Russia and its Bandits
Our hearts skipped a beat last week last week when we read reports indicating that Russian “president” Dima Medvedev had declared his intention to “eliminate the bandits” who were plaguing his country.
At last, we thought! Finally Russia’s so-called leader has seen the light and is going to arrest proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin and his gang of thugs who have been robbing the nation blind for years. And that’s to say nothing of the murders.
Dima “Slimeball” Trenin
Dmitri "Just call me Slimeball" Trenin
It’s that time again, dear reader, to catch up with the neo-Soviet misadventures of our little friend Dima “Just call me Slimeball” Trenin.
When last we met Mr. Trenin, of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, darling of Kremlin-owned propaganda outlets Russia Today and Russia Profile, he was being spit upon by the heroic Andrei Piotkovsky as Trenin hosted a cocktail party to tout his propaganda tract “Getting Russia Right” whilst Piontkovsky faced criminal charges for criticizing the Kremlin in Moscow. We blasted Trenin’s blind nationalism in the very earliest days of this blog’s history, but nothing prepared us for what we found in the Moscow Times from this reptilian’s pen last week.
Somewhere, Andrew Carnegie is rolling over in his grave and screaming.
Leila Pliyeva holding photos of her son Alikshan Pliyev
The Washington Post reports:
Aliskhan Pliyev was talking on his cell phone with his girlfriend one autumn afternoon when two dozen masked men in uniforms stormed into his family’s house, grabbed him and began to hustle him away.
The 30-year-old construction worker’s three sisters screamed, demanding to know where the intruders were taking him. “None of your business!” a man in a black mask shouted, before Pliyev was driven off in a convoy of cars and vans escorted by an armored personnel carrier. He hasn’t been seen since.
Officials here in the Russian region of Ingushetia say they don’t know anything about Pliyev’s abduction, one of scores in recent months that have caused fresh outrage and grief in a region already scarred by over 15 years of fighting.
But the young man’s kidnapping in the outskirts of Ingushetia’s largest city bears the hallmarks of what rights activists call Russia’s “policy of state terror,” a shadow war against violent Muslim separatists in the North Caucasus, a strategic crossroads of Europe and Asia.
A central tactic in the war, activists say, is forced disappearances – the brazen snatching of young people from their homes or off the street, often by gangs of masked men who move freely, even in areas heavily patrolled by Russian military and police. The pace of forced disappearances has doubled in the past year, following a spike in militant attacks on police and authorities, including suicide bombings, ambushes and assassinations.
What follows are two articles from the Western press documenting, each in its own way, the rise of the neo-Soviet Gulag prison system, where anyone the Kremlin doesn’t care for can be tortured into oblivion.
First, Russia reporter Amy Knight, writing in the New York Review of Books online:
The horrors of Soviet prisons and labor camps were described vividly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, Yevgenia Ginzburg’s Into the Whirlwind, and later, by the Soviet dissident and former political prisoner Anatoly Marchenko, in his 1969 memoir, My Testimony. To judge from a disturbing new report about the tragic death of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in late November, Russia’s current penal system is almost as bad as it used to be.
As was the case under Stalin and his successors, the treatment of prisoners reflects the deeper problems of a politicized law enforcement system that routinely disregards human rights. Now, the Magnitsky case seems to have persuaded Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to begin to address these problems—though his powerful Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has a vested interest in preserving the status quo.
An editorial from the Washington Post highlights how utterly alone and friendless Vladimir Putin’s Russia has become in former Soviet space:
IF IT’S JANUARY, it seems, Russia must be involved in a politically motivated dispute over energy supplies with one of its neighbors. This time it’s Belarus, the former Soviet republic that used to be called Europe’s last dictatorship, until Russia itself headed back in that direction. Strongman Alexander Lukashenko still rules in Minsk, but in the past couple of years he’s taken several steps toward shaking off the tutelage he once accepted from Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. At the urging of Western governments, Belarus released a few political prisoners and in turn was allowed to join the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program. Mr. Lukashenko has also embarrassed Mr. Putin by refusing to recognize the two puppet states that Moscow is backing in Georgia.
No wonder, then, that as this winter gets cold Mr. Putin has singled out Belarus for punishment. On Jan. 1Russia cut off part of its supplies of oil to the country, once again raising alarms in Western Europe, which receives large quantities of Russian oil through a pipeline that transits Belarus. The supplies resumed after a couple of days, but Mr. Putin continues to insist that Belarus accept a new supply deal that could cost it as much as $5 billion, or about 10 percent of its gross domestic product.