EDITORIAL: The Legalization of the Neo-Soviet State

EDITORIAL

The Legalization of the Neo-Soviet State

We have grown genuinely weary of reporting, week after week, a somber new low in the history of the neo-Soviet KGB state of Vladimir Putin known as Russia.  Each time we do so, cynics though we may be, we find it hard to imagine how Russia could sink any deeper into the mire of failure and self-destruction. But once again, Russia has surprised us.

And, no, we’re not talking about the revelation that a hoard of Russian soliders stole credit cards off the corpses of dead Polish government officials following the Smolensk air disaster.  That display of Russia patriotism was truly horrific, but this week it didn’t qualify for top billing.

The day we have been predicting for some time here on this blog has now arrived, even more quickly than we imagined:  Vladimir Putin is moving rapidly to legalize and formalize the neo-Soviet state he has been building in Russia for more than a decade.

Putin’s newest legislative initiative restores powers to Russia’s organs of power that are identical to what was wielded by the KGB in Soviet times.  The national police will be permitted to arrest anyone and hold them for weeks without charges, interrogating them in secret without access to legal counsel, families or colleagues.  Putin, in other words, is legalizing torture.

What’s more, the new measures, flouting the very notion of constitutional rights or rule of law, are fully applicable to journalists. Any journalist writing anything the Kremlin doesn’t like will be subject to arrest without charge and interrogation for days on end for the purpose of intimidation.

The Putin Kremlin is abolishing dissent, just as was the case in Soviet times.  Under the guise of battling “extremism,” Putin is embarking upon the final crackdown on Russian civil society.  Ironically, even as Putin mumbles about “extremism,” he ignores it.  Alexander Verkhovsky of the SOVA Centre states:

“Some Neo-Nazi groups, they sent us death threats by email or by phone.  Some even came to my house. They even sent me a video.  It explained that I am an enemy of the Russian people, that I support terrorists.  My house was exposed, my address, my photo. Officially, I was never called to the police station.  They never called me on the phone. They are not interested in this type of investigation and really are not involved.”

The Putin regime doesn’t have any problem, in other words, with extremism as long as it is targeted at those the regime itself wishes to destroy.  If extremists target critics of the Kremlin, the Putin mafia has no problem turning a blind eye, or even giving a helping hand (as certainly was the case with Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya).  But let anyone open her or his mouth to point out the Kremlin’s flaws, and immediately that person is branded a “traitor” and an “extremist” and packed off to a Siberian prison, just like in Soviet and Tsarist times.

It’s genuinely sad that the people of Russia maintain such apelike, barbaric ignorance that they cannot realize how this policy blinds Russia to reality, prevents it from innovating and developing, compels it to languish in a backwater of civilization with an average life expectency that does not rank in the top 100 nations of the world.

20 responses to “EDITORIAL: The Legalization of the Neo-Soviet State

  1. Actually, this was “Russian patriotic”.They stole only from the dead “enemies of Russia”, after all. As opposed to their usual looting of the “Russian citiziens”.

    Russian servicemen admit to looting plane crash site

    http://www.mn.ru/russia/20100608/187865817.html

    Head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee Kirill Kabanov says the incident showcases the disintegration of the Russian army, and the Russian society as a whole, and notes that looting by the military is nothing new.

    “Looting has been around for a long time. We saw this in the early 90’s and we saw it in Chechnya,” said Kabanov.

    Kabanov doubts that we will see a public apology from top Russian officials – “We have no history of doing that,” he explained. Ideally, said Kabanov, the entire chain of command should resign to make amends.

    • Ironically, Andrzej Przewoznik (from whose corpse they stole his credit card) was the Secretary of the Polish government’s Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites.

  2. Civilian scavengers were also looting at the crash site. Very openly – they were even later seen offering to sell “souvenirs” to the visiting Poles. Russians also ignored the Polish requests to secure the site (of course, in Russia this would mean to just post some looters in uniform).

    http://www.newpolandexpress.pl/polish_news_story-2006-outrage_at_smolensk_scavangers.php

    The country was rocked this week by the news that less than a month after the tragic air disaster at Smolensk, people are making their way up to the site in order to scavenge around and find personal belongings once owned by the victims of the crash.

    As ordinary citizens make their way up to the swamp ground to pray and pay their last respects to those who died in the airplane accident, many are taking the opportunity to stage their own personal ‘treasure hunt’, hoping to take away their own personal souvenirs from the crash that has caused deep shock amongst the nation.

    While there have been calls from the Polish government to secure the area, it seems that little has been done by the Russian side to uphold the requests.

    “As we arrived, there were already a line of parked cars on the road ahead of us,” says Mrs Wieslaw, who went to visit the site. “Not only that, but Polish trucks and several cars with Russian number plates too.”

    And it appears that for those wishing to make a bit of an effort, the searching around in the mud and dirt has already paid off dividends.

