Monthly Archives: March 2010

April 2, 2010 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Chechnya, out of Control

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Remembering Putin’s Lies

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Happy B-day to LR!

(4)  EDITORIAL:  The Tsunami of Russian Corruption

(5)  The Hydra of Terrorism in Putin’s Failed State

NOTE:  A peaceful protest commemorating the victims of the subway bombings was held on Wednesday in Moscow. The Russian Gestapo responded with crude violence. Oleg Kozlovsky was there, and was arrested.

EDITORIAL: Chechnya, out of Control


Chechnya, out of Control

It was only a few weeks ago that the Russian government was arrogantly proclaiming its brilliance in killing “notorious gang leader” Said Buryatsky in Ingushetia after allegedly linking him to the November 2009 bombing of the Nevsky Express train between St. Petersburg and Moscow, an incident that left 39 Russians dead.   If the Kremlin meant to suggest that such incidents were now a thing of the past, it was very much mistaken.

Last Monday morning, just as rush hour was beginning, two Moscow subway stations were bombed, one just steps from the headquarters of the KGB on Lubianka Square.  At least three dozen Russians were killed, an eerily similar number to the Nevsky incident, and right in the heart of the capital city.  Days later, more bombs followed in Dagestan.  It was as if the Caucasus rebels were sending a clear message to Vladimir Putin himself:  “You think you’ve won? Think again.”

The BBC quoted security expert Victor Mizin, whose wife was on one of the trains attacked: “Russia opposes a very tough enemy and it comes from our North Caucasian region but still it’s an ongoing process and unfortunately the security forces are unable to quell it.”

It was soon clear that the subway attack was an act of revenge for the Kremlin’s killing several weeks earlier of Said Buryatsky, a leading mastermind of the suicide bomb and other attacks that have killed nearly 1,000 Russians since Vladimir Putin took power.  It was, in other words, entirely predictable — yet Putin did not predict it, much less protect the nation from it.

Putin’s failed policies have served only to expand revolutionary fervor throughout the Caucasus region rather than quelling it, and Putin’s failure to respond to the crisis was absolute, and even Russian commentators knew it. The BBC reported:

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EDITORIAL: Remembering Vladimir Putin and his Absurd Neo-Soviet Lies


Remembering Vladimir Putin and his Absurd Neo-Soviet Lies

In March 2000, three months after Boris Yeltsin resigned and named him acting president of Russia, Vladimir Putin was asked by the newspaper Kommersant about the possibility that KGB agents (Putin himself was one) had planted the apartment bombs that exploded in September 1999 and killed nearly 300 Russians.

Putin replied, as translated by the BBC: “There are no people in the Russian secret services who would be capable of such crime against their own people. The very allegation is immoral.”

Last month, in other words, marked the tenth anniversary of one of the most absurdly dishonest statements ever uttered in the annals of world political history.  And fittingly, yet more explosions in Moscow took yet more Russian lives, and Russians were once again forced to speculate about whether their own government might have been responsible.  This is the true horror of life in neo-Soviet Russia.

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EDITORIAL: Happy Birthday to LR!


Happy Birthday to LR!

Four years ago today, this blog was born.

We published three posts that day, April 2, 2006. One was an introduction to our blog, one was about Russia’s dismal performance at the World Figure Skating Championships that year, and one concerned the corrupt nexus between Vladimir Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.  Both substantive topics proved to be themes to which we would return many times over the next four years.  Our seminal original post came out a few days later, and addressed “the felonious fraud that is Victor Yanukovich.”

Since then, this blog has grown from total obscurity to become one of the most potent sources of information about Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship in the world. We have been visited more than 2 million times as per our public visitation counter, and received more than 40,000 comments.  We’ve created over 7,500 web pages, and they’ve been viewed nearly 4 million times.  No other Russia politics blog on this planet can make those claims.

Our contribution to the understanding of Russia cannot be disputed.

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EDITORIAL: The Tsunami of Russian Corruption


The Tsunami of Russian Corruption

Last week the Russian government released statistics showing that the number of garden-variety bribes in commerce increased by more than 10% last year compared to 2008, and the average amount of each bribe — stunningly — increased by nearly triple, from 9,000 rubles per bribe in 2008 to over 23,000 rubles per bribe last year.  Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, stated that if the authorities went after higher-ranking officials, the size of the bribes they would find “would stun both journalists and the public.”

