MONDAY AUGUST 31 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Putin is Making our Job too Easy
(2) EDITORIAL: Russia Today, in the Gutter
(3) The Endless Lies of Russian “Journalists”
(4) Photo Essay: Holy Bling-Bling, Batman!
(5) Annals of Russian Espionage
NOTE: Inspired by links from leading LR commenter “Robert” publisher Kim Zigfeld excoriates Barack Obama for backing away from missile defense in Eastern Europe in the latest installment of her Pajamas Media Russia column. Obama is the new Chamberlain! We cannot say we are surprised.
NOTE: Kim also has her latest installment on the powerful American Thinker blog up and running now, exposing the disgraceful efforts of an American PR firm to help Russia lie about its aggression against Georgia.
Here is a very striking story which emphasizes the stark contrast between Ukraine and rasha. (The article contains an error – President Yushchenko was not “dismissed.”)
During the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine, it was clear that the elections had been falsified, with the participation of the rasha-backed candidate, Victor Yanukovych and his party.
One very brave woman decided to defy the instructions of the government channel – and reported the truth.
In Ukraine, that led to the Orange Revolution, which was, among other things, a demand for free and fair elections.
In rasha, people just say “Putler – beat me better.”
The Power Of One Courageous Person
ALEXANDRIA, USA — “The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society,” the late Jack Kemp once said. While the American politician and former pro football player used the qualifying word “our” to refer to America, there is no doubt his observation holds true universally.
Dmitruk in Kiev’s Independence Square, site of the “orange” revolution that brought Viktor Yushchenko to power.
I recently stumbled upon one person’s story that epitomizes Kemp’s inspirational maxim. She hails from central Europe and her name is Natalya Dmitruk. Almost five years ago she did the right thing, for the right reason and at the right time. As a result, her native Ukraine was dramatically impacted.
Prior to her courageous action, Ms. Dmitruk was an unlikely catalyst for political change. However, one day in 2004 she made a decision that not only served to embolden many Ukrainians, but altered the political landscape of her country.
Dmitruk was born to deaf-mute parents. As a result, she had to learn sign language in order to communicate with her mother and father. Though she is not hearing impaired, Dmitruk has made it her mission in life to provide the deaf with a vital link to the world.
Seeking to fulfill her mission, Dmitruk became an interpreter for Ukrainian state-run television UT-1. It was this position coupled with her desire to serve the deaf community that set the stage for her dramatic stand.
On Nov. 25, 2004, the runoff for the Ukrainian presidential election had just taken place. There was growing evidence of widespread voter fraud indicating that the election was rigged in favor of the government-sponsored candidate, Viktor Yanukovych.
In spite of evidence to the contrary, state-controlled broadcasters took to the airways and reported that Yanukovych had defeated opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Hearts across the Ukraine sank. Their hope for change was dealt a bitter defeat.
On that dismal afternoon Dmitruk was given the assignment of interpreting the afternoon news. Everyone in the newsroom was painfully aware that the election had been a sham, but no one was willing to take a stand against the government. And Dmitruk was only an interpreter for the deaf. What could she do?
From a small inset in the corner of a television where she regularly provided the deaf with a vital link to the world, Dmitruk decided she had to do something. Rather than repeat the official government line about the election, she signed to her deaf audience, “Yushchenko is our president. Do not believe the Central Election Commission. They are lying.”
Dmitruk told Time magazine that she feared she would get into terrible trouble. “But,” she said, “the disgust I felt about all that lying forced out the fear.”
An estimated 100,000 deaf people saw Dmitruk’s news cast. Other UT-1 journalists, inspired by her courage, joined Dmitruk and refused to spout the government’s version of the election. Almost immediately, other news channels in the Ukraine followed suit. In a matter of hours, news of the rigged election swept across the nation.
The Ukrainian Supreme Court called for the run-off election to be repeated. Yushchenko won in the revote by garnering 52 percent of the vote. The newly elected Ukrainian president personally invited Dmitruk to translate television coverage of his inauguration.
A little more background.
Under former President Kuchma in Ukraine, journalists were given “temnyky” – that is, theme lists for what they could and could not talk about, and how they could talk about it.