    Amongst some of the items that have been reported to have been found is a 36th Special Air Transport emblem from one of the onboard seats, fragments of the aircraft and other assorted cables and wires.

    According to one searcher, Rafal Dzieciolowskiego, a member of his group was able to track down the passport belonging to Gabriela Zych, the Chairman of the Kalisz Katyn Families Association.

    “We had to clean up the document first as it was covered in dirt, but it was still completely intact,” he says.

    “But the worst thing we came across was a large piece of flesh,” continues Dzieciolowskiego. “It was slightly bigger than a human hand and caked in mud. It was monstrous and the smell left us with little doubt as to what we had found. The only thing to do was move to a dry patch of ground and bury it with dignity.”

    While there have not yet been reports of people profiting from goods and items found at the site via the black market, one group told of how they were approached by a Russian man who was willing to pay for what they had found.

    “On one occasion, we were approached by a Russian man offering us as much as PLN 500 for a piece of the plane, however we had already decided that we were not looking to profit from the trip and refused to discuss this matter with him.”

  3. I wonder how they used that ATM in Smolensk. I am surprised they even have an ATM in Smolensk. But to make a cash withdrawal, doesn’t one need a PIN? And the one who knew the PIN was dead.

    Taking into account the level of corruption, I bet there was a collusion with the manager of that “bank” where the ATM was located; probably a kickback was involved

  4. There are still people who can think for themselves, I am happy to know. Watch this video

    And they can sing too. This video is rather long (about 35 min), in Russian with English subtitles and it is definitely worth watching. People are waking up. It is about time.

  5. Francis Smyth-Beresford

    “Putin’s newest legislative initiative restores powers to Russia’s organs of power that are identical to what was wielded by the KGB in Soviet times. The national police will be permitted to arrest anyone and hold them for weeks without charges, interrogating them in secret without access to legal counsel, families or colleagues. Putin, in other words, is legalizing torture.”

    How is this a negative? I’m surprised you didn’t spin it a bit more positively, considering that – if true – Putin is only catching up to more progressive nations like the United States.

    Although the world was shocked by the extraordinary powers Bush claimed in the name of fighting terrorism,

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/09/AR2005090900772.html

    supposed “Liberal Bambi” Barack Obama has done little to walk them back.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/05/21/bagram

    Likewise, Russia had better get its skates on if it wishes to formalize a policy of torture like the world’s big movers and shakers.

    http://www.cfr.org/publication/9209/torture_the_united_states_and_laws_of_war.html

    http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2009/04/21/obama-american-ideals-and-torture-as-a-useful-tool/

    Physician, heal thyself.

    • Apples and oranges FSB,

      For real torture it is hard to go past Russian actions in Chechnya

      Russia uses death squads and torture in Chechnya, says Amnesty

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-uses-death-squads-and-torture-in-chechnya-says-amnesty-733296.html

      CHECHNYA: Rape and torture of children in Chernokozovo ‘filtration camp’

      http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=12978

      Amnesty International has received disturbing testimony from a survivor of the Chernokozovo “filtration camp” that detainees, including women and children, have been raped and subjected to brutal torture.

      Amnesty International’s field researcher interviewed in Ingushetia “Musa”*, a 21-year-

      old man, who was held in the Chernokozovo camp between 16 January and 5 February. He was detained in the village of Znamenskiy, while fleeing the shelling of Grozny by bus with his mother and brother. Musa was detained with 10 other men, including two teenage boys.

      “Musa” was severely beaten and tortured several times each day during his detention. On 18 January, he was forced to walk between a “human corridor” of 20-25 masked men armed with clubs and hammers, who beat him and the other detainees as they passed. “Musa” was hit on his back with a hammer which has left him with a fractured spine.

      “Musa” witnessed a 14-year-old girl being raped by a dozen prison guards in the corridor outside the cells in which he and other detainees were held. The girl had come to visit her detained mother and for the price of 5,000 Rubles she was permitted a five-minute meeting. Her five-minute meeting became a four-day ordeal during which she was locked in a cell, beaten and repeatedly raped by guards.

      “Musa” also told Amnesty International about a 16-year-old boy called Albert, originally from the village of Davydenko, who was brought to his cell after being gang-raped and severely beaten by prison guards. One of his ears had been cut off and the guards referred to him by the female name of “Maria”. “Musa” believes that up to 10 men were raped in the camp during his 21-day detention.

      “Musa” shared a cell for one week with Andrey Babitsky, the Radio Liberty journalist.

      Among his other cell mates during his 21-day detention, were a man whose hands had been severely burnt by prison guards with cigarette lighters and a 17-year-old youth whose teeth had been sawn off with a metal file and whose lips were shredded, leaving him unable to eat, drink or speak. “Musa” estimated that 10-15 new detainees were brought to the camp each day. Among those he saw were 13-14 year-old girls.

