Daily Archives: August 17, 2010

EDITORIAL: Lawless, Barbaric Russia

EDITORIAL

Lawless, Barbaric Russia

Last week, Vladimir Putin was “shocked, shocked” to find bread prices rising in Russia as grain prices soared because of his badly bungled agricultural policies.  As in Soviet times, one had the clear impression that Putin was threatening to round up and shoot the evil capitalist millers and bakers who dared pay attention to market reality and make him look bad.  And Putin was was also aggressively carrying out a neo-Soviet coverup of the wildfire disaster that, as we show in in our other editorial in this issue, has laid Putin low.

The two great Roberts of Russia-blogging, Amsterdam and Coalson, coincidentally teamed up last week to offer the world three devastating accounts of the extent to which Vladimir Putin’s Russia has degenerated into a lawless, barbaric state unworthy of respect from civilized democratic nations.

Welcome back to the USSR!

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EDITORIAL: Vladimir Putin, Slipping Badly on the Neo-Soviet Ice

EDITORIAL

Vladimir Putin, Slipping Badly on the Neo-Soviet Ice

Our issue today carries three different items from the mainstream Western press documenting chapter and verse how the Putin regime is collapsing from within because of its own failure, exactly as the USSR did not so long ago.  And, hearteningly, it seems Russians are finally getting the message too.

A recent public opinion poll taken by the Levada Center indicates that for the first time since his earliest days in power Vladimir Putin’s approval in public opinion polls has slipped below 60%.  41% of Russians have lost their belief that Putin is doing or will do a good job in managing the affairs of state.  Putin’s approval rating has fallen four points or six percent from one year ago.

And there’s more to this watershed event than meets the eye.

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Putin’s Neo-Soviet Apocalypse

Is anyone surprised that Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy, is handling the wildfire disaster exactly the way the USSR handled Chernobyl?  Writing in the Moscow Times, Georgy Bovt isn’t:

Russian media started reporting the forest fires in bits and pieces in mid-July, but it only became a full-blown story when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the burned down village of Verkhnyaya Vereya in the Nizhny Novgorod region. He ordered that each fire victim receive the generous sum of 3.5 million rubles ($117,500) in compensation for new housing.

It had seemed that the forest fires, a common phenomenon in Russia, would pass relatively unnoticed this year. But by the time the suffocating smog from the burning forests and peat bogs covered Moscow, the authorities were facing a barrage of questions about the effectiveness of Putin’s power vertical.

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Putin the Dictator, Failing at Every Turn

Hero journalist Yevgenia Albats, writing in the Moscow Times:

For over a month, Moscow has been boiling in heat that has approached and sometimes surpassed 40 degrees Celsius, along with heavy, sticky, eye-burning smog. Carbon monoxide levels have reached crisis levels, at six times the maximum acceptable concentration. Other toxic substances in Moscow’s air are at nine times the normal level.

In early August, a journalist called the office of Mayor Yury Luzhkov, seeking comments on the situation. “The office is closed,” a woman at the press office answered, adding that smog had gotten inside the mayoral building, which is located several hundred meters from the Kremlin, so everyone was ordered to go home. This was a weekday, shortly after lunch. “Is it at all possible to get a comment from Mayor Luzhkov?” the reporter asked. “He is not in Moscow,” the woman replied.

Indeed, there are reports that the mayor’s spokesman had been telling journalists that there is no reason for the mayor to return to Moscow. “Why should he?” said the spokesman. “Is there a crisis in Moscow? No, there is no crisis.”

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In Putin’s Russia, Epic Corruption Exposed

Foreign Policy reports:

For most Russians, the biggest problem with Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime isn’t the rigged elections or the lack of independent media. It’s the entrenched corruption that permeates every sphere of life: the traffic cop lurking on the road to collect bribes from drivers, the surgeon in the supposedly free state hospital who refuses to operate unless he gets a “gift” from his patient, the teacher who hands out good grades for cash.

And Russians universally think that such petty acts of greed are a pale echo of what goes on at top levels of the bureaucracy, where officials live in a cocoon of privilege symbolized by the migalki — the blue sirens atop government officials’ cars that allow them to defy the rules of the road. Despite periodic proclamations that the authorities are finally set to tackle the problem, things have gotten so bad that global graft watchdog Transparency International ranked Russia 146th out of 180 countries in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, putting it on a par with Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

If you really want to understand what such epic levels of corruption mean in Russia, open a business.

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