Latynina on Russia’s Criminal-Loving Leadership

Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:

Once again, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed support for a Russian citizen wanted by the United States. This time, the person in question is Viktor Bout, the suspected arms dealer whom a Thai court ruled last Friday should be extradited to the United States to face trial. “I assure you that we will continue to do everything necessary to push for his return to his homeland,” Lavrov said, adding that the court decision was “unlawful and political.”

Bout was arrested on charges of offering to sell 100 Russian MANPAD anti-aircraft weapons to FBI agents posing as members of the Colombian militant group FARC. To get some perspective on what 100 MANPADS can do, I will cite another figure: The CIA gave the mujahedin about 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles during the Afghan War, and after the war ended in the late 1980s, it launched a program to buy back the remaining Stingers at $183,000 each. It purchased about 300 missiles this way. That means the 200 anti-aircraft missiles that were used during the war were sufficient to knock out Soviet air domination.

In other words, the delivery of 100 Russian anti-aircraft missiles appears to be a government-sponsored program. It is difficult to imagine that such deliveries could be made without a blessing from above. The ideology is clear: Russians supply FARC in the same way the Americans supplied the mujahedin. That is Russia’s asymmetrical response to those damn Yanks.

According to U.S. think tank Stratfor, a man named Igor Sechin served in Mozambique in the 1980s along with Bout. Today, many consider Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to be the second-most powerful person in Russia after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In another twist, an Il-76 jet was impounded in Bangkok with 35 tons of weapons on board on Dec. 12, 2009. The airplane had flown from North Korea and was previously owned by a firm controlled by Bout. Immediately after the seizure, state-owned RIA-Novosti news agencies cited a report in the Bangkok Post as saying the airplane was registered in Georgia. However, the article in the Bangkok newspaper said, “The aircraft, an Ilyushin-76 transport registered in Kazakhstan …”

That would have been unremarkable, except the fact that the aircraft was indeed re-registered from a Kazakh company to Air West Georgia, a company registered in Kutaisi, Georgia, was not confirmed publicly until the next day.

The question arises: How did RIA-Novosti know the plane was registered to a Georgian company if it flew from North Korea, was impounded in Thailand, and even the Thai authorities thought that it was registered in Kazakhstan?

The answer is easy if you know anything about Air West Georgia. The company’s legal address is at Kopitnari Airport in Georgia, but its actual location is at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, according to AviaPages.ru, an industry web site. A third address for Air West Georgia is also listed in the business directory Gde24.ru, this one near the Okhotny Ryad metro station and just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin and the headquarters of the Federal Security Service on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad.

Despite the international scandal, nobody has searched the airline’s offices at Vnukovo or near Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, and those addresses are still posted on the Internet. What’s more, Lavrov has spoken out in defense of Bout.

In one respect, I must agree with Lavrov: The Bout case is undoubtedly political. In fact, it is frightening to consider what Bout could tell U.S. authorities about who promised to provide him with 100 Russian anti-aircraft weapons.

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8 responses to “Latynina on Russia’s Criminal-Loving Leadership

  1. @To get some perspective on what 100 MANPADS can do, I will cite another figure: The CIA gave the mujahedin about 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles during the Afghan War (…) That means the 200 anti-aircraft missiles that were used during the war were sufficient to knock out Soviet air domination.

    Except the thing was Stingers were so much more effecient than the Soviet-designed junk supllied from Egypt and China (and also more than the British Blowpipes). One Stinger was worth many Strelas.

    • Btw the Russian arms dealers even sold some MANPADs to the Chechen fighters. One (1) of them was used to kill aboout 130 Russian soldiers in 2002. Quite a nice shot! The best in anti-aircraft history, actually.

      • Tell your readers about your country’s nice shots in its many criminal wars which have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

        Tell them about the deliberate bombing of the al-Amariyah shelter in 1991.

        And then know why you your country was hit on 9/11.

        I’m assuming you’re a Yank.

        • @Tell them about the deliberate bombing of the al-Amariyah shelter in 1991. And then know why you your country was hit on 9/11.

          Nah, Osama’s official explaination was that he was inspired the bombing of East Beirut by Israel during the siege in 1982.

          Which was ended when the US forced intervened to evacuate the PLO and Arafat (and save them from total destruction, too), but shhh, no one tell Osama.

      • Yes Robert, quite masterful use of the old Strela indeed!

        • Actually it’s an Igla.

          http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=7911

          The Mi-26 is reported to have been shot down by Chechen rebels using a shoulder-launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile. The missile hit one of the engines as the Mi-26 was approaching Khankala, and the helicopter crash-landed in a minefield that made up part of the federal military headquarters’ perimeter defenses. Some of the survivors, attempting to abandon the wrecked Mi-26, are reported to have been killed by “friendly” anti-personnel mine explosions.

          The war in Chechnya has not “ended,” and reprimanding Pavlov will not alter this fact. After almost three years of occupation, Russians feel safe in their main Chechen base only behind massive minefields. Khankala is a besieged fort in totally hostile territory.

          The Mi-26 was ferrying troops and officers assigned to various units from Mozdok in North Ossetia. By road, it is 136 kilometers through the relatively peaceful northern part of Chechnya, with military checkpoints all the way and a bridge over the Terek River guarded by federal troops. There is also a rail link between Mozdok and Grozny, officially open for commercial and civilian traffic.

          But, instead of taking a two-hour ride, army personnel patiently waited to board a helicopter – some for more than a day. Obviously, they did not even consider the roads of northern Chechnya to be safe. Military armored convoys are frequently attacked, and anyone risking a ride without protection will most probably end up in a rebel dungeon. This time, the helicopter route turned out to be no safer.

  2. the bit about 500 Stingers ‘knocking out soviet air domination in Afghanistan’ is a bit of an exaggeration.’ Back in the day the Stinger was probably the best shoulder fired AA heat seeking missile but like all heat seeking missiles it had its limitations. Soviet air force continued to fly missions, however, they were forced to fly at higher altitude and use heat traps, one side effect was they did more high altitude carpet bombing, probably killing more Afghani civilians as a result than they would have, had the Stingers never been supplied to the Mujahedin.

    • That’s the attack aircraft (heavy bombers fly to high for this to begin with), but Stingers also downed a plenty of helciopter transports and gunships and wrecked the nerves of other pilots and commanders to really make a real difference elsewhere too.

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