      His freedom was eventually secured on 5 February by his mother who paid 4,000 Rubles and bought the release of two Russian prisoners of war from Chechen fighters, as demanded by the camp authorities. “Musa” and his mother escaped to Ingushetia and are currently in hiding fearing for their safety after he was identified following an interview he gave about his ordeal to the national NTV channel. According to medical doctors who examined “Musa” after his release, without urgent medical treatment he risks being paralysed for life.

      “‘Musa’s’ shocking ordeal is consistent with other reports that have emerged from the Russian “filtration camps”, despite continual denials by the Russian government to the international community and the media that torture and rape are prevalent in these camps,”

      Amnesty International said.

      “The Russian government must take immediate measures to end such appalling human rights violations and allow medical personnel and the International Committee of the Red Cross immediate and unhindered access to the detainees. ” Amnesty International stressed.

      Russian Federation: Continuing torture and rape in Chechnya

      http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/AllDocsByUNID/d8ad11c9965aa303c12568f9004d6748

      Russian death squads ‘pulverise’ Chechens
      Elite commandos have broken their silence to reveal how they torture, execute and then blow captives to atoms to obliterate the grisly evidence

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6168959.ece

      THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.

      When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms – unmarked to conceal their identity – had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.

      The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.

      “At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6168959.ece

    • I suppose your hatred of America may have impaired your knowledge or judgment, but Bush claimed such power only to be applied to foreign fighters detained on the battlefield overseas. And all detainees in Guantanamo did and do have access to counsel and many have successfully brought habeas actions.

      I do not recall when Bush or Obama has ever sought powers for the FBI (that’s sort of our “national police”) to arrest anyone in the U.S., and hold them for weeks without charges, interrogating them in secret without access to an attorney.

      Of course, no court in the U.S. would ever let this happen, at least not in the time of peace. Luckily for Putin, he does not have to bother himself with such pesky thing as the judicial power since it does not exist.

      • Francis Smyth-Beresford

        I don’t hate America, and am on the contrary an admirer of the good America has done in the world, an advocate for the good it continues to do and a believer – to a limited extent – in American exceptionalism. I’ve seen America’s “can do” determination succeed where previous efforts failed too often for it to be attributed to anything else. Prior to the war in Iraq, I was a frequent contributor to newspaper editorial pages (back when most of them were in print copy, although the contributions could be emailed in) in defense of American actions and arguing against anti-Americanism, using examples of American generosity and altruism.

        As I’ve pointed out before, it is the propensity of this blog to focus only on Russia for unremitting condemnation and contempt, despite what’s going on in the rest of the world – while holding up the United States as a shining example of perfection – that begs for confrontation. An instructive example is your own, “Of course, no court in the U.S. would ever let this happen, at least not in the time of peace.”

        Really? Did you read the linked article at all? You’d not have needed to go past the headline to see that the president and, by extension, American law enforcement operating under his direction, is empowered to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens. The first paragraph makes clear that an individual so arrested can be held without charge. The article is dated 2005. No less a judicial authority than the former United States Attorney General called such detention powers “illegal”, and said “the president does not have unchecked power to lock up U.S. citizens indefinitely.” Evidently he does; the power has never been repealed in any significant way by the current administration, and the ruling stands as law of the land.

        You could argue, with justification, that this law has only ever been applied in a small and statistically insignificant way in the United States. I could argue, with justification, that it could be applied at any point as the government sees fit. I would be supported in this by human-rights advocacy groups (a big favourite of LR, as long as they’re not outside Russia) such as Human Rights First, and by opponents who suggest it “could lead to the military being allowed to hold anyone who, for example, checks out what the government considers the wrong kind of reading materials from the library.” Hysterical and far-fetched? Not so much.

        http://articles.sfgate.com/2003-03-10/news/17480119_1_act-s-provisions-usa-patriot-act-library-board
        “In a letter to an inquiring senator, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Bryant said Americans who borrow or buy books surrender their right of privacy. “

        • There were only two such cases, the Padilla case and Hamdi (I think) case, immediately after 9/11. Yes, originally this power was upheld, but not for long. Padilla was eventually tried in a regular civilian court, with all the bells and whistles of a normal trial. Hamdi was released and he left the country.

          About the books, there was also much controversy, but yes, I think there is no law guaranteeing the anonimity when one borrows books from a public library. I think these questions were pertinent years ago, after 9/11, but by now the passions have subsided.

          • Francis Smyth-Beresford

            Yes; I said you would be able to substantiate an argument that it had been applied in only a very limited capacity. I think you’ll find, however, that the law still stands, and the government has not relinquished the right given it by the courts to arrest and detain American citizens without charge, indefinitely. It’s like nuclear weapons; those who have them say it’s so they’ll never have to use them, and meanwhile they keep the country free. However, one country has used them, to devastating effect. Would they again? Who knows – but the capacity to do so remains. And no country wants to learn another country has acquired them. It certainly doesn’t strengthen the argument to say that other countries permit their law enforcement to arrest and detain their citizens indefinitely without charge, because those are not usually countries to whom you’d wish to draw a comparison.

