Former first deputy prime minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov, being arrested in Moscow on July 31, 2010, for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in support of basic human rights in Russia. Numerous others were jailed before the protest had hardly begun by the jackbooted thugs of Vladimir Putin. Apparently, Putin is afraid of what Nemtsov might say and how many might applaud him if he were allowed to speak.
The Associated Press reports:
Russian police arrested a leading Kremlin opponent and dozens of fellow activists Saturday at a demonstration demanding freedom of assembly.
Several hundred protesters gathered in a Moscow square chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” at the rally city authorities tried to ban.
An Associated Press reporter saw Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov dragged to a police car and driven away. The rally had barely started. Three or four others appeared to have been detained.
MONDAY AUGUST 2 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: There’s Sick, and then there’s Russian Sick
(2) EDITORIAL: Putin’s Disastrous Economy
(3) Investors Beware of Putin’s Russia
(4) Dymovsky Speaks
(5) Putin’s Spies were Idiots
NOTE: LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog exposes the outrageous misconduct of American PR firm Ketchum as it helps Vladimir Putin to undermine truth, justice and the American way in Russia. If you have any dealings with this odious, noxious little firm and have any conscience at all, you will immediately divest.
NOTE: Neo-Soviet spy Anna Chapman speaks. Well, spoke.
NOTE: In any civilized country, a famous abused orphan gets loads of offers from new families. Care to guess what happens in Russia?
There’s Sick, and then there’s Russian Sick
Russia’s ability to surpass itself, week after appalling week, with ever lower levels of vile, nauseating, subhuman conduct is truly breathtaking.
Last week, Echo of Moscow Radio broke the story of how the annual Nashi orgy of xenophobia and aggressive nationalism known as Camp Selinger, a government-funded festival of barbaric outrage, plumbed inconceivable new depths by putting the virtual heads of opposition political leaders on pikes and decorating them as Nazis.
The Kremlin’s youthful thugs did not hesitate to include octogenarian Lyudmila Alexeeva among those so assaulted.
You read that right: They put an eighty year old woman’s head on a pike and stuck a Nazi hat on her head. She’s a human rights activist. She’s utterly defenseless and frail. And she’s a Nazi.
Putin’s Disastrous Economy
In this year’s budgetary address, so-called “president” of Russia Dmitri Medvedev promised the nation that Russia’s soaring deficit, which will be over 3.5% of GDP next year, would be halved by 2013.
Not only is that not going to happen, we learned last week, but Vedomosti reported (Russian-language link), Russia’s 2013 budget gap will be twice what the Kremlin had predicted and only marginally lower than what Russia will face next year even though the Kremlin’s income is projected to increase substantially through rising oil prices and sales of state assets. If that income doesn’t materialize as projected, the deficits will soar even higher, to record new levels in 2013 and beyond.
In more devastating news for Russia last week, ConocoPhilips pulled out of its partnership with Lukoil, one of the highest-profile Western investments in Russian history. CP finally threw up its hands after years of being bullied and defrauded by its Russian “partner” and the Kremlin, making it absolutely clear to the world what happens to any foreign investor foolish enough to put faith in the Russian economy.
What more proof could any thinking person require of the absolute, disastrous failure of the Putin economy?
Liam Halligan, chief economist, and Denis Spirin, director of corporate governance, at Prosperity Capital Management, writing in the Moscow Times:
The government approved on Thursday the sell-off of an estimated $29 billion in state assets over three years in what promises to be the country’s biggest privatization since the controversial loans-for-shares auctions in the mid-1990s. But investors beware. Russia’s legal system, including its protection of property, remains weak, as illustrated by a case unfolding at our company, Prosperity Capital Management. It involves the nonpayment of hundreds of millions of dollars by an entity controlled by a member of the Federation Council.
The New York Times reports (the paper is collecting video submissions from Russian opposition figures and posting them online) :
One day last fall, a police officer here put on his uniform and sat on a drab tan couch before a video camera. In a halting monotone, he recorded two video appealsto Vladimir V. Putin, 13 minutes in all.
He was a nobody cop from a nowhere city, but his words would startle this country.
“How can a police officer accept bribes?” the officer asked. “Do you understand where our society is heading? You talk about reducing corruption,” he said. “You say that it should not be just a crime, that it should be immoral. But it is not like that. I told my boss that the police are corrupt. And he told me that it cannot be done away with. “I am not afraid of quitting. I will tell you my name. I am Dymovsky, Aleksei Aleksandrovich.”