For Natalya Dmitruk and other journalists who chose to discard the official theme lists, and to report the truth, was a very courageous thing to do.
The thing is – the people also knew this. And they supported the journalists, they supported the truth in Ukraine, and they demanded free and fair elections. And got them.
Contrast that with rasha, and what Putler is doing today with the media in rasha.
the issue, unfortunately, isn’t as much the press. Soviet press was much more servile than today’s Russian press. There was no EJ, Grani, or Novaya Gazeta in the 70s, and people got their information elsewhere (BBC, Voice of America, or Samizdat).
The bigger problem is that Russians today (at least 77 per cent of them) seem perfectly happy to swallow what First Channel and other propaganda outfits spit to them every day. That’s the real tragedy. That certainly isn’t the case in Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova – let alone Baltics and Eastern Europe.
Were they (or at least a large portion of population) just as happy to swallow what the Soviet TV and print press fed them then? This is not a rhetorical question, Felix. I really wonder. It’s the same population (allowing for natural replacement, of course), is it not?
I often wonder myself… Growing up in Latvia (more anti-Soviet republic), among Jewish friends and family (more anti-Soviet than most), and studying in “English special” school (where half of the kids were future emigrants, and the other half were children of diplomats / party leaders / KGB – all of them were quite cynical towards Soviet government) – maybe I was in a bubble!
I was in the military for two years. Officers certainly believed what they saw on TV, and soldiers either believed, or pretended to believe.
But then I saw how quickly and bloodlessly everything fell apart in 1990. I was convinced that the main reason was that nobody believed anything they read in official newspapers.
I think it’s really different now. There is no ideology that you can just ignore. But there is bunker mentality that really helps to put things in perspective. Either everybody hates us because we are stronger, and everybody wants to put us down because they are afraid of us getting off our knees – or what? What’s the alternative? That we are despised but ignored? That Russian-Chechen war is no more important to the world than Hutu and Tutsies?! that’s the bigger insult than one can imagine!
So, yes – I do think that it’s different psyche than it was in the USSR.
Thanks Felix. The psychology you have described is really fascinating. The ills of the contemporary Russian society are really rooted in that, I think
From the annals of Russian racism:
Africans ‘under siege’ in Moscow
Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia’s capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.
Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.
A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once. Some 80% had been verbally abused.
But the number of assaults was down from the MPC’s last survey in 2002.
The report’s clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Moscow.
Many of the African respondents said they:
Avoided using the Moscow metro
Were also careful to avoid crowded public places
Did not go out on Russian national holidays or on days when there were football matches
Many of the attacks on Africans were pre-meditated and extremely violent, the report found.
One Nigerian migrant interviewed by the BBC had been repeatedly stabbed in the back and then shot.
Another man said his attacker had attempted to remove his scalp.
Officially there are some 10,000 Africans living in Moscow, but far more are believed to live there illegally – many as economic migrants.
The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy is an English-speaking interdenominational Christian congregation that has ministered to Moscow’s foreign community since 1962.
“Now is the winter of Russia’s discontent.” Dr. Goble’s latest at WindowOnEurasia is a must-read:
Putin Needs to Act like Khrushchev to Pull Russia Back from the Brink Gontmakher Says
Russia’s problems are so serious and are certain to grow worse in the coming months that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should copy the approach Nikita Khrushchev adopted with regard to Stalin as a way of radically changing the country’s direction and pulling it back from the brink, according to Moscow commentator Yevgeny Gontmakher.
In a comment on the “Osobaya bukva” site, Gontmakher, a senior economist at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, says that Russia’s economic indicators have not improved in recent months, despite official claims, and that in fact these measures “continue to fall” (www.specletter.com/obcschesto/2009-08-25/revoljutsii-ne-budet-budet-bunt.html).
The majority of Russians, however, “have not yet felt the impact of the crisis on themselves,” not only because for Russians “an economic recession is connected with a fall in wages” – which has not yet happened – but also because thanks to the shocks of the last two decades, “the Russian people is insanely adaptive.”
