WEDNESDAY APRIL 22 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Russia’s Exploding Olympics
(2) EDITORIAL: Putin’s Toxic Xanadu
(3) Russia’s “Non-Democracy”
(4) Toxic Russia
(5) The Eurovision Sham
(6) We Know What You’re Thinking
(7) Russia’s Tennis Comedy Plays On
NOTE: A good deal of our content today comes from Russians. Supporting our editorial about Russia’s hostility to the natural world is a story from a Russian reporter published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Then there’s a second, from the Washington Post, exposing Russia’s sham democracy. Finally, the wild boys over at English Russia offer you some photographic insight into the “real” nature of neo-Soviet Russia, no different at all from the old USSR (except that not even at its worst moment did the USSR allow itself to be ruled for so long by the KGB). Just goes to prove what we’ve always said: Putin hasn’t shot down all the good Russians, not all the true patriots. Not yet.
NOTE: Ever wonder what sort of psychopath a Westerner would have to be to consider moving to neo-Soviet Russia these days? This is the kind.
On August 7, 2008, a bomb exploded on a public beach in Sochi, Russia, proposed home of the 2014 Olympic Games. Two people were killed, eight injured. Later that month, the Russian government claimed to have intercepted another bombing before it occurred.
It wasn’t the first month that year for deadly terrorist bombings in Sochi. In June, a bomb had exploded in the city’s Lazarev district killing one civilian, and the event was trumpted by Kavkaz Center, the voice of the Chechen rebels. A bomb had been placed in the same district a month earlier, and taken both the arms off of the policeman who tried to disarm it. Later that same month, yet another bomb went off — this time in Sochi’s Adler district, killing one.
The terrorists were not satisfied with their tally of four lives in 2008; the bombings have continued apace this year, bringing the total number of fatalities to six, with nearly 50 others injured. Last week police in Sochi arrested two men believed to have been associated with at least six of the killings and 19 of the injuries. The identity of the two was as shocking as their venal deeds — they were not angry Chechen infiltrators, but rather a local policeman and a TV cameraman.
It’s hard to think of a more emphatic warning of what could happen when the world’s elite athletes gather for the 2014 games than this string of savage terror attacks. Russia’s list of furious enemies is long and deep, and runs from Estonia to Chechnya and Dagestan to Georgia. All of them will be appalled to see Russia parading itself before the world as if it were a bastion of democracy, and any one of them could produce extremist elements capable of lashing out at any time.
And it’s hard not to feel nauseous at the way the world’s media have neglected this story and their paramount obligation to give people basic information they need to keep their children safe.
Putin’s Secret Xanadu
Last week the Moscow Times reported that it had discovered an attempt by the Kremlin to build “an illegal resort inside a protected nature reserve on the Black Sea” near the city of Krasnodar.
Post Global carries a column by Russian expat Anna Borshchevskaya of Johns Hopkins University:
If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny to read Russia’s President Medvedev’s recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, in which he said, “Democracy [in Russia] existed, exists, and will exist.”
Human rights still appear to be a luxury in Russia. Recently, Lev Ponomaryov, director of the Moscow-based Organization For Human Rights, and a leader in the new political opposition movement Solidarity, was reportedly beaten by a group of men outside his home . Stanislav Markelov, whom the Wall Street Journal called one of Russia’s top human rights lawyers, was murdered in late January, as was Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old freelancer for Novaya Gazeta, which, according to the New Zealand Herald, is the last major publication critical of the Kremlin. Novaya Gazeta also lost three other journalists in the last decade– Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Igor Domnikov.
Russian reporter Anastasia Ustinova reports in the San Fransisco Chronicle on Russia’s catastrophic envirnmental nightmare and courageous Russian who dares to demand better from the Kremlin:
The residents of Chapaevsk, a city in Central Russia, say the lakes near local chemical factories are dead from toxic waste, no longer freeze and contaminate the town’s water supply.
In the western Russian city of Dzerdjinsk, the mortality rate of children and adolescents is 50 percent higher than the national average because of pollution from chemical plants. The city is one of the world’s 10 most-polluted places, according to the Blacksmith Institute, a consulting firm in New York.
Such environmental disasters are well-known thanks to Olga Speranskaya, a petite, 46-year-old physicist who is the driving force behind a nongovernmental group that works to identify, reduce and safely store chemical stockpiles in Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union. For her tireless work, she is being honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize.
The New York Times reports on the utter sham and humiliation that is Russia’s participation in the Eurovision song and dance contest:
One year it was the thinly veiled taunts of a doughy Ukrainian drag queen in silver-sequined accouterments that chafed Russian sensibilities. This year has brought a Georgian disco troupe with a song poking fun at the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, along with a Swedish techno group that recently set off a minor diplomatic dispute with a show featuring Russian soldiers, go-go dancers and a man in a bear suit dancing to the Soviet anthem.
It’s all part of an international melodrama, playing out to the pounding, thump-chick, thump-chick of the Eurovision Song Contest, the half-century-old European pop music carnival famous more for its glitter and fluorescent spandex than for its catchy melodies. And more often than not, in recent years, Russia has found itself the butt of the jokes, satires and downright nasty remarks, as artists wrangle over the unresolved complexes and insecurities born of the Soviet collapse and the pains of European integration.
This year, though, the commentary promises to carry a special bite, because Moscow will host the competition, similar to “American Idol,” in just under a month.
You’re thinking . . .
Last week the WTA Tour event in Charleston, South Carolina was held, known as the Family Circle Cup. Once again, the top-ranked Russian women humiliated their country before the gaping eyes of the world.