions hint at the fundamental failure of the KGB regime that governs Russia, a regime which routinely claims Russia is somehow “different” from the outside world and immune to events of this kind, therefore not needed normal civilized government and democracy like other countries have.
And there is a great deal of evidence that the Kremlin’s polices have failed at an even deeper level.
The United Nations Development Programme, for instance, has published a new report called “Facing Demographic Challenges” by Anatoly Vishnevsky, Russia’s leading demographer, which basically concludes that Russia is a racist nation that is literally destroying itself because of its pathological hatred of all things not Slavic.
A New Low in Neo-Soviet Stupidity
A new low has been plumbed in the depths of asinine neo-Soviet stupity. Writing in the Moscow Times Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization, had this brilliant insight into the nature of Russia’s corruption problem, which he identifies as “Russia’s most profitable business” to the tune of $300 billion annually while praising the “efforts” of “president” Medevedev to reduce it:
Many Russians believe that there is no hope of ever curbing corruption in the bureaucracy, mistakenly attributing it to an incorrigible national character. But I don’t agree with this assertion. Take, for example, Finland, which was part of the Russian Empire for nearly a century. If this cultural explanation were correct, Russia’s “culture of corruption” would have infected Finland as well. But according to ratings by Transparency International, Finland has consistently been at the top of the organization’s rankings in terms of the least corrupt countries in the world.
It’s hardly possible to believe one’s own eyes when reading gibberish this insane. The best evidence that Russians are not genetically corrupt that this lunatic can come up with is . . . Finland? And he thinks that because Finland was a Russian slave state for a while it became Russian, so that now there are not Finns but Russians living in Finland? There’s no need to criticize it, it criticizes itself!
This is no different than the high-ranking Russian political science professor who predicted that the U.S. was just about to disintegrate. It seems like a joke, but it’s not.
It’s just Russia.
In a development which can surprise nobody, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has gone down to crushing defeat in the Sochi mayoral election; his opponent, supported by Vladimir Putin, won three quarters of the vote while Nemtsov took just over a tenth. Though billed as a pulse-pounding exercise in pluralism, 60% of Sochi residents chose to stay at home on election day. Despite massive controversy over corruption and abuse of power in preparing for the 2014 Olympics, the Kremlin’s candidate won 77% of the vote and the vast majorit of the candidates were struck from the ballot long before election day. This is “democracy” as Putin’s KGB understands it.
Once again, Putin’s Russia has made an utter mockery of the very concept of the election, showing that Russia is a barbaric state on a par with the banana republics of Africa. The always brilliant Robert Coalson has detailed the naked fraud by which Nemtsov was victimized throughout the campaign:
The mayoral election in Sochi – which President Dmitry Medvedev has hailed as a sign of healthy democracy in Russia – is coming down to the wire, with official voting scheduled for April 26 (although local officials already have the tried-and-true “early voting” scam working at full speed).
People interested in following this important election could do a lot worse than reading the blog of Ilya Yashin, a Yabloko youth activist who is running former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov’s campaign. Yashin’s blog is a fascinating catalogue of dirty tricks and illegal tactics used against Nemtsov. Among other things, the blog documents with photos and video how state-sector workers and soldiers are being bused in by the regional administration to vote early (and often?).
Who loves you, baby?
Paul Goble reports:
Dmitry Medvedev’s actions in recent weeks have “disoriented” many in both Russia and in the West, according to a leading Moscow commentator, because such people have failed to understand that in its operations, the leaders of today’s “power vertical” are acting in ways that resemble those of Stalin and his henchmen in the past.
That should be obvious given the simultaneous talk in Moscow now “about the need to improve the image of Russia abroad,” Irina Pavlova argues, and even more the plans to hold a forum in Washington to advance that cause later this month featuring speakers like Andranik Migranyan and Gleb Pavlovsky. But instead, the Moscow commentator continues, “many are concluding that the powers that be [in the Russian Federation] are sending signals [to their own people and the West] about the beginning of a change in policy direction and perhaps about the coming or a new ‘thaw’ or even ‘perestroika.’”
Jeremy Putley draws our attention to some brilliant reporting from the Times of London exposing the murdering legions of dictator Vladimir Putin:
THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares. When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms – unmarked to conceal their identity – had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base. The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.
“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head. “We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.
The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.
MONDAY APRIL 27 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Who’s Behind the Kremlin Curtain?
(2) EDITORIAL: Kremlin says 90% of Russians are Idiots
(3) EDITORIAL: Choking Bondarchuk
(4) Russian Court’s drive the Final Nail into Russia’s Internet
(5) Milov on Medvedev’s Sham Liberalism
NOTE: LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld has a new column out on the American Thinker blog, where she focuses on Putin’s stunning liquidation of the Russian Central Bank’s independence, declaring interests rates as if he were the nation’s central banker. Is he panicking over the tanking economy or signaling that he is the new Stalin? You decide.
NOTE: Kim also, for the first time, has a simultaneous column running on the Pajamas Media blog, where her latest installment exposes some egregiously flawed reporting by the New York Times regarding Moldova and criticizes the papers shockingly non-responsive attitude when we challenged its reporting about Lev Ponomarev. Little wonder that the paper is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy with this kind of insular arrogance seems to be its modus operandi.
NOTE: The BBC has a video report from the Russian breadlines.
Posted in contents, russia
Who’s Behind the Kremlin Curtain?
Recent public opinon poll data in Russia shows that 68% of all Russians believe that Vladimir Putin wields at least some presidential power. Just 15% say the actual president, Dimitri Medvedev, holds all of it. 57% of Russians believe that Medvedev’s successor will be Putin.
