Vladimir Putin and his Crimes

Paul Goble reports:

The nature of the current Russian political system was shown by the response of the central government to the demonstrations in Kaliningrad, a Moscow commentator says. The powers that be at the center responded not when regional officials acted within the law but when they failed to violate it to suppress an anti-government demonstration.

In an article in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Vladimir Nadein, who explicitly says that he does not like Putin, that the prime minister has done “enormous harm” to Russia, and that he should be removed tried for his crimes, argues that Moscow’s reaction to the events in Kaliningrad is itself an indictment of Putin’s system. “When people in Kaliningrad came out with signs reading ‘Down with Putin!’” he writes, “this was entirely legal. When the police there, unlike in Moscow, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, and Rostov, did not tear the placards out of the hands of the peaceful demonstrators and did not beat them with truncheons, this also corresponded to the letter and the spirit of the law.”

In normal countries, Nadein continued, the behavior of the police in Kaliningrad would not strike anyone as out of the ordinary. But in Russia, immediately after the demonstration, the central powers that be sent a high-powered commission, something Moscow had never done in other locations when the police violated the rights of citizens. Consequently, however Moscow PR specialists try to present this decision, only one conclusion is possible, the “Yezhednevny zhurnal” commentator says, and it is a truly disturbing one: “It is not the violation of the Constitution but its observance that elicits panic among [Russia’s] powers that be.”

That is just one of the aspects of the nature of the Russian political system as it has emerged under Putin that should be a matter of concern, Nadein continues. He points out that the powers that be in Moscow are more likely to be panicked by someone who tells the truth than someone who tells a lie. All kinds of regional officials in Russia have told Moscow what it wants to hear in the hopes of preferment or at least survival, but when one told the truth – and “a truth which the whole world knew even without his comments – the central powers that be flew into a rage and began plotting his removal. That happened, Nadein says, when Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov pointed out, “there is no federalism in the Russian Federation,” that Moscow makes all the decisions and takes all the money, and that the situation today in that regard is “much worse than it was even in the times of the despotic Soviet Union.”

The Moscow commentator points out that the current powers that be in Moscow are not put off by hypocrisy as witness their positive reaction to Duma Speaker Sergey Mironov’s attempt to present his party as independent of the regime or by the misuse of statistics, as in Putin’s taking credit for demographic events that happened before his actions. That gaps exist between what the Moscow powers that be say and what they do is no surprise: such gaps can be found in almost all governments almost all the time. But when these gaps become so large and, what is more, as obvious as they have become in the Russian Federation, that creates a crisis of governance.  The powers that be may be able to continue for some time because of inertia or through the use of massive force – that was how Stalin managed to declare the “most democratic constitution in the world” at the same time he was launching the Great Terror – but at some point the gap between official declarations and official actions has to be reduced.

In Stalin’s case, that happened after the German invasion of the Soviet Union when the Communist dictator was able to present himself as the organizer of the defense of the country. But Nadein’s analysis does not suggest any similar cataclysm that might allow the regime to regain legitimacy so easily in the near term. Consequently, actions like those in Kaliningrad and even more the response of Moscow to them seem likely to corrode still further the ties between the population of the Russian Federation and its rulers, a trend that neither side of that equation can find comfortable and that each is certain to be thinking about how to change.

12 responses to “Vladimir Putin and his Crimes

  1. Ten years after the killing of scores of civilians in a suburb of the Chechen capital Grozny, the relatives of those murdered are still denied justice by the Russian authorities.


    Throughout a decade, Russia has failed to hold anyone accountable, despite evidence connecting the crime to members of OMON, the Russian special police.

    “When we were finally able to collect the bodies after two days, we could not close the eyes of the dead. It was winter and we had to pour warm water over their eyes to be able to close them,” Elvira Dombaeva, a survivor of the killings, told Amnesty International.

    In the months after the killings, Chechen human rights activists and prosecutors collected reliable information identifying the troops responsible for the crime. In 2006, the Russian government confirmed that a “special operation” was conducted in the village on 5 February 2000 by a unit of OMON and that more than 50 people had been killed in Novye Aldy on 5 February 2000.

    Yet according to the information available to Amnesty International, the authorities have made no serious attempt to identify or punish those who participated in the killing. Meanwhile, prosecutors who have tried to investigate the case have faced obstruction.

