Daily Archives: May 12, 2011

May 20, 2011 — Contents

FRIDAY MAY 20 CONTENTS

(1)  EDITORIAL:  Russia, behind the Curtain

(2)  EDITORIAL:  $175,000

(3)  EDITORIAL:  Get it Straight, Russia Lost World War II

(4)  Russia Keeps on Losing

(5)  Pamfilova Speaks

(6)  Putin and the Rise of the Neo-Soviet State 

NOTE:  LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld’s latest piece on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog details the horrific crackdown by the Kremlin on opposition attorney Alexei Navalny, including DDOS on his website, outing of his donors by the FSB to Nashi and now a criminal indictment. Is he the next Khodorkovsky? We think so.

NOTE:  Scientists have now proven that the Neanderthals lasted in Russia far longer than in any other place.  It took them so long because they kept looking under the earth when they should have been looking in the Kremlin.

NOTE: When Vladimir Putin tried to test drive a brand new Lada, he couldn’t start it or open the trunk.  Welcome to the real Russia, Grandpa Volodya! 

NOTE: A major tennis tournament was held in Madrid, Spain the first week in May, with $4.5 million in prize money at stake. Shockingly, the 16 seeds included only two Russians, but they were two of the country’s top three in the world:  #9 Sharapova and #14 Kuznetsova.  Neither even reached the quarter finals. Both were blown off the court by lowly world #28 Domenika Cibulkova in easy straight sets.  Cibulkova, hardly in dominant form, then lost her next match, against the very lowest seed in the tournament.  Ouch.

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EDITORIAL: Russia, Behind the Curtain

EDITORIAL

Russia, Behind the Curtain

Over the past year, the confidence of the Russian people in their government has plummeted. From a high of 56% in May 2010, the approval rate has fallen steadily until last month it dropped, stunningly, below a majority to 48%.

In July 2010, only 29% of Russians thought their government was moving in the “wrong direction.”  As of last month, that figure stands at 40% — a whopping increase of one-third in less than a year.  Back in July a majority of Russians thought the country was moving in the right direction; now, just 43% think so. Only 27% of Russians firmly believe the government will be able to change things for the better, while 37% are sure there is no chance that will happen.

Meanwhile, another poll revealed that 40% of Russians favor the installation of a constitutional monarch.

These are devastatingly bad poll results in a country where the state controls all major media outlets and public criticism of the regime is almost wholly absent. If the public had better information, the regime would no doubt be in single-digit approval.

In shockingly bizarre fashion, however, Russian approval of the country’s two leaders, Medvedev and Putin, is still stratospherically high.  Medvedev has 68% approval and Putin, who is in charge of the government, is even higher at 71%.  There is only one word for such results, and that word is:  irrational.  Or perhaps a better word would be:  psychotic.

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EDITORIAL: $175,000

EDITORIAL

$175,000

As of the last tax year, that was the sum in Russian “president” Dima Medvedev’s bank account.  It had doubled compared to the year just before he became “president” of the country, although his salary in the intervening three years remained constant and was far lower than he received as the top executive at Gazprom, Russia’s largest business entity.  Medvedev’s income remained, laughably, far less than that of Russia’s “prime minister” Vladimir Putin.  Two years ago Medvedev’s wife had 50% more than that in her own bank account.  Now, she has nothing. When asked what happened to the money by a Russian financial newspaper, the Kremlin refused to say.  In a recent survey, over 75% of Russian respondents said that Medvedev, like all Russian officials, was lying when he reported his income last year.

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EDITORIAL: Get it Straight, Russia Lost World War II

Advertisement for a World War II party in Moscow. The message reads: Thank you Granddad for the victory we had!

EDITORIAL

Get it Straight, Russia Lost World War II

Three were killed.  No, four.  Wait a minute, it was seven.  No, no . . .  eight!!

You could be forgiven if you were somewhat perplexed reading the news out of the Caucasus on May 8th. Each different media outlet you turned to seemed to have a different figure for the number of “militants” and “rebels” Russia had killed in its latest confrontation, though in each case they insisted only one member of the Russian armed forces had perished in the exchange.

As you can well imagine, if you could’n’t even get the number of militants, it was pretty darned impossible to find out anything about who they were or why they had been killed.  Russians lack real information about such events, just as they lack real information about World War II, a conflict they lost but foolishly believe they won. 

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In honor of “Victory” Day, Russia Keeps on Losing

Alexander Golts, writing in the Moscow Times:

Russians know that Victory Day is approaching not only because commemorative St. George ribbons are being handed out on sidewalks or because of the abundance of patriotic programs on television about legendary Soviet spy Max Otto von Stirlitz. Muscovites, in particular, know the holiday is coming since they endure horrendous traffic jams — worse than usual — during the rehearsals of the military parade that will be the top public event on May 9.

But few Russians will take pride in viewing the military weapons that will be paraded across Red Square. These systems were developed 20 years ago, and they are produced in miniscule quantities today.

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Pamfilova Speaks

Radio Free Europe has interviewed Ella Pamfilova, who spoke candidly about the shame presidency of Dima Medvedev:

Ella Pamfilova is one of Russia’s most distinguished liberal figures. She is the head of two NGOs — Civil Society For Russia’s Children and Civic Dignity. She is a former Duma deputy and a former social affairs minister. In 2000, she became the first woman to run for the office of president of Russia.

In 2002, then-President Vladimir Putin named her to head the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, which was later transformed into the Presidential Council on Human Rights. In July 2010, she resigned from that post after coming under strong pressure from the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group. Since then, she has generally shunned the limelight.

RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maria Morozova caught up with in Moscow and asked her about her tenure on the human rights council and her views on the political environment in Russia now.

RFE/RL: What were your thoughts when in 2002, being a critic of the authorities, you agreed to head the Presidential Council on Human Rights, which under you later grew into the Council on Cooperation With Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights?

Ella Pamfilova: In 1999, when Vladimir Putin was confirmed as prime minister, I was one of the few Duma deputies who spoke against him and voted no. This annoyed a lot of liberals who back then were already working hard to elevate him to the presidency.

But in 2001, I and a group of rights activists and regional nongovernmental organizations — with the clear support of the presidential administration — organized the first Civic Forum with the participation of Putin. This provoked a certain enthusiasm. It seemed to us that it might be possible to pull the country out of chaos. And I believed that finally a dialogue between the state and civic organizations was being established.

So when I was asked to head the semi-dormant Presidential Council on Human Rights, I already understood exactly what I wanted. As a politician, I believed that in order to turn the heavy Russian political machine in the direction of democracy, it was very important to create a permanent, functioning forum in which the liberal, rights-oriented minority — de facto in opposition to the government — had the opportunity to bring directly to the authorities their views, arguments, information, and proposals.

At that time, I had complete freedom of action, so I invited into the council independent experts and human rights advocates who were not afraid to harshly criticize the government and defend their positions. To a considerable extent, I considered myself an intermediary between rights activists and the Kremlin.

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Putin and the Rise of the Neo-Soviet State

Victor Davidoff, writing in the Moscow Times:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s May 6 speech in Volgograd finally put an end to the questions that have been asked for the last three years: Who is ruling Russia, and who will rule Russia after 2012?

It was a canonical speech by a national leader who is both trying to help the party he heads, United Russia, in December’s State Duma elections and who is priming himself for the presidential race in 2012. The speech painted a rosy picture of Russia today and an even brighter picture of the future if, of course, the country maintains “stability,” which when translated from post-Soviet newspeak means “the status quo of United Russia and the siloviki in power for many years.”

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