WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 30 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: The Kremlin hides in Plain Sight
(2) EDITORIAL: Annals of Russian “Cuisine”
(3) The Same old KGB
(4) Yabloko throws in the Towel
(5) Russian Cyber Gangs on the Rampage
NOTE: If you have a Facebook account, consider joining the new group “Russia without Putin,” which is dedicated to organizing both Russians and foreigners in the battle for Russia’s soul. Click here to join.
NOTE: LR wishes all contributors and readers a prosperous and healthy New Year!
The Russian Kremlin Hides in Plain Sight
Proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin must be given credit for making two signficant innovations in neo-Soviet Russia as he seeks to recreate the Soviet dictatorship and empire but without its former vulnerabilities.
First, where the USSR saw an enemy in the Orthodox Church, Putin sees only a friend. Installing a fellow proud KGB spy as primate, Putin realized he could use the church as a weapon against dissent, invoking the power of the divinity in much the same way that the institution of the Tsar used to do.
And second, where the USSR saw only risks in the publication of bad news, Putin sees opportunity for further repression. Thus, far from enforcing a total crackdown on news about the brutal killing of Sergei Magnitsky while behind bars in the Kremlin’s custody, Putin actually encouraged both the media and his sidekick Dima Medvedev to spout off about the event.
Putin gains two clear advantages from this coverage.
Annals of Russian “Cuisine”
Several times already (click the “cuisine” category in our sidebar to see them) we’ve exposed the pathetic charade that is Russian cuisine, a perfect representation of the country itself in that is embodies unreformed yuckiness whilst the benighted population thinks it grand.
But even still, the comments about the latest Russian restaurant to open in America’s eating capital, New York City, in the New York Times by the nation’s leading restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, bear noting:
Paul Goble reports:
The central apparatus of the Russian security services has been subject to numerous reforms since 1991, but the FSB “provincial empire” is little changed from Soviet times, when the KGB and its predecessors sought to impose “total control over the population through repression,” according to a leading Russian specialist.
In an article in Yezhednevny Zhurnal Andrey Soldatov, the head of Agentura.ru which tracks the activities of the security services, says that this lack of change in the regions “not only defines the spirit of the FSB” but creates serious problems for the Russian powers that be. Soldatov notes that the provincial offices of the FSB seldom attract much attention, except on two occasions: when officers are involved in the struggle with terrorism or on Chekist day when these bodies make their “traditional annual reports” that often cross the border of “absurdity.”
Oleg Kozlovsky, whose wife has just delivered his first child (congratulations, m0lodets!) writing on the Huffington Post:
Yabloko, which had claimed to be the last registered democratic party in Russia, has officially broke up with the opposition. Its convention adopted a resolution last week that bans Yabloko’s members from participating in any opposition organizations, movements or coalitions.
Kremlin’s most hated “troublemakers” like The Other Russia and Solidarnost are explicitly mentioned in the resolution. Those who don’t leave these organizations within three months will be automatically expelled from the party, regardless if they hold high posts.
Flashback, early 2008: Citibank officials are witnessing a huge spike in fraudulent withdrawals from New York area ATMs — $180,000 is stolen from cash machines on the Upper East Side in just three days. After a stakeout, police arrest one man walking out of a bank with thousands of dollars in cash and 12 reprogrammed cards. A lucky traffic stop catches two more plunderers who’d driven in from Michigan. Another pair are arrested after trying to mug an undercover FBI agent on the street for a magstripe encoder. In the end, there are 10 arrests and at least $2 million dollars stolen.
The wellspring of the dramatic megaheist turns out to be more prosaic than imagined: It started with a breach of the public website of America’s most famous convenience store chain: 7-Eleven.com.