    “The case of Novye Aldy illustrates the ineffectiveness of the Russian judicial system as well as the lack of political will of the Russian authorities to conduct an investigation and to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.

    In July 2007, the European Court of Human Rights found violations of the right to life and the prohibiton of torture and other ill-treatment by Russia responsible for the death of 13 residents of Novye Aldy, whose relatives had filed a complaint with the Court after failing to obtain justice in Russia. Yet still, no one has been brought to justice.

    Amnesty International has called on the Russian authorities to provide justice for the victims of the Novye Aldy killings. Only by identifying, arresting and prosecuting those responsible can the authorities demonstrate their respect for the right to life and respect for the law.

  2. (OK, I guess it works now.)

    • I am happy for you.

      • I am happy for you too.

        Novye Aldy Petition


        A group of Russian non-governmental organizations working in collaboration with the St Petersburg branch of the Yabloko political party has started an online petition addressed to Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and Chechnya’s Prosecutor Mikhail Savchin in connection with the tenth anniversary of the massacre at the Chechen village of Novye Aldy on February 5, 2000, widely believed to have been carried out by servicemen from the St Petersburg OMON security police.

        In their open letter the authors of the petition draw attention to the fact that although in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Russia guilty of serious human rights violations and awarded damages to relatives of some of the people who were killed at Novye Aldy, the Russian authorities’ investigation into the massacre appears to have stalled, and no one has yet been found accountable for the killing of 82 civilians. The organizers call on the prosecutors to clarify the present status of the Russian investigation.

  3. Sergey Shelukhin

    I wonder how does the auther envisions the toppling of the regime… Putin himself s actually nothing, a mushroom growing out of substrate of much more powerful force he represents (he even looks like one, somewhat). The system he represents survived and recovered even after the much more climatic fall of Soviet union. It seems to me that something really large scale should happen to Russia for this system to disappear – welcome to 1984 :) After all, much worse (and poorer and weaker internationally) regimes like NK or Iran have endured for decades, so you’d have to wait for really long time before it falls.

    • As a former Soviet republic, Russia shares many similarities with Ukraine and other CIS countries. Ukraine had a democratic revolution, without apocalyptic effects. It simply happened because Ukraine was exposed to European values and ways of living. In time, all East Europeans start to imitate Westerners.

      This is happening in Russia too. Unfortunately, due to geographic isolation and the twists of history, Europeization of Russia is going slower than in her western neighbours. But, it is still going on, and this process is unstoppable. Sooner or later, Russia will succumb.

      And the comparison with Iran and North Korea is not the best one, because the people of these countries had very little contact (through media or otherwise) with the outside world when compared to Russians, and the difference between their cultures and Western cultures is much greater than the difference between Russian and Western culture. This is at least my opinion.

    • You never know Sergey. The U.S.S.R. collapsed very suddenly, if you are old enough to remember. Right before that event, it looked shaky but not more than that. It appeared it could continue its existence for a long time to come. And yet, we all know what happened.

      In my lifetime, there have happened quite a few things that nobody had thought could happen, such as the fall of Communism, the unification of Germany or the election of a black man as President of the United States.

      So, nothing surprises me anymore, and even though I agree that the collapse of Russia seems unlikely now, nobody really knows. One more oil price wild ride, and everything is possible

  4. Sergey,
    Nothing large scale will ever happen in Russia to make the system collapse – the slow process of rotting away from within is happening for a long time now. You haven’t noticed anything????

  5. The film we present below is dedicated to the massacre in the village of Novye Aldy on February 5, 2000. This incident was one of the most terrible and bloody pages of the war in Chechnya.


    A film about the events of February 5, 2000 in the village of Novye Aldy, Chechnya, where OMON security police from St. Petersburg, Russia, carried out a “mop-up” operation. Residents of the village say that after the raid they buried 82 corpses, and the Memorial human rights centre later documented the killing of at least 56 people. No insurgents were among those who were shot – all were civilians: old people, women and children. The operation at Novye Aldy was one of the bloodiest in the history of the Second Chechen War.

    The film is based on documentary video footage taken by residents of Novye Aldy on February 9, 2000, and on interviews with eyewitnesses of the events recorded in January-February 2009 by members of the Memorial Human Rights Centre at the request of the film’s directors.

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  7. ste ten naj clovek v tomto svete vydrste a budte znova prezident rusie ste naj neverte tym co kazu inak rusia bola a bude ako aj slovak bratom bude

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