Indeed, Gontmakher continues, people in that country “have become accustomed not to glance at the future” but instead “look at the situation as it is at the moment.” That is all the more true just now because of what he calls “the summer factor” – the tendency of Russians to ignore politics and economics during the warm months when they tend their gardens.
But with the change of seasons, “the situation is going to radically change,” the Moscow analyst says, and in November, “several factors and tendencies will combine” and lead to an increase in tensions within Russian society. And as it does, both the Russian people and the Russian government will react.
With further economic decline, there will not be enough money in the regions and republics for day-to-day operations, “not to speak about any investments, construction and the like.” Indeed, Gontmakher predicts, there won’t be enough money to pay wages and salaries. And at that point, “Moscow won’t be able to help at all.”
In such a situation, he goes on, “it is completely possible that the federal powers that be will encounter the problem of tax separatism,” with regional leaders refusing to transfer tax collections to Moscow because “they are not in a position to fulfill their own” obligations to the population. They’ve already spent in six months the funds that were supposed to last nine or ten.
And such problems could be compounded by an increase in “the number of technogenic catastrophes,” as the government lacks the funds or the will to repair or update key infrastructure as appears to have been at least in part the reasons behind the recent disaster at the Sayan-Shushen hydroelectric dam.
“Sooner or later,” Gontmakher says, “and by sooner [he] has in mind months, the highest Russian leadership will have to think about how to correct the situation in the economy over the next few years” lest economic problems provoke “the pitiless revolt” of the population against the powers that be.
The only alternative – and the Moscow economist says that it is “desirable” at least by comparison – is “some kind of modernization directed from above.” In the current case, he suggests, that means a new approach articulated and implemented by the real power in Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Because Putin bears “the heavy load of the past – the persecution of Khodorkovsky, pressure on the press and the destruction of civil society, and an inadequate foreign policy” – the prime minister needs to pursue a course in some ways analogous to Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization program, breaking with the system that he helped create.
What would such a “’Khrushchevization’” of Russia require? It would require Moscow to stop acting as if it alone can solve everything, Gontmakher says. It would require taking “real steps to involve society in the resolution of its own problems.” And it would require that the government disentangle itself from the economy.
Obviously, Putin and his regime are going to be reluctant to take such steps. They would open “’a Pandora’s box,’” and “there is the danger of repeating the fate of Gorbachev,” who began reforms but then lost control of them. Putin is certainly aware of these risks, Gontmakher says, but he insists that “to do nothing carries still greater risks.”
Getting business moving again, the Moscow economist continues, “is impossible in the conditions of an ossified political system. It can be returned to life only with a shift to a dialogue of equals between society and the powers that be. [And] with the recognition by the latter of the errors it has committed. That is important.”
In short, “the salvation of the economy is unthinkable without political reform,” and that challenge is why Russia faces a much tougher task in the current crisis than do Western countries. They face “purely economic” challenges, but Russia address everything at once – curing the financial system, returning civil society to life and stimulating political competition.
So far, Gontmakher says, “the president and the prime minister are sitting and thinking,” while “society has remained silent.” But Russians “have a tradition to wait until someone says something first. If the first outburst in this case comes from the crowd, the population will not stop at that.”
But if the first comes from Putin and the current leadership, then there is the possibility that the errors of the past can be overcome without the country and its system being destroyed in the process. That is only a possibility, Gontmakher warns, and it is not growing but becoming less probable.
“Every day of silence” on the part of Putin and the leaders, the Moscow economist says, will “push off the exit of Russia from the crisis by a week if not by a month. The crisis will become ever more structural. The population will be degraded,” and ultimately the social and political system will collapse.
Gontmakher ends with an analogy: Russia is sick with a cancerous tumor. If it is removed while the growth is still small, there is a chance to save the life of the patient. But if it is allowed to fester and grow larger, then it will be “impossible to save” Russia in this historical cycle.
Consequently, the Moscow scholar says, Moscow must not wait. With all the risks, “it is better to cut now.” Fifty years ago, Khrushchev understood that and acted to de-Stalinize. The question now is whether Putin will understand and take the actions necessary to overcome the consequences of the system the prime minister himself helped to create.