But it wouldn’t stun La Russophobe.

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The Hydra of Terrorism in the Failed State called Putin’s Russia

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, writing in the Moscow Times:

Once again, Russia and the world were shocked by an atrocious terrorist attack, one in which at least 39 people were killed in the Moscow metro.

The country’s terrorists have made it clear that they are still as strong and capable as ever to strike at any time or place. The group’s main leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, has been warning for years that jihad will spread to all of Russia. The suicide bombers and their supporters carried out Monday’s mission with their typical professionalism and precision. The media have reported the existence of two special schools in the Caucasus for training suicide bombers, and now those graduates have brought their “skills” to practice.

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Khodorkovsky as the New Sakharov

Foreign Policy reports:

He has been stabbed, spied on, and sent to solitary confinement. His oil company assets have been seized by the state, his fortune decimated, his family fractured. And now, after nearly seven years in a Siberian prison camp and a Moscow jail cell, he is back on trial in a Russian courtroom, sitting inside a glass cage and waiting for a new verdict that could keep him in the modern Gulag for much of the rest of his life. Each day, he is on display as if in a museum exhibit, trapped for all to see inside what his son bitterly calls “the freaking aquarium.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man, the most powerful of the oligarchs who emerged in the post-Soviet rush of crony capitalism, and the master of 2 percent of the world’s oil production. Now he is the most prominent prisoner in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a symbol of the perils of challenging the Kremlin and the author of a regular barrage of fiery epistles about the sorry state of society from his cramped cell. In a country where the public space is a political wasteland, his case and his letters from prison evoke a different age.

“No doubt,” he wrote us from inside the glass cage, “in modern Russia any person who is not a politician but acts against the government’s policies and for ordinary, universally recognized human rights is a dissident.”

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March 31, 2010 — Contents

Two victims of the Monday terrorist bombing of the Moscow subway, courtesy of the Moscow Times and the brilliant Chechnya policy of Vladimir Putin


(1)  EDITORIAL:  The end of the Russian Internet

(2)  EDITORIAL: Unwanted “Russians” head “Home”

(3)  EDITORIAL:  A Tale of Two Russian Oligarchs

(4)  Won’t you Help Russians get some Toilet Paper?

(5)  Bloggers Document Russian electoral Fraud

NOTE:  Another major attack on Russian civilians by the Caucasus rebels has occurred in Moscow, with two separate subway stations bombed and three dozen dead.  So much for Putin’s policies!  Over on Pajamas Media, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld has the rundown.  Countries that send their athletes to Sochi in 2014 in the wake of this madness are guilty of homicide if and when those athletes are caught up in similar violence, pure and simple.  Of special note is that this column is Kim’s 50th installment at Pajamas. Congrats, KZ!

EDITORIAL: The End of the Russian Internet


The End of the Russian Internet

The Russian wire service RBK Daily broke a rather sensational story last week:  The Putin regime is going into the search engine business.  Foreign Policy’s Evgeny Morozov writes that Kremlin functionary Igor Ashmanov declared on Echo of Moscow radio that since Google is nothing more than a pawn of the U.S. government, there is no reason why the Kremlin should not have its own.  Morozov continues:

According to RBK’s anonymous sources inside Kremlin, it would aim at satisfying “state-oriented” needs such as “facilitating access to safe information” and “filtering web-sites that feature banned content.” It’s going to be an ambitious project: the government is prepared to invest $100 million in this new venture, does not want to allow any foreign funding, and intends to build it in cooperation with the private sector.

So much for the notion that the Russian Kremlin cannot affect control over the Russian Internet and/or has no intention of doing so. Once the Kremlin has it’s own search engine in place, it can simply remove all the others from the net.

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EDITORIAL: Unwanted “Russians” head “Home”


Unwanted “Russians” head “Home”

A recent piece from Transitions Online highlights how hundreds of thousands of citizens of Kyrgyzstan who are ethnic “Russians” have fled to Russia since the collapse of the USSR.  It documents the complaints of locals about being ignored and neglected by the government of Russia and hated by the native people of Kyrgyzstan.  It documents a demographic nightmare.

But for this flow of unwanted Russians from abroad, the Russian population would already be in freefall since fare more Russians perish each year than are born due to the endless litany of horrific dangers, from murder to smoking, that plague Russia life expectancy, which does not rank in the top 130 nations of the world.

