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.
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.
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.
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.
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 “88003333350.ru” where everyone could post a fraud report. So far, 561 fraud cases have been noted.