The videos were uploaded to YouTube in November, and a nation that has grown increasingly infuriated by police wrongdoing could not take its eyes off them. Here, finally, was an insider acknowledging the enveloping culture of corruption in Russia’s police forces — the payoffs large and small, the illegal arrests to extort money, the police chiefs who buy fancy cars and mansions on modest state salaries.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
During his visit to Ukraine on Saturday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists that he met with the 10 Russian “illegals” — who pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to being agents for the Russian government — at some point after they arrived in Moscow on July 9.
“They will find decent work — I’m sure,” Putin said. “I don’t doubt that they will have interesting, bright lives.” Perhaps he was referring to Anna Chapman, who has already received an offer from Vivid Entertainment to play the leading role in a porn film.
“I can tell you that it was a hard fate for each of them,” Putin said. “First, they had to master a foreign language as their own.”
Vladimir Putin, Fraud and Liar
Back in June, when the story broke about a massive web of pathetically ragtag Russian spies having been uncovered whilst seeking to insinuate themselves at the most intimate levels of American life, the Russian government denied any spies had been caught. Former KGB spymaster Vladimir Putin went further. He didn’t just deny there were spies, he accused U.S. law enforcement authorities of losing control, going on a frenzy and locking up innocent people.
He’d know, of course. Nobody knows better than Putin how to lock up (or simply murder) innocent people.
But it has turned out, of course, that Putin was lying. Shamelessly, after the spies were returned to Russia, Putin met and sang patriotic songs with them. This only confirmed the fact, now common public knowledge, that Putin didn’t merely know about these spies, he sent them to America himself. It was his spy program that imploded spectacularly before a slack-jawed world, and his bitter childish and ridiculous neo-Soviet recriminations in the aftermath prove this better than any other kind of evidence ever could.
Russia, buy one Get one Free!
Russia is on sale. Act now, shoppers, these deals won’t last!
For the first time since the economic collapse of the 1990s, Russia is placing massive chunks of state assets — even assets which just months ago the Kremlin was proclaiming “strategic,” on the auction block at bargain-basement prices.
Why? The answer is simple: The Kremlin is running a massive budget deficit, speedily approaching $100 billion, and it has no other ready source of cash.
It’s come to this: the Russians can’t even get along with the Belarussians any longer. Russia stands utterly alone. The Economist reports:
RUSSIA and Belarus are unlikely champions of democracy and freedom of speech. But a postmodernist approach to politics can yield odd results in the post-Soviet world. In recent weeks these authoritarian regimes have denounced each other’s authoritarianism and deployed state-controlled media to attack each other’s lack of media freedom. Bizarrely, this war of words has been waged in the name of brotherly ties and economic union.
Hostilities broke out three weeks ago when Moscow and Minsk sparred over gas prices and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus’s president, nearly reneged on a customs union between his country, Russia and Kazakhstan, which was finally signed on July 5th. A day earlier NTV, a television channel controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, aired “Godfather”, a documentary that portrayed Mr Lukashenka, long backed by Russia, as a brutal election-rigging, opposition-repressing tyrant.
There’s sick, and then there’s Russian sick. Julia Ioffe, reporting on Slate:
A strange thing happened in late June, when the big Russian Internal Ministry bosses disclosed their earnings and those of their family members, thanks to President Dmitry Medvedev’s new anti-corruption measures. The surprise didn’t come from the men: The head-honcho cops were the fat cats everyone assumed them to be, declaring incomes that strangely exceeded that of the president. And the ranks of the obscure upper-middle management fittingly declared modest incomes, usually topping at out around $50,000. A Russian-made car here, a modest apartment there.
But the wifely half of the family disclosures was far more revelatory. There was, for example, the amazing financial statement of the spouse of Viktor Smirnov, the deputy director of the Russian Internal Ministry’s Center to Ensure Operation Performance to Combat Extremism. In 2009, a year in which the Russian economy struggled to get back on its feet after the financial crisis turned it virtually inside-out, Mrs. Smirnov made $500,000. She also owns two plots of land, each about 40 acres. She has shares in two apartments as well as in a housing complex, plus a Subaru Outback, an industrial truck, and a BMW 3-Series, which can retail for over $60,000. What does Mr. Smirnov own? One-quarter of one apartment.
Eugene Iladi, writing on Prime Tass:
A new storm is brewing in the fiercely competitive, but lucrative, Russian telecommunications market, threatening the stakes of established operators and the stability of the sector.
The granting of new LTE licenses (Long Term Evolution or 4G technology) is shaping to become a potential battleground between Russia’s so-called “big three” mobile telecom operators, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), VimpelCom and MegaFon, and two newly established start-up competitors, Osnova Telecom and Red Telecom.