The data also indicates that 70% of Russians either have no idea whether the country is on the right track or not or think it’s on the wrong track. What disturbs them is apparently that Putin is no longer in power, since those who believeved he would return were the most likely to say the nation was on the right track.
Finally, and perhaps most disturbing, 66% of Russians said they thought Russia was perceived by other nations as a force for good. This flies in the face of opinion poll data from those other nations showing that their opinion of Russia has fallen dramatically during Putin’s time in office. Not one major world nation, you will remember, agreed to recognize Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent despite Russia’s pleas to do so.
And it explains why Putin continues to receive so much support. The Russian people are being lied to and, having allowed the Kremlin to cut them off from real information on TV and in newspapers, they aren’t able to realize it’s happening (we report below on Putin’s final assault on the independence of Russia’s Internet through the court system). But, at the same time, the Russians are lying to themselves. The most recent consumer confidence data shows that Russians don’t really believe Putin’s reassurances, since their confidence level is well below the world average and falling rapidly. In other words, as usual Russians choose to live in a world of self-delusion.
But the facts are gettting very hard to ignore.
Kremlin says 90% of Russians are Idiots
As you well know, dear reader, we are loathe to agree with a single word uttered by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. But when one of Russia’s leading “educators,” Leonid Poliakov, a dean of history at the Moscow State Pedagogical University, tell us that 90% of Russians are idiots, we have to grudgingly make room for the possiblity that he could be right.
Вопрос к Фёдору Бондарчуку: Что вы ассоциируете с этими башнями у нас в стране?
Фёдор Бондарчук: (после некоторого раздумывания отвечать или нет). Да мы катимся в «ж»…. Газет нет, радио нет. Есть только интернет. Вот когда был Ельцин, то люди бежали смотреть телевизор с реальными и откровенными передачами. А сейчас заголовки газет начали напоминать времена с пропагандой. Альтернатив не видно – это пугает. Я могу долго говорить, но потом у меня будут проблемы…
That is an exchange between Russian film director Fyodor Bondarchuk (“The Ninth Company”) and a Russian reporter during a press conference on April 15th in Moscow about the release of his latest film “The Inhabited Island.”
As The Other Russia reports: “The futuristic sci-fi flick, based on a 1971 novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, takes place on a planet ruled by a military dictatorship, where authorities use a network of towers as mind-control devices over the population.” The reporter asks the director whether the use of the towers was symbolic of life in Putin’s Russia, and the director, after pausing a while as if considering whether to answer the question, responded as follows:
We’re heading into the toilet… There are no newspapers, no radio. There’s only the internet. When we had Yeltsin, people ran to watch the television, which was full of substantial and candid programs. And now the newspaper headlines have started to resemble propaganda times. There are no alternatives visible, and this is frightening. I can speak on this for a long time, but then I’ll have problems…
The director was very much mistaken. Though he spoke only briefly, he still had “problems” aplenty.
Paul Goble reports truly shocking, repugnant news that the Kremlin is already in the process of the final clampdown on the Internet; last week we reported on the Kremlin’s efforts to control major portals like Yandex, and now Russian courts are legitimizing the shutdown of any site that carries objectionable comments from readers. It’s a stunning and fatal blow to Internet freedom unheard of in the civilized world. Welcome back to the USSR, Russians:
According to a Moscow court, Russian officials can close down an internet portal if visitors to the site leave comments that the authorities deem to be extremist, a ruling that could force Russian sites to moderate all comments before they are posted or to stop allowing such comments, thereby ending one of the most lively forums in the Russian media.
The Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District has rejected an appeal by the Urals information agency, URA.ru, which held that it should not be subject to warnings that could open the way for its closure for posts visitors to that site left and the site’s own editors took off within a day. That decision, Aksana Panova, the site’s chief editor, said that the decision not only creates “a dangerous precedent” that could be used throughout the Russian Internet but opens the way for abuse because officials could arrange to have someone post “extremist” materials and then pounce even before the site took them off.
Paul Goble reports that Vladimir Milov agrees with our conclusion, expressed last week regarding the release of Svetlana Bakhmina, that Dmitri Medvedev’s s0-called liberalization moves are fraudulent:
Despite a series of much-publicized events that some commentators in Moscow and the West suggest represent significant “breakthroughs” to “liberalization,” a Russian commentator argues that Dmitry Medvedev is in fact offering “the imitation of political reform” in order to defend Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian system. In an article on Gazeta.ru, Vladimir Milov, the head of the Moscow Institute of Energetic Politics, says that during April, President Medvedev has “thrown out to society a whole bouquet” of “signals” suggesting a dramatic change in the political climate in Russian toward a more liberal order. But a careful consideration of what the Russian president has said and even more of the sources of his comments and actions suggests that “there is no basis to expect serious changes in the policy of the ruling clan” and that any “hopes for the softening of the [current] political course are once again premature.” Indeed, Milov says, “there is no doubt that we are dealing with the latest playing with liberal society, the goal of which consists of the neutralization of any outburst of freedom-loving attitudes as a result of the sharpening of the crisis and the ineffectiveness of government anti-crisis measures.”
SUNDAY APRIL 26 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: World to Russia — No thanks!
(2) EDITORIAL: A Bridge too Far
(3) Brave Finland Stands up to Russia
(4) Ukraine Shows Russia how it’s Done
(5) Yandex Bends over for the Kremlin
NOTE: On May 6 PBS will begin airing a multi-part historical documentary about the backroom dealings between Stalin, FDR and Churchill during World War II. Check out the website, looks like timely viewing.