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EDITORIAL: A Tale of Two Russian Oligarchs


A Tale of Two Russian Oligarchs

Recently the world learned that Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev would purchase the British newspaper The Independent and that his colleague and Mikhail Prokhorov, who is purchasing the New Jersey Nets basketball team, would be featured on the leading American news program 60 Minutes.

So the question arises, of course:  Are these new-and-improved Khodorkovskian oligarchs, who are building power bases abroad they can use to to challenge the corrupt KGB regime of Vladimir Putin, or are they Putin’s agents, infiltrating our society as a way of bolstering Putin’s power?  Lebedev, who also owns the mighty Novaya Gazeta, is a KGB spy just like Putin.

Our answer is simple:  It just doesn’t matter.

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Russians desperate for Toilet Paper: Won’t you help?

Paul Goble reports:

In the latest test of the old notion that those in power can survive almost anything except being laughed at, environmental activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg plan to collect toilet paper for Vladimir Putin since he apparently feels Russia has too little of it and is prepared to allow Lake Baikal to be contaminated in order to produce more.

On March 27th “For Baikal,” a coalition of Russian public organizations that seek to defend that environmental wonder from being contaminated by the restarting of the Baikalsk paper mill on its shores, staged demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg to call attention to this issue.

The demands the group raised were not new. They seek to prevent the Baikalsk plant from sending waste products into Lake Baikal, to find alternative jobs for any workers displaced if the plant is closed permanently, and to prevent the burial of nuclear wastes in the region under the terms of a plan approved by Putin earlier this year. But in order to attract attention to their demands, organizers are calling on all those who will take back to bring not only “a good attitude” and posters or banners in defense of Lake Baikal but also “a roll of toilet paper” because Putin and his regime have suggested that the Baikalsk plant must be allowed to operate because Russia lacks enough of that essential product.

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Documenting the Russian Kremlin’s Blatant Electoral Fraud

Global Voices reports:

In 76 regions of Russia people went to voting stations on March 14 to cast their votes for local mayors and regional legislature representatives. The ruling party “United Russia” has won in most of those elections. However, the victory of the party in power wasn’t absolute: in Irkutsk people preferred opposition candidate Viktor Kondrashov but this was the only case. Despite the increasing wave of protests (like in Irkutsk [RUS] itself,Kaliningrad, Moscow and others), “United Russia” managed to keep its dominance in all Russian regional legislatures as well as city administration offices.

One of the secrets of such “political stability” (besides state-controlled mass media) is a range of alleged numerous fraud techniques used both by party members and public officials during the elections. These elections were the first to show the power of Web 2.0. in uncovering them. Bloggers gathered evidence of fraud with their cell phone cameras and published them online.

Particularly members of the election observer association “Golos”[EN] (”A Voice”) were quite active in promoting election transparency and exposing fraud. The association installed a fraud hotline website “” where everyone could post a fraud report. So far, 561 fraud cases have been noted.

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March 29, 2010 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Russia, for Sale

(2)  EDITORIAL:  That’s Right, Russians, Study up!

(3)  Obama is the New Bush on Russia

(4)  Putin’s Assault on Russian Ecology

(5)  The Anti-Putin Petition in English

EDITORIAL: Russia, for Sale


Russia, for Sale

Last week, the U.S. government filed a lawsuit against Daimler Corporation, accusing it of paying more than $4 million in bribes to high-ranking Russian government officials in order to win preferences for its vehicles in Russian government contracts.  The Company is subject to U.S. laws because its shares are traded on the U.S. exchanges.  It’s reported that Daimler has already confessed its guilt and agreed to pay nearly $200 million in fines.

It’s hard to know what aspect of this pathetic, outrageous, humiliating disaster is the most pernicious for Russia.

Is it the fact that Russia can’t make enough quality vehicles to satisfy the Russian government’s needs?

Is it instead the fact that it was the U.S. government, not the Russian, which rooted out this horrifying graft?

Or could it be the mere fact that the Russian government is so riddled with corruption from top to bottom that it isn’t even surprising to learn that high-ranking officials accept millions in bribes to buy cars from foreign countries?

Any way you look at it, the spectacle of this corruption and its permutations means only one thing for Russia: Absolute doom.