Putin/Medvedev probably aren’t capable of even considering (much less implementing) the type of radical restructuring that Mr. Gontmakher advocates. Hopefully I’m wrong, because Mr. Gontmakher’s analysis seems sound, including his predictions of what happens next.
Felix and RV – pretending to believe – that’s what people did, indeed, except for the few stupid clucks who even today do things like worship stalin.
But doing something about it – quite different matter.
Do people in rasha really believe that they had free and fair elections?
It’s schizophrenic – there are other posts on LR about how the press is lying, how Pootler and Putvedev are lying, etc. But people shrug their shoulders.
How can normal, rational people tolerate a schizoid country?
It’s almost like Iran – if you’re in the opposition, it’s an “attack on clerics” and “sacrilegious” – and you get prosecuted for “attacking god.”
In rasha, if you don’t worship stalin, you can worship Kirill and his $36,000 watch. After all, the oily orthodox rooshan “church” now has a right of first refusal over rooshan legislation.
And if you’re in the opposition in rasha, either way, you’re “attacking god” – and it’s a crime.
Now it’s 5 years since Beslan.
Five Years on, Beslan’s Survivors Feel Forsaken
Half a decade after the Beslan hostage crisis, the survivors and families of the victims feel abandoned by the Russian state. The authorities don’t want to be reminded of the failure of Russian security forces to deal with a terror attack that left so many children dead.
In the aftermath of the brutal, 52-hour hostage crisis, Beslan was inundated with a wave of compassion and offers of assistance. Packages and aid shipments arrived from around the world, from Australia to Jordan, including 46 television sets, 19 microwave ovens, 196 telephones, 35 video cameras and “enough stuffed animals to fill the rooms of every child in the province,” as a teacher who survived the ordeal reports.
The mayor of Moscow had two modern schools built, celebrities from the Russian entertainment world gave benefit concerts, banks sponsored the construction of playgrounds, and the government and private donors paid the equivalent of about €30,000 in compensation for each person killed and €20,000 for anyone seriously injured in the incident — no small sums in the poverty-stricken Caucasus.
Five years later, however, many of the survivors and family members of victims feel forsaken. It is part of the legacy of the Soviet health care system that very few Beslan residents have health insurance. “The government does nothing,” says Adyrkhayev. “There are no regular examinations, and there is no central government office for those seeking help.”
The new hospital, with its bright white walls and shiny blue roof — as attractive and foreign-looking as if it had fallen from the skies over the Caucasus — was built two years ago on the outskirts of Beslan. It is the most expensive hospital in the region, but it has two problems. First, a lack of funds and licenses means that the sparkling new hospital still hasn’t opened its doors. Second, a pediatric psychology department is not part of the initial plan. “Does this mean that my young patients will have to wait until they’re grown up?” Adyrkhayev grumbles.
It seems that Russia, which has the world’s third-largest currency reserves, would prefer to simply suppress the memories of the Beslan bloodbath, just as it has forgotten about the massacre of more than 170 people by Chechen terrorists at a Moscow theater in October 2002. Beslan has become a synonym for the destruction of children as a “demonstration of power completely devoid of remorse,” says Russian author Victor Erofeyev. It also signifies that Russians now experience any use of violence “as a phenomenon of a metaphysical order.”
Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time of the Beslan tragedy, only visited the scene of the crime once, in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. Those responsible for the Russian security forces’ amateurish storming of the school building have yet to be prosecuted, and some have even been promoted. There are still doubts as to whether there were in fact only 32 hostage-takers, or whether some terrorists managed to escape, as most Beslan residents believe.
The subject is more or less taboo on state-controlled television in Russia. Members of a group called the Mothers of Beslan complain that they have spent years unsuccessfully trying to present their case on a major TV talk show. This has prompted the group’s leader, Susanna Dudieva, to characterize the Beslan incident and its aftermath as a “double disgrace.” Even though the government had information about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attacks in the days leading up to the hostage crisis, it was unable to protect the children, says Dudieva. And now, she adds, it has forgotten them.