            There’s no question one has never been guaranteed anonymity when borrowing books from the library. However, the Patriot Act encouraged librarians to report what they – with no real qualifications – perceived to be suspicious behaviour, and legally prohibited such services from informing patrons they were under investigation. That doesn’t sound like countries you’d normally criticize, to you? Pretend you just heard they’d put it into effect in, say, Poland.

    • @Likewise, Russia had better get its skates on if it wishes to formalize a policy of torture like the world’s big movers and shakers.

      Torture? Come on. Russia “had better get its skates on if it wishes to formalize a policy” of extrajucidal execution of their own citiziens. Many thousands of detained Russian citiziens were executed by the Russian state, when officially there was exactly 0 executions. Oh, and millions of Russian citiziens were tortured.

      Yes, millions. Criminal suspects and convicts routinely, practically all of their own slave soldiers (hundreds of thousands every year), civilians in Chechnya at random, etc. No, no links from the silly “foreignpolicyjournal.com” conspiracy website. Instead, for example:

      Confessions At Any Cost: Police Torture in Russia
      http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/1999/11/01/confessions-any-cost-police-torture-russia

      “Welcome to Hell”: Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Extortion in Chechnya
      http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/russia_chechnya4/

      Torture in Russia: “This man-made hell”
      http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/004/1997

      And so on. “Hell” is quite imaginative, but Russia actually is a hellish place.

      And even about the poor Russians who were released from Gitmo, and they’re poor because they were released – and returned to their country (against their wishes):

      The “Stamp of Guantanamo”: The Story of Seven Men Betrayed by Russia’s Diplomatic Assurances to the United States
      http://www.hrw.org/en/node/10989/section/1

      Since this report at least one was shot dead, another disappeared, and most are vanquishing in prisons and “penal colonies” (and even the regular Russian prisons are much worse than Gitmo).

      And a good quote comparing US to Russia and the other third world countries (and about you too):

      The United States has long prided itself on its efforts to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights around the world. Yet it now finds these efforts sidetracked by easy – and often true – attacks on the United States’ own integrity. “Take Guantanamo for example,” exclaimed Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s autocratic President, in a statement before the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly. “Can the international community accept being lectured by this man on the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Definitely not!”17 Mugabe is not alone. A long list of leaders – including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad of Syria, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – have pointed to Guantanamo to deflect attention from human rights abuses in their own countries.18

      http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/01/03/how-close-guantanamo

      @Physician, heal thyself.

      Criminal (“Russian law enforcement official”, Kremlin mafioso), prosecute/shoot thyself.

      Oh, and two short films from “prison colonies” (Gulag leftover), so you can yourself compare them with Gitmo:

  6. @As I’ve pointed out before, it is the propensity of this blog to focus only on Russia for unremitting condemnation and contempt, despite what’s going on in the rest of the world

    Exactly. I’m glad you finally understood. Now you may g back to your “Global Reasearch” and “Foreign Policy Journal”.

    Oh, and maybe first tell me how do you like a regular Russian prison (not to mention a “prison colony” or “a “filtration camp”) when compared with the famed Gitmo. In a good-bye post.

  7. There is no cult of personality in Russia today says Putin, yeah right……

    Russian children told to ‘Pray for the President’

    Children in St. Petersburg have been issued with a ‘Prayer for the President’, calling on them to revere Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin.

    The books and prayer cards, inserted in their Russian history books, which showed an image of Archangel Michael, were handed out to 150 children as prizes for winning talent contests during the celebration of children’s rights day on June 1, the independent news website Fontanka.ru reported.
    The report comes one day after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin insisted there is no cult of his personality in Russia.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/7818516/Russian-children-told-to-Pray-for-the-President.html

  8. While Europe is Being Busy with Greece, Russia is Attracting Ukraine – Alexander Rahr. http://nvspb.ru/stories/poka-evropa-zanyata-greciey-rossiya-prityagivaet-k-sebe-ukrainu-42418

    The last paragraph of the article reads as follows:

    One way or another, Russia is simply “buying up” the CIS countries literally before our eyes… Russia saves money for that, and a great contest between ruble and euro is to start within the next few months. This is going to be the most interesting game against the backdrop of crisis. Unlike the European Union, Russia has colossal reserves that it has amassed. Besides, no one knows what surprises the crisis will spring on us. For the time being, only one thing is perfectly clear: the previous hierarchy in which the EU was an unequivocally strong link in the world policy and Russia an unequivocally weak – such an hierarchy is on its last legs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s