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EDITORIAL: That’s right Russians, Study up!


That’s right Russians, Study up!

The Chinese newswires were burning last week with news that a Chinese language-learning craze has begun to sweep over Russia.

That’s right, Russians, study up hard and fast.

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Obama is the New Bush on Russia

Writing on Foreign Policy: Jamie M. Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Gary Schmitt, director of the Program on Advanced Strategic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, say that Barack Obama is acting just like George Bush where Russia is concerned.

Still in the midst of a diplomatic fracas with Israel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also found herself in a mini-crisis with Russia during last week’s Moscow trip. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly snubbed Clinton during a meeting Friday, hectoring her in front of reporters after announcing Thursday that Russia would bring the nuclear reactor it is constructing in Iran online later this year. This comes just as Washington is hoping to tighten the screws on Tehran over its illicit nuclear program.

Putin’s treatment of Clinton raises doubts about the Barack Obama administration’s strategy toward Russia, which has focused on building up the supposedly moderate President Dmitri Medvedev, reportedly one of the few foreign leaders Obama has bonded with, as a counterweight to Putin.

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Putin’s Assault on the Russian Ecology

Paul Goble reports:

In the name of economic development and in pursuit of profit, Vladimir Putin, both as president and now as prime minister, has systematically dismantled Moscow’s earlier and limited environmental protection arrangements, a campaign that not only threatens various eco-systems there but also is driving down Russian life expectancies.

In an interview posted online, Aleksey Yablokov, an advisor to the Russian Academy of Sciences and president of the Green Russia Fraction, argues that countries like Japan which have cleaned up the environment have seen their life expectancies rise while those like Russia which have despoiled have seen just the opposite effect.

And he places the blame for Russia’s retreat on this front squarely on Vladimir Putin, who operating on the assumption that the country cannot afford environmental protection yet and pursuing profit above all else has destroyed even the limited environmental protection arrangements set up in Soviet times.

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Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Vladimir Putin has got to GO!

Putin Must Go

The Anti-Putin Online Petition

Translated from the Russian by The Power Vertical

Citizens of Russia! The recognition that the ruling elite has led our country into a historical dead end has prompted us to issue this statement.

The transfer of virtually unlimited power by the [Yeltsin-era] Family, which was trying to guarantee its own security, to a man of dubious reputation who was distinguished neither by talent nor by the requisite life or professional experience has resulted predictably in the serious degradation of all institutions of state governance.

Even a significant portion of the ruling “elite” feels that a change is necessary, as attested by the loud reaction to [President Dmitry Medvedev’s] opus “Forward, Russia!” But Medvedev’s modernization project bears a distinctly artificial character and is aimed at a single goal – to redo the decorations while maintaining the nature of an authoritatian-kleptocratic regime.

We state that the sociopolitical construction that is killing Russia and has now bound the citizens of our country has one architect, one custodian, and one guardian. His name is Vladimir Putin.

We declare that no essential reforms can be carried out in Russia today as long as Putin controls real power in the country.

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March 26, 2010 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  Solidarity or Solitarity?

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Georgia gives Russia a Pounding

(3)  Putin’s war on Ukrainian Culture

(4)  Russian Barbarism at Baikal

(5)  Russians to Anna Karenina:  Drop Dead!

NOTE:  LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment on the Pajamas Media website expresses our outrage over Barack Obama’s decision to allow American soliders to march on Red Square before dictator Vladimir Putin.  We were afraid Obama was pond scum, and we were right.

EDITORIAL: Solidarity or Solitarity?


Solidarity or Solitarity?

As reports in the Moscow Times and New York Times regarding the effort to hold a national “Day of Rage” in protest against the malignancy known as Vladimir Putin made clear, the efforts “fizzled” and “fell short” even by the rather pathetic standards of civil society in Russia.  Chatting with us on Twitter, opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky explained that there were three reasons for the failure:   apathy, fear and ignorance.  Undoubtedly, though he’s too polite to say so, he meant these terms to apply as much to the benighted leadership of the “Solidarity” opposition movement as to those it calls to action, the people of Russia.

Perhaps the movement would be better named “Solitarity.”

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EDITORIAL: Georgia gives Russia a Pounding


Georgia gives Russia a Pounding

Last weekend, the national rugby team of Georgia gave its Russian counterparts a brutal thrashing and claimed the European Nations Championship.  Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili decorated the Georgian squad as national heroes.

