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.