The Russian State Radio Spectrum Committee and the Ministry of Telecommunications are in charge of disposing of the licenses and have come under tremendous pressure to grant the new LTE technology spectrum to newcomer start-ups, such as Osnova and Red, without a public tender. How transparent and fair this process unfolds will determine the shape of the Russian telecom industry and the future of foreign investment in the country. Estimated at nearly $40 billion for last year alone, and expected to grow to $48.5 billion by 2013 according to a Pyramid Research survey, Russia boasts Europe’s largest and fastest-growing telecom market.
The Rise of the Russian Gestapo
Those Nazis sure do love them some Russia! Little wonder, of course.
Back in January, we republished a piece from Global Voices reporting on the persecution of a young Russian woman who dared to the commit the “crime” (in racist Russian eyes, at least) of marrying a Chinese man and admiring Chinese culture on her blog.
A few days ago, the American neo-Nazi website Stormfront picked up the link in its forum section, sending any number of neo-Nazi thugs scurrying through our virtual pages and leading them to make comments like “boy do I love the Russians” and “they are taking the most direct approach (more than other whites) in the streets, they are a tough folk that’s for sure.”
We’ve previously reported on how right-wing lunatics like Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul and David Duke wet themselves when thinking about the racist dictatorship that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Look the other way in Russia, however, toward the “police,” and the situation is little better.
Putin’s Failure in Chechnya and the 2014 Olympics
Worry is rising over the risk of terrorism at Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week’s deadly attack on a hydroelectric station in Russia’s deep south only added to the concern. The number of attacks in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus was up 57 percent last year, and unlike the Chechen wars of 1994–2001, these killings have been the work of a bewildering array of rebel groups, some motivated by radical Islam but others by separatism or clan warfare.
The Kremlin keeps pouring money and firepower into the region, and it’s backfiring. In Chechnya and Dagestan, the human-rights group Memorial has reported a sickening history of nighttime kidnappings, rapes, and extrajudicial killings by -government-backed death squads. A senior police source in Dagestan says local clans, many of them linked to law enforcement, are encouraging the violence, seeking to bring down more chaos on rival clans. Somehow Moscow needs to break the cycle of violence—or face the possibility of trouble at the 2014 Games in Sochi, less than 200 miles from last week’s attack, in the foothills of the Caucasus.
— Newsweek magazine, 7/24/10
The Caucasus rebels grow bolder and bolder, the failure of Vladimir Putin’s policies in the region grows ever clearer and more complete. And the world, finally, is getting wise to the insanity of allowing the 2014 games to push forward in this environment.
Just two weeks ago, we reported on a sensational direct attack on Ramzan Kadyrov in broad daylight in the capital of Chechnya.
Then last week, for the first time the Kremlin was forced to admit that an electric power station had been bombed and critically damaged by rebel fighters. Instead of declining as Vladimir Putin promised it would, violence in the Caucasus region is escalating dramatically with every passings day. And the threat to the games grows ever more dire.
Russia as a nation of apes
Vladimir Ryzkhov, writing in the Moscow Times:
After art curator Andrei Yerofeyev was convicted last week by Moscow’s Tagansky District Court of inciting religious hatred with his 2007 “Forbidden Art” exhibit, he said, “We did not lose. … It was the country that lost because the country has denounced its own art.” Much worse, however, the judge and prosecutor in the case showed the state’s clear affinity for the reactionary, extremist forces in Russia who are demanding strict censorship in arts and education. What’s more, the position taken by law enforcement agencies and courts violated the country’s basic constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.
The criminal case against Yerofeyev and his associate Yury Samodurov were filed by outspoken conservative State Duma Deputy Alexander Chuyev and various religious groups and private individuals. The court ruled that Yerofeyev and Samodurov’s exhibit, which featured artwork depicting Jesus as Mickey Mouse and Lenin, violated Article 282 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits “the incitement of national, racial or religious enmity and the abasement of human dignity based on religious affiliation.” As a result, the court fined Samodurov 200,000 rubles ($6,500) and Yerofeyev 150,000 rubles ($4,900).
Foreign Policy offers a long feature on dissident oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s neo-Soviet persecution by the Putin Kremlin, which Dave Essel highly recommends:
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.”
The Washington Post reports on yet another wave of Hollywood fare casting Russians as villains. Nice work, Mr. Putin. Hopefully, Mr. Obama is watching.
It’s 2010, and the Cold War has never been hotter.
Piper Perabo is brushing up on her Russian in the cable series “Covert Affairs.” The movie “Farewell,” a fictionalized version of the career of Vladimir Vetrov, a KGB spy who squirreled state secrets out of Russia in the 1980s, is scheduled to open in Washington next week. The recent sleeper spy story, by turns jaw-dropping and reassuringly benign, wound up providing welcome credibility cover for this week’s summer Cold War throwback: “Salt,” a swift, frenetic action thriller starring Angelina Jolie. In this stylish and absurdly violent kick in the keister, Jolie assumes myriad disguises and punches way above her weight as a CIA agent accused of being a Russian sleeper spy — a notion so alien when Kurt Wimmer first wrote the film that, for years, it languished in studio outboxes.
Even after “Salt” was green-lighted, its producers enlisted no less august a team than former Central Intelligence director R. James Woolsey and former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge to help market the movie and to pre-empt the inevitable criticism that “Salt’s” plot is either hopelessly dated or risibly improbable. (The Washington endorsement suggests another mystery: How does a studio persuade the Justice Department and FBI to prolong a decade-long investigation until a few weeks before your movie comes out?)
Dima Medvedev, Crypto-Fascist
Medvedev poured cold water on the hopes of private media outlets when he said: “It seems to me that it does not make sense to set the goal of moving away from government media because both [private and government-controlled media] exist everywhere in the world.” In this sense, Medvedev departs from the more liberal stance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As president, Putin never publicly spoke out so directly in support of state-controlled media.
— A report from the 10th Russian-German Petersburg Dialogue forum in Yekaterinburg on July 15
Dima Medvedev is, of course, a shameless idiot and liar. Which explains this particular remark, we cannot say. Perhaps, both.
Did you think you would live to see the day when Medvedev would be called more fascist than Vladimir Putin? We didn’t.
But perhaps it’s the case.
The Russian Epitaph
Economist Mikhail Delyagin is convinced that the true goal of the ruling elite is to maintain the country’s backwardness and enrich their backbone of support — the bloated bureaucracy and siloviki. Economic development and modernization bring no benefit to the elite and their lackeys within the bureaucracy, all of whom have enriched themselves by seizing authority and property. After all, development requires a demonopolization of the country’s economic and political institutions. This necessarily means competition and the emergence of new independent forces, including a free media, that would demand transparency and that government officials answer to the people.
— As reported by Vladimir Ryzhkov from this year’s “Khodorkovsky Reading” conference in Moscow
Mr. Delyagin is only repeating what we’ve been saying here on this blog since the first days of its founding: Vladimir Putin’s KGB regime doesn’t want the people of Russia rich, strong and healthy. No, it wants them poor, weak and sick. So much the easer to repress them!
You may say that’s a crazy and suicidal policy for a nation, and you’re right of course, but it’s also consistent. That’s the way Russia’s rulers have always seen the people they govern.
Remember how the Kremlin has just enacted a new law allowing the KGB to warn anyone who criticizes the Kremlin to stop, and if they don’t to jail them for up to two weeks without charges or trial? Now read the following with redoubled horror. Paul Goble reports:
Half of all inmates in Russian penal institutions, Russian officials say, but the Russian government currently spends only about a dollar a week on their medical care, a situation that means many who suffer from diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and syphilis will be released back into the civilian population uncured.
Nikolay Krivolapov, deputy head of the Federal Penal System, has said that 340,000 of those incarcerated in it, roughly half the total prison population, were ill. Of those, 67,000 have psychological problems, 55,000 are HIV positive, 40,000 suffer from tuberculosis, and 15,000 have syphilis.
The prison official added that the Russian government currently spends approximately 33,000 rubles (1100 US dollars) on each inmate, but of that “less than 2,000 rubles” (65 US dollars) is devoted to medical treatment of any kind. Consequently, many of the prisoners become more ill during their incarceration.
Once again, Russia has alienated and repulsed a potential friendly nation with its greed, aggression and barbarism. Yuriko Koike, former Japanese defense minister and national security adviser and a member of the opposition in Japan’s Diet, writing in the Moscow Times:
The recent smooth exchange of spies between Russia and the United States appears to demonstrate that the “reset” in relations between the two countries has worked. But Russia has so far done little to reset its relations with Japan. That is a lost opportunity, given Russia’s need to modernize its economy. In addition, it is a grave strategic error in view of the Kremlin’s increasing worries about China’s ambitions in Asia, which includes Russia’s lightly populated Siberian provinces.
In April, China’s navy carried out military exercises near Japan, conducting a live-fire exercise in the East China Sea off the coast of the Zhejiang province, including missile-interception training with new vessels. China’s objectives appear to have been to enhance its navy’s operational capacity, particularly in terms of jamming and electronic warfare, and to test its joint capabilities with the Chinese air force.
Translation: "My address is not a house or street . . . my address is the Evil Empire!"
Source: Oleg Panfilov’s Facebook.