We’re hard-pressed to decide which reminder triggered by the Georgian triumph was the more ghastly and humiliating for Russia, that of its shocking recent collapse at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, or that of its even more bitter failure to oust Saakashvili from power two years earlier, when world leaders stunned the Kremlin by rushing to Georgia’s side and universally refusing to recognize its annexation of Georgian territory.

But we find it even more perplexing to try to discern how the sheep-like denizens of Russia can ignore so blithely all this rancid public failure by their government.

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Russian Barbarism at Baikal

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

At a pompous meeting of the board of regents of the Russian Geographic Society held on March 15, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his January decision to permit the reopening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mills. In his words, Baikal’s problems should be resolved by the state and “without a lot of noise.” But if we ignore Putin’s advice and examine this question thoroughly from all sides, it becomes clear that Putin’s decision was completely incompetent.

The main argument for reopening the plant has been the desire to save jobs in Baikalsk, a small single-industry town built around the mill. But since 1966, when the mill first opened, it has been the main polluter of Lake Baikal. The mill sends about 5 tons of harmful emissions into the atmosphere annually, polluting up to 400 square kilometers of territory around Baikalsk, and builds up millions of tons of dangerous solid wastes along the shores of the lake.

There was a time when the plant was crucial to the town’s economy, employing 2,200 of the town’s 14,000 inhabitants. But the situation has fundamentally changed now. To restart the mills, 1,450 workers have been re-employed. What’s more, the local unemployment office listed only 700 people out of work in late January, and that number had decreased throughout last year at a time when the plant was not working.

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Putin’s War on Ukrainian Culture

Paul Goble reports:

Even as the Russian government proclaims “a new era” in relations with Kyiv thanks to the election of “pro-Russian” Viktor Yanukovich and even as the new Ukrainian president announces plans to build a bridge linking Crimea and Kuban, Moscow is seeking to suppress the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians in Russia. These various actions may seem contradictory to some, but in fact, they reflect a deeper and longstanding set of Russian attitudes, one that many in the West are loathe to admit or even share: the current Russian leadership and those in neighboring countries it can put pressure on do not view Ukrainians as a separate nation worthy of a separate state.

After the Soviet Union came apart, there were 11.4 million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, something Moscow worked hard to ensure that the entire world knew and that the Russian government insisted the international community demand that Russian-language schools there be kept open. But at the same time, few people paid much attention to the equally important reality that there were three to five million ethnic Ukrainians living in the Russian Federation, for whom there were no Ukrainian-language schools or other native-language institutions and who even faced loss of work in the early 1990s if they sought to acquire Ukrainian citizenship.

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Russians to Anna Karenina: Drop Dead!

It’s come to this:  Americans are more accepting of Anna Karenina than Russians!  So much for the arrogant, insane Russian propaganda that its people are more appreciative of culture and literature than Americans!  The Moscow Times reports:

One of the country’s most famous directors has filmed a Leo Tolstoy classic, but more than a year after the premiere of Sergei Solovyov’s much-praised “Anna Karenina,” the movie has not gone on release in Russia.

Solovyov had long wanted to film “Anna Karenina,” a subject that has fascinated film directors for almost a century. He had to overcome financial problems and more than a decade of trials to complete the film. Tatyana Drubich has the title role, with legendary actor Oleg Yankovsky in his last film playing the cuckolded husband and Yaroslav Boiko as Count Vronsky, Karenina’s lover.

“Everywhere in Russia and in the West where I showed ‘Anna Karenina,’ the feedback was great!” Solovyov said in a telephone interview. “Every time I show it, people sit on stairs, lie on the stage … Tribeca, one of the biggest New York cinemas, was chock-full, and this was on Friday night!”

But even though there are deals in the offing for the film to be shown all over the West, local distributors have been reluctant to take on a film that, they say, will not appeal to the young Russians who make up the majority of the cinema-going audience.

“They all think ‘Karenina’s’ audience is rather narrow and specific and the typical sort of moviegoers up to age 25 … are not interested in such a movie,” said the film’s producer, Oleg Urushev. Distributors told him that “Karenina is not a rating-boosting character. That’s the problem,” he said.

“They say Tolstoy is not a rating-boosting character, and this is very stupid,” Solovyov said.

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