It is not only the children, but also the traumatized adults who need help. Within view of the new but still useless hospital is the “City of Angels,” Russia’s most beautiful and well-tended cemetery, with its 268 graves.
Cemetery director Kaspolat Ramonov placed red roses on his daughter’s grave early in the morning. She was in the 10th grade when she died, and she would have turned 20 today. “Mariana was everything to me,” he says.
He speaks quietly, only raising his voice and expressing his outrage when asked how long he has been working at this cemetery. “I don’t work here,” he says, “I live here.”
“just as it has forgotten about the massacre of more than 170 people by Chechen terrorists at a Moscow theater in October 2002.”
Find the error here and win the prize!
A hint (and a German connection too, fitting as an answer for a Der Spiegel article):
Hmmm, that would be the deliberate Russian massacre of their own citizens by using lethal quantities of an incapacitory gas agent and refusing to provide the medical services with either the name of the agent or any antidote/treatment for treating the hostages, most of whom died as a result of their “rescue” by Russian “special forces”.
General Vladimir Pronichev, deputy head of the Federal Security Services (FSB), and General Alexander Tikhonov, head of the FSB special operations center, received Hero of Russia stars in January, according to an open letter written by soldiers from the special FSB unit Alfa, according to an article in the 3 March issue of Novaya Gazeta.
“Both Pronichev and Tikhonov are responsible for the fight against terrorism on Russian territory. Instead of being punished for allowing terrorists to get into downtown Moscow, they have in fact received Hero of Russia stars, taking them away from more honored men, who risked their lives for real,” the letter said.
According to the open letter, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a secret decree shortly after New Year’s Eve to award five people with Hero of Russia stars, including three FSB officials and two soldiers from the special units Alfa and Vympel.
“The fifth ‘Hero’ is the chemist who gassed the theater center. This is the person who became a savior and a killer for many hostages,” the letter continued.
The aftermath of the Beslan school massacre
Five years on, the town where Russia’s worst terrorist attack took place claiming 333 lives is still haunted by its past
Most families of the dead are angry at the authorities’ apparent unwillingness to properly investigate the terrorist attack. Five years on, they are still waiting for the prosecutors’ inquiry to reach its conclusion. It has been postponed thirty times. A lengthy parliamentary probe published three years ago was widely dismissed as a whitewash by people in Beslan, because it failed to blame the Russian government in any way.
In 2005 Nurpashi Kulayev, an unemployed carpenter from Chechnya and the only terrorist caught alive, was sentenced to life. Some of the terrorists are thought to have escaped. A court case against three local senior police officers accused of negligence ended with an amnesty without them giving evidence in public. Not a single Russian state official resigned or was sacked as a result of Russia’s worst ever terrorist attack. Instead some senior local security officers were promoted.
Secret interior ministry documents which have emerged since the siege revealed that two weeks before the attack, local security forces warned of an imminent mass hostage taking at the hands of Chechen terrorists. A subsequent urgent directive ordered for security at schools in the region to be stepped up.
Why, many families of the victims still demand to know, were both warnings ignored? Why did the Russians fail to negotiate at once with the terrorists and what concessions was the Kremlin prepared to make? “Who is to blame for the death of so many children?” said Dudiyeva of The Mothers’ Committee which on the first anniversary of the tragedy had a tense and emotional three hour meeting with president Putin – which Kesayeva refused to attend.
“We want to know what could have been done to save them. We want the truth. Putin seemed truly moved when we met him. He promised to get to the bottom of it and to punish those responsible but has done nothing. He has no honour.”
Many share Dudiyeva’s criticism of Putin, who visited Beslan only once for a few hours the night the siege ended but has never visited the memorial at the school gym.
@Putin, who visited Beslan only once for a few hours the night the siege ended but has never visited the memorial at the school gym.
He has never visited the school period. In the meantime, Putin visited the grave of Akhmad Kadyrov at least twice.
In 1995 the same Akhmad Kadyrov (then the mufti of Chechnya) publicily appealed to all Chechens to each kill 150 Russians. Later turned out he was an agent-provocateur all along, ever since he was the KGB agent codenamed “Adam” as a